clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Oakland A's prospect watch: Carson Blair promoted, Aaron Kurcz a name to watch in 2016

New, 131 comments
Hi, my name is Carson and I'll be your catcher today.
Hi, my name is Carson and I'll be your catcher today.
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 hit some Final Names of Note. These are the last guys in the system for whom I have anything interesting to say, before we get to the 2015 draft and the July trade acquisitions. I'm reaching deep for these guys, but at this point my prospect train can't be stopped and any innocent bystanders should just get off the tracks.

Final names to watch

C Carson Blair (Triple-A)
RHP Aaron Kurcz (Triple-A)
RHP Kris Hall (Triple-A)
RHP Tucker Healy (Double-A)
RHP Joel Seddon (High-A)
LHP Matt Stalcup (High-A)
RHP Joey Wagman (Single-A)
CF Chad Oberacker (Double-A)
CF Brett Vertigan (High-A)

***

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).

***

Carson Blair | C | Age 25

Current level: MLB (Oakland Athletics)

2015 Double-A stats: 208 PAs, .272/.389/.506, 150 wRC+, 6 HR, 15.9% BB, 29.8% Ks
2015 Triple-A stats: 120 PAs, .221/.280/.327, 60 wRC+, 3 HR, 7.1% BB, 27.0% Ks
2015 MLB stats: On roster, hasn't played yet

Blair was a 35th-round pick out of high school who spent the better part of a decade kicking around the Red Sox' system, peaking at Double-A last year. Nearly 45% of his career plate appearances have ended in one of the Three True Outcomes -- HR, strikeout, or walk. (That's a lot -- the 2015 A's team average is 27%.) He signed with the A's this year, and he immediately torched the Texas League. He didn't hit much in Triple-A, but teammate Bryan Anderson was even worse and that was enough to get Blair a September call-up as an emergency third catcher.

Here is Blair's stepdad, who happens to be former Yankees infielder and current Giants Director of Player Development Fred "Chicken" Stanley, talking about Blair's defense behind the dish (via Susan Slusser):

Stanley has been able to see Blair play at every level of the minors and said that, as a converted infielder, Blair has a strong and accurate arm, and is good at following pitching plans and putting them into action.

Last year, Anderson got the September call-up as the spare backstop. John Jaso was out, Derek Norris was struggling, Stephen Vogt's injured foot had relegated him to first base, and Geovany Soto started nearly half the games in the final month. Anderson still only got one at-bat. He was called on to pinch-hit to make the final out of a 7-2 loss. There is not a better example of a throwaway token plate appearance.

The moral of that story is that we may not actually see Blair play. Vogt and Josh Phegley are going strong, and if there's anyone whom the team should be taking an extra look at in a lost season it's Phegley. I hope the A's will give Blair one token start just to give him his MLB debut, and I bet they will, but he won't get substantial time. He's on the 40-man roster now, and I have no idea if he'll make it through the offseason or if the A's will DFA him to make space for someone else. Time will tell if he's still in the organization next year.

Aaron Kurcz | RHP | Age 24 (turned 25 on Aug. 8)

Current level: Triple-A (Nashville Sounds)

2015 Triple-A stats: 47 games, 3.54 ERA, 56 innings, 65 Ks, 36 BB, 3 HR
2015 w/ Nashville: 16 games, 3.91 ERA, 23 innings, 27 Ks, 15 BB, 1 HR, 3.76 FIP

Kurcz is a right-hander with a chance to be an MLB reliever at some point. Here's Ethan Purser of Talking Chop last winter:

Kurcz is the arm the Red Sox got for Theo and now [Atlanta] got for Varvaro. Saw him in the [Arizona Fall League]. Short guy with a big-time arm speed and very nice flow. Max effort, herky-jerky type mechanics from an H3/4 slot. 94-95 straight FB with some riding life. Potential above-average to plus slider, pretty nice pitch with tight, sharp break when he's on top. Firm CH that is playable in the upper 80s, probably a 45 but a decent pitch nonetheless.

... And MLB.com, who ranks him as the A's No. 29 prospect right now (just ahead of Brendan McCurry):

Kurcz missed the 2013 season as he recovered from Tommy John surgery but looked good when he returned to the mound the next year. Though slightly undersized, he generates plenty of velocity with a max-effort delivery. His fastball sits around 94 mph and reaches 96 mph, and he mixes in a slider that is an above-average offering at its best.

Though Kurcz has never commanded his stuff particularly well, he misses a lot of bats and could soon carve out a role in a Major League bullpen.

I doubt we'll see Kurcz in September, since there are now 11 relievers on the active roster and he is not yet on the 40-man, but it's not impossible. He's still fairly young, especially for a relief pitcher, and according to Melissa Lockard he is headed to the Arizona Fall League in October (though he isn't yet listed on the Mesa Solar Sox roster, so that isn't official yet). He seems likely to get his chance sometime in 2016, if he doesn't get stolen away in the Rule 5 draft.

Kris Hall | RHP | Age 24

Current level: Triple-A (Nashville Sounds)

2015 Double-A stats: 36 games, 2.61 ERA, 69 innings, 70 Ks, 52 BB, 4 HR, 4.41 FIP
2015 Triple-A stats, 1 game: 2 innings, 3 runs, 3 Ks, 4 BB, 1 HR, 2 hits (13.50 ERA)

Hall wasn't going to be on this list, but then the A's picked him to go to the Arizona Fall League and so now I feel compelled to mention him. Also, as I noted in my AFL post yesterday, I really need for there to be a guy named Hall on the Oakland A's.

As far as actual baseball talent, he's a righty reliever with career rates of 10 strikeouts and 6 walks per 9 innings. In this early-2014 scouting report, Chris Kusiolek gives the rundown on the repertoire Hall flashed in college:

The demonstrative righty standing 6'3", 210 pounds proceeded to breeze past inferior competition with a 92-96 fastball and a eyeopening 86-88 MPH slider that, while inconsistent and occasionally inept, can obliterate even highly advanced bats when effective. Reinforcing that with a favorable breaking offering, Hall was utterly brilliant through his outings

Keep an eye on him in the AFL. He'll be eligible for the Rule 5 draft this winter, and he's already tasting Triple-A, so whether the A's add him to the 40-man roster to protect him will speak a lot toward whether they think he's good enough to attract MLB interest (and/or if they care if he's stolen away).

Tucker Healy | RHP | Age 25

Current level: Double-A (Midland RockHounds)

2015 Double-A stats: 44 games, 1.99 ERA, 54⅓ innings, 52 Ks, 25 BB, 0 HR, 2.87 FIP

Healy has posted eye-popping strikeout numbers throughout the minors, with a career average of 12 Ks per nine innings. He reached Triple-A in 2014 and got blasted, but he's proven himself anew in Midland this year. I don't have an explanation for his dip in strikeouts this year, but it's not like he's been hittable as a result -- 5.4 hits per nine innings, and no homers at all. Healy seems like a guy with a real chance to make it to MLB. He'll be eligible for the Rule 5 draft this winter, so it will be interesting to see if the A's protect him by placing him on the 40-man roster -- it could depend on which of this year's unsuccessful relievers the team wants to keep around and give a second chance, and which ones they are okay letting go in favor of future arms like Kurcz and Hall and Healy and Jose Torres.

Joel Seddon | RHP | Age 22

Current level: High-A (Stockton Ports)

2015 High-A SP: 14 starts, 3.59 ERA, 77⅔ innings, 61 Ks, 13 BB, 7 HR
2015 High-A RP: 17 games, 3.60 ERA, 25 innings, 19 Ks, 4 BB, 4 HR

Seddon was a relative unknown entering the season (11th round, 2014), but he got himself on the map by jumping from the bullpen to the starting rotation. He earned positive reviews in mid-July from both Grady Fuson and Rick Rodriguez, but then on July 19 he came out of the pen and he hasn't started again since. There could be any number of reasons for the switch despite no lag in performance, but my guess is that the team probably didn't want to put too many innings on his arm in his first full pro season -- Melissa Lockard notes in her excellent writeup of Seddon that he was already over his career-high by the beginning of July. More from Lockard:

Despite his relief role at USC, Seddon came to pro ball with a fairly deep arsenal of pitches: a two-seam and four-seam fastball, a change-up, a slider and a curveball. He had always been a strike-thrower and a groundball pitcher and the A's thought those characteristics would lend themselves well to the starting rotation. ... Seddon's fastball ranges from 88-92 and he has good sink on the pitch.

His stats match the profile of a guy who relies on command and a deep arsenal rather than velocity. Rodriguez shares the sentiment (via A's Farm):

Yeah, he can rely on his command. That's his best tool. I told him, "It's not like you're throwing 95 mph. You have to hit your spots and change your speeds." And he's been doing that.

The A's seem enamored with Seddon. He joined Matt Chapman as the first '14 draftees to reach Beloit last year (via Lockard), and not many pitchers convert from relieving to starting in the pros -- it's usually the opposite. He is a guy to watch next year, because given his profile as a strike-throwing groundball generator I think he has a chance to move quickly up the system if the A's continue to like what they see. Until I hear differently, I will assume that Seddon will be starting again in 2016, either in Stockton or Midland.

This video of Seddon is from late 2014, but it's still worth a peak.

Matt Stalcup | LHP | Age 24 (turned 25 on July 6)

Current level: High-A (Stockton Ports)

2015 High-A RP: 14 games, 4.87, 20⅓ innings, 15 Ks, 10 BB, 1 HR
2015 High-A SP: 12 starts, 2.69 ERA, 63⅔ innings, 58 Ks, 18 BB, 5 HR

Stalcup is a bit old for High-A, but he gets some extra points for being a lefty. Besides, he's consistently passed the test at a new level each year, from Vermont ('13) to Beloit ('14) to Stockton ('15). When a guy is drafted just shy of his 23rd birthday, he's always going to be old for his level. Furthermore, like Seddon, Stalcup has worked his way up from the bullpen to the rotation, stepping into the spot vacated by the promotion of Dillon Overton. In fact, Stalcup is pitching quite a bit better as a starter than as a reliever this year.

A quick scouting report. The first tweet is from Oct. 2014, and the second is a follow-up from May 2015:

Sounds to me like a classic junkballing lefty, struggling to hit 90 but changing speeds well and using movement. Hey, he threw a shutout in Beloit in 2014. Is there a can't-miss prospect here? Of course not, or else he wouldn't be in this section of the Prospect Watch series. But he has done just enough for me to keep him in the corner of my eye entering next year.

Joey Wagman | RHP | Age 24

Current level: Single-A (Beloit Snappers)

2015 Single-A stats: 22 games, 3.66 ERA, 78⅔ innings, 65 Ks, 12 BB, 4 HR, 2.94 FIP
2015 Single-A SP: 13 starts, 4.20 ERA, 64⅓ innings, 53 Ks, 10 BB, 4 HR

Full disclosure: The primary reason Wagman is on this list is because he graduated from my high school, Monte Vista in Danville. He went in the 17th round in 2013 out of college, the same year as his more famous Monte Vista teammate Mark Appel. He has a hell of a beard already. These are all reasons to root for him.

The other reason Wagman is here is his K/BB rate as a starter. He's 24, and although he's still in Beloit he's also only in his second full professional season so it's not like he's been lingering around the minors forever. He actually began 2015 by making a decent five-inning start for Double-A Midland, followed by a few relief outings in High-A Stockton that resulted in a 13.50 ERA. You could look at that and say he tested and failed, or you could say that he already got a taste of some higher levels and learned from those experiences. He's not relatively noteworthy right now, but let's see what he does next year. He went to my high school, man. Let me have this one.

(As near as I can tell, there has never been an MV Mustang in MLB. Baseball-Reference lists two, but further research shows they went to a different Monte Vista in San Diego. There was a pitcher named Jeff Lyman in the A's system as recently as 2011, but he does not appear to be playing anymore.)

Chad Oberacker and Brett Vertigan | CF

Oberacker Double-A: 425 PAs, .291/.353/.425, 117 wRC+, 5 HR, 17 SB, 38 BB, 69 Ks
Vertigan High-A: 487 PAs, .286/.349/.399, 106 wRC+, 4 HR, 24 SB, 44 BB, 71 Ks

These two guys deserve at least an honorable mention, but they are so similar that I'm lumping them together into one section. They are both left-handed center fielders who are too old for their leagues -- Oberacker is in Double-A Midland at age 26, and Vertigan just turned 25 in August but is still at High-A Stockton. They were both drafted by the A's but not as particularly high picks (25th round, 10th round), and they had good pro debuts before stumbling on their climbs up the ladder. And this year, they both got back on track.

Oberacker and Vertigan each have similar offensive profiles. They are top-of-the-order types, getting on base with a combination of a good average and a slightly above-average walk rate. Neither has much home run power, but they help make up for it by keeping their strikeouts in check (mid-teens K%, not great but not terrible). Finally, they're both base stealers -- Oberacker is 17-for-20 in Double-A with a career-high of 30 (in 2012), and Vertigan is 24-for-32 in High-A and 30-for-39 overall including his early-season stint in Single-A Beloit. I don't know anything about the defensive skills of either guy, but I imagine that if they were particular standouts in that capacity then we would have heard about it by now.

It's easy for me to write these guys off for being old for their leagues, since neither is dominating his level -- Oberacker has a 117 wRC+, while Vertigan is only at 106. But you never really know, do you? If I had to guess, I'd say Oberacker will be playing CF in Nashville next year. What if he posts another 117 wRC+ in Triple-A? Then he's only one step away from Oakland, filling in for an injured Athletic. Vertigan isn't a power hitter, so maybe he'll find success in Midland where many others don't, like Oberacker did this year. I would call both of them longshots in terms of ever making any impact in Oakland, but anytime there's a one-in-a-million shot on a prospect who plays a position that is thin in the organization, you might as well respond by saying, "So you're saying there's a chance!"

***

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
- Final Names of Note
- 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), the short-season Low-A Vermont Lake Monsters (A-), and the Arizona Rookie League (RK). 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 five more players, labelled SU (Stepping Up).

* The following recent transactions are not reflected: Ryan Dull and Tyler Ladendorf were promoted from Triple-A Nashville to MLB; Jose Torres was promoted to from Single-A Beloit to High-A Stockton. ... 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. ... Aaron Kurcz spent time in the Braves' system, but I've only included his stats from Triple-A Nashville. ... Max Muncy has also appeared in MLB this year but is currently back in the minors.

^ Player is currently on the disabled list. New additions since last update: None ... Old injuries: Franklin Barreto (wrist), Matt Chapman (left wrist), Kendall Graveman (oblique), Bobby Wahl (undisclosed) ... Back from the DL: None at this time ... Misc.: Kevin Duchene hasn't pitched since Aug. 11; Raul Alcantara has not pitched since Aug. 22; Chris Bassitt skipped his start on Sept. 1 with a shoulder injury but hopes to be back "in a week or two" (via Susan Slusser).

Oakland A's 2015 Community Prospect List (stats thru Sept. 1)
# Name Pos Age Level 2015 Stats
1 Matt Olson 1B 21 AA 565 PAs, 126 wRC+, 16 HR, 18.1% BB, 23.9% 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 386 PAs, 117 wRC+, 16 HR, 7.3% BB, 15.5% Ks
5 Dillon Overton LHP 23 AA 12 starts, 3.32 ERA, 59⅔ ip, 42 Ks, 15 BB, 4 HR, 3.51 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+ 146 PAs, 130 wRC+, 4 HR, 4.8% BB, 11.6% Ks
8 Sean Nolin LHP 25 AAA 14 games, 2.66 ERA, 47⅓ ip, 38 Ks, 19 BB, 5 HR, 4.81 FIP
9 Raul Alcantara RHP 22 A+ 14 starts, 4.14 ERA, 45⅔ ip, 27 Ks, 8 BB, 3 HR, 4.11 FIP
10 Joey Wendle 2B 25 AAA 590 PAs, 97 wRC+, 8 HR, 3.4% BB, 18.1% Ks
11 R.J. Alvarez RHP 24 MLB 12 games, 36 ERA+, 10⅓ ip, 3.00 K/BB, 6.42 FIP, -0.2 fWAR
12 Rangel Ravelo 3B 23 AAA 91 PAs, 107 wRC+, 1 HR, 6.6% BB, 19.8% Ks
13 Mark Canha 1B/OF 26 MLB 357 PAs, 102 wRC+, 11 HR, 6.2% BB, 20.4% Ks, 1.2 fWAR
14 Chad Pinder SS 23 AA 517 PAs, 136 wRC+, 15 HR, 5.4% BB, 19.7% Ks
15 Chris Bassitt RHP 26 MLB 15 games, 140 ERA+, 73⅓ ip, 2.35 K/BB, 3.85 FIP, 1.0 fWAR
16 Dustin Driver RHP 20 A- 12 games, 4.47 ERA, 46⅓ ip, 28 Ks, 31 BB, 4 HR, 5.51 FIP
17 Billy Burns OF 25 MLB 461 PAs, 103 wRC+, 25 SB, 4.8% BB, 15.2% Ks, 2.0 fWAR
18 Max Muncy 1B/3B 24 AAA 217 PAs, 103 wRC+, 4 HR, 11.5% BB, 24.0% Ks
19 Tyler Ladendorf IF/OF 27 *AAA 90 PAs, 76 wRC+, 1 HR, 5.6 BB%, 25.6 K%
20 Daniel Gossett RHP 22 A 26 starts, 4.77 ERA, 139⅔ ip, 107 Ks, 51 BB, 16 HR, 4.58 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- 10 games, 4.79 ERA, 35⅔ ip, 36 Ks, 9 BB, 2 HR, 3.43 FIP
23 Pat Venditte SHP 30 MLB 13 games, 122 ERA+, 16⅓ ip, 2.50 K/BB, 4.23 FIP, 0.0 fWAR
24 Jaycob Brugman OF 23 AA 543 PAs, 106 wRC+, 6 HR, 11.0% BB, 15.7% Ks
25 Brett Graves RHP 22 A 27 starts, 5.10 ERA, 137⅔ ip, 88 Ks, 42 BB, 13 HR, 4.35 FIP
NR Bruce Maxwell C 24 AA 371 PAs, 83 wRC+, 2 HR, 10.2% BB, 13.7% Ks
NR Ryon Healy 3B/1B 23 AA 519 PAs, 114 wRC+, 10 HR, 5.6% BB, 14.8% Ks
NR Branden Kelliher RHP 19 RK Arizona Rookie League
NR Dylan Covey RHP 23 A+ 25 starts, 3.75 ERA, 134⅓ ip, 95 Ks, 41 BB, 13 HR, 4.67 FIP
NR Sandber Pimentel 1B 20 A 463 PAs, 112 wRC+, 13 HR, 10.8% BB, 21.8% Ks
SU Colin Walsh 2B 25 AA 593 PAs, 165 wRC+, 13 HR, 19.6% BB, 21.2% Ks
SU Ryan Dull RHP 25 *AAA 12 games, 1.13 ERA, 16 ip, 21 Ks, 3 BB, 1 HR, 2.33 FIP
SU Brendan McCurry RHP 23 AA 12 games, 1.84 ERA, 14⅔ ip, 22 Ks, 5 BB, 1 HR, 2.20 FIP
SU Jose Torres LHP 21 *A 44 games, 2.69 ERA, 73⅔ ip, 80 Ks, 23 BB, 4 HR, 3.03 FIP
SU Aaron Kurcz RHP 24 AAA 16 games, 3.91 ERA, 23 ip, 27 Ks, 15 BB, 1 HR, 3.76 FIP
TR Sean Manaea LHP 23 AA 6 starts, 2.21 ERA, 36⅔ ip, 38 Ks, 15 BB, 3 HR, 3.59 FIP
TR Daniel Mengden RHP 22 A+ 8 starts, 4.25 ERA, 42⅓ ip, 41 Ks, 10 BB, 6 HR, 4.53 FIP
TR Casey Meisner RHP 20 A+ 6 starts, 3.29 ERA, 27⅓ ip, 20 Ks, 7 BB, 1 HR, 3.56 FIP
TR Aaron Brooks RHP 25 MLB 5 games, 75 ERA+, 22 ip, 4.50 K/BB, 3.95 FIP, 0.4 fWAR
TR Jacob Nottingham C 20 A+ 156 PAs, 97 wRC+, 2 HR, 6.4% BB, 19.9% Ks
DR Richie Martin SS 20 A- 211 PAs, 112 wRC+, 2 HR, 11.4% BB, 20.4% Ks
DR Mikey White SS 21 A 118 PAs, 54 wRC+, 1 HR, 5.9% BB, 22.0% Ks
DR Skye Bolt CF 21 A- 179 PAs, 101 wRC+, 3 HR, 11.7% BB, 22.9% Ks
DR Kevin Duchene LHP 21 A- 8 games, 4.84 ERA, 22⅓ ip, 18 Ks, 9 BB, 2 HR, 4.35 FIP
DR Bubba Derby RHP 21 A- 11 games, 0.83 ERA, 32⅔ ip, 41 Ks, 8 BB, 2 HR, 2.48 FIP