Month: February 2016

A’s Farm’s 2016 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 spring training camp in just a few weeks, it’s time to present A’s Farm’s 2016 Top 10 Prospect List.

It’s interesting to note that six players from last year’s list have made a return to this year’s list, including Franklin Barreto, who made his debut in the A’s system last season, along with returning prospects Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Renato Nunez, Chad Pinder and Dillon Overton.

New to this year’s list are starting pitcher Sean Manaea and catcher Jacob Nottingham, who were both acquired in deadline deals last summer, as well as last year’s top draft pick for the A’s, shortstop Richie Martin, and young shortstop Yairo Munoz.

Eight of this year’s top 10 are position players, while only two are pitchers – both of them left-handers. And half of this year’s top 10 could start the season at Triple-A Nashville, while another three to five players are likely to begin the year at Double-A Midland, with only one or two top prospects starting the year in A ball.

Most A’s prospect lists this year feature shortstop Franklin Barreto in the top spot, but we’ve opted to go with left-handed hurler Sean Manaea as the more mature, advanced and polished prospect who’s more likely to make a big impact at the major league level. So without any further ado, let’s take a look at A’s Farm’s 2016 Top 10 Prospect List

 

A’S FARM’S 2016 TOP 10 PROSPECT LIST

#1 – Sean Manaea (LHP)

#2 – Franklin Barreto (SS)

#3 – Matt Olson (OF-1B)

#4 – Matt Chapman (3B)

#5 – Renato Nunez (3B)

#6 – Chad Pinder (SS)

#7 – Dillon Overton (LHP)

#8 – Jacob Nottingham (C)

#9 – Yairo Munoz (SS)

#10 – Richie Martin (SS)

 

sm640455b#1 SEAN MANAEA

Left-Handed Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 24

Drafted 2013 – 1st Round

As a big lefty with big strikeout numbers who stands a chance of becoming the A’s #2 starter, behind staff ace Sonny Gray, at some point over the next year and a half, Manaea takes the top spot on our prospect list this year. Of course, how he fares while facing more experienced hitters at Triple-A Nashville next season will determine whether or not Manaea ends up finding himself on the fast track to Oakland. After coming over from Kansas City in the Ben Zobrist deal, the southpaw posted an impressive 1.90 ERA while striking out 10.8 per 9 innings in 7 starts for Double-A Midland, and he then went on to lead the Arizona Fall League in strikeouts by whiffing 33 in just 25 2/3 innings. Manaea works with a slider, a changeup and a fastball that occasionally touches 97 mph and can seem unhittable at times. Since being drafted in 2013, he’s missed some time due to both hip and abdomen injuries but, fortunately, he hasn’t experienced any arm issues thus far. As a 6’5” lefty who has the ability to put up gaudy strikeout numbers, the Indiana native has a lot of upside. And A’s general manager David Forst recently remarked that Manaea has “everything that you’re looking for out of a top-of-the-rotation guy.”

Likely To Start 2016 With: Nashville Sounds (AAA)

 

fb620439#2 FRANKLIN BARRETO

Right-Handed Hitting Shortstop

Age On Opening Day: 20

Undrafted – Signed as International Free Agent

Universally considered the best young hitting prospect in the A’s system, Barreto turned in an impressive .302/.333/.500 slash line as a 19-year-old at High-A Stockton last season after coming over from Toronto in the Josh Donaldson trade. The shortsop started off slow in April, batting just .171 with a .243 slugging percentage in the first month of the season. But he heated up as the season unfolded and, in July, he hit .375 with a slugging percentage of .700. Barreto obviously has the ability to swing the bat, but he also has some speed. And though he’s fairly small at just 5’9”, he has some pop as he showed by hitting 13 home runs last year despite sitting out six weeks with a wrist injury. The young Venezuelan can be a bit of a free-swinger though, and he drew just 15 walks against 67 strikeouts over 364 plate appearances last season. But the big question about Barreto surrounds his defense. While he has a strong arm, his play in the field can be erratic, and he chalked up a total of 34 errors in 86 games at shortstop last year. He spent some time in the outfield in the Venezuelan Winter League, and A’s general manager David Forst has indicated that he may end up dividing his time between shortstop and second base at Midland next season. But he also noted that Barreto is still quite young and that the team does believe he has the ability to stick at shortstop over the long run.

Likely To Start 2016 With: Midland RockHounds (AA)

 

mo621566#3 MATT OLSON

Left-Handed Hitting Outfielder/First Baseman

Age On Opening Day: 22

Drafted 2012 – 1st Round

Most A’s fans who follow the team’s farm system are pretty familiar with Matt Olson’s profile by now. The big, strong left-handed slugger is generally considered to be the team’s top young power-hitting prospect after notching 77 home runs over the last three seasons. While making his Double-A debut last year, his 17 home runs (at the power-crushing confines of Midland) were the fourth-most among A’s minor leaguers, while his 105 walks were the second-most, and his 139 strikeouts were the third-most. And 45% of Olson’s plate appearances resulted in either a home run, a walk or a strikeout last season. The 6’5” slugger has been solid defensively at first base, but he actually spent more time in right field during the second half last year, where he may not have a lot of range but where his strong arm serves him well. And the Georgia native is likely to see more time in the outfield at Triple-A Nashville next season. Olson’s combination of power and plate discipline will ultimately be his ticket to the show. But if he has the ability to play first base as well as the corner outfield positions, then that versatility should only accelerate his ascent to Oakland.

Likely To Start 2016 With: Nashville Sounds (AAA)

 

mc656305b#4 MATT CHAPMAN

Right-Handed Hitting Third Baseman

Age On Opening Day: 22

Drafted 2014 – 1st Round

2014’s #1 draft pick for the A’s missed the first month of the season due to a knee injury and the last month of the season due to a wrist injury, but that still didn’t stop him from leading the A’s minor league system in home runs with 23 in just 304 at-bats at High-A Stockton last year. Of course, the friendly confines of the California League helped make that possible, but it did prove that Chapman’s power potential, which the A’s front office has always believed in, could be real. Of course, that will be put to the test in the far less hospitable habitat of Midland next season. In the field, there’s no doubt that Chapman possesses a good glove and a great arm and is well-suited for the hot corner. He can be a bit too much of a free-swinger at times and he batted just .250 last year, but his walk rate was up over his inaugural campaign, boosting his on-base percentage to a respectable .341 for 2015. And with his solid defensive work in the field, if Chapman can just manage to get on base with enough frequency, he should hopefully have enough pop to make him a credible candidate to handle the corner in Oakland before long.

Likely To Start 2016 With: Midland RockHounds (AA)

 

rn600524#5 RENATO NUNEZ

Right-Handed Hitting Third Baseman

Age On Opening Day: 22

Undrafted – Signed as International Free Agent

Along with Olson, Nunez is one of the top two power-hitting prospects in the A’s system. The young Venezuelan hit 18 home runs in just 381 at-bats at Double-A Midland last season and has totaled 66 bombs over the last three years. His plate discipline could still use a little work, as he drew just 28 walks last season, but he did manage to lower his strikeout rate significantly in 2015. There’s no doubt that Nunez’s power potential is real, and it’s played at every level. The big question about Nunez has always concerned his defense. He’s primarily played third base throughout his minor league career, but he’s never really looked comfortable there. He appears slow in the field without a lot of range, and it’s hard to imagine seeing him handle the hot corner in the majors. Nunez got a handful of starts at first base last season and didn’t really look at home there either. But his bat may just be good enough to get him to the majors, perhaps sooner rather than later. And if the young slugger can live up to his potential at the plate, then the A’s will surely find a way to get his bat into the lineup one way or another.

Likely To Start 2016 With: Nashville Sounds (AAA)

 

cp640461#6 CHAD PINDER

Right-Handed Hitting Shortstop

Age On Opening Day: 24

Drafted 2013 – 2nd Round

Pinder moved up one notch on our list this year on the strength of his Texas League MVP season at Midland. He posted an impressive .317/.361/.486 slash line and showed plenty of pop, particularly for the pitcher-friendly Texas League, by putting up 32 doubles and 15 home runs in his Double-A debut. He could still stand to improve his plate discipline though, as he drew just 28 walks in 522 plate appearances this season. After primarily playing second base for Stockton in 2014, the Virginia native made a smooth transition back to shortstop in 2015. Though he doesn’t show great range, Pinder does have a strong arm that serves him well. Many feel that he’ll ultimately end up being a better fit at either second or third base, but he did show this season that he can do a credible job at shortstop. And being a versatile infielder with a decent bat may give Pinder as good a chance as anyone at getting a shot in Oakland sometime before the season’s through.

Likely To Start 2016 With: Nashville Sounds (AAA)

 

do592614b#7 DILLON OVERTON

Left-Handed Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 24

Drafted 2013 – 2nd Round

2013’s 2nd-round draft pick for the A’s underwent Tommy John surgery shortly after signing in the summer of 2013 and has been building himself back up ever since returning to action the following summer. The A’s have been handling the lanky lefty with great care, never letting him go more than 4 innings in an outing in 2014 and never letting him go more than 5 innings in an outing in 2015. Overton’s command has been sharp ever since his return from surgery, walking just 31 and striking out 159 in 163 innings over the past two seasons. But his velocity has yet to fully return, and his fastball has mostly been sitting in the high-80s. Overton does have an effective breaking ball and changeup though and, as mentioned, he commands his repertoire well. The Oklahoma native performed well at both High-A Stockton and Double-A Midland last year, putting up a combined 3.43 ERA on the season. A’s general manager David Forst recently said, “If we can get this guy to 91-92 [mph] again, he’s here in no time.” And if that does indeed happen, then Overton could have the potential to be a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter. But if his velocity doesn’t fully return, then he could still end up as a finesse lefty at the back end of the rotation or possibly an effective left-handed reliever coming out of the bullpen for the A’s.

Likely To Start 2016 With: Midland RockHounds (AA) / Nashville Sounds (AAA)

 

jn641924#8 JACOB NOTTINGHAM

Right-Handed Hitting Catcher

Age On Opening Day: 21

Drafted 2013 – 6th Round

Acquired from the Astros in the Scott Kazmir deal, Nottingham took over as the starting catcher at High-A Stockton last July and immediately became the top catching prospect in the A’s system. After not looking particularly impressive in his first two minor league seasons in 2013 and 2014, the 6’3” backstop had a breakthrough year with the bat in 2015, putting up a .316/.372/.505 slash line while playing with three different teams in A ball. The biggest boost came in his power numbers, as he collected 33 doubles and 17 home runs over 465 at-bats, though it may be a bit of a challenge for the young catcher to replicate those numbers in the pitcher-friendly Texas League next season. Nottingham walked just 33 times last year, so he could show a little more discipline, but his career minor league .284 batting average and .352 on-base percentage demonstrate his ability to be productive at the plate. Behind the plate, the big backstop has shown a strong arm, but his receiving skills could still use some work, as is evidenced by his 19 passed balls last season. He is still young though – he’ll be turning 21 just before opening day – so there is time for improvement. There’s a chance that Nottingham could end up being moved from behind the plate, and he did appear in 18 games at first base last season. But if he can stick at catcher, then his powerful bat could made him a potent backstop for the A’s in the not-too-distant future.

Likely To Start 2016 With: Midland RockHounds (AA)

 

ym622168b#9 YAIRO MUNOZ

Right-Handed Hitting Shortstop

Age On Opening Day: 21

Undrafted – Signed as International Free Agent

After spending the first few months of the season struggling to put up a .236/.278/.363 slash line with Class-A Beloit, Munoz seemed reborn after a promotion to the California League, where he posted a healthy .320/.372/.480 line over the last six weeks of the season while playing as a 20-year-old for High-A Stockton. Munoz possesses good speed and more pop than you’d expect out of a middle infielder, and he stole 11 bases while collecting 13 home runs and 26 doubles over the course of the season. The Dominican native also has a strong enough arm and enough range to be able to stick at shortstop, though he should easily be able to make the transition to second or third base if needed. Munoz just turned 21 and could start the season either as the primary shortstop at Stockton or splitting time at shortstop and second base with top prospect Franklin Barreto at Midland, which A’s general manager David Forst has mentioned as a distinct possibility. But either way, as a versatile young infielder with some speed and some pop, he’ll be given plenty of opportunites to prove himself, and he’ll get the chance to move up quickly if he does.

Likely To Start 2016 With: Midland RockHounds (AA) / Stockton Ports (A+)

 

rm621006#10 RICHIE MARTIN

Right-Handed Hitting Shortstop

Age On Opening Day: 21

Drafted 2015 – 1st Round

Last year’s top draft pick for the A’s, Martin came to the team from the University of Florida with a well-deserved reputation as a slick-fielding shortstop. A strong arm, good range and sharp instincts enable him to make lots of plays that few other shortstops his age can. So defense is definitely not a question with Martin. He possesses good speed as well, and he swiped a total of 45 bases over three college seasons. The question with Martin has always been about his bat. He put up a .284/.376/.376 slash line with 7 home runs during his collegiate career. The Florida native impressed in the Cape Cod League in 2014 by finishing second in batting with a .364 average. But his slash line in his first pro season at Vermont in 2015 was a rather uninspiring .237/.353/.342. Martin’s never shown much pop, but he has shown the ability to take a walk to get on base. And the hope is, with his solid defensive skills and his patience at the plate, that his bat will develop enough to make him a legitimate defense-first shortstop in the major leagues.

Likely To Start 2015 With: Beloit Snappers (A) / Stockton Ports (A+)

 

HONORABLE MENTION: CASEY MEISNER

Just barely missing out on our top 10 list this year was right-handed starting pitcher Casey Meisner, who was acquired from the Mets last summer in the Tyler Clippard trade. The 20-year-old was drafted out of high school by the Mets in the 3rd round in 2013, and the 6’7” hurler has put up a career 2.88 ERA while notching 208 strikeouts in 241 minor league innings since then. The tall Texan impressed in seven starts at Stockton last season and could start the year back at Stockton or at Double-A Midland if the A’s want to be aggressive with him. He’s still young, but he’s got a solid fastball that sits in the low-90s, a promising curveball, good command and plenty of potential.

 

Last Year’s Top 10 Prospect List

 

 

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