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Oakland A’s 2021 Community Prospect List #24: Kyle McCann brings power to catcher position

Only the second catcher on the list so far

MLB Photos via Getty Images (provided by Oakland A’s)

Our 2021 Community Prospect List adds its next member, and only the second catcher so far in Kyle McCann. 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%)
  24. Kyle McCann, C (+18%)

The Oakland A’s catching depth chart has come a long way lately, after spending the first couple seasons of their current contention window relying on backups and veteran stopgaps.

At the end of 2019, top prospect Sean Murphy debuted and quickly took over the starting job. Around that time, prospect Jonah Heim broke out in the upper-minors and Austin Allen was acquired, and later Heim was traded for Aramis Garcia. Last summer the A’s drafted high schooler Tyler Soderstrom in the 1st round.

Suddenly a weakness had been turned into a strength. At the MLB level a once-thin position now has a star and promising depth, and at the bottom of the farm system there’s a high-ceiling teenager to get excited about.

But what about in between those two endpoints? Enter the 2019 draft class, which brought two new college backstops within Oakland’s top seven picks. McCann was drafted in the 4th round, and despite his name and being a catcher from Georgia, he is not related to Brian. Or James.

First and foremost, McCann is a slugger. Baseball America calls him the Best Power Hitter in the A’s system, and FanGraphs puts a 60-grade on his raw power. He showed it off in his pro debut after the draft, slamming homers in short-season ball, but there were questions about basically every other part of his game.

Despite losing 2020 to the canceled season, McCann still managed to raise his stock, as “one of [the A’s] biggest risers at the alternate site,” per Baseball America. In particular they praised his defensive improvement, after minimal college experience at the position.

Like everyone else in the 2019 draft class, McCann is still waiting for his first chance to play a full pro season. If he can prove himself behind the plate and make enough contact to utilize his lefty power, loosely in the mold of Austin Allen, then there will be another wave on the catching depth chart in between present-day Murphy and distant-future Soderstrom.

The other 2019 draft pick: Drew Millas, in the 7th round. The glove-first switch-hitter is yet to play at all in the pros. He’s not on our CPL yet, nor on the current ballot, but he ranks No. 27 on Baseball America’s list — and a few of the names above him have since been traded.

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 Brian Howard. He is proof that tall people are awesome, in the opinion of this 6’5 writer. The 6’9 hurler utterly dominated the lower-minors and also conquered Double-A, but is yet to prove himself any higher up the ladder than that. The knock on Big Game Howie is that his mediocre stuff won’t continue to work against more advanced hitters, especially when he’s no longer facing competition notably younger than he is, but there are two good reasons for hope. One is that his extreme height can make his arsenal play up, and the other is that his low-90s velocity jumped up as high as 96 mph last fall at instructs.

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:

Brian Howard, RHP

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 26

2020 stats: DID NOT PLAY (but was at alternate site camp)
2019 stats (AA): 3.25 ERA, 130 ip, 118 Ks, 39 BB, 7 HR, 3.33 FIP
2019 stats (AAA): 13.81 ERA, 14⅓ ip, 16 Ks, 8 BB, 4 HR, 7.29 FIP

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

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

Despite his size, Howard isn’t a pure stuff or power pitcher, though he does throw everything from a very good downward angle. His fastball is typically in the 89-92 mph range and he attacks the strike zone well with it. His cutter/slider is really one pitch that Howard manipulates, adding and subtracting from it when he wants to create two different offerings. He does fold in a fringe-average curve and has an OK changeup as part of his repertoire.

There’s very little margin for error for Howard since he doesn’t have put-away stuff, and while he’s generally been a strike-thrower, he’ll need to improve his ability to pitch up and down in the zone as well as his pitch sequencing to succeed as a starter. Some feel the bullpen might be a better place for him, where his fastball might tick up and he can become a two-pitch, fastball-cutter type in shorter stints.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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!