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Oakland A's prospect watch: Three pitchers acquired in trades for Brett Lawrie and Evan Scribner

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

With the new year approaching, it's almost time to start voting on our 2016 Oakland A's Community Prospect List. However, before we embark on that quest, there are a few new names to learn from the mid-December trades. None are likely to rank highly in our top-25 list, but it's still worth knowing who they are. It's even possible we could see at least one of them in Oakland sometime during the coming season.

From White Sox for Brett Lawrie

RHP J.B. Wendelken (Triple-A)
LHP Zack Erwin (Single-A)

From Mariners for Evan Scribner

RHP Trey Cochran-Gill (Double-A)

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Note: Ages refer to the ages at which they played in 2015.

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J.B. Wendelken | RHP | Age 22

Level in 2015: Promoted to Triple-A in July

2015 Double-A: 27 games, 2.72 ERA, 43 innings, 56 Ks, 11 BB, 4 HR, 2.68 FIP
2015 Triple-A: 12 games, 4.50 ERA, 16 innings, 13 Ks, 5 BB, 2 HR, 4.09 FIP

Jeffrey Benjamin Wendelken was drafted by the Red Sox in 2012, and the next year he was a footnote in the trade to acquire Jake Peavy from the White Sox. He got a chance to start in High-A for Chicago, but he settled back into the bullpen last year as a 22-year-old and had a mini-breakout season. He has a shot to reach Oakland in 2016.

The best profile of Wendelken comes from Nathaniel Stoltz at Fangraphs in 2014. Stoltz noted the right-hander's low-90s* fastball and solid control, and raved about his "monstrous changeup that features zone-crossing fade." On the downside, Stoltz wasn't impressed by Wendelken's breaking ball, and also noted a lack of stamina that could relegate him to the bullpen (which did indeed end up happening the next year). The key takeaway involved the changeup, though:

The bigtime action on the [changeup] is paired with excellent velocity separation -- early in my viewing, Wendelken's fastball was in the low 90s while the change was in the upper 70s. He features it heavily to both lefties and righties and isn't afraid to double or triple up on it if a batter's unable to pick the pitch up. As you can see, it induces a ton of awkward swings.

And in video form:

Stoltz finished his analysis by using Brad Boxberger and Tyler Clippard as potential comps for Wendelken's style, calling him "a reliever who can air it out around 92 mph and throw a nasty changeup 35% of the time."

When Stoltz wrote all of that in May 2014, Wendelken was still starting in High-A. In 2015, he moved up to Double-A and went back to the bullpen, but this time he began racking up strikeouts -- more than 11 per nine innings, and more than five per walk. His numbers fell off a bit in Triple-A, but in this case I would focus on the big picture: a 22-year-old moved up to a new level, dominated it, and then moved up again midseason. The ascent itself is more important to me than the fact that he stumbled a bit on his way up, and I'm more interested in what he does in Triple-A next year than what he did in his first taste last fall. He also got lit up in four outings in the Arizona Fall League, but again, at least he was there at all.

Wendelken isn't a high-profile prospect and he doesn't have a high ceiling, but he seems to have upped his stock from being organizational filler to being a candidate for an MLB job in 2016. Don't expect to see him making the team out of spring training, but keep an eye on him in Nashville. The fact that he's already on the 40-man roster means that there aren't that many arms ahead of him on the depth chart.

* At the time of the Lawrie trade, Melissa Lockard of Oakland Clubhouse pegged Wendelken's fastball at 91-95 mph.

Zack Erwin | LHP | Age 21

Level in 2015: Promoted to Single-A in August

2015 Single-A: 7 games, 1.89 ERA, 19 innings, 15 Ks, 4 BB, 0 HR, 2.69 FIP

Despite being tall at 6'5, Erwin relies on things like deception, command, and variety rather than velocity. His pro career is only just beginning, as he was drafted last June in the fourth round, so we don't yet have much to go by in terms of numbers. What we do know is that he reached full-season Single-A ball in the year he was drafted; most guys stay in either rookie ball or short-season Low-A, and among A's draftees this year only Mikey White and Tim Proudfoot reached Single-A Beloit. That could be a sign of a guy primed to move up the system quickly, and indeed Matt Eddy of Baseball America refers to him as a "fast-moving, high-floor southpaw who could provide major league value as soon as 2017."

Here's what MLB.com has to say about him:

Erwin has the makings of three average-or-better pitches, each of which plays up due to his advanced command. His 6-foot-5 frame and long arms help him create an angle to the plate and also lend to his deception, allowing him to sneak up on opposing hitters with his 88-90 mph fastball. The left-hander's ability to command his heater throughout the zone helps set up his curveball and split-changeup, with both offerings showing above-average potential.

The current question is whether to develop Erwin as a starter or a reliever. On one hand, he was in the rotation for his final college season and made a handful of starts after Chicago drafted him. Melissa Lockard notes his groundball tendencies and muses that he "has a good feel for mixing his pitches and the frame and strike-throwing approach to be an innings-eater as he develops." On the other hand, switching to relief would certainly allow him to move up the system faster, and his ceiling as a starter is probably low anyway given the smoke-and-mirrors skill set described in the scouting report above. Which way will the A's go with him?

There's not much else to say about Erwin at this point, and you can see what you want to see in him -- a future No. 4/5 starter, or a lefty reliever who could be in the bigs the season after next. We'll know more when we see what role the A's put him in to start the year, and at what level of the system they place him. I'll take a conservative guess now that he'll begin the season in the starting rotation at Single-A Beloit, but with a chance to move quickly up to High-A Stockton. May as well give him a shot to start and see if he can handle it, and the A's seem to like giving such opportunities to pitchers who profile as efficient, grounder-heavy innings-eaters.

Trey Cochran-Gill | Age 22

Level in 2015: Mainly Double-A

2015 High-A: 10 games, 1.37 ERA, 19⅔ innings, 18 Ks, 3 BB, 0 HR, 2.56 FIP
2015 Double-A: 34 games, 5.43 ERA, 53 innings, 30 Ks, 32 BB, 0 HR, 4.10 FIP

There is a lot that I find interesting about Cochran-Gill. He was drafted in 2014, so his pro track record is still short, but it has wavered between some odd extremes:

- In his pro debut, he threw 36 innings between rookie ball and Low-A and allowed only one earned run, for a 0.25 ERA that looks like a typo no matter how many times you double-check it.
- He followed that up by starting off well in High-A in 2015, and by May he'd racked up career totals of 62 strikeouts and 10 walks.
- That success earned him a promotion to Double-A, where he reversed his K/BB brilliance by issuing more walks (32) than strikeouts (30) in a generally awful performance.
- Meanwhile, he still hasn't allowed a home run in 70 professional games and more than 100 innings.

So, what are we supposed to make of all that? Here's a rundown from an MLB.com video scouting report:

The undersized [5'10] right-hander uses two above-average pitches to be extremely effective. He throws his fastball up to 94 mph with tremendous sink, leading to robust 2.71 groundout-to-airout ratios. He combines that with a very good slider that misses bats. [He] has shown an ability to be a strike thrower ... when he's right, he commands his sinker well, getting outs early in counts as he pitches to contact.

There are other reports out there (Lockard, and Jason A. Churchill of Prospect Insider), but they come to the same conclusions: small frame, two-pitch arsenal, induces grounders, likely middle reliever but a fast-track candidate. In fact, he's already moved quickly by reaching Double-A in his first full season. If he can sort out whatever went wrong with his command last summer, then he'll add his name to the ever-growing list of quality bullpen depth that is brewing in Oakland's upper minors.

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The categories:

The Graduates (... and the sequel)
The MLB Pitching Depth
The Young Hurlers
The Even Younger Hurlers
The Middle Infielders
The Corner Sluggers: 1B
The Corner Sluggers: 3B
The Best of the Rest
Stepping up in 2015
New International Standouts
Final Names of Note
The 2015 Draft
The New Acquisitions
- Three New Pitchers

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The List

Each player is listed at the level at which he finished the 2015 season (except where noted), and his stats only include his performance at that current level. The levels refer to the Nashville Sounds (AAA), the Midland RockHounds (AA), the High-A Stockton Ports (A+), the Single-A Beloit Snappers (A), the short-season Low-A Vermont Lake Monsters (A-), and the Arizona Rookie League (RK). For the hitters, I am going to focus less on raw numbers and more on league-adjusted stats (wRC+) and rates (K% and BB%).

The list has been expanded to include the five new July trade acquisitions (stats listed are since their acquisitions), as well as five of the top June draft picks (first six picks minus third-round pick Dakota Chalmers, who is still in Rookie ball). There are also five more 2015 standouts, labelled SU (Stepping Up).

* The following recent transactions are not reflected: Tyler Ladendorf was promoted from Triple-A Nashville to MLB; Jose Torres was promoted to from Single-A Beloit to High-A Stockton. ... Sean Nolin (MLB), R.J. Alvarez (MLB), Max Muncy (MLB), Pat Venditte (MLB), Ryan Dull (MLB), Rangel Ravelo (AAA), Dillon Overton (AA), Brendan McCurry (AA), Yairo Munoz (A+), and Mikey White (A) received midseason promotions and I've only included their stats at their new, higher levels. ... Aaron Kurcz spent time in the Braves' system, but I've only included his stats from Triple-A Nashville.

Players in underlined italics have graduated to MLB and no longer qualify as prospects. Players in strikethrough are no longer in the organization.

Oakland A's 2015 Community Prospect List
# Name Pos Age Level 2015 Stats
1 Matt Olson 1B 21 AA 585 PAs, 132 wRC+, 17 HR, 17.9% BB, 23.8% Ks
2 Franklin Barreto SS 19 A+ 364 PAs, 122 wRC+, 13 HR, 4.1% BB, 18.4% Ks
3 Matt Chapman 3B 22 A+ 352 PAs, 139 wRC+, 23 HR, 11.1% BB, 22.4% Ks
4 Renato Nunez 3B 21 AA 416 PAs, 124 wRC+, 18 HR, 6.7% BB, 15.9% Ks
5 Dillon Overton LHP 23 AA 13 starts, 3.06 ERA, 64⅔ ip, 47 Ks, 15 BB, 4 HR, 3.34 FIP
6 Kendall Graveman RHP 24 MLB 21 starts, 100 ERA+, 115⅔ ip, 2.03 K/BB, 4.60 FIP, 0.4 fWAR
7 Yairo Munoz SS 20 A+ 165 PAs, 132 wRC+, 4 HR, 6.7% BB, 12.1% Ks
8 Sean Nolin LHP 25 MLB 6 games, 77 ERA+, 29 ip, 1.25 K/BB, 5.13 FIP, 0.0 fWAR
9 Raul Alcantara RHP 22 A+ 15 starts, 3.88 ERA, 48⅔ ip, 29 Ks, 8 BB, 3 HR, 4.00 FIP
10 Joey Wendle 2B 25 AAA 618 PAs, 101 wRC+, 10 HR, 3.6% BB, 18.4% Ks
11 R.J. Alvarez RHP 24 MLB 21 games, 41 ERA+, 20 ip, 1.77 K/BB, 7.33 FIP, -0.5 fWAR
12 Rangel Ravelo 3B 23 AAA 112 PAs, 86 wRC+, 1 HR, 6.3% BB, 19.6% Ks
13 Mark Canha 1B/OF 26 MLB 485 PAs, 106 wRC+, 16 HR, 6.8% BB, 19.8% Ks, 1.4 fWAR
14 Chad Pinder SS 23 AA 522 PAs, 135 wRC+, 15 HR, 5.4% BB, 19.7% Ks
15 Chris Bassitt RHP 26 MLB 18 games, 113 ERA+, 86 ip, 2.13 K/BB, 3.76 FIP, 1.4 fWAR
16 Dustin Driver RHP 20 A- 14 games, 4.99 ERA, 52⅓ ip, 32 Ks, 35 BB, 4 HR, 5.41 FIP
17 Billy Burns OF 25 MLB 555 PAs, 102 wRC+, 26 SB, 4.7% BB, 14.6% Ks, 2.3 fWAR
18 Max Muncy 1B/3B 24 MLB 112 PAs, 80 wRC+, 3 HR, 8.0% BB, 27.7% Ks, -0.5 fWAR
19 Tyler Ladendorf IF/OF 27 *AAA 90 PAs, 76 wRC+, 1 HR, 5.6 BB%, 25.6 K%
20 Daniel Gossett RHP 22 A 27 starts, 4.73 ERA, 144⅔ ip, 112 Ks, 52 BB, 16 HR, 4.49 FIP
21 Bobby Wahl RHP 23 AA 24 games, 4.18 ERA, 32⅓ ip, 36 Ks, 14 BB, 2 HR, 3.17 FIP
22 Chris Kohler LHP 20 A- 11 games, 4.66 ERA, 38⅔ ip, 37 Ks, 10 BB, 2 HR, 3.52 FIP
23 Pat Venditte SHP 30 MLB 26 games, 93 ERA+, 28⅔ ip, 1.92 K/BB, 4.15 FIP, 0.1 fWAR
24 Jaycob Brugman OF 23 AA 566 PAs, 105 wRC+, 6 HR, 11.0% BB, 15.7% Ks
25 Brett Graves RHP 22 A 28 starts, 5.36 ERA, 142⅔ ip, 91 Ks, 44 BB, 15 HR, 4.49 FIP
NR Bruce Maxwell C 24 AA 381 PAs, 79 wRC+, 2 HR, 10.2% BB, 14.2% Ks
NR Ryon Healy 3B/1B 23 AA 543 PAs, 113 wRC+, 10 HR, 5.5% BB, 15.1% Ks
NR Branden Kelliher RHP 19 RK Arizona Rookie League
NR Dylan Covey RHP 23 A+ 26 starts, 3.59 ERA, 140⅓ ip, 100 Ks, 43 BB, 13 HR, 4.60 FIP
NR Sandber Pimentel 1B 20 A 471 PAs, 112 wRC+, 13 HR, 10.6% BB, 22.1% Ks
SU Colin Walsh 2B 25 AA 619 PAs, 163 wRC+, 13 HR, 20.0% BB, 21.2% Ks
SU Ryan Dull RHP 25 MLB 13 games, 97 ERA+, 17 ip, 2.67 K/BB, 5.37 FIP, -0.3 fWAR
SU Brendan McCurry RHP 23 AA 14 games, 1.62 ERA, 16⅔ ip, 26 Ks, 6 BB, 1 HR, 2.04 FIP
SU Jose Torres LHP 21 *A 44 games, 2.69 ERA, 73⅔ ip, 80 Ks, 23 BB, 4 HR, 3.03 FIP
SU Aaron Kurcz RHP 24 AAA 18 games, 4.15 ERA, 26 ip, 31 Ks, 15 BB, 2 HR, 3.95 FIP
TR Sean Manaea LHP 23 AA 7 starts, 1.90 ERA, 42⅔ ip, 51 Ks, 15 BB, 3 HR, 2.95 FIP
TR Daniel Mengden RHP 22 A+ 8 starts, 4.25 ERA, 42⅓ ip, 41 Ks, 10 BB, 6 HR, 4.53 FIP
TR Casey Meisner RHP 20 A+ 7 starts, 2.78 ERA, 32⅓ ip, 24 Ks, 7 BB, 1 HR, 3.35 FIP
TR Aaron Brooks RHP 25 MLB 11 games, 60 ERA+, 51 ip, 2.50 K/BB, 5.11 FIP, -0.1 fWAR
TR Jacob Nottingham C 20 A+ 182 PAs, 107 wRC+, 3 HR, 6.6% BB, 20.9% Ks
DR Richie Martin SS 20 A- 226 PAs, 112 wRC+, 2 HR, 11.1% BB, 20.8% Ks
DR Mikey White SS 21 A 145 PAs, 65 wRC+, 1 HR, 6.9% BB, 20.7% Ks
DR Skye Bolt CF 21 A- 206 PAs, 110 wRC+, 4 HR, 11.7% BB, 21.4% Ks
DR Kevin Duchene LHP 21 A- 8 games, 4.84 ERA, 22⅓ ip, 18 Ks, 9 BB, 2 HR, 4.41 FIP
DR Bubba Derby RHP 21 A- 12 games, 0.78 ERA, 34⅔ ip, 45 Ks, 10 BB, 2 HR, 2.54 FIP