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Oakland A’s 2021 Community Prospect List: Who is the top prospect in the organization?

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Athletics Nation votes on the team’s top prospect.

Texas Rangers v Oakland Athletics Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

Who is the top minor league prospect in the Oakland A’s organization? There are several candidates to choose from, and we’re here to find out once and for all. The time has finally come: Let’s get started on the 2021 Community Prospect List!

Click here to see the review of last year’s list, for a refresher of what the farm system looks like after a summer with no minor league season.

The process for this public vote 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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We have five nominees vying for the prestigious top slot in our spreadsheet. They include two pitchers who have already briefly debuted in the majors but whose paths have been heavily affected by injuries; a standout defensive shortstop who is midway through his journey up the minors, and who could reach Oakland within the next year; and two teenage phenoms whose talents are highly regarded but who still have everything to prove on the field as pros.

Two of them were 1st-round draft picks, and another was a comp pick just after the 1st round; the others were a 3rd-rounder and a high-priced international free agent. The two pitchers were drafted out of college, and the three hitters were acquired at high school age.

Here’s a quick rundown on each one — the scouting grades (on a 20-to-80 scale) and scouting reports come from MLB Pipeline (last updated mid-2020. Ages listed are the ages at which they will play in 2021, even if they haven’t had their birthday yet this year.

Hitter rates (poor/avg/great):

  • wRC+ (75/100/135)
  • BB% (5.0%/8.5%/12.0%)
  • K% (14%/22%/30%)

Nominees on the current ballot:

A.J. Puk, LHP

Expected level: MLB | Age 26

2020 stats: DID NOT PLAY (injured)
2019 stats (AAA): 4.91 ERA, 11 ip, 16 Ks, 3 BB, 3 HR, 5.52 FIP
2019 stats (MLB): 3.18 ERA, 11⅓ ip, 13 Ks, 5 BB, 1 HR, 3.39 FIP

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Fastball: 70 | Slider: 65 | Curveball: 50 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 45 | Overall: 55

Puk’s pure stuff is as good as any lefty prospect in the game, though his command of it keeps him a half-step behind some. He has a premium fastball that averaged just over 97 mph and touched triple digits during his time in the big leagues. His nasty slider touches the low-90s and misses a ton of bats and his changeup is nearly as good at times as well. He’ll mix in a curve now and again and it gives him a fourth average pitch in his arsenal. All of it comes from his 6-foot-7 frame and gets on hitters in a hurry thanks to his tremendous extension.

Before Puk got hurt, his strike-throwing had improved from his college days, though there was a little rust once he got back on the mound competitively post-surgery. He’s never going to have pinpoint command, but if he can find the strike zone consistently, he has the stuff to pitch near the top of a rotation.

* * *

Nick Allen, SS

Expected level: Double-A | Age 22

2020 stats: DID NOT PLAY (but was at alternate site camp)
2019 stats (A+): 328 PAs, 122 wRC+, 3 HR, 8.5% BB, 15.9% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 30 | Run: 60 | Arm: 60 | Field: 65 | Overall: 50

No matter how much Allen improves at the plate, there’s no question he’ll always be a defensive-minded player. He makes every play at shortstop, with plus range, hands, footwork and a plus arm that allows him to make throws from every angle and on the run. All of it plays up even more because of his outstanding instincts that give him Gold Glove potential. He also showed he can handle second base easily, sharing time at both spots with fellow prospect Jeremy Eierman, though there is no question which of the two is a full-time shortstop long term.

Before the injury, Allen was executing his offensive game plan better than he had previously, showing an advanced approach at the plate and using his line-drive swing well, though he never got his timing back when he returned from injury in the AFL. He can get caught buying into the launch angle game a bit too much and that’s never going to be part of his game. At the very least, Allen looks like a No. 8 or 9 hitter as a big league regular. If his offensive gains before he got hurt are real, that plus his defensive profile point to a much larger impact.

* * *

Tyler Soderstrom, C

Expected level: Low-A | Age 19

2020 stats: DID NOT PLAY (he was in high school, then joined A’s alternate site camp)

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

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

Soderstrom is an athletic, left-handed-hitting catcher whose bat is ahead of his defense. At the plate, he’s really polished with a solid overall approach and makes the kind of loud contact that makes people sit up and take notice when he’s taking batting practice. He’s a hitter first, but he will get to his power. He might be a tick above average as a runner, especially for a catcher, and has shown he has the athleticism to play third and even the outfield.

Soderstrom’s hands work and he has a very strong arm, but he is raw in terms of blocking and game management. If the A’s want him to stick behind the plate, they might need to be patient, with an offensive-minded big league regular backstop his ceiling, knowing his bat will likely profile well at any of a number of positions if needed.

* * *

Robert Puason, SS

Expected level: Rookie League | Age 18

2020 stats: DID NOT PLAY (but was at A’s alternate site camp)

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting Grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 45 | Run: 65 | Arm: 60 | Field: 60 | Overall: 50

Puason is lean and wiry, with a frame that should add strength, and a body type that reminds some of former All-Star shortstop Tony Fernandez. He has a smooth stroke from both sides of the plate with the ability to barrel up the baseball consistently and spray line drives to all fields. As he matures and grows into his 6-foot-3 frame, there’s sure to be power to come. How much remains to be seen, but a floor of 15 homers annually seems more than reasonable given his long levers and some leverage to his swing.

A plus runner, there’s no question about Puason’s ability to play shortstop. He can really pick it and throw it, with fluid actions, good footwork and plus range to go along with a very strong arm. He’s already displaying solid instincts as well and will get to show off his tools in earnest this summer.

* * *

Daulton Jefferies, RHP

Expected level: MLB | Age 25

2020 stats (MLB): 1 start, 2 ip, 5 runs, 1 K, 2 BB, 2 HR
2019 stats (A+): 2.40 ERA, 15 ip, 21 Ks, 2 BB, 1 HR, 2.13 FIP
2019 stats (AA): 3.66 ERA, 64 ip, 72 Ks, 7 BB, 7 HR, 3.19 FIP

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Slider: 45 | Changeup: 60 | Control: 60 | Overall: 50

Not only did Jefferies stay healthy in 2019 as the A’s closely monitored his workload, his stuff and command came back, allowing him to post a ridiculous 93/9 K/BB ratio over 79 innings of work. He’s likely going to work with a low-90s fastball, around 91-93 mph, though he can reach back for a 94 now and again and it plays up because of his ability to command it so well. He complements it with a plus changeup that he sells really well with his arm action and good tunneling with excellent fade that drops off the table right at the end.

He’s never had a great breaking ball and he’s experimented with different pitches and grips. He didn’t throw it a lot in 2019 and it was inconsistent, looking like a slider-cutter hybrid more often than not. If he can commit to a breaking ball to give him a third average offering, he has the chance to be a No. 4 type starter in short order, a kind of Kyle Hendricks type with a bit more velocity.

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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!

Programming Note: Each CPL vote will run for around 24 hours, so don’t delay making your selections! Next ballot goes up at noon Wednesday.