Bryce Harper isn’t coming to Oakland anytime soon, unless his new team arrives on a road trip. The A’s just can’t, and shouldn’t, get into the free agent market for stars. You can trade for a star but it will cost you dearly from a farm system that needs to be the life blood of a low payroll organization.
The way a team like the A’s can have stars is to draft them, or shrewdly acquire them before their talents fully manifest themselves. Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito were homegrown stars along side Eric Chavez and Miguel Tejada. Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Moss, and Josh Donaldson were all acquired when the heights of their abilities were fully unknown. All three could have busted but instead all three blossomed and the rest is 2.5 years of history.
Right now, the A’s are sitting pretty thanks to an accumulation of what could be quite a pocketful of affordable stars. With a recent focus, both in the draft and in trades, on athleticism and high ceilings, Oakland looks like it is hitting a lot more than it is missing on its “potential star” gambles.
Naturally, the conversation begins with Matt Chapman, already a full fledged star in his first full season. Star WARS? His would be at 5.6 and counting. Known for his legendary defense, Chapman has brought power and exit velocity, plate discipline, speed and phenomenal base running to the table as well, able to impact games in a variety of ways. Chapman will make league minimum in 2019 and 2020.
Don’t sleep on Ramon Laureano (you don’t need to tell that to Eric Young Jr.). Watching his first month in the big leagues, no question he is still raw, still at the beginning of a learning curve, still with risks that could impede his progress. But I see a legitimate star in the making here. Perhaps what most excites me is that so far, Laureano’s main weakness has surfaced in his propensity to chase bad balls, an affliction seen with Franklin Barreto, Chad Pinder, and before them Ryon Healy.
The difference? The aforementioned have had issues, in the minors, with plate discipline, be it low BB rates or consistent scouting reports questioning whether they had adequate patience and knowledge of the strike zone. In contrast, Laureano comes to the big leagues with solid BB rates and the reputation for being able to take walks and lay off bad balls. Even in an initial sample that has seen Laureano look bad on occasion, we have also seen at bats where he laid off the very pitch he had chased earlier — notably the pitch before his first big league hit (a walk-off single).
In Laureano, the A’s have a player whose electric speed will help keep his batting average up, who short-but-powerful swing has already generated some impressive power — two examples being his opposite field HR on the last homestand and his rocket into the seats last night. Yes his arm is already famous, but in CF Laureano also impressively takes the most fundamental angles to chase fly balls and field base hits.
What is his ceiling? If he goes the Chapman route of developing from a “dangerous hitter who expands the zone to his own detriment” to a hitter whose minor league plate discipline surfaces to force pitchers into the strike zone, I can see Laureano molding into a player with a slash line of .270/.350/.480, 25 HR, 25 SB, above average CF defense with a league leading number of outfield assists. That’s a star, one who will make league minimum through 2021.
Matt Olson may not be quite a star, but he’s already the best defensive 1Bman in the league and already a 30 HR hitter. That alone is a great first step towards stardom for a 24-year old in his first full season. Like Chapman, Olson still makes league minimum each of the next two seasons.
Not every talented prospect will blossom into a big league star, or even into a successful big league player, which is why you have to accumulate quantity as well as identifying quality. Franklin Barreto, Jesus Luzardo, Sean Murphy, and arguably Jorge Mateo, are all close to the big leagues with “multiple tool talent” and the potential to impact games in a big way and in a variety of ways.
The bottom line is that the A’s have a chance not only to have, but also to maintain, what the Astros have enjoyed recently with the Springer-Bregman-Correa-Altuve parlay, and that is a multitude of athletic, dynamic, impactful players who can and will beat you a number of different ways.
For me the most pleasant surprise has been how dynamic Laureano has been, adding to the group of “potential stars” instead of “good complementary players”. I had no idea how electrically talented he was until I saw him play, but now I have visions of him anchoring CF and allowing Dustin Fowler to shift over to LF where his defense will play up and where he could possibly solve an organizational hole going forward.
For a team that has a particular challenge in adding, and keeping, stars the A’s are set up awfully nicely now and for the future. And for a team trying to stay in lock step with the Houston Astros, how fortuitous that the Astros were not only willing to let Laureano get away, but were willing to deal him to rival Oakland. Sometimes things just fall into place, maybe even 1st place.
What do you see as Ramon Laureano’s realistic future?
This poll is closed
All-Star 5-tool player. Dude’s legit.
Solid complementary piece a la Semien, Piscotty.
Excellent platoon player, 4th OFer, role player.
He’ll be a big leaguer but not a particularly good one.
Weaknesses will be exploited, he will be nothing special.