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Oakland Athletics Top 20 2012 PRE-SEASON Prospects in Review

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SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 25:  Tom Milone #57 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on June 25, 2012 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 25: Tom Milone #57 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on June 25, 2012 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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Oakland Athletics Top 20 2012 PRE-SEASON Prospects in Review

Moving forward with our mid-season reviews of our pre-season Top 20 prospect lists, we stick with the American League with a look at the Oakland Athletics. Remember, this is the pre-season list. It is not a new list.

This list was originally published January 9th, 2012.

The next three teams on the list for review are the Washington Nationals, Chicago Cubs, Detroit Tigers, and San Francisco Giants.

1) Jarrod Parker, RHP, Grade A-: Borderline B+: Very impressive in the majors so far, 3.00 ERA in 16 starts, 76/42 K/BB in 99 innings, just 79 hits and four homers allowed. Hard to complain about this kind of performance from a rookie, or anyone else for that matter.

2) Michael Choice, OF, Grade B+: Hitting .287/.356/.423 with 10 homers, 33 walks, 88 strikeouts in 359 at-bats for Double-A Midland. Was on a hot streak, hitting .486/.548/.829 in his last 10 games, but he broke his hand over the weekend and is out the rest of the season.

3) A.J. Cole, RHP, Grade B+: Started off with Stockton in the High-A California League and got killed, 0-7 in eight starts with a 7.82 ERA and 60 hits allowed in 38 innings. Sent back to Low-A Burlington and has been much more effective, 2.11 ERA with 68/11 K/BB in 60 innings, 50 hits. Just 20 years old, hopefully the Cal League stuff was a blip.

4) Brad Peacock, RHP, Grade B: Borderline B+. 6.63 ERA with 107/46 K/BB in 98 innings for Triple-A Sacramento, 116 hits allowed. Suffering some from significant command problems but he's had some good games and his K/IP ratio remains very strong. Stock has dropped some but he's still an intriguing prospect.

5) Sonny Gray, RHP, Grade B: Borderline B+: 4.35 ERA with 67/46 K/BB in 103 innings, 105 hits for Double-A Midland, 1.90 GO/AO. Has pitched better in his last four starts. I don't like the low strikeout rate and scouting reports are quite mixed, very dependent on what day you see him. He's getting some grounders at least but the idea that he may end up as a reliever is gaining traction.

6) Derek Norris, C, Grade B: Hit .275/.331/.474 with 20 walks, 39 strikeouts in 209 at-bats in Triple-A, then .183/.258/.283 with six walks, 19 strikeouts in 60 major league at-bats. Don't expect a high batting average, but he'll produce eventually if they stick with him.

7) Grant Green, OF, Grade B-: Hitting .286/.333/.436 with 27 walks, 58 strikeouts, 10 homers, 12 steals in 374 at-bats for Sacramento. At this point I'm doubtful that he'll hit enough to be a regular outfielder (or third baseman) for a first-division team. I could be wrong though.

8) Tom Milone, LHP, Grade B-: What I wrote: The guy can simply pitch. He has little margin for error, but he will probably have a better career than hundreds of guys who throw 10 MPH harder. The results: 9-6, 3.34 ERA in 19 major league starts, 86/26 K/BB ratio in 121 innings, 119 hits. He makes it work.

9) Chris Carter, 1B-DH, Grade C+: Hit .279/.367/.486 in Triple-A, hitting .297/.409/.730 with five homers, seven walks, eight strikeouts in 37 major league at-bats. This is the guy the Athletics have been waiting for.

10) Collin Cowgill, OF, Grade C+: .252/.304/.378 in Sacramento, .271/.343/.313 in 96 major league at-bats. I think he'll hang around as an extra outfielder for a long time.

11) Raul Alcantara, RHP, Grade C+: 5.22 ERA with 46/35 K/BB in 91 innings for Burlington, 108 hits. Throws hard, but secondary pitches alternate between mediocre and terrible. Just 19, has time to develop them.

12) Michael Taylor, OF, Grade C+: Hitting .306/.414/.473 with 59 walks, 75 strikeouts, 13 steals in 330 at-bats for Sacramento. If Carter can figure it out, maybe Taylor can too.

13) Josh Donaldson, C-3B, Grade C+: Horrible in the majors (.153/.160/.235, 1/26 BB/K in 98 AB) but rips the ball in Triple-A (.340/.412/.626). Older now at age 26, but with his track record in the minors and defensive versatility, more chances should come.

14) Aaron Shipman, OF, Grade C+: Very fast, looks great in uniform, but hitting just .208/.302/.263 with only four steals in 240 at-bats in the Midwest League. Young at age 20 and everyone knew he was raw. He'll take some walks but has a lot of work to do offensively and on the bases.

15) B.A. Vollmuth, 3B, Grade C+: Hit .260/.337/.411 with 29 walks, 74 strikeouts in 265 at-bats for Burlington, then .292/.360/.425 with 12 walks, 26 strikeouts in 113 at-bats for Stockton. Hasn't tapped into his raw power fully.

16) Vicmal De La Cruz, OF, Grade C+: Hitting .215/.246/.385 with three walks, 20 strikeouts in 65 at-bat in the Arizona Rookie League. So far, unable to bring the hitting skills he showed in the Dominican Summer League last year to North America. Still just 18. I shouldn't have put him ahead of the more proven players below him.

17) Steve Parker, 3B, Grade C+: Hitting .250/.325/.381 with six homers, 26 walks, 74 strikeouts in 252 at-bats in Triple-A. At this point, not showing enough bat for a corner spot, and scouts who were skeptical about him at lower levels look correct.

18) Daniel Straily, RHP, Grade C+: Under-the-radar prospect will need to prove that he can duplicate this at higher levels, but a sleeper. I would say he is no longer a sleeper: performance has been superb, 2.52 ERA with 171/37 K/BB in 132 innings, 90 hits split between Double-A and Triple-A. Both stuff and command have improved dramatically over the last three years since he was a mediocre college pitcher at Marshall and a 24th round pick. Stock way up, and it's legit. I wish I had ranked him higher.

19) A.J. Griffin, RHP, Grade C+: Another sleeper who broke through, 2.66 ERA with 84/14 K/BB in 95 minor league innings, then 2.70 ERA with 20/6 K/BB in 30 major league innings. A 13th round pick in 2010 and may end up being one of the best pitchers drafted in that entire class.

20) Miles Head, 1B, Grade C+: Crazy numbers in Cal League, .382/.433/.715 in 267 at-bats with 18 homers. Has come to earth in Double-A (.266/.333/.431) with some strike zone issues (9 walks, 34 strikeouts in 109 at-bats). Scouts are giving him good reports and he's certainly made progress, but more adjustments will be necessary.

21) Ian Krol, LHP, Grade C+: 5.36 ERA with 69/22 K/BB in 81 innings for Stockton, 91 hits. Nothing special at this point, not overpowering, but throws strikes and shows a good curve.

22) Ryan Cook, RHP, Grade C+: I thought he would be a useful middle reliever, instead he's an All-Star, 1.70 ERA with 44/22 K/BB in 42 innings, just 16 hits, 10 saves. Another guy who broke through.

The major league team is 51-44, six games out but over .500, thanks in great part to rookie members of the pitching staff, plus the investment in Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes (who signed too late to be included on the pre-season list).

The good news here is obvious: Parker and Milone have panned out, Straily and Griffin broke through, Carter seems to have figured something out, and Choice was on a tear until he got hurt. Sean Doolittle went from forgotten injury-plagued outfielder/first baseman to excellent major league reliever.

Not on the pre-season list but worthy of note are catcher Beau Taylor (.332/.416/441 in High-A and Double-A), right-hander Drew Granier (3.14 ERA, 111/35 K/BB in 118 innings in Low-A, although a bit old for the level at age 23, but don't underestimate pitchability guys in this system), and hustling walk machine and consistently overlooked Conner Crumbliss (.266/.411/.374 with 84 walks in Double-A).

The draft class concentrated on bats, with Addison Russell off to a particularly good start (.443/.532/.747 in rookie ball).