Tag Archive for Renato Nunez

Talking Top Prospects with A’s Director of Player Personnel Billy Owens

bo1151079bNow that we’re almost a third of the way into the minor league season, it seems like a good time to take a step back and take a look at how some of the A’s top prospects have been doing so far this season. And there’s no one better to help us do that than the A’s director of player personnel, Billy Owens.

Owens originally joined the A’s organization back in 1999, working as an area scout and coaching short-season baseball over the next five years. He was promoted to his current position in 2004, where he’s been able to put his knowledge of the game and its players to much more thorough use. Owens spoke with us earlier this week while he was out on the road scouting prospects for next month’s amateur draft. And as always, his enthusiasm for the A’s top young prospects is obvious…

 

AF:  Well, let’s start out in Nashville. You guys obviously have an awful lot of veteran players there this year. But the one guy down there who genuinely qualifies as a legitimate prospect is the guy you got from the Indians for Brandon Moss, and that’s second baseman Joey Wendle. He’s been showing some pop with the bat, getting lots of doubles and extra-base hits, and he’s looked pretty good in the field too. He might still need to refine his plate discipline and pitch selection a bit, but what have you been seeing out of him?

jwWendle, Joey2BO:  I think he’s off to a good start. Joey’s a guy we saw extensively in the Arizona Fall League two years ago, and then he had an injury in 2014 with the Indians. Then we followed him after he came back from his injury in August, and we were definitely intrigued by the player. Then we were able to acquire him in the offseason in a good deal for both sides with Brandon Moss. And he definitely had a strong spring training. He’s got a very short, consistent stroke. He’s got some power in there, the production’s been solid the first two months, and he’s got strong intangibles. The glove’s steady. He didn’t have that much Double-A tutelage, so it’s not surprising that his numbers aren’t tremendous from a plate discipline standpoint now. But with his character, good eye and power potential, we think that’s going to get better as time goes by this season. And talking to his college coaches over the years, the Indians personnel and our guys in Triple-A this year and in major league spring training, everyone extols his character and his work ethic. His intangibles are off the charts, and we like his bat too.

AF:  Okay, let’s move down to Midland, where most of the team’s top young hitting prospects are this year. Of course, your top prospect there is first baseman Matt Olson, who’s also been getting some time in the outfield this year. As usual, he’s been taking his walks and getting on base. He’s hit 6 home runs there so far in what is typically a very tough place for guys to hit. But what do you think about what you’ve seen out of Matt Olson so far at the Double-A level?

moOlson, Matt2BO:  Matt’s an exciting player. He’s 21 years old. He has 6 homers in a notoriously tough park, especially for a left-handed batter. The walk numbers are like 37 walks and 44 strikeouts. He’s been playing a really good outfield. He can play corner outfield fine – his arm’s strong. At first base, his talent level’s elite from a defensive perspective. I don’t think there’s a better defensive first baseman in all of professional baseball. With his strong throwing arm, it translates well to the outfield – and it increases his versatility. Seeing Matt over the years since Parkview High School in Lilburn, Georgia outside of Atlanta, he can get streaky with the home runs. His raw power is off the charts – he hit 37 homers last year at Stockton. But I can definitely see him, once he’s totally acclimated and has his swing plane down, going on one of those notorious hot streaks, and he can pop you 10 or 15 homers in a 30-game stretch. And I like the fact that he’s increased his defensive versatility. The walk and power numbers are good and I think he’s due for an explosion at the plate.

AF:  Another guy who moved up to Midland along with Olson this year is Chad Pinder, whom you guys have moved back over to shortstop. He’s now got as many home runs as Olson does and has been hitting well at Midland which, again, is a tough place to hit. So tell me what you think of Pinder’s offensive performance as well as how he’s looked at shortstop so far this year.

cpPinder, Chad2BO:  He actually played a lot of shortstop and third base in college. And at the time we drafted Chad, we had two prominent players who are no longer with us at the shortstop position [Addison Russell and Daniel Robertson], so Chad was able to increase his versatility and play second base, play some third base and play some games at shortstop. He’s definitely got solid hands, the footwork is improving and he’s got enough range for the position. His arm’s strong enough to play either shortstop or third base. He’s progressing very well. The biggest thing with him was I think he only had about 22 walks last year…and pitchers at the upper levels can exploit the fact that you’re going to be that impatient. So he’s improved his walk numbers dramatically. I think he already has almost as many walks this year as he had all of last season. He’s got the 6 homers, and the ball comes off his bat well. For the left side of the infield, he’s got a lot of potential. In a dream world, the guy I’d to compare him to would be J.J. Hardy. What he’s doing is exciting and he’s definitely a legitimate prospect.

AF:  Well, speaking of the left side of the infield at Midland, another top prospect over there who just came back recently is third baseman Renato Nunez. He got a late start to the season due to some nagging injuries, but he’s been heating up and has hit a few homers there recently. So what do you think of his progress at this point?

rnNunez, Renato2BO:  Renato is an exciting player. He’s probably got as good a chance to hit for average and power as anybody in our organization. He’s a kid I personally scouted since he was 14 years old, and he’s really maturing as a hitter. If you look at the numbers right now, he’s really holding his own. He’s got like 13 walks and about 17 strikeouts and he’s got a few home runs already. So from where he was as a 19-year-old player in the Midwest League who had some power…to how he developed last year to hit the 29 homers in Stockton…to see where he is now really tightening that zone at 21 years old in Double-A is very encouraging, because the swing’s as pure as you’ll see from the right side of the plate and the power is real. So if he can just tone it down to where he’s just swinging at strikes and taking the balls, he can be an explosive hitter.

AF:  The A’s other big third base prospect, last year’s #1 pick Matt Chapman, also got off to a late start this year due to a knee injury. But now he seems to be heating up a bit too at Stockton. So what are your impressions of Matt Chapman at this point?

mcChapman, Matt2BO:  Matt Chapman is exciting. He’s probably got as strong a throwing arm as anybody playing baseball. On a scouting scale of 2 to 8, he’s got a legitimate 8 throwing arm. And defensively at third base, he’s got a chance to probably be a 7 defensively. He went to the Double-A playoffs last year and hit a couple home runs in the Texas League championship series. He’s got real power. The ball goes off his bat well. Plate discipline is always a thing we really encourage. It was impressive for him to do what he did last year in the Texas League playoffs, but we definitely want to improve that plate discipline from the numbers at Beloit last year. We worked on that down in the instructional league and in the time that he was healthy in spring training, and now we’re starting to see the fruits of that labor and he’s starting to heat up in the California League.

AF:  Another top prospect at Stockton is the kid you got in the offseason from Toronto in the Josh Donaldson deal, shortstop Franklin Barreto. Just like Addison Russell was when he was there, he’s either the youngest or at least one of the youngest players in the California League at just 19. So what are you seeing out of Franklin Barreto and what are you expecting to see out of him?

fbBarreto, Franklin2BO:  Franklin’s starting to percolate now. What Franklin did last year at Vancouver, which is a notorious pitcher’s park, to go there and hit .311 and hit 6 home runs and put up almost 30 steals, it was exciting. We did an extensive scouting job on him, not only in the Northwest League last year, but he’s another kid, like Renato Nunez, who I go back to when he was 14 years old. So we’ve seen him a lot over the years. And just like Addison Russell and Billy McKinney, he’s skipping Low-A as a teenager and going straight to the California League. And actually, between those three players, at this point of the season, he probably has the highest batting average out of all three of those guys during that period. They’re all three talented, and they were able to survey the California League in April and May and make adjustments. And hopefully, like those other two guys, he’ll really flourish in High-A ball the rest of the season.

AF:  Another guy at Stockton who’s been putting himself on the map with his performance there lately is outfielder Brett Vertigan. He got off to a great start at Beloit and got moved up to Stockton and has been getting the job done there as well. People might not have been watching him quite as closely earlier on, but he’s certainly been opening some eyes this year. So tell me a little bit about what you’ve seen out of Brett Vertigan.

bvVertigan, Brett2BO:  He’s been swinging the bat really well. It’s good to see he’s having success. He’s an outstanding kid, a hard worker. He’s probably similar to Sam Fuld. The guy’s a ball hawk in the outfield and he can be a slap hitter at the plate, has pretty good plate discipline and does things aggressively with his legs. So for a player to take a step forward, grind away and take advantage of an opportunity, we’re definitely excited to see what Brett’s doing this year.

AF:  He seems to be doing a pretty good impression of Boog Powell from last year.

BO:  Yeah, definitely. Maybe they didn’t start with all the accolades, but they were good players and our outstanding player development people were able to get the most out of their ability.

AF:  One pitcher of particular interest at Stockton is Dillon Overton, who was the A’s 2nd-round pick in 2013 and is still working his way back from Tommy John surgery after coming back in the second half of last season. They’re obviously still being a little cautious with his pitch count, but what’s your impression of his progress this year?

doOverton, Dillon2BO:  His strikeout-to-walk ratio has been amazing. But we’re still taking baby steps with him coming back from the Tommy John surgery. And honestly, before the surgery, he was a guy who could probably pitch comfortably in that 90-91 mph range and get up to 92-93 mph, where he could be a lights-out pitcher and a quick mover. So far, after the surgery, he’s been pretty much around 87-89 mph and will touch 90 mph. He’s still very effective and has a solid chance to be a good major league pitcher. But if he can continue to make progress and get a little bit more velocity over the course of the next couple years, along with that pinpoint control, he’s got a chance to be a rotation piece.

AF:  We were speaking about Franklin Barreto, but the A’s have another promising young shortstop at Beloit, Yairo Munoz, who’s just 20. He’s had some big games lately and has been heating up a bit. Tell me what you’ve seen out of Munoz so far.

ymMunoz, Yario2BO:  Yeah, last year at 19 years old in the New York-Penn League, he popped 5 home runs, hit .298 and made the All-Star team. Franklin Barreto and Yairo Munoz both have the potential to be five-tool players at their position. Along with Matt Chapman, they have the two best infield throwing arms in the organization. Yairo’s got legitimate power to all fields – he’s got a chance to be a 15-20 home run guy. I could definitely see a similarity to Tony Batista when he played for the A’s in the mid-‘90s as a middle infielder and a third baseman who could pop 15-20 home runs and play solid defense. And just the energy and the enthusiasm he brings everyday is exciting. He’s definitely an underrated talent.

AF:  A guy who’s been a bit of a surprise this year at Beloit is first baseman Sandber Pimentel, who’s just been hitting great and showing a lot of pop this year. He wasn’t really on a lot of people’s radar before this season, so tell me a little bit about him.

sp552fd147046a1.image2BO:  Yeah, he’s an exciting kid. He’s like a miniature “Big Papi.” There’s only one, but being from the Dominican Republic and kind of the way he carries himself, you can tell he models himself after David Ortiz. But he’s a kid who controls the zone, the swing is real and the ball comes off his bat. He’s got legitimate power potential and he’s got a nice glove at first base. He’s taken to the United States – the kid’s improved his English immensely in the last year and a half. The coaches rave about his day-to-day work ethic and his personality. And he’s definitely emerging as a legitimate prospect for us.

AF:  So is he another one of those guys you’ve been watching since he was a kid?

BO:  Yeah, for sure. I’ve seen Sandber since he was 14 or 15 years old out there scouting Latin America. Our guys are so good. Raymond Abreu in the Dominican Republic has been with us for twenty years. He’s a guy who goes back to the Miguel Tejada days and all the way back to Luis Polonia. He runs a tremendous camp down there in La Victoria in the Dominican Republic. Julio Franco is out there in Venezuela, and he’s been able to mine for talent over there for years. Those guys are in the trenches and working every day. And it’s kind of nice to see guys like Nunez and Barreto, Sandber Pimentel and Yairo Munoz really emerge this year. It’s definitely a credit to Raymond and Julio.

AF:  Now your top two pitching picks from last year’s draft, Daniel Gossett and Brett Graves, are both in the rotation at Beloit this year. So how have they been progressing from your point of view?

dgGossett, Daniel2BO:  Yeah, Daniel Gossett was a winner at Clemson. In the New York-Penn League last year, he had a tremendous strikeout-to-walk ratio. And now in the Midwest League, we’re seeing his numbers gradually improving. He’s around 90-92 mph with a solid breaking ball and we’re working on incorporating the changeup into his arsenal. He’s a strike thrower and he’s definitely aggressive in the zone. Brett Graves kind of has a tick more velocity – he’s up to 94-95 mph. He sinks the ball really well. We’re just trying to tighten those off-speed pitches so we can increase those strikeouts, but the groundball rate’s been pretty good.

AF:  And finally, there are a couple of guys who’ve been in the A’s minor league system who are now making contributions at the major league level and doing well this year. I’m talking about Max Muncy and Billy Burns. I’m just curious to know how satisfying it is for you to see those guys making contributions on the major league roster and what you think about what they’ve been doing so far?

mmMuncy, Max2BO:  Yeah, so far it’s been exciting to watch. Max Muncy was a player who went to Baylor and played all over the infield initially and eventually settled in at first base in college. Armann Brown, our outstanding scout in Texas, was always pushing and letting us know that Max could play multiple positions. And Max was outstanding at first base. We’ve been blessed with tremendous defensive first basemen, from Matt Olson to Max Muncy to Anthony Aliotti. And Max Muncy was just so good defensively, his feet worked well and he showed the arm strength, so we allowed him to play about 25 games last year defensively at third base in Double-A. And he really worked at third base in the offseason and came to major league camp and made a favorable impression. And when he was able to get the opportunity, he showed a tremendous batting eye. He led the Texas League last year in on-base percentage and walks, and he’s got sneaky power – he hit 25 home runs between Stockton and Midland a couple years ago. And when we needed another third and first baseman who could give you quality at-bats at the big league level, Max Muncy definitely answered the call and he’s playing well. That advanced eye and those innate baseball skills that he has will translate to the top level and he’ll give you a quality, professional at-bat every day. And Billy Burns, he was able to make adjustments. Billy was a right-handed hitter exclusively at Mercer University out there in Macon, Georgia. The Nationals made him a switch-hitter right away in his professional career. So by the time we got Billy, he was able to really sting the ball as a right-handed hitter, but as a left-handed hitter at the upper levels, he was more of a guy who controlled the zone and kind of poked at the baseball. Last year, Billy got a taste of the major leagues and he saw where the fielders were playing him as a left-handed hitter and he realized he needed to make an adjustment. So when he went down to Triple-A, he got a bigger bat and he worked with Greg Sparks, our hitting coordinator for the organization who was at Triple-A last year. And when he came to spring training this season, we were able to see the adjustments he made and we realized that it was going to translate to the top level much more realistically. It’s a long season and hopefully the tide turns for us but, with Max Muncy and Billy Burns, their contributions so far the first two months of the season have been great.

AF:  Well, I know you’re out scouting for the draft right now. So are you able to disclose your current location or is that top secret?

BO:  No, I never can do that. I just finished with a conference tournament and getting ready for the regionals before we go hunker down in Oakland for the week prior to the draft. It’ll be fun. We pick #20. I think our second pick is around #63. And it’s a deep draft – maybe you don’t have the guy who’s the guaranteed superstar at the top, but at 20-100, there are a lot of really good players.

AF:  Well, I’m sure you’ll have you’ll have your finger on the pulse of all of them!

BO:  Well, you know, it’s fun, but the thing is, not only do you want to draft really good players, but over the years, guys we’ve discussed at the draft, Billy Beane and David Forst will turn around and try to trade for guys we liked during the draft process down the road. So it’s not only the guys you get, but it’s also other guys you’ve evaluated you might have a chance to get in the future. It’s always a puzzle. You never really finish the puzzle, but you’re always trying to add another piece to it!

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Saturday, May 23rd: Yairo Munoz’s 2 HRs Help Snappers Win while Dylan Covey Pitches Ports to Victory & R.J. Alvarez Takes Loss in 11th for Sounds

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Beloit Snappers Shortstop Yairo Munoz (3 for 5 / 2 Home Runs)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Beloit Snappers Shortstop Yairo Munoz (3 for 5 / 2 Home Runs)

 

MIDWEST LEAGUE  (Class-A)

Cedar Rapids Kernels  6

Beloit Snappers          7

WP – Torres 3-3 / 4.97

HR – Pimentel (6), Munoz 2 (4), Harris (2)

Farmhand Of The Game:

Shortstop Yairo Munoz

(3 for 5 / 2 Home Runs)

Shortstop Yairo Munoz had a big night for Beloit, collecting 3 hits, including a pair of home runs, on Saturday. The 20-year-old infielder’s first homer tied the game in the 3rd inning, while his second round-tripper helped extend the Snappers’ lead in the 7th. Designated hitter Sandber Pimentel followed Munoz’s first home run in the 3rd with one of his own, his team-leading 6th, and had 2 singles as well, while outfielder James Harris homered to put Beloit on the board in the bottom of the 1st. Starter Dustin Driver allowed 2 runs in 2 innings of work but didn’t return to the mound for the 3rd inning, and we’ll have to wait to find out if his early exit was injury-related. RHP Jordan Schwartz gave up 1 run in 2 1/3 innings of relief, while RHPs Rob Huber and Carlos Navas combined on 3 2/3 scoreless innings. LHP Jose Torres allowed 3 runs, 2 earned, in the top of the 9th to tie things up though and the game went to extra innings. But outfielder Shawn Duinkerk singled in Sandber Pimentel in the bottom of the 10th to give Beloit the walk-off win, and Torres was credited with the victory after tossing a scoreless frame in the top of the 10th for the Snappers.

Click here for more on Nashville, Midland & Stockton…

Thursday, May 21st: Jose Brizuela & Ryon Healy Homer to Help Snappers & Hounds Win while Barry Zito Takes 4th Loss for Sounds

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Beloit Snappers Third Baseman Jose Brizuela (2 for 3 / Home Run / 2 RBIs)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Beloit Snappers Third Baseman Jose Brizuela (2 for 3 / Home Run / 2 RBIs)

 

MIDWEST LEAGUE  (Class-A)

Kane County Cougars  5

Beloit Snappers          6

WP – Gossett 2-4 / 4.50

HR – Pimentel (5), Brizuela (3)

Farmhand Of The Game:

Third Baseman Jose Brizuela

(2 for 3 / Home Run / 2 RBIs)

With a man on and his team down by two runs in the bottom of the 4th on Thursday, third baseman Jose Brizuela slugged a 2-run homer to tie the game for the Snappers. Brizuela also singled, walked and stole a base in the game. First baseman Sandber Pimentel belted his 5th home run to put Beloit on the board in the 2nd, while outfielder Max Kuhn doubled in a pair of runs in the 3rd, and catcher Jose Chavez doubled and came around to score the decisive run on second baseman Edwin Diaz’s sacrifice fly in the 4th. Starter Daniel Gossett allowed 5 runs, 3 earned, over 5 innings of work to post his 2nd win, while LHP Jerad Grundy tossed 2 2/3 scoreless innings in relief, and LHP Jose Torres got the final four outs to earn his 3rd save for the Snappers.

Click here for more on Nashville, Midland & Stockton…

Tuesday, May 19th: Chris Bassitt Helps Sounds Hang on to Win in 9th while Ben Zobrist & Sean Doolittle Make Rehab Appearances for Ports & Hounds

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Chris Bassitt (4 1/3 IP / 1 H / 0 ER / 2 BB / 5 K)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Chris Bassitt (4 1/3 IP / 1 H / 0 ER / 2 BB / 5 K)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

New Orleans Zephyrs  1

Nashville Sounds       2

WP – Alvarez 2-1 / 6.48

Farmhand Of The Game:

Pitcher Chris Bassitt

(4 1/3 IP / 1 H / 0 ER / 2 BB / 5 K)

LHP Sean Nolin made the start for the Sounds on Tuesday and allowed 1 run on 2 hits and 1 walk while striking out 3, but he left with his team down by a run with 2 outs in the 3rd inning after throwing a total of 59 pitches. With Nolin exiting early, RHP Chris Bassitt took over and shut down New Orleans on just 1 hit while striking out 5 in 4 1/3 shutout innings to give the Sounds the chance to come back and tie things up in the bottom of the 5th on an RBI-single by catcher Luke Carlin. The game remained tied until the bottom of the 9th, when left fielder Matt Carson doubled to lead off the inning and one out later right fielder Kent Matthes doubled him home to give Nashville the walk-off win on Tuesday. RHP R.J. Alvarez tossed a scoreless 8th and 9th to earn his 2nd win for the Sounds.

Click here for more on Midland, Stockton & Beloit…

A’s Farm Report for Week of May 4-10: Hitting Prospects in the Spotlight

1B Matt Olson

1B Matt Olson

 

With two of the A’s top hitting prospects – third basemen Renato Nunez and Matt Chapman – both returning to action and making their season debuts this week, it seems like a good time to take a look at how some of the organization’s top hitting prospects have been doing now that we’re a month into the minor league season. You can always check out the latest A’s affiliate rosters here – Rosters. And you can catch up on how the A’s top minor league hitters have been doing below. This weekly minor league report by Athletics Farm originally appeared on Athletics Nation

 

Click here for this week’s updates on Nashville, Midland, Stockton & Beloit…

Tuesday, May 5th: Daniel Gossett Pitches Snappers to Victory while Ports Win Behind B.J. Boyd’s Big Bat and Barry Zito Takes 3rd Loss as Sounds Drop 6th Straight

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Beloit Snappers Pitcher Daniel Gossett (5 2/3 IP / 4 H / 1 ER / 3 BB / 7 K / Win)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Beloit Snappers Pitcher Daniel Gossett (5 2/3 IP / 4 H / 1 ER / 3 BB / 7 K)

 

MIDWEST LEAGUE  (Class-A)

Burlington Bees    1

Beloit Snappers  8

WP – Gossett 1-3 / 4.73

HR – Bennie (3)

Farmhand Of The Game:

Pitcher Daniel Gossett

(5 2/3 IP / 4 H / 1 ER / 3 BB / 7 K / Win)

For his second start in a row, the A’s 2nd-round pick in last year’s draft, RHP Daniel Gossett, allowed just 1 earned run while striking out 7 for the Snappers. Gossett pitched 5 2/3 innings to earn his 1st victory of the season. Outfielder Joe Bennie had another big night at the plate, collecting a home run and a double and driving in 3, while first baseman Max Kuhn doubled in a run and walked twice. Shortstop Yairo Munoz singled in a pair, and outfielder Brett Vertigan drew 3 walks and scored 3 times for the Snappers.

Click here for more on Nashville, Midland & Stockton…

Monday, May 4th: Jaycob Brugman Brings in Winning Run in 11th for Hounds while Nate Freiman & Renato Nunez Return to Action for Sounds & Hounds

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Outfielder Jaycob Brugman (Triple / Double / GWRBI)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Outfielder Jaycob Brugman (Triple / Double / GWRBI)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Midland RockHounds  4

San Antonio Missions    3

WP – Doolittle 1-0 / 6.75

Farmhand Of The Game:

Outfielder Jaycob Brugman

(Triple / Double / GWRBI)

With one on, one out and the game tied in the top of the 11th, outfielder Jaycob Brugman provided the big hit by tripling in the winning run for the RockHounds and snapping Midland’s 4-game losing streak on Monday. Brugman also doubled earlier in the game, while first baseman Ryon Healy doubled in the 11th and came across to score the winning run. Outfielder Chad Oberacker had a pair of singles and a walk, and third baseman Renato Nunez returned to action after battling nagging injuries this spring and went 0 for 3 with a pair of walks and made a throwing error at third in his season debut for Midland. Starter Jake Sanchez allowed 3 runs over 5 innings of work, while RHPs Bobby Wahl, Ryan Dull and Ryan Doolittle each tossed 2 scoreless innings in relief, with Doolittle picking up his 1st win for the RockHounds.

Click here for more on Nashville, Stockton & Beloit…

Down On The Farm with A’s Special Assistant Grady Fuson

gfDSC01787-1[2c]Long-time baseball man Grady Fuson served as the A’s scouting director from 1995 until 2001, when the team drafted such talented players as Eric ChavezTim HudsonMark MulderBarry Zito and Rich Harden. He left the A’s at the end of 2001 to become the assistant general manager of the Texas Rangers and, after moving on to head up the Padres scouting department, Fuson eventually returned to the A’s a little over five years ago to serve as a special assistant to general manager Billy Beane.

Of course, many know Fuson as the scout in the cinematic version of Moneyball who has a dramatic confrontation with the A’s general manager – though that’s not quite how it happened (which we chronicled here), and he and Beane are both back on the same team and rowing in the same direction.

During spring training, Fuson can most frequently be found patrolling the A’s minor league fields, now located at Fitch Park in Mesa, while keeping a close eye on the team’s most prized prospects. And it was there during the last week of camp that we took the opportunity to pick the brain of one of baseball’s top talent evaluators to get the scoop on some of the A’s top hitting and pitching prospects…

 

AF:  Well, let’s start right off with the team’s top prospect, Matt Olson. He spent some time in the big league camp this spring. And everyone’s really got their eyes on him now. So what have you been seeing out of him?

moOlson, Matt2GF:  Well, he impressed over there. He did a great job defensively. He got off to a little bit of a slow start, swinging and missing early in camp, but then it all came around. He’s a young kid, still just 20 years old when he went over there – he just had his 21st birthday. But his swings were good. His development is on track. He’s got huge power, and I think he let everybody know who he was over there. He’s what’s left of that high school group.

AF:  Yep, he had to say goodbye to his buddies Addison Russell and Daniel Robertson this past year. But what does he need to focus on or try to work on this season at Midland?

GF:  I think the same things – just trying to improve the contact, and instead of missing balls, maybe he’s got the ability to foul them off and get them out of play. He’s still got a tremendous eye. He knows the strike zone – very advanced for a young guy. It’s a little bit of new ground when you’re dealing with a young kid who’s advancing at this rate. There’s no rush, to me it’s just going to be typical development.

AF:  Pretty much just let nature take its course!

GF:  Yeah. Now’s he’s going to play where the game really starts to get real. But whatever problems happen to arise should be easily fixed. He’s had a lot of at-bats now in the minor leagues, he’s starting to grow up and become a man, and he knows more about his swing and how to fix things. So it’s going to be fun to watch.

AF:  Another guy who impressed in big league camp this year is Max Muncy. He’s been hitting well and learning a new position at third base. How close is he to being ready?

mmMuncy, Max2GF:  He’s definitely back on time from where he was late last year at Double-A. I think he got out of sorts a little bit. Midland has a way of doing that to a lot of hitters. I think they try to overpower the conditions there sometimes and it just wreaks havoc on their day-to-day approach. And I think Max and a lot of guys who’ve gone through the Texas League get caught up in that.

AF:  He actually told me that himself just the other day.

GF:  Yeah, it happens. I mean, we’ve already talked to Olson and said, “Are you going to be the first guy who can go there and not come out of there crushed?” But with Muncy, he’s back on time with his swing. He’s always seen the ball very well. He’s always swung at good pitches and taken balls. He got out of sorts, but in this camp he came along great. And on top of that, he’s played more games at third base in big league camp than he’s played in the minor leagues, but he held up. We always thought this guy could go over there and do it. We just never had the flexibility to get him over there for long enough. But where things are in the system now, he’s going to get a lot more time over there.

AF:  So do you think his bat is fairly close to being able to handle major league pitching on a regular basis?

GF:  Yeah, and I think he showed that. He didn’t go to big league camp and just get five or six quick at-bats. I think he got enough of a good look-see for everybody to know that this kid’s got a sound approach. He stays in the middle of the field, he sees the baseball well, he takes good at-bats, and it’s just a matter of time before that opportunity comes for him.

bbBurns, Billy2AF:  A guy who seems to have made some big improvements this year is Billy Burns. He didn’t have a great offensive season last year, but he’s been one of the A’s best hitters this spring and has looked great. So is that just an illusion or has he made some real improvements that are going to last?

GF:  Well, it’s his second year of being the gold star spring training player, so we’re going to see! But I’ll tell you the difference. Last year, so many of his hits were ground balls and a lot of things he out-ran. This year, it seems like he’s in his legs better, using a little core, using the bottom half and driving the baseball a little bit better. That was always the goal last year. And a few of us thought, if he’s just going to be a handsy, punch hitter, they’re going to shrink the field on him the higher he goes up. But now, he’s at his second camp and he’s driving the ball a little bit better, so hopefully he stays with this part of his game. He’s another year into the switch-hitting, so he’s getting a little bit more comfortable from the left side. But he’s staying in his legs, and when you use your legs in hitting, that’s so much of your body mass and where your strength comes from.

AF:  And how to do you feel about his abilities as a center fielder?

GF:  I think he’s a keeper. There’s no issue with him in center. He’s very fundamental. Billy’s a guy who can play a little shallower and do pretty good behind him. He’s definitely a well above average center fielder.

tlLadendorf, Tyler3AF:  Another guy who’s made a great impression in big league camp this year is Tyler Ladendorf. He’s been moving on up the depth chart. He never hit that much in the system until he got to Sacramento last year. He was hitting great there and then the suspension happened. But where do you see Ladendorf’s at at this point?

GF:  Well, he’s fighting to be one of the last guy’s on that club right now. And as long as we’re an outfielder short, his versatility is holding up because he’s one of the few who can play second, third, short and get in the outfield and do some things. And obviously something started to click halfway through last year where the at-bats started to become more quality. I hand it to him, he’s put himself in a very good position. I think he’s grown up a lot in life, more importantly than just baseball. You know, the last 300 at-bats of his life so far have been pretty solid, so God bless him!

AF:  Do you think second base is his most natural position where he really fits the best?

GF:  Yeah, without a doubt.

jwWendle, Joey2AF:  Now speaking of second base, what about Joey Wendle? When the A’s traded Brandon Moss for him, a lot of A’s fans were wondering what was so great about him to justify that deal. But now that you’ve had a chance to see him here in camp, what have you seen out of Joey Wendle?

GF:  Well, he’s a player I never really knew much about until Billy [Beane] made the trade. But he seems to come as advertised. He’s athletic, he’s got quickness and he’s a tough out. He’s got a little pop in the bat and he uses the whole field. It looks like he’s got the chance to be solid at second. I don’t know how much versatility there could be to him. That’s going to take some time for us to see him some more. But he’s an offensive second baseman, he’s a gamer and it seems like he’s got some character to him as well.

AF:  A guy I know you were very high on last year in camp is Chad Pinder. What have you seen out of him this spring and what are you expecting out of him this year?

cpIMG_0155x2cGF:  I go back to last year when he went home and put on some strength. You know, he’s really come into himself as a baseball player, not only defensively but offensively. He’s got a good, pure swing. The only thing with him right now is just his patience at the plate. He’s been a very low walk-rate guy, and I think when it’s all said and done, that needs to improve. But when you think about where his career is, he hasn’t played that much baseball professionally. It’s really just a year and a half. We’re going to have him at shortstop, probably open the year at Midland. But he’s going to get his opportunity every day at shortstop to begin this year and we’ll see where it goes.

AF:  Another guy I wanted to ask you about who was in big league camp for a while is Renato Nunez. So where’s he at in his learning curve?

GF:  Yeah, he’s a guy we started with at 16 or 17, and how many changes have been made to his body and size and strength? He’s an improving third baseman. The accuracy of his throwing continues to be on the bubble – that’s one thing he’s going to have to step up. You know, the one place that we’re starting to get some depth right now, even with the trades, is third base and short. When you think about, you know, if Matt Chapman was out here, and Nunez and Ryon Healy, and Pinder actually looks more third base-ish than he does second base or short. The young kid Edwin Diaz is becoming very physical and very big. So we have all this depth. And depending on how they’re moving up together and getting them time…Nunez got some at-bats in big league camp and wasn’t overly productive. He’s been hurt since he’s been down here [in minor league camp]. He’s got some nagging little things, but he shouldn’t be out too long. You know, he’s still got to get a little firmer with his body, get a little tougher and stronger as far as his commitment to how he’s taking care of himself. But he certainly comes with a ton of impact if everything really hits. You know, he’s got time on his side.

rnNunez, Renato2AF:  Well, I guess Midland will be a big challenge for him this year. He’ll either have to rise to the occasion or not. So for now, he’s staying at third though?

GF:  Yeah, that’s going to be an organizational discussion. If we move him – when, where? Obviously, you’re not loaded with options. But depending on the movement of a Chapman or a Healy or him, who stays at third? Healy’s a first baseman by trade. Chapman has the edge defensively on all of them, but he’s behind Healy and Nunez and even Pinder on the depth chart right now. And he’s hurt – he’s missed the whole camp so far. Get them healthy and get them out and playing, and then we’ll go from there.

AF:  So do you think Healy’s going to end up in a similar situation to last year, maybe playing first and third at Midland with Olson also at first and Nunez also at third?

GF:  Well, if Nunez doesn’t break camp, then Healy’s got the nod.

AF:  Since you mentioned Chapman, it’s his knee he tore up, right?

GF:  The day before he showed up. He was running some stairs.

AF:  So he’ll miss the start of the season then.

GF:  The odds are he’ll miss April.

ym-bur0824racineaward1.jpg20140824bAF:  You mentioned the left side of the infield and you’ve got a couple of particularly interesting guys over there now. The young shortstop Yairo Munoz really came on strong last year. What have you been seeing out of him this spring?

GF:  He’s taken this camp by storm. He’s come in stronger and smarter. He’s been showing more patience at the plate, playing hard, playing aggressively, playing smart. He’s done everything right in this camp. He’s good to go. Electric tools – there’s power in the bat, super arm strength. There’s life in his body, and he plays the game with vigor and enthusiasm.

AF:  And how do you see him in the field as a shortstop?

GF:  Good – I mean, typical young mistakes here and there. But skill-set-wise, he’s solid. This guy runs, he throws, he’s got life, he’s got actions, he’s got pop in the bat. He’s got everything you’re looking for.

AF:  So you think he’s got the ability to stick there at the shortstop position long-term?

GF:  Yeah.

AF:  The A’s also got another shortstop from Toronto this offseason, Franklin Barreto. I know he was late to camp, but he’s another highly-touted shortstop. So what have you been able to see out of him in the time that he’s been here?

fbDSC04083bGF:  Definitely seen the bat. It’s quick, it’s short and it’s direct to the ball. He impacts the ball well. It seems like he’s got a clue at the dish. He’s got good actions in the field. We haven’t seen a lot of arm strength yet at this point, so we don’t know if he’s a little tired. I’ve checked, and he’s not hurting. And again, he’s kind of behind physically…so we’re just waiting to see that one out.

AF:  So how would you compare Barreto and Munoz?

GF:  Well, there’s two ways to look at it. When you compare their numbers from a year ago, Barreto’s numbers were better than Yairo’s at the same level of play. But at the same time, Yairo’s got some impact skills that might be ahead of him. Obviously, it’ll take time to find out who delivers the consistency. One of them can have the bigger upside, but who’s going to be the guy who develops the consistency and becomes a true player?

AF:  What other positions could you see each of them most naturally slotting into?

GF:  Munoz could go to third because he’s probably got the bigger upside power, whereas Barreto would go to second. But I’m reserving judgment on that, because we just haven’t seen enough.

AF:  All right, let’s talk about some young pitchers with some upside. What about Bobby Wahl? There’s obviously a lot of promise there, but he struggled a bit last year. What are you seeing out of him at this point?

WahlGF:  Biggest stuff we’ve got in the system – I mean, when you just break down a breaking ball and a fastball. He can throw it real hard and he can drop a breaking ball that’ll buckle you. The whole thing is he’s so talented and he’s got such good stuff that in the real scheme of development, you’d want him on the mound more often. But trying to protect some of his past injuries and keep him healthy, we have to try to develop him as a 1-2 inning type of guy. Sometimes that slows down development, which is evident with him going to Stockton and not doing very well and then walking into a big league camp and punching out the side. You know, when you’ve got that kind of stuff, you just never know when it’s going to show up in the right spots. I will give him this – he pitched down a lot better in these big league games than he has historically in the minor leagues. So that’s been his biggest thing. He’s always had the stuff. It’s just his location and elevation that’s gotten him in trouble in the minor leagues. You know, he was throwing some fastballs 97 mph at the knees in big league camp. Well, that’s pretty much going to beat anybody. So it’s about him bringing that here.

AF:  So he’ll be pitching out of the bullpen this year then.

GF:  Yeah.

doDillon-Overton-2014-bm-300x225cAF:  Now Dillon Overton looked good coming back from Tommy John surgery in the second half of last season. What have you seen out of him this spring?

GF:  There have been flashes of who he really is, and then there have been flashes of him getting out of rhythm a little bit, but his stuff is back. I thought his breaking ball and his changeup were back at the end of last year. The only thing that kind of deteriorated through the rehab was his velocity. So the velocity’s back to somewhere between 87-90 mph. And I think that’s going to increase the more that he goes out there and feels confident.

AF:  So far he’s topped out around 90 mph then?

GF:  Yeah, but he’s the kind of guy that, even if it never climbs over 90 mph, this guy’s got a good chance of getting people out. He’s got a chance to really locate. He’s got feel and deception with his breaking ball, he’s got a quality changeup, and he’s got an idea what he’s doing. So this isn’t a guy whose success is going to rely on how hard he throws. This kid’s got a clue. I see some dominance coming out of him.

AF:  Is there going to be an innings limit on him this season?

GF:  Oh, yeah.

raAlcantara, Raul3bAF:  Let me ask you about Raul Alcantara, who had Tommy John surgery last May. I believe he’s been throwing some bullpens lately. How’s he looking?

GF:  He’s been good, very good. He threw a side the other day.

AF:  So you think he’s still got a few months before he’ll be back out there later in the season?

GF:  Yeah, he’s a June guy probably.

AF:  A young guy who missed last season with various issues but is back in action this spring is Dustin Driver. He pitched well here the other day. What have you been seeing out of him now that he’s back on the mound?

GF:  He’s healthy. He had a good instructional league. He’s stronger, his body’s in better shape, and he’s got a more mature awareness of the sport. He’s got a changeup that he didn’t have when he arrived. So it’s about commanding the baseball, pure and simple. It’s about him throwing fastballs in the strike zone. And when he can prove that he can be efficient enough to go out some place and start filling up that zone with strikes, then he’s on his way. His breaking ball’s not quality for a guy who throws as hard as he can throw, so that’s a work in progress. But he’s come a long way with his changeup.

ckDSC04067x2AF:  Another young guy who missed last season is Chris Kohler. So what have you been seeing out of him now that he’s back on the mound again?

GF:  He’s been good. He’s fully confident in his fastball. He’s extending, he’s getting out front and he’s letting it go. He’s got plenty of 92s coming out of his hand. The biggest thing that he’s been going through is he’s lost the feel for his breaker a little bit. So this camp has kind of been more geared to him getting his breaking ball back. I think our intent was to have him ready to go out, but that’s still under discussion what’s going to happen. That breaking ball that he has is a weapon for him, and we’ve got to make sure he’s got it. But he’ll get it back.

AF:  Before we’re through, let me ask you about one last position player I know you like who had a big year last year, and that’s outfielder Jaycob Brugman. What do you like about him?

jb595144GF:  He’s a baseball guy, he comes to play and he’s well-rounded on all sides of the game. To me, I think he’s our best fundamentally sound outfielder – not only his routes and his reads, but crow hops and his technique in throwing. I think he’s got instincts for the game. He’s always been a listener and he’s learned quick. He doesn’t do anything over the top – there’s not a lot of big things you see out of him. But you’re talking about a guy who hits, he’ll hit it out, he’ll steal a base, he’ll throw you out. He just does everything well. And last year, between Beloit and Stockton, this guy put up a super year. So let’s just keep it going!

AF:  Well, let’s hope they all do! Thanks.

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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.

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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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.

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

 

 

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