I had hoped that the new year would bring an exciting move and showcase the direction the Oakland A’s are taking in 2017. After all the A’s offered the most money to a star free agent, even though he didn’t sign with the team. Signing Rajai Davis brought those hopes to a screeching halt.
Many fans are mildly excited about the return of Davis. Some remain neutral and argue that while Davis isn’t a huge help, he won’t hurt much either. Regardless, Davis was the lackluster solution in centerfield that I have feared since the team declared that filling the position was a priority. Davis joins a short list of A’s I don’t care to watch this coming year.
However, I don’t intent to use this location to air my grievances with the A’s. The new year should be a time for optimism! We’re going to get to see some of homegrown talents and young players acquired via trade make an impact in 2017 — this article is about them.
This one is simple: Montas can throw a baseball more than 100 MPH.
Baseball folk salivate at the idea of a starting pitcher who can hit triple digits and throw additional quality pitches. That is who Noah Syndergaard is and who Justin Verlander used to be. I’m not comparing Montas to either of those two — although there are comparisons that can be drawn. Shortly after Montas was acquired for Rich Hill and Josh Reddick last summer Fangraphs prospect analyst, Eric Longenhagen wrote this:
“I’ve left some of Montas’ starts thinking he has a chance to be a rotation piece and others resolute in his relieverdom. I think it’s justifiable to continue to run him out there as a starter and hope it clicks — while also expecting it not to. Montas’ arm has been durable despite his past rib and knee issues and he has the secondaries to pitch through a lineup several times, even if he does so inefficiently.”
According to Longenhagen, in addition to his electric fastball, Montas has a plus slider and a serviceable changeup that shows signs of being better. The biggest knock against Montas is his lack of control. It seems, though, that in 2016 he took steps toward improvement in that area. In 16 innings across two leagues Montas recorded 22 strikeouts to just 3 walks.
I am excited to see his triple-digit fastball in Oakland in 2017, most likely out of the bullpen. Ideally Montas can flourish as a starter with a healthy 2017 season and join the rotation. Regardless, I believe Montas has a big league career in front of him and we’ll get to see it unfold this year.
It feels like Olson has been in the A’s organization for a decade. He completed his fifth professional season in 2016 but is still just 22-years old. Olson has progressed smoothly through the minor leagues, despite being young for each level at which he has played.
He absolutely crushed opposing pitchers throughout his first three seasons but then came back down to earth in double-A in 2015 and triple-A in 2016. Despite the decrease in power and overall okay season in Nashville in 2016 there was a lot to like about Olson.
He posted a .188 ISO, which was nearly identical to his mark in double-A. He walked at a 13% clip without striking out much more than he did in double-A. Lastly, Olson showed an improvement in the second half of the season, demonstrating he is getting close to big-league-readiness.
From April 7th through July 10th Olson was struggling. He was walking often, but his strikeout rate was over 26% and his OPS was just .718. However, from July 14th through the end of his triple-A season Olson was a completely different hitter. He maintained an 11% walk-rate but he cut his strikeouts down to 20%. His ISO jumped over .200, his BABIP crept closer to league average, and his OPS shot up more than 100 points. Olson also displayed an ability to handle right-handed pitching quite well (.816 OPS vs. RHP).
While Olson has the versatility to play both outfield and first base I believe he would make for a fine defensive first baseman and could take over that position as early as this summer.
Chapman has a very high ceiling, but a startlingly low floor thanks, in large part, to his contact issues. Chapman hasn’t really gotten the prospect love many first round picks deserve, but that hasn’t stopped him from doing what he does well. That is why Chapman is the player I’m most excited for in 2017.
He is a plus defender at third base and has power to drool over, but his strikeout rate has climbed higher at just about every level of the minor leagues. He spent a bulk of the 2016 season at double-A and struck out 29% of the time and then made the jump to triple-A where he struck out 30% of the time. He also posted a .276 ISO at double-A and .316 at triple-A. The only major league hitters to come close to each of those numbers last season were Arizona’s Jake Lamb and Chicago’s Todd Frazier, each were above-average players.
That’s what makes Chapman’s defense so crucial. In order for him to be at least league average he doesn’t need to be a good hitter. Chase Headley posted a 92 wRC+ in 2016 but managed to be worth 2.6 fWAR, the highest any below average offensive third baseman was worth, because he played strong defense. Chapman’s defense is big-league-ready and I’d wager that his power is ready too, evidenced by the display he put on last spring. It’s likely we’ll see Chapman in Oakland at least in September for a debut I’ll be anticipating all season.