Surprise, surprise, the Oakland Athletics organization is loaded with young talent. Although the club has had modest results from its recent drafts, General Manager Billy Beane has done an amazing job of picking up talent from other organizations in exchange for more expensive veterans.
Brett Anderson and Gio Gonzalez are two talented, young southpaws that have very good opportunities to spend significant time in the A’s rotation in 2009. Anderson was obtained from the Diamondbacks in the Dan Haren trade, while Gonzalez was acquired from the White Sox in the Nick Swisher deal. Last season, Anderson split his time between High-A and Double-A. At the senior level, he allowed 27 hits in 31 innings of work and posted rates of 2.61 BB/9 and 11.03 K/9. Gonzalez spent the year in Triple-A and and allowed 106 hits in 123 innings. He also posted rates of 4.46 BB/9 and 9.37 K/9. Gonzalez made his MLB debut in 2008, but struggled with 32 hits and 25 walks allowed in 34 innings.
Trevor Cahill was drafted by the A’s out of high school in 2006 in the second round. The right-hander has moved quickly through the system and played at both High-A and Double-A in 2008. Cahill, 21, allowed 52 hits in 87.1 High-A innings, before moving up and allowing 24 hits in 37 Double-A innings. He also posted rates of 4.62 BB/9 and 8.03 K/9 at the higher level. Obviously, Cahill needs to improve his control a bit, but he has a solid repertoire: an 88-93 mph fastball, good curve and change-up.
Another A’s draft pick, Vince Mazzaro, 22, does not get as much press as some of the other arms in the system but the former third-round pick out of high school has a chance to be a solid starting pitcher in the Majors. The right-hander split 2008 between Double-A and Triple-A. He posted a 1.90 ERA in Double-A with 115 hits allowed in 137.1 innings. Mazzaro, who allowed just three homers, also posted rates of 2.36 BB/9 and 6.82 K/9. At Triple-A, he allowed 49 hits in 33.2 innings and should return to that level to begin 2009. Mazzaro has an 89-94 mph fastball, change-up and slider.
James Simmons was a first-round draft pick out of college in 2007 who spent his first full season in pro ball in Double-A with OK results. His ERA was good at 3.51 (and a 3.26 FIP) but he allowed 150 hits in 136 innings of work. Simmons, 22, also posted rates of 2.12 BB/9 and 7.94 K/9 with 11 home runs allowed (0.73 HR/9). Right now, he looks like a reliever with a reliable two-pitch repertoire: an 88-92 mph fastball and solid change-up. If he can improve his slider, Simmons may develop into a No. 3 or 4 starter.
Outfielder Aaron Cunningham, 22, was another piece of the prospect pie that was obtained for Haren. Scouts are mixed on his future potential; some see him as a future regular, while others feel he lacks the range for center and the power for the corner, making him an ideal fourth outfielder. The A’s organization is content to take a wait-and-see approach with Cunningham, who had a solid 2008 season and made his Major League debut. At Double-A, he hit .317/.386/.507 in 347 at-bats. He then hit .382 in 76 Triple-A at-bats and .250 in 80 MLB at-bats.
Adrian Cardenas was the key player obtained in the Joe Blanton trade with Philadelphia last season. The second baseman is not the best defensive player but he has a bright future as a hitter. The 21-year-old is a former supplemental first round draft pick who hit well in High-A in 2008, and also during a brief stint in Double-A at the end of the season. In 261 at-bats in High-A for the Phillies, Cardenas hit .307/.371/.441 with 16 stolen bases and four homers. Cardenas projects to hit for more power, which will be important if he needs to move off of second base to third base.
Fautino de los Santos had a breakout season in 2007 and was a key player in the deal with Chicago for Swisher. Unfortunately, he required Tommy John surgery not long after the trade and missed most of the 2008 season. Now 23, de los Santos is expected to return in May or June. Before the injury, the right-hander could touch 97 mph and also featured a slider, curve and change-up.
A former supplemental first round pick out of the University of Virginia, Sean Doolittle has exceeded expectations so far in his career. A first baseman, the left-handed hitter was thought to have average power at best for his position. However, he slugged 40 doubles and 24 home runs between High-A and Double-A in 2008, although he was aided by some good-hitting leagues and stadiums. Doolittle also struck out 153 times in 535 at-bats. He hit .305 in 334 High-A at-bats but the average dipped to .254 in 201 Double-A at-bats.
Another first baseman, Chris Carter was also obtained from Arizona in the Haren deal. Power is the name of his game, after drilling 63 home runs in the past two seasons, including 39 last year in High-A ball. Carter hit .259/.361/.569 with rates of 13.2 BB% and 30.8 K% in 506 at-bats. The 22-year-old’s biggest issue is making contact, but few hitters can match his raw strength.
Jemile Weeks was the club’s No. 1 draft pick in 2008 and is the brother of Milwaukee’s Rickie Weeks. The A’s can only hope that Jemile will have more luck reaching his potential. He appeared in just 19 games after signing but hit .297 and stole six bases. Speed is a key component to the second baseman’s game. Only 5’9”, Weeks has above-average power for his size and could hit 10-15 homers.
Michael Inoa was the top prize in this past season’s international signing period. Only 17, Inoa is already 6’7” and features a fastball that can touch 94 mph, as well as a splitter, curveball and change-up. He has yet to make his pro debut and will likely spend the first half of the season in extended spring training before opening the year in rookie ball in June.
Up Next: The Los Angeles Dodgers
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