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 Corner Sluggers: First Basemen. There were too many corner sluggers to fit into one post, so I decided to split them up into two groups and give a couple of the top guys a bit more attention. Don't get too hung up on the 1B vs. 3B distinction; it's just a convenient way for me to separate them, and the truth is that most of these guys have played both first and third at some point. There are six total players in this overall group, so we'll get three in each post. Sandber Pimentel is another slugging first base prospect, but we'll get to him in The Best of the Rest.
No. 1 -- Matt Olson
No. 4 -- Renato Nunez
No. 12 -- Rangel Ravelo
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), Grady Fuson (A's special assistant, former A's Scouting Director and former Rangers Assistant General Manager), and Mike Gallego (A's 3B coach and infield coach).
No. 1: 1B Matt Olson
Current level: Double-A (Midland RockHounds)
2015 Double-A stats: 472 PAs, .245/.381/.420, 125 wRC+, 13 HR, 84 BB, 113 Ks, 7 OF assists (RF)
Entering the year, Olson topped our prospect list and wasn't lower than No. 2 on any other major list. He was a supplemental first-round pick in 2012 (No. 47 overall, compensation for losing David DeJesus lol), and he hit 37 homers for the High-A Stockton Ports in 2014 and then posted an 1.120 OPS in the Arizona Fall League. He had both a strong draft pedigree and early success, and that earned him a ticket up to Double-A for 2015.
Olson's batting line doesn't jump off the page, but it can be difficult to know exactly how to judge stats at different minor league levels. According to wRC+, he has been quite a bit better than average in the Texas League, and although his power output is down it's not like it has disappeared completely. Furthermore, it's important to note that his league and park are tough on power hitters, as Grady Fuson made multiple mentions in his interviews with A's Farm about how difficult it has been for previous A's hitting prospects to transition from Stockton to Midland.
Olson was one of two A's prospects selected to play in the All-Star Futures Game (Nunez was the other), and he went 1-for-2 for the U.S. team. Since returning on July 15, he has a .994 OPS and five homers in 99 plate appearances, so it's good to see him continuing to improve over the course of the season as he adjusts to a higher level of competition. Overall, his strengths include his undeniable power and his keen batting eye. Billy Owens (via A's Farm) described the power as "streaky," with the ability to get super-hot for a stretch, and Olson takes pride in his high walk total (via Troy Schulte of MiLB.com). His clear weakness is his low rate of contact, as noted repeatedly by Fuson (via A's Farm). Sounds like an A's hitter.
Offense is only half the picture with Olson, though. He is also a highly regarded defender at first base, and his throwing arm has allowed him to get time in right field to accommodate the 1B logjam on Midland's roster (he has seven outfield assists in 39 games in RF, which is an impressive number). Here is the ever-optimistic Owens in May (via A's Farm):
He can play corner outfield fine - his arm's strong. At first base, his talent level's elite from a defensive perspective. I don't think there's a better defensive first baseman in all of professional baseball. With his strong throwing arm, it translates well to the outfield - and it increases his versatility.
... And Mike Gallego after seeing Olson in spring training (via A's Farm):
I never knew how good a defensive first baseman he was. Everyone talks about his offense. He's a Keith Hernandez over at first base - so smooth, very quick for his size, very confident. He makes your infielders that much better because they know they just have to get it in the vicinity and he's going to catch the baseball - short hop, long hop, high, low. He's an agile first baseman.
Overall, Olson's 2015 season has been totally satisfactory, no more and no less. He hasn't taken a huge step forward like Franklin Barreto has, and for that reason I think he will no longer rank No. 1 on this list next winter, but he also hasn't done anything to hurt his high stock. He's the same guy he was before, a Three True Outcomes slugger with excellent defense, but now he's one level closer to MLB and he's added a bit of the defensive versatility that the A's love right now. Quadruple-A limbo is always a danger if the contact skills never quite arrive, but Olson seems like a good bet to make the bigs and could definitely end up as an everyday player.
He'll almost certainly start 2016 in Triple-A as a 22-year-old, in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League no less. At that point we could presumably see him in mid-2016 if he has a big first half, or in 2017 if he needs a full year in Nashville.
No. 4: 1B/3B Renato Nunez
Current level: Double-A (Midland RockHounds)
2015 Double-A stats: 364 PAs, .264/.319/.453, 111 wRC+, 15 HR, 25 BB, 59 Ks
Nunez has actually gotten almost all of his playing time at third base in his pro career, but I've always gathered that he's more of a "1B whom the team is trying to teach 3B" and so I included him in this section. He hails from Venezuela, and his first year in the A's system came at the age of 17 back in 2011. After hitting 29 homers for High-A Stockton in 2014, he got the call up to Double-A this year alongside Olson and several other Ports standouts.
In terms of defense, Grady Fuson cites Nunez's inaccurate arm as his chief weakness (via A's Farm) and implies that a position switch is not out of the question in the future. Nunez has also gotten time at first base and a couple dozen games as the DH this year, and if I had to guess I'd say that by the time he makes it to MLB he will have moved away from third, whether that means going across the diamond to first or moving to left field. But the point is, the A's will find a place to play him, because his bat looks more and more for real every time he moves up a level and continues to hit.
The 21-year-old Nunez missed April with what Fuson described as minor "nagging" injuries, and he didn't do much in May upon his return. Since June, though, he's posted a line of .285/.312/.511 with 12 homers in 56 games, and to make things even better he's cut his strikeout rate to a career-low level. He was chosen (along with Olson) to represent the A's at the All-Star Futures Game, starting for the World team and going 0-for-2. Forget about what position he'll play, and focus on the high-ceiling bat that is both improving and maturing as he climbs up the minor league ladder.
No. 12: 1B Rangel Ravelo
Current level: Triple-A (Nashville Sounds)*
* He played his first 22 games with the Double-A Midland RockHounds, but he was called up to Triple-A this week.
2015 Double-A stats: 98 PAs, .318/.378/.477, 137 OPS+, 2 HR, 9 BB, 17 Ks
2015 Triple-A stats: 2 games, 2-for-7, 2 RBI, 3 Ks
Ravelo arrived in Oakland in the Jeff Samardzija trade after posting an .859 OPS in Double-A in 2014. He's a good all-around hitter who displays excellent plate discipline and batted over .300 the last two years, but he's a corner infielder who hasn't hit for a lot of power yet and that can make it tough to get a lot of love in prospect circles. There is a feeling, though, that the 23-year-old could be a late bloomer at the plate, especially in terms of power -- he hit 11 homers in 2014 to break his previous career-high of four.
The A's had planned to start Ravelo in Triple-A this year and try him at third base to see if he could handle it, but that plan was dashed when he required wrist surgery in March (partial ECU tendon tear). By the time he returned in late June, there was such a 1B logjam at the MLB and Triple-A levels that he wound up back in Double-A after a rehab assignment in Arizona. After three weeks of success in Midland, the A's decided not to wait any longer and called him up to replace 28-year-old first baseman Anthony Aliotti (who is a De La Salle and St. Mary's alum!).
According to Melissa Lockard of Oakland Clubhouse, it's even possible that we could see Ravelo in Oakland in September when rosters expand, so even despite the lost time Ravelo may at least get to make his MLB debut in 2015. That would be a pleasant surprise, though not a complete shock -- Joe Stiglich of CSN suggested back in March that Ravelo could be in the plans for MLB playing time before his injury. He's yet to try his hand at third base this year and has only played two games there in the last three seasons (and he made an error in five chances), but he appears to be healthy and he's finally back on the track he was supposed to be on this year, getting his first taste of Triple-A.
(For more on Ravelo, here is a nice profile from Christopher Hadorn of the Midland Reporter-Telegram.)
- 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
- 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: Rangel Ravelo to Triple-A, 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|