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Oakland A’s 2019 Community Prospect List: Who is the top prospect in the organization?

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Athletics Nation votes on the team’s top prospect.

Who’s Number One?
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Who is the top minor league prospect in the Oakland A’s organization? There are several candidates to choose from, and we’re here to find out once and for all. Let’s get started on the 2019 Community Prospect List!

Here is the process. Please take a moment to read this before participating:

  • Five candidates will be listed on the ballot. The voting will take place in the comments section. I will start with a comment listing all five players, and then I will respond to that with five new comments in the style of “Vote: Player Name” for each candidate. Please do not reply directly to the official “Vote” comments, so that the ballot can stay together in one group.
  • Choose your ONE favorite by Rec’ing the comment with his name. Please only vote for one. The player who receives the most Rec’s earns the next spot on the CPL, while the remaining four players move on to the next ballot where they are joined by a new nominee.
  • In the comments, below the official voting, the community will nominate players to be put onto the ballot for the next round. Similar to the ballot, I will start with a comment calling for nominations, which can then be made as a response to my comment. The format for your comment should be “Nomination: Player Name”.
  • After the first nomination for a player has been put in, all other votes for that player will come from Rec’ing his comment. The player with the most Rec’s earns the nomination.
  • If a prospect is traded, his name will be crossed out, and all other players will be moved up a space. If a prospect is acquired, a special vote will be put up to determine where that player should rank.

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We have five nominees in contention for the prestigious top slot in our spreadsheet. They include two premium 1st-round draft picks (both No. 6 overall), a breakout 3rd-rounder, a high-profile international recruit, and a prized July trade acquisition. Here’s a quick rundown on each one — the scouting grades (on a 20-to-80 scale) and scouting reports come from MLB Pipeline (last updated mid-2018). Ages listed are the ages at which they will play in 2019.

Hitter rates (poor/avg/great): wRC+ (75/100/135), BB% (5.0%/8.5%/12.0%), K% (14%/22%/30%)

Jesus Luzardo, LHP

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 21

2018 stats (A+): 1.23 ERA, 14⅔ ip, 25 Ks, 5 BB, 0 HR, 1.37 FIP
2018 stats (AA): 2.29 ERA, 78⅔ ip, 86 Ks, 18 BB, 5 HR, 2.89 FIP
2018 stats (AAA): 7.31 ERA, 16 ip, 18 Ks, 7 BB, 2 HR, 4.62 FIP

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting Grades: Fastball: 65 | Curveball: 55 | Changeup: 60 | Control: 60 | Overall: 60

Luzardo showed the same velocity during his pro debut that he did before his elbow injury, as the southpaw consistently operated in the mid-90s while bumping 98 mph. The pitch has natural sinking action, while Luzardo’s feel for commanding it to both sides of the plate in turn sets up a plus changeup that features significant late fade and sink. Luzardo also demonstrates a feel for adding and subtracting with his curveball, while his entire arsenal plays up on account of his advanced control and command.

Luzardo’s combination of stuff and polish should help him move quickly through the Minor Leagues, though the A’s are sure to remain protective of the young lefty as he continues to distance himself from elbow surgery. If he can stay healthy, Luzardo could develop into a No. 3 starter, if not more.

* * *

A.J. Puk, LHP

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 24

2018 stats: Missed entire season due to Tommy John surgery

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Fastball: 70 | Slider: 65 | Curveball: 45 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 45 | Overall: 55

Puk has elite bat-missing ability, a notion supported by his Minor League-leading 13.2 strikeouts-per-nine in 2017. He induces many of those whiffs with his plus fastball-slider pairing, as he’ll operate at 93-97 mph with his heater to set up a devastating mid- to upper-80s slider. Puk also features a curveball and changeup, both of which improved as the season progressed. What’s more, Puk’s entire arsenal plays up because he gets tremendous extension from his 6-foot-7 frame.

Puk made strides as a strike-thrower in his first full season after making an adjustment to his delivery early in the year. His control and command should continue to improve as he learns to control his long levers and repeat his delivery with greater consistency. With further gains on that front, and the development of a more effective changeup to use against right-handed hitters, Puk could achieve his ceiling of a No. 2 starter.

* * *

Sean Murphy, C

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 24

2018 stats (AA): 289 PAs, 131 wRC+, 8 HR, 8.0% BB, 16.3% Ks
2018 stats (AAA): 12 PAs, 2-for-8, 3 BB, 2 Ks, HBP

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 50 | Run: 40 | Arm: 70 | Field: 65 | Overall: 55

Murphy draws raves from evaluators for his athleticism, agility and defensive tools behind the plate. He stymies the running game with plus-plus arm strength and above-average pop times, so much so that only 46 baserunners attempted to steal against him over 91 games in 2017. His blocking, game-calling and receiving skills have all improved in the professional ranks, and club officials consistently praise his ability to handle pitchers.

Offensively, Murphy possesses an intriguing blend of power potential and on-base skills from the right side of the plate. There’s some natural hitting ability there too, and he proved comfortable using the entire field in his first full season. Even if his production is only modest, Murphy’s defensive chops alone could make him an everyday catcher at the highest level.

* * *

Lazaro Armenteros, OF

Expected level: High-A | Age 20

2018 stats (A): 340 PAs, 126 wRC+, 8 HR, 10.6% BB, 33.8% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 55 | Run: 60 | Arm: 45 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50

Armenteros stands out for his hitting ability, raw power, speed and overall athleticism, the combination of which gives him the potential for four average-or-better tools. His bat speed is explosive and fuels his projection as an average hitter with above-average power, though his bat path through the zone, as well as his approach and overall plate discipline, will need to be ironed out.

Armenteros is expected to lose some of his speed and athleticism as he continues to grow into his already physically strong and mature frame. He’s best-suited long term for left field, where his below-average arm strength is a clean fit. That doesn’t leave much room for defensive flexibility, but Armenteros has the offensive upside to easily offset those concerns.

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Austin Beck, OF

Expected level: High-A | Age 20

2018 stats (A): 534 PAs, 103 wRC+, 2 HR, 5.6% BB, 21.9% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 55 | Run: 60 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50

Beck is loaded with loud, promising tools. He generates well-above-average bat speed from the right side of the plate, albeit with a swing that currently has some holes and overall inconsistencies. That should improve as Beck gains pro experience, however, and it could make him an average hitter in time. Beck’s plus raw power likely will be his calling card and could translate to 25-plus-homer seasons during his prime.

Beyond his offensive tools, Beck also possesses the plus speed and athleticism needed to play center field, where he spent his entire pro debut, though some evaluators peg him as a future right fielder on account of his remaining physical projection and plus arm strength. It may take Beck some time to learn to harness his tools and refine his game, but the final product could be that of a run-producing, everyday outfielder who also adds value with his baserunning and defense.

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Vote in the comments below for your favorite of the five by Rec’ing his “Vote: (Player Name)” comment, and post your nomination(s) as well!

Programming Note: Each CPL vote will run for a minimum of 24 hours, but some won’t get much more than that so don’t delay making your selections!