|EVALUATING THE PROSPECTS 2016
Billy Beane has been the master of the pseudo-rebuild for a long time now, replenishing the farm system while simultaneously improving or at least diversifying the big league roster. This past year has been more about subtraction from the minor league depth than addition, but internal development, a solid draft last June and some lesser moves have put the system in a better spot than it was last year. Translation: they have some more chips to play with come this July.
Though it is definitely in a better spot, it certainly isn’t without weakness. Besides Sean Manaea, there isn’t much immediate help for the big league rotation without dipping into some more of the command specialist-types that they have had to rely on the last few years, albeit with pretty good success. On the offensive side, Matt Olson, Chad Pinder and Renato Nunez are close to ready for their big league shots, as are guys like Joe Wendle and Matt Chapman, to a lesser extent impact-wise.
Recent drafts have been fairly successful keeping the pipeline operational, though the A’s have had an inordinate amount of pitchers dealing with injuries. Raul Alcantara, Dillon Overton and Bobby Wahl are all in the comeback stages of arm injuries, and young Chris Kohler is dealing with shoulder stiffness this spring. It may just be a product of their wheeling and dealing of anyone who is healthy, but it still bears watching over the next season or two to look for any patterns.
As for the surprise picks on the list, Manaea’s consistency issues drop him down a little bit for me, though I still like his potential in the rotation. Chad Pinder and Rangel Ravelo are both better hitters than most people seem to think in my opinion, while Matt Chapman and Ryon Healy have some things to prove before I’ll really buy into their offensive profiles. Seth Brown is an interesting upside prospect to watch, coming out of nowhere to hit a bunch of homers in college, getting drafted late and continuing to hit well in the low minors.
Here’s the primer for the series and my scouting thoughts in general. The grades I put on players heavily weight the functionality of each tool in game situations, rather than just pure tool grades. Here is a table to understand the position player grades:
|Grade||Tool Is Called||Batting Average||HR||ISO||Baserunning Runs||Fielding Runs|
As well as one to understand what the overall grades approximate:
|Grade||Hitter||Starting Pitcher||Relief Pitcher||WAR|
|80||Top 1-2||#1 Starter||—-||7|
|55||Above Avg||#3/4||Mid Closer||2.5|
|50||Avg Regular||#4||Low CL/High SU||2|
|40||Bench||Swing/Spot SP||Middle RP||1|
|35||Emergency Call-Up||Emergency Call-Up||Emergency Call-Up||0|
One other difference in the way I communicate scouting grades to you is the presence of three numbers on each tool instead of just two. The first number is the current grade. The second number is the likely future grade; or, if you prefer percentiles, call this the 50th percentile projection. The third number is the ceiling grade, or 90th percentile projection, to help demonstrate the volatility and raw potential of a tool. I feel this gives readers a better sense of the possible outcomes a player could achieve, and more information to understand my thoughts on the likelihood of reaching those levels. If you prefer the traditional methodologies of other publications, I would suggest averaging the latter two grades together to get a semi-optimistic view of where a player projects.
In the biographical information, level refers to where they finished the year, unless they were sent down for injury rehab or other extraneous reasons. Ages are listed as of April 1, 2016. You can also find each player’s previous rank from Kiley’s list last year. Below, Dave Cameron shares his thoughts on the general state of the organization. Returning for his popular cameo, Carson Cistulli picks his favorite fringe prospect toward the end of the list.
1. Franklin Barreto, SS
Current Level/Age: High-A/20.1, 5’10/190, R/R
Acquired: Signed in 2012 out of Venezuela by TOR for $1.45 million bonus, traded to OAK in November 2014
Previous Rank: 1
Barreto has a still developing skill set that is both very projectable and wrought with some risk, at least in regards to his upside. He has unbelievably good hands at the plate, and enough hand-eye coordination to have a future above-average to plus hit tool. His raw power is at least above-average, though he has struggled to time up his stride and lower body consistently in games.
As of last season, he still hadn’t quite turned the corner defensively. Possessing the physical tools to handle shortstop, gains in footwork and softening up his hands were the biggest goals. Luckily, Ron Washington has reportedly done great work with him, and now the team firmly believes he’s a solid defender at short, though they did leave open the possibility of moving to second base.
He has toyed around with a couple different strides, but each version has seen some form of lost rhythm or overcommitment with his hip rotation to reliably tap into his raw power. Some plate discipline concerns have to be worked through as well, though his hands may continue to be good enough to get hits on pitches most guys can’t handle. While he still has youth on his side, he most likely comes up a little short on the power side. His prospect status remains secure, since his hitting ability is sufficient should he have to make a move away from short.
Hit: 45/55/60 Power: 40/45/55 Run: 50/50/55 Field: 45/50/55 Throw: 60/60/60
2. Chad Pinder, SS
Current Level/Age: Double-A/24.0, 6’2/195, R/R
Acquired: Drafted 71st overall (Supp 2nd round) in 2013 out of Virginia Tech by OAK for $750,000 bonus
Previous Rank: 9
Pinder was a pleasant surprise in Arizona this fall, showing much better defensive skills than I expected given what I had heard about him, and demonstrating an excellent swing. Pinder seems underrated on both sides of the ball, as I saw a plus defender at shortstop and an above-average bat at the plate. He doesn’t have blazing speed, but he makes up for it with a great first step, awesome hands and a quick release. He makes plays at the edge of his reach that make his functional range bigger than most flashier defenders at his position. The A’s, for their part, see him staying at shortstop long-term.
On offense, he has an easy stroke with the ability to consistently put the ball in the air, projecting to hit a bunch of line drives. He occasionally gets a little pushy with his hands going to the ball, but it only limits his power potential slightly. The complaint about him being too aggressive is becoming outdated, though he still chases occasionally. With decent contact skills and some upside in both the hit and power categories, Pinder has a solid future as a big league infielder. He’s a fringe-average runner on the bases, adding another area where he’s not going to hurt your team.
Hit: 45/50/55 Power: 45/50/50+ Run: 45/45/50 Field: 55/60/60 Throw: 60/60/60
Video courtesy of Minor League Baseball
3.Matt Olson, 1B/OF
Current Level/Age: Double-A/22.0, 6’5/230, L/R
Acquired: Drafted 47th overall (Supp 1st round) in 2012 out of Georgia HS by OAK for $1.0797 million bonus
Previous Rank: 2
Olson has the power to be a middle-of-the-order hitter in a big league lineup. Questions about his bat are still present with a below-average contact rate, though so far he has made up for it by taking a ton of walks. His power should help keep his on-base numbers high enough to carry a lower batting average, and he has enough defensive ability to hold his own in right field as well as first base.
On the offensive side, Olson has two things working against him: his whiff rate and concerns about being too passive at the plate. Working deep into counts has allowed him to post impressive walk rates, but it also has put him in many two-strike counts that result in a large percentage of three true-outcome events. Working for him is a tremendous swing with a lot of natural ability to put the ball in the air, backed up by enough raw strength to make pitchers pay when he puts the ball in play.
Though his patient approach may need some tweaking as he faces pitchers with better command, I feel he has enough skill at the plate that it won’t be a major adjustment for him to continue producing at a high level, even if it comes with a low batting average. His power is going to play, and his hit tool gets a boost from pitchers needing to avoid making mistakes in the zone where he can drive the ball.
I have Olson’s hit tool ending up at least in the average range, owing mostly to his projected ability to get on base. He has enough defensive value and power to project as at least an average regular, with plus upside based on how you think his hit tool shakes out. Olson will get a crack at Triple-A pitching in the International League, where we should get a better sense of his ability to adjust while continuing to showcase his impressive raw power. Solidifying his chances of sticking in the outfield if necessary will also go a long way toward reaching his upside value on a big league team.
Hit: 45/50/55+ Power: 55/60/65 Run: 40/40/45 Field: 45/45+/50 Throw: 60/60/60
4. Sean Manaea, LHP
Current Level/Age: Double-A/24.2, 6’5/215, L/L
Acquired: Drafted 34th overall (Supp 1st round) in 2012 out of Indiana State by KC for $3.55 million bonus, traded to OAK in July 2015
Previous Rank: 1 (KC)
I was fortunate enough to catch two of Manaea’s starts in the Arizona Fall League. His stuff ranged from below-average to plus from one game to the other, and it was often true of his secondary offerings from pitch to pitch. All together, his command looks like it’s going to max out around average, if it makes it that far, and combined with the grades his pitches will get to makes him a most likely number four starter, with a chance at being a three.
Concerns about his fluctuating velocity are well-founded, working 89-93 one game and 92-95 the next. His low-80s slider flashed plus in his earlier start, but looked like a 40 or 45 for most of the second. A changeup is used as a viable third pitch, though he telegraphs it with a slowed down arm and exaggerated pronation. It too flashed above-average to plus in one or two at bats.
He uses a drop-and-drive delivery that starts out uphill, more so than he ever did in college. Most successful pitchers who use that start have a consistent means to stay balanced, but Manaea hasn’t found it yet. Sometimes he gets back on top of his legs, while others he stays back and spins to deliver the ball from a slightly leaned back landing posture. The inconsistencies seem to stem from instability in his lower half, which makes you wonder how much his previous hip injury and more recent core injuries have sapped his strength and mobility.
I came away seeing potential in his game, but not nearly the upside I saw from him in college. Adding to the muddled outlook, he does a poor job holding runners at first, getting into obvious patterns with timing and looks to the bag. I think he makes enough adjustments to be close to a mid-rotation starter, though even that is a risky bet until he can prove the middle of his body is healthy and strong. His pitch grades all reflect the possibility that his body control doesn’t improve, with each offering likely to show better and worse than the middle ground I tried to project. The A’s expect him to be in Oakland at some point during this season.
Fastball: 55/60/60 Slider: 45/50/55 Changeup: 40/45/50 Command: 40/45/45-50
I saw Nunez in the Arizona Fall League, and the first thing I noticed was how he still looked bothered by his leg injuries from the regular season. He has a big, powerful swing, though he looked like he tried to do more with his upper body than I had seen in the past. His barrel and hands went together in his swing, leaving him without much whip or bat control. He swings with his shoulders staying a little too level, though his lower half is strong with good actions, and his bat path has looked better in past views.
At third base, Nunez shows enough ability to keep him at the position, but he’s never going to be a gold glover. He can make plays on the run and get to most balls he should, though his agility is below-average and he takes a lot of extra time standing up to throw. There’s no rush to move him to first base or the outfield, but it remains a possibility in the future depending how his athleticism handles the maturation process. For this year at least, A’s officials report he showed up slimmer than last year and has put a greater emphasis on improving his foot speed, so it bears watching how that translates to his defensive play.
After a monster year in the California League, he followed it up with an even better season in Double-A, besting his numbers in every category besides raw slugging. Nunez is a good hitter all-around, with his only weakness being he can be a little too aggressive at times. He makes enough contact and has a strong enough swing that it doesn’t hurt him much. Because he does have a thicker build, he will have to work to make sure his core stays mobile so his hand path can work properly, since he does have the tendency to get steep when he tenses up. He has enough ability to believe he can figure things out, and I think the main adjustment for him as he ascends the next two levels will be finding an approach that keeps his aggressiveness without giving away at bats against better pitching.
Hit: 45/50/55 Power: 50/55/60 Run: 35/35/35 Field: 40/45/45 Throw: 55/55/55
Chapman has come a long way on his defense, with some evaluators putting a plus grade on his work at the hot corner. Much of that has to do with his strong arm, but his foot and glove work has gotten noticeably better as well. He put up awesome offensive numbers in the California League, especially in the power department.
Despite the impressive showing, he has contact issues that will cut into his on-base rate, and his power was certainly propped up by the run environment he played in. His lower half works really well, but he is very top hand-heavy in his swing, shortening his window for solid contact out in front of the plate because he releases the barrel early. It also results in almost all of his power being strictly to his pull side.
He may have the strength to overcome some limitations, but the combination of sequencing irregularities and contact issues keeps him from projecting as a sure starter at third. Whichever way his development takes him, getting out of the California League will be the best indicator of his future ability to hit.
Hit: 35-40/45/50 Power: 45/50+/55-60 Run: 40/40/45 Field: 55/55/60 Throw: 70/70/70
Wendle has been a personal favorite of mine for a couple years now as a guy with a solid swing and limited tools by traditional scouting standards. I was excited to see the A’s target him in the Brandon Moss trade after a somewhat down year in Double-A, after which he proceeded to have another prototypical year in his first season with Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate: high average, tons of doubles and low double-digit steals.
He’s stuck at second base defensively without much versatility, so the org is trying to coach up his skill work there, notably his double play turns and fielding balls to his left. He has a smallish frame and limited strength, but also one of the better swings in the system. His power should not be underestimated, as his impressive double totals are a product of a very consistent high line drive bat path and good barreling ability.
Wendle’s defense keeps him on the fringe of being a guaranteed starter, but he has the offensive ability to hold down a job if he is given one. Bringing his plate discipline back into the fold could even push his hit tool up another grade. He’s on the 40-man roster, but was just optioned to Triple-A for the start of the 2016 season, as the A’s have plenty of other options for second base. Expect to see Wendle in the big leagues this year, where he will need to hit before some of the strong prospects right behind him are ready to challenge for the position.
Hit: 50/50/55 Power: 45/45-50/50 Run: 55/55/55 Field: 45/45/45+ Throw: 45/45/50
Martin has a solid floor on account of his defensive ability and raw speed, and he shows a good approach at the plate. He has a decent swing with above-average hands and bat speed, but he often gets tied up on pitches that he should be able to drive, partly because of some extra movements he has in his load.
He gets in an awkward spot when he’s ready to deliver his swing, and his contact quality is very inconsistent as a result. The flashes of a strong bat path give him more upside with his hit tool, and he also has some raw strength to be able to hit for some doubles power. I think he figures out just enough to be a fringe starter or excellent platoon/part-time player. He is slated to break camp with the High-A Stockton.
Hit: 35-40/45/50+ Power: 35/35/40 Run: 55/55/60 Field: 60/60/60 Throw: 60/60/60
Acquired in the Tyler Clippard trade last year, Meisner is a tall, lanky right-hander with good body control and some physical projection left, particularly in his lower half. It’s easy to see him improving on his 90-94 fastball over the next couple years, and his showing the ability to succeed in High-A in only his second professional season is a testament to both his potential and his present skills.
He pairs his fastball with a curveball that flashes above-average and a changeup that shows good movement but not a lot of command yet. The development of his arsenal and his viability at the next level is tied to his physical maturation. Improved lower body strength will help him stay in the higher end of his velocity range if not increase it, and it will also help with some slight stability and balance inconsistencies he shows to turn his solid control into solid command.
As long as he can add strength that aids the athletic parts of his delivery rather than tighten up those that work against him, Meisner has a real chance to jump up lists like this and comfortably reach a mid-rotation starter role.
Fastball: 55/60/65 Curveball: 45/50/55 Changeup: 40/45/50 Command: 40/45/50
Chalmers has a quick arm that produces a low to mid-90s fastball, though he has reportedly been clocked as high as 98. He has a sharp biting curveball that has some projection, as well as a slider and changeup that get mixed reviews. If the A’s can get some of his mechanical issues under control, there is upside as a mid-rotation starter or late-inning reliever, with the relief option seeming the most reasonable at present.
He has some timing problems in his delivery, getting his arm going late in his motion and putting some undue stress and effort on his arm action and having to rush the rotational movements in his delivery to get to release in time. His resulting finish can be cut off without good arm deceleration, often never fully pronating, giving it a more muscled look than you’d like to see. Also because of his timing, his lateral balance can vary from outing to outing, giving him a number of things to clean up if he’s going to have a chance to throw a lot of innings with his best stuff.
His late, fast arm has the positive effect of making his fastball and curveball both difficult to pick up and adding surprising break to the curve. His slider has some upside as well, owing partially to the fast arm action and delayed or absent pronation of his forearm. Some evaluators have given his changeup high marks, but based on its present feel and action, as well as a movement pattern that makes it tough to deaden the pitch, I don’t see it being better than a below-average pitch.
Even though he has plenty to work on over the first few years of his pro career, guys with fast arms who can spin a couple breaking balls are very rare. He is an athletic kid who may be able to make the necessary adjustments, and his obviously strong stuff gives him decent upside. I just think it will be best served coming out of the bullpen unless he can make some wholesale improvements to his delivery and compensatory movements.
Fastball: 50/55/60+ Curveball: 45/50/55+ Slider: 40/45/50 Changeup: 35/40/40+ Command: 35/40/45
Alcantara came back from 2014 elbow surgery with his trademark control and low to mid-90s velocity, but there isn’t a ton of projection in his kit when it comes to strikeout potential or durability. He’s never had a great arm action or a strong, supportive delivery, but anyone who throws hard, has a good changeup and can throw strikes has upside as a major league pitcher, or at least a high floor. The elbow injury and lack of a reliable breaking ball shed doubt on his chances of being an impact starter, though getting another season past surgery will tell us more about his projected path.
Fastball: 50/55/55+ Curveball: 40/40/45 Slider: 45/45/50 Changeup: 50/50/55 Command: 45/50/55
Before undergoing elbow surgery, Overton sat 92-94 with his fastball. The velocity hasn’t come back, now maxing out around 91, but he has survived by outpitching hitters and mixing up speeds and locations very well. If the velocity comes back he instantly jumps into fourth starter territory. I don’t think he has the lower half strength or the rotational sequencing to get his velocity all the way back, but I still accept he has number four starter upside if he can just stay consistent with his present stuff.
Using a closed off stride and overhand delivery give him a deceptive look to hitters on both sides, particularly with his outstanding changeup helping to neutralize right-handed batters. He just needs his curveball to play average or above to be a decent back-end starter, with his command being the carrying skill. He will take his grinder approach to the A’s Triple-A affiliate in 2016, with a possible look in the big league rotation should a spot open up.
Fastball: 45/50/50+ Curveball: 40/50/55 Changeup: 50/50+/55 Command: 50/50/55
Wahl seemed to take well to the full-time bullpen role in 2015 before an elbow injury in July cost him the rest of the season. He underwent a procedure called ulnar nerve transposition, which entails moving the main nerve that runs under your elbow to a position that doesn’t receive as much tensile stress when pitching. He has reportedly made great progress and is scheduled for live batting practice and games shortly.
Wahl has a good chance of being a decent mid-level reliever with setup upside, though he lacks the feel or knockout secondary pitch to project him as a closer or setup man. He will head back to Double-A to start the year, with an eye toward Oakland sometime later in the season.
Fastball: 55/60/60 Slider: 55/55+/60 Changeup: 45/45/50 Command: 50/50/55
Mengden has a few solid offerings at his disposal, and the command to make them effective weapons against minor league hitters. His fastball is likely an average pitch in the big leagues, with the same being true of his slider and changeup, though the changeup has a bit more upside. Though his command has served him well into High-A, he needs to take a few more steps forward in location to reach his ceiling in the rotation, since his stuff will be a little too hittable for advanced hitters.
Right now he projects to be right on the line between starter and reliever, with his control giving him the chance to continue working out of the rotation in the minors. I don’t see quite enough command projection to safely put him in a future big league starter role, but you can’t argue with the success he has had so far.
Fastball: 50/50/55 Slider: 45/50/50Curveball: 40/45/45 Changeup: 45/50/55 Command: 45/50/55
Ravelo is a solid pure hitter with an excellent swing plane and great bat-to-ball skills. He was kept out of the first half of last year as he recovered from wrist surgery, and now I think his power is a little too discounted by most evaluators. He stays through the ball so well, and has enough strength and a great path to hit for power even when he’s fooled. He put up awesome numbers in the Venezuelan Winter League this offseason, leading the league in OPS and among the leaders in homers and slugging percentage.
While his position limits his overall prospect value, keep an eye on Ravelo in Triple-A this season. His bat is better than it is given credit. The swing isn’t perfect; his hips leak open a bit, and his barrel starts to uncoil early, adding some early length to his swing arc. However, he keeps his hands on most pitches even when he gets fooled, and has enough strength and the bat path to hit for power. Big league sliders could be the neutralizer. In all, I like his power more than most, but I think his hit tool is slightly lower because of the length and lower half inefficiencies.
Hit: 45/50/55+ Power: 45/50/55 Run: 40/40/40 Field: 40/40-45/45 Throw: 55/55/55
Munoz had an exciting 165 plate appearances in High-A to close out the 2015 season, but he has a long way to go if he’s going to replicate that promise outside of the California League. He’s young and a good athlete, so there’s certainly some hope. However, his approach needs a lot of work, and it’s very easy to get out with decent offspeed stuff. As soon as his swing starts, he’s fully committed. His hands have a tendency to rush out in front of his hips, bringing his whole upper body with them and losing his lower half.
On defense, most are confident he can stay at shortstop with his strong arm and developing skill work. He certainly has the physical tools to do it. A team source I spoke to was excited about Munoz’ future, likening him to top prospect Franklin Barreto. I have trouble seeing the comparison with the bat, but his future improvements at shortstop could be a similar development to Barreto.
Hit: 35/40/45 Power: 35/40/40 Run: 55/55/55 Field: 50/55/55 Throw: 60/60/60
White was a high floor, low-ceiling college pick taken in the second round last June. He will continue to play shortstop, though he’s fringy there and has already spent time at second and third as well. He has a decent bat with some upside in his hit tool, but his ceiling is limited by stiff shoulders and long bat path. He has enough upward plane and strength to possibly get to below-average power in the end, with most of it coming from doubles in the gaps and the occasional home run. With the backup of shortstops ahead of him in the system, the A’s are deciding between having him split time with Richie Martin in Stockton or be the everyday shortstop back in Single-A.
Hit: 40/45/50+ Power: 35/40+/45 Run: 45/45/45 Field: 50/50+/55 Throw: 55/55/55
Brown redshirted his sophomore year during his transfer to Lewis-Clark State, then came out to hit 23 homers with great contact, albeit against NAIA competition, which can be anywhere from really good to…not. He predominately played first base, but it wasn’t for a lack of athleticism, being around an average runner with a decent arm.
The A’s nabbed him in the 19th round, after which he spent a lot of time in center and right field in his first pro season. He is a bit older for both Low-A and as a college pick (he turns 24 this July), so the plan is to move him quickly through the system to really see what they have after his outstanding performance after the draft.
The A’s source I discussed Brown with believes he will stick in the outfield, praising his raw power, innate ability to hit and good baseball intelligence. Nobody seems to really know what to expect from him, but he has shown a decent approach at the plate, and has the swing to back up his big numbers. Consider this projection a pieced-together approximation until we can see him against more appropriate competition.
Hit: 40/45/50 Power: 40/45/50 Run: 45/45/50 Field: 45/50/50 Throw: 50/50/50
Bolt may have the most pure athleticism in the A’s system, with team officials high on his power and baserunning potential. He is an excellent defender who shouldn’t have any problem sticking in center field with continued development of his reads. The question is how much he will hit in professional ball. With a name like Bolt, of course he has plus raw speed, though he does need to improve his jumps and situational understanding to best use it in games.
A switch-hitter, Bolt has better hands and potential from the left side, but his balance is better on the right. He has a handsy swing with both, in good and bad ways. Positively, his hands are loose and quick, and he shows the makings of a decent hand path, particularly on the left side. As a counterpoint, his hands take over very early in the swing at present, leaving most of the power he has in his lower half underutilized. His lack of synergy between his upper and lower body makes it difficult to square pitches up, but hopefully strength gains and his plate discipline will bail him out while he works with Oakland’s player development staff.
Hit: 25/40/45 Power: 30/40/45 Run: 55/60/60 Field: 50/55/60 Throw: 60/60/60
Brugman has a smooth contact swing that he uses to shoot the ball around the field. He does particularly well on pitches up in the zone with his tendency to swing on a steeper plane, making his power manifest in the form of doubles more so than home runs. One team source threw a Mark Kotsay comp on him, with good all-around skills and the ability to stay in center but also being capable of playing the corner spots.
Hit: 40/45/45-50 Power: 35/40/45 Run: 50/50/50 Field: 50/50/55 Throw: 50/50/50
Healy had a nice year in Double-A, batting .302 with 10 homers and 32 doubles. He remains under the radar in the public eye, which at least one team source thinks will change soon. There is a case to be made that Healy belongs with the bats toward the higher end of this list, but I think it’s a bit optimistic. If he can stay at third, I would buy into that sentiment a bit more, but most scouts see him ending up at first base full-time.
His power is still relatively limited to the pull side, with most of the damage done on pitches up in the zone, and I don’t think he has the swing path to keep driving balls at the same rate in the big leagues. He sprays line drives everywhere though, and he makes solid contact at a high rate. With some feel to hit and what I would grade as 40-45 power, he still has value as a possible third baseman.
Hit: 45/50/55 Power: 35/40/45 Run: 35/35/35 Field: 40/40/45 Throw: 45/45/45
Dull dominated Double-A and Triple-A hitters last year before tallying 17 big league innings with mild success. He draws nice reviews for his no-fear approach, and commanding the ball to the low-outside corner last year was a big part of his minor league rampage. He has a fringy, straight fastball but also a plus slider, and should get another opportunity to earn a bullpen spot this year.
Fastball: 45+/45-50/50 Slider: 60/60/60 Changeup: 40/40/40 Command: 45/45/45+
Kurcz worked as a setup man in Triple-A last season, using his mid-90s sinking fastball and improved slider to work through the late innings. He still has command issues, but one team source I talked to was confident enough in his making improvements to recommend slotting him in the top 20. If his slider takes another step forward, I could see him in that range, but for now he’s just an intriguing relief prospect.
Fastball: 55/55/60 Slider: 55/55/60 Changeup: 40/40/40 Command: 40/40+/45
Covey had a decent year in High-A and did make some real improvements, but the same issues are present. Finding the strike zone more often was a plus, though it didn’t come with better command. His delivery needs to be cleaned up some more, and the A’s are still waiting for him to find some consistency. He will bring his heavy sinker to Double-A this year, where he is slated to be the Opening Day starter for Midland.
Fastball: 45/50/55 Curveball: 50/50/55 Slider: 40/40+/45 Changeup: 40/45/45 Command: 40/40+/45
When Chris Mitchell went foolishly looking for the next A-Rod at the end of December — after foolishly meeting the real Alex Rodriguez while ordering pizza at four in the morning — he generated a list of 20 prospects who produced in 2015 the most similar statistical performances to A-Rod’s own final minor-league campaign (as an 18-year-old) in 1994. Within that list, there appeared a number of recognizable names: Carlos Correa, Rafael Devers, Miguel Sano — and also Oakland’s top prospect, Franklin Barreto. There were also some less immediately familiar names. Among them: former Florida State third baseman and 16th-round selection Jose Brizuela.
To the extent that it’s unfair to denote any prospect The Next A-Rod, it’s way less reasonable to do that to Brizuela. By the time A-Rod was 22 (Brizuela’s age last season), he’d already produced 20 wins as a major leaguer. It’s way improbable that Brizuela will reach that threshold over his entire career.
That said, he’s exhibited a collection of adequate, if not inspiring, skills. He occupies a place on the more valuable side of the defensive spectrum. He has some power. His contact skills aren’t ideal, but also likely not prohibitive.
In conclusion, here’s footage of Brizuela doubling once ever in the heart of Wisconsin:
Upper level pitchers: RHP Joel Seddon had a big year in Stockton’s rotation before running into an innings limit and put back into the bullpen. He throws strikes with a clean delivery and a four-pitch mix, and now will head to Double-A. He’s definitely one to watch in the early going to see if he continues where he left off as a starter last year. RHP JB Wendelken was the other piece of the Brett Lawrie deal with Chicago. He has a history of striking out a good amount of hitters and has bounced around a bit. He’ll start in Triple-A this season.
Lower level pitchers: RHP Daniel Gossett (VIDEO) got off to a rough start last year and never really got going over the long season, though he came into camp this spring throwing 94 again. One team source said he was going to be the most improved player this season, and will head to Stockton along with draft mates Heath Fillmyer and Brett Graves. RHP Heath Fillmyer had a tough start last year as well and is still pretty raw as a former shortstop convert, but he made some late adjustments and threw well to finish out the year. Was the MVP of instructional league. RHP Brett Graves (VIDEO) is throwing 95-96 this spring with an improved curve, and will look to start having his results match the potential this year in High-A.
LHP Kevin Duchene (VIDEO) got off to a slow start this spring and doesn’t have a big arm, but his command and solid changeup could make some waves when he heads out to Low-A in a couple months. Coming over from the White Sox in the Brett Lawrie deal, LHP Zack Erwin (VIDEO) has a tall, lanky body and an above-average split-changeup, but his best hope is adding enough muscle to see his stuff creep up a bit. His fastball command could help him get on the fast track to the upper minors at least, and he has back-of-the-rotation potential.
LHP Chris Kohler (VIDEO) was shut down with shoulder stiffness this spring, and already has an elbow surgery on his resume. He has a promising arm if it can stay healthy. After some back and forth, the A’s will send RHP Dustin Driver (VIDEO) to the rotation in Low-A this year to work on his delivery and command. He has a power arm that produces up to 95 miles per hour, but he needs to find a way to keep the ball down.