Howdy, everyone. This is John Sickels, formerly of ESPN.com, now at www.minorleagueball.com, part of the growing Sportsblog family. Blez has invited me to do a review of Oakland's farm system, and to have an All-Questions Answered thread. So here I am!
Ground rules: I will be here for the next hour, and I will answer every question posted within that time. All I'd like from you is a bit of patience as I type. The ground rules are basically that you can ask anything you want and I'll give you my best answer.
Here is how I see Oakland's Top 20 Prospects.
- Dan Meyer, LHP, A-
- Daric Barton, C-1B, A-
- Huston Street, RHP, A-
- Nick Swisher, OF, B+
- Joe Blanton, RHP, B+
- Omar Quintanilla, SS-2B, B+
- Richie Robnett, OF, B+
- Jairo Garcia, RHP, B+
- Dan Johnson, 1B, B
- Kurt Suzuki, C, B
- Javier Herrara, OF, B
- Danny Putnam, OF, B
- Brian Snyder, 3B, B-
- Landon Powell, C, B-
- Tyler Johnson, LHP, C+
- Andre Ethier, OF, C+
- Brad Knox, RHP, C+
- Jason Windsor, RHP, C+
- Brad Sullivan, RHP, C
- Ryan Webb, RHP, C
Two points I want to make before proceeding: I think the Oakland system is in solid shape, but two of their top three prospects came in winter trades, and many of the other top guys were 2004 draftees who have a fairly high level of uncertainty in their grades at this point.
Dan Meyer has been hit hard this spring, but I still like him as one of the best rookie pitchers available this year, based on his past performance. He's often compared to Mark Mulder, and there are some similarities. Note that Mulder had a 5.44 ERA and was frequently hit hard in his rookie season in 2000.
Barton may be the best pure hitter in the lower minors. Defensive limitations are the main problem with him, but a move to first base will enable him to concentrate on his hitting. He is NOT a one-dimensional Jack Cust-style hitter. He should hit for both power and average.
Betting on rookie relievers can be risky, as Ryan Wagner's trials and tribulations show. But if you are willing to take that risk, Huston Street has the right combination of stuff and command.
I don't think Nick Swisher is going to hit for a great batting average, and he will have streaks and slumps. Long-term, I think his power and patience will play very well. Joe Blanton doesn't have the huge ceiling of some top prospects, but I think he projects well as an inning-eater.
I just plain like Omar Quintanilla.
Richie Robnett at B+ is a very aggressive grade, given the fact that he is somewhat raw for a college guy. I should probably have him at Grade B, granted I'm very intrigued with his upside. Jairo Garcia has an awesome arm, but as I'm sure all Oakland fans know, his command is a serious issue and he was rushed last year.
Dan Johnson can hit. Not a star, but a solid 20-homer guy with a decent OBP due to a good walk rate. Kurt Suzuki is talented both offensively and defensively and could be a steal as a second-round pick. Javier Herrera is proof that Oakland does have tools players. He could be a star if he can refine his plate discipline. Danny Putnam is an advanced college player but is close to his ceiling already and doesn't have as much upside as Herrera.
Brian Snyder is a solid Oakland on-base guy but will have to show he can repeat at higher levels. Landon Powell will have to show he can stay healthy, and I don't like him as much as Suzuki. Tyler Johnson should make a good LOOGY. Andre Ethier is destined to be a reserve outfielder unless he spikes some power. Brad Knox had hot statistics in the Midwest League, but will have to show that his curveball will work against advanced hitters. Jason Windsor is similar to Knox: his stuff isn't world-beating, but he knows how to pitch and did well at the lower levels. Brad Sullivan was a disappointment last year. Ryan Webb is a high school guy drafted in the fourth round last June, who showed excellent command in rookie ball and needs to be tracked.
There are other Grade C type guys (Bynum, Brown, etc.). Feel free to ask.