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Oakland A’s 2019 Community Prospect List #17: Daulton Jefferies waits to get pro career started

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The pitcher has spent two seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery

Photo provided by Oakland A’s

Our 2019 Community Prospect List adds a fourth pitcher who missed last season to injury. 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%)
  14. Brian Howard, RHP (+1%)
  15. Greg Deichmann, OF (+17%)
  16. Skye Bolt, OF (+11%)
  17. Daulton Jefferies, RHP (+12%)

There are only so many ways you can talk about an injured pitching prospect. We’ve already covered Puk, who missed 2018 to Tommy John surgery; Kaprielian, who missed 2017 and 2018 to a long TJS recovery; and Holmes, who missed 2018 to a shoulder issue. Now there’s another on the list.

Jefferies fits most closely into the injury category with Kaprielian. They both had TJS, within a week or two of each other around the end of April 2017. Both then missed the next two full seasons recovering, though that’s not the same as saying they missed two calendar years — more like 16 months, up through last early-September when minor league seasons ended. After all, both were healthy enough to throw in instructionals last fall.

Even 16 months is longer than average for TJS, but it’s not completely outside the reasonable range of normalcy nor into dealbreaker territory. It looks even worse than it is because of the awful timing of having these surgeries in April/May instead of, say, October, when more of the missed time would have happened during offseason months.

With similar injury situations, the one key difference between these two pitchers comes in their respective ceilings, and therefore the potential payoff at the end of this long wait. The AN community clearly prefers Kaprielian’s upside, as does MLB Pipeline, who put him 6th and Jefferies 14th on their newly updated 2019 list. There are questions about whether Kap’s mid/upper-90s velocity will come back post-surgery, but the same could be asked about Jefferies’ plus control/command, which tends to be the bigger concern in TJS recovery. Of course, in reality we don’t know exactly what to expect from either of them yet after particularly long layoffs and with no pro track records, but before their injuries Kap was considered the superior arm for whatever that’s worth.

There’s not much more to say than that. Just as Kap has thrown only 29⅓ innings in the pros, Jefferies has only racked up 20⅓ (and just seven frames above Rookie Ball). The next step is just for these guys to get back on the mound at all and pitch in some real-life baseball games, and when that happens we can truly reevaluate them and get an idea of where they stand moving forward.

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 Marcos Brito. After receiving a seven-figure bonus out of the D.R. (in the same int’l class as Lazarito), he reached U.S. ball in 2017 and then spent last season with Low-A Vermont. His numbers there don’t jump off the page, but he held his own and showed strong plate discipline at age 18 while playing against a bunch of college juniors/seniors. He’s considered a 2B rather than a SS, but is at least billed as a plus defender at the lesser position.

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

Note: MLB Pipeline released their updated 2019 A’s list today, so the scouting grades/reports below have been changed to the new ones.

Marcos Brito, 2B

Expected level: A | Age 19

2018, A-: 241 PAs, 89 wRC+, 1 HR, 11.2% BB, 20.7% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 30 | Run: 50 | Arm: 50 | Field: 55 | Overall: 45

It hasn’t shown up on the stat line just yet, but Brito has the chance to hit from both sides of the plate, though he’s a touch better swinging the bat left-handed. He’s added some strength as he’s matured and while he’s never going to be a power guy, there should be the ability to impact the ball with some extra-base authority to all fields. Brito initially spent time bouncing between second and third, but it’s looking more and more likely that second base is his long-term defensive home with an arm that’s a little short for the left side of the infield. He could eventually be a plus defender, though right now he mixes in making the spectacular play with losing concentration and making needless errors on routine plays.

Brito will play all of the 2019 season at age 19, so there’s plenty of time for his production to catch up to his potential. If it all clicks, he eventually could be a solid every day second baseman in the big leagues.

* * *

Nick Allen

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

Allen certainly did struggle in the first half of 2018, hitting just .198 with a. .513 OPS in the Midwest League before the All-Star break. Some of that is because of the aforementioned lack of strength, though the A’s think he can add some to help him stay durable, but much of it can be attributed to Allen having to deal with the loss of a family member in early May. In the second half, Allen corrected a little drift in his swing and started impacting the baseball more, posting a .274 average and .679 OPS after the break. His walk rate went up and his strikeout rate dropped as his pitch recognition improved. He also stopped worrying about trying to lift or drive the ball, understanding that consistent contact and on-base skills, combined with his plus speed, are his ticket.

There’s never been any question that Allen’s glove will carry him to the big leagues. His arm is strong and accurate and he can throw from any angle to go along with his plus range and outstanding hands. A greater understanding of who he is offensively could help him become a defensive-oriented regular.

* * *

Tyler Ramirez, OF

Expected level: AAA | Age 24

2018, AA: 594 PAs, 121 wRC+, 10 HR, 10.4% BB, 24.9% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

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

Ramirez is the kind of player whose whole is better than the sum of his parts. He’s a professional hitter with an understanding of the strike zone from the left side of the plate. He’ll draw walks and flash some power, but he’s more about spraying the ball around the field and getting on base, with the chance to be an above-average hitter if he can cut down his strikeout rate a bit more. Ramirez won’t wow you in the outfield, but he’s a very good defender in all three spots and can even hold down center despite not being that fleet afoot.

For Ramirez to be an every day player, it likely would be in left field, where there might be more pressure for power production. A career as a fourth outfielder is a more realistic outcome.

* * *

Jonah Heim, C

Expected level: AA | Age 24

2018, A+: 348 PAs, 113 wRC+, 7 HR, 8.3% BB, 17.2% Ks
2018, AA: 154 PAs, 29 wRC+, 1 HR, 6.5% BB, 14.3% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 40 | Run: 35 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 40

A long-limbed, switch-hitting backstop, Heim stands out more for his work behind the plate than at it. He receives well and has a strong arm that’s allowed him to throw out just over 34 percent of potential basestealers heading into 2019. Heim started to swing the bat with a bit more authority over the past two seasons and hit well in the California League before stumbling post-promotion. He has more of a line drive approach now, but he shows some raw power in batting practice and still has room to add strength. While it’s more leverage than bat speed, you can dream on some future pop.

The A’s would love to see Heim play with a little more urgency. A slow heartbeat for a catcher isn’t a bad thing, but some added energy could help him reach the big leagues as a backup backstop.

* * *

Kevin Merrell, SS

Expected level: A+ | Age 23

2018, A+: 290 PAs, 72 wRC+, 0 HR, 5 SB, 5.2% BB, 22.8% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 30 | Run: 70 | Arm: 45 | Field: 50 | Overall: 45

Merrell should be able to use his legs to wreak havoc on the basepaths. He’s still learning his left-handed swing and he had a tendency to hook balls on the ground early on. He’s now working on getting some separation so he can impact the ball, and he’s learning to slash the ball to the left side so he can use his legs to help him more. The combination of approach and speed could make him an above-average hitter, albeit one with little power, in time. It’s unclear what Merrell’s long-term defensive home will be. He’s unorthodox defensively at short, with a fringy arm, but he does have impressive range. He impressed in big league camp during 2018 Spring Training, playing on both sides of second base. He also played some outfield in college.

It could be that Merrell ends up fitting a super-utility role at the big league level, with his speed playing at a number of positions, though it’s too early to rule out an every day gig at second base. Most importantly, he needs to make up for lost at-bats in 2019.

* * *

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!