Since I'm not exactly an expert on minor leaguers, I decided to go to someone who is one of the biggest minor league experts in all of baseball. SB Nation's very own John Sickels, who runs the absolutely stellar Minor League Ball that should be a part of your daily reading. He also does an annual minor league prospect book that is a must-own. Especially for teams like the A's that are all about their minor league system now.
Without further ado, here is my chat with John Sickels about the prospects coming to the A's in the Swisher deal:
Blez: First of all, what do you think of the players the A's got for Nick Swisher?
John Sickels: I had Gonzalez as my number one White Sox prospect, and De Los Santos as number two, both Grade B+, both among the best pitching prospects in baseball.
Blez: Can you tell me about them without giving away too much of what's in your prospect book?
Sickels: Oh, sure. Gonzalez is a left-handed power pitcher with two Double-A seasons under his belt at age 22. He projects as a number two starter at the major league level, and showed much improved command this year. He could use some Triple-A time, but should be ready for a spot by 2009. De Los Santos is further away, but he's got a terrific arm and had a breakout season in the Sally League. He'd be more of a 2010 guy depending on how fast they want to rush him, but his upside is terrific.
Blez: What about Sweeney? Some scouts seem down on him at this point. Could we see him starting for the A's in 2008?
Sickels: I must admit that I am not sanguine on Sweeney. He strikes me as an outfield version of Sean Burroughs, in the sense that his power is just not developing the way it was supposed to. I don't think he will just disappear like Burroughs, but I think he's going to be just a platoon player, not an impact bat.
Blez: If you put the Swisher deal together with the Haren deal, how much have the A's improved their farm system?
Sickels: Well, look at the Top 20 list I posted a few days ago at MinorLeagueBall.com. These two trades, plus the good early returns on the 2007 draft class, completely rebuild the farm system. It has been a huge infusion of talent in a short period of time. 2008 might be a rough year, but the future looks really good. Masterful rebuilding by Beane.
Blez: What prospects that Beane acquired do you think are the most major league ready?
Sickels: The two Gonzalezes, Gio and Carlos, should both be ready late in 2008 or in 2009. Carlos might get pushed sooner and could struggle initially.
Blez: In your estimation, are any of these guys "star" quality players? By that I mean, will there be adequate replacements for Haren and Swisher down the road? (I understand there is guesswork involved in this). I guess I'm asking who has the highest ceilings.
Sickels: Both Gonzalezes have the ability to be stars. Anderson is more of a three/four starter type, but a good one. Chris Carter could be a slugging star if he holds up at higher levels as well as he did in the Sally League. It's an impressive group, these guys aren't just role players.
Blez: It'll be interesting to see if Beane continues to add to the collection too by dealing guys like Blanton, Street and even Harden if he proves to be healthy.
Sickels: Well there is rebuilding, and then there is gutting.
Blez: I suppose A's fans actually NEED your prospect book this year just to know who is on their team.
Sickels: LOL. Probably.
Blez: You mentioned the A's 2007 draft. Will the A's also be seeing some stars come out of that draft?
Sickels: It's too early to say for sure, of course. At the least they should get some solid contributors. Simmons should get to the majors pretty soon. There are a lot of polished guys in this draft class who could advance rapidly, but no sure-fire stars.
Blez: Without doing a lot of research and just giving me an off-the-cuff answer, where would you rank the A's minor league system now? Is it among baseball's best?
Sickels: I'm not quite done with the book yet so I don't know for certain, but these trades are probably enough to get it into the top half again. They now have six B+ prospects, and that's a lot
Blez: What's a guy have to do to earn an A from Sickels?
Sickels: I'm a tough grader. To get a Grade A- or even the very rare regular Grade A is quite tough. For me, B+ is high praise.
Blez: I know, that's why I was asking. I'm glad you weren't my teacher in high school. Thanks for your time. Where can ANers pick up your prospect book?
Sickels: LOL. Basically to get a Grade A or A-, you can't have any major question left about your ability. B+ means there is still some doubt there, but the preponderance of the evidence is in your favor. Carlos Gonzalez, for example, is "just" a B+ because of his plate discipline. The book is for sale only through me. You can go to my website Johnsickels.com and order via paypal, or you can send me a check at the address listed there. It should go out in the mail the first Monday in February, and the Top 50/50 list will be sent to everyone who gives us a valid Email address as soon as it is done, probably early next week.
Blez: Thank you so much for your time, John.
Sickels: No problem!
As an aside, Sickels just happened to publish his top 20 White Sox prospects over at Minor League Ball. Go take a look. Three of the top five now reside in Oakland.