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Oakland A’s prospect watch: Lazaro Armenteros joins Single-A Beloit and hits right away

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He already hit two homers in his first four games.

Lazarito!
Photo credit: Andrew Carlson | Provided by Beloit Snappers

The Single-A Beloit Snappers already had a couple of high-profile prospects on their roster, between teenage 2017 draft picks Austin Beck and Nick Allen. They added another this week, with the arrival of Lazaro Armenteros. The outfielder, who turns 19 next weekend, began the season in extended spring training but has now joined a full-season U.S. affiliate for the first time.

Armenteros isn’t a complete stranger to his new teammates, having played with many of them last summer in the Arizona Rookie League. He put up strong numbers at that intro level (136 wRC+), including power, on-base ability, and the team lead in stolen bases. However, the A’s held him back for the first month of 2018, which is fair enough considering the extra adjustments he must make in his transition to a new country — including moving from the tropical climate of Cuba to Wisconsin, where several games have been snowed out this season.

Now that he’s arrived, Lazarito isn’t wasting any time getting hot. He’s done something positive in each of his five games so far:

  • Mon: Double and sac fly (1-for-5)
  • Tue: Hit a home run (402 ft) (1-for-4)
  • Thu: Drew two walks (0-for-3)
  • Fri: Hit another homer (2-for-4)
  • Sat: Three hits, second straight day w/ no Ks (3-for-5)

All told he’s 7-for-21, with a few extra-base hits and an early handle on his strikeout rate. The first handful of games in the lower minors don’t mean much on the grand scale, but this was as good of a first impression as you could ask for.

Armenteros: .333/.375/.667, 174 wRC+, 2 HR, 8.3% BB, 20.8% Ks

Here’s some video from his debut on Monday:

On defense, Armenteros has lined up in LF so far, while fellow top prospect Austin Beck has remained in CF (with Mickey McDonald as Beck’s backup). Oakland A’s Asst GM Dan Feinstein had this to say about Armenteros’ fielding in March, via Athletics Farm:

I think the main thing we’re focused on is improving his reads and routes in the outfield. The one thing he wasn’t blessed with was a plus arm. So, we want to make sure that he’s mechanically sound throwing and he’s hitting the cutoff man.

Even if he ends up in LF, though, Lazarito is still an exciting name to follow — he’s the “Cuban Bryce Harper,” after all. Last winter Athletics Nation voted him No. 9 on our Community Prospect List, thanks to his dynamic power/speed combo. He still has a long journey ahead of him with everything left to prove, but his elite athleticism gives him a great head start.

As a reminder, Feinstein also touched on another part of the prospect development process that we don’t always remember to consider:

But also, he’s still learning to navigate life in the States. And we’re trying to make his life as easy as possible off the field so that he can concentrate on just playing baseball. And there’s a lot of work that goes into that behind the scenes from people both in the Dominican who come up and assist with the process, but also a lot of our player development folks who are helping with English classes and establishing his residency and all sorts of things away from the field that we’re trying to make a little bit easier for him.

Welcome to full-season ball, Lazarito! We’re excited to see what you can do.

Meggs stepping up

As for the rest of the lineup, a new standout is emerging in Jack Meggs. The outfielder was a 10th-round pick last summer, and after the draft he got off to a hot start in Low-A Vermont until going down with a right knee subluxation (via Oakland Clubhouse). Now he’s back and picking up where he left off:

Meggs, 2017 A-: .290/.370/.449, 145 wRC+, 3 HR, 11.1% BB, 17.3% Ks
Meggs, 2018 A: .279/.355/.471, 129 wRC+, 3 HR, 10.5% BB, 19.7% Ks

Note: 81 plate appearances last year, 76 so far this year

We only have tiny samples of Meggs’ performance so far, but one thing we don’t yet have is a bad sample. His reputation is that of a high-energy grinder, who uses his instincts and Byrnesian hustle to play above his mediocre tools. In college at the University of Washington he was the coach’s son, which gives an idea of his background as a baseball lifer. How far will the pure lefty be able to rise on those strengths? Stay tuned to find out, but the early returns are encouraging with plenty of power, contact, and plate discipline.

We just took a deeper look at the rest of the lineup last week, but here are the updated numbers for the other notable prospects:

Mickey McDonald, OF: .319/.386/.374, 113 wRC+, 0 HR, 9.7% BB, 18.4% Ks
Skyler Weber, C: .250/.371/.346, 109 wRC+, 0 HR, 16.1% BB, 22.6% Ks
Hunter Hargrove, 1B: .291/.345/.367, 98 wRC+, 0 HR, 6.8% BB, 8.0% Ks
Austin Beck, OF: .289/.333/.388, 96 wRC+, 1 HR, 6.8% BB, 22.0% Ks
Logan Farrar, OF: .245/.278/.431, 89 wRC+, 3 HR, 3.7% BB, 14.8% Ks
Nick Allen, SS: .198/.274/.260, 50 wRC+, 0 HR, 9.4% BB, 23.6% Ks

Quick notes: McDonald’s production is still mostly BABIP (.403); Hargrove (25th round) joins the list because I’m intrigued by his strikeout avoidance (also minuscule 6.0% swinging-strike rate); and Farrar needs to get on base more, either by increasing his walk rate or his batting average. Infielder Jesus Lopez (79 wRC+) is a few more good games away from jumping back onto the radar at age 21.

Fly, young Snappers!

Pitching

The best numbers on the staff belong to Xavier Altamirano (2015, 27th round). However, this is the right-hander’s third year in Beloit, so at this point the only thing he can do to get my attention is move up to High-A. Beyond him, and with Dakota Chalmers still on the DL, there’s not a lot to write home about on the pitching staff right now.

The top talent on the staff is probably Wyatt Marks (2017, 13th round). The right-hander got shredded in his last start on Saturday (1⅔ ip, 5 runs, 4 BB), and the one before that (5⅓ ip, 5 runs, 2 HR), but along the way he has consistently missed lots of bats too (15 Ks in those 7 brutal innings, out of 37 batters). All told he’s fanning more than a third of the batters he faces (36.4%) and earning whiffs on one of every five pitches (19.8%). Only a couple other starters in the whole Midwest League can match that gaudy swinging-strike rate.

As a reminder, here’s what MLB Pipeline had to say about Marks last winter when they placed him on their A’s Top 30 list (above draft-mates Parker Dunshee and Brian Howard):

Marks gets the most out of his two above-average pitches, missing bats inside and outside of the zone easily with each. He won’t shy away from challenging hitters up in the zone with his low-90s fastball that he can also spot to both sides of the plate. His curveball is a hammer when it’s on, registering in the low 80s with tight spin, and it serves as an ideal bat-missing complement to his fastball. Marks has a strong track record as a strike-thrower, but he’ll need to improve his fastball command for continued success at higher levels.

Though he started seven of his 13 games during his pro debut, Marks’ future is in the bullpen. His fastball-curveball combo gives him upside as a high-leverage reliever, and with improved command of both pitches, he could hop on the fast track to the Major Leagues.

Wyatt Marks (R): 4.40 ERA, 30⅔ ip, 48 Ks, 13 BB, 4 HR, 3.62 FIP
Jared Poche’ (L): 3.38 ERA, 24 ip, 24 Ks, 10 BB, 2 HR, 4.02 FIP
Jean Ruiz (R): 5.19 ERA, 26 ip, 22 Ks, 8 BB, 3 HR, 4.42 FIP

There’s still plenty of time for other pitching sleepers to emerge, but for now those are the names to keep an eye on.

Sunday’s games

Beloit is off today, but the other affiliates are in action.

Triple-A Nashville: LIVE, James Naile vs. Memphis
Double-A Midland: LIVE, Jesus Luzardo vs. Corpus Christi
High-A Stockton: LIVE, Parker Dunshee vs. Inland Empire

Nice bounce-back outing for Naile (7 ip, 2 runs, 0 BB). However, Luzardo finally had a bad game, and Dunshee served up a homer in the 1st inning.

Link to box scores