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Oakland A’s 2020 Community Prospect List #9: Jorge Mateo enters make-or-break season

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The speedster must either make the MLB team out of spring, or move to another organization.

Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Our 2020 Community Prospect List adds its ninth member, and its fourth middle infielder. 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, RHP (+2%)
  7. Robert Puason, SS (+32%)
  8. Sheldon Neuse, IF (+26%)
  9. Jorge Mateo, SS (+5%)

This is it for Jorge Mateo. Since his acquisition in mid-2017, A’s fans have been tantalized by his dynamic physical tools, but often left frustrated while waiting for him to translate them into on-field success. Now he’s got one last chance to make good this spring before the saga is forced into a conclusion.

After several enigmatic seasons as a Yankees top prospect, Mateo was traded to Oakland in the Sonny Gray swap. He immediately endeared himself with an eye-opening performance in Double-A the rest of that year, but hasn’t done much since. His 2018 in Triple-A was a total dud, and last year in his second attempt at the level (and in a much friendlier hitting environment in Las Vegas) he still only managed to be around league-average at the plate. To add to the intrigue and provide some optimism, last summer he was off to a nice start in the first half of the season before some minor injuries slowed him down.

The centerpiece of Mateo’s profile has always been his 80-grade speed, which is the top of the scouting scale. He’s as fast as anyone and those wheels can be game-changing. He also gets average or better grades for his fielding at shortstop, and 60-grades for his arm, with the tools to play other positions around the field if needed. The question is his bat, which has been inconsistent and often lapses into poor plate discipline and too many strikeouts.

But now the make-or-break point has come, and one way or other this prospect story will end next month. Mateo is out of minor league options, so he can’t be sent back down to Triple-A again this year. He’ll battle for Oakland’s open 2B position this spring, with fellow out-of-options youngster Franklin Barreto as his main right-handed competition, but whichever of them doesn’t get a spot on the MLB Opening Day roster will either have to be traded or designated for assignment.

In other words, Mateo will either play for the A’s this year in the majors or he’ll be in another organization by April. As spring training auditions go, this is about as fascinating and meaningful as it gets.

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 Greg Deichmann. His pro career has been disappointing so far due to a series of injuries that have held him back, but the former 2nd-round draft pick reminded everyone what he’s capable of with a monster performance in the Arizona Fall League last September. He’s got enormous power if he can learn to make more consistent contact, plus he’s sneakily a good baserunner, and on defense he has the arm and athleticism to stay in right field.

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:

Greg Deichmann, OF

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 25

2019 stats (AA): 340 PAs, 90 wRC+, 11 HR, 10.0% BB, 30.3% Ks

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

Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 50 | Run: 40 | Arm: 55 | Field: 50 | Overall: 45

Even when Diechmann was on the field in 2018, he wasn’t fully healthy as he tried to play through the issue. Initially misdiagnosed as tendinitis, it turned out to be an injury near his hamate and sapped him of his best tool when he was able to play. The A’s liked what they saw in terms of his power potential in his first summer and at instructs that fall, and they are hoping to have that player back again in 2019. His approach has helped him get to his power consistently and while he will strike out, he’ll also draw walks.

His strong arm and power profile are good fits in right field, his likely long-term home, and he should be an average defender there. The first order of business for the left-handed hitter is to get a full season of reps in 2019.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

Jonah Heim, C

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 25

2019 stats (AA): 208 PAs, 125 wRC+, 5 HR, 11.5% BB, 13.0% Ks
2019 stats (AAA): 119 PAs, 135 wRC+, 4 HR, 9.2% BB, 15.1% Ks

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

Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 40 | Run: 35 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 45

A long-limbed, switch-hitting backstop, Heim stands out more for his work behind the plate than at it. He receives well and has a strong arm that’s allowed him to throw out just over 34 percent of potential basestealers heading into 2019. Heim started to swing the bat with a bit more authority over the past two seasons and hit well in the California League before stumbling post-promotion. He has more of a line drive approach now, but he shows some raw power in batting practice and still has room to add strength. While it’s more leverage than bat speed, you can dream on some future pop.

The A’s would love to see Heim play with a little more urgency. A slow heartbeat for a catcher isn’t a bad thing, but some added energy could help him reach the big leagues as a backup backstop.

* * *

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!