Oakland Athletics Top-25 Prospects
Here’s the scene. You’re sitting at home on a Thursday night, flipping through the channels, and you come across the World Series of Poker. While you’re not a big poker fan, you notice that it’s down to the final two at the final table, so you leave it there to see how it ends. One of them goes all in with a pair of Queens, thinking he has the upper hand. A coy smirk appears on his face as he looks across the table to his opponent who lowers his sunglasses and shoots back his own devilish smirk. By gawd, that’s Billy Beane’s music! Beane calls and flips over a pair of aces, much to the dismay of his opponent. That pair of aces stand for the two stud southpaws that currently head this deck of Athletics prospects.
And by the end of 2019, we could see both in the Athletics rotation for a team that won 97 games in 2018. There’s plenty of reasons to smirk if you’re Mr. Beane. I mean, the man just won a fictional World Series of Poker after landing a full house on the turn and also has two of the best pitching prospects in the minors.
Overall System Grade: B-
Minor League Affiliates
Triple-A: Las Vegas – Pacific Coast League
Double-A: Midland – Texas League
Single-A (Advanced): Stockton – California League
Single-A (Full): Beloit – Midwest League
Short-season Single-A: Vermont – New York-Penn League
Rookie: One team each in the Arizona League and Dominican Summer League
Also, make sure to check out the Fantrax Dynasty Podcast on the Fantrax Podcast Network with Nathan Dokken, Van Lee, and Ron Rigney.
New Top-25 Oakland Athletics Prospects
1. Jesus Luzardo, LHP, DOB: 9/30/97, ETA 2019
2018 Stats (A+/AA/AAA): 109.1 IP, 2.88 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 2.5 BB/9, 10.6 K/9, .220 AVG
Back in the spring of 2018, Luzardo was widely thought of as a good prospect on the verge of joining the elite. Mission accomplished. After dominating in the California League (A+) and Texas League (AA), Luzardo earned a promotion to Triple-A Nashville in early-August for his final four starts of the season. Luzardo allowed 13 runs in those four starts, including eight in his season finale on August 24th. If you took that last outing off his season stat line, Luzardo would’ve finished with an even better 2.29 ERA. After that start, Luzardo was quietly shut down for the remainder of the season.
— Midland RockHounds (@RockHounds) July 20, 2018
Luzardo is one of the most polished pitchers in the minor leagues. He features three plus or better pitches with his fastball and changeup grading as plus-plus in my opinion. Sitting in the low to mid-90’s regularly, Luzardo is able to command his fastball incredibly well and put it wherever he wants to. There’s some arm side run and sink on the pitch, making it especially difficult on lefty batters. Luzardo will mix in one of the best fading changeups in the minors and a curveball with solid depth.
With that type of arsenal/command and clean mechanics, Luzardo has future staff ace written all over him. Expect him to return to Triple-A to start 2019 with a mid-season promotion to Oakland likely. Getting an ace for a couple of relievers? Great job Billy Beane.
Want more on Luzardo? Then check out my full scouting report on him from last month.
2. A.J. Puk, LHP, DOB: 4/25/95, ETA 2019
2018 Stats: Did Not Pitch
The 2018 season ended as quickly as it began for A.J. Puk. The big 6’7 left-hander underwent Tommy John surgery in the spring and missed the entire season. Not exactly the sequel we were expecting to his strikeout-laden 2017 season when he finished with 184 strikeouts in just 125 innings between the California League and Texas League. In fact, on many lists including my own, Puk was the top dog in this Athletics farm system. And if it wasn’t for the emergence of Mr. Luzardo, he still would be.
Missing a season doesn’t change the fact that Puk still has the upside of a top-of-the-rotation southpaw. He gets incredible extension from his 6’7 frame, creating a good downward plane on his mid to upper-90’s fastball and making it more effective than it already was. He pairs that with a filthy wipeout slider that is nearly unhittable when he locates it down in the zone and also mixes in a curve and change, both of which are average offerings.
The downside for Puk is that his command gets away from him at times, but he’s made strides there since his days as a Florida Gator to the point where it doesn’t project as a long-term issue. If all goes according to plan, Luzardo and Puk should make for a dynamic 1-2 in the Oakland rotation. Luzardo will likely have the better ratios, but Puk has the higher strikeout upside. If the injury has created any sort of buy-low opportunity on Puk, I’d pounce.
3. Austin Beck, OF, Bats: R. DOB: 11/21/98, ETA 2021
2018 Stats (A): .296/.335/.383/.718, 29 2B, 2 HR, 8 SB, 5.6 BB%, 21.9 K%, 493 AB
The Athletics drafted Beck, a North Carolina prep bat, with the sixth overall pick in the 2017 draft and it’s easy to see why. After a slow start to his professional career, Beck simplified his swing and setup and really took off in 2018 showing increased contact skills and better plate discipline. The raw tools were always there and were the reason why Beck was drafted in the top-10. Now with a more simplified and direct swing, expect Beck to take off in 2019.
Beck is a toolsy outfielder with above-average raw power and plus speed. In addition to the exceptional bat speed, Beck’s swing had good natural loft and he’s able to generate hard contact to all fields. Now, that hasn’t shown up in the home run department quite yet, but 2018 was an adjustment season with his swing. Don’t worry, more power should come. With Beck’s swing and strength, projecting 20-25 home runs annually seems about right to go along with a strong batting average. There’s plenty of speed here as well. Beck is quick on the bases and has displayed above-average range in the outfield with a strong throwing arm. Don’t be surprised if he adds 25-plus steals to that average and power.
Overall, we’re looking at a potential All-Star caliber outfielder that is an asset both offensively and defensively. Definitely a name trending up in dynasty leagues and on prospect lists.
4. Lazaro Armenteros, OF, Bats: R, DOB: 5/2/99, ETA 2021
2018 Stats (A): .277/.374/.401/.775, 8 2B, 8 HR, 8 SB, 10.6 BB%, 33.8 K%, 292 AB
A 2016 J2 signing out of Cuba, Armenteros fits in the “raw with high upside” crop of outfield prospects in this Athletics system. If Armenteros can continue to develop his contact skills, the upside here is massive. Out of the gate, Armenteros is very athletic with plus speed on the bases and solid range in the outfield. He doesn’t have the best throwing arm around, which might limit him to a corner spot, but his defense isn’t why he’s ranked 4th here.
In addition to the plus speed, Armenteros has displayed above-average raw power and exceptional bat speed. I’d like to see him clean his swing up some and bring his hands in a little closer to his body, but that’s nothing that can’t be ironed out with additional reps. Other little quibbles would be his pull rate (51.7%), low fly ball rate (26.3%), and that strikeout rate you see above. All the raw tools are here, he just needs a lot of work to unleash them.
5. Sean Murphy, C, Bats: R, DOB: 10/10/94, ETA 2019
2018 Stats (RK/AA/AAA): .285/.361/.489/.850, 27 2B, 8 HR, 3 SB, 8.5 BB%, 16.3 K%, 270 AB
Without question, Sean Murphy will be a starting Major League catcher for a long time. He’s one of the best defensive catchers in the game with a rocket arm, incredible pop times, and solid pitch framing. I’ve routinely clocked his pop times in the 1.85-2.00 range, which is phenomenal. Good luck running against this guy. This type of defensive skill set is a valuable asset to a Major League team and the main reason for my opening sentence here. And guess what, Murphy can handle the lumber, too.
— Mike Rosenbaum (@GoldenSombrero) November 8, 2017
At the plate, Murphy doesn’t have one plus tool, but I would grade both his hit tool and power as 50’s. His swing is quick and fluid from the right side with a quiet pre-pitch setup, hands starting shoulder high. He’s shown the ability to go the other way when needed and doesn’t strike out too much. Overall, I’d project around a .275 average and 15 homers annually to go along with that all-star caliber defense.
6. Jameson Hannah, OF, Bats: L, DOB: 8/10/97, ETA 2021
2018 Stats (A-): .279/.347/384/.731, 4 2B, 1 HR, 6 SB, 9.5 BB%, 25.3 K%, 86 AB
The 50th overall pick in the 2018 draft and 43rd ranked prospect in my final FYPD rankings, Hannah has a chance for three plus tools when it’s all said and done. To start, Hannah has an athletic 5’9 frame with plenty of speed both on the bases and in center field. His throwing arm is below average, but he’s able to make up for that some with his plus range. Despite his speed, Hannah didn’t run too often while at Dallas Baptist University, stealing only 28 bags in 172 games. While that might not be an eye-popping number, it looks more impressive when I add in the little tidbit that he was only caught twice in his collegiate career. That’s a 93.3% conversion rate. If he gets a little more aggressive on the bases, 25-30 steals annually sounds about right.
At the plate, Hannah displays a good feel for hitting with above-average contact skills and plate coverage. He doesn’t incorporate his lower half much and uses more of a line-drive approach, so the power projection here isn’t overly high. At the moment his power ceiling is in the 10-12 range, but it’s his speed and contact skills that make him a desirable dynasty league target.
7. James Kaprielian, RHP, DOB: 3/2/94, ETA 2020
2018 Stats: Did Not Pitch
The last time we saw Kaprielian in game action was during the 2016 Arizona Fall League. Since then he’s missed two straight seasons due to Tommy John surgery and a subsequent shoulder injury. Thankfully, he was able to get a little mound work in during Instructional League this fall and looked ready to return to minor league action to start 2019. Kaprielian works with a four-pitch arsenal, with all four of them being average or better pitches before the injury. Headlining that quartet was a mid-90’s fastball with life, a slider with two-plane tilt, and a changeup with fade when he was throwing it well. Kaprielian also would mix in a fringe curveball and his command of all four pitches was solid.
The layoff likely has caused Kaprielian to slide down a lot of prospect boards and lose some dynasty value, which makes now the perfect time to try and acquire him. The Athletics nabbed him in the Sonny Gray trade with the Yankees and still have a good chance at winning that deal if Kaprielian reaches his ceiling of a No. 2 or 3 starter.
8. Jorge Mateo, SS, Bats: R, DOB: 6/23/95, ETA 2019
2018 Stats (AAA): .230/.280/.353/.633, 17 2B, 16 3B, 3 HR, 25 SB, 5.7 BB%, 27.3 K%, 470 AB
Mateo is slowly but surely slipping down my prospect rankings each time I update them. We all know about the speed upside here. Mateo is one of the quickest players in the minors and has proven that time and time again with his gaudy stolen base totals, most notably his 49 in 2013, 82 in 2015, and 52 in 2017. For his minor league career, Mateo is averaging 61.3 steals per every 600 plate appearances. That’s enough to get any dynasty league owner salivating. That is, if you ignore the rest of his offensive profile.
Let me preface this by saying that the rest of his offensive profile isn’t bad. I just don’t envision him hitting enough to turn into a top-of-the-order hitter. Mateo’s contact skills haven’t developed as expected and his plate discipline is trending in the wrong direction. His swing is fine and there’s some solid bat speed here, but Mateo doesn’t get much loft out of his swing. One thing I do like is the fact that he incorporates his lower half more now than he did in the lower levels of the Yankees system. Still, projecting more than 12-15 home runs annually right now with a .250-.260 average and .290-.300 OBP isn’t something I can bring myself to do. Which is a shame as that lower OBP will suppress that beautiful speed of his.
Defensively, Mateo is fine. His blazing speed has translated into solid range, both at shortstop and in the outfield, and he has a decent throwing arm to go along with it. After making 29 starts in the outfield in 2017, Mateo didn’t make a single start there in 2018, starting 122 of his 126 games at shortstop which is where he projects to stay moving forward.
9. Daulton Jefferies, RHP, DOB: 8/2/95, ETA 2020
2018 Stats (RK): 1 GS, 2 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K
Between Kaprielian and Daulton Jeffries, they’ve thrown a combined 38.1 minor league innings since the start of the 2016 season. Calling out the obvious here, but that’s not a lot for two pitchers over three seasons. The latest injury for Jefferies put him under Tommy John’s knife, forcing him to miss all but two innings of the 2018 season. Jefferies might not have the same type of upside as Kaprielian, but there’s a lot to like here if he can finally remain healthy. Jefferies throws in the 90-93mph range regularly and could add a tick or two when needed. Out of his two secondary pitches, his changeup is more advanced than his curve and flashes plus with fade at times. It will be interesting to see how both Jefferies and Kaprielian return to the mound in 2019. If Jefferies can return to form, there’s solid mid-rotation upside here.
10. Skye Bolt, OF, Bats: S, DOB: 1/15/94, ETA 2019
2018 Stats (A+/AA): .260/.347/.474/.821, 26 2B, 19 HR, 19 SB, 11.1 BB%, 23.3 K%, 454 AB
Fresh off a solid 2018 and Arizona Fall League showing, Skye Bolt is beginning to make a name for himself in prospect circles. This was a name I liked coming into the year, and while I didn’t anticipate a near 20/20 season, Bolt being a borderline top-10 Athletics prospect isn’t much of a surprise. While he might not be as fast as Usain, Bolt is quick on the bases and in the outfield, displaying solid range and 20-plus stolen base upside. There’s also above-average raw power here thanks to Bolt’s plus bat speed and natural loft in his swing.
Now, speaking of that swing, there are some holes to it, but Bolt has made strides with his contact skills of late to the point where I would slap a 45-grade on his hit tool right now. Expect Bolt to start at Triple-A in 2019 with a mid-season promotion to Oakland attainable.
11. Tyler Ramirez, OF, Bats: L, DOB: 2/21/95, ETA 2019/2020
2018 Stats (AA): .287/.370/.430/.800, 35 2B, 10 HR, 5 SB, 10.4 BB%, 24.9 K%, 512 AB
The Athletics 7th round pick in 2016, Ramirez hasn’t gotten a ton of love on prospect lists yet, mainly because he lacks any plus tools. I’m not projecting any of his tools to develop into plus, but Ramirez has shown four average or better tools and still has a little power projection left. If you combined the last two seasons, Ramirez’s slash line would sit at .295/.383/.430/.814 and he added some additional extra-base pop in 2018. Ramirez has shown a good feel for hitting and is able to work the count when needed. He’ll likely never have any eye-popping stats, but has the upside to settle in as a .280/15/15 type while playing adequate or better defense in a corner outfield spot.
12. Wyatt Marks, RHP, DOB: 6/28/95, ETA 2020
2018 Stats (A/A+): 133.2 IP, 3.30 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 3.4 BB/9, 10.7 K/9, .226 AVG
If you asked me for a sleeper arm in this Athletics system, here he is. Marks has carved up the low minors to the tune of a 3.07 ERA and 11.0 K/9 through his first two seasons. He attacks hitters with two plus pitches from a high 3/4 arm slot and gets good extension from his delivery. The fastball sits in the low-90’s with life, touching 95-96 at times, and his curveball is a true out pitch with strong downward action. His changeup is a fringe offering at best, but if he can develop that into at least an average offering, Marks could settle in as a high-strikeout mid-rotation starter. If not, that fastball/curve combination would look damn good coming out of the bullpen.
13. Jeremy Eierman, SS, Bats: R, DOB: 9/10/96, ETA 2021
2018 Stats (A-): .235/.283/.381/.664, 8 2B, 8 HR, 10 SB, 4.9 BB%, 26.2 K%, 247 AB
Statistics don’t always tell the entire story, but in this instance, they paint a damn good picture of the type of player Jeremy Eierman is. Offensively, he reminds me a lot of Franklin Barreto, which if you’ve read my past work, you’ll know I’m not a big fan of. Both the power and speed grade as above-average to plus, but the hit tool needs a ton of work if he ever wants to capitalize on his 25/25 upside.
He starts with a wide stance pre-pitch and can get a bit armsy with his swing at times. The swing itself is a tad long and his pitch selection needs refinement. As of now, I slapping a 35-grade on Eierman’s hit tool which suppresses that power/speed upside he brings to the table. If he can shorten his swing path and start making more contact, his stock will take off. Defensively, he should stay on the left side of the infield moving forward, at short for now, with his rocket arm fit for either short or the hot corner.
14. Kevin Merrell, SS, Bats: L, DOB: 12/14/95, ETA 2021
2018 Stats (RK/A-/A+): .291/.335/.365/.700, 10 2B, 6 3B, 0 HR, 7 SB, 5.9 BB%, 21.9 K%, 296 AB
Merrell is an intriguing shortstop prospect, but is a 100% different way than Eierman. First off, Merrell has very minimal power projection due to a contact-over-power approach and linear swing bath. However, he makes up for the lack of power with above-average contact skills and plus-plus speed. That speed hasn’t translated into stolen pace prowess in the minors quite yet, but with the speed he possesses, 30-plus steals are definitely within reach once he develops as a base stealer. At the plate, he has a quick left-handed stroke and has kept his strikeouts in check. The ceiling here is an Elvis Andrus type of offensive performer at shortstop.
15. Parker Dunshee, RHP, DOB: 2/12/95, ETA 2019
2018 Stats (A+/AA): 150.2 IP, 2.33 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 1.9 BB/9, 9.7 K/9, .221 AVG
You might look at those numbers above and think I’m crazy for ranking Dunshee this low. He’s a solid pitcher, but lacks any plus pitch which is why he’s ranked this low. The fastball hovers around 90 mph with sink and doesn’t get higher than 92 very often. He’ll mix in three secondary offerings, all of which grade as average, with the slider being the best of the bunch. He’s been able to dominate in the lower minors thanks to his command and ability to change the hitter’s eye level, but I’m not expecting this type of success to continue in Triple-A or the Majors. Overall, he’s a textbook innings-eating #4 starter.
16. Sheldon Neuse, 3B, Bats: R, DOB: 12/10/94, ETA 2019
2018 Stats (AAA): .263/.304/.357/.661, 26 2B, 5 HR, 4 SB, 6.0 BB%, 32.0 K%, 499 AB
Acquired along with Luzardo and Blake Treinen in mid-2017, expectations were trending up for Neuse after a strong 2017 campaign where he hit .321 with 16 homers, 14 steals, and a .884 OPS. Following that was a .314 average, .935 OPS, and five taters in 22 Arizona Fall League games. Then 2018 happened. Neuse regressed in every conceivable category, most notably his strikeout rate which rose from 22.9% to 32.0%.
So, which season is closer to the real Neuse? Will the real Sheldon Neuse please stand up? Ultimately, it’s somewhere in the middle. Neuse has displayed plus bat speed and the ability to generate hard contact to all fields, but struggles with pitch recognition and that has led to plenty of swing and miss, especially last season. The upside is in the ballpark of .270 with 20 home runs and 10 steals while playing above-average defense at the hot corner.
17. Luis Barrera, OF, Bats: L, DOB: 11/15/95, ETA 2019
2018 Stats (A+/AA): .297/.361/.426/.787, 26 2B, 3 HR, 23 SB, 8.3 BB%, 16.4 K%, 444 AB
It’s been a busy offseason for Mr. Barrera. After a decent showing in the Arizona Fall League, Barrera also spent some time in the Dominican Winter League as well. Barrera is a contact-first hitter with a clean left-handed swing and solid plate coverage. He puts the ball in play and utilizes his plus speed. There’s barely any power to speak of here, but Barrera has the contact skills, speed, and enough defense to develop into a starting caliber outfielder, albeit, one without an overly high ceiling.
18. Greg Deichmann, OF, Bats: L, DOB: 5/31/95, ETA 2020
2018 Stats (RK/A+): .216/.294/.417/.711, 16 2B, 7 HR, 0 SB, 9.6 BB%, 31.1 K%, 204 AB
A 2nd round pick in 2017 out of LSU, Deichmann, is your prototypical power-hitting right fielder with a strong throwing arm and contact issues at the plate. His professional career got off to a decent start in the New York-Penn League back in 2017, but 2018 saw Deichmann swinging at anything and everything, striking out 31.1% of the time. There’s easy plus raw power in Deichmann’s bat thanks to plenty of bat speed and loft in his swing, and he’s able to hit with power the other way as well. If Deichmann is able to improve his plate discipline to the point where he can hit in the .240-.260 range, his 30-plus homer upside will look a lot better.
19. Grant Holmes, RHP, DOB: 3/22/96, ETA 2020
2018 Stats (A+): 2 GS, 6 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 8 K
A former first round pick by the Dodgers in 2014, Holmes was limited to only two starts in 2018 due to a rotator cuff injury. He was scheduled to get some work in during the Arizona Fall League, but was shut down to get that troublesome shoulder examined. It sounds like there are no long-term concerns, so hopefully, Holmes is ready in spring training and can get back on track in 2019. Holmes features a plus fastball/curve combination that would be lethal out of a bullpen. But the Athletics seem content on giving him a long leash as a starter, and rightfully so. If Holmes can keep his control in check and develop his changeup some, there’s mid-rotation upside here with plenty of strikeouts. He’s one to keep an eye on in 2019.
20. Marcus Brito, 2B, Bats: S, DOB: 3/6/00, ETA 2022
2018 Stats (A-): .241/.325/.288/.613, 5 2B, 1 3B, 7 SB, 11.1 BB%, 20.7 K%, 212 AB
A 2016 J2 signing, Brito got the bump to short-season Vermont in the NYPL in 2018. While the numbers don’t wow you, Brito displayed an advanced plate approach, plus bat speed with a clean swing, and a good feel for hitting. There’s minimal power projection here, but Brito has enough contact skills, speed, and defensive ability to become a Major League regular at second base.
21. Alexander Campos, SS, Bats: R, DOB: 2/20/00, ETA 2023
2018 Stats (RK): .127/.250/.183/.433, 2 2B, 0 HR, 4 SB, 13.1 BB%, 33.3 K%, 71 AB
Another 2016 J2 signing, this one by Seattle, Campos came over in the Ryon Healy deal and has struggled during his time in the Athletics system. However, look back to his 2017 season in Seattle’s system when he hit .290 with more walks (41) than strikeouts (39) and you’ll get a little glimpse at his offensive potential. Campos has a quick right-handed stroke with a good feel for the strike zone and solid contact skills. He’s not a big power threat, but there’s enough strength and bat speed to get into double-digits for home runs. As a shortstop, Campos has shown solid range with a good throwing arm and his speed also translates on the bases where he has the upside to steal 20-25 bases annually. Patience will be key here.
22. Nick Allen, SS, Bats: R, DOB: 10/8/98, ETA 2021
2018 Stats (A): .239/.301/.302/.603, 17 2B, 0 HR, 24 SB, 6.6 BB%, 16.6 K%, 460 AB
Allen is a prospect I’ve gone back and forth on. Ultimately, I don’t project him as anything more than a bottom of the order starting shortstop right now. The only reasons I still project him as a potential starter are his gold glove caliber defense and strong throwing arm. He also has solid wheels and could likely steal 20-plus bases annually, but the hit tool needs a lot of work. Pitch selection isn’t really the issues. What is, is the inability to generate consistent hard contact and put much of a charge into the ball.
23. Brian Howard, RHP, DOB: 4/25/95, ETA 2019
2018 Stats (A+/AA): 139.1 IP, 2.91 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 2.4 BB/9, 9.2 K/9, .225 AVG
An 8th round pick in 2017, Howard is a big 6’9 right-hander with solid command of an average arsenal. He tops out in the low 90’s, but due to his over-the-top release and extension in his delivery, the pitch plays better than the velocity and features some arm side run and sink. His upper-70’s curve is his best off-speed pitch and Howard will also mix in a fringe slider and changeup. Like with Dunshee, Howard has found success in the lower minors due to his command, but doesn’t have the arsenal to project as anything more than a back-end rotation arm.
24. Lawrence Butler, OF, Bats: L, DOB: 7/10/00, ETA 2023
2018 Stats (RK): .226/.339/.330/.669, 4 2B, 1 HR, 3 SB, 14.5 BB%, 34.7 K%, 106 AB
Butler was the only prep bat taken by the A’s in the 2018 amateur draft, selected in the 8th round out Atlanta, Georgia. As you can expect from a prep bat, Butler is very raw, but exhibits the makings of a potential future corner outfielder with above-average raw power, a strong throwing arm, and yes, contact issues. He’s one to monitor in this system.
25. Dairon Blanco, OF, Bats: R, DOB: 4/26/93, ETA 2020
Other Team Prospect Reports
Eric Cross is the lead MLB/Fantasy Baseball writer and MiLB prospect analyst here on FantraxHQ and has been with the site since March 2017. In the past, he wrote for FantasyPros and FanSided. He is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). For more from Eric, check out his author page and follow him on Twitter @EricCross04.Photo/Video Credit: Jory Dyvig (Main Article Image), Fangraphs, Mike Rosenbaum, Midland RockHounds, Josh Norris.
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