Graham Koonce Ready for His Chance.
Coming off a career year with the A's AAA affiliate the Sacramento River Cats, Graham Koonce posted career high numbers in virtually every category. His monster season made him one of the top Triple A prospects in all of baseball. He was even asked to be the starting first baseman for the USA Olympic baseball team. So after such an amazing 2003 season, in which he won several awards, what is keeping this slugger in the minor leagues?
In 1993 the Detroit Tigers in the 60th round of the draft selected Graham Koonce. He later found himself with the San Diego Padres organization before he was claimed by the Oakland A's in the 2001 rule 5 minor league draft. Koonce is now a 28-year-old, 10-year veteran of the minor leagues. However he appears to be on the verge of hitting his way into the bigs. In his illustrious minor league career he has racked up 610 RBI's with a career batting average of .276 and 130 home runs.
2003: A Look Back
2003 was the year Koonce really started to outshine his competition. He smacked a Pacific Coast League leading 34 home runs, with 115 Rbi and hit for a .277 batting average. He posted an On Base Percentage of .403 and a Slugging Percentage of .542. His amazing power stroke and plate discipline, which are highly coveted by the A's, resulted in him becoming the fourth River Cat to win the PCL MVP award. However, his list of accomplishments in 2003 didn't stop there. Koonce was named the Topps Minor League Player of the Year; he won the Old Navy Home Run Hero Award, and was recognized by the River Cats as both the team MVP, and the offensive player of the year. But for Koonce the season wasn't over yet. He was invited to play for the USA Olympic Team, where he finished second on the team in hitting with a .364 batting average.
Although Koonce got a taste of the big leagues last year as a late season call up to the A's roster, he is projected to start the season back in Triple A with the River Cats. There he will be sharing DH duties with Dan Johnson
and playing first base. At the major league level, the A's currently have an abundance of talent at first base with the recent addition of Eric Karros, who will be in a platoon situation at first with lefties Scott Hatteberg and Erubiel Durazo. Being a 10-year minor leaguer, who is 28 years old, hurts his prospect value a little, but Koonce is ready to make an immediate impact at the major league level. Although his high OBP is greatly valued by the A's, don't be surprised if he is packaged into some kind of deadline deal, if the A's are in contention.
Best Compared To..
Koonce is a left-handed power hitter who displays great patience at the plate. He plays first base and draws comparisons to Jason Giambi or Erubiel Durazo.
The Last Word..
Graham Koonce appears to be ready to go. 2004 should be his last year at the minor league level. With Eric Karros, and Erubiel Durazo only signed for 1 more season, he could get his shot with the A's in 2005. If he performs well in spring training, there is a very small chance he could see some action off the bench with the A's this season, but it isn't likely. If he is traded to another team, he will probably be a back up at the big league level until he proves himself worthy of starter status.