Dare I say, the Oakland A’s have the most incongruous group of young talent in any Major League organization. In one cluster, you have these unathletic sluggers like Chris Carter or Jake Fox, but in the other, the team seems dedicated to defensive fast-twitch guys like Ryan Sweeney, Rajai Davis and Jemile Weeks. The pitching side is just as schizophrenic, with the talents ranging from prep stars (Brett Anderson, Ian Krol) to the polished college players (Dallas Braden, Tyson Ross); from the international heists (Pedro Figueroa) to the Dominican bonus baby (Michael Ynoa). It’s fascinating to see a team once so self-limiting now dedicated to casting a wide net.
This is not a bad thing by any means, even if it makes summarizing their future talent in 600 words a difficult proposition. Oakland is simply now an organization that seeks out the best value where they can find it, seemingly discarding the process that made them endearing to Hollywood. They are left with a lot of depth, an identity I can’t put my finger on, and one of the most interesting futures of any team. And Brett Anderson, who has the advantage of counting Dave Cameron among his fan boys. If Anderson can maintain the velocity that he showed late last season — and there’s little reason to think he can’t — there isn’t a skill he doesn’t possess. He will be the A’s best pitcher for the next five seasons.
Their best position player is harder to come by. Chris Carter, I think, will be their best hitter. I was impressed in Spring Training to see a slimmed down version of who I’d heard about, but scouts still don’t like his defense. Assuming a -5 glove, Carter will need to hit like 2007 Jack Cust (.256/.408/.504) to be 3 wins above replacement. I think Carter can be in .900 OPS territory, but digging out of such a hole to get to 3-4 WAR is not where you want to be. Michael Taylor is in a similar boat, needing to be +22.5 or so with the bat to be a three-win guy. Kurt Suzuki has been one of the game’s most consistent players for three seasons, and should peak somewhere between that 3-4 WAR bubble, depending on how you view his defense. All-Joy Team member Ryan Sweeney also can get to that level on defense alone, so the A’s should be willing to put up with a league average bat. Whether it’s Jemile Weeks or Eric Sogard, Rajai Davis or Adrian Cardenas, I see a lot of guys that will struggle to get past four wins.
So, in a way, as different as these players seem by pedigree, the A’s are hoarding players that should be locks for 2-4 WAR for their team-controlled seasons. It’s democratic, but it will be hard to compete with such a forward thinking division unless some of these players blossom into stars. I like Grant Green and Max Stassi quite a bit, but they are years away from contributing. As far as the pitchers behind Anderson go, you again have a lot of similarly valued talent, if a little more in way of upside. Trevor Cahill will be better in 2010, but his strikeout rate bears watching. I like Vin Mazzaro a lot, and others love Gio Gonzalez, but each has their hurdles to get past.
Depth is one of the best compliments we can give a Major League farm system, and the A’s are filled with it. I see three second baseman, three first baseman, a couple catchers, a dozen outfielders and a lot of pitchers that might contribute to the A’s in the next six seasons. But, outside of Anderson, I don’t see any stars.
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