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Oakland A’s 2018 Community Prospect List #17: Nick Allen was a steal in the draft

The 1st-round talent slipped to the 3rd round and the A’s pounced.

Nick Allen
Photo provided by Little League World Series; just kidding it’s from the Oakland A’s.

Our Community Prospect List now includes the Oakland A’s top four picks from the 2017 draft. 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%)

The Oakland A’s had three of the top 50 picks in the 2017 draft, but it was their fourth pick (3rd round, No. 81 overall) that really maximized their class. With a top prep talent and a couple of college bats safely in the bag, the A’s returned to the high school ranks to nab Nick Allen out of San Diego. Allen had ranked 30th on MLB Pipeline’s pre-draft board, but he slipped from the 1st round for various reasons — most likely signability (with a USC commitment in hand) and size (listed 5’9, 160 in the A’s media guide).

The first of those two downsides didn’t end up being a dealbreaker. Allen signed for $2 million, which was nearly triple his slot value and also represented the second-biggest outlay for anyone in the A’s class after only top pick Austin Beck. For comparison, that’s nearly twice what they gave fellow high school 3rd-rounder Dakota Chalmers back in 2015, despite similar slot value. It’s also a hair more than they gave to Richie Martin, another glove-first shortstop who went in the 1st round in ‘15. Oakland really wanted this guy, and that says a lot to me.

The other flaw in Allen’s profile is his undersized frame, though if a smaller guy is going to work out anywhere then it would be the middle infield. No matter how many times we cite Jose Altuve (5’6), or David Eckstein (5’7), or Dustin Pedroia (5’9), or even Khris Davis (5’11), the fact remains that Allen still needs to prove he can be one of the exceptions who overcomes his small stature. The good news is that there’s little question about his top-notch defensive skills, which means this particular question mark only needs to be asked on the offensive side of the ball.

All of that might sound familiar, as Martin himself came out of the draft with the same story. The fact that Martin has mostly flamed out to this point has made some folks in the community worry about Allen following the same disappointing path. However, I’ll point out that Allen came out of the draft with better MLBP scouting grades than Martin both for hitting (55 vs. 50) and fielding (65 vs. 60) while matching him in speed and arm — even if that comparison is confounded by the age/experience difference (Martin came out of college), it still gives us a good reason to maintain higher hopes for Allen.

All told, this is the first spot on the CPL that really surprises me. I’m usually the guy who prefers more advanced prospects who have built up their track records, and even still I had Allen at 12th on my own list. I didn’t have Deichmann or Jefferies as high as the CPL does but I understand the arguments for them, and Renato Nunez is high but within reasonable range of where I ranked him. But I think we’re seriously sleeping on Allen this low on the list, and he’ll be one of the most interesting names to follow this summer.

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 Casey Meisner. The tall righty was acquired in 2015 for Tyler Clippard, and reached as high as No. 9 on our CPL after that season. However, he’s stalled in Oakland’s system since then and barely kept himself on the CPL last winter (28th). He did finally reach Double-A last summer but was not particularly effective. If he can get his mechanics right then there could still be a solid prospect in there somewhere.

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

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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!