It is officially 2016, and that means it's time to get started on this year's edition of our A's Community Prospect List. With the low quality of last season's MLB team, we focused extra hard on the farm system all summer and fall, so many of the top names might not be new to you. But to get us in the prospect-rating spirit, here is a full rundown of the entire organization.
Well, not the entire organization. But this depth chart will cover anyone who has even the most remote chance of sniffing our new top-25 list, and likely anyone you could have even imagined nominating. There are over 50 players covered here, and the point is to remind you of every relevant prospect before we start the process of voting on the top guys. If you've already heard of every player I list here, then do yourself a favor and go outside for the rest of the day.
A few disclaimers (skip if you don't care):
1. The charts are ordered solely based on proximity to MLB. A player with a full season of Double-A will be listed higher than a player who is only just reaching High-A, even if the High-A player is considered the better overall prospect.
2. I had to take liberties on where to place some guys in terms of position (starter vs. reliever, etc.). You're free to quibble with any of the placements, but the main point of the post is to get all the names listed.
3. There are way more pitchers mentioned here than position players, but I don't think that means anything. On last year's list, 13 of the top 25 prospects were hitters, so some of the extra pitching quantity is likely concentrated toward the bottom of the quality list (especially the low-level relief pitchers).
4. As for the 2015 draft class, I'm cutting it off after the first six picks. I doubt anyone lower than that has a chance at making the CPL, so let's wait and see which of them set themselves apart in their first full pro season.
The full depth chart (see bottom of post for a more complete version):
And a quick rundown by position. Each position has a table including:
1. The player's name
2. The highest level at which he played at least 5 games in 2015 (A+ for High-A Stockton; A for Single-A Beloit; A- for short-season Single-A Vermont; RK for Rookie League)
3. His rank on our 2015 list (TR for new trade acquisitions, DR for draftees, and NR for non-ranked players)
4. Which direction his stock has gone since this time last year (up or down; if in CAPS, then change was significant; for draftees, I've instead listed the round in which they were selected):
Current MLB depth:
1. Sonny Gray
2. Rich Hill
3-thru-6. Chris Bassitt, Kendall Graveman, Jesse Hahn, Sean Nolin
7. Henderson Alvarez (could rise when healthy)
8. Felix Doubront
9. Aaron Brooks
Closest to MLB: Sean Nolin, Sean Manaea, Dillon Overton
Top prospects (per MLB.com): Sean Manaea (#3), Dakota Chalmers (#9), Dillon Overton (#10), Casey Meisner (#11)
Most of the talent was in the lower levels last year, and High-A Stockton in particular finished with an excellent rotation after the trade deadline acquisitions. But Nolin and Manaea could end up helping the MLB squad this year, even with so many names to sort through already in Oakland. Manaea should end up quite high on our prospect list once we start voting, while fellow newcomers Chalmers, Meisner, and Mengden should also make it easily. Zambrano is a sleeper to watch out for in 2016 after a dominant performance in the Venezuelan Winter League, though he's unlikely to make the CPL just yet. (Update: Another int'l sleeper, Oscar Tovar, was mentioned in the comments.)
Current MLB depth:
Closer: Sean Doolittle
Set-up: Ryan Madson, John Axford
Middle: Liam Hendriks, Fernando Rodriguez, Marc Rzepczynski, Ryan Dull
... plus any surplus starting pitchers, and Jarrod Parker
Closest to MLB: Ryan Dull, R.J. Alvarez, Daniel Coulombe, J.B. Wendelken
Top prospects (per MLB.com): R.J. Alvarez (#23), Bobby Wahl (#25), Aaron Kurcz (#29), Daniel Coulombe (#30)
A few of the names on this chart are a bit of a reach, but I wanted to include everyone who had a good year last year. Relievers are tough to predict, so who knows if a breakout performance from a no-name could be a sign of something greater? The key guys here are Dull, Alvarez, and Wendelken, who are on the 40-man roster; Coulombe, who appears to be the next lefty in line after Doolittle and Scrabble (and Doubront or Nolin, if they're in the pen); and Derby, one of the most exciting draft picks from last year.
Current MLB depth: Stephen Vogt, Josh Phegley
Closest to MLB: Carson Blair
Top prospect (per MLB.com): Jacob Nottingham (#8)
Despite the quantity, the only serious prospect behind the plate right now is Nottingham. Blair got a cup of coffee at the end of September, but at the moment he's a distant backup behind Vogt & Phegley. We'll see if any of the other guys can step up this year, including new draftee Nick Collins (eighth-round pick)
Current MLB depth: Yonder Alonso, Mark Canha, Max Muncy, Billy Butler
Closest to MLB: Rangel Ravelo
Top Prospect (per MLB.com): Matt Olson (#2)
How many games will the oft-injured Alonso play? Will Canha see more time at 1B, LF, or DH? Olson played nearly as many games in the outfield last year as he did at first base, so where will he play going forward? Muncy was the emergency backup last year when Ike Davis went down, and he was on the MLB roster long enough that he doesn't qualify as a prospect anymore even though he'll likely begin in Triple-A -- is he still next in line, or will Ravelo's Venezuelan League-leading 1.042 OPS help to earn him the first look? Will Renato Nunez end up at first base rather than third base? There are a lot of questions surrounding this position.
Current MLB depth: Jed Lowrie, Marcus Semien, Eric Sogard, Tyler Ladendorf
Closest to MLB: Tyler Ladendorf, Joey Wendle
Top Prospects (per MLB.com): Franklin Barreto (#1), Richie Martin (#4), Chad Pinder (#7)
The A's are suddenly stacked in the middle infield throughout their system. Wendle and Pinder will team up in Triple-A (unless Wendle makes the MLB club), Barreto figures to be in Double-A (though will he move to CF?), Munoz thrived in High-A last year, and the team's top two draft picks made successful pro debuts. If you're into super-low-level lotto tickets, MLB.com ranks Lopez as the No. 18 prospect in the system. Even the filler is intriguing, with 2014 sixth- and seventh-round picks Trace Loehr (A-) and Branden Cogswell (A+). I'd bet at least a half-dozen middle infielders will be making our CPL, with Barreto the likely No. 1 overall.
Current MLB depth: Danny Valencia, Max Muncy
Closest to MLB: Renato Nunez
Top Prospects (per MLB.com): Matt Chapman (#5), Renato Nunez (#6)
With Brett Lawrie out of the picture, this is a thin position in the system. There are a lot of eggs being put in Valencia's basket, as Muncy is a stretch as a backup 3B. Nunez still hasn't debuted at Triple-A, and his strength is his bat rather than his glove at the hot corner -- will he end up at first base if/when he makes the bigs? With all that being said, Chapman is one of the most exciting prospects in the system.
Current MLB depth:
RF: Josh Reddick
CF: Billy Burns, Sam Fuld
LF: Mark Canha, Coco Crisp, Jake Smolinski, Andrew Lambo
Closest to MLB: Jaycob Brugman
Top Prospect (per MLB.com): Skye Bolt (#19)
The A's have virtually nothing in the cupboard when it comes to the outfield, which is a big reason why a lot of folks on AN heavily support signing Reddick to an extension. Of course, as previously mentioned, Matt Olson could end up moving to a corner outfield spot, and long-term a duo of he and Burns (or even a trio including an extended Reddick) could render a lack of depth meaningless. In the meantime, Brugman is one of my personal favorites in the system, while Bolt was arguably a first-round talent in the fourth round. A few other fringe names: B.J. Boyd, J.P. Sportman, and Tyler Marincov of High-A Stockton; Jose Brizuela, who reached Stockton at the end of the year (2014 draft, 16th round); and Texas League playoff hero Josh Whitaker. Seth Brown, selected in the 19th round last year, is currently my late-round sleeper from the 2015 draft.
In the next post, we'll review the nomination process and take our first five nominees.
UPDATE (Jan. 5, 11 a.m.): Using the feedback in the comments, I've updated the depth chart to add a few extra fringe names. I also took the chance to add a few extra draft picks to fill out the bottom of the position player ranks (I added the draftees who posted wRC+ marks of 100 or better in Low-A Vermont last year). Furthermore, I added the MLB team to the top, and separated the prospects out by level for a more accurate visual representation. The only member of the 40-man roster not listed is Billy Butler, since this is by defensive position.