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Oakland A’s 2018 Community Prospect List #26: Will Toffey is more than the sum of his tools

Drafted last summer in the 4th round, the infielder gets the most out of what he’s got.

No headshot available, so here’s some sticky toffee pudding.
Photo by David Becker/Getty Images for Vegas Uncork'd by Bon Appetit

Our Community Prospect List returns to the 2017 draft, adding its fifth member from that class. 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%)
  19. Tyler Ramirez, OF (+33%)
  20. Dakota Chalmers, RHP (+2%)
  21. Nolan Blackwood, RHP (+6%)
  22. Dalton Sawyer, LHP (+1%)
  23. Casey Meisner, RHP (+22%)
  24. B.J. Boyd, OF (+15%)
  25. Lou Trivino, RHP (+23%)
  26. Will Toffey, 3B (+6%)

If you squint hard enough, you can see some vague trends in recent Oakland A’s drafts. The 2nd round is for proven and polished college players who often profile as fast-track candidates: since 2013 that’s pre-injury Dillon Overton, Daniel Gossett, Mikey White, Logan Shore, and Greg Deichmann. The 3rd round is for going big on a high school standout, with an increasing shift toward one who fell from an earlier round due to signability: Kyle Twomey, Chris Kohler, Dakota Chalmers, and Nick Allen, though in 2016 they waited until the 4th round for Skylar Szynski and in 2014 it was 6th-rounder Trace Loehr. Like I said, the trends are only vague.

The 4th round has focused on more creative ways to maximize upside, with college players who had come close to warranting higher selection but still had something to prove. In 2013 that meant gambling on Dylan Covey, who’d been a 1st-round talent out of high school but opted for college while he learned to manage his diabetes. In 2014 it was Jordan Schwartz, a former position player who had only recently become a high-velocity pitcher. In 2015 it was Skye Bolt, a relative tools monster who hadn’t yet put it all together on the field.

In 2017, the 4th-round dice were rolled on Will Toffey. Whereas his predecessors Covey and Bolt had been highly ranked due to faith in their raw physical talent (respectively Nos. 68 and 67 on MLB Pipeline pre-draft boards; A’s took them at 131st and 128th), Toffey is the opposite, regarded as a competitor who might continue to out-perform his tools (No. 196 on MLBP pre-draft board; A’s took him at 111th).

Toffey does bring a couple of gifts in his strong arm and well-regarded fielding at third base. But on the offensive side of the ball he isn’t as highly touted, even despite posting a huge junior season in a tough college conference. His power is a particular question mark, notes Melissa Lockard at Oakland Clubhouse, but even if it never develops then his plate discipline could help make up for it. In his pro debut at Low-A Vermont he walked nearly as much as he struck out and was one of the team leaders in making contact. He got a Bill Mueller comp from A’s scouting director Erik Kubota, via Athletics Farm.

Even the 1st round of the MLB draft is ultimately a crapshoot, and if you find a keeper in the 4th then you really won the lotto. The last A’s 4th-rounder to carve out an extended MLB career was 2004 selection Ryan Webb, and since then only Max Stassi (‘09) and Covey (‘13) have even appeared in the bigs. Our current CPL includes 2012 pick B.J. Boyd and now Toffey, and Bolt will probably make it too. Toffey’s next task toward beating the odds will likely be High-A Stockton — if he’s got any power at all then it’ll show up there.

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 Brian Howard. The 6’9 hurler was drafted in the 8th round last summer. He doesn’t have notable stuff, but he posted eye-popping stats in his pro debut in Vermont, with the caveat of being old for his league. His 29 Ks to 1 BB gave him the second-best K/BB rate in all of short-season Low-A ball (NY-Penn and Northwest Leagues), and the last two A’s draftees to come close to that mark in their Vermont debuts were future-MLBers Dillon Overton and Daniel Gossett.

Scouting grades: MLB Pipeline
Scouting reports: John Sickels (unless otherwise noted)
More scouting reports: Melissa Lockard at Oakland Clubhouse
Hitter average rates: 100 wRC+, 8.0% BB, 20.0% Ks

Brian Howard, RHP

Expected level: High-A | Age 23

2017 stats (A-): 1.15 ERA, 31⅓ ip, 29 Ks, 1 BB, 0 HR, 1.68 FIP

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

Although Howard isn’t overpowering, he generates a decent amount of swing-and-miss, striking out nearly a batter an inning with Vermont and striking more than a batter an inning in college. A’s Scouting Director Eric Kubota says that Howard’s height and delivery make it difficult for hitters to get a good read on him. ...

Howard has a simple rock-back-and-fire, over-the-top delivery that he is able to repeat. His fastball sits at 87-90, topping out at 91, but the angle at which he releases the ball allows the fastball to get on hitters quickly. Howard has a well-developed four-pitch mix: a four-seam fastball, a cutter that sits 85-87 MPH, a sharp-biting curveball that sits in the 76-79 MPH range, and a developing change-up that he threw with more confidence during his stint with Vermont. ... Many tall pitchers struggle with command, but Howard was able to locate well during his pro debut.

* * *

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.

* * *

Parker Dunshee, RHP

Expected level: High-A | Age 23

2017 stats (A-): 0.00 ERA, 38⅓ ip, 45 Ks, 8 BB, 0 HR, 2.02 FIP

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

Despite Dunshee’s dominating numbers with the Lake Monsters, he doesn’t have a power-pitcher’s arsenal. Dunshee’s four-seam fastball sits in the 88-91 MPH range and is true. Where he gets his most movement is on his secondary pitches – a changeup and a slider. Dunshee came to pro ball with the slider as his most effective secondary offering, but he threw his changeup more frequently with Vermont and it was an effective pitch for him. ...

Where Dunshee will find success is being able to keep hitters off-balance by mixing his pitches effectively and pounding the lower-half of the strike-zone. ... Dunshee is a good athlete who repeats his delivery well and has the frame to handle a starter’s workload. He may benefit down-the-road from adding a fastball with more movement to compliment his four-seam, either a two-seam or a cut-fastball.

* * *

Skye Bolt, OF

Expected level: Double-A | Age 24

2017 stats (A+): 496 PAs, 104 wRC+, 15 HR, 10.7% BB, 27.0% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and MLB Pipeline scouting report:

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

A switch-hitter, Bolt is considerably better from the left side of the plate, where he exhibits more bat speed and a more impactful swing. Some evaluators believe he’d be better off batting solely from that side. He has some raw power from both sides and is a relatively disciplined hitter, but his pitch recognition leaves much to be desired and hinders the quality of his contact.

One of the better college athletes in his Draft class, Bolt has a chance to stick in center field, where he gets excellent jumps and is an overall rangy defender. If he can’t, he has the necessary arm strength to slide over to a corner spot.

* * *

Norge Ruiz, RHP

Expected level: High-A | Age 24

2017 stats (A+): 5.71 ERA, 34⅔ ip, 24 Ks, 12 BB, 4 HR, 5.24 FIP

MLB Pipeline grades and Lockard scouting report (link):

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

When Ruiz was healthy and throwing well, he featured a low-90s fastball with sink and movement, as well as three quality off-speed pitches (slider, change-up and split-fingered fastball). Ruiz can command all four of his pitches and isn’t afraid to use his off-speed pitches early in counts.

Not surprisingly – given how new he was to baseball in the US – Ruiz went through some ups and downs as he adjusted to the minor leagues. At times he went away from his fastball too early, allowing hitters to sit on his secondary pitches. His mechanics fell out of whack at times, and when he was off with his release point, he lost some of the movement on his fastball, making the pitch very hittable. He was also suspended for two weeks for doctoring the baseball. Ruiz should have a better understanding of the nuances of professional baseball in the US in 2018. ...

The biggest question surrounding Ruiz is his health. The elbow strain hasn’t yet required surgery, but it will be something the A’s monitor closely.

* * *

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!