OaklandClubhouse.com Mailbag #2

Dan Johnson's time in the majors is near.

The mailman arrived this week with a variety of questions ranging from the future of a PCL MVP and an enigmatic middle infielder to the whereabouts of some of the A's premier prospects.

For the last two years several major league teams have expressed interest in Dan Johnson. Why wouldn't the A's trade Dan if they say he's ready for the major leagues but yet keep sending him down? Why don't they try to trade Dan and get something in return for him?
Ron/Minneapolis

Ron, your question echoes the sentiment of many within the Oakland A's fanbase who have salivated over the potential of Dan Johnson after his MVP 2004 season with Sacramento. Johnson certainly did nothing to temper that enthusiasm with a strong spring performance that saw him hit close to .400 and strike out only once. Despite all of that success, Johnson was stuck in a numbers game at the end of camp and found himself back at AAA with little to prove against minor league pitching.

Johnson's situation is similar to that of Philadelphia Phillies prospect Ryan Howard. Howard hit 49 homeruns in the minor leagues last season and hit two more at the major league level in September. Yet instead of being a leading candidate for the National League Rookie of the Year, Howard was sent back to AAA. Why? Because the Phillies have a guy named Jim Thome in front of Howard at first. While no one is arguing that Howard should start over the perienial All-Star Thome, many were surprised that the Phillies didn't trade Howard to fill a need this off-season (none more surprised than Howard himself, who requested to be traded at the end of the spring).

The Phillies' predicament is understandable. On the one hand, they have no place for Howard on the big league roster and it seems like a waste to leave him in AAA when they could trade him. On the other hand, Thome has had a history of back trouble and there is always the fear that the moment they trade Howard, Thome would get hurt and leave the Phillies with a hole at first. The A's are in a similar predicament. Although neither Erubiel Durazo nor Scott Hatteberg are near the level of player that Thome is, the A's still have a lot of money invested in the two players and, therefore, have to play them ahead of Johnson right now.

Unlike in the Philadelphia situation, the A's do not have long-term commitments to either of the players blocking Johnson's path to the majors. Both Durazo and Hatteberg are eligible for free agency next season (the A's do have an option on Hatteberg) and it is unlikely that the A's will bring both players back. Therefore, the A's want to hold on to Johnson not only to give them depth to guard against an injury to either Hatteberg or Durazo, but they also want to keep Johnson because he is likely to play a large part in the A's plans in 2006.

I believe that Johnson's major league future may be ignited at this season's trade deadline. If Oakland is out of the playoff picture at the deadline, the A's may be tempted to move Durazo or Hatteberg for prospects, opening a spot for Johnson. If the A's are in the pennant race, Johnson may be the A's best trading chip to get something to they need to make a playoff push. At worst, Johnson should have a shot at the big leagues again in September and, hopefully, this time his health will be on his side.

Do you think that Adam Morrissey has any chance of getting the call to the show or is he a long way off getting the call up?
Gazapp44, Australia

Adam Morrissey is one of the A's most enigmatic prospects in that sometimes Morrissey looks like a future All-Star and at other times he looks like a career minor leaguer. There is no disputing Morrissey's talent level. When the A's acquired Morrissey from the Chicago Cubs organization in 2002, the Australian native looked destined for a big future. He was coming off of a season where he hit .309 with a .422 OBP and a 946 OPS for the low-A Lansing Lugnuts at the age of 20. Morrissey had a hot start to his A's career, hitting .291 in 36 games for high-A Modesto. However, he struggled terribly after a mid-season promotion to AA-Midland and his career has been stuck in a rut ever since.

After a mediocre 2003 season for Midland, Morrissey received a promotion to AAA and started off the 2004 season on fire. Halfway through the season, it appeared that Morrissey had made a real breakthrough as a hitter. He was among the league leaders in batting average and was showing good patience at the plate. However, after he was passed over by Ramon Castro for a June promotion to the major leagues to fill in for the injured Eric Chavez, Morrissey's season took a nose-dive. He stopped hitting and was eventually benched.

Morrissey is still only 24 years old and is being given a second chance to show that he can handle AAA pitching over the course of a full season. He is off to a solid start, as he has a .312 batting average through his first ten games and his on-base percentage is right near .400. Morrissey is still working on his fielding. He can play second, short and third, although his fielding can, at times, be erratic. The A's are deep with middle infielders both at the major league level and in the high minor leagues, but Morrissey is talented enough that he can still make himself a factor on the A's depth chart if he has a strong season.

How are the players in Phoenix doing on their rehab assignments, Sullivan, Knox, etc. And where are they expected to go?
William, Cypress

Are Brian Snyder and Brad Sullivan injured? Their names haven't appeared in the boxscores since the beginning of the season.
Chris, Ottawa, Canada

Both questions are very similar, so I will address them together. Brad Knox, Brad Sullivan and Brian Snyder are all currently in Phoenix, AZ, working out in extended spring training. Knox came into spring training with a back injury, and he has been working his way back into good health ever since. The leader of the low-A Kane County pitching staff in 2004 is expected to join the Midland pitching staff once he is fully healthy.

Sullivan, who has struggled with a mysterious drop in velocity over the past two seasons, is working in extended spring training to increase his arm strength and velocity. He will likely head back to the California League when his arm is fully healthy.

Third baseman Brian Snyder, who had a breakout season for Kane County last season, strained his rib cage during the minor league training camp and is rehabbing in extended spring training. He will likely join Midland sometime in early May.

Thanks for the great questions. Keep them coming.

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