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Monday's Minute-to-Midnight Minor League Musings: The Prospects of Attrition

When you look at an organization’s bevy of prospects you have to accept that some of them, probably as many as half of them, will not qualify for similar consideration a year later. Injuries, poor performance, promotions and trades will exact a toll on any prospect list. Heading into the 2008 season the Oakland A’s had 13 grade B- or better prospects in their organization, using John Sickels’ method of grading. I prefer his way at grading prospects because a B-grade prospect in one system is held in the same regard as a B-grade prospect in another system. (And I’m making the cut-off for quality of prospect a B- because when I was a kid in school that was the lowest grade I could get and not get a talking to from my parents.) During the season Beane traded for 5 more B-grade prospects in the Harden/Gaudin and Blanton deals.

We just heard Mr. Sickels discuss the state of the A’s farm system in an interview with Lord Blez. He gives the A’s credit for turning around a desolate farm system and fielding a group of prospects that are in the discussion for the title of best in the minor leagues. But the names will have radically changed from the list Mr. Sickels printed less then a year ago.




Brett Anderson   (B+)

Andrew Bailey   (B-)

Daric Barton   (B+)

Corey Brown   (B-)

Trevor Cahill   (B)

Chris Carter   (B+)

Aaron Cunningham   (B-)

Fautino De Los Santos   (B+)

Sean Doolittle   (B-)

Carlos Gonzalez   (B+)

Gio Gonzalez   (B+)

Henry Rodriguez   (B)

James Simmons   (B)


2008 In-Season Trades


Josh Donaldson   (B)

Sean Gallagher   (B)

Eric Patterson   (B)

Adrian Cardenas   (B)

Josh Outman   (B)


Daric Barton, Carlos Gonzalez and Sean Gallagher will not be included in the 2009 list as they have too much time in the big leagues. It’s doubtful that Gio Gonzalez will pitch the necessary 20 innings to go over the rookie limit but his struggles in the Show and with commanding the strike zone in AAA will probably cause his B+ grade to drop to a B. Eric Patterson will probably have enough at bats by the end of the season to lose his rookie eligibility and if he doesn’t his big league performance would probably cause him to drop into the B-/C+ range. Sickels mentioned in his chat that he’d probably grade Donaldson a C+ next time around but I’m going to show you some numbers in a bit that, combined with a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League, could raise that C+ to a B-.


Fautino De Los Santos blew out his elbow and will probably miss a portion of next season. In the past Sickels has dropped even the best pitching prospects a full grade if they go under the knife and I assume that will happen in DLS’s case. Andrew Bailey is almost certain to drop from a B- to a C+ because of his struggles as a SP in AA and subsequent conversion to the bullpen. Henry Rodriguez has more stuff then Bailey but his struggles in AA were even worse than his teammate’s. He too will probably see his grade drop but I’m hoping it’ll only drop to a B-. Still, it’s not inconceivable that 8 of the 18 names above will not be in next year’s list of B- or better prospects.


Not that it’s all doom-and-gloom. In fact, there’s a lot more to be happy about then sad. Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill and Chris Carter all have a good chance at seeing their grades raised to A- or maybe even a full A. (The last is kinda doubtful, but what the Hell, why not think positive?) Vincent Mazzaro is almost certain to jump from his 2008 C grade to at least a B- while Sam Demel and Matt Sulentic could also see something in the B-range. (Quick tangent: I figure one of Demel or Carignan is a lock for a B- or above grade, I’m choosing the guy with more strike outs and the better ground ball ratio.) I’m not sure how Sickels is going to grade Inoa, probably not very high (I’m guessing C+) because he’s always been hesitant when grading prospects that haven’t played in the States. The 2008 draft class has 4 candidates for B- or better grades in Rashun Dixon, Jason Christian, Jemile Weeks and Jeremy Barfield. But conservatively speaking the A’s could go into next season with another 12-13 grade B- and better prospects in the organization. That’s very good as most systems struggle to field 10 prospects of that caliber.


So if you ever run across a muppet suggesting the A’s trade a few of these guys to fill a big league hole don’t be alarmed and worry that the farm system is about to be gutted, ‘cause that just ain’t the truth of the situation.


Now I’d be remiss if I went any longer on this minor league report and failed to congratulate the Sacramento River Cats and the Stockton Ports for winning their respective league championships. So congratulations guys and I hope you got to drink some quality champagne, because the cheap stuff gives you an awful headache! Tuesday night the River Cats play the International League champion Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees in a one game play-off to determine who’s the top dog in AAA. ESPN2 will televise the game at 5 PM PST, so if you’ve got the beer you might as well sit down and enjoy the game.


Moving on to the Stockton Ports, I wanted to focus on three players who formed the heart of the Port’s line-up: Chris Carter, Corey Brown and Josh Donaldson. Donaldson and Brown split the season between the Midwest League and the California League and I wanted to include their postseason performance into the overall mix to see how they did on the year. I include Chris Carter into the mix because saying he hit 44 homeruns for Stockton sounds sexier then he hit 39 homeruns.


Chris Carter:  44 AB  14 Hits, 3 Doubles, 1 Triple, 5 HR  9/14 BB/K  318/434/773


Including the play-offs, Carter hit 264/368/585 with 35 Doubles, 5 Triples, 44 HR, 86 walks and 170 strike outs in 550 at bats. The Cal League is a hitter’s league but that kind of power production is for real, especially coming from a 21 year old. I’m not sure what position he’ll end up playing (it won’t be 3B) but he’s got a chance to be special, especially if he can get a bit more control over the strike zone.


Corey Brown: 45 AB  8 Hits, 3 Doubles, 1 HR  5/23 BB/K  178/260/311


Brown is a notorious streak hitter and he was fairly cold through the play-offs. His combined numbers between the Midwest and Cal leagues reads 259/338/494 with 30 Doubles, 2 Triples, 31 HR, 63 walks and 191 strike outs in 541 at bats. Brown was also 16 for 17 on stolen base attempts. Corey offers huge power and serious offensive potential but he must make more contact or he will almost certainly flame out.


Josh Donaldson: 46 AB  19 Hits, 4 Doubles, 1 Triple, 4 HR  10/6 BB/K  413/518/804


If you thought Carter was hot in the play-offs he had nothing on Donaldson. The 22 year old catcher destroyed the opponent’s pitching and it’s this performance, combined with what I hope will be a fully successful AFL stint, which will keep Donaldson from dropping all the way to a C+. Donaldson’s play-off numbers combine with his regular season production to create a 281/349/480 line with 30 Doubles, 3 Triples, 19 HR, 44 walks and 76 strike outs in 469 at bats. C’mon John, that’s gotta be worth a B- grade!


At some point Taj and I will sit down and do a positional depth chart for the Oakland organization. Instructional League is about to start, then the AFL and the Hawaiian Winter League kick into gear so we should have plenty to talk about through December. But if you’ve got any ideas or suggestions about what you’d like to see from the Minor League Musing Staff go ahead and let us know. We’re perfectly capable of ignoring even the most sensible of suggestions.