I thought I'd include Sports Weekly's recent assessment (Jan. 19-25 issue) of the A's farm system. This week they did the AL West. Oakland's minor league system is ranked #1 both in the division and #1 in the majors. Not bad. There isn't a ton of new ground broken here, but I thought everyone would be interested.
FERTILE SYSTEM TO BE TAPPED HEAVILY AS EVER
There is no escaping the references to Moneyball when discussing the Oakland system. With the 2002 draft class featured in the book beginning to blossom, the spotlight will grow brighter
The organization is about to put the theories to their stiffest test yet with the trades of Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder. The Athletics discovered last season that when the pitchers weren't up to their off-the-charts standards, the offense couldn't make up the difference. Now, trades and the deep farm system will be the source of a lineup with the promise of being more formidable but also constructed along the plate-discipline theories so important in Oakland.
Dan Johnson- 1B: The biggest challenge for the Pacific Coast League MVP is finding playing time in the majors. He's the prototypical Oakland hitter- power, average, plate discipline- so he should wedge his way in among Scott Hatteberg and Erubiel Durazo soon. A position switch is unlikely as Johnson is just adequate defensively where he is now.
Brad Knox- RHP: Knox doesn't get as much buzz as some of the other pitching prospects in the organization, but some in the A's system think he was the steal of the 2002 draft (14th Round). Because he's not overpowering, Knox's detractors find plenty of excuses to downgrade him, such as saying he was slightly old to be dominating low-A in 2004. But he has outstanding command and figures to make a slower, steadier climb than most.
CREAM OF THE CROP
Daric Barton- C: Barton came over from St. Louis with a reputation as such a good hitter that the A's might consider asking him to change positions just to move his bat through the organization. He's barely an average defender, so he could end up seeing duty at third base or outfield.
Joe Blanton- RHP: He's been near the top of the charts among pitchers in the system because he is considered closest to ready. Blanton is the heir apparent to one of the open rotation spots. He has a lively fastball, solid slider, nice changeup and above-average command.
Javier Herrera- OF: Don't feel any trepidation about tossing the "five-tool" label on this Northwest League MVP. The Venezuelan, who played in the A's Dominican program, is more of a tools player than you usually find in the Oakland system, but if he adds what the organization preaches to his raw ability, he has superstar potential.
Dan Meyer- LHP: Nobody is replacing Hudson or Mulder right away but Oakland got at least one blue-chipper in each deal, and Meyer had been Atlanta's top pitching prospect. Meyer probably could use some time at Triple-A. He's a low-90s guy with considerable poise and has good command of a full repertoire of pitches.
Nick Swisher- OF: He's the organization's prospects most likely to be in the major league Opening Day lineup. He projects to be a solid line-drive hitter with decent power but without an ultra-high average. The son of former major league catcher Steve Swisher is center field-capable but will play a corner in Oakland.
BEST OF THE REST
Brant Colamarino- 1B: If Colamarino makes it, he could become the poster boy for Moneyball. Considered pudgy and marginal by many coming out of the University of Pittsburgh, he was a favorite of then-Oakland assistant general manager Paul DePodesta. Colamarino showed up lighter last spring and demolished the California League.
Andre Ethier- OF: A 2003 second-round pick, he's pretty polished at the plate. A bit of power last season was a good sign because he showed none in his pro debut the year before. He has the frame for gaining power. But a back injury shut him down late in the season.
Jairo Garcia- RHP: He shot through the system last year, his first as a reliever, but was overmatched when he got to the majors. Don't be deterred. He needs a bit more seasoning but he'll soon bring a nice blend of power and control to the Oakland bullpen.
Mark Kiger- 2B: He played shortstop at the University of Florida, moved under the prospect radar with hard-nosed play and settled in at second base. Next, he's playing in Oakland. That's Mark Ellis' bio and Kiger is following the same path. The A's have stocked up in the middle of the infield with Ellis' return from injury uncertain, but watch for Kiger to be in the mix.
Eddie Kin- 1B: This guy could be a real challenge to the A's willingness to put aside how a prospect looks. Kim is a huge man (6-3 265) and a heck of a hitter. He moves well around the bases and should avoid getting shunted to DH early in his pro career.
Omar Quintanilla- SS: He doesn't have the extreme plate discipline so common in this organization, but if there were any concerns about his hitting, check out the .421 average in the Arizona Fall League. Second base could be in his future because of concerns about his erratic throwing.
Brian Snyder- 3B: The 2003 frist-rounder is a good spray hitter who could develop power. He missed some time last season with a hip flexor problem but the A's have seen enough to feel comfortable trading away third base prospect Mark Teahen. Of course, the position in Oakland doesn't figure to be open soon with Eric Chavez firmly entrenched.
2004 FIRST ROUNDERS
Landon Powell- C: Catchers, catchers everywhere. The late sign out of the University of South Carolina has plenty of competition but he's expected to be a power hitter. He's got a good arm and solid skills behind the plate.
Daniel Putnam- OF: The Stanford product has been favorably compared to Brian Giles and is in a system that will advance him quickly. Putnam struggled some after a quick promotion to the Midwest League but maintained his plate discipline and power.
Richard Robnett- OF: Offensively, Robnett and Putnam look like clones. Robnett is a quicker and more assured defensive player. He has the expected plate discipline and is a nice line-drive hitter with a quick bat.
Huston Street- RHP: He has just 26 pro innings but don't be shocked to see him filling one of the openings in the Oakland bullpen this season. He throws a mid-90s fastball and nasty slider with generally good command.
Catcher Kurt Suzuki signed before Powell and had a better season, even when both were together at Vancouver. Left-hander Steven Bondurant performed well at Kane County but got hit around at Double-A. He'll need to prove he belongs at that level to remain in prospect consideration.