So today I thought it'd be fun to venture out of my comfort zone a little and do a little rundown of the Oakland Athletics farm system. Why the A's? Because Fuji has asked me to do a post for him a few times before.
Keep in mind that I crafted this post after a crash course in A's prospecting. If my Yankees prospecting is the equivalent of getting a master's degree in grad school (which it totally ISN'T for the record), consider this the equivalent of earning a few college credits in high school but ultimately losing them by failing the AP test.
Also keep in mind that there are better sources for everything A's and MiLB A's related on the web. Run by people who actually know what they're talking about. Go read and refer to them instead. Some of them get paid to focus on this stuff!
One more thing. Please note that the following "list" is not really in any particular order. Some of the prospects are ordered (primarily because it's hard to not mention if someone's in the top 3) but for the most part the order doesn't really count.
Alright no more stalling, let's get to it.
The Top Prospect/Top Hitting Prospect
Let's start from the top. As in, who is the top prospect in the Oakland A's farm system as of early 2016?
The general consensus will tell you that Franklin Barreto is currently the A's number one prospect. Barreto hails from Venezuela and was one of the best international free agent prospects (in the same international class as Luis Torrens I might add) and signed for a $1.45 million bonus with the Blue Jays. Barreto was later traded to the A's in the Josh Donaldson trade and in retrospect it's not too farfetched to say that Barreto was a key piece in the Donaldson trade. Barreto effectively has filled the void left after the A's traded Addison Russell to the Cubs in another trade. As in, he's the top 100 (in general) prospect who also played SS.
Barreto gets high praise for his offensive upside. Experts note that he has a great swing, uses the entire field, has a fair bit of power and is fast. Barreto projects to hit consistently and his speed should help him be a menace on the base paths.
Defensively he's a pretty capable shortstop but the A's love their versatile players (and also have a logjam of SSs) so it's pretty much a given that Barreto will be tried out at second base and centerfield in the very near future.
Barreto is still pretty young too, he just turned 20 years old last month and he's likely to start 2016 in either high-A or double-A. More likely high-A since his 2015 season ended prematurely due to injuries. Either way the fact that he was a NRI to 2016 Spring Training indicates even more that the Oakland A's have high hopes for him.
The 2nd Best Prospect/Top Pitching Prospect
One thing you can say in general about the A's is how the A's farm system is kind of hitter heavy. Most of the top prospect rankings across various baseball publications have the A's top 10 consists primarily of hitters. Which is why the pitchers they do have are all the more important.
Enter Sean Manaea who many have pegged as the second best prospect in the A's farm system. The lefty came to the Athletics from the Royals in the Ben Zobrist trade and some talent evaluators suggest that he could be in the big leagues as early as late-2016. Manaea is armed with a fastball that sits in the mid-90's as well as a slider and a change up. Using a combination of all three Manaea has been very good at getting opposing hitters to swing and miss as he has had a double digit K/9 rate since year one.
One thing that really strikes me about Manaea is how MLB.com's writeup wrote that he "does an excellent job keeping the ball in the park." I'm not exactly the most knowledgeable person about Beaneball's tactics but last I checked the A's are really into pitchers who can keep balls inside the stadium. Even though the A's really don't like their current stadium, the fact remains that their pitching staff is made of pitchers who, on paper, stand to benefit from O.co's confines (I know, bold strategy right?). Anyway Manaea projects to be anything between someone almost as good as Sonny Gray to just a really useful starter. If it all goes well he could be a top of the rotation starter who strikes out a fair number of hitters. And his presence will ease the A's fandom after the team inevitably trades away Gray.
The Heavy Hitters
So I mentioned before that the A's farm system has more top position prospects near the top of most rankings. Well lets look at them shall we?
Matt Olson is in the top 3 in pretty much every major baseball publication you can find. Olson's main attribute is power. He's got so much power that he only trailed Kris Bryant and Joey Gallo in HRs (in the minors) in 2014, that's how much power he has. A lot of scouts and talent evaluators tend to compare him to Adam Dunn as Olson's career thus far has been that of the three true outcome player. All HRs, BB's and K's. Olson is primarily a first baseman but the A's have tried him out as a corner outfielder a few times and will probably continue to see how he fares at a position other than first in the future.
Renato Nunez has somehow managed to survive several farm system purges these past few years. The 2010 international signee is said to have an approach where he uses the whole field and utilizes his bat speed. He can and has hit for power and while his overall hitting abilities are pretty solid, he is still learning how to make better use of his power while still maintaining his consistent approach. Defensively there are some question marks about whether he can be a third baseman long term, but there is still a possibility for him to be a very serviceable and capable third baseman in the big leagues.
Matt Chapman's development was slowed by injuries in 2015 but he still put up a pretty good season regardless. Chapman has a lot of power and his approach appears to be to use the whole field and spray line drives everywhere as opposed to just trying to launch every pitch into orbit. Chapman's ability to hit consistently appears to be a work in progress but he could be an impressive hitter if he could hit for a high average and tap into his power.
Defensively Chapman is said to be above average. As in if his bat doesn't really pan out he could very well be a backup 3B/infielder whose steady glove work and strong arm will work well at third. Obviously one big mission for Chapman is to make up for lost time in 2016 and to see if he can contribute to the big league club in 2017.
Richie Martin is a shortstop who the Oakland A's took with their first round pick in 2015. Martin has quite the glove and many scouts and talent evaluators will agree that he can stick at shortstop long term. As a hitter Martin is still a work in progress as he does have power but doesn't really show a lot of it. That said he has shown flashes of potential as a line driver hitter who can drive the ball to all parts of the field and use his above average speed to great effect. At the very least Martin has a very high floor that makes him a safe bet to contribute at the big league level in some capacity, whether it's as an everyday shortstop or as a backup.
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Yairo Munoz is a shortstop who is a work in progress but his ceiling is sky high and if everything clicks he could be something truly great.
Munoz has a fair bit of power and an approach that allows him to use that power to spray line drives everywhere. However, hitting for contact is still something he is working on, as well as being a defender at shortstop. Despite how he's practically working on everything, he's got enough power and enough natural athletic abilities that scouts will say very nice things about his potential as a really really good everyday shortstop who hits a lot.
Chad Pinder is, surprise surprise, another infield prospect. Pinder has been used at second base early in his pro career but the A's have a plan for him as a shortstop long term (the A's want all the shortstops!). Pinder projects to be a pretty solid SS who hits fairly well and provides some power and is a very capable defender at SS. I know that's generic as heck but a lot of what I would say about Pinder is what I've basically said about a lot of the other prospects so far.
If nothing else Pinder has yet to really disappoint the A's. How he fits into the logjam of shortstops is beyond me but it wouldn't surprise me if he reaches the big leagues the quickest out of all of the shortstop prospects the A's have.
The Other Arms
So by now you all can probably see why the A's farm system is considered to be lean more towards hitters than pitchers. Still, Sean Manaea isn't the only pitching prospect in the A's org, lets look at two other notable pitchers who found themselves on a lot of top 10 A's prospect lists.
Casey Meisner was originally a Mets farmhand but was traded to Oakland in the Tyler Clippard trade. Meisner has been more about potential than what he is at the moment thus far into his career but he's started to show some of the potential teams saw in him. The velocity on his fastball has risen to the low-90's and has made great strides with his curveball. His change up is still a work in progress but there is potential for it to be a useful pitch for the righty as well.
Meisner's ceiling is that of a middle of the rotation starter (number 3 type) and his floor is that of a big league reliever.
Dillon Overton is pretty much the second best lefty prospect in the A's org, behind Manaea. Overton was drafted by the A's in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft but underwent Tommy John surgery before starting his career. Armed with a fastball, curveball and change up, the lefty has already made it to double-A and has the ceiling of a fourth starter in the big leagues.
I guess the previous 10 guys are pretty much my unofficial top 10 A's? After this point you start to see different people pick different guys to round out the rest of the top 20/30/40/however long the list is. For the most part people pick the same names and I figure I'd do a few more noteworthy A's prospects worth keeping an eye on.
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Dakota Chalmers is basically the unofficial 11th best A's prospect on a lot of rankings. The A's third round draft pick in 2015, Chalmers had potential to be drafted in the first round but his stocked dropped after scouts and talent evaluators deemed him to be "inconsistent."
Mikey White is also an infielder. White doesn't quite have the same ceiling as Barreto or Munoz, nor does he have the slick glove work at SS like Martin, but he is a pretty good prospect in his own right. He hits really well for a IF and it'll be interesting to see how he plays into the logjam of middle infielders on their way up.
Sky Bolt is really important because he's basically the best out of all the full time outfielder prospects the A's have. Bolt projects to be anything from an everyday outfielder to a fourth outfielder. The switch hitter's offense is a bit of a work in progress but he does have a fair bit of power and he could be benefit from using the entire field. With a last name like Bolt you'd imagine that he'd have a fair bit of speed, and you'd be right. He's not Usain Bolt levels of fast but he has just enough speed to probably steal a dozen or so bases in the big leagues and also cover a lot of ground in centerfield.
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Joe Wendle came to the A's in the Brandon Moss trade.
Wendle is more of an offense first, defense second type of infielder. He can straight up hit and while he's not a power hitter he is a capable though-the-gap hitter who can use the whole field. Defensively he is not terrible but reports are kind of mixed. Some say he's solid at second base, others say he needs work at second base. Wendle is likely to start 2016 in triple-A and he could be in the big leagues sooner rather than later.
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Rangel Ravelo came to the A's in the Jeff Samardzija trade (the one where the A's traded the Shark to the White Sox).
Ever since he was drafted by the White Sox Ravelo has done nothing but hit. Ravelo has pretty good contact skills and also has a lot of power. Defensively, Ravelo is a first baseman who can't really play anywhere else but a few stints at third base have happened. In any case he does seem to have the hitting prowess and the raw power to justify being a first baseman, the question will be whether he can show it in 2016 now that he's recovered from a wrist injury that kept him out of action for most of 2015.
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Daniel Mengden came to the A's in the Scott Kazmir trade.
Mengden is armed with a fastball, slider, curveball and change up. He has pretty good control and his ceiling is that of a very useful middle of the rotation starter. However scouts and talent evaluators also feel that he has the floor of a middle reliever. He could probably end up somewhere in between as a really solid end of the rotation starter.
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Ryon Healy is a corner infielder (3B & 1B).
Healy is more of a line drive hitter who can make solid contact. He's left some pretty good results thus far into his career and if he can stay at third base he could be on his way up the ladder to O.co relatively soon. He'll probably start 2016 in triple-A.
Raul Alcantara came to the A's in the Andrew Bailey trade all the way back in 2011.
Alcantara is armed with a low-to-mid 90's fastball, curveball, slider and change up. His change up is said to be his second best pitch but his curveball and slider are work in progress pitches. He's seen limited action these past few years due to injuries but what he projects to be going forward ranged from a middle of the rotation starter to a hard throwing reliever.
Jaycob Brugman is the second best OF prospect behind Skye Bolt.
Brugman is the kind of prospect who does everything well, but doesn't have one particular attribute he really excels at. And no that is not a bad thing (exactly). It's just that he's more of an all-around player. He can hit, he has some power, he has some speed, he's good defensively in all three outfield spots. He's pretty likely to start 2016 in triple-A and he could also be in O.co relatively soon.
Bobby Wahl is a pretty interesting reliever to keep an eye on. Oakland drafted him in the fifth round of the 2013 and originally tried him out as a starter but eventually they found that Wahl is indeed better suited in the bullpen long term. Armed with a mid-to-high 90's fastball, a slider and a change up, the he projects to be a useful middle reliever.
So after a speed course in all things A's prospects related, I came away with three general observations. One is that they have a lot of infield prospects. The second is that I'm rather surprised that a lot of the players have cards already. And the last is that a few of these prospects are from other teams. The last one makes sense since if you look at the Oakland A's roster, most of it consists of players developed by other teams. A quick glance at the 25 man roster reveals that the only players to be drafted by the A's that are still on the team are Sonny Gray and Sean Doolittle, that's insane in my book.
Whether or not the prospects I dedicated a certain amount of time (that I'll never get back) to stay with the A's or more importantly fulfill their potential as players remains to be seen. With Billy Beane these could be valuable pieces of the future one minute and valuable pieces of another team's future the next.
Still, if you're a guy like Fuji and the last narrative you've heard was that the A's gutted their farm system, rest assured that the A's farm system has recovered since then. Not to the point where these guys are all in triple-A and will contribute right away, but in the sense that the A's have built themselves a nice surplus of promising infielders. Barring any drastic changes it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to see the A's focus on pitching in the 2016 draft, but then again I recall the same being said about the A's and the 2015 draft and the A's went in a different direction then so who really knows?
I hope you all enjoyed me clumsily fumbling about with another team's prospects.
As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).