Say what you will about the moves Billy Beane has made this offseason. What's undeniable is the capital of pun-worthy names amassed over the last few weeks. (Am I the only one who thinks Rangel Ravelo sounds like a Dungeons & Dragons character? Swarthy half-elf, no doubt.) In terms of pure baseball nomenclature, I'd happily take Wendle, Bassitt and Ravelo for Moss and Samardzija -- although I don't deny the not-so-subtle panache of Samardzija, Jeff.
I digress. Let's meet the new guys. In baseball terms, of course.
Wendle's been the most divisive prospect to come over this offseason, largely because he's the only other player involved in the Brandon Moss deal.
He played college ball at West Chester College (Pa.) and led the school to its first Division II National Championship. He was then drafted in the sixth round of the 2012 draft and signed for just $10,000. Suffice it to say, he's beaten the odds to find himself on the doorstep to the major leagues.
His first year in the minor leagues was at Low-A, where he brutalized the New York-Penn League to the tune of .327/.375/.469. In 2013, he was promoted to the Carolina League (High-A), where he took another step forward, slashing .293/.370/.511 with 16 home runs and 32 doubles in 107 games. At 23, he was roughly the median age for players in the Carolina League. The league also doesn't have a reputation for extreme run-scoring, so the numbers need not be subjected to the ice-bucket challenge.
2014 was a struggle for the young second baseman. He hit .253/.311/.414 with eight home runs and four stolen bases in 87 games at Double-A Akron. He missed most of the second half of the season with a broken hamate bone, just after breaking out of a massive early season slump. Given the trajectory of his season and the injury, the stats can be taken with a grain of salt.
From a scouting perspective, Wendle's "carrying tool" is his ability to hit. He handles velocity well and has a "knack for hard contact." He's similar in some ways to another statistically successful, yet relatively unheralded second base prospect, Tommy La Stella. It's not a perfect comparison because Wendle has more power and La Stella makes more contact, but both fall into the unsexy "contact-first second baseman" archetype. They're not the types of hitters who excite scouts because of their low ceilings.
In fact, after the 2013 season, in spite of winning the Lou Bordeau award -- honoring the Indians' best minor league position player -- he was still just the organization's 17th-best prospect according to Baseball America. They lauded his "blue-collar mentality and top-shelf makeup," but suggested he'd either be a utility infielder or trade bait with Jason Kipnis entrenched in Cleveland.
Wendle's ability to put the stick on the ball should ensure he has big-leauge career. If there's a red flag here, it's health. He's had two seasons in a row cut short by injuries, specifically a fractured orbital (face) in 2013 and the aforementioned hamate in 2014. He's got doubles power, which seems to be something the A's are becoming more and more enamored of. The spacious gaps in O.co should help Wendle post batting averages between .270 and .280 at the major league level with 8-12 home runs per season. He owns a career .748 OPS against lefties and .859 against righties at the minor league level, which suggests he doesn't have a pronounced platoon split and can play every day.
The Indians weren't blowing smoke when they said they didn't want to lose Wendle. And, as David Forst put it in the must-read interview with Fangraphs, "I think this was a guy we really liked. To be really honest, when we target a player and know that’s what we want, we can be pretty singularly focused on them."
MLB.com currently rates him as the A's 14th-best prospect, behind Muncy, Powell and Graveman. He'll likely begin the season at Double-A Midland, but should get a taste of the majors at some point in 2015.
Ravelo is interesting. He's never garnered buzz as a prospect because he's a corner infielder who hasn't hit for power. (Like hardly any power. He's hit just 18 home runs in five minor league seasons.)
There is, however, reason for hope. Ravelo's shown growth in every minor league season except 2012, increasing his slugging percentage incrementally from .335, .415, .397, .432, to .473. His 2014 at Double-A Birmingham was very promising. He hit 11 home runs and 37 doubles in 133 games, after moving from a hitter-friendly park in Winston-Salem the year before to a pitcher-friendly home park in Birmingham. His previous season-high for home runs was four.
If you haven't read the article Alex mentioned the other day from Nathaniel Stoltz, go do that.
To briefly summarize his thoughts on Ravelo:
a.) He doesn't look like much of a prospect on paper, but in person/video he's got the hack of a guy who could seemingly smash a dinger out of any park.
b.) He's made contact at every level, never striking out in more than 14 percent of his plate appearances. He also walks at an above-average rate.
c.) He could be a late-bloomer whose eventual power output far exceeds current expectations.
Rumor has it that the A's think he's got the chops to play third base still, which also significantly lowers the offensive bar he has to hurdle.
Check out this epic blast from July of 2013:
Bassitt is a fringy prospect. He's entering his age-26 season and 2015 will likely be his first full year in the major leagues. He's struggled with health last season, making just 11 starts between Triple-A Charlotte and Chicago.
He has an exciting fastball that's really tough on right-handed hitters because of its movement. He's a tall, lanky guy at 6'5, 205 pounds, and his long arm action is deceptive to righties and just the opposite to lefties. His off-speed pitches are relatively uninspiring, although his slider has potential to be a useful big-league pitch.
It sounds to me like Bassitt is destined for the bullpen, although he could pass in a long relief or fifth starter role. For equity's sake, here's a quick video of Bassitt dominating the Tigers last season (and more Hawk Harrelson for the haters).