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Oakland A’s 2018 Community Prospect List #14: Kevin Merrell brings more speed to the team

The Athletics’ farm is getting extremely athletic.

Merrell’s day at the office
Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

For the second time in the last three votes, we turn to a member of the 2017 draft class on our Community Prospect List. 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%)

When the Oakland A’s had three of the top 50 picks in the 2016 draft, they took a trio of college pitchers. When they held the same draft position in 2017, they took three completely different types of hitters — a raw high schooler (Austin Beck), a college slugger (Greg Deichmann), and a college speedster in Kevin Merrell at No. 33 overall.

The standout tool for Merrell is his speed, which earns an elite 70-grade. He showed it off right away upon his pro debut, stealing 10-of-13 bases in 31 games at Low-A Vermont. A high-level skill like that is a great starting point and can make up for some weaknesses in other areas. And he’s not alone, as the A’s have put together quite a collection of dangerous runners in their farm system — just from this list alone, Mateo, Barreto, Fowler, Beck, and Armenteros are all ready to cause havoc on the bases.

The question is what else Merrell will ultimately add to the equation. Will he hit enough to use those wheels? The immediate returns were good in Vermont, with a high average and low strikeout rate, but we won’t get our first real impression until he plays at High-A Stockton this year. And where will he end up on defense? He’s a shortstop now but could wind up moving elsewhere, with CF being an oft-mentioned destination (and still a valuable one!). Like his draft-mate Deichmann, we’ll learn a lot more about Merrell next year in his first full pro season.

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 Tyler Ramirez. The 7th-round draft pick has quickly elevated himself to sleeper status after reaching Double-A in his first full pro season. He carries the tweener label of a guy with the bat for CF but likely the glove for a corner, but he hit so well last year that it’s impossible not to be intrigued. No one can ever replace Jaycob Brugman in my heart, but Ramirez has taken over the top spot on my sleeper radar. He’s like Bruggy but with good numbers.

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

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.

* * *

Nick Allen, SS

Expected level: Low-A | Age 19

2017 stats (A-): 154 PAs, 84 wRC+, 1 HR, 7 SB, 8.4% BB, 18.2% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and Sickels scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 30 | Run: 60 | Arm: 60 | Field: 65 | Overall: 50

Draws praise for defensive ability, running speed, overall hustle and intensity; makes contact and packs some strength into a 5-9, 160 pound frame, but game power is questionable and we need to see how his bat will hold up at higher levels; grade may be a notch too low but I want to see him higher than rookie ball. ETA 2022.

* * *

Renato Nunez, DH

Expected level: MLB | Age 24

2017 stats (AAA): 533 PAs, 109 wRC+, 32 HR, 8.8% BB, 26.5% Ks
2017 stats (MLB): 3-for-15, 1 HR, 1 BB, 8 Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and Sickels scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 55 | Run: 30 | Arm: 55 | Field: 40 | Overall: 45

The power is legitimate and he’s still young but stock has dropped due to contact concerns and defensive questions; he’s just barely adequate at third base, which won’t be enough to play there for Oakland, and marginal as a corner outfielder; I remain intrigued with his bat but I think he’s trade bait. ETA 2018.

* * *

Daulton Jefferies, RHP

Expected level: High-A | Age 22

2017 stats (A+): Only pitched 2 games due to Tommy John surgery

MLB Pipeline grades and Sickels scouting report:

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

Compensation round pick in 2016 from University of California, pitched seven innings in High-A then blew out elbow and had Tommy John surgery; when healthy, features 90-95 MPH fastball with a slider and change-up both flashing plus; obviously we need to see how he comes back from the surgery. ETA 2020.

* * *

Ramon Laureano, OF

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 23

2017 stats (AA): 513 PAs, 87 wRC+, 11 HR, 24 SB, 7.8% BB, 21.4% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and MLB Pipeline scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 40 | Run: 60 | Arm: 50 | Field: 50 | Overall: 45

He’s a similar athlete to fellow Astros outfield prospect Teoscar Hernandez, though Laureano is a better pure hitter with less power potential. He has good patience and uses the entire field, though there are some concerns about how much his simple right-handed swing will translate into power against better pitching. If he can cut down his strikeout rate, he could become a high-OBP player with 10-15 homers per year.

Laureano could fit nicely in the leadoff spot because he pairs his on-base skills with plus speed and the know-how to steal bases. He’s more of an average defender in center field, better on the corners and capable of playing all three spots with his average arm. Nicknamed “The Machine” for his relentless work ethic, he’ll get the most out of his ability.

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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!