The last vote must have been one of the closest in the history of our Community Prospect List. For three days, catcher Jacob Nottingham and shortstop Chad Pinder were effectively in a dead heat, with each spending an entire day in the lead and rarely a double-digit gap between them. In the end, Nottingham won by five votes out of the 636 cast, for a winning margin of 0.8% -- you could just as easily say they tied for the No. 5 spot. The current list, including their winning margins (the amount by which they won their elections, defined as a percentage of the total vote):
1. Sean Manaea, LHP (+1%)
2. Franklin Barreto, SS/CF (+70%)
3. Matt Olson, 1B/OF (+24%)
4. Matt Chapman, 3B (+26%)
5. Jacob Nottingham, C (+1%)
This is the second photo finish we've had already in this CPL, and both times the two candidates have been difficult to compare side-by-side. The first time we picked the more advanced prospect (Manaea), and the second time we preferred the bigger potential (Nottingham). As you can see, there is no universal right answer to the debate regarding "high-ceiling vs. high-floor," but rather different opinions built on the varying priorities of each evaluator and the case-by-case nature of each comparison. No matter who won this vote, the point is that both players have exciting futures despite legitimate drawbacks, and they're each excellent prospects.
For his part, Nottingham's strengths are indeed quite appealing. He began to show his offensive potential with his breakout hitting performance last season, and he seems to have the tools to stick at catcher. Furthermore, he forced his way up to High-A ball as a 20-year-old, which made him the eighth-youngest hitter in the 10-team California League (min. 140 plate appearances) -- he should reach Double-A at some point this season as a 21-year-old, the age at which Olson and Renato Nunez played last season, and the age of most college juniors. Nottingham's performance was fantastic in its own right, but it looks even more promising when you consider how young he is.
The biggest red flag in Nottingham's season was that he tailed off toward the end. However, it's important to consider that he put in a workload (119 games) that more than doubled his previous career-high, which is a big deal for a player who spends half the game in a crouch and a bunch of heavy protective gear. He also switched teams twice, once for a promotion and once for the trade to Oakland; that means three sets of coaches, three sets of teammates, three home parks, three home cities, etc. If you average his two stints in High-A (weighted for playing time), he posted a 122 wRC+, the same mark put up by Barreto (who is a year younger but didn't face the aforementioned adversity Nottingham did). Those rationales don't guarantee future success, but they're important context for judging the performance of young prospects.
Put it all together, and that's two of Oakland's recent July trade acquisitions in the top five of the CPL, with pitcher Casey Meisner holding an outside shot at the top 10 (he was the runner-up in the last nomination process). Furthermore, those three guys came from three separate trades, meaning each individual move has been an early success. If you want a silver lining for the awful 2015 season then consider this -- if the bullpen hadn't stunk and the A's had plugged along at .500 until July, would they maybe not have made one or more of these deals? Would they have held on and gone for it and won 83 meaningless games?
The farm system got taxed heavily by a few years of contention, but a big deadline haul and a good draft have already gone a long way toward restoring it. Now that all those 2015 losses are in the past and the sting has subsided, it almost feels like a blessing that last year's doomed roster showed its true colors right from the start. Here on the other side, the reward is actually looking pretty sweet.
The next CPL will be out in a day or two, so don't waste any time making your nomination(s) and casting your vote!
Here is the process:
- Five nominees will appear on the ballot. The one who receives the most votes earns the next spot on the CPL, while the remaining four players move on to the next ballot where they are joined by the next nominee.
- In the comments, commenters will nominate a player to be put onto the ballot for the next round. After the first nomination for a player has been put in, all other votes for that player will come from Rec'ing that comment. The player with the most Rec's earns the nomination.
- The format for the comment should be "Nomination: Player Name".
- If a prospect is traded, his name will be crossed out, and all other players will be moved up a space. If a prospect is acquired, a special vote will be put up to determine where that player should rank.
★ ★ ★
The new nominee is shortstop Richie Martin, who was Oakland's first-round draft pick in 2015 (No. 20 overall). Since he's only spent a couple months in the pros, there isn't a whole lot we can say about him just yet. The A's have a lot of shortstop prospects who can hit but might not stick at the position, but Martin is the opposite -- he's definitely a shortstop, but he has to prove he can hit. His pro debut last summer was fine, neither amazing nor troubling, so all we can really do is wait and see how he does in full-season ball this year. One neat bonus is that Martin is a year younger than you would expect from a college draftee.
Richie Martin, SS
Expected level: High-A | Age 21
2015 stats (Low-A Vermont): 226 PAs, 112 wRC+, 2 HR, 11.1% BB, 20.8% Ks
Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 35 | Run: 60 | Arm: 60 | Field: 60 | Overall: 50
Most college shortstops have to move to a less challenging position in pro ball, but that's not the case with Martin. His defensive ability is the main reason he went 20th overall in the 2015 Draft and collected a $1.95 million bonus.
With his quickness, range and arm strength, Martin can make all the plays needed from a shortstop. He had a tendency to make errors when he tried to do too much, but he settled down and did a better job of playing under control in 2015.
Martin was just decent offensively in three college seasons at Florida, though he did finish second in Cape Cod League batting race with a .364 average in 2014. He controls the strike zone reasonably well and has plus speed, so he might into the No. 2 slot in a big league batting order. He has modest power but won't get the bat knocked out of his hands.
★ ★ ★
Here are our other current candidates:
Renato Nunez, 1B/3B
Expected level: Triple-A | Age 22
2015 stats (Double-A Midland): 416 PAs, 124 wRC+, 18 HR, 6.7% BB, 15.9% Ks
Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 55 | Run: 30 | Arm: 55 | Field: 45 | Overall: 50
Thanks to the bat speed Nunez produces, he has significant raw power and is capable of driving the ball out to all fields. Like many young hitters, his approach is a bit inconsistent, and he can get caught up trying to pull everything. But when he's at his best, he uses the whole field to hit and does a good job of hunting fastballs he can drive.
Defensively, Nunez remains a work in progress. He's shown signs he's getting better and dramatically cut down on his errors in 2014. The A's began playing him some at first base for the first time in 2015.
★ ★ ★
Chad Pinder, SS
Expected level: Triple-A | Age 24
2015 stats (Double-A Midland): 522 PAs, 135 wRC+, 15 HR, 5.4% BB, 19.7% Ks
Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 45 | Run: 50 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50 | Overall: 50
Thanks to his hand-eye coordination and bat speed, Pinder does a good job of putting the bat on the ball despite being something of a free swinger. He has some power, but his swing lends itself more to producing line drives than home runs.
Pinder was primarily a third baseman in college but also saw time at shortstop, and the A's have used him some at both positions. He moved to second base in 2014 in deference to Robertson, then shifted back to shortstop in 2015. Pinder's arm is strong enough for the left side of the infield, and his ability to play multiple positions will help him as he advances toward the Major Leagues in an organization that values versatility.
★ ★ ★
Yairo Munoz, SS
Expected level: High-A? Double-A? | Age 21
2015 stats (Single-A Beloit): 400 PAs, 84 wRC+, 9 HR, 5.5% BB, 15.5% Ks
2015 stats (High-A Stockton): 165 PAs, 132 wRC+, 4 HR, 6.7% BB, 12.1% Ks
Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 45 | Run: 60 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50 | Overall: 45
Munoz has excellent athleticism and is an above-average runner. His raw tools give him significant upside, though he's still learning to harness them. He has some wiry strength and projects to hit for some power when he physically matures. Defensively, he has a chance to remain at shortstop. His quickness gives him good lateral range to go with his strong arm.
★ ★ ★
Rangel Ravelo, 1B
Expected level: Triple-A? MLB? | Age 24
2015 stats (Double-A Midland): 98 PAs, 139 wRC+, 2 HR, 9.2% BB, 17.3% Ks
2015 stats (Triple-A Nashville): 112 PAs, 86 wRC+, 1 HR, 6.3% BB, 19.6% Ks
2015 winter stats (LVBP): 229 PAs, .354/.480/.562, 8 HR, 17.9% BB, 14.0% Ks
Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 40 | Run: 40 | Arm: 55 | Field: 50 | Overall: 45
Ravelo understands the strike zone well, knows how to work a walk and makes consistent contact to all fields. While he has strength in his 6-foot-2, 220-pound frame, that has mostly translated to doubles in the Minor Leagues, as his 11 home runs in 2014 with Double-A Birmingham are his career high.
After beginning his professional career as a third baseman, Ravelo moved across the diamond in 2013. He's an adequate defender at his new position but faces a tough profile as a right-handed-hitting first baseman without much power.
★ ★ ★
Vote in the poll below for your favorite of the five, and post your nomination(s) in the comments!