Editor’s Note: These rankings are preliminary and will be completely reassessed in the off-season when we do our annual top-50 prospect ranking and scouting report features. We did not consider any player who is currently in the major leagues, nor did we include unsigned draft picks. In lieu of the full scouting reports that we do in the off-season, we are including a short commentary about each player here. Stats as of Wednesday, August 12, 2009.
Did You Know? As of Wednesday, 11 members of our pre-season top-50 prospects list were on the A’s 25-man roster (or on the 60-day DL, in the case of Josh Outman).
1. Brett Wallace, IF: Wallace was the A’s big prize when they traded Matt Holliday. He is off to a bit of a slow start with Triple-A Sacramento, but scouts still believe that he has the potential to be a legitimate number three hitter in the major leagues, something Oakland hasn’t developed in a long time.
2. Chris Carter, 1B: Carter has made big strides with his defense at first, although future Gold Gloves aren’t likely. At the plate, Carter has grown into his own, using the whole field to raise his batting average without sacrificing any of his prodigious power. He is currently the front-runner for the Texas League MVP award. Carter and Wallace could be a scary three-four combination for Oakland for years to come.
3. Adrian Cardenas, IF: Sometimes you forget that he is only 21 when you watch Cardenas hit. He excelled in the Texas League and although he has run into a bit of a roadblock in limited action in Triple-A, he still profiles as a perennial .300 hitter in the big leagues.
4. Jemile Weeks, 2B: Leg injuries have robbed Weeks of valuable playing time each of the past two seasons, but his talent is unmistakable when he is on the field. He has all of the tools to be a dynamic lead-off hitter and his defense at second base comes better than advertised.
5. Michael Ynoa, RHP: An elbow injury has cost Ynoa the entire Arizona Rookie League season. Although an injury at this stage of his career isn’t devastating, it is still a cause for some concern. But his raw talent and high ceiling keeps him in the top-five.
6. Sean Doolittle, OF/1B: A knee injury has robbed Doolittle of much of his season and a possible big league debut this year, but he still managed to open a lot of eyes this year with his play in big league spring training and early in the year with Sacramento. He also proved he can handle right field in addition to playing Gold Glove first base.
7. Grant Desme, CF: “The Human Boxscore.” Desme fills up every category, including the strike-outs box. The swings-and-misses are a concern, but the talent is very real. He has the best power-speed combination the A’s have had in their system in some time. Plus, he can play a nice centerfield.
8. Josh Donaldson, C: Donaldson has continued to produce above-average hitting numbers for a catcher despite catching regularly in100-plus degree Texas heat. The homer totals are down, but the doubles are way up, so look for some of those doubles to turn into homers in Triple-A next year.
9. Tyson Ross, RHP: He has pitched better than his ERA (4.61) would indicate. After a slow start, Ross has had good command of his low-90s sinker, change-up, slider and cutter and he has maintained a more than 2:1 K:BB ratio.
10. Henry Rodriguez, RHP: There are still days when Rodriguez has no idea where the ball is going, but when he is near the strike-zone, he is over-powering with his triple-digit heat and good slider. Triple-A hitters have been unable to make good contact against him and he is averaging roughly 1.5 strike-outs per inning. Whenever his big league debut comes, it will be must-see TV.
11. Corey Brown, CF: Injuries have limited Brown to only 45 games, but he has played well when healthy. The power has remained despite the injuries and the speed should return when the knee is 100 percent.
12. Clayton Mortensen, RHP: Acquired in the Wallace deal, Mortensen isn’t over-powering, but the right-hander has good “pitchability” and could be a solid back-of-the-rotation starter in the bigs for a long time.
13. James Simmons, RHP: It has been an up-and-down first season at Triple-A for Simmons, although there have been signs of progress lately. The fastball command is still excellent, but Simmons needs to make one of his off-speed pitches a plus-pitch to find his way into a big league rotation.
14. Sam Demel, RHP: Demel’s command has slipped some at Triple-A, but he has still been very difficult to hit at every level. He has more confidence in his fastball this season and his off-speed stuff is almost impossible for hitters to make contact with. The key for Demel is using the fastball to get ahead in the count so that hitters have to chase his nasty breaking ball and change-up.
15. Fautino De Los Santos, RHP: De Los Santos’ May 2008 Tommy John surgery has cost him most of this season, as well, although he is finally throwing in games regularly in the Arizona Rookie League. Post-surgery, De Los Santos still appears to have his elite stuff, but he will be 24 next season. The question remains whether the A’s will still develop him slowly as a starting pitcher or move him into the bullpen because of his age.
16. Matt Spencer, OF/1B: Spencer doesn’t get much press, as he is often thought of as the “third” prospect in the Joe Blanton deal from last season. However, the left-handed hitter has quietly put together an outstanding season at High-A and Double-A, hitting both for average and power. The only knock on his game offensively is his plate patience, which could use some improvement.
17. Justin Marks, LHP: Marks won’t get much of a chance to show what he can do this season, as he is out for the year with a groin injury. However, the A’s second pick in 2009 has four solid pitches and could move quickly through the system next season.
18. Shane Peterson, OF/1B: Also acquired in the Holliday deal, Peterson has gotten off to a great start with Double-A Midland. He is young (21) for his level and brings an interesting blend of tools to the table with the ability to hit for average, get on-base, run the bases well and drive balls into the gap. He can also play above-average defense at first and solid defense in the corner outfield spots. The A’s are hoping he can handle center, as well.
19. Arnold Leon, RHP: Leon, 20, got off to a slow start this season and missed time in June with a sore arm. Since returning from the DL, however, he has been a different pitcher. He has allowed only one hit over his last two outings (seven innings) and has a 2.22 ERA and a 3:1 K:BB ratio since the All-Star break.
20. Anthony Capra, LHP: He leads the A’s system in strike-outs with 133 in 122.2 innings and he has allowed only 86 hits all season. Capra has handled his recent promotion to High-A with ease, going 2-0 with a 2.38 ERA and 30 strike-outs in 22.2 innings in four starts.
21. Matt Sulentic, OF: At age 21, Sulentic has put together a solid season at Double-A. The power still hasn’t developed, but he has added some speed to his game and he has cut-down on his strike-outs. He also plays above-average defense in the corners. He may profile similarly to the A’s Ryan Sweeney.
22. Dusty Coleman, SS: It has been an inconsistent first full pro season for Coleman, but he has, at times, been one of the best players on the field. He needs to cut-down on his strike-outs significantly to become a more consistent hitter. Defensively, he has shown good range and a strong throwing arm from short.
23. Rashun Dixon, OF: It has been a season of growing pains for Dixon, who has struggled to make consistent contact with short-season Vancouver this year. The spacious Northwest League has hurt his power totals and he has struck-out 56 times in 43 games. Still, Dixon has incredible physical talent and, at 18-years-old, time to figure it all out.
24. Nino Leyja, IF: Because of injuries, Leyja has been forced to play up a level with full-season A Kane County, but he is holding his own despite being the youngest player on the team at 18 years old. He has a good eye at the plate, some surprising pop in his bat and the athleticism to play all over the infield. Leyja recently was moved to the top of the Cougars’ line-up, a testament to the maturity of this teenager.
25. Andrew Carignan, RHP: “Don’t you forget about me” should be Carignan’s theme song this season. The reliever looked to be on the verge of the major leagues during spring training, but a sore pitching arm has kept him out virtually the entire season. Assuming Carignan can avoid surgery and return to the mound healthy next year, he could still be a factor in the big leagues by the end of the 2010 season.
26. Brett Hunter, RHP: In some ways, this season has been a disaster for Hunter, who signed a big above-slot bonus with the A’s after last year’s draft. He struggled with his mechanics all season, walking an incredible 59 batters in 47.1 innings. Hunter is now back in Arizona working on a revamp of his throwing motion. The good news for Hunter is that even with the messed up mechanics, he was still very tough to hit. He struck-out more than a batter an inning and allowed only a .225 average and two homeruns.
27. Tyler Ladendorf, SS: Acquired for Orlando Cabrera, Ladendorf has put up mediocre numbers in the Midwest League this season after dominating the Rookie Appalachian League early in the year. However, he was a standout junior college player before being drafted in 2008 and he has the potential to be a speed-power offensive force. Whether he sticks at short or eventually moves to third or centerfield remains a question for the 21-year-old.
28. Brad Kilby, LHP: In some ways, Kilby is the Tom Everidge of A’s pitching prospects. Often over-looked despite brilliant numbers, Kilby is making it hard for the A’s to ignore him with an outstanding season at Triple-A. He has struck-out 62 in 54 innings, allowed only a .165 BAA and has walked only 17. A bonus: Kilby is a lefty who can handle hitters on both sides of the plate out of the bullpen.
29. Mickey Storey, RHP: A little-known prospect coming into the season, Storey has opened a lot of eyes by posting a 1.18 ERA and striking out 52 while walking only five in 38 innings at three levels this season. Storey’s best pitch is a devastating 69-73 MPH curveball, but he also mixes in a 90 MPH fastball and a change-up that acts almost as a slider at times.
30. Jeremy Barfield, OF: Selected out of junior college in last year’s draft, Barfield didn’t turn 21 until mid-July. Despite being one of the younger players on the Kane County roster, he has put together a nice season, showing some prodigious power in spurts and the ability to get on-base and hit for a decent average. Barfield has also shown off a strong arm in right. Expect bigger power numbers when he escapes the Midwest League next season.
31. Josh Horton, SS: Horton may have the best plate discipline in the A’s system, having walked 54 times against 54 strike-outs in 435 at-bats for Midland this season. He doesn’t have much power, but Horton puts a quality at-bat together almost every time at the plate and has a solid glove at short. His hard-charging style of play may cost him though: his numbers have faded during the second half of each of the last two seasons.
32. Carlos Hernandez, LHP: Hernandez doesn’t have over-powering stuff, but his strong command and ability to mix his pitches have continued to give him surprisingly successful results. He leads the A’s organization in wins with 15 and has held his own both in the hitter-friendly California League and in the tough Texas League this season.
33. Kenneth Smalley, RHP: Smalley is another pitcher who isn’t over-powering, although he can get to the 93 MPH range with his fastball when working out of the bullpen. He has spent most of the season as a starter and he has used good command and an excellent change-up to lead the Midwest League in ERA with a 2.34 mark.
34. Jason Christian, 3B: A separated shoulder has ended Christian’s season early, but before the injury he was putting together a solid season, minus a horrible month of May. He stole 28 bases in 31 chances, walked 41 times in 86 games and showed a strong glove at third base. Christian, a left-handed hitter, will need to improve against left-handed pitching next season.
35. Jared Lansford, RHP: Lansford isn’t having the season he hoped he’d have after starting the year in big league spring training and at Triple-A. He lost his mechanics and his feel for the strike-zone early with Sacramento, but he has shown improvement after a session in Arizona with pitching coach Garvin Alston. Lansford has a 2.65 ERA with Midland and has walked only six in 19.1 innings since the All-Star break after walking 24 in 27 innings before the break.
36. Ben Hornbeck, LHP: Like Storey, Hornbeck has come out of nowhere to land on the prospect radar screen. The lanky southpaw has always had a plus-change-up, but thanks to a lower arm angle, he has his fastball up into the high-80s to go along with a solid slider. Hornbeck has struck-out 134 in only 101 innings this season and, in some ways, has a similar profile to Dallas Braden’s when he was early in his minor league career.
37. Pedro Figueroa, LHP: It has taken awhile for Figueroa to harness his talents, but he is finally coming into his own at age 23. The lefty can hit 94 MPH with his fastball and he has a good slider and change-up. He has struck-out 119 in 127.1 innings this season and has a 3.60 ERA for Stockton and Kane County.
38. Michael Spina, 3B: Spina set all sorts of offensive records for the University of Cincinnati before being drafted by the A’s as a senior this season. He is showing that power in the pros already, with six homers in 115 at-bats (all of them coming in the Midwest League). Power is his best tool, but it is a tool that is in short supply in the A’s system.
39. Graham Godfrey, RHP: Godfrey pitched better than his ERA for Stockton last season, and he is finally getting a more appropriate ERA for his talent with Midland in 2009. In 23 starts, he has a 3.73 ERA and 93 strike-outs in 130.1 innings.
40. Ryan Ortiz, C: The batting average (.214) is ugly, but the rest of Ortiz’s numbers have been quite impressive this season (.379 OBP/.408 SLG) for Vancouver. The A’s 2009 sixth-round pick comes from a polished collegiate background and joins a good group of young A’s backstops.
41. Paul Smyth, RHP: Smyth has been nearly unhittable this season for Vancouver. The side-armer has yet to allow a run and has allowed only 15 base-runners in 26 innings with 33 strike-outs. Smyth uses a deceptive throwing motion to induce groundballs and awkward swings. He’s already 22, but he’s a reliever, so he could move quickly if this success continues.
42. Myrio Richard, OF: Younger brother of Stockton Ports’ shortstop Michael Richard, Myrio was the A’s ninth-round pick this season. In 34 games for the A’s two short-season affiliates, Richard is batting .303 with a .375 OBP and he has five steals. The power hasn’t shown up yet, but Richard should have more pop when he leaves the Northwest League next season.
43. Connor Hoehn, RHP: The A’s 13th round pick this season, Hoehn has three saves in seven appearances for Vancouver already. The hard-throwing righty has 11 strike-outs in nine innings for the C’s and could be a fast mover as a reliever with good stuff.
44. Conner Crumbliss, UTL: Crumbliss has done a little bit of everything for the C’s since being drafted this season, including hit for average (.310), get on-base (42 BBs and a .439 OBP), steal bases (11) and hit for some power (14 extra-base hits), while playing all over the diamond. Crumbliss is old for his league (22), but a player with his varying offensive skills and defensive versatility can make himself very valuable.
45. Josh Leyland, C/DH: Leyland hasn’t played much since being drafted by the A’s in the 16th round this season, but he elicits excitement based on his power potential alone. Leyland had a monster senior season at San Dimas High and comes with a powerful bat. Defensively, he isn’t likely to stick at catcher, but if he meets his power potential, the A’s won’t care where he is on the field.
46. Corey Wimberly, UTL: Acquired for Matt Murton just before spring training, Wimberly put on a show as a non-roster invitee to big league camp with his speed and versatility. He got off to a great start with Midland, only to miss much of the season with a broken wrist. He hasn’t played as well since returning from the DL, but that could be a lingering effect from the injury. He could play his way into the discussion as a 25th-man in the big leagues next season thanks to his speed and ability to play the infield and outfield.
47. Julio Ramos, LHP: The diminutive lefty is one of the Northwest League’s leaders in ERA with a 2.94 mark. He doesn’t have over-powering stuff, but he has a good feel for pitching and excellent control. The 21-year-old was an Arizona League All-Star last season after posting a 1.41 ERA in 51 innings.
48. Robin Rosario, OF: Before Ynoa, Rosario was the holder of the largest bonus given out by the A’s for an international amateur free agent. The outfielder had a good year for the DSL A’s last season, but he has struggled in his US debut campaign, batting only .194 for the AZL A’s. Still, the 18-year-old has tremendous tools and will be a nice project for the A’s instructional staff.
49. Omar Duran, LHP: Signed to a six-figure bonus as an international free agent before the 2008 season, Duran made his US debut in 2009. His ERA for the AZL A’s wasn’t pretty, but he struck-out 21 in 15 innings. He’s back in the Dominican now, but should be in the US full-time next season. The southpaw is 19 years old.
50. Murphy Smith, RHP: Smith is one of three 2009 A’s draft picks to be playing at a full-season level. Smith has made five starts for Kane County and he has acquitted himself well, posting a 2.75 ERA and striking out 17 in 19.2 innings despite being struck in the forearm with a line-drive in his first start for the Cougars. He is a command-control pitcher with a 90 MPH fastball and a good assortment of off-speed pitches.