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Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea among 6 Oakland A's prospects heading to 2015 Arizona Fall League

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... and there may yet be a 7th player named.

Note: He's using his non-pitching arm to hold up that sign. Smart man.
Note: He's using his non-pitching arm to hold up that sign. Smart man.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Rosters have been announced for the 2015 Arizona Fall League, with several prospects from each MLB team combining to form six AFL squads which will play 31-game schedules during October and November. The Oakland A's are one of five clubs that send their players to the Mesa Solar Sox, and this year that group will feature the following youngsters, via Susan Slusser:

- LHP Sean Manaea
- RHP Brendan McCurry
- RHP Kris Hall
- 3B Matt Chapman
- SS Chad Pinder
- OF Jaycob Brugman
... and one more TBA.

The spot marked as TBA is listed in the pitching section, so presumably there is one more A's pitcher to be added to the mix. Each team is only required to send six players (up to 8 total), so this might be the whole group, but since they added the TBA spot at all I'll assume it's at least possible that one more pitcher is chosen. For the full roster, scroll to the end of this story. In the meantime, here's a quick word on each player.

LHP Sean Manaea

Current level: Double-A (Midland RockHounds)

2015 Midland stats: 6 starts, 2.21 ERA, 36⅔ innings, 38 Ks, 15 BB, 3 HR, 3.59 FIP

Manaea was the key piece the Royals sent over in the Ben Zobrist trade in July. He's a big lefty starter who throws hard and racks up the strikeouts, and he's got a high ceiling. On the bright side, he made all the major Top 100 lists before the season: Baseball America (No. 81), MLB.com (No. 56), and Baseball Prospectus (No. 85). On the downside, his season didn't start until late June due to injury. But back to the bright side, it wasn't an arm injury! (Groin and abdominal)

The bottom line is that Manaea is hands-down the A's top pitching prospect at the moment. The 23-year-old has been good since his acquisition, and the AFL is a perfect place for him to log some more innings given the brevity of his 2015 regular season. He's one of the biggest prospects in the entire AFL this year.

(More on Manaea here.)

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, 3.17 FIP
2015 Double-A stats: 12 games, 1.84 ERA, 14⅔ innings, 22 Ks, 5 BB, 1 HR, 2.20 FIP

I just wrote about McCurry last week in my Prospect Watch series, so I'll paraphrase what we learned in that post. He's an undersized righty reliever whose fastball operates in the low-90s, but he uses a funky, high-effort delivery to create deception. He has a wide arsenal of secondary pitches led by a plus curve, and as you can see from his low walk total he also counts control among his strengths. His stuff isn't going to get any better, but there is still experience to be gained for the 23-year-old.

RHP Kris Hall

Current level: Triple-A (Nashville Sounds)

2015 Double-A stats: 36 games, 2.61 ERA, 69 innings, 70 Ks, 52 BB, 4 HR, 4.40 FIP
2015 Triple-A stats, 1 game: 2 innings, 3 runs, 3 Ks, 4 BB, 1 HR, 2 hits (13.50 ERA)

The surprise selection. I'm excited about this guy, but it's mostly because his name is Hall and I really want there to be an A's jersey with my name on it. I was so mad that we let Bill Hall slip away to the Giants in 2011 -- what was one more bad player on a bad team?

Kris Hall wasn't really on my radar, and that fact was brought to you by the letter B and its twin brother. As in, BB, bases on balls, 52 walks in 69 innings. That's almost a walk per inning, in Double-A in a pitcher's park in a pitcher's league. Then he walked a bunch of guys in his Triple-A debut. In his 4-year minor league career, the 24-year-old has a rate of 6.2 walks per nine innings.

But his name is Hall, and so therefore I will focus more on his career rate of 10 strikeouts per nine innings. Dude is a K machine, I tell ya. Randy Johnson had a rate of 5.7 BB/9 in his first 130 starts, so it's humanly possible to quit doing that. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Hall is in the AFL because one day he will play for the A's. Don't be a hater.

(More on Hall from Chris Kusiolek in Feb. 2014, including reports of a 92-96 mph fastball and a plus-but-inconsistent slider)

3B Matt Chapman

Current level: High-A (Stockton Ports)

2015 High-A stats: 340 PAs, .259/.353/.587, 148 wRC+, 23 HR, 39 BB, 77 Ks

While Manaea is the big pitching prospect headed to the AFL, Chapman is the serious position player. He was the team's first-round draft pick in 2014, and he put up an excellent season in his first full year of pro ball. Unfortunately, it was sandwiched between two injuries -- a knee injury that cost him April, and a wrist injury that wiped out his August. The biggest takeaway here is just the fact that Chapman is being tabbed to play at all -- his wrist injury must not be serious if the A's are expecting him to play in Arizona in mid-October. If healthy, then it makes a ton of sense to send Chapman to the AFL due to the short regular season his injuries forced him into.

As for Chapman's scouting report, I'll refer to my write-up from Prospect Watch:

[Chapman] has serious power but entered the season with work to do on his swing and plate discipline, and by all accounts he has the talent to be an elite defender at the hot corner. In particular, his throwing arm is the thing that stands out ... He got off to a strong start [in 2015] and then took off in the middle of June; his OPS, home runs, and walks all increased each month, from May to June to July. All told, he has tallied 23 long balls in only 77 games, while also keeping his strikeouts in check (22.6%, not great but not terrible). Honestly, when looking at Chapman, it's probably just as informative to check his strikeout rate as his slugging percentage [because his contact skills are still developing but his power is undeniable].

SS Chad Pinder

Current level: Double-A (Midland RockHounds)

2015 Double-A stats: 517 PAs, .318/.363/.487, 136 wRC+, 15 HR, 28 BB, 102 Ks

Pinder is the breakout star of the A's system this year. There are other better prospects, but we already knew those guys were good. Pinder entered as a bit of a question mark on both sides of the ball, and there are still a lot of people who say he won't stick at shortstop, but his bat exploded even in the unfriendly confines of Midland, Texas.

The numbers above speak for themselves, as the 23-year-old can hit for average and has some power. His downside at the plate is his discipline, but it should be noted that he has slashed his strikeout rate by 3 percentage points each year even as he has moved up a level each time: 25.5% in Low-A, 22.7% in High-A, and 19.7% in Double-A. His walks are still low, but if he's going to hit for a high average then I'm not as worried about those. The AFL seems like a great time for Pinder to keep his phenomenal year rolling, and maybe get some more experience at shortstop with a different group of guys around him.

(More on Pinder from Prospect Watch.)

OF Jaycob Brugman

Current level: Double-A (Midland RockHounds)

2015 Double-A stats: 539 PAs, .263/.345/.389, 107 wRC+, 6 HR, 60 BB, 85 Ks

Brugman isn't a big-name prospect, but I struggle to find things about him that I don't like. He's one of those all-around guys who does a bit of everything but doesn't have one great skill. He gets on base a bit, he's got solid discipline, he has some power (remember he's a lefty hitting in Midland this year, hence his low HR total), and he's played all three outfield positions this season. He's even stolen a few bases, though not at a high rate, but that suggests to me he at least has enough speed to try for it. Where's the glaring weakness?

I can't help but be intrigued. I know in my head that he was a 17th-round pick and he's unlikely to even make it to MLB, but in my heart I want to believe that he'll pan out into the next Seth Smith or Will Venable. As I said in Prospect Watch a couple weeks ago, don't start penciling Brugman into your 2017 lineups yet, but keep the 23-year-old in the back of your mind when you're checking the box scores to see how Chapman and Pinder did.

Pitcher To Be Announced?

This is the fun part, where we get to speculate on who the final pitcher may be. Here are the official eligibility rules -- the player must be under one year of MLB service time, and he must have been at the Double-A level or higher by Aug. 1. You can have one Single-A player, but Chapman fills that quota; McCurry was promoted to Midland just before the end of July. Again, there might not be a seventh player at all, because the A's are only required to send six guys. But it says TBA on the roster, man. We can dream.

Looking down our Community Prospect List, Dillon Overton seems unlikely to me. He's in his first full year after Tommy John surgery, and really his first pro season at all, and he's well into triple-digits in innings. He's healthy now, but I don't see any reason to push him for more innings in the fall. He's had a successful campaign, so bring him back in 2016.

It could be another reliever, akin to McCurry and Hall. Ryan Dull seems unlikely to me since he is already graduating to MLB; he's testing himself against big leaguers now, so why send him back to face what is effectively a Double-A All-Star league? Same goes for Arnold Leon, and probably Aaron Kurcz as well. Tucker Healy could be a distant possibility, though then he might just be auditioning for a spot in the Rule 5 draft so that's a potential argument to keep him hidden away.

That leaves my favorite option, which is Sean Nolin. He lost most of this year due to injury, but he's back now and he's pitching well -- in four short starts since returning from his shoulder problem (he was on a strict pitch count), he has 12 Ks and 2 walks with a 2.63 ERA. He hasn't even thrown 50 innings yet this year, so the AFL would give him a chance to play a bit more after a lost season. We're hoping he's MLB-ready or close to it, but he can still benefit from facing some live hitting in the fall just to get some reps in. If the A's send a seventh player, I hope it's Nolin.

Note: Melissa Lockard of Oakland Clubhouse reports that Kurcz will be the seventh player. I didn't give him a lot of consideration above, but he'd be a decent enough choice. I lumped him in with Dull and Leon, but I might be getting ahead of myself -- Kurcz hasn't actually debuted in MLB, so going to the AFL isn't a huge step down in competition for him. He isn't listed on the official Mesa roster yet (link below), but I have no reason to doubt Lockard's report.

***

Other info:

Mesa Solar Sox official site

All six team rosters (from Wiki)

- The Solar Sox also include prospects from the Angels, Rays, Cubs, and Marlins.

- The Solar Sox last won the AFL title in 2003, for what little that's worth.

- Grant Desme is the only A's prospect to be named AFL MVP, in 2009 (dangit). Sam Fuld was MVP in 2007 as a member of the Cubs. Fuld also won the Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award that year, so he was just the best thing going at the 2007 AFL.

- Bob Melvin is in the AFL Hall of Fame as a manager, as is Ken Macha. That gives me conflicted feelings about the meaning of that distinction. Wash is in as a coach. Jason Giambi and Jermaine Dye are in as players.

- Full 2015 Mesa Solar Sox roster: