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Oakland A's 2017 Community Prospect List #9: Bruce Maxwell breaks out

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

A second straight close election brings us the next player on our 2017 Community Prospect List, catcher Bruce Maxwell. Of eight players on the list so far, he’s the fifth with a realistic chance to appear in Oakland this season, possibly as soon as Opening Day. Here’s the current list, including their winning margins (the difference between their % of the vote, and the % of the runner-up):

  1. Franklin Barreto, SS (+67%)
  2. Matt Chapman, 3B (+26%)
  3. A.J. Puk, LHP (+38%)
  4. Jharel Cotton, RHP (+60%)
  5. Frankie Montas, RHP (+12%)
  6. Grant Holmes, RHP (+27%)
  7. Matt Olson, 1B/OF (+10%)
  8. Bruce Maxwell, C (+9%)

Since being drafted in the 2nd round in 2012, Maxwell’s career can be split into two distinct eras. There was his quiet, steady, unremarkable rise up the minor league system, from 2012 through 2015. And there was 2016, in which he torched Triple-A and earned an MLB debut before many of his higher-profile teammates. His wRC+ by year (100 is average, higher is better):

2012, A-: 96 wRC+
2013, A: 113
2014, A+: 100
2015, AA: 79
2016, AAA: 148!!

He got better and better in Triple-A as the year went on:

April 2016: 60 wRC+
May: 121
June: 131
July: 278 (lol wut)

Talk about a breakout. Back in 2015, Maxwell didn’t even make our preseason Top 25. He did make the list entering 2016, but only because we expanded it — he checked in at No. 28 in the A’s system. And now, suddenly, he’s comfortably in the Top 10 for the first time, at age 26 and entering his sixth season (fifth full year) in the organization. Reports like this probably don’t hurt (via Susan Slusser, S.F Chronicle):

Maxwell told The Chronicle during spring training that he had decided to make baseball his priority last season. He gave up drinking during the winter and started going to the gym twice a day. Minor-league coaches and the big-league staff during the spring all remarked on how much he had matured.

Maxwell held his own in the bigs when he got there, with a 103 wRC+ in 101 plate appearances. At this point he seems like all but a lock to at least carve out an MLB career as a backup, and maybe even more if his bat continues to play. If he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, he’ll be here sooner than later.

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. 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 players to be put onto the ballot for the next round. Similar to the ballot, I will start with a comment calling for nominations, which can then be made as a response to my comment. The format for your comment should be "Nomination: Player Name".
  • 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.
  • 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.

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The new nominee is Renato Nunez. After hitting at every level of the minors, Renato finally stumbled in Triple-A. But he still got to make his MLB debut, and then he bounced back in his home country of Venezuela as one of the top hitters in winter ball. He’s still young, but given that his bat is his only path to the bigs, he’ll need to get it back on track stateside in 2017 if he wants to stay relevant.

XBH = Extra-Base Hits
Hitter average rates: 100 wRC+, 8.0% BB, 20.0% Ks

Renato Nunez, 3B

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 23

2016 stats (AAA): 550 PAs, 78 wRC+, 23 HR, 5.6% BB, 21.6% Ks
2016 stats (MLB): 2-for-15, 0 BB, 3 Ks
2016 stats (LVBP): 193 PAs, .304/.389/.542, 11 HR, 21 BB, 38 Ks

From John Sickels:

Like Olson his reputation has slipped; more raw power than Olson but a much more aggressive approach hampers Nunez’s OBP; defense remains mediocre and contact ability must improve if the bat is to carry him; to be honest, you can make a very good case to drop him into the C+ range but my instincts say to hold on one more year with Renato in this grade band despite no logic to back that up. ETA 2018.

* * *

Daniel Gossett, RHP

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 24

2016 stats (A+): 9 starts, 3.33 ERA, 46 ip, 53 Ks, 13 BB, 4 HR, 3.45 FIP
2016 stats (AA): 16 starts, 2.49 ERA, 94 ip, 94 Ks, 25 BB, 4 HR, 2.57 FIP
2016 stats (AAA): 2 starts, 1.98 ERA, 13⅔ ip, 4 Ks, 3 BB, 0 HR, 3.80 FIP

From John Sickels:

Fastball in 90-94 range, with some reports as high as 95-96, with solid-average curveball and change-up; whole greater than the sum of the parts; Holmes draws more praise for his stuff but Gossett is a lot more polished, granted Gossett is also four years older; ready for a trial soon with workhorse potential. ETA 2017.

* * *

Max Schrock, 2B

Expected level: AA | Age 22

2016 stats (A+): 552 PAs, 134 wRC+, 9 HR, 5.6% BB, 7.6% Ks
2016 stats (AA + playoffs): 17-for-57, 4 XBH, 1 BB, 6 Ks, 90 wRC+
2016 stats (AFL): 15-for-54, 6 XBH, 1 BB, 2 Ks, 95 wRC+

From John Sickels:

Best tool is speed, lacks big natural power but know how to hit with good eye, clean swing and contact ability with gap pop; limited to second base by range and arm but he’s fairly reliable; could be ideal number two hitter eventually. ETA 2018.

* * *

Lazaro Armenteros, OF

Expected level: Rookie Ball? | Age 18

2016 stats: Nope

From John Sickels:

Cuban signed this past summer for $3,000,000; draws praise for power/speed potential but a wide range of opinion about how quickly this will manifest on the field; optimists project him as a 20/20 type with above-average outfield defense; skeptics say his swing needs a lot of work and he is quite raw with both bat and glove; optimists counter with his birthday; you can make a case for the Top Ten on tools and you can make a case for outside the Top 20 due to rawness and lack of data. We’ll compromise at 15. ETA 2021.

* * *

Richie Martin, SS

Expected level: Double-A | Age 22

2016 stats (A+): 382 PAs, 78 wRC+, 3 HR, 9.4% BB, 19.1% Ks
2016 stats (AA + playoffs): 13-for-40, 4 XBH, 6 BB, 10 Ks, 164 wRC+

From John Sickels:

Not much of a hitter at this point due to lack of power but he makes contact at least and offensive improvement is possible in the long-run; draws raves for glovework, with strong arm, range, reliability, and field awareness all standing out. ETA late 2018.

* * *

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!