ESPN's Keith Law placed two Athletics on his Top 100 prospects list released Thursday (subscription required), ranking first baseman Matt Olson at #81 and shortstop Franklin Barreto at #95. On Wednesday, Law ranked the Athletics farm 26th overall, noting the two first round selections shipped out in the July Jeff Samardzija trade, and that the system was "light on pitchers who project as more than fifth starters[.]"
Matt Olson and Franklin Barreto
In Matt Olson, Law sees Olson as a bit more than "another patient, all-or-nothing type of hitter" like Adam Dunn, but "a power/strength guy who muscles the ball despite fringy bat speed[.]" Olson's glove rates as "mediocre ... with stiff hands but adequate footwork around the bag[.]" Law's biggest concern, and why he ranks Olson down at #81, is that bat speed, but if he can make it work, "[H]e projects as a .230/.370/.500 hitter who is average on defense." I can see why the A's front office was so reluctant to give up Olson that they sent cash money to Tampa so the Rays would take Boog Powell instead.
Shortstop Franklin Barreto, at #95, "projects as an everyday middle infielder who can hit and get on base with added value on the bases." Law's only concern with Barreto's six-hole defense is his "consistency on the routine play." Law concludes, "I don't think he'll hit for any home run power, probably peaking in the high single digits, but he should hit for average with a solid OBP and 30-35 doubles a year, which would make him at leas a regular at second base and might make him an All-Star at short."
Future A's killers
We can't let a prospects rankings go by without wondering about the future bringers of the Curse of the Former Athletics.
Addison Russell ranks #4 in Law's list, rating as "true shortstop with one of the best pure hit tools in the minors[.]" His bottom line: "Shortstops with the potential to hit .300-plus with double-digit homers are rare commodities -- Troy Tulowitzki was the only major leaguer to do it in 2014 -- which make Russell's skill set extremely valuable."
Daniel Robertson, at #83, was just below Matt Olson. Law has Robertson as "a current shortstop who won't stay there in the majors but who should be able to play second or third (and well) while getting on base at an excellent clip." The Rays could make Robertson a multi-position player, writes Law, concluding, "Guys who projects for a .400 OBP are pretty valuable commodities, and you can see from this ranking how rare Robertson's skill really is."
The A's future
Nowhere to be found are third basemen Matt Chapman and Renato Nunez, nor starting pitcher Kendall Graveman, who Billy Beane said was on the inside track to earn a spot in the back of the rotation this year.
But even if this farm is a little barren, what are we really missing here? The outfield is going to be an issue come 2017, when Sam Fuld, Craig Gentry, and Josh Reddick all reach free agency. We can continue to hold out hope that Hector Olivera will be our savior at second base for the next few years. The rotation loses Scott Kazmir in 2016, but the A's have a lot of guys that project as backend starters, and I'm of the view that out of a lot of backend arms you can find one gem. The A's also have about $35 million falling off of payroll in 2016, enabling them to make the impossible-to-predict moves that will make Oakland contenders again at that point.
Everything will be fine. We'll be okay.