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Oakland A's prospect watch: Dillon Overton, Raul Alcantara lead the young pitchers

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Alcantara has only walked 5 batters in 9 starts for High-A Stockton this season.
Alcantara has only walked 5 batters in 9 starts for High-A Stockton this season.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Before the season began, Athletics Nation voted on its annual Community Prospect List, ranking the 25-best players in the minors. With hope for the playoffs dwindling by the day, it's time for us to take a look at how those top prospects are doing. For the full 2015 list, as well as a list of the different categories that I've separated the prospects into, scroll to the bottom of the post.

Today, we will visit The Young Hurlers, which is sort of the first of a two-part category. In the 2013 draft, the A's led off by picking outfielder Billy McKinney but ended up taking six pitchers within their first nine selections. Four of them were college arms (Overton, Covey, Wahl, Kyle Finnegan) and two were high schoolers (Dustin Driver, Chris Kohler). Entering the year, this draft group provided most of the A's top pitching prospects, or at least the ones who weren't expected to arrive in Oakland this season.

To split things up, I've taken the college guys from the 2013 draft and added in Raul Alcantara, who is slightly younger but is in his sixth professional season. Sean Manaea, Casey Meisner, and Daniel Mengden would make sense in this category, but we'll get to them in The New Acquisitions.

No. 5 -- Dillon Overton
No. 9 -- Raul Alcantara
No. 21 -- Bobby Wahl
Not ranked -- Dylan Covey

As we delve deeper into the lower levels of the minors, I'll be relying more on reports from Athletics Farm for information. In this post, I drew from the following interviews that AF conducted: Grady Fuson (4/5), Billy Owens (5/28), Rick Rodriguez (7/12), and Fuson again (7/15).

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No. 5: LHP Dillon Overton

Current level: Double-A (Midland RockHounds)

2015 High-A stats: 14 games, 3.82 ERA, 61⅓ innings, 59 Ks, 12 BB, 7 HR, 4.01 FIP
2015 Double-A Stats: 6 starts, 4.50 ERA, 30 innings, 22 Ks, 6 BB, 3 HR, 3.73 FIP

Overton was Oakland's second-round pick in that 2013 draft, but he had Tommy John surgery right away and didn't debut professionally until last year. He was excellent in a dozen starts, and this year he opened in High-A Stockton. After a dozen more starts (and a couple long relief outings), the team had seen enough to promote him to Double-A Midland.

There is good news and bad news with Overton. The bad news is that his velocity is down post-surgery; he used to hit the mid-90s, but now is operating in the high-80s and touching 90. The good news is that this might not be a big deal. The organization raves about his control, deception, and his secondary pitches -- a changeup, and a breaking ball that I've seen alternatively described as a slider or a curve, He sounds like the proverbial "pitcher not thrower" who can still thrive without flashy velocity. And indeed, he has pitched well all year, with a particularly impressive walk rate. And given that he's still in his first full season since surgery, I imagine it's not impossible that he could still rediscover another mile or two on his fastball, but that's just my speculation.

It's hard to be anything but excited about Overton's season so far. I was mostly hoping for a full healthy season to get the injury history further behind him, and he upped the ante by pitching well enough to earn a midseason promotion and continuing to succeed at the higher level. He turns 24 in August, and he still seems like a good bet to become an MLB starter.

No. 9: RHP Raul Alcantara

Current level: High-A (Stockton Ports)

2015 High-A stats: 9 starts, 3.56 ERA, 30⅓ innings, 21 Ks, 5 BB, 1 HR, 3.45 FIP

Alcantara was No. 3 on last year's list, behind only Addison Russell and McKinney, but he was lost to Tommy John surgery after three starts in 2014. His potential kept him in the top 10 in this year's rankings, and so far he is rewarding that faith in 2015.

Upon his return in June, Alcantara got knocked around in his first couple outings while he shook off the rust. Since then, he's posted a 2.10 ERA in seven starts, with only three walks and one homer. Overall, he's only walked five in nine games, or 3.9% of all the batters he's faced. He's not a big strikeout guy, so the low walk total is crucial. It's especially nice to see for a pitcher coming back from a long injury layoff, since control is something I generally expect could be slow to return. And even better, whereas Overton is still searching for his old velocity, Alcantara has already regained his (according to Baseball America's midseason prospect update) and is still hitting 95 mph.

A few words on Alcantara's arsenal from Rick Rodriguez, Stockton's manager, via Athletics Farm:

I see an extremely good fastball. His changeup has good late action down. His curveball is almost like a slider. He calls it a curveball, but I think it might be more of a slider - but it's a good breaking pitch. I think he's got all the makings of a good major league pitcher.

As with Overton, you can't be anything but happy with Alcantara's status. He entered as a question mark, and the goal was just making sure he got back on the field. He's not only done that, he has immediately thrived, retaining both his velocity and his control. This is a best-case scenario for him at this point, and if he finishes out the year strong then he should keep himself high on this list next year, even with all the new acquisitions.

No. 21: RHP Bobby Wahl

Current level: Double-A (Midland RockHounds)

2015 Double-A stats: 24 games, 4.18 ERA, 32⅓ innings, 36 Ks, 14 BB, 2 HR, 3.17 FIP

(currently on 7-day disabled list)

Wahl was a fifth-round pick in 2013, and after moving to the bullpen last summer he has relieved exclusively this year. His ERA isn't inspiring, but he's striking out 10 batters per nine innings and that's not a bad starting point. He's only barely thrown 100 professional innings, so I imagine it's tough to come to too many conclusions about him.

These two sentences from Grady Fuson (via A's Farm) pretty much sum up Wahl:

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.

He has the stuff. He lacks the consistent control. You've heard this story before, but you can never be sure how it will end. I don't know if the team has any plans to turn Wahl back into a starter, but he's definitely a reliever for all of this year. Before the season, MLB.com suggested that his high-effort delivery might force him to the pen, but at the same time Fuson also cited past injuries and a desire for Wahl to harness his control as the reasons for the switch -- and indeed, Wahl already hit the DL once this year and is on a second stint right now, though I'm not sure what the injury is nor how serious. Either way, that's a lot of red flags for a guy whom Fuson referred to in April as having the "biggest stuff we've got in the system."

It sounds like the A's were really impressed by his work in big league camp at spring training this year, so I imagine they're still excited about him, but between his move to the pen, the influx of new prospects (draft and July trades), and his good-not-great 2015 season, I have to guess that the 23-year-old will fall off our community list next winter. Doesn't mean we've seen the last of him, but he's no longer one of the team's top prospects.

Not ranked: RHP Dylan Covey

Current level: High-A (Stockton Ports)

2015 High-A stats: 20 starts, 3.69 ERA, 109⅔ innings, 69 Ks, 36 BB, 12 HR, 5.00 FIP

Covey was Oakland's pick right before Wahl in 2013, in the fourth round, and though he's been passed by Wahl on this list he does have the advantage that he is still starting full-time. He's not doing a terribly effective job of it, and he's turning 24 in a couple weeks and hasn't played above High-A, but at least he's getting in the workload and staying mostly healthy -- his only DL stint this year was for a lower leg strain and lasted the minimum seven days.

Since he doesn't rack up a lot of strikeouts, the word from multiple A's Farm interviews is that Covey's biggest task is to keep the ball down in the zone -- lots of groundballs might just be his ticket to success. It sounds like Covey has a wide arsenal and a feel for things like changing speeds and getting ahead of hitters, but the results have been slow to follow. Personally, I'd like to see a pitch-to-contact guy post a much lower walk rate, especially so low in the minors.

Covey already didn't make our list this year despite the A's then-weak system -- Oakland Clubhouse was the only source to include him on its list, and that was at No. 25. After an uninspiring 2015 so far, he's no longer a serious prospect and he definitely won't be a factor in this winter's list, but like with Wahl he'll keep on plugging away and you never know what could happen down the road -- especially when he graduates from the hitter-friendly California League and takes his high-contact ways to the pitcher-friendly Texas League.

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Again, if you like prospects, go check out these Athletics Farm interviews that provided some of the info for this post: Grady Fuson (4/5), Billy Owens (5/28), Rick Rodriguez (7/12), and Fuson again (7/15).

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The categories:

The Graduates
The MLB Pitching Depth
- The Young Hurlers
- The Even Younger Hurlers
- The Middle Infielders
- The Corner Sluggers
- The Best of the Rest
- Stepping up in 2015
- The 2015 Draft
- The New Acquisitions

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The List

Each player is listed at the level at which he currently plays, 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), and the short-season Low-A Vermont Lake Monsters (A-). 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 following recent promotions are not reflected: Yairo Munoz to High-A (to cover for injured Franklin Barreto), R.J. Alvarez to MLB, Max Muncy to MLB

Oakland A's 2015 Community Prospect List (stats thru 7/31)
# Name Pos Age Level 2015 Stats
1 Matt Olson 1B 21 AA 441 PAs, 119 wRC+, 12 HR, 17.9% BB, 24.5% Ks
2 Franklin Barreto SS 19 A+ 354 PAs, 120 wRC+, 12 HR, 4.2% BB, 18.4% Ks
3 Matt Chapman 3B 22 A+ 330 PAs, 148 wRC+, 22 HR, 10.9% BB, 23.0% Ks
4 Renato Nunez 3B 21 AA 338 PAs, 109 wRC+, 14 HR, 6.5% BB, 16.6% Ks
5 Dillon Overton LHP 23 AA 6 starts, 4.50 ERA, 30 ip, 22 Ks, 6 BB, 3 HR, 3.73 FIP
6 Kendall Graveman RHP 24 MLB 17 starts, 102 ERA+, 96 ip, 1.85 K/BB, 0.3 fWAR
7 Yairo Munoz SS 20 A* 400 PAs, 86 wRC+, 9 HR, 5.5% BB, 15.5% Ks
8 Sean Nolin LHP 25 AAA On disabled list (shoulder)
9 Raul Alcantara RHP 22 A+ 9 starts, 3.56 ERA, 30⅓ ip, 21 Ks, 5 BB, 1 HR, 3.45 FIP
10 Joey Wendle 2B 25 AAA 453 PAs, 88 wRC+, 6 HR, 3.8% BB, 17.9% Ks
11 R.J. Alvarez RHP 24 AAA* 21 games, 4.13 ERA, 24 ip, 33 Ks, 12 BB, 2.47 FIP
12 Rangel Ravelo 3B 23 AA 80 PAs, 162 wRC+, 2 HR, 11.3% BB, 13.8% Ks
13 Mark Canha 1B/OF 26 MLB 254 PAs, 91 wRC+, 8 HR, 7.1% Ks, 20.5% BB, 0.6 fWAR
14 Chad Pinder SS 23 AA 389 PAs, 130 wRC+, 10 HR, 5.9% BB, 20.6% Ks
15 Chris Bassitt RHP 26 MLB 10 games, 127 ERA+, 40⅔ ip, 2.25 K/BB, 0.5 fWAR
16 Dustin Driver RHP 20 A- 8 games, 4.65 ERA, 31 ip, 15 Ks, 14 BB, 2 HR, 4.74 FIP
17 Billy Burns OF 25 MLB 340 PAs, 104 wRC+, 21 SB, 4.1% BB, 13.8% Ks, 1.1 fWAR
18 Max Muncy 1B/3B 24 AAA* 156 PAs, 106 wRC+, 4 HR, 13.5% BB, 26.3% Ks
19 Tyler Ladendorf IF/OF 27 AAA On disabled list (ankle surgery)
20 Daniel Gossett RHP 22 A 20 starts, 4.81 ERA, 106⅔ ip, 84 Ks, 44 BB, 13 HR, 4.71 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- 7 games, 4.94 ERA, 31 ip, 32 Ks, 6 BB, 2 HR, 3.16 FIP
23 Pat Venditte SHP 30 MLB On disabled list (shoulder, currently rehabbing in AAA)
24 Jaycob Brugman OF 23 AA 412 PAs, 102 wRC+, 5 HR, 9.7% BB, 17.0% Ks
25 Brett Graves RHP 22 A 21 starts, 5.13 ERA, 108⅔ ip, 67 Ks, 39 BB, 10 HR, 4.50 FIP
NR Bruce Maxwell C 24 AA 286 PAs, 74 wRC+, 1 HR, 10.1% BB, 12.9% Ks
NR Ryon Healy 3B/1B 23 AA 392 PAs, 100 wRC+, 6 HR, 6.1% BB, 13.5% Ks
NR Branden Kelliher RHP 19 N/A Extended spring training in Arizona
NR Dylan Covey RHP 23 A+ 20 starts, 3.69 ERA, 109⅔ ip, 69 Ks, 36 BB, 12 HR, 5.00 FIP
NR Sandber Pimentel 1B 20 A 377 PAs, 118 wRC+, 10 HR, 11.4% BB, 22.0% Ks

The next installment will cover the other half of this category. The Even Younger Hurlers include Driver and Kohler, as well as 2014 draftees Daniel Gossett and Chris Kohler.