Organizational Rankings: Future Talent – Oakland

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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24 Responses to “Organizational Rankings: Future Talent – Oakland”

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  1. Dan says:

    I’ve never read a scouting report of Michael Taylor that describes him as “unathletic.”

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    • danmerqury says:

      Everything I’ve heard pegs him at “lanky”. He’s also crazy tall, like, 6’5″ or something.

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      • scatterbrian says:

        lanky = unathletic?

        LeBron’s crazy tall, is he unathletic?

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      • The Hit Dog says:

        LeBron – also super lanky. Hit the weight room, bro.

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      • Ivdown says:

        I didn’t read the comments before I posted a few minutes ago, but I was saying how Taylor is a BIG dude, almost intimidating. I could see massive power coming from him.

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      • scatterbrian says:

        This site lists him at 6’6″ 250. The A’s official site has him at 6’6″ 260.

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  2. Justin Haddad says:

    I was just about to say the same thing……..

    I have only read positive reports about Taylor’s defensive ability. He is 6-6. A big guy, that has 5-tools.

    I dont understand how you can even compare Taylor to Carter athletically

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    • scatterbrian says:

      Hopefully it was just a typo, where the first reference of Michael Taylor should have been Jack Cust.

      Kevin Goldstein: “[Taylor]’s a phenomenal athlete for his size, and an average runner once he gets going…” He also mentions Taylor’s defense can be sloppy as he tends to take circuitous routes to balls, but that’s got little to do with athleticism.

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  3. Justin Haddad says:

    Granted, he may not be a plus defender, but he is by no means as bad an OF as Carter is a 1B. He is an avg. defender at worst…..

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    • Bryan Smith says:

      Average at worst? I don’t think so.

      TotalZone has plenty of flaws, but it’s worth pointing out that he’s -13 in the outfield in three seasons. I think you’d be projecting favorably to have him at +0 in his team-controlled seasons.

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  4. MLBfan2010 says:

    Wow since when is Michael Taylor labeled as an unathletic slugger?

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  5. scatterbrian says:

    “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.”

    Can you explain this reference to Moneyball? Seeking out the best value where you can find it was pretty much the entire point of that book. What was once considered the “best value” may have changed and/or may no longer be a value at the cost, but that doesn’t mean the process has been abandoned.

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    • Dan says:

      It’s part of Fangraphs’ revisionist history of Moneyball. They’ve tried to put themselves (and the Mariners) at the forefront of a new type of Moneyball–one that recognizes that defense matters.

      Nevermind that Moneyball has a whole section on translating PBP defensive metrics into runs…

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    • Joe says:

      Took the words right out of my mouth. I don’t understand how so many people think the point of Moneyball was that the A’s only sign fat players who walk and old guys who nobody wants anymore just because of statistics. The whole point of the book is that there are always inefficiencies in the market, causing some types of players to be overvalued while others are undervalued. At the time, using advanced statistics was the easiest way for the A’s to find the most undervalued players. That is no longer the case.

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      • Bryan Smith says:

        I don’t think this. But from what I’ve heard about the Moneyball movie, this is the Hollywood perception.

        I didn’t say it made them endearing to saberists, because I think those people recognize that isn’t what Moneyball was about.

        But the layman, the screenwriter, the Hollywood executives … you can bet they’ll love the “fat players who walk” angle.

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      • FanGraphs Supporting Member

        They should have had Jonah Hill play Jeremy Giambi instead of DePo.

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  6. Bryan Smith says:

    Guys: Unathletic was a bad term to use for Taylor, and I retract it. I meant that he’s not a very good defender, I think scouting reports and totalzone agree on this, and -5 is a decent projection for his fielding.

    His athleticism, as you’ve pointed out, is well above-average.

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    • Dan says:

      Scouting reports do not agree with that.

      The 2010 BA Handbook, for example, says he’s a “solid defender with an average-to-plus arm who grades as above average in LF.”

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      • SF 55 for life says:

        Interesting that BA would say that. Most here would probably agree that he is average at best, and most likely below average. Perhaps people are taking into account the fact that over the next few years he will be filling out his 6 foot 6 frame.

        And then there’s TZ, which really confuses things lol.

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  7. Ivdown says:

    Michael Taylor is a BIG dude. Not only that he’s very athletic looking. He looks like a bigger version of Matt Kemp. I was very surprised when I saw him in ST in person.

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