One thing to note is that first-year statistics can often be a bit deceptive, as Oakland coaches and instructors may try to make mechanical adjustments in a pitcher’s throwing motion or in a hitter’s swing. The lesson is that these statistics are not the be-all-end-all of whether or not a player will succeed in professional baseball, but they’re a good starting point.
Here’s part one of a recap of each player’s first season in the Oakland farm system, going round-by-round (bonuses included if applicable):
Landon Powell, C, age 22 (Round 1, pick 24; Bonus: $1,000,000)
Landon signed late, and by the time he got to short-season Vancouver, Kurt Suzuki was already there and hitting well. As such, Powell split his games between catcher and DH, and hit a subpar .237/.362/.363 in 135 at-bats. Although the power he displayed in college was non-existent, he did carry over his excellent batting eye (91/89 BB/K his last 2 years in college, and 26/22 this year in the pros). Powell is still regarded as a top catching prospect who should be pushed rapidly through the Oakland minor league system, with his power returning in 2005.
Richie Robnett, OF, age 21 (Round 1, pick 26; Bonus: $1,350,000)
Robnett is a favorite in the A’s front office; the speedy outfielder from Fresno State is perhaps the most physically gifted player selected by Oakland in this past draft. Richie took well to Vancouver, hitting .299/.395/.470 with a ton of doubles. Robnett plays centerfield with ease, taking proper routes to balls, and using his speed to cover a lot of ground. We could see Robnett in Oakland as soon as the latter part of 2006.
Danny Putnam, OF, age 22 (Supplemental Round 1, pick 36; Bonus: $950,000)
Putnam was seen as perhaps the best pure hitter going into the draft, and Baseball America recently ranked him as the #4 “pure hitter” in the 2004 draft. Dan started the season at Vancouver, where he hit .289/.481/.500 in 38 ABs before moving up to low-A Kane County for the remainder of the season. Putnam struggled a bit with the Cougars (.224/.354/.417), but should be fine in 2005 after an off-season of work, and is another hitter that may be fast tracked to the majors.
Huston Street, RHP, age 21 (Supplemental Round 1, pick 40; Bonus: $800,000)
You’ve probably seen the most publicity on Street, who experienced a Jairo Garcia-like rise through the A’s minor league system in 2004, with Huston moving all the way to Sacramento after starting the season in Kane County. In 26 IP, he put up some impressive numbers: 30 Ks, 8 BBs, a 1.38 ERA, and 0 homeruns allowed. Huston has since been sent to play for the Phoenix Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League, where he is perhaps the top pitching prospect in the AFL. So far, he’s thrown 18.1 innings, allowing only 2 runs (0.98 ERA), with an 19/2 K/BB ratio. He has allowed only one professional homerun, a solo blast in Tuesday’s AFL action. He still converted the save. Huston may be playing himself into a spot in the 2005 Oakland bullpen; it’s hard to see how the A’s can keep him in the minors much longer.
Michael Rogers, RHP, age 22 (Round 2, pick 49; Bonus: $700,000)
Rogers simply did not do all that well in his first professional season in Vancouver. He pitched 40.2 innings with a 4.87 ERA, and the troubling thing is that the control (15 walks) and strikeouts (26 Ks) were both off. It may be a case of the A’s working on his mechanics, or a tired arm (he’d already thrown 117 inning at NC State before signing with the A’s). We’ll find out next year.
Kurt Suzuki, C, age 21 (Round 2, pick 67; Bonus: $550,000)
Kurt took advantage of Landon Powell’s late signing and hit .297/.394/.440 as the catcher/DH in Vancouver. Suzuki may have surpassed Powell on the organizational depth chart after last season, and with some movement among the catchers in the upper minors (Mike Rose signing with the Dodgers, the possibility of John Baker coming up to Oakland next year), he will have a chance to prove himself against better competition in 2005. With Oakland looking to a 1-year stopgap at catcher in the major leagues in 2005, Kurt may find himself in the majors as early as 2006.
Jason Windsor, RHP, age 22 (Round 3, pick 97; Bonus: $270,000)
After a heavy college workload at Fullerton (162.2 IP in 2004), Windsor was essentially shut down in the minors this year, pitching only 18 innings between Vancouver and Kane County. He did perform well (2.00 ERA, 18 K, 5 BB, 15 H, 0 HR) in limited action, but we won’t really see what he can do until 2005.
Ryan Webb, RHP, age 18 (Round 4, pick 127; Bonus: $250,000)
A quick glance at Webb’s 2004 statistics – 1-1 W/L record, 4.87 ERA in 20.1 innings – and a casual observer might think Webb was a disappointment in rookie ball this past season. However, a look at the peripheral statistics indicates an excellent debut for Webb. Twenty-three strikeouts versus only 1 walk, along with a palatable hit rate (7.97/9 IP) and BAA (.228), may show that a low future ERA is on the horizon. Webb could surprise in 2005.
Kevin Melillo, 2B, age 22 (Round 5, pick 157; Bonus: $200,000)
In limited action, Melillo tore up the Northwest league, hitting .340/.422/.564 in just under 100 at-bats. He has excellent power (15 extra-base hits), and boomed 500-foot homeruns in college at South Carolina. It is likely that Kevin will be moved to low-A Kane County or high-A Stockton in 2005 to test him against stiffer competition, as he was a bit old for the Northwest league last year.
Derek Tharpe, LHP, age 23 (Round 6, pick 187; Bonus: $42,500)
Like Ryan Webb, Tharpe also posted a deceptively high ERA (4.80) in his first season of professional baseball in Vancouver. And like Webb, Tharpe’s peripherals indicate success on the horizon. Thirty strikeouts and 7 walks in 30.0 IP is a good indication of Derek’s ability. He’s always been a little too hittable (173 hits in 139 college innings, 33 hits in 30 innings at Vancouver), and doesn’t have overpowering stuff (mid-80s fastball), but his control and “pitchability” will be the key to any future success.
Jarod McAuliff, RHP, age 22 (Round 7, pick 217; Bonus: $100,000)
After throwing a career-high 77 innings for the University of Oklahoma in 2004, the large majority of which were as a reliever, Jarod only pitched 4.1 innings for Kane County after signing with Oakland. He was shut down initially with shoulder problems. Later, it was discovered that McAuliff tore an elbow ligament, and need Tommy John surgery to repair it, meaning he may miss most (if not all) of 2005. However, the success rate for TJ surgery has gotten so good over the years that a full recovery is almost expected.
Myron Leslie, 3B, age 22 (Round 8, pick 247; Bonus: $15,000)
After a stellar college career at the University of South Florida against lower-level college competition, Leslie found the transition to professional baseball a bit difficult. After signing early enough to get in 273 at-bats in Vancouver, Myron only hit .245/.339/.315, showing subpar power for a player of his build (6’3”, 210). The .450+ OBPs that Leslie was putting up in college? Also gone. What did remain was his excellent plate discipline: 41 walks against 34 strikeouts, marking the fourth straight season where Leslie has walked more than he struck out. Hopefully, Myron’s 2005 will resemble his college career, and not his 2004 season in Vancouver.
Chad Boyd, OF, age 19 (Round 9, pick 277; Bonus: $70,000)
Boyd struggled mightily in rookie ball after signing right out of high school, hitting .207/.311/.284 in 116 at-bats. He’s still young, and has plenty of time to turn it around, especially after a monster two-way season prior to signing with the A’s. He wasn’t particular overmatched at the plate (16/21 BB/K ratio), and that augurs well for any future improvement.
Tom Everidge, 1B, age 21 (Round 10, pick 307; Bonus: $50,000)
For a college-seasoned player, Everidge was a bit of a disappointment in Vancouver in 2003, hitting .275/.333/.388, with nearly a 3-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, in 283 at-bats. With first base a position that nearly anyone can be converted to, Everidge is going to have to play better in 2005 – he hit a ridiculous .357/.450/.691 in his final college season, with excellent plate discipline – to move through the A’s minor league ranks.
Steve Sharpe, RHP, age 22 (Round 11, pick 337)
Sharpe is another prospect who pitched below his college potential in 2004, going 6-3 with a 4.60 ERA in 72.1 IP. Although his peripherals don’t indicate quite the future boon in performance that Webb and Tharpe seem to be due for, he did pitch better than the numbers indicate. Although his strikeout rate was down nearly 3 Ks/9 IP from his 2004 season at Sonoma State, the walk, hit, and homerun rates all remained similar. Sharpe gives up a below-average number of hits and homeruns, although he needs to cut down on the walks a bit. The dip in strikeout rate could be a result of his adjustment to the A’s organizational philosophy of working quickly and getting outs on a minimal number of pitches.
Nick Blasi, OF, age 23 (Round 12, pick 367)
Although the power jump that Blasi showed from 2003 to 2004 in college never carried over to Vancouver, Nick had an otherwise excellent debut season for the Canadians in 2004, hitting .295/.387/.362 in 271 AB. He does need to show some power in the future to reach the higher levels of the Oakland system, but 2004 was a solid start to Blasi’s professional career.
Scot Drucker, RHP, age 22 (Round 13, pick 397)
Drucker was a college reliever, and remained a reliever in his first season in Vancouver. Scot was the Canadians’ closer for a good part of the time after joining the team, and pitched well in that role, going 2-1 with 6 saves and 3.00 ERA in 21.0 IP. He also posted an 18/6 K/BB ratio; Drucker will need to be challenged at a higher level in 2005.
Jorge Charry, RHP, Puerto Rican Academy (Round 14)
Ryan Ford, LHP, age 22 (Round 15, pick 457)
Although Ford was a 2-way player in college, the A’s used him primarily as a starting pitcher for Vancouver in 2004. Ryan had a solid 2004 campaign, posting a 3.66 ERA in 71.1 IP, with 49 Ks (an average strikeout rate). His high points were his excellent control (only 1.89 BB/9 IP) and low homerun rate (0.38 HR/9). Ford is another player who needs stiffer competition in 2005 to be properly evaluated.
Tyler Best, C, age 23 (Round 16, pick 487)
Eighty-eight at-bats is a small sample size with which to evaluate a player, and Tyler really only did one thing well: get on base. He hit .205/.418/.261, with 26 walks and 32 strikeouts. The strike zone discipline is not surprising, since he did the same thing in college before being drafted by the A’s. The OBP is encouraging, but he needs to do a little better than a .205 BA and a .261 SLG in his first full season, especially if the A’s move him to another position.
Clay Tichota, RHP, age 23 (Round 17, pick 517)
After a senior season at Regis University where Clay improved his K/BB ratio from 1.07 to 3.82, he followed that up with 36 strikeouts against 12 walks in 42 innings in the Northwest league in 2004. His ERA was a bit high (4.71), but with his peripheral stats (including only 1 homerun allowed), he may be a guy who can improve in 2005.
Jeremy Slayden, OF, Georgia Tech (Round 18)
Ryan Ruiz, SS, age 23 (Round 19, pick 577)
Ryan hit a disappointing .243/.357/.347 in just over 200 Vancouver at-bats. I say disappointing because Ruiz showed plenty of power at UNLV (slugging .601, .527, and .643 in the last three seasons), as well as the ability to get on base consistently (.440, .374, .517 in 2002-04 with the Runnin’ Rebels). Ryan played mostly at second base this season, with a few starts mixed in at third and short.
Robert Semerano, RHP, age 23 (Round 20, pick 607)
Our comment after Robert was drafted was, “If he can learn some control, the strikeout rate is an indication that his stuff is good enough to compete.” Well, his strikeout rate (24 K in 28.2 IP) remained reasonably high, and he really cut down on his walks (only 7 in Vancouver, compared to 61 walks in 97.0 IP in 2003-04 for Fordham). Semerano was used exclusively in a relief role in 2004, and if he can continue the improvements he showed in his first season, he may develop into a potential contributor down the road.
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