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Athletics 2015 Community Prospect List #17: Dustin Driver is the next AN sleeper

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It takes more than a dozen minor league innings to get a picture in our photo editor!
It takes more than a dozen minor league innings to get a picture in our photo editor!
Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

In the last installment, Dustin Driver emerged from a group of interesting-but-flawed names to land the No. 16 spot on our A's prospect list. The current list, with ranks from MLB.comBaseball America (revised)Baseball ProspectusAthletics FarmKeith Law, Fangraphs, and John Sickels in parentheses (strikethrough font means he didn't make that list):

1. Matt Olson, 1B (MLB #1, BA #2, BP #2, AF #1, KL #1, FG #2, JS #2)
2. Franklin Barreto, SS (MLB #2, BA #1, BP #1, AF #2, KL #2, FG #1, JS #1)
3. Matt Chapman, 3B (MLB #4, BA #3, BP #10, AF #3, KL #3, FG #3, JS #6)
4. Renato Nunez, 3B (MLB #3, BA #4, BP #4, AF #4, KL #4, FG #4, JS #3)
5. Dillon Overton, LHP (MLB #5, BA #9, BP#7, AF #8, KL #5, FG #7, JS #11)
6. Kendall Graveman, RHP (MLB #9, BA #6, BP #5, AF #5, KL #9, FG #5, JS #4)
7. Yairo Munoz, SS (MLB, BA, BP #6, AF #13, KL #8, FG #12, JS #7)
8. Sean Nolin, LHP (MLB #8, BA #7, BP #3, AF #6, KL #12, FG #8, JS #5)
9. Raul Alcantara, RHP (MLB #7, BA #10, BP, AF #9, KL #6, FG #10, JS #9)
10. Joey Wendle, 2B (MLB #11, BA, BP #9, AF #10, KL, FG #14, JS #18)
11. R.J. Alvarez, RHP (MLB #16, BA, BP, AF, KL, FG #6, JS #8)
12. Rangel Ravelo, 3B (MLB #19, BA #8, BP, AF #11, KL, FG #15, JS #15)
13. Mark Canha, 1B/OF (MLB, BA, BP, AF, KL, FG, JS #14)
14. Chad Pinder, 2B (MLB #6, BA, BP #8, AF #7, KL #7, FG #9, JS #12)
15. Chris Bassitt, RHP (MLB #17, BA #5, BP, AF #14, KL, FG #16, JS #16)
16. Dustin Driver, RHP (MLB, BA, BP, AF, KL, FG #18, JS #20)

As you can see from his absence on most other lists, Driver hasn't yet started to make serious waves in the prospect world. That's because he has barely pitched in the pros -- he threw 11⅓ innings in Rookie ball in 2013 at age 18, and then missed all of 2014 with injuries. (On the bright side, the main injury was to his back, not to his arm, though backs are nothing to mess around with either.)

However, there is a lot to like about him. He slipped in the draft due to signability reasons, so landing him at all was considered a coup for Oakland. He can hit the mid-90s and even touch the high-90s and he's shown a couple of strong secondary pitches, so the raw talent is there. He still has a lot to prove, but folks who rate him highly are excited about the skills he brings to the table. He's on this list purely based on his potential, because his potential is big. He'll probably either rise up the rankings quickly by proving himself in 2015, or drop off of it entirely if he either struggles or gets hurt again.

The next CPL will come out in a few days, so don't waste any time casting your vote or making your nomination(s)!

Here are the rules:

  • Five candidates will appear on the ballot.
  • In the comments, commenters will nominate a player to be put onto the list the next round. After the first nomination for a player has been put in, all other votes for that player will come from Rec'ing that post.
  • The format for the comment should be "Nomination: Player Name".
  • If a prospect is traded, his name will be crossed out, and all other players will be moved up a space.
  • If a prospect is acquired, a special vote will be put up to determine where that player should be voted to rank, by asking what player is that prospect better than. For example, if we acquired a top prospect that could be our new top guy, we'd have a vote for who that player was better than, with the top 5 prospects thus far. That prospect would then be inserted into the list right above that player.

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Our new addition, Bobby Wahl, was drafted two rounds ahead of Dustin Driver in 2013. Like Driver, he's a right-handed pitcher, but he's actually done some work at the pro level. He hit a bit of a wall at Single-A and High-A last season, but he's still got time to develop and figure things out. He's one of the many names who could rise quickly up this list with a strong 2015 campaign. Here's a quick rundown on him:

Bobby Wahl, RHP | Expected level: High-A | Age 23 (on Saturday!)

From MLB.com

Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 45 | Overall: 45

After turning down seven-figure offers from pro teams as a high schooler, Wahl went to Mississippi, and he entered 2013 as a possible first-round pick. But blister issues led to diminished stuff, and his signability concerned clubs. Oakland stole Wahl in the fifth round and signed him for $500,000.

Wahl's fastball velocity bounced back after he turned pro, ranging from 90-95 mph. He has reached 97 mph in the past while coming out of the bullpen for the U.S. national college team. Wahl's hard slider also regained its sharpness, and he also continued to exhibit feel for his changeup.

Scouts aren't enamored with Wahl's delivery, and they wondered if the effort he expends will lead to him becoming a reliever. It's hard to argue with Wahl's track record of success against top college competition in the Southeastern Conference, though he has struggled in his first full pro season. The A's hoped he could move quickly through the Minors and become at least a No. 3 starter, but it appears that was optimistic.

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Here are our other current candidates:

Daniel Gossett, RHP | Expected Level: Single-A | Age 22

From MLB.com

Scouting grades: Fastball: 50 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 45

Clemson has produced seven big league pitchers in the 2004-13 Drafts, and it could have an eighth on the way in Gossett. As a second-rounder this June, Gossett went higher than any of them, except for Pirates 2007 first-rounder Daniel Moskos.

Signed for $750,000, Gossett has a low-90s fastball that tops out at 94 mph. He commands the fastball well, which is crucial, because it's fairly straight. Gossett's best pitch is his hard slider, while his changeup is a reliable third offering.

Gossett doesn't have an imposing build, so scouts question if he'll have the durability to be a starter as a pro. If Gossett does shift to the bullpen, both his fastball and slider could play up and become above-average pitches as he works shorter stints.

Max Muncy, 1B | Expected level: Double-A | Age 24

From MLB.com

Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 50 | Run: 40 | Arm: 45 | Field: 45 | Overall: 45

Coming out of Baylor in 2012, Muncy's patient approach at the plate made him the kind of advanced college hitter that the A's have become known for drafting. Behind a power surge that saw him hit 25 home runs between Class A Advanced Stockton and Double-A Midland, Muncy took a step forward in his first full season.

Muncy will have to prove the home runs weren't just a California League mirage, but he has always had solid pop waiting to be unlocked. In addition to his power, Muncy has excellent pitch-recognition skills and remains adept at working walks.

Muncy is more athletic than his frame suggests, and he is an adequate defender at first base. Oakland gave him some time at third base in 2014, but that's a stretch for him to play there on a regular basis. Muncy earns high marks for his makeup and understanding of the game.

Billy Burns, OF | Expected level: Triple-A | Age 25

From MLB.com

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 20 | Run: 80 | Arm: 30 | Field: 55 | Overall: 45

Though Burns lasted 32 rounds in the 2011 Draft, the Nationals enticed him to sign for $75,000, and they got him to resume switch-hitting in pro ball after he had abandoned it at Mercer. Burns broke out in 2013 by ranking third in the Minors with 74 steals, and he ranked ninth with a .425 on-base percentage. Washington traded him to the A's in December for Jerry Blevins.

The son of former New York Jets running back Bob Burns, Billy has top-of-the-scale speed, and he focuses on maximizing it. He uses a patient and contact-oriented approach to get on base and create havoc. Burns has the potential to become Oakland's most dynamic basestealing threat since Rickey Henderson.

Burns' style leaves him with next to no power, and some scouts wonder if pitchers will be able to overwhelm him at the big league level. His speed allows him to cover lots of ground in center field, though he lacks some defensive polish. The Nats often deployed Burns in left field. Burns lacks arm strength, but he tries to make up for it by getting to balls quickly.

Pat Venditte, LRHP | Expected level: Triple-A or MLB | Age 29

From Carson Cistulli of Fangraphs

The switch-pitching Venditte is essentially a human case study in the value of platoon advantage and the limits to which it can be taken. Selected by the Yankees in the 20th round of the 2008 draft out of Creighton, Venditte throws only about 85 mph with his right hand and even a bit slower than that with his left. Despite his underwhelming velocity, however, he's recorded strikeout and walk rates of 27.7% and 6.5%, respectively, over 445.2 minor-league innings - most recently with Triple-A affiliate Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Despite New York's relative enthusiasm to sign Venditte (they also drafted him in the 45th round after his junior year), the club never found a place for him on the major-league roster. Oakland signed him to a minor-league deal in November, and one supposes (or at least hopes) that they did so with with a view towards giving him his major-league debut.

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Vote in the poll below for your favorite of the five, and post your nominations in the comments!