Most know Grant Green. Who is under the radar for the A's?
With spring training in full swing, there is a chance for fans to not only see the returning, new and expected members of a major league roster, but also to get a look at their team's best prospects.
Most of these players are pretty well known by die-hard and regular fans. However, there are also players who have to make an impact that fans simply don't know that much about. Many are non-roster invites, but there are some minor league players who were not as heralded but have played themselves into prospect status.
In the case of the Oakland A's, there's the highly regarded Grant Green, Sonny Gray, Michael Choice and the electric Addison Russell. But the A's have had many players rise through their ranks without much notoriety and make an impact. Dan Straily's march to the major league in 2012 is a prime example.
So, in the spirit of spring training, here are some of the best prospects you haven't heard of yet for the Oakland A's.
Taken in the 32nd round of the MLB amateur draft, Drew Granier has the makings of another sleeper A's pitcher. Similar to A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily, Granier throws in the low-90s with his fastball and has a couple of good secondary pitches.
In two seasons of Single-A ball, Granier struck out 236 hitters in 214 innings. Most encouragingly, his walk total decreased at Single-A Burlington, allowing only 53 in 162.2 innings. A 9.2 to 2.9 strikeout-to-walk ratio is a good formula to move through the ranks.
However, to make a move from Double-A Midland, Sacramento and, ultimately, Oakland, Granier has to improve command on his offspeed pitches. Without an overpowering fastball, location must be harnessed to improve his rising stock.
The No. 2 player on this list is outfielder B.J. Boyd. The California prospect was taken in the fourth round of the 2012 MLB amateur draft out of Palo Alto High School. Similar in physical build to a younger Yoenis Cespedes or Kirby Puckett, Boyd is raw but very athletic.
At the Arizona Fall League, Boyd showed more polish than expected, particularly in the areas of speed, on-base ability and some power potential. He wound up hitting .301 with a .401 on-base percentage and 16 steals in 39 games.
While it might be a little early to project his ceiling, Boyd reminds me of a Matt Lawton or Jacque Jones. Depending on his physical development, he could be a multifaceted outfielder with three to four tools (speed/base running, defense, throwing, potentially high average).
The top pick for the best prospect you haven't heard of yet is Nolan Sanburn.The University of Arkansas pitcher was taken in the second round, 74th overall, by the A's in the 2012 draft. On the surface, he looks like a young Tim Hudson (about 6'0" and 165 to 175 pounds), but that probably isn't the best comparison.
You see, Sanburn has a fastball that clocks out at upwards of 97 miles an hour. And according to his scouting report, he has some serious bite on his curveball. In his final year at Arkansas, Sanburn posted a 2-1 record with a 2.45 ERA in 14 games and had 30 strikeouts in 25.2 innings.
A freshman All-American in 2011, Sanburn made seven appearances for Vermont of the New York-Penn League in 2012, striking out 19 in 18.2 innings. Most are projecting him to be a late-innings reliever or, potentially, a closer.
The brevity of this list is not to suggest that the A's lack in lesser-known prospects. As a matter of fact, I think it might be the opposite. But I locked in on three players I think could have a real chance of making an impact within three years.
Granier, Boyd and Sanburn could all conceivably be on Oakland's roster with a few breaks by the end of 2016.
That said, there are some players that warranted mention on this list for the casual fan. Third baseman Daniel Robertson is young, but he definitely has the potential to be a power bat in a few years.
Catcher David Freitas was acquired as part of the Kurt Suzuki trade and, in many ways, is Derek Norris-lite: good plate discipline, power and solid defense.
Other names to keep your eye on are reliever Arnold Leon, outfielders Conner Crumbliss and Chad Oberacker, as well as pitcher Austin House.
You might not know them right now, but chances are, in time, you will. Like the players listed, these prospects aren't household names, but that does not mean they lack talent.