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Oakland A's 2017 Community Prospect List #27: Chris Iriart and the rest of the Top 30

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Chris Iriart waits to hit his next homer.
Photo provided by Beloit Snappers

We did it, Athletics Nation! We made it through 27 votes over two months to compile our 2017 Community Prospect List, and here it is in all its glory (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%)
  27. Chris Iriart, 1B (+5%)
  28. Casey Meisner, RHP (+0.4%)
  29. Skye Bolt, OF (+2%)
  30. Tucker Healy, RHP (+1%)

Just missed: RHP Skylar Szynski, SS Marcos Brito, IF Mikey White

First, a quick word on the newcomers. Iriart and Bolt are a pair of hitters from the 2015 draft, but it was the 12th-rounder Iriart who outperformed the 4th-rounder Bolt. They both still have a long path to MLB, but each seems like a good bet to open in High-A.

Meisner and Healy are a pair of pitchers with little in common. Meisner was No. 9 on last year’s list as a young up-and-coming starter, but he struggled with his mechanics and had an awful year in High-A. Meanwhile, Healy is a short reliever who struck out the world in Triple-A last year and could find his way to Oakland this year depending on how things go for the A’s bullpen.

Just missed

It’s possible that a member of the CPL could leave the organization before Opening Day, especially with Raul Alcantara out of options and fighting to make the roster. If a spot does open up before the regular season begins, then everyone below that point will move up and RHP Skylar Szynski will join the end of the list. The 19-year-old was a 4th-round pick out of high school last summer and we could see him in Low-A Vermont this year.

Two more nominees missed the cut after Szynski. First was SS Marcos Brito, an international signing who will turn 17 next week. Next was IF Mikey White, the 2nd-round pick from 2015 who didn’t hit much last season but did show signs of life down the stretch.

Other nominees

Next, a handful of players who got some minor support in the nominations but never made the ballot.

  • James Harris, OF: Finally broke out last year in High-A as a speedy leadoff hitter, and at age 23 still has time if he makes some noise in the upper minors.
  • Sandber Pimentel, 1B: Made the list last year at No. 24, but fell off after posting only a 111 wRC+ and 21 HR in hitter-friendly High-A. Conceptually he’s quite similar to Iriart, and they’re the same age, but Iriart’s stock is slightly higher after his hot finish to 2016.
  • Luis Barrera, OF: John Sickels says the following about the 21-year-old (link), “[H]e is said to have a knack for contact and a better batting eye than the walk rate indicates. Probably limited to LF though and will need more power if that’s true.”
  • Evan Manarino, LHP: One of my favorite players from the A’s system last year, the lefty starter put up a gaudy K/BB rate while rising from the 25th round of the draft to become an All-Star in Single-A before making a quick audition in High-A.
  • Jake Sanchez, RHP: The 27-year-old recently put himself on the radar after converting from a pedestrian starter into a fireballing reliever with high-90s velocity.

The 2016 draft

While most of the success stories come out of the first few rounds of the draft, an occasional contributor emerges from the middle-to-late rounds as well. The thing is, it’s nearly impossible to guess which one(s) it will be, if any, so it’s not a bad idea to keep a broad eye on the previous summer’s draft class to see who stays healthy and makes their mark. Here are some of the top names who didn’t make the CPL. (Number in parentheses is the round in which he was drafted.)

  • Nolan Blackwood, RHP (14th): The sidewinding reliever actually made the A’s Top 30 list at a couple other sources, and was the first member of the draft class to reach Single-A Beloit.
  • Brandon Bailey, RHP (6th): Undersized righty starter (5’8 according to him) with low-90s velocity (up to 94?) and a great pro debut (4.6 K/BB). We’ve got ourselves another bulldog.
  • Will Gilbert (8th) and Dalton Sawyer (9th), LHP: A pair of southpaw relievers, though Sawyer could get a chance to start first. Both posted double-digit K/9 rates in Low-A after the draft.
  • JaVon Shelby (5th) and Tyler Ramirez (7th), OF: Shelby was drafted as a 3B, but I’m sure I read this winter that he’s moving to the outfield (can anyone help me with a link here?). Ramirez plays CF.
  • Eli White (11th) and Nate Mondou (13th), IF: Formed a promising double play combo in Low-A Vermont after the draft, with both showing above-average bats.

Alex’s extra sleepers

Alright, we’ve mentioned 46 prospects at this point, and you’d think the well would be running dry by now. But don’t worry, I have a few more sleepers to talk about!

Let’s begin with a pair of starting pitchers who are two of my absolute favorites. RHP James Naile is on my personal Top 30 list. The 2015 draft pick played for every full-season affiliate last year, including Single-A Beloit (2.96 FIP), High-A Stockton (4.2 K/BB), Double-A Midland (started clinching game of championship series, 6 shutout innings), and Triple-A (two spot starts). Meanwhile, RHP Joel Seddon, a pitch-to-contact innings eater from the 2014 draft, took a minute to adjust to Double-A but posted a 1.91 ERA over his final 15 starts including playoffs.

Next up, four more unheralded names who had quietly excellent 2016 seasons:

  • Sam Bragg, RHP: Spent two disastrous games trying to stretch into a starter, then returned to the pen and posted a 2.74 ERA (2.68 FIP) over 46 games in Double-A, the playoffs, and the Arizona Fall League.
  • Corey Walter, RHP: Made a more successful jump toward starting. Had 13 games in which he threw at least four innings without giving up an earned run. Went five innings in six of his starts (including two in playoffs), and didn’t allow a run in any of those games. Finished with a 1.96 ERA, 3.08 FIP (including playoffs) while starting in over half of his appearances.
  • Kyle Friedrichs, RHP: Another SP from the 2015 draft (7th round), along with Manarino and Naile. He dominated Single-A, posted an 8.6 K/BB in High-A, and threw 5⅓ scoreless frames in a clutch Double-A playoff outing.
  • Tyler Marincov, OF: Drafted nine rounds ahead of Jaycob Brugman, and seems to me like a similar all-around player. Stalled in High-A for a while but finally moved up last year, and then hit well in Double-A too.

Finally, a couple deep sleepers from the draft, beyond the mid-round guys already listed. RHP Matt Milburn (29th round) threw 36⅔ innings between Rookie Ball and Low-A, and finished with 44 Ks, 2 BB, and a 1.67 FIP. On the hitting side, 2B Josh Vidales (28th round, listed height 5’8) walked more than he struck out in Rookie Ball (20 BB, 16 Ks, in 175 PAs) while posting a .944 OPS (167 wRC+). I usually put nearly zero stock in Rookie Ball numbers, but these two late-rounders put up such eye-poppingly fun lines that I’ll bite and put them on my radar. They’ll both play at age 23 this season. I cannot stress how long of shots these two are; it’s just fun to hunt for the next Ryan Dull.

It’s no secret that Brugman is my favorite C-grade prospect, as a guy I have faith in beyond what I can support with stats and scouting reports. Starting with him, here’s a short list of my other absolute favorite no-name sleepers, in order: Brugman, Naile, Iriart, Seddon, Manarino, Milburn. Can’t wait to follow those players and see if even one of them can make me look smart!

* * *

Alright, that’s 54 names, between the Top 30 list and almost another Next 30 worth of snubs, sleepers, and recent draftees. Let’s leave it at that for now! With apologies to Trey Cochran-Gill and Brett Siddall and Rangel Ravelo and NO stop it Alex.

One more post coming with some neat CPL-related charts and tables I made. In the meantime, here’s an updated depth chart, with five spots still open in the MLB section and prospects generally listed at the level at which they finished 2016 (with a couple minor exceptions).