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An Alternative Oakland A’s prospect list, Part 1

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Grover gives a contrarian view of the Top 10.

Meghan Camino | Stockton Ports

On Tuesday, Alex introduced the 2018 Community Prospect List with a post looking back at 2017. At the end of the post, he included two updated lists: his version, and my version. Mine is quite a bit different than most people’s arrangements, so here is a little more detail behind my thought process. This is my Top 10, with a follow-up covering the remaining 15 coming later.

Here is a link to MLB.com’s Oakland prospects page to see some free scouting reports; I have access to some pay sites and I try to note when I’m highlighting their info, which may not always match MLB’s notes. (Also make sure to check out Nico’s take on the Top 25 list.)

1. Sean Murphy

Sean Murphy will end up being the best Oakland catcher since Terry Steinbach. He’ll be a 3+ Win player for about a decade and make a couple All-Star games, but he won’t be a star player. He doesn’t have the highest ceiling among A’s prospects. What he has is a 60/70 Grade arm to go with solid framing and movement skills behind the plate.

The bat features at least 50 Grade power with some 55 reports. His Double-A batting line (.209/.288/.309) looks bad but factor in a .232 BABIP and the Texas heat during his first full pro season and I’m not concerned. His BB% increased from 6.2% in High-A to 9.7% in Double-A to 12.8% in the Arizona Fall League (AFL). His K% decreased from 18.5% in High-A to 15.7% in Double-A to 9% in the AFL. The bat will play in a starting role and the glove will make him a well above-average player.

Summary: He’ll end up the best Oakland catcher since Terry Steinbach.

2. A.J. Puk

6’7” with a fastball in the upper-90’s and some success in Double-A, Puk will be a popular choice for #1 on many prospect boards because of his Top-of-the-Rotation (TOR) stuff. His last 6 starts in Double-A went for 35.2 IP, with 53 K’s, 7 BB’s and a twinge in the forearm.

The scouting reports have said the same thing since he was drafted: Electric stuff but the mechanics are inconsistent and because of that the control comes and goes. And in spite of some dominant numbers in High-A and Double-A (14.46 K/9 and 12.09 K/9, respectively) he averaged less than 5 IP per start in both leagues. As bearish as I’ve been on Puk he probably would have been my top prospect if it hadn’t been for the twinge … there’s no such thing as a pitching prospect (TINSTAAPP).

Summary: Upper-90’s fastball + nasty slider vs. Inconsistent mechanics + TINSTAAPP.

3. Franklin Barreto

There will be those who’ll want to argue that Barreto is the best position prospect in the organization; I think he has a better offensive ceiling than Murphy but he’s a lot further away from realizing it. His approach is too aggressive, leading to a spike in his Triple-A K% to 27.4%. Yes, next year is his age-22 season and he’s had a fair amount of success in the high minors. He’s shown plus Hit potential.

But I got to watch him when Nashville came to Sacramento last year: I saw him get ahead 2-0 (on two pitches that were nowhere close to the zone) and then chase a down and away fastball that was a few inches off the plate. The pitcher threw the same pitch 2-1 … and Barreto hit a line drive single into right-center. So credit is due for making the pitcher pay on doubling up his pitch selection but the far better approach would have been for Barreto to take Ball 3. As long as he can get away with chasing balls in Triple-A he’s going to struggle against MLB pitching.

Summary: Hasn’t had enough Milb failure to make the necessary changes for MLB success.

4. Jesus Luzardo

There is some Shiny New Toy Syndrome (SNTS) for me when it comes to Luzardo. I love the TOR potential that comes with his mid-90’s fastball and command potential (K/BB rate was 48/5 in 43.1 IP). I love the left-handedness. But his curveball needs work and it’ll take at least two full seasons of development before he’s ready to take on a full season workload. How good will his stuff look when he has to maintain it over 150+ IP?

The potential is present for Luzardo to eventually top this list but it’s going to take some work to get there. Add Tommy John Surgery (TJS) to the resume and try as I might I can’t rank him any higher.

Summary: Too far away to rank him higher.

5. Austin Beck

More SNTS for me! Beck features a plus Arm, plus Speed and plus-plus Power potential. He also has a long, long way to go. The 2017 draftee hit .211/.293/.349 overall with a 9.8 BB% vs. a 29.3 K% in Rookie League. It took Beck a few weeks to adjust to pro ball but in the second half he hit .253/.354/.469 and dropped his K% from a first half 34.2% to 26.9% while increasing his BB% from 4% to 15.1%.

Statistical improvement is always nice but Beck is mostly projection at this point, with a high risk/high reward ceiling. For now Beck can stay in CF, so that gives him just enough edge to claim the last spot in my Top 5.

Summary: Tools. Tools. Tools. And a long way to go before they’re ready for the Show.

6. Sheldon Neuse

Don’t scout the stat line. Do. Not. Scout. The stat line. Neuse hit .321/.382/.502 between three stops during his first full season in pro ball as a 22-year-old. That includes 16 HR, 3 Triples, 26 Doubles and a 40/112 BB/K line in 490 PA, finishing the 2017 regular season in Double-A. He then went and hit .314/.366/.570 with 5 HR and 7 Doubles in 93 PA in the AFL. Neuse gets 55 Grades for his Hit and Power and projects to be an average or better defender at 3B thanks to a 60 Grade Arm.

That is why he falls out of the Top 5. Maybe he has enough quickness for 2B or speed for RF but barring calamity Neuse is not going to be able to play at his best defensive position if he makes it to Oakland. The bat is good enough to let him start at 2B or RF if he has the defensive chops to handle either of those positions. He could stand to tighten up the swing and miss when he begins 2018 in Double-A.

Summary: A good, not great, bat that won’t be able to play at his best defensive position.

7. Grant Holmes

I’ve thought Holmes had solid, #3 SP potential since before he came to the A’s organization in the 2016 Reddick/Hill trade. There was TOR talk when he first came out but the stuff hasn’t played to that level. In 2016 Holmes had an 8.33 K/9 rate in High-A ball and this year, in Double-A, he had a 9.10 K/9 rate (to go with a 3.70 BB/9).

He features a fastball that can reach the mid-90’s and a good curveball but the change-up lags far behind. The fastball would probably play up (and the lack of a change-up made unimportant) if he moved to the bullpen but that would also cause his stock to drop on my prospect list. I just don’t see the ceiling others do but he was solid in Double-A and should begin next season in Triple-A, and that ain’t nothing.

Summary: A potential mid-rotation arm who needs to figure out his change-up.

8. Lazaro Armenteros

More SNTS, but not quite as bright as Luzardo/Beck. A surprisingly polished 18-year-old emigre from Cuba, Lazarito hit .288/.376/.474 in 181 PA during Rookie League. He had a B% of 8.8% and a K% of 26.5% to go with a .387 BABIP. The Hit and Power play a shade less than Beck and there are conflicting reports on his Arm. He’s got a Good Body and a fair chance to stick in CF.

Lazarito is mostly projection and a far ways away, with a high risk/high reward ceiling. There’s no denying Lazarito had a successful American debut, and when you factor in culture shock and not being fluent in the language there’s enough ceiling to make a compelling argument that he belongs in the #6 spot ahead of his more advanced peer.

Summary: Tools. Tools. A bit more polish than expected but still has a ways to go. Can he stick in CF?

9. Jorge Mateo

On tools alone Mateo is easily a Top 5 prospect in the system as the guy is a tool shed. But his $.05 head knocks him into the teens. Average it out and he ranks at #9 on my list. If you feel that this spot is too low, know that I think you’re horribly wrong and that the A’s should trade him before he revels himself to be the Bust I believe he’s going to be. I don’t like the swing and miss (a cumulative 25.2% vs. BB% of 7% in 2017). I don’t like the makeup. And I don’t like that he dogs it in the field.

Summary: Has Top 3 physical ability. But he dogs it and I think he ultimately Busts due to make-up.

10. Nick Allen

There is plenty of doubt in the 5’9” 155 lb. Nick Allen being able to hold up physically and hit in the Show. There isn’t any doubt about his ability to play the Hell out of SS no matter how far he goes. The Hit grades as 50 or a little better (55) but he earns 60 Grades on his Speed and Arm, with a 65 Grade on his Field. It’s not surprising that the A’s would take a ($2 million) chance on a 5’9” player; it is surprising that they’d do so with a glove-first SS.

Summary: Will have to answer questions about his size but no one questions his defensive ability at SS.

Part 2 of this post will cover spots 11-25 on the list. Keep an eye out for that next weekend!