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Oakland A’s 2019 Community Prospect List #21: Marcos Brito is advanced beyond his years

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The teenager played among college draft picks last summer.

Photo provided by Vermont Lake Monsters

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%)

In 2016, the Oakland A’s went on a shopping spree on the international market, incurring overspending penalties that still affect them to this day. The big prize was Lazaro Armenteros, but three other prospects also received seven-figure bonuses, including an infielder named Marcos Brito.

While the A’s have a collection of promising Latin hitters who played in the Arizona Rookie League last summer, Brito set himself apart by rising up to Low-A Vermont. He was 18 at the time, the age of a high school senior, playing against a league made of mostly college juniors and seniors who had just been drafted in June. He didn’t put up huge numbers, but he held his own with an 89 wRC+ and strong plate discipline, including a high walk rate and a low swinging-strike rate.

Brito’s advanced placement last year reflects his relatively mature skills. FanGraphs recently ranked him 14th on their A’s prospect list, calling him “the most well-rounded, technically advanced player of Oakland’s splashy 2016 international signees.” They made note of the switch-hitter’s zone recognition on offense and his hands on defense.

Of course, there are downsides that kept him this low on the CPL. He’s already relegated to 2B rather than SS, which is the less valuable middle infield position. He also doesn’t have any power to speak of yet, with the question of how much more strength he’ll develop as he finishes growing.

There’s everything left to prove for Brito, but he’s got plenty of time to do it and he’s already ahead of schedule. He’s made real progress in the minors, and he’s got some intriguing skills that are worth keeping an eye on.

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 Hogan Harris. The lefty was the A’s 3rd-round draft pick last summer, but he’s yet to throw a pitch in the pros due to injury. On the bright side, it appears to have been an oblique injury rather than anything arm-related. He’s billed as having a wide arsenal of good pitches, so hopefully he’ll show off that talent this season.

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

Hogan Harris, LHP

Expected level: A/A+ | Age 22

2018 stats: Missed pro season to injury, but did pitch in college season

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

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

Harris created a stir by hitting 98 mph in mid-March after missing a month with an oblique injury, though he usually pitches at 91-94 with some run and angle on his fastball. He has aptitude for spin, throwing a curveball with power and depth and morphing it into a slider at times. He also has an effective changeup to combat right-handers.

While he possesses four pitches, Harris also has a lot of work to do to remain a starter at the next level. He lacks reliable command, and he loses velocity and location on his fastball at times when he falls in love with his breaking pitches. He also has a history of nagging injuries, leading to questions about his durability.

* * *

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.

* * *

Dairon Blanco, OF

Expected level: AA | Age 26

2018, A+: 346 PAs, 102 wRC+, 1 HR, 22 SB, 7.2% BB, 19.1% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 35 | Run: 80 | Arm: 45 | Field: 55 | Overall: 40

When Blanco made his A’s debut in the California League in 2018, it had been nearly two years since he had played competitively in Cuba. At the outset, it was all about his speed, an 80 on the 20-to-80 scouting scale, and defense. But he quickly shook the rust off and showed more offensive acumen than anticipated. There wasn’t as much swing and miss as some expected to see and he often showed a solid approach at the plate, with some signs of potential extra-base ability. His physicality and speed could add up to an average hitter.

There’s no doubt Blanco’s speed is his calling card. It allows him to be aggressive on the basepaths (22 steals in 82 games in his debut) and really go get the ball in the outfield. After his first season was cut short by a hamate injury, it will be interesting to see how quickly he can climb the ladder.

* * *

Gus Varland, RHP

Expected level: A+ | Age 22

2018, A-: 1.02 ERA, 17⅔ ip, 22 Ks, 4 BB, 0 HR, 1.84 FIP
2018, A: 0.93 ERA, 19⅓ ip, 28 Ks, 3 BB, 1 HR, 2.19 FIP

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 55 | Overall: 40

Varland cranked his fastball up to 95-96 mph at times at Concordia, but largely pitched at 92 mph during his summer debut in the A’s organization. He can fill up the strike zone with his heater and get swings and misses with it. He also misses bats with his slider, while he also was able to use the breaking ball and his changeup to get some ground-ball outs. While he has an up-tempo delivery, he’s always been a strike-thrower and continued that trend in his first taste of pro ball.

He’ll need to find a way to attack left-handed hitters, who hit him a bit better last summer, albeit in a small sample size, and refinement of the changeup could do that. He’s reminded some of Sonny Gray in terms of his aggressive demeanor on the mound and body type (though not in pure stuff), with a realistic ceiling as a back-end starter and a life as a reliever more likely.

* * *

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!