Oakland’s potential triumvirateby Kevin Lai
August 04, 2011
In Billy Beane's lone acquisition at the non-waiver trade deadline, a reliever was swapped for a first baseman prospect. Listed at 6-2, 285 pounds, the 25-year-old hulk coming from Arizona is known for his longball shots and high strikeout rate balanced by a high walk rate. He has Moneyball charisma written all over him. Should Beane and the Athletics organization give him a fair shot in the big leagues, the rewards could be ample.
Except for one thing: Brandon Allen is the third hyped power prospect to land in Oakland in the past few years, Chris Carter and Michael Taylor being the others. Now all three prospects are playing at Oakland's Triple-A affiliate—for the time being.
Adding Allen to the picture definitely confuses things, but one thing is certain: Beane is trying to mitigate the risk that Carter or Taylor will flop in the majors. At the cost of a reliever, there was not much risk involved in committing to Allen as another viable option. Oakland is in dire need of legitimate hitters these days.
His name is Vernon
Carter was drafted in the 15th round in 2005 by the Chicago White Sox. After being traded to the D-Backs (via Carlos Quentin) and then to the A's (via Dan Haren), he managed to work his way up the minor leagues, developing some prolific power. He was named Oakland's minor league organizational player of the year in 2008, when he bombed 39 home runs in Single-A ball. His continued power success got A's fans excited for his inevitable call-up to the majors.
However, very little of Carter's minor league self came out during his first taste of the majors in 2010. He was overly aggressive, as he went 0-19, with nine strikeouts and one walk. He would end up starting his career at 0-33 after his second call-up, but Carter had an excellent last week of the season by blasting three homers.
|2006||White Sox (R)||69||294||75||15||11.60%||23.80%||0.271||0.359||0.422|
|2006||White Sox (A)||13||52||6||1||9.60%||32.70%||0.130||0.179||0.238|
|2007||White Sox (A)||124||537||132||24||12.50%||20.50%||0.224||0.327||0.394|
Coming into the 2011 season, it was a given that Beane needed to improve Oakland's offense, but from what source was unknown. Beane opted to use the free agent market and trades to clog Oakland's DH/corner outfield situation to the point where Carter was the odd man out, sent packing to Sacramento.
If you glance at his minor league numbers, it is very apparent Carter is your typical Adam Dunn slugger: Lots of strikeouts and walks mixed in with the long ball. Unfortunately, in his very short stints in the majors, he has not been able to produce the same results.
Looking at the 110 plate appearances he has made in the majors, he has a 65.8 percent contact rate, well below the 81 percent league average. It's most likely the product of a small sample size, as the 25 year old really needs to be given a clear shot at proving himself in the majors. Rookies are known for their growing pains, right?
|Michael Taylor (left) and Chris Carter (right) in the comfort of Triple-A ball. (Icon/SMI)|
The Cardinal back in the Bay Area
Michael Taylor came to Oakland by means of the Roy Halladay trade a couple years ago. The trade lineage essentially went from Carlos Gonzalez to Matt Holliday to Brett Wallace, finally landing Taylor in Oakland. That's the whole shebang in one sentence.
|2010||Desert Dogs (R)||30||128||30||2||12.50%||13.30%||0.130||0.315||0.379|
Unlike the other two prospects, Taylor has not been given a chance to play in the majors, despite being the oldest of the three. This is mainly due to his poor 2010 season with the River Cats (Triple-A). He has bounced back from last year and looks to be having a nice season so far in Sacramento. But then again, it is the Pacific Coast League we are talking about...
The Fangraphs darling
Allen has been blocked by veterans in the D-Backs system at first base this season. It's a similar situation that Carter found himself in this year as well in Oakland. With injuries and unsuccessful platooning with their first base options, Arizona opted to pass on Allen and give their Double-A star Paul Goldschmidt a shot. Thus, Allen (and a reliever named Jordan Norberto) became expendable in an exchange for Oakland's Brad Ziegler.
The deal might not have even occurred if it weren't for Boston's distaste for Rich Harden's medical records. (In return, Oakland would have landed Lars Anderson).
|2006||White Sox (A)||109||427||84||15||5.20%||29.50%||0.167||0.267||0.288|
|2007||White Sox (A)||127||556||143||18||6.80%||21.80%||0.200||0.336||0.359|
|2008||White Sox (A+)||89||368||89||15||11.10%||22.60%||0.248||0.335||0.402|
|2008||White Sox (AA)||41||173||42||14||11.00%||23.70%||0.340||0.286||0.425|
|2009||White Sox (AA)||62||274||70||7||10.90%||17.20%||0.162||0.335||0.372|
|2009||White Sox (AAA)||15||61||16||1||0.00%||21.30%||0.115||0.319||0.282|
Allen has similar K/BB numbers as Carter and shows the same signs of power. In fact, Carter and Allen are originally from the White Sox organization, having played Single-A ball together in 2006 and 2007 before Carter was flipped to Arizona. (They both went through the D-Backs, too. Wow!)
Along the same lines as Carter, Allen has a 67.3 percent contact rate in the majors (in 209 plate appearances). But on top of that—small sample I know—during his short stint with Arizona this year, of his five hits, three were homers.
The future of the club
All said and done, the success of Oakland in this decade relies heavily on its ability to pick out the right prospects in trades and drafts; there is very little room for error. With no new stadium plan, the A's are stuck with poor revenue streams and no real way to lure any free agents (see Adrian Beltre 2010 and 2011, Marco Scutaro 2010).
It is hard to imagine Beane will attempt—for the fourth or fifth straight time this offseason—to build an offensive core around aging designated hitters or light-hitting fielders.
With most of his supporting cast free agents this upcoming offseason, it should mark a good time for Oakland to try out its latest prospects. Carter and Allen may even find themselves in the majors quite soon this season. But the clock is ticking on all three, as fans love to give out the "Quadruple-A player" title left and right.
References and Resources
Tables used are from Fangraphs.