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Oakland A’s 2018 Community Prospect List #29: Alexander Campos and low-minors lotto tickets

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The teenager was acquired in the Ryon Healy trade.

Is Campos the super-young prospect who will jump out in front of the others?
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Our Community Prospect List adds its youngest member of the year. 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%)
  27. Skye Bolt, OF (+5%)
  28. Parker Dunshee, RHP (+22%)
  29. Alexander Campos, SS (+10%)

Over the last few years, the Oakland A’s have renewed their focus on minor league development. By the summer of 2015 it was clear that their window of MLB contention had closed, and they began to shift their sights from winning in the present to building for the future. One visible result of that strategy has been the steady parade of stars-for-prospects trades at the last three July deadlines, but they’ve also increased their investment in the international market.

The biggest name the A’s have to show for their recent international spending is Lazaro Armenteros, a teenager from Cuba who made the Top 10 of this CPL based on his exceptional tools and athleticism. But behind him there’s a long list of promising but super-young prospects, who can be difficult to separate for now until they gain more experience and play enough to stand out from the pack (for better or worse, breakout or flameout).

When Oakland signed Armenteros in 2015, they handed out additional nine-figure bonuses to a pair of Dominican middle infielders — Marcos Brito and Yerdel Vargas, both of whom joined Armenteros in stateside Rookie Ball last summer at age 17. They also added diminutive Panamanian pitcher Abdiel Mendoza, whose big curveball already helped him appear for Vermont and even Beloit last year at age 18.

In the year-plus before that, they picked up pitchers Oscar Tovar (Venezuela), whose mid-90s fastball helped him reach Vermont last year at age 19; Jean Ruiz (Colombia), a strike-thrower who posted excellent numbers in Vermont last year at age 20; and Wandisson Charles (Dominican), a 6’6 mammoth who was clocked as high as 102 mph last year in Vermont at age 20. Last summer they drafted high school catcher Santis Sanchez (Puerto Rico), who is already on the CPL ballot.

There are even a few older names still working up the lower levels. Outfielder Luis Barrera (Dominican) was signed back in 2012, but he made it up to High-A last year at age 21. Pitcher Norge Ruiz (Cuba) is on the CPL ballot entering age 24, after getting a hefty $2 million from Oakland in late 2016. And last winter they also added the strong but raw stuff of Miguel Romero (Cuba), who has already appeared in both High-A and the Arizona Fall League and will pitch this year at age 24.

Out of all those lotto tickets, the one Athletics Nation chose for the CPL was Venezuelan shortstop Alexander Campos. The 18-year-old has interesting tools just like everyone else on this list, but there are two key reasons why he got this spot over them. The first is Shiny New Toy Syndrome, as he burst onto the radar this winter in the Ryon Healy trade rather than gradually working his way up from scratch like the others.

The other reason Campos has gotten attention this year is his Dominican Summer League stats. In particular he walked more than he struck out, which seems great until you consider league context. Walk rates tend to be higher in the DSL than in the much stronger U.S. Rookie Ball leagues — Campos was barely even in the Top 60 in BB/K rate in the DSL, with his 1:1 rate ranking as good but nothing special. His raw numbers simply don’t mean what most folks think they mean, just as the stats of a 22-year-old college draftee in Vermont must be taken with a shaker of salt.

Of course, none of this is to say that Campos can’t be the one who pans out in the end. It’s not bad that he succeeded in the DSL, nor that his old organization didn’t promote him stateside as quickly as the A’s did with Brito and Vargas. Personally I think he won this vote based on poor reasoning (new toy plus meaningless DSL stats), but that doesn’t mean it can’t turn out to be the right call. He’s every bit the prospect as everyone else in this essay, and it’s perfectly defensible to prefer 18-year-old lotto tickets over other kinds of lotto tickets (like the old, polished, fast-track college draftees that I tend to follow). We’re all just guessing at this point, at the end of the Top 30 list.

I’m not a fan of this specific pick, but I can get behind the idea of this being the “young lotto ticket” spot on the CPL. If it’s not Campos then I just listed 10 others who might otherwise have competed for this spot, from the fellow teenagers to the older guys getting late starts in the U.S. Many of them are blank slates in terms of track record, with naught but a handful of Rookie Ball action or maybe a taste of Vermont, and most have stock that is based on projected physical development more so than with college guys. Most will play in short-season leagues with limited workloads, which means there also won’t be much for us to follow this year. But you never know when one of them will take a step forward and blast his way up future CPLs. Maybe it’ll be Campos.

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 will be out of luck because this is the last ballot.
  • No more nominations necessary.
  • 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 Skylar Szynski. Each summer in the draft, the A’s like to gamble on a high school pick in the early rounds. In 2016, that was Szynski in the 4th round. Unfortunately, his elbow began barking at him soon after and he missed all of 2017 while recovering. He could just as easily have been listed in the first section of this post, as another super-young lower-minors lotto ticket with everything to prove.

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

Skylar Szynski, RHP

Expected level: Low-A? | Age 20

2017 stats: Did not pitch due to injury

MLB Pipeline grades (pre-injury) and Lockard scouting report (link):

Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 55 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 45

Because Szynski didn’t have a full tear of the UCL in his right elbow, he was able to undergo a ligament repair surgery rather than a full Tommy John ligament replacement surgery. The repair surgery is relatively new around baseball, but it is designed to return players to the field in half the time that it takes players to return from Tommy John. ...

When healthy, Szysnki is a significant talent. The right-hander is an excellent athlete with a strong, wiry frame. He has a repeatable delivery with a release that isn’t quite over-the-top and offers some deception for the hitters. His fastball sits 91-93 MPH and he has touched 96. He also has two secondary offerings that are fairly well developed considering his lack of professional experience. One is a change-up that sits in the low-80s (82-85 MPH) and the other is a high-70s curveball. He is able to command the curveball, using it both to freeze hitters for called strikes and generate swings-and-misses.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

Richie Martin, SS

Expected level: Double-A? | Age 23

2017 stats (AA): 325 PAs, 77 wRC+, 3 HR, 7.4% BB, 17.5% Ks
2017 stats (A+): 103 PAs, 94 wRC+, 1 HR, 7.8% BB, 20.4% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and MLB Pipeline scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 30 | Run: 55 | Arm: 60 | Field: 60 | Overall: 45

Martin’s range is a product of his athleticism and above-average speed, and scouts rave about his first-step quickness as well as his overall instincts. His arm is a clean fit at shortstop and enables him to make highlight-reel plays, but he’s also capable of getting rid of the ball quickly while on the move, without sacrificing any accuracy.

Martin has good bat-to-ball skills but also a tendency to get tied up and roll the ball over to the left side, and in general he makes too much weak, ground-ball contact. His simple low-effort swing limits his power though he does have some pop to the gaps. Having offered little in the way of offense since beginning his career, Martin will need his defense to carry him to the big leagues.

* * *

Santis Sanchez, C

Expected level: Low-A | Age 19

2017 stats (RK): 108 PAs, 75 wRC+, 0 HR, 7.4% BB, 28.7% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and MLB Pipeline scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 50 | Run: 45 | Arm: 70 | Field: 55 | Overall: 45

Sanchez’s defense is his calling card. He moves much better than his stocky frame suggests, with plenty of agility and lateral quickness that aids him as a blocker. But it’s his well-above-average arm strength that draws the most raves, and scouts regarded it to be among the best in the class at the position. Offensively, Sanchez offers raw power from the right side of the plate, albeit with an overly aggressive approach that he’ll need to tone down in order to hit for average in the professional ranks.

Viewed as somewhat as a lottery ticket due to his impressive tools but overall rawness, Sanchez has the ingredients to develop into a glove-first catcher at the highest level, though not without first making considerable gains on both sides of the ball.

* * *

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!