8 Oakland A's Prospects You Don't Know Yet, but You Should and Will
Oakland always seems to be a revolving door for young prospects, with the club constantly clearing room for up and coming studs making their first trip to the bigs. A's fans have had the privilege of seeing numerous rookie sensations this year make their major league debuts, highlighted by Yoenis Cespedes, Jarrod Parker and Derek Norris.
With the Athletics playing solid baseball and flirting with a .500 record at the All-Star break, these recent additions appear to have paid off for the franchise. However, the fountain youth doesn't stop flowing there for the A's, with a minor league system loaded with young studs waiting to get their shot at the show. Fans by the bay might wonder who is next to come, as it's hard to keep track of all the names general manager Billy Beane pushes in and out of the A's system.
Here are a few guys that A's fans should become familiar with over the next few years.
Michael Ynoa, SP
Fans might remember Ynoa from 2008 when he received the largest rookie signing bonus in franchise history ($4.25 million) as a 16-year-old flameball-dealing youngster. Now that his name is brought up again, those fans might wonder what happened to the Dominican Republic standout four years later.
Ynoa has spent much of his time through the Oakland farm system disabled, shelved with Tommy John surgery which he required in 2010, Now age 20, Ynoa has all but been a disappointment for the cash strapped A’s.
Regardless, Ynoa remains a pitching wunderkind and should still provide Oakland with a top of the rotation starting pitching prospect upon his return from injury. He’s about two years away from cracking the bigs, but at age 20, still has a humongous upside worthy of the dough the A’s coughed up to sign him.
Michael Taylor, OF
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Michael Taylor has had a few big league stints now, but with Oakland’s crowded outfield on the big league roster, Taylor has had little opportunity to make a splash in the majors.
Still Taylor, 26, remains a solid outfield prospect for the Athletics with his ability to hit for both average and power and his reasonably fleet feet and cannon arm in the outfield. Though he’s been largely ineffective in his two major league stints (just a .196 average and .275 OBP through 46 AB), Oakland has proven to be a patient franchise when it comes to developing talent, and Taylor should get another crack or two at the bigs before getting written off by the franchise. Taylor has the talent; he just needs to produce when given the opportunity.
Chris Carter, 1B
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Another big A’s who has had plenty of chances at the major league level, Chris Carter seems to finally have found his niche with the club after his call up from Triple-A on June 29.
Carter exploded since his call-up, hitting safely in his first three games in the lineup with two solo home runs in his first two games to complement his outstanding performance. Carter has been splitting time with the resurgent Brandon Moss at first base with the right-handed Carter starting against lefties and the southpaw Moss starting against right-handed pitchers, and it appears Carter, now age 25 has finally earned a permanent stay on the big league roster in his third stint in Oakland.
Carter is capable of provide the A’s a dangerous right-handed power bat to the heart of the lineup, and excels at drawing walks and getting on base. At 6’4", 244 pounds, Carter is a more than able bodied first baseman and should he continue to be productive, could finally be the A’s direly needed long-term solution at first.
Grant Green, OF
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Another outfield prospect, Green was Oakland’s first-round pick in 2009 and has yet to have an opportunity at the major league level. Another five-tool type player, Green appears to be nearing a major league debut hitting .290 with a .782 OPS in Triple-A Sacramento this season.
However, what might keep the 25-year-old from getting a legitimate crack at the majors this season is the Athletics logjam in the outfield at the major league level. Guys like Jonny Gomes and Collin Cowgill have been largely productive so far this season, and it’s difficult to see Green taking at-bats away from those guys even when rosters expand in the second half. The A’s have been hovering just below .500 all season, and unless the team takes a sharp turn south, don’t expect much from Green on 2012.
Sonny Gray, SP
Last year’s first-round pick, Sonny Gray has a nasty fastball/curveball combination and is capable of being a solid middle of the rotation strikeout pitcher at the major league level. He’ll need to develop another pitch or two to be effective in the bigs (he’s currently working on a changeup in Double-A ball) but given proper time to progress, Gray could be the A’s future number two or three starter in the rotation.
Disregard his 2-7 record and 5.11 ERA in the minors this season, once he nails his control issues and learns to commandeer his new pitching repertoire, Gray will become a deadly effective pitcher at the major league level.
Brad Peacock, SP
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Acquired in the Gio Gonzalez trade this offseason, Peacock is another guy with middle of the rotation potential in the A’s farm system. He struggles mightily with his command from time to time, but once he learns how to consistently locate his fastball, Peacock should be on the right track to become a solid rotation guy in Oakland.
A strikeout pitcher by nature, Peacock has not had the prettiest year in Triple-A Sacramento, posting a 7.00 ERA and a 6-6 record. Thought to be near major league ready when acquire from the Nationals, Peacock will need more time in the minors to develop and progress. Look for Peacock to get a shot next year, though sometime after Opening Day.
AJ Cole, SP
Also part of the Gonzalez trade, AJ Cole has perhaps the highest upside amongst Oakland’s pitching prospects. Ranked 57th in Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects of 2012, the 20-year-old Cole has the potential to be a frontline starter for the Athletics in about two years. He throws a solid two-seam fastball and a nasty change, but needs to be given time to work on his stamina and control in the minors. Expect to see Cole sometime around 2014.
Michael Choice, OF
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Oakland’s top outfield prospect, Choice has a ways to go before getting a shot in the majors. Choice is your typical high home run/high strikeout ratio type of power hitter. While that’s okay for a team that stresses sabermetrics like the Athletics, Choice will need to learn to get on base more often in the minors before getting considered for a big league promotion. He’s posted just a .325 OBP in Double-A Midland, and despite his seven home runs and 46 RBI, Choice progression through the minors will be a function of his ability to stay disciplined at the plate and get on base.
Still, he presents the organization with a deadly power bat in the minors and should Choice develop like the A’s intend, he could serve as another deadly deep ball threat behind power guys like Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes in the A’s starting lineup in a years time.