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Oakland A's 2017 Community Prospect List #24: Raul Alcantara faces make-or-break spring

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Yes We alCANtara! Or wait it’s also No We alCANTara, shoot.
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The next member of our Community Prospect List is yet another MLB-ready player on the cusp of making it. Raul Alcantara has been in the Oakland A’s system for years, and now he’s finally ready for his chance. 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%)
  23. Raul Alcantara, RHP (+23%)

Alcantara was acquired way back in the 2011-12 offseason, in the deal that brought Josh Reddick to Oakland. Since then he’s risen as high as the No. 1 spot on our CPL a few years ago, but Tommy John surgery and a long, careful recovery brought him back down to the middle of the pack.

But the time for patience is over. It’s now or never with Alcantara in Oakland, because he’s been in the system so long and therefore on the 40-man roster for so long (for Rule 5 protection) that he’s out of minor league options. He has to either make the 25-man roster this spring or be put through waivers — where there is roughly a 100 percent chance he’ll be claimed if healthy.

And so it’s up to Alcantara at this point. He’ll surely enter spring with a leg up on the competition due to his options status, but he won’t just be handed a roster spot as a gift. His breakout 2016 season ended with a stinker of an MLB audition in September, and he’ll need to show reason to believe that his 8.21 FIP was merely a hiccup and a bad first impression rather than a sign of things to come. If he has at least a solid spring then there is room to squeeze him into the Opening Day pitching staff, whether in the rotation or bullpen.

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 Chris Iriart. The unheralded middle-round 2015 draft pick had an intriguing performance in his first full pro season in Single-A, with good power but a red flag in his strikeout rate. He succeeded despite missing a chunk of time in the middle of the year with a nasty concussion, and upon his return from that injury he played even better; he shredded High-A in a brief audition at the end. Stay tuned to see if he can back it up this summer.

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

Chris Iriart, 1B

Expected level: High-A | Age 22

2016 stats (A): 316 PAs, .231/.320/.451, 126 wRC+, 16 HR, 9.2% BB, 28.2% Ks
2016 stats (A+): 72 PAs, .311/.417/.689, 188 wRC+, 6 HR, 12.5% BB, 20.8% Ks

No major scouting report available, so I’ll fill in:

Iriart profiles as a corner slugger. He’ll need to make more contact in order to continue succeeding up the ladder, because his strikeout rate in Single-A was already testing the limits of acceptability and that was still four levels away from MLB. I’m unaware of his speed or defense being specific strengths or deal-breaker weaknesses.

If you read this series then you know about my prospect crush on Jaycob Brugman, who is my favorite sleeper prospect even if he only ends up as a bench guy in the bigs. As things stand now, Iriart is my next Brugman, and he can seal it with a good 2017. I recognize the flaws, but their performance is enough to keep them relevant and I just have a hunch -- with Bruggy as the proverbial glue guy, and with Iriart as the classic professional hitter. You can decide for yourself whether you agree with my hunch, but that’s my two cents.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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!