by Joseph Hartsock / A’s Farm Arizona Correspondent
The great thing about the Arizona League is that it allows us to look at the future, perhaps the distant future, and dream about the possibilities.
The Arizona League A’s have put up a 12-15 record so far this season. But the AZL isn’t as concerned with win-at-all-costs competition as much as it’s focused on developing young prospects and offering an introduction to professional baseball for many players. A number of the players here just left high school a couple of months ago and others just recently left the A’s Dominican facilities and are now being introduced to life in the U.S. for the first time.
I’ve had the chance to catch a few AZL A’s games this season, and there are definitely some intriguing prospects on the squad who make one hopeful for the future. So, let’s take a look at a few of the AZL A’s players who come with some high expectations: Lazaro Armeteros, Austin Beck, Nick Allen and Yerdel Vargas.
Lazaro Armenteros is the A’s $3 million bonus baby out of Cuba. The team signed him in the summer of 2016 as a 17-year-old. The young outfielder has put up a decent slash line of .264/.333/.425 in 23 Arizona League games so far this year. Lazarito has a real presence on the field. He doesn’t look like he just turned 18 two months ago. His physique looks more like that of a 21-year-old, with powerful legs and arms. At the plate, you can more easily see his lack of maturity. The teenage slugger occasionally lunges for balls outside of the zone and can be fooled by breaking balls. But when he does connect, even his outs are loud. It’s hard not to like what you see. And as Armenteros develops, he should still add more muscle and power to what’s already there. Lazarito clearly possesses superstar potential, but only time will tell how his development will play out.
Austin Beck was the A’s 2017 1st-round draft pick (the 6th pick overall) out of North Carolina. The 18-year-old outfielder is a potential five-tool player who’s getting his first look at professional ball after graduating from high school just a couple of months ago. His early experience in the Arizona League has been a little rough, and he’s currently slashing just .145/.203/.203. His bat speed, base speed, arm and defense are all there. He just needs to be able to reach base consistently. His pitch recognition needs to be refined, and his load has extra bat movement, making it difficult to get to the pitch. When Beck does connect, his quick bat speed provides him with a lot of pop, and you can see the reason he was picked early in the first round of the draft. His fielding looks good, and his arm is above average, so I would imagine he’ll stay in center, though he could possibly end up moving to a corner outfield position as he develops.
Nick Allen was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2017 draft, but his reported $2 million signing bonus shows that he was regarded as more of a top-tier talent, and other teams must have passed on him due to their inability to sign him. Like Beck, Allen just graduated from high school a couple of months ago and is now getting his first look at professional baseball. The young shortstop has been faring a bit better at the plate in the early going though, with a .258/.292/.339 slash line. Allen is undersized at a listed 5-foot-9 and 155lbs. He has been the smallest player on the field almost every night I’ve seen him, but he’s shown some great skill in the field and good speed on the bases. The 18-year-old has a compact swing that encourages contact, and he has used his speed to help him get on base. Allen has batted leadoff every night I’ve seen him, and with his speed, I could see him sticking there. Of course, he could always end up moving down towards the bottom of the lineup if his bat doesn’t develop as hoped. But with his solid glove, I don’t see him profiling anywhere other than the middle infield.
Yerdel Vargas is another A’s prospect in the AZL who stood out to me. Vargas was a 2016 international free agent out of the Dominican Republic whom the A’s signed for a reported $1.5 million. Vargas is only 17, so if he was a U.S.-born player, he would be busy preparing for his senior year in high school right now. He’s listed as a shortstop, but I’ve only seen him play second base, where his arm may profile a bit better. He looked very natural with great instincts in the field. Vargas’s bat is very quick to the plate. He has a compact swing with a contact approach at the plate, but he’s shown some surprising pop at times. So far this season, he’s put up a .239/.271/.328 slash line. I’ll admit that Vargas wasn’t high on my radar to start with, but seeing his instincts in the field, his speed on the bases and in the field, and his approach at the plate, I’m excited about his future.
The Arizona League is nothing but dreams, full of prospects in their teens, with the big leagues a number of years away for most of the players here. Young players often possess many of the raw tools, which will need to be refined, and we can only imagine the possibilities. But some of the A’s top prospects in the Arizona League definitely represent some intriguing possibilities, and it should be really interesting to watch them develop the rest of this year and beyond.
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With the California League and the Midwest League All-Star breaks taking place this week and all the minor league affiliates right around the halfway points of their seasons, it’s the perfect time to take a step back and determine who the true standouts on the field have been in the A’s system in the first half of 2017. And with that in mind, it’s time to name A’s Farm’s 2017 Mid-Season Organizational All-Star Team!
Below you’ll find the primary starting players at each position for Triple-A Nashville, Double-A Midland, High-A Stockton and Class-A Beloit. Offensive players were selected from the primary starters at each position for each team, with notable players not leading in games played at a particular position listed in the designated hitter category. Starting pitchers for each club were selected from among the top starters for each team, while closers were selected from each team’s saves leader. Statistics listed are through games of Wednesday, June 21. And asterisks denote players with combined statistics from multiple minor league teams within the A’s system, but players’ major league statistics have not been included.
Outfielder Ryan LaMarre, who was recently released from the Nashville roster after being designated for assignment, is not included here since he is no longer in the A’s system. But Matt Chapman and Jaycob Brugman, who were recently promoted to the big leagues, are included since they were primary starters for Nashville and are still in the organization. Bruce Maxwell doesn’t appear here since, due to stints on the disabled list and with the A’s this season, he’s only started 19 games at catcher for Nashville this year. LHP A.J. Puk was recently promoted to Midland but spent most of his season with Stockton, while LHP Dalton Sawyer was recently promoted to Stockton but spent most of his season with Beloit, and RHP Corey Walter is currently with Nashville but made most of his starts with Midland and, consequently, all three pitchers are listed with the teams that they’ve made most of their appearances with this year.
Check out our list of All-Star candidates at each position. Then click on the link just below the list of contenders to find A’s Farm’s winning Organizational All-Stars at each position. The winners were determined based purely on performance, not potential. Remember, we’re not selecting the top prospects here, we’re choosing the top performers on the field so far this season. So take a good look at the candidates for yourself and then cast your vote in our poll for the top A’s Organizational All-Star!
With the first two months of the minor league season almost in the books, it seems like a good time to take a look at the A’s minor league team leaders in a few key hitting and pitching categories. And it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to see the names of top prospects like Franklin Barreto, Matt Chapman and A.J. Puk high atop our list of A’s minor league team leaders.
Leaders are included for all four of the A’s full-season affiliates – Nashville, Midland, Stockton and Beloit. A minimum of 100 at-bats is required for the hitting categories and a minimum of 40 innings is required for the ERA and WHIP categories for pitchers. An asterisk indicates not just a team leader but also an organizational leader in a particular category, and the stats are complete through games of Sunday, May 28. Some of these names you may expect to see atop the lists, while others might come as a bit of a surprise!
You can always stay up to date on the A’s top prospects and all the daily action in the A’s minor league system right here on Athletics Farm. A version of this report originally appeared on Athletics Nation…
With the first month of the minor league season now complete, it’s a good time to take a look at the A’s minor league leaders in a few key hitting and pitching categories. And it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to see the names of top prospects like Franklin Barreto, A.J. Puk and Logan Shore high atop our lists of A’s minor league leaders.
A minimum of 60 at-bats is required for the hitting categories and a minimum of 20 innings is required for the ERA and WHIP categories for pitchers. Players from all four of the A’s full-season affiliates – Nashville, Midland, Stockton and Beloit – are included, and the stats are complete through games of Sunday, April 30. Some of these names you may expect to see atop the lists, while others might come as a bit of a surprise!
You can always stay up to date on the A’s top prospects and all the daily action in the A’s minor league system right here on Athletics Farm. A version of this report originally appeared on Athletics Nation…
Former top prospect Sean Manaea – who will be the next A’s prospect to make it big?
Now that spring training is officially underway, it’s time to present A’s Farm’s 2017 Top 10 Prospects List.
It’s interesting to note that only four players from last year’s list have made a return to this year’s list, including familiar names like Franklin Barreto, Matt Chapman, Matt Olson and Chad Pinder. New to this year’s list are five pitchers – A.J. Puk, Jharel Cotton, Frankie Montas, Grant Holmes and Daniel Gossett – along with catcher Bruce Maxwell.
Dropping off last year’s list were pitcher Sean Manaea, who’s successfully joined the ranks of the majors, pitcher Dillon Overton and catcher Jacob Nottingham, both of whom left the organization via trades, and shortstop Richie Martin, infielder Yairo Munoz and third baseman Renato Nunez, who fell off due to some declines in performance last year. Though, having said that, Nunez easily could have found his way on to the bottom part of this year’s list, as could young right-handers Daulton Jefferies, Logan Shore and Dakota Chalmers, all of whom just barely missed out on making this year’s top 10.
Unlike last year, when eight of our top 10 picks were position players, things are evenly divided with five pitchers and five position players this year. And a sign of just how close most of the A’s top prospects really are at this point is the fact that a full seven of this year’s top 10 prospects are expected to start the season at Triple-A Nashville, just one step away from the majors.
Of all the various top 10 lists of A’s prospects that are currently out there, it’s our feeling that Baseball America and John Sickels, as well as the readers of Athletics Nation in their Community Prospect List, have come the closest to getting it right this year. But without any further ado, let’s take a look at A’s Farm’s 2017 Top 10 Prospects List…
Still just 21, Barreto is the youngest position player on this year’s top 10 list and is already universally recognized as the top prospect in the A’s minor league system. For the second consecutive season, the young Venezuelan got off to a bit of a slow start in the first half but then really caught fire during the second half. He posted a disappointing .236/.296/.350 slash line in the first half for Midland, but then came back to put up an impressive .337/.393/.490 line in the second half for the RockHounds. And while Barreto’s overall power numbers dipped a bit last year, which is not totally unsurprising for someone going from the homer-happy California League to the pitchers’ paradise of the Texas League, his plate discipline, his defense, and even his threat level on the base paths all improved last season. His walk total more than doubled, while his stolen base total went from 8 in 2015 to 30 in 2016 (most among A’s minor leaguers), and his error total dropped from 34 to 19 despite appearing in 244 more innings in the field last year. Barreto still needs to improve his discipline at the plate, and while relatively small at just 5-10, the hope is that he’ll continue to develop enough strength to be able to demonstrate power beyond his size. In the best of all possible worlds, one could envision him as a Venezuelan version of Miguel Tejada – which the A’s would be more than happy with! While Barreto’s played primarily at shortstop throughout his minor league career, he did appear in 33 games at second base last season. And he’ll probably continue to see at least a little more time there this year at Nashville, since most expect that Barreto’s immediate future in Oakland will most likely lie at second base.
The A’s top draft pick in 2014 out of Cal State Fullerton, Chapman arrived with a reputation as a rifle-armed third baseman with lots of power potential – and he’s certainly lived up to that advance billing. Most scouts currently consider the 23-year-old to be a top-tier defender at the hot corner with an elite throwing arm. Last season, he slugged 36 home runs, most of them while playing in the power-suppressing environment at Midland, and also added 27 doubles and 5 triples to his extra-base totals. And in 269 games since joining the A’s system, Chapman has clubbed a total of 64 round-trippers – nearly one every four games. There’s no question that when he makes contact, the ball is bound to go a long way – the question is how much contact he will make. In addition to his 36 home runs in 2016, Chapman also struck out 173 times last season while posting a batting average of just .237, though his walk rate did tick up just a bit last year. But the bottom line with Chapman is this – with his natural power and his prowess in the field, he should be able to bring enough to the table to make himself a valuable major league contributor, though his contact rate will determine just how valuable. He made an extremely positive impression on A’s manager Bob Melvin last spring. And along with Barreto, who will also be starting out the season in Nashville, the A’s hope that Chapman will help to form the heart of a talented and exciting young infield for Oakland beginning in 2018.
The A’s took Puk with the 6th overall selection in last year’s draft after he’d previously been considered a possible #1 pick. He came to the A’s system as a flame-throwing lefty out of Florida with top-of-the-rotation potential whose fastball had been clocked as high as 99 mph in college. There have been some questions about the 6-7 southpaw’s mechanics and athleticism, as well as whether or not his slider really has the potential to play in a big way at the major league level. But the Iowa native struck out an average of 11 batters per 9 innings while allowing an average of just 6 hits and putting up an ERA of 3.03 during his inaugural season with Vermont in the New York-Penn League. He did turn in just 32 2/3 innings during his pro debut last year though, so our sample size of his work since joining the A’s system has been rather limited. Puk struck out the side in order in his first major league spring training game against Cleveland, but then allowed a home run and a pair of walks in his next appearance before being reassigned to the A’s minor league camp. The question is where the A’s, who’ve been fairly aggressive in the assignment of their high draft picks lately, will choose to have Puk start the 2017 season. It’s anybody’s guess, but the informed speculation thus far has seemed to center on Stockton. His ability to show consistency and maintain his mechanics throughout spring training, and how much work the A’s staff still feels needs to be done in that regard, may have a lot to do with where Puk ultimately winds up to start 2017.
Of all the players on our top 10 list this year, Cotton is the only one to have been drafted lower than the 2nd round in the amateur draft; he wasn’t selected until the 20th round by the Dodgers in 2012. The 25-year-old over-achiever is also the most likely member of our top 10 list to open the season on the A’s roster in 2017. Cotton arrived last summer, along with fellow right-handers Frankie Montas and Grant Holmes, from the Dodgers in the Josh Reddick/Rich Hill deal. And in just his second start in the A’s system, he came within one out of pitching a perfect game for Nashville. Cotton ended up earning the Pacific Coast League strikeout crown with 155 K’s in 135 2/3 innings of work. And his strong showing at Nashville earned Cotton 5 late-season starts with the A’s, where he impressed by striking out 23 in 29 1/3 innings while posting a stingy 2.15 ERA. Cotton’s currently expected to open the 2017 season as Oakland’s #4 starter. And the A’s hope that the mid-90s fastball and solid changeup that have enabled Cotton to fool hitters at the minor league level will allow him to experience continued success at the major league level as well.
The only member of the trio of arms the A’s acquired from Dodgers in the Josh Reddick/Rich Hill deal last summer to have actual major league experience at the time, Montas made 7 appearances for the White Sox in 2015 before being dealt to the Dodgers prior to the 2016 season. Injuries sidelined Montas for all but 7 games last season, but he appeared plenty healthy just a few months ago when he returned to action in the Arizona Fall League and allowed just 1 earned run over 17 innings of work for the Mesa Solar Sox. The Dominican flame-thrower boasts a 100+ mph fastball and has struck out an average of 9.3 batters per 9 innings over his minor league career, though his command can occasionally be an issue. In the past, he’s appeared as both a starter and a reliever, but the A’s are planning on utilizing Montas in a starting role this season. The thinking is that if he can harness his talent, his stuff could make him an intimidating starter. He’ll get the chance to show what he can do every fifth day at Nashville and, if Montas can just learn to master his potentially overpowering stuff, it might not be long before he gets a long look in Oakland.
The Dodgers 1st-round pick in the 2014 draft, Holmes was the youngest arm the A’s received from the Dodgers last summer in the Josh Reddick/Rich Hill deal and, at just a month younger than Barreto, is also the youngest player on our prospect list this year. Holmes was a highly-coveted high school hurler out of South Carolina who reportedly received a $2.5 million signing bonus in 2014. He got off to a good start in the Dodgers system, putting up a 3.32 ERA while striking out 10.4 batters per 9 innings over his first two seasons in the minors. He was a little less impressive while pitching in the hitter-friendly confines of the California League last year, posting a 4.63 ERA while his strikeout rate fell to 8.3 per 9. But it’s important to keep in mind that, at the age of 20, Holmes was one of the youngest hurlers in the Cal League last season. There’s no question that Holmes is a big, strong kid with tremendous upside whom many evaluators consider to be the top pitching prospect in the A’s system behind Puk. And Baseball Prospectus currently considers him the A’s top pitching prospect and second-best overall prospect behind Barreto. Holmes will likely start his age-21 season pitching in Midland, which is a much more friendly environment for pitchers to perform in than the homer-happy California League. And if, while there, he can manage to improve his command and make some progress when it comes to developing his secondary pitches, then it could be a quick ascent up the ladder for the talented young righty.
Likely To Start 2017 With: Midland RockHounds (AA)
The A’s 2nd-round pick out of Clemson in 2014, Gossett made as much progress as any pitcher in the A’s system in 2016. His first full season at Beloit wasn’t particularly impressive, but after putting up a 4.73 ERA for the Snappers back in 2015, Gossett started off 2016 strong at High-A Stockton, then performed even better at Double-A Midland, before finally finishing up the season in impressive fashion at Triple-A Nashville. In 27 starts across three stops, Gossett put up a 2.69 ERA, while his 151 strikeouts led all A’s minor leaguers last season. The South Carolina native had always shown solid command as well as a reluctance to surrender the long ball, but a slight uptick in velocity as well as the addition of a cutter really boosted the young right-hander’s performance to another level in 2016. Last year, Gossett really started showing the A’s what they hoped they had when they made him their second overall pick in 2014, and he should have the chance to keep showing the organization just what he’s got to offer while pitching every fifth day at Nashville this season.
While Maxwell has continued to make steady progress behind the plate ever since he was drafted by the A’s, the burly backstop took a massive leap forward at the plate last year. After putting up a meager .243/.321/.308 slash line at Double-A Midland in 2015, Maxwell turned out to be one of Triple-A Nashville’s hottest hitters last year, posting an impressive .321/.393/.539 line before his elevation to Oakland last July. And he managed to hold his own in the big leagues too, putting together a solid .283/.337/.402 line in 92 late-season at-bats with the A’s. Maxwell didn’t spend a tremendous amount of time catching in college, so he had a lot to learn behind the dish and, fortunately, he proved to be a prized pupil and impressed A’s manager, and former catcher, Bob Melvin with his work behind the plate last spring. Now that his bat seems to be coming around as well, the left-handed hitter could prove to be a valuable asset with both his offense and his defense. He’s currently third on the A’s catching depth chart, so if anything should happen with either Stephen Vogt or Josh Phegley at any point, Maxwell would be the first man up to step in. And as we all know, nothing remains the same in Oakland for too long. So whenever the A’s decide that the time has come to make a change in their catching corps, then Maxwell could find himself getting the bulk of the at-bats behind the plate for the green and gold.
Along with Maxwell, Olson’s been in the A’s organization as long as any player on this year’s list, and he’s made an appearance on our annual top 10 prospects list ever since his first full season in the system. With the trades of Addison Russell and Daniel Robertson, Olson is the lone remaining member of the highly-touted trio of top high school prospects the A’s selected with their first three picks in the 2012 draft. The big, left-handed slugger had a monster year with High-A Stockton in 2014, putting up an impressive .262/.404/.543 slash line, but his numbers have declined in each of the past two seasons and he posted a more pedestrian .235/.335/.422 line at Triple-A Nashville last year, though he did have a very solid .263/.345/.475 line over his last 47 games for the Sounds. Olson’s profile as a hitter has always been the same ever since he joined the system – lots of walks, lots of strikeouts and lots of power. Since slugging 37 home runs at Stockton in 2014 though, his home run numbers have decreased, while his doubles have increased. The Georgia native totaled 17 homers at Midland in 2015 and at Nashville last season, while he put up 37 and 34 doubles, respectively. Olson’s power potential and plate discipline are clearly the qualities that will help grease his path to the big leagues. And while still just 22, he did get a quick look with the A’s during the final month of the season last year, getting into 11 games while seeing time at first base, where he’s a defensive standout, and in right field, where he’s more than capable. And with his increasing platoon splits in recent years, Olson could find himself getting a shot as the left-handed half of either a first base or right field platoon in Oakland sometime in the fairly near future.
The A’s third overall pick in the 2013 draft, Pinder was named the Texas League MVP after putting up an impressive .317/.361/.486 slash line for Double-A Midland in the pitcher-friendly Texas League in 2015, but slipped a bit to a more ordinary .258/.310/.425 line last year for Triple-A Nashville. Pinder has some pop for a middle infielder, collecting 42 home runs and 87 doubles over his last three minor league seasons, and his potent bat has helped him push his way through the system fairly expeditiously. Pinder could still stand to improve his plate discipline though, as he’s struck out over 100 times in each of his last two campaigns and has yet to total more than 28 walks in any single season. While also playing some second base, Pinder has spent most of his time the past couple seasons at shortstop, but he led all A’s minor leaguers with 29 errors – most of them throwing errors – while serving as Nashville’s starting shortstop last season. He spent the last month and a half of the 2016 season in Oakland, playing primarily at second base, which is probably the most likely spot for him to find major league at-bats. But Pinder’s ability to play shortstop and second base, as well as third base, may make him well-suited to fill a utility role for the A’s, possibly starting in 2018.
It would have been easy to swap Renato Nunez with Maxwell, Olson or Pinder in any of the final three spots on this year’s top 10 list. But the main thing that kept Nunez just a notch behind the rest was his lack of a discernible defensive position to call home. Maxwell has continued to show great improvement behind the plate, while Olson is a talented defensive first baseman as well as a capable corner outfielder, and Pinder’s versatility makes it possible for him to appear at shortstop, second base and third base. But while Nunez’s power potential is very real, it’s hard to imagine him getting many major league at-bats from anywhere other than the designated hitter spot at this point. Young right-handers Daulton Jefferies, Logan Shore and Dakota Chalmers, all drafted in the top three rounds within the last two years, also came very close to making our top 10 list this year. All three are clearly talented young hurlers who could rapidly move up the ranks. None has yet to throw 100 innings in the system though, so we’ve still got a lot more to see of them, but it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see some of their names popping up on next year’s list.
With the 2016 minor league season now complete, it’s the perfect time to take a step back and determine who the true standouts on the field really were in the A’s system in 2016. And with that in mind, it’s time to name A’s Farm’s 2016 Post-Season Organizational All-Star Team!
Below you’ll find the primary starting players at each position for Triple-A Nashville, Double-A Midland, High-A Stockton, Class-A Beloit, Class-A Short-Season Vermont and the Rookie League Short-Season AZL A’s in 2016. Offensive starters were selected from the players who had the most games played at each position for each team over the course of the season, with notable players not leading in games played at a particular position listed in the designated hitter category. Starting pitchers for each club were selected from among the top starters for each team, while closers were selected from each team’s saves leader.
Asterisks denote players with combined statistics from multiple minor league teams within the A’s system, but players’ major league statistics and statistics acquired while with other organizations have not been included. And since he did not appear in more than 25 games at a particular position for any individual minor league team this season, Ryon Healy, who was having the best season of any hitter in the A’s minor league system prior to his promotion, is not included here.
Check out our list of All-Star candidates at each position. Then click on the link just below the list of contenders to find A’s Farm’s winning Organizational All-Stars at each position. The winners were determined based purely on performance, not potential. Remember, we’re not selecting the top prospects here, we’re choosing the top performers on the field this season. So take a good look at the candidates for yourself and then cast your vote in our poll for the top A’s Organizational All-Star of 2016!
After the team’s second consecutive losing season, the A’s roster is currently in just about as much flux as it’s been at any time in the club’s recent history. It’s anyone’s guess who will remain from the current roster when next season begins, but one thing seems certain. The team could be ready to offer more opportunities to its top prospects than it has been in a long, long time.
Already this season, prospects like Ryon Healy, Bruce Maxwell, Chad Pinder, Joey Wendle, Arismendy Alcantara, Daniel Mengden and Dillon Overton have seen time with the big league club, and even more top young players could be making their debuts with the A’s come 2017.
Of course, no one knows what the front office may do in the offseason. But if the team decides to commit to developing the next generation of the green and gold around a core of young prospects currently in the A’s system, here are a number of players who could play key roles next year. (For the purposes of this piece, players over the age of 26 aren’t considered “prospects.”)
If any prospect is bound to play a prominent role for the A’s in 2017, it’s likely to be Ryon Healy. He spent a little more than half the season in the minor leagues, where he was the best hitter in the A’s system over the first three months of the season, putting up an impressive .326/.382/.558 slash line over a combined 85 games for Nashville and Midland. And in his seven weeks with the A’s, he’s hitting .287 with 11 doubles and 6 home runs. Healy’s clearly capable of playing third base, but he may be better-suited to play first base. His ability to play both the corner spots allows the front office some flexibility this offseason. But wherever he ends up starting next year, it seems pretty clear that Healy will find his name somewhere on the lineup card for the A’s in 2017.
Acquired from the Cubs early this summer for Chris Coghlan, Alcantara is a versatile player who’s spent time at shortstop, second base, third base and in the outfield in his minor league career. And even though he might not be a standout at any of those positions, we all know how much the A’s value versatility. Alcantara will also be out of options next season, so the team could end up losing him if he doesn’t make the roster. And it’s not hard to imagine an opening day A’s squad with the speedy and versatile Alcantara serving as the ultimate utility man and the 13th position player on the roster.
Maxwell was one of Nashville’s best hitters this season, putting up a .321/.393/.539 slash line for the Sounds. The backstop also impressed manager Bob Melvin and the A’s coaching staff this spring with his work behind the dish. So it seemed likely that the team would want to get a look at him at the major league level at some point this season. Maxwell’s yet to make his mark at the plate in the majors, going 4 for 32 in his first 13 games, but that could turn around at any time and he is considered to be a capable major league receiver. So if Oakland should decide to move Steven Vogt or Josh Phegley this offseason, or if injuries should sideline either of them, Maxwell appears the most likely candidate to claim a spot in the A’s catching corps.
After coming to the A’s organization from Cleveland at the end of 2014 in the Brandon Moss trade, Wendle finally made his major league debut with the A’s this week. A steady if not flashy player, Wendle was leading the Sounds in hits, runs and total bases and his 52 extra-base hits tied him for the second most among A’s minor leaguers when he was promoted from Nashville. The team is planning to platoon the lefty-hitting Wendle with the righty-swinging Chad Pinder at second base for the rest of the season. And depending on how they perform, it’s possible that platoon could last into next season as well.
The A’s third overall pick in the 2013 draft, Pinder pushed his way through the system fairly quickly while playing both shortstop and second base. He was named the Texas League Player of the Year as the everyday shortstop at Double-A Midland last season, and his 14 home runs this year trailed only Renato Nunez and Matt Olson among his Nashville teammates. Pinder will be serving as the right-handed half of the A’s second base platoon for the rest of the season and, depending on what happens, that platoon could persist into next season. But since Pinder also has plenty of experience at both shortstop and third base, it’s always possible that he could find a spot on the roster as the A’s utility infielder next year as well.
Over the first few months of the season, Brugman was probably the second-best overall hitter in the A’s system next to Ryon Healy, and he’s had an outstanding season while primarily playing center field and batting leadoff for Nashville and Midland. He currently has the second most hits and total bases among A’s minor leaguers as well as the third most doubles, triples and RBIs. Much like Wendle, Brugman’s a steady if not flashy player, but his consistent play has earned him some fans in the A’s front office and he could potentially see some time in the majors this month once Nashville’s postseason run is over. There may be some openings in the A’s outfield mix next season and, as a solid left-handed hitter, Brugman could potentially serve as the left-hander half of a platoon in center field or right field for the A’s next year.
The A’s third overall pick in the 2012 draft, Olson has always been considered one of the top power prospects in the organization. His 34 doubles for Nashville are a team high, while his 17 home runs trail only teammate Renato Nunez on the Sounds, and his 71 walks are the most among all A’s minor leaguers. Olson struggled early in the season but has put up a solid .259/.345/.482 slash line in the second half. He’s made about two-thirds of his starts in right field this season and, while he’s a capable outfield defender, Olson is known as a top-notch defender at first base. He’s still just 22, so there’s no rush. But if the A’s decide to go all in on their youth movement in 2017 then, as a left-handed hitter with strong platoon splits, Olson could find a spot as the left-handed half of a platoon either at first base or in right field for the A’s at some point next season.
Along with Olson, Nunez has been considered one of the top young power prospects in the A’s system for a few years now. And his 23 home runs this season are the most at Nashville and the second most among all A’s minor leaguers next to Matt Chapman. He got off to a hot start early this season. And when Billy Butler was still struggling with the A’s, many were calling for Nunez to be called up and put in the designated hitter spot. Nunez’s defense at third base has always been a bit suspect, and he’s recently begun getting some starts in left field while also spending more time serving as the Sounds’ DH. Like Olson, he’s just 22, so he’s still got some time. But if Oakland should decide to cut ties with Butler one way or another this offseason, it could make it much more likely that the young power hitter will get a long look with the A’s sometime next season.
The A’s 1st-round draft pick in 2014, Chapman has been considered a top prospect from the moment he was drafted, primarily based on his defensive abilities and his power potential. He clearly has a cannon for an arm, and he’s currently leading all A’s minor leaguers with 33 home runs. After belting 29 bombs in the unfriendly confines of the Texas League, Chapman was promoted to Nashville a little over two weeks ago and has since hit 4 more for the Sounds. [Update: Chapman hit 3 home runs in Saturday’s game and now has 7 for the Sounds.] He deeply impressed A’s manager Bob Melvin in spring training, who seemed sad to see him go. And now that he’s in Triple-A, the 23-year-old is just one step away from the majors. It seems clear that another strong spring could get the A’s to start thinking about moving Healy across the diamond so that they can install Chapman at the hot corner sooner rather than later.
Barreto has been viewed as the A’s top young hitting prospect ever since his arrival from Toronto in the Josh Donaldson trade. And since joining the A’s system, the 20-year-old Venezuelan has followed a pattern of starting out slow each season and then catching on fire in the second half, and this year has been no exception. Barreto boasts a .320/.381/.467 slash line over the last 90 days, and his hot finish earned him a promotion from Midland to Nashville on the last day of August, so he’ll now have the opportunity to compete in postseason play for the Sounds. Barreto’s still just 20, but like Chapman, he’ll be finishing the season just one step away from the majors. Though he’s spent most of his minor league career as a shortstop, he’s also gotten some starts this season at second base. And coincidentally, that could be a key area of competition for the A’s this spring. Barreto will get his shot in the big leagues sooner or later and, if he keeps swinging a big bat, the A’s could decide he’s their best bet in 2017.
Mengden is set to be the first pitching prospect called up by the A’s with September’s expanded rosters. He looked impressive in his first 4 outings for Oakland this season, allowing just 8 earned runs over 4 starts in June, but he struggled in his next 5 appearances, giving up a total of 23 earned runs in 5 July starts before being sent back to Nashville. Mengden impressed after returning to Music City, putting up a 2.10 ERA in 6 starts for the Sounds. And overall, in 17 minor league starts this season, Mengden has posted an impressive 1.46 ERA while striking out 95 in 98 1/3 innings of work. The 23-year-old admittedly was feeling a little worn down after hitting a career-high in innings pitched this season. But after a little R & R in the offseason, if Mengden can return to the form he flashed in his first 4 big league starts, then he could put himself in contention for a return to the majors again next season.
Overton made 5 starts for Oakland this season and mostly struggled, putting up a 10.97 ERA in his time with the A’s. But he was one of the best starters in the Pacific Coast League this season. His 3.29 ERA is currently the fifth best in the league and he’s struck out 105 in 125 2/3 innings for the Sounds. There’s obviously a big difference between what it takes to succeed at Triple-A and what it takes to make it in the majors. The A’s have been hoping that Overton’s velocity would tick up another notch since his return from Tommy John surgery. And if he could manage to add just a couple miles an hour to his fastball next season, it could make a world of difference. It’s also possible that the A’s front office could ultimately decide that Overton’s arm is better-suited to the bullpen and could take the opportunity to see how he fares as either a long reliever or a situational lefty.
After coming to the A’s as part of a trio of talented young arms the team snagged from the Dodgers in the Josh Reddick/Rich Hill deal, Cotton made a strong impression when he came within one out of throwing a perfect game in his second start for Nashville. The 24-year-old has posted a 2.86 ERA in 6 starts for the Sounds and appears poised to claim the Pacific Coast League strikeout crown with 155 K’s in 135 2/3 innings of work this season. Cotton has consistently tallied big strikeout totals. His mid-90s fastball and his solid changeup have enabled him to succeed at the Triple-A level and, with a strong spring, he could put himself into contention for a spot in the major league rotation next season.
Alcantara has been a prominent pitching prospect in the A’s system since coming over from the Red Sox, along with Josh Reddick, following the 2011 season. Tommy John surgery slowed down his progress, but he’s made quite an impression in the second half this season, putting up a 1.18 ERA in 8 starts since joining Nashville in July. He’s yet to have a bad start at the Triple-A level, and it appears that Alcantara could finally be reaching his potential. He’s still just 23, but he’s been on the A’s 40-man roster for some time, so his option years are winding down, and the A’s may feel some pressure to give him a shot soon. He’s pitching as well as anyone at Nashville right now. So why not strike while the iron is hot? And Alcantara’s arm has certainly been as hot as anyone’s in the second half of 2016.
Montas is the only one of the three arms the A’s acquired from the Dodgers who comes with major league experience. He made 7 appearances with the White Sox in 2015 before being dealt to the Dodgers prior to the 2016 season. Surgery during the offseason followed by a broken rib have sidelined Montas for most of the year. He only threw 16 innings in the Dodgers’ system this season, but he’s set to pitch in the Arizona Fall League, so the A’s front office will get a chance to get a good look at him before next spring. The Dominican righty boasts a 100+ mph fastball, and he’s struck out an average of 9.3 batters per 9 innings over his minor league career. Montas has mainly appeared as a starter in the minors. And if he looks strong in his return to action, the A’s could give him a shot at a rotation spot next year, or they could always choose to put his power arm in the bullpen and see how it plays out there.
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Sean Manaea made just 3 starts at Triple-A before joining the A’s starting rotation this year.
Ever since last year’s trade deadline deals, the A’s front office has clearly been focused on adding as much top young pitching talent to the system as possible. And with the cost of major league pitching on a rapid rise in recent times, it’s easy to make sense of this strategy. In most of the team’s big trades, particularly at this year’s and last year’s trade deadlines, the focus has been squarely on pitching. And in this year’s amateur draft, the A’s took three top young pitching prospects with their first three selections – something that hasn’t happened anytime in the franchise’s recent history.
Last July, Oakland acquired LHP Sean Manaea from Kansas City in the Ben Zobrist trade, grabbed RHP Daniel Mengden from Houston in the Scott Kazmir deal, and got RHP Casey Meisner from the Mets in return for Tyler Clippard. This July, the A’s acquired RHPs Jharel Cotton, Frankie Montas and Grant Holmes from the Dodgers in the Josh Reddick/Rich Hill deal. And in this June’s amateur draft, the team took a trio of talented young arms with its top three picks – LHP A.J. Puk and RHPs Daulton Jefferies and Logan Shore. And that’s not even to mention the acquisition of RHP J.B. Wendelken and LHP Zack Erwin from the White Sox in last winter’s Brett Lawrie deal.
Between these deadline deals and the draft, the A’s have really restocked the organization’s pitching talent. So let’s take a look at some of the team’s top young pitching acquisitions since last year’s trade deadline deals and see how they’re shaping up…
The former 1st-round draft pick for the Royals was expected to spend most of the season at Triple-A. But due to injuries, Manaea was called up after making just 3 starts for the Sounds, and he’s now made 20 apperances so far for the A’s. The Samoan southpaw has struck out 100 in 117 1/3 innings for Oakland this season and has gotten stronger as the season has worn on, posting a 3.58 ERA in the second half. The A’s parted with former prospects Daniel Robertson and Boog Powell in the deal that originally brought Zobrist to Oakland. When the team turned around and acquired a top pitching prospect like Manaea in return for Zobrist, it added a high-ceiling young arm to the system. And it looks like the big strike-throwing lefty should prove to be a staple of the A’s starting rotation in the coming years.
When Oakland traded Scott Kazmir to the Astros last summer, most A’s fans were focused on the young catching prospect the team received in return, Jaycob Nottingham, who was soon dealt to Milwaukee in the Khris Davis trade. Despite being a former 4th-round draft pick for the Astros, much less attention was paid to Mengden – that is until this season. The 23-year-old started out the year by surrendering just 2 runs over his first 4 starts for Double-A Midland, which quickly earned him a promotion to Nashville, where he continued to be dominant in start after start. And, once again, thanks to injuries, by the second week of June, he had joined the A’s starting rotation. Mengden allowed just 8 earned runs over his first 4 starts for the A’s. He then struggled in his next 5 starts, giving up a total of 23 earned runs in that span before being sent back to Nashville. He’s been solid since his return, putting up a 2.16 ERA in 5 starts back in Music City. Mengden admittedly was feeling a little worn down after hitting a career-high in innings pitched this season. But the mustachioed Mr. Mengden should be in a prime position to compete for a spot in Oakland’s starting rotation next spring.
Meisner came to the A’s in the least high-profile of last summer’s deals, in return for reliever Tyler Clippard. A former 3rd-round draft pick for the Mets, Meisner got off to a great start for Stockton, posting a 2.78 ERA in 7 late-season starts for the Ports. He returned to the California League this year but has mostly struggled this time around the track, putting up a 4.59 ERA over 113 2/3 innings. The 6-foot-7 righty’s mechanics can be an issue and his command has been inconsistent this season. But Meisner’s been walking far fewer in the second half, and he’s still just 21. So even if he may not currently be considered among the team’s top prospects, Meisner still possesses a lot of potential.
Acquired: Josh Reddick/Rich Hill trade – July 2016
Cotton came to the A’s as part of a trio of talented young arms the team snagged from the Dodgers in the Josh Reddick/Rich Hill deal, and the 24-year-old definitely made an impression when he came within one out of throwing a perfect game in his second start for Nashville. Cotton has consistently tallied big strikeout totals, and he currently leads the Pacific Coast League with 149 strikeouts in 130 innings of work. Cotton’s mid-90s fastball and his solid changeup have enabled him to succeed at the Triple-A level, and he’s expected to get a shot at the major league level before the season’s through. Cotton should also find himself in the competition for a starting spot in the major league rotation come next spring.
Acquired: Josh Reddick/Rich Hill trade – July 2016
Montas is the only one of the three arms acquired from the Dodgers who comes with major league experience. He made 7 appearances with the White Sox in 2015 before being dealt to the Dodgers prior to the 2016 season. Surgery during the offseason followed by a broken rib have sidelined Montas for most of the year. He only managed to throw 16 innings in the Dodgers’ system this season, but it’s possible that he could be ready to return in time to participate in the Arizona Fall League this October. The Dominican righty’s headline pitch is his 100+ mph fastball, and he’s struck out an average of 9.3 batters per 9 innings over his minor league career. Montas has mainly appeared as a starter in the minors. Of course, it’s always possible that he could end up as an elite power arm pitching out of the bullpen, but the A’s will have to see how he looks once he gets healthy and back on the field before making any determination about the best path for him going forward.
Acquired: Josh Reddick/Rich Hill trade – July 2016
A former 1st-round draft pick for the Dodgers in 2014, Holmes was a highly-coveted high school arm who is the highest-profile hurler to come to the A’s in the recent deal with the Dodgers. As a young 20-year-old in the hitter-friendly High-A California League, Holmes had fared well for the Dodgers’ affiliate this year, posting a 4.02 ERA while striking out 100 over 105 1/3 innings of work before the trade. But Holmes has struggled since coming to Stockton, surrendering 19 earned runs over his first 19 innings while pitching for the Ports. He’d just passed his career-high in innings pitched prior to the trade, so he could just be a little worn down late in the season while also making the adjustment to a new organization. Holmes is a big strong kid who, just like Montas, has averaged 9.3 strikeouts per 9 innings over his minor league career and has to be considered one of the top young pitching prospects in the A’s system at this point.
Widely reported to be a possible #1 pick in this year’s amateur draft, the A’s were thrilled to get their hands on a top pitching prospect like Puk with their first pick in the draft. Puk is a flame-throwing lefty out of Florida with top-of-the-rotation potential. The 6-foot-7, 220-pound power pitcher’s fastball has been clocked as high as 99 mph, and he pairs it with a solid slider. Since joining Vermont, Puk’s struck out 34 in 28 2/3 innings while posting a 3.14 ERA for the Lake Monsters. And with his outstanding fastball, a solid slider, an impressive frame and loads of raw talent, it’s easy to see why most people view Puk as a pitcher with tremendous upside and a player who could make a real difference for the green and gold before long.
Acquired: Supplemental 1st Round 2016 Draft – June 2016
With their second selection in the competitive balance portion of the 1st-round of this year’s draft, the A’s took the talented young righty out of UC Berkeley. Jefferies’ fastball has been clocked as high as 95 mph, and he also features a slider and an occasional changeup while possessing excellent command. Despite being sidelined for eight weeks during his final college season with shoulder and calf injuries, Jefferies went 7-0 and posted a stellar 1.08 ERA while striking out 53 and walking just 8 over 50 innings of work for Cal. The A’s took things slow with Jefferies after the draft due to his previous shoulder injury, but he’s recently started seeing some action in Arizona. And in his first 4 brief appearances, the 21-year-old has shown off his pinpoint control by allowing just 1 walk and 1 run while striking out 12 over 8 2/3 innings for the AZL A’s.
With the A’s 2nd-round pick in this year’s draft, the team took one of Puk’s college teammates from Florida, who recently joined his old friend at Vermont. Shore is a 6-foot-2, 215-pound righty who went 11-0 with a 2.44 ERA while striking out 80 and walking just 15 over 92 1/3 innings of work in his last season for Florida. The 21-year-old was actually the top performer on Florida’s pitching staff, while Puk was considered to have more upside. Shore doesn’t throw nearly as hard as the A’s top two picks but is a consistent strike-thrower with good control who also possesses an advanced changeup. What he may lack in velocity, he more than makes up for with solid command and an advanced understanding of pitching that many expect will help him rise quickly through the system. In his first 5 appearances for Vermont, Shore has allowed 3 earned runs and struck out 9 over his first 12 innings of work.
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