I thought about how I would lead into this, the ranking of teams’ farm systems, but don’t have a good way to do it, other than say it is something that I like to tackle every year. Obviously, in the grand scheme of things my rankings aren’t going to make waves with Keith Law, John Sickels, or the staff at Baseball America. However, these rankings by any outlet are rather arbitrary in nature, and I like any of them, will try to give everybody some reasoning behind them. Scouting and prospects are a big part of the game. We can see that by how teams are clinging onto them in a lot of cases this year, instead of dealing them away for proven players. A lower ranked system doesn’t necessarily correlate to a bad team, and a highly ranked system doesn’t mean it’s a good major league team. It just gives us all a look at organizations who might get healthy in a few years, and which ones are going to have to find other means.
Anyway, this is supposed to be fun, so if you want to discuss, let’s do so….
One thing that happens, somewhat naturally, when you trade a couple top pitchers from the major leagues is that your farm systems’ rankings tend to get a little bit better. While I am sure Oakland fans would much prefer a better major league club than a good farm system, A’s fans should have quite a bit of talent to look forward to in the next couple of years. Let’s take a look at some of the young A’s and their improving system.
Top Ten Prospects:
1. Jarrod Parker (SP)- Parker struggled a little initially in 2011 coming back from Tommy John surgery. However, he got better as the year went on, and began to show off his top of the rotation repertoire once again. Parker has a 3 pitch mix, all of which are above average. Should thrive at home in Oakland.
2. Sonny Gray (SP)- Oakland isn’t exactly known for being drafting gurus in the last couple of years, but didn’t look a gift horse in the mouth when Sonny Gray fell to them this year. I think he is criminally underrated because of his height. Haven’t we learned with Tim Lincecum not to pigeonhole these guys any longer? In 5 AA starts, Gray dominated hitters in the Texas League.
3. Brad Peacock (SP)- Peacock had a tremendous 2011, rocketing up prospect lists to land in many top 50 lists. Above average fastball and curve combo to go with improving command. Peacock could be a mid rotation starter who eats innings.
4. Michael Choice (OF)- Choice spent his first full professional season in high A ball last season. He clearly has some swing and miss issues, but also clearly has massive power. If he improves his zone discipline and patience a little, Choice could be a rare big stick in Oakland.
5. A.J. Cole (SP)- I’ve loved Cole since he was drafted in the 4th round by the Nats. Wished our home town Tigers would’ve taken him instead of Chance Ruffin. Cole has the chance with some refinement along the way to become a top of the rotation type candidate.
6. Grant Green (OF)- Green is no longer a SS where he is pedestrian. It looks like right now he is going to be worked in CF. He is a solid athlete and is going to have to make it on his bat. His bat is pretty good, though he could stand to cut down on the strikeouts a little bit.
7. Derek Norris (C)- Norris is one of those guys that has a lot of varied opinions on him. I’m personally not a big fan, because I don’t think his patient approach will help him in the bigs. Because despite the walks, he has a ton of holes in his swing, and major leaguers will exploit that. Has pretty massive power, and is decent defensively. Could be a low average, high slugging back up catcher.
8. Raul Alcantra (SP)- Alcantra could be the sleeper of the Andrew Bailey trade. I like the live arm, and he had good numbers for a youngster in 2011. If all goes well, he could be a top of the rotation guy down the road.
9. Vicmal De La Cruz (OF)- I could be jumping the gun on this guy, but he is a potential 5 tool guy who performed well last season after signing a decent sized bonus out of the Dominican. Should be stateside this year getting his first taste of America.
10. Tom Milone (SP)- Stuff won’t wow anybody other than maybe Jamie Moyer, and I’m not even sure he would be impressed. However, Milone has continually gotten the job done with mixing and locating, and he does so in a superior fashion enough to live in the bigs as a 5th starter type.
Sleepers: Dusty Robinson (OF) and Drew Granier (SP). Robinson is a multi-tooled outfielder from Fresno St, that could do a little bit of everything as he advances. Granier is a smallish pitcher who could surprise with big stuff.
Rebound Candidate: I was going to automatically give this to Michael Ynoa, cause he hasn’t done anything. However, I think Ian Krol has the biggest chance to rebound because he has actually had some success, has talent, and totally blew his 2011 with injuries and a naughty mouth.
Verdict: We are getting close to the top 10, so these systems should have at least a couple top guys, and some depth to go with it. Oakland’s system is the epitome of that. The depth might not be as good as some of the teams ranked behind them, but there is some there due to a strong 2011 draft, and some international signings that look pretty impressive. Bottom line though, there is 5 top 100 guys here for sure in my opinion, and 7 that are in the top 130 or so. That is pretty good. Guys like Aaron Shipman, Renato Nunez, Chad Lewis, B.A. Vollmuth, Gregory Paulino, and Jermaine Mitchell weren’t even mentioned, and all of those guys have some promise. This is a system on the rise and could look very good come mid-season.