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Oakland A's 2017 Community Prospect List #26: Sean Murphy bolsters thin catching ranks

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Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

It’s time for the final vote of our 2017 Community Prospect List series! The previous ballot was dominated by two players, C Sean Murphy and RHP Paul Blackburn. They were separated by only 4 votes, with Murphy earning the 50-46 edge, but together they accounted for more than 80% of all responses. At this point in the list, I figured let’s just get on with it, so I’m adding both of them and moving on.

That brings us to our final blowout vote to finish up the Top 30. I had considered tacking one more bonus vote on the end to take the list to 35, but frankly, Cactus League games start tomorrow and it’s time to wrap this up. Apologies to Luis Barrera, Sandber Pimentel, James Harris, and Evan Manarino, who were gunning for chances at the final spots.

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%)
  24. Bobby Wahl, RHP (+11%)
  25. Sean Murphy, C (+3%)
  26. Paul Blackburn, RHP (+31%)

Murphy and Blackburn represent two different types of prospects.

Murphy was just drafted last summer, in the 3rd round, and he’s still a ball of clay waiting to be molded. He could become a star two-way catcher, or he could turn out as a trusty backup who only contributes on one side of the ball, or he could never learn to hit pro pitching and flame out in Double-A. All we know for sure is his throwing arm is one of the best individual tools in the A’s system, and for the rest we’ll have to see how he does in his first full pro season.

Meanwhile, Blackburn is on the other end of the spectrum despite being just one year older. He’s loaded with experience, taking a full season at each of Rookie Ball, Low-A, Single-A, High-A, and Double-A. There’s still time for him to develop further, but we have a pretty good idea what he is: a pitch-to-contact innings-eater hoping to stick as a back-end starter.

Murphy has the higher ceiling, but Blackburn is so close to tangibly contributing that he’s already on the 40-man roster. The classic prospect debate, and it ended in more or less a tie.

Also worth noting is that Murphy is the only catcher on this list other than Bruce Maxwell. That means there are no serious catching prospects between the endpoints of MLB-ready Maxwell and 2016 draftee Murphy, which ... isn’t ideal. Let’s hope Maxwell can hold down the fort for a few years!

As for the coming season, we can probably expect Murphy to open in either Single-A or High-A, and Blackburn to open at Triple-A.

Here is the process. Significantly different this time!! Please read; key changes are in bold:

  • Seven candidates will be listed on the ballot. The voting will take place in the comments section. I will start with a comment listing all seven players, and then I will respond to that with seven 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 THREE favorites by Rec'ing the comments with their names. You may vote for up to three players, but please no more than that. The four players who receive the most Rec's earn spots Nos. 27-30 on the CPL.
  • No need for more nominations, because this is the final ballot.
  • 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 nominees are Casey Meisner, Skylar Szynski, Marcos Brito, and Mikey White. I’ve added a capsule for each of them beneath the three incumbents, with a bonus “quick fact” to help introduce each of the four new guys:

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

Tucker Healy, RHP

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 27

2016 stats (AAA): 44 games, 3.61 ERA, 52⅓ ip, 76 Ks, 26 BB, 3 HR, 3.11 FIP

This scouting report is from July 2014 (MLB.com), but it still gives you the right idea:

Healy doesn't overpower hitters, but he has had no problem missing bats throughout his career. His fastball can get up to 95 mph, but it more often sits in the low 90s, with hard sinking action. Healy's slider has the potential to be a solid second offering. He throws from a low arm slot that adds to his deception, and that helps his stuff play up.

* * *

Casey Meisner, RHP

Expected level: High-A | Age 22

2016 stats (A+): 28 games, 4.85 ERA, 117 ip, 100 Ks, 59 BB, 12 HR, 5.01 FIP

Quick fact: He ranked No. 9 on last year’s CPL but struggled with his mechanics in 2016.

From MLB Pipeline:

When Meisner first entered pro ball, he was throwing his fastball in the upper 80s, topping out at 90-91 mph. During his 2015 full-season debut, the right-hander operated at 90-93 mph and at times bumped the mid-90s, and he did a better job using his large frame to create a good downhill angle. He pairs the projectable fastball with a big curve, and he has shown an excellent feel to spinning the ball. His changeup lags behind the two other offerings, though he's shown some feel for the offspeed pitch as well. Developing both secondary pitches will be key as he continues to face older and more advanced hitters.

Despite his struggles this season, Meisner's overall pitchability and feel for the zone are better than you'd think for a young pitcher of his size. And while he requires a fair amount of physical projection, the fact that he logged 143 1/3 innings in just his third pro season certainly bodes well for his chances of becoming at least a back-of-the-rotation workhorse.

* * *

Skylar Szynski, RHP

Expected level: Low-A | Age 19

2016 stats: Just a few games in Rookie Ball (got roughed up a bit)

Quick fact: The A’s nabbed the high schooler in the 4th round last summer by paying him 2nd-round money.

From MLB Pipeline:

Szynski uses a quick arm and strong frame to generate consistent 90-92 mph fastballs and can reach 95. His high-three-quarters delivery enables him to stay on top of his hard curveball, a solid second offering. He also shows some aptitude for throwing a changeup, though it can get too firm at times.

Szynski has a little less arm strength but better secondary pitches than Indiana high school righties Ashe Russell and Nolan Watson, both of whom the Royals selected in the first round a year ago. His control and command are improving, so there's little doubt that he can make it as a starter in pro ball.

* * *

Marcos Brito, IF

Expected level: Rookie Ball | Age 17

2016 stats: Nope

Quick fact: His signing was overshadowed by Lazarito, but the A’s still spent over $1 million to get Brito.

From MLB Pipeline:

Brito already has made a name for himself as a quality hitting prospect, one who has a short, slight-upstroke swing through the hitting zone. He's shown impressive bat speed and the ability to make solid contact to all fields from both sides of the plate, though some scouts believe the teenager might be a better overall hitter from the left side. Brito has short frame and a medium build with some physical projection, but he's unlikely to offer much in the way of power.

On the dirt, Brito is a fundamentally sound defender who has soft hands and clean actions. His average arm strength and speed raise questions pertaining to his ability to remain a shortstop, though he's expected to improve both of those parts of his game as he matures and gains valuable experience.

* * *

Mikey White, IF

Expected level: Double-A | Age 23

2016 stats (A+): 521 PAs, .247/.315/.352, 83 wRC+, 6 HR, 7.7% BB, 25.0% Ks

Quick fact: The 2nd-round pick from 2015 struggled in the first half (57 wRC+, Apr-Jun) but warmed up in the second half (109 wRC+, Aug-Sep).

From MLB Pipeline after White’s pro debut in 2015:

White has a long track record of producing at the plate that extends from high school and U.S. national 18-and-under teams to the SEC and Cape Cod League. He consistently barrels balls with a short right-handed swing and generates good pop for a middle infielder. His advanced on-base skills fit well at the top of a batting order.

Though he has fringy pure speed, White runs the bases well. While he's not flashy or rangy at shortstop, he has dependable hands and makes routine plays. Second base is probably his best position, and Oakland had him play some third base alongside Martin at short-season Vermont.

* * *

Vote in the comments below for your three favorites by Rec'ing their "Vote: (Player Name)" comments!