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Oakland A’s 2020 Community Prospect List #18: Brayan Buelvas, teenage standout

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The promising outfielder doesn’t turn 18 until June but has already found early pro success.

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Our 2020 Community Prospect List adds its 18th member, and its fifth straight outfielder. 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%)
  10. Jonah Heim, C (+2%)
  11. Austin Beck, OF (+9%)
  12. Logan Davidson, SS (+45%)
  13. Grant Holmes, RHP (+28%)
  14. Lazaro Armenteros, OF (+13%)
  15. Greg Deichmann, OF (+36%)
  16. Luis Barrera, OF (+14%)
  17. Seth Brown, OF (+48%)
  18. Brayan Buelvas, OF (+17%)

At this time last year, you most likely had not heard of Brayan Buelvas. Heck, at this time last month you might not have heard of him. After all, he hasn’t even celebrated his 18th birthday yet, and he didn’t begin playing U.S. pro ball until last July, at the lowest level of the minors.

The Colombian outfielder is on the radar now, though. He played 44 games in the Arizona Rookie League last summer and posted promising stats, including a 140 wRC+, a bit of on-base, and a bit of power. Rookie Ball numbers aren’t something to put a whole lot of stock in, but it’s certainly an encouraging start, especially for such an extra-young player in his first experience playing in a new country.

As for his scouting report, here’s what Baseball America had to say about him this winter:

Though not overly physical, Buelvas carries some deceptively loud tools, including an average exit velocity of 89 mph. He also shows solid bat speed and barrel control, but some evaluators believe the length of swing and overall balance at the plate could be problematic. While Buelvas still has projection remaining, any power uptick could be marginal. Buelvas’ speed is an asset both on the bases and in the field. Scouts are confident Buelvas has the skill set and tools to stay in center field, and A’s personnel have raved about his work ethic, energy and professional approach to the game.

To clarify a couple details, “not overly physical” presumably refers at least partly to the fact that Buelvas stands just 5’11, which is on the smaller side but not any kind of dealbreaker. And an 89 mph exit velocity is what the previous prospect on this list, Seth Brown, averaged in his brief stint in the majors last year; MLB average was 88.1 mph.

His scouting grades from FanGraphs jibe with BA’s report. His current grades aren’t much to look at, but the future projections suggest he could be average or a tick above at every facet of the game. They call him a 55-grade runner, give his arm a chance to be a 60 at his peak, and put 55 potential on his fielding and hit tool. He isn’t expected to ever be a slugger, but FanGraphs suggests he could reach a 50 in game power.

Put it all together, with a bonus for the excellent makeup cited by BA, and you’ve got a particular standout in the teenage lotto ticket department. He’s still literally a child (legally speaking) and there’s a long, long way to go in his development, but if you’re trying to predict which Rookie Ball youngsters are going to succeed, then he’s as good a bet as any.

BA suggests that Buelvas will return to the AZL this year, but they don’t rule out that he could find his way to Low-A Vermont at some point during their short-season. He’ll be a fun name to follow in the box scores this summer, and hopefully for many more to come.

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 Vimael Machin. The A’s selected him from the Cubs in the Rule 5 draft this winter, meaning he must make the Opening Day squad and stick on the 26-man roster all season or else be offered back to Chicago. If he does earn the job, though, then he checks all the boxes that Oakland should want: a versatile infielder who can help fill the 2B hole, while batting left-handed, and offering some on-base skills and top-notch plate discipline. One downside is that he’s light on upper-level experience, having played only 12 games in Triple-A so far.

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:

Vimael Machin, IF

Expected level: MLB or bust | Age 26

2019 stats (AA): 498 PA, 129 wRC+, 6 HR, 12.7% BB, 11.4% Ks
2019 stats (AAA): 31 PA, 144 wRC+, 1 HR, 19.4% BB, 16.1% Ks

Baseball America scouting report (from January) (lightly edited):

As a lefthanded hitter, he has the potential to fill a need for the righthanded heavy Oakland batting order. He has played every infield position, and “he has stood in the outfield,” [A’s Assistant GM Dan] Feinstein joked. ...

A’s scouts rank Machin as a plus hitter (most impressive to the A’s was that he drew 69 walks while striking out only 62 times last year). He is a slightly below-average runner and ranks about average defensively at shortstop and second base. Feinstein believes that Machin plays above his talent levels because he has such good baseball sense. He has below-average power. ...

”What we really like is that he has continued to show improvement,” Feinstein said. If that carries over to the major leagues, the A’s may well have plucked a prize from the [Rule 5] draft.

* * *

Marcus Smith, OF

Expected level: Low-A? | Age 19

2019 stats (AZL): 119 PA, 156 wRC+, 0 HR, 16.8% BB, 24.4% Ks

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

Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 40 | Run: 70 | Arm: 50 | Field: 55 | Overall: 40

Smith isn’t the biggest guy in the world, at 5-foot-11, but there are some tools to like here. His standout one is his speed, and it’s close to top of the scale. That should allow him to be a threat on the basepaths and allow him to stay in center field long-term. At the plate, it’s unclear how much pop he is going to have, but he does make a ton of contact using a handsy, line-drive oriented slashing swing with an excellent feel for the barrel.

One thing Smith will have to prove as he moves on in pro ball is his ability to impact the baseball. He doesn’t have to grow into a ton of home run power, but if he can learn to drive the ball a bit more, he could become a much more dynamic up-the-middle player.

* * *

Jordan Diaz, 3B

Expected level: Single-A | Age 19

2019 stats (A-): 300 PA, 118 wRC+, 9 HR, 6.0% BB, 15.3% Ks

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

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

The key to Diaz’s progress offensively was an increased understanding of his approach, and the right-handed hitter stayed with it all summer. He had some good exit velocity numbers with a line-drive approach and showed much better discipline, with a solid walk rate to show for it. Diaz didn’t try to lift the ball too much, but with a strong, stocky build, there is some power to grow into. He also improved defensively at third, working hard at it and putting aside some lazy tendencies he displayed in his first summer, and he looked like one of the better defenders at the hot corner in the AZL.

The A’s are excited to see how Diaz’s newfound maturity in terms of his approach, work ethic and consistency will allow him to progress moving forward. It’s too early to tell exactly what he’s going to be, but watching how he builds off of his encouraging 2019 should be interesting.

* * *

Tyler Baum, RHP

Expected level: High-A | Age 22

2019 stats (A-): 4.70 ERA, 30⅔ ip, 34 Ks, 7 BB, 4 HR, 3.76 FIP

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

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

Baum can display four pitches that earn solid or better grades at their best. As a starter, he works at 90-92 mph and reaches 94 with his fastball, creating some armside run with some crossfire in his delivery. He uses his high-three-quarters arm slot to stay on top of an upper-70s curveball that is often his best pitch, and he also can manipulate it into a harder, more lateral-breaking slider in the low 80s.

Baum also has at least an average changeup with some fade and did a much better job of throwing strikes in 2019, enhancing his chances of remaining a starter in pro ball. He has a high floor as a potential No. 4 starter with a fallback of becoming at least a seventh-inning reliever. He has reached 97 mph with his fastball coming out of the bullpen and could have a more consistent plus curveball in shorter stints.

* * *

Buddy Reed, OF

Expected level: Double-A | Age 25

2019 stats (AA): 441 PA, 93 wRC+, 14 HR, 9.5% BB, 28.6% Ks, 23 SB

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

Scouting grades: Hit: 40 | Power: 40 | Run: 70 | Arm: 60 | Field: 65 | Overall: 45

A switch-hitter, Reed has the potential to hit for both average and power, though he’s historically been better form the right side. Before the 2018 season, he made an adjustment, allowing him to be shorter to the ball with more extension after contact. But he’ll need to continue to cut down on the strikeouts. If he can add more contact to his game, he has plus-plus speed — which translates on both sides of the ball.

Reed has a tall, athletic build that gives him the potential to do a lot of things well on the baseball field, but he still has gains to make as a hitter. If he can get back to a more refined approach and better swing mechanics, he has the tools to be an impact player. But questions linger as to whether his game, particularly his hitting, will translate at higher levels.

* * *

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!