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Oakland A’s 2021 Community Prospect List #15: Ka’ai Tom gets chance as Rule 5 draft pick

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Can the outfielder stick in the majors all season long?

MLB: FEB 19 Cleveland Indians Photo Day Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Our 2021 Community Prospect List adds its next member, and a new addition to the organization entirely in Rule 5 draft pick Ka’ai Tom. 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%)
  9. Greg Deichmann, OF (+24%)
  10. Grant Holmes, RHP (+3%)
  11. Jeff Criswell, RHP (+10%)
  12. Brayan Buelvas, OF (+19%)
  13. Pedro Pineda, OF (+23%)
  14. Austin Beck, OF (+13%)
  15. Ka’ai Tom, OF (+3%)

The Oakland A’s made a Rule 5 draft pick in 2019 with Vimael Machin, and the infielder stuck in the majors all season, meaning the organization got to keep him. He ranked No. 23 on last year’s CPL, and now he’s part of the team’s immediate depth chart at second base.

This winter, the A’s doubled down made two Rule 5 picks. The first, Tom, is getting an even bigger vote of confidence from Athletics Nation, cracking the top half of our latest CPL.

The next step for Tom is to make the Opening Day 26-man roster, and there’s a clear path for him to do that if he can earn it. Oakland already has three righty outfielders and a lefty DH, but there’s still room for another outfielder who bats lefty to provide more platoon balance to the lineup. Factor in his excellent minor league walk rates, and a 2019 power surge, as well as defense that might land somewhere between decent and pretty good, and he’s as perfect a fit and as promising a talent as any candidate the A’s have for the role.

Tom’s competition for the job includes fellow prospects Seth Brown and Skye Bolt, both of whom are also in the running for this CPL but haven’t yet been voted in. As for the other Rule 5 pick, reliever Dany Jimenez, perhaps we’ll see an appearance by him further down the list as well.

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.

* * *

The new nominee is Junior Perez. When the A’s cut bait on Jorge Mateo last summer, they traded him to the Padres for Perez, a teenage outfielder with a big bat who played in Rookie Ball in 2019.

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:

Junior Perez, OF

Expected level: Low-A? | Age 19

2020 stats: DID NOT PLAY
2019 stats (RK): 238 PA, 126 wRC+, 11 HR, 10.1% BB, 24.8% Ks, 11 SB

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

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

That Perez possesses a strong, physical frame for a teenager makes it easy to dream on his power potential from the right side of the plate. He also makes a lot of quality contact, combining his strength with a quick bat and lofty swing. His swing-and-miss issues aren’t uncommon for a player his age and stand to improve as he gains experience and learns to recognize spin better.

Perez’s below-average speed limits him to an outfield corner, and he spent much of his 2019 campaign manning right field in the AZL. He may be a better long-term fit in left, though, because his arm strength is only a tick above average.

* * *

Seth Brown, OF

Expected level: MLB? | Age 28

2020 stats (MLB): 0-for-5, 2 Ks
2019 stats (MLB): 83 PA, 120 wRC+, 0 HR, 8.4% BB, 27.7% Ks
2019 stats (AAA): 500 PA, 126 wRC+, 37 HR, 7.6% BB, 25.4% Ks

Baseball America scouting report (from January 2021):

Brown re-tooled his swing in search of more launch angle prior to 2017 and unlocked considerable power. It has yet to translate to the big leagues in a very small sample size — zero homers in 88 at-bats—but his plus raw power is as good as any in the A’s system. He makes solid contact and has a chance to be an average hitter against righthanders as part of a platoon. Brown has worked hard to improve his outfield defense in the hopes of enhancing his versatility and giving him more avenues to playing time. He’s a fine defender at first base.

* * *

Jordan Diaz, 3B

Expected level: Low-A | Age 20

2020 stats: DID NOT PLAY
2019 stats (A-): 300 PA, 118 wRC+, 9 HR, 6.0% BB, 15.3% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

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

Diaz has perhaps the best bat-to-ball skills in the organization. He has an advanced feel to hit with outstanding bat-to-ball skills, limiting his strikeouts. He’s more of a gap-to-gap hitter and he’s not a quick-twitch kind of hitter, though there is potential power in there.

While there’s faith Diaz is going to hit, there are more questions about whether he’ll defend. He doesn’t always keep focus there and while his hands and arm work, he needs to improve his footwork to stick at third long term. He can get caught flat-footed and make errors as a result. Some of that can get chalked up to youth, but he’ll need to be more consistent as he moves forward. The power will have to come more for him to really profile at the infield corner, but the A’s feel the bat will keep him going up the ladder.

* * *

Tyler Baum, RHP

Expected level: High-A | Age 23

2020 stats: DID NOT PLAY (but was at A’s alternate site camp)
2019 stats (A-): 4.70 ERA, 30⅔ ip, 34 Ks, 7 BB, 4 HR, 3.76 FIP

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

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

Baum doesn’t have eye-popping stuff, but he does have a four pitch mix at his disposal. He’ll touch 94 mph with his fastball, throwing it with good armside run. He has two distinct breaking balls thrown from his high-three-quarters arm slot, with his upper-70s curve a bit ahead of his harder, more lateral-breaking low-80s slider. His changeup gives him a fourth at least average pitch, an offspeed offering that has some fade to it.

Baum’s strike-throwing improved during his junior year at North Carolina and it carried over during his pro debut. Though there’s some crossfire in his delivery, the improved command gives him a better chance to start, as a No. 4 type in a rotation, long term, though his fastball-breaking ball would play up should he have to move to the bullpen.

* * *

Lazaro Armenteros, OF

Expected level: High-A? | Age 22

2020 stats: DID NOT PLAY
2019 stats (A+): 538 PA, 107 wRC+, 17 HR, 13.6% BB, 42.2% Ks, 22 SB

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

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

In 2019, Armenteros struck out in more than 42 percent of his plate appearances, only partially offset by his high walk rate. When taking that into consideration, it’s a testament to how strong he is that he still managed to hit 17 homers. But he really needs to re-work his swing because his barrel isn’t in the zone long enough for him to make contact to get to that power. He started working on that during instructs and it’s an adjustment, especially with breaking stuff, he’ll have to make if he wants to progress.

Armenteros is a physical specimen who can really run and should continue to be able to steal bases. His defense has improved, but he’s probably limited to left field because of a below-average arm. The good news is he’s still young enough to figure things out, but there will have to be some considerable changes to his swing and approach to make it happen.

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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!