Oakland Athletics Top 20 Prospects for 2013
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 2013 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders. Order early and order often!
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a reasonable chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other 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.
THIS LIST WAS UPDATED FEBRUARY 5, 2013
1) Addison Russell, SS, Grade B+: Borderline A-. I really like him and am considering the A- since I assume he can play shortstop. He has some things to address, including more accurate throwing and a better read on breaking balls, but overall he was more refined than expected and he's got plenty of tools.
2) Michael Choice, OF, Grade B: Was just getting hot when he broke his hand. Enormous power to all fields stands out, but I still wonder if high strikeout rate will keep him from being a complete hitter.
3) Dan Straily, RHP, Grade B: I've gone back and forth on ranking him ahead of Gray. Straily's upside isn't as high as Gray's, but his floor is higher too, meaning that I'm more certain of what Straily's role (number three/four starter) will be than I am of Gray's, who could turn into anything from an ace to a schlub. In the end, I'm ranking him ahead of Gray heading into 2013.
4) Sonny Gray, RHP, Grade B: Erratic in Double-A, but I still see him as a guy who can develop into at least an inning-eater, or failing that a closer.
5) Grant Green, INF-OF, Grade B-: I think he made real progress with the bat last year and seems like he handles second base just fine. Could win that job, or be a useful super-utility guy with versatility and a solid bat.
6)Miles Head, 3B-1B, Grade B-: Outstanding in High-A at age 21, but Double-A pitchers got him to chase stuff outside the zone and he'll need to adjust to that. I think he has a decent chance to stick at third, where his bat will have more value.
7) Nolan Sanburn, RHP, Grade B-: One of my favorite college pitchers from the 2012 draft. Impressive fastball/curveball combination and I think he has a good chance at developing the changeup, so I agree with their decision to see if he can start.
8) Daniel Robertson, 3B, Grade B-: Was ahead of the Arizona Rookie League but overmatched in the New York-Penn League, no biggie considering his age at 18. Will he develop sufficient home run power for third base?
9) Matt Olson, 1B, Grade B-: Borderline C+: Slugger from Georgia high school ranks has thunder in the bat, though showed strikeout tendencies in rookie ball. Scouts don't seem to think that's a big problem going forward but we'll see.
10) Renato Nunez, 3B, Grade C+: Borderline B-. Significant defense and plate discipline issues, but the bat has thunder in it.
11) Dave Freitas, C, Grade C+: Acquired from Nationals. Could be Derek Norris Lite, with combination of plate discipline, power, and solid defense.
12) Ian Krol, LHP, Grade C+: I think he's better than the raw numbers indicate as a lefty with a live arm.
13) Chris Bostick, INF, Grade C: Borderline C+: A long way off, but has athleticism and held his own in the New York-Penn League at age 19.
14) B.J. Boyd, OF, Grade C: Borderline C+: Fourth round pick from 2012 draft was supposed to be raw, but played very well in rookie ball with speed, on-base ability, and some power potential. Could develop into a Matt Lawton-type player with a broad skill base.
15) Shane Peterson, OF, Grade C: On-base guy with left-handed bat, added to 40-man roster, lacks power to star regularly at a corner but could be useful reserve.
16) Michael Taylor, OF, Grade C: He will never, ever be a big time power hitter. He is what he is, but that might still have some value if you know what to expect. Can swipe a base, knock stuff into the gaps, and has more on-base potential than he's shown in the majors.
17) Arnold Leon, RHP, Grade C: Another 40-man roster edition, Mexican pitcher with diverse arsenal and chance to be useful middle reliever.
18) Michael Ynoa, RHP, Grade C: Remains extremely raw after years of injuries, but Oakland saw enough to protect him on the 40-man roster. Back up to 95 MPH late in the year, but curveball and changeup still need a lot of work.
19) B.A. Vollmuth, 3B, Grade C: Third-round pick from Southern Mississippi in 2011 had disappointing campaign in A-ball, but retains interesting power potential and a strong throwing arm. Needs to polish defense and handle breaking pitches better.
20) Drew Granier, RHP, Grade C: Posted 3.21 ERA with 167/53 K/BB in 163 innings in Low-A, using a low-90s fastball and erratic, if promising, secondaries. 32nd round pick in 2011 from University of Louisiana-Monroe needs to prove at higher levels, but is an interesting sleeper.
16-20 are interchangeable with each other and several of the Grade Cs below, but I just picked a couple of youngsters I wanted to highlight plus a trio who could contribute in 2013.
OTHERS: Dakota Bacus, RHP; Josh Bowman, RHP; Bobby Crocker, OF; Conner Crumbliss, OF; Vicmel De La Cruz, OF; Ryan Doolittle, RHP; Kris Hall, RHP; Austin House, RHP; Jefry Marte, 3B; Bruce Maxwell, C-1B; Max Muncy, 1B; Chad Oberacker, OF; Stuart Pudenz, RHP; Seth Streich, RHP; Beau Taylor, C; T.J. Walz, RHP; Andrew Werner, LHP; Michael Ynoa, RHP.
*************Comment below was written in early January before trades*****************
Oakland graduated so many rookies last year that the system looks thin right now, but there are still some interesting players.
The 2012 draft brought in several promising his school bats, headlined by Addison Russell, who is now the top prospect in the organization. Olson and Robertson have regular potential as well, and outfielder B.J. Boyd showed better than expected skills to go with his tools. It will take time for these guys to percolate up the system, but the upside is present. Closer to the majors, Grant Green looks like he can help soon, with several others also looking like potential role contributors. The emphasis on on-base ability shows up in guys like Peterson, Taylor, and Conner Crumbliss.
With the outstanding rookie pitching staff, it seems unfair to harp on the pitching prospects looking thinned out. Cole and Gray have the most impact potential, but they've both got some question-marks. Straily is ready and Peacock is not as rough as the Triple-A raw stats imply. There are a lot of potential relief options in the organization as well, a major strength of the system. Drew Granier, Treinen, and Walz all have sleeper potential.
The biggest wild card of all is Michael Ynoa, and no, I have no idea what to make of him.