Oakland Athletics Top 20 Prospects for 2016
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 2016 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders for the book, so order early and order often!
All of these grades are preliminary and subject to change.
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS
Grade A prospects are the elite. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least 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. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don’t make it at all.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for the full analysis 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) Franklin Barreto, SS, Grade A-: Age 19, hit .302/.333/.500 with 13 homers, 15 walks, 67 strikeouts in 338 at-bats in High-A. Sure it was the Cal League but he was very young for the circuit and reports are excellent. Main question is the glove, well behind the bat. Reportedly more "comfortable" while playing outfield in winter ball. If he can’t stay at shortstop it would reduce his value, but even elsewhere the bat upside could still make him an All Star.
2) Sean Manaea, LHP, Grade A-/B+: Age 23, acquired in Ben Zobrist trade with the Royals, combined for 2.66 ERA with 90/26 K/BB in 74 innings at four minor league stops in 2015 then looked good in the Arizona Fall League. Huge power lefty, fastball, slider, change, command can be erratic but took a step forward after the trade. Outstanding strikeout rate is the big attraction here, main concern remains durability. Number two starter upside in my view but I’m a whore for strikeouts.
3) Matt Olson, 1B-OF, Grade B+: Age 21, hit .248/.388/.438 with 37 doubles, 17 homers, 105 walks, 139 strikeouts in 466 at-bats in Double-A. True outcome hitter with power, patience, high strikeout rate. Strong throwing arm and runs well enough to play corner outfield, not just a first baseman. Won’t win batting titles but should be a productive slugger.
4) Renato Nunez, 3B-1B, Grade B+/B: Age 21, hit .278/.332/.480 with 18 homers, 28 walks, 66 strikeouts in 381 at-bats in Double-A. Good news: has dramatically lowered his strikeout rate over the last two seasons without losing any power, an excellent marker for his future. Bad news: glove went backwards in 2015 and unlike Olson he doesn’t run well enough to play the outfield.
5) Jacob Nottingham, C, Grade B+/B: Age 20, acquired from Astros in Scott Kazmir trade, hit combined .316/.372/.505 with 17 homers, 33 doubles, 33 walks, 99 strikeouts in 465 at-bats between Low-A and High-A. Another power masher who makes better contact than many young sluggers. Receiving needs work, gives up too many passed balls but arm is solid and he threw out 38% of runners on the season. Bat looks real to me and there’s hope for the glove.
6) Chad Pinder, INF, Grade B: Age 23, hit .317/.361/.486 with 15 homers, 28 walks, 103 strikeouts in 477 at-bats in Double-A. Texas League MVP hitting for power and average although aggressive approach could be problematic in the majors. Strong throwing arm but range at shortstop is stretched, may wind up at second base, third, or super-utility role. Some sources like him better than Olson and Nunez but he is two years older and that makes a difference.
7) Matt Chapman, 3B, Grade B: Age 22, hit .250/.341/.566 with 23 homers, 39 walks, 79 strikeouts in 304 at-bats in High-A. Strong glove highlighted by cannon throwing arm, also showed better patience compared to pro debut, Cal State Fullerton product also got to his power more often. I’m still not clear on what his balance between power, OBP, and batting average is going to look like.
8) Yairo Munoz, SS, Grade B-: Age 20, hit just .236/.278/.363 in Midwest League, albeit with nine homers and 10 steals in 369 at-bats. Promoted to Cal League and exploded with .320/.372/.480 line in 150 at-bats. Intriguing power/speed combination and young, chance to stay at shortstop, still something of a wild card who could explode or fizzle.
9) Richie Martin, SS, Grade B-: Age 21, first round pick in 2015 from University of Florida, hit .237/.353/.342 with 25 walks, 47 strikeouts in 190 at-bats in New York-Penn League. Draws good reviews for defense and bat has more potential than the early numbers indicate, also younger than typical for a college draft, played NY-P at age 20.
10) Casey Meisner, RHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 20, acquired from Mets in Tyler Clippard deal, posted 2.45 ERA with 113/40 K/BB in 143 innings, finishing strong in Cal League after trade, 6-7 frame and velocity is picking up, in low 90s now, also has a good curveball and unusually good control for a pitcher of his size, youth. Mid-rotation potential.
11) Daniel Mengden, RHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 22, posted 3.72 ERA with 125/36 K/BB in 131 innings between Low-A and High-A, acquired in Kazmir trade. Four pitch mix with low 90s fastball, curve, slider, change-up, throws strikes, no plus pitches but all are solid. Fourth starter potential due to command.
12) Raul Alcantara, RHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 23, Tommy John survivor posted 3.88 ERA, 29/8 K/BB in 49 innings in High-A on a restricted workload. Velocity is well into the 90s and he throws strikes, has a good change-up, breaking ball remains inconsistent and reflected in low K/IP ratio. Higher physical ceiling than Mengden but not as developed.
13) Dillon Overton, LHP, Grade C+: Age 24, another Tommy John survivor, posted 3.43 ERA with 106/27 K/BB in 126 innings in High-A/Double-A, hasn’t fully regained velocity from injury but secondary pitches and command are excellent, should be ready for a trial soon.
14) Sean Nolin, LHP, Grade C+: Age 26, posted 2.66 ERA with 38/19 K/BB in 47 innings in Triple-A, bothered by shoulder issues, recovered in time to make six stars in majors with 5.28 ERA, 15/12 K/BB in 29 innings. Nothing left to prove in minors, fourth starter potential, relies heavily on change-up and curve, durability remains questionable.
15) Ryon Healy, 3B-1B, Grade C+: Age 24, hit .302/.339/.426 with 10 homers, 30 walks, 82 strikeouts in 507 at-bats in Double-A. Big guy at 6-5, 225 but swing produces more line drives than home runs power, not a walk guy but doesn’t strike out much either. In corner mix with Olson, Nunez, Chapman but not as young.
16) Zack Erwin, LHP, Grade C+: Age 21, fourth round pick out of Clemson by the White Sox, acquired in Brett Lawrie trade, posted 1.34 ERA with 30/7 K/BB in 40 innings in pro debut. Another command/control artist with 88-90 fastball but impressive curve, change-up, strong pitchability.
17) Dakota Chalmers, RHP, Grade C+: Age 19, third round pick in 2015 from high school in Georgia, extremely projectable at 6-3, 175 and already hits mid-90s. Curve has plus potential but command and mechanics are raw. Posted 2.66 in 20 rookie ball innings but with poor 18/17 K/BB. More physical upside than any pitcher on this list except possibly Manaea, but is a long way from reaching that potential. Value accordingly depending on your time horizon.
18) Mikey White, SS, Grade C+: Age 22, second round pick in 2015, hit .315/.405/.459 in NY-P but just .200/.283/.262 after being promoted to Low-A. Controls zone well but not as much athletic upside as Martin and more likely to end up at second base. More of a utility projection.
19) Rangel Ravelo, 1B, Grade C+: Age 23, another member of the corner brigade in the high minors, hit .318/.378/.477 in 88 Double-A at-bats but just .277/.324/.376 in 101 Triple-A at-bats while fighting wrist injury. Always hits for average, but doesn’t hit for power despite 6-2, 220 frame. Will need to make more power noise given the competition.
20) Joe Wendle, 2B, Grade C+: Age 25, hit .289/.323/.442 with 42 doubles, 10 homers, 12 steals, 22 walks, 114 strikeouts in 577 at-bats in Triple-A. Not toolsy but has pop in his bat and hits from the left side, type of player who could ride a hot streak into a job but will need to tighten up the strike zone to maintain success over the long term. Place-holder until the younger guys are ready up the middle but could be workable role player.
OTHERS OF NOTE: Skye Bolt, OF; Seth Brown, OF-1B; Jaycob Brugman, OF; Dylan Covey, RHP; Bubba Derby, RHP; Kevin Duchene, LHP; Ryan Dull, RHP; Daniel Gossett, RHP; Chris Kohler, LHP; Tyler Ladendorf, INF; Sandber Pimentel, 1B; Joel Seddon, RHP; Bobby Wahl, RHP; J.B. Wendelken, RHP
I will be around in the comments section tomorrow to answer questions. I’ll talk about R.J. Alvarez then too.