Oakland Athletics: Top 10 Prospects

General Manager: Billy Beane
Farm Director: Billy Owens
Scouting Director: Eric Kubota

FanGraphs’ Top 10 Prospects:
(2009 Draft Picks/International Signees Not Included)

1. Chris Carter, 1B, Triple-A
DOB: December 1986 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2005 15th round – Nevada HS (Chicago AL)
MLB ETA: Mid-2010 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 3

If you want to dream on a power prospect, Carter is your man. He has Ryan Howard-like power potential, although there are concerns over his lack of contact and high strikeout numbers. Carter is likely a .250-.270 hitter in the Majors (His .337 average in double-A was aided by a .406 BABIP). His strikeout rate in double-A was 24.3% in ’09. On the plus side, he also had an ISO rate of .238, an OPS of 1.1011 and a walk rate of 13.8%. Although the 6’4” 210 lbs first baseman is not swift-of-foot, he is a smart base runner who nabbed 13 bags in 18 tries. Daric Barton is Carter’s biggest “roadblock” to the first base job in Oakland; although he’s far from a five-tool player, the prospect is a better all-around player than Jake Fox or Jack Cust.

2. Michael Taylor, OF, Triple-A
DOB: December 1985 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2007 5th round – Stanford University (Philadelphia)
MLB ETA: Mid-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

Obtained from the Phillies, via the Blue Jays during the Roy Halladay musical chairs, the organization gave up a more promising bat (Brett Wallace) for the better all-around player in Taylor. Oakland has a lot of outfield depth with the likes of Travis Buck, Eric Patterson, Rajai Davis, and Ryan Sweeney, but none of those players can match Taylor’s potential. He’s also MLB ready, so he could step into a full-time or platoon gig in April. Taylor, 24, had a solid ’09 season in double-A where he hit .333/.408/.569 in 318 at-bats. He displayed a reasonable walk rate at 9.6% and kept his strikeout rate below 20% (16.0%) while maintaining excellent power (.236 ISO). Taylor also added 18 steals in 22 tries. Promoted to triple-A, he hit .282/.359/.491 with a .209 ISO in 110 at-bats. Taylor possesses a strong arm and can play both outfield corners, although he sees most of his time in left field.

3. Jemile Weeks, 2B, Double-A
DOB: January 1987 Bats: B Throws: R
Signed: 2008 1st round – University of Miami
MLB ETA: Mid-2011 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

Weeks battled through injuries in ’09 and appeared in just 80 games. The second baseman opened his season with a power burst that was unsustainable and probably a fluke. He posted a .169 ISO in his first 50 games with high-A (all seven of his homers came in his first 97 at-bats) before moving up to double-A where he posted an ISO rate of .105, which was more in line with his debut (.108 ISO in ’08). A switch-hitter, Weeks performed much better against right-handed pitchers in ’09 with an OPS of .899 vs .615 against southpaws. Defensively, the 23 year old is athletic with a strong arm, but he makes some careless errors.

4. Adrian Cardenas, 2B, Triple-A
DOB: October 1987 Bats: L Throws: R
Signed: 2006 supplemental 1st round – Florida HS (Philadelphia)
MLB ETA: Late-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

It was an up-and-down season for the 22-year-old Cardenas. He received a quick promotions to triple-A in ’09 but struggled by hitting .175 in May and was sent back to double-A, where he set the world on fire by hitting .326/.392/.446 in 325 at-bats. Moved back up to triple-A in August, he posted a line of .287/.354/.396 in August and .340/.392/.532 in September. In the lower minors, the prospect showed the ability to steal 15-20 bases but he hasn’t topped eight steals in the past two seasons. Cardenas’ bat will have to carry him as he is an average fielder at best at the keystone. A permanent spot at third base could be in the cards, but his power output is below average for the position. The former Phillies draft pick should be ready for the Majors right about the time Mark Ellis‘ contract expires.

5. Tyson Ross, RHP, Double-A
DOB: April 1987 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2008 2nd round – University of California
MLB ETA: Late-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 89-94 mph fastball, slider, cutter, change-up

If you love ground-ballers like we do at Fangraphs, then you’ll want to meet Ross. The right-hander posted a 56.6% ground-ball rate on the season, including a 61.9 GB% in 66.3 double-A innings. Just 22, Ross is a promising pitcher despite a modest strikeout rate in double-A (8.55 in high-A, 5.58 K/9 in double-A). His fastball can touch the mid-90s so the strikeouts should come once he improves his secondary pitches. He also needs to improve his command and control a bit after posting a walk rate of 3.48 on the seasons. Ross allowed 10 homers in high-A (1.04 HR/9) despite his impress ground-ball numbers. If his secondary pitches don’t improve, he could become a dominating late-game reliever with his sinking fastball.

6. Pedro Figueroa, LHP, High-A
DOB: November 1985 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2003 non-drafted international free agent (Dominican Republic)
MLB ETA: Late-2011 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 3
Repertoire: 91-96 mph fastball, slider, change-up

Figueroa was not on the watch list when the season began but quickly jumped onto it. A little older than most prospects in low-A at 23, the southpaw posted a solid strikeout rate of 8.13 K/9 at the junior level while showing OK control with a walk rate of 3.23 BB/9. Moved up to high-A for 11 starts, Figueroa’s walk rate jumped to 4.80 BB/9 but his strikeouts also increased to 9.18 K/9. Overall, he allowed 151 hits in 152.0 innings of work, while producing a respectable ground-ball rate of 46.2%. Because he’s now 24, Oakland could be aggressive with Figueroa and move him up to double-A despite his control issues.

7. Fautino De Los Santos, RHP, Injured
DOB: February 1986 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2005 non-drafted international free agent (Dominican Republic)
MLB ETA: Late-2011 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 3
Repertoire: 89-95 mph fastball, slider, curveball, change-up

One of the key players in the Nick Swisher trade with the White Sox, De Los Santos made just five starts with Oakland’s system in ’08 before going down with a major injury. He returned in ’09 to make seven rehab starts in rookie ball and he showed his fastball of old, but his secondary pitches are still being worked back in. The right-hander has the potential of a No. 2 starter if he can harness his breaking ball and change-up but he could also develop into a dominating reliever. We’ll know a lot more about De Los Santos’ potential as the season progresses. If healthy, he should opened the season in high-A ball.

8. Sean Doolittle, 1B, Triple-A
DOB: September 1986 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2007 supplemental 1st round – University of Virginia
MLB ETA: Late-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

Doolittle was yet another prospect bitten by the injury bug in ’09. He started the year in triple-A and was just a quick phone call away from making the Majors before knee problems (and surgery) ended his season. When everything is clicking for Doolittle, he is a .280-.300 hitter with 15-20 homer potential. He has always displayed good walk rates (12.4% in ’09) but he strikes out a bit too much for his power output (21.9%). An above-average defender at first base, Doolittle was moved to right field (Thanks to the presence of Chris Carter) where he is average.

9. Shane Peterson, OF, Double-A
DOB: February 1988 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2008 2nd round – Long Beach State University (St. Louis)
MLB ETA: Late-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

Acquired in last season’s Matt Holliday trade with St. Louis, Peterson projects to be an average MLB player mainly due to the fact that he possesses below-average power for his best positions (corner outfield, first base). The prospect is actually similar to fellow left-handed hitting Sean Doolittle in the sense that he projects to hit 10-15 homers with a batting average between .270 and .300. After struggling against southpaws in ’08, Peterson rebounded to post a line of .302/.348/.430 against them in ’09. The 22-year-old hitter has more speed than Doolittle and he nabbed 16 bags in 17 tries in ’09.

10. Josh Donaldson, C, Double-A
DOB: December 1988 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2007 supplemental 1st round pick – Auburn University (Chicago NL)
MLB ETA: Late-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

Part of the loot for Rich Harden during an ’08 trade with the Chicago Cubs, Donaldson has seen his value improve significantly since joining his new organization. At the time of the trade, Donaldson was hitting .217/.276/.349 in low-A ball. He was immediately promoted to high-A with Oakland and finished the year with a line of .330/.391/.564 in 188 at-bats. He continued to hit well in ’09 despite being moved up to double-A and he produced a triple-slash line of .270/.379/.415 in 455 at-bats. Although he posted a 20.2% strikeout rate, Donaldson also walked at a rate of 14.8%, good for a BB/K rate of 0.87. He’s shown flashes of solid power, but he’s more of a line-drive hitter and he had an ISO rate of .145 in ’09. Donaldson has the tools to be an average big league backstop, although he’s still working on his receiving. He threw out 40% of base stealers last season.

Up Next: The San Diego Padres

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

36 Responses to “Oakland Athletics: Top 10 Prospects”

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  1. Rich says:

    Grant Green?

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  2. dnangle4 says:

    I’m a bit surprised that Michael Ynoa didn’t make the cut – obviously he is still awfully raw and needs a lot of development time before he cracks the majors, but could you explain why you decided to leave him off?

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  3. Jeremy says:

    I’m surprised Corey Brown didn’t make the cut, especially over Shane Peterson. Brown’s ability to play CF and power/speed combo is quite an impressive package despite the K’s. If he can improve his contact, similar to Carter, he will be a stud.

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  4. LeeTro says:

    Just wondering where you would have put Desme….

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    • Marc Hulet says:

      Desme probably would have been in the 4-6 range… Corey Brown was in the 11-13 range; Inoa was hurt by his lack of actual innings.

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  5. Nathaniel Stoltz says:

    What about Capra and Hornbeck? They’re younger than Figueroa and DLS and have shown much more.

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  6. Impossibles says:

    Marc, would you have done the Wallace/Taylor trade from the Bluejays side?

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  7. Derek says:

    I’m just nitpicking here, but I find it hard to believe that even Oakland will make room on it’s 40-Man during the season for Taylor, Ross, Donaldson, Cardenas, Peterson, and Doolittle. I know Oakland doesn’t always wait, but I’d be surprised if they didn’t wait until 2011 to try out Ross and Peterson unless they have really outstanding seasons.

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    • Marc Hulet says:

      The ETAs are more when the prospects project to be able to help out… it’s up to Oakland to use them… I agree it’s unlikely they’ll all be up but all five could be ready by the end of 2010 if needed.

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      • Jeremy says:

        Taylor, Carter, Cardenas, and probably Doolittle will all get some time in the bigs this year, but no chance with Peterson and very unlikely Donaldson or Ross do. Once Chavez resumes his spot on the 60-day DL there’s a spot open for on the 40-man for Taylor and if Patterson doesn’t make the team he’s out of options and will have to be traded opening up another spot.

        I have doubts Peterson will see the bigs in 2011 even. Good player, excellent numbers considering his age relative to competition, but just too many guys ahead of him. Behind Taylor, Buck, Doolittle, Carter, Brown just in AAA in RF/1B and Barton, Sweeney, Gross, and Cust in the bigs now.

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  8. Johnny says:

    Chris Carter can flat out hit. The A’s future is looking up.

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  9. PL says:

    It needs to be said if everything pans out:

    1B: D. Barton
    2B: A. Cardenas
    SS: C. Pennington–>G. Green
    3B: K. Kouzmanoff
    C: K. Suzuki
    LF: M. Taylor
    CF: R. Weeks
    RF: R. Sweeney
    DH: C. Carter

    …is an absolute beastly, godly, lineup.

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  10. Hecubot says:

    Shane Peterson? You’re shitting me. He’ll never get above Triple-A.

    Fautino had TJ surgery.

    You’re underrating Doolittle as a defender. He’s the best defensive first baseman in the system, and has a pitcher’s arm in RF. Going into ’09 he and Carter were ranked about equally.

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  11. Steve says:


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  12. Pat says:

    PL, that isn’t that good of a lineup. Sure, they are all young prospects, but how good are those guys really? Carter should be a legit slugger, but I don’t know about Cardenas. Pennington won’t be a great bat, Kouz is a lousy hitter who underachieves every year, Sweeney is ok but more of a defensive whiz, and who knows what Weeks will do. I think you mean J Weeks instead of Rikkie Weeks, still that lineup doesn’t scare me one bit.

    Now, the A’s pitching, that’s a whole different story. They can have a nice group of pitchers, it will be an overload. A lot of good rotation candidates and a very strong pen.

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    • PL says:

      oops, J. Weeks yes.

      Taylor and Carter are going to seriously mash.
      Barton, Cardenas, Sweeney & Weeks are going to get on base like crazy.
      Suzuki, Kouzmanoff are going to provide decent OPS and defense. Kouz got liberated from SD make no mistake, he was a .330+ hitter in the minors, he knows how to hit. SD crashed him, thats all.
      Pennington is the wild card.

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  13. JT says:

    This is just an idea Marc, but perhaps instead of italicizing:

    FanGraphs’ Top 10 Prospects:
    (2009 Draft Picks/International Signees Not Included)

    You could increase the font, bold it, underline it and put the words *WATCH OUT* in front of it. I’m not really saying it in jest. I think that many regulars here have got into the routine of not expecting to see those “missing” prospects, but for fans who just get “linked” here from another site, that set up might be more leading than misleading.

    Just my two cents to try to improve the site for all.


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  14. R M says:

    I know why the draftees are eliminated, but I”m not sure why them being covered in a different series should affect these lists…. judging by the comments on pretty much every one of these, might I suggest just caving in and adding draftees if you do this series again? I do enjoy the lists though.

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  15. kdub1988 says:

    Chris Carter sounds more and more like Carlos Pena to me the more I read about him. I just hope they don’t ship him (and one of their top pitching prospects) out if/when he hits a roadblock at the big league level like they did with Pena for a $4 bottle of Champaign and Ted Lilly. I like the A’s, but I feel they over-deal their system. Life would be a whole lot different right now if they had never rented Matt Holliday and Milton Bradley and had stuck with Andre Ethier and Carlos Gonzalez.

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