Originally written on The Outside Corner  |  Last updated 11/15/14

2011 was not a kind year to the Oakland Athletics. Texas and Los Angeles were the clear front-runners of the division, and while the team showed a knack for run prevention, they never showed a knack for run creation. Losing that often tends to get a few rookies in the lineup, and Tyson Ross, Fautino de los Santos, and Jemile Weeks saw significant time on the major-league roster. Weeks gave the A’s the most value with a .303/.340/.421 line, but his defense was pretty rough. Ross did alright in 36 innings, but he isn’t likely to stay in the rotation, though the A’s may give it a try. De los Santos struck out a ton of guys but walked a few while giving up some home runs. Each has their virtues, but they aren’t without their vices as well.

The farm system only looked a bit better than the major-league roster. Several prospects had decent seasons, but no one had a monster campaign. Grant Green took a step back and had to switch positions. Chris Carter continued to hit AAA pitching, but he still hasn’t gotten a serious major-league trial. Michael Choice did well, but it was Low-A and the California League, where hitters love to hit. Michael Taylor recovered from a poor 2010, but it wasn’t exactly a full recovery. Other guys - Max Stassi, Ian Krol - had injuries or suspensions that hurt their standings a bit.

The A’s, however, did add some talent later. Sonny Gray and BA Vollmuth were solid selections, and Gray, especially, looks like a key contributor in the future. And although it cost them Trevor Cahill, the A’s grabbed a possible future ace in Jarrod Parker, a decent center field option in Collin Cowgill (I have a soft spot for him because he went to the University of Kentucky, but bashing in Reno and not really being able to play center indicates 4th outfielder), and a relief option in Ryan Cook.

Billy Beane’s team seems stuck in a weird stage. It has some pitching, but the lack of attendance/new stadium/confusion over possible new location hamstrings what the club can do at the major-league level. In the minors, the team has taken a few gambles, but because of poor scouting/development, bad luck, or both, the system isn’t producing talent that is refilling the major-league roster. If you want to win on the cheap, you have to be better than that.

 

Outstanding

Jarrod Parker      SP

Bats/Throws:       R/R

Height/Weight:      6’1/195

Age/Level (as of 4/2012):      23/AAA

Projection:       1/2/3

After making a successful recovery from Tommy John surgery, Parker returned to AA to have a successful season. The first hurdle was seeing if the stuff was there, and once scouts saw the mid-90s fastball, above-average to plus slider, and average or better change-up, they were satisfied that he remained a top prospect. The remaining concern centers around Parker’s control. Parker had some trouble in AA before the injury, and he still had some trouble when he came back. Control, however, is the last thing to come back as the pitcher gets back into throwing after basically a year off. The bottom line is that Parker is healthy, still has great stuff, and has a delivery that indicates the control issues shouldn’t be a long-term problem.

 

Good

Grant Green       CF

Bats/Throws:       R/R

Height/Weight:      6’3/180

Age/Level:       24/AAA

Projection:      2-4 WAR

The A’s finally decided to give up on Green as a shortstop, but the move to center shouldn’t destroy Green’s value too much. Green doesn’t have much more than average speed or an average arm, but he’s a smart player and can probably learn the position well enough. If he has to move to a corner, the bat becomes an issue, as he has a solid hit tool and approach, but the power is maybe average, as he saw a decline in numbers when he left the California League. Green is a solid all-around player and should be a solid regular, but if he has to move to a corner, he might not be.

 

Sonny Gray        SP

Bats/Throws:      R/R

Height/Weight:      5’11/200

Age/Level:      22/AA

Projection:      2/3/4, Relief Ace

Gray’s small stature scared several teams off from drafting him earlier, but despite the small frame, Gray has impressive stuff. His low-to-mid 90s fastball can hit 97, and his curveball is a second plus pitch, with his change looking to be average or better. The question, though, is if he can handle a 200+ inning workload. One thing in his favor, from my point of view, is his delivery, which includes plenty of lower body, and using that lower body well should take some of the stress off of his arm. The A’s look to give him every chance to start, but the fastball-curve combination should be enough to make him a very good reliever.

 

Michael Choice       OF

Bats/Throws:       R/R

Height/Weight:      6’/215

Age/Level:      22/AA

Projection:      2-4 WAR

Choice’s power is for real, but scouts have their doubts about his ability to use it as he moves up the ladder. Choice will take some walks and hit some bombs, but he strikes out a lot. His line in the California League wasn’t even much better than Green’s when he was there at the same age, and while he’s in center for now, he likely won’t be when he reaches the majors. If he has to move to a corner, the bat obviously needs to play, and his move to AA will show just how real that power is. If he somehow stays in center, Choice would be a much better prospect.

 

Chris Carter       1B

Bats/Throws:       R/R

Height/Weight:      6’4/245

Age/Level:      25/AAA or MLB

Projection:      2-4 WAR

Carter might have the most power in the system, but he’s never really gotten much of a shot to show it in the majors. The A’s have given him limited time in the majors, so while he hasn’t played well in those games, it’s not enough to say he’s not good. Carter has always struck out quite a bit while being a secondary skills beast, taking walks and hitting homers, so even though he won’t hit for a big average, he should do enough otherwise to merit a real chance. But he has to hit because he’s strictly a first baseman, and not a good one.

 

Michael Taylor       RF

Bats/Throws:       R/R

Height/Weight:      6’5/255

Age/Level:      26/MLB

Projection:      2-4 WAR

I still believe in Taylor, though I’m not sure how much I should. Taylor is a strong right fielder, but he’ll need his bat to make him a big-league regular. After having a shoulder injury, Taylor saw his 2010 AAA season go down the drain, and possibly still recovering somewhat, Taylor made a better showing in 2011 as some of the power started to come back. He makes more contact than some of his fellow A’s prospects and still takes some walks, so the offensive value still appears to be there. Though Taylor may be on the low end of the above projection, I still see him as a decent regular.

 

Aaron Shipman       CF

Bats/Throws:      L/L

Height/Weight:      6’/175

Age/Level:      20/High-A

Projection:      2-4 WAR

Shipman is one of the more exciting players in the A’s system. His plus to plus-plus speed makes him a dangerous baserunner (17 of 20 in SB) and center fielder, especially considering his strong arm. At the plate, he had some issues with his average, but he struck out less than he walked and walked quite a bit. The .385 OBP was impressive for a guy who hit .254, but the next number in his slash line, .303, shows his downside - power. That being said, his defense could get him to the majors as a fourth outfielder, and if he can continue to walk, the average should come up to make him an OBP-heavy speed player at the top of the order. I just wonder if pitchers will challenge him once they realize he won’t hurt them.

 

Fair

Yordy Cabrera       SS

Bats/Throws:      R/R

Height/Weight:      6’1/205

Age/Level:       21/High-A

Projection:       1-3 WAR

Calling Cabrera a shortstop is being generous, but the A’s haven’t moved him yet. Cabrera has average speed which will likely get worse as he gets older, but he could probably handle third with his strong arm. Offensively, it would help if Cabrera could play short because his stick leaves a little to be desired. He has some power that could be above-average, but he is another guy with contact issues and was awful in Low-A. Cabrera is still mostly projection, but he’s not exactly young, though he still has time.

 

Vicmal De La Cruz      OF

Bats/Throws:       L/L

Height/Weight:     6’/185

Age/Level:      18/Low-A

Projection:      2-4 WAR

De La Cruz had a very nice debut in the Dominican Summer League, but seeing as that’s below A-ball, we shouldn’t make too much of it just yet. De La Cruz, however, shows strong hitting ability and a better approach than many his age, and while the power didn’t show up, many scouts see it improving as he gets older. Positionally, De La Cruz will likely end up in a corner, although he has above-average speed right now, but there’s a chance that he stays in center as he moves up. Loads of potential exist in this youngster, but there’s a lot of risk as well.

 

Collin Cowgill       OF

Bats/Throws:       R/L

Height/Weight:       5'9/185

Age/Level:       25/MLB

Projection:       1-3 WAR

Cowgill came over as part of the Cahill trade, and the initial thought is that he'll start in center field. It's a nice thought, but Cowgill comes up a bit short (bad pun) in center and needs to be in a corner defensively. At the plate, Cowgill can hit, draw some walks, and hit for some power, but the power output last season was a product of Reno. When he moves to Oakland, it may not work out so well. If he could stick in center, it wouldn't be such a big deal, but if he needs to be in a corner, it will. I love the guy, but he looks like a solid 4th outfielder.

 

Big Question - Stars?

Before the Trevor Cahill trade, the A’s had almost no star potential in the system. Michael Choice has that potential, and Sonny Gray has a little bit of a high ceiling. But the rest of the system is rather blah, and most of the “regulars” look to be more in the 2-3 win range instead of the 3-4. You win by having a couple star-level players and several solid regulars, and while the A’s seem to have some decent regulars, there are no stars on the current team or really in the minors other than a couple pitchers.

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