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Oakland A’s prospect watch: Renato Nunez, Rangel Ravelo crushing in Venezuela

Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland A’s have seven prospects playing in the Arizona Fall League, and several others spread among the various international winter leagues. Let’s see how they’re doing!

Venezuelan League (LVBP)

Renato Nunez and Rangel Ravelo are swinging hot bats in Venezuela. As I understand it, the LVBP is somewhere between Double-A and Triple-A as far as minor league equivalency, so considering that both players struggled in Triple-A this year it’s nice to see them begin to rebound against similar competition.

Nunez had a particularly disappointing 2016 for Nashville. Although he hit 23 homers, his average and OBP were far below par and he posted his highest strikeout rate since 2013. It all added up to a measly 78 wRC+, and he then went 2-for-15 in a brief MLB trial in September. However, in nine games since arriving in Venezuela, he’s hit three homers with an 1.142 OPS.

Perhaps more important, though, is the work Nunez plans to do on his defense. He played his first seven games at 3B, and on the LVBP site he mentioned his interest in getting in work at the position. However, this story on his team’s site also hints that he could get time at 1B, and indeed he played his last two games there.

It makes sense to see Nunez trying out a position other than 3B, for all kinds of reasons -- the A’s love defensive versatility, they currently have more quantity than quality at 1B, they’re probably set at 3B (with Ryon Healy for now and Matt Chapman incoming), and Nunez’s three errors in seven LVBP games already at the hot corner are as unimpressive as the rest of his reputation there. Remember, he also played a dozen games in LF toward the end of Nashville’s season, so his defensive future is still up in the air. In order for it to be worth it to find a position for him, though, he has to keep hitting, and his early performance in Venezuela is a positive step back in the right direction for the 22-year-old.

Meanwhile, Ravelo continues to put up a repeat of the monster 2015 campaign that earned him league Productor del Año honors. In 27 games, he has a .906 OPS to go with 4 HR, 19 BB, and 13 Ks, ranking among the league leaders in most categories. He’s hitting for average and power, with great plate discipline and plenty of walks, and all that’s left is to carry this success back over to Nashville next summer after posting a lackluster 93 wRC+ this past season.

Stats

Renato Nunez, IF: 13-for-34, 3 HR, 4 BB, 6 Ks, 1.142 OPS
Rangel Ravelo, 1B: 28-for-93, 4 HR, 19 BB, 13 Ks, .906 OPS

Carlos Navas, RHP: 7 games, 1.35 ERA, 13⅓ ip, 16 Ks, 1 BB, 7 hits

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Arizona Fall League

Not much has happened since our last update. At the plate, Franklin Barreto and Yairo Munoz still have OPS marks below .600, and Max Schrock is doing better but not by much. The pitching, however, has remained mostly a positive story.

Frankie Montas tossed three more scoreless frames on Tuesday, raising his total to 14⅓ innings this fall without allowing a run. Relievers Sam Bragg and Trey Cochran-Gill continued delivering strong outings as well. However, starter Dylan Covey fell flat in the follow-up to his recent no-hit performance, allowing five earned runs in his appearance this week. Covey’s focus this fall is on efficiency, as he told Michael Avallone of MiLB.com:

“Oakland wants me to concentrate on throwing more strikes and getting hitters out in as few pitches as possible. ... I was sort of a max effort pitcher and I think that might have been a contributing factor to my injury. Now I'm learning that I don't have to go so hard on every pitch to be effective. I feel like I'm finding my identity in the AFL as a pitcher.”

The AFL held its Fall Stars Game on Saturday, and the A’s two representatives were Barreto and Bragg. Unfortunately, neither one had much of a day, as Barreto went 0-for-2 out of the leadoff spot and committed a throwing error at SS, while Bragg served up a two-run homer despite otherwise striking out the side. Here’s the full box score.

Stats

Max Schrock, 2B: 14-for-50, 5 XBH, 1 BB, 2 Ks, .708 OPS
Franklin Barreto, SS: 15-for-65, 5 XBH, 2 BB, 14 Ks, .569 OPS
Yairo Munoz, SS: 14-for-59, 2 XBH, 3 BB, 14 Ks, .558 OPS

XBH = extra-base hits

Frankie Montas, RHP: 0.00 ERA, 14⅓ ip, 9 Ks, 4 BB, 5 hits
Sam Bragg, RHP: 0.79 ERA, 11⅓ ip, 11 Ks, 1 BB, 1 HR
Trey Cochran-Gill, RHP: 2.38 ERA, 11⅓ ip, 12 Ks, 2 BB
Dylan Covey, RHP (5 starts): 4.35 ERA, 20⅔ ip, 14 Ks, 7 BB, 1 HR

Videos

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Other Winter Leagues

Mexico: Joey Wendle continues to consistently produce, with an .867 OPS, a dozen extra-base hits, and four steals in 24 games. However, after playing his first 19 games at SS, he has returned to 2B for his last five outings. My understanding is that Mexico is the weakest of the international winter leagues, so take this success with a grain of salt, but at least he’s doing well with the situation he’s been given.

Dominican Republic: Tyler Marincov still hasn’t gotten going. The outfielder has a .477 OPS and hasn’t homered through 14 games. Of course, he only played at Double-A in 2016, so the D.R. might be a slight uptick in competition for him to get used to. Catcher Beau Taylor is shining in limited time, going 11-for-23 despite only playing every few days.

Click here for a full list of all the A’s players participating in winter leagues.