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Austin Beck and Lazaro Armenteros are notable absences from Oakland A’s player pool

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The A’s invited 17 of their top 19 prospects, but left out this pair of high-profile outfielders

Austin Beck
Photo by Jane Tyska/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

With no minor league season in 2020, teams around the league have used portions of their 60-man player pools to bring some top prospects to their alternate training camps. Even for youngsters with no chance of reaching MLB this year, this serves as an opportunity to continue their development while working with the pro coaches.

The Oakland A’s are no exception to this trend, inviting most of their Top 20 prospect list to participate from all levels of the minors, including a couple teenagers who have never played a professional game. Using our Community Prospect List rankings (and subbing out the departed Jorge Mateo for the newcomer Tyler Soderstrom), here are the top 19 names in the system — all of them are in the player pool except the ones in bold.

Click here to learn more about each prospect

  1. Jesus Luzardo, LHP
  2. A.J. Puk, LHP
  3. Sean Murphy, C
  4. Daulton Jefferies, RHP
  5. Nick Allen, SS
  6. James Kaprielian, RHP
  7. Tyler Soderstrom, C
  8. Robert Puason, SS
  9. Sheldon Neuse, IF
  10. Jonah Heim, C
  11. Austin Beck, OF
  12. Logan Davidson, SS
  13. Grant Holmes, RHP
  14. Lazaro Armenteros, OF
  15. Greg Deichmann, OF
  16. Luis Barrera, OF
  17. Seth Brown, OF
  18. Brayan Buelvas, OF
  19. Tyler Baum, RHP
  • Also included: #23 Vimael Machin, IF; #24 Buddy Reed, OF; #26 Skye Bolt, OF; #27 Wandisson Charles, RHP; #29 Parker Dunshee, RHP; #30 Brian Howard, RHP

Out of the whole list, only two names are absent, and they’re big ones. Austin Beck was a No. 6 overall draft pick who received a $5 million bonus in 2017, and Lazaro Armenteros was a high-profile international free agent whose own $3 million bonus in 2016 triggered years of overspending penalties that hampered Oakland on the foreign market. The A’s dedicated massive resources and opportunity cost to get these two, and not that long ago, so you’d expect them to have high priority within the system. And yet, they’re not here.

For all we know, there could be some non-baseball reasons. From the outside fan perspective we can’t rule out some extenuating circumstances, regarding health or family or travel, or simply that whatever they’ve been instructed to work on next can be done from home. Get creative and you can speculate on a hundred reasons why they might not have made the trip. You’d think such an explanation would have surfaced by now, but every little detail isn’t necessarily our business.

But the safest and most logical assumption is that Beck and Lazarito simply didn’t make the cut. They both struggled mightily in 2019, and saw their respective stocks plummet over the offseason, so it would certainly make sense.

Entering 2019, Beck and Lazarito were consensus Top 10 names in the A’s system, averaging around fourth or fifth place. They didn’t quite make national Top 100 lists, but may not have missed by much. After combining to strike out 353 times in High-A Stockton last summer, though, they tumbled down the rankings. A few sources stuck with Beck in their A’s Top 10, but others dropped him down as far as Nos. 16 or 18. Lazarito fell to No. 19 on one list, was omitted from Keith Law’s Top 20 entirely, and barely registered at FanGraphs at No. 33.

If their exclusion from the player pool is any indication, then the A’s appear to feel the same way about this pair’s lack of development. Both were projection picks, as raw athletic teenagers with exceptionally loud tools whom the team hoped to refine into star players. But the progress has been slow, and 2019 was especially discouraging.

Beck earned an above-average 55-grade for his power out of the draft and still has a hefty 60-grade on his raw power at FanGraphs, but it hasn’t shown up in games yet. In over 1,000 plate appearances he’s managed just a dozen homers, and he hasn’t offset that with any on-base ability. He took a step even further back last year, striking out in an enormous 34.3% of his plate appearances.

Last summer went even worse for Lazarito. His various abilities have translated better, as he racked up an impressive 17 homers and 22 steals in High-A, and he’s maintained high walk rates at every level. But his 42.2% strikeout rate was so far through the stratosphere that it looks like a typo, presenting a problem that outweighed any of the positive aspects of his stat line.

Both outfielders find themselves in similar situations, possessing special levels of talent but facing dealbreaker-level obstacles in terms of making contact at the plate. And rather than bringing their bonus babies in for further in-person instruction this summer, the A’s are turning their attention elsewhere. That bodes ill.

Of course, none of this means the book is closed on either player. They’re still just 21 years old, and both have been sent on aggressive assignments throughout their short pro careers that have always made them among the youngest in their leagues. If they’d gone to college, they would have just been drafted this summer, and that context must be included when analyzing their profiles. They’ve been overmatched by tough, older competition so far but could yet put it together and pan out.

But their exclusion from the team’s 2020 plans is a discouraging sign, and one that’s easy to interpret as the organization souring at least somewhat on them. Hopefully we’ll see both back on the field in 2021, making the necessary adjustments and finally breaking out into the star performers that they have the ability to be.

A’s 60-man player pool

As a reminder, here’s the A’s full player pool. Players in italics with asterisks** are not on the 40-man roster. Players indented with —hyphens are reporting to off-site alternate training camp rather than MLB camp at the Coliseum.

Oakland A's 60-man pool
Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Frankie Montas (R)
Sean Manaea (L)
Mike Fiers (R)
Chris Bassitt (R)
Jesus Luzardo (L)
A.J. Puk (L)
Paul Blackburn (R)
Daniel Gossett (R)
Daniel Mengden (R)**
--Grant Holmes (R)
--Daulton Jefferies (R)
--James Kaprielian (R)
--Tyler Baum (R)**
--Parker Dunshee (R)**
--Brian Howard (R)**


Relievers

Liam Hendriks (R)
Yusmeiro Petit (R)
Joakim Soria (R)
Jake Diekman (L)
T.J. McFarland (L)
Burch Smith (R)
Lou Trivino (R)
J.B. Wendelken (R)
Lucas Luetge (L)**
Jaime Schultz (R)**
Jordan Weems (R)**
--Wandisson Charles (R)**
--Miguel Romero (R)**
Catchers

Sean Murphy (R)
Austin Allen (L)
Jonah Heim (S)
Carlos Perez (R)**
--Kyle McCann (L)**
--Tyler Soderstrom (L)**


Infielders

Matt Olson (L)
Marcus Semien (R)
Matt Chapman (R)
Tony Kemp (L)
Franklin Barreto (R)
Vimael Machin (L)
Sheldon Neuse (R)
Eric Campbell (R)**
Ryan Goins (L)**
Nate Orf (R)**
--Nick Allen (R)**
--Logan Davidson (S)**
--Robert Puason (S)**


Outfielders

Khris Davis (R)
Mark Canha (R)
Ramon Laureano (R)
Stephen Piscotty (R)
Robbie Grossman (S)
Chad Pinder (R)
Seth Brown (L)
Skye Bolt (S)
--Luis Barrera (L)
--Dustin Fowler (L)
--Brayan Buelvas (R)**
--Greg Deichmann (L)**
--Buddy Reed (S)**