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Oakland A’s 2020 Community Prospect List: Who is the top prospect in the organization?

Athletics Nation votes on the team’s top prospect.

Who’s Number One?
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Who is the top minor league prospect in the Oakland A’s organization? There are several candidates to choose from, and we’re here to find out once and for all. Let’s get started on the 2020 Community Prospect List!

Here is the process. Please take a moment to read this before participating:

  • 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, 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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We have five nominees in contention for the prestigious top slot in our spreadsheet. They include two dominant lefty pitchers, an up-and-coming righty, and two elite defenders at up-the-middle positions. Three of the players were among the A’s top four picks in the 2016 draft, and another one was someone else’s 3rd-round pick from that same class. Three of the players were 3rd-round draft picks, and two of those came straight out of high school.

Here’s a quick rundown on each one — the scouting grades (on a 20-to-80 scale) and scouting reports come from MLB Pipeline (last updated mid-2019, except for Luzardo, Puk, and Murphy, which are current). Ages listed are the ages at which they will play in 2020.

Hitter rates (poor/avg/great):

  • wRC+ (75/100/135)
  • BB% (5.0%/8.5%/12.0%)
  • K% (14%/22%/30%)

Nominees on the current ballot:

Jesus Luzardo, LHP

Expected level: MLB | Age 22

2019 stats (AAA): 3.19 ERA, 31 ip, 34 Ks, 8 BB, 3 HR, 3.64 FIP
2019 stats (MLB): 1.50 ERA, 12 ip, 16 Ks, 3 BB, 1 HR, 2.63 FIP

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report (2020):

Scouting Grades: Fastball: 65 | Curveball: 55 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 65 | Control: 60 | Overall: 60

There’s no question Luzardo has the stuff to get big league hitters out right now. He’s got more than enough velocity, touching 98 mph and often sitting in the mid-90s, and it averaged 97 mph during his brief big league debut in 2019. He commands the pitch to both sides of the plate well and misses bats with it, while the sink on his two-seamer leads to a lot of groundball outs. He has one of the best changeups of any pitching prospect in baseball, thrown with a ton of fade and sink. There’s some debate over his breaking stuff, with some seeing a distinct curve and cutter-like slider and others seeing one power slurve type of hybrid pitch he can add and subtract from. Either way, he’s got more than enough breaking stuff to get outs.

Luzardo’s combination of outstanding stuff and plus control, not to mention his calm demeanor and competitiveness on the mound, help make him one of the best pitching prospects in the game. Some see a little Johan Santana in him and he’s ready to start fulfilling his potential as a frontline starter right now.

* * *

A.J. Puk, LHP

Expected level: MLB | Age 25

2019 stats (AAA): 4.91 ERA, 11 ip, 16 Ks, 3 BB, 3 HR, 5.52 FIP
2019 stats (MLB): 3.18 ERA, 11⅓ ip, 13 Ks, 5 BB, 1 HR, 3.39 FIP

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report (2020):

Scouting grades: Fastball: 70 | Slider: 65 | Curveball: 50 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 45 | Overall: 55

Puk’s pure stuff is as good as any lefty prospect in the game, though his command of it keeps him a half-step behind some. He has a premium fastball that averaged just over 97 mph and touched triple digits during his time in the big leagues. His nasty slider touches the low-90s and misses a ton of bats and his changeup is nearly as good at times as well. He’ll mix in a curve now and again and it gives him a fourth average pitch in his arsenal. All of it comes from his 6-foot-7 frame and gets on hitters in a hurry thanks to his tremendous extension.

Before Puk got hurt, his strike-throwing had improved from his college days, though there was a little rust once he got back on the mound competitively post-surgery. He’s never going to have pinpoint command, but if he can find the strike zone consistently, he has the stuff to pitch near the top of a rotation.

* * *

Sean Murphy, C

Expected level: MLB | Age 25

2019 stats (AAA): 140 PAs, 136 wRC+, 10 HR, 10.7% BB, 22.1% Ks
2019 stats (MLB): 60 PAs, 135 wRC+, 4 HR, 10.0% BB, 26.7% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report (2020):

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 50 | Run: 40 | Arm: 70 | Field: 65 | Overall: 55

While Murphy has always been known for his glove work, he has the chance to be an impact player on both sides of the ball. He continues to make a ton of contact with his short right-handed swing, keeping his strikeouts low. That’s all the more impressive because of his considerable power, which could eventually be above-average at his peak.

Even when he’s not hitting, Murphy can make a huge impact behind the plate. He has great hands and one of the strongest arms of any position player prospect in the game. He’s agile with excellent footwork and pitchers love to throw to him because of his receiving and game-calling skills. Assuming health, he has all the tools to become a standout big league regular now.

* * *

Daulton Jefferies, RHP

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 24

2019 stats (A+): 2.40 ERA, 15 ip, 21 Ks, 2 BB, 1 HR, 2.13 FIP
2019 stats (AA): 3.66 ERA, 64 ip, 72 Ks, 7 BB, 7 HR, 3.19 FIP

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report (mid-2019):

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

Jefferies did participate in mini camp as the 2019 season approached and the ball was coming out of his hand well. His velocity was up to 90-91 mph in bullpen sessions and he’d shown excellent command of his low-90s fastball in the past. His changeup has the chance to be a plus pitch, thrown with terrific deception, and the bottom falls out of the pitch. His slider looks more like a cutter to some and it has more teeth that way, with the A’s wishing he would have a little more finish on the end of it to turn it into a better-than-average pitch.

Jefferies was always known as a strike-thrower before the injury, and he got back to filling up the zone in 2019. After good post-surgery progress, he’s attacking the organizational ladder in earnest.

* * *

Nick Allen, SS

Expected level: Double-A | Age 21

2019 stats (A+): 328 PAs, 122 wRC+, 3 HR, 8.5% BB, 15.9% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report (mid-2019):

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 30 | Run: 60 | Arm: 60 | Field: 65 | Overall: 50

Allen certainly did struggle in the first half of 2018, hitting just .198 with a. .513 OPS in the Midwest League before the All-Star break. Some of that is because of the aforementioned lack of strength, though the A’s think he can add some to help him stay durable, but much of it can be attributed to Allen having to deal with the loss of a family member in early May. In the second half, Allen corrected a little drift in his swing and started impacting the baseball more, posting a .274 average and .679 OPS after the break. His walk rate went up and his strikeout rate dropped as his pitch recognition improved. He also stopped worrying about trying to lift or drive the ball, understanding that consistent contact and on-base skills, combined with his plus speed, are his ticket.

There’s never been any question that Allen’s glove will carry him to the big leagues. His arm is strong and accurate and he can throw from any angle to go along with his plus range and outstanding hands. A greater understanding of who he is offensively could help him become a defensive-oriented regular.

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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!

Programming Note: Each CPL vote will run for around 24 hours, so don’t delay making your selections!