Thursday, January 23, 2014

A's MiLB Full Season Outfield Depth Chart

Oakland's outfield situation, similarly with their third base conundrum, is in no current peril with the likes of Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick and Craig Gentry anchoring one of the most elite defensive alignments in baseball and a legitimate offensive foursome that shall be the most pivotal group within the A's 2014 lineup. Within the minor league system however, the Athletics have an overflowing surplus of outfield assets roaming the farm, from the highly contested AAAA/injury replacement fistfight between Corey Brown, Michael Taylor and Shane Peterson, to the Beloit outfield that figures to wield the two most esteemed prospects at the position in Billy McKinney and Bijon Boyd for the approaching campaign. Still reeling from the departure of A's darling, Michael Choice, this contingent still boasts a fearsome cast that'll be featured throughout affiliates across the nation starting this upcoming April as they attempt to produce another successor to Choice's reign as the consensus most elite A's OF prospect fill and the void opened by the Gentry swap. 

Depth Chart Listing:

Corey Brown
Michael Taylor
Shane Peterson
Billy Burns
Jake Goebbert
D'Arby Myers
Conner Crumbliss
Josh Whitaker
Chad Oberacker
Rashun Dixon
Dusty Robinson
Bobby Crocker
Myrio Richard
Aaron Shipman
Ryan Mathews
Brett Vertigan
Dayton Alexander
Billy McKinney
Bijon Boyd
Boogie Powell

Jake Goebbert (Sacramento):

The piece acquired for Travis Blackley during the previous 2013 campaign, Goebbert developed into one of the most promising outfield prospects within Oakland's farm system through his debut in Midland to his completion in California following a Rivercats promotion. Originating from Houston's organization and a 13th rounder out of Northwestern, Goebbert has a history of gritty production, playing through a lacerated kidney that would end his collegiate career, but not before remaining in the game and hitting a double before exiting. The corner OF/1B would proceed to stampede through the Astros minor league affiliates, reaching AAA but in only his second full MiLB season in 2011 en route to a AZFL berth that offseason after commencing with Lancaster in April of that year. Despite a .304/.399/.473 slash in 433 PAs with Corpus Christi during the following campaign of 2012, Houston provided Goebbert with only minimal opportunities in Oklahoma City and would wind up packaging the Illinois native to Oakland. 

While Blackley saw his spring training woes extend into the MLB slate with Houston, Goebbert readied himself for another Texas League stint and wound up thriving with the Rockhounds throughout 459 plate appearances, hitting .268/.352/.480 with a .212 ISO good enough for 6th in the league (Behind Grichuk, Scruggs, Roling, Santana, and Fields) and established himself as one of the premier power threats within the A's possession. Additionally, he flanked that with a consistent 10.2% BB% and a 131 wRC+ to serve as a prominent asset behind Aliotti for Midland. He would receive a AAA opportunity with Sacramento, albeit limited, and still shined by walking 15 times in 85 PAs (17.8%) and smacking four dingers in his 21 contests before the 25 year old saw his 2013 conclude. For Goebbert, he now presents himself as one of the most deserving internal options of a 40 man roster post, especially should Michael Taylor or Shane Peterson slump. The A's have a sterling perception of the 26 year old, as one of a mere two outfielders (McKinney) attending their minor league mini-camp in Phoenix prior to pitchers and catchers reporting. Assured of a Rivercats roster position, Goebbert figures to be slotted alongside Peterson, Burns, and Taylor/Brown (Dependent of waivers, both are out of options as Brown was just recently DFAed). No one seems to be discussing the versatile Goebbert prior to 2014, as a sleeper asset that figures to be a pivotal catalyst within the Athletics' farm come April. 

Billy Burns (Sacramento):

A top 20 prospect candidate and Sacramento outfielder come 2014, Burns arrived following being dealt for Jerry Blevins prior to the Rule 5 Draft. The stolen base phenom, Oakland now wields a frightening contender for a major league berth at some point this season:

"The bounty for Oakland is Billy Burns, a 2011 32nd rounder out of Mercer and another Georgia native who was plucked by Washington nine draft positions ahead of Drew Granier, and whom the Nationals immediately opted to morph into a switch hitter as they thought him better equipped to progress through the system without a platoon disadvantage. The compact 5'9", 180 pound outfielder has a eye popping and quite noticeable tool in his speed after swiping an absurd 74 bags in 2013 between the Carolina and Eastern leagues compared to just seven unsuccessful attempts. Burns was 51-61 in his previous two campaigns for DC and possesses a combined 125 for 142 record on the basepaths, a remarkable percentage and a speedster threat in which the A's haven't had in an awfully, awfully long time (Full season leader in 2013 was Chris Bostick with a mediocre 25). Additionally, Burns is an extreme on-base oriented accessory after a .315/.425/.383 slash throughout 540 PAs this previous season with a 72:54 BB/K which was accompanied by a spray line drive approach and now rivals Muncy, Crumbliss and Aliotti for the honors of best organizational plate discipline amongst any A's prospect. The downsides on Burns are his lack of power production, which he'll realistically never develop, and a lackluster arm that he's struggled to utilize in both CF and LF. Still, an acquisition which may in part be a response to the Rule 5 eligible Crumbliss who could likely be scooped up in the AAA/AA portion of the draft, Burns becomes a borderline top 20 Athletics prospect and will compete for a Sacramento assignment come 2014." 

D'Arby Myers (Midland):

The speedster and contact first bat was Midland's perennial leadoff man throughout the previous season following being inked by Oakland from Philly's cast as a MiLB FA. Beane's first transaction in response to the completion of the 2013 minor league schedule last year was to resign D'Arby in order to admit the center fielder to Oakland's instructional league, as he now contends for a Sacramento berth following a Texas League best 33 game hitting streak to complete his most memorable stint as a professional.

 The cousin of Shaquille O'Neal swings often, with his largest career BB% amassed being 6.5% back in 2008, as he is heavily dependent upon BABIP percentages for success with minimal power production as well (.103 ISO in Midland). Still, the reincarnation of Tony Gwynn Jr. found a route to being a valuable asset for the Rockhounds, as he hit .285/.320/.388 with 20 stolen bases (10 CS), a 3.1% BB%, 13.4% K%, a .323 BABIP and reliable defensive production in 522 PAs and 118 appearances for the Rockdoggies in a campaign which culminated in his remarkable streak that one of the most brilliant offensive durations for any A's prospect in the last half decade. July 21st to August 31st, D'Arby hit .357/.375/.464 (7 2Bs, 1 3B, 2 HR, 3 BB, 1 HBP, 50-140) with 15 multiple hit contests in his 33 games to close as one of the most entertaining stories of 2013 for the A's. Even more impressive, D'Arby only had one contest within those 33 in where he struck out more than once, demonstrating his exceptional contact instincts. With a little bit more discipline infused into his approach, he could be an unstoppable leadoff component for the River kitties. His status depends upon the fates of Corey Brown and Michael Taylor however, with Jake Goebbert and Billy Burns taking priority. 

Aaron Shipman (Stockton):

After a reinvigorating 2013, Shipman now shifts towards Stockton hoping to still reward the Athletics for his 3rd round selection in 2010 out of the Georgian preparatory ranks. The soon-to-be 22 year old has finally conquered the Midwest League and now shall attempt to cruise past Stockton with the Ports as the versatile outfielder (30 games in LF, 19 in RF, 11 in CF for Beloit in 2013) and left handed bat makes his final few attempts before his Rule 5 clock dwindles down. 

The 92nd overall selection that inked for $500,000, Shipman instantly became one of the more intriguing outfield prospects for the Athletics noted for his plus throwing arm, drool worthy athleticism and flawless swing mechanics that made him a top 20 prospect unanimously upon signing. The initial couple campaigns have been a seesaw for Shipman though, having never been granted with a midseason promotion as a professional and struggling mightily to manufacture desirable power statistics alongside disappointing results on the basepaths. Kept below Stockton for the second consecutive season, Shipman finally constructed a season to point towards as he slashed .279/.397/.324 through 292 PAs with a .351 BABIP and 116 wRC+. Plus with another eyeboggling walk rate (16.1%), Shipman once more establishes himself as the anti-D'Arby Myers, with a career 153:181 BB/K that has carried Shipman as a professional with some of the downright best discipline in the Oakland system. With a 47:50 ratio throughout 2013 contributing to that total, Shipman obviously has a humongous plus talent to lean upon that compensates for the lack of power (0 HRs in his career). He additionally had a showstopping July with a .362/.474/.415 (20:14 BB/K) stat line in 114 PAs that bodes well moving forward. 

A lefty that walks a lot and struggles for power? Like Barton? Well... Kind of. He actually has career reverse platoon splits like Barton too, hitting better against LHP than RHP in limited sample sizes. The fanbase ought to be more tolerable about production like this from a center fielder than a first baseman though, so think of him as a significantly more athletic Barton if you want then. The two time best organizational athlete according to Baseball America in 2010/2011, look for Shipman to blossom further with the Ports as a tremendous sleeper. And maybe even hit that elusive first career dinger in the offensively charged Cal League. 

BJ Boyd (Beloit):


Another high school outfielder plucked in the earlier portions of the draft that received raving acclaim for his athleticism, Bijon has since morphed into a consensus top 10 A's prospect prior to his full season initiation with the Snappers in 2014. He came in #10 on my "Top 100 2014 A's Prospects" back in December:

"After his 139th overall, 4th round pickup, Boyd opted out of any sparse football commitments and instantly signed with his childhood A's en route to a swift Phoenix flight and an AZL All-Star campaign, hitting .301/.401/.434 in 167 PAs with a 16/20 SB record (25-28 his senior year at Palo Alto), a .393 wOBA and wielding a .396 BABIP. Afterwards, he unfortunately didn't get sent out to Wisconsin but rather was packaged to Vermont where he yet again was the offensive superstar for his squad throughout 300 PAs, with a .284/.375/.442 slash, 149 wRC+, and a .385 wOBA including finishing as the short season dinger leader with 8 HRs. 

The downsides of his 2013 were present though, as his stolen base opportunities significantly dwindled, like Bostick his plate discipline was inconsistent (Despite a more respectable walk rate), and some defensive disadvantages arose. Bijon has some damned stubby arms (Sorry BJ) and possesses similar arm strength to Coco Crisp, which could curb his projection from CF to LF despite his athleticism which would allow him to be prominent in any outfield alignment. The decease in SBs (Only 8-14 during 2013) may have been attributed to the Vermont coaching staff being conservative, as BJ could easily exceed 40 once he arrives in full season. Still, some nagging health concerns also could have affected him.

The plate discipline might have to be corrected, but he won't reach legal drinking age until Mid-July, so he still has a large amount of time to tweak and experiment to the organization's liking. Still, he sustained his remarkable BABIP percentages to some extent (.353 with the Lake Monsters) and like Bostick is line drive oriented and capable of consistent opposite field contact. Beloit will likely house both BJ and McKinney to begin 2014, but BJ will be ahead of Billy for a probable midseason upgrade to the Ports"

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