Oakland Athletics Top 20 Prospects for 2018
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.
This list was updated March 14, 2018
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-/B+: Age 21, from Venezuela, hit .290/.339/.456 with 15 homers, 15 steals, 27 walks, 141 strikeouts in 469 at-bats in Triple-A; hit .197/.250/.352 in 71 at-bats in the majors, still rookie eligible for 2018; positives include power/speed combo, youth, track record of success at each level; questions include aggressive approach and long-term defensive position; ultimately I think he fits best at second base; although normally I am skeptical about players with contact/patience issues I am more optimistic in his case and will cut him some slack. ETA 2018.
2) A.J. Puk, LHP, Grade A-/B+: Age 22, first round pick in 2016 from University of Florida; combined for 4.03 ERA in 125 innings between High-A and Double-A, 184/48 K/BB, just 108 hits allowed; the ERA was misleadingly high, more important is the excellent K/BB, K/IP, H/IP profile, just three homers allowed; fastball up to 97-98, plus breaking ball, change-up improving; while command still wobbles at times he has everything needed to be a number two starter. ETA late 2018.
3) Jorge Mateo, INF-OF, Grade B+: Age 22, from the Dominican Republic, acquired from New York Yankees in Sonny Gray trade; hit .267/.322/.459 between High-A and Double-A but was actually more effective at the higher level, hitting .300/.381/.525 in 120 at-bats before the trade and .292/.333/.518 in 137 at-bats afterwards; stole 52 bases, hit 12 homers, 18 triples; exciting power/speed combination; approach is aggressive and we’ll have to see how his batting average and OBP hold up but he has multiple ways to hurt the opponent; versatile with the glove, good-enough at shortstop, has played well during trials at second base and center field; needs some time in Triple-A but a very intriguing player. ETA late 2018.
4) Dustin Fowler, OF, Grade B/B+: Age 22, drafted by Yankees in 18th round in 2013; came to Oakland in Gray deal; hit .293/.329/.542 with 13 homers, 13 steals, 15 walks, 63 strikeouts in 297 at-bats in Triple-A, promoted to majors and hurt his knee in first game then was traded; 60-grade speed before the injury, 55 power; another hitter with aggressive approach that may be problematic against the best pitching; you can make a B+ case but my instincts hold me back a tad o this one. ETA 2018.
5) Jesus Luzardo, LHP, Grade B: Age 20, third round pick from high school in Florida by the Nationals in 2016, though he had just had Tommy John surgery; traded to Oakland in Doolittle deal; performed well in rookie and short-season ball this past summer, posting 1.66 ERA with 48/5 K/BB in 43 innings; can hit mid-90s, throws strikes, both curveball and change-up draw positive reviews; main issue now is building up stamina and proving health; possible comp: Gio Gonzalez. ETA 2020.
6) Sheldon Neuse, 3B-SS, Grade B: Age 23, drafted by Washington Nationals in second round from University of Oklahoma in 2016, traded to Athletics in Sean Doolittle/Ryan Madson deal; combined to hit .321/.382/.502 with 16 homers, 14 steals, 40 walks, 112 strikeouts in 442 at-bats between Low-A, High-A, and Double-A, then hit well in Arizona Fall League; I tend to fall in love with this type of player; tools don’t stand out, best physical tool is his throwing arm, raw power is average but he knows how to get to it and has hit at every level; not a butcher at shortstop though range is limited, fits better at third base in long run. ETA late 2018. (UPDATE 3/14/2018, Neuse and Beck flipped on the Oakland list to reflect placement on Top 175 list, no change in grade)
7) Austin Beck, OF, Grade B: Age 19, first round pick in 2017 from high school in North Carolina; hit .211/.293/.349 with two homers, seven steals, 17 walks, 51 strikeouts in 152 at-bats in rookie ball; broad tools stand out with 60 raw power, 60 speed, 60 arm; results did not match reputation in rookie ball due to contact problems and there are concerns about ability to hit for average and get on base at higher levels; high-upside certainly but risk profile seems a bit higher to me than commonly realized, thus a touch of conservatism with the grade. ETA 2022.
8) Grant Holmes, RHP, Grade B-: Age 21, acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016 Josh Reddick/Rich Hill trade; posted 4.49 ERA in 148 innings in Double-A with 150/61 K/BB, 149 hits; relies on low-to-mid-90s power sinker, mixed with power curveball; change-up and overall command remain inconsistent and results don’t always seem to match the stuff; on the right day he looks like a number three or even number two starter but consistency issues could make him more of a four; it would be interesting to see how he would look in the bullpen although I haven’t heard of any moves in that direction. ETA 2019.
9) Lazaro Armenteros, OF, Grade B-: Age 18, signed out of Cuba for $3,000,000; solid debut season with .288/.376/.474 line in rookie ball, four homers, 10 steals, 16 walks, 48 strikeouts in 156 at-bats; 60 speed, 50 or 55 raw power, needs polish with swing mechanics but draws positive reviews for bat speed and overall athleticism; glove needs work as well but could be OK in center with more experience; long way off but I like the upside and have a good intuitive feeling on this one. ETA 2021.
10) Sean Murphy, C, Grade B-: Age 23, third round pick in 2016 from Wright State University; hit .297/.343/.527 in 165 at-bats in High-A but slumped to .209/.288/.309 in 191 at-bats in Double-A; excellent throwing arm and a reliable defensive catcher, will get to majors on his defense alone but future will depend on the bat; flashes above-average power and will draw walks but uncertain what his batting average will look like against the best pitching, has never hit particularly well with wood; some caution with the hitting is advisable but overall I like him. ETA 2019.
11) James Kaprielian, RHP, Grade B-: Age 23, Yankees first round pick in 2015 out of UCLA, came over in the Sonny Gray trade, missed entire 2017 season with Tommy John surgery; when healthy he can hit 99 while mixing in three strong secondary pitches and throwing strikes, but he’s been hampered with physical problems in pro ball; I love a healthy Kaprielian but we need to make sure he doesn’t turn into Kyle Zimmer and the grade reflects that uncertainty; monitor spring reports closely, if he’s healthy and maintains his stuff he’s at least a B+. ETA 2019.
12) Renato Nunez, 3B-OF, Grade B-/C+: Age 23, from Venezuela, hit .249/.319/.518 with 32 homers, 47 walks, 141 strikeouts in 473 at-bats in Triple-A, went 3-for-15 with a homer in the majors; the power is legitimate and he’s still young but stock has dropped due to contact concerns and defensive questions; he’s just barely adequate at third base, which won’t be enough to play there for Oakland, and marginal as a corner outfielder; I remain intrigued with his bat but I think he’s trade bait. ETA 2018.
13) Logan Shore, RHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 22, second round pick in 2016 from University of Florida; posted 4.09 ERA with 74/16 K/BB in 73 innings in High-A, 81 hits; missed a month with a lat strain; fastball around 90 and a bit higher can play up due to contrast with excellent change-up; slider needs more consistency as it varies between mediocre and plus, probably more of a number four starter than an ace unless his velocity picks up further, or unless the breaking ball becomes more consistent, which could happen. ETA 2019.
14) Nick Allen, SS, Grade C+/B-: Age 19, third round pick in 2017 from high school in California, hit .254/.322/.326 with 13 walks, 28 strikeouts, seven steals in 138 at-bats in rookie ball; draws praise for defensive ability, running speed, overall hustle and intensity; makes contact and packs some strength into a 5-9, 160 pound frame, but game power is questionable and we need to see how his bat will hold up at higher levels; grade may be a notch too low but I want to see him higher than rookie ball. ETA 2022.
15) Greg Deichmann, OF, Grade C+/B-: Age 22, second round pick in 2017 out of Louisiana State University, hit .274/.385/.530 with eight homers, 28 walks, 40 strikeouts in 164 at-bats in New York-Penn League; lefty hitter with 55 or 60 power; hit quite well in pro debut and will probably mash in full-season A-ball with Double-A being the first real test; some question about how batting average and OBP will hold up; right field defensive profile with decent arm but mediocre range. ETA late 2020.
16) Kevin Merrell, INF, Grade C+/B-: Age 22, compensation round pick in 2017 from University of South Florida; hit .320/.362/.424 with 10 steals, nine walks, 22 strikeouts in 125 at-bats in NY-P; 70-grade speed and he knows how to use it, should be significant stolen base threat at all levels; line drive hitter with doubles/triples power; arm strength is questioned at shortstop, could end up as speed-oriented super-utility guy in the long run. ETA 2020.
17) Will Toffey, 3B, Grade C+: Age 22, fourth round pick in 2017 from Vanderbilt, hit .263/.377/.349 with 38 walks, 45 strikeouts in 209 at-bats in NY-P; very polished, with excellent strike zone judgment in left-side bat; very solid glove at third base; main question is power development, should hit doubles but unclear how many homers will come at higher levels. ETA 2020.
18) Heath Fillmyer, RHP, Grade C+: Age 23, fifth round pick in 2014 out of Mercer; posted 3.49 ERA with 115/51 K/BB in 150 innings in Double-A 158 hits; workhorse type with 91-96 fastball, solid-average curveball and change-up, needs tighter command but it wouldn’t take much improvement for him to take a rapid step forward; watch for any improvement in K/BB ratio. ETA 2019.
19) Oscar Tovar, RHP, Grade C+: Age 19, signed out of Venezuela in 2014, posted 3.46 ERA with 45/26 K/BB in 65 innings in NY-P; mid-90s fastball with action low in strike zone; command needs more polish, as do his slider and change-up; rather raw and I’d like to see a higher K-rate but has one of the best arms in the system, could develop in any number of positive ways; ETA 2022.
20) Daulton Jefferies, RHP, Grade C+: Age 22, compensation round pick in 2016 from University of California, pitched seven innings in High-A then blew out elbow and had Tommy John surgery; when healthy, features 90-95 MPH fastball with a slider and change-up both flashing plus; obviously we need to see how he comes back from the surgery. ETA 2020.
OTHER GRADE C+: Nolan Blackwood, RHP; Skye Bolt, OF; B.J. Boyd, OF; Marcos Brito, INF; Alexander Campos, SS; Dakota Chalmers, RHP; Ramon Laureano, OF; Richie Martin, SS; Casey Meisner, RHP; Tyler Ramirez, OF; Jean Ruiz, RHP; Norge Ruiz, RHP; Santis Sanchez, C; Dalton Sawyer, LHP
OTHERS OF NOTE: Xavier Altamirano, RHP; Dairon Blanco, OF; Seth Brown, OF Wandisson Charles,RHP; Anthony Churlin, OF; Edwin Diaz, INF; Parker Dunshee, RHP Logan Farrar, OF; Ryan Gridley, INF; Brian Howard, RHP; Dustin Hurlbutt, RHP; Eric Marinez, INF; Wyatt Marks, RHP; Seth Martinez, RHP; Jack Meggs, OF; Abdiel Mendoza, RHP; Richard Jose Morban, RHP; James Naile, RHP; Sandber Pimentel, 1B; Miguel Romero, RHP; Logan Salow, LHP; Brett Siddall, OF; Skylar Szynski, RHP; Lou Trivino, RHP; Yerdel Vargas, SS; Eli White, INF; Mikey White, INF
Puk might actually rate ahead of Barreto; I’ll make the final decision on that when all of the teams are done and I work up the Top 200 list.
I will be around in the comments section to answer questions.