Great minds think alike. Despite a large pool of players to choose from, both the readers and the staff of OaklandClubhouse.com chose the same three players as the first, second and third best infielders in the A's minor league system in 2004. Below are the winners of both polls.
1) Dan Johnson 1B (446 votes)
Dan Johnson was the overwhelming choice of the readers and staff of OaklandClubhouse.com as the A's Minor League Infielder of the Year. Johnson has had an entire off-season filled with awards. Since the end of the season, Johnson has been named the 2004 PCL Most Valuable Player, the 2004 PCL Post-Season Most Valuable Player, and the Oakland A's 2004 Organizational Player of the Year.
When examining Johnsons season, it is not hard to see why his trophy case is quickly being filled. The burly redhead crushed 29 homeruns, drove in 111 runs and hit a robust .299. Johnson also displayed the patience characteristic of most of the A's top prospects, drawing 89 walks and amassing a .403 OBP. In total, Johnson had a 937 OPS and 63 XBH.
Johnson projects to be a middle of the order hitter, perhaps in the Richie Sexson mold. He will likely start the season in Oakland as the back-up first baseman and designated hitter. Johnson has also seen some time in leftfield and may get a few innings out there as well, although his career will be at first base. While he is likely to be a back-up to start the season in Oakland, Johnson could win the starting job at first base with a strong spring and a strong April.
2) Omar Quintanilla SS (245 votes)
When the A's drafted Omar Quintanilla out of the University of Texas, many critics claimed that the A's had stretched in taking the portly shortstop in the first round. Those critics quieted a bit after Quintanilla's strong showing at A-Vancouver in 2003. After his monster 2004 campaign, Quintanilla's critics are barely audible.
Quintanilla began the season in A-Modesto, where he helped lead the Lil' A's powerful offense. After hitting .318 in 108 games for Modesto, Quintanilla was promoted to AA-Midland. The promotion didn't phase the shortstop, as he slugged his way to a .351 batting average in 23 games. In total, Quintanilla hit 13 homeruns, 42 doubles, five triples and drove in 92 runs during his 2004 minor league regular season.
Quintanilla's strong season continued when he competed in the Arizona Fall League. He generated a lot of buzz from scouts and coaches in Arizona, as he was among the league-leaders with a .374 batting average. Quintanilla was named to the post-season AFL All-Prospect team and earned a lot of praise for his ability to make consistent contact at the top of the order.
Quintanilla will begin the 2005 season in either AA-Midland or possibly AAA-Sacramento, if he has a strong spring training. Although he has yet to show a lot of homerun power, Quintanilla has demonstrated good power to the alleys and a strong sense of the strike zone. He projects as a Mark Loretta-style middle infielder.
3) Brian Snyder 3B (133 votes)
Fellow 2003 first round draft pick Brian Snyder placed third in our readers and staff poll for best A's minor league infielder in 2004. The Stetson University graduate had an excellent season at the plate for the A-Kane County Cougars. Despite spending time on the DL in mid-July with a strained hip flexor, Snyder still managed to put together a stellar season. He hit .311 with a .421 OBP, 12 homeruns and 61 runs batted in. Snyder was the Midwest League Player of the Week for the week of June 24 and finished among the league leaders in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
Snyder was perhaps a bit old for Low-A, but he figures to be tested by a higher level of competition next season in either High-A or AA. While he doesn't figure to have a major league future in the A's organization with All-Star Eric Chavez manning the hot corner for Oakland for the next six seasons, Snyder could position himself as a top trade target with a strong showing next season, in much the same way that former A's farmhand Mark Teahen did last season. Although he has a smaller build, Snyder projects to be a Corey Koskie-esque third baseman down the road.