First and foremost, I'd like to introduce myself, Dave Gershman, the newest Athletics Nation columnist. I'd like to personally thank everyone for the warm welcome as well as the opportunity to contribute to Athletics Nation, blog of one of the most exciting and underrated teams in baseball. Due to the fact that I live in New York, I rarely get the chance to see my beloved A's play, but I relish the opportunity whenever they come to New York.
As you may or may not have heard, experts were not so fond of the A's farm system after the 2010 season. Despite strong showings from multiple prospects, expectations were not met as much as writers and scouts could have wanted them to. Well, there are many reasons to believe that things will not only change in 2011, but greatly improve.
As I said previously, the Baseball America and John Sickels were quick to downplay possible the system entering the new year. Baseball America ranked the A's at 28, while Sickels agreed for the most part. Sickels had them at 24. This was largely in part to injuries to prospects such as Jemile Weeks and slow starts to the season by Chris Carter and Max Stassi, to name a couple. Not only that, but Grant Desme retiring prior to '10 didn't help things. The system also dealt with Michael Taylor's struggles. An argument can be made that the A's above average 2010 farm system ranking was in the top half due to the Michael Taylor acquisition, however, I'm sure many A's fans would quickly re-do that trade if given the chance.
Back to Weeks, the A's still believe in his ability to not only be an every day second baseman, but a very good one at that. Even at age 24, the 5'9 athletic Texas Leaguer has a lot to prove. His development has greatly been slowed due to injury, but on the field, he's certainly lived up to the expectation. In his 2 1/2 year minor league career, Jemile has amassed a .277/.360 line in 801 plate appearances. His injuries have not only put a hold on his major league career, but the A's future. This is just a microcosm of what the A's dealt with last year. The talent is there, but they had certain roadblocks throughout the journey. But not everything was a nightmare for the A's in 2010. Not at all.
There were many players who not only had breakout and healthy seasons, but are expected to do the same in the coming year as well. However, you could probably say the same about Carter and Taylor after the '09 season right? Wrong. The difference is, many of the guys who had breakout 2010 seasons, have tremendous upside, and plenty of time to fail and then get back up on their feet.
Rashun Dixon, Tyreace House, Ian Krol, and Jeremy Barfield are a few of those guys. Michael Choice, YordyCabrera, Chad Lewis, Aaron Shipman, and Jordan Tripp join that list as a group of 2010 draftees looking to make a major impact, whether that's at Vermont, Burlington, or even Stockton in Choice's case. Stephen Parker, Adrian Cardenas, and obviously Grant Green are two Athletics who are closer to the Majors, but like all prospects, are not sure things to say the least. In terms of pitchers,
Ian Krol is highly regarded by many. The lefty does walk many batters, but strikes out more than a batter per inning. (EDIT: I got confused with Krol's small high-A sample size. Krol actually had a very low walk rate. Thanks to CaliforniaJag for pointing this out) With a .273 2010 BABIP, Krol does miss bats, but needs to build on a strong year in order to improve, obviously. Two guys who I scouted in New Hampshire last year, I am very high on - Danny Farquahar and Trystan Magnuson. Aside from the fact that these two are two of the best guys you'll ever meet, both could easily compete for a final spot in the A's bullpen. If not, you'll definitely see them in '11 barring any setbacks. Magnuson features a 89-91 fastball with plus command. He also throws a very good curveball as well as a solid change. He doesn't strike out many batters, but is a pitcher and not a thrower. Reminds me a lot of Jon Rauch. Farquahar on the other hand has legitimate plus stuff. His fastball touches the mid-90's at times, but his slider is state of the art. His command is exceptionally good for a Double-A/Triple-A pitcher as well. (EDIT: he actually does not have that good command. Thanks to Californiajag for pointing that out. I got Farquahar mixed up with another similiar Fisher Cats pitcher. -Dave)
Keep in mind as well, the likes of Dixon, House, Choice, Weeks, and Cabrera are all big time athletes, Something that most other teams lack. These type of players are definitely more durable and usually have a bigger ceiling. The book on Choice is that if he isn't going to be a bust, he'll be a superstar. I personally agree. Hec, Chris Carter in Triple-A for another season can only mean more experience by getting extra at-bats. Talk about a potential superstar player.
But the whole point is simple. The A's have plenty of guys with more upside than you can imagine. By this time next year, we might be discussing the superstar potential of Michael Choice and the excellent speed of Tyreace House among others. Luckily, not every organization can improve as quick as the A's can. Of course, having one of the best GM's in the game certainly doesn't hurt.
All in all, out of every farm system ranked in the lower half by the so-called experts, look for the A's to improve the most, or close to it. When your organization gets plagued by injuries and what not, there's always room for improvement and rebound seasons.
There is hope Athletics fans. There is definitely hope.