Oakland Athletics Top 20 Prospects for 2017
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. All of these grades are subject to change as the winter progresses. The final grades will be finished sometime in February when all 30 teams are complete.
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. 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, INF, Grade A-: Age 20, hit .284/.342/.422 with 11 homers, 30 steals, 36 walks, 94 strikeouts in 479 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A; line drive hitter but with improving power, aggressive approach but makes hard contact and avoids excessive strikeouts; not as fast as the 30 steals may imply, however his power potential may be under-appreciated by some observers and he may eventually hit 15+ homers a year; strong throwing arm best defensive asset but shortstop range is just okay and there’s some risk he may wind up at 2B; needs a year of Triple-A but has been very young for his levels. ETA late 2017.
2) A.J. Puk, LHP, Grade B+: Age 21, first round pick from University of Florida in 2016; 3.03 ERA in 33 innings in New York-Penn League with 40/12 K/BB, 23 hits; 6-7 southpaw with mid-upper-90s fastball and plus slider, solid-average change-up; stuff and command sagged at times in the spring when he was dealing with a back injury but when healthy he’s overpowering and usually throws strikes; upside of a number two starter and could advance quickly. ETA late 2018.
3) Jharel Cotton, RHP, Grade B/B+: Age 24, 20th round pick by the Dodgers in 2012 from East Carolina University, traded to Athletics in Josh Reddick/Rich Hill deal; posted 4.31 ERA in 136 innings in Pacific Coast League with 155/39 K/BB, just 108 hits; outstanding in the majors with 2.15 ERA in 29 innings, 23/4 K/BB; excellent change-up, can mix in decent cutter and curve; leap forward came when velocity picked up from 89-92 in college to 92-95 over the last year; control was excellent in the majors, too; ready for a full trial; was viewed mainly as a reliever in past seasons but did so well as a starter in ’16 that it looks like he can remain in that role, at least as a number three/four type. ETA 2017.
4) Matt Chapman, 3B, Grade B/B+: Age 23, first round pick in 2014 from Cal State Fullerton; hit .237/.328/.519 with 36 homers, 68 walks, 173 strikeouts in 514 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A; headlines start with excellent third base defense, with cannon arm, above-average reliability and superb range; Gold Glove if he hits enough to play regularly; 60-grade power bat is obvious and he’ll take a walk, but contact problems are equally obvious; may struggle to hit .230 in majors without more adjustments; ETA late 2017.
5) Frankie Montas, RHP, Grade B: Age 23, acquired from Dodgers in the Reddick/Hill deal; limited to just 16 innings by rib injury but was excellent in those innings, posting 2.25 ERA with 22/3 K/BB between Double-A and Triple-A; fastball 95-100 MPH with peaks at 101-102; average to plus slider; threw strikes with the hard stuff in ’16 but change-up remains erratic; most observers view him as a reliever at this point, albeit a really good one. ETA 2017.
6) Grant Holmes, RHP, Grade B/B-: Age 20, first round pick by Dodgers in 2014, another part of the Hill/Reddick deal; 4.63 ERA with 124/53 K/BB in 134 innings in Cal League with 147 hits; reports still have fastball in mid-90s with plus curve, but change-up has lagged and he hasn’t been as dominant as you’d expect from the stuff reports; command within the strike zone remains inconsistent, traced to mechanical problems which come and go; still young enough to live up to the early hype. ETA 2019.
7) Daniel Gossett, RHP, Grade B/B-: Age 24, second round pick in 2014 out of Clemson, posted 2.69 ERA in 154 innings between High-A, Double-A, Triple-A with 151/41 K/BB, just 125 hits; fastball in 90-94 range, with some reports as high as 95-96, with solid-average curveball and change-up; whole greater than the sum of the parts; Holmes draws more praise for his stuff but Gossett is a lot more polished, granted Gossett is also four years older; ready for a trial soon with workhorse potential. ETA 2017.
8) Matt Olson, 1B-OF, Grade B-: Age 22, hit .235/.335/.422 with 34 doubles, 17 homers, 71 walks, 132 strikeouts in 464 at-bats in Triple-A; stock down somewhat after he got off to a slow start in ’16 but he was hotter down the stretch and slugged .475 with .356 OBP in second half of season; still young; power/patience hitter, struggles against lefties but can handle right-handers; at this point projects as productive platoon bat rather than a star but that still has value. ETA 2018.
9) Renato Nunez, 3B-1B, Grade B-: Age 22; hit .228/.278/.412 with 23 homers, 31 walks, 119 strikeouts in 505 at-bats in Triple-A; like Olson his reputation has slipped; more raw power than Olson but a much more aggressive approach hampers Nunez’s OBP; defense remains mediocre and contact ability must improve if the bat is to carry him; to be honest, you can make a very good case to drop him into the C+ range but my instincts say to hold on one more year with Renato in this grade band despite no logic to back that up. ETA 2018.
10) Norge Ruiz, RHP, Grade B-: Age 22, Cuban right-hander signed for $2,000,000 in December; scouting reports point to 90-94 MPH fastball with excellent change-up and above-average splitter and slider; mound presence also draws praise; command gets mixed reviews and it is unclear what role he will take, but general view is that he should be seen as similar to an advanced college arm who could be ready quickly; watch spring reports closely. ETA 2018.
11) Logan Shore, RHP, Grade B-: Age 22, second round pick in 2016 from University of Florida; doesn’t throw as hard as fellow Gator/Athletic A.J. Puk but is much more polished; posted 2.57 ERA with 21/7 K/BB in 21 innings in NY-P; change-up is excellent pitch, mixes in fastball around 90 with decent breaking stuff; all his stuff plays up due to command and location; strike-throwing fourth starter type. ETA late 2018.
12) Daulton Jefferies, RHP, Grade B-: Age 21, comp round pick in 2016 from University of California; posted 2.38 ERA in 11 rookie ball innings with 17/2 K/BB; short leash due to injury-plagued college spring; fastball 90-95 with erratic breaking ball and change-up; can be overpowering at his best and usually throws strikes but stuff can sometimes back up; questions about durability main issue. ETA 2019.
13) Max Schrock, 2B, Grade B-: Age 22, 15th round pick in 2015 by Natonals from University of South Carolina, traded to Athletics in August; hit .331/.373/.449 with nine homers, 22 steals, 31 walks, 42 strikeouts in 534 at-bats at four minor league stops, finishing with .391 mark in 23 at-bats in Double-A; best tool is speed, lacks big natural power but know how to hit with good eye, clean swing and contact ability with gap pop; limited to second base by range and arm but he’s fairly reliable; could be ideal number two hitter eventually. ETA 2018.
14) Raul Alcantara, RHP, Grade C+: Age 24, posted 3.58 ERA in 136 innings between Double-A and Triple-A with 105/30 K/BB; hit hard in majors with 7.25 ERA in 22 innings due to 31 hits allowed but with good 14/4 K/BB; fastball 90-95, mixes in changeup and slider; both secondaries flash above-average but are erratic; he usually throws strikes however which gives him a chance to surprise; lots of arms coming up behind him so he needs to establish himself now. ETA 2017.
15) Lazaro Armenteros, OF, Grade C+: Age 17, Cuban signed this past summer for $3,000,000; draws praise for power/speed potential but a wide range of opinion about how quickly this will manifest on the field; optimists project him as a 20/20 type with above-average outfield defense; skeptics say his swing needs a lot of work and he is quite raw with both bat and glove; optimists counter with his birthday; you can make a case for the Top Ten on tools and you can make a case for outside the Top 20 due to rawness and lack of data. We’ll compromise at 15. ETA 2021.
16) Bruce Maxwell, C, Grade C+: Age 26, second round pick in 2012 from Birmingham Southern; at the time, was a strong power hitter with a weak glove but has totally remade his profile; he’s now an excellent defensive catcher who didn’t hit at all until 2016; crushed Triple-A at .321/.393/.539 in 193 at-bats, then hit .283/.337/.402 in 92 major league at-bats; older prospect, but glove will keep him employed at least as a reserve; he hits left-handed which makes platoon use easier; while skepticism is understandable, he did mash in college and it is plausible that all the concentration on improving his defense kept his bat stagnant for a while; put another way, the .283/.337/.402 line may not be a fluke at all. ETA 2017.
17) Chad Pinder, INF, Grade C+: Age 24, hit .258/.310/.425 in Triple-A then .235/.273/.373 in 51 MLB at-bats; comp round pick in 2013 from Virginia Tech; legitimate pop with 14 homers in Triple-A but production often held back by over-aggressive hitting approach, 25/108 BB/K; best defensive tool is throwing arm, range somewhat stretched at shortstop but workable, looks more natural at third base or second base; I think he’s a .250 hitter with a poor OBP but enough pop and versatility to hold a utility job for some time. ETA 2017.
18) Richie Martin, SS, Grade C+: Age 22, first round pick in 2015 from University of Florida; hit .235/.327/.322 with three homers, 14 steals, 39 walks, 75 strikeouts in 345 at-bats between High-A and Double-A; not much of a hitter at this point due to lack of power but he makes contact at least and offensive improvement is possible in the long-run; draws raves for glovework, with strong arm, range, reliability, and field awareness all standing out. ETA late 2018.
19) Heath Fillmyer, RHP; Grade C+: Age 22, fifth round pick in 2014 from Mercer Junior College; posted 3.29 ERA with 118/39 K/BB in 134 innings between High-A and Double-A; one of several potential number four starters in this system along with James Naile, Kyle Friedrichs, and Dillon Overton; fastball 90-95 with good action, mixes in sharp curveball, throws strikes; former infielder still learning how to pitch but making good progress. ETA 2018.
20) Jaycob Brugman, OF, Grade C+: Age 24, 17th round pick in 2013 out of BYU; hit .285/.347/.438 between Double-A and Triple-A with 12 homers, 33 doubles, 52 walks, 121 strikeouts in 543 at-bats; interesting to watch in person, no weak tools, everything is at least average including speed, raw power, arm strength; defense is ahead of hitting, can handle all three outfield positions with little trouble; will flash power and patience but performance record is erratic; older prospect but should be tracked for signs of more consistency. ETA late 2017.
OTHER GRADE C+: Dakota Chalmers, RHP; Paul Blackburn, RHP; Marcos Brito, SS; Kyle Friedrichs, RHP; Evan Manarino, LHP; Yairo Munoz, INF; James Naile, RHP; Dillon Overton, LHP; Bobby Wahl, RHP
OTHERS: Brandon Bailey, RHP; Luis Barrera, OF; Boomer Biegalksi, RHP; Skye Bolt, OF Sam Bragg, RHP; Trey Cochrane-Gill, RHP; James Harris, OF; Tucker Healy, RHP; Chris Iriart, 1B; Aaron Kurcz, RHP; Tyler Marincov, OF: Casey Meisner, RHP; Sean Murphy, C; Sandber Pimentel, 1B; Rangel Ravelo, 1B; Skylar Szynski, RHP; Corey Walter, RHP; Joe Wendle, 2B Mikey White, 2B
The Athletics system features considerable mid-range depth particularly with pitching. I will be around to answer questions and discuss the "others" players in the comments section.