Over the offseason, the Athletics Nation community worked together to construct a top prospect list for the team via crowdsource votes. We voted on each spot individually, and we now have a complete list of the Top 30 Oakland A’s prospects entering 2018. Click here to learn more about each player.
Normally I post this in March before the season begins. However, this year baseball skipped its offseason and spent spring training doing most of its trades and free agent signings, so March was busier than usual and the CPL finale took a backseat. As it happened, a couple early moves changed the list, so it’s for the best that we waited.
|1||A.J. Puk||LHP||23||AAA||Draft (1R, 2016)|
|2||Franklin Barreto||SS||22||AAA||Trade (Donaldson)|
|3||Jorge Mateo||SS||23||AAA||Trade (Sonny)|
|4||Dustin Fowler||OF||23||AAA||Trade (Sonny)|
|5||Sean Murphy||C||23||AA||Draft (3R, 2016)|
|6||Jesus Luzardo||LHP||20||AA||Trade (Doo/Madson)|
|7||Austin Beck||OF||19||A||Draft (1R, 2017)|
|8||James Kaprielian||RHP||24||A+||Trade (Sonny)|
|10||Grant Holmes||RHP||22||AAA||Trade (Reddick/Hill)|
|11||Sheldon Neuse||3B||23||AAA||Trade (Doo/Madson)|
|12||Greg Deichmann||OF||23||A+||Draft (2R, 2017)|
|13||Logan Shore||RHP||23||AA||Draft (2R, 2016)|
|14||Kevin Merrell||SS||22||A+||Draft (1R, 2017)|
|15||Daulton Jefferies||RHP||22||A+||Draft (1R, 2016)|
|16||Nick Allen||SS||19||A||Draft (3R, 2017)|
|17||Ramon Laureano||OF||23||AAA||Trade (Bailey)|
|18||Tyler Ramirez||OF||23||AA||Draft (7R, 2016)|
|19||Dakota Chalmers||RHP||21||A||Draft (3R, 2015)|
|20||Nolan Blackwood||RHP||23||AA||Draft (14R, 2016)|
|21||Dalton Sawyer||LHP||24||AA||Draft (9R, 2016)|
|22||B.J. Boyd||OF||24||AAA||Draft (4R, 2012)|
|23||Lou Trivino||RHP||26||MLB||Draft (11R, 2013)|
|24||Josh Lucas||RHP||27||AAA||Trade (Meisner)|
|25||Will Toffey||3B||23||A+||Draft (4R, 2017)|
|26||Skye Bolt||OF||24||A+||Draft (4R, 2015)|
|27||Parker Dunshee||RHP||23||A+||Draft (7R, 2017)|
|28||Alexander Campos||SS||18||RK||Trade (Healy)|
|29||Brian Howard||RHP||23||A+||Draft (8R, 2017)|
|30||Richie Martin||SS||23||AA||Draft (1R, 2015)|
(The “Level” column includes a couple of guesses for where injured players will end up. Three players have already moved levels in April — Luzardo and Trivino up a step, and Bolt down. The “Age” column refers to the age at which the player will play in 2018, even if he hasn’t quite had his birthday yet.)
(Two players were already removed from this list in the opening days of the season. DH Renato Nunez placed 15th but was lost on waivers, and RHP Casey Meisner placed 23rd but was traded. The return for Meisner, RHP Josh Lucas, was added after the fact, as was SS Richie Martin who originally placed 31st in voting. If another prospect is dealt/cut in the early going, then RHP Norge Ruiz is next in line to take the open spot.)
Where do they come from? Of the 30 names, 19 were drafted by Oakland (one each in 2012 and ‘13, none in 2014, three in 2015, and seven each in 2016 and ‘17), one more was an international signing, and the other 10 came from seven different trades (the Sonny deal and Doolittle/Madson deal are the only ones that represent multiple players on the current list). The seven trades include two blockbusters from last July (Sonny, Doo/Madson), one from the 2016 deadline (Reddick/Hill), one from the distant past (Donaldson), and three lesser deals from last winter (Ryon Healy, Brandon Bailey, Casey Meisner).
Quick comparison to last year’s CPL:
- 15 of the 30 players are new to the organization -- eight via trade (five different deals), and seven from the new draft class.
- Eight of those newcomers are in the top half of the list, and five are in the Top 10.
- Another five players stepped up from within the organization to join the CPL (Ramirez, Blackwood, Sawyer, Boyd, Trivino).
- Therefore 20 members of last year’s CPL are gone, with the following breakdown: 10 graduates (Chapman, Cotton, Montas, Olson, Maxwell, Gossett, Pinder, Brugman, Alcantara, Blackburn), 4 more who simply lost support (Ruiz, Wahl, Iriart, T.Healy), and 6 who are gone from the org entirely (Schrock, Nunez, Wendle, Munoz, Fillmyer, Meisner, plus Brugman after he graduated and Iriart after he’d already missed the CPL).
- Five players moved up the list without graduating, led by Murphy (25 up to 5), Shore (21 up to 13), and Armenteros (15 up to 9).
- Five players moved down the list without falling off, especially Martin (11 down to 30); the rest only moved down slightly.
The farm yielded a ton of new graduates in 2017, but still managed to finish the year stronger than it began. Last year’s list lost seven of its Top 10 (six grads, one trade), but between two big deadline deals last July and another premium top-of-the-draft selection they actually added more high-end talent than they lost/graduated.
One way to measure that top talent is by looking at the national Top 100 lists. The A’s had six different names make at least one mainstream list entering 2017, with two of them being consensus picks (Puk, Barreto). This time around they upped that total to seven names appearing on lists, with three of them being consensus choices on every major publication (same two plus Mateo). Of the seven nationally ranked names, four of them were acquired in trades last July, so the system’s improvement is not an accident but rather the result of active effort and tough decisions. The new draft class is also particularly promising.
Next up, here’s a further breakdown of our CPL voting. After each ballot I recorded the winner’s margin of victory, to show which votes were close and which were landslides. This is far from scientific, but theoretically the gaps should illustrate the notable drop-offs from one general tier of talent to the next, while the bunches reveal the parts of the list that are effectively ties.
The community clearly agreed on Puk and Barreto in the top couple spots. The next big drop-off is either after Armenteros (Top 9) or Neuse (Top 11), and then there’s another after either Allen, Laureano, or Ramirez (in the 16-18 range).
I’d split the list up into the following tiers (labels are meant to be broad and general, not specific and perfect):
- Nos. 1-3: Consensus Top 100, maybe even Top 50 (Puk to Mateo)
- No. 4-11: In the mix for Top 100, down to around Top 200 (Fowler to Neuse)
- Nos. 12-18: B-/C+, esp high draft picks and extra-good sleepers (Deichmann to Ramirez)
- Nos. 19-30+: C+/C, esp sleepers and long-term projects (Chalmers to Martin and beyond)
Next up, here are AN’s rankings compared with some other prominent lists.
(Links to each list: MLB Pipeline, Baseball America, John Sickels, Baseball Prospectus, Keith Law, FanGraphs, A’s Farm, Oakland Clubhouse)
Last year there was little agreement on Oakland’s Top 10 list, with 18 different players getting mentioned by various sources (and that was before A’s Farm and Oakland Clubhouse had published their versions). One likely reason for that was the unusually high number of prospects who were MLB-ready but not necessarily future stars, which will draw vastly different judgments from evaluators who value ceiling-vs-proximity to varying degrees.
This time around the picture is a bit clearer, with only a dozen players getting Top 10 nods. Of that group, seven of them were consensus picks on all nine versions of the list. Here are the average rankings for all of them, with the consensus cutoff at Murphy. For instances when a player wasn’t mentioned in the Top 10, he was given a value of 11 for that list (even if he actually showed up later, like Holmes on Law and FanGraphs):
1. Puk, 1.22
2. Barreto, 2.11
3. Mateo, 3.00
4-T. Fowler, 4.56
4-T. Luzardo, 4.56
6. Beck, 6.44
7. Murphy, 8.00 (cutoff)
8-T. Armenteros, 8.56
8-T. Kaprielian, 8.56
10. Holmes, 9.33
11. Neuse, 10.11
12. Shore, 10.56
By this measure, there’s a tier drop-off between Luzardo and Murphy, with the only question being which side Beck belongs on.
Finally, here’s a streamlined version of the org depth chart, designed to highlight the cream of the crop and leave out the hoi polloi. This one only includes the Top 30 list, plus 13 more names in italics who received mentions on other sources’ lists (in the big roundup above), and then 10 more (in italics and parentheses) who graduated to rookie status from last year’s list. The point of this chart is to give a representation of the A’s long-term future, including the current young core even though they’re not technically prospects anymore.
To complete the long-term picture: Starters Daniel Mengden and Andrew Triggs won’t be eligible for arbitration until after 2019, and reliever Emilio Pagan won’t be until after 2020. Sean Manaea and Daniel Coulombe are Super 2 players who have four arbitration years ahead of them beginning this-coming winter.
The pitching should be deep throughout the system, but far too much of it is on the disabled list. There are 19 starters on that chart, and nine of them are currently hurt. There have already been multiple Tommy John surgeries to key names this year, and there could yet be more over the next five months.
Oakland will need some of those arms to get healthy and resume their development soon, because the lineup is already arriving. The young MLB core is most evident so far in the infield corners, but the middle positions and the outfield are catching up quickly. The catching ranks are desperately thin, but it might not matter if the big fish in Double-A pans out.
Overall, half of the Top 10 is already in Triple-A. With the current up-and-coming profile of the big league team, it’s convenient that the next wave of top-notch names aren’t all concentrated in the lower levels. Serious reinforcements should be on the way sooner than later.
We’re already a month into the 2018 season, so we’ve gotten our first looks at both the A’s and their minor league system. There’s still a long way to go, though, and a lot can happen between now and September. We’ll keep following along every step of the way.