Friday, February 23, 2007

Looking over the A's NRI's

This is perhaps one of my favorite parts of the year, really. I take a great sense of pleasure at scouring each team's website and looking at their listed non roster invitees. One is treated to an amalgam of magnificently busted prospects, one year wonders way past their prime (hey, it's Fernando Tatis! Thanks Ned Coletti!), aging stars looking for last grasps (here's to you, Sammy Sosa), some actual prospects, and, the most interesting of them all, Ken Phelps All Stars looking to finally get a legitimate chance with a big league club. In the spirit of these heros of many a spring training game (with few such feats in the regular season), here's a look at the NRI's my Oakland Athletics have brought to town this season.

Fernando Tatis! He's not with us, but it'd be a lot of fun if he was!

Dallas Braden- Braden is a dying breed, a screwball artist. Oakland hasn't seen one since the great Jim Mecir. (On a personal aside, I don't think I've ever held a more irrational hate for a baseball player than Jim Mecir. He was a good, if not great, pitcher for us for 3 1/2 seasons. But man, that 2003, it pains me. To this day. I swear he blew like 11 games that year. Don't even look it up to correct me. I'm right and there's nothing you can do to change that.) Braden was a 24th round pick in the 2004 draft, and is someone I have some actual hopes for. In 2005 at High A Stockton he had a 64/11 K/BB ratio and a 2.68 ERA in 43.2 innings and then moved on to AA Midland where, in 97 innings, he had a 3.90 ERA and a 71/32 K/BB ratio. Not bad for a 22 year old. Unfortunately, he spent nearly all of 2006 injured and will return, most likely, to Midland for this season. He's your classic "prospect getting a taste" NRI.

Michael Mitchell- A 35th round pick out of community college in 2003, Mitchell has quite a bit less on his resume than Braden. In three minor league seasons he's posted a 2.76 ERA in 114.2 innings with a 91/42 K/BB ratio, while generally being old for his league at each stop. He finally reached Sacramento last year, and I suppose he figures to start there this year as well, but he'll have to pitch rather well to crack the A's anytime soon.

Erasmo Ramirez- The longtime Ranger lefty was brought on in November as a minor league free agent. It wasn't a bad pickup. Ramirez spent all of 2006 in AAA, putting together a 3.59 ERA in 67 innings. He's always been stingy with the walks, issuing just 7 last year, and he's left handed, so he has an outside shot of seeing time this year if a few guys like Brad Halsey or Ron Flores don't pitch well or if a guy like Alan Embree gets hurt.

Connor Robertson- Robertson is one of my favorite arms in the Oakland system. While old for his leagues generally, the 2004 31st round pick has struck out 268 in 193 career minor league innings. He spent his age 24 season last year at AA Midland, posting a 97/22 K/BB ratio in 83.2 innings for a 2.80 ERA. He strikes me as someone who could perhaps turn into a Justin Duchscherer type reliever.

Kazuhito Tadano- We picked up Tadano in April of last year for toolsy outfielder Ramon Alvarado. He had a 5.08 ERA at Sacramento in 2006, but his peripherals weren't all that bad, posting a 60/19 K/BB ratio in 56.2 innings. The former Japanese gay porn star (we've all heard that story by now? Right? Right) is entering his age 27 season though, and will have to perform a bit better this year in the PCL to have any shot at seeing major league time. Still an interesting arm, nonetheless.

Derek Thompson- In initially scanning the list, this is the guy I knew the least about off the top of my head. Thompson is a 26 year old lefty who was a first round pick of the Indians in 2000. He's apparently back from Tommy John surgery after missing 2006 and ready to pitch again, though I can't say I can find much in his statistical record to reccommend him. In 384.2 minor league innings he's posted a 6.93 K/9 and a 3.68 BB/9, so maybe Beane's scouts see something intriguing I don't know about. If there is, this is exactly why I like NRI's; random busted first round picks pop back up and, who knows, they were talented enough once before, maybe they still are.


John Baker- Making heads or tails of all the times he's been released and brought back by Oakland is quite a challenge. The local boy who went to De La Salle High and Cal was originally a fourth round draft pick of ours. In 2005 the Marlins claimed him off waivers, and then in January they designated him for assignment and we brought him back. Later that month we designated him for assignment again, and he wound up spending the season in Sacramento, hitting .273/.361/.368. He's got no power really, but I don't see why he couldn't put up a .320 or so OBP in the majors and be just as useful as Adam Melhuse. (On another side note, I'm pretty sure we designated him for assignment again last week, and nobody bit.)

Billy Beane can't quit him

Landon Powell- The 24th overall pick in the 2004 draft spent all of 2005 injured and returned in 2006 to hit just .264/.350/.439 as a 24 year old in High A. His defense has apparently been getting pretty solid reviews as of late, but he's gonna have to start hitting real soon to ever have a future. Even if he does start to hit, he's still pretty far behind.....

Kurt Suzuki- The 67th overall pick in the 2004 draft. Generally considered our 4th or 5th best prospect, Suzuki has a reputation for great defense and has hit consistently at every level. .297/.394/.440 at low A in 2004. .277/.378/.440 at high A in 2005. .285/.392/.415 at AA in 2006. Right now he's the most likely person in our system to succeed Jason Kendall, and could have a longish career of .280/.360/.400 hitting.


1B Daric Barton- The third, though as was often noted, most important wheel to the Mark Mulder trade. Definitely not so anymore with Kiko Calero and Dan Haren flourishing in the bigs, and with Barton looking less and less like someone who will develop power, but still important in that he could be a solid first baesman in a Mark Grace sort of way for a long time. He was just 21 last year and put up a .389 OBP in 147 at bats for Sacramento during an injury plagued season. If he's back, healthy, and shows he can at least keep up a fair average and OBP, he could start as our first baseman as soon as this year, if Dan Johnson doesn't hit and/or Shannon Stewart gets hurt. It'd be real nice to see him flash some power, though.

DH Erubiel Durazo- Rubie's back. With Mike Piazza, Dan Johnson, Nick Swisher, and Shannon Stewart rotating between DH/1B/OF, there probably won't be any room on the roster for Rubie though. He spent time in the New York, Minnesota, and Texas systems last year, flashing his always steady OBP skills but not much power. He'll see if he can recover that in Sacramento and maybe make some noise for the big league club at some point this season.

2B/SS JJ Furmaniak- JJ Furmaniak isn't really that great at baseball, but I did get his autograph at the 2005 AAA All Star Game in Sacramento, in gold pen no less. He's strictly Sacramento filler, as he'll be 28 this season and hit just .213/.266/.310 last season.

In gold pen!

2B Kevin Melillo- After a big 2005 in which he made his way to AA Midland and hit .282/.347/.519, he started popping up on prospect lists and garnering comparisons to Todd Walker. A year later, those expectations are being questioned as he his power fell off dramatically during his repeat of AA, hitting .280/.367/.426. I imagine he'll get a shot with Sacramento this season, and by virtue of being a second baseman at all in our system, he has somewhat of a shot. Can't be any worse than D'Angelo Jimenez or Mark Kiger.

IF Lou Merloni- Wheeee. Lou Merloni! This is the kind of guy that makes NRI's so fun, because there he is, somewhere, somehow, every year. He's managed nearly 1100 at bats in the majors now, hitting .271/.332/.384. Nothing to be ashamed of at all in that. He's here essentially to not be D'Angelo Jimenez or Mark Kiger, which brings me comfort. I actually hope I get to see him with the A's for a little while this year, just for the hell of it.


Travis Buck- Perhaps the best prospect in our system right now. Buck was a first round pick in 2005, and draws a lot of comparisons to his former fellow Oakland farmhand Andre Ethier. After ripping apart the California League (.349/.400/.603) he spent the rest of the season at AA Midland, hitting .302/.376/.472. In his 338 combined minor league at bats this season he only hit 7 homers, though, so it'd be nice if he could develop some more power. Still, the comparisons to Ethier as a doubles/15 or 20 homer kind of guy seem apt, and he could be a solid regular for us very soon in the Milton Bradley mold.

Vince Faison- He was signed at the same time as Furmaniak and Ramirez back in November, along with pitcher Scott Dunn who actually has a place on the 40 man roster. The one time Padres prospect hit .260/.342/.456 in AAA last year for Trenton, so he, like Furmaniak, is almost assuredly just Sacramento filler, as he sits behind, and this is only off the top of my head, Kielty/Goleski/Stewart/Buck for a spot with the A's right now. Sacramento's nice in the summer though. A bit hot, but he'll like it.

Ricky Ledee- Probably also ahead of Vince Faison. He's only a year removed from a pretty solid bench campaign for the Dodgers in which he hit .273/.335/.443, but he was bad, bad, bad last year, hitting a combined .188/.242/.329 for the Dodgers and Mets in 85 at bats. If he shows up in an A's uniform this year, things have gone wrong mightily, and, suffice it to say, he won't be the one to fix them.

Charles Thomas- Two Buck Chuck was acquired, as you may remember, in the Tim Hudson trade. He sucks. He got designated for assignment a week ago and nobody wanted him. Probably because he slugged .376 as a 27 year old in AAA. I'll say it again. Dude sucks. He's like diet Terrence Long, and I hated regular Terrence Long.

So that's that, perhaps I'll do another one of these where I scour fun NRI's from other teams, or perhaps I'll just get drunk a lot this weekend, let laziness set in, and ultimately forget about it. Guess we'll see.

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