Seedlings to Stars is going to give you a look at the prospects your favorite team is sending to the prestigious Arizona Fall League. We encourage you to follow along and enjoy the commentary and analysis that we come up with regarding these prospects and their potential impact on your favorite team down the road. If you’re not familiar with the eligibility rules or how the rosters are constructed click here for a quick refresher.
While the Oakland A’s are “Bernie Lean-ing” their way to a playoff birth for the first time since 2006 lets take a second to look at a few of the Arizona Fall League invitees that will be representing them as part of the Phoenix Desert Dogs in 2012. There is a nice mix of talent being sent to Arizona on behalf of the A’s including several solid bats and pitchers still trying to figure out their place in the organization.
2012: 5.11 ERA, 1.70 WHIP, 130 H, 71 BB, 79 K in 118.0 IP
The right-handed Gary Daley has shown to this point in his professional career that he is as wild as he is ineffective. Through seven professional seasons he has posted a 5.7 BB/9 rate and is consistently among the “tops” each season in both walks and wild pitches. He has only once posted a BB/9 rate below 5.0 in any single season and that was six years ago in Low-A (3.9). He spent all of 2012 with Double-A Midland in the Texas League and led the league in wild pitches (20) and walks (71) in just 118 innings. His lack of control would be less of a problem if he posted a high strikeout rate or limited hits but he does neither. He posted a 6.0 K/9 rate and allowed 9.9 H/9 in 2012 as well. Maybe he should try his hand at hitting since this whole pitching thing has not worked out over the better part of a decade. To consider him anything more than organization filler at this point would be generous.
RHP - Shawn Haviland (26) – Drafted by the Oakland A’s in the 33rd round of the 2008 draft out of Harvard University.
2012: 4.80 ERA, 1.425 WHIP, 124 H, 47 BB, 104K in 120.0 IP
The right-handed Haviland has been decent if unspectacular throughout his five professional seasons. He has posted a solid 8.1 K/9 rate along with a 2.9 BB/9 across 624 2/3 innings good enough for a career 2.8 K/BB rate. His biggest weaknesses are a lack of control and being too hittable. He lead the Texas League with 14 hit batters and was fourth with 13 wild pitches in 2012. That coupled with the fact that he posted a career high 3.5 BB/9 rate (47 walks) and you can see that a glaring weakness in his game comes from his inability to control all of his offerings. He made some strides in 2012 by allowing 9.3 H/9 (down from a career rate of 10.3) but will need to show more of that if he hopes to stay in the rotation long term. One interesting thing that is worth mentioning is that Haviland’s FIP has been significantly lower than his ERA throughout his career. He has posted a career 4.91 ERA and his FIP is about one full run lower. I think a move to the bullpen makes sense for Haviland at this point considering that he is already 26 and the A’s have several higher upside starting pitchers in their minor league system. If all else fails he can always lean on that Harvard education of his, I’ve heard good things about that school. The ceiling for Haviland, if he figures out his control, is a late-blooming #5 starter but the bullpen seems like the best bet if anything at all.
RHP- Brett Hunter (25)- Drafted by the Oakland A’s in the seventh round of the 2008 draft out if Pepperdine University.
2012: 4.50 ERA, 1.50WHIP, 53 H, 31 BB, 60 K in 56.0 IP
The right-handed Hunter has been used exclusively as a relief pitcher since 2009 and has performed decently in the role. His biggest strength is his ability to strike batters out with a career 10.1 K/9 rate and a 9.6 K/9 in 2012. His biggest weakness is his poor control as evidenced by his career 6.7 BB/9 rate and his 5.0 BB/9 rate most recently in 2012. He has also shown a tendency to give up the gopher ball as he allowed 1.1 HR/9 last season – something that he will need to work on if he hopes to contribute to Oakland’s stellar bullpen in the near future. Realistically I think Hunter is best suited to middle relief. He lacks the kind of control necessary to be counted on in high leverage situations and his splits don’t indicate any drastic numbers against either right-handed (.248 BAA in 2012) or left-handed (.264 BAA in 2012) batters so its tough to envision him as a specialist.
RHP - James Simmons (25) – Drafted by the Oakland A’s in the first round (#26) of the 2007 draft out of UC Riverside.
2012: 2.98 ERA, 1.184 WHIP, 53 H, 22 BB, 50 K in 63.1 IP
The right-handed Simmons is by far the most intriguing pitcher the A’s are sending to Arizona this fall. He has proven to be a solid relief option and has worked his way from Double-A Midland to Triple-A Sacramento by putting together the best professional season of his career in 2012. He made the move from the rotation to the bullpen full time in 2012 and the results speak for themselves. He is not a traditional strikeout pitcher but he has managed to keep his K/9 at a decent 7.1 rate in 2012 and more importantly has limited batters to only 7.5 H/9 while keep his walk rate in check at 3.1 BB/9 in 2012. I think of all the pitchers the A’s are sending to the AFL Simmons has the best chance of contributing at the MLB level as his age and his statistics are all in line with what evaluators would look for in a bullpen arm. He has a chance of seeing some extended time in Oakland as early as 2013 and if he is able to build off of his success in 2012 he should help solidify the A’s bullpen as a decent middle relief option in the near future.
C – Max Stassi (21) – Drafted by the Oakland A’s in the fourth round of the 2009 draft out of the California prep ranks.
2012: .286/.331/.468, 18 2B, 15 HR, 27 BB, 83 SO in 360 PA
Max Stassi has been a bit of an enigma over the last few seasons. While he shows promise with the bat he has missed huge chunks important development time over the last few seasons due to injuries. Just for perspective he has only played in 239 games in four-plus seasons and over the last two years has played in only 115 games. While he did show some promise in 2012 the sample size is still too small to really understand what he will be capable of at the MLB level especially since he was in the hitter friendly California League and was to some degree repeating a level as he spent some time there in 2011 before being shelved due to injuries. All in all Stassi should be considered a top prospect within the A’s organization, but he needs to stay on the field more to develop and understand the nuances of the most difficult position on the diamond. Stassi has all of the intangibles that a team would look for in a young catcher including fantastic bloodlines that run for generations – all the way back to the days of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig – but he will need to stay healthy if he ever hopes to reach his potential. If he avoids the injury bug going forward, he is young enough and smart enough to follow in the footsteps of former Oakland A’s backstop Jason Kendall where his contact abilities and game calling skills will allow him to have a long career as an above-average major league catcher.
UTIL – Grant Green (24) – Drafted by the Oakland A’s in the first round (#13) of the 2009 MLB draft out of USC.
2012: .296/.338/.458, 28 2B, 15 HR, 33 BB, 75 SO in 562 PA
Grant Green has been widely regarded as one of the A’s best prospects since he was drafted out of USC in the first round in 2009. His rise through the A’s organization has not been meteoric by any means and a significant roadblock has been finding a position where he isn’t a defensive liability. While he grew up a shortstop and was drafted as such he lacks the range and arm to play there at the MLB level. While this is not a new phenomenon in professional baseball – many prep and college shortstops eventually have to move off the position – Green has been unsuccessful in his attempts to play both center field and left field. He has subsequently bounced around the diamond like a pinball playing 2B, SS, 3B, CF and LF in 2012 alone.
It seems like he will eventually land at 3B but even that has comes with question marks attached to it as he does not profile to have enough pop in his bat to sustain the type of power production the hot corner usually requires. What Green does to well is hit. He has maintained a career batting line of .302/.348/.461 and has never hit below .291 in any single season. It will be very interesting to see how Green’s career plays out as he has shown an ability to be valuable and it is still way too early to relegate him to a DH role – not that he has the power to hold down that spot. In reality he may end up being an excellent utility player who can bounce around the infield and occasionally the outfield but never really find a true home at any one position. As long as he is hitting it might not really matter that much where he plays.
2012: .333/.391/.577, 32 2B, 8 3B, 23 HR, 39 BB, 130 SO in 528 PA
Miles Head was brought to Oakland as a complimentary piece in the deal that sent closer Andrew Bailey to Boston for Josh Reddick. Needless to say Boston appears to have been fleeced in the deal. Reddick looks to be a legitimate solution in right field, and a solid contributor on both offense and defense, while Head is quickly proving to be a huge power source at first base.
In 2012, Head absolutely crushed California League pitching to the tune of .382/.433/.715 with 18 home runs in 67 games before being promoted to Double-A Midland of the Texas League. There he continued to have success posting a .272/.338/.404 line with 5 more home runs in 57 games. The one glaring weakness in Head’s game is his plate discipline and it was very much exposed in his transition to Double-A. Overall he posted a 16:75 BB/K rate in his 57 game stint with Midland and a 39:130 BB/K rate in 2012 overall. Look for him to continue to work an his plate discipline in the AFL but the A’s have to be pleased with his power and his very bright future at first base.