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Oakland A’s 2020 Community Prospect List #7: Robert Puason is a premium international signing

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The shortstop is Oakland’s biggest addition in years from the int’l market.

Pictured: Not Puason
Photo by RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP via Getty Images

Our 2020 Community Prospect List adds its seventh member, and one of the newest additions to the A’s farm. 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%)
  5. Nick Allen, SS (+1%)
  6. James Kaprielian (+2%)
  7. Robert Puason, SS (+32%)

In 2016, Oakland went big on the international free agent market for the first time in years. The major splash was outfielder Lazaro Armenteros, and in total they laid out so much on players that they incurred over-spending penalties — not a problem the A’s often face. They weren’t allowed to participate much in the int’l market for the next couple years.

That spending restriction was finally lifted last summer, and Oakland wasted no time making their triumphant return to the int’l arena. They used almost their entire permissible pool of bonus money to lock up one of the top available names in shortstop Robert Puason, who was ranked by MLB Pipeline as the second-best prospect in that year’s class.

There’s not much to say about Puason yet. He hasn’t played pro ball in the U.S., and all we know about him is general scouting report info. And at 17 years old, even if we knew everything about him right now, it still remains to be seen how he will grow and mature and learn over the course of his development. He’s a long-long-term project, and if he’d grown up in the states then he presumably wouldn’t even be a high school draft pick until 2021.

For an idea of how excited the A’s are by Puason, consider his signing bonus. He netted $5.1 million, tied for the highest payout in last year’s int’l class. For comparison, three years prior they’d given the highly touted Armenteros only $3 million. In 2017 they picked No. 6 in the domestic draft and chose high school outfielder Austin Beck, whom they gave $5.3 million, while high school shortstop Nick Allen went for $2 million. In 2019, Puason’s $5.1 million bonus was the equivalent of the No. 8 slot in the draft.

It’s not a perfect science, but money does speak. Lazarito was a huge deal at the time, and Puason was valued even higher. The domestic draft and int’l market can’t be directly compared due to different sets of rules, but still, this is a significant amount of money for an unproven teenager.

It remains to be seen what this bright young player can become. He could be great, but even the most promising prospects can flame out for all kinds of reasons, so there are never any guarantees. Between the notable signing bonus, and the physical tools, and the scouting grades, there’s a lot to be optimistic about. But right now there’s only one thing we know for sure:

His name is Robert Puason.

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 Luis Barrera. He’s been in the system for years since his own int’l signing in 2012, and he’s finally begun breaking out over the last two seasons. Last summer was a mixed bag, as he hit well in Double-A for the second straight year but also missed significant time to a shoulder injury. He’s already on the 40-man roster and is entering his second option year, which simultaneously shows how much the A’s believe in him but also means the clock is ticking on his path to reaching the majors.

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:

Luis Barrera, OF

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 24

2019 stats (AA): 240 PAs, 139 wRC+, 4 HR, 5.0% BB, 20.0% Ks

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

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 35 | Run: 65 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 45

Perhaps the most improved player in the organization, Barrera came into his own in 2018 in terms of his approach and consistency in his at-bats. With a line-drive, slashing style, Barrera is showing he has the ability to hit for average with excellent bat control, a decrease in his strikeout rate and an increased willingness to draw walks. He won’t be a home run hitter because of his flat bat path, but there could be a bit more pop to unlock at some point. Aggressive with good instincts, Barrera uses his speed well to steal bases. He also uses it to play all three outfield positions and his defensive play has improved nearly as much as his bat has.

Barrera does have the tools to play center field regularly. If his step forward offensively is for real, he could shed the fourth outfielder profile and become a regular in the big leagues.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

Austin Beck, OF

Expected level: High-A? Double-A? | Age 21

2019 stats (A+): 367 PAs, 95 wRC+, 8 HR, 6.5% BB, 34.3% Ks

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

Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 50 | Run: 60 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 45

Beck’s tools are undeniable, though he is still learning to use them consistently on the field. While he hit close to .300 in 2018 and led his league in hits, he still needs to refine his overall approach to see more pitches and work counts more effectively. He does have the bat speed that should allow him to continue to hit for average, while that improved approach should allow him to tap into his very good raw power more than he’s been able to so far in his brief pro career.

With excellent speed and athleticism, Beck has the skills to play center field, the only spot he’s manned so far as a pro, while he has the arm strength to profile in right field should he slow down as he matures. His power will have to show up for him to profile well there, but there’s plenty of time for that, and all facets of his game, to develop.

* * *

Jorge Mateo, SS

Expected level: MLB? | Age 25

2019 stats (A+): 566 PAs, 96 wRC+, 19 HR, 5.1% BB, 25.6% Ks

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

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 45 | Run: 80 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50

Mateo’s best tool remains his top-of-the-scale speed that has allowed him to wreak havoc on the basepaths. He stole 82 bases back in 2015 and 52 in that resurgent ‘17 season, though he managed to swipe only 25 in his first full season with Oakland. Much of that has to do with his offensive regression which resulted in him not getting on base nearly as frequently. His strikeout rate jumped while his walk rate decreased, showing poor plate discipline and pitch selection. At his best, he has shown surprising pop with the wheels to take extra bases often.

Mateo gets high grades for his defensive work at shortstop, with plus range and a very strong arm, though he still loses focus and can be inconsistent at the premium position. He saw a little time at second base in 2018 and played the outfield with the Yankees, so if the bat doesn’t come back around, he eventually could end up as a speedy utility type.

* * *

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!