With the Rule 5 Draft coming up next month, the Oakland A’s moved to protect one of their top relief prospects from being taken in said draft by adding Marcus McBeth to the 40-man roster. The 26 year old competed at three levels in the A’s system this season, saving an organization-high 32 games and striking out 86 in 72.1 innings. He also impressed scouts at the recently completed Arizona Fall League.
McBeth was originally selected in the fourth round of the 2001 amateur draft by Oakland out of the University of South Carolina. He spent the first three years of his professional career as a centerfielder, but made the switch from the outfield to the mound in 2005. Since that time, he has quickly become one of the A’s top minor league arms.
Before Monday, the A’s had five openings on their 40-man roster. In addition to McBeth, the A’s added another relief arm to their 40-man roster: minor league free agent Scott Dunn, who signed a one-year major league contract with the A’s. The A’s 40-man roster now stands at 37 players.
Dunn is a former University of Texas star who has been in professional baseball since 1999. He began his career with the Cincinnati Reds organization and was traded to the Chicago White Sox for D’Angelo Jiminez in 2003. He was traded again later that year to the Anaheim Angels in a deal involving Scott Schoeneweis. Dunn made his major league debut with Anaheim in 2004, allowing three runs in three innings spread over three appearances.
Dunn spent the 2005 season in the Angels chain and then signed with Tampa Bay in 2006. He appeared in seven games for the Devil Rays in 2006, allowing 10 runs in 7.2 innings before being designated for assignment. He cleared waivers and remained in the Tampa chain for the remainder of the season, posting a 2.73 ERA over 66 innings for AAA-Durham. He struck out 70 during those 38 appearances, all but one of which came in relief.
Dunn features a low-90s fastball, a curve, a change-up and a knuckleball, which he mixes in as an occasional secondary pitch. He has a high career strikeout ratio in the minor leagues (9.41 per nine innings), but he also has a high walk ratio (5.01 per nine innings). Dunn will turn 29 in May 2007. He will likely be given an outside chance of making the A’s bullpen in spring training, but barring any major trades, will likely serve as insurance against injuries to the A’s bullpen while at AAA-Sacramento.
The A’s also inked three players to minor league deals and invited them to major league spring training. Erasmo Ramirez, J.J. Furmaniak and Vince Faison all joined the A’s system on Monday.
The left-handed Ramirez was originally drafted by the San Francisco Giants out of Cal-State Fullerton in 1998. The reliever was in the Giants’ chain until 2001, when he was part of the package of prospects sent to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Andres Galarraga. He made his major league debut with Texas in 2003, pitching well out of the bullpen. In 34 appearances, he went 3-1 with a 3.86 ERA over 49 innings. Ramirez struck out 28 and walked only nine. He spent parts of the 2004 and 2005 seasons with Texas, as well, posting ERAs of 4.29 and 3.91, respectively. He missed a third of the 2005 season with a finger injury. Ramirez spent all of last season playing for the Rangers’ AAA affiliate, where he went 6-3 with a 3.59 ERA and nine saves. He walked only seven in 67.2 innings of work.
Ramirez is a side-arming lefty with a devastating change-up that he can throw as slow as 65 MPH. He has a below-average fastball, but his throwing motion induces a lot of groundballs. He is a strike-throwing machine and someone who has a good familiarity with the hitters in the AL West. If Joe Kennedy is moved into the A’s rotation or dealt, Ramirez could challenge Ron Flores for the left-handed reliever spot in the A’s bullpen during spring training.
Infielder J.J. Furmaniak was a long-time member of the San Diego Padres’ chain before landing with the Pittsburgh Pirates during the 2005 season. He made his major league debut with the Pirates that year, collecting five hits in 26 at-bats. Furmaniak is a career .267 minor league hitter in seven seasons. He spent the 2006 campaign with the Pirates’ AAA club in Indianapolis, but he hit only .213 in 114 games. He was a league All-Star in 2000, 2003 and 2005 (Rookie League, California League and Pacific Coast League, respectively).
Furmaniak can play shortstop, third base and second base. He is a high-energy, good work ethic player with a reputation for being a student of the game. Like Hiram Bocachica before him, Furmaniak arrives in Oakland with an on-line fan club. Furmaniak should also provide injury insurance for the A’s at the AAA level for their oft-injured middle infield.
Outfielder Vince Faison is a former San Diego Padres 1999 first round draft pick who most recently was in the New York Yankees farm system. The 25 year old hit .260 with 14 homers for AA-Trenton last season. He has also spent time in the Seattle Mariners organization and he spent part of the 2005 season playing for the Jackson Senators of the Independent Central Baseball League.
At one time, Faison was one of the best prospects in the San Diego system. He is a five-tool player who stole 30 bases during his first professional season. His speed has been curtailed some by injuries, however, and he only stole one base last year. He has a solid, football player’s build and the ability to play all three outfield positions. He has a very good throwing arm and good range in the outfield. Faison will likely fill Doug Clark’s role in AAA-Sacramento in 2007.