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Oakland A’s 2019 Community Prospect List #29: Jordan Diaz and low-minors lotto tickets

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The 18-year-old showed promise in AZL Rookie Ball.

Photo credit: Mike Moore/Oakland Athletics

Our 2019 Community Prospect List adds its youngest 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%)
  28. Alfonso Rivas, 1B (+5%)
  29. Jordan Diaz, 3B (+10%)

For the second straight year, the penultimate spot on the CPL goes to a teenage infielder out of Rookie Ball. Last winter it was Alexander Campos, and this time it’s Jordan Diaz. There’s not much to say about Diaz other than the stats and scouting reports that were on the ballot, but the short version is that he’s a promising hitter with excellent plate discipline who so far has been able to handle playing 3B.

Of course, there are any number of teenage lotto tickets who could fill this spot, as the A’s have done a nice job in their international recruiting the last few years. One of them is already on the list, as Brito clocked in at No. 21 after moving all the way up to Low-A Vermont. Diaz is as good a pick as any of the others, though, after finding early success stateside last summer. He made the MLB Pipeline list at No. 26 and the FanGraphs version at No. 18.

As for some of the other teenagers, Campos himself struggled in his own U.S. debut last year for the AZL A’s, and FanGraphs says he’s not a shortstop and not even a certainty to stay at second base. Yerdel Vargas is another relatively high-profile middle infielder who didn’t hit much in AZL Rookie Ball but still has relevant tools. Meanwhile, shortstop Jhoan Paulino played in the Dominican last summer at age 17, but FanGraphs already included him in their Top 30 due partly to his power potential.

In the outfield, FanGraphs gave an honorable mention to the group of Danny Bautista, George Bell, and Kevin Richards (70-grade speed for Richards), while Melissa Lockard of Oakland Clubhouse found room in her Top 50 for Rafael Rincones (acquired for Rajai Davis in 2017). Our final CPL ballot includes Lawrence Butler, drafted out of high school in the 6th round last year. The ‘17 draft produced high school catcher Santis Sanchez in the 5th round, but he missed last season due to a broken hamate.

As for the young pitchers (ages 20-22), the list has taken a couple losses. Abdiel Mendoza was traded last summer for six forgettable innings by Cory Gearrin, and Oscar Tovar is suspended for the beginning of this year due to a banned stimulant (he’d previously been suspended in 2016 for a non-PED drug of abuse). Jean Ruiz and flamethrower Wandisson Charles didn’t make much noise last summer, but are at least still around. Jose Mora made FanGraphs’ list, and Ismael Aquino made their honorables, both profiling as relievers. Skylar Szynski (2016, 4th round) missed the last two seasons after a lengthy elbow saga that ended in Tommy John surgery, but he still made Lockard’s list.

It could be years before we know the fates of some of these young prospects, but those are at least some names to keep an eye on in the tier beneath standouts Lazaro Armenteros and Austin Beck. For now, though, it’s Brito and Diaz who get the nod above the rest.

Here is the process, for our final vote of the year:

  • 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.
  • No more nominations necessary.
  • 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.

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The final nominee is Miguel Romero. The Cuban right-hander got off to a late start in U.S. ball, so he’s on the older side for a prospect, but he’s got stuff worth keeping an eye on. After struggling in High-A in 2017, he breezed through that level last summer but then stumbled anew in Double-A. He’s got a lot yet to prove, but if he does put it together then he could rise toward Oakland quickly.

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

Miguel Romero, RHP

Expected level: AA | Age 25

2018, A+: 1.84 ERA, 29⅓ ip, 33 Ks, 5 BB, 3 HR, 3.45 FIP
2018, AA: 6.00 ERA, 30 ip, 33 Ks, 12 BB, 4 HR, 4.39 FIP

Scouting report via Melissa Lockard, The Athletic (from pre-2018):

Romero has the potential to be a force out of the bullpen in the big leagues. The athletic right-hander can run his fastball up to 95 MPH and he has some life on the pitch. Fastball command is his biggest issue right now, but he did see some improvement in that area as the season went on. Romero has two potentially plus secondary pitches: a Bugs Bunny changeup and a sharp slider.

“His change-up is kind of Fernando Rodney-esque in terms of it having a swing-miss component to it,” A’s Assistant General Manager Billy Owens said during a midseason interview. “He has a nice slider. He is more of a power pitcher with a good change-up. Really excellent athlete. Outstanding physicality to him. He’s exciting.”

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

Tyler Alexander, LHP

Expected level: ?? | Age 27

2018 stats: Spent 2015-18 in independent leagues

Scouting report via Susan Slusser of S.F. Chronicle:

(A’s Asst GM Dan) Feinstein described Alexander as having a crossfire, deceptive delivery and a fastball that registers in the low 90s that he can cut and sink, plus a slider and a changeup. “Everything is down,” Feinstein said. “Everything is around the zone.”

... and our own coverage:

[In] 2017 Alexander set the all-time single season record for most strikeouts in any independent league. He fanned 167 batters in 148 innings that year, after coming one strikeout away from setting the record the previous season. I have no way to judge the competition he faced, but “the most ever in this league or any league like it” is a language I can begin to understand. The strikeout record had previously been held by Brandon Mann, who was also later signed by the A’s out of Indy ball and eventually made his MLB debut last summer for the Rangers.

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Vote in the comments below for your favorite of the five by Rec’ing his “Vote: (Player Name)” comment!