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Oakland A’s 2018 Community Prospect List #9: Lazaro Armenteros debuts in U.S. pro ball

The Cuban sensation arrived in the Arizona Rookie League in 2017.

Lazarito chats with countryman Yasiel Puig.
Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

We’re nearly through the Top 10 of our Community Prospect List and we still haven’t run out of legitimately exciting, high-ceiling names. Here’s the current list, including their winning margins (the difference between his % of the vote, and the % of the runner-up):

  1. A.J. Puk, LHP (+62%)
  2. Franklin Barreto, SS (+56%)
  3. Jorge Mateo, SS (+22%)
  4. Dustin Fowler, OF (+24%)
  5. Sean Murphy, C (+0%)
  6. Jesus Luzardo, LHP (+37%)
  7. Austin Beck, OF (+14%)
  8. James Kaprielian, RHP (+2%)
  9. Lazaro Armenteros, OF (+41%)

The Oakland A’s have done a lot of good work recently in terms of drafting and trading. Their top picks the last few years have yielded names like Matt Chapman (already in the bigs) and A.J. Puk (No. 1 on this list), and their recent stars-for-prospects swaps are responsible for most of the current MLB rotation as well as most of this highly touted list so far (5 of the first 8).

One other department has also seen an uptick in attention lately, and that’s the international market. After adding Yoenis Cespedes in 2012, Oakland was more focused on competing for a few years than developing their farm. However, once their window closed up and the rebuild began anew, they resumed serious activity across the border.

They made their strike in the 2016-17 signing period. Several youngsters got significant paydays, but the biggest went to teenage outfielder Lazaro Armenteros, also known as Lazarito. His $3 million bonus in July 2016 nearly wiped out the A’s entire spending pool on its own, ultimately causing them to pay heavy penalties and more or less sit out internationally until 2019.

In exchange for all of that, Oakland found themselves quite a talent. Like Austin Beck from last year’s draft, Lazarito brings a pile of strong tools that make it easy to dream on a star future. He’s an incredible athlete, capable of both power and speed, and along the way he became known as the Cuban Bryce Harper. That’s an ambitious nickname, but you’ve gotta love the confidence.

Also like Beck, though, Lazarito still has a long journey ahead of him before he reaches Oakland. He arrived in the U.S. last summer, participating in spring training and then later debuting in the Arizona Rookie League. This year, at age 19, we should see him at some level of Low/Single-A ball. Patience will be required, but he’s taken a big step forward since last winter just by making the initial transition to the States. It’s going to be fun watching Lazarito and Beck rise up the system together.

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, the community 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 his 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.

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The new nominee is Kevin Merrell. The speedster was drafted last summer in the Comp A round, in between the 1st and 2nd rounds, at No. 33 overall. His future defensive home is still in question, whether he stays at SS or moves to 2B or CF, but one way or other he projects to play up the middle while stealing bases all over town. Between him and some of the other names already on this list, it’s especially nice to see the Athletics increase the, well, athleticism in the system.

Scouting grades: MLB Pipeline
Scouting reports: John Sickels
Hitter average rates: 100 wRC+, 8.0% BB, 20.0% Ks

Kevin Merrell, SS

Expected level: High-A | Age 22

2017 stats (A-): 140 PAs, 135 wRC+, 2 HR, 10 SB, 6.4% BB, 15.7% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and Sickels scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 30 | Run: 70 | Arm: 50 | Field: 50 | Overall: 50

70-grade speed and he knows how to use it, should be significant stolen base threat at all levels; line drive hitter with doubles/triples power; arm strength is questioned at shortstop, could end up as speed-oriented super-utility guy in the long run. ETA 2020.

* * *

Grant Holmes, RHP

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 22

2017 stats (AA): 4.49 ERA, 148⅓ ip, 150 Ks, 61 BB, 15 HR, 4.02 FIP

MLB Pipeline grades and Sickels scouting report:

Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 45 | Overall: 50

Relies on low-to-mid-90s power sinker, mixed with power curveball; change-up and overall command remain inconsistent and results don’t always seem to match the stuff; on the right day he looks like a number three or even number two starter but consistency issues could make him more of a four; it would be interesting to see how he would look in the bullpen although I haven’t heard of any moves in that direction. ETA 2019.

* * *

Sheldon Neuse, 3B

Expected level: Double-A | Age 23

2017 stats (A+/AA): 169 PAs, 176 wRC+, 7 HR, 8.9% BB, 27.2% Ks, .510 BABIP
2017 stats (AFL): 99 PAs, .315/.364/.554, 5 HR, 7.1% BB, 18.2% Ks, .338 BABIP

MLB Pipeline grades and Sickels scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 50 | Run: 45 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50 | Overall: 50

I tend to fall in love with this type of player; tools don’t stand out, best physical tool is his throwing arm, raw power is average but he knows how to get to it and has hit at every level; not a butcher at shortstop though range is limited, fits better at third base in long run. ETA late 2018.

* * *

Greg Deichmann, OF

Expected level: High-A | Age 23

2017 stats (A-): 195 PAs, 171 wRC+, 8 HR, 14.4% BB, 20.5% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and Sickels scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 55 | Run: 40 | Arm: 55 | Field: 45 | Overall: 50

Lefty hitter with 55 or 60 power; hit quite well in pro debut and will probably mash in full-season A-ball with Double-A being the first real test; some question about how batting average and OBP will hold up; right field defensive profile with decent arm but mediocre range. ETA late 2020.

* * *

Logan Shore, RHP

Expected level: Double-A | Age 23

2017 stats (A+): 4.09 ERA, 72⅔ ip, 74 Ks, 16 BB, 5 HR, 3.43 FIP
2017 stats (AFL): 6.00 ERA, 24 ip, 18 Ks, 2 BB, 5 HR

MLB Pipeline grades and Sickels scouting report:

Scouting Grades: Fastball: 55 | Slider: 45 | Changeup: 60 | Control: 55 | Overall: 50

Missed a month with a lat strain; fastball around 90 and a bit higher can play up due to contrast with excellent change-up; slider needs more consistency as it varies between mediocre and plus, probably more of a number four starter than an ace unless his velocity picks up further, or unless the breaking ball becomes more consistent, which could happen. ETA 2019.

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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!