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Oakland A’s 2021 Community Prospect List #8: Luis Barrera has tools to reach majors soon

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But will it be as an everyday starter, or a useful bench player?

Oakland Athletics v Chicago Cubs Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images

Our 2021 Community Prospect List adds its eighth member, on the second try, with outfielder Luis Barrera. Here’s the current list, including their winning margins (the difference between his % of the vote, and the % of the runner-up):

  1. A.J. Puk, LHP (+42%)
  2. Tyler Soderstrom, C (+16%)
  3. Nick Allen, SS (+26%)
  4. Robert Puason, SS (+29%)
  5. Daulton Jefferies, RHP (+42%)
  6. Logan Davidson, SS (+15%)
  7. James Kaprielian, RHP (+32%)
  8. Luis Barrera, OF (+34%)

The Top 10 of our CPL has taken a beating this month, as catcher Jonah Heim and infielder Sheldon Neuse both would have made the cut but were traded away instead. Neuse had all but sealed the No. 8 spot on the list when he was shipped off, but instead it will go to Barrera.

Perhaps this should have been Barrera’s spot anyway. After all, Baseball America had him ranked ahead of both Heim and Neuse on their version of this list, at No. 7, and MLB Pipeline has him over Heim (but not Neuse) at No. 8. He didn’t get much press on his long journey up the minor league ladder, but he’s got everyone’s attention now.

One reason is that Barrera seems like a virtual lock to at least make the majors. He’s a superb runner with 70-grade speed, his fielding is universally considered a plus on the outfield corners and possibly good enough for center too, and his throwing arm gets grades in the 60 and 70 range. That’s enough for at least a fourth outfielder on the bench, and if his aggressive line-drive slasher bat pans out well enough then perhaps he could even be more.

A high floor as at least an MLB player, with the chance to be a notable contributor in a regular role, is a nice combo. He’s hit well at every level of the minors up to Double-A, though like everyone else in the prospect world he had to press pause on live games in 2020 so he didn’t get a chance to prove himself in Triple-A. Once he does, he’ll be only one step away from forcing a look in the majors — and he’s already on the 40-man roster, which helps make his path to Oakland even clearer and shows how firmly the team believes him.

The voting process is explained below. Please take a moment to read this before participating:

  • 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 for the next ballot.
  • 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.

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The new nominee is Pedro Pineda. The teenager signed out of the Dominican Republic in January, so we haven’t seen him play pro ball in the U.S. yet, but he got one of the highest bonuses in his draft class and he’s got a wide range of interesting tools. Don’t expect to see him in Oakland anytime soon, but he’s a major name to keep an eye on in the lower minors.

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:

Pedro Pineda, OF

Expected level: Rookie Ball | Age 17

2020 stats: Signed in January, hasn’t played yet

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report (from international draft class capsule):

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

Pineda has broad shoulders, an athletic, projectable body and a collection of some of the best tools in this year’s class.

He’s best described as “explosive” and it’s easy to see why.

Pineda is raw, but has the potential to have plus tools. Specifically, he’s been praised for his hands and excellent bat speed. Like many prospects his age, there is some swing and miss to his game and his overall swing is a work in progress, but that’s not uncommon. For now, there’s some loft to his swing and his mechanics continue to improve. He also consistently hits the ball hard to all fields and can drive the ball out of the ballpark. He has the potential to be a base-stealer and an above average baserunner.

On defense, he has the ability to shine at the corner outfield spots, but is also comfortable in center field. He is learning how to contain his arm strength for improved accuracy and is expected to improve in that area once he signs and receives daily instruction in a team’s academy. Coachable and energetic, Pineda is a student of the game. He is also currently taking English classes.

* * *

Greg Deichmann, OF

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 26

2020 stats: DID NOT PLAY (but was at alternate site camp)
2019 stats (AA): 340 PAs, 90 wRC+, 11 HR, 10.0% BB, 30.3% Ks
2019 stats (AFL): .256/.347/.634, 9 HR, 10.5% BB, 30.5% Ks (in 95 PAs)

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

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

Before the injuries hit, Deichmann was a very stiff-bodied hitter, one who would over-rotate and whose shoulder would fly open too often, with his arms and hands not working independently at all. While he was rehabbing, he focused more on flexibility than just hitting the weight room and being more elastic at the plate allowed for more shoulder and hips separation. Staying on pitches more, keeping his shoulder in and being on time cut down on his swing and miss, allowed his walk rate to go up and he started to show the ability to drive balls to left-center field. He learned that as he barrels up the ball more, he didn’t need to chase power; it was going to come naturally with his strength and natural loft.

With a strong arm, Deichmann could fit the power-hitting corner outfielder profile well. Though he has below-average speed, he is a good baserunner who can steal a base. More than anything, though, he needs consistent and healthy reps so he can keep working on getting to his tremendous raw power.

* * *

Grant Holmes, RHP

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 25

2020 stats: DID NOT PLAY (but was at alternate site camp)
2019 stats (AA): 3.31 ERA, 81⅔ ip, 76 Ks, 27 BB, 9 HR, 4.20 FIP
2019 stats (AAA): 1.93 ERA, 4⅔ ip, 5 Ks, 1 BB, 1 HR, 5.08 FIP

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Curveball: 60 | Cutter: 55 | Changeup: 60 | Control: 45 | Overall: 45

For much of his Minor League career, Holmes has been more stuff than production. Much of that had to do with hitters being able to pick the ball up out of his hand too well and he worked on adding more deception in 2019 with some success. He still features a sinking fastball that sits in the low-90s that gets a lot of groundball outs and his curve is still a plus pitch that misses bats. Like most A’s farmhands, he’s developed a cutter, giving him a third at least above-average offering and his changeup has also improved.

Holmes was a more consistent strike-thrower in 2019 and he’ll have to continue to refine his command to remain a starter. He sometimes came out of the bullpen in a tandem system with Midland last year and his stuff was very impressive in shorter outings, something the A’s surely will discuss when talking about how the right-hander can impact the big league staff.

* * *

Brayan Buelvas, OF

Expected level: Low-A? | Age 19

2020 stats: DID NOT PLAY (but was at alternate site camp)
2019 stats (AZL): 186 PA, 140 wRC+, 3 HR, 11.8% BB, 24.7% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

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

One of the youngest players in the AZL, Buelvas handled being thrown into the fire with the aggressive assignment with aplomb. The A’s think he has the chance to be a plus hitter in time, with an advanced approach especially given his age and a willingness to draw walks. While he’s likely not going to be a big over-the-fence type of hitter, he did show extra-base authority to all fields and a penchant for going the other way. He may settle into being an average runner over time, but he’s aggressive on the basepaths.

Buelvas has seen time in all three outfield spots, something that’s likely to continue, but he’s a true center fielder who should be able to play there long term. As much as his tools excite the A’s, they also love his makeup and his passion for the game. He won an award for being the most valuable player at instructs after the season, leaving the organization very excited to see what he does for an encore in 2020.

* * *

Austin Beck, OF

Expected level: High-A? | Age 22

2020 stats: DID NOT PLAY (but was at fall instructional league)
2019 stats (A+): 367 PAs, 95 wRC+, 8 HR, 6.5% BB, 34.3% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 40 | Power: 50 | Run: 60 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 45

Overall, Beck hasn’t lived up to the expectations usually put on a top 10 Draft pick. After chasing power too much during his debut, he became a better hitter in his first full season. His swing and miss skyrocketed in 2019, though, with a strikeout rate over 34 percent and he hasn’t been able to get to his considerable raw power consistently at all in games at the pro level. He struggles recognizing breaking stuff and his struggles seemed to get in his head at times. He has premium bat speed and his rotation and acceleration are elite and he worked on calming down in the box during instructs with the confidence that if he can make more contact, the power will naturally come.

Beck runs very well, and while that hasn’t translated to stolen bases, it does help him play a very good center field. He has an above-average arm that would work well in an outfield corner if he slows down enough to necessitate a move. But more than anything, he needs to refine his approach and start turning his tools into production at the plate.

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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!