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Oakland A's 2016 Community Prospect List #4: Matt Olson could increase stock with move to outfield

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Will Olson stay at 1B, or move to the OF?
Will Olson stay at 1B, or move to the OF?
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

With the obvious top two prospects off the board, Matt Olson stood out from among the next tier of talent to earn the No. 3 spot on our Oakland A's Community Prospect List. Although I expected he would win this vote, I was surprised by the extent to which he ran away with it, earning nearly half of the ~400 votes while no one else tallied more than a quarter. The current list, including their winning margins (the amount by which they won their elections, defined as a percentage of the total vote):

1. Sean Manaea, LHP (+1%)
2. Franklin Barreto, SS/CF (+70%)
3. Matt Olson, 1B/OF (+24%)

Olson topped the CPL last year, but the fact that he's fallen to No. 3 should not be seen as discouraging. It has more to do with the addition of Manaea and the advancement of Barreto than any deterioration on Olson's part.

At first glance his numbers seem to have tumbled mightily in 2015, but he serves as a reminder of the need for context in minor league stats. Not only did he make the tough jump to the upper minors (from High-A up to Double-A) at the age (21) of a college junior, he also had to go from hitter-friendly Stockton to pitcher-friendly Midland. Although his OPS dropped by 121 points, his .826 mark in Midland was still good for a 132 wRC+ (somewhere between "star" and "'superstar") and was still among the best in the Texas League. He didn't hit as many homers in his ruthless home park, but he was still one of the top power hitters in the league while reaching triple-digits in walks. He's the epitome of a Three True Outcomes slugger, and his biggest remaining question is whether he'll continue to make enough contact against top-level pitching. In that sense, we didn't learn anything new about Olson at the plate this year, which is fine since we liked most of the things we knew.

However, we may have learned something new about him on defense, as he started more games in right field than at first base between the regular season and postseason. He entered the year with a reputation as a slick-fielding first baseman, but with some other corner infielders on hand the RockHounds gave Olson a shot in the outfield due to his athleticism and strong arm. The results seem to have been favorable -- John Sickels calls him a "very competent corner outfielder with a strong arm" while our friend Bill from A's Farm tells us he'd "expect to see more of Matt Olson in the outfield than at first base in Nashville this season."

Considering how deep the A's are in first basemen, and how thin they are in outfielders, a move to the outfield could be a major boost for Olson. He'd have a lot less competition on his path to Oakland, and the move up the defensive spectrum, as well as the added versatility, would raise his prospect stock. Heck, it might be necessary in the short-term just to fit him, Rangel Ravelo, Renato Nunez, Max Muncy, and Ryon Healy into the same Triple-A lineup.

At the plate, Olson held serve after moving up the ladder. In the field, he might have made a huge leap, if he does indeed prove himself as a legitimate outfielder. Add it up, and it was still a positive year despite a drop in these rankings.

The next CPL will be out in a couple days, so waste any time making your nomination(s) and casting your vote!

Here is the process:

  • Five nominees will appear on the ballot. The one who receives the most votes earns the next spot on the CPL, while the remaining four players move on to the next ballot where they are joined by the next nominee.
  • In the comments, commenters will nominate a player to be put onto the ballot for the next round. After the first nomination for a player has been put in, all other votes for that player will come from Rec'ing that comment. The player with the most Rec's earns the nomination.
  • The format for the comment should be "Nomination: Player Name".
  • 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 shortstop Yairo Munoz. He entered the year as a high-upside wild card getting his first taste of full-season ball, and his raw talent got him into the top 10 on last year's CPL. He was disappointing in Beloit, but when Franklin Barreto bruised his wrist Munoz got the call to Stockton to replace him. Something about the change of scenery rejuvenated him, and he began raking like everyone hoped he would -- he added 84 points to his average, 94 to his OBP, and 117 to his slugging, while increasing his walks and cutting his strikeouts. It was a small sample in a hitter-friendly league, but it still opens your eyes when a 20-year-old moves up a level and gets better across the board. One way or other, that stretch in Stockton turned a disappointing season into a promising campaign for Munoz. If the A's want to be aggressive with him, I imagine it's not impossible that he could start the season in Double-A, especially if Barreto (also ticketed for Midland) moves away from shortstop.

Yairo Munoz, SS

Expected level: High-A? Double-A? | Age 21

2015 stats (Single-A Beloit): 400 PAs, 84 wRC+, 9 HR, 5.5% BB, 15.5% Ks
2015 stats (High-A Stockton): 165 PAs, 132 wRC+, 4 HR, 6.7% BB, 12.1% Ks

From MLB.com:

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 45 | Run: 60 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50 | Overall: 45

Munoz has excellent athleticism and is an above-average runner. His raw tools give him significant upside, though he's still learning to harness them. He has some wiry strength and projects to hit for some power when he physically matures. Defensively, he has a chance to remain at shortstop. His quickness gives him good lateral range to go with his strong arm.

★ ★ ★

Here are our other current candidates:

Matt Chapman, 3B

Expected level: Double-A| Age 23

2015 stats (High-A Stockton): 352 PAs, 139 wRC+, 23 HR, 11.1% BB, 22.4% Ks

From MLB.com:

Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 55 | Run: 40 | Arm: 70 | Field: 60 | Overall: 50

Strong and athletic, Chapman possesses significant physical tools. Though his swing is geared for hitting line drives, he's improving his ability to get to his raw power during games. He did a good job of controlling the strike zone in college, but after striking out in 21 percent of his plate appearances during his debut, he still needs to show he can make consistent contact against professional pitching.

Chapman's hands, actions and arm strength make him an excellent defender at third base. If he can get to his power more consistently, he'll fit the third-base profile to a T.

★ ★ ★

Jacob Nottingham, C

Expected level: Double-A? High-A? | Age 21

2015 stats (High-A Stockton): 182 PAs, 107 wRC+, 3 HR, 6.6% BB, 20.9% Ks

From MLB.com:

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

Nottingham's power is his ticket to the big leagues. He's very strong and has a quick right-handed stroke, allowing him to drive balls great distances. He's improving his plate discipline and has a chance to become an average hitter.

Whether Nottingham can stay behind the plate remains to be seen, but he has gotten better as a catcher. He has enough arm strength but must continue to clean up his receiving. He also has seen time at first base.

★ ★ ★

Renato Nunez, 1B/3B

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 22

2015 stats (Double-A Midland): 416 PAs, 124 wRC+, 18 HR, 6.7% BB, 15.9% Ks

From MLB.com:

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

Thanks to the bat speed Nunez produces, he has significant raw power and is capable of driving the ball out to all fields. Like many young hitters, his approach is a bit inconsistent, and he can get caught up trying to pull everything. But when he's at his best, he uses the whole field to hit and does a good job of hunting fastballs he can drive.

Defensively, Nunez remains a work in progress. He's shown signs he's getting better and dramatically cut down on his errors in 2014. The A's began playing him some at first base for the first time in 2015.

★ ★ ★

Chad Pinder, SS

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 24

2015 stats (Double-A Midland): 522 PAs, 135 wRC+, 15 HR, 5.4% BB, 19.7% Ks

From MLB.com:

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 45 | Run: 50 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50 | Overall: 50

Thanks to his hand-eye coordination and bat speed, Pinder does a good job of putting the bat on the ball despite being something of a free swinger. He has some power, but his swing lends itself more to producing line drives than home runs.

Pinder was primarily a third baseman in college but also saw time at shortstop, and the A's have used him some at both positions. He moved to second base in 2014 in deference to Robertson, then shifted back to shortstop in 2015. Pinder's arm is strong enough for the left side of the infield, and his ability to play multiple positions will help him as he advances toward the Major Leagues in an organization that values versatility.

★ ★ ★

Vote in the poll below for your favorite of the five, and post your nomination(s) in the comments!