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Oakland A’s 2018 Community Prospect List #18: Ramon Laureano is a breakout candidate

The A’s bought low on a promising outfielder after a down season.

Apparently the Astros already had some decent outfielders.
Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Community Prospect List has likely hit its next notable talent drop-off, with the newest entrant winning his vote in a landslide over lesser competition. 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%)
  10. Grant Holmes, RHP (+18%)
  11. Sheldon Neuse, 3B (+68%)
  12. Greg Deichmann, OF (+17%)
  13. Logan Shore, RHP (+2%)
  14. Kevin Merrell, SS (+8%)
  15. Renato Nunez, DH (+7%)
  16. Daulton Jefferies, RHP (+9%)
  17. Nick Allen, SS (+24%)
  18. Ramon Laureano, OF (+44%)

Like many of the prospects on our CPL, the Oakland A’s picked up outfielder Ramon Laureano in a trade. It wasn’t a deadline blockbuster, though, but rather a minor swap at the beginning of the offseason that didn’t involve any MLB players. In return the Astros received pitcher Brandon Bailey, a 2016 draftee who probably would have made the 20s of this list had he stayed.

It wasn’t hard to see why Laureano was available. He’d cracked Houston’s Top 10 prospect list after a monster 2016 season, but the next year he cratered in Double-A. He was coming up for Rule 5 eligibility and a contending team can’t always burn roster spots on long-term projects, so before they lost him for nothing he was moved to a rebuilding club willing to invest a place on their 40-man squad.

What’s harder to figure is what exactly the A’s have here. Laureano can cover any of the three outfield positions, and his makeup is reportedly top-notch. However, his bat is anyone’s guess. Here are three lines from Double-A: his late-season promotion in 2016, and the two halves of 2017.

Late ‘16: 155 wRC+, 13.5% BB, 22.3% Ks, .226 ISO, .407 BABIP
Early ‘17: 58 wRC+, 8.2% BB, 22.9% Ks, .080 ISO, .250 BABIP
Late ‘17: 121 wRC+, 7.3% BB, 19.7% Ks, .216 ISO, .300 BABIP

Laureano has been all over the place during his time in the upper minors, and it’s anyone’s guess which version of him will turn out to be the real one. But it’s easy to see an optimistic interpretation, one in which he merely stumbled in early 2017 before making his adjustments and getting back on track by year’s end. Looking at it that way, he could be a candidate to break out next season, or rather resume the breakout that began in High-A in 2016. A re-breakout candidate.

Depending how his Triple-A trial goes this summer, Laureano may only be one step away from giving the A’s some much-needed CF depth — or even a platoon partner for whichever one of the current lefty options works out, between Fowler or Powell.

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.

* * *

The new nominee is Alexander Campos. The teenager was included in the trade that sent Ryon Healy to the Mariners, not as the headliner (reliever Emilio Pagan) but more than a throw-in. He was originally signed by Seattle for $575,000, which is more than a nominal signing but not an elite, top-dollar outlay. He hasn’t played stateside yet, so his prospect stock is mostly projection at this point — but with plenty to like so far.

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

Alexander Campos, SS

Expected level: Rookie Ball | Age 18

2017 stats (RK): 254 PAs, 136 wRC+, 2 HR, 16.1% BB, 15.4% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and MLB Pipeline scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 35 | Run: 55 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 45

Evaluators believe Campos has the potential to stick at shortstop. He’s an athletic and instinctual defender with good actions and the necessary arm strength for the position. Campos’ above-average speed translates on both sides of the ball, though he has gains to make as a baserunner. At the plate, the right-handed hitter is short to the ball and has good feel for the barrel, resulting in lots of line drives and some gap power, and he already has shown on-base skills with an advanced approach.

Campos has started to grow into his athletic frame since signing and should continue to tack on good strength. His defense-speed combination at an up-the-middle position gives him a possible floor as a big league reserve, though further progress at the plate could very well thrust him into the conversation as an everyday player.

* * *

Tyler Ramirez, OF

Expected level: Double-A | Age 23

2017 stats (A+): 328 PAs, 130 wRC+, 7 HR, 13.7% BB, 24.4% Ks
2017 stats (AA): 243 PAs, 135 wRC+, 4 HR, 11.5% BB, 21.8% Ks

Scouting report from Melissa Lockard at Oakland Clubhouse (link):

Ramirez doesn’t have any one standout tool, but he ticks the box as at least average in every category: He hits for average, he gets on-base, he has occasional over-the-fence power and solid gap power, he has above-average speed and he has some arm strength. That skillset likely won’t make any scouts drool, but they give Ramirez a good chance at a long major league career.

Ramirez has a smooth left-handed swing with a slight upper-cut. He is able to wait back on pitches, and he sees a lot of pitches. Ramirez does strike-out a lot, but he makes up for it by walking a lot. He uses the whole field well and hit nearly half of his home runs to center or left field in 2017. Ramirez is a good baserunner with the speed to reach double-digits in stolen bases, although he didn’t run that often last season.

Defensively, Ramirez is very fundamentally solid. He takes good routes and has an accurate throwing arm. Ramirez can play all three outfield positions, although he may eventually be best suited in a corner spot.

* * *

Nolan Blackwood, RHP

Expected level: Double-A | Age 23

2017 stats (A+): 3.00 ERA, 57 ip, 48 Ks, 18 BB, 2 HR, 3.84 FIP, 19-of-20 saves
2017 stats (AFL): 1.59 ERA, 11⅓ ip, 16 Ks, 3 BB, 0 HR

MLB Pipeline grades and MLB Pipeline scouting report:

Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 50 | Overall: 45

Most sidearm and submarine pitchers rely heavily on their deception to help improve what usually is below-average stuff. ... Blackwood’s velocity is atypical compared to hurlers with a similar arm slot, as he’ll sit at 91-93 mph with heavy sink that results in extreme ground-ball contact but few whiffs. He pairs it with an average breaking ball as well as a changeup, both of which play up on account of his tremendous deception, although he’ll need to develop the latter in order to be successful against lefties.

With an ideal fastball-breaking ball combo that helped him limit right-handed hitters to a .167 average in the California League, Blackwood could be a fast riser through the Minor Leagues.

* * *

Dakota Chalmers, RHP

Expected level: Single-A | Age 21

2017 stats (A): 4.34 ERA, 29 ip, 47 Ks, 29 BB, 1 HR, 4.22 FIP

MLB Pipeline grades and MLB Pipeline scouting report:

Scouting Grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 55 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 40 | Overall: 45

An athletic and projectable right-hander, Chalmers generates a fastball that sits in the 92-95 mph range and has been as high as 97 in the past. His curveball shows above-average potential and projects as an out pitch, thrown with tight spin and some downer action, and he also shows feel for throwing his changeup. The A’s adjusted Chalmers’ mechanics at the outset of his pro career, and, for the most part, he did a better job repeating his delivery last season. His control is still below average, though.

Club officials believe Chalmers has the necessary athleticism and aptitude to make strides as a strike-thrower. He’ll need time to develop, but the potential is there for him to become a No. 3 or 4 starter at maturity.

* * *

Casey Meisner, RHP

Expected level: Double-A | Age 23

2017 stats (A+): 3.98 ERA, 74⅔ip, 80 Ks, 20 BB, 9 HR, 4.30 FIP
2017 stats (AA): 4.12 ERA, 59 ip, 37 Ks, 27 BB, 4 HR, 4.77 FIP

MLB Pipeline grades and MLB Pipeline scouting report:

Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Curveball: 55 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 45 | Overall: 45

Meisner’s velocity began to tick up in 2015, with the right-hander sitting at 90-93 mph and at times bumped the mid-90s, but adopting a lower arm slot last season negated that progress while also changing the shape and angle of his curveball and hindering his control. While velocity has been better in 2017, Meisner has been inefficient in using his height to create downhill plane to the plate.

Meisner’s size and durability bode well for him becoming an back-of-the-rotation innings-eater, possibly more if his stuff and control return in full.

* * *

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!