Oakland A's Top-50 Prospects: 50-46

Brad Knox lands on this list.

It's that time of the year when we take stock of the Oakland A's organization and analyze the top prospects. For the next few weeks, every Monday and Wednesday will be "Top Prospect List Day", as we will release our top 50 list in groups of five. Today, we kick-start the series with a review of prospects 50-46.

50. Scott Moore, RP

The A's may have had trouble drafting starting pitchers over the past few years, but they have been very successful grabbing relievers, especially late in the draft. Moore looks to be a continuation of that trend. The soon-to-be 23 year old right-hander was taken in the 23rd round out of Texas State this season. Moore was a starter in college and he went 10-4 with a 3.34 ERA during his senior season at Texas State. However, the A's converted him to the bullpen once he arrived in short-season A Vancouver, and he had a lot of success in that role. The hefty right-hander appeared in 16 games for the Canadians, going 1-1 with a 1.45 ERA in 18.2 innings. He struck out 27 batters and walked only five while saving nine games for a Canadians team (an impressive total considering that the Canadians rarely had leads in the late innings). Moore was promoted to low-A Kane County late in the season and threw 2.1 scoreless innings for the Cougars in the regular season before pitching well for them in the playoffs.

At 6'3'', 250 pounds, Moore is built more like Joe Blanton than Huston Street. However, his heft has not affected his ability to throw strikes, something he does with great regularity, especially for a young pitcher. Moore was old for both leagues he played in this season, so the A's could possibly send him to High-A Stockton to challenge him next year. He throws a heavy low-90s fastball and a good, tight slider. Look for him to add a change-up to his repertoire next season. If he continues to throw strikes and miss bats, Moore could move quickly up the prospect list the way that other strike-throwing relievers such as Marcus McBeth have in recent years.

49. Ben Fritz, SP

Fritz made 27 starts in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery. He began the year in AA-Midland, where he posted a solid 3.30 ERA in 17 starts. Fritz allowed less than a hit an inning for Midland and walked only 22 batters in 71 innings, a big improvement over his last tour in Midland in 2004 when he allowed 118 hits and 50 walks in 104 innings. Fritz was promoted to AAA-Sacramento mid-season and he struggled in his first taste of AAA competition. In 97.1 innings, Fritz allowed 111 hits and 44 walks. He was inconsistent for the River Cats, at times dominating the competition and at times getting lit-up. Fritz admitted that his velocity was down during his time in Sacramento, and his endurance should only improve as he moves further away from his Tommy John surgery.

Fritz was a 2002 first-round pick, so his talent has never been a question. He is getting on the old side now (26 at next year's spring training), but he still throws a low-to-mid-90s fastball and a very good change-up. He could benefit from a move to the bullpen, where he could increase his velocity on his fastball and perhaps lessen the wear and tear on his surgically repaired elbow. Fritz will be eligible to be a six-year minor league free agent at the end of the 2007 season, so next season should be a make-or-break campaign for the big right-hander. He should begin the season back in AAA-Sacramento.

48. Scot Drucker, P

Drucker split the 2006 season between the starting rotation and the bullpen for the Stockton Ports and he found much more success in the reliever role. In fact, that has been the pattern throughout Drucker's professional career, as he has shown considerably more promise out of the bullpen than in the starting rotation. In 2006, Drucker posted a 3.38 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP in 48 innings as a reliever and a 5.82 ERA and a 1.63 WHIP as a starter. In 2005, Drucker saved 11 games and had a 2.86 ERA in a half season with low-A Kane County.

Drucker has a high-80s, low-90s fastball with a lot of sink, a good, over-the-top curveball and a sharp change-up that he uses on both sides of the plate. He throws a lot of strikes and is aggressive inside. Drucker is an intelligent pitcher and he uses his fastball to set-up his good off-speed pitches well. His stuff may not be good enough to get through an order two or three times in an outing (in his starts, he would often struggle in the fifth and sixth innings), but he has a very durable arm and could be a valuable middle reliever down the road.

47. Isaac Omura, 2B

Omura began the season on the bench for the low-A Kane County Cougars, but by the end of the year, he had forced himself into the starting line-up with some impressive work at the plate. The diminutive Omura was selected in the 17th round of the 2005 draft out of Hawaii after a stellar collegiate career. He struggled in his first taste of pro ball with Vancouver in 2005, batting only .198. However, he was promoted to low-A Kane County this season despite his struggles in Vancouver and hit .296 for the Cougars in 93 games in 2006. Omura drove-in 47 runs and hit five homeruns while often batting in the number two slot for the Cougars.

Omura is a classic number two hitter. He sees a lot of pitches, has good bat control and doesn't strike out a lot. At 5'9'', 170, Omura will likely never hit for a lot of power, but he could be a valuable member of any line-up because he gets on-base and can move runners over. The left-handed hitting second baseman hit very well against right-handed pitchers last season (.311 with four homers in 273 at-bats) and had a .385 on-base percentage when hitting with the bases empty. He is a solid defensive second baseman, as well. Omura doesn't have a lot of foot-speed for someone of his size, so he isn't likely to become a stolen base threat down the road. However, he has a lot of the same skills as A's back-up infielder Marco Scutaro. Omura would probably benefit from adding more fielding positions to his resume, something that has helped Scutaro become a fixture on a major league roster. Omura should start next season at A-Stockton.

46. Brad Knox, SP

Knox was a bit of a forgotten man at the start of the season after a mediocre campaign for high-A Stockton in 2005. However, he re-established himself as a legitimate prospect with an excellent season for AA-Midland in 2006. Knox went 12-5 with a 3.67 ERA for the Rockhounds, tying for the team lead in wins and finishing second on the staff to Brad Ziegler in ERA. Knox also logged a career-high 161.2 innings, a solid accomplishment for a pitcher who suffered a serious back injury at the tail-end of the 2004 season.

Knox was a Midwest League All-Star in 2004, when he went 14-5 with a 2.59 ERA and he struck out 174 in 156.1 innings. He hasn't been able to match that level of success at High-A or AA, but he has still shown the ability to get hitters out consistently and to keep the ball in the ballpark. Knox isn't overpowering (high-80s, low-90s fastball), but he has an excellent curveball and a good change-up and slider combination. Unlike many young pitchers, Knox isn't afraid to pitch inside and he likes to pitch to contact. Because he doesn't have an overpowering fastball, Knox will have to continue to prove himself every year. However, if he has 2007 season similar to his 2006 campaign, he should get a crack at a major league roster spot in 2008.

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