Welcome to the ongoing adventure that is a muppet talking baseball. There’s good news for prospect hounds as MLB Pipeline is starting to post their Top 10 lists for 2018 and are set to release their Top 100 prospects on January 27. Team reports will come out in February, although I’m not sure if they’ll release the Top 30 for all teams in one go or if they’ll stagger them. But the CPL waits for no institution of select and informed baseball knowledge so here is the remainder of my Top 25 list to help inform your decision making process. (Click here to see Part 1, aka the Top 10.)
Or spark outrage. I’m results flexible.
11. Dustin Fowler
Mark Canha. Matt Joyce. Jaff Decker. Jaycob Brugman. Billy Burns. These are some of the players who have started in CF for Oakland during the previous two seasons, so it’s not a low bar but rather a shallow trench that Fowler needs to cross in order to supplant them. Fowler has received Average or better grades across the board from almost every reputable source, with the one Plus tool everyone agreeing on being his 60 Grade Speed. There were questions about his ability to be a full-time CF for anyone expecting above-average defense up the middle … and then he blew out his knee.
He’s got the range for RF, the bat for CF and the arm for LF. He’s a tweener whose Pinstripes pedigree got him on some Top 100 lists prior to his breakout season in AAA. Fowler is an aggressive, gap-to-gap hitter who doesn’t work the count and who saw his K% jump 5% in an (admittedly successful) attempt to hit for more power. Dustin Fowler was lining up to be the Rich Man’s Ryan Sweeney and now he gets to be Oakland’s Sweeney 2.0; a player who will serve you fairly well for a time (especially while making league minimum) but will always leave you looking for someone else to come along and take his place.
Summary: Even assuming a full recovery I don’t think he has the wheels for CF or the bat for COF. A tweener.
12. Greg Deichmann
Deichmann hit .274/.385/.530 for Short-Season Vermont and I’m absolutely giving him too much credit for the stat line. He was a touch too old and simply too advanced for the competition he was facing. But it would be rude of me to complain about a player succeeding in the manner one would expect from him given the situation.
Deichmann has the arm strength and power and enough athleticism to fit the classic RF profile and I imagine he’ll be pushed a bit with an assignment to High-A Stockton come spring. I expect he’ll do well there, as advanced college bats with power tend to do, and a year from now he’ll probably fall out of my Top 15 … thus creating the argument that I’ll be underrating him.
Summary: Classic RF profile and I’m probably giving him a touch too much credit for his Vermont performance.
13. Heath Fillmyer
I’d call Fillmyer a long-time favorite of mine except I find it weird and maybe an indictment of how I view society to consider 3+ years as a “long-time”. The JC pick didn’t start pitching full-time until his 2014 draft season and he’s made steady progress since turning pro. He’s got low mileage on an arm that features a 55 Grade fastball, plus a curve and change-up that project to average.
The A’s have 3 full seasons and 383 innings invested in turning the former SS into a SP and I think it’s going to work. He should start next season in Nashville’s rotation and if (when) it finally clicks for him he’ll end the year as one of Oakland’s starting five.
Summary: Stuff took a half step back but he still passed the AA Acid Test. I’m hopeful the stuff ticks back up in AAA.
14. Ramon Laureano
Ramon started the 2017 season on a few different Top 10 lists and ended the year without a spot on Houston’s 40-man roster, creating the opportunity for Oakland to pick him up in trade. This was primarily due to a horrid, no good first half that saw him produce a .193/.266/.277 slash line in AA. He (mostly) rebounded in the second half but it was a lost year for a guy whose baseball intelligence and work ethic earned him the nickname “The Machine”.
The Grades feature some flex, 50-60 for both the Hit and Arm depending on the source. Everyone agrees on the 60 Speed and below-average Power, though. Most likely Laureano ends up a RH hitting 4th outfielder who’ll be average in CF and excellent in the corners … but sometimes brains and work ethic can turn fringe talent into starting caliber.
Summary: A rough half season made him available. Seems a good spot until more information is available.
15. Kevin Merrell
I’m a whore for speed and Merrell offers at least 70 Grade Speed. In his 3 year college career he stole 56 times with an 84% success rate, showing that he knows how to use that speed on the base paths. He has at least a 50 Grade Hit tool with maybe more possible, and enough power to find the gaps for extra bases.
He has the hands and reactions for the infield but the arm would play better at 2B … so of course Oakland kept him at SS. I agree with the scouts who think Merrell should be converted to CF, where his Speed and 50 Grade Arm would give him the tools to be an elite defender. I’d have probably found a spot for him higher on the list if it hadn’t been for some hamstring issues he had during his Vermont debut.
Summary: I love the speed. He’d probably rank higher if the A’s had moved him to CF.
16. Casey Meisner
Not even 23, Meisner gets overlooked more often than you’d think possible for a guy standing 6’7. Maybe it’s because he’s only 190 pounds and stands sideways for a living, I don’t know. The A’s acquired him via trade back in 2015 and started tinkering with his mechanics, but the adjustments didn’t click and Casey went back to his previous drop-and-drive pitching action; he then saw his stuff and command tick back up, earning him a mid-season promotion to AA. He sits in the low-90s with a curve and change and I think there’s room for growth if he adds some pounds. This ranking is all about that projection.
Summary: He’s been tweaking his delivery for two years now. I just want to see him go out and pitch.
17. Alexander Campos
The soon-to-be 18-year-old checks several boxes for me: He’s a good defensive SS with above average speed who walked more than he struck out in pro ball. I’m a sucker for this type of profile. He’s got a long way to go as he’s yet to make his US debut, but I’ve got a good feeling about the guy. He’s piqued my interest and I recommend AN keeps an eye on him.
Summary: Shiny New Toy Syndrome. I’ve always liked SS capable infielders who walked more than they K’d.
18. James Kaprielian
Here is the True Story of James Kaprielian: Drafted #16 overall by the Yankees in 2015, Kap came to the league a fairly polished college arm with 4 pitches, featuring a low-90’s fastball that could touch 95, iffy mechanics and 3/4 SP potential. He comes back from the offseason having added about 20 pounds and now his fastball SITS at 94-96. Two things happen simultaneously: The NYY Hype Machine kicks into over-drive, with even GM Brian Cashman saying he thought Kap had a shot at being in New York’s rotation by the end of the year. And his elbow starts barking, loudly. After 3 starts in High-A Kaprielian gets shut down. He starts back up during the 2016 AFL and looks great before getting shut down again. 2017 rolls around and the hype is still loud but TJS called louder.
Now, Tommy John has about a 90% success rate and then there’s some variance about how much stuff the pitcher gets back. The full on success stories talk about guys fully getting back what they had before … but what exactly is that when we talk about Kaprielian? He was NEVER a guy who could sit mid-90s gas without breaking down so I’d argue that a “fully recovered” Kap would be the low-90’s version with 3/4 SP potential. I’m not buying that the replacement part is going to make him better than he was before and start sitting 94-96 without pain.
Summary: “He’ll return sometime in 2018 a 24-year-old with 29 pro innings in three seasons, all in A-ball.” — Baseball Prospectus
19. Logan Shore
There’s talk that due to the increase in velocity across MLB the true “Average” velocity of a right-handed pitcher has ticked up to 92 mph. I’m not sure if that’s an actual scouting mark but it does alter (slightly) the expectations we should have when looking at prospects.
I was intrigued when reports came out last spring that Logan Shore was running his fastball up to 92-94; his strength has always been fastball command and his change-up so a little extra oomph to the heater could act as a force multiplier. But then he got hurt (strained lat) and missed a chunk of time. When he returned the fastball was back down to his college speed, 89-91. Shore needs to work on his breaking ball a lot to stick in the rotation and finding those lost ticks of fastball would be a boon as well. Without that extra on the fastball I’m not sure if Shore can stick in a big league rotation and his strengths aren’t going to play up in a bullpen role.
Summary: The build and command of a workhorse SP. Lack of a breaking ball is foremost problem.
20. Dakota Chalmers
It was mostly a lost year for Chalmers. The stuff is impressive but the mechanics have been in a constant state of adjustment and thus his command/control has been dreadful. The A’s think they might have figured something out during the last round of Instructs so this ranking is pure, upside projection.
Summary: Has the stuff (14.59 K/9) to rate much higher. Has the control (9.0 BB/9) to fall off my original Top 20.
21. Tyler Ramirez
Average tools across the board and I have a hunch he’ll play CF a bit better than Brugman did. Maybe not enough to handle a full-time gig in CF but lords know we’ve seen worse! That’s a horrible way to end my report on the guy … Ramirez hit the snot out of the ball all season. I’m not sure if he can repeat to the same extent in 2018 but I’m interested in seeing him try. He really does have a similar profile to Brugman … could he be Alex Hall’s new crush? Dammit, there I go with another horrible ending for Ramirez.
Summary: A 2016 7th-round pick with average tools across the board. Can play all OF spots and won’t stop hitting.
22. B.J. Boyd
I’ve liked Boyd enough in the past, so you’d think a breakout season in AA where he hit .323/.366/.428 would excite me more. I’m not completely certain he can handle CF and the bat lacks pop to impress in a corner. If he can’t maintain close to the .364 BABIP he had last year in Midland then the profile drops considerably. But he put up that slash line in AA as a 23/24 year old. That counts for a spot in the Top 25.
Summary: You’d think .323/.366/.428 in AA would make me more of a believer. But it doesn’t.
23. Dalton Sawyer
A 6’5 southpaw with a fastball that sits 88-92, Sawyer was a senior sign in 2016 and is a personal favorite of mine. Oakland’s coaches have tinkered with his delivery and arm slot, looking to copycat Chris Sale. It would be awesome if the stuff morphed to match but I’m guessing that’s a dream too far.
I really like that when AAA Nashville needed someone to come and make a spot start Sawyer was called up from Low-A Beloit and he held his own. The realist in me sees him transitioning to the bullpen, where he spent the bulk of his college career, but I’ve a hunch he can stick in the rotation. Keep an eye on Sawyer, AN.
Summary: The 6’5 lefty with a low-90’s fastball was a little old for A-ball. Next season in AA will tell us a lot.
24. Richie Martin
Martin just turned 23 and he’s never gotten his bat going. It’s an open question if he’ll ever hit. But the glove can play at SS in the Show. I don’t know, maybe Martin ends up a glove-first utility guy, but I think he at least makes it to the big leagues. I’m not ready to give up on him yet.
Summary: The bat might make him a minor league journeyman. The glove can make him a big league SS. Still 23.
25. Nolan Blackwood
The summary says it all, really.
Summary: A dominant AFL stint (16 K’s vs. 3 BB’s in 11.1 IP) gives the 6’5 sidewinder the last spot on my list.