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Oakland A’s 2019 Community Prospect List #6: Jorge Mateo doesn’t have much time left to rebound

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Can the speedster get back on track before running out of options in 2020?

Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Our 2019 Community Prospect List has a clear dropoff after the Top 5, but there is still lots of talent and promise to be found in the next set of names. 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%)
  5. Austin Beck, OF (+59%)
  6. Jorge Mateo, SS (+6%)

The Oakland A’s farm system had a rough year in 2018. Most of the top pitching prospects missed the season to injury, and many of the players who did stay healthy had their own struggles on the field. The farm still has lots of upside, but it also has more to prove than it did last spring.

Nobody represents that status better than Jorge Mateo. Acquired as a high-rish, high-upside gamble in the Sonny Gray trade, so far the risk side has won out. He shredded Double-A for 60 games in 2017, earning him the No. 3 spot on this CPL last winter, but his bat disappeared in Triple-A. His numbers went sour in every way possible, and there was no hidden split to provide encouragement that things were better than they looked. He simply had a bad year.

On the other hand, he’s still got some serious tools. His speed is 80-grade, and he’s also billed as a good defender at shortstop with an excellent arm. Baseball America has this to say about his hitting: “If Mateo can swing at more strikes, he has the bat speed and exit velocity to succeed.” MLB Pipeline agrees that there is “sneaky raw power” if he can only learn to use it. A plus shortstop doesn’t have to hit much to have value.

So how do you grade a prospect like that? He’s had brief snippets of success in the minors but also long stretches of mediocrity, plus a real clunker in his most recent sample. But he was also on an aggressive assignment up to Triple-A, playing half his games in possibly the worst hitter’s park in the sport, and he won’t even turn 24 until next June. You could make a good case for being patient with his raw talent, and an equally good one for giving up on him already. His value is way down right now but he still has plenty of dormant potential, and so goes much of the A’s farm this winter.

As for Mateo, Athletics Nation appears to be sticking with him for one more season. He gets the nod to lead off this next tier of prospects on the CPL, and we’ll see what he does in a repeat of Triple-A at a new, presumably friendlier home park in Las Vegas.

Whatever happens with Mateo’s career, though, his time with the A’s may well be at a make-or-break point this summer. He’s already on the 40-man roster and this is his last option year, which means in 2020 he’ll be out of options. If he doesn’t make his move this season and force his way up to Oakland, how long will the A’s wait before selling while they still can? Will they enter spring 2020 with the risk of maybe losing him on waivers, or just trade him first? Stay tuned to find out what happens!

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.

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The new nominee is Sheldon Neuse. Like Mateo, he moved up to Triple-A quickly and then struggled there for all of 2018. He’s still got a promising bat, though, and he’s not in the same hurry roster-wise as Mateo. He’s currently blocked at 3B by Matt Chapman, but that doesn’t have any bearing on his individual prospect stock.

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

Sheldon Neuse, 3B

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 24

2018 stats (AAA): 537 PAs, 72 wRC+, 5 HR, 6.0% BB, 32.0% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

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

Neuse’s right-handed swing is short and simple, but he also keeps his barrel in the hitting zone for an extended period of time and drives the ball across the whole field. He has above-average raw power and already knows how to get to it in games, a notion supported by his 16 home runs and 26 doubles across three levels in 2017. Some scouts still question how it will translate at higher levels because his game does have some swing-and-miss tendencies, albeit with sound overall plate discipline.

Neuse is a fringe-average runner who shows good instincts on the bases and in the field. A shortstop in college, Neuse saw time there as well as third base prior to being dealt, but he handled the hot corner exclusively after joining the A’s. He profiles as an average defender there, with soft hands, good range and a plus arm that produced 94 mph off the mound in college. Regardless of his position, Neuse has the hitting ability to profile as a big league regular.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

Parker Dunshee, RHP

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 24

2018 stats (A+): 2.70 ERA, 70 ip, 82 Ks, 17 BB, 7 HR, 3.53 FIP
2018 stats (AA): 2.01 ERA, 80⅔ ip, 81 Ks, 14 BB, 5 HR, 2.92 FIP

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

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

What Dunshee may lack in stuff he makes up for with pitchability, showing feel for sequencing and commanding for pitches. He works with average velocity, sitting 89-92 mph with a fastball that he throws with late sinking action and commands to both sides of the plate. He changes speeds well, utilizing a slider and a changeup, both average pitches, as well as a curveball that serves as a change-of-pace offering. He repeats his simple delivery with ease and throws all four of his pitches for strikes.

Dunshee gets the most of his average stuff, and while he doesn’t project to miss as many bats at higher levels as he has earlier in his career, he’s adept at generating weak contact and has proven plenty durable. It is a No. 5-starter profile if it all clicks, with the floor of a middle reliever capable of eating innings.

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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!