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Oakland A’s

Original Published Date: January 9, 2018

I wasn’t sure what to expect when starting the Oakland A’s write-up.  I’ve always like Franklin Barreto but I had forgotten how many trades Billy Bean and Co. had made to rebuild their system.

Jorge Mateo, Dustin Fowler, and James Kaprielian were acquired in the Sonny Gray trade with each having the ability to be regular big league performers.  Jesus Luzardo was acquired in the Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson trade and despite having TJ Surgery on the books, has great stuff and could move fast.  Those four players alone are a good core, but there’s more.

While I wasn’t a fan of the A.J. Puk signing in 2016, the control is better and he has a chance now to be a solid mid-rotation starter if not more.  Also, the A’s rolled the dice with Austin Beck last season, drafting him sixth overall.  The upside is huge but so is the risk, but if it all comes together, he could see an All-Star game or two.

The system is clearly better, not as deep as you would like, but better.  Is it good enough to win?  I think they could have a winning record in a few years, but I don’t think the talent is good enough to build a Championship Team.

Franklin Barreto (SS)

Highest Level: Majors, ETA: 2017, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 SS

I have long been a fan of Franklin Barreto, having ranked him as an elite prospect since 2014 when he posted a .865 OPS in the Northwest League as an 18-year-old.  While the A’s skipped him over Low-A after his impressive season in 2014, they have taken it a level at a time since then.  Last season though, he did get a taste of the prize when he was promoted to the big leagues on June 24th.  He struggled in his 25 game debut, hitting just .197 while striking out 43% of the time.

Before his promotion and even after his returned, he played very well in Triple-A.  In 111 games, he posted a .795 OPS with 15 home runs and 15 stolen bases.  His strikeout rate increased from 2016 and he’s still a very aggressive hitter, but overall it was another solid season.

While Baretto was overwhelmed in his major league debut, I don’t see that happening again.  He was only 21-years-old and the leap to the major leagues is significant.  The talent is there and I doubt his next visit to the Majors, which is likely next season will result in a sub-Mendoza line batting average.

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 with enough speed to steal 20 or more bases annually.  He is an aggressive hitter and needs to continue to improve his plate patience.  If that happens he could have some BABIP-induced .300 seasons.

Defensively, Barreto has the athleticism to stay at shortstop.  He can play out of control at times, but the arm is accurate and strong.  It should be noted that the A’s played him at second base several times throughout last year.

Fantasy Impact:  Barreto has never gotten a lot of love in Dynasty League circle, yet he’s a Top 50 prospect; actually closer to 25 than 50.  Assuming he stays at short, which I believe he will, the ceiling is a Top 10 fantasy shortstop with 15 to 20 home runs, 20 to 25 stolen bases and a .280 batting average.

A.J Puk (LHP)

Highest Level: Double-A, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 40 SP

I was low man on the A’s selection of A.J. Puk with the sixth overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft.  While I loved his size and double-plus fastball, his inability to repeat his delivery was causing him to have below-average control and command.

To the A’s credit, they have cleaned up his delivery and while he walked nearly 3.5 batters per nine, he looked better.  The results in High-A were particularly good as he struck out over 14 per nine, giving up 44 hits in 61 innings.  Things got a little more difficult in Double-A where he gave up a hit an inning which help blow up his ERA to 4.36.

Scouting Report:  Despite his high pick and Double-A status, Puk is still more of a thrower than a pitcher.  His fastball is a double-plus offering that can hit the upper-90’s, however, his secondary pitches are not in the same class.  His control problems are a direct result of his inability to control his long-levers but at 6-foot-7, that’s just to be expected.

While the overall profile is encouraging, Puk needs a lot of repetition in the minors, perhaps another two years of tutelage before the A’s should consider a promotion to Oakland.  While that’s not unusual by any stretch, it will be viewed as a negative for a highly drafted college pitcher.  I thought the A’s understood this when they drafted him, but he appears to be on the fast train and could see Oakland as early as next year.

If it all comes together, he could be a number one.  Lefties who throw in the upper-90’s are just rare.  However, I believe he’s more of a high number three starter given his the struggles he has with repeating his delivery.

Fantasy Impact: Puk is an intriguing pitcher.  He has size and a great arm, he just needs to learn to pitch.  While he could see Oakland next season, I think he’s at least three years away from approaching his ceiling.  In other words, there are likely some rocky years ahead of him.  But if fantasy owners can be patient, I think he could be a Top 40 pitcher, or more if he’s allowed to develop.

Jorge Mateo (SS)

Highest Level: Double-A, ETA: 2019, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 SS

Jorge Mateo was once considered the future shortstop for the New York Yankees.  However, with the emergence of Didi Gregorius and uber-prospect Gleyber Torres, Mateo became expendable and the Yankees sent he and Dustin Fowler in a deal for right-hander Sonny Gray.

After a quick start to his career, Mateo got stuck at High-A.  He was overwhelmed at the plate and was not able to control the strike zone.  His strikeouts went up and his very aggressive approach at the plate was exposed.  Things started to return around last season in Double-A.  The strikeout went down, the walks went up and with a positive BABIP, he hit close to .300.  Throw-in eight home runs and 23 stolen bases and Mateo has re-emerge on the scene.

Scouting Report:  Mateo’s carrying tool is his 80-grade speed.  He also has plus bat speed and I’m therefore not surprised to see his in-game power start to show.  His approach still needs improvement as he needs to learn to become more selective at the plate to ensure his secondary tools can play to the fullest.

Defensively, Mateo has the chops to stay at short and actually excel.  I saw a plus arm as well as the quickness and the footwork to put a plus future defensive grade on him.

Fantasy Impact:  With speed and power going in opposite direction in fantasy, rostering a middle infielder that can steal 40 plus bases is an excellent strategy.  I also like that Mateo should be able to hit low double-digit home runs.  Assuming he can hit enough, he has a chance to be a dynamic top-of-the-order player in a Yankees lineup that is going to be very good in the future.

Dustin Fowler (OF)

Highest Level: Majors, ETA: 2017, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 50 OF

Anyone who saw the injury that Dustin Fowler suffered had to cringe and feel sorry for the guy.  In his major league debut, he slammed into the right-field wall running down a ball and his knee completely buckled when he tried to walk.  He was lost for the season.  The poor guy never even got an at-bat.  Then, as can only happen in baseball, the Yankees thanked him for his service and traded him in the Sonny Gray trade in July.

Before the injury, he was tearing up in Triple-A.  In 70 games, he slashed .293/.329/.542 with 13 home runs and 13 stolen bases.  The power was a bit of a surprise but he’s always had the bat speed.  The big concern in looking at his stat line is his aggressive approach.  He walked 4.8% of the time which was pretty much in line with his career percentage.

Scouting Report:  I’ve heard so many times that the Yankees prospects are overhyped.  While that might have had some validity in the past, they’ve been developing quality players over the past few years.  Fowler is a perfect example.  He was drafted in 18th round of the 2013 MLB Draft as a toolsy kid that they hoped they could teach to hit.

He has plus speed, average-raw-power that is growing and a swing that works.  He’s very aggressive at the plate and that will hurt him as he tries to establish himself in the major leagues.  Plus, will his gruesome injury have long-term implications on his speed?  These are both open issues and ones that will be answered over the next couple of years.

Fantasy Impact:  Fowler could be an excellent fantasy contributor as his upside is 20/20.  There is risk, not only in the question of whether he will fully recover from his knee injury but will he get on base enough to hit at the top of the lineup.

Austin Beck (OF)

Highest Level: Rookie, ETA: 2021-22, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 OF with extreme risk

For the second year in a row, the A’s had the number sixth overall pick in the MLB Draft last season and as opposed to their selection of A.J. Puk, I was more enthusiastic with their pick of outfielder Austin Beck.  He has the crazy raw tools that could make him a star but as with many young players, there’s a lot of work to be done with his hit tool.

That amount of work was evident in his professional debut when he hit .211 with a .642 OPS in 41 games in the AZL.  Granted he’s very young and his top-shelf speed and electric bat speed give him a lot to work with, but his hit-tool is very raw and that’s where the focus will be over the next couple of years.

Scouting Report:  There are a lot of plus tools on Beck’s scouting chart.  He’s a plus runner with plus bat speed and is a terrific outfielder.  The concerns center around his very raw hit tool.  First, after looking at videos, he has a lot of moving parts in his swing.  Second, he’s very aggressive at the plate and has a tendency to expand the strike zone in the process.  But he’s 18-years-old (just turned 19 in November) and you can say that about most 18-year-old ballplayers.

Assuming the A’s can work with Beck to improve his swing and approach, he has the upside of an all-star performer.  He has double-plus speed and enough bat speed to suggest 15 to 20 home run future power.

Fantasy Impact:  If you like em raw and toolsy, Beck is your guy.  In fact, he reminds me of Monte Harrison of the Milwaukee Brewers.  Harrison struggled in his first few years but last year started to put things together and now looks like he has a chance to become a solid major leaguer.  Beck, who is even more toolsy than Harrison could follow a similar path.  If you decide to draft him in your Dynasty League, don’t look at the stat lines for the next couple of years but instead read the scouting reports to see if the swing and approach are improving.   Patience is the name of the game.

Jesus Luzardo (LHP)

Highest Level: Rookie, ETA: 2020, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP

Despite needing Tommy John Surgery as a senior in high school, the Washington Nationals thought enough of Jesus Luzardo to draft him in the third round of the 2016 MLB Draft.  Well, perhaps they didn’t think that much of him as they moved him at the deadline last season in a trade that netted them, Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson.

In his first season back, Luzardo pitched very well, showing very little ill effects of major surgery. In 43.1 innings in the GCL and the New York Penn League, Luzardo pitched to a 1.66 ERA, striking out 10 batters per nine while walking only five.

Scouting Report:  Luzardo has a fastball that sits 92 to 94 MPH and can touch higher with two solid secondary pitches in his slider and changeup.  He can throw all of his pitches for strikes and of course pitches from the left side.  He’s only 6-foot-1 but as a lefty, that should help neutralize some of the natural lack of plane that he will get.

Fantasy Impact:  Luzardo should be on the radar for all Dynasty Leagues that roster at least 200 minor leaguers.  If healthy, and from all indications he is, he has the stuff and control to get on the fast track to Oakland.  The ceiling is a number three starter.

James Kaprielian (RHP)

Highest Level: DNP, ETA: 2019-20, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 SP

Drafted in the first round of the 2015 MLB Draft by the New York Yankees, James Kaprielian has logged a total of 29.1 innings in professional baseball.  A barking elbow that surfaced shortly after being drafted finally needed Tommy John Surgery last season to repair.

Injuries did not stop the A’s for wanting Kaprielian included in the trade for Sonny Gray.  Assuming he comes back healthy, Kaprielian has the talent to be a number two starter in the major leagues.  A’s and fantasy owners should start to see if their investment will payoff beginning sometime next season.  While his timeline has been delayed, there’s still a lot to like.

Scouting Report:  Taken with little changes from our 2017 write-up.

I was at the Kaprielian’s first AFL start in 2016 and my gun was popping at Scottsdale Stadium.  He sat 94 to 95 MPH bumping 96 a couple of time in three innings of work.  He gave up one hit, struck out six and didn’t walk anyone.  His secondary pitches were sharp with an 84 to 88 MPH slider that got plenty of swings and misses and a slower curveball that kept batters off balance.  He showed a feel for a change-up but only threw two on the night.

The delivery was clean and simple with a traditional three-quarters release point.  He had no trouble repeating his delivery, showing some fastball command.  He did start to tire at the end of his outing, giving up a long out on his final pitch that was up in the zone.

Fantasy Impact: Kaprielian will likely be at least 25 before he sees the major leagues.  That should not deter fantasy owners as when healthy, this is a quality starter.  If owners have forgotten about him, it’s time to pick him up as the risk/reward payoff could be very positive.

Lazaros Armenteros (OF)

Highest Level: Rookie, ETA: 2020-21, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF

Lazaros Armenteros was signed out of Cuba in 2015 for $3 million dollars.  He’s got a ton of tools but is a long way off from developing into his ceiling.

He did get his first taste of professional ball last season where he played in 41 games in the AZL hitting .288 and posting a .850 OPS.  He also added four home runs and 10 stolen bases.

Scouting Report:  Armenteros is toolsy and raw.  He has plus bat speed that should eventually translate into above-average if not more future power.  While he’s currently a plus runner, as he fills out, his speed will likely diminish.  The concern, as with many tooled-up raw players is his hit tool.  His swing is long and he expands the strike zone.  This is leading to a high strikeout rate, although he did show a decent ability to take a walk.

Fantasy Impact:  It’s about upside with Armenteros.  The tools are there for him to be a very good fantasy player but there is a long way to go and the risk is therefore high.  If it all comes together, he has a chance to be a 20/20 performer with pressure on the speed as he fills out.

Grant Holmes (RHP)

Highest Level: Double-A, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 50 SP

Like many of the player on this list, Grant Holmes made his way to Oakland via a trade.  Originally drafted by the Dodgers, the 6-foot-1 right-hander has had an uneven minor league career to-date.  He’s shown swing and miss stuff, striking out well over a batter an inning throughout his career, but he’s also showed bouts of wildness.

Last season it was more of the same in Double-A.  He struck out 150 batters in 148.1 innings but also walked 3.7 per nine.  All of that led to a middling 4.49 ERA with a 1.42 WHIP.  He’s no longer has that top-of-the-rotation ceiling but is now more a high-end number four starting pitcher.

Scouting Report:  Holmes has a big-time fastball that sits 94 to 95 MPH and can touch higher in shorter bursts.  He complements his fastball with a hard curve that has good depth and shape.  The changeup needs work but over time, it profiles to be at least an average pitch.  He just needs to learn to throw strikes.

Holmes delivery continues to be a problem.  The arm slot doesn’t stay consistent and he doesn’t finish his pitches off well.  However, he’s got enough athleticism that through repetition, I think the control will grade out to at least average.

Fantasy Impact:  Holmes doesn’t get a lot of love in Dynasty Leagues as most owners will bristle at his poor stat line.  He has great stuff and should be able to strikeout a batter an inning and while his control is currently poor, I believe it will improve. While I’ve listed him as a Top 50 starting pitcher, I do think he could out pitch that ceiling.  I think this makes him a nice buy-low candidate in Dynasty Leagues.

Sean Murphy (C)

Highest Level: Double-A, ETA: 2019, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 Catcher

Sean Murphy was drafted in the third round of the 2016 MLB Draft as a solid defensive catcher that the A’s hoped would develop into an equally solid hitter.  The A’s challenged him in an assignment to High-A where he hit .297 in 45 games, posting a .870 OPS with nine home runs.  He showed good contact by only striking out 18.5% of the time.  On July 1st, the A’s had seen him enough and they promoted him to Double-A where he struggled.

He only hit .209 in 53 games while posting an unimpressive .309 SLG.  A big part of the problem was his .232 BABIP but the pop he showed in the California League disappeared.  While some of that could be attributed to the hitter-friendly confines of the Cali League, the fact is he played poorly.

Scouting Report:  Murphy has a chance to be a plus defender.  He has well above-average arm and pitchers love throwing to him.  If he can just hit a little, he has a chance to be a starting catcher in the big leagues.  He does have good bat speed with the ability to make solid contact, so there is every reason to believe he’ll hit at least .260 with 10 to 15 home runs.

The A’s will start him back in Double-A to begin 2018, and given his raw skills, the results should be much different.

Fantasy Impact:  In two catcher leagues, Sean Murphy should be added in most leagues that roster 250 or fewer minor leaguers.  His defensive ability will get him to the show but I think he’ll hit enough with 15 home run pop to be a solid number two catcher in a fantasy league with a little upside.

2018 Emerging Prospect

Parker Dunshee (RHP)

How good was Parker Dunshee last season?  In 38.1 innings in the NY Penn League, he gave up 15 hits, walked eight, and struck out 45.  Oh yeah, he didn’t give up a run. He was a successful starter at Wake Forest and while he doesn’t have overwhelming stuff, he knows how to pitch and should be a fast mover.  It should be noted that he turns 23 in January.

 

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