Analyzing the Prospect Player Pool: AL West

Today I conclude my series discussing each team’s 60-man player pool with a focus on prospects. Previous installments of these rundowns, including potentially relevant context for discussion, can be found here:

AL East and Intro
NL East
AL Central
NL Central
NL West

Updating Previously-Covered Teams

A few teams have made significant player pool additions that merit discussion before I get to the AL West. Boston added Tanner Houck, Bryan Mata, Jay Groome, Jarren Duran and Jeter Downs to their pool. The Sox need to make 40-man decisions on all three of the pitchers on that list this offseason. Houck (who might debut this year) and Mata are virtual locks to be added to the 40, while Groome still hasn’t thrown very much as a pro and is far less certain. The good news for Boston (and the bad news for the scouting industry) is that even if Groome looks great, there’s no way for other teams’ scouts to know since they have no access to Sox camp. It’d take a rebuilding team with 40-man space for a developmental dart throw, led by decision-makers previously enamored with Groome (which might be tough to find since prospective Rule 5 picks are evaluated by pro departments, which haven’t seen much of him) to even consider taking someone like that and stuffing them on next year’s active roster. Downs and Duran have 2021 roster timelines.

The Mets also put several more pitching prospects in their pool: Thomas Szapucki, Jordan Humphreys, Franklyn Kilomé, and Matt Blackham. Szapucki, Humphreys and Kilomé are all TJ survivors who are on the 40-man and thus are a good bet to debut at some point this summer, potentially up for good in September. Blackham wasn’t on the Mets prospect list but sat 93-95 and touched 97 last year, and has 30-grade command. The Mets campsite hitters remain packed with veteran utility types more so than prospects.

I’ve mentioned a of couple teams as having a puncher’s chance to compete for postseason berths, in part because they’re in position to get unexpected, unusually strong performance from their bullpens. The White Sox late player pool additions — oft-injured Jacob Lindgren, Ryan Burr, former top 100 prospect Zack Burdi, new draft pick Garrett Crochet, and 2019 breakout guy Jonathan Stiever — are all candidates to pop and contribute to such a cause this year. Chicago also added Blake Rutherford, Luis Gonzalez and Micker Adolfo to their pool. I have low-end platoon grades on Rutherford (who might belong in a low-ball/high-ball platoon rather than a left/right one) and Gonzalez at this point, while it’s clear the org prioritized experimenting with Yermin Mercedes over just DH’ing Adolfo during camp, which I think is instructive for how they should be ordered on the club’s prospect list.

Houston Astros

Prospect List / Depth Chart

The expanded early-season rosters should help enable the Astros to work around what looks like a lack of depth in their rotation. Asking a potentially rusty Lance McCullers Jr., reliever-y Josh James and a spot-starter type like Austin Pruitt to go five or six strong innings every turn is not optimal, and four pitching prospects — top 100 guy Jose Urquidy, Cionel Pérez, Shawn Dubin, and Rogelio Armenteros — are on the IL or are projected to be, further thinning Houston’s group. To counter this, I think the Astros have an opportunity to piggyback some of their pitchers like they do in the minors, asking one or two of those aforementioned projected starters to go three or four innings while a guy with monster stuff follows them for two or three innings out of the bullpen. Virtually every prospect in their player pool has experience doing this in both the starter and long reliever role. Cristian Javier, Bryan Abreu and Enoli Paredes have all been dominant when deployed this way, and piggybacking top prospect Forrest Whitley would be a deft way of managing his workload and mitigating his sometimes spotty strike-throwing while also taking advantage of his exceptional talent as soon as possible.

In essence, every young Astros pitcher is an option for a piggyback role, though some don’t make sense for 2020 because their command is of the single-inning quality (Jojanse Torres, Luis Garcia), because it makes more sense for them to operate as starters at the offsite camp in case of a Greinke/Verlander injury (Nivaldo Rodriguez, Brandon Bielak, Brett Conine, arguably Whitley), or because it doesn’t make sense to accelerate their 40-man timelines (Torres, Garcia, Conine).

The dominoes that fall because Yordan Alvarez is starting on the IL, and that combined with the option year situation influencing the backup catcher spot (Dustin Garneau is out of them, Garrett Stubbs is not) will make Houston’s bench very right-handed. Switch-hitting, multi-positional Abraham Toro, who’ll likely be the plug-and-play injury replacement should one of Houston’s regulars get hurt or sick, is the lone exception.

Aside from outfielder Chas McCormick and Ronnie Dawson, Houston’s offsite contingent of hitters is prospect-free.

Los Angeles Angels

Prospect List / Depth Chart

The Angels active roster likely won’t include many prospects, at least initially. Lefty Patrick Sandoval will probably be an integral part of the pitching staff at some point, either as a long reliever paired with a couple of the young, oft-injured starters, or just as a replacement for one of them should they go down. He got into camp late and probably won’t be up to speed at the onset of the season, but among the top 10 prospects in this system, Sandoval is by far the most likely to graduate this year. Michael Hermosillo is in position to be the club’s fourth outfielder and spell Brian Goodwin versus lefties.

Beyond those two, there’s the outfield prospect King Ghidorah of Jo Adell, Brandon Marsh, and Jordyn Adams who will be at the campsite. Be mindful that the 40-man timelines for each of them — Marsh needs to be added this offseason, Adell the next, Adams in 2022 — could impact who we see this year if the club needs an injury or, say, a paternity-leave replacement. Marsh is the best defender of the three and the only one I’d feel comfortable running out there in center field every day based on how he and Adell looked defensively last Fall.

Assuming Luis Rengifo eventually returns from his IL stint, the combination of his and David Fletcher’s versatility might enable the Angels to roster a second bench slugger in addition to Matt Thaiss, someone who represents an offensive upgrade to 3B/LF Taylor Ward. Of current 40-man candidates, Jared Walsh makes sense in that role in a vacuum, as well as in a mop-up pitching capacity later in the summer when active roster sizes, and therefore bullpens, shrink, but there is otherwise role redundancy (both lefty first base types) with Thaiss. But of course, the idea that this theoretical extra slugger could be Adell, who could also give Justin Upton or Shohei Ohtani the occasional breather, is very exciting.

This year’s first rounder, Reid Detmers, and relievery Chris Rodriguez and Hector Yan are three high-ceiling pitching prospects in camp. Release point unicorn Yan is on the Los Angeles 40-man but I consider them each to have similarly remote chances to debut this year. Yan’s pitch mix isn’t fully developed, and he and Rodriguez (who is throwing hard but has a rough injury history) are blocked by lots of older relievers without options left. The recent addition of Jacob Rhame put one more domino between each of them and the majors.

Oakland Athletics

Prospect List / Depth Chart

A.J. Puk, Sean Murphy, and hopefully an eventually full-steam Jesús Luzardo should all play integral roles in Oakland’s season. Each is a realistic threat to win Rookie of the Year in the American League.

2019 injury amigos Daulton Jefferies, Grant Holmes, and James Kaprielian are also on the 40-man and thus on the brink. Parker Dunshee and Brian Howard are, from a skill and execution standpoint, fully baked, but aren’t on the 40 yet.

One of Jonah Heim or Austin Allen will be the backup catcher. I think it’d be interesting to roster both of them but Oakland’s bench is already packed with good role players and an optionless Franklin Barreto, so they don’t really have the space to roster three catchers unless they think Allen is an offensive upgrade to Seth Brown. Besides, it would leave the campsite catchers (young Soderstrom, likely 1B/DH Kyle McCann, and Carlos Perez) pretty thin. The glut of versatile infielders on the projected big league bench also blocks Sheldon Neuse barring Rule 5 pick Vimael Machin’s return to the Cubs.

Then there’s the group of campsite outfielders in their mid-20s who could conceivably contribute to the big club in some capacity right now should they be called upon. The most talented of that contingent, and the one who I still think has a long-term shot to be an everyday player, is Dustin Fowler, followed by Greg Deichmann because his power is so huge. Skye Bolt and Luis Barrera (both on the 40), as well as Buddy Reed (not), are bit players of various sorts.

The prospects unlikely to debut this year fall into two buckets. First, there’s the very young, high variance group of Robert Puason, Tyler Soderstrom and Bryan Buelvas, the best teenagers in the A’s system. Then there are the college-aged players — Nick Allen, Logan Davidson, Tyler Baum, McCann, and Wandisson Charles (who’s nearly 24 but about as polished as a college reliever) — who are there for developmental purposes.

Seattle Mariners

Prospect List / Depth Chart

Several members of the next competitive Mariners team will play a lot this summer. In addition to the young big leaguers (like J.P. Crawford and Shed Long Jr.) we’ll see full-season simulacrums from Evan White, Justin Dunn, Justus Sheffield, Kyle Lewis, and high-probability role players like Braden Bishop and Jake Fraley. Aside from that group, and perhaps Sam Delaplane later in the year, most top Mariners prospects probably won’t play much, if any, of this season in the big leagues.

The best of those, Julio Rodriguez (who now has a hairline fracture in his left wrist) and Jarred Kelenic, have both had good-looking extra-base hits during camp and appear close to “ready” but are swimming upstream against Seattle’s roster/team control incentives, while Noelvi Marte has barely played so far. They, and the recent college draftees (George Kirby, Logan Gilbert, Emerson Hancock, Brandon Williamson, etc.) seem poised to have strictly developmental years.

The Mariners have three open 40-man spots. They might add a catcher in the next week (only two are currently on the 40, with five in the player pool) unless they think minor league Rule 5 guy Brian O’Keefe or Joe Hudson would be a passable backup should one of the big leaguers get hurt.

Texas Rangers

Prospect List / Depth Chart

Top 100 prospect Nick Solak will be one of the first prospects to graduate from the lists this summer. The other two 50 FV prospects in the system, Yerry Rodriguez and Heriberto Hernandez, are not currently part of the player pool. Rodriguez has been throwing after ending last year on the IL.

Potential long-term rotation piece Joe Palumbo is the next best prospect likely to play enough to graduate this summer, as he and Tyler Phillips are the two young starters in a pool otherwise full of guys well into their 30s. The other 40-man prospects — Taylor Hearn, Demarcus Evans, Jonathan Hernández, Jimmy Herget and Yohander Méndez — are all projected in eventual relief. Laser-throwing righty Alex Speas, who was throwing so hard coming out of TJ rehab last year that the Rangers shut him down as a precaution, has an outside shot to be added to debut this year if he throws well in camp, but really this is a roster evaluation year for him and C/1B Sam Huff, who both need to be added to the 40-man this offseason.

Leody Taveras, Anderson Tejeda, and Sherten Apostel are all already on it but likely require the trade of a big league veteran to see significant majore league time this summer, and Apostel might be competing for at-bats with Greg Bird, Willie Calhoun, and Ronald Guzmán.

Watch for Texas to trade catching depth. They have seven receivers in their player pool, several of whom are veterans with comforting upper-level track records that arguably give them trade market value already, probably more once injuries start happening. Recall that this is the org that swapped Bret Nicholas for Emmanuel Clase.

We hoped you liked reading Analyzing the Prospect Player Pool: AL West by Eric Longenhagen!

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Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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johnbitzer
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johnbitzer

Any insight on why Austin Beck or Lazaro Armenteros were not added to Oakland’s 60-man pool?