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Oakland A’s prospect watch: Looking back at the 2020 Community Prospect List

Oakland Athletics v Texas Rangers Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

There was no 2020 season for minor league baseball. Normally we spend all year following the Oakland A’s farm system to see how the next generation of players is developing, but last summer we only got to see glimpses of the small handful of youngsters who got the call to appear in MLB games.

Despite the lack of new data, though, this is the time when we usually rank the A’s top prospects, so let’s do it anyway. After all, there will at least be a few changes to last winter’s list, including a couple key names graduating off of it and some interesting new ones joining via draft, trade, and the international market.

First up is a reminder of last year’s list. Then we’ll discuss the new arrivals and some other names to know. Finally, in the comments, we’ll take nominations for our first 2021 Community Prospect List ballot.

2020 list

Here’s the list we voted on last winter. Not much has changed in terms of the stock value of most of these players, since few of them played in real games over the summer, but note the personnel changes. Names in bold graduated to MLB and no longer qualify as prospects, so they’re not eligible for the new CPL. Names in strikethrough are no longer in the organization.

Note that I updated the Age column, so it now reflects the ages they’ll play at for 2021.

Oakland A's 2020 Community Prospect List
# Name Pos Age Level Acquired
1 Jesus Luzardo LHP 23 MLB Trade (Doo/Madson)
2 A.J. Puk LHP 26 MLB Draft (1R, 2016)
3 Sean Murphy C 26 MLB Draft (3R, 2016)
4 Daulton Jefferies RHP 25 AAA Draft (1R, 2016)
5 Nick Allen SS 22 AA Draft (3R, 2017)
6 James Kaprielian RHP 27 AAA Trade (Sonny)
7 Robert Puason SS 18 RK International
8 Sheldon Neuse 3B 26 AAA Trade (Doo/Madson)
9 Jorge Mateo SS 26 AAA Trade (Sonny)
10 Jonah Heim C 26 MLB Trade (Wendle)
11 Austin Beck OF 22 A+ Draft (1R, 2017)
12 Logan Davidson SS 23 A+ Draft (1R, 2019)
13 Grant Holmes RHP 25 AAA Trade (Reddick/Hill)
14 Lazaro Armenteros OF 22 A+ International
15 Greg Deichmann OF 26 AAA Draft (2R, 2017)
16 Luis Barrera OF 25 AAA International
17 Seth Brown OF 28 MLB Draft (19R, 2015)
18 Brayan Buelvas OF 19 RK International
19 Tyler Baum RHP 23 A+ Draft (2R, 2019)
20 Jordan Diaz 3B 20 A International
21 Marcus Smith OF 20 RK Draft (3R, 2019)
22 Hogan Harris LHP 24 AA Draft (3R, 2018)
23 Vimael Machin IF 27 MLB Rule 5 draft
24 Buddy Reed OF 26 AA Trade (Profar)
25 Jeremy Eierman SS 24 A+ Draft (2R, 2018)
26 Skye Bolt OF 27 AAA Draft (4R, 2015)
27 Wandisson Charles RHP 24 AA International
28 Richard Guasch RHP 23 A+ International
29 Parker Dunshee RHP 26 AA Draft (7R, 2017)
30 Brian Howard RHP 26 AA Draft (8R, 2017)
31 Dustin Harris 1B 21 A Draft (11R, 2019)

In total, six players from the 2020 list are no longer in the picture for this year’s voting.

The Graduates

Three prospects officially graduated to MLB last summer, including two of the top three in the whole farm system. Starter Jesús Luzardo pitched league-average ball in his first attempt at starting in the majors, at age 22, and he showed enough to start a pair of playoff games. Catcher Sean Murphy was even better, finishing fourth for Rookie of the Year (Luzardo was eighth).

In addition to that highly touted duo, a sleeper also got some MLB time. Rule 5 pick Vimael Machin stuck on the roster all year, and can now slide in as long-term infield depth for an organization who doesn’t currently have a middle infield.

(Also! RHP Jordan Weems, who was not part of the 2020 CPL, debuted in the majors and graduated on account of MLB service time accrued.)

A few more players appeared in the majors but didn’t spend enough time to graduate: Jefferies, Kaprielian, Heim, and Brown, In 2019, Puk, Neuse, and Bolt also debuted.

The Departures

Three more players were traded away off the list. The first came before the season even began, when it became apparent that Jorge Mateo wasn’t going to make the Opening Day roster and couldn’t be sent down due to lack of options.

The others went together in a single deadline deal, as 2019 draft picks Marcus Smith and Dustin Harris were swapped for Mike Minor.

Add up the grads and trades, and that’s three members of the Top 10 gone, plus three more from the bottom-third of the list. Of course, eliminating top prospects because they’re now in the majors helping the A’s is a good thing, but it’s still quite a blow to the remaining farm system.

Acquisitions and signings

Oakland has been competing for the last three seasons, so they haven’t been in the mode of acquiring top prospects lately. Still, they did pick up one new name in their various dealings.

While Mateo didn’t work out for the A’s, they didn’t lose him for nothing. The Padres sent them Junior Perez in return, a toolsy Rookie Ball outfielder who doesn’t turn 20 until this summer. He’s not as highly rated as Mateo once was, but he will definitely factor into the new CPL. And at a time when Oakland has a logjam of Triple-A projects, exchanging Mateo for Perez pushed back the clock on one of them by yielding a younger, lower-minors talent who doesn’t need a spot on the 40-man roster for a long time.

The A’s also made a notable move on the international market, signing 17-year-old outfielder Pedro Pineda for multiple millions. He’s not as highly graded as the big splash from the previous int’l signing period, Robert Puason, but he’s still a solid addition to a weak system that needs all the help it can get, especially at the lower levels. Click here for more on Pineda.

The Draft

There were only five rounds in the 2020 draft, and the A’s had low position at No. 26. They managed to maximize that situation by nabbing a high school hitter (Tyler Soderstrom) who dropped to them due to signability. Since they were able to ink the Northern California native, they landed a higher level of talent than their slot should have warranted.

Here’s the full 2020 draft class, including some extra undrafted players who signed afterward. Click their names for more info on each.

  1. Round 1: Tyler Soderstrom, C, high school (CA)
  2. Round 2: Jeff Criswell, RHP, Michigan
  3. Round 3: Michael Guldberg, OF, Georgia Tech
  4. Round 4: Dane Acker, RHP, Oklahoma
  5. Round 5: Stevie Emanuels, RHP, Washington

By multiple accounts, Soderstrom is now Oakland’s top prospect. Criswell has also received support, with multiple sources putting him in their Top 10 A’s lists.

Stepping up

Normally in this post, I analyze the rising and falling stocks of last year’s Top 30 prospects, and identify a few players who didn’t make the list but stepped up with eye-opening performances that put them on the radar. We can’t really do that this year, but there are a couple names worth pointing out because they got mentioned by other mainstream sources.

The first is RHP Colin Peluse, the 9th-round pick from 2019, who was ranked 10th in the system by Baseball Prospectus. To sum up their scouting report, they like his fastball (mid-90s, touches 98 mph) and solid slider, and report that he impressed at fall instructs, though with a high-effort delivery that affects his consistency. They suggest letting him start for now but that his future is probably as a reliever, hopefully a setup man. He turns 23 this year and hasn’t yet pitched in full-season ball.

MLB Pipeline also has some extra names at the bottom of their own Top 30, including RHP Gus Varland (having now sat out a full year after Tommy John surgery), RHP Brady Feigl, and catchers Kyle McCann and Drew Millas. But all of that is a discussion for later in the voting process.

2021 CPL intro

Let’s get started! The first step is to nominate our opening ballot, which we will do in the comments. I will pick 10 obvious names and list them in alphabetical order, and all you have to do is click Rec on the ones you like best. We need five nominees, so go ahead and Rec up to five names, or I suppose you could choose more than five if you want to dilute your own voice.