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 Middle Infielders. I was going to do a category of just shortstops, with new draftees Richie Martin and Mikey White included, but I didn't have anywhere else to put second baseman Joey Wendle. So, we'll expand to the whole middle infield and cover the new guys when we get to The 2015 Draft section. Tyler Ladendorf can play middle infield as well, but he'll be covered in The Best of the Rest. The four players we are left with are a few of the very best prospects the A's system has to offer.
No. 2 -- Franklin Barreto
No. 7 -- Yairo Munoz
No. 10 -- Joey Wendle
No. 14 -- Chad Pinder
Lots of credit to Athletics Farm for helping out with info for this post, especially with interviews of Billy Owens (Oakland A's Director of Player Personnel) and Grady Fuson (A's special assistant, former A's Scouting Director and former Rangers Assistant General Manager).
No. 2: SS Franklin Barreto
Current level: High-A (Stockton Ports)
2015 High-A stats: 354 PAs, .298/.329/.492, 120 wRC+, 12 HR, 15 BB, 65 Ks, 8 SB, 34 errors
(Currently on disabled list with bone bruise in wrist)
When Josh Donaldson was traded, the A's acquired mostly MLB-ready talent, but they also got one excellent prospect in Barreto. He opened the year as a top-100 prospect according to the major national lists (BA, BP, MLB.com), and he was ranked as Oakland's No. 1 prospect by BA, BP, Fangraphs, and John Sickels. His presence also may have made Billy Beane more willing to include fellow top-100 infielder Daniel Robertson in the deal to acquire Ben Zobrist, but even without that circumstantial narrative there's no question that the hopes were high for Barreto entering the season.
Fortunately, the 19-year-old has delivered. That's right, he's only 19 and he's already succeeding in High-A ball. He took a minute to adjust in April (.448 OPS), then he got hot in May (.908), leveled off a bit in June (.775), and then caught absolute fire in July (1.093) before injuring his left wrist fielding a grounder. The diagnosis was a severe bone bruise, which will cost him a few weeks in a splint at the least.
Barreto hasn't been perfect, which is to be expected given his young age. I'd like to see his K:BB ratio tighten up a bit, and he's committed 34 errors at short -- I don't normally care about errors, but I don't have much else to go on for a minor leaguer. That's more errors than Marcus Semien has, though, to give you an idea. Barreto might not stay at shortstop (but 2B could be a possibility?), but Baseball America notes that his bat is good enough for him to succeed at another position -- they ranked him as the No. 22 prospect overall in their midseason update.
Franklin Barreto is now Oakland's No. 1 prospect.
No. 7: SS Yairo Munoz
Current level: High-A (Stockton Ports)*
*Has played all year with Single-A Beloit Snappers, but is temporarily replacing the injured Barreto in Stockton.
2015 Single-A stats: 400 PAs, .236/.278/.363, 85 wRC+, 9 HR, 22 BB, 62 Ks, 10 SB, 23 errors
2015 High-A stats: 38 PAs, .333/.351/.500, 131 wRC+, 1 HR, 1 BB, 4 Ks, 1 SB, 3 errors
Munoz was a particularly unknown commodity entering the season, having never played above short-season Low-A ball. His potential landed him a top-10 spot on our preseason list, and his returns have been ... mixed.
His year started in Single-A Beloit, where he never really got into a serious groove at the plate. After Barreto got hurt in July, though, Munoz was called up to High-A Stockton to fill in. He has come alive in his first couple weeks for the Ports, and while it's just a handful of games the point is that it's better to see him get off to a hot start at the higher level than to flounder against the tougher competition. Here's what Billy Owens had to say about him in late May, via A's Farm:
Along with Matt Chapman, they have the two best infield throwing arms in the organization. Yairo's got legitimate power to all fields - he's got a chance to be a 15-20 home run guy. I could definitely see a similarity to Tony Batista when he played for the A's in the mid-‘90s as a middle infielder and a third baseman who could pop 15-20 home runs and play solid defense. And just the energy and the enthusiasm he brings everyday is exciting. He's definitely an underrated talent.
Munoz hasn't set the world on fire, but there's plenty to like and he's only 20 years old. He's still a guy to watch, and Baseball America has him at No. 6 in the A's system.
No. 10: 2B Joey Wendle
Current level: Triple-A (Nashville Sounds)
2015 Triple-A stats: 475 PAs, .270/.304/.399, 84 wRC+, 6 HR, 17 BB, 87 Ks, 6 SB, 13 errors
What to make of Wendle? The A's were so enamored with him that they accepted him straight-up in a trade for All-Star Brandon Moss. At the time, getting just the unheralded Wendle was deemed as a poor return by most pundits, and it's only worse now that Moss put up a weak half-season for the Indians and still fetched a more highly regarded prospect in a subsequent July trade (lefty pitcher Rob Kaminsky). There is something about Wendle that the A's absolutely loved.
The question is, does the 25-year-old still have whatever that something is/was? He's not hitting for a particularly high average, even in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. His plate discipline stats are ugly -- not enough walks for a good OBP, and five strikeouts for each free pass. The doubles power is there, but it really is merely doubles power for the most part. But Billy Owens notes that Wendle "didn't have much Double-A tutelage" due to an injury last year, which Owens chalks up as one reason for the poor BB:K rate, and Grady Fuson refers to Wendle as "hitterish-looking."
Could his defense be the something that the team loved? Possibly. Here's Fuson, in mid-July:
There's some defense that still can take another jump. I look at him as like a younger Sogard defensively - you know, the defense just kept getting better and better and better all the time. And I use Sogie because I drafted him in San Diego, and he was all offense.
That doesn't sound like an amazing report, but it helps reveal what I think the team really sees in this guy. It's not something I often cite, and it's not something the A's are particularly known for factoring into their valuations (fairly or not). Here's Owens again, in late-May:
And talking to his college coaches over the years, the Indians personnel and our guys in Triple-A this year and in major league spring training, everyone extols his character and his work ethic. His intangibles are off the charts, and we like his bat too.
Is that enough to make you excited about him? That's up to you. MLB is littered with guys who didn't look like the best prospects but then worked their ways into success, so maybe Wendle can be one of them. Or maybe he's too far into his 20s, and if he was going to make that big jump then it would have happened already. He's in a familiar position for A's fans, where I can make a valid excuse for anything that you don't like about Wendle or his numbers, but where I can't guarantee you that the excuses will dry up or that success will come if/when they do.
Wendle is in his first year of Triple-A, and he's been worse than average but better than terrible. Eric Sogard only has two years of team control left, and though he has his limitations on the field he's the kind of guy whose under-the-radar strengths you don't notice until they're gone. It sounds like Wendle is a similar player in spirit and that he profiles as the next Sogard, and he's close enough to the bigs that the comp seems pretty safe rather than a futuristic prediction.
No. 14: SS Chad Pinder
Current level: Double-A (Midland RockHounds)
2015 Double-A stats: 406 PAs, .320/.369/.493, 139 wRC+, 13 HR, 25 BB, 82 Ks, 19 errors
Pinder, a second-round pick in 2013, was once hidden behind higher-profile shortstops Addison Russell and Daniel Robertson in the A's system. However, those two are gone, and Pinder is now free to move up the ladder as a shortstop (if he can stick at the position) rather than move elsewhere to accommodate a teammate.
Given the spotlight in the middle infield, Pinder has responded by taking a step forward at the plate. He had previously put up a solid year at High-A in 2014, but he'd struck out a lot and his numbers had come in the hitter-friendly California League. This year he got off to an encouraging start in the pitcher-friendly Texas League (Double-A), and then in June he caught fire and since has posted a .938 OPS and seven homers. His plate discipline still leaves a bit to be desired and his BABIP is through the roof, but one way or other he's succeeding in a tough league. He's hit safely in 27 of his last 28 games, for a 1.021 OPS.
Those offensive numbers speak for themselves, and if he keeps hitting like that then it won't matter much where in the infield he plays. But if he can stick at shortstop, then that's even better. Here is Billy Owens' take on Pinder in May, when he suggested J.J. Hardy as a "dream world" comp (read: potential ceiling) for the A's youngster (via A's Farm):
He's definitely got solid hands, the footwork is improving and he's got enough range for the position. His arm's strong enough to play either shortstop or third base.
... And in mid-July, Grady Fuson noted that Pinder has "opened a lot of eyes as a shortstop" (via A's Farm). He came in with questions about how his bat would translate to a higher league, and whether he could stick at short. So far, he's lighting the league's pitchers on fire and opening eyes on defense. That's not just a best-case scenario, it's a beyond-my-wildest-expectations situation. Pinder should fly up this list when we re-vote next winter.
(I didn't end up using anything from this MiLB.com mid-July profile on Pinder's position switch, but click that link if you'd like to read more about him, including quotes from the player himself.)
- 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
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).
* The following recent promotions are not reflected: Yairo Munoz to High-A (to cover for injured Franklin Barreto), and Mikey White to Single-A (to cover for Munoz)
^ Player is currently on the disabled list
|1||Matt Olson||1B||21||AA||461 PAs, 123 wRC+, 13 HR, 17.8% BB, 24.1% 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+||340 PAs, 149 wRC+, 23 HR, 11.5% BB, 22.6% Ks|
|4||Renato Nunez||3B||21||AA||360 PAs, 114 wRC+, 15 HR, 6.9% BB, 15.8% Ks|
|5||Dillon Overton||LHP||23||AA||7 starts, 4.63 ERA, 35 ip, 24 Ks, 8 BB, 3 HR, 3.73 FIP|
|6||Kendall Graveman||RHP||24||MLB||18 starts, 100 ERA+, 101⅔ ip, 1.89 K/BB, 0.4 fWAR|
|7||Yairo Munoz||SS||20||A*||400 PAs, 85 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+||10 starts, 3.41 ERA, 34⅓ ip, 22 Ks, 5 BB, 1 HR, 3.47 FIP|
|10||Joey Wendle||2B||25||AAA||475 PAs, 84 wRC+, 6 HR, 3.6% BB, 18.3% Ks|
|11||R.J. Alvarez||RHP||24||AAA||22 games, 3.81 ERA, 26 ip, 36 Ks, 12 BB, 0 HR, 2.35 FIP|
|12||Rangel Ravelo||3B||23||AA||98 PAs, 137 wRC+, 2 HR, 9.2% BB, 17.3% Ks|
|13||Mark Canha||1B/OF||26||MLB||267 PAs, 88 wRC+, 8 HR, 6.7% Ks, 21.0% BB, 0.5 fWAR|
|14||Chad Pinder||SS||23||AA||411 PAs, 139 wRC+, 13 HR, 6.1% BB, 20.0% Ks|
|15||Chris Bassitt||RHP||26||MLB||11 games, 148 ERA+, 47⅔ ip, 2.43 K/BB, 0.7 fWAR|
|16||Dustin Driver||RHP||20||A-||9 games, 4.11 ERA, 35 ip, 20 Ks, 15 BB, 2 HR, 4.43 FIP|
|17||Billy Burns||OF||25||MLB||358 PAs, 104 wRC+, 22 SB, 4.7% BB, 14.2% Ks, 1.1 fWAR|
|18||Max Muncy||1B/3B||24||AAA||156 PAs, 105 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||21 starts, 4.84 ERA, 113⅓ ip, 90 Ks, 45 BB, 14 HR, 4.69 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, 3.20 FIP|
|23||Pat Venditte||SHP||30||AAA||20 games, 1.23 ERA, 36⅔ ip, 35 Ks, 14 BB, 1 HR, 3.38 FIP|
|24||Jaycob Brugman||OF||23||AA||432 PAs, 99 wRC+, 5 HR, 10.9% BB, 16.4% Ks|
|25||Brett Graves||RHP||22||A||22 starts, 4.87 ERA, 114⅔ ip, 73 Ks, 39 BB, 10 HR, 4.33 FIP|
|NR||Bruce Maxwell||C||24||AA||298 PAs, 76 wRC+, 2 HR, 10.1% BB, 13.8% Ks|
|NR||Ryon Healy||3B/1B||23||AA||412 PAs, 109 wRC+, 9 HR, 6.3% BB, 13.8% Ks|
|NR||Branden Kelliher||RHP||19||N/A||Extended spring training in Arizona|
|NR||Dylan Covey||RHP||23||A+||21 starts, 4.07 ERA, 112⅔ ip, 69 Ks, 38 BB, 12 HR, 5.06 FIP|
|NR||Sandber Pimentel||1B||20||A||390 PAs, 114 wRC+, 11 HR, 11.0% BB, 22.8% Ks|
|TR||Sean Manaea||LHP||23||AA||2 starts, 2.77 ERA, 13 ip, 16 Ks, 2 BB, 2 HR, 3.30 FIP|
|TR||Daniel Mengden||RHP||22||A+||3 starts, 4.02 ERA, 15⅔ ip, 19 Ks, 1 BB, 3 HR, 4.20 FIP|
|TR||Casey Meisner||RHP||20||A+||1 start, 7.36 ERA, 3⅔ ip, 4 Ks, 4 BB, 0 HR, 4.85 FIP|
|TR||Aaron Brooks||RHP||25||MLB||1 start, 334 ERA+, 7⅔ ip, 5 Ks, 0 BB, 1 HR, 0.1 fWAR|
|TR||Jacob Nottingham||C||20||A+||60 PAs, 68 wRC+, 1 HR, 5.0% Ks, 20.0% BB|
|DR||Richie Martin||SS||20||A-||135 PAs, 130 wRC+, 2 HR, 12.6% BB, 22.2% Ks|
|DR||Mikey White||SS||21||A-*||131 PAs, 153 wRC+, 2 HR, 10.7% BB, 22.1% Ks|
|DR||Skye Bolt||CF||21||A-||109 PAs, 86 wRC+, 2 HR, 8.3% BB, 24.8% Ks|
|DR||Kevin Duchene||LHP||21||A-||7 games, 4.19 ERA, 19⅓ ip, 16 Ks, 7 BB, 2 HR, 4.39 FIP|
|DR||Bubba Derby||RHP||21||A-||6 games, 1.02 ERA, 17⅔ ip, 19 Ks, 3 BB, 1 HR, 2.56 FIP|