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Oakland A's 2016 Community Prospect List #14: Joey Wendle might be more than meets the eye

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We've entered the tier of Oakland A's prospects in which the obvious gems have all been accounted for, and what remains are the enticing-but-uncertain guys. That means advanced prospects who may have low ceilings, as well as raw youngsters with lots of tools but even more to prove in the lower levels of pro ball. Joey Wendle is the former of the two, and he squeaked by with our third-smallest margin of victory so far. At this point, the difference between the remaining guys is purely a matter of opinion, if not downright guessing. 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%)

Wendle's Oakland career got off to a shaky start when he was the only player acquired for beloved All-Star slugger Brandon Moss last winter. It got worse when he managed only a .705 OPS through the end of June in Triple-A Nashville. Sure, the A's had guessed right on Moss' decline after his major hip injury in 2015 (he finished the year with -0.5 bWAR, and 0.6 fWAR), but that would hardly matter if the guy they got back provided even less value as a minor league flame-out.

Fortunately, Wendle warmed up as he spent more time in Nashville, and he posted an .832 OPS the rest of the way to salvage a league-average season at the plate (101 wRC+). But even still, he doesn't hit .300, he doesn't have overwhelming home run power, his low walk rate suppresses his on-base skills, and he still racks up his share of strikeouts. Looking at his batting line as a 25-year-old in Triple-A, there's not a lot to get excited about.

But that's always been the book on Wendle. The praise he earns is for his intangibles: his makeup, his work ethic, his "blue-collar mentality" (according to MLB.com). He gets off to a slow start, and then he makes the necessary adjustments as he figures things out. He doesn't have defensive versatility, but his glove supposedly plays well at second base and could yet improve (has he even worked with Wash yet?).

Add it all up, and what do you have? A poor man's Joe Panik? Mark Ellie Lite? Or just the next Eric Sogard? We've been waiting a year to find out, and we may yet wait longer given Oakland's currently full infield. But a hole will open up at some point, whether it's a Jed Lowrie injury or regression by Danny Valencia or whatever else, and the smart money says that we will see Wendle make his MLB debut sometime in 2016. Only then will we each get to begin our own eyeball tests to determine if the numbers tell an accurate tale of a replacement-level infielder, or if there is more to his story after all.

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 Skye Bolt. The outfielder was Oakland's fourth-round pick in the draft last June, but there is reason to believe he could have the ceiling of a higher pick. He got off to a great start in college, hurt his foot, and saw his numbers dip, but the A's took a chance on his raw ability -- specifically, his power and his center field defense. We'll learn a lot more about him after a full year of pro ball in 2016, and I expect he'll open in High-A Stockton like most college draftees do for the A's. No matter what happens, he has one of the most exciting names in Oakland's system -- a slugger named Skye, and a speedy outfielder named Bolt.

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.

★ ★ ★

Here are our other current candidates:

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.

★ ★ ★

Dakota Chalmers, RHP

Expected level: Low-A | Age 19

2015 stats: I don't see value in posting Rookie League stats

From MLB.com:

Scouting Grades: Fastball: 65 | Curveball: 55 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 50 | Overall: 50

With a fine performance on the showcase circuit and a strong start to his senior season, Chalmers' stock was nearly as high as any high school pitcher's at one point during the spring. He cooled off some and dropped to the Athletics in the third round, where he signed for $1.2 million.

Chalmers already operated with a 92-95 mph fastball that peaks at 98, and his projectable 6-foot-3 frame hints at more velocity in the future. His secondary pitches need more consistency, though his breaking balls grade as plus offerings at their best and he'll flash a solid changeup.

Chalmers' biggest need at this point is to clean up his delivery, which features more effort than scouts would like. His athleticism bodes well for his ability to refine his mechanics and improve his control and command.

★ ★ ★

Daniel Mengden, RHP

Expected level: Double-A | Age 23

2015 stats (Single-A): 8 games, 1.16 ERA, 38⅔ ip, 38 Ks, 8 BB, 1 HR, 2.65 FIP
2015 stats (High-A*): 18 games, 4.79 ERA, 92 ip, 89 Ks, 28 BB, 10 HR, 4.30 FIP

* combined stats w/ Lancaster (Astros) and Stockton (A's); FIP is a weighted average

From MLB.com:

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

Mengden has a solid four-pitch mix. He throws his fastball in the low 90s, while mixing in a sharp, biting slider, as well as a curveball and changeup. He generally works around the strike zone with his whole arsenal. There's some effort to his delivery, but it adds deception and he's athletic enough to make it work.

While some scouts think his delivery will eventually make him a reliever, others see an athletic right-hander who is still learning to pitch and believe he'll be able to stay in the rotation in the long run.

★ ★ ★

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.

★ ★ ★

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!