Feature Photo: Franklin Barreto, SS, Athletics
Ed. Note: Click here to listen to Defreitas and Faleris discuss the A’s system on Episode 5 of Defensive Indifference, the official Podcast of 2080 Baseball! You can also follow along as we publish reviews of all 30 teams this offseason by clicking here. And as always, follow us on Twitter and Facebook!
By Dave DeFreitas & Nick J. Faleris
Oakland did a lot to bring in some high-upside talent the past few seasons, making several savvy, under-the-radar moves that could pay dividends in the very near future. There’s a broad collection of pitchers and position players lined up and ready to contribute in near term, with additional high-upside talent further down the organization.
CREAM OF THE CROP
Franklin Barreto, SS, Triple-A Nashville | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 55/55
Ht/Wt: 5’10”/190 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 20y, 10m
Player Stats | 2080 Spotlight #1 | 2080 Spotlight #2 | 2080 Video
The Tools: 60 hit; 50 field; 55 arm; 60 run – Barreto is not a physically imposing or overly projectable figure, however the compact frame does house some present strength that translates to above average bat speed and gap power that will play at the big league level. He does not figure to be a home run guy, but he has an advanced approach at the plate and ability to get on base with regularity. He is not quite a quick-twitch athlete, but he is a plus runner with home-to-first times in the 4.10-to-4.19 second range. The foot speed does not translate all that well range-wise at shortstop, but he is agile, and his 55-grade arm is enough to make the throws from the hole. So while he can handle shortstop and will make the plays on whatever he gets to, the tools ultimately profile best at second base.
The Profile: A J2 sign out of Caracas in 2012 by the Blue Jays, Barreto was the main piece coming back to Oakland for third baseman Josh Donaldson in late 2014. As an amateur, the actions were there, but it was more a question of how much strength he would be able to add. He answered that question almost immediately, thanks to an .825 OPS in his first pro season, followed by a breakout 2014 performance that saw him slash .311/.384/.481 in the Short-Season A Northwest League. He has a feel for the game that far exceeds his age, and profiles as an ideal top-of-the-order bat who will live between the gaps, and pressure the defense with high-energy, aggressive baserunning.
He has moved quickly through the A’s system, and shown significant aptitude and ability to adjust at each level. While Barreto is not the ideal athlete for the shortstop position, he is not a detriment there either. His peak value, however, could best be measured in the versatility he can bring to a roster – giving you solid-average defense at all three infield spots, and giving you production with the bat that’s comparable to Martin Prado (3B, Marlins) out of multiple spots in the order. While Barreto showed well in the AFL last month, Oakland has little incentive to start the clock on this guy right out of spring training, so he seems ticketed for Triple-A come April. Assuming he adjusts well to the level as he has with past promotions, and assuming his walk and strikeout rates continue their positive trends, he should expect a big league debut sometime in the first half of 2017.
The Tools: 80 fastball; 65 slider — With the fastball/slider combo, Montas has a chance to have two double-plus offerings that will generate swing and miss either in the rotation or out of the pen, and help to play up the below- to fringe-average in-zone command. The fastball has tremendous life in the zone and flashes potential as a two-way pitch, with hard cut in on lefties and some two-seam tail to the arm side. He throws strikes, however he can get loose in the zone and the track record of being more of a fly ball guy could give him trouble at the big league level. The slider is a true swing-and-miss offering with tight, downer break. He showed some aptitude for adding and subtracting with it in the AFL this year, and as a result the offering could take a step forward throwing it with more consistency in 2017. The changeup is far and away his third pitch, and it’s been used sparingly the past two seasons. He slows his arm a bit with it and it is obvious that he lacks the confidence to use it presently. But the arm works well, and his mechanics are pretty low maintenance, so it’s not a stretch to see the changeup ultimately get to average.
The Profile: Montas has been traded three times in 24 months and four times in the past three years. He made his big league debut with the White Sox in 2015 – totaling just a couple of starts – before being moved to the Dodgers that offseason as part of a three-team deal. He then missed most of the 2016 season with a rib injury before being dealt to Oakland in the deal that netted them right-hander Rich Hill and right fielder Josh Reddick.
The name of the game for Montas is going to be throwing quality strikes and limiting the traffic on the bases, as he has averaged 7.7 H/9 and 3.4 BB/9 throughout his minor league career. He is consistently around the zone and those walks aren’t terrible, but the lack of an established third pitch has been an issue and has made him somewhat predictable, leading to the increased contact. The swing and miss softens this issue a bit, but the fringe-average walk rates look much worse when giving up that many hits, and the combined outcomes can lead to some high-stress innings, which in turn limits his ability to go deep into games.
That said, Oakland is not shy about patiently letting their young players work things out, and it makes sense that they would still give him every opportunity to put it together in the rotation. Still, the double-plus fastball and slider may end up working against him from an opportunity standpoint, as the thought of him at the back end of games may be too enticing to pass up if he struggles out of the gate as a starter. Ultimately, the development of some sort of change-of-pace offering to stand in contrast to the hard stuff will determine if he sticks in a big league rotation or if he goes to the bullpen. Either way, the ingredients are there for him to be an impact arm for Oakland almost immediately.
The Tools: 70 fastball ; 60 changeup; 55 slider – A long, lanky lefty, Puk is around the zone with all his pitches, and while the actions can be baby giraffe-esque, the arm strength is undeniable. His fastball sits in the middle-to-upper 90s with command to both sides of the plate. It is fairly straight and gets hittable when he misses up in the zone, but he has some deception in the delivery, and the good angle his huge frame creates does give him some leeway when he misses his spot. The slider has a chance to be plus, but the shape and bite are inconsistent at present. When he’s on, it is a real weapon that features some back-foot bite to right-handed hitters. The deception in the arm action really works to play up the changeup, which gets hard bottom, and works well keeping hitters off balance.
The Profile: Once thought to be a lock to go in the top three picks in the 2016 draft, Puk fell to Oakland with the sixth overall pick, and after receiving his slotted $4,069,200 signing bonus, went straight to short-season ball, where he struck out 40 in 32 2/3 innings pitched. Puk still has some baby fat, and may not be as strong as his hulking frame suggests. He is not a great athlete and is still finding his body control, something that may be the culprit of some variance in the stuff and inconsistent command. While pro instruction should help to smooth things out a bit, there may always be some maintenance with his mechanics. That said, he has a pretty simple repertoire and is not afraid to challenge hitters.
He did make decent developmental strides while at Florida, so it is not a huge stretch to think that he will address his issues quickly as a pro. Puk will pitch like a number three starter at times but ultimately because of the impact that the below-average command will have on his ability to be consistent, that Role 60 ceiling will be difficult to attain. He profiles best as a solid number four, with a comparable to Drew Pomeranz (LHP, Red Sox) at the major league level.
The Tools: 60 fastball; 55 slider; 60 curveball; 55 changeup — With a plus fastball and a chance for three above average secondary offerings, Holmes has the ingredients to impact the middle of the rotation. The fastball sits in the middle 90s and will get to 95 with regularity, but the ball really jumps out of his hand. Pair that with and the easy arm action and some deception, and the ball really get on hitters quick. He does a good job pounding down in the zone and gets some natural flat run to both sides of the plate, but he’ll also turn it over and get some two-seam sink at times. He will change eye level as well, and even though the pitch tends to get straight when up in the zone, the ride he gets when he goes up the ladder with purpose makes it hard for hitters to get on top of.
The power curveball is his best secondary offering — he has good feel with for spin and is not shy dropping it in back-door to lefties. At 79-to-81 mph with 11-to-5 to 12-to-6 break and considerable snap, it should be a swing-and-miss pitch for him going forward. The slider has more inconsistency and will get loose, backing up on him at times. But the good one shows late, 3/4 bite and, given how well the arm works and his ability to spin the curveball, it should get to above average in relatively short order. The changeup is his fourth pitch right now, but should improve the more he uses it and probably has the most potential to impact his overall profile. He lacks feel right now, as evident by the inconsistent action, but when he gets out front and really throws it there is some bottom there. This is a pitch he will need going forward, as it can be a real weapon for him versus lefties, and also be a needed change of pace off the rest of the harder repertoire.
The Profile: While fellow trade partner Frankie Montas was billed as the top asset coming back to Oakland in the Hill/Reddick deal with the Dodgers, Holmes has the most upside, and he’ll likely surpasses Montas as the most valuable asset in the deal for the A’s in the not-too-distant future. He held his own over a large innings total in a tough Cal League setting, throwing 105 1/3 innings pre-trade — topping his total from the entire 2015 season — so it is likely that his struggles after moving to the A’s system were a combination of a new environment and fatigue.
He is not at all scared on the mound and if the ‘kid gloves’ come off now that he has logged a 100-plus inning campaign, he could be on the cusp of a breakout season. Holmes tends to create his own trouble, as he will work from behind for stretches and gets hittable when he is forced to challenge from down in the count. The simple and smooth mechanics suggest a bump in command and control is coming, and at age 20 he still has plenty of time to put things together, but getting more consistent with the fastball command in the zone will be a key for him in 2017. The ingredients are all there for Holmes, and he should be one of the better bets to make good on all that potential and be a guy to watch for late summer 2018.
ON THE HORIZON
Quick Hit: Chapman boasts tools that profile well on a corner, including plus raw power getting good carry to the big part of the field. He does have some length to the swing, leading to some strikeout issues for him early in his pro career, but he see his share of pitches and has shown that he will take a walk, with a 91-point delta between his average (.237) and OBP (.328) in his first full season of Double-A action this past season.
Chapman is already a very strong kid, and 20-plus home runs at the big league level is not a stretch. The question is whether or not he’ll make enough contact to get to that point. With only a season and change as a pro under his belt, it’s a reasonable bet that his approach will improve and he’ll start driving balls more regularly to right-center field. Defensively, his 65-grade arm plays very well at the hot corner, and while he may not be a Gold Glover with the leather, he does have above-average range. The hands are just average, but he will make all the routine plays plus the occasional highlight reel appearance. The A’s have already moved Ryon Healy over to 1B/DH and the recently signed Trevor Plouffe is likely more of a place holder until Chapman is deemed ready.
Quick Hit: A 20th-round pick-up by the Dodgers in the 2012 MLB Draft, Cotton moved steadily through the system before being dealt to Oakland this past summer as the third piece in the Reddick/Hill deal. Cotton has some looseness and athleticism to his delivery, and he manages to get good angle despite his relatively small size for a starter. The arm is very loose, and helps produce a 60-grade fastball with late life in the zone. When he is locating down, he gets good tail to both sides of the plate, and he’ll also go up the ladder with some ride when he reaches back.
His changeup is likely his best secondary, with hard circle fade that the arm action sells well. The breaking ball is inconsistent and will roll at times, but the offering should get to average and be enough to give him a serviceable three-pitch mix. Cotton has always been around the plate, averaging 2.6 BB/9 across his five-year professional career, including a 1.2 BB/9 mark across his first 29 1/3 big league innings. That said, he tends to pitch up in the zone and he has been a consistently easy guy for hitters to lift throughout his career. While that may not be as big of an issue when pitching in the Coliseum, he gave up a whopping 20 bombs in 135 2/3 innings at Triple-A in 2016, and another four in his five big league starts — so it is a concern that warrants close monitoring.
That said, the struggles with the long ball could be correctable without significant adjustment required, as part of the home run issue comes from his habit of nibbling at the zone, causing him to fall behind and then having to challenge guys in hitters’ counts. He has a relatively simple repertoire and should settle in with average swing-and-miss rates going forward if he can continue to be aggressive in the zone like he was in his big league debut. He’ll get to fringe-average command and we could be in for some stretches where he will dazzle and dominate that will be offset by stretches where the command will fail him and he will fall back to earth. Ultimately, he should settle in as a low-4.00 ERA guy, becoming a solid option for the fourth spot in the rotation.
Quick Hit: Taken in the second round of the 2014 MLB Draft as a junior out of Clemson, Gossett was thought to be close to a finished product, and the expectation was that he would move quickly through the A’s system. He has made good on that to this point, dominating across three levels in just his second full season of pro ball, and earning himself a non-roster invitation to big league camp next spring. While the stuff isn’t real big, Gossett has always been a strike-thrower who has shown an advanced feel for a plus curveball and average changeup. He has above-average fastball command and his ability to keep the ball off the barrel and get ground balls gives him a real chance to eat significant innings while holding down the back end of a rotation.
He doesn’t project to add much stuff-wise going forward, and he won’t be a high strikeout guy, but should get enough swing and miss to keep hitters honest. Think Jeff Suppan (MLB 1995-2012, multiple teams), or Josh Tomlin (RHP, Indians) as solid major league comparables. He likely kicks off 2017 back at Triple-A for some finishing work, but a strong start there could have him on a plane to Oakland before the All-Star break.
Quick Hit: A wirey-strong, athletic kid with a quick arm, Fillmyer looks to have a 55-grade changeup and average breaking ball to go with his low- to mid-90s heater. He has some effort in the delivery, but works quick and pounds the zone. His aggressive approach should serve him well — he’s not scared of contact, works quickly, and will challenge hitters. While he doesn’t walk many, he does still tend to create his own trouble when he loses the plate and is forced to work from behind in the count.
His fastball is heavy and he is showing hitters the top half of the ball when he’s right, but not being a big strikeout guy (6.7 Ks/9 over 39 Double-A innings), more consistent ground ball rates are going to be crucial for him as he advances. His changeup is a weapon against left-handed hitters and he has a chance to stick in the back of the rotation if the command gets to average. Should he end up moving to the pen, the sinking action on the fastball could play very well in short stints, perhaps with a bit more velo.
Quick Hit: Oakland did a nice job when they turned lefty specialist Marc Rzepczynski into a potential utility asset in Schrock, dealing with Washington for the infielder late last year. Your prototypical role player, Schrock doesn’t have loud, splashy tools, but he competes and gets the most out of his ability. While not a big guy, he is an above-average athlete and has some present strength that generates consistent hard contact. He has good feel for the strike zone and his compact stroke and barrel control play well versus advanced pitching. He doesn’t project to pick up much more in the power department, but he’ll get stronger and should develop a consistent ability to drive the gaps.
Defensively, he is above average and though he has spent most of his time at second base, he won’t kill you at shortstop in a pinch. While the arm isn’t great, he has a very good game clock and his overall feel for the game rounds out the ingredients to be a real contributor in Oakland at some point soon. He could end up getting enough at-bats to be considered a regular, but a comparison to former big league role player Aaron Miles (MLB 2003-11, multiple teams) is probably more realistic.
Norge Ruiz, RHP, International Signee | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 50/40
Ht/Wt: 5’10”/195 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 22 y, 9m
Quick Hit: Ruiz signed for $2 million in late December as an international amateur, making him the second Cuban national to sign with the A’s this year. Ruiz has an advanced feel on the mound for his age and is expected to move rather quickly through the system. Ruiz doesn’t have huge stuff, but the low-90s fastball gets good tail and sink which should result in a good ground ball ratios. The breaking ball can be loose and slurvy, but he has feel to change the shape and add and subtract from it to make it an effective offering. He is not a real big guy, but he has a strong lower half, and the deception the big crossfire creates should help to play up the stuff.
The overall profile suggests that he will be an above-average pitchability guy who can eat some innings, with a similar repertoire and mechanics to that of fellow Cuban Odrisamer Despaigne (RHP, Orioles), the former Padres signee who showed flashes over his three MLB seasons, but who was hit hard due to inconsistent control and command. Ruiz is still just 22 years old, so he has time to get some minor league innings under his belt and adjust to more consistent competition. The A’s have no reason to rush him, so expect him to get a full season under his belt before showing up in big league camp in March 2018.
Chad Pinder, 2B/SS, Athletics | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 45/40
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/195 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 24y, 9m
Quick Hit: A strong-bodied, athletic guy with some raw power, Pinder is reminiscent of former A’s first-round shortstop Bobby Crosby (25th-overall pick in 2001), but with slightly better pop. The extra-base hit potential is what makes him most interesting, however the swing plane is steep and the barrel is in and out of the zone pretty quickly. He struck out at a 25% clip in a brief big league stint this past season, and that stat doesn’t project to get a whole lot better without significant adjustments to the swing path and approach.
On the dirt, he lacks the quick-twitch actions and foot speed to give you average defense at shortstop, so the value will be in his ability to move around the diamond. At 24 years old, there isn’t much physical projection left, but he could be one of those guys that learns how to compete and get the most out of his tools. That said, he will have to make better contact to have an impact at the big league level.
Quick Hit: After handling his 33-game big league promotion late in 2016 well, slashing .283/.337/.402 over 101 plate appearances, Maxwell is positioned to take over the backup catcher’s role going forward with Oakland. While he doesn’t project to be an impact guy, the catch and throw plays well, and he is a decent receiver with more athleticism than the body lets on.
He had a good showing at Triple-A Nashville, and he did a nice job getting on base for the A’s. The bat speed isn’t great, however, and if he doesn’t do more damage he stands to get challenged a lot more in the zone, which will eat into the on-base totals – something already seen in his 7.9% walk rate (down from 11% at Triple-A) and 24% K rate (up from 17.4% at Triple-A) in his 92 at-bat debut with the big club.
Quick Hit: After putting decent numbers at Double-A Midland this past season, Munoz was rewarded with a trip to the Arizona Fall League and an add to the 40-man roster. The swing keeps the barrel in the zone, he shows good exit and can generate some lift, but the over-the-fence power is limited to the pull side and his approach is underdeveloped and will adversely affect his ability to make consistent hard contact. He has some room to add strength, but is likely already 10-to-15 pounds heavier than listed and not all of it is good weight, with the present strength potentially only translating to doubles-type pop.
Even though the run tool is average right now, he lacks the athleticism and hands to stick at shortstop, making him better suited for third base. The 55-grade arm will play adequately from the corner, however the bat is what will need to carry him as he advances, and he’ll need to start impacting the ball with more frequency. He was on the younger side for the level in 2016, so he still has some maturing to do, but the athleticism limits the overall profile and the bat-alone may not be enough to keep him on a 25-man roster.
Jaycob Brugman, OF, Triple-A Nashville | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 40/30
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/195 B/T: L/L Age (as of December 1, 2016): 24y, 11m
Quick Hit: A good athlete, Brugman sports loose, easy actions with average bat speed and a compact, line-drive stroke. He’s got a mature build and likely is what he is in the power department, but he can drive the gaps and should do a decent job of getting on base. He is an average runner, and while he isn’t really a base-stealing threat, the run plays better underway and it’s enough giddy-up to handle center field. He struggles against left-handed pitching (.255 compared to .311 against righties), but should end up having value in that extra-outfielder role. He was added to the 40-man roster last month and should get a long look next March in Oakland, when the battle for outfield positions on the big league club are wide open.
Bobby Wahl, RHP, Triple-A Nashville | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 45/35
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/210 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 24y, 9m
Quick Hit: When healthy, Wahl has shown the ability to miss bats everywhere he’s gone. He is, hands down, a reliever, and the plus fastball and above-average slider proved tough to square up for Double-A hitters in 2016. The delivery is deliberate, and he has max-effort arm action, so stuff-wise it’s safe to say he is maxed out. He also tends to create his own trouble with free passes (3.76 BB/9 at Double-A in 2016 and 5.6 BB/9 at Nashville in 2016) and the way the arm works suggests that he will never get to average control. However, when he is right the ball is down in the zone, resulting in good ground ball numbers (1.23 GO/AO career) and high swing-and-miss totals (10.76 Ks/9 career). He was added to the 40-man roster last month, so it is clear that Oakland likes him and expects him to contribute as early as next summer.
Renato Nunez, 3B, Athletics | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 40/35
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/220 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 22y, 8m
Quick Hit: Having played all of 2016 at Triple-A Nashville at 22 years old, Nunez was one of the younger players at the level, and he leveraged his 45 extra-base hits into a call-up when the rosters expanded last summer. He has big raw power and really works uphill, however the swing and miss is significant (21.6% at Nashville) which limited the impact of his lone plus attribute (.690 OPS). He has struggled at third base, and his slow feet and below-average hands made the late-season transition to left field seem like a final destination for him. Should that indeed be the case, it solidifies his profile as that of a one-dimensional talent at present with even that being a high-risk question mark, as he may not make enough contact to fulfill the power potential.
Quick Hit: Overton has yet to regain the velocity he had shown before his Tommy John surgery shortly after the 2013 draft. The lanky lefty was up to 94-to-95 mph as an amateur, but now close to three years removed from surgery, he’s sitting 87-to-91 mph. At 25 years old, the former 2013 second-rounder out of Oklahoma is not as projectable as he once was. The fastball command is still above average and the curveball and changeup have firmed up, getting both pitches to above average. He has some feel for pitching, and he has learned to add and subtract his stuff to keep hitters off balance. He still has some deception in the delivery that generates some swing and miss at times, however the pitch-to-contact profile, the heavy fly ball rates, and the lack of an average fastball are not conducive to him staying in a big league rotation long term.
He is not a cinch to slot into the bullpen either, due to the lack of matchup-type stuff and inability to get ground balls. While there is some risk to the profile, it’s tough to give up on lefties that throw strikes. Expect him to continue to get opportunities and the deception and relatively low walk rates will help him settle into a swingman, second situational-type arm who doesn’t stay on the 25-man all season.
Lazaro Armenteros, RF, Rookie AZL Athletics | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 55/50
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/182 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 17y, 7m
Quick Hit: Already a big, physical kid, Armenteros’s present strength and athleticism make it easy to dream on what is to come. He already has above-average bat speed and while he does get long, he generates good lift and carry while managing to keep the barrel in the zone well. He does not have a lot of game experience to this point, so the ultra-aggressive approach will require some adjustments as he goes up against more consistent, advanced arms.
He can handle the fastball now, and it would not be surprising to see him show off some pop on the complex fields, but the swing-and-miss will show up as faces arms that can spin it a bit. That said, he is 17 years old with more than enough athleticism to adjust back as he is challenged. He should develop power to the big part of the field and get to above-average game power at his peak. Lazarito is a long ways off, and there will be some bumps along the way, but there is no denying that this kid is advanced for his age, and that he has the ingredients to impact a major league lineup while playing average defense at a corner-outfield spot.
Logan Shore, RHP, Short-Season A Vermont | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 55/50
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/215 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 21y, 11m
Quick Hit: A second-rounder in the 2016 draft, Shore’s combination of plus command, repeatable mechanics and a strong frame made him one of the safer bets to reach his ceiling amongst this year’s crop of college arms. The stuff is not big, but the plus command is sexy as hell, and it makes him a candidate to move quickly through the A’s system. The average fastball does get flat when it’s above the belt, but he shows hard sink when he is able to get out front. His feel for a plus to double-plus changeup gives him a real weapon versus lefty bats. The mechanics are a bit deliberate, with the front side will get soft at times causing the arm to drag, and the fastball to miss up in the zone.
At 88-to-92 mph he does not have much margin for error, and the mature body suggests that he is what he is, stuff-wise. That said, if he can drive the ball down in the zone and show the good sinking action with some consistency, his feel for pitching should play up the average stuff and allow him to eat significant innings on the back end of a rotation, with a similar major league profile to that of Kyle Loshe (RHP, Rangers).
Daulton Jefferies, RHP, Rookie AZL Athletics | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 55/50
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/180 B/T: L/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 21y, 4m
Quick Hit: Snagged by the A’s in the first round (CBA) of this year’s MLB Draft, Jefferies has significant arm strength with smooth, repeatable mechanics with some polish on the mound. He isn’t a big guy, but the athleticism plays and he does well to work his plus-grade fastball down in the zone to get ground balls. The slider can be inconsistent presently, but it has a chance to get to plus, suggesting that he will get his share of swing and miss. The changeup is still a work in progress and the below-average feel shows as he will telegraph it at times, but given how the arm works, it should get to average in short order with more usage.
He will play most of 2017 at 21 years old, but the build is mature so while the feel and command will improve, don’t plan on a big jump in the pure stuff. The shoulder has been an issue, so expect Oakland to really take their time developing Jefferies. Sonny Gray (RHP, A’s) might be a stretch as far as a big league comp, but the overall style is not too far off, assuming he can stay healthy.
Dakota Chalmers, RHP, Short-Season A Vermont | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 45/40
Quick Hit: A wirey 6-foot-3 with plenty of room to fill out, Chalmers is a good athlete with some present arm strength, starting with a fastball that sits in the low-to-middle 90s. The mechanics, however are max-effort affair, and while he will get stronger, he does not project to see too much of an uptick in stuff. He has a slider that should be solid average going forward, but the question will be how well he can use it in the zone. He gets good angle, but struggled to keep the ball on the ground this past season, a result of well-below-average command in the zone.
He is in the rotation now, and while he may stay there for the time being to build some arm strength, the long-term profile is that of a reliever where the pure stuff will play up and where he can leverage his swing-and-miss ability a bit better. Max-effort relievers have had mixed results over the years, and Chalmers is on the higher end of the risk profile to hit his ceiling, but assuming he stays healthy, his stuff will play at the upper levels.
Marcos Brito, SS, Rookie AZL Athletics | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 50/40
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/160 B/T: S/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 16y, 9m
Quick Hit: Another one of the A’s J2 signings this year, Brito’s calling card will end up being his hit tool. His long legs, high waist and broad shoulders suggest that he will add some strength as he matures. Combine that with how easy the hands work at the plate, and he should soon develop some gap-oriented power. Don’t expect him to be a big home run threat, but he should have enough juice to still do some damage. He already has good bat speed for his age, and while the swing looks a good deal better from the left side, he stays level and shows a knack for contact from both boxes.
He moves well at shortstop, but lacks the quick-twitch actions you look for at the position. However, the ease of operation and body control downplay how quick he actually is. The arm works well and is at least average presently, and it’s not a stretch to see it improve as he gets stronger. A better runner underway, the gait is athletic without a ton of effort, so if the footwork continues to develop and he can show that the game clock is there, he will have enough to profile as an average up-the-middle defender.
Richie Martin, SS, Double-A Midland | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 50/40
Ht/Wt: 5’11”/190 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 22y, 0m
Quick Hit: When Oakland made the former Florida Gator their number one pick in last year’s draft, they likely envisioned him as a top-of-the-order, middle-of-the-field player capable of contributing on an everyday basis. Martin has some tools to dream on, and he stands to have more than enough glove that when paired with his arm strength give him the tools to hold down the shortstop position in fine fashion. The question, however, will be the bat, and whether or not he will be able to overcome the below-average bat speed to do enough damage and keep pitchers honest. He has never been viewed as a power guy, but the .082 ISO he showed in the bandbox stadiums of the Cal League last season is shockingly low, and pitchers may start to feel pretty good about challenging him in the zone if he’s swinging like he’s holding the Oakland Tribune.
Though listed at 190 pounds, his frame is wiry, so while he could get stronger there’s not a lot of physical projection left. Unless he starts driving the ball with a little more authority, he’ll likely end up along the lines of a Brendan Ryan (SS, Angels) as a major league comparable, rather than the true everyday guy the A’s thought they drafted.
Skylar Szynski, RHP, Rookie AZL Athletics | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 45/40
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/195 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 19y, 5m
Quick Hit: A physical, athletic kid, Szynski has some deception thanks to a crossfire delivery and the effort he has in the arm action. The arm is quick through the slot and the low- to middle-90s heater plays up as a result, but he is inconsistent getting out front, which causes some variations in the stuff. The changeup and curveball both project to be at least average offerings for him, but consistency and his ability to repeat the high maintenance mechanics will be the name of the game going forward.
Expect him to see some small gains in the stuff as the body matures, and there is a chance that he is able to smooth out the delivery a bit with pro instruction. That said, he still profiles as a below-average command guy who may have more value in shorter stints, where the effort delivery and the deception have better chance to play up.
Sandber Pimentel, 1B/DH, High A Stockton | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 40/35
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/220 B/T: L/L Age (as of December 1, 2016): 22y, 3m
Quick Hit: A big, thick-bodied kid, Pimentel has significant raw power and above-average bat speed that suggest he may continue to impact the ball the way he has the past two seasons in the lower minors. It should be noted that the best power numbers (21 home runs, .779 OPS) came in the Cal League — a league that compares to, well…hitting on the moon — and those numbers were accompanied by significant swing and miss (145 Ks). He did walk 60 times in 485 plate appearances, good for a slight increase from 2015. So while he is swinging through balls more than you’d like to see, he is seeing pitches and routinely working the count.
The setup is quiet without much pre-pitch movement, but he has some hip travel that may end up giving him issues on velocity inside. He is limited to a corner/DH spot already, so the bat will really have to carry him. He has the look of a three-true-outcomes guy, but if the plate discipline continues as he climbs, then the power will be of some value, perhaps landing him in a role as a lefty power bat off the bench.
Luis Barrera, OF, Class A Beloit | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 40/30
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/180 B/T: L/L Age (as of December 1, 2016): 21y, 1m
Quick Hit: With a wiry, lanky frame, Barrera has some room to fill out and add some strength to his smooth, but gradual actions. He’s lacking fast-twitch at present, but the hands work well and he keeps the barrel in the zone, suggesting that his current high contact rates could eventually produce some doubles pop to both gaps. His middle-of-the-field approach and his feel for the strike zone will serve him well as he climbs, but at 21 years old, he is old for the level, so he’ll need to build on his solid 2016 numbers.
He is a fringe-average runner with a 45-grade arm and does not profile real well in center field, so the bat and on-base skills will have to carry him. If he can add some strength and keep getting on base, he could play himself into that up/down outfielder role.
|1. Franklin Barreto, SS, AAA||6. Lazaro Armenteros, RF, Rk.||11. Heath Fillmyer, RHP, AA|
|2. Frankie Montas, RHP, MLB||7. Jharel Cotton, RHP, MLB||12. Daulton Jefferies, RHP, SS-A|
|3. A.J. Puk, LHP, High A||8. Logan Shore, RHP, SS-A||13. Chad Pinder, 2B/SS, MLB|
|4. Grant Holmes, RHP, AA||9. Daniel Gossett, RHP, AAA||14. Dakota Chalmers, RHP, SS-A|
|5. Matt Chapman, 3B, AAA||10. Max Schrock, 2B, AA||15. Richie Martin, SS, AA|
Their recent pursuit of slugger Edwin Encarnacion (DH/1B, signed by the Indians 12/22/16) and the addition of free agent Matt Joyce (RF, signed 11/30/16) seems to suggest that Oakland is more likely to hold on to controllable assets like right-hander Sonny Gray and go after more short-term fixes while they wait on some of their young arms. It’s tough to ever count them out, as they live in that space between rebuilding and win-now strategies — but with an extremely young rotation anchored by an ace coming off of his worse year as a pro, and a lineup that lacks impact (with the loud exception of left fielder Khris Davis and his 42 home run, .277 ISO, and 27% K-rate season), where consistent production will come from remains a massive question mark.
After the offense-heavy Rangers, the Astros and Mariners have been inconsistent, so it is not a stretch to see Oakland in the mix in 2017 if a couple gambles go their way. When June rolls around, and if things are clicking for the club, the A’s will not be scared to deal prospects for the right upgrade, as they did three seasons ago when they acquired Jon Lester (LHP, Cubs) and Jeff Samardzija (RHP, Giants). That said, if the ball bounces the other way they could deal Gray and, depending on the return, probably be in a better position than they are right now. If they do indeed go that route and decide to sell, Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle and John Axford all could bring back valuable young pieces, given how insane the market is right now for bullpen arms.
The ‘five’ doesn’t really apply here, as Oakland operates on an endless train of two-year plans. They have been a little lean in terms of impact prospects over the past two seasons after several big additions in middle of the 2014 season, but the Frankie Montas, Grant Holmes and Franklin Barreto deals have them back on the map. Going into 2017, the plan is to pray that Gray and Doolittle return to health, Sean Manaea takes the next step, Davis’s power shows up again and that at least one of Barreto, Matt Chapman and Montas make a meaningful contribution.
If the stars align and they are a factor in the A.L. West division race, they may not have the juice to go get a Chris Archer (RHP, Rays), but they have enough prospect wealth to go get an impact piece or two to help push them into the postseason. Should winds blow the other direction, then they are in a very good position to move Gray, Davis and several members of the bullpen to stock the shelves behind Barreto, Montas, Chapman and A.J. Puk, while still being financially flexible enough to add some ancillary pieces via free agency by this time next year.
In the meantime, they will pick atop the draft again in 2017 (again with the sixth overall pick) and in 2018 be back in on top international prospects once their international bonus pool is restored (Oakland exceeded their bonus pool allotment with the Lazaro Armenteros and Norge Ruiz signings, and can’t sign any international amateur for more than $300,000 until July 2, 2018). So, Oakland fans, it’s time to strap in, because barring some major shift in ownership’s payroll plans, your A’s will again try to compete in the A.L. West division by trying to fashion a dollar bill out of 15 cents.
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