Top 10 Prospects: Oakland Athletics

Oakland has an interesting system because a lot of the players on the Top 10 list are unproven. The 2014 season will be an interesting one for the organization as many of those players are poised to either take big steps forward or big steps backward.


#1 Addison Russell | 65/AA (SS)

19 614 143 37 18 71 140 26 .271 .368 .486 .376

The Year in Review: Russell opened the year as a 19-year-old shortstop in High-A ball and, after a short adjustment period, hit very well. He produced a solid average and good power while also displaying a keen eye and speed. He earned a one-game trial at the Triple-A level and also played in the Arizona Fall League as one of the younger prospects invited.

The Scouting Report: Russell can do a little bit of everything. His approach at the plate — including using the whole field — and quick bat should allow him to hit for a strong average in the Majors while also producing average or better power. He has a solid eye and isn’t afraid to take a walk. When he gets on base, he has the above-average speed to make the pitcher pay. In the field, he has excellent actions, good range and a solid arm.

The Year Ahead: Russell should open the 2014 season in Double-A but could very well reach Triple-A in the second half of the year. Expect him to make his MLB debut in 2015.

The Career Outlook: If he keeps developing as expected, Russell could eventually develop into a 20-20 threat at the plate while playing above-average defense.


#2 Daniel Robertson | 55/A- (SS)

19 451 111 21 9 41 79 1 .277 .353 .401 .351

The Year in Review: Robertson had a solid season in Low-A ball at the age of 19. He hit .277 and produced an on-base percentage of just over .350. Five of his nine home runs came in August when he also hit .314 with an .877 OPS.

The Scouting Report: If you buy into Robertson’s ability to stick at shortstop, then you have an intriguing prospect on your hands. Because he’s not overly quick, the young infielder has modest range but he’s reliable and has good actions and a solid arm. If he has to move to third base, his power will likely grade out as fringe-average to average for that position. He should hit for a solid average; he has a developing eye and keeps the strikeouts to a respectable level.

The Year Ahead: Robertson will move up to High-A ball in 2014 where he’ll look to polish his defense at shortstop and also work on his overall consistency.

The Career Outlook: Truth be told, Robertson likely won’t ever regularly play shortstop at the big league level for the A’s — barring an injury to fellow prospect Addison Russell. He’ll lose a little value with a position switch but he should develop into a pretty good hitter.


#3 Billy McKinney | 60/SS (DH/OF)

18 243 70 9 3 20 33 8 .326 .387 .437 .389

The Year in Review: The 24th overall selection in the 2013 draft out of a Texas high school, McKinney performed quite well during his pro debut. The young outfielder hit .320 in 46 Rookie ball games before moving up to the more advanced short-season ball where he hit .353 in nine games. In total, he produced an .824 OPS but just 15 of his 70 hits went for extra bases.

The Scouting Report: McKinney is a bit of a one-dimensional player with all his value tied up in his bat. He projects to hit for a strong average from the left side of the plate due to his solid approach and his above-average bat speed could help him produce average or better home run pop. With that said, McKinney has some work to do against southpaws. He also has limited speed, which impacts both his base running and his defense. It could limit him to left field as he moves up the ladder.

The Year Ahead: McKinney will no doubt move up to Low-A ball where he’ll look to build off his solid debut from 2013 — and hopefully add some additional pop to his game.

The Career Outlook: The 19-year-old prospect has a chance to be a good hitter but his lack of defensive and running values hurt a bit.


#4 Raul Alcantara | 55/A+ (P)

20 27 27 156.1 157 11 7.14 1.38 3.11 3.14

The Year in Review: The late 2011 trade that saw RHP Andrew Bailey and OF Ryan Sweeeney head to Boston in exchange for OF Josh Reddick, 1B Miles Head and RHP Alcantara continues to pay dividends for Oakland. The right-handed pitching prospect saw his game take a big step forward in 2013 as the split the year between two A-ball levels and stuck out 124 batters with just 24 walks in 156.1 innings.

The Scouting Report: Alcantara has above-average control for his age but he’s still looking for continued improvement on his command within the strike zone. All his offerings took a step forward in 2013, although they still have a ways to go to become legitimate out pitches. The heater works in the low 90s and touches the mid-90s. His second-best offering is a plus changeup, and he also has two breaking balls with the slider having a slight edge over the curveball.

The Year Ahead: The Dominican Republic native should move up to Double-A in 2014 unless he completely melts down in spring training. Job #1 will be to polish the breaking balls.

The Career Outlook: Alcantara has a shot at developing into a mid-rotation starter if he continues along the development path he’s been following in recent years.


#5 Michael Ynoa | 55/A+ (P)

21 22 21 75.2 68 5 8.09 4.16 3.69 4.01

The Year in Review: Signed all the way back in 2008, Ynoa has fewer than 120 innings to his credit over that span due to injury after injury creeping up. The right-hander made a career high 22 appearances (21 starts) in 2013 and also pitched the most innings of his career at 75.2. He struck out 68 hits but walked 35.

The Scouting Report: Ynoa’s lost development time due to injury continues to haunt him when it comes to the development of his secondary stuff, as well as his command/consistency. The right-hander still has excellent velocity at 92-95 mph but neither his curveball nor his changeup are constantly average offerings but both show flashes of potential. Ynoa isn’t overly athletic on the mound and is pretty stiff in his delivery. I’m concerned over his lack of follow through.

The Year Ahead: Aside from staying healthy, the goal for 2014 will be to break the 100-inning mark as he either returns to the California League or gets pushed up to Double-A.

The Career Outlook: Unless Ynoa makes some further adjustments to his delivery, he may continue to suffer from shoulder woes, which makes him an injury risk moving forward — but he has significant upside. If his secondary stuff doesn’t develop, he might be better off in the bullpen.


#6 Bobby Wahl | 55/SS (P)

21 10 5 21.2 20 3 11.63 3.32 4.15 3.52

The Year in Review: The University of Mississippi alum is more talented than his fifth round selection might suggested and he showed flashes of that during his pro debut in 2013. Wahl struck out 27 batters in 20.2 innings in short-season ball. He employed a fly-ball heavy approach during his first 10 pro ball games.

The Scouting Report: Inconsistent stuff blamed on injuries caused Wahl to slip in the 2013 draft. However, he has the stuff to be a solid starter with a 90-95 mph fastball, potentially-plus slider and a changeup that should be average or better in time. Wahl needs to stay on top of the ball and ensure he’s working down in the lower half of the zone in an effort to limit the fly ball. He needs to polish his command.

The Year Ahead: Wahl’s performance in spring training will likely help determine if he heads off to Low-A or High-A ball for April. He has a solid shot at reaching Double-A during the season.

The Career Outlook: If his injuries are truly behind him, Wahl has the ceiling of a very good No. 3 starter.


#7 Renato Nunez | 55/A- (3B)

19 545 131 27 19 28 136 2 .258 .301 .423 .330

The Year in Review: Nunez held his own in the full-season Midwest League in 2013 as a teenager. He produced a .725 OPS and slugged 19 home runs. On the downside, he walked just 28 times and struck out 136 times in 128 games.

The Scouting Report: Still very young, Nunez just needs at-bats to hone his overly-aggressive approach at the plate. He also needs to improve his pitch recognition and handling of breaking balls. He has very good bat speed, which helps him generate above-average power and he could tap into it even more consistently once he learns to wait for better pitches. Defensively, his arm is his best asset but he doesn’t move well or have much range at third base. He also needs to improve the accuracy of his throws.

The Year Ahead: Nunez should move up to High-A ball where his offense could get an additional boost from the California League but, really, it’s his approach at the plate that needs the most work.

The Career Outlook: Nunez doesn’t play defense overly well and he’s not much of a runner or an athlete so his bat is going to have to continue to develop if he’s going to be an impact player for the A’s.


#8 Dylan Covey | 55/A- (P)

21 14 14 59.1 73 4 6.98 2.73 3.79 3.49

The Year in Review: Covey produced respectable numbers during his pro debut in 2013, but didn’t exactly dominate. He didn’t allow an earned run in four starts in shorts-season ball but then he gave up 64 hits in 47.1 innings in the Low-A Midwest League. On the plus side, he induced a massive number of ground-ball outs.

The Scouting Report: Covey was the 14th overall selection in the 2010 amateur draft but decided to attend school. His value dropped over the next three years and he slid to the A’s in the fourth round. Covey has strong frame and could be an innings-eater. His fastball works in the low 90s with good sink and he also possesses a good slider, followed by a curveball and a changeup.

The Year Ahead: Covey will likely return to Low-A ball in 2014 but he could receive a quick promotion to High-A ball if he’s firing on all cylinders and develops a consistent swing-and-miss offering.

The Career Outlook: Improved fastball command is much needed if he’s going to realize his full potential as a No. 3 or 4 starter.


#9 Billy Burns | 50/AA (OF)

23 540 140 12 0 72 54 74 .315 .425 .383 .383

The Year in Review: It was an eventful year for the Georgia native who opened the season as an A-baller. The speedy outfielder then hit .312 with a .422 on-base percentage to earn a promotion to Double-A after 91 games. At that level, Burns hit .325 and saw his on-base percentage hit .434. In total, he stole 74 bases in 81 tries. The switch-hitter managed just 21 extra base hits in 121 games.

The Scouting Report: Burns’ game is built around his plus speed. He understands his strengths and weaknesses as a player and doesn’t try to do too much. He keeps his swing short and to the ball, which allows him to use the whole field and hit for a high average. He also has a good eye at the plate and gets on base as a high clip, which allows him to steal a ton of bases. Not only fast, he’s also a smart base runner and a good fielder although his modest arm strength causes him to see more time in left field than centre.

The Year Ahead: Traded to Oakland in the offseason, Burns will likely return to Double-A to open the 2014 season.

The Career Outlook: Burns is in the right organization to be appreciated for his on-base abilities. He may not have a future as a regular (the jury is still out) but he could be an impact player from the bench or as a member of a platoon.


#10 Matt Olson | 50/A- (1B)

19 558 108 32 23 72 148 4 .225 .326 .435 .349

The Year in Review: Olson put on a power display in 2013 with 32 doubles and 23 home runs. He hit just .225 but his on-base percentage was .100 points higher thanks to 72 walks. He also struck out 148 times. A left-handed hitter, Olson struggled mightily against southpaws.

The Scouting Report: Olson’s potential is undeniable but he has a long way to go to reach his potential. He has some of the best raw power in the system, as witnessed by his 2013 numbers, but he needs to improve against off speed pitches and is still working on his pitch recognition. He has some bat speed but his swing gets long. He has a patient approach and works the count well, which leads to high on-base percentages and helps to compensate for the lower batting average. Olson has a lot of work to do against southpaws (.613 OPS vs LHP, .816 OPS vs RHP in 2013).

The Year Ahead: The young first baseman should move up to the California League (High-A) in 2014 where he’ll have to avoid the temptation to get even more homer happy in the offense-boosting league.

The Career Outlook: Olson, a Georgia native, could hit 30 home runs in the Majors — if he can find a way to make enough contact to eventually get out of Double-A.

The Next Five:

11. Dillon Overton, LHP: Overton produced inconsistent stuff during his college career and worked anywhere from the high 80s to mid 90s with his heat. He dealt with some forearm issues in college, which may have scared some teams away and caused him to slide from the first round to the second during the 2013 draft. The University of Oklahoma alum also has a potentially-plus slider and a good changeup.

12. Max Muncy, 1B: A first baseman, Muncy is going to have to hit and hit a lot of he’s going to develop into an everyday player. He slugged 25 homers in 2013 but 20 of those came in the potent California league and his slugging percentage dropped almost 100 points with a promotion to Double-A. In truth, he’s more of a doubles hitter than a pure home runs hitter. He produces excellent on-base rates thanks to a patient approach that helped him amass 88 walks in 140 games last season.

13. Nolan Sanburn, RHP: With a modest frame and an injury history that included a shoulder strain in 2013, Sanburn may find his future is in the bullpen — a role he performed at the University of Arkansas. His fastball hits the mid-90s and he also possesses a slider, curveball and changeup. The slider is his most promising secondary offering and it has plus potential.

14. Chad Pinder, SS: The Virginia Tech alum had a modest pro debut in 2013 but showed the ability to play a respectable shortstop with good arm strength in pro ball but will likely eventually move to second base. He projects to hit for average as he develops because he utilizes a smart approach with a short stroke and uses the whole field. His swing isn’t geared for power so he’ll probably never hit for much.

15. B.J. Boyd, OF: Because he played multiple sports in high school, Boyd is somewhat raw on the diamond, which is why he spent a second year in short-season ball in 2013. He started to tap into his power potential more consistently last year but he stopped running despite above-average speed. He played mostly left field in ’13 but can also handle centre.

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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Vlad the Impaler
10 years ago

Ynoa is a prime example of why giving multi-million bonuses to 16 year olds is a terrible investment. For every Teheran, there’s 10 Ynoa’s. He was the next big thing and now, if things break right, he’s a mid-rotation starter or a setup guy.

10 years ago

It’s all about the scouting and projection with those young guys. He’s still a top 5 prospect for the team, so it wasn’t just a flop. What’s a few million to teams anyway? You could buy one Tanaka or have 30 shots at a Teheran…or Felix.

Vlad the Impaler
10 years ago
Reply to  Dave

It’s a poor investment. There is a very high rate of “bonus babies” (over $1M bonus) failing.

The better strategy is to spread the risk with a series of $100,000-$250,000 signings, plus a generous helping of less than $100K bonuses.

The rate of return is much better on those types of risks.

Forrest Gumption
10 years ago

Eh, it was so long ago, before we had this kind of data, its hard to put any kind of fault or blame on anyone. Plus, if he plays in the bigs at all, its a win no matter what. The ceiling is very low for these types of signings…

Slacker Georgemember
10 years ago

I’d hazard a guess that the rate of return decreases as bonus decreases. Maybe your comment was about the pool as a whole and not the signee individually.

10 years ago

Being able to develop a middle of the rotation guy that you can pay league minimum for a few years is pretty darn valuable.

10 years ago

That isn’t saying much at all. For every successful prospect of *any* acquisition background, there’s ~10 failures.