Editor’s Note: This list is intended to demonstrate the player’s status as a prospect in the A’s system and is not reflective of how close the player is to appearing in the major leagues. Nick Swisher has not been included in this list, as it is assumed he will be in the major leagues to start the season.
1) Javier Herrera, RF, 5’10’’, 220
Five-tool prospect Javier Herrera heads a talented list of outfield prospects. Herrera is the type of player not often found in the Oakland system. He is the kind of player scouts love. He runs well, hits for power and high average, throws well and covers a lot of ground defensively.
Herrera is a product of the A’s Dominican program. His first professional season in the U.S. (2003) was interrupted when he incurred a horrific neck injury crashing into an unforgiving outfield wall. Herrera recovered from that set-back and put together an MVP performance for the short-season A league Vancouver Canadians in 2004. Herrera posted a .331/.392/.549 line while clubbing 11 homeruns and stealing 23 bases in 24 opportunities in only 63 games. Herrera also displayed a cannon for an arm in right. He is still a bit of a free-swinger, but he will only be 20 years old next season, so his plate discipline has plenty of time to develop.
Due to his young age, the right-handed hitting Herrera is likely to begin the season in low-A Kane County, but he will be watched closely as he progresses through the system. Down the road, Herrera projects to be a middle of the order hitter who could post 30/30 seasons for years to come.
2) Richie Robnett, OF, 5’10’’, 195
Like Herrera, Richie Robnett scores high on the traditional scouts’ measurements for the five standard tools. The left-handed hitting Robnett could team with Herrera to make a potent 3-4 combination for the A’s a few years down the road. Robnett was the A’s second first round draft choice in the June 2004 draft. The Fresno State alum was a bit of a surprise pick for Oakland because he had only one year of NCAA baseball experience and wasn’t considered as polished as some of the A’s other collegiate level picks. However, it didn’t take long for everyone to understand why the A’s tabbed Robnett. He created a stir during a batting practice appearance at the Oakland Coliseum when he launched several baseballs high into Mt. Davis.
Robnett followed up that demonstration with a solid professional debut at short-season Vancouver. He appeared in 41 games for the Canadians, posting a .296/.388/.453 line and hitting 18 extra-base hits in 159 at-bats. At the conclusion of the Northwest League season, Robnett was promoted to low-A Kane County to help the Cougars in their playoff run.
Like Herrera, Robnett is still very young (he won’t turn 22 until September) and he has some work to do on his batting eye. He should get some valuable advice this spring, as he attends his first major league spring training camp.
3) Matt Watson, RF/LF, 5’10’’, 210
Outfielder Matt Watson is the only player on the list with major league experience, having appeared briefly with the New York Mets in 2003. Watson is now on his third organization (he was drafted by Montreal in 1999). Watson has never been a highly regarded prospect, but it is hard to understand why. The Xavier product has been a consistent performer his entire minor league career. Of his six minor league seasons, Watson has had only two of those years where he hit below .300. Mostly a singles hitter early in his career, Watson has steadily gained more power at the plate as he has risen through the minor leagues.
Last season playing for Sacramento, Watson had arguably his best professional season. He hit .305/.377/.515 with 19 homers and 96 runs batted in. He also pounded out 37 doubles and three triples. Watson will be in the major league camp this year, competing for a spot on the A’s 25-man roster. However, he will face an up-hill battle earning a spot on the team if the A’s keep all five of their outfielders projected to be on the team (Eric Byrnes, Bobby Kielty, Nick Swisher, Charles Thomas and Mark Kotsay).
Watson is a good contact hitter who doesn’t strike out much and sprays line-drives to all fields. He is an average defensive corner outfielder and a left-handed hitter. If given a chance to show what he can do, Watson projects to be a solid third or fourth outfielder.
4) Jason Perry, LF, 6’1’’, 205
2004 was a tale of two seasons for Jason Perry. The left-handed slugger, who was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays in 2003, had a horrific first six weeks of the season with the AA-Midland Rockhounds. However, after an early season demotion to A-Modesto, Perry began to rip the cover off the ball and didn’t stop until the season came to an end. At Modesto, Perry posted a 1117 OPS and hit 24 homers and drove in 80 runs in only 83 games. He still struck out too much, but that was the only weakness at the plate that he displayed for the Lil’ A’s.
Perry then appeared for the Phoenix Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League and hit for good power but struggled with his batting average. Still, the A’s saw enough to add him to the 40-man roster this off-season. His struggles at AA-Midland are a bit troubling and, at 24 years old, Perry can’t afford another poor showing like he had at the beginning of 2004. If he can play well at spring training this year and at AA-Midland in the beginning of the 2005 season, Perry could find himself at Sacramento by the end of the year.
5) Danny Putnam, LF, 5’11’’, 200
If Robnett was a slightly unusual draft pick for the A’s, Danny Putnam was as typical a pick for Oakland as they come. The Stanford alum was a collegiate star at a top NCAA program, hitting with great power and patience during his college career. Putnam isn’t overwhelmingly athletic, but he is an intelligent player who was one of the centerpieces of a strong Stanford offense.
Putnam’s polish was evident soon after signing with the A’s when he was promoted from short-season Vancouver to low-A Kane County after only 11 games for the Canadians. He struggled to make consistent contact in Kane County, but showed good power for someone adjusting to wooden bats for the first time. The right-handed hitting Putnam has all the makings of a strong professional hitter and should move quickly through the A’s system.
6) Brian Stavisky, LF, 6’3’’, 220
Brian Stavisky teamed with Jason Perry to create a potent middle of the order for the Modesto A’s in 2004. Stavisky was among the California League leaders in almost all offensive categories and he ended up winning the Cal League MVP award. The Notre Dame alum posted a .343/.413/.550 line during his MVP campaign.
Stavisky was a bit old for the Cal League last season (24) and is a very awkward fielder. However, if he continues to show that he can hit, the A’s will find somewhere for his bat in a few years. Stavisky will likely start the season at AA-Midland.
Other players to watch
Andre Ethier: The A’s 2003 second round pick Andre Ethier had a solid sophomore season in the Oakland chain in 2004. The Arizona State alum hit .313 with a .383 OBP in 99 games for A-Modesto before a back injury in late-July sidelined him for the rest of the year. Ethier’s prognosis for recovery is up in the air at this point, which has lowered his ranking a bit. He hasn’t shown a lot of power yet in his minor league career, but that could come in time if he recovers from his injury in good form.
Alexi Ogando: The 21-year old Ogando has barely scratched the surface of his tremendous talents. He had an outstanding season for the Rookie League A’s in 2003, but didn’t repeat that success in 2004. However, he has all the tools of a potential superstar and he should be watched closely over the next several seasons.
Matt Allegra: At one time, Matt Allegra was near the top of the A’s list of outfield prospects. Allegra was drafted out of high school in 1999. When healthy, Allegra has shown the capacity to be a strong run producer, although he has struggled with his strikeouts throughout his career. The biggest roadblock in Allegra’s progress to the big leagues has been his health. He looked great in AA-Midland in 2004 – for the 18 games he was healthy enough to play. The A’s still like Allegra’s potential; however, he’ll need a full season of productivity and no injuries to jump higher on the A’s list of outfield prospects.
Steve Stanley: Like Perry, Steve Stanley had a schizophrenic season in 2004. After a solid 2003 campaign for AA-Midland, Stanley started the 2004 season in AAA. During those first three months of the season in Sacramento, Stanley struggled to find his batting stroke. He was then demoted to AA-Midland, where he proceeded to post an absurd .480 OBP in 36 games for the Rockhounds. Stanley, who has been compared to St. Louis’ David Eckstein for his diminutive size and his frenetic style of play, has clearly demonstrated that he can dominate AA pitching. He’ll get another shot at AAA this season, and he’ll need to show that he can handle that level of pitching to get consideration for major league time.
Freddie Bynum: After a career spent in the infield, speedster Freddie Bynum was moved into centerfield during the 2004 season. The A’s first pick in 2000 has perhaps the fastest legs in the Oakland system. He is a classic centerfielder in the Doug Glanville-mold, little power and lots of speed. Bynum has never shown tremendous plate discipline but he has hit for decent batting average. His best trait is his versatility, as Bynum could be a valuable utility player at the major league level some day.