Over the offseason, the Athletics Nation community worked together to construct a top prospect list for the team via crowdsource votes. We voted on each spot individually, and we now have a complete list of the Top 30 Oakland A’s prospects entering 2020 — or rather, a Top 31 this year. Click here to learn more about each player.
With the 2020 draft starting today, let’s take a look at the final list we came up with over the winter. Of course, this year has been unusual due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the MLB season being shortened (at best) and the minor league campaign likely canceled entirely, but this a reminder of what the landscape looked like at the end of the offseason.
|1||Jesus Luzardo||LHP||22||MLB||Trade (Doo/Madson)|
|2||A.J. Puk||LHP||25||MLB||Draft (1R, 2016)|
|3||Sean Murphy||C||25||MLB||Draft (3R, 2016)|
|4||Daulton Jefferies||RHP||24||AAA||Draft (1R, 2016)|
|5||Nick Allen||SS||21||AA||Draft (3R, 2017)|
|6||James Kaprielian||RHP||26||AAA||Trade (Sonny)|
|8||Sheldon Neuse||3B||25||AAA||Trade (Doo/Madson)|
|9||Jorge Mateo||SS||25||AAA||Trade (Sonny)|
|10||Jonah Heim||C||25||AAA||Trade (Wendle)|
|11||Austin Beck||OF||21||A+||Draft (1R, 2017)|
|12||Logan Davidson||SS||22||A+||Draft (1R, 2019)|
|13||Grant Holmes||RHP||24||AAA||Trade (Reddick/Hill)|
|15||Greg Deichmann||OF||25||AAA||Draft (2R, 2017)|
|17||Seth Brown||OF||27||MLB||Draft (19R, 2015)|
|19||Tyler Baum||RHP||22||A+||Draft (2R, 2019)|
|21||Marcus Smith||OF||19||RK||Draft (3R, 2019)|
|22||Hogan Harris||LHP||23||AA||Draft (3R, 2018)|
|23||Vimael Machin||IF||26||MLB||Rule 5 draft|
|24||Buddy Reed||OF||25||AA||Trade (Profar)|
|25||Jeremy Eierman||SS||23||A+||Draft (2R, 2018)|
|26||Skye Bolt||OF||26||AAA||Draft (4R, 2015)|
|29||Parker Dunshee||RHP||25||AA||Draft (7R, 2017)|
|30||Brian Howard||RHP||25||AA||Draft (8R, 2017)|
|31||Dustin Harris||1B||20||A||Draft (11R, 2019|
(The “Level” column includes a couple of guesses for where players will end up when play resumes. The “Age” column refers to the age at which the player would have played in 2020, even if he hasn’t quite had his birthday yet.)
We also voted on a couple of hypotheticals, to rank players who have officially graduated from prospect status but still haven’t yet stuck in the majors. Infielder Franklin Barreto would have ranked No. 7 (behind Kaprielian), and newly acquired catcher Austin Allen would have ranked No. 13 (behind Davidson).
Where do they come from? Of the 31 names on the CPL, 16 were drafted by Oakland (two from 2015, three from 2016, five from 2017, two from 2018, and four from 2019), seven more were international signings, one was a Rule 5 draft pick (from the Cubs, via cash trade with the Phillies), and the other seven came from five different trades. Regarding the trades, the Sonny Gray deal and Doolittle/Madson deal are the only ones that represent multiple players on the current list, while the Reddick/Hill deal, the Jurickson Profar deal, and the Joey Wendle deal each represent one spot apiece. The seven international signings are the most on the list in the last several years (last five lists, counting backward from 2019, had 6, 1, 4, 3, and 3, respectively).
Quick comparison to last year’s CPL:
- 7 of the 31 players are new to the organization — four from the latest draft class, one via Rule 5, one international, and one from the Profar trade. That’s around the same low number as last year (6), showing that the win-now A’s are no longer in prospect-acquisition rebuilding mode.
- Only two of those newcomers are in the top half of the list, and only one is in the Top 10 (Puason).
- Another 4 players stepped up from within the organization to join the CPL (Brown, Buelvas, Charles, Guasch).
- Therefore 10 members of last year’s CPL are gone, with the following breakdown: zero graduates, 6 who simply lost support (Ramirez, Marks, Brito, Varland, Anderson, Romero), and 4 who are gone from the org entirely (Hannah, Merrell, and Blanco were traded in July/Aug, and Rivas was traded over the winter).
- 7 players moved up the list without graduating, led by Heim (25 up to 10), Allen (19 up to 5), Jefferies (17 up to 4), and Diaz (29 up to 20) (also Harris by four spots, Kaprielian by three, and Neuse by one).
- 9 players moved down the list without falling off, especially Dunshee (10 down to 29), Howard (14 down to 30), Eierman (12 down to 25), Armenteros (4 down to 14), and Bolt (16 down to 26); Beck (6 spots), Mateo (3), Barrera (3), and Holmes (2) also went down slightly.
- 4 players stayed in exactly the same spots as last year (Luzardo, Puk, and Murphy in the top three spots, and Deichmann at 15).
The farm had mixed results in 2019. Most of the top hitting prospect struggled, but on the bright side most of the injured top pitching prospects got back on the mound and performed well in their returns. The Top 10 lost a player via trade (Hannah), but then gained an even better one with a significant international signing (Puason). As usual, there was plenty of turnover in the bottom half of the list, with some sleepers flaming out or getting hurt and new standouts taking their places.
One way to measure the top talent is by looking at the national Top 100 lists. The A’s had exactly three players make every major list, with Luzardo, Puk, and Murphy, and usually in that order. There’s a clear consensus that these are Oakland’s three top prospects, and that they are all top-end talents. That’s exactly the same as last year, to the extent that the last few sentences are simply copy/pasted from last year’s version of this post, but for the most part each player is even a few spots higher on each list than they were in 2019 — and now they’re almost entirely Top 50. Additionally, Jorge Mateo got a mention at the bottom of John Sickels’ list.
|Luzardo (12)||Luzardo (9)||Luzardo (9)||Luzardo (6)||Puk (21)||Luzardo (13)|
|Murphy (33)||Puk (21)||Puk (17)||Puk (25)||Luzardo (26)||Puk (26)|
|Puk (60)||Murphy (41)||Murphy (44)||Murphy (62)||Murphy (36)||Murphy (43)|
Of course, all three of those top names are expected to graduate to Oakland this season, or whenever MLB is next played, having all made their big league debuts last September. That’s good because it means they’ll immediately get to help a contending A’s team, but on the downside it means the farm system moving forward is thin in its upper ranks. Indeed, Keith Law gave the system a harsh No. 26 ranking among the 30 organizations due to that dearth of high-end talent.
Next up, here’s a further breakdown of our CPL voting. After each ballot I recorded the winner’s margin of victory, to show which votes were close and which were landslides. This is far from scientific, but theoretically the gaps should illustrate the notable drop-offs from one general tier of talent to the next, while the bunches reveal the parts of the list that are effectively ties.
The community clearly agreed on Luzardo in the top spot, and Puk and Murphy after him, with that whole trio well ahead of the pack. The next big drop-off is after Puason (Top 7), and again after Davidson (Top 12), and then there’s another after either Deichmann (Top 15) or Brown (Top 17). The final group at the end also has a mini-dropoff after Smith (No. 21).
I’d split the list up into the following tiers (labels are meant to be broad and general, not specific and perfect):
- Nos. 1-3: Consensus Top 100, even Top 50 (Luzardo to Murphy)
- Nos. 4-7: Just outside of Top 100, down to around Top 200 (Jefferies to Puason)
- Nos. 8-15: B-/C+, high draft picks and high-ceiling questions (Neuse to Deichmann)
- Nos. 16-21: C+/C, sleepers and long-term projects (Barrera to Smith)
- Nos. 22-31+: C/C-, mostly lotto tickets (Harris to Harris and beyond)
Next up, here are AN’s rankings compared with some other prominent lists.
A total of 14 different players were mentioned in at least one version of the Top 10. Of that group, six were consensus picks on all seven lists. Here are the average rankings for all of them, with the consensus cutoff after Jefferies. For instances when a player wasn’t mentioned in the Top 10, he was given a value of 11 for that list (even if he actually showed up later than 11 on a Top 20 or 30 list, like Kaprielian on BA or Mateo on FG):
- Luzardo, 1.14
- Puk, 2.00
- Murphy, 2.86
- Allen, 5.71
- Puason, 6.14
- Jefferies, 6.29 (cutoff)
- Mateo, 7.43
- Davidson, 8.43
- Neuse, 8.57
- Beck, 8.57
- Kaprielian, 9.57
- Buelvas, 10.57
- Heim, 10.86
- Barrera, 10.86
Again, there’s a big dropoff after the top three. The biggest differences between these averages and our CPL is that Kaprielian and Heim are much lower than we have them ranked, and Davidson is within the top 10 whereas we have him at 12. Buelvas is also a surprise addition thanks to FanGraphs’ high rating of him.
Finally, here’s a streamlined version of the org depth chart, designed to highlight the cream of the crop and leave out the hoi polloi. This one only includes the Top 31 list, plus nine more names in italics who received mentions on other sources’ lists (in the big roundup above), and then three more (in italics and parentheses) who have already graduated to rookie status but not yet stuck in MLB. The point of this chart is to give a representation of the A’s long-term future, even in cases where they’re not quite technically prospects anymore.
Of course, there are many other young stars on the MLB team that aren’t listed here, some of whom haven’t even reached arbitration yet, such as Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Chad Pinder, and some pitchers. Now the farm is beginning to offer a second wave behind them, as the A’s try to upgrade from Wild Card one-and-done to World Series contender.
The upper levels of the system are the stronger area, featuring most of the Top 10 list. That’s especially true among pitchers and outfielders, where Oakland has lots of depth to choose from. However, we’ll have to wait until play resumes to find out which lower-minors players break out and set themselves apart from the pack.
We would normally be two months into the season by now, but instead we’re still waiting for it to begin. Once it does, though, we’ll keep tracking the progress of these young prospects, and by the end of this week there will be a few more new draftees to add to the mix.