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Oakland A's 2017 Community Prospect List #20: Free Joey Wendle!

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Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Yet another member of Triple-A Nashville’s budding MLB-ready lineup has joined our Community Prospect List. Joey Wendle is the oldest player on the list at age 27 next season, but at least he did make his big league debut last summer — and came just a couple dozen at-bats short of graduating from prospect status. 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%)
  9. Daniel Gossett, RHP (+53%)
  10. Max Schrock, 2B (+9%)
  11. Richie Martin, SS (+34%)
  12. Daulton Jefferies, RHP (+4%)
  13. Renato Nunez, 3B/LF (+14%)
  14. Norge Ruiz, RHP (+16%)
  15. Lazaro Armenteros, OF (+5%)
  16. Dakota Chalmers, RHP (+6%)
  17. Chad Pinder, IF (+5%)
  18. Jaycob Brugman, OF (+10%)
  19. Joey Wendle, 2B (+23%)

For his entire Oakland career, Wendle has been a polarizing prospect. When he was acquired as the unexpectedly low-profile return for All-Star Brandon Moss, many fans were disappointed while others were intrigued by the intangibles of a guy who had been named the Indians Minor League Player of the Year. Now, after two seemingly mediocre seasons with Triple-A Nashville, the trade itself is in the past and the debate has shifted more to his merits as a potential major leaguer. (Note: Moss ended up posting a total of only 0.3 bWAR or 1.9 fWAR over 2015-16 combined.)

The biggest question is how good Wendle’s defense can be. I personally loved what I saw in his late-season call-up last year, and so did manager Bob Melvin and the team’s in-house analytics. If he is as good with the glove as some of us on AN hope he is, then he won’t have to hit much at all to be a worthwhile everyday player at 2B. If he’s only average defensively, then the road will be tougher.

And what can we expect at the plate? He didn’t do much in 104 plate appearances last year, at least not results-wise, but he did make a lot of hard contact. He doesn’t walk at all, so he’ll need to keep that contact rate high and have his fair share fall in for hits, but he did just post a .340 BABIP in over 1,100 PAs in Triple-A (to along with high marks throughout his MiLB career) so there is legitimate reason for optimism that his batted balls will continue to be sharp liners and not just pop-ups and dribblers.

So the full question: Is he a “plus-plus” defender* with high baseball IQ who hits a bunch of line drives and hustles like the dickens, or is he a player with mediocre-at-best skills all around the diamond who won’t ever truly make the jump to the bigs?

Despite my confidence, I won’t pretend to know the answer, and it might not matter long-term if Franklin Barreto ends up at the keystone anyway. I will only point out that, given the competition in April of 2017 is a 33-year-old Jed Lowrie coming off a no-bat, no-glove, negative-WAR season and foot surgery, why in the world wouldn’t you try Wendle out now? He’s already 27 with nothing to prove in an increasingly crowded minor league system, and he’s taking a spot on the 40-man roster — what are you waiting for? He lacks experience, but the only way to gain it is to let him play, and that’s literally what a rebuilding year like this one is for.

If he doesn’t break camp with the team because Lowrie is the starter, then I don’t understand why Wendle is still in the organization nor what the A’s are really trying to do.

* quote by Melvin, via Joe Stiglich of CSN

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.

* * *

The new nominee is Bobby Wahl. He finally stayed healthy last year, and turned in the power relief performance that we hoped he could as an airtight upper-minors closer. He reached Triple-A and got a spot on the 40-man roster (for Rule 5 purposes), so he’s not far from getting his chance in Oakland, likely in 2017. He has legit late-inning potential.

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

Bobby Wahl, RHP

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 25

2016 stats (AA): 33 games, 2.21 ERA, 40⅔ ip, 48 Ks, 17 BB, 3 HR, 3.11 FIP
2016 stats (AAA): 9 games, 2.79 ERA, 9⅔ ip, 14 Ks, 6 BB, 0 HR, 2.69 FIP

Note: Began year on brief rehab assignment in High-A.

From MLB Pipeline:

The right-hander was limited by an oblique injury [in 2014], prompting the A's to move him to the bullpen, and he then underwent season-ending surgery for a nerve impingement in his elbow in July 2015. But Wahl would get back on track in 2016 ...

Wahl's trademark velocity returned last season as he sat in the low-to-mid 90s while reaching 98 mph in short stints. His power breaking ball remains his best secondary offering and shows above-average potential, and he's dialed back the usage of his changeup since shifting to the bullpen. There's some effort in his delivery and his command is below average, but he also hasn't had enough time on the mound to properly address those issues.

Provided he can stay healthy, there's little doubt among evaluators that Wahl has the power stuff to pitch high-leverage innings in the Major Leagues.

* * *

Yairo Munoz, SS

Expected level: Double-A | Age 22

2016 stats (AA): 413 PAs, .240/.286/.367, 87 wRC+, 9 HR, 5.6% BB, 18.4% Ks
2016 stats (AFL): 80 PAs, .270/.313/.365, 88 wRC+, 5 XBH, 6.3% BB, 21.3% Ks

From MLB Pipeline:

Munoz is an excellent athlete whose tools are among the best in the A's system. His explosive right-handed swing yields hard contact from line to line, and there's enough physical projection remaining to forecast at least average power in his future. He already shows good feel for finding the barrel and works to drive the ball back up the middle, though, like many young hitters, he does deviate from his approach at times.

Munoz has the tools to stick at shortstop, with above-average speed and quick feet that give him good lateral range to go with his plus arm, although inconsistent footwork and a lack of body control have resulted in high error totals to begin his career. He needs refining, but Munoz has considerable upside as an everyday shortstop capable of impacting games on both sides of the ball.

* * *

Logan Shore, RHP

Expected level: High-A | Age 22

2016 stats (A-): 7 games, 2.57 ERA, 21 ip, 21 Ks, 7 BB, 1 HR, 2.90 FIP

From John Sickels:

Doesn’t throw as hard as fellow Gator/Athletic A.J. Puk but is much more polished; posted 2.57 ERA with 21/7 K/BB in 21 innings in NY-P; change-up is excellent pitch, mixes in fastball around 90 with decent breaking stuff; all his stuff plays up due to command and location; strike-throwing fourth starter type. ETA late 2018.

* * *

Heath Fillmyer, RHP

Expected level: Double-A | Age 23

2016 stats (A-): 18 games, 3.60 ERA, 95 ip, 89 Ks, 31 BB, 4 HR, 3.53 FIP
2016 stats (AA): 8 games, 2.54 ERA, 39 ip, 29 Ks, 8 BB, 3 HR, 3.31 FIP

From John Sickels:

One of several potential number four starters in this system along with James Naile, Kyle Friedrichs, and Dillon Overton; fastball 90-95 with good action, mixes in sharp curveball, throws strikes; former infielder still learning how to pitch but making good progress. ETA 2018.

* * *

Raul Alcantara, RHP

Expected level: MLB | Age 24

2016 stats (AA): 17 starts, 4.80 ERA, 90 ip, 73 Ks, 27 BB, 11 HR, 4.15 FIP
2016 stats (AAA): 8 starts, 1.18 ERA, 45⅔ ip, 32 Ks, 3 BB, 1 HR, 2.80 FIP
2016 stats (MLB): 5 starts, 7.25 ERA, 22⅓ ip, 14 Ks, 4 BB, 9 HR, 8.21 FIP

From John Sickels:

Fastball 90-95, mixes in changeup and slider; both secondaries flash above-average but are erratic; he usually throws strikes however which gives him a chance to surprise; lots of arms coming up behind him so he needs to establish himself now. ETA 2017.

* * *

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!