OaklandClubhouse Mailbag #6

Senior Writer Todd Morgan steps in this week to answer your mailbag questions. Morgan tackles queries ranging from the long-term prospects for a trio of prospects, his thoughts on the A's strategy on the draft and more...

I see that Brant Colamarino has been hitting well and is now in AAA. What do you think his ceiling is? Is he the A's next Dan Johnson?

Greg, San Leandro, CA

Colamarino's potential is tough to get a handle on, mostly because there is a lot of noise surrounding anyone the A's took in the 2002 draft. In this case, we have a 5'11, 205 pound first baseman -- not really what any team envisions when they dream of first basemen, but Colamarino more than holds his own defensively. He is agile around the bag and his glove is above-average, so I don't see his size hurting his play in that respect. It's nice to have a huge target at first like Mark McGwire or Richie Sexson, but even uber-prospect Daric Barton is only six feet tall.

At the plate, Colamarino has shown that he can rake minor league pitching, but whether or not he will produce against major league pitching is the big question. Due to Johnson's size and power, I'd say that he has a better chance to hold down a starting job in the bigs. My feeling is that Colamarino will top out as a Scott Hatteberg-type player -- sufficient as a part-time replacement or lefty off the bench, but not a full-time starter. If given the chance to start for a few full seasons he may wind up with between 10-20 homers and respectable peripheral numbers, but most teams will have better options at first.

What positions do you think the A's will target in the draft? Will they take any high school players?

Freddy, Denver, CO

There is a lot of buzz from fans and media types for the A's to go after lefthanded pitching, but this draft is deep in righties -- particularly at the prep level. The A's aren't foolish enough to pass up a better righty just to add lefty depth.

I think they'll look for premium hitters early and add pitching from the 2nd or 3rd round on. I wouldn't be surprised if a few of those pitchers are high schoolers -- possibly Trevor Bell, Brad Clark, Sean West or Josh Zeid. McNeese State righty Jacob Marceaux is another 2nd- or 3rd-round possibility, if he drops that far.

In terms of organizational need, the A's are lacking in middle infield talent, with only Omar Quintanilla and Kevin Melillo looking like projectable prospects, and, to be honest, I'm not sold on either. In a recent mock draft, I predicted that they'd take Texas A&M shortstop Cliff Pennington, but I can also see them taking a polished college arm like UMass righty Matt Torra or Miami's Cesar Carrillo, or even one of the outfielders they've been rumored to have interest in, like Jacoby Ellsbury or Trevor Crowe. A lot will depend on how much the struggles of Joe Blanton and Dan Meyer have scared the A's brass. If they're wondering where 3/5 of their 2008 rotation will come from, pitching will be emphasized. If they still believe that Blanton and Meyer will be quality big league starters, expect middle infielders and pitchers with high ceilings.

Who is the better long-term prospect, Javier Herrera or Richie Robnett?

Mike, Oakland, CA

At this point, I like Robnett a little bit better, but that could change once Herrera puts some distance between himself and his steroid suspension. I like the recent upturn in Herrera's production, especially in his cup of coffee with Sacramento. Developmentally, Robnett is a bit farther along, but from what scouts say, Herrera has a higher ceiling.

Let's take a look at their stats to date:

Robnett is hitting .259 at High Class-A Stockton, with 4 homers, a .336 OBP and .435 SLG. The most glaring concern here is that he's only walked 12 times compared to 32 strikeouts.

In 109 ABs split between Low Class-A Kane County and AAA- Sacramento, Herrera is hitting .284/.376/.468 with 4 homers and 8 steals. Clearly, he is having a better season so far, but considering that he is playing against inferior competition it doesn't give us a lot upon which to base conclusions.

It isn't going to take much for Herrera to pass Robnett in my mind, but I want to see Javy post a strong 2005 and end the season at Stockton. Hopefully, he will take the place of a Midland-bound Robnett, but I think it's more likely that Danny Putnam will be sent to the Texas League first. Robnett is experiencing some growing pains at Stockton, but he is a smart, hard-nosed player who will figure things out sooner rather than later. I expect him to really get going sometime in June.

And since we're on the subject of outfielders with high ceilings, I want to mention Alexi Ogando. I've seen him up close and his athleticism made me think "superstar" more than I have with either Robnett or Herrera.

Don't forget that you can get your questions answered in the weekly mailbag by emailing them to oaklandclubhouse@yahoo.com. Be sure to include your first name and hometown.

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