Over the offseason, the Athletics Nation community constructed a top prospect list for the Oakland A’s via crowdsource ballots. We voted on each spot individually, and we now have a complete list of the team’s Top 30 prospects entering 2021, plus a pair of alternates. Click here to learn more about each player.
There was no minor league season in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, which means this year’s rankings are still based on 2019 stats with only sparse additional scouting info from summer training camps. But now the minors are back, and they’re a month into their latest campaign, so it’s time to begin following and analyzing them again. Let’s begin with a reminder of what the landscape looked like at the end of spring training.
|1||A.J. Puk||LHP||25||AAA||Draft (1R, 2016)|
|2||Tyler Soderstrom||C||19||A-||Draft (1R, 2020)|
|3||Nick Allen||SS||22||AA||Draft (3R, 2017)|
|5||Daulton Jefferies||RHP||25||AAA||Draft (1R, 2016)|
|6||Logan Davidson||SS||23||AA||Draft (1R, 2019)|
|7||James Kaprielian||RHP||27||AAA*||Trade (Sonny)|
|9||Greg Deichmann||OF||26||AAA||Draft (2R, 2017)|
|10||Grant Holmes||RHP||25||AAA||Trade (Reddick/Hill)|
|11||Jeff Criswell||RHP||22||A+||Draft (2R, 2020)|
|14||Austin Beck||OF||22||A+||Draft (1R, 2017)|
|15||Ka'ai Tom||OF||27||MLB||Rule 5 draft|
|16||Tyler Baum||RHP||23||A+||Draft (2R, 2019)|
|18||Seth Brown||OF||27||MLB||Draft (19R, 2015)|
|19||Junior Perez||OF||19||A-||Trade (Mateo)|
|20||Buddy Reed||OF||26||AAA||Trade (Profar)|
|22||Colin Peluse||RHP||23||A+||Draft (9R, 2019)|
|24||Kyle McCann||C||23||AA||Draft (4R, 2019)|
|25||Jeremy Eierman||SS||24||AA||Draft (2R, 2018)|
|27||Cody Thomas||OF||26||AAA||Trade (Neuse)|
|28||Brian Howard||RHP||26||AAA||Draft (8R, 2017)|
|29||Aramis Garcia||C||28||MLB||Trade (Davis/Heim)|
|30||Parker Dunshee||RHP||26||AAA||Draft (7R, 2017)|
|31||Skye Bolt||OF||27||AAA||Draft (4R, 2015)|
|32||Hogan Harris||LHP||23||A+||Draft (3R, 2018)|
(The “Level” column refers to where they were when the minors began in May. Two players marked with asterisks* have been meaningfully promoted up a level since then, Kaprielian and Armenteros. Bolt is also in MLB at the moment as an injury replacement.)
In addition to the Top 30, we voted on two extra names for alternate spots, presented here as Nos. 31 (Bolt) and 32 (Harris). That’s convenient, because one CPL member has already left the organization — Tom was claimed off waivers by the Pittsburgh Pirates, after playing nine games for the A’s and being DFA’d. The voting was already long done by then, so I left him on there in the table above, but if you wish you can shift everyone else up a spot and consider Bolt to be No. 30 now.
Where do they come from? Of the 32 names on the CPL, 17 were drafted by Oakland (two from 2015, two from 2016, five from 2017, two from 2018, four from 2019, and two from 2020), eight more were international signings, one was a Rule 5 draft pick (from the Indians, but already waived and out of the organization), and the other six came from six different trades. The eight international signings are the most on the list in the last several years (last six lists, counting backward from 2020, had 7, 6, 1, 4, 3, and 3, respectively).
Quick comparison to last year’s CPL:
- 7 of the 32 players are new to the organization — two from the latest draft class, one via Rule 5, one international, and three via trades dating back to last summer.
- Of the newcomers, 4 are in the top half of the list, but only one is in the Top 10 (Soderstrom).
- Another 3 players stepped up from within the organization to join the CPL (Peluse, McCann, Romero, though Romero had been on a previous list in 2019).
- Meanwhile 9 members of last year’s CPL are gone, with the following breakdown: 3 graduates (Luzardo, Murphy, Machin), 1 who simply didn’t make the cut this time (Guasch), and 5 who are gone from the org entirely (Mateo, M. Smith, D. Harris were traded last summer, and Neuse and Heim were traded over the winter).
- 13 players moved up the list without graduating, led by Barrera (16 up to 8), Davidson (12 up to 6), Deichmann (15 up to 9), Buelvas (18 up to 12), and Charles (27 up to 21) (also Reed by four spots, Puason, Holmes, Baum, and Diaz by three, Allen and Howard by two, and Puk by one).
- 8 players moved down the list without falling off, especially Harris (22 down to 32), Armenteros (14 down to 23), and Bolt (26 down to 31); Beck (3 spots), and Jefferies, Kaprielian, Brown, and Dunshee (1 spot apiece) also went down slightly.
- 1 player stayed in exactly the same spot as last year (Eierman at 25).
The farm hit pause in 2020, but many of the prospects still got some work in at the alternate training camp. Two of the top three names graduated in Luzardo and Murphy, and three more from the Top 10 were traded (Neuse, Mateo, Heim), but an exciting new 1st-round draft pick and some in-house up-and-comers stepped in to replace them on the list.
One way to measure the top talent is by looking at the national Top 100 lists. The A’s only had two players show up on any major lists, and neither were consensus picks on every version. Puk was named by FanGraphs and Keith Law and also got an honorable mention from Baseball Prospectus, and Soderstrom made it on Baseball America and initially missed out on MLB Pipeline but has now worked his way up to No. 87 (because it constantly updates as prospects graduate off of it).
|Soderstrom (87)||Soderstrom (92)||(Puk just missed)||Puk (99)||Puk (84)|
Note: FanGraphs later edited their rankings and added Soderstrom at No. 57 on their list.
There are two reasons for the lack of Top 100 nods. One is that two of them graduated last year and are now in Oakland helping the MLB team, which is the ultimate goal of all this. The other factor is that a few promising names either haven’t made the progress we hoped to see by now, or didn’t get the chance to last summer with no games in which to prove themselves. Overall, the farm system is rated toward the bottom of the sport by all sources, but more due to high risk than sheer lack of talent.
Next up, here’s a further breakdown of our CPL voting. After each ballot I recorded the winner’s margin of victory, to show which votes were close and which were landslides. This is far from scientific, but theoretically the gaps should illustrate the notable drop-offs from one general tier of talent to the next, while the bunches reveal the parts of the list that are effectively ties.
The community clearly agreed on Puk in the top spot, though now two months later it might go differently after Puk’s injury and Soderstrom’s strong pro debut. After that the biggest drop-off is after Jefferies, and the rest of the Top 10 is spaced out a bit. Normally I split the list into several tiers, but I’m going to skip that this year because there aren’t many natural breaks in the voting and also a lot has already changed after the first month of minor league games.
Next up, here are AN’s rankings compared with some other prominent lists.
(Links to each list: MLB Pipeline, Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America, Athletics Farm, Keith Law ... note that Pipeline already updated their original list and Brown graduated, so I might be off by a spot or two on where they put him, and also Pipeline placed Rule 5 draft pick RHP Dany Jimenez at No. 26 but he was later returned to his old team so I left him out.)
A total of 14 different players were mentioned in at least one version of the Top 10. Of that group, five were consensus picks on all six lists, and four more names made it everywhere except Baseball Prospectus. Here are the average rankings for all of them, with the consensus cutoff after Jefferies. For instances when a player wasn’t mentioned in the Top 10, he was given a value of 11 for that list (even if he actually showed up later than 11 on a Top 20 or 30 list):
- Puk, 1.33
- Soderstrom, 1.67
- Allen, 3.67
- Puason, 5.00
- Jefferies, 5.17 (cutoff)
- Davidson, 5.83
- (Tie) Kaprielian, 8.50
- (Tie) Barrera, 8.50
- Criswell, 8.67
- Deichmann, 9.17
- Beck, 10.17
- (Tie) Holmes, Buelvas, Peluse, 10.67
The first two are closer than our CPL vote made it seem, and then there is indeed a drop-off after that. Allen appears to be on his own in third place, and then the next three names (Puason thru Davidson) are bunched up, as are the four after that (Kaprielian thru Deichmann) and the four after that (Beck thru Peluse). Beck and Peluse each made this short list solely based on a placement by Baseball Prospectus.
Finally, here’s a streamlined version of the org depth chart, designed to highlight the cream of the crop and leave out the hoi polloi. This one only includes the Top 32 (now 31) list, plus two more names who received mentions on other sources’ lists (in the big roundup above), and then three more (in parentheses) who have already graduated to rookie status but not yet stuck in MLB. The point of this chart is to give a representation of the A’s long-term future, even in cases where they’re not quite technically prospects anymore.
Chart omits Ka’ai Tom, who is already gone; and takes the liberty of promoting Kaprielian and Armenteros, which happened since the start of May.
There are a couple other young stars who are already in the majors, especially lefty pitcher Jesús Luzardo and catcher Sean Murphy, but the rest of the playoff-caliber core is beginning to get expensive in arbitration. That makes the top of the farm system (Triple-A pitchers and outfielders, Double-A infielders) a priority for immediate MLB replacements when needed, so it’s nice to see most of the Top 10 list in the upper-minors — and the majority in Triple-A, one step away from the bigs.
The 2021 minor league season is already a month old, so the next step is to catch up with the early performances of all these prospects.