Well, I can't say Billy Beane is boring or predictable. Having placed roughly 20% of the 25 man roster on the DL in the past 36 hours, Beane decides to DFA 2B Kevin Melilo and P Lenny DiNardo while he's redecorating. It kinda feels like 2002 again, only without the losing record and the close quarters hot-tubbing pictures. I'd pat myself on the back because I've been saying we'd see some roster moves for a couple weeks now but frak me, I wasn't expecting this!
But Mining the Metro-sexual Minor League Master Batters (and pitchers) is not about delving into the WTF?! transactions involving the big league roster EXCEPT when it involves newbies getting their call-up, which this week-end's roster extravaganza only partially does. So, first off, congragulations to Brad Ziegler and Carlos Gonzalez. Welcome to the Show and make us proud to cheer the green-&-gold. 'Cause if you don't, we'll boo you!
Seriously though, I have to tip the cap to Mr. Ziegler. Talent wise, he was a dime-a-dozen RH pitcher who probably wasn't going to make the big leagues. One day near the end of the 2005 season the A's (minor league pitching instructor Ron Romanick in particular) approached Brad and asked him if he'd be willing to change his pitching motion and become a submariner. Flash forward to May 30th, 2008: Brad Ziegler's name is on Oakland's 25 man roster. No matter what happens, no one can ever take away the fact that Brad Ziegler became a big league pitcher.
On to the update.
With the draft coming at the end of the week, I thought I'd do a depth chart that featured a positional breakdown of who the A's have (and where they have them) in an attempt to figure out what type of players the A's might be seeking to draft. (For the record, I had a really bad joke written here involving a polo jock and a kayaker but I removed in an obivous sign of maturity and growth as a writer. The fact that I mention my edit proves I've got a long way to go with the whole maturity thing.) Where was I? I swear, sometimes I think I'm easier to distract than Cindi in a room full of sparkly objects. Speaking of distracted sparkly objects, where the Hell are you Green&GoldGirl?!?! Consider this an official shout-out for you to make your quarterly appearance on AN.
Where the frak was I?
Oh yeah... A's baseball and organizational depth. Things should be pretty self-explanatory once I get started but I want to take a moment to explain the term "fringe prospect". In mine eyes, a fringe prospect is someone who's done enough to maybe have a chance at making the big league roster should an opportunity present itself. At the same time, he hasn't done enough to force the issue in his favor or has something (usually age) going against him and he could very easily get passed up the next time the big league team comes calling. We've just witnessed both extremes of this phenomonom with Brad Ziegler and Kevin Melillo. Make no mistake, 28 year old relief pitchers who aren't even on the 40 man roster are fringe prospects at best but Ziegler has pitched great thus far in AAA and when the need arose in Oakland for a RH bullpen arm the A's were willing to DFA a player to get Ziegler to the Show.
Kevin Melillo is 26 and had a 773 OPS for the River Cats. Not great numbers, but enough for him to be in the mix next season should the A's let Mark Ellis depart as a free agent. I considered Kevin Melillo a fringe prospect in the rough draft of this story and he just got DFA'd, so when I call a guy a "fringe" prospect he could go in any direction. I'm also going to focus on the guys who (I think) are more then organizational roster fill. Some of the calls may seem arbitrary (For example... 28 year old Brad Ziegler: Fringe prospect. 27 year old Justin Knoedler: Roster fill.) so if you've got a favorite that you feel I've slighted feel free to bring him up.
Plus sign after the age = birthday during the 2008 season.
MLB: Kurt Suzuki (Team control through 2013); Rob Bowen (Team control through 2011)
AAA: Landon Powell: 26 .167/.287/.389 (FRINGE) I could make a fairly convincing arguement that Powell deserves a higher grade then that, given that he's a switch hitting catcher with pop, patience and strong defensive skills. Cold, hard truth is he's 26 years old, hitting .167 and has had surgery on his left knee twice. I will say this: As an avid Philadelphia Eagles fan I watched Donovan McNabb come back early from a torn ACL to play the 2007 season. He wasn't back to 100% until a full year had passed since the surgery and with that in mind, it could be that part of Powell's early struggles can be due to him playing well beofre that 1 year mark. Landon had his 2nd knee surgery in August, 07 so it might not be until the 2nd half that we see his offensive numbers rise.
AA: Anthony Recker: 24+ .289/.353/.474 (FRINGE) Good bat, weak defense and a little old for AA competition.
A: I'll lump Stockton and Kane County together because nobody on their rosters is doing anything to stand out.
Overall: This is a definite area of weakness in the organization but with Suzuki getting it done in Oakland and under team control for the next 5+ years I don't see the A's using an early draft pick on a catcher unless someone they rate very high falls in their lap. More likely the A's will target a college trained Catcher in the 4th/5th round, maybe someone like UC Davis' Jake Jefferies who's solid behind the plate and has good plate discipline. There are those who'd like to see Bowen get a shot at the starting job over Zook.
MLB: Daric Barton (Team control through 2013); Mike Sweeney (Gone after 2008)
AAA: No prospects. Casey Rogowski is roster fill and Wes Bankston, while young enough to still have upside, hasn't shown anything since 2005.
AA: No prospects. Tommy Everidge is 25 and posting a meh-for-a-1B .829 OPS. His MLE is a sub-.600 OPS.
A+: Sean Doolittle: 21+ .337/.424/.643 14 HR (PROSPECT) With Carlos Gonzalez in Oakland, Doolittle becomes the A's top position prospect.
A-: No prospects. Sorry Greg Dowling fans, but 24 and an OPS of .744 does not a prospect make.
Overall: With Barton in Oakland and Doolittle making serious noise (plus Carter, whom I'll talk about in the DH section) the A's do not have a need to spend an early round pick on a player who projects to play 1B/DH in the Show. Let me rephrase that... it would be incredibly stupid for the A's to spend their 1st round pick on a 1st baseman no matter how good his bat. I could see them taking a shot at a bat they absolutely love if it slipped to them in the 2nd round.
MLB: Mark Ellis (Team control through 2008)
AAA: No prospects. Kevin Melillo was a fringe guy but with the DFA who knows where he'll be two weeks from now? Brooks Conrad is 28 and a AAAA player. Cliff Pennington will be discussed in the SS section.
AA: Jesus Guzman: 23+ .351/.400/.564 (PROSPECT) I'm not entirely sold on Guzman. He could end up at 3B but with Melillo's DFA and Ellis' pending Free Agency there's a clear path for Guzman in 2009. Justin Sellers will be discussed as a SS.
A+: No prospects. Joshua Horton is still working at SS.
A-: Larry Cobb: 22+ .330/.380/.464 (FRINGE) An athlete the A's really like, the original plan was to try to make him into a Chone Figgins clone. Looks like that plan has been shelved for now and I have a hunch that Cobb, who started the year at Stockton but couldn't buy a hit, will head back to Cali soon for round 2. He has to hit the ground running when he does or he'll lose his Fringe status.
Overall: Not as barren as it looks, 2nd base is definitely a position in transition for Oakland. All problems go away if the A's sign Ellis to an extension. Melillo was the most obvious band-aid should Ellis depart, I'm sure the A's will want to bring him back should he clear waivers. If that doesn't happen and Ellis leaves then I'm not sure what happens. Petit and maybe Murphy could get shots at the job next Spring Training, with Guzman and even Pennington being (for now) dark horse canidates as well. Yes, Pennington would be in the mix as well. Remember, a 1st round draft pick is a lot like a vampire. Until you've driven a stake through his heart AND cut off his head he's liable to pop up anywhere.
MLB: Eric Chavez (Team control though 2011)
AAA: Jeff Baisley: 25 .293/.372/.491 (FRINGE) Not that old, more-than-solid numbers and a rep for solid defense... so why label him a fringe prospect? Was there ever a better opportunity for Baisley to get a shot then the first two months of 2008? I could see him drawing some (small) trade interest from a 3B starved team but I don't see much of a future for Baisley in Oakland. For a borderline guy like this, sometimes it has nothing to do with what he does on the field and everything to do with circumstances beyond his control.
AA: No prospects. Jesus Guzman was covered at 2nd base but he'd certainly merit a shot here if the opportunity presented itself. Which it doesn't. Brian Snyder is a bust but he plays 3B when Guzman is elsewhere.
A: Lumping two teams together is never a good sign, it basically means I have nothing nice to say. I really, really want to like Stockton's Frank Martinez but I don't.
Overall: Deceptively strong in the upper levels, barren at the low end. The A's have a team option on Chavez for 2011, but are locked in (barring a trade) for the next two and a half years. The only way Baisley gets a shot is if Chavez goes down for an extended period of time... but that just happened and Baisley didn't get a call. Guzman has a more realistic shot at 2B but even he isn't young enough for Chavez's contract to run it's course. The only way Chavez gets traded is if the A's are willing to eat more then half his remaining guaranteed contract or if he gets healthy and produces. 'Course, Chavez gets healthy and produces Beane isn't going to trade him. I really think this is the position to target in the 1st round of the draft. If Ethan Martin is sitting there at 12... it would take an unexpected circumstance for me to choose someone else.
MLB: Bobby Crosby (Team control through 2009)
AAA: Gregorio Petit: 23 .304/.356/.385 (PROSPECT) I realize Petit is in Oakland now, but that's because he's filling in on the bench for an injured Donnie Murphy. Interestingly enough, I still worry about Petit's bat but have bumped his rating up (in my mind) due to Melillo's DFA. Petit has first shot at Oakland's 2nd base gig should Ellis go elsewhere and from there it's an easy enough switch to cover SS if Crosby departs a year later.
AAA: Cliff Pennington: 23+ .260/.379/.314 (AA numbers) (FRINGE) As I said before, 1st round pick = vampire. I love the speed (20 for 21 SB) and walking more then striking out but at some point a guy has to prove he can hit the damn ball. His draft status and the golden opportunity that is the A's long term middle infield situation gives Moneypenny his Fringe status.
AA: No prospects. Although I have a gut hunch that Justin Sellers will do enough to re-visit this call by the end of the year. I don't know what it is, but Sellers always does better when he and Pennington are on seperate teams.
A+: Josh Horton: 22 .293/.404/.365 (FRINGE) I'm probably being harsh with this grade but I still haven't read anything that says Horton can stick at SS long term. Good bat control, an equal number of walks to strike outs but lacking in power and a definite position. If the A's switch him to 2B this season you can say good-bye to Mark Ellis. A position switch now means the A's want to try and fast track Horton so there's a chance he'll be ready in 2009. There's an opening in Midland if the A's decide to part ways with Snyder and bump Guzman to 3B.
A-: No prospects. I want to say Michael Richard because I love his speed and on-base skills but he's 23 going on 24, has been hurt most of the season and his glove will force an eventual move to 2B or CF.
Overall: As much as I want Crosby gone, I concede that finding his imminent replacement no longer holds top priority. Now is the time to start looking though and I expect the A's to go shopping for a college trained SS in the early rounds. But that's largely because I doubt Horton... if the A's think he can stick at SS then they'll probably go after high-upside athletes and arms. Although I wonder what would happen if University of Georgia SS Gordon Beckham was still on the board at #12.
MLB: Emil Brown (Gone after 2008)
AAA: Danny Putnam: 25+ .275/.367/.522 (FRINGE) The numbers are OK, but Putnam has been dropped from the 40-man roster and a week ago was demoted to AA. He makes the list only because Brown is a short-timer and no one else has sufficiently stepped up.
AA: No prospects. Joe Gaetti is hitting but he's too old to take serious. Maybe if he was back in AAA...
A+: No prospects. Sorry Archie, but turning 25 in July negates your A-ball performance.
A-: Shane Keough: 21+ .299/.398/.343 (FRINGE) Going out on a limb here, Keough is an athlete who's shown real improvement from last year. Needs to show more power or will get buried quickly.
Overall: Left field has a very basic requirement... hit and you'll play. Assuming Gonzalez in CF and Buck in RF, Aaron Cunningham probably has first dibs in 2009. If the A's think a college bat like Wallace could play LF they might be tempted to take him at #12 and find another stop-gap for 2009.
MLB: Carlos Gonzalez (Team control through 2014); Ryan Sweeney (Team control through 2013)
AAA: No prospects. The A's just called up the two guys who'd been playing CF!
AA: Aaron Cunningham: 22 .333/.397/.472 (PROSPECT) He missed a month because of an early injury but he's making up for lost time. Cunningham is probably the last legit OF prospect the A's have above Low-A.
A+: Jermaine Mitchell: 23 .299/.418/.462 vs RHP (FRINGE) Sorry, but LHP eats Mitchell for lunch. I can't go higher then Fringe for a guy looking like a platoon player. He hit lefties last year but the quality of southpaw pitching he's going to face is only going to get better. He needs to adjust or he's a part time player.
A-: Corey Brown: 22 .270/.360/.486 (FRINGE) Some may think this is a bit harsh, but Brown has 64 K in 185 at bats. He's older then most of the pitchers he faces, he spent 3 years in a Div 1 college program and he still has serious contact issues.
Overall: The A's have a lot of talented athletes playing CF in their organization but they all seem to have some kind of question mark. Still, the 2008 draft is weak in the outfield so unless the A's gamble on Hicks they probably won't be looking CF in the early parts of the draft.
MLB: Travis Buck (Team control through 2012)
AAA: No prospects. Richie Robnett just came back from stomach surgery and while he has tools galore he's struggled with the actual hitting of the baseball.
AA: No prospects. 25 year old Jon Zeringue does not impress me.
A+: Matt Sulentic: 20 .293/.367/.503 (PROSPECT) Good but not great numbers in a hitting friendly environment, but his youth helps his numbers play up a notch. I'm not sure how good of a RF he plays but his bat should be enough to put him in contention for an eventual corner OF job in Oakland in a couple years.
A-: No prospects. Maybe I should have put Keough here.
Overall: It's Buck or Bust for the next couple years, the A's aren't going to rush Sulentic. I think Beane has enough faith in Buck that he's not going to actively seek a RF-capable bat that could move quickly through the system.
MLB: Jack Cust (Team control through 2011); Frank Thomas (Gone after 2008)
AAA/AA: The River Cats and RockHounds don't have designated DH's, they rotate their players through the slot.
A+: Chris Carter: 21 .211/.324/.447 (PROSPECT) 11 HR in 190 at bats plus his performance last year lets Carter squeak into the Prospect group. Huge power but has struggled making contact (63 K) especially recently.
A-: No prospects.
Overall: Aside from Cust, the A's are lacking in big time (as in 40+ HR potential) power threats. Carter might be one of those guys but he's got a ways to go. If the A's don't draft a pitcher with their 2nd round pick I think they go after the biggest college trained power bat they can find.
MLB: Rich Harden (Team control through 2009); Joe Blanton (Team control through 2010); Justin Duchscherer (Team control through 2009); Dana Eveland (Team control through 2013); Greg Smith (Team control through 2014); Chad Gaudin (Team control through 2010)
AAA: Gio Gonzalez: 22+ 11 GS 5.37 ERA 53.2 IP 28/51 BB/K (PROSPECT) The numbers don't support the label but Gio is a legit prospect who got his bell rung a few times. 2 of his last 3 starts have been good but he still has a ways to go before he's ready for the Show.
AA: The entire starting rotation! Simmons is hurt but should be back soon, Mazzaro is having a break-out year and while Webb, Bailey and Rodriguez are all having their struggles they've still shown enough to maintain their prospect labels.
A+: Trevor Cahill: 20 11 GS 2.88 ERA 68.2 IP 20/83 BB/K (PROSPECT) The top pitching prospect in the A's system to date.
Brett Anderson: 20 10 GS 5.21 ERA 48.1 IP 14/51 BB/K (PROSPECT) Trying to pitch through a strained thumb caused Anderson to stumble a bit. He's healthy now, as his May 31st start illustrates: 4.0 IP (Pitch count) 4 H 0/6 BB/K.
(Note: Fautino De Los Santos had TJ surgery a week ago and is out until next season.)
A-: Jamie Richmond, Craig Italiano and Scott Mitchinson all warrant Fringe mention. Sorry folks, I'm starting to get tired here.
Overall: Between what's on hand in Oakland and the number of arms coming up the system, SP is the strength of the organization. Unless Crow or Matusz falls to #12 I jusy don't see the A's going after a college trained arm.
The A's have a ton of it spread from Oakland to Stockton. They'll probably grab a couple arms before the 10th round just because that's something they like to do.
Kudos to everyone who made it to the end with me. If you'll excuse me, I need a nap!