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Oakland Athletics

Original Published Date: January 8, 2016

What a difference a year makes.

After trading away a big part of their farm system to go for it all in 2014, the A’s did have done a quick rebuild and have significantly improved their farm system.  Granted, the rebuild cost them among other things, their best player and current AL MVP, Josh Donaldson, but they were not going to win with him anyway, so why not rebuild.

Franklin Barreto leads their Top 10 list and has a chance to be an impact bat.  The A’s aggressively started him in High-A and after a brief adjustment period, handled the level very well.  Matt Olson is next and is just about ready for the show.  He’s not the 30+ home run threat that he showed in 2014, but he does have a chance to be solid everyday major league player.  Renato Nunez is quietly moving through the system and despite his bigtime raw power, lacks a true defensive position that might hurt his ability to stick in the major leagues.

Jacob Nottingham and Sean Manaea are two new additions to the system and both have a chance to be impact major league players.  Manaea is very advanced and could see Oakland sometime during the 2016 campaign.

While there is still a lot of work left to be done in Oakland, Billy Beane and Co seem to find a way to compete.  While that will likely not occur in 2016, with a few more tactical trades, they could be in the hunt by 2017.

1. Franklin Barreto (SS)

2016 Age: 20 Ceiling: All Star
Ht: 5-9 Weight: 175 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2017
Year Class AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP CT% BB% BABIP
2015 A+ 338 50 13 47 8 .302 .333 80.2 4.1 .337

To say we’ve been all-in on Franklin Barreto would be an understatement.  He’s made our Top 100 prospect list the last two years running despite batting .204 in Rookie ball in 2013 and starting back in the complex league to begin the 2014 season.  After his trade to the Athletics, things finally started to click.  In 90 games, he hit .302/.333/.500 in Stockton of the California League with 13 home runs and eight stolen bases.

The most encouraging aspect of his season is that he improved as the year progressed.  I had a chance to see him in April and he looked overwhelmed.  However, given he was one of the youngest players in the league and the A’s skipped him over a level, it wasn’t terribly surprising that he got off to a slow start.  In fact, after torching the league to a tune of a .700 slugging percentage in July, there were whispers that he might be promoted to Double-A to finish the season, but a wrist injury cost him all of August and a chance for the promotion.

Scouting Report: Barreto has a chance to be an impact middle infielder in the big leagues.  He has a great looking swing with a bat that is short to the ball and enough bat speed to project at least average future power.  He’s also a plus runner and despite stealing only 8 bases, he has enough speed to steal 20 bases annually.  He is an aggressive hitter as his 4.1% walk rate demonstrates.  He’ll likely always be aggressive at the plate but as he gains more experience the hope is that he walks more than once a week.

Defensively, Barreto has the athleticism to stay at shortstop.  He can play out of control at times, but the arm is accurate and strong.

Fantasy Impact:  Barreto should start to get a lot of love in prospect circles and should appear in more than just our Top 100 list this spring.  Assuming he stays at short, which I believe he will, the ceiling is a Top 10 fantasy shortstop with 15 home runs, 20 stolen bases and a .280 batting average.

2. Matt Olson (1B)

2016 Age: 22 Ceiling: Solid Reg
Ht: 6-5 Weight: 230 Bats: Left Throws: Right ETA: 2016-17
Year Class AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP CT% BB% BABIP
2015 AA 466 82 17 75 5 .249 .388 70.2 17.9 .311

After hitting 37 home runs in 2014, Matt Olson flew up our ranking to number one on the A’s list and number 68 on our Top 100 list.  I did worry that his power was California League-aided but after seeing him live twice, I concluded that his raw power was plus, if not double-plus.  What I wasn’t totally convinced of was whether he could translate the raw into in-game power as he moved to the upper minors.  At least for 2015, it didn’t.

That said, Olson did have a fine year in Double-A, posting an .826 OPS with 17 home runs.  He continued to show an uncanny ability to take a walk, posting an impressive 18% walk-rate-per-nine.  He also posted a 24% strikeout rate which resulted in a .249 batting average.  Re-read those previous two sentences…no really…that’s Olson.  He will hit 20 to 25 home runs, bat .230 to .250 with a .350 on-base percentage.  Assuming he does that, that’s an everyday first baseman in the major leagues.

Scouting Report:  At 6-foot-5 and a listed 230 pounds, Matt Olson is a big guy with a big swing.  His plus power is born out of raw strength and leverage but given his size, he’s going to strikeout a bunch.  What should make him a regular at first base is his ability to get on base via a walk.  At first I thought he was just a passive hitter, but he’s not.  He really understands the strike zone and will be aggressive at the plate.  Defensively, Olson is a solid defender at first.

Fantasy Impact:  I’m still bullish on Olson as a fantasy asset with a chance to see Oakland in the second half of 2016.  A stat line of 20 home runs, a .230 batting average and .340 on-base percentage is a good baseline to expect.  That’s not a top 10 first baseman but should be could enough to be in that next 10 of fantasy first basemen.

3. Jacob Nottingham (C)

2016 Age: 21 Ceiling: Solid Reg
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 230 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2017-18
Year Class AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP CT% BB% BABIP
2015 A,A+ 465 73 17 82 2 .316 .372 78.7 6.5 .369

As the Astros have been pushing their chips into the middle of the table, multiple teams around baseball are benefiting.  The A’s were one of the first when the Astros acquired lefty Scott Kazmir last July for catcher Jacob Nottingham.   It was a great pull by the A’s as I had a chance to see him this summer and came away very impressed.

Nottingham had a nice breakout season, hitting .316/.372/.505 in 119 games across Low and High-A.  While he just turns 21 in April, the A’s push their prospects hard and given the success he had in 2015, there’s a very good chance that he will start the season in Double-A.

Scouting Report:  Nottingham is an offensive-first catching prospect.  While the defense is behind his offensive ability, I found him to be serviceable behind the plate.  He moves well, providing a big target with an average arm.  However, given his ability to square the ball, the A’s might decide to move him to first or the outfield to move him through the system faster.

His carrying tool is his plus raw power that is generated from excellent bat speed and just raw strength.  He has quick hands and plenty of loft in his swing.  While the swing can get long, I don’t think he’ll be a huge strikeout guy as his hands will bail him out.  The baseline is a 20 home run bat with a .260 to .270 batting average.  If he moves off catching, he could add 20% easily to his home run total.

Fantasy Impact:  Nottingham has a chance to be an impact bat in fantasy.  While Dynasty League owners hope he stays at behind the place, but even if he doesn’t, the stat line could be impressive.

4. Sean Manaea (LHP)

2016 Age: 24 Ceiling: #3 starter
Ht: 6-5 Weight: 235 Bats: Left Throws: Left ETA: 2016-17
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2015 R,A+,AA 74.1 67 22 5 3.15 10.90 2.66 1.25

I had a chance to scout Sean Manaea twice in 2015, once in a July start in Wilmington and again in the AFL.  He pitched well in both outings, putting up impressive numbers; but I concluded despite all the hype and the great stat lines; Manaea’s ceiling was a mid-rotation starter.  While some might sag their shoulders on my conclusion, a mid-rotation starter can be very helpful to a major league team, not to mention making $15 million dollars a year.

Scouting Report:  First the positives.  Despite starting the year late due to an abdominal injury, Manaea put up very good numbers in his 95 innings across High-A, Double-A and the AFL.  During the AFL he led the league in strikeouts with 33, walking only six while giving up less than a hit an inning.  He also pitched well in League play, particularly once he was traded to Oakland, posting a 1.90 ERA in seven starts in the Texas League while striking out 51 in 42.2 innings.

Manaea is also big and strong with a great delivery, a quality fastball that sat 92 to 93 MPH (T95) and a curve ball that has plus potential.  What bothered me was he lost velocity and by the third inning was sitting 89 to 90 MPH.  The mechanics still looked great and the curve was still plus, but my question is can he make it through a lineup three times?  If he struggles, like I think he will, he’s a mid-rotation starter.

Fantasy Impact:  If Dynasty League owners temper their expectations with Manaea, they should be very happy with the results.  The stuff is good enough to strikeout eight per nine, he keeps the ball low so home runs should not be a problem.  The fly in the ointment will be his ERA, which I think will be higher than league average.  The ceiling for me is a Top 40 starter.

5. Renato Nunez (3B)

2016 Age: 22 Ceiling: Solid Reg
Ht: 6-1 Weight: 200 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2016
Year Class AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP CT% BB% BABIP
2015 AA 381 62 18 61 1 .278 .332 82.7 6.7 .293

Renato Nunez continues to make steady progress through the minor league system and after a solid 2015 campaign in Double-A should get a chance to show his stuff in the major leagues next season.  In 93 games in Midland, he hit .278/.332/.480 with 18 home runs with a very good 83% contact.  He continues to be a very aggressive hitter, only walking 28 times in 416 plate appearances.

Scouting Report:  Nunez has a chance to be an impact bat at the highest level.  Where he plays is the question as his defense at third base has never been good and the A’s had him split time at first and even 29 games at designated hitter.  The bat though will get him the big leagues.  He has premium bat speed and plus raw power that should translate into 20 to 25 in-game power.  He makes good contact but loves the swing the pole so his batting average and on-base percentage will always be stressed.

Nunez is a below average runner so stolen bases will never be part of the equation.

Fantasy Impact:  I think Nunez should be owned in all Dynasty Leagues that roster 125 or more minor leaguers.  The upside is 25 home run power with a .260 batting average and plenty of RBIs.  He has no speed and that will keep his overall fantasy value down.  Net, net, I think the upside is a Top 15 third baseman or if he moves to first, a Top 18 first baseman.

6. Matt Chapman (3B)

2016 Age: 22 Ceiling: 2nd Div
Ht: 6-2 Weight: 205 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2017-18
Year Class AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP CT% BB% BABIP
2015 A+ 304 60 23 57 4 .250 .341 74.0 11.1 .257

Matt Chapman was a two-way player in high school, not only showing a promising hit tool with excellent bat speed but also reportedly hitting the upper nineties on the bump.  Once he signed at Cal State Fullerton in 2012, Chapman focused exclusively on being a positional player and it clearly worked as the Athletics made him their 2014 first round pick, signing him to a $1.75 million dollar bonus.

Scouting Report:  Chapman began the year on the disabled list with a knee injury; finally making his 2015 debut on May 7th in the California League.  He put up very good numbers, led by a .907 OPS and 23 home runs.  The power was candidly a little surprising as his swing is more geared towards doubles.  I think once he graduates to Double-A, his home run power will regress to a baseline of 15 to 18.

Chapman also batted .250 for the year but I think he’s a better hitter than that.  Part of his poor performance can be attributed to his .257 BABIP, but perhaps another problem was he was not fully recovered from his sprained knee.

Fantasy Impact:  Chapman is a tweener for me in fantasy.  I think the upside is a .270 batting average with 15 to 18 home runs and 60 runs scored and RBIs.  To me that feels a lot like David Freese who is a $10 fantasy player.

7. Richie Martin (SS)

2016 Age: 21 Ceiling: 2nd Div
Ht: 6-0 Weight: 190 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2018
Year Class AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP CT% BB% BABIP
2015 SS 190 31 2 16 7 .237 .353 75.3 11.1 .305

The A’s selected Richie Martin with their first pick in the 2015 first year player draft.  By all estimates, it was a safe pick as Martin is a high floor/low ceiling level prospect.  Martin’s defensive ability should allow him to get playing time at the highest level with a solid utility player being his floor.  He does make good contact with plus speed, so there is definitely upside in the profile.

He followed up his solid junior year at Florida with a modest performance in his first year as a professional.  While his .237 batting average was not good, it was driven by a .298 BABIP and a higher than anticipated strikeout rate (20.8%).  I believe both will improve as Martin makes his way through the system.

Scouting Report:  There’s a lot to like with Martin.  He’s a good athlete, a plus runner with above-average bat speed.  His swing is more geared to doubles than over-the-fence power but his combination of bat speed and strength should allow him to hit high single-digit home runs.  He’s a solid defender that should be able to stay at shortstop long-term.

Given his mature approach and ability to make contact, I expect Martin to make quick work of the minor leagues.  The A’s could even start him in High-A to begin the 2016 season.  If all goes well, he could see Oakland in the second half of 2016 or at worse, in 2017.

Fantasy Impact:  Martin’s primary fantasy assets will be stolen bases and runs scored.  While I don’t see off-the-chart stolen bases, he could steal 20 bases annually with 80 runs scored, hitting at the top of a lineup.

8. Casey Meisner (RHP)

2016 Age: 21 Ceiling: #3 starter
Ht: 6-7 Weight: 190 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2017
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2015 A,A+ 143.1 121 39 11 2.51 7.10 2.45 1.12

The A’s got a nice return when they sent Tyler Clippard to the Mets for 6-foot-7 Casey Meisner.  Despite being only 20-years-old, the Mets pushed their 2013 third round pick hard last year; splitting time between Low and High-A.  He performed well at both levels and didn’t lose a beat after the trade despite the challenging California League.  While he’s far from a finished product, the A’s will likely continue to push the Texan next year and start him in Double-A to begin the 2016 season.

Scouting Report:  You just can’t ignore pitchers that the Mets draft and develop – their recent history is just too stellar.  While I don’t think Meisner has the upside of a Jacob deGrom, he has a ton of talent and at 6-foot-7 and a list 190 pounds, is still growing into his body.

His fastball now sits 91 to 93 MPH (T95) but with a chance to improve a grade as he matures.  His curve ball continues to improve and while his strikeout rate has never been elite, the pitch should develop into a nice swing and miss offering.  His change-up also continues to improve.  The best part of the profile is that he can throw all three of his pitches for strikes and once his arsenal matures, he has the ceiling of a strong number three starter.

Fantasy Impact:  Meisner should be considered for all Dynasty Leagues that roster 300 or more minor leaguers.  He’s not yet an elite prospect and might never develop into that, but he has a ton of physical projection remaining and the improvements he has made over the past two years have been impressive.  Plus, the Mets drafted him and started his development.  That can’t be oversold.

9. Daniel Mengden (RHP)

2016 Age: 23 Ceiling: #4 starter
Ht: 6-2 Weight: 190 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2017
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2015 A,A+ 130.2 128 54 11 2.48 8.61 3.72 1.26

Daniel Mengden, the Astros fourth round draft pick in 2014 really opened eyes in April and May as he completely dominated the Midwest League.  In eight games he posted a 1.16 ERA, striking out 36 and walking eight in 38.2 innings.  Things got a little harder once the Astros promoted him to the California League but he still managed to strikeout over eight per nine with a 3.26 BB/9.

The A’s liked what they saw and asked the Astros to include him in the deal that sent Scott Kazmir to Houston.

Scouting Report:  First and foremost, Daniel Mengden has a double-plus mustache.  It’s not quite Rollie Fingers-esque but it’s pretty darn close.  Beside the fascial hair, Mengden has a solid four pitch arsenal with a low 90’s fastball, a plus slider, solid change-up and a curve ball that he might want to think about ditching.  He also throws strikes and with some funk in his delivery, has the ceiling of a solid mid-rotation starter.

Fantasy Impact:  Mengden is a pitcher that Dynasty League owners need to monitor.  While he feels a little like Dan Straily, the stuff is a tick better and despite only being in High-A, could see Oakland sometime in 2016 or at the latest, 2017.

10. Chad Pinder (SS)

2016 Age: 24 Ceiling: Utility
Ht: 6-2 Weight: 190 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2016
Year Class AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP CT% BB% BABIP
2015 AA 477 71 15 86 7 .317 .361 78.4 5.4 .374

Selected in the supplemental second round of the 2013 first year player draft, Chad Pinder had a solid season in 2015 where he played the entire year in the Texas League.  In 117 games, he hit .317/.361/.486 with 15 home runs and seven stolen bases.  Part of his success came from an unsustainable .374 BABIP which made up for a 19.7% strikeout rate and a 5.4% walk rate.

Scouting Report:  Pinder has a nice overall profile but lacks any plus tools.  He has good bat speed with a short compact swing but he’s not very discerning in his approach.  Said another way, he swings at everything.  This can lead to chasing bad pitches and putting himself into bad pitching counts.  It didn’t show up in his stat line due to an inflated BABIP, but the approach points more to a .250 hitter than a .300 hitter.  There’s enough bat speed to project him to hit 10 to 15 home runs at the highest level with enough foot speed to add a handful of stolen bases.

With his ability to play both third and short and I’m assuming second, Pinder profiles best as a utility player with some offensive upside.  He’ll likely start the season in Triple-A with a good chance to see the major leagues before the season ends.

Fantasy Impact:  Given his approach, the ceiling for Pinder is a utility player.  If he can improve his approach, he could get regular at-bats as a second division starter.  Net, net he should only be owned in Dynasty Leagues that roster 400 or more minor leaguers.

2016 Emerging Prospect:

Dakota Chalmers (RHP)
The A’s went for pure upside when the drafted Dakota Chalmers in the third round of the 2015 first year player draft.  Chalmers has an electric arm with the ability to hit the upper-90’s with his fastball.  The problem is he has 20-grade current control.  In 20.1 innings in his professional debut, he walked 17.  He’s a long-term project but if he can improve his delivery and learn to harness his arsenal, he has a chance to be a major leaguer.

One comment on “Oakland Athletics

  1. Any thoughts on Daniel Mengden bump to AAA and continued PCL success? I monitored and added abruptly after a tweet I believed talked to some adjustment. Ks backed up a little at AAA but K-BB% is elite.

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