During every off-season, OaklandClubhouse.com ranks the top-50 Oakland A's prospects. Since we…
Oakland A's Prospect Profile: Eric Sogard, 2B
Born: May 22, 1986
Sogard was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the second round of the 2007 draft after a successful three-year career at Arizona State. The Phoenix native posted OPSs higher than 1000 during both his sophomore and junior seasons with the Sun Devils. After signing with the Padres for $400,000, he had a mediocre professional debut in 2007 with short-season Eugene (730 OPS) and Low-A Fort Wayne (657 OPS), although he posted a solid 25:29 BB:K ratio.
The next season Sogard was sent to the California League and he put together a huge season for the Lake Elsinore Storm. In 133 games, he posted a .308/.394/.453 line. Sogard walked 79 times against only 62 strike-outs for a 1.27 BB:K ratio that was tops in the California League. He scored 97 runs, drove-in 87, hit 10 homers, cracked 42 doubles and stole 16 bases.
Sogard came down-to-earth to some extent in 2009 with Double-A San Antonio of the Texas League, although he still had a solid season, posting a .293/.370/.400 line. Once again, he walked more than he struck-out (58 walks to 47 strike-outs). San Diego Padres' minor league hitting coordinator Tony Muser – in an interview with OaklandClubhouse.com sister website MadFriars.com – chalked up some of the dip in Sogard's numbers with San Antonio to the difference between the home ballparks for San Antonio and Lake Elsinore, but was impressed that despite the difficulties that the Missions' home ballpark presented, Sogard stayed true to his swing.
"[I]n San Antonio the ballpark is not conducive for an offensive game. A lot of our kids come in there, wind holds balls up, winds always blowing in from right center, and when success doesn't happen they try to do more. He didn't change his swing as much," Muser told MadFriars.com.
Sogard's three-year tenure in the Padres' organization came to an end in mid-January when he was traded to the A's along with third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff for outfielders Scott Hairston and Aaron Cunningham. After the trade, the middle infielder was invited to participate in the A's major league spring training camp.
Sogard fits the profile of a prototypical A's prospect, so it comes as no surprise that the A's front office have had their eyes on him since he was in college.
"He's a player we liked dating back to the '07 draft. He finished up at ASU with outstanding seasons as a sophomore and junior, so he certainly was on our radar from a performance perspective, particularly given his elite-level plate discipline," Farhan Zaidi, A's Director of Baseball Operations, said.
"He has continued to perform at a high level as a pro, and we've been able to get a lot of looks at him in the Cal and Texas Leagues. Offensively, his plate discipline has translated well at the pro level, and he's continued to show solid extra-base hit power for a middle infielder."
Sogard is an intelligent hitter with well above-average plate discipline and an uncomplicated swing. He has good gap power, although, according to Muser, he can sometimes try too hard to swing for the fences.
"He probably has a simplest swing as anybody in our system. He's quiet, gets the bat head to the ball very quickly. He has the same approach all the time. Probably mentally collected better than anybody we have, just a very good approach," Muser told MadFriars.com before the trade.
"For me, he has the ability to use the other side of the field better, but it's not consistent with him. He can turn on a baseball, but the power factor with Sogie is he wants to do it a little bit too much, even though his pace and approach is very good. Getting stronger to left center field to me is where he would have to improve.
"But when you talk about just offense, very simple approach, very simple swing; and the maintenance, not a lot of adjustment. He doesn't try to do more than he's capable of doing. He stays on pace. I'd like to see him get a little bit more aggressive and a little bit better effort early in the count to really get after a baseball. But with two strikes, he's got the perfect approach to a baseball."
Defensively, Sogard has spent most of his professional career at second base, although he does have limited experience at short and third base, as well. Scouts have generally rated Sogard's defense as average, but he has rated above-average in Sean Smith's Baseballprojection.com TotalZone defensive metric, earning a +2 and a +12 rating in 2008 and 2009, respectively. The A's have indicated that they plan to try Sogard at multiple defensive positions this season. He has average speed, but he hasn't had great success stealing bases in the pros, having been caught 17 times in 49 opportunities.
Upon arriving in Oakland, Sogard became one of the A's top middle infield prospects, ranking only behind top prospects Adrian Cardenas and Jemile Weeks among A's second base prospects. Unfortunately for Sogard, both Cardenas and Weeks are at that Double-A/Triple-A level that Sogard is also at. Consequently, he will have a much better opportunity to make it to the big leagues quickly with Oakland if he can show that he can handle other positions in addition to second base.
Sogard's approach at the plate fits the A's to a tee. He profiles as a classic number two hitter, similar to former A's third baseman Carney Lansford with his ability to make contact with two strikes, see a lot of pitches and hit for average.
Sogard will be at the A's big league camp, but he is there more to make an impression on Oakland's coaching staff than compete for a major league job at the start of this season. The A's began the off-season relatively thin in the upper levels of the minor leagues, but the organization now has decent depth, having acquired Sogard, Adam Rosales and Steven Tolleson and having snuck Gregorio Petit through waivers. Rosales is expected to win the A's Opening Day back-up middle infield job; consequently, Sogard will likely be competing with fellow major league camp attendees Petit, Tolleson, Cardenas and Weeks for a spot in Triple-A with Sacramento.
"Defensively, we think [Sogard]'s a good second baseman and has the hands, arm, and aptitude to handle SS and 3B as well. We have prioritized shoring up our organizational middle infield depth this offseason, and we think Sogard has the versatility to potentially fit in at multiple spots, and the advanced hitting approach to be a factor at the major league level relatively soon," Zaidi said.
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