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Oakland A’s 2020 Community Prospect List #21: Marcus Smith, 3rd-round draft pick

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The high school outfielder had a nice pro debut in Rookie Ball last summer.

Photo provided by Oakland A’s

Our 2020 Community Prospect List adds its 21st member, and its second straight teenage prospect (and third in the last four selections). 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%)
  19. Tyler Baum, RHP (+9%)
  20. Jordan Diaz, 3B (+5%)
  21. Marcus Smith, OF (+26%)

The A’s chose high school outfielder Marcus Smith with their 3rd-round pick in the draft last summer. He’s noted for his athleticism and speed, which should help him in CF and on the bases, and at the plate he doesn’t have much power but does make a lot of contact. He made his pro debut in the Arizona Rookie League and put up promising numbers, with lots of hits and walks that put his batting line far above league-average.

There’s not much else to say about Smith yet. He’s 19 years old and has barely played in the pros, so we’ll have to wait and see how he does over the next couple years as he moves his way toward full-season ball. In the meantime, let’s take a look back at some other recent high school draftees.

Oakland has done pretty well lately when drafting high schoolers in the 1st round. Since 2012, Matt Olson became a star, Addison Russell was an All-Star, and Daniel Robertson and Billy McKinney have at least reached the majors. Austin Beck is struggling in the lower minors, but it’s far too early to give up on him yet. The track record isn’t perfect, but it’s strong when it comes to these top-rated prep talents.

After that, it’s been almost a complete dud. Their last big hit in the 2nd-4th rounds was Trevor Cahill in 2006. The only other 2nd-rounder since then was infielder Yordy Cabrera in 2010, and he busted so hard that he switched to pitching several years later.

Looking at the 3rd round, there’s outfielder Aaron Shipman (2010) and pitchers Chris Kohler (2013) and Dakota Chalmers (2015), none of whom even reached the upper minors (though Chalmers is still active in the Twins system). What’s worse, Chalmers fetched Fernando Rodney in trade, which some might see as an even further negative.

The 4th round did bring one minor success, in catcher Max Stassi (2009). He’s carved out a career as a backup, playing 183 games in the bigs so far, mostly for contending Astros teams (now with the Angels). But outfielder B.J. Boyd (2012) maxed out at Triple-A, and pitcher Skylar Szynski (2016) has only thrown 13 innings in the pros due to injury. If you go back to 2004 you can find Ryan Webb, who spent seven seasons as a consistently effective reliever for five MLB teams (but never pitched for Oakland, unfortunately).

There’s no prospect demographic that features good odds of panning out, but the A’s have particularly whiffed on their upper-round high school picks outside of the 1st round (and even their latest 1st-rounder is losing stock). Of course, there is one more name I haven’t mentioned yet who could finally serve as the slump-buster, and that’s shortstop Nick Allen. He was nabbed in the 3rd round of 2017, and he’s done enough to skyrocket up to No. 5 on this CPL. He also got by far the biggest signing bonus of anyone mentioned in this article (not counting the 1st rounders), which doesn’t guarantee any success but does suggest he had a head start as the most highly regarded talent of this group of 2nd-4th rounders.

That brings us back to Smith. He has intriguing tools, just like all of his predecessors did, though it wasn’t enough to earn him a big bonus — he actually went underslot ($400K, in a $560K slot). Can he develop those raw talents, and navigate the many pitfalls he’ll encounter on his journey up the minor league ladder? If so, he could join Allen in reversing the A’s recent struggles with upper-round high school draft picks.

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 Skye Bolt. The toolsy outfielder finally made his MLB debut last summer, if only for 11 plate appearances. His numbers in Triple-A turned out to be merely mediocre by the end of the year, and he surely has no shot at making the Opening Day squad this month, but he’s still on the 40-man roster and thus one step away from getting another chance to prove himself in the bigs. He’s 26 so the clock is ticking, but there’s a lot to like in his jack-of-all-trades profile, not to mention his ability to handle CF.

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:

Skye Bolt, OF

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 26

2019 stats (AAA): 347 PA, 96 wRC+, 11 HR, 10.7% BB, 27.1% Ks
2019 stats (MLB): 11 PA, 1-for-10, double, 1 BB, 3 Ks

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

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

The A’s always felt Bolt had the ability to succeed, but just hadn’t been able to find the level of consistency to tap into his tools. He can hit for average and power from both sides of the plate, though the power really shows up left-handed (17 of his 19 homers in 2018 came from that side). He has enough speed to steal a base, and he finished just one home run and one steal shy of a 20-20 campaign last year.

Bolt has the speed and instincts to play center field and the strong arm to play right. He has the acumen to play all three outfield positions and he’s likely to be a fourth outfielder in the big leagues. Now that he’s starting to put it together on a daily basis, though, don’t rule out Bolt finding a regular spot in the lineup.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

Hogan Harris, LHP

Expected level: High-A? Double-A? | Age 23

2019 stats (A-): 3.12 ERA, 26 ip, 36 Ks, 9 BB, 2 HR, 3.02 FIP
2019 stats (A+): 2.51 ERA, 28⅔ ip, 29 Ks, 10 BB, 2 HR, 3.70 FIP

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

Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Curveball: 55 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 45 | Overall: 40

The first pitch Harris throws during the 2019 season will be the first one he throws for the organization. An elbow sprain kept him from making his debut over the summer and he didn’t pitch at instructs, adding to questions about his durability, as nagging injuries hampered him during his college career. The good news is there were no issues during the offseason, and he was coming back well from rehabbing the injury. At his best, he has four quality pitches at his disposal: A fastball with some run to it, thrown typically in the low-90s, a curve with power and depth that he can morph into a slider and a solid changeup.

Command has been an issue for Harris at times, so while he has the stuff to start, he’ll have to show he can find the strike zone enough to stick in a rotation. More than anything, he needs to go out and prove he can stay healthy over the course of a long Minor League season.

* * *

Jeremy Eierman, SS

Expected level: High-A? Double-A? | Age 23

2019 stats (A+): 552 PA, 71 wRC+, 13 HR, 7.1% BB, 32.1% Ks, 11 SB

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

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

There’s little question Eierman has legitimate raw power from the right side of the plate, with both bat speed and strength. He got into bad habits as a junior when he tried to sell out for power too much, changing his impact as an all-around hitter. While he homered eight times in his pro debut, he also struck out more than 26 percent of the time with a low walk rate, and will have to improve his pitch recognition so he can tap into that power more consistently. While not a burner, he’s an effective basestealer.

Eierman has every chance to stay at shortstop thanks to his plus arm, really good hands and quick feet. If he were to move to second or third, where he did see a little time during his debut, he could be a plus defender in either spot.

* * *

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!