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Oakland A’s 2021 Community Prospect List #21: Wandisson Charles sizzles his way onto 40-man roster

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The fireballing reliever is now just one step away from reaching the majors

Cleveland Indians v Oakland Athletics
Duck!
Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images

Our 2021 Community Prospect List adds its next member, and its first pure reliever in Wandisson Charles. 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%)
  16. Tyler Baum, RHP (+1%)
  17. Jordan Diaz, 3B (+21%)
  18. Seth Brown, OF (+11%)
  19. Junior Perez, OF (+21%)
  20. Buddy Reed, OF (+11%)
  21. Wandisson Charles, RHP (+25%)

The Oakland A’s did some serious work on their bullpen in February, signing three free agents and picking up another reliever in a trade. Suddenly their pen is packed, and anyone with minor league options is a good bet to head back to Triple-A to begin the year.

That includes Charles, though he was never likely to make the Opening Day squad anyway. But the right-hander has made excellent progress on his journey toward the majors, and now he’s as close as ever.

The thing that sets Charles apart is his fastball, which gets a 75-grade from MLB Pipeline, nearly the maximum possible rating. Baseball America calls it the best fastball in the A’s farm system. It’s an upper-90s monster that has been clocked well into triple-digits in the recent past, and he complements it with a plus slider to create a fearsome arsenal.

The only questions have been control and command, but he’s improved in those areas as time as gone on. His walk rate, while still enormous, has steadily gone down each year and reached a personal best in 2019 in a handful of innings in Double-A. And when he’s around the plate he seems nearly impossible to beat, with gargantuan strikeout totals and microscopic hit and homer rates.

The A’s bet on Charles last winter, adding him to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. That move means he’s just one step away from the majors, as he’s at least eligible to be called up whenever he’s ready to go and an opportunity arises. He’s got something left to prove in the minors, but maybe not much, and it wouldn’t be out of the question to see him in Oakland sometime this summer.

Cactus League update: Charles made his spring debut on Tuesday and allowed a run, but he didn’t walk anybody. He allowed three hits, and the worst was a double to former MVP Christian Yelich, which is understandable.

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 Cody Thomas. The outfielder was acquired from the Dodgers in the Adam Kolarek trade, which sent Sheldon Neuse to Los Angeles. Thomas is a former Oklahoma Sooners football quarterback, so, the A’s finally got one of those after missing out on Kyler Murray from the same school.

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:

Cody Thomas, OF

Expected level: Triple-A? | Age 26

2020 stats: DID NOT PLAY
2019 stats (AA): 532 PA, 108 wRC+, 23 HR, 8.6% BB, 27.1% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

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

Thomas’ raw power is his carrying tool and it immediately puts him among the best in the A’s system in that category, and he translates it into production against both left-handers and right-handers. However, his long left-handed stroke and aggressive approach limit his ability to make contact and have resulted in a 29 percent strikeout rate as a pro. He showed a better understanding of his swing during Spring Training in 2020, fueling optimism that he could break out this year before the coronavirus canceled the Minor League season.

Thomas moves well for a 6-foot-4, 211-pounder, showing average speed once he gets going. He ran well enough to play mostly center field in his first two years in pro ball, though he has settled in right field since. He’s an average defender on the corners with a solid arm, and his power fits the right-field profile well.

* * *

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.

* * *

Kyle McCann, C

Expected level: High-A | Age 23

2020 stats: DID NOT PLAY (but was at alternate site camp)
2019 stats (A-): 225 PA, 94 wRC+, 7 HR, 11.1% BB, 36.0% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 40 | Power: 55 | Run: 30 | Arm: 50 | Field: 45 | Overall: 40

The left-handed hitter has legit power to all fields, reminding some of the Orioles’ Chris Davis power-wise. He can lift it out to the opposite field and has a little hook to the pull side and like Davis, his power will come with considerable swing and miss (He struck out in nearly 35 percent of his plate appearances in 2019). He may never hit for a high average, but he does mitigate the strikeouts a bit by working counts and drawing walks.

McCann caught and played first base during his pro debut, partically because he was nursing a sore shoulder. He showed off a much better arm during instructs, but while his hands work, his blocking and overall receiving are works in progress. If it all clicks, he could fit the profile of a lefty power-hitting backstop, but he also might have enough pop to be a first baseman if the catching end of things doesn’t come together.

* * *

Colin Peluse, RHP

Expected level: High-A | Age 23

2020 stats: DID NOT PLAY (but was at fall instructional league)
2019 stats (A-): 2.25 ERA, 24 ip, 26 Ks, 6 BB, 1 HR, 3.15 FIP

Baseball America 2021 scouting report:

Peluse’s fastball sat 96 mph and touched 98 at instructs, a marked increase from his low-90s readings in college. His slider was already a plus pitch, showing late life and more drop than a typical slider. His changeup is firm, sitting at 88-89 mph, and the A’s worked to soften it a bit during instructional league. Peluse already possessed one of the better deliveries among Oakland’s starting pitching prospects and showed solid command and control during his time at Wake Forest, walking 3.18 batters per nine innings.

* * *

Parker Dunshee, RHP

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 26

2020 stats: DID NOT PLAY (but was at alternate site camp)
2019 stats (AA): 1.89 ERA, 38 ip, 34 Ks, 11 BB, 1 HR, 3.19 FIP
2019 stats (AAA): 5.38 ERA, 92 ip, 90 Ks, 37 BB, 21 HR, 6.21 FIP

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Fastball: 50 | Slider: 55 | Curveball: 45 | Cutter: 45 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 40

During his rapid climb up the ladder, Dunshee relied on deception more than stuff to miss bats and get hitters out. His fastball will sit 90-91 mph on most days and he throws a solid slider while also flipping in a get-me-over curve and his changeup is close to average now. Like many A’s farmhands, he’s worked on a cutter that’s sort of a hybrid off of his slider. He would often leave evaluators scratching their heads at how he could miss so many bats despite the overall lack of movement of his stuff.

Some of that got exposed when he got to Triple-A as his lack of an out pitch made it tough for him to find consistent success. He has to learn to live on the corners more and he’s working on throwing up in the zone more to change a hitter’s eye level. Smart on the mound and very athletic, Dunshee could be a poor man’s Kyle Hendricks type if it all clicks.

* * *

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!