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Oakland A’s prospect watch: 2018 Opening Day rosters for minor league affiliates

Nashville Sounds (AAA), Midland RockHounds (AA), Stockton Ports (A+), and Beloit Snappers (A) announce their 2018 rosters.

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Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The 2018 minor league season gets started on Thursday, so let’s analyze how the rosters shook out for each Oakland A’s affiliate. We’re looking at the four full-season squads here — Triple-A Nashville, Double-A Midland, High-A Stockton, and Single-A Beloit.

Note: The injured players aren’t officially assigned anywhere, so I’ve included them in the sections that make most sense.

Triple-A Nashville Sounds

The A’s top affiliate boasts an excellent lineup, including five members of our Community Prospect List Top 30. The bullpen also has some promising names, including two CPL members and two more fireballers who didn’t miss the list by much. The main weakness is the rotation, which has already been decimated by injuries before the season even begins.

Of course, a Triple-A roster also must keep an eye toward the present day, reserving some playing time for depth veterans who are next in line if someone on the A’s gets hurt. Even though the organization has prospects with higher upside than, say, Eric Jokisch, Mark Canha, and Steve Lombardozzi, it’s good to have someone around who is ready to be an emergency fill-in literally tomorrow if need be.

Nashville Sounds 2018 Opening Day roster
Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Brett Anderson
Trevor Cahill**
Eric Jokisch
Frankie Montas**
James Naile

Relievers

Raul Alcantara
Chris Bassitt**
Jeremy Bleich
Kyle Finnegan
Josh Lucas**
Jake Sanchez
Lou Trivino**
Bobby Wahl

Injured

Paul Blackburn**
Ryan Dull**
Grant Holmes
A.J. Puk
Catchers

Dustin Garneau**
Beau Taylor

Infielders

Franklin Barreto**
Mark Canha**
Steve Lombardozzi
Jorge Mateo**
Sheldon Neuse

Outfielders

B.J. Boyd
Dustin Fowler**
Anthony Garcia
Slade Heathcott
Nick Martini

Injured

Ramon Laureano**
Renato Nunez**
Josh Phegley**

Players in bold are on the CPL. Players with asterisks** are on the MLB 40-man roster.

Key injuries

  • LHP A.J. Puk is out for the season (TJS)
  • RHP Grant Holmes is out indefinitely (rotator cuff)
  • DH Renato Nunez is on the MLB 10-day DL (hamstring)
  • OF Ramon Laureano is out indefinitely (broken finger)
  • Also on the MLB 10-day DL, making them relevant to the AAA picture: RHP Paul Blackburn (forearm strain), RHP Ryan Dull (shoulder), C Josh Phegley (broken fingers)

Extra notes

  • Cahill won’t be around for long, as he’s expected to join Oakland’s rotation sometime in April (which will presumably push someone else down to Nashville).
  • After Cahill, the next key names to look out for (click links for more info) are Barreto, the team’s top healthy prospect, who figures to find his way back up to Oakland’s infield this summer; Fowler, who is gearing up to play CF in Oakland as soon as possible after recovering from a major injury; Anderson, the next emergency rotation depth; and Lucas, the most MLB-ready reliever on the 40-man roster.
  • For more on the top prospects, browse through our Community Prospect List.
  • Click here for more on the veteran depth guys, including Jokisch, Bleich, Lombardozzi, Garcia, Heathcott, and Martini. The outfielders on that list are particularly interesting.
  • The new manager is Fran Riordan, after incumbent Ryan Christenson moved up to Oakland’s bench. Riordan guided Double-A Midland to a championship last year, and before that spent two seasons leading Single-A Beloit.
  • Just like in Oakland, the weak link on Nashville’s roster is the rotation. The closest thing to a prospect is Naile, who barely missed our CPL, and Montas is still functionally a prospect too. The rest of the group is veteran depth, albeit slightly more promising than the Surkamps and Doubronts of years past. In addition, Alcantara and Bassitt are former starters who could still find themselves in swingman roles, depending on team need.
  • Also like Oakland, the infield is by far the strongest department in Nashville, while the outfield and bullpen are intriguing but not sure things.
  • Standout skills: The lineup has tons of speed (Mateo, Barreto, Fowler, Boyd), and the bullpen features extremely high velocities (Trivino, Finnegan, Sanchez, Wahl, Alcantara).
  • Biggest surprise: I thought they might have Neuse open in Double-A, since he only played a couple weeks there last year. Instead they went aggressive with his assignment, which isn’t an outright surprise as much as the other side of a coin-flip.

Double-A Midland RockHounds

The RockHounds are coming off their fourth straight league championship last year. The Drive for Five is going to be a tall order, though, as this is as weak as Midland’s opening roster has looked in a while. Even the CPL prospects are mostly from the lower section of the list. On the bright side, last year’s opening roster also boasted only four CPL guys and they still found a way to win it all.

The organization’s injury woes extend to Midland’s rotation as well, with several notable names out of action for now. The current rotation and infield are mostly filler, but the lineup and bullpen do at least carry a bit of promise. There is breakout potential on this roster, just not the same level of high ceilings as the group in Nashville.

Midland RockHounds 2018 Opening Day roster
Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Ben Bracewell
Kyle Friedrichs
Norge Ruiz
Joel Seddon
Corey Walter

Relievers

Nolan Blackwood
Sam Bragg
Trey Cochran-Gill
John Gorman
Tucker Healy
Jarret Martin
Cody Stull
J.B. Wendelken

Injured

Dustin Hurlbutt
Dalton Sawyer
Logan Shore
Catchers

Santiago Chavez
Sean Murphy

Infielders

Seth Brown
Melvin Mercedes
J.P. Sportman
Eli White
Mikey White

Outfielders

Skye Bolt
Tyler Marincov
Tyler Ramirez
Brett Siddall
Brett Vertigan

Injured

Richie Martin

Players in bold are on the CPL.

Key injuries

h/t to Melissa Lockard of The Athletic for injury updates

  • RHP Logan Shore “is back throwing regularly and is building his pitch count up before he is sent out to pitch in games” (lat strain)
  • SS Richie Martin “isn’t expected to miss a lot of time” (lower back strain)
  • LHP Dalton Sawyer (elbow) and RHP Dustin Hurlbutt (shoulder) aren’t officially assigned to Midland, but I’m giving them benefit of the doubt in this writeup.

Extra notes

  • Names to know: Murphy is the star of this team right now, as the only member to land in the Top 10 of our CPL. Meanwhile, Ramirez is one of my favorite sleepers in the whole system, and Blackwood is an AN favorite as well.
  • The manager is Scott Steinmann, who spent last year leading Single-A Beloit.
  • The bullpen features a couple of injury comebacks, as Wendelken missed all of last season and Cochran-Gill only pitched one game.
  • The pitching staff also features lots of upper-minors experience. Healy spent all of 2017 in Triple-A; Bracewell and Walter finished the summer in Nashville too; Wendelken has already debuted in MLB; Bragg and Seddon are each in their third year in Midland; and Gorman and Ruiz are the only ones who have never appeared in Double-A.
  • On the hitting side, Mercedes spent most of 2017 in Triple-A, while Marincov, Sportman, and Vertigan have all been in Midland since 2016.
  • The 2015 draft class is well-represented at this level: Martin, Mikey White, Bolt, Siddall, Brown, Friedrichs, and Gorman, plus Hurlbutt when healthy, will all be looking to salvage what has so far appeared to be a lost class.
  • Sportman has played almost exclusively outfield in his pro career, but he’s listed as an infielder this year (and specifically at 1B on Midland’s official site). He’s played a few games at 2B as well. Meanwhile, Vertigan is also officially listed as an infielder but I think that must be a typo — he’s a lefty, and at 5’9 he’d be ludicrously miscast at 1B.
  • Standout skill: The team’s defense could be strong, between Murphy behind the plate, Bolt and Ramirez in the outfield, and Martin eventually joining the middle infield.
  • Biggest surprise: After missing almost all of his U.S. debut season, Ruiz moves up to Double-A. He was always supposed to be a fast-track candidate as a relatively polished international signing, so the aggressive assignment makes sense, but it wasn’t where I was expecting to see him just yet. He’s the one truly legit prospect in the rotation, until Shore returns.
  • Despite its low profile, this is a surprisingly fun roster. It’s full of fringe names that we’ve been following for years, and it’ll be interesting to see which ones manage to take a step forward this year.

High-A Stockton Ports

As we move down to the lower minors, the starting rotation finally stops being a weakness. Stockton is expected to begin with a tandem rotation, just like last year, with two pitchers pairing up for each start to reduce workloads. There are plenty of promising names to fill the spots, with more help on the way from the DL as the summer progresses. The lineup is anchored by the top of the 2017 draft class.

Stockton Ports 2018 Opening Day roster
Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Boomer Biegalski
Brendan Butler
Angel Duno
Parker Dunshee
Zack Erwin
Brian Howard
Jesus Luzardo
Matt Milburn

Relievers

Jake Bray
Brandon Marsonek
Miguel Romero
Sam Sheehan
Andrew Tomasovich

Injured

Daulton Jefferies
James Kaprielian
Evan Manarino
Catchers

Jonah Heim
Collin Theroux

Infielders

Edwin Diaz
Kevin Merrell
Nate Mondou
Brallan Perez
Luke Persico
Will Toffey

Outfielders

Luis Barrera
Dairon Blanco
Greg Deichmann
Eric Marinez

Injured

Sandber Pimentel

Players in bold are on the CPL.

Key injuries

h/t to Melissa Lockard of The Athletic for injury updates

  • RHP Daulton Jefferies and RHP James Kaprielian are both hopeful to return to action in June (TJS)
  • LHP Evan Manarino begins the year rehabbing (shoulder)
  • 1B Sandber Pimentel will miss the first month (broken hamate)
  • None of these injured players are officially assigned to Stockton; this is just where I decided to put them.

Extra notes

  • Name to know: Luzardo, who is arguably the club’s top pitching prospect now that Puk is out.
  • The manager is Rick Magnante, in his fourth year leading the Ports.
  • As usual, the cream of the previous year’s draft class provides most of the highlights here: Merrell, Deichmann, Toffey, Dunshee, and Howard were among the club’s first 10 picks in 2017 and all made our CPL.
  • Erwin is back on track, after missing much of last year to injury.
  • A couple of minor offseason trades brought in Bray (for Brugman) and Heim (for Wendle).
  • Marinez has been exclusively an infielder in the pros, but he’s listed in the outfield for now — perhaps his excellent throwing arm can play there? Lockard also praises the arm of Diaz, which she calls the strongest in the system.
  • In the other direction, Persico played mostly outfield last year but is now the only player on the roster listed at 1B.
  • Over at FanGraphs, Mondou was singled out as “Cistulli’s Guy,” as a low-profile sleeper.
  • Standout skills: Strikeouts in the pen. Of the five members of the bullpen, they all carry higher than 10 K/9 both in their careers and in 2017, except for Marsonek. The rotation is also full of strike-throwers, who may not post gaudy K-rates but will put up massive K/BB rates. To a lesser extent, there’s lots of good plate discipline in the lineup too.
  • Biggest surprise: No one was quite sure what to expect from Blanco. He’s already 25, but he hasn’t played pro ball in two years while making his way over from Cuba. He’ll show off his 80-grade speed in High-A for now.

Single-A Beloit Snappers

Finally, we have the Snappers. This level of the minors is pretty deep down the ladder, and if there’s a top prospect here then it’s because he’s super-young and taking a long-term development path. The rest of this group will be the best players from the middle rounds of last year’s draft, plus a handful of others who didn’t make the cut for High-A but are still showing just enough to get playing time somewhere.

If you’re following this team, then you are truly committed to the A’s farm. Welcome! Fortunately the lineup will be fun since it features two top-notch high school draft picks, but otherwise these are mostly fringe guys looking to make some noise.

Beloit Snappers 2018 Opening Day roster
Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Xavier Altamirano
Dakota Chalmers
Bryce Conley
Wyatt Marks
Seth Martinez
Jared Poche
Jean Ruiz

Relievers

Heath Bowers
Ty Damron
Michael Danielak
Josh Reagan
Logan Salow
Jesus Zambrano
Catchers

Jordan Devencenzi
Skyler Weber

Infielders

Nick Allen
Trace Loehr
Jake Lumley
Miguel Mercedes
J.C. Rodriguez

Outfielders

Austin Beck
Anthony Churlin
Logan Farrar
Mickey McDonald
Jack Meggs

Injured

Ryan Gridley

Players in bold are on the CPL.

Key injuries

h/t to Melissa Lockard of The Athletic for injury updates

  • IF Ryan Gridley opens the year rehabbing an undisclosed injury.

Extra notes

  • Missing from the roster: OF Lazaro Armenteros opens in extended spring training for now.
  • Names to know: Beck and Allen were two of the A’s top picks in last summer’s draft, respectively Nos. 6 and 81 overall. Chalmers was a high pick in 2015 but has stalled in his development so far.
  • The manager is Webster Garrison, who spent the last two years leading the AZL Rookie Ball A’s. He’s also skippered for Midland and Stockton in the past, and he’s been in the organization long enough to have managed former affiliates including Vancouver (A-), Kane County (A), and Visalia (A+), as far back as 2001.
  • More 2017 draft class, beyond Beck and Allen: Poche, Marks, Conley, Salow, Reagan, Danielak, Lumley, Farrar, McDonald, and Meggs. Of that group, Marks made MLB Pipeline’s Oakland Top 30 prospect list, while Farrar got serious consideration for our CPL. Reagan quietly posted superb numbers last year out of Vermont’s pen.
  • Ruiz and Churlin are random sleepers worthy of a bullet point, even though I don’t have much to say about them.
  • Rodriguez is officially listed as an outfielder, but he’s played mostly infield in the pros and Lockard refers to him as such.

Unassigned

Several players haven’t yet been assigned to affiliates, for various reasons. Some might be rehabbing injuries at extended spring training, others are holding back until short-season affiliates begin, and the rest are simply on the outside looking in until roster space opens up somewhere. Here’s a list of some of the most relevant prospects, mainly young international signings waiting for short-season leagues (click here for more info on these guys) (CPL prospects in bold):

  • RHP Wandisson Charles
  • RHP Abdiel Mendoza
  • RHP Skylar Szynski*
  • RHP Oscar Tovar
  • C Santis Sanchez
  • SS Marcos Brito
  • SS Alexander Campos
  • SS Yerdel Vargas
  • OF Lazaro Armenteros
  • OF George Bell
  • OF Kevin Richards
  • OF Rafael Rincones

* Szynski is the one major injury case on the list, having missed all of 2017 to elbow surgery

And Part 2 of the Unassigned list, with some fringier but more experienced names (in parentheses, the highest level they played at last year):

  • RHP Simon Castro (MLB)
  • RHP Joseph Camacho (A)
  • RHP Nick Highberger (A)
  • RHP Mitchell Jordan (A)
  • RHP Jeferson Mejia (A)
  • RHP Michael Murray (A)
  • C Jason Goldstein (A)
  • IF Jesus Lopez (A)
  • OF JaVon Shelby (A)
  • OF James Terrell (A-)

Castro spent substantial time in Oakland last season. Mejia was acquired for Adam Rosales last July, and Goldstein was the return in the Dillon Overton deal.

Cuts

With all these names and a limited number of space in the universe, the A’s released a handful of players this spring. Some of these guys you’ll recognize, and others never even reached the upper minors. They are listed here in order of the highest level at which they played meaningful time. The numbers at the end are their draft year/round, for those drafted by the A’s. (via Lockard)

  • RHP Kris Hall (AA) (2012/8th)
  • IF Jordan Tarsovich (AA) (trade/Eibner)
  • RHP Armando Ruiz (A+) (2015/29th)
  • 1B Chris Iriart (A+) (2015/12th)
  • 2B Trent Gilbert (A+) (2014/15th)
  • LHP Kyle Twomey (A) (free agent)
  • 1B Kyle Nowlin (A) (2016/21st)
  • RHP Branden Kelliher (A-) (2014/8th)

* Iriart is in bold because he once made our CPL (whoops!).

And a few retirements since last fall (via Lockard):

  • 2B Branden Cogswell (AA) (2014/7th)
  • LHP Jared Lyons (A+) (2015/9th)
  • 2B Josh Vidales (A+) (2016/28th)
  • OF Mike Martin (A) (2015/33rd)

Depth chart

Finally, here is the full depth chart. Players in bold are CPL prospects, players in italics are injured, and players with an asterisk* are on the 40-man roster. The Triple-A level is separated between those who have debuted in MLB, and those who haven’t. Within each position group, minor leaguers are ordered by considerations like experience, seniority, and who’s likely to get more playing time, not overall quality of prospect. One final reminder that the injured players aren’t officially assigned to these levels, but rather are my own speculative placements.

(Update: Of course hours later the A’s made a move, not reflected in the chart below. OF Trayce Thompson claimed off waivers, Blackburn to the 60-day DL.)