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Oakland As

The A’s seem to find a way to compete at the Major League level without the benefit of a Tampa Ray level farm system.  Sure, the system has produced Matt Chapman and Jesus Luzardo but for the most part, they have produced complementary players over the past few years.

This year’s list doesn’t appear to have any true stars either.  I like AJ Puk, but the injuries are mounting, and he’ll be 26 in April.  Tyler Soderstrom can really hit but nobody will confuse him with the upside of Wander Franco.  And it goes on from there.

Yet, it appears every year the A’s compete, so something is working and as the old saying goes if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Prospect Quick Shot

  • Top Prospect: AJ Puk
  • Biggest Mover: Nick Allen
  • Emerging Prospect: Pedro Pineda

1. AJ Puk (LHP)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 40 SP
  • Tools Summary: Premium stuff with great size.  He has never been able to throw consistent strikes and to make matters worse, he had shoulder surgery in September

AJ Puk made his Major League debut in 2019 and pitched well. He was pumping his fastball at 97 MPH, touching higher and striking out plenty of batters with his plus slider.  It was only 11.2 innings, but it looked like Puk had worked through his injuries and would play a significant role in 2020.  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen as he missed the entire season with a shoulder problem, eventually having surgery in September.  If you’re looking for a silver lining, it was more of a cleanup surgery.  However, the injuries are starting to mount for the talented left-hander.  The ceiling is still a number three starter, maybe more, but if he can’t stay healthy, it doesn’t matter.  I’m still hopeful but he turns 26 in April, so time is marching on.

2. Tyler Soderstrom (C)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 IF or Top 45 OF
  • Tools Summary: High offensive potential who will not stay at catcher

Tyler Soderstrom was selected in the first round (pick #26) in the 2020 Draft.  I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback on him.  Evaluators are impressed with his swing, plate patience, and ability to drive the ball.  Nobody I spoke with believes he will stay behind the plate with whispers of third base or a corner outfield spot as the best defensive spot.  He’s a kid that I’m most anxious to see play in 2021.

3. Robert Pauson (SS)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 10 SS
  • Tools Summary: Top 2019 International Free Agent with premium athleticism and the makings of a solid hit-tool

Robert Pauson was one of the premier international free agents in 2019 and commanded a signing bonus north of $5 million.  He’s extremely athletic with plus speed, great bat speed who has always shown the ability to hit.  In 2020, he was assigned to the Alternate Site and predictably struggled.  I was told by someone who saw him that he swung at everything.  Remember, he’s only 17-years-old, has never played in a professional game, and was facing pitchers who had pitched in the Major Leagues. While there is a lot of work left to complete the package, the ceiling is a Top 15 shortstop with 30 stolen base upside who should be able to make good contact.

4. Nick Allen (SS)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 SS
  • Tools Summary: Has shown the ability to hit and get on base.  His swing is more geared for contact than power.  Plus speed.  Plus defender.

Nick Allen is one of the more intriguing players in the A’s system.  First, he can hit.  The swing is short to the ball and geared for contact.  He’s averaged a 14% strikeout rate and an 8% walk rate in his professional career.  Secondly, while he’s not a burner, there is enough speed to steal 20 bases annually.  Finally, he’s great defensively and should be able to stay at short or easily move to second. I’m not sure how much power he will have but I think he can be a full-time regular with A’s.

5. Daulton Jefferies (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 50 SP
  • Tools Summary: Good stuff with elite control.  His biggest issue has been staying healthy.

Daulton Jefferies made his Major League debut in 2020 showing a solid four-pitch arsenal.  His fastball sat 94.5 MPH with a nice spin rate of 2,253 RPM, a great looking curveball, and a cutter and change-up.  He was likely amped up as he didn’t command anything and wound up giving up two home runs and five earned runs.  After five innings, he was sent to the showers.  For Dynasty League managers, I would not be too disappointed.  He has good stuff and can control the arsenal.  His biggest problem has been staying healthy.  If he can do that, he can be at a number four starter, perhaps a bit more.

6. Logan Davidson (SS)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 SS
  • Tools Summary: Intriguing power-speed potential but the swing gets long resulting in too many strikeouts

Logan Davidson was the A’s first-round pick in 2019 (pick 29) and hit 15 home runs in each of his last two seasons at Clemson but also struck out over 20% of the time.   He’s also a solid average runner who stole low double-digit bases in each year in college.  While the tools are alluring, the swing can get long and that is leading to strikeouts.  There is 20-20 potential here but unless he gets shorter to the ball, there could be pressure on his batting average.

7. James Kaprielian (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 50 SP with upside
  • Tools Summary: Has never been healthy.  But, when he’s pitched, he’s always looked like a guy who could pitch at the top of a rotation

James Kapriellian made his Major League debut over the summer.  He pitched in two games, both relief efforts, and not only were the results not good, but he also didn’t look good.  The stuff played down with his fastball sitting 95 MPH but with a poor spin rate and a slider that had a spin rate of only 2,087.  I’ve seen him better than that and we must remember it was his Major League debut.  He’s no longer a kid as he’ll turn 27 before the 2021 season.  However, I still see a guy who can be a mid-rotation starter with some upside.

8. Sheldon Neuse (3B/2B)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling:  Middle Infielder
  • Tools Summary: Improved strikeout rate and a possible move to second could provide some value.

Sheldon Neuse popped a surprising 27 home runs in 2019 which got him a call to the big leagues.  He’s not a power hitter and instead has average-at-best power.  He can steal the odd base and play all over the field.  His ceiling is likely a utility player.

With third base blocked, the A’s have moved him to second and that is likely where he will play in the Major Leagues.  If he can hit his ceiling, he’ll have some value as a middle infielder in fantasy leagues.

9. Luis Barrera (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 OF
  • Tools Summary: Excellent bat to ball skills with good speed

Luis Barrera has always been able to hit as his .280 lifetime batting average indicates.  He has a little bit of speed, can play all three outfield positions, and is likely a fourth outfielder at the highest level.  But, he has good bat speed, makes hard contact, and if he adds some loft to his swing, he might be able to become a full-time regular with the A’s.  Candidly, he’s the type of “average” player that seems to excel once he gets to the big leagues for A’s.

10. Austin Beck (OF)

  • Highest Level:  DNP ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 OF with risk
  • Tools Summary: It appears he traded contact for some power in 2019 and it didn’t work

After showing improved contact in 2018, Austin Beck regressed in 2019 after his promotion to High-A.  In 85 games he slashed .251/.302/.411 with eight home runs and two stolen bases.  He struck out an alarming 34% of the time. The former 2016 first-round pick appears to have gotten off track.  He’s an athletic outfielder with plus speed who isn’t running and appears like he’s trying to add power to his game and it’s not working.  A 34% strikeout rate will not work.

11. Parker Dunshee (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 SP with some upside
  • Tools Summary: Strike thrower with average stuff.

I liked Parker Dunshee as a high-floor, low-ceiling back of the rotation starter.  The stuff is solid, and he has plus control but, he doesn’t have the big fastball or a wipe-out secondary pitch.  Yet, he continues to pitch well…err, if you ignore the disaster he had in Triple-A.  While he’s likely a fourth or fifth starter in the Major Leagues, he could out-perform his ceiling in Oakland. 

12. Tyler Baum (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 SP
  • Tools Summary: Solid arsenal with improving control.  If it all comes together, the upside is a number four starter

Tyler Baum was the A’s second-round pick in 2019 after a standout career at the University of North Carolina.  He was the Friday night starter as a junior pitching to a 3.78 ERA in 14 starts, striking out over a batter an inning while keeping his walks to 2.7 per nine.  His control improvement was what led to him being selected in the second round as he’s always had solid stuff.  His fastball sits 92 to 94 MPH with a quality curveball and a feel for a change-up.  If it all comes together, he has a chance to be a number four starter.

13. Jeff Criswell (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 SP or high-leveraged reliever
  • Tools Summary: Good arsenal but has never been able to throw consistent strikes

Jeff Criswell was the A’s second-round pick last June.  He was a three-year starter at Michigan where he posted a 2.62 ERA striking out over a batter an inning but walking 4.5 per nine.  The stuff is good with a fastball that sits in the mid-90s with a solid change-up and slider.  The problem is he can’t throw strikes.  The delivery needs a lot of work as he doesn’t repeat it well.  The A’s might decide to move him to the bullpen and move him through the system quickly.

14. Pedro Pineda (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Int’l Player expected to sign ETA: 2024+ Fantasy Ceiling:  Unknown
  • Tools Summary: Great athlete with excellent bat speed

Pedro Pineda has all the raw tools you look for in a 16-year-old.  He’s a great athlete who runs well, has great bat speed, and glides in the outfield.  The swing looks a little stiff which the A’s will have to work with on with him.  Of course, the unknown is if can he hit, more specifically, can he hit with that swing?

15. Brayan Buelvas (OF)

  • Highest Level:  DNP ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 OF with risk
  • Tools Summary: He’s demonstrated an ability to hit with some speed

As a 17-year-old, Brayan Buelvas hit .300 in the AZL while striking out a reasonable 24.7% and walking nearly 12% of the time.  Remember, he was 17.  While I didn’t see him play, I have a report from a first-hand observer that said that he had great bat-to-ball skills.  However, the swing is more geared to contact and lacks loft.  He’s an above-average runner but unless he starts driving the ball, the ceiling might be a fourth outfielder at the highest level.

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