Oakland A's 6 Sleeper Prospects to Watch in Spring Training
All eyes will be focused on Addison Russell when the Oakland A's begin spring camp. While he's certainly worth your interest, a few other prospects have intriguing angles surrounding them too.
Russell is the clear-cut No. 1 prospect in the system. He'll automatically be invited back to big league camp. Beyond him, Billy McKinney is a top name but may not get the star treatment Russell receives just yet. Billy Burns is another name to be aware of.
But the guys on this list are a bit different.
They're either solid prospects who don't get nearly as much attention, dark-horse candidates to impress or guys that have one last shot at making it.
Here's who to watch.
Michael Taylor? Come on, are you serious?
Yes. Dead serious.
You might not even consider him a prospect anymore, and that's certainly fair. But he still has potential and just turned 28.
The reason to watch this year? It's now or never.
Taylor is out of options. It means that if he doesn't make the big league roster this year, his time in Oakland is done.
Last season, Taylor hit .281 with 18 home runs and 85 RBI in Triple-A. If that was a major league stat line, that'd be fantastic. But so far it hasn't translated. We'll see if it can this season, because Taylor will need to hope someone else gives him a chance if it doesn't.
Miles Head is a once-hot prospect who arrived via the Andrew Bailey trade. He was and still is consistently ranked in the top 10 or top 20 prospect lists (for the A's) by multiple media outlets.
In 2012, Head hit a monster .382 with a whopping 1.149 OPS in Single-A. After moving up to Double-A during the season, he still finished with a combined .333 average, 23 home runs and 84 RBI.
His 2013 season was a mess.
He hit .196, then hurt his shoulder. So why should you be anxious to see him perform in minor league spring training?
He's still a top prospect and he has plenty of potential, so it's interesting to see what kind of shape he returns in. Watch for shape in general after an offseason and rehabbing, but also specifically the shape and condition of his shoulder. The hope is that Head comes out swinging as soon as camp starts.
If you haven't heard of Max Muncy's power yet, then take notice.
Drafted out of Baylor University in 2012, he played 64 games with the Single-A Burlington Bees. That's nothing to get too excited about. It's his 2013 that is impressive. At 22 years old, he began the season with the Stockton Ports and spent some time with the Double-A Midland Rockhounds.
He hit .273 with 25 home runs, 100 RBI and 88 walks while playing for those two teams. The average is nice, but the rest of the stats are outstanding.
The 23-year-old first baseman will likely report back to Midland at the start of 2014, but has a shot at advancing to Triple-A.
Jeremy Barfield. Six seasons in the minors. A .261 average. A former outfielder.
This season, Barfield will throw from the mound, converting to a pitcher. The move will set him back. He'll likely have to start back in Single-A.
And that's why it's so intriguing.
It's been done before. Sean Doolittle did it. He switched from the field to relief pitching, and he's one of the most successful pitchers on the big league squad.
According to Jane Lee of MLB.com, "A's personnel see similar arm strength from the left side when watching Barfield, who complements his fastball—currently topping out at 93 mph—with a slider and split-finger."
When it comes to first base, top dog in the A's system is Matt Olson. But while everyone is waiting and assuming he'll progress through the minor leagues, Anthony Aliotti is physically doing it.
He hit .276 in Single-A in 2011 and moved up. The following season in Double-A, he hit .292. This time he stayed in Midland, but after hitting .350 it was a no-brainer to elevate him to the next level. In Triple-A he did well for himself considering such a small sample.
Aliotti hit .266 and knocked in 20 runs in 42 games.
With Brandon Moss locking down first and both Daric Barton and Nate Freiman ahead of him, Aliotti has no shot at major league opportunities in 2014. But then again, no one could foresee Freiman contributing either. Instead, for Aliotti, it'll be interesting to see if he can lock down first base with the Sacramento River Cats and make his name as known as Olson's.
Daniel Robertson gets no love simply because he plays the same position as Addison Russell.
The 19-year-old shortstop may have to switch to third base or wait to see if Russell switches positions in order to get a shot, but that's years away.
Here's the skinny on Robertson, courtesy of ScoutingBook.com:
A toolsy hitter who's already capable of spraying balls all over the field, Oakland infield prospect Daniel Robertson looks to fit well into that organization's on-base philosophy. His short swing and excellent eye look more advanced than his age, in fact. Listed by many as a shortstop, his so-so range and powerful arm look more like third base tools to us, and his workmanlike approach to the game suggest that the A's might finally have their Kevin Youkilis, even if it took an extra decade to find him.
I don't know about the Youkilis part, but he's worth getting excited over, and yet no one is.