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Where does Lazaro Armenteros fit on the Oakland A’s prospect list?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this month, we took an updated look at the Oakland A’s prospect list entering the offseason. We discussed dozens of players from all levels of the minors, but there is one prominent prospect I intentionally omitted from the initial discussion: teenage Cuban outfielder Lazaro Armenteros. Let’s take a closer look at him now.

Known by the nickname Lazarito, the 17-year-old was signed by the A’s in July for $3 million. That’s the kind of massive outlay that makes you pay extra attention to a youngster, because it shows how highly the team regards his talent. Here’s a quick scouting report from MLB Pipeline:

Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 60 | Run: 65 | Arm: 60 | Field: 60 | Overall: 50

Armenteros is a dynamic talent who stands out for his power, speed and overall athleticism. Though his bat speed is undeniable, his uppercut bat path through the zone, as well as a few holes in his approach, will need to be ironed out in the professional ranks. He's capable of playing either center or right field, with the necessary athleticism and arm strength for either position.

On defense, Armenteros likely will be given every chance to prove he can stick in center field, though some scouts already wonder whether he fits better at a corner outfield spot given his overall skill set.

... And our own “grover,” at the time of the signing in July:

"Lazarito" defected from Cuba in 2015, where he was one of the top players in his age group. A potential 5 tool star particularly noted for his raw power potential and speed, Lazaro has received mixed scouting reports since being declared a free agent in January of this year.

Some feel he's developed a bit of a showcase swing, meaning he added some upper-cut to impress during batting practice. This could be an issue (if true) since he showed trouble catching up to high fastballs in the 15U World Cup when he (would have had) a swing more geared to competitive baseball. He's also received plus and fringe-average reports on his throwing arm... point being at 17 he's a kid and he's going to be a project that will take time to develop. Lazaro is a high-ceiling player who profiles best as a power-hitting RF.

Here’s some game action:

And a few more videos (with a hat tip to community members JJ209 and DoolittleDoolate for reminding me about them in the comments!):

  • DPL Baseball, mixing in an interview and some game highlights
  • FanGraphs, with some footage of an at-bat
  • Bleacher Report, with ... I guess a commercial for him, if he was a sports drink?

Overall it’s a familiar story: A teenager with tons of raw talent, but significant refinement needed. That means a high ceiling, but also a long development time and a lot that can go wrong along the way.

So where does he fit on the prospect list? MLB Pipeline, who shows a preference toward high upside over proximity to MLB, ranks him No. 11 in Oakland’s system. Many ANers shared their personal prospect lists in our CPL update post, and when he did show up it was usually in the 10-13 range by folks who made it clear they also prefer upside in their valuations.

However, many community members, myself included, held off on ranking him for now due simply to the uncertainty of what to make of him. I’m confident that he’s not in the Top 10 yet, at least not until he plays some games in the U.S. However, a big showing in short-season ball next summer (assuming he makes it there at all), combined with some top guys graduating to Oakland next year, could easily get him there.

For now, I look toward the No. 12-13 spots, where I currently have Dakota Chalmers and Yairo Munoz ranked on my personal list. Lazarito is similar to Chalmers in youth, inexperience, raw talent, and development needed, though Chalmers is at least one step closer having pitched a short season for Low-A Vermont.

Meanwhile, Munoz was once an impact teenage international signing like Lazarito, but he’s worked his way all the way up to the upper minors already. Although 2016 was lackluster for Munoz, he still represents something like what we might hope Armenteros can do, in terms of moving quickly up the system and even appearing in the Arizona Fall League by age 21.

Therefore, I’d probably put Lazarito at No. 14 for now, floating in the limbo between two distinct groups. The players immediately below him on my list (Jaycob Brugman, Richie Martin, Logan Shore, and Joey Wendle) have relatively good chances at MLB careers, but their ceilings aren’t high and they might end up as role players. Above him is my top tier, which includes the most elite raw talent (Barreto, Puk, Montas, etc.) as well as those I think have strong chances to be starting-caliber MLB players (Cotton, Olson, Maxwell, etc.). He’s probably closer to that higher group, but now he’ll need to perform in the minors in order to pass any of them.

Where does Lazarito rank in your version of the A’s top prospect list? Do any of the other int’l signings, like SS Marcos Brito (No. 27 on MLB Pipeline) make your list? To the comments!