Month: February 2015

A’s Asst GM David Forst Gives the Lowdown on Team’s New Acquisitions & Top Minor League Prospects

David Forst

David Forst

In what’s become his annual winter interview with bloggers, A’s assistant general manager David Forst addressed a wide range of topics covering both the major league squad as well as the team’s minor league system at A’s FanFest on Sunday.

When asked which of the A’s offseason acquisitions he was personally most excited about, Forst hesitated to single out any one player, but he eventually got around to talking about infielder Marcus Semien, who was acquired from the White Sox in the Jeff Samardzija deal, saying, “Marcus was a guy we were really focused on…We really believe in his ability to play the middle of the infield. As much as anybody we’ve added this offseason, he’s as deserving of an opportunity to play every day in the big leagues, so I’m looking forward to seeing what he does.”

Despite critiques by some of Semien’s range at shortstop, Forst praised his strong arm and quick release and said, “We’ve seen enough of Marcus to believe he can handle the position.”

Asked to assess the prospects of some of the A’s newly-acquired young pitchers with the team this season, Forst started out by praising right-hander Chris Bassitt, who arrived with Semien from the Sox, saying, “Bassitt pitched really well against us in September last year. He’s shown what he can do in the big leagues.”

But of all the A’s new arms, the A’s assistant GM sounded most intrigued by righty Kendall Graveman, who came over from the Blue Jays in the deal that sent third baseman Josh Donaldson to Toronto: “Kendall is the guy who moved up as quickly as anybody in the game last season and dominated almost every level. So you sort of hope that the projection on him continues to go in that direction.”

Regarding talk of Bassitt or lefty Sean Nolin, who was acquired along with Graveman in the Donaldson deal, possibly being useful bullpen pieces, Forst said the team plans to keep them as starters since, “We’re not going to get through the season with five starters.”

Ike Davis

Ike Davis

When asked how newly-acquired first baseman Ike Davis fits into the picture, Forst said, “I think he has a chance to fit into the way we set the lineup…particularly against right-handed pitching. There have not been any inconsistencies in his performance against righties…There’s no reason he’s not in the lineup against right-handers all the time.”

Forst also said that Davis had mentioned he wants to get a shot at getting some playing time in the outfield to increase his opportunities to play. But later, when asked about his abilities in the outfield, Davis sounded a little less enthusiastic, saying “I’m not going to be amazing…I can catch the ball if I get to it, and I can throw it in pretty quickly, but I’m down to do anything.”

Addressing the subject of team chemistry on a roster full of new faces, Forst admitted, “I recognize that we’re bringing twenty-something new guys into a clubhouse, and frankly they’re all down there shaking hands right now and introducing themselves.” But he expressed plenty of confidence in manager Bob Melvin’s ability to make it all gel.

Forst was asked about the apparent lack of home run power in the team’s new lineup and admitted, “We’re not unaware of that concern. The home run totals look different certainly than they did a year ago. That said, Coco’s hit 20, Reddick’s hit 30, Ike has hit 30…I don’t think power is as big a concern for us as some people have made it out to be.”

He also noted that the team has other advantages: “I do think we’re going to have a lot of options in terms of matchups and platoons. When you look at [Josh] Phegley and Davis and [Mark] Canha – all are here because of their particular skill sets.”

Forst discussed some of the infield prospects that fans can look forward to seeing at the team’s new Triple-A affiliate in Nashville this season. He mentioned that he expects Rangel Ravelo, acquired from the White Sox, to play “a good amount of third base” in addition to first base, and noted that Max Muncy could also see some playing time at third in addition to first for Nashville. And Forst named newly-acquired second baseman Joe Wendle along with Andy Parrino and Tyler Ladendorf as the Triple-A team’s middle infield options.

Matt Olson

Matt Olson

Regarding the A’s top young hitting prospect, first baseman Matt Olson, Forst seemed happy to still have him around after having recently traded away some of the team’s other hitting prospects: “I think Matt Olson is as surpised as anyone that he’s still here. In fact, when I called him last week to officially tell him he was coming to big league camp, I had to promise I wouldn’t trade any more of his friends.”

He praised Olson’s power and approach, saying that he “fits the bill” as the prototypical type of A’s hitter, and has hopes that he’ll go to Double-A Midland and pick up where he left off last year at Stockton.

Forst claimed that Olson’s Stockton teammate, third baseman Renato Nunez – who’s also ticketed for Midland – took a big step forward this year, particularly when it comes to his ability to handle breaking pitches and said, “At that age, with what he’s done, you can put a really high ceiling on a guy like that.”

As far as the team’s top draft pick last year, third baseman Matt Chapman, Forst praised his brief time at Double-A Midland and in the instructional league, saying the team saw a guy with a lot of power and a chance to be a really good third baseman and claimed, “Other than [Eric] Chavez, we haven’t seen anyone come through the system with that kind of ability and that arm at third base.”

Forst expects Chapman to start the season at Stockton but said, “If he keeps the power and increases the contact rate, he has the chance to move quickly.”

Another top prospect who appears likely to end up at Stockton is young shortstop Franklin Barreto, who came over from the Jays in the Donaldson deal. There have been some questions about Barreto’s ability to stick at short. But while admitting that he has some work to do on his throwing, Forst clearly stated, “We see Franklin at shortstop.” He also had praise for another one of the organization’s young shortstops, Yairo Munoz, whom he said was a popular target in offseason trade talks and who seems likely to end up at Beloit this season.

Speaking of Stockton though, with the team’s Triple-A affiliate moving from Sacramento to Nashville, Forst admitted that fans in Stockton might be getting a lot more chances to see some of the team’s rehabbing major leaguers this season, and mentioned pitchers A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker, both of whom will be returning from Tommy John surgery, as distinct possibilities to be seeing time in Stockton this season.

Forst said that he doesn’t expect the team to make any other significant additions before spring training and said that the front office was “not spending a lot of time” on highly-touted Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada. But he did mention that newly-hired assistant general manager Dan Kantrovitz and director of pro scouting Dan Feinstein were leaving that day to attend a two-day prospect showcase in the Dominican.

On the subject of Kantrovitz, who replaced former assistant general manager Farhan Zaidi who was hired as the Dodgers’ new general manager this offseason, Forst said the fact that he had a clear skill set in quantitative analysis made him a particularly attractive candidate for the job and that he’s now running the A’s analytics department and “was integral, as soon as he got here, in helping with the decisions we made on player personnel.”

Forst also praised the A’s new hitting coach, Darren Bush, whom he claimed Bob Melvin has leaned on heavily since he joined the coaching staff prior to the 2013 season and said that “moving him into the hitting coach position was a logical next step.”

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A’s Farm’s 2015 Top 10 Prospect List

Former top prospect Sonny Gray - who will be the next A's prospect to make it big?

Former top prospect Sonny Gray – who will be the next A’s prospect to make it big?

With the first A’s players set to start turning up at the team’s new spring training camp in just a couple of weeks, it’s time to present A’s Farm’s 2015 Top 10 Prospect List.

It’s interesting to note that half the players from last year’s top 10 list are no longer with the organization. #1 Addison Russell and #2 Billy McKinney were both dealt to the Cubs in the Jeff Samardzija deal, and #6 Daniel Robertson went to Tampa Bay in the Ben Zobrist trade, while #4 Michael Ynoa and #9 Nolan Sanburn were both shipped off to the White Sox, Ynoa along with Jeff Samardzija and Sanburn in the Adam Dunn deal.

Those returning from last year’s list include third baseman Renato Nunez, first baseman Matt Olson, who’s shot to the top of the list on the strength of a solid 2014 season at Stockton, and RHP Raul Alcantara, who’s dropped a few spots thanks to Tommy John surgery. But that still leaves room for seven new entries making their first appearances on the list this year, four of them freshly arrived in this offseason’s flurry of trades – pitchers Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin along with infielders Franklin Barreto and Joe Wendle.

Six of this year’s top 10 are position players, while only four are pitchers. Most A’s prospect lists this year feature either first baseman Matt Olson or shortstop Franklin Barreto in the top spot, but we’ve opted to go with Olson as the more mature, advanced and polished prospect. So without any further ado, let’s take a look at A’s Farm’s 2015 Top 10 Prospect List

 

A’S FARM’S 2015 TOP 10 PROSPECT LIST

#1 – Matt Olson (1B)

#2 – Franklin Barreto (SS)

#3 – Matt Chapman (3B)

#4 – Renato Nunez (3B)

#5 – Kendall Graveman (RHP)

#6 – Sean Nolin (LHP)

#7 – Chad Pinder (2B)

#8 – Dillon Overton (LHP)

#9 – Raul Alcantara (RHP)

#10 – Joe Wendle (2B)

 

moMatt+Olson+2014+Arizona+Fall+League+O_O__VUX80Kl2#1 MATT OLSON

Left-Handed Hitting First Baseman

Age On Opening Day: 21

Drafted 2012 – 1st Round

The two most important things to know about Olson are that he led all A’s minor leaguers in home runs (37) and also in walks (117) in 2014. And combining that kind of power and discipline as a 20-year-old is certainly a good way to endear yourself to an organization like the A’s. The 6’4” first baseman also led A’s minor leaguers in total bases and slugging percentage and tallied 31 doubles while cutting down his strikeout rate and raising his batting average from the previous season. Olson has a sweet swing, turns in solid defense at first base and got into a handful of games in the outfield at Stockton in 2014. After leading the hitter-friendly California League in homers last season, the much less friendly confines of Midland – where those west Texas winds have wreaked havoc with past prospects like Michael Choice and Grant Green – will pose a much bigger challenge for Olson’s big bat this year. But if he can keep the strikeouts at a manageable level, his raw power, willingness to take a walk and competence in the field should put him in a good position to make his way to the majors in the next couple of years.

Likely To Start 2015 With: Midland RockHounds (AA)

 

fbBaretto_and_Davis_i1c6k3mz_vqb1gd05b#2 FRANKLIN BARRETO

Right-Handed Hitting Shortstop

Age On Opening Day: 19

Undrafted – Signed as International Free Agent

A highly-touted young prospect out of Venezuela, Barreto found his way to the A’s in the Josh Donaldson trade this winter. While playing in the Class-A Northwest League as an 18-year-old last year, Barreto slugged 23 doubles while swiping 29 bases in just 73 games. Though fairly small at 5’9”, he swings the bat well and seems to have some pop, especially for a middle infielder, to go along with his speed. There’s a question as to whether or not he can stick at shortstop but, at his age, there’s still time to see just how much his skills can develop in the field. The A’s are looking to have him pull an Addison Russell and start the season as a 19-year-old at Stockton in the High-A California League. And after dealing Russell to the Cubs last season and Daniel Robertson to Tampa Bay in the offseason, the organization is also looking for Barreto to take over as the A’s latest shortstop of the future.

Likely To Start 2015 With: Stockton Ports (A)

 

mcMB13476f#3 MATT CHAPMAN

Right-Handed Hitting Third Baseman

Age On Opening Day: 21

Drafted 2014 – 1st Round

The A’s top pick in last year’s amateur draft, Chapman quickly found his way to the full-season Beloit Snappers last year. Chapman’s pedigree as an experienced college player at a top program (Cal State Fullerton) and his reputation as perhaps the best defensive college third baseman on the landscape helped give the A’s confidence in his ability to handle the challenge. While showing great plate discipline in the college game, the southern California native was a little too free-swinging during his time in the Midwest League – striking out 46 times while drawing just 7 walks. But Chapman performed well when he got a chance with Double-A Midland during the Texas League postseason after some late-season injuries created an opening for the slick-fielding third baseman with the RockHounds. The 21-year-old is likely to start the season with High-A Stockton in the hitter-friendly California League, where he should have the opportunity to unleash his power potential. And if Chapman can combine some genuine pop with his elite defense at third, then he could find himself on the fast track to the majors.

Likely To Start 2015 With: Stockton Ports (A)

 

rnRenato Nunez 8x10b#4 RENATO NUNEZ

Right-Handed Hitting Third Baseman

Age On Opening Day: 21

Undrafted – Signed as International Free Agent

Nunez moved up one notch on our list this year on the strength of a strong season at Stockton. The young slugger was second only to Olson in home runs and total bases among A’s minor leaguers last year. He also turned in a healthy .517 slugging percentage while hitting 28 doubles and 29 homers for Stockton. Nunez reduced his strikeout rate as well as his error total – from 39 down to 15 – between 2013 and 2014, but he still has plenty of work to do on both his defense and his plate discipline. Nunez struck out 113 times while drawing just 34 walks last year and it’s still a question whether or not he’ll be able to stick at third base, but he showed that his power potential is real. Like Olson, Nunez will face a bigger challenge having to hit at Midland this year, but if he can just learn to be a little more disciplined at the plate, his power could take him a long way.

Likely To Start 2015 With: Midland RockHounds (AA)

 

kg37-kendall-graveman2#5 KENDALL GRAVEMAN

Right-Handed Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 24

Drafted 2013 – 8th Round

After being drafted in 2013 out of Mississippi State, Graveman rocketed through the Blue Jays’ system and made it all the way to the majors for a brief spell last year. The Alabama native, who came to the A’s in the Josh Donaldson deal, has four pitches – highlighted by a solid fastball and an effective cutter – shows good command and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. Over four minor league levels last season, Graveman walked 31 while surrendering just 2 home runs over 167 1/3 innings. He definitely profiles as the kind of pitcher the A’s like, and A’s general manager Billy Beane has even said that Graveman might have an inside track on claiming one of the open spots in the A’s starting rotation this year. And with a strong spring, the odds are good that A’s fans could end up seeing Graveman on the mound every fifth day this year.

Likely To Start 2015 With: Oakland A’s (MLB)

 

sn20140225_mse_sv7_1687.0b#6 SEAN NOLIN

Left-Handed Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 25

Drafted 2010 – 6th Round

Like Graveman, Nolin came to the A’s in the Josh Donaldson deal, and the A’s apparently have had their eye on the lefty for quite a while. Also like Graveman, Nolin doesn’t walk many and doesn’t give up a lot of longballs. He’s also managed to strike out more than one batter per inning over his minor league career. The 6’4” lefty was sidelined for a while with a groin injury last year and was only able to throw 96 2/3 innings, but he struck out 24 in 22 1/3 innings during a strong Arizona Fall League campaign. Nolin will surely be in the competition for a spot in the A’s rotation this spring, along with Graveman, Drew Pomeranz, Chris Bassitt and others, but if he doesn’t make it, he’ll be waiting in the wings at Nashville.

Likely To Start 2015 With: Nashville Sounds (AAA)

 

cpDSC03243d#7 CHAD PINDER

Right-Handed Hitting Second Baseman

Age On Opening Day: 23

Drafted 2013 – 2nd Round

After a rough start in 2013, primarily due to injury, Pinder got off to a great start in 2014 and was perhaps the A’s best all-around minor league hitter early in the season. Some lingering injuries slowed him down a bit later in the season, but Pinder still performed well while making the move from shortstop to second base at Stockton. Pinder showed some power, putting up 15 homers and 32 doubles in just 94 games while posting a .489 slugging percentage for the Ports. His plate discipline could still use a bit of work as he drew just 22 walks while whiffing 99 times. His ability to show a little pop from the middle infield should serve him well though. But like Olson and Nunez, he’ll find himself facing a much more challenging hitting environment in Midland this year.

Likely To Start 2015 With: Midland RockHounds (AA)

 

dodillon_overton_yol4qgc8_l2u3nnii2#8 DILLON OVERTON

Left-Handed Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 23

Drafted 2013 – 2nd Round

The A’s 2nd-round pick in 2013, it was discovered shortly after the draft that Overton was going to need Tommy John surgery. Overton returned during the latter half of last season and looked impressive. The former University of Oklahoma ace struck out 53 while walking just 4 and allowing no home runs over 37 innings in the low minors last season. With a strong college pedigree and an effective fastball, slider and changeup, now that he appears to be healthy, the lanky lefty should start out the year with Beloit but could move up the ladder quickly if he can continue to confound minor league batters.

Likely To Start 2015 With: Beloit Snappers (A)

 

ra534361b3098d7.image4#9 RAUL ALCANTARA

Right-Handed Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 22

Undrafted – Signed as International Free Agent

Last year at this time, Alcantara was looking like the A’s top pitching prospect but, like Overton, Alcantara ended up in need of Tommy John surgery. Alcantara went under the knife last spring and hopefully, if all goes well, he’ll be able to make a return to the mound sometime later this season. But before the injury, Alcantara showed what he was capable of in 2013, walking just 24 and striking out 124 while posting a 3.11 ERA in 156 1/3 innings for Class-A Beloit and Stockton. His strong fastball and changeup combined with an aggressive approach on the mound could push Alcantara back to the front of the pitching pack if he can make a return to good health this season.

Likely To Start 2015 With: Arizona League A’s (Rk)

 

jw11275-JoeyWendle-400x300b#10 JOE WENDLE

Left-Handed Hitting Second Baseman

Age On Opening Day: 24

Drafted 2012 – 6th Round

The most important thing to know about Wendle is that the A’s traded slugger Brandon Moss to Cleveland for him straight up. And given the overall track record of the A’s front office, you’ve got to assume they must know something. Wendle was a solid college player and earned Cleveland’s minor league player of the year honors after putting up a .295/.372/.513 slash line in 2013, but he missed some time in 2014 with a broken hamate bone and saw his line dip to .253/.311/.414 over 87 games at Double-A. Wendle does appear to have a little pop in his bat, and it seems like middle infielders with some pop are an asset that the A’s have been zeroing in on of late. Wendle is slated to start the season at Nashville and, if all goes well, he could be in a position to take over for free-agent-to-be Ben Zobrist in 2016.

Likely To Start 2015 With: Nashville Sounds (AAA)

 

Honorable Mentions: Rangel Ravelo (1B), Max Muncy (1B), Yairo Munoz (SS), Chris Bassitt (RHP), Bobby Wahl (RHP), Daniel Gossett (RHP)

 

Last Year’s Top 10 Prospect List

 

 

Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm. You can also get our exclusive A’s minor league newsletter e-mailed to you free by signing up here.

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