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Oakland A's 2017 Community Prospect List #23: Heath Fillmyer’s steep learning curve

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The 2016 season was full of breakout performers in the Oakland A’s farm system, and Heath Fillmyer was yet another example. The RHP is the next player to join our Community Prospect List. 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%)
  20. Yairo Munoz, SS (+18%)
  21. Logan Shore, RHP (+30%)
  22. Heath Fillmyer, RHP (+23%)

Fillmyer made last year’s CPL at No. 25, and the fact that he only moved up three spots this time around is a testament to the improvement of the rest of the system. It certainly wasn’t because the recent infielder-turned-pitcher failed to enhance his own stock — he began the year as almost a complete projection pick, and by the end he had backed it up with real production at High-A and an even slightly better stint in Double-A.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate how far he’s come. Fillmyer switched to pitching in 2014, his final year of college. He’d dabbled before that, but now it was for real. One full college season on the mound was enough to get him drafted, and now he’s thrown two full pro seasons at ages 21 and 22. And somehow, at the end of it, that equation has already added up to a successful first crack at the upper minors. Granted, Sean Doolittle spoiled us by setting such a high bar for immediate success upon converting to pitching, but Fillmyer’s journey is nonetheless impressive.

More importantly, it’s not over yet. Fillmyer will begin his fourth year as a pitcher by attending MLB spring training with the A’s as a non-roster invite. He won’t seriously be competing for a job in Oakland just yet, but you’d have to think it’ll be a particularly valuable experience for a guy still relatively new to his craft. Fillmyer will be a fun name to follow this year as he takes on the upper minors, likely beginning at Double-A Midland.

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 Skye Bolt. The outfielder was a high-upside 4th-round pick in 2015, but he didn’t do much in his first full season. Nagging injuries continually interrupted his year, and by the end he had only a 97 wRC+ and not much positive except a good walk rate and the fact that he plays CF. He’ll enter 2017 looking to stay healthy and translate some of his exciting talent into the box score.

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

Skye Bolt, OF

Expected level: High-A | Age 23

2016 stats (A-): 402 PAs, .231/.318/.345, 97 wRC+, 5 HR, 10.4% BB, 21.9% Ks

From MLB Pipeline:

A switch-hitter, Bolt is considerably better from the left side of the plate, where he exhibits more bat speed and a more impactful swing. Some evaluators believe he'd be better off batting solely from that side. He has some raw power from both sides and is a relatively disciplined hitter, but his pitch recognition leaves much to be desired and hinders the quality of his contact.

One of the better college athletes in his Draft class, Bolt has a chance to stick in center field, where he gets excellent jumps and is an overall rangy defender. If he can't, he has the necessary arm strength to slide over to a corner spot.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

Paul Blackburn, RHP

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 23

2016 stats (AA): 26 games, 3.27 ERA, 143 ip, 99 Ks, 35 BB, 8 HR, 3.42 FIP

From MLB Pipeline:

Blackburn can throw 90-94 mph sinkers with downhill plane to both sides of the plate and back them up with a sharp curveball. But there were several starts last year when he had an 88-91 mph fastball and a vanilla curve. He still needs to add strength so he can maintain quality stuff deeper into games and longer over the course of the season.

Blackburn has good feel for his changeup and pitching in general. He has the athleticism to repeat his delivery and throw strikes, and he continues to pound the zone even when his pitches aren't at their best.

* * *

Sean Murphy, C

Expected level: Single-A | Age 22

2016 stats (A-): 85 PAs, .237/.318/.329, 99 wRC+, 2 HR, 10.6% BB, 14.1% Ks

From MLB Pipeline:

Murphy might have the strongest arm among catchers in his class, with multiple evaluators rating it as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He's more athletic than most backstops, too, and has the receiving and blocking skills to stay behind the plate.

Murphy's bat speed and strength give him solid power potential from the right side of the plate. That was on display when he homered four times in his first eight games to start the season, before a broken hamate in his left hand sidelined him for six weeks. That being said, there is some concern about his overall hitting ability, as he never posted big numbers at Wright State and batted just .226 with wood last summer in the Cape Cod League.

* * *

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!