Starting the ball rolling...
Who was the biggest surprise in the A's farm system this season?
I'd call it a dead heat between Andre Ethier and Kevin Melillo . Those who make a living in player development all say that the transition to Double-A is the most telling for a prospect's chances at making an impact at the big league level.
Ethier began the year at Midland and hit the ground running. He cooled off a bit towards the end of the summer, but his final line is still impressive: .319/.385/.497, 30 doubles, three triples, 18 homers, 80 RBI and 48 walks. He played four games in Sacramento and will start 2006 there, with a shot at the big leagues if he impresses at AAA.
Melillo took a longer route to Midland, but, in some ways, he was even more impressive than Ethier. ... Nine homers in 90 ABs? That's just sick. The A's thought so too and sent Melillo on to Midland, where he has hit .282/.347/.519, with ten doubles and seven more homeruns in 35 games. His walk rate has dropped a bit, but his power has increased. His hinder has really rounded out in an attractive way as well. What this means for Melillo and for the A's organization is that, suddenly, a second baseman who began the year as a 22 year-old playing in Low Class-A is now a 23 year-old excelling in Double-A.
Also a very interesting answer to the question Which prospect has a higher ceiling: Andre Ethier or Danny Putnam ? including the para
It is important to note that Ethier has had back issues since his days at Arizona State and missed the last month of 2004 when micro-fractures were discovered in his vertebrae. He spent the off-season working with a back specialist to strengthen the muscle groups in his stomach and back in an effort to avoid similar problems in the future. Call it coincidence if you like, but he went from being a physically large player with disappointing power to a legitimate power threat the very next season. His rear has also increased greatly in attractiveness.