The minor leagues don't start playing until Thursday, but each of the Oakland A's full-season affiliates have set their Opening Day rosters. Here is a quick look at each squad. For another take on these rosters, check out this FanPost from AN member guessatomo.
Triple-A Nashville Sounds
The A's top minor league team is full of familiar names, which come mainly in two categories -- the MLB backups whom we've seen in Oakland already, and the top prospects we've spent all winter dreaming about. The important thing to remember at this level is that it's about more than just developing the top youngsters who come up from below; the Triple-A roster also must keep an eye toward MLB and give playing time to the guys who are next in line if someone on the A's gets hurt. That's why you'll always see names like Eric Surkamp, Daniel Coulombe, and Max Muncy in Nashville, because even though the organization has prospects with higher upside, it's good to have someone around who is already ready to be an emergency fill-in.
(Bold denotes the player made our Community Prospect List Top 30 ... Italics denotes the player has already debuted at the MLB level ... Starter/Reliever designations are my own best guesses.)
*Don't forget: Andrew Lambo made the A's roster at the last minute, but it figures to be a short stay. Oakland will need to add a fifth starter by Friday, and that will mean sending someone else down. Unless someone gets hurt in the next couple days, it will almost certainly be Lambo heading back to Nashville.
Biggest snubs: Ryon Healy, Carson Blair, and Jaycob Brugman. Healy was squeezed out by the logjam at the corner infield positions, so despite breaking out in the second half last year he will have to return to Double-A for now. Blair seemed to pass Maxwell on the catching depth chart last year, but apparently that is no longer the case. Brugman had a solid year in Midland and the A's liked him enough to send him to the Arizona Fall League, but he returns to Double-A for now; that makes sense given that the Nashville outfield is currently being used to keep the MLB-ready backups warm. As for the pitchers, Aaron Kurcz is back in Midland after spending all of 2015 at the Triple-A level.
Names to know: On the pitching side, I have a feeling that Surkamp will be making the start for the A's on Friday, and of course Hahn figures to be back in green and gold sooner than later. Among the younger prospects, Manaea appears to be on the fast-track to Oakland while Wendelken and Triggs are the relievers who are already on the 40-man roster. On the position player side, every single infielder and outfielder is either an MLB-ready injury backup (Ladendorf, Smolinski, Muncy) or a legit prospect who could make noise (Nunez, Olson, Pinder, etc.), so it wouldn't surprise me to see any of them by the end of the season.
Notable: Olson is listed as an outfielder, not an infielder. It's no secret that 1B is an impacted position in Nashville between Nunez, Ravelo, and Muncy, and that Olson figures to get some reps in the outfield both to see how he handles it and to get everyone in the lineup. But seeing it written down on paper like this is one step closer to the Olson Outfield Experiment coming to fruition.
Sleepers to keep an eye on: Reliever Tucker Healy had a fantastic 2015 in Midland. He's probably not high on the depth chart, but if he has a hot first half then perhaps he could put himself on the radar.
Double-A Midland RockHounds
The Hounds have won the Texas League championship the last two years running, and they enter 2016 looking for a three-peat. Helping that cause will be arguably the two most exciting position player prospects in Oakland's system, Franklin Barreto and Matt Chapman. Barreto is easily one of the top 50 prospects in the whole minors, while Chapman increased his profile by leading the A's in homers this spring. There's a bit of a drop-off after those two, but there are still quite a few promising names here.
(Bold denotes the player made our Community Prospect List Top 30 ... Italics denotes the player has already debuted at the MLB level ... I see 6 potential candidates for the rotation, so I've included them all in the Starters section even though that doesn't mean they'll all actually start.)
Biggest snubs: Casey Meisner, Bobby Wahl, and B.J. Boyd. Meisner had success in Stockton but still hasn't turned 21, so it makes sense to be patient with him. Wahl can't stay healthy, and I don't blame the A's for promoting some more reliable names ahead of him while he continues his rehab. Boyd is in his fifth year in the organization after being a high school draft pick, and apparently he didn't show enough last year to move up to Midland. I expect that all three of these guys could move up the ladder quickly if they have big first-half performances.
Names to know: After Barreto and Chapman (and the Triple-A snubs, Healy and Brugman), keep an eye on Mengden and Covey in the rotation. In the bullpen, Kurcz and Hall went to the Arizona Fall League last year, and Cochran-Gill was the guy acquired for Evan Scribner; all three have to learn to curb their walk rates if they want to move up.
Notable: Is Brugman back in Double-A because the team doesn't think he's ready for Triple-A, or simply so that he can play every day rather than sitting on the bench behind Lambo and Smolinski? Which pitcher who started last year will be relegated to the bullpen this season -- will Alcantara move to the pen after his slow comeback from TJS, will Seddon settle into relief after a successful rotation trial last year, or will older guys like Sanchez and Jensen move out to pasture?
Sleepers to keep an eye on: I'm really into Seddon. He seems like the kind of efficient innings eater who can move up the system quickly, assuming the plan is still for him to start. Walter and Bragg were key parts of an excellent Stockton pen last year, and maybe one of them can break out like Ryan Dull did. Sportman got some at-bats this spring and it's impossible to ignore him with such an awesome name.
Injuries: Shortstop Yairo Munoz is not listed on any roster as he is dealing with a foot problem that will send him to extended spring training, according to Scout.com. Earlier in the spring he was also dealing with a "lingering quad injury" (via A's Farm). Look for him to end up in either Midland or Stockton when he's ready. Starting pitcher Matt Stalcup, who pitched decently for Stockton last season, is also hurt (via Scout.com); like Munoz, he'll likely end up in either Stockton or Midland when he's ready.
High-A Stockton Ports
Now we get into the low minors. The Ports don't have quite as many exciting prospects as they have the last couple years, but there are still a few names worth watching here. In particular, the starting rotation has some recent high draft picks (Gossett, Graves, Fillmyer) and high-profile trade acquisitions (Meisner, Erwin).
(Bold denotes the player made our Community Prospect List Top 30 ... I see 7 potential candidates for the rotation, so I've included them all in the Starters section even though that doesn't mean they'll all actually start. My best guess is that Finnegan and Wagman will be the odd men out.)
Biggest snubs: Skye Bolt seemed like he had a shot to open in Stockton, but I can understand letting him work up slowly given his profile as a raw, toolsy guy who needs refinement. Otherwise, there's no one else who really seems like they're missing from this roster.
Names to know: The whole rotation is worth watching. As for the hitters, Pimentel's power could play well in Banner Island Ballpark, and White was a high draft pick last year.
Notable: If Wahl is healthy, then he could start reestablishing his stock. Brown and Bennie are listed as infielders but will also spend time in the outfield.
Sleepers to keep an eye on: Brown is my favorite sleeper from last year's draft, after he had a great pro debut in Low-A Vermont last year. Raga has quietly moved up the ladder and is only 21 this year. Bracewell and Navas are the relievers I'll be watching (after Wahl).
Injury: Shortstop Richie Martin, Oakland's first-round pick last summer, will miss six weeks after tearing his meniscus. He figures to play for Stockton when he returns.
Single-A Beloit Snappers
And now we reach the point where even I don't know half the roster.
(Bold denotes the player made our Community Prospect List Top 30 ... I took my best guesses regarding who might make the starting rotation, but take that designation with a grain of salt. I could be way off.)
Names to know: Driver and Bolt, pretty much. Both are long-term projects. Collins, Pallares, Iriart, Siddall, Biegalski, and Naile are among the intriguing names from last year's draft, and in particular the reliever Naile made Oakland Clubhouse's Top-50 prospect list. Lopez and Loehr are a couple of young infielders who show promise.
Sleepers to keep an eye on: Zambrano got attention last year by making a couple starts for Triple-A Nashville, and also for pitching well in the Venezuelan Winter League (Triple-A equivalent).
Injuries: LHP Kevin Duchene, last year's fifth-round pick, is absent from all rosters and is reportedly not physically ready to start the season (via Scout.com). LHP Chris Kohler, who missed all of 2014 to injury and pitched minimally in 2015, is also hurt. Not sure where they'll open when they're ready. Catcher Lana Akau is recovering from a concussion incurred in the spring and is out indefinitely, according to Scout.com.
Not listed: RHP Dakota Chalmers is a high-upside name from last year's draft, but as expected the team will take it slow with him. Look for him to appear in either Low-A Vermont when they get going, or in the Arizona Rookie League.