I'm not a big fan of looking at true "ceilings" and "floors" with prospects, simply because a ceiling is a "best possible scenario" that almost no prospect actually reaches, while every prospect has a floor of "total bust" - and many reach it!
More interesting to me is to look at who, among players we know (major leaguers) is the best comp for who that prospect will become if he stays healthy, all goes as planned, and he doesn't especially take off or stall (that's your 50th percentile), and then to look at about the 90th percentile ("likely best case scenario") and about the 10th percentile ("likely worst case scenario"). The comps should run a tad optimistic just because they assume good health and as we know, new injuries, and full recovery from previous injuries, are among the most common reasons a prospect fails to live up to his potential.
After the jump, here's a look at each of the A's new key acquisitions (Raul Alcantara, A.J. Cole, Collin Cowgill, Miles Head, Tom Milone, Derek Norris, Jarrod Parker, Brad Peacock, Josh Reddick) with my best attempts, based on their scouting reports and minor league performance so far, to suggest good comps for their 10th percentile, 50th percentile, and 90th percentile projections. I hope you will weigh in with better comps, as well as your analysis of where I might be being too optimistic or pessimistic.Raul Alcantara, RHP (age 19)
A tall, lean power pitcher with a good fastball, a sharp but inconsistent slider, and a developing changeup, scouting reports suggest that Alcantara's future could be in the rotation, as perhaps a #3 starter, or the bullpen, perhaps as a "7th inning guy".
50th percentile comp: Joaquin Benoit
90th percentile comp: Kelvim Escobar
10th percentile comp: Jamey Wright
A.J. Cole, RHP (just turned 20)
20 years old, with #1-#2 starter potential, Cole has a combination of above average fastball and curve, a "power arm" with control that has been solid but not spectacular. In some ways, he reminds me of "Brett Anderson without quite the control," though his stuff may be a bit more electric and a bit less polished, or Ricky Romero. But he's right-handed, so...
50th percentile comp: Tommy Hanson
90th percentile comp: Chris Carpenter
10th percentile comp: Eric Milton (remember him? Great arm, didn't ever quite harness it) Or if you prefer a RHP, how about today's version of AJ Burnett. He even has the AJ!
Collin Cowgill, OF (age 25)
Cowgill has "tweener" and "AAAA" written all over him, though the A's appear to think more highly of him than that, perhaps because he has the reputation for being a "determined, hard-working overachiever" type.
Cowgill is one of two acquisitions who can be described as "maybe a CFer, probably best suited to RF" (Josh Reddick being the other), because naturally you need two Ryan Sweeneys, not one. ("Collect all three!!! Darn -- just as we got the other two, we traded the first one!") Offensively, Cowgill "does a lot of things well, but nothing great," a guy who might put up a full season line of .260/.350/.400 with 10 HRs and 20 SBs if the A's see something most scouts have missed.
50th percentile comp: Reed Johnson
90th percentile comp: Marlon Byrd
10th percentile comp: Scott Hairston
Miles Head, 1B/3B (age 20)
A 1Bman who for now will masquerade, successfully or unsuccessfully, as a 3Bman, Head has lots of power, but like many hitters he has it mostly when the bat does hit the ball. Head has a body that suggests his parents were Matt Stairs and Jeremy Brown, and as a prospect he has kind of "come out of nowhere" lately.
50th percentile comp: Brad Fullmer (remember him?)
90th percentile comp: Paul Goldschmidt (we can dream, right?)
10th percentile comp: Chris Carter (remember he was once a 3Bman, then a 1Bman...then a DH...then a...?)
Tommy Milone, LHP (about to turn 25)
A polished and crafty left-hander with below-average velocity and stuff but excellent command and feel for pitching, upon description Milone might remind you of someone trying to follow the Justin Duchscherer mold.
The obvious comparisons are to Tom Glavine or Jamie Moyer, because they set the standard for what a left-hander can do without throwing hard enough to break a pane of glass, but they are dangerous comps because they are such outliers and here we are looking at the heart of the bell curve: the 10th-90th percentiles.
It's a matter of opinion whether the comps should be limited to LHPs, so I have offered comps both ways.
50th percentile comp: Kevin Slowey, or if you want a LHP, Jason Vargas
90th percentile comp: Mark Buehrle, or if you like history, Charlie Leibrandt
10th percentile comp: Zach Duke
Derek Norris, C (about to turn 23)
A catcher with good power, great plate discipline, a low batting average, and middling defensive skills (good throwing arm, not so good "other"), Norris has understandably drawn comparisons to Mike Napoli. However, Napoli is a good enough player that he's certainly more the "90th percentile" version of Norris than he is the "50th" (or 10th).
50th percentile comp: Chris Ianetta?
90th percentile comp: Mike Napoli
10th percentile comp: Kelly Shoppach (who, I might add, ruined my 40th birthday with a game-winning HR off of Alan Embree. No, I'm not quite over it yet.)
Jarrod Parker (age 23)
A #1 pick who has returned from TJS with strong velocity but inconsistent control, Parker has the upside of an ace and the uncertainty of a TJS survivor trying to regain the command he showed pre-injury.
50th percentile comp: Gavin Floyd
90th percentile comp: Mat Latos
10th percentile comp: Luke Hochevar (little known fact: All #1 picks who epically fail are in fact Luke Hochevar. The guy isn't good, but he gets around). However, if you prefer actual TJS survivors, try Kris Benson.
Brad Peacock (about to turn 24)
With a 94MPH fastball, good curve and changeup, and still refining his secondary pitches, Peacock projects as a #3 starting pitcher.
50th percentile: Freddy Garcia
90th percentile: Adam Wainwright
10th percentile: Tommy Hunter
Josh Reddick (about to turn 25)
If I were in a snarkier mood, I'd list Reddick's 50th percentile comp as Collin Cowgill. However, Reddick has the better pedigree, and probably the better chance to stick in CF, but shares with Cowgill that his strengths are "not doing anything badly" and his weaknesses are "not doing anything that well". Similar as they are, Reddick will likely do all that at a higher level.
50th percentile comp: Melky Cabrera
90th percentile comp: David DeJesus (not the A's version, the one everyone else gets)
10th percentile comp: Aaron Cunningham
I hope you enjoyed reading this -- I have to say, it was a lot of fun thinking about, and writing, these comps. But are they the best comps? Probably not. So please improve upon them! Meanwhile, I am seeking interviews with minor league coaches or scouts familiar with each of these prospects, in the hopes of providing a February series "Scouting the A's new prospects". No promises yet, but stay tuned!