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Oakland A’s 2020 Community Prospect List #4: Daulton Jefferies leaps back into spotlight

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After two years on the shelf, the righty made a triumphant return to the mound.

Still the only photo we have of Jefferies. Third straight year.
Photo provided by Oakland A’s

Our 2020 Community Prospect List adds its fourth member, and its third product of the team’s highly promising 2016 draft class. 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 (+84%)
  2. A.J. Puk, LHP (+1%)
  3. Sean Murphy, C (+95%)
  4. Daulton Jefferies, RHP (+10%)

This is the point where our CPL truly begins. The top three names are in their own stratosphere, and they’re barely even prospects anymore after debuting in MLB last season. There was no question about who would take those first three spots. But things now start to get interesting from No. 4 on down.

The biggest storyline in the A’s system last summer was an army of once-high-end pitching prospects returning from long-term injuries. All of them found success back on the mound, but none of them raised their stock as much as Daulton Jefferies.

The right-hander was drafted just after the 1st round in 2016, but he put up only 18 pro innings before succumbing to Tommy John surgery the next year. That injury cost him two full seasons in ‘17 and ‘18, turning his future into a massive question mark. There was no track record to look at and every scouting report was effectively several years old, and that was all assuming he’d make it back to action at all after such a lengthy recovery process.

Not only did Jefferies indeed return to health, but he utterly blew away the competition he faced. He only needed five High-A appearances to get the call to Double-A, and he spent the rest of the season shutting down upper-minors hitters. He only worked three innings at a time as the team cautiously eased his arm back from the long layoff, but his numbers jumped off the page: 93 strikeouts and 9 walks, in 79 total frames, with reasonably low levels of hits and homers.

That performance lines up with Jefferies’ expected skill set, which is highlighted by excellent control of his pitches. Baseball America (the only source with a 2020 update on him so far) calls it the best control in the A’s system, gives it a 70-grade, and refers to it as “borderline elite.” One walk per nine innings, and 10 Ks per walk, are strong supporting evidence of that glowing report. Dude can throw strikes.

The right-hander doesn’t bring especially high velocity, but he’s not a soft-tosser either, working solidly in the 90s with his fastball. Add to that a changeup and a slider (cutter?) that give him three potentially plus offerings, along with good command and top-notch control, and it’s easy to get excited about his preliminary 2019 results as a legitimate building block rather than a small-sample fluke. Bonus points for being a local guy and a UC Berkeley product.

Health questions will follow Jefferies for years to come, but for now he has leaped back onto the top prospect radar. He hasn’t made a national Top 100 list yet, but FanGraphs picked him as one of their candidates to reach that level next winter — assuming he doesn’t blast his way up to MLB and graduate this summer instead.

Here is the voting 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, 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 Logan Davidson. The shortstop was the A’s 1st-round pick in last summer’s draft, though only No. 29 overall due to the team’s low position coming off 97 wins the previous season. He shows potential on both sides of the ball, with a promising switch-hitting bat and a good chance to stick defensively at short. We’ll learn a lot more about him this year in his first full pro season.

Hitter rates (poor/avg/great):

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

Nominees on the current ballot:

Logan Davidson, SS

Expected level: High-A | Age 22

2019 stats (A-): 238 PAs, 112 wRC+, 4 HR, 13.0% BB, 23.1% Ks

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

Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 50 | Run: 55 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50

A switch-hitter, Davidson has had some timing issues at times at the plate and a swing that can get long, leading to strikeouts. His strength and leverage do generate plus raw power and there should be more in-game pop as he fills out his lanky 6-foot-3 frame. He runs well, producing plus run times occasionally, and can use his speed to steal bases and cover ground at shortstop. While he’s a little tall for the position, his athleticism and strong arm should allow him to stay there long-term, and that’s where he played exclusively during his pro debut in the short-season New York-Penn League.

If scouts had been convinced that Davidson was going to hit with wood, he probably would have been the first college shortstop taken in June’s first round. His athleticism and offensive potential still made him the fifth one taken and if he can figure things out with his swing, he could be a dynamic up-the-middle player.

* * *

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.

* * *

Robert Puason, SS

Expected level: Rookie League | Age 17

2019 stats: Has not played U.S. pro ball yet

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

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 50 | Run: 65 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50

The A’s had just over $5.9 million in their international bonus pool at the start of the 2019-20 signing period. They used nearly all of it, $5.1 million, to sign Puason, the talented shortstop who was ranked No. 2 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 international prospect list.

Puason is lean and wiry, with a projectable and durable frame. A fast-twitch athlete, the switch-hitter can make solid contact from both sides of the plate. He has shown a polished approach with fluid swings and the ability to spray line drives to all fields. He has good barrel control and extension for his age. Like most prospects his age, he continues to work on his hitting mechanics, and it’s the development of the hit tool that could make him an everyday player in the big leagues one day. For now, he uses a semi-open stance and semi-uppercut swing from both sides and projects to have average power. He’s already an above-average runner.

On defense, he shows fluid actions and good footwork. He has an above-average throwing arm now with solid carry and it’s expected to get better as he develops. Add good hands along with great instincts, and it makes for an above-average package that could keep Puason at shortstop for the rest of his career.

* * *

James Kaprielian, RHP

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 26

2019 stats (A+): 4.46 ERA, 36⅓ ip, 43 Ks, 8 BB, 6 HR, 4.43 FIP
2019 stats (AA): 1.63 ERA, 27⅔ ip, 26 Ks, 8 BB, 2 HR, 3.60 FIP
2019 stats (AAA): 2.25 ERA, 4 ip, 6 Ks, 0 BB, 0 HR, 0.80 FIP

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

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

While at UCLA, Kaprielian had a fastball that was largely average velocity-wise, but played up because of his command of the pitch. There was excitement when he experienced a jump in his velocity at the outset of his pro career, going from 88-92 to 93-96 mph while touching 99 mph. He was healthy, finally, at instructs last fall, but wasn’t popping the radar gun like that. He does have three secondary offerings that all can be above-average, with a tight slider and a changeup with good fade to it, not to mention a solid curve he mixes in effectively. Kaprielian repeats his delivery well and has always been a strike-thrower.

More than anything, the right-hander needs to turn in a healthy season. The A’s are sure to proceed cautiously with Kaprielian to give him the best chance of fulfilling his potential as a mid-rotation starter.

* * *

Sheldon Neuse, IF

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 25

2019 stats (AAA): 560 PAs, 126 wRC+, 27 HR, 10.0% BB, 23.6% Ks
2019 stats (MLB): 61 PAs, 63 wRC+, 0 HR, 6.6% BB, 31.1% Ks

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

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 45 | Run: 40 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50 | Overall: 50

When at his best, Neuse utilizes a compact and simple right-handed swing while also showing an ability to drive the ball to all fields. He came out of his gameplan in Triple-A at the start of the year, not seeing as many pitches and swinging and missing at an alarming rate. When he got back on track, his strikeout rate plummeted and he drew more walks. The power he showed in 2017 didn’t completely return, but he was driving the ball a bit more.

A below-average runner, Neuse still has plenty of range to play third to go with a plus arm that fires mid-90s fastball from the mound, allowing him to stay at the hot corner long-term. There’s a Matt Chapman-sized roadblock for Neuse in Oakland, so he might need to find work around the field and has seen time at his college position as well as a little time at second base in 2018.

* * *

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: Tomorrow’s post (Sat 2/15) will go up at 11 a.m. instead of noon, because I’m busy at noon. So don’t wait until the last minute to vote!