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Oakland A’s 2019 Community Prospect List #13: Luis Barrera takes huge step forward

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The outfield sleeper finally jumped fully onto the radar.

Photo credit: Meghan Camino | Stockton Ports

Our 2019 Community Prospect List adds a first-timer who’s been in the organization for years. 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%)
  7. Jameson Hannah, OF (+4%)
  8. James Kaprielian, RHP (+13%)
  9. Sheldon Neuse, 3B (+12%)
  10. Parker Dunshee, RHP (+21%)
  11. Grant Holmes, RHP (+7%)
  12. Jeremy Eierman, SS (+31%)
  13. Luis Barrera, OF (+15%)

The Oakland A’s signed Luis Barrera all the way back in July 2012, when he was still 16 years old. This is the seventh offseason in which he’s been a part of the organization, and for the first time he finally cracks the CPL — and not just at the bottom fringes, either.

After three years in Rookie Ball, and another couple in the lower reaches of A-ball, Barrera took a big step forward last summer. At age 22, he put together an above-average batting line in High-A, and then moved up to Double-A for a couple months and hit even better. Then he went to the Arizona Fall League and was named to the Fall Stars team there, and in November the A’s chose to put him on the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft even though he’s barely even played in the upper minors.

Translation: The sleeper has now awoken and become an outright prospect. It’s not exactly a breakout, because he’s hit similarly well at his previous stops in the minors too. And it’s not that he came out of nowhere, because he’s been bubbling under the surface of the Top 30 for years. Rather, his steady march up the farm system has reached a high enough level, coupled with some strong tools, that his outlook has gone from being an intriguing “what if” to an almost foregone “when.”

As for those tools, the best ones might be on the defensive side of the ball. During the AFL, Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs rated his arm as a 70-grade and his speed as at least 70 as well. It will be interesting to see what MLB Pipeline has to say next week when they release their updated rankings, but one way or other the point is he’s a notable plus in those areas. On top of that, at the plate he’s displayed the ability to avoid strikeouts, which has helped offset his lack of power.

It’s easy to see a floor as a fourth outfielder. He should be able to handle all three outfield positions, and he can at least make contact at the plate and make trouble when he gets on base. The question is whether he can hit enough to be more than that, and that’s what we’ll begin to find out over the next couple seasons as he spends more time in the upper minors. His high floor and remaining upside each might have gotten him onto the CPL on their own this winter, but the combination pushed him up to the top half of the list.

The A’s suddenly have an extremely crowded outfield mix. The MLB roster is overflowing, some of the odd men out will surely end up in Triple-A, and there are already a couple other Double-A prospects who might warrant promotions ahead of Barrera. It’s possible he might return to Midland to start the season, especially considering he’s only played 36 games there, so there’s still a ways to go on his journey toward the bigs. But after more than half a decade on the farm, he’s finally on the CPL, and emphatically so.

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 (or leaves for the NFL), 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 Nick Allen. The A’s drafted him in the 3rd round in 2017, and went way overslot to sign him away from college. His calling card is his defense at shortstop, and he also showed off his plus speed in his pro debut by leading Single-A Beloit in steals. He hasn’t hit much yet, but he was also a teenager in full-season ball so he warrants some patience in that department.

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

Nick Allen, SS

Expected level: A/A+ | Age 20

2018, A: 512 PAs, 73 wRC+, 0 HR, 24 SB, 6.6% BB, 16.6% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 30 | Run: 60 | Arm: 60 | Field: 65 | Overall: 45

There is no doubt among scouts that Allen can stick at shortstop. He’s already a plus defender there as a teenager, with outstanding range that leads to many highlight-reel plays, and plus arm strength that allows him to make throws from all over the diamond. On the other side of the ball, the jury is still out regarding Allen’s upside with the bat. While he shows good feel to hit and bat-to-ball skills, Allen desperately needs to add strength to his undersized frame in order to consistently impact the baseball. He’s a plus runner with outstanding instincts, knows how to play small ball and is aggressive on the basepaths.

Allen endears himself to scouts even more with his outstanding makeup and baseball IQ. His supporters see a Jose Altuve-type profile, albeit one with at least two full grades less power who relies more on his glove than bat to impact games.

* * *

Daulton Jefferies, RHP

Expected level: ??? | Age 23

2018 stats: Only threw two rehab innings (and nine since 2017) due to Tommy John surgery

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 55 | Overall: 45

When he’s healthy, Jefferies will add and subtract from his heater, sitting comfortably in the low 90s but also reaching back for 95 mph, with feel for locating to both sides of the plate as well as down in the zone. His changeup is his best secondary pitch, a mid-80s offering thrown with fastball-like arm speed and late fading action, and he has the makings of a slider that should be at least Major League-average. A consistent, over-the-top release point allows him to create extension and angle toward the plate, and everything he throws plays up due to his advanced control and command. In general, Jefferies should miss even more bats with improvement to both his changeup and slider.

Jefferies is a good athlete with clean arm action and a repeatable delivery. But as an undersized righty with a checkered medical history, he’ll need to prove he can handle the rigors of a full season on the mound. If he can do so, Jefferies’ stuff, pitchability and deception could make him a No. 4 starter at the highest level. He’s expected to return to game action sometime around the middle of the 2018 season.

* * *

Skye Bolt, OF

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 25

2018, AA (11 gms): 50 PAs, 17 wRC+, 0 HR, 0 SB, 8.0% BB, 34.0% Ks
2018, A+ (46 gms): 209 PAs, 141 wRC+, 9 HR, 9 SB, 14.8% BB, 22.5% Ks
2018, AA (64 gms): 265 PAs, 125 wRC+, 10 HR, 10 SB, 8.7% BB, 22.5% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

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

A switch-hitter, Bolt is considerably better from the left side of the plate, where he exhibits more impactful swing and hit 17 of his career-high 19 homers in 2018. Some evaluators believe he’d be better off batting solely from that side. He has some raw power from both sides and is a relatively disciplined hitter, but his pitch recognition leaves much to be desired and hinders the quality of his contact.

One of the better college athletes in his Draft class, Bolt has spent the majority of his pro career center field, where he gets excellent jumps and is an overall rangy defender. That ability to play up the middle as well as Bolt’s above-average arm strength give him inherent value as a future fourth outfielder, especially if he can learn to make more contact.

* * *

Greg Deichmann, OF

Expected level: A+/AA? | Age 24

2018, A+ (47 gms): 185 PAs, 77 wRC+, 6 HR, 9.2% BB, 34.1% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

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

Deichmann’s power is his calling card. The big left-handed hitter has impressed scouts with his bat speed and strength dating back to his high school days, and he’s shown that he can get to it consistently in the past year-plus after shortening his swing and adopting a more selective approach. Deichmann’s improved approach also has helped him in using the entire field, though much of his power remains to his pull side. And while strikeouts will always be a part of Deichmann’s game given his power-over-hit profile, he does offset some of those concerns with perennially strong walk rates and on-base skills.

A shortstop in high school, Deichmann saw time at first base at LSU before finding a home in right field, where his above-average arm and power profile are clean fits. He’s a below-average runner but moves well underway, and with improved reads and routes, he could become an average defender.

* * *

Brian Howard, RHP

Expected level: AAA | Age 24

2018, A+: 2.38 ERA, 72 ip, 77 Ks, 14 BB, 9 HR, 3.91 FIP
2018, AA: 3.48 ERA, 67⅓ ip, 63 Ks, 23 BB, 7 HR, 4.00 FIP

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

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

Howard compensates for his lack of plus stuff by combining natural deception with feel for commanding four pitches. Working from an over-the-top release point, Howard generates a fastball that sits at 88-92 mph but features a higher perceived velocity due to his angle and extension towards the plate. The tight spin on Howard’s upper-70s curveball gives the pitch late bite, and he’s effective at pitching inside against left-handed hitters with his cutter. Howard’s changeup requires further development but serves as a usable fourth pitch.

While most tall pitchers with long levers usually struggle to throw strikes, Howard has proved adept throughout his career at repeating his delivery and pounding the zone. He also receives high marks for his competitiveness and overall aptitude on the mound, with many evaluators pegging him as high-probability, back-end starter at the highest level.

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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!