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Oakland A’s add 4 prospects to roster, and acquire another

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The prospects are now protected from the Rule 5 draft in December.

Grant Holmes
Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Tuesday brought the deadline for teams to protect eligible prospects from the upcoming Rule 5 draft, which will be held in December. In response, the Oakland A’s announced the addition of four prospects to their 40-man roster: RHP Grant Holmes, RHP James Kaprielian, OF Luis Barrera, and OF Skye Bolt. In addition, they also acquired RHP Tanner Anderson from the Pirates for a player to be named later or cash. There was plenty of open space on the roster, so no corresponding moves were needed.

Here’s a look at each player, beginning with the new guy. Ages listed are the ones at which they’ll play in 2019.

Tanner Anderson | RHP | Age 26

2018 AAA: 2.64 ERA, 61⅓ ip, 49 Ks, 15 BB, 2 HR, 3.09 FIP, 62.2% GB
2018 MLB: 6.35 ERA, 11⅓ ip, 6 Ks, 8 BB, 1 HR, 5.63 FIP, 56.4% GB

Anderson climbed all the way up the minors from the 20th round of the 2015 draft, and made his MLB debut this summer out of the bullpen. His Pittsburgh numbers are skewed by one disastrous outing in July, which he entered with his team already down double-digits, but he was much better in a September call-up (4 games, 8⅓ ip, 2 ER). Here is what Pirates site Bucs Dugout had to say about his stuff after the season:

The Pirates moved Anderson and his Bronson Arroyo leg kick to the bullpen full-time this year. His stuff seemed to play up a bit, with his fastball averaging 93-94 mph. He largely dropped his change and throws a lot of sliders. He throws strikes and doesn’t miss many bats.

Analysis: Rule 5 deadline day sees a lot of teams make tough decisions about which players they have room for on their roster, and that makes it a great time to pick up sleepers who get squeezed out. It’s how Oakland picked up Ramon Laureano last winter. In this case, they nab a reliever who had a good year in Triple-A and a decent September audition, and one who induces a ton of ground balls — that could play well in front of the best infield defense in the majors.

Grant Holmes | RHP | Age 23

Holmes is one of the A’s top five pitching prospects, acquired as the headline prospect in the 2016 Reddick/Hill trade. However, after spending 2017 in Double-A, he essentially missed all of 2018 to a shoulder injury and didn’t even make it back in time for the Arizona Fall League. His health remains to be seen and he’s not yet ready for MLB, but the former 1st-round pick and Top 100 prospect is too talented to leave exposed to the Rule 5 draft.

James Kaprielian | RHP | Age 25

Kaprielian is one of the A’s top five pitching prospects, acquired in the 2017 Sonny Gray trade. However, after being drafted in 2015, he essentially missed all of the last three seasons to Tommy John surgery and then a particularly lengthy recovery thereof. His health remains to be seen and he’s not yet ready for MLB, but the former 1st-round pick and Top 100 prospect is too talented to leave exposed to the Rule 5 draft.

Luis Barrera | OF | Age 23

2018, A+ (88 gms): .284/.354/.415, 110 wRC+, 3 HR, 9.1% BB, 17.9% Ks, 10 SB
2018, AA (32 gms): .330/.381/.435, 125 wRC+, 0 HR, 7.1% BB, 11.0% Ks, 13 SB

Barrera is a long-time sleeper who began to awaken last summer. His speed and arm are top-notch (maybe even 70-grade?), and he’s coming off some national recognition after being named to the AFL Fall Stars team a couple weeks ago. The lefty showed he can make a ton of contact, get on base, and make a difference once there (23-of-30 steals overall), and on defense he split his time between CF and RF and rated well on the small-sample metrics. He’s not a finished product and he’s barely played above High-A, but he’s gone from being a talented question mark to a legit outfield prospect.

Analysis: Rule 5 deadline day is also a great time to gain insight on what teams think of their own prospects. We all rank them and list them from the fan perspective, but it’s another thing to see which ones the club itself values most when it really comes down to it. The A’s selection of Barrera shows they like him enough to commit a roster spot long before he’s ready for the bigs, and that they think other teams are interested enough that they might draft him away if given the chance.

Skye Bolt | OF | Age 25

2018, AA (11 gms): .133/.220/.200, 17 wRC+, 0 HR, 8.0% BB, 34.0% Ks
2018, A+ (46 gms): .266/.382/.521, 141 wRC+, 9 HR, 14.8% BB, 22.5% Ks, 9 SB
2018, AA (64 gms): .275/.341/.493, 125 wRC+, 10 HR, 8.7% BB, 22.5% Ks, 10 SB

Bolt was a toolsy 4th-round draft pick in 2015, and he finally put together a breakout this summer. It took him a couple tries to figure out Double-A, but in his second tour he found the strong on-base ability and power that he’s known for. He also stole 19-of-23 bases overall and played primarily CF on defense, so it’s easy to see where his prospect stock comes from given his all-around skill set. A strong showing in the Arizona Fall League put the finishing touch on by far his best year as a pro.

Analysis: Like with Barrera, the A’s have given Bolt a thunderous endorsement. He’s yet to play in Triple-A, but his speedy CF profile is easy to stash on a bench for a rebuilding team willing to burn roster spots on acquiring talent. That Oakland committed to him even before he’s a viable MLB option says a lot about their belief in his tools.

Final thoughts

The one name notably absent from this list is SS Richie Martin. He was the A’s 1st-round pick in 2015, so he’s got some name power behind him, and he had his own breakout in Double-A this summer (121 wRC+). He’ll only be 24 next year, and he’s billed as a strong shortstop defender with plus speed, so he seemed like a strong candidate to get protected from Rule 5 lest a team draft him and try him out as a utilityman. On top of that, the roster is now loaded with outfielders and thin on middle infielders. Does all of this mean the A’s have soured on his prospect stock?

The 40-man roster now features 39 players. Those with asterisks** are eligible for arbitration and must be tendered a contract by Nov. 30. Those in italics have not yet debuted in MLB.

Oakland A's 40-man roster
Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Mike Fiers (R)**
Daniel Mengden (R)
Chris Bassitt (R)
Frankie Montas (R)
Paul Blackburn (R)
Jharel Cotton (R)
Sean Manaea (L)**
Andrew Triggs (R)
Kendall Graveman (R)**
Daniel Gossett (R)
Grant Holmes (R)
James Kaprielian (R)


Relievers

Blake Treinen (R)**
Lou Trivino (R)
Fernando Rodney (R)
Ryan Buchter (L)**
Yusmeiro Petit (R)
Liam Hendriks (R)**
Cory Gearrin (R)**
Emilio Pagan (R)
J.B. Wendelken (R)
Ryan Dull (R)**
Tanner Anderson (R)
Aaron Brooks (R)
Catchers

Josh Phegley (R)**

Infielders

Matt Chapman (R)
Matt Olson (L)
Marcus Semien (R)**
Franklin Barreto (R)
Jorge Mateo (R)

Outfielders

Khris Davis (R)**
Stephen Piscotty (R)
Ramon Laureano (R)
Mark Canha (R)**
Chad Pinder (R)
Nick Martini (L)
Dustin Fowler (L)
Luis Barrera (L)
Skye Bolt (S)