It's been a little while since anyone's posted a rundown of what's happening in the minor leagues, so I thought that I'd take a look at some notable players now that some of the short-season leagues have ended or are winding down. Because of the number of players I'm listing here and time constraints, I'm not going to go into too many details regarding "counting" stats, e.g. BBs, Ks, XBHs, etc. Milb.com is a great resource for all that stuff.
Obviously, it hasn't been a great year for the A's farm system. Many of the position players that we had hoped would develop into serious prospects haven't managed to take the next step, and what little pitching talent that was in the system a couple years ago seems to have shriveled up and vanished. There are some bright spots, however, even if you have to squint real hard to see them, and even though most of said spots won't really be worth paying attention to until 2013-ish.
Michael Taylor, OF: .272/.359/.448
Chris Carter, 1B/OF: .250/.352/.493
Jermaine Mitchell, OF: .289/.381/.450
Adrian Cardenas, 2B: .309/.370/.416
Anthony Recker, C: .287/.388/.501
Josh Donaldson, C/3B(?): .254/.333/.441
Graham Godfrey, RHP: 2.75 ERA, 101 IP, 86 H, 84/29 K/BB, .87 GO/AO
A lot of "eh..." here. Taylor has had some good stretches and some bad ones this year, but ultimately an 800 OPS in the PCL from a 25-year-old corner outfielder isn't encouraging at all. Still, there's very little to lose from calling him up this month and giving him as many ABs as possible for the rest of the season. Carter has produced a stat line remarkably similar to last year's. Destination: unknown. Mitchell put together a huge half-season in Midland before his promotion and is a nice story, even if he is probably an AAAA guy. Cardenas has rebounded nicely from his struggles in Sacramento last year, but at this point he looks to have the same basic profile as Eric Sogard - with inferior defense.
Recker and Donaldson are an interesting study in contrasts. Recker has slowly moved up the ladder, building on success in the lower minors, to put up an impressive year in Sacramento (albeit in his age 28 season), possibly staking a claim to a part-time role with the big league club in 2012. Meanwhile, Donaldson's skills and performance continue to fluctuate wildly, as they have since the A's acquired him. Even though Donaldson is the younger man by three years, at this point it seems likely that there just isn't a role for him in Oakland.
Godfrey got some press and some spot starts with the A's this year with his shiny earned run average (and the lack of a better option), but it looks to me like he got a little lucky in the BIP department. I expect his ERA will bounce back up next season, if he's not in the Oakland rotation out of necessity/desperation.
Grant Green, SS/OF: .293/.345/.409
Stephen Parker, 3B: .286/.373/.413
Michael Spina, 1B: .284/.384/.430
Ryan Ortiz, C: .235/.352/.309
Sonny Gray, RHP: 0.00 ERA, 16 IP, 10 H, 15/3 K/BB, 1.91 GO/AO
Ethan Hollingsworth, RHP: 3.61 ERA, 94 IP, 107 H, 66/23 K/BB, 1.51 GO/AO
Ladies and gents, meet your new #1 prospect,
Jason Rice Sonny Gray. It's impressive enough to come into professional baseball and start throwing up zeroes immediately (Gray did allow a run in a quick tune-up start in the AZL), but to do so in the Texas League, where so many A's college pitching prospects have withered and died on the vine, is really quite something. Not only is the ERA fetching, but check out that terrific 5/1 K/BB ratio, which seems to answer some of the fears regarding his control that dogged him prior to the draft. I think a 2012 Sacramento rotation spot out of spring training is likely, followed by a debut in Oakland sometime late next year.
As for the rest: another group of "eh..." Green is probably a better CFer than SS, but all I see is a guy whose ceiling is probably an 800 OPS outfielder who doesn't offer elite defense; more likely he will struggle to keep his OPS above 750 most years. Parker and Spina lost all their California League power from last year and look like Sacto filler at this point. Ryan Ortiz was hitting really well until he fell into a horrible August slump, but I think that the bat still has potential as long as his shoulder can hold up. By trading Clayton Mortensen for Hollingsworth, the A's managed to acquire...a younger Clayton Mortensen. Go team!
Michael Choice, OF: .288/.380/.547
Rashun Dixon, OF: .241/.316/.380
Dusty Coleman, SS: .238/.313/.404
Daniel Straily, RHP: 3.63 ERA, 156 IP, 150 H, 149/40 K/BB, 1.11 GO/AO
A.J. Griffin, RHP: 3.62 ERA, 64 IP, 61 H, 72/13 K/BB, 0.88 GO/AO
Ian Krol, LHP/Jackanape: DL/Suspension
As happy as I am to see how well Choice has done in Stockton, I haven't really committed to the idea of him as an elite prospect yet. For one thing, the California League can have a severe distorting effect on hitters' stat lines, making them look much better than they actually are. For another, Choice's numbers are quite similar to the numbers Chris Carter put up in the Cal League several years ago. It's worth keeping in mind that Choice's tremendous bat speed is compensating for some holes in his swing, holes that may not be fully exploited by pitchers until he reaches AAA (like Carter) or even the majors. Right now he's facing a lot of guys who can barely locate their breaking balls, a luxury he won't be afforded in Sacramento. So while I cheer him on, I'm not holding my breath for a 4 WAR major leaguer yet. Just one man's opinion.
Everyone else can probably be safely forgotten about. Dixon and Coleman seem to have hit a ceiling in High-A ball (Coleman has a good glove at SS but strikes out a ton), while Straily and Griffin may have careers as big-league relievers, if everything breaks right. Ian Krol strained a forearm in the spring, had a long rehab, and then Twittered himself into a season-ending suspension. He may make an appearance in instructs later this year.
Yordy Cabrera, SS: .235/.300/.375
Josh Whitaker, 1B: .331/.402/.564
Tony Thompson, 3B: .261/.331/.410
Beau Taylor, C: .292/.368/.368
Jose Macias, RHP: 3.48 ERA, 77 IP, 78 H, 62/18 K/BB, .74 GO/AO
Tyler Vail, RHP: 5.68 ERA, 57 IP, 68 H, 34/28 K/BB, .94 GO/AO
Blake Treinen, RHP: 3.81 ERA, 26 IP, 20 H, 27/7 K/BB, 3.00 GO/AO
T.J. Walz, RHP: 4.32 ERA, 16 IP, 12 H, 15/7 K/BB, 0.42 GO/AO
Cabrera has shown flashes of talent throughout the season, but at the end of the day, those aren't pretty numbers. There have been lots of questions about his defense, too, and he seems headed for 3B or even the outfield, which make his batting issues even more troubling. The other problem with Cabrera is that he isn't all that young - he's turning 21 this week, which will make him old for the Midwest League if he has to repeat next season. Hopefully he can make some serious progress in instructs.
Speaking of too old for their league, I have no idea why the A's kept Josh Whitaker (22) in Burlington for the whole year when he has been amazingly consistent at crushing the ball all season. Why not see what he can do at a higher level of competition? Now he'll be too old for Stockton, too. Whatever. Tony Thompson had a decent first half but faded in the summer; hopefully any kind of rebound he has next year won't be a Cal League mirage. Beau Taylor put up a good OBP (with no power) after getting drafted this year, but if there's one thing this organization has enough of, it's 2.0 WAR catchers.
Among the pitching prospects, there are some interesting players to keep an eye on for next season. Jose Macias is already 21, but he only converted to pitching in college a couple years ago, so developmentally he's not doing too terribly. And after having bounced back and forth from Burlington to Vermont in the NYPL, he's found a real groove in his last five starts in the Midwest League: 31 IP, 1.16 ERA, 19 H, 29/4 K/BB. Gil Patterson has raved about him on a couple of occasions, and he seems to have a very good feel for pitching for a relative newcomer. If he can adjust quickly to Stockton next year, he could really be interesting.
Treinen and Walz have both received praise from Patterson, too, and Patterson seemed convinced that their respective arsenals should allow them to convert into starters next season. Hopefully Keith Leippman and David Forst agree with him. Right now, they're striking hitters out in long 2- and 3-inning stretches, so it seems to be that they are trending toward longer and longer appearances, which is a good sign. Again, I think that keeping them in Burlington all season could be problematic from an ARL perspective, but that depends on how their starting conversions play out. Vail showed an uptick in fastball velocity this season, hitting the low 90s consistently, but he can't control it all that well and he doesn't have much of a breaking ball yet. He has a little bit of time, but he needs to show real progress next season.
Nick Rickles, C: .315/.366/.462
Chih Fang Pan, SS: .336/.386/.385
Bobby Crocker, OF: .300/.355/.420
Aaron Shipman, OF: .255/.384/.305
Chad Lewis, 3B: .238/.271/.317
Hey look, another catcher! I think Billy Beane's plan is to have a Borg-esque army of .280/.350/.400-hitting catching prospects invade the commissioner's office to force Selig to capitulate on the San Jose issue. Anyway, Rickles put up big numbers in his last year at Stetson College, so it's good to see him continuing the trend. Chih Fang Pan has a quick bat and a good glove at SS, so even though he has zero power, he's someone to watch. Bobby Crocker, a toolsy OF from Cal Poly SLO, put up decent numbers this year. He doesn't have the ceiling that Grant Desme did, but unlike Grant, Jeebus doesn't have him on speed-dial. So he's got that going for him. Shipman seems to alternate great and terrible weeks, but the kid can fly in CF and he knows how to draw a walk. Here's hoping he can evolve into something beyond the next Tyreace House. Chad Lewis probably wishes he could hit the reboot button on his professional career at the moment.
Arizona Rookie League/Dominican Summer League
Baseball Jesus Chris Bostick, SS: .442/.482/.654
B.A. Vollmuth, 3B: .148/.251/.259
Josh Leyland, C: .322/.461/.424
Vicmal de la Cruz, OF: .318/.438/.453
Renato Nunez, 3B: .268/.301/.407
Max Perlman, LHP: 2.76 ERA, 42 IP, 29 H, 44/11 K/BB, 1.08 GO/AO
Michael Ynoa, RHP: N/A
OK, so a sane person doesn't pay attention to stats in the AZL or the DSL. I know this. You know this. Rashun Dixon and Nino Leyja know this. It barely counts as organized baseball. But since you have to dig deep in the A's system to find players you can get excited about, we might as well practice a little rational irrationality, so to speak.
Besides, just look at Bostick's numbers! Okay, that's just 14 games and less than 60 ABs, but wow did he tear through that league. For those that don't know, Bostick was the A's only high school draft signee this year, and he was a 44th round pick (!). I would love to know the particulars behind the scouting, drafting, and signing here. Were the A's scouts the only guys at his games? Anyway, I'm assuming he's going into instructs soon, and with any luck he will land in Vermont or even Burlington next season, where his baseball skills can be matched against a higher caliber of pitchers. Keep an eye out.
Elsewhere, Josh Leyland, who was out for the entirety of last season, can clearly hit, but dude just can't stay on the field. B.A. Vollmuth...well, I hope that those stats are the result of taking most of the summer off and losing his timing. That's all I have to say about that. Harvard alumnus Max Perlman did well against much younger competition in the AZL and held his own in a couple spot starts in the PCL over the past week; we'll see how he holds up in A-ball in 2012.The mythical creature known as "Michael Ynoa" supposedly spent the first half of the year rehabbing from TJ surgery, the second half rehabbing from some injury acquired during the rehab, and according to David Forst, is now throwing well off a mound and reportedly feels great. HA HA HA! Oh, that was fun.
In the DSL, Vicmal de la Cruz put up terrific numbers and Renato Nunez (born the day before Kurt Cobain died, holy crap!) held his own, so they will probably make their way to Arizona next year.
That's it for now. If you have a question about a specific player, either someone mentioned here or otherwise, let me know and I'll try to help you out to the best of my limited abilities. Thanks for reading.