With the S2S 2012 Top 100 Prospects List now in the books, it’s time to take a closer look at the future of each team. And that means team prospect lists!
Most minor league sites will do top-10s, top-15s, top-20s, or some other ranking. Last year, to be a bit different, the FanSided team prospect lists (which were done at Call to the Pen, since S2S didn’t exist), instead listed a team’s top prospect at each position (C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, 3 OFs, 5 SPs, and 2 RPs). This year, we’re keeping that format, but also adding a “Best of the Rest” section that lists the top ten players beyond the positional rankings. That’s 25 players per system, if you’re counting.
I’m an A’s fan, and I obviously follow their system very closely, but entering the offseason, I was very down on the system, believing it to possibly be the worst in the game. In particular, there was almost nothing in the lower minors that was interesting.
Of course, now, the A’s have made several trades, and we’re only a few hours beyond the news of their signing Yoenis Cespedes first breaking–in all, the team has vastly improved its collection of young talent in the offseason, and some players that would easily be on this list in October are now quite far off the list.
It’s a pretty strong system overall, with the notable exception of the infield. In particular, shortstop is a black hole.
Position Player Upside: B
Position Player Depth: A-
Pitching Upside: A-
Pitching Depth: B
System Grade: B+
Catcher: Derek Norris. Norris hit just .210 last year, but nobody with that low of a batting average gets more accolades. He does strike out a ton, but his walk rates are tremendous, he provides 20-homer power, and he has a cannon behind the plate. Imagine Mike Napoli with a better arm and batting eye but more strikeouts, and you get a pretty good idea of what he is–a very valuable asset. Grade: B
First base: Chris Carter. Like Norris, Carter has obvious contact shortcomings, and as a first baseman who is probably best cast at DH defensively, he can’t afford to be short of excellent offensively. His second year in Triple-A was a near carbon-copy of his first, and he’s now 25. The power and batting eye that made him such a stud in the first place are still there, but 2012 is the put-up-or-shut-up year for him. Grade: B-
Second base: Chris Bostick. A 44th-round pick this season, Bostick went 23-for-52 in the Arizona Summer League, good for a .442/.482/.652 line. As a high school kid from a northern state, he might have been somewhat overlooked, as it seems that the reports on him are cautiously optimistic about his potential going forward. He played some short in his pro debut but likely will spend most of his time at second, although given their dearth of shortstops, perhaps the A’s will let him stay there for a few years. A far-away sleeper, Bostick hasn’t even turned 19 yet, and he bears watching. Grade: C+
Third base: Steve Parker. Not a thrilling prospect by any means, Parker nonetheless has some skills. He’s a lefty-swinging third baseman with some gap pop and a very good approach at the plate, and he’s somewhat close to ready after getting a late-season look in Triple-A last year. After making 33 errors at third base in 2010, he tightened his fielding up and now projects to stay at third. It’s tough to imagine him evolving into a good enough player to start even against lefthanded pitchers, but he could be the long half of a platoon or a nice lefty bat off the bench. Grade: C+
Shortstop: Eric Sogard. I had to pick somebody. But hey, Sogard has some value, more than his .221/.277/.338 showing in the majors thus far might suggest. He’s walked more than he’s struck out in each of the last four minor league seasons, and he’s hit .298/.387/.406 across two Triple-A campaigns. He moved to shortstop from second base in 2011 and got the job done, though he’s far from spectacular there. He projects as a pretty nifty utility player from day one of the 2012 season, but like Carter, he better meet that quickly, as he’s 26 in May. Grade: C+
Outfielder #1: Yoenis Cespedes. I’m still reeling from the news that Cespedes is an A (and if somehow, the deal falls through, please forgive me–for all intents and purposes, it seems like everything is set), and “finished product” players from foreign countries are difficult to analyze. After all, they have no pro data, they’re close to their prime, and they’re expected to contribute immediately. It’s anyone’s guess as to how he makes the jump, but nobody questions the tools, and at 26, his ability to step right in and (theoretically) contribute is also a plus. Grade: A-
Outfielder #2: Michael Choice. While he’s still a center fielder, Choice will probably eventually move to a corner. He hit 30 homers last year–yes, it was the Cal League, but nobody doubts his power. Nobody doubts his contact issues, either, as he struck out 134 times in 118 games, a total that needs to come down if he’s going to be a star slugger. He does walk a fair amount, and he should have some defensive value as well, so he could be a classic power-hitting right fielder. Double-A will be a big test for the 22-year-old, as he’s got to prove he can carry his abilities to the upper minors and make progress in cutting down on the strikeouts. Grade: B+
Outfielder #3: Jermaine Mitchell. Mitchell was once a prospect back in 2006-07, but as a college product who struggled in High-A as a 23-year-old in 2008, he was way off the radar entering 2011. However, he always kept his five-tool skillset, and had showed signs of life in his third go-round in High-A in 2010, hitting .309/.413/.523. Given that he was 25 and flopped in a Double-A look, nobody paid attention then, but he came out in 2011 and was probably the best player in the Texas League, hitting .355/.453/.589. He also hit .302/.401/.453 in Triple-A in the second half. Mitchell brings a fantastic, patient approach to the plate, he has 15-homer power, and he is a solid defensive center fielder with some speed on the basepaths. A late bloomer who, at 27, looks ready to be a solid MLB outfielder. Grade: B-
Starting Pitcher #1: A.J. Cole. Cole has all the ideal attributes for a young pitching prospect: he has a big frame, he’s projectable, he has three pitches that could turn into above-average or plus offerings, his mechanics are easy and repeatable, he has strong command, and he has the results to back up his stuff. With only 90 pro innings, he’s not a finished product, but he is almost impossible to not fall in love with. Grade: A-
Starting Pitcher #2: Brad Peacock. Peacock is the rare pitcher whose numbers have dramatically improved as he’s risen through the minors. His K/9 was 6.3 in A-ball in 2009, 9.4 between High-A and Double-A in 2010, and 10.9 between Double-A and Triple-A in 2011. At 24, he does seem to be a bit rough around the edges–while he has three pitches that flash plus at times, he rarely has them all working in the same game. After seeing his K/BB go from 5.61 in Double-A to an even 2.00 in Triple-A, he could use a bit more refinement at that level, but he could make an impact in the second half and evolve into a mid-rotation strikeout machine. Grade: A-
Starting Pitcher #3: Tom Milone. Milone is going to do for the A’s what Dallas Braden has done for them the last few years–post FIPs consistently under 4.00 in spite of working in the upper 80s with his fastball. He has exquisite command, with a 155/16 K/BB in Triple-A and a 15/2 K/UIBB in the majors last year, and his changeup is a swing-and-miss pitch. He’ll step in as a decent third/excellent fourth starter on Opening Day, and should be effective in that role for years. Grade: B+
Starting Pitcher #4: Sonny Gray. The 18th pick in the 2011 draft, Gray is a small two-pitch dynamo who immediately succeeded in Double-A after signing. Like Peacock, he could factor into the major league picture late in 2012, although his size, lack of a changeup, and the effort in his delivery mean some project him as a closer. I’m taking the conservative projection here, as I do with most recent draftees, but Gray could evolve into a very interesting pitcher in either role. Grade: B
Starting Pitcher #5: Jarrod Parker. Yep, I know, I know. This is way down on Parker–most would have him ahead of all four pitchers I have above him, or at least Milone. But I’ve just never really gotten the hype for Parker. Sure, his stuff is good, but he seems to underperform it, and he lacks the ideal size to stay in the rotation. I see a lot of eerie similarities to Kyle Drabek here (6’1″ pitcher, Tommy John surgery on his record, fantastic stuff, lack of elite strikeout or walk numbers). As longtime readers might recall, Drabek was the biggest “snub” from my 2011 top 100 prospects, and he did nothing to make me regret that decision. Parker will be an interesting test case as well; as an A’s fan, I hope I’m wrong about him. All that said, it’s not like he’s a bad prospect–I just feel he’ll have to move to relief to maximize his stuff, so I don’t rank him far away from where I’d rank Addison Reed. If he stays in the rotation, I think he’ll be the sort of pitcher that seems on the brink of putting it together every July, but never quite does, a la Homer Bailey or Luke Hochevar. Grade: B
Relief Pitcher #1: Neil Wagner. A free-talent find in 2010, Wagner posted an 87/23 K/BB in 66 1/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A and got a September callup. He’s 28, so he’s got to perform now, but guys who can control 94-98 mph heat don’t grow on trees. Grade: C+
Relief Pitcher #2: Ryan Cook. Moved to relief in 2011, Cook ran into trouble in Triple-A and the majors after excelling in Double-A, but he’s 3 1/2 years younger than Wagner and has more developed secondary offerings. If he commands his three-pitch mix, he’ll be a very effective middle reliever, and like Wagner, he’s a potential 2012 contributor. Grade: C+
Best of the Rest
#1.) Max Stassi, C. Stassi only played 31 games in 2011, but he cut his strikeout rate basically in half from 2010. He’s the rare catcher whose defense is not in question, even at age 20, and he has some offensive upside with a power bat and a disciplined approach. People are giving up on Stassi, who doesn’t even turn 21 until April, far too quickly–if he can stay healthy, he’s on the path to being a starter, although he now is blocked by Norris. Grade: B-
#2.) Raul Alcantara, RHP. The sleeper in the Andrew Bailey trade, Alcantara who does all you can really ask a Latin American teenager to be able to do–he throws hard and throws his fastball for strikes. He struck out 50 and walked just twelve in 65 innings in short season, also allowing only 48 hits and no home runs. Let’s not go crazy about him until he excels in full-season ball, but he’s one of the better short-season arms out there. Grade: B-
#3.) Collin Cowgill, OF. Another acquisition this offseason, Cowgill had a huge year in Triple-A in 2011, but a lot of that is due to park effects–really, he’s always been an above-average but not overwhelming player. A fine fit as a fourth outfielder/lefty-masher, and he’s ready to help now. Grade: C+
#4.) Graham Godfrey, RHP. Godfrey initially came to the A’s in a rather ill-fated trade of Marco Scutaro, but the righthander looks like he might be able to salvage some value for Oakland. He led the PCL in ERA this past season and didn’t embarrass himself in a couple of spot starts with the A’s. He’s 27, but could have a nice run of 4-4.5 ERA seasons as a fourth or fifth starter. Grade: C+
#5.) Rashun Dixon, OF. Dixon is the rare A’s prospect who isn’t in the upper minors, and he’s also rare in that he’s been young for his levels. Even though he has a two-sport background and is still somewhat raw, the A’s have pushed him hard, and it’s consequently pretty impressive that he hit .243/.317/.379 in High-A at age 20. The big issue for Dixon is the strikeouts (135 in 119 games), but he also will take some walks, and he has some power potential and plays a good right field. Don’t be surprised if he suddenly breaks out in 2013 or 2014, sort of like Mitchell, once he has more time to refine his skills and is at an age-appropriate level. Grade: C+
#6.) Myrio Richard, OF. Richard is basically Cowgill without the upper-minors provenness–he does a bit of everything and projects as a good fourth outfielder. Grade: C+
#7.) Grant Green, OF. For all the hype Green gets, it’s difficult to discern what he does well. His strikeout rate, walk rate, and power production were all below average in 2011, he’s going to be 24 this year and hasn’t even played in Triple-A, and he was moved from shortstop to center field. While he gets far more attention, he’s really in the same boat as Cowgill and Richard as an average-ish-across-the-board guy that fits best in a utility role. Grade: C+
#8.) Dan Straily, RHP. Straily was unfazed by the high-offense environment of the Cal League, with a 154/40 K/BB and just ten homers allowed in 160 2/3 innings. He’s had success at every stop thus far, and he profiles as a potential back-end starter. Grade: C+
#9.) Vicmal de la Cruz, OF. This outfielder is one of the top DSL prospects after hitting .318/.438/.453 there. He’ll be 18 for the entire 2012 season, so he’s got plenty of time to adapt to US ball. Like any player this unproven, he could rank much higher or be way off the list this time next year. Grade: C+
#10.) Miles Head, 1B/”3B”. Another product of the AnDrew Bailey trade, Head is a short, stocky 20-year-old who crushed Low-A (.338/.409/.612) but flailed in High-A. First base prospects rarely work out, so the A’s are supposedly moving him to third, which most believe is a transition less likely to stick than Miguel Cabrera‘s move across the diamond. He’s on the edge of the radar, but he’s not worth taking too seriously unless he can put up huge numbers at the Double-A level. Grade: C
The complete list of S2S 2012 Team Prospect Rankings can be found here.
For more on the A’s, check out Swingin’ A’s.
Topics: A.J. Cole, Brad Peacock, Chris Bostick, Chris Carter, Collin Cowgill, Dan Straily, Derek Norris, Eric Sogard, Graham Godfrey, Grant Green, Jarrod Parker, Jermaine Mitchell, Max Stassi, Michael Choice, Miles Head, Myrio Richard, Neil Wagner, Oakland Athletics, Rashun Dixon, Raul Alcantara, Ryan Cook, Sonny Gray, Steve Parker, Tom Milone, Vicmal De La Cruz, Yoenis Cespedes