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Oakland A’s 2019 Community Prospect List #4: Lazaro Armenteros impresses in full-season debut

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He’s still a long way from MLB, but now one step closer.

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Photo credit: Andrew Carlson | Provided by Beloit Snappers

Our 2019 Community Prospect List finally dips down into the lower minors, and there it finds the first of a couple high-ceiling young outfielders. Here’s the current list, including their winning margins (the difference between his % of the vote, and the % of the runner-up):

  1. Jesus Luzardo, LHP (+78%)
  2. A.J. Puk, LHP (+7%)
  3. Sean Murphy, C (+80%)
  4. Lazaro Armenteros, OF (+1%)

For the last couple years, the Oakland A’s have been forced to more or less sit out the international market. They can sign players from Latin America, but only minor ones. They haven’t been able to go after any of the biggest fish in that proverbial pond, and this is why. Because in 2016 they signed Lazaro Armenteros, and they spent so much on him that the rules made them go sit on time-out for a while.

Well, that’s a bit of an oversimplification. The A’s signed some other pricey prospects during that same 2016 period, like Norge Ruiz, Marcos Brito, and Yerdel Vargas. And anyway, Lazarito’s $3 million didn’t exceed the team’s bonus pool on its own. But he was the primary prize of that spending spree, and presumably the driving force behind Oakland’s willingness to overspend enough to incur significant future penalties.

Fortunately, the investment is paying off so far. Lazarito debuted in U.S. pro ball in 2017, and then last summer he moved up to a full-season league for the first time — at age 19. The A’s held him back for the first month in the Wisconsin cold, but he played for the rest of the year (other than a minor injury that cost him June). In 79 games he rated as the best hitter for Single-A Beloit, leading the team in wRC+ and ranking highly in the homer and walk departments. It wasn’t a perfect performance, as his high strikeout rate still stands out as a red flag he’ll have to address and his speed hasn’t yet translated into productive base-stealing, but the early returns were certainly encouraging.

On the other side of the ball, Lazarito spent all year in LF next to superior defender Austin Beck in CF, and the reports suggest that Lazarito’s future is indeed in a corner (and his below-average arm means it’ll be left field, not right). That means his offensive game will have to do most or all of the carrying. But even with that caveat, the sky is the limit for this super-young, high-ceiling prospect.

Here is the process:

  • 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.

* * *

The new nominee is Jameson Hannah. The outfielder was the A’s 2nd-round draft pick last summer, right after Kyler Murray. Good news: Hannah definitely plans to play baseball. What’s more, his profile isn’t all that different from Murray’s in spirit, with a basis in excellent speed coupled with a promising bat. He didn’t play much in his pro debut last summer due to an ankle injury, but he participated in fall instructionals and he’s a big name to watch in 2019.

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

Jameson Hannah, OF

Expected level: High-A | Age 21

2018 stats (A-): 95 PAs, 119 wRC+, 1 HR, 6 SB, 9.5% BB, 25.3% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 45 | Run: 60 | Arm: 40 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50

Athletic college players who can hit are always in demand, and Hannah fits that profile. He recognizes pitches and manages the strike zone well, using his quick left-handed swing to repeatedly barrel the ball. He has the strength for at least 15-homer power and perhaps more and also should provide plenty of doubles. What’s more, Hannah has track record of performing well with wood bats, having overcome a slow start in the Cape Cod League to bat .392 during a season-ending 20-game hitting streak.

Hannah gets plus to plus-plus grades for his speed and was a successful if not especially prolific basestealer in college. He also uses his quickness well in center field, where he gets good jumps and can track down balls from gap to gap. His arm is his lone below-average tool but isn’t a huge handicap in center.

* * *

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.

* * *

Jorge Mateo, SS

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 24

2018 stats (AAA): 510 PAs, 62 wRC+, 3 HR, 25 SB, 5.7% BB, 27.3% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 45 | Run: 80 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50

Mateo has a nice all-around set of tools, but it’s his elite speed that enables him to truly impact games. He led the Minors with 82 steals in 2015 and tied for third with 52 in ‘17 to push his career total to 234 stolen bases in his first six pro seasons. Mateo’s wheels are equally dynamic out of the box, as he regularly turns in top-of-the-scale run times from home to first. His deceptive strength translates to sneaky raw power and he has an offensive ceiling of a .275 hitter with 15 homers per season, though he’ll need to tighten his plate discipline to become a quality leadoff man.

Mateo has the raw tools to stick at shortstop, most notably outstanding range and plus arm strength, though his consistency and focus in the field still leave something to be desired. Some scouts believe he’ll wind up at second base or in center field, the latter of which he played for the first time in his career in 2017.

* * *

Kyler Murray, OF

Expected level: Low-A? NFC? | Age 21

2018 stats: Hasn’t yet played pro baseball

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

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

Murray’s gains were obvious during his breakout spring as he made better contact, showed better aptitude for recognizing spin and did a better job of controlling the strike zone. He has the plus-plus speed to create havoc on the bases and the bat speed and strength to produce average power. The son of former Texas A&M quarterback and Brewers farmhand Kevin Murray and the nephew of two-time first-rounder and five-year big leaguer Calvin Murray, Kyler still needs to reduce his strikeouts further and is a work in progress defensively. He’s still learning reads and routes but has the quickness to outrun his mistakes and eventually could become at least a solid center fielder. His arm has regressed on the diamond and currently plays below average.

Oakland’s decision to allow Murray to play football in the fall comes with obvious risk, as any injury suffered on the gridiron likely would further delay the start of Murray’s baseball career. If he can stay healthy, Murray, with his tools and the surprising progress he has made on the diamond, could one day provide the A’s with a huge return on their investment.

* * *

James Kaprielian, RHP

Expected level: ??? | Age 25

2018 stats: Missed entire season (and 2017) due to Tommy John surgery

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 55 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 55 | Overall: 50

After working at 88-92 mph in college with a fastball that stood out more for its sink and command than it did for velocity, Kaprielian saw his velocity jump to 93-96 mph while touching 99 upon entering pro ball. He possesses a deep secondary arsenal, including a curveball, slider and changeup that all grade as at least above-average pitches when they’re on. Kaprielian controls and commands his pitches very well, doing a good job of delivering all of them from the same arm slot.

Considered more of a pitchability right-hander with a ceiling of a No. 3 starter when the Yankees drafted him, Kaprielian has shown frontline stuff when healthy. He’s fallen well behind the development curve and will have his workload monitored carefully moving forward, but the overall ingredients are there for Kaprielian to still move quickly once he finally returns to the mound, likely in mid-2018.

* * *

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!