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Oakland A’s 2021 Community Prospect List #23: Lazaro Armenteros has big tools overshadowed by strikeouts

He’s got power and speed, but can he make enough contact to use them?

San Francisco Giants v Oakland Athletics Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images

Our 2021 Community Prospect List adds its next member, and one entering his fifth year on the CPL in outfielder Lazaro Armenteros. 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%)
  22. Colin Peluse, RHP (+23%)
  23. Lazaro Armenteros, OF (+10%)

It’s never been a question of what Armenteros can do. When the Oakland A’s burned two entire international signing periods to land him in 2016 for multi-millions, he was billed as the Cuban Bryce Harper, and still nobody doubts his plus power and speed. The last time he played, in 2019, he slugged 17 homers and stole 22 bags despite being young for his level.

The problem has been what he can’t do so far, and that’s consistently make contact against pro pitching. That same 2019 season, in High-A, he posted an unfathomably high 42.2% strikeout rate, in over 500 plate appearances. To borrow a term from a recent comments section, the best adjective to describe that stat is “disqualifying.” It’s enough for some evaluators to write you off immediately regardless of upside, and you simply must lower it in order to have any chance of future success in the upper minors much less MLB.

To make matters worse, Armenteros was one of the best prospects in the organization not invited to the 2020 summer alternate site camp, and then he was also left out of fall instructional camp.

The good news is that Lazarito only turns 22 this summer, so there’s still the optimistic hope of youth on his side. And he did add an impressive 13.6% walk rate to all those whiffs, marking his third straight season in double-digits in that department, so perhaps there’s a glimmer of hope for his plate discipline. That patience, along with his power, meant he managed to grade out as an above-average hitter in High-A, for what that’s worth.

But it all comes down to the strikeouts. As in, they have to come down, by a lot, and no amount of dingers or other exciting feats can change that. It feels impossible to give up on his talent, especially at this age, but he’s got quite the task ahead of him — and that’s before even considering the biggest jump in the minors up to Double-A.

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 Jeremy Eierman. He was a high draft pick but hasn’t produced much in the pros yet, and like Armenteros he has plus power but problems hitting the ball enough to get to it. He does rate well on defense at shortstop, though, and Baseball America gives him the Best Infield Arm in the A’s system.

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:

Jeremy Eierman, SS

Expected level: High-A? | Age 24

2020 stats: DID NOT PLAY
2019 stats (A+): 552 PA, 71 wRC+, 13 HR, 7.1% BB, 32.1% Ks, 11 SB

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 40 | Power: 55 | Run: 55 | Arm: 65 | Field: 55 | Overall: 45

There’s definite power in Eierman’s right-handed swing, but he’s struggled to make contact to get to it with any consistency. As the strikeouts mounted, he fiddled with his stance, changed his approach, but could never get his timing down. The A’s held him out of games at instructs, instead retooling his swing from start to finish, with some results by the end of camp. He had more balance and more leverage while keeping his barrel in the zone longer. His mental approach, worrying about striking out, was as much of a culprit as his inability to pick up spin.

One of the big positives for Eierman was that he actually exceeded expectations defensively. The jury was out whether he could stick at shortstop as a bigger-bodied infielder, but he showed off an easily plus arm and at least an above-average defensive skill set. With the slate wiped clean and the work he put in with his swing, the A’s are hopeful he can have a bounce-back season in 2020.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

Miguel Romero, RHP

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 27

2020 stats: DID NOT PLAY (but was at alternate site camp)
2019 stats (AAA): 3.96 ERA, 72⅔ ip, 81 Ks, 36 BB, 11 HR, 5.27 FIP

MLB Pipeline grades and Baseball America 2021 updated scouting report:

Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Slider: 55 | Control: 45 | Overall: 40

Romero has long looked the part of a major league reliever. His fastball sits 95 mph with sink and touches 98. He pairs it with an 86-88 mph breaking ball that shows late life. He previously struggled to commit to a third pitch, allowing hitters to sit on his heater if command of his breaking ball went awry, but his new changeup could be the answer to those problems and has the look of a potentially plus pitch. Romero’s control is firmly below-average and his walk rate has increased successively at each new level.

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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!