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Oakland A’s 2019 Community Prospect List #27: Dairon Blanco shows more than just speed in pro debut

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The 80-grade runner also held his own at the plate in his first year in the minors.

Photo credit: Meghan Camino | Stockton Ports

Our 2019 Community Prospect List adds its oldest member yet. 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%)
  18. Tyler Ramirez, OF (+17%)
  19. Nick Allen, SS (+50%)
  20. Wyatt Marks, RHP (+1%)
  21. Marcos Brito, 2B (+4%)
  22. Gus Varland, RHP (+7%)
  23. Kevin Merrell, SS (+18%)
  24. Tanner Anderson, RHP (+7%)
  25. Jonah Heim, C (+29%)
  26. Hogan Harris, LHP (+8%)
  27. Dairon Blanco, OF (+6%)

For the last couple years, the Oakland A’s haven’t been able to go after any big names on the international free agent market. After splurging on several expensive names in the 2016 class, led by Lazaro Armenteros, they had to mostly sit things out for a while due to how much they overspent on that group. However, they’ve still managed to pick up a couple of interesting under-the-radar talents in the meantime, and one of them is Dairon Blanco.

Speed is the calling card for Blanco, and he receives an 80-grade in that department from basically every source. He showed it off right away last year in his pro debut in High-A, stealing 22 bases in 24 tries over 82 games. His manager in Stockton noted (via A’s Farm): “Anytime it’s on the ground and bounces a couple of times, he has a chance to be safe.”

Beyond that, though, Blanco is a bit of a wild card. His defense gets promising grades but his arm doesn’t, and he played mostly LF last year for Stockton. His bat isn’t thundering, but he graded out around league-average overall (102 wRC+) thanks to things like solid plate discipline, keeping the strikeouts down, and hustling out a high BABIP. Those are the traits you’d hope for in a high-speed, low-power player, and indeed his manager praised his ability to battle at the plate and make contact with two strikes.

Complicating matters further is Blanco’s age. He got off to a late start in the minors due to the long process of getting out of Cuba, and he’ll already turn 26 next month — he’s two days older than Matt Chapman. On top of that, he also missed the final two months of last season to a broken hamate bone, which won’t affect him moving forward but did cost him playing time that he can hardly afford to miss.

It’s easy to see how it could all come together. If he keeps making contact, then his speed can help him get on base, cause havoc once there, and also give him a high defensive floor in the outfield. That’s the profile for a classic leadoff hitter or a dynamic fourth outfielder. On the other hand, he could just as easily turn out to be a one-tool guy who can’t steal first base, or he could simply run out of time as he gets deeper into his 20s.

Blanco showed a glimpse of the best-case scenario in the California League All-Star Game, winning MVP honors with a huge day. He went 4-for-5 in that contest, sparking a small-ball run in the 1st and later blasting an uncharacteristic dinger. Stay tuned to see how he responds to the upper minors, where he’ll presumably get a chance this summer.

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 Brady Feigl. The 5th-round pick is most famous so far for the fact that he has an identical name/face twin in the Rangers system, but he also had an impressive pro debut on the field. After dominating short-season Low-A ball, he got the chance to pitch a few games in full-season ball for Single-A Beloit and held his own there in a handful of innings. He’s yet another of many recent A’s mid-round draftee college pitchers who have gotten off to quick starts in the pros the last couple years.

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

Brady Feigl, RHP

Expected level: A+ | Age 23

2018, A-: 1.35 ERA, 20 ip, 27 Ks, 7 BB, 0 HR, 1.98 FIP
2018, A: 3.00 ERA, 6 ip, 7 Ks, 1 BB, 1 HR, 3.82 FIP

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades:Fastball: 50 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 50 | Overall: 40

Feigl had Tommy John surgery as a freshman at Mississippi. ... Big and strong, Feigl has an interesting three-pitch mix to work with, starting with a fastball that touched the mid-90s in his final college season, but sat more at 91-92 over the summer. It has a high spin rate and he can miss bats with it, though he also can keep it down in the zone with sink to elicit ground-ball outs. Both his slider and his changeup flash above-average at times, with his slider the more consistent of the two secondary offerings.

Feigl has always been a strike-thrower, but didn’t always command the ball well within the zone, leading to a higher hit rate in college than you’d expect given his stuff. That wasn’t the case in his small sample size in pro ball, so the A’s are intrigued to find out if he can continue that trend over 140-150 innings in a rotation.

* * *

Jordan Diaz, 3B

Expected level: A- | Age 18

2018, RK: 186 PAs, 121 wRC+, 1 HR, 10.2% BB, 11.8% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

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

The key to Diaz’s progress offensively was an increased understanding of his approach, and the right-handed hitter stayed with it all summer. He had some good exit velocity numbers with a line-drive approach and showed much better discipline, with a solid walk rate to show for it. Diaz didn’t try to lift the ball too much, but with a strong, stocky build, there is some power to grow into. He also improved defensively at third, working hard at it and putting aside some lazy tendencies he displayed in his first summer, and he looked like one of the better defenders at the hot corner in the AZL.

The A’s are excited to see how Diaz’s newfound maturity in terms of his approach, work ethic and consistency will allow him to progress moving forward. It’s too early to tell exactly what he’s going to be, but watching how he builds off of his encouraging 2019 should be interesting.

* * *

Dalton Sawyer, LHP

Expected level: A+ | Age 25

2018 stats: Missed entire season due to Tommy John surgery

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report (from mid-2018):

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

After working out of the bullpen exclusively during his pro debut, Sawyer made the transition to starting in 2017 and passed all tests. A 6-foot-5 southpaw whose delivery is loaded with deception, Sawyer pitches with fringe-average velocity, usually sitting around 90 mph. A changeup and a curveball comprise his secondary arsenal, with the former grading as an above-average pitch and the latter needing further refinement. He throws a lot of strikes but needs to improve his command, especially when it comes to his fastball.

Sawyer’s effectiveness against same-sided hitters is his greatest strength, and he held them to a paltry .100/.202/.127 slash line in 125 plate appearances in his first full season. That said, he’ll need to figure out a way to retire right-handed hitters to remain a starter after they slugged .446 with 17 home runs against him. Sawyer’s future might not be as a starter, but there’s enough there for him to carve out a bullpen role at the highest level.

* * *

Alfonso Rivas, 1B

Expected level: A+ | Age 22

2018, A-: 257 PAs, 137 wRC+, 1 HR, 14.0% BB, 17.1% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

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

The left-handed hitter’s calling card is his bat. He can flat-out hit and makes a ton of contact at the plate while showing solid on-base skills. The one knock on Rivas offensively has been his power, which hasn’t shown up consistently from his solid 6-foot frame. Some think the power will eventually come, and that will be important for him to profile at a corner position. He primarily plays first base, and has good footwork, solid hands and an above-average arm there, but he’s also played the outfield and might prefer playing right field if given the choice.

In either spot, Rivas’ ability to be a run producer will be important for him to profile as an everyday player there. Given his strengths as a hitter, Rivas could move relatively quickly through the Minors, especially if his power emerges as the A’s hope it will.

* * *

Lawrence Butler, OF

Expected level: RK/A- | Age 18

2018, A-: 124 PAs, 98 wRC+, 1 HR, 14.5% BB, 34.7% Ks

Athletics Farm scouting report:

The only high school player taken by the A’s in the first ten rounds of this year’s draft, Butler is still just 17. He’s clearly talented but also very raw. Butler boasts a big, athletic build and possesses an explosive swing with clear power potential. He also has above-average speed. The talented teen will need to develop a more defined approach at the plate, but he has the potential to blossom into a well-rounded impact player. Butler has spent time both at first base and in the outfield, and he could represent a legitimate option at both spots.

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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!