The Oakland A's made a commitment to increase their international presence this season and that…
Mid-Season Review: A's Prospects 21-30
30. Anthony Recker
For the second consecutive year, Recker parlayed a strong first half into a mid-season All-Star selection. In 2007, Recker was a California League All-Star after batting .319 with 13 homers in the first half for the High-A Stockton Ports. He was promoted to Double-A after the All-Star game, but he struggled with the Midland Rockhounds, batting only .204 with four homers. In 2008, Recker hit .286 with six homers during the first half with Midland and was named to the Texas League All-Star team. As in 2007, Recker's 2008 second half has gotten off to a slow start. Through Monday, Recker was batting only .259 with one homer since the break.
Despite the second half struggles, Recker's 2008 season has been mostly positive thus far. He has proven that he can hit at the Double-A level, something he had to prove after last year. Recker has also continued to improve defensively. He has worked well with a talented Midland pitching staff and has done a decent job handling the running game, throwing out 34% of would-be base-stealers.
Recker was set to represent the A's in the Arizona Fall League last season before breaking his hamate bone during the season's final week. He may be given the chance again to participate in the AFL this year. A strong August and/or showing in the AFL would guarantee that Recker is promoted to Triple-A next season, but chances are that he has done enough to earn that promotion in 2009 regardless.
Status: Looking for one more hot streak
29. Landon Powell
Powell's 2007 season came to an abrupt end in July when he suffered his second ACL tear. The A's 2004 first round selection had put together a stand-out season before his injury, batting .292 with a 910 OPS, but the injury put his future as an everyday catcher in doubt. The A's demonstrated their confidence in Powell when they added him to the 40-man roster during the off-season. He rewarded their confidence by showing up to spring training ahead of schedule in terms of his recovery. The A's limited him in spring training and kept him on a reduced schedule in April with Sacramento to ease him back into playing shape. It took Powell some time to get back into the swing of playing everyday, but he has gotten his swing back lately. After hitting under .200 for the first two months of the season, Powell hit .241 in June and then .310 in July with a 992 OPS.
Despite the slow start, Powell's overall numbers are pretty good. His batting average is low (.228 BA), but his power numbers are solid (14 homers in 276 at-bats) and his on-base percentage is also good (.353), especially when compared to his average. Defensively, Powell has mostly lived up to his reputation for being an above-average defensive catcher. He has thrown out 41 percent of would-be base-stealers and has a .986 fielding percentage. Powell was understandably gun-shy of contact at the plate at the start of the season, but he has improved in that area as he has gotten more comfortable with his legs. Provided that Powell can stay healthy and continue to swing the bat well, he should earn a September call-up this season. The switch-hitting slugger has put himself in position to be a strong contender join Kurt Suzuki in Oakland as the A's catching duo next season.
Status: Knocking on the door
28. Jason Fernandez
Fernandez flew somewhat under the radar despite posting a 2.77 ERA in 110.2 innings for Low-A Kane County last season. The right-hander made the difficult jump to the hitter-friendly California League this season and didn't miss a beat. In 19 appearances for the Ports (18 starts), he went 9-5 with a 3.36 ERA. He walked a few too many (51), but otherwise put together a strong showing for the Ports. Last week, he was promoted to Double-A and he made his first start for Midland on Monday, allowing two earned runs on five hits and four walks in 5.2 innings.
Fernandez has a nice mix of pitches, a strong sinker, a four-seam fastball that can reach the low-90s, a slider, a change-up and a good curveball. He has seen time both in the rotation and in the bullpen during his career and has handled both roles well. Given the A's minor league starting pitching depth, Fernandez's ultimate future might be in the bullpen, but the A's will keep him in the rotation as long as they can to allow him to continue to develop his full pitching repertoire. He will need to cut down on his walks to duplicate his California League success in the Texas League, but if Fernandez can refine his control, he will be a pitcher to watch the rest of this season and next year.
Status: One of the A's bright young arms
27. Jared Lansford
Lansford was a wildcard coming into the season after missing virtually all of the 2007 season with a muscle tear near his shoulder. He proved that he was healthy by pitching in the Hawaiian Winter Baseball league during the off-season, but it still wasn't clear whether he had his good stuff until the start of the year. Lansford began the season in the Stockton Ports' starting rotation, but after two poor starts, he was shifted to the bullpen. Since that time, Lansford has developed into one of the A's top relief prospects. In 63.1 innings with Stockton, Lansford struck-out 75 and walked 20 while picking up three saves. He was promoted to Double-A Midland in late July, and he has yet to allow a run in seven innings while striking out six and walking five.
Lansford uses a hard, sinking fastball to get a lot of groundballs. As a starter early in his pro career, Lansford's biggest weakness was a low strike-out rate. However, in the bullpen he has been able to pitch with his maximum velocity on every pitch and his strike-out totals have skyrocketed to 81 in 70.1 innings thus far this season. He got hit around a little bit at the end of his tenure with the Ports, but Lansford has otherwise been stellar since becoming a reliever. He could challenge for a spot in the Triple-A Sacramento bullpen in 2009 if he pitches well for Midland this August.
Status: Thriving in new role
26. Andrew Carignan
The hard-throwing Carignan was the A's fifth round pick in 2007 out of the University of North Carolina, where he had set a number of records for saves in the College World Series. Carignan appeared in only 12 games for Low-A Kane County in 2007 after signing late. He struck-out 19 in 13.1 innings for the Cougars and showed enough to earn a promotion to High-A Stockton at the start of the 2008 season. His stay in Stockton wasn't a long one, as Carignan dominated the California League to the tune of a 0.90 ERA and four saves in 10 innings. He struck-out 17, walked five and allowed only five hits before being promoted to Double-A Midland.
Since arriving in Midland in mid-April, Carignan has acted as the team's closer. He done a solid job in that capacity, saving 19 games and posting a 2.06 ERA in 36 games for the Rockhounds through Monday. Carignan has continued to rack-up the strike-outs, whiffing 46 in 38.1 innings. He has also limited the number of hits he has allowed, holding Texas League batters to a .201 average. Carignan's only struggle has been in the walk department, as he has walked 32 for Midland. That total has improved over the past two months, however. After walking 16 in 11 innings in May, Carignan has walked 15 in 26.1 innings in June, July and August.
Carignan features a high velocity fastball that can touch 98 MPH. He used to throw a slider, but the A's have had him work on a curveball instead of a slider so that he can throw more strikes. He has also been focusing on commanding that plus-fastball. At only 22 years old, Carignan can already dominate against Double-A hitters, making him one of the better relief prospects in the A's system. Carignan has the arm to be an elite closer at the big league level, but he will need to improve his command to make that leap to the highest levels. He is a strong candidate to pitch in the Arizona Fall League this off-season.
Status: Dominant closer in need only of fine tuning
25. Mike Madsen
After a breakthrough season that saw Madsen reach Triple-A and be named to the MLB Futures Game in 2007, Madsen's 2008 campaign has been a disappointment. He began the year in the Midland Rockhounds' rotation and after two strong starts (three earned runs in 12 innings), Madsen was sidelined with an elbow injury. He spent the next few months rehabbing the elbow in an attempt to avoid surgery and pitch again this season. The Ohio State alum made one appearance with the A's Rookie League team on July 6th, but he was shut-down with elbow pain after just one inning. Madsen may be done for the year.
24. Richie Robnett
Robnett was added to the A's 40-man roster this past off-season after making the Texas League All-Star team in 2007. The A's 2004 first round pick missed most of the first two months of the 2008 season after undergoing a medical procedure in early April. Once he was healthy, Robnett was sent to Triple-A Sacramento. He got off to a good start with the River Cats, batting .287 with an 817 OPS during the month of June. July was a different story, however, as Robnett slumped to a .212 average and a 574 OPS.
Robnett has as much raw power as any outfielder in the A's system. However, he has yet to demonstrate that power consistently since turning pro. He has hit only three homeruns in 209 at-bats this season and has never hit more than 20 homers in any one professional season. Robnett still has time to turn around his truncated season with an August that more closely resembles his June, but if he continues to struggle, he will be in danger of his losing his 40-man roster spot this off-season.
Status: Needs a strong August
23. Sam Demel
Demel, like Carignan, arrived in the A's organization last season via the draft with the reputation for being a shut-down collegiate closer. Demel struggled in his first taste of pro baseball with Stockton, posting a 7.07 ERA in 11 games before being sent down to Low-A Kane County, where he posted an 0.96 ERA in nine games. In 2008, Demel got another crack at Stockton and he has done much better there this season. The hard-throwing right-hander has a 3.60 ERA and 16 saves in 55 innings for the Ports through Monday.
Demel has been unhittable at times this season. In May (1.69 ERA) and June (0.59 ERA), Demel dominated. He was more vulnerable in April (4.97 ERA) and July (7.53 ERA), however. July was by far his worst month, as he allowed four homeruns during the month after allowing only one long-ball through the end of June. Location has been an issue at times for Demel. He has used his mid-90s fastball to strike-out 75 in only 55 innings, but he has also walked 29. Like Carignan, Demel has the stuff to succeed as a late-inning reliever in the major leagues, but he will need to refine his fastball location to dominate at the higher levels.
Status: Making progress
22. Josh Horton
Horton has spent the entire year with High-A Stockton after posting a .419 OBP in 52 games with short-season Vancouver and Low-A Kane County in 2007. The former UNC shortstop was in the Ports' everyday line-up through the end of July, at which point he was sidelined with an injury. Before being sidelined, Horton had hit safely in eight straight contests and he was batting .285 with a .361 OBP in 94 games.
Horton did a good job as the Ports' second hitter for most of the season. He saw a lot of pitches, controlled the bat well and scored 52 runs by getting on-base in front of the Ports' big sluggers. He also played a solid shortstop. Horton doesn't hit for any power, however. In 379 at-bats, he has collected only 14 extra-base hits. The Ports' coaching staff was working with Horton to change his swing at the plate to generate more power before he was sidelined. He has a good eye, but Horton doesn't have enough speed to steal 30+ bases, so he will need to up his slugging percentage into the .400s next season to be considered a strong shortstop prospect.
Status: Needs to add some power to his game
21. Joey Devine
Devine arrived from the Atlanta organization in the Mark Kotsay trade just weeks before the start of spring training. The right-hander came to the A's with some major league experience, having pitched for Atlanta in small doses in 2005, 2006 and 2007. Despite having major league service time in three different seasons, Devine was still considered a rookie at the start of the season.
Devine began the year with Triple-A Sacramento after an impressive stint during the A's big league spring training camp. He made only two appearances with the River Cats before he was called up to the big leagues. His stay in the Oakland bullpen was supposed to be a temporary one, but Devine pitched himself into a permanent spot in the A's bullpen by allowing only three earned runs in 22 innings. He struck-out 28, walked eight and gave-up only 16 hits. Unfortunately, Devine was sidelined with a sore elbow on May 25th and he missed the next two months, finally returning to the A's bullpen this past weekend.
With Huston Street rumored to be on the trading block, Devine has been mentioned as one of the top candidates to take over for Street as the A's closer in 2009. With his mid-90s fastball and hard slider, Devine could be a major league closer for years to come.
Status: A's closer-in-waiting?
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