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30. Blake Treinen, RHP
|Treinen had a month-long DL stint with an arm injury. |
Treinen came to the A's in the seventh round of the 2011 draft with one of the most unusual backstories of anyone in that draft class. The Kansas native jumped around to a few different schools as an undergrad before settling in at South Dakota State. Despite pitching in a remote locale, Treinen drew interest from scouts thanks to his mid-90s fastball and sharp slider. As a junior, he was selected by the Marlins in the 23rd round and thought he had a deal in place to begin his pro career. However, the Marlins cancelled the deal when they saw some inflammation in an MRI of his rotator cuff.
Treinen wouldn't have any issues with the shoulder after re-joining South Dakota State and had a successful senior season. He moved up the draft charts despite being nearly two years older than most players taken in the draft. The A's spent a high-round pick on Treinen and immediately challenged him with an aggressive assignment with Low-A Burlington of the Midwest League. He pitched well for the Bees in 2011 (29 K in 27 innings/1 HR allowed) and the A's put him in the starting rotation for the High-A Stockton Ports at the start of the 2012 campaign.
The hard-throwing right-hander pitched fairly well for the Ports as a starter. In 15 starts, he had a 4.70 ERA, but he pitched much better than that number would indicate. In 90 innings, he posted a 78:19 K:BB ratio and he induced nearly two groundball out for every flyball out. Treinen was hurt by a couple of bad starts in the bandbox stadiums in the southern part of the California League. He also allowed six earned runs (including an uncharacteristic three homeruns) in 5.2 innings in his final start of the season. Treinen would land on the DL after that start with arm soreness.
The injury cost him the entire month of July, and when Treinen returned to the mound, he was brought back as a reliever. He excelled in that role, allowing 11 hits and four walks in 13 innings, while striking out 14 batters. Treinen's overall line was a 4.37 ERA and a 92:23 K:BB in 103 innings. He allowed 11 homeruns (or a 0.96 HR/9) and induced groundballs on more than half of the balls he allowed into play.
Treinen is one of those rare hard throwers in the lower levels of the minor leagues who has good command, as well. His fastball can reach 97 and he works comfortably in the 92-95 MPH range in extended outings. Treinen also has a heavy sinker. His best secondary offering is his slider. Treinen also features a change-up that has improved.
Because of his unusual path through college, Treinen doesn't have as many innings under his belt as most 24-year-olds. The time he missed during the 2012 season is a concern and the A's could move him into the bullpen permanently if they feel there is an injury risk for him as a starter. However, if the A's don't see his injury in 2012 as a longterm concern, they will probably keep him as a starter even though he will turn 25 during the 2013 season. The A's front office has indicated that they are less worried about his age than they would be with a typical prospect because of the lack of "mileage" on his arm.
Treinen's 2012 campaign with Stockton was strong enough that he should earn a promotion to Double-A Midland. If he can continue to induce groundballs at a high rate, Treinen's ERA should decrease as he moves up the organizational ladder and the defense behind him improves.
29. Michael Ynoa, RHP
|Ynoa's velocity has returned. |
Since the A's signed Ynoa for a record-breaking bonus in 2008, there has been little good news about his development. The right-hander fought through elbow problems for two years before finally having Tommy John surgery in August 2010. He was unable to make a return to the mound in 2011, leaving his future in doubt at the start of an all-important 2012 season.
The 2012 season was an important one both for Ynoa and for the A's because it was the year they had to make a decision whether or not to add him to their 40-man roster or expose him to the Rule 5 draft. Coming into the 2012 season, Ynoa had thrown all of nine professional innings, so the A's had little track record to use to make that decision.
Ynoa's talent has never been in question since he signed with the A's. The wiry, 6'7'' right-hander had an explosive fastball before the surgery, but there were questions about how the injury would impact that fastball. In addition, because of all of the time Ynoa had spent on the shelf since 2009, he had not had much time to develop his secondary pitches.
For the most part, Ynoa had a healthy 2012 season. He was shut-down before one extended spring training start with soreness, but it didn't turn out to be anything serious. In fact, part of Ynoa's development in 2012 involved him learning how to pitch through minor pain and how to recognize when he was feeling normal soreness and when he was actually injured.
"One of the things that was good for him this year mentally was that he didn't know what soreness was," 2012 Arizona A's pitching coach Jimmy Escalante said. "We would ask him from ‘one-to-10, what do you feel?' And he'd say, ‘a three.' We'd tell him that there are guys pitching in the big leagues with eight and nine on the pain scale. He had to understand the difference between pain and soreness."
Once the short-season started in June, Ynoa was able to make all of his starts on turn. He had six outings with the Arizona Rookie League A's and was then promoted to short-season Vermont, where he made eight appearances. Between the two teams, Ynoa threw 30.2 innings. His numbers weren't impressive (6.46 ERA, 25 BB, 3 HR), but he flashed promising stuff and his last two outings of the year with the Lake Monsters were his best two of the year (one walk and only four hits allowed with six strike-outs in six innings pitched).
Ynoa followed up his regular season effort with a promising showing at the A's fall Instructional League camp. During Instructs, Ynoa's fastball was clocked anywhere from 92 to 96 MPH and he showed improvement with his change-up and his breaking ball. Ynoa also showed improvement with his approach to pitching. Because of his injuries, Ynoa hadn't had much time to learn how to be a pitcher and not a thrower, something he was working on all season.
"He hadn't been able to get out there and compete in awhile. So that was another thing that he had to establish with himself: learning how to compete again," Escalante said.
In the end, the A's chose not to risk their $4.25 million investment in the Rule 5 draft and they added him to the 40-man roster. While that decision keeps Ynoa safely in the organization, it also speeds up his development path. Ynoa will now only have three years to make the A's major league roster before he will be out of options. Given that Ynoa has only thrown 39.2 professional innings, it could be a tall task to get him major-league ready by 2016.
The A's have always seen Ynoa as a starter, but his fastest path to the big leagues may be out of the bullpen. Oakland will probably keep Ynoa in the starting rotation in 2013, but they could move him into the bullpen eventually to speed up his development. Despite all of the set-backs, Ynoa is still only 21-years-old and he will be 21 throughout the 2013 regular season. He should get his first crack at a full-season league next year, likely the Midwest League.
28. Blake Hassebrock, RHP
|Hassebrock's numbers weren't indicative of the quality of his stuff in 2012. |
Big things were expected of Hassebrock in 2012 after a strong 2011 campaign when he posted a 2.64 ERA in 139.2 innings for the Low-A Burlington Bees. The right-hander was sent to High-A Stockton and he began the year as part of the Ports' six-man rotation. Both Hassebrock and the Ports got off to a rough start to the season, however, and his season took a turn for the worse on June 28th when he injured both an oblique and a hamstring in a start versus Lancaster.
Those two injuries would cost Hassebrock six-and-a-half weeks of the season and his fortunes didn't rebound after his return. He struggled in seven post-DL starts with the Ports before he was demoted back to Low-A with an ugly 8.17 ERA in 50.2 innings. Hassebrock would make five starts with the Bees, posting a 4.00 ERA in 27 innings.
Although Hassebrock certainly had his share of responsibility for his struggles in 2012, he also suffered from some bad luck. One of Hassebrock's biggest assets as a pitcher is his ability to induce groundballs. Generally speaking, that skill produces positive results for most pitchers, but it wasn't to Hassebrock's benefit in 2012. Despite having a better than 50% groundball rate, Hassebrock had an unusually high .431 BABIP with Stockton. That BABIP number came down to .337 with the Bees.
Hassebrock's command wasn't sharp for most of the season and he had some mechanical issues he had to iron out early in the season, but his stuff still showed promise. His fastball was regularly clocked in the mid-90s and it touched 97 with movement. He also flashed a heavy sinker, a hard slider and two new off-speed pitches – a cutter and a curveball.
Despite the ugly numbers, Hassebrock is still viewed as a valuable asset not only within the A's organization but around baseball. Before the July trade deadline, several scouts from other teams were watching his appearances in Stockton closely as the A's were contemplating trades to make a push towards the post-season.
The A's were pleased with the strides Hassebrock made with his command during their fall Instructional League. He should get another crack at the California League at the start of the 2013 season and he could make the jump to Double-A during the season if he gets off to a fast start. If Hassebrock's command issues continue, he could be moved into the bullpen. He has a similar arsenal to former A's closer Andrew Bailey, who was a starter for the first three seasons of his minor league career before the A's moved him into the bullpen when he began struggling with his command as a starter. Hassebrock will be 23 for most of the 2013 season.
27. Bobby Crocker, OF
|Crocker learned to slow things down at Instructs. |
There was a lot of buzz surrounding Crocker, the A's fourth-round pick in 2011, after his 2011 stint with short-season Vermont and his strong showing during the A's fall Instructional League camp. Oakland's minor league coaches loved his athleticism and his feel for the game. There was still some rawness to his game, so it wasn't too surprising when the A's decided to have Crocker begin his 2012 season with Low-A Burlington rather than High-A Stockton. What was surprising was the fact that Crocker struggled for much of his time with the Bees and never made out of the Midwest League.
Crocker was the first top-five round pick the A's had made out of Cal-Poly since they took centerfielder Grant Desme in the second round in 2007. Crocker and Desme share some similar characteristics – both have speed and power, as well as the tools to be above-average defensive outfielders. Unlike Desme, who had already put up prodigious power numbers in college, Crocker was still learning how to drive the ball out of the park when he turned pro. But the A's believed that the power would come for Crocker.
The A's still see the potential for Crocker to develop into a 20-20 player despite a disappointing 2012 campaign that saw him post a .268/.347/.369 line in 112 games for the Bees. Crocker had an okay first half of the season with Burlington, posting a 778 OPS before the Midwest League All-Star break. But his numbers fell off precipitously after the break (670 OPS). Most of the reduction in OPS came from a plummeting slugging percentage. Before the break, Crocker had five homers in 48 games and a .423 SLG. After the break, his SLG was .329 and he homered only once.
Crocker came to the A's with the reputation for being a "baseball rat" and for bringing intensity to the field. That intensity may have worked against Crocker this past season, however. The A's coaching staff spent a lot of time during their fall Instructional League camp working with Crocker on understanding how to approach each game and each at-bat on a more even-keel.
"He is very intense and hard nosed in his approach at the plate. His was learning about how to take some of the pressure off of his swings and his at-bats," A's Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman said. "A lot of it was about how to learn to relax in the box, vision. He really developed an approach that allows him to see the ball better."
"There weren't any huge adjustments in terms of bat position or anything like that. It is more about the effort level and energy that he brought to the plate, which was way, way too high. He was able to tone it down and bring it into the game. He's had big, big results here that will benefit him next year."
At 6'3'', 220 pounds, Crocker has the natural build of a power-hitting outfielder. He has above-average speed and a strong throwing arm. Early in his collegiate career, plate discipline was an issue for Crocker. He improved in that area while at Cal-Poly, but some of his free swinging ways reappeared with Burlington. Crocker struck-out in 23.4% of his at-bats and walked in only 7.9% of those at-bats. Both numbers were worse than the league averages. Crocker also struggled against right-handed pitching while excelling versus southpaws. Both his plate discipline and how he saw the ball against right-handers were improved during Instructs and both areas will be vital to his continued development.
Crocker should benefit from leaving the pitcher-friendly Midwest League for the hitter-friendly California League in 2013. He will turn 23 in May.
26. Max Muncy, 1B
|Muncy impressed in his first pro stint. |
Muncy was the A's fifth-round pick in the 2012 draft and the first position player Oakland sent to a full-season league from that draft class. The Baylor alum played 64 games for the Low-A Burlington Bees and posted solid numbers in 229 at-bats in a difficult league for hitters. Muncy's slash-line was .275/.383/.432 with 41 walks against 37 strike-outs.
Muncy wasn't just impressive at the plate. He also played an above-average first base. He showed quick feet, good hands and solid instincts at the position. Classified by coaches as a "baseball junkie", Muncy showed the ability to make adjustments in his first pro season and he improved as the season went on.
At the plate, his best tool currently is his ability to get on-base. Muncy walked in 15.2% of his at-bats, almost twice as frequently as the Midwest League average. He also did a good job making contact, striking out in 13.3% of his at-bats, which is lower than the league average.
"Once you have that ability to do what he does in terms of his recognition – he has very good pitch recognition – we try to teach that every day. That's one of the biggest parts of hitting is pitch recognition," A's minor league hitting coordinator Todd Steverson said. "He's already got that skill right now and that's going to bode well for him in the future."
Two areas where Muncy will need to continue to develop are hitting for power and hitting against left-handed pitchers. Muncy wasn't a big homerun hitter in college. His .432 SLG wasn't bad for the Midwest League (the league average is .378), but he will need to get that number closer to .500 to be considered a top prospect at the first base position. Muncy will also need to improve his .170/.267/.264 line against left-handers.
Muncy is an excellent athlete and a student of the game. He rewarded the A's confidence in him with a solid stint with the Bees and should have a shot at starting the 2013 season at the High-A level. Muncy has a similar prospect profile to fellow A's prospect Anthony Aliotti, but while Aliotti was already 24 and turned 25 during his first stint at the Double-A level, Muncy has an opportunity to reach that level at a much younger age. Muncy will be 22 for nearly the entire 2013 season.