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Oakland A's 2016 Community Prospect List #17: Daniel Mengden bulldogs his way onto list

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Artist's interpretation of Mengden.
Artist's interpretation of Mengden.
Denis Poroy/Getty Images

In the last vote, we selected our third straight pitcher in Daniel Mengden. The righty was acquired from the Astros last summer (along with Jacob Nottingham) in the deadline deal for Scott Kazmir. 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%)
9. Richie Martin, SS (+12%)
10. Casey Meisner, RHP (+24%)
11. Dillon Overton, LHP (+25%)
12. Rangel Ravelo, 1B (+30%)
13. Joey Wendle, 2B (+6%)
14. Dakota Chalmers, RHP (+19%)
15. Raul Alcantara, RHP (+24%)
16. Daniel Mengden, RHP (+10%)

It can be really difficult to get an accurate gauge on low-level minor league prospects, especially ones who haven't been in the pros for very long and who aren't high-profile blue-chippers. You're left with some stats, an occasional grainy video recorded from an odd angle in the stands, and the words of whatever folks may have caught a quick glimpse in person.

When it comes to Daniel Mengden, there is one word that stands out above the rest, and that word is "bulldog." To elaborate on that label, here is Mike Elias, Astros Director of Amateur Scouting, after selecting Mengden in 2014 (via Brian McTaggart of MLB.com):

"Daniel is a bulldog starter who can mix four pitches for strikes, including a plus fastball. ... He's a great athlete, as his history as a two-way player demonstrates, and is as fierce a competitor as you will find."

And more, from Ray Mileur of Baseball Essential:

Mengden, in the tradition of a Nolan Ryan of Roger Clemens, is well known for his bulldog toughness and competitiveness. According to legend, Mengden once kept pitching in a game for [Texas A&M], despite having a stress fracture in his back.

(Note: I wouldn't worry about that stress fracture, as his full workload in 2015 indicates to me that it's not an issue anymore.)

Those are all just words for now, but they go a long way with me. Pro sports are about more than just raw talent, as we see from the fact that not all first-round draft picks pan out, and indeed a powerful mental makeup can be a major factor as well. You can call it a hunch if you want, and perhaps that is a fair assessment, but I know Nico agrees with me that these rave reviews of Mengden's competitive fire get our attention.

And it's not like we're talking about the next Rudy, willing his way onto the football field despite a lack of ability. Mengden went at the beginning of the fourth round as the 106th overall pick; the previous year, Oakland selected high-upside lefty Chris Kohler with the 106th pick, for some context. Mengden has solid velocity, he already has a diverse arsenal of pitches, he's considered an excellent athlete, and he's still relatively new to pitching full-time (which suggests he could still have room to grow his skills). Add in the success he's already had, reaching High-A in his first full pro season and striking out a batter per inning at that level, and there's more to this guy than just a convenient buzzword like "bulldog."

But man, toss in that key term too, and suddenly you can start to picture the best-case outcomes of that promising debut stat line. Look for Mengden to reach Double-A this year, whether from the get-go or later in the summer.

★ ★ ★

Here is the 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 Zack Erwin. It's easy to be discouraged by the underwhelming return in the Brett Lawrie trade, but at the same time we should be sure not to underrate this particular lefty. It used to be that teams couldn't trade their draft picks during the season they were drafted, but that rule was changed last year and Oakland ended up with Chicago's fourth-round pick (taken 16 spots ahead of Skye Bolt). Granted, the fourth round isn't packed with success stories, but James Paxton, Adam Warren and A.J. Cole are a few familiar names from recent years (and if you go back to 2008 you get Jason Kipnis, Brandon Crawford, and Dee Gordon). But the thing that jumps out at me the most is that Erwin reached Single-A just two months after being drafted. Not a lot of guys do that, and the only member of Oakland's most recent draft to make that jump was second-rounder Mikey White (who did so chiefly as an injury replacement). Erwin's calling card seems to be his command, and that sets him apart from most other youngsters and could allow him to stay on the fast track.

Zack Erwin, LHP

Expected level: Single-A? High-A? | Age 22

2015 stats (Single-A): 7 games, 1.89 ERA, 19 ip, 15 Ks, 4 BB, 0 HR, 2.69 FIP

From MLB.com:

Scouting grades: Fastball: 45 | Curveball: 55 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 55 | Overall: 45

Erwin jumped on scouts' radars during 2014 Cape Cod League and then followed it with an even better junior season at Clemson, leading to his selection in the fourth round of the 2015 Draft by the White Sox. Despite pitching well in his professional debut -- half of which he spent in the full-season South Atlantic League -- the White Sox traded Erwin and right-hander J.B. Wendelken to Oakland in December for Brett Lawrie.

Erwin has the makings of three average-or-better pitches, each of which plays up due to his advanced command. His 6-foot-5 frame and long arms help him create an angle to the plate and also lend to his deception, allowing him to sneak up on opposing hitters with his 88-90 mph fastball. The left-hander's ability to command his heater throughout the zone helps set up his curveball and split-changeup, with both offerings showing above-average potential.

While some scouts view Erwin as a future No. 5 starter, others believe he could jump on the fast track to the Major Leagues with a move to the bullpen given his command, ground-ball tendencies and solid track record against both right- and left-handed hitters.

★ ★ ★

Here are our other current candidates:

Mikey White, SS/2B

Expected level: High-A | Age 22

2015 stats (Low-A Vermont): 131 PAs, 153 wRC+, 2 HR, 10.7% BB, 22.1% Ks
2015 stats (Single-A Beloit): 145 PAs, 65 wRC+, 1 HR, 6.9% BB, 20.7% Ks

From MLB.com:

Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 40 | Run: 45 | Arm: 55 | Field: 45 | Overall: 45

White has a long track record of producing at the plate that extends from high school and U.S. national 18-and-under teams to the SEC and Cape Cod League. He consistently barrels balls with a short right-handed swing and generates good pop for a middle infielder. His advanced on-base skills fit well at the top of a batting order.

Though he has fringy pure speed, White runs the bases well. While he's not flashy or rangy at shortstop, he has dependable hands and makes routine plays. Second base is probably his best position, and Oakland had him play some third base alongside Martin at short-season Vermont.

★ ★ ★

Skye Bolt, OF

Expected level: High-A | Age 22

2015 stats (Low-A Vermont): 206 PAs, 110 wRC+, 4 HR, 11.7% BB, 21.4% Ks

From MLB.com:

Scouting grades: Hit: 40 | Power: 50 | Run: 55 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 45

A switch-hitter, Bolt exhibits more bat speed and a more authoritative swing as a lefty, leading some scouts to wonder if he'd be better off batting solely from that side of the plate. Maybe that would help him do a better job of handling quality fastballs and recognizing pitches, two of his weaknesses.

If Bolt could recapture the magic from early in his freshman year, he could be a star. One of the better college athletes in the 2015 Draft class, he has solid raw power, speed and arm strength. He does a nice job of covering center field from gap to gap.

★ ★ ★

Ryan Dull, RHP

Expected level: Triple-A? MLB? | Age 26

2015 stats (Double-A Midland): 35 games, 0.60 ERA, 45 ip, 52 Ks, 13 BB, 1 HR, 2.14 FIP
2015 stats (Triple-A Nashville): 12 games, 1.12 ERA, 16 ip, 21 Ks, 3 BB, 1 HR, 2.35 FIP
2015 stats (MLB Oakland A's): 13 games, 4.24 ERA, 17 ip, 16 Ks, 6 BB, 4 HR, 5.37 FIP

From A's special assistant Grady Fuson, via A's Farm:

When he's been good, he's been 90-92mph, his ball has a little sink and dive to it, and he pitches at the bottom of the strike zone fabulously. He's got a hard little slider and he's got a nice little changeup. He's one of the better pitchers in our system when it comes to really pitching down in the strike zone consistently, and that's the biggest attribute he has, plus he pounds the strike zone.

From Midland manager Ryan Christenson, via Midland Reporter-Telegram:

"His main key to success is the fact that he can locate his fastball," Christensen said. "He throws strikes down at the knees. He's got a nice slider that comes out of the same plane as his fastball and the same with his changeup so he's tough on both lefties and righties. The main thing for him is he can spot his fastball pretty much where he wants, when he wants."

★ ★ ★

Jaycob Brugman, OF

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 24

2015 stats (Double-A Midland): 566 PAs, 105 wRC+, 6 HR, 11.0% BB, 15.7% Ks

From MLB.com:

Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 50 | Run: 50 | Arm: 50 | Field: 50 | Overall: 45

Brugman was a 17th-round pick in 2013 but played well above that level in his first full professional season. He hit 21 home runs between Class A Beloit and Class A Advanced Stockton, joining Matt Olson and Renato Nunez as the only Minor Leaguers in the organization to hit more than 20 home runs in 2014.

Brugman couples a smooth left-handed swing with good patience at the plate. As he showed in 2014, he's capable of driving balls out of the park, but he's more likely to end up as an average power hitter than a masher.

The A's have used Brugman in all three outfield positions. He has solid defensive tools and likely fits best in one of the corners.

★ ★ ★

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!