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Oakland A's 2016 Community Prospect List #9: Yairo Munoz and his enigmatic 2015

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In the first vote using our new procedure, shortstop Yairo Munoz earned a solid victory for the No. 8 spot but did not run away with the election. His margin was only 14% of the 79 total votes, which is one of the closer races we've seen so far. The rankings will now become increasingly interchangeable as the differences between the remaining players become a bit less clear-cut, but that's where we get to the good part of our Community Prospect List -- we already knew roughly how the top 5-10 were going to go, but we'll get some sort of consensus on the lower-profile guys who are tougher to peg. 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%)
6. Chad Pinder, SS (+31%)
7. Renato Nunez, 1B/3B (+51%)
8. Yairo Munoz, SS (+14%)

To begin, happy birthday Yairo! Today (Sat., Jan 23) the infielder turns 21 years old. That means two things. First, he was born in 1995, and I remember that year ... I'm not "old" yet but this is surely one of the first signs. Second, he seems like a good bet to reach Double-A this season, whether from the outset or as a midsummer call-up, and that will make him one of the youngest hitters in the Texas League just like Olson and Nunez were last year. Of course, he still might only be the third-youngest top prospect on his own team, assuming he's ultimately joined by Barreto and Nottingham in Midland. The A's reputation leans more toward their success in developing pitchers, but this is a serious crop of hitters filling the upper minors at strikingly young ages.

So where will Munoz start the upcoming season? Your answer might depend on what you thought of his odd 2015 campaign. He began his much-hyped first year of full-season ball with a disappointing performance in Single-A Beloit, but after moving up to replace the injured Barreto for Stockton's final 39 games, his numbers improved across the board -- including his average, his power, and his walk and strikeout rates. His severely below-average 84 wRC+ at the lower level jumped up to a wonderful 132 wRC+ at the higher level.

Seeing a 20-year-old improve that much after a move up the ladder should get your attention every time. But was it a small sample, or a sign of something clicking in a young player's development? In an interview with our own Spencer Silva, Munoz also cited the simple change in scenery for shaking up his attitude:

"The difference between here and Beloit is that I was thinking too much about my numbers, you know, I wasn't thinking like a good teammate. Since I've come here, I'm making better contact, running hard. I wasn't thinking like that before." He continued, "In Beloit, I was thinking about results. Now I'm thinking about what I can do to help my team."

When it comes to a player's self-analysis it's always fair to add a grain of salt, but those are powerful words. He's not citing a little change in his swing or something. He's describing growing up, from a teenager trying to prove his individual talent into a professional working to help his team. I'd be excited to hear those words from an enigmatic 25-year-old as signs of increased maturity, and Munoz said them at 20.

They're still just words for now, though, and he'll have the chance to back them up this season at whichever level he might start. Only then will we begin to get an answer to the riddle of his hot-and-cold 2015 performance.

MAKE SURE TO READ THE NEW PROCEDURE, AS IT HAS CHANGED DRAMATICALLY. Here is the new process:

  • Five candidates will be listed on the ballot. The voting will take place in the comments section. I will start with a comment listing all five players, and then I will respond to that with five new comments in the style of "Vote: Player Name" for each candidate. Please do not reply directly to the official "Vote" comments, so that the ballot can stay together in one group.
  • Choose your ONE favorite by Rec'ing the comment with his name. Please only vote for one, like you would have in the old poll. (Note: If it comes down to a close two-man race, we will discuss the possibility of having the third-party voters cast a second vote for one of the two leading candidates, sort of like Ranked-Choice Voting.) The player who receives the most Rec's earns the next spot on the CPL, while the remaining four players move on to the next ballot where they are joined by a new nominee.
  • In the comments, below the official voting, 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 right-handed pitcher Raul Alcantara. He entered the 2015 CPL voting as the default No. 1 in the system, but Tommy John surgery dropped his stock like you'd expect it would. He returned to the mound in June, but kept to short outings (four innings tops) as he built his arm back up in the low minors. And hey, remove one outlier outing (five runs, only one out recorded) and he posted a 2.98 ERA in a hitter's league. But he's already on the 40-man roster and this will be his third option year (he gets a fourth option in 2017 due to missed time), so the clock is ticking. He needs to get off to a good start this season so that the A's can think about getting him on a fast track to Oakland -- the talent is still there, but it has been joined by a sense of urgency.

Raul Alcantara, RHP

Expected level: Double-A | Age 23

2015 stats (High-A Stockton): 15 starts, 3.88 ERA, 48⅔ ip, 29 Ks, 8 BB, 3 HR, 4.00 FIP

From MLB.com:

Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 50 | Overall: 45

Alcantara was coming off his American debut when the A's acquired him in December 2011 as a part of the trade that sent Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney to the Red Sox. He's matured as a pitcher since the deal and had reached Double-A Midland in 2014 before undergoing Tommy John surgery that May.

When healthy, Alcantara throws his fastball in the low 90s, occasionally touching 96 mph. His slider is inconsistent but has the promise to give him another quality secondary offering to go with his above-average changeup.

Alcantara had made significant strides in the year before his injury, and if he's able to recapture that ability when he gets back to full health, he has a chance to become a solid Major League starter.

★ ★ ★

Here are our other current candidates:

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

From MLB.com:

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.

★ ★ ★

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

From MLB.com:

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.

★ ★ ★

Casey Meisner, RHP

Expected level: High-A? Double-A? | Age 21

2015 stats (High-A, 2 teams): 13 starts, 2.81 ERA, 67⅓ ip, 47 Ks, 21 BB, 5 HR, 4.06 FIP*

* average between FIP marks from Stockton (Cal League) and St. Lucie (Florida State League), weighted for innings pitched

From MLB.com:

Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curve: 50 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 50 | Overall: 50

When Meisner first entered pro ball, he was throwing his fastball in the upper 80s, topping out at 90-91 mph. He's already taken a step forward, velocity-wise, throwing 90-94 mph last summer as a teenager in the New York-Penn League and using his large frame to create a good downhill angle. He complements the improving fastball with a big curve, and he has shown an excellent feel to spinning the ball. While his changeup is behind, he's shown some feel for the offspeed pitch as well. His overall pitchability and consistency in finding the strike zone are better than you'd think for a young pitcher of his size.

Further development of his secondary pitches will be key, but Meisner took another step in the right direction in full-season ball in 2015.

★ ★ ★

Dillon Overton, LHP

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 24

2015 stats (High-A Stockton): 14 games, 3.82 ERA, 61⅓ ip, 59 Ks, 12 BB, 7 HR, 4.07 FIP
2015 stats (Double-A Midland): 13 starts, 3.06 ERA, 64⅔ ip, 47 Ks, 15 BB, 4 HR, 3.34 FIP

From MLB.com:

Scouting grades: Fastball: 50 | Curveball: 55 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 55 | Overall: 50

Entering his junior season at Oklahoma, Overton was expected to be a first-round pick in the 2013 Draft. Instead it was his teammate Jon Gray who went third overall, while Overton slipped to the second round after he suffered an injury that ultimately required Tommy John surgery.

Overton got back on the mound in June 2014 and pitched effectively in his return to action. His control looked as good as ever, though his stuff wasn't all the way back to his pre-injury form. At his best, his fastball has reached 95 mph, but he has worked mostly in the upper 80s since his elbow reconstruction. He can get swings and misses with both of his offspeed pitches.

Overton earns praise for his makeup and demeanor on the mound. He'll look to continue to regain his form as he gets further removed from his surgery.

★ ★ ★

Vote in the comments below for your favorite of the five by Rec'ing his "Vote: (Player Name)" comment, and post your nomination(s) as well!