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Minor League Update, September 1st

My timing is impeccable.

The morning after the A’s score 8 runs and Chris Carter hits 3 homeruns for the River Cats I come to AN to post a story about how underwhelming the Oakland offense has been and how we can’t expect to see any help from the farm system until July of 2010.

Gosh how I love feeling timely and relevant.

Today’s Minor League Update is my attempt to gauge when the Oakland A’s offense can expect to receive reinforcements from internal sources, i.e. the farm system. My estimates are meant to be conservative, as I don’t want to see players bounced back and forth between Oakland and Sacramento. When I post a player’s ETA it’s meant to be a permanent arrival… until Billy Beane trades him, of course.

Chris Carter: LF; ETA: July, 2010

The A’s have said time and again that once a player has success at AA the possibility of him being called up increases dramatically. The reality with our favorite baseball organization has traditionally been much more conservative, as the A’s under Beane almost never called up a player until he’d seen a fair amount of time in AAA. Then this season happened and Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill, the top pitching prospects in the system, end up on the Opening Day roster with no more than 2 months experience above High-A ball! So we should expect to see the top hitting prospect in next year’s Opening Day line-up… right?

Not so fast. Carter’s AA line of  337/435/576 is oh so pretty, but he’s shown a tendency over the past couple seasons to start slowly. In 2008 he didn’t start hitting until June and this season the power didn’t start flowing until the second half of May, not hitting his 4th home run until May 18. Carter hasn’t exactly taken AAA by storm (OK, clouds were building last night) and I think he’s going to need some time to make a few more adjustments before making the Show. Give him a couple months next year to get his feet under him in AAA and let him make his big league debut when he’s going full tilt.

Brett Wallace: 1B; ETA: June 2010

Brett Wallace is one of the best hitting prospects in the minor leagues, but he’s barely a year out of college and his AAA line of 295/344/444 with 17 doubles and 13 home runs doesn’t exactly scream DOMINATOR. So sure, the A’s could rush him and start him in the Oakland next Opening Day… then probably have to send him down to Sac by early May so he can get his swing figured out. Let’s be proactive here and skip the demotion! I say give him 6 weeks to beat the snot out of AAA pitching and call him up when the rest of the PCL is willing to buy his bus ticket just to get him out of the league.

Adrian Cardenas: 3B; ETA: August 2010

The toughest player for me to guestimate, in large part because his arrival time is at least partly tied to the health (or lack thereof) of Eric Chavez. If Chavez collapses early in 2010 then Wallace will (most likely) get first crack at playing 3B. But if a miracle occurs and we actually see Chavez play again, then Cardenas (the most logical long term successor in the A’s system, even if the A’s themselves seem to be fighting that reality with every freakin’ breath) probably doesn’t see the Show until September, 2010. However, when betting on Eric’s health the smart money is always on the DL, so I’m bumping up Cardenas’ arrival date to August of next year. The only thing that worries me about Cardenas is the lack of power he’s shown thus far, but he’s young and has shown a knack for hitting so the power could still come.

Corey Brown: OF, ETA: September 2010

Call it woman’s intuition or maybe my furry blue coat has fried my brain, but I can see Mr. Brown seeing the bright lights of Oakland a year from today. It could happen even sooner if he has a wildly successful Arizona Fall League stint, segueing into a brilliant AAA debut but his strike out issues and missing half of the 2009 season begs for caution.

Corey Brown has the bat and the defensive chops to handle CF in the Show and who knows how long Rajai Davis can keep this going, but Brown has got to stay healthy and take advantage of his opportunities when they appear.

Others of note: Josh Donaldson does not have the skills to be a starting big league Catcher. His arm is strong but tends to be a bit scatter shot and he allows too many Passed Balls. He does show some solid hitting skills and might have enough versatility to play on the infield corners, making him a valuable bench asset down the line. The A’s seem to be fast tracking Jemile Weeks but he won’t see Oakland until the A’s are unicorn free. Weeks will most likely start next season in AA but I expect the A’s to look for reason to promote him by June. Sean Doolittle is still recovering from his knee injury and the A’s want to see him play Winter Ball. But Wallace’s arrival and Carter’s development pretty much make it RF or bust for Doolittle and he missed a golden opportunity to get his foot in the door this season.

That’s it. And thank you for your support.

(I need a catchier closing line.)