Mid-Season Review: A's Prospects 40-31

Crumbliss is having a strong season with Midland.

During the off-season, we named our top-50 prospects in the Oakland A's system. Now that we have passed the midway point of the season, we thought it would be a good time to check the progress of those players. We take a look at the progress of prospects 40-31 from our off-season list.

Note: this is not a re-ranking of current prospects. A new top-50 prospects list will be released this off-season.

40. Chad Lewis

It has been a tough last two seasons for Lewis, who was the A's fourth-round pick in 2010. The corner infielder hit only .238/.279/.332 last year for short-season Vermont while splitting his time defensively between first and third base. Despite those numbers, Lewis was given an opportunity to play in a full-season league at the start of the 2012 campaign. He got only eight games with the Low-A Burlington Bees before the A's sent him back to extended spring training to continue to work on his approach at the plate. In those eight games with the Bees, he struck-out 11 times, didn't walk once and he collected only four hits in 30 at-bats. Lewis spent the rest of the first half at extended and was sent to Vermont at the start of short-season. He has gotten off to a slow start with the Lake Monsters, batting .250/.296/.375 over his first 14 games.

When the A's drafted Lewis, they believed he would develop into a prototypical corner infielder with the bat – a power hitter who could also hit for average. It hasn't come together for Lewis yet, although there is still time. Selected out of high school, Lewis won't turn 21 until December. He is still learning how to control the strike-zone and recognize pitches at the professional level. The A's will continue to be patient with him and he will likely stay with Vermont for the rest of the season, regardless of how he performs. A strong finish would be a confidence boost for Lewis heading into the fall Instructional League.

Status: Working to improve his approach at the plate


39. T.J. Walz

Walz was one of the top performers in his draft class last season when he posted a 1.99 ERA with a 43:10 K:BB ratio in 40.2 innings for short-season Vermont and Low-A Burlington. The A's 15th-round pick out of Kansas was used exclusively as a reliever in order to keep his innings total low last year. This season, Walz was promoted to High-A Stockton, where he began the year in the Ports' starting rotation. Walz fared well in the rotation, posting a 3.78 ERA with a 49:10 K:BB in 47.2 innings over eight starts. Most recently, Walz has been used as a reliever, and he has been nothing short of spectacular in that role. He has limited batters to an .095 average and has 29 strike-outs in 19.2 innings. The only area in which he has struggled as a reliever is with his command, as he has walked 13.

Walz has the arsenal to be a starter, but the A's may decide to keep him in the bullpen, where his path to the big leagues would be quicker. Walz is a flyball pitcher, but he has done a good job of keeping the ball in the park despite pitching in the Cal League (only four homers allowed in 67.1 innings). Although Walz has walked 13 in 19.2 innings as a reliever, he is generally a pitcher with good command. The bulk of those walks (nine) came over the span of four consecutive outings in mid-June. He has a good feel for missing bats and hasn't been intimidated by the hitter-friendly atmosphere in the Cal League. It isn't known whether Walz will remain in the bullpen all season or whether he will get another shot in the rotation before the year ends. Either way, if he continues to pitch as he has thus far, he will likely be in Double-A next season, or even sooner.

Status: Missing bats for Stockton


38. Ryan Cook

When the A's acquired Cook as part of the three-player package that the Arizona Diamondbacks sent to Oakland for Trevor Cahill, Cook was the least well-known of the three players. A starter with average numbers going into 2011, Cook was converted to the bullpen last season and made a quick rise from Double-A to the big leagues. Cook struggled in his first major league stint, however, walking eight in 7.2 innings. Despite a plus fastball and slider combination, Cook was a long-shot to make the A's bullpen coming into spring training given his command issues.

Cook defied the odds during camp, however. Although he walked three in eight innings, he did enough to impress the A's coaching staff and earn a spot on the Opening Day roster. Cook began the year as a middle reliever, but began pitching well enough to be used in more critical moments in the game. For much of April and May, Cook was the A's top set-up man. More recently, he has been named the team's closer. Cook had eight saves and a 1.50 ERA in 36 innings. He will be representing the A's in the All-Star game in Kansas City next week. Cook's command has still been an issue at times this season, as he has walked 21 batters. But his 37 strike-outs and .103 BAA have allowed him to limit the damage throughout the season. Cook will need to cut down on the walks to be an elite closer, but he has the stuff and the temperament to finish out games at the big league level for a long time.

Status: MLB All-Star


37. Michael Ynoa

This mid-season review article is coming at a good time for Ynoa, who finally made his 2012 debut on Saturday after experiencing a set-back in his recovery from Tommy John surgery during extended spring training. Ynoa threw only one inning on Saturday, but he surprised everyone by sitting in the 91-94 range with his fastball and snapping off a couple of solid curveballs. It was a scoreless inning in which Ynoa walked and struck-out a batter. He was facing a talented Texas Rangers' Arizona Rookie League line-up. (For video of Ynoa's inning, click here.)

Before Ynoa's set-back, the hope had been to have him pitch the entire short-season schedule with the Vermont Lake Monsters. Ynoa will stay in the Arizona Rookie League for now, as the A's will monitor his progress on an outing-by-outing basis. If he is able to stay healthy and build up enough innings, he could join the Lake Monsters towards the end of the New York-Penn League schedule. Ynoa will turn 21 in September. Despite being in the organization since 2008, he has yet to pitch above the Rookie League level and has only 10 career innings. Still, despite the checkered history, Ynoa is likely to be added to the A's 40-man roster this off-season if he remains healthy through the rest of this year.

Status: Finally active


36. Blake Treinen

Treinen was the A's seventh-round pick last season. The hard-throwing right-hander had an interesting backstory in that he attended three different universities during his collegiate career and wound-up at South Dakota State for his final two seasons. Despite pitching for a small school, Treinen drew scouts to watch his games thanks to his plus fastball and slider. He had a strong debut as a pro, posting a 3.30 ERA and a 36:8 K:BB ratio for the AZL A's and the Low-A Burlington Bees. Treinen was a reliever during his pro debut season, mostly to limit his innings after a long college season.

This year, the A's moved Treinen into the Stockton Ports' rotation. He has made 15 starts for the Ports this year and has a 4.70 ERA in 90 innings. For the most part, Treinen has pitched better than that ERA would indicate. He has a strong 78:19 K:BB ratio and has induced nearly two groundouts for every flyout. Despite getting so many groundballs, however, Treinen has allowed 11 homeruns. Three of those homeruns came in his last start on June 26. He was skipped during the last turn through the rotation. Assuming Treinen is healthy, he should remain in the rotation for the rest of the season. He has excellent stuff and has, for the most part, handled the difficult California League well. Because of his unusual collegiate career, Treinen is already 24 despite being only a year removed from college. The A's could move him into the bullpen down-the-road to speed his path to the majors, but, for now, they will continue to develop him as a starter.

Status: Working for a solid second half


35. Conner Crumbliss

Last season, Crumbliss stumbled badly out of the gate with High-A Stockton before recovering to post a 782 OPS with the Ports. This year, Crumbliss had a strong April with Double-A Midland, posting an 832 OPS. In April, Crumbliss connected on three homeruns and posted a .444 SLG to go along with a .388 OBP. Since then, Crumbliss has seen his power numbers dip but his OBP has gone up. In May, he posted a .402 OBP and in June, a .418 mark. For the season, Crumbliss has a very Crumbliss-like .406 OBP. He also has 18 stolen bases in 23 chances and a 785 OPS overall. He is second on the Rockhounds and fifth in the league overall in OBP and his 68 walks are tops in the league.

Throughout his career, Crumbliss has split time defensively between second base and the outfield. This year, he has gotten significantly more playing time in the outfield than he has at second, but Crumbliss is equally comfortable in the infield and the outfield. His versatility, ability to get on base and speed make him a valuable asset to any roster. Although he doesn't hit for much power, Crumbliss has continued to draw walks at an impressive rate even as he has moved up against advanced competition. In his career, he has never had an OBP lower than .400 in any season. He has also moved up a level each season as a professional. Crumbliss is on pace to continue both streaks if he can have a second half similar to his first half.

Status: Posting Crumbliss-like numbers


34. Cedric Hunter

At the time the A's acquired Hunter off waivers last November, they had very little major league depth in the outfield and it looked as though the former San Diego Padres' top prospect would get a legitimate shot to make the A's Opening Day roster. As the off-season wore on, however, the A's acquired several major league outfielders and they designated Hunter for assignment. He cleared waivers and remained with the organization through spring training. However, when camp broke, the A's couldn't find a place for Hunter in Triple-A, so they traded him to the St. Louis Cardinals rather than forcing him to play at the Double-A level.

Hunter has spent the entire season with Triple-A Memphis and is having a solid year for the Redbirds. In 80 games, he has a .291/.361/.423 line and a 21:29 BB:K ratio. The centerfielder is still only 24 years old despite having been on the prospect radar for several years. The former third-round pick of the Padres in 2006 is a candidate for a September call-up with the Cardinals this year.

Status: Playing well for Memphis


33. Blake Hassebrock

Expectations were high for Hassebrock coming into this season after he posted a 2.64 ERA and induced nearly two groundballs for every flyball in 139.2 innings for Low-A Burlington last season. Hassebrock was part of the High-A Stockton Ports' six-man rotation to start the year. He got off to a strong start by allowing only one run in 6.1 innings in his Stockton debut. However, he followed that start with two poor outings. Then on April 28, he struck-out eight in 5.1 innings, but injured both his hamstring and his oblique. The injuries would cost Hassebrock the next five weeks of the season. He returned to the mound on June 15 and has been slowly working his way back into shape ever since. It has been rough sledding for the right-hander in those four outings, as he has allowed 11 runs in nine innings (although he allowed only one run in 3.1 innings in his latest outing on Wednesday).

The second half will be important for Hassebrock, who should get regular starts as long as he is healthy. Hassebrock has continued to show that he can induce groundballs at a high rate when he has been on the mound this season and he has limited his walks. He has been hurt by an often porous infield defense in Stockton. The A's are high on Hassebrock's ability, but how he fares in the second half will determine where the A's slot him next year.

Status: Just getting back into the groove


32. Beau Taylor

Taylor, the A's 5th-round pick last season, was so highly regarded by Oakland coming out of the draft that he was the only position player from his draft class to spend a significant amount of time on a full-season affiliate's roster last year. He got off to a slow start with the Burlington Bees in 2011, but finished strong and posted a .293/.367/.367 line in 147 at-bats. After starting the year in extended spring training thanks to an injury, Taylor got the call up to High-A Stockton in mid-April. He has been a steady force at the plate for the Ports ever since. In 47 games through Tuesday, the catcher has a .316/.402/.444 line with 25 walks and only 28 strike-outs over 171 at-bats.

Considered a strong defensive catcher coming out of college, Taylor has had a few ups-and-downs with the glove this season, but he has the tools to be an above-average receiver. He has an above-average eye at the plate and solid contact skills. The Cal League is a hitter's league, but Taylor's numbers are impressive for a catcher. The A's are loaded with prospects at the catcher position, especially in Stockton where Taylor has shared time with fellow top prospect Max Stassi, but Taylor's numbers thus far this season put him in a strong position to move up to Double-A next year, if not sometime in late August.

Status: Putting together a strong first full season


31. Zhi Fang Pan

It has been an up-and-down season for Pan, who is competing in a full-season league for the first time in his professional career. The Taiwanese infielder had a 662 OPS in April and a 515 OPS in June but posted an 853 OPS in May for the Low-A Burlington Bees. Left-handers have been particularly tough on Pan this season. The left-handed hitter is batting only .174/.283/.174 versus southpaws. Against right-handers, he has a .291/.338/.402 slash line. After batting better than .330 each of the past two seasons, Pan's average is currently .271 and his overall line is .271/.329/.358.

Pan, 21, is the A's first international amateur free agent signing from Taiwan. Injuries and a commitment to the Taiwanese National team have limited his playing time the past two seasons, but he has stayed relatively healthy this year. Pan is a slash hitter with limited power but decent speed and solid defensive tools. He will be representing the A's on Team World in the MLB Futures Game next week. The Midwest League is a tough environment for hitters, but Pan will likely have to show a little more at the plate over the final two months to put himself in a strong position for a promotion to High-A Stockton next year.

Status: Looking for a strong finish


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