Oakland Athletics Top 20 Prospects for 2014
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2014 Baseball Prospect Book. The book has been delayed by my head injury, but it will come out eventually. Thank you for your patience and we still need pre-orders!
All of these grades are preliminary and subject to change.
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a reasonable chance of becoming stars or superstars. In theory, most Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or unanticipated problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Some end up as role players or bench guys. Many don't make it at all.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise, and some C+ prospects (especially at lower levels) turn out very well indeed.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
1) Addison Russell, SS, Grade A: Looks like a complete player to me, perhaps not a guy who is going to hit .330 but who should produce power, speed, on-base percentage, and enough range and arm strength to remain at shortstop. Future long-term regular and All-Star candidate eventually.
2) Billy McKinney, OF, Grade B: Borderline B+: Scouts love him despite average tools due to his excellent feel for hitting and overall instincts for the game. Opening 2014 in High-A, a big jump for a high school player, but the challenge worked for Russell.
3) Raul Alcantara, RHP, Grade B-: Borderline B. Secondary pitches went from non-existent to solid last year and he already had a good fastball, resulting in dramatically improved performance and big spike in strikeout rate. I want to see if he sustains it, but could be a number three starter.
4) Daniel Robertson, SS, Grade B-: Russell’s domination overshadowed a solid campaign from Robertson. Good approach at the plate, could develop double-digit power. On his own merits he has a chance to stay at shortstop, but other factors (Russell) may result in switch to third base anyway. I think he is a breakout candidate.
5) Renato Nunez, 3B, Grade B-: You have to love the power and he could put up huge numbers in the Cal League, but impatient approach will be problematic against pitchers who change speeds more effectively. Defense is also in question but a shift to first base would pressure his bat.
6) B.J. Boyd, OF, Grade B-: Bad body on paper (5-11, 230) but he’s actually a good athlete who played wide receiver in high school. He hit very well in the New York-Penn League, offers good approach at the plate to go with power possibilities. Strikes me as underrated.
7) Nolan Sanburn, RHP, Grade B-: This guy has special stuff: low-to-mid-90s fastball with movement, and his curve, slider, and changeup all flash plus. Main question is role and durability: he has the four-pitch arsenal to start and his command isn’t bad, but he relieved at Arkansas and some shoulder trouble last year aborted attempts to stretch his arm out.
8) Bobby Wahl, RHP, Grade B-: University of Mississippi ace fell to fifth round due to blisters and velocity drop, could wind up as a big bargain. Potential mid-rotation arm with fastball/slider/change arsenal.
9) Michael Ynoa, RHP, Grade C+: Borderline B-. Possible outcomes: number two starter; number four starter; power closer; mediocre middle reliever; Triple-A washout. I recognize his immense potential but I want to see more to make sure he’s not the Dominican version of Todd Van Poppel.
10) Billy Burns, OF, Grade C+: How does 80-grade speed last until the 32nd round? Power is lacking but what this guy does (steal bases, draw walks, drive pitchers nuts), he does VERY well. I think he’s a fourth outfielder but a fun one.
11) Dylan Covey, RHP, Grade C+: You can make a case to rank him higher but the results have never matched the stuff in this case even in college. Maybe he lacks deception?
12) Max Muncy, 1B, Grade C+: 21 homers in Cal League was misleading but he does have skills: gap power, patience, impressive defense at first base. I still think he’s a Doug Mientkiewicz type.
13) Matt Olson, 1B, Grade C+: Showed weaker pure hitting skills compared to high school, but more power production. 72 walks, 32 doubles, 23 homers look nice but .227 average is low and strikeout rate was quite high. Reports indicate he changed his swing to add more power but will it backfire?
14) Chris Kohler, LHP, Grade C+: Very projectable young lefty drafted in third round last year performed quite well in rookie ball (2.73 ERA, 32/9 K/BB in 23 IP) and has a chance for three quality pitches. Hasn’t received a lot of attention despite draft status but I expect that will change.
15) Miles Head, 3B, Grade C+: Borderline C. Season ruined by shoulder problems. Big potential with bat if he can get the strike zone locked down. Must take a step forward soon or get pushed aside since corner bats are one of the strengths of this system.
16) Dillon Overton, LHP, Grade C: Awaiting results of Tommy John surgery. I liked him a lot at the University of Oklahoma, four pitch lefty who knows what he is doing, would be a B/B- guy if healthy.
17) Kent Matthes, OF, Grade C: Older prospect claimed on waivers from Rockies. I have seen a lot of him over the years and this is the kind of guy who could parlay a well-timed hot streak (he is 27 after all) into a career. Going way back, I’m thinking of something like Shane Spencer with the Yankees back in 1998, one well-timed hot streak that earns him years of role player status.
18) Ryan Dull, RHP, Grade C: One of a large group of Grade C type arms in this system, workmanlike guys who could slot as middle relievers or emergency starters under the right conditions. You could also slot Frankoff, Granier, Jensen, Murphy, Healy and Peters in this area.
19) Arnold Leon, RHP, Grade C: Versatile right-hander from Mexico can start or relieve, throws strikes with decent stuff. Another Grade C pitching depth option.
20) Ryon Healy, 1B-3B, Grade C: High-ceiling power hitter from University of Oregon, you could slot him higher on pure talent terms but I am disturbed by how badly the strike zone got away from him in pro ball.
OTHERS: Anthony Aliotti, 1B; Dustin Driver, RHP; Seth Frankoff, RHP; Drew Granier, RHP; Tucker Healy, RHP; Chris Jensen, RHP; Bruce Maxwell, C; Sean Murphy, RHP; Tanner Peters, RHP; Shane Peterson, OF-1B; Chad Pinder, INF; Seth Streich, RHP
This system is in a down-phase right now at the higher levels although they’ve shown the ability to recharge in the past. There is very impressive impact talent at the top: Russell is a beast, McKinney should be very good, Robertson has a chance, but after that there are a bunch of question-marks.
Corner bats have depth: there are a lot of them, but they mostly seem like future role players. Nunez has a terrific ceiling but his approach is problematic. If you could graft Muncy’s approach onto Nunez’s body you’d have a star, but I think that kind of genetic engineering is illegal. Burns is a lot of fun to watch but realistically I think he’s a valuable bench guy.
Alcantara’s turnaround shows how quickly things can change for young pitchers. Could Ynoa do the same? Maybe, but he’s the farthest thing from a safe bet. Sanburn, Covey, Wahl…all talented, but again each has at least one significant caution flag in their profile. They can probably get some useful innings out of some of the Grade C types. I do like Kohler and Dustin Driver, another high school arm from the ’13 draft, also has a high ceiling.