Oakland A's Best Prospect at Every Position at the Start of 2014
After an offseason that saw the Oakland A's send Michael Choice, Chris Bostick, Jemile Weeks and David Freitas to other teams, the organization's minor league prospects have taken a slight hit.
That's not to say it's a weak farm by any means.
The team held on to top prospects Addison Russell and Billy McKinney, brought in outfielder Billy Burns and has quite a few quality arms in the system. But while some positions are solid, others are a bit depleted.
Here's a look at the top prospect at each position within the A's organization.
All information and quotes from Melissa Lockard of Scout.com were obtained firsthand by Nick Houser in an e-mail exchange.
Pitcher: Raul Alcantara
Pitching is one area that looks pretty good down on the farm. There are guys like Michael Ynoa and Bobby Wahl, both of whom are sure to make many "top prospect" lists.
Here, though, the pick is right-hander Raul Alcantara.
Alcantara began the 2013 season with the Beloit Snappers, posting a 7-1 record with a 2.44 ERA. He moved up to the next level—the Stockton Ports—midseason. There, he went 5-5 with a 3.76 ERA in 79 innings. Looking further into his stats, his numbers are phenomenal.
He allowed just 0.6 home runs, 1.4 walks and 7.1 strikeouts per nine innings.
So why Alcantara and not someone else?
According to Melissa Lockard of Scout.com:
He has [and] can reach the mid-90s with his fastball, but he also has excellent command and you don't see the combination of those two talents that often in pitchers as young as he is. He has been challenged aggressively since coming to the A's system and has responded to each challenge.
Lockard also noted Alcantara's ability to make midseason mechanical adjustments too, incorporating a "plus change up" and an improved breaking ball. Best of all, he just turned 21 years old—so he's young and has plenty of time to continue development.
Catcher: Bruce Maxwell
There are plenty of pitchers to choose from, but it's slim pickings when it comes to their battery mates.
Young catchers Derek Norris and Stephen Vogt (youngish) are already in the majors. The A's traded David Freitas this offseason. Prospect-wise, though, Bruce Maxwell is the catcher to watch.
Like Alcantara, Maxwell began 2013 in Beloit before moving up to Stockton.
In 104 total games, he put the ball into play 103 times. He hit seven home runs, knocked in 49 runs and added 22 doubles. He nearly walked (43) as many times as he struck out (63).
As you can see by the stats, he combines good power with a great approach at the plate. Both were aspects of Maxwell's game Melissa Lockard touched on. Additionally, she indicated the minor league catcher is currently working on improving his defense:
He has devoted a lot of energy to improving his defense since turning pro, sometimes to the detriment of his development as a hitter. He has made significant strides with the glove and should continue to improve.
First Base: Matt Olson
According to Jonathan Mayo's 2013 Prospect Watch, first baseman Matt Olson is the fifth-ranked prospect in the A's organization.
The 6'4" 19-year-old is incredibly athletic. Mayo notes that Olson played third base in high school and was on his way to Vanderbilt as a pitcher. Mayo gave Olson a five-out-of-five on arm strength and a five-out-of-six on defense.
Olson unfortunately hit .225 in 2013, striking out 148 times. That said, just under one-quarter of his hits left the yard (23 home runs, 108 hits). He also knocked in 93 runs and walked 72 times.
Another first baseman to keep an eye on is Anthony Allioti. After hitting .350 in 91 games in Double-A, he received a call-up and hit .266 in Sacramento.
Second Base: Jean Carlo Rodriguez
Another position the Oakland A's are a bit short on is second base.
The position has seen a ton of turnover lately. Former prospect Jemile Weeks is now with the Baltimore Orioles. Likewise, former prospect Grant Green calls Los Angeles (the Angels) home. Chris Bostick was a guy worth watching, but the A's dealt him with Michael Choice to the Texas Rangers.
According to Melissa Lockard of Scout.com, Jean Carlo Rodriguez may be "the best remaining pure second baseman in the system."
The Panamanian signee has yet to play in the states. But Lockard noted a strong debut in the DSL in 2013.
"He has above-average speed, a good approach at the plate and solid contact," said Lockard.
You could almost put Daniel Robertson here instead. He's a natural shortstop, but he's blocked by Addison Russell. If Robertson hopes to join the big league squad someday, he'll have to change positions. Even if he transitions to third base, he'll have Josh Donaldson ahead of him for quite some time. Second base could make some sense.
Because of that unknown, he can't be listed here. But keep an eye out for Robertson in the future. He's talented enough that he had to be included on this list somehow.
Shortstop: Addison Russell
Is there any doubt Addison Russell belongs here? Look up any list of top A's prospects and Russell will consistently be No. 1. He's the best minor leaguer in the system, therefore he has to be the best shortstop.
But it's for good reason.
He's not even 20 years old yet, and he's already been invited to one spring training camp with the major league roster. Sure, he didn't miraculously win a spot, but he's shooting through the minors. Between rookie ball and Single-A (low-A to high-A), he hit .415, .340, .310 and .275, respectively. At one point he skipped Double-A and played in three games for the Sacramento River Cats.
He should start in Midland in 2014, but it won't be surprising at all to see him make the jump back to Triple-A before the year ends.
Third Base: Renato Nunez
Renato Nunez is the third-best prospect according to Jonathan Mayo's list (linked in the slides prior). It's yet to be seen if he'll stay at third base, but he's still only 19 years old, so much can happen.
Nunez hits for a fairly consistent average (career .271 in the minors).
But last year, his bat came alive. Nunez hit 19 home runs and produced 85 runs. He has to work on his plate discipline, however. Nunez struck out 136 times in Single-A ball.
So why should you watch for him?
He's already shown that he's not afraid of working very hard to study and improve his game now that he's got a tantalizing career ahead. He's a fast riser who is quickly convincing scouts that he deserves far more attention than he's yet received.
Outfield: Billy McKinney
Billy Burns won the Washington Nationals' Minor League Player of the Year award. But for now, it's a different Billy who holds this spot—Billy McKinney.
In his first year in the organization, McKinney tore it up.
First in rookie ball, he hit .320, striking out just 29 times in 181 at-bats. Naturally, he moved up to the next level, where he hit .353 in nine games. It's a small sample size, but it sure is promising.
Bleacher Report's Adam Wells said "finding a high school hitter who is as advanced as McKinney with the potential to be very good with the bat in the pros" is difficult. Luckily the A's not only "found" him, but drafted him too.
Jonathan Mayo (link in a prior slide) adds: "There are few, if any, high school bats better than McKinney's. With a balanced approach and a smooth swing from the left side, he projects to be a plus hitter with above-average power."