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Oakland A’s prospect watch: Draft class gets going at Single-A Beloit

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With the April snow melted, the A’s 2017 draft class is finally getting their feet wet in the pros.

18th-round pick Mickey McDonald is batting .348 so far.
Photo provided by Oakland A’s

The Single-A Beloit Snappers waited a little longer to get their season moving than the Oakland A’s other minor league affiliates. The Midwest was hammered by cold, snowy weather in April, and nine of Beloit’s first 16 gamedays were postponed or canceled. They didn’t play their ninth game of the year until April 20.

Now they’re back on track, though. The weather has cooperated enough for them to play 10 straight days without interruption, so let’s finally take a look at what they’re doing and who’s doing it.

As usual, a big portion of the Snappers’ roster is comprised of the previous year’s draft class. Five of the more advanced college players from the early rounds skipped the Midwest League and opened in High-A Stockton (Merrell, Deichmann, Toffey, Dunshee, Howard), but the bulk of the group is beginning their journey in Beloit.

Here’s a rundown of the new draftees, as well as where the rest of the roster came from. The numbers before their names denote the round in which they were picked:

Old Draft 2017 Draft Int'l sign
2014
6. Trace Loehr, IF
2015
3. Dakota Chalmers, RHP
24. Heath Bowers, RHP
26. Jordan Devencenzi, C
27. Xavier Altamirano, RHP
2016
10. Mitchell Jordan, RHP
15. Ty Damron, LHP
16. Anthony Churlin, OF
17. Seth Martinez, RHP
18. Skyler Weber, C
30. Nick Highberger, RHP
1. Austin Beck, OF
3. Nick Allen, SS
9. Jared Poche’, LHP
10. Jack Meggs, OF
13. Wyatt Marks, RHP
15. Josh Reagan, LHP
18. Mickey McDonald, OF
19. Michael Danielak, RHP
22. Bryce Conley, RHP
25. Hunter Hargrove, 1B
33. Jake Lumley, IF
36. Logan Farrar, OF
Ivan Andueza, LHP
Jean Ruiz, RHP
Jesus Zambrano, RHP
Jesus Lopez, IF
Miguel Mercedes, 1B
J.C. Rodriguez, OF

A few notes:

  • Loehr, Chalmers, Churlin, Beck, and Allen were all drafted out of high school. The latter four are the youngest players on the roster (Beck and Allen are 19, Churlin is about to turn 21, and Chalmers doesn’t turn 22 until after the season).
  • After them, the next-youngest is a trio of 21-year-old int’l signings (Lopez, Ruiz, Zambrano)
  • Absent from the list is last year’s 6th-round pick Logan Salow, who was traded to the Dodgers for MLB pitcher Wilmer Font.
  • Also absent is last year’s 11th-round pick Ryan Gridley. The infielder was impressive in his pro debut last summer, but opened this season rehabbing an injury.

We’ll see even more members of the class get their turns as time goes on and players get injured, or promoted, or demoted. Others are likely waiting until Low-A Vermont begins its own short season. Here’s the full roster as it stands now (players in bold are on our Community Prospect List Top 30):

Beloit Snappers roster
Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Xavier Altamirano (R)
Ivan Andueza (L)
Bryce Conley (R)
Wyatt Marks (R)
Jared Poche' (L)
Jean Ruiz (R)

Relievers

Heath Bowers (R)
Ty Damron (L)
Nick Highberger (R)
Mitchell Jordan (R)
Seth Martinez (R)
Josh Reagan (l)
Jesus Zambrano (R)

Disabled List

Dakota Chalmers (R)
Michael Danielak (R)
Catchers

Jordan Devencenzi (R)
Skyler Weber (L)

Infielders

Miguel Mercedes (R)
Trace Loehr (L)
Nick Allen (R)
Jesus Lopez (R)
Jake Lumley (L)
Hunter Hargrove (R)

Outfielders

Austin Beck (R)
Anthony Churlin (R)
Logan Farrar (L)
Mickey McDonald (S)
Jack Meggs (L)

Disabled List

J.C. Rodriguez (R)

With the cast of characters set, here’s a look at how they’ve performed so far. Stats do not include Friday’s game because for some reason FanGraphs never updated this morning (could use Baseball-Reference, but these stat lines are meaningless without wRC+ marks to put them in context).

The big names here are Beck and Allen. The teenagers are among the 20 or 30 youngest position players in the entire 16-team-league, so we shouldn’t get too wrapped up in judging their stats yet. They both face long journeys to MLB and there’s more going on in their development right now than just their in-game performance. That said, for what it’s worth so far Beck is off to a better start than last year in Vermont, with a league-average batting line, an improved strikeout rate, and a strong enough batting average to help make up for a lack of walks. He also notched a walk-off hit on April 23. Meanwhile, Allen is scuffling at the plate but at least salvaging some walks along the way.

The key standout has been San Mateo native McDonald, pictured at the top of the post. He’s batting .348 so far with a 130 wRC+ that ranks him among the team leaders, and his plate discipline has been good with a low strikeout rate and two walks for every three Ks. He picked up his own walk-off hit two days after Beck’s. However, he’s yet to show any power, as only four of his 24 hits have gone for extra bases (all doubles). He’s also benefiting from a high BABIP (.421), which doesn’t have to be a complete mirage this low in the minors but still serves as a red flag until he proves it’s real. This might just be a hot streak to start the season, but it’s still enough to make him a name to watch for now.

No one else from the Class of 2017 is making any noise yet. Farrar had some momentum entering the year after an eye-opening debut in Vermont, and he leads the Snappers with three homers. However, he’s still not doing much in between those dingers and he’s definitely not getting on base. The best consolation I can offer is that his power isn’t coming at the expense of contact, with low rates of strikeouts and swinging strikes, so if a few more of his batted balls fall in for hits then his line could suddenly look pretty good.

McDonald: .348/.416/.406, 130 wRC+, 3 SB, 10.3% BB, 15.4% Ks
Beck: .294/.315/.412, 96 wRC+, 1 HR, 3.4% BB, 22.5% Ks
Farrar: .217/.247/.435, 76 wRC+, 3 HR, 4.1% BB, 11.0% Ks
Allen: .205/.284/.274, 60 wRC+, 6 SB, 9.9% BB, 21.0% Ks

* Each hitter above is around 80 plate appearances, give or take.

Finally, a few members of the old guard are enjoying positive starts. Loehr is in his third year in Beloit, and he’s finally doing something at the plate for the first time in his career. He’s always kept the Ks low, but now he’s turning some of that contact into hits and also drawing walks at twice his previous rate. Devencenzi is a plate disciple monster who has walked more than he’s struck out for his career, and on top of that he’s BABIP’ing his way to a high average — but without any power, and with age 25 approaching next month. Weber is getting his first serious playing time as a pro, and his first 40 PAs have been superb — high average, more walks than Ks, and some extra-base power.

Loehr: .324/.403/.441, 136 wRC+, 1 HR, 11.1% BB, 16.0% Ks
Devencenzi: .372/.426/.395, 137 wRC+, 8.5% BB, 6.4% Ks (47 PAs)
Weber: .313/.450/.469, 162 wRC+, 20.0% BB, 17.5% Ks

(Notable Friday updates not reflected here: Farrar went 2-for-3 with a walk but his OBP is still an ugly .273, and Weber had an 0-fer to drop his average to .278.)

As for the pitchers, there are three members of the draft class who warrant mention so far. Marks made the MLB Pipeline A’s Top 30 and is making good on that hype, with a massive strikeout rate and excellent peripherals overall. Poche’ didn’t play much in the pros last summer but the lefty is now healthy and dealing, though he got a bit wild in his last game (5 walks). Conley made headlines early due to his part in a combined no-hitter, but he’s fallen off since then and will need to do more to get on any serious prospect radar.

* Poche’s numbers do include his Friday start.

Marks: 1.90 ERA, 23⅔ ip, 33 Ks, 7 BB, 2 HR, 2.93 FIP
Poche’: 2.95 ERA, 18⅓ ip, 20 Ks, 9 BB, 1 HR
Conley: 5.32 ERA, 23⅔ ip, 21 Ks, 6 BB, 4 HR, 4.92 FIP

The Snappers are only a couple dozen games into their season, and raw stats won’t tell the full story of their development, but one way or other these are the names to watch so far.

Saturday’s games

Full slate of action.

Triple-A Nashville: 4:35 p.m., Daniel Gossett vs. Memphis
Double-A Midland: 5:05 p.m., Corey Walter vs. Frisco
High-A Stockton: 7:10 p.m., Logan Shore vs. Inland Empire
Single-A Beloit: 3:30 p.m., Ivan Andueza vs. Lake County

The notable name there is Shore, making his second start of the year since returning from minor injury. He was expected to open in Double-A and you’d have to figure he’ll find his way up there sooner than later.

Link to box scores