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The Next Wave of Young A’s Hitters: Are They Enough?
Posted By Josh Muller On Aug 24 2011 @ 3:55 pm In Oakland A's | No Comments
The Oakland A’s  need offense. Sound familiar?
That’s pretty much been the theme all year, but in the second half the A’s resemble a halfway respectable hitting club – giving us a glimpse of what we all hoped for way back in spring training. While red hot veterans like Hideki Matsui and Josh Willingham are finally leading the charge, it’s a couple of younger players that are providing the spark for the lineup and excitement for the fans..
The next wave of young Oakland A’s hitters has arrived and are filled with both potential and question marks. If these guys can take their talents to the next level soon, the A’s can make a quick turnaround with their pitching already in fold. Just look at what the Diamondbacks  are doing this year after losing 97 games a season ago.
How these young hitters fare over the next few years could also play a huge part deciding the future home of the franchise (which I plan on addressing soon). It may just be a hope, but if the A’s can put some winning seasons together they might be able to stay in Oakland. But no pressure, guys.
So lets take a look at some of the projected contributors for next year. Some of these guys are already in the majors and some we should expect to see when rosters expand in September, but most are going to need to produce next season for the A’s to be factors.
Brandon Allen is really making a name for himself in his early A’s career. Acquired in the deadline deal to the Diamondbacks for Brad Ziegler, Allen has impressed in all facets of the game and it’s caught the eye of his skipper, Bob Melvin. “The small sample’s been pretty good, across the board,” Melvin said. “The at-bats, the at-bats against left-handers, his defense, his base running. He’s a good athlete, and you don’t see that that often in your first baseman, to be that good an athlete.”
Coming into Tuesday’s game against the Yankees, he had been hitting .379 with 2 doubles and 2 triples. On Tuesday he hit 2 ridiculous home runs - the first of which went halfway up the top deck. It must have gone 7 miles, no joke.
I know it’s early in his career but Allen may have already leapfrogged both Chris Carter and Daric Barton for the first base spot going into 2012.
Jemile Weeks has jumpstarted the offense ever since he arrived in the majors. He looks like he belongs in the big leagues and knows it. Not to say that he appears arrogant, but he definitely looks confident; undeterred by the bright lights of the show.
Weeks’ entire game appears well rounded. The only tool he really hasn’t shown is power, but his speed is elite and he can clearly hit. He could probably do well to take a few more walks, but he always showed patience in the minors and I fully expect that to continue at this level as he gains more experience.
The only weakness in his game had been his defense, but Weeks clearly has the range with those quick feet and gets to a lot of balls. His throwing isn’t as strong as it could be but that could be a mechanical or focus issue that just needs some tweaking. Mike Gallego is an excellent infield coach for the A’s.
A’s fans have to remember they were a bit spoiled watching Mark Ellis play second base for so many years. Not many guys are that good at picking it. Jemile Weeks will be just fine and should remain a solid leadoff guy for the foreseeable future.
The next guy has been in the back of A’s fans’ mind’s ever since Billy Beane traded Dan Haren to the Diamondbacks in 2007. Chris Carter was one of six players Beane got back in the hall for Haren including A’s starter Brett Anderson and Colorado Rockies  outfielder Carlos Gonzalez (wish we could have that trade back).
Carter is a big 1B/OF with little defensive value and is likely headed to the DH role. But what he has is power. And lots of it.
Carter has never slugged under .500 in the minors. He hit 39 HR as a 21 year old in high A ball and hit 31 HR last year at AAA. He’s going to strike out a lot but has a decent approach at the plate so if he can keep a solid OBP and hit some home runs the A’s will find room for him.
The problem is Carter hasn’t done it at the Major League level yet. He’s never had regular playing time, mind you, but has been unimpressive so far. And for some reason, it seems that others like Allen are getting a shot sooner causing me to believe that Chris Carter’s star may be dimming in the eyes of the front office. I hope I’m looking too much into that.
And it may be hard to find him those consistent at bats he needs. The A’s usually end up employing a veteran DH and Josh Willingham, for one, is putting himself in line for an extension. If that happens, he could easily see a lot of time as a DH taking at bats away from Carter.
I would really like Carter to get a solid shot at a starting gig for a few months so he can have a chance to prove himself but he’d better come into spring training with a sense of urgency next year because there only are so many at bats to be had.
Michael Taylor was acquired from the Phillies  before last year and is a physical specimen to be sure. He’s 6’5”, 250 lbs. of pure muscle and is a real five-tool talent in the outfield. When the A’s traded for him, they envisioned he and Carter to be the three and four hitters anchoring the A’s lineup for years to come.
As it turned out, Taylor, much like Carter, has not developed the as fast as the A’s had hoped. After a pretty dismal year last year, and some nagging injuries, he’s having a nice year at AAA hitting .277/.369/.450. Those are fine numbers for sure, but it isn’t exactly what the A’s hoped from a guy with Taylor’s physical prowess. He shows all the tools at the plate and in the field but hasn’t seemed to really click all at once like he did in the Phillies organization. And remember, he’s 25 in AAA so he isn’t getting any younger.
Taylor’s value as a prospect may have diminished some, but he will certainly get a chance to change his critics’ minds at the major league level. I just hope he takes advantage of it come September.
At worst, Taylor seems like a fourth outfielder but I think he has the chance to be so much more. He went to Stanford so we know he’s smart, and he has tons of ability. To me, he has “late bloomer” all over him in the same mold as guys like Jayson Werth, Nelson Cruz or even Jose Bautista. I’m not suggesting he’s in their league in the slightest, but he has a similar build and all these guys became who they are now later in their respective careers. I really think Taylor could surprise people.
I would just hate to see the A’s give up on him and Chris Carter before they really got a fair shot.
The last two guys I’d like to talk about might be the two best. Grant Green and Michael Choice are the 2009 and 2010 first round picks for the A’s respectively and are creating some optimism with nice years in the minors.
The Oakland farm system leaves much to be desired but Green and Choice have some real star potential. Green, whose position was recently changed from SS to CF really profiles well there; he is long and lanky with speed and a good arm.
It shouldn’t take him too long to learn center field but I would think he has another half season in the minors, at least. He’s having a really nice year at AA hitting .297/.352/.420 but he’s seen his home run total dip from 20 last year to 8 this year and still strikes out a fair amount.
I wouldn’t be too worried about the homers. While their nice A) I’ll take those numbers from a center fielder who sprays doubles (32 this year) all over the yard and B) he’s still young and those doubles could turn into homers as he fills out a bit more.
Choice has me even more excited though. He’s having a monster year hitting .281/.374/.542 with 28 homers. He’s doing it in a hitter friendly park but 28 home runs is a lot for any level of the minors. He reminds me of a young Vernon Wells with less defense.
Choice profiles more as a right fielder, but is in center for now and will need to cut down his strikeouts (which he has steadily improved on all year). He’s also going to have to do this at AA before he’s considered a top prospect, but damn it, A’s fans need something to be excited about and I think Michael Choice’s season warrants excitement.
Choice will probably be a September call up in 2012 but we could see him as early mid season next year depending how he handles AA pitching.
Not all of these guys I’ve mentioned will pan out but if enough of them do, the A’s should have a pretty solid offensive core for the next couple of years. They’ll need to add some pieces but hopefully they can vault themselves back into relevance sooner than later.
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