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Oakland A's prospect watch: Colin Walsh steps up at 2B, Ryan Dull and Brendan McCurry in pen

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Part of being an unheralded prospect is having no pictures on file.
Part of being an unheralded prospect is having no pictures on file.
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

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 some prospects who didn't make our preseason list but are Stepping Up in 2015. There are a lot of names you could argue for in this section and in fact there was too much for me to fit in one post, so I've started by picking a few particular standouts whom I really like. These guys are at the higher levels of the minors and I think they each have a great shot at reaching MLB, either in 2016 or spring of '17. I'll do a follow-up post to cover some intriguing international players who have started to make their names at the lower U.S. levels, as well as a few other random guys from throughout the system. Apologies to Jason Pridie, who is having a nice season for Triple-A Nashville -- he is 31 years old and has played 127 MLB games, so he doesn't meet our criteria.

Stepping Up in 2015

2B Colin Walsh (AA)
RHP Ryan Dull (AAA)
RHP Brendan McCurry (AA)

***

Lots of credit to Athletics Farm for helping out with info for this post, especially with interviews of Grady Fuson (A's special assistant, former A's Scouting Director and former Rangers Assistant General Manager), and Rick Rodriguez (High-A Stockton Ports pitching coach and former Oakland A's bullpen coach).

***

2B Colin Walsh

Current level: Double-A (Midland Rock Hounds)

2015 Double-A stats: 561 PAs, .396/.442/.469, 160 wRC+, 12 HR, 105 BB, 122 Ks, 15 SB

Before I start: Our own Spencer Silva recently interviewed Midland's second baseman, and he's got the exclusive coming later this week. You're about to learn a whole lot about him.

Here's the relatively short version. This feature from MiLB.com tells of how Walsh had success in the Cardinals' organization and is making the most of his chance with the A's. It's from June 2014. And yet, it feels like you could write the same story today. Walsh is that prospect who always plays pretty well but is perpetually overlooked or blocked. This year, the culprit was presumably Joey Wendle, as Walsh finished 2014 as the Triple-A second baseman but was moved down in '15 while the new guy took over. Wendle, who is seven months younger than Walsh, was similarly unheard of until his name became attached to Brandon Moss, and indeed you could make some interesting comparisons between Wendle and Walsh. But that's another column on its own.

One stat pops out among the rest: Walsh leads the entire minor leagues with 105 walks. As a side note, the runner-up is teammate Matt Olson, with 96. I don't mean that they lead the A's system. I mean that they are Nos. 1 and 2 in the entire minor leagues, among all levels in all 30 franchises. Granted, Walsh is a 25-year-old who's still in Double-A, but this plate discipline isn't a fluke or purely a product of his age. Will Korn of the Midland Reporter-Telegram notes that Walsh's batting eye was the reason the A's wanted him in the first place:

But no matter where he's played, Walsh, 25, has had a reputation for being a patient and disciplined hitter who knows how to get on base. He understands that patience is something that the Athletics' particularly value in their players. ... He was released by the Cardinals during spring training last season. Oakland saw promise in his plate discipline and immediately gave him a call.

Of course, Walsh isn't just a bunch of walks with no bite to back them up. He's hitting .306, after a .290 mark last year, and he's got a dozen homers among his 48 extra-base hits. And although he got caught stealing twice on Tuesday, he's still swiped 15 bags. He can do more than take pitches. He's a switch-hitter with no discernible platoon splits, and he's spent a bit of time at third base and left field in pro ball. Are you getting the picture yet?

I'll let Spencer fill you in on the rest, but I'll put it this way: If Joey Wendle doesn't work out for the A's next year, then it's cool, because they have another one waiting right behind him. They aren't identical in terms of skill sets, but they're both all-around players who do everything well and yet fly under the prospect radar. If I had to predict Walsh's MLB future right now, I'd have to go with something in the neighborhood of Eric Sogard, another minor league OBP whizkid. Walsh probably has slightly more power, though I can't imagine his glove can currently match what Sogard has become in Oakland (remembering that Sogard was a bat-first prospect when he was drafted and has developed that defense over time). Big picture, though, I'm thinking of a switch-hitting utilityman who can handle the bat well enough to fill in for stretches while someone else is hurt. Is that an accurate comp and a reasonable goal? Time will tell.

Just to confuse you, here is the most uncharacteristic Walsh video possible: a first-pitch homer.

RHP Ryan Dull

Current level: Triple-A (Nashville Sounds)

2015 Double-A stats: 35 games, 0.60 ERA, 45 innings, 52 Ks, 13 BB, 1 HR, 2.13 FIP
2015 Triple-A stats: 10 games, 0.68 ERA, 13⅓ innings, 16 Ks, 2 BB, 1 HR, 2.63 FIP

(12-for-12 in saves at Double-A)

From the looks of it, Dull is a classic example of "perception vs. results." In this case, the perceived flaw is that Dull is undersized (5'10, 175), but the results are yet to reflect that fact. He didn't get picked until the 32nd round of the 2012 draft, but in the pros he's done nothing but retire hitters. He blew through Rookie Ball and Low-A Vermont in '12, then conquered Single-A Beloit and High-A Stockton in '13, before putting up an excellent season in Double-A Midland in '14. This year, he just stopped giving up runs entirely, both in Midland and now in Triple-A Nashville. And yet, he still isn't even listed in Oakland's midseason Top 30 prospects on MLB.com. Perception and results have never matched for Dull.

So, which to believe? Are his results sustainable and translatable to MLB, or will he hit a wall at the highest level? As someone who grew up adoring Tim Hudson and fearing Pedro Martinez (and later being annoyed by Tim Lincecum), I'm not moved by size as a critique of an otherwise successful pitcher. He either has good stuff or he doesn't; it's not like he's trying to break tackles or jump higher than a defender. The one criticism of small pitchers that I can understand is that they're more likely to stick in the bullpen for workload reasons, but Dull has already made the switch from college starter to pro reliever. Beyond that, I care more about what he's doing rather than what he's not supposed to be able to do.

What Dull is doing is this: In 151 minor league appearances, he's struck out 11 batters per nine innings while only walking 2 per nine, and he's got a career 2.05 ERA. He's K'd nearly a third of the professional hitters he's faced. The only time he was anything less than fantastic was his first taste of Double-A at the end of 2013, but he, uh, moved past that stumbling point, it appears. And how does he do it? Here's Grady Fuson with a quick profile (via A's Farm):

Well, he's doing it with the same stuff he's always had. When he's been good, he's been 90-92mph, his ball has a little sink and dive to it, and he pitches at the bottom of the strike zone fabulously. He's got a hard little slider and he's got a nice little changeup. He's one of the better pitchers in our system when it comes to really pitching down in the strike zone consistently, and that's the biggest attribute he has, plus he pounds the strike zone.

Here's more from Midland manager Ryan Christenson, via Christopher Hadorn of the Midland Reporter-Telegram:

"His main key to success is the fact that he can locate his fastball," Christensen said. "He throws strikes down at the knees. He's got a nice slider that comes out of the same plane as his fastball and the same with his changeup so he's tough on both lefties and righties. The main thing for him is he can spot his fastball pretty much where he wants, when he wants."

So, there's your picture: low 90s fastball with a change and a slider, throws strikes, keeps the ball down. Christenson makes a note about being tough on lefties and righties, but Dull's platoon splits do not back this up -- he has been significantly better against righties each of the last two years, both in terms of OPS and K:BB. That's not necessarily unusual, I just thought it was worth mentioning. Righties are OPSing .407 against Dull the last two years combined, with six walks and 87 Ks in 269 PAs. That's about as close to perfection as a human can achieve, and it sure helps offset the unimpressive .840 OPS he's allowed to lefties in that time (25 BB, 42 Ks). If there is any lingering question at all about Dull, it probably has to do with his ability to consistently retire lefties.

In the interview quoted above, Fuson notes that Dull is more or less a finished product in terms of stuff. There is nothing to be gained but experience, and I can understand giving him some more Triple-A innings over the final couple weeks of the Sounds' season. But at this point I see no reason why Dull shouldn't or won't make his MLB debut sometime in September, and I imagine he'll be a serious candidate for the 2016 bullpen out of spring training. Don't start inking him in as the closer of the future just yet, but he's a great bet to make an impact next year.

(For more on Dull, check out Melissa Lockard's interview with him from July 2013.)

In case you were wondering what he looks like:

This news story includes a shot of him throwing a nasty pitch.

KWES NewsWest 9 / Midland, Odessa, Big Spring, TX: newswest9.com |

RHP Brendan McCurry

Current level: Double-A (Midland RockHounds)

2015 High-A stats: 36 games, 1.94 ERA, 46⅓ innings, 56 Ks, 11 BB, 3 HR, 3.16 FIP
2015 Double-A stats: 10 games, 1.42 ERA, 12⅔ innings, 19 Ks, 5 BB, 0 HR, 1.47 FIP

(21-for-22 in saves at High-A; 3-for-3 in Double-A)

On the surface, McCurry is basically a clone of Dull. He's an undersized righty (5'10, 165) who fell far in the draft (22nd round in 2014) but has lit up pro hitters while operating in the low 90s.

The first big difference, though, is that he is succeeding in his first taste of Double-A ball the year after being drafted, whereas Dull took some time to adjust there. That puts the 23-year-old McCurry at least a year ahead of Dull in terms of development path, on top of being two years younger, which is probably why McCurry is now No. 30 on the current MLB.com A's prospect rankings while Dull didn't crack the list at all. The explanation behind the ranking reveals more differences:

Though McCurry's fastball tops out around 93 mph, it's effective because it features good life and he can locate it on both sides of the plate and down in the strike zone. He has shown the ability to get swings and misses with his curveball (his best offering), slider and changeup, though he'll have to prove that he can continue to do so against more advanced hitters.

McCurry adds to his deception by varying his arm slot, and thus far he has confounded left-handed and right-handed hitters alike. His upside is probably no more than a middle reliever, but with his control and mound presence he has a good chance of reaching it.

The key there is in the second paragraph. McCurry does not have Dull's platoon splits, as hitters on both sides are hovering around a .500 OPS against him and he has excellent K:BB rates against each. Dull has the better overall numbers at the moment, but facing lefties could yet prove to be a major weakness in his game. McCurry does not share that potentially glaring flaw, and that is why I can understand his superior ranking from MLB.com.

The other big difference we see in that scouting report is that McCurry has a plus curve, and my general impression from what I've read is that his secondary pitches are better and more numerous than Dull's. Chris Kusiolek commented on McCurry's high-effort delivery back in March, but noted that the motion at least is repeatable. Here's an overall profile (the numbers are velocities):

Like Dull, though, McCurry is probably a finished product stuff-wise and simply needs to prove that his shtick works at each higher level, and Grady Fuson said as much in July (via A's Farm). In that interview, Fuson referred to McCurry as a "trickster," and Stockton pitching coach Rick Rodriguez suggested the same thing a few days prior (via A's Farm):

He's got a very good fastball, but I think he was trying to trick too many guys. Now it's like, "Hey Brendan, throw your fastball, use your fastball. You've got a really good fastball." He's got a good moving fastball. He drops down and throws that little sidearm curve or slider or whatever you want to call it. And he's gotten it down now to where, instead of it being flat across the zone, it's got a little bit of tilt. ... And he's got a plus changeup.

You guys. I think Brendan McCurry is going to be a lot of fun. I also personally think he's going to be in Oakland sometime in 2016 -- not Opening Day, but by the All-Star break.

***

The categories:

The Graduates
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
- The 2015 Draft
- The New Acquisitions

***

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 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). At the end you will find the three players from today's post, labelled SU (Stepping Up).

* The following recent transaction is not reflected: Aaron Brooks demoted from MLB to AAA, but listed with his MLB stats because he will be back in Oakland soon ... Rangel Ravelo (AAA), Ryan Dull (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. ... R.J. Alvarez, Max Muncy, Tyler Ladendorf, and Aaron Brooks have all appeared in MLB this year but are currently back in the minors.

^ Player is currently on the disabled list. New additions since last update: Kendall Graveman (oblique strain) ... Old injuries: Franklin Barreto (wrist), Matt Chapman (left wrist), Renato Nunez (hamstring), Bobby Wahl (undisclosed) ... Back from the DL: Tyler Ladendorf (ankle) ... Misc.: Jacob Nottingham is back in the lineup after missing two games for an undisclosed reason, and he's 7-for-16 since returning; Chris Kohler, who went nearly a month between appearances before pitching Aug. 20, may have been out due to a hamstring injury (read: non-arm), if I'm interpreting Melissa Lockard's report correctly; Kevin Duchene hasn't pitched since Aug. 11; Dustin Driver hasn't pitched since getting lit up on Aug. 16; Chapman, who last played Aug. 2, could return before the end of the season.

Oakland A's 2015 Community Prospect List (stats thru Aug. 25)
# Name Pos Age Level 2015 Stats
1 Matt Olson 1B 21 AA 536 PAs, 123 wRC+, 15 HR, 17.9% BB, 24.6% Ks
2 Franklin Barreto^ SS 19 A+ 354 PAs, 119 wRC+, 12 HR, 4.2% BB, 18.4% Ks
3 Matt Chapman^ 3B 22 A+ 340 PAs, 148 wRC+, 23 HR, 11.5% BB, 22.6% Ks
4 Renato Nunez^ 3B 21 AA 364 PAs, 112 wRC+, 15 HR, 6.9% BB, 16.2% Ks
5 Dillon Overton LHP 23 AA 10 starts, 3.96 ERA, 50 ip, 32 Ks, 11 BB, 4 HR, 3.70 FIP
6 Kendall Graveman^ RHP 24 MLB 21 starts, 97 ERA+, 115⅔ ip, 2.03 K/BB, 4.60 FIP, 0.4 fWAR
7 Yairo Munoz SS 20 A+ 118 PAs, 108 wRC+, 2 HR, 3.4% BB, 11.9% Ks
8 Sean Nolin LHP 25 AAA 12 games, 2.56 ERA, 38⅔ ip, 29 Ks, 18 BB, 4 HR, 5.15 FIP
9 Raul Alcantara RHP 22 A+ 14 starts, 4.14 ERA, 45⅔ ip, 27 Ks, 8 BB, 3 HR, 4.09 FIP
10 Joey Wendle 2B 25 AAA 560 PAs, 96 wRC+, 8 HR, 3.4% BB, 17.9% Ks
11 R.J. Alvarez RHP 24 AAA 29 games, 3.74 ERA, 33⅔ ip, 40 Ks, 15 BB, 0 HR, 2.65 FIP
12 Rangel Ravelo 3B 23 AAA 64 PAs, 107 wRC+, 4 2B, 1 3B, 6.3% BB, 21.9% Ks
13 Mark Canha 1B/OF 26 MLB 330 PAs, 107 wRC+, 10 HR, 6.4% BB, 19.7% Ks, 1.1 fWAR
14 Chad Pinder SS 23 AA 495 PAs, 136 wRC+, 15 HR, 5.5% BB, 20.2% Ks
15 Chris Bassitt RHP 26 MLB 14 games, 159 ERA+, 69 ip, 2.79 K/BB, 3.71 FIP, 1.1 fWAR
16 Dustin Driver RHP 20 A- 11 games, 4.60 ERA, 43 ip, 26 Ks, 23 BB, 4 HR, 5.16 FIP
17 Billy Burns OF 25 MLB 437 PAs, 104 wRC+, 25 SB, 4.8% BB, 15.1% Ks, 1.7 fWAR
18 Max Muncy 1B/3B 24 AAA 205 PAs, 105 wRC+, 4 HR, 11.7% BB, 23.9% Ks
19 Tyler Ladendorf IF/OF 27 AAA 63 PAs, 98 wRC+, 2 2B, 1 3B, 3.2 BB%, 30.2 K%
20 Daniel Gossett RHP 22 A 25 starts, 4.98 ERA, 133⅔ ip, 105 Ks, 51 BB, 16 HR, 4.65 FIP
21 Bobby Wahl^ RHP 23 AA 24 games, 4.18 ERA, 32⅓ ip, 36 Ks, 14 BB, 2 HR, 3.16 FIP
22 Chris Kohler LHP 20 A- 8 games, 4.83 ERA, 31⅔ ip, 33 Ks, 7 BB, 2 HR, 3.19 FIP
23 Pat Venditte SHP 30 MLB 10 games, 190 ERA+, 12⅔ ip, 1.75 K/BB, 4.00 FIP, 0.1 fWAR
24 Jaycob Brugman OF 23 AA 518 PAs, 97 wRC+, 5 HR, 11.0% BB, 16.2% Ks
25 Brett Graves RHP 22 A 25 starts, 5.11 ERA, 128⅔ ip, 85 Ks, 41 BB, 12 HR, 4.35 FIP
NR Bruce Maxwell C 24 AA 356 PAs, 88 wRC+, 2 HR, 10.4% BB, 14.0% Ks
NR Ryon Healy 3B/1B 23 AA 497 PAs, 119 wRC+, 10 HR, 5.8% BB, 14.1% Ks
NR Branden Kelliher RHP 19 N/A Arizona Rookie League
NR Dylan Covey RHP 23 A+ 24 starts, 3.79 ERA, 128⅓ ip, 88 Ks, 41 BB, 13 HR, 4.81 FIP
NR Sandber Pimentel 1B 20 A 445 PAs, 115 wRC+, 13 HR, 10.8% BB, 21.8% Ks
TR Sean Manaea LHP 23 AA 5 starts, 2.73 ERA, 29⅔ ip, 31 Ks, 12 BB, 3 HR, 3.82 FIP
TR Daniel Mengden RHP 22 A+ 6 starts, 3.67 ERA, 34⅓ ip, 36 Ks, 6 BB, 4 HR, 3.79 FIP
TR Casey Meisner RHP 20 A+ 5 starts, 3.63 ERA, 22⅓ ip, 15 Ks, 7 BB, 1 HR, 3.94 FIP
TR Aaron Brooks RHP 25 *MLB 4 games, 65 ERA+, 16 ip, 4.67 K/BB, 4.55 FIP, 0.2 fWAR
TR Jacob Nottingham C 20 A+ 129 PAs, 98 wRC+, 1 HR, 7.0% BB, 17.8% Ks
DR Richie Martin SS 20 A- 180 PAs, 109 wRC+, 2 HR, 12.2% BB, 21.7% Ks
DR Mikey White SS 21 A 97 PAs, 64 wRC+, 1 HR, 7.2% BB, 22.7% Ks
DR Skye Bolt CF 21 A- 158 PAs, 94 wRC+, 3 HR, 10.1% BB, 24.1% Ks
DR Kevin Duchene LHP 21 A- 8 games, 4.84 ERA, 22⅓ ip, 18 Ks, 9 BB, 2 HR, 4.31 FIP
DR Bubba Derby RHP 21 A- 10 games, 0.91 ERA, 29⅔ ip, 36 Ks, 6 BB, 2 HR, 2.47 FIP
SU Colin Walsh 2B 25 AA 561 PAs, 160 wRC+, 12 HR, 18.7% BB, 21.7% Ks
SU Ryan Dull RHP 25 AAA 10 games, 0.68 ERA, 13⅓ ip, 16 Ks, 2 BB, 1 HR, 2.63 FIP
SU Brendan McCurry RHP 23 AA 10 games, 1.42 ERA, 12⅔ ip, 19 Ks, 5 BB, 0 HR, 1.47 FIP