Over the offseason, the Athletics Nation community worked together to construct a top prospect list for the team via crowdsource votes. We voted on each spot individually, and we now have a complete list of the Top 30 Oakland A’s prospects entering 2019. Click here to learn more about each player.
With the 2019 draft just a few hours away, let’s take a look at the final list we came up with over the winter. Surely some of these players would move up or down if we re-ranked them today, but this was the landscape entering the season.
|1||Jesus Luzardo||LHP||21||AAA||Trade (Doo/Madson)|
|2||A.J. Puk||LHP||24||AAA||Draft (1R, 2016)|
|3||Sean Murphy||C||24||AAA||Draft (3R, 2016)|
|5||Austin Beck||OF||20||A+||Draft (1R, 2017)|
|6||Jorge Mateo||SS||24||AAA||Trade (Sonny)|
|7||Jameson Hannah||OF||21||A+||Draft (2R, 2018)|
|8||James Kaprielian||RHP||25||A+||Trade (Sonny)|
|9||Sheldon Neuse||3B||24||AAA||Trade (Doo/Madson)|
|10||Parker Dunshee||RHP||24||AAA||Draft (7R, 2017)|
|11||Grant Holmes||RHP||23||AA||Trade (Reddick/Hill)|
|12||Jeremy Eierman||SS||22||A+||Draft (2R, 2018)|
|14||Brian Howard||RHP||24||AA||Draft (8R, 2017)|
|15||Greg Deichmann||OF||24||AA||Draft (2R, 2017)|
|16||Skye Bolt||OF||25||AAA||Draft (4R, 2015)|
|17||Daulton Jefferies||RHP||23||AA||Draft (1R, 2016)|
|18||Tyler Ramirez||OF||24||AAA||Draft (7R, 2016)|
|19||Nick Allen||SS||20||A+||Draft (3R, 2017)|
|20||Wyatt Marks||RHP||24||A+||Draft (13R, 2017)|
|22||Gus Varland||RHP||22||A+||Draft (14R, 2018)|
|23||Kevin Merrell||SS||23||AA||Draft (1R, 2017)|
|24||Tanner Anderson||RHP||26||AAA||Trade (minor)|
|25||Jonah Heim||C||24||AA||Trade (Wendle)|
|26||Hogan Harris||LHP||22||--||Draft (3R, 2018)|
|28||Alfonso Rivas||1B||22||A+||Draft (4R, 2018)|
(The “Level” column includes a couple of guesses for where currently injured/inactive players will end up. The “Age” column refers to the age at which the player will play in 2019, even if he hasn’t quite had his birthday yet.)
(Extra note: OF Kyler Murray, last year’s 1st-round draft pick, would have been No. 7 on this CPL if he hadn’t left to play in the NFL.)
(We also voted on an Alternate Top 10, in order to rank a few of last year’s graduates. Had they not barely graduated to rookie status, we would have put OF Ramon Laureano No. 2, IF Franklin Barreto No. 5, and OF Dustin Fowler No. 8.)
Where do they come from? Of the 30 names on the CPL, 17 were drafted by Oakland (one from 2015, four from 2016, seven from 2017, and five from 2018), six more were international signings, and the other seven came from five different trades. Regarding the trades, the Sonny deal and Doolittle/Madson deal are the only ones that represent multiple players on the current list, while the Reddick/Hill deal still represents one spot and the other two were minor league swaps (Joey Wendle, and Wilkin Ramos). The big change there is the high number of international signings (specifically, that the A’s signed themselves, not acquired through trade), with the total of six being higher than at least our last four lists (which had 1, 4, 3, and 3, respectively).
Quick comparison to last year’s CPL:
- 6 of the 30 players are new to the organization -- five from the latest draft class, and Anderson via trade. That’s much lower than the last couple years (15 last year, 11 before that), which symbolizes the fact that the A’s are no longer in prospect-acquisition rebuilding mode but rather win-now contention.
- Only two of those newcomers are in the top half of the list, and only one is in the Top 10 (Hannah).
- Another seven players stepped up from within the organization to join the CPL (Barrera, Marks, Brito, Heim, Blanco, Diaz, Romero).
- Therefore 13 members of last year’s CPL are gone, with the following breakdown: 4 graduates (Barreto, Fowler, Laureano, Trivino), 2 more who simply lost support (Sawyer, Campos), and 7 who are gone from the org entirely (Shore, Chalmers, Blackwood, Toffey were traded in July/Aug, Martin was taken away in Rule 5, and Boyd and Lucas departed as free agents).
- Eight players moved up the list without graduating, led by Dunshee (27 up to 10), Howard (29 up to 14), Bolt (26 up to 16), and Luzardo (6 up to 1).
- Seven players moved down the list without falling off, especially Merrell (14 down to 23); the rest only moved down slightly (1-3 spots).
- Two players stayed in exactly the same spots as last year (Kaprielian at 8, Ramirez at 18).
The farm had a poor year overall in 2018. There were lots of injuries and several more disappointing performances, and the Top 10 was hit hard by both of those factors. On top that, the Top 5 lost two names to lackluster debuts/graduations, and the middle ranks saw some interesting guys traded away, all while losing the most recent 1st-round draft pick (Murray) in a high-stakes gamble that busted spectacularly.
On the bright side, many of the injured players are finally getting back on the field, and a couple of last year’s flops are bouncing back. Furthermore, the A’s have a competitive MLB team now, which makes a strong farm more of a luxury than a critical necessity — and one reason the farm is weaker now is that a lot of big prospects from the recent past have moved up to Oakland (or been traded for current A’s). And anyway, they have their fair share of impact talent at the top of the list, and most of it is right on the cusp of reaching the majors and making a difference.
One way to measure that top talent is by looking at the national Top 100 lists. The A’s had exactly three players make every major list, with Luzardo, Puk, and Murphy, and usually in that order. There’s a clear consensus that these are Oakland’s three top prospects, and that they are all top-end talents. That’s a step down from last year, when seven different names showed up and three were consensus picks, but the A’s still have their fair share of representation and this year’s consensus picks ranked slightly higher than last time.
|Luzardo (16)||Luzardo (10)||Luzardo (13)||Luzardo (27)||Luzardo (31)||Luzardo (11)|
|Puk (38)||Puk (22)||Puk (77)||Murphy (35)||Puk (33)||Puk (29)|
|Murphy (40)||Murphy (66)||Murphy (95)||Puk (40)||Murphy (88)||Murphy (45)|
Of course, the downside is that all three of those top names are currently injured, between Luzardo’s shoulder, Puk’s TJS, and Murphy’s torn meniscus, but all are expected to get back on the field this year. In addition to those Top 100 rankings, Sickels singled out Hannah and Howard for honorable mentions as sleepers.
Next up, here’s a further breakdown of our CPL voting. After each ballot I recorded the winner’s margin of victory, to show which votes were close and which were landslides. This is far from scientific, but theoretically the gaps should illustrate the notable drop-offs from one general tier of talent to the next, while the bunches reveal the parts of the list that are effectively ties.
The community clearly agreed on Luzardo in the top spot, and Puk and Murphy after him, with that whole trio well ahead of the pack. The next big drop-off is either after Beck (Top 5) or Eierman (Top 12), and then there’s another after Allen (Top 19). The final group at the end also has a mini-dropoff after Heim (No. 25).
I’d split the list up into the following tiers (labels are meant to be broad and general, not specific and perfect):
- Nos. 1-3: Consensus Top 100, maybe even Top 50 (Luzardo to Murphy)
- Nos. 4-5: In the mix for Top 100, down to around Top 200 (Armenteros to Beck)
- Nos. 6-12: B-/C+, high draft picks and high-ceiling questions (Mateo to Eierman)
- Nos. 13-19: C+/C, sleepers and long-term projects (Barrera to Allen)
- Nos. 20-30+: C/C-, mostly lotto tickets (Marks to Romero and beyond)
Next up, here are AN’s rankings compared with some other prominent lists.
A total of 15 different players were mentioned in at least one version of the Top 10, though a few of the lists are skewed because they included Murray before his switch to the NFL (usually at No. 4). Of that group of 15, seven of those players were consensus picks on all eight lists. Here are the average rankings for all of them, with the consensus cutoff at Hannah. For instances when a player wasn’t mentioned in the Top 10, he was given a value of 11 for that list (even if he actually showed up later than 11 on a Top 20 or 30 list, like Dunshee on Pipeline and FanGraphs):
- Luzardo, 1.00
- Puk, 2.25
- Murphy, 2.75
- Beck, 4.62
- Armenteros, 4.88
- Mateo, 6.50
- Hannah, 7.25 (cutoff)
- Kaprielian, 8.50
- Neuse, 9.25
- Holmes, 10.00
- Dunshee, 10.38
- Eierman, 10.63
- Allen, 10.63
- Deichmann, 10.75
- Barrera, 10.88
Luzardo is the consensus No. 1, and there’s still a dropoff after Murphy, ahead of a near-tie between Beck/Armenteros (and just barely in the opposite order we ranked them). The 6-12 spots finished exactly like we had them on the CPL, except that Holmes passed Dunshee — the latter was on more Top 10 lists, but Holmes placed higher on the occasions that he did appear. Eierman and Allen both appeared twice, but Eierman gets the tiebreaker for ranking higher more often than not. Deichmann and Barrera each made one list.
Finally, here’s a streamlined version of the org depth chart, designed to highlight the cream of the crop and leave out the hoi polloi. This one only includes the Top 30 list, plus nine more names in italics who received mentions on other sources’ lists (in the big roundup above), and then five more (in italics and parentheses) who graduated to rookie status in 2018. The point of this chart is to give a representation of the A’s long-term future, even in cases where they’re not quite technically prospects anymore.
Of course, there are many other young stars on the MLB team that aren’t listed here, some of whom haven’t even reached arbitration yet, such as Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Chad Pinder, and some pitchers. But for the most part, Oakland’s current win-now roster doesn’t feature a lot of rookies or sophomores.
The pitching is deep throughout the system, especially now that a lot of the big names are returning from their long injury layoffs. There are at least a few interesting starters at every level down through High-A. The outfield ranks are also deep, which is quite a turnaround from a couple years ago.
However, the most interesting part of that chart is how many bold names there are in Triple-A. Over half of the Top 10 is already at the highest level of the minors, meaning that an already good A’s team could be in for some serious, impactful reinforcements before this summer is over. Granted, some of those top names are repeating Triple-A, and some are hurt right now, but it would be surprising to not see at least one new rookie sensation as 2019 goes on.
We’re already two months into the season, so we’ve gotten our first looks at both the A’s and their minor league system, and today’s draft will add a couple new names to the ranks. There’s still a long way to go, though, and a lot can happen between now and September. We’ll keep following along every step of the way.