The 2013 Oakland Athletics have performed very well through the first 2.5 months of the season, however, there is always room for improvement. This is especially true when you have a Triple A affiliate as strong as the Sacramento River Cats. The River Cats have won 6 straight division titles, so they have clearly been one of the most successful Minor League teams of the century. The winning tradition has continued this year as the River Cats are currently atop their division. Their success has occurred because of their overwhelming amount of "MLB Ready" players. I have been following the River Cats a lot this season, and I have found 6 current River Cats that I hope to see in an Oakland Athletic uniform before the 2013 season comes to a close.
5. Hiroyuki Nakajima- Most would think Nakajima would be in the 1 or 2 spot on this list, however his Minor League performance has not been overly impressive. His .283 batting average isn't bad but it doesn't jump off the page either. Also, his OBP is at .350 which is also just decent. Grant Green is just better in that category as he's up above .360. Furthermore, Nakajima is slugging a weak .380, which is far below Green (.447). Nakajima is obviously not known for being a great power hitter, but if you're going to have a low SLG%, you better be getting on base. Nakajima has been just mediocre at the plate this year, and this is the reason he isn't ready to come up. Also, Nakajima isn't known as a great fielder, (.950 FLD% @ SS in 2013) but I believe his fielding is good enough to perform at the MLB level. If he were to get a call-up to the Athletics, it's hard to tell if he would be at SS or 2B as he has played both positions this season. I personally feel that he would be on the A's this year if Rosales wasn't out of options. Unfortunately, Rosales would be placed on waivers if they wanted to attempt to send him down. I think that this would be the right decision as Rosales is hitting .200 with a .278 OBP and a grand total of 8 RBI's. I don't know why this is considered acceptable, and I believe the risk of losing him by attempting to pass him through waivers is well worth it. Back to Nakajima... I don't believe he should be called up right now because I think there is a better option is Sacramento. Moreover, I think that he should, and will make an appearance in Oakland before the year is over because I still think he deserves an opportunity. After all, he was likely going to be a starter on the A's before his Spring Training injury occurred.
4. Sonny Gray - During his time with the River Cats in 2013, Gray has been phenomenal. He has posted a stellar 2.62 ERA along with a 1.29 WHIP. His 7 wins are second on the River Cats and he will likely be headed to the PCL All Star game. His 82 IP are fairly high, and this shows that he has been pitching deep into games. There is little doubt that he'll be up in the majors eventually, but it seems he will have to wait. All 5 starting pitchers have pitched well for Oakland, so there is no chance of him replacing any of them. Also, if Anderson ever comes off the DL Gray would still be behind him. While it seems that Gray would be the first SP to come up if needed, it is likely that he would only get the call in 2013 if an injury occurred. I would most definitely like to see him pitch for the A's, however he probably won't make his debut until 2014.
3. Grant Green - Green was the 13th overall pick of the 2009 MLB draft, and he was picked as a SS out of USC. When he was drafted it was almost certain that he would someday be the starting shortstop of the A's; however Green's fielding ability helped prevent this from happening. It has not really been questioned whether or not he could hit, but instead his lackluster defense. In 2012 Green spent the whole season in Sacramento and played SS, 3B, 2B, LF, and CF. This year Green has played at 1B and 2B. His Fld % has not been great at any position, however his hitting has been admirable. In 2012 he hit .296, and so far this year he's at .298. While he most likely would not be around .300 in the MLB, I still believe his average would exceed .260, which would be a significant improvement over Rosales. Furthermore, his power this year has been far better than in 2012. So far this season he's hit 7 HR's and already has 40 RBI (3rd on the team). The main reason that Green needs to be called up is because he's done all he can do in the minor leagues. He's spent far too much time in Sacramento and deserves his shot with Oakland. Unfortunately, the A's seem content with Rosales and Sogard, and Green also has to compete with Nakajima and Weeks for a middle infield spot.
2. Jemile Weeks - Yeah, I went there... and I have good reason. Jemile is hitting just .280 this season which is right around Nakajima and below Grant Green. Many have said that Jemile needs to hit .330 in AAA to even be considered to receive a call-up. But there is a lot more to Jemile's numbers. Weeks currently has an OBP of .403 which is 2nd behind Walk-Master Daric Barton. He also has drawn 45 walks this season which is just one behind Barton. If you look at the A's stats you'll see that highest OBP on the team is .386 (Crisp) and the most BB is 30 (Crisp). Of course Weeks is facing Triple A pitching, but these numbers show that Jemile has become a far more patient hitter, which is something that has to make Billy Beane happy. I do believe that if the A's were to finally give up on Rosales that they would decide on Nakajima, but in reality Weeks might be the better choice. After all, he can hit from both sides of the plate and could make a solid platoon with Sogard. Many critics of Weeks also love to point to his "subpar" fielding. Well I hate to break it to all the haters, but Weeks is fielding a perfect 1.000 at 2B this season. His 3 errors came while playing SS, a position he's never played since being drafted. By looking at the numbers it is very debatable who is the best between Weeks, Nakajima, and Green; all I know is that I'd prefer all 3 over Rosales.
1. Michael Choice- Choice looks to be the most promising prospect in Sacramento. Choice's average is sitting around .290 and his power numbers are remarkable. He currently has 10 HR's and 49 RBI. His 72 hits are second to Grant Green and he has been an iron horse for the River Cats playing in 65 of 70 games. He is also playing CF every day for Sacramento, and is easily the best defensive and offensive outfielder on the team. All of his stats seem to make him MLB ready, however the outfield log jam in Oakland will continue to hold him back. I believe that if he were to come up he would perform at a level far above that of Chris Young. Sadly, the idea of sending down Chris Young is just not realistic. If Young continues to struggle and is hitting sub .200 at the All-Star break I think that a trade involving Young is very possible. Young has just not been useful this season and if he doesn't improve I feel that he needs to be replaced by Michael Choice.