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Oakland A’s prospect watch: 2019 rosters for minor league affiliates

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Here’s how the A’s farm is organized to begin the season.

Stud catcher Sean Murphy opens in Triple-A
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The 2019 minor league season got started a few weeks ago, so let’s analyze how the rosters shook out for each Oakland A’s affiliate. We’re looking at the four full-season squads here — Triple-A Las Vegas, Double-A Midland, High-A Stockton, and Single-A Beloit.

Note: Some of the injured players are officially on their respective affiliates’ injured lists, but some are technically unassigned and I’ve just placed them where they make the most sense. In those latter cases, my guesses are noted. Thank you to Athletics Farm for help with some of the injury diagnoses.

Triple-A Las Vegas Aviators

The A’s top affiliate boasts a phenomenal lineup, including five members of our Community Prospect List Top 30 and two more who would have made the Top 10 if they hadn’t just barely graduated last summer. There is impact talent up and down the order, and even the few bits of filler surrounding them are off to hot starts.

In the meantime, the pitching doesn’t have that same prospect power, but that’s partly because the top names opened the year hurt and won’t return until midsummer. Instead, the staff offers plenty of depth for the MLB team to call on when needed. Names like Mengden, Blackburn, Blevins, and Buchter are all capable of stepping up to Oakland at any moment, and behind them are some interesting veteran lotto tickets — the type that the A’s occasionally hit the jackpot with.

Update: Blevins was traded to the Braves a few hours after this was published.

Las Vegas Aviators 2019 April roster
Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Tyler Alexander (L)
Tanner Anderson** (R)
Paul Blackburn** (R)
James Buchanan (R)
Daniel Mengden** (R)

Relievers

Jerry Blevins (L)
Ben Bracewell (R)
Ryan Buchter** (L)
Kyle Lobstein (L)
Miguel Romero (R)
Brian Schlitter (R)
Cody Stull (L)
Wei-Chung Wang (L)

Injured

Dean Kiekhefer (L)
Jesus Luzardo (L)
A.J. Puk (L)
Andrew Triggs** (R)
Catchers

Sean Murphy (R)
Beau Taylor (L)

Infielders

Franklin Barreto** (R)
Seth Brown (L)
Eric Campbell (R)
Corban Joseph (L)
Jorge Mateo** (R)
Sheldon Neuse (R)

Outfielders

Skye Bolt** (S)
Dustin Fowler** (L)
Mark Payton (L)
Tyler Ramirez (L)

Injured

Nick Martini (L)** (R)

Players in bold are on the CPL. Players with asterisks** are on the MLB 40-man roster.

Key injuries

Kiekhefer and Triggs are officially on Vegas’ IL, while Luzardo and Puk are technically unassigned. Martini is on the major league IL but presumably would be in the minors at the moment even if healthy.

  • LHP Jesus Luzardo resumed throwing, but still 4-6 weeks from games (shoulder)
  • LHP A.J. Puk still on normal timetable, possible midseason return (TJS)
  • RHP Andrew Triggs is dealing with hip inflammation (h/t A’s Farm)
  • OF Nick Martini is “close” to returning (knee)

Extra notes

  • Mengden, Blackburn, and Buchter are familiar names who appeared for Oakland last year. Buchter was on the A’s Opening Day roster this season but was sent down last week.
  • For more on the top prospects, browse through our Community Prospect List.
  • Among those CPL prospects, Mateo and Neuse are repeating Triple-A. Anderson is technically repeating as well, and has even debuted in MLB, but he’s converting to starting so it’s not quite the same as his past as a reliever.
  • Barreto and Fowler aren’t highlighted as CPL prospects because they narrowly graduated last summer, but they would have made our Top 10 if eligible.
  • Click here for more on the veteran depth guys, including Alexander, Blevins, Buchanan, Lobstein, Schlitter, Wang, and Campbell. The lefty pitchers on that list are particularly interesting, especially Alexander pitching in the rotation.
  • In addition to that list of free agents, Payton and Joseph were each added in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft. Click here (and scroll way down) for more info.
  • Bracewell opened the year in Double-A but received a quick promotion, in his age-28 season.
  • Biggest surprise: Romero was nails in High-A last year but then got roughed up in Double-A. He’s 25 already so I’m not necessarily surprised to see him on a faster track, but dang, that’s an aggressive promotion right out the gate after not really proving himself at the previous level.

Double-A Midland RockHounds

The Hounds finally ended their streak of championships, failing to make the playoffs at all last year after four straight league titles. Look out this summer, though, because their pitching staff looks quietly strong.

The lineup is a bit more of a question mark, but not without promise. There are a couple big names coming off disappointingly injured seasons, plus a couple less-heralded ones who broke out in the lower minors and now must prove they’re for real. If all goes well, though, don’t be surprised to see them competing for the first-half division title, which would be enough to get them back into the postseason.

Midland RockHounds 2019 April roster
Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Parker Dunshee (R)
Grant Holmes** (R)
Brian Howard (R)
Matt Milburn (R)
James Naile (R)
Logan Verrett (R)

Relievers

Trey Cochran-Gill (R)
Angel Duno (R)
Zack Erwin (L)
Kyle Finnegan (R)
John Gorman (R)
Trey McNutt (R)
Norge Ruiz (R)
Catchers

Jonah Heim (S)
Collin Theroux (R)

Infielders

Edwin Diaz (R)
Kevin Merrell (L)
Anthony Miller (L)
Nate Mondou (L)
Brallan Perez (R)
Mikey White (R)

Outfielders

Dairon Blanco (R)
Chase Calabuig (L)
Greg Deichmann (L)
Luke Persico (R)

Injured

Luis Barrera** (L)

Players in bold are on the CPL. Players with asterisks** are on the MLB 40-man roster.

Key injuries

Extra notes

  • I love this rotation. It has three of my favorite sleepers (Dunshee, Howard, Milburn), one of my favorite fringe/filler guys (Naile), and an actual big name to top it all off (Holmes, returned from missing all of 2018 to injury).
  • The bullpen is also fun. Finnegan brings triple-digit heat, Gorman was quietly strong last summer, and Duno was excellent in High-A after switching to relief and got a look in the AFL. Erwin and Ruiz are the newest converts to relief and are so far striking out the world from the bullpen. Cochran-Gill briefly opened in High-A but is back in Midland. McNutt is an interesting flyer with a backstory.
  • Verrett has 150 innings of MLB experience, but spent last year in Korea. So far he’s been piggybacking on Holmes’ starts.
  • The lineup contains five members of our CPL, but none higher than No. 13 (Barrera). The others are Deichmann (15), Merrell (23), Heim (25), and Blanco (27).
  • Miller was another minor league Rule 5 pick this past winter. For some reason I thought he had converted to pitching, but he hasn’t.
  • Calabuig was drafted in 2018 and already came up to take Barrera’s spot, but let’s not read too much into that yet. It was too soon to bring up the young stud outfielders from High-A, whereas Calabuig was a senior draft pick who is already 23 and has at least shown mature plate discipline. Maybe something will come of this quick promotion, but I think it’s more meaningful that he opened in Beloit than that he got this particular emergency call. He got a similar early callup last summer when Stockton needed help, but still got bumped down to Beloit initially this season, which suggests to me that he’s only this high up right now because of team need.

High-A Stockton Ports

This might end up being the most fun team in the A’s system this summer. The lineup is stacked, especially the outfield, and there are several notable pitchers including the returns of two major injury cases that we’ve waited a long time for — well, one of them is back so far, at least.

Stockton Ports 2019 April roster
Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Xavier Altamirano (R)
Brady Feigl (R)
Daulton Jefferies (R)
Mitchell Jordan (R)
Jared Poche' (L)

Relievers

Peter Bayer (R)
Nick Highberger (R)
Pat Krall (L)
Seth Martinez (R)
Joel Seddon (R)
Sam Sheehan (R)
Jesus Zamrbano (R)

Injured

Boomer Biegalski (R)
Will Gilbert (L)
James Kaprielian** (R)
Wyatt Marks (R)
Dalton Sawyer (L)
Andrew Tomasovich (L)
Gus Varland (R)
Catchers

Jordan Devencenzi (R)
JJ Schwarz (R)

Infielders

Nick Allen (R)
Jonah Bride (R)
Jeremy Eierman (R)
Hunter Hargrove (R)
Trace Loehr (L)
Alfonso Rivas (L)

Outfielders

Lazaro Armenteros (R)
Austin Beck (R)
Jameson Hannah (L)
Mickey McDonald (S)

Players in bold are on the CPL. Players with asterisks** are on the MLB 40-man roster.

Key injuries

Gilbert, Kaprielian, and Marks are officially on Stockton’s IL, while Biegalski, Sawyer, Tomasovich, and Varland are technically unassigned but make most sense listed here.

  • RHP James Kaprielian still isn’t back in games yet, but as recently as 4/17 he reported that he was at least throwing to hitters again
  • RHP Wyatt Marks started the season but pitched poorly in four games, and hit the IL on Friday with a sore shoulder (h/t A’s Farm)
  • RHP Gus Varland is recovering from knee surgery
  • LHP Dalton Sawyer is still recovering from Tommy John surgery (from early last season)
  • LHP Andrew Tomasovich has a back injury
  • RHP Boomer Biegalski missed most of last season too, after an extremely promising start

Extra notes

  • The entire outfield made the Top 7 of our CPL: Lazarito (4), Beck (5), and Hannah (7).
  • The infield isn’t bad either: Eierman (12) and Allen (19) have evenly shared 2B/SS, while Rivas (28) covers 1B.
  • Jefferies is finally back in games! It took two full years to recover from Tommy John surgery, but he’s back and looking great so far.
  • Sleepers to watch on the staff: Feigl nearly made our CPL, and Highberger got a shoutout from Baseball America this spring.
  • Players from the 2018 draft (including round): Hannah (2), Eierman (2/CB), Rivas (4), Feigl (5), Schwarz (8), and Bride (23), plus Varland (14) if he does indeed end up here.
  • Players from the 2017 draft: Beck (1), Merrell (1/CA), Deichmann (2), Allen (3), Poche’ (9), Marks (13), McDonald (18), Hargrove (25), and Krall (28).
  • Bayer was acquired last year for Wilmer Font, when the A’s gave up on that experiment.

Single-A Beloit Snappers

Finally, we have the Snappers. This level of the minors is pretty deep down the ladder, and if there’s a top prospect here then it’s because he’s super-young and taking a long-term development path (like Lazarito and Beck last year, and Brito this year). The rest of this group will be the best players from the middle rounds of last year’s draft, plus a handful of others who didn’t make the cut for High-A but are still showing just enough to get playing time somewhere.

If you’re following this team, then you are truly committed to the A’s farm. Welcome! However, don’t get too caught up in the stats at this level, and remember that the one truly meaningful thing a player can do in Beloit is get promoted to Stockton.

Beloit Snappers 2019 April roster
Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Chase Cohen (R)
Joe DeMers (R)
Daniel Martinez (R)
Aiden McIntyre (R)
Adam Reuss (R)

Relievers

Charlie Cerny (R)
Wandisson Charles (R)
Calvin Coker (R)
Michael Danielak (R)
Jaimito Lebron (R)
Eric Marinez (R)
Bryce Nightengale (R)
Brandon Withers (R)

Injured

Reid Birlingmair (R)
Catchers

John Jones (L)
Skyler Weber (L)

Infielders

Marcos Brito (S)
Ryan Gridley (R)
Payton Squier (L)
Cobie Vance (R)
Nick Ward (L)

Outfielders

Anthony Churlin (R)
Logan Farrar (L)
Lester Madden (R)
Nick Osborne (S)
Noah Vaughan (L)

Players in bold are on the CPL.

Extra notes

  • Birlingmair is officially listed on Beloit’s IL.
  • From the 2018 draft (including round): Cerny (7), Cohen (9), DeMers (11), Vaughan (12), Coker (15), Nightengale (16), Vance (18), Martinez (21), McIntyre (22), Birlingmair (28), Jones (32), and Ward (34).
  • Reminder that the A’s drafted four right-handed pitchers last summer with the initials C.C. (not listed here is Clark Cota, 10th round, currently unassigned).
  • DeMers is a local guy from Martinez, and an alum of College Park High School.
  • Coker pitched in the AFL last fall as an emergency injury replacement (for Holmes), and he tossed 11 innings in which he gave up a bunch of runs but none were earned (also 11 Ks and 5 BB).
  • From the 2017 draft: Gridley (11), Squier (16), Danielak (19), Reuss (29), Withers (31), and Farrar (36).
  • Charles has long been touted as having triple-digit heat.
  • Marinez is a fascinating case. He spent several years in the A’s system as an infielder, with his throwing arm as his top tool, but he missed half of last season to a PED suspension. Now the team has moved him to the mound, where his fastball sits mid-90s and can touch 98 mph. Better yet, he’s off to an extremely hot start so far.
  • Madden is a 20-year-old who signed out of Cuba in December, for the $300K maximum the A’s are currently allowed to offer while they’re in the overspending penalty box. He’s off to a hot start in the pitcher-friendly Midwest League, though it’s mostly fueled by BABIP for now.
  • These names made Melissa Lockard’s Top 50 list at Oakland Clubhouse: Brito (25), Squier (39), Charles (40), Cohen (46), Coker (49), and DeMers (50). In addition, Churlin and Gridley were on her 2018 list.
  • Sleepers to watch: Leaving aside the 2018 draft class (and Brito on the CPL), Marinez and Gridley might be my favorites here, with Charles as the ever-present breakout candidate with his raw velocity.

Unassigned

Many players haven’t yet been assigned to affiliates, for various reasons. Some might be rehabbing injuries at extended spring training, others are holding back until short-season affiliates begin, and the rest are simply on the outside looking in until roster space opens up somewhere.

Here’s a list of some of the more relevant prospects. These are mostly young international names who haven’t quite reached full-season ball, plus a couple high U.S. draft picks who have been hurt so far (CPL prospects in bold):

  • RHP Jean Ruiz (inj)
  • RHP Skylar Szynski (inj)
  • RHP Oscar Tovar (susp)
  • LHP Hogan Harris (inj)
  • C Santis Sanchez
  • 1B RHP Miguel Mercedes
  • 2B Alexander Campos
  • SS Jhoan Paulino
  • SS Yerdel Vargas
  • 3B Jordan Diaz
  • OF Danny Bautista
  • OF George Bell
  • OF Lawrence Butler
  • OF Kevin Richards
  • OF Rafael Rincones

Ruiz is dealing with an injury, and Szynski is still on a long road back from TJS. Harris was injured last year too, but it’s unclear if it’s the same one or something new. Tovar was suspended for drugs again, this time a PED. Mercedes is converting from first base to pitching (h/t A’s Farm). Sanchez (5th, 2017) and Butler (6th, 2018) were both U.S. draft picks out of high school. Check out FanGraphs’ offseason list, and Diaz’s CPL post, for details on some of the others here.

There are many, many more unassigned players, including older names like RHP Jake Bray and RHP Kyle Friedrichs, who we’ve seen in the upper minors and/or the AFL.

Cuts

With all these names and a limited number of space in the universe, the A’s released a handful of players since the end of last season. Some of these guys you’ll recognize, and others never even reached the upper minors. They are listed here in order of the highest level at which they played meaningful time. The numbers at the end are their draft year/round.

  • RHP Corey Walter (AAA) (2014/28th)
  • RHP Sam Bragg (AA) (2013/18th)
  • LHP Evan Manarino (AA) (2015/25th)
  • OF Tyler Marincov (AA) (2013/8th)
  • OF Brett Siddall (AA) (2015/13th)
  • RHP Brendan Butler (A+) (2015/30th)
  • LHP Brandon Marsonek (A+) (FA)
  • RHP Heath Bowers (A) (2015/24th)
  • RHP Joseph Camacho (A) (int’l FA)
  • OF Jack Meggs (A) (2017/10th)
  • LHP Chris Kohler (A-) (2013/3rd)
  • 1B Aaron Arruda (A-) (2017/12th)

In addition, some of the offseason acquisitions were cut before the season began.

  • RHP Parker Bridwell
  • LHP Kyle Crockett
  • IF Cliff Pennington

Depth chart

Finally, here is the full depth chart. Players in bold are CPL prospects, players in italics are injured, and players with an asterisk* are on the 40-man roster. The Triple-A level is separated between those who have debuted in MLB, and those who haven’t. Within each position group, minor leaguers are ordered by considerations like experience, seniority, and who’s likely to get more playing time, not overall quality of prospect. One final reminder that some of the injured players aren’t officially assigned to these levels, but rather are my own speculative placements.

Updates: Blevins (AAA) traded to Braves; Harris (ETC) is injured; Mercedes (ETC) is now a RHP.