While the Oakland A’s may be last in the league with just 52 team home runs, don’t expect A’s GM Billy Beane to call up top prospects Chris Carter and Michael Taylor any time soon. Aside from Carter and Taylor, the A’s do have some other talented prospects, who are playing the same waiting game that Carter and Taylor are.
Earlier this week, Swingin’ A’s had a Q&A session with A’s writer, Nathaniel Stoltz about the A’s minor league system. Topics included when fans can expect Carter and Taylor to see time in the majors, as well as other top prospects in Oakland’s farm system. Below is the entire Q&A session with Nathaniel:
"Swingin’ A’s: Everyone seems to be concerned with the fact that the A’s lack a significant power bat in the lineup. And since the A’s rank 30th in the league with 59 total home runs, do you think Billy Beane and the rest of the A’s front office will decide to bring up prospects Chris Carter and Michael Taylor?Nathaniel Stoltz: No, I don’t see Carter and Taylor coming up at least until rosters expand, and maybe not even then. Taylor isn’t likely to inject much power into the lineup, as he’s having a down year with just three homers in Triple-A. He’s also hitting just .251, although he’s picked it up a bit in June and July, hitting .278. Still, the A’s are going to want to see the 6’6″ Taylor tap into more of his power before he gets to Oakland.Carter’s hit for power, with 17 homers, but he’s struck out 95 times and has hit just .239. The concern there is that he hasn’t developed the contact skills necessary to hit for a decent average in the majors yet. He’s getting close to ready, but he could use the next two months in Triple-A getting more seasoning.The A’s best option to fix the power in the short term is to look at some of the minor league veterans. They called up outfielders Matt Watson (.600 slugging percentage in AAA) and Matt Carson (.534 slugging percentage in AAA) yesterday, and 3B Dallas McPherson could also be an option as well. SS Steve Tolleson, who spent a brief period with the A’s earlier this year, has good power for a middle infielder, and is having a great season in AAA (.328/.420/.506), but he isn’t really an imposing power threat.S.A’s: Aside from Carter and Taylor, do the A’s have any other skilled offensive players waiting in the minors?NS: Well, I just mentioned a few. There are certainly others. 2B Eric Sogard, acquired with Kevin Kouzmanoff in the offseason, has had a nice year at Triple-A and looks poised to succeed Mark Ellis at second next year. Catcher Josh Donaldson hits well for a catcher and got some time with the A’s earlier in the year, and Corey Wimberly is a utility guy with 33 steals. He’s one of the fastest guys in baseball, although he offers zero power.Other players who could factor into the big league picture by this time next year are Double-A infielders Adrian Cardenas and Jemile Weeks and outfielder Corey Brown, all of whom have hit over .300 in Double-A. However, Brown and Cardenas have struggled in Triple-A, while Weeks is currently hurt, so there are some issues with them.The rest of the potential impact bats are in the lower minors.S.A’s: As of now, are there any standouts that have caught your attention? If so, who?NS: The A’s have plenty of standouts in the minors other than the players I already mentioned in the first two questions. I’ll list a few hitters first:High-A SS Grant Green–The first rounder last year, he’s showed good all-around skills in his first full season. He’s coming off a 1.036 OPS in June, which is incredible for a shortstop.High-A 3B Stephen Parker–Parker has great plate discipline and solid power. He has over a .400 OBP this year. He was last year’s fifth-rounder.Low-A OFs Myrio Richard, Rashun Dixon, and Tyreace House–All three of these are plus defenders with solid speed. House offers the most speed and plate discipline, but he doesn’t hit for any power yet. Dixon has the most power of the three, but he’s also a good athlete with good plate discipline–and he’s just 19. He could be a tremendous player down the line. Richard is hitting .290 with 22 doubles.Now for some pitchers:In Triple-A, the A’s have starter Kyle Middleton, a veteran guy with good offspeed stuff and command. He’s got a 2.35 ERA and likely would be the first guy called upon to help the Oakland rotation out in case of injury. Reliever Mike Benacka has a devastating changeup that he’s used to strike out well over a batter per inning in Triple-A, and could be of good use as well.Down in Double-A, reliever Mickey Storey is a guy who could be a valuable pitcher in Oakland within a year, and starter Carlos Hernandez shuts down lefties, suggesting he’s got a future as a good lefty specialist. Reliever Fautino De Los Santos, acquired in the Nick Swisher deal a few years back, has had some injury problems, but he’s finally putting the pieces together and could be an elite reliever.In High-A, there aren’t many interesting starters, although veteran Michael Madsen is very good when healthy (he’s rarely healthy). There are some interesting relievers, though. Sidearming Paul Smyth is great against righties, and Trey Barham is great against lefties. Brett Hunter also strikes out righties by the bushel, but needs much better command to get anywhere near the majors. If he ever throws strikes, look out.In Low-A, teenage lefty Ian Krol has put up a 1.83 ERA thanks to great command. He could be a solid mid-rotation starter. The A’s second pick last year, lefty Justin Marks, has had an up-and-down season but has showed flashes of mid-rotation potential as well. Righty Connor Hoehn is another good relief prospect.In short-season ball, there’s young Deyvi Jimenez, a command/groundball guy who’s having good success in Vancouver. You also have the highly-touted Michael Ynoa, the much-hyped signing in 2008. He’s finally gotten onto a mound in Rookie ball and has shown good potential. Another guy to watch is 19-year-old righty Argenis Paez, who has an unbelievable sinker–in his first two starts this year, he got 22 groundouts and two flyouts.S.A’s: In your opinion, how did the A’s do this year in the draft?NS: We’ll have to see what happens. I loved the A’s selection of Michael Choice in the first round. He’s sure got power, and could be a truly dominant hitter in the majors if his skills come together. Beyond that, the A’s focused on high-upside high school bats, which is an area they certainly need. High school bats are certainly a risk, though, so we’ll have to see where these players are statistically in a couple of years before it’s easy to render judgment. You have to like the fact that the A’s aggressively addressed their needs, though (it’s not like we need more young pitching), and I love the choice of Choice (yeah, I made a pun).S.A’s: Lastly, on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being the worst, 10 being the best) where do the A’s rank in terms of minor league talent?NS: Ahh, putting me on the spot. The A’s have had some regression this year from guys like Carter, Taylor, Cardenas, and promising lefties Anthony Capra and Ben Hornbeck. I think the system has plenty of good bats, particularly if the A’s sign most of their high 2010 draftees. There doesn’t seem to be any potential ace types in the minors though, unless you look all the way down to Rookie ball at Ynoa and Paez. With the Anderson/Cahill/Gonzalez/Outman/Braden/Mazzaro clan in Oakland, that’s not a big deal, although it’d be nice to have some more upper-level stud pitchers. Capra and Hornbeck were set to provide that, but they’ve regressed badly.So let’s say 8 on hitting and 4 on pitching. Call it a 6."
Thanks again to Nathaniel for providing some in-depth analysis. If you like what you’ve read, you can check out some of Nathaniel’s A’s work by click here. You can also check out his site, Chicken Friars, where he covers the San Diego Padres.