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Oakland A’s 2018 Community Prospect List #15: Renato Nunez is out of minor league options

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It’s now or never for the young slugger in Oakland.

Making his 8th appearance on our CPL.
Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

Our Community Prospect List added a familiar name last time, one who has been in the rankings for the better part of a decade. 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%)

Way back in July 2010, the Oakland A’s signed a 16-year-old Renato Nunez out of Venezuela for $2.2 million. Nearly eight years later, we’re still waiting for him to arrive in Oakland. As near as I can tell, he’s currently the longest-tenured player in the entire A’s organization, and this will be his unprecedented eighth appearance on our CPL. The evolution of his rankings:

2011: 18
2012: 21
2013: 8
2014: 10
2015: 4
2016: 6
2017: 13
2018: 15

One way or other, this will almost certainly be Nunez’s last time on the CPL. He’s out of minor league options now, after spending a few years on the 40-man roster for protection from the Rule 5 draft. If he doesn’t make the 25-man squad out of spring training then he’ll have to pass through waivers, where he’ll either get claimed by another club or simply drop off the A’s 40-man and onto the precipice of Quad-A oblivion. If he does make the team out of spring, then he’ll graduate from prospect status in May if not earlier.

Nunez will play at 24 years old this season. His skill set is simple: He hits dingers. Last year he finished with 32, which was just shy of the lead for all of Triple-A — and that total was probably suppressed by his unfriendly home park, where he hit just a dozen homers and slugged nearly 200 points lower than on the road. He later added his first MLB tater during a September call-up, off Martin Perez of the Rangers.

Unfortunately, that’s about all Nunez brings to the table, which has left him as somewhat of a forgotten man amid the current youth movement. His minor league career has produced a .262 average and .317 OBP, so he’s not likely to be an on-base threat. He’s got zero speed, so he won’t help on the bases when he does reach. And he hasn’t yet found a defensive home, not at 3B or LF or even 1B. Never say never, but the best bet is that he winds up as a DH right from the outset of his big league career.

The power is impressive, and in 2017 he finally got to show what he can do when he’s not one of the youngest players in his entire league. It went great in terms of his one biggest strength! But on an A’s team already flush with dingers and craving versatility, Nunez will need to offer more than that sole dimension in order to carve out a long-term role. The book isn’t closed yet, and not all prospects on this CPL will make it as far as he already has, but now it’s time for make or break.

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 Nolan Blackwood. He’s the first pure reliever to make this year’s ballot, but he’s worth the high placement. Everyone loves a sidewinder, especially given Oakland’s long history with them from Eck to Bradford to Ziggy and beyond, and Blackwood could be the next in that line. What makes him so encouraging is that he also possesses a relatively normal arsenal, as opposed to most funky pitchers who got that way by trying to mask a weak pitch selection.

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

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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!