Oakland A's Prospects off to the Hottest Starts This Year

Nick HouserCorrespondent IIMay 3, 2014

Oakland A's Prospects off to the Hottest Starts This Year

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    Raul Alcantara is the top pitching prospect in the A's system, and he's proving why.
    Raul Alcantara is the top pitching prospect in the A's system, and he's proving why.USA TODAY Sports

    The Oakland Athletics are off to a hot start after one month of baseball. So, too, are some of their minor league prospects. But it might not be the guys you'd immediately expect to see.

    MLB.com keeps an updated list of the top-100 prospects in the game, sortable by team. The "rank" you'll see on the following slides comes from their list. Hence why you may be surprised to see that of the eight guys on this list, only four are listed in MLB's top 20 for Oakland.

    Another surprise? No one from the Sacramento River Cats (Triple-A) made the list.

    Here's how guys made the list:

    First, they had to be off to a hot start. Obviously. Second, the sample size has to be high. In looking at Single-A stats, you'll see Craig Gentry has the highest batting average on the team. Except that Gentry played in one game—a rehab stint. Gentry brings up a third way to narrow down the list: age. A 28-year-old in Single-A can hardly be considered a prospect, so even if their production is tops, they weren't listed.

    Statistics were acquired via Baseball-reference.com.

    Did I miss anyone? Let me know on Twitter.

Honorable Mentions

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    Tim Atherton pitched for Team Australia at the beginning of 2014 in an exhibition against the Diamondbacks.
    Tim Atherton pitched for Team Australia at the beginning of 2014 in an exhibition against the Diamondbacks.Mark Nolan/Getty Images

    Tim Atherton, Stockton Ports, Pitcher

    Atherton is 3-0 in five starts with a 3.18 ERA. I hesitate to put him on the list though because he's an unranked 24-year-old "prospect" still in Single-A.

     

    Seth Streich, Stockton Ports, Pitcher

    Streich is a pitcher whose name you might not recognize, but he's doing pretty well.

    For starters, he's pitched in six games, averaging a little over five innings per start. He's currently 3-2 with a 3.48 ERA. He's also struck out 35 and walked eight. His production results in a WHIP of 1.161 with a BB/9 of 2.3 and a K/9 of 10.2.

     

    D'Arby Myers, Josh Whitaker, Midland RockHounds, Outfield

    Both guys are hitting over .300. The two small knocks against both are that they're both 25 and in Double-A, and both have fairly small sample sizes compared to regulars on the team. The average guy has about 90 plate appearances. Myers has 42, while Whitaker has 66.

Herschel Powell

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    Team: Beloit Snappers (A)
    Position: Outfield
    Rank: N/A

     

    The 21-year-old Powell is not listed as one of the A's top-20 prospects, yet he leads the Beloit Snappers in batting average (of those with 12 at-bats or more) with a .380 mark. Now before you think his sample size is too small, know that he also leads the team in plate appearances with 123.

    Powell's doing a little bit of everything, too.

    Of 38 hits, four are doubles, two are triples and one left the yard. His seven stolen bases are tops for the team as well. And perhaps most impressively, he's walked more times than he's struck out (21 to 16).

    He may not be touted often, but he's certainly making a name for himself this season in the minors.

    Check out his stance, patience and swing in the video above.

     

Kyle Finnegan

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    Team: Beloit Snappers (A)
    Position: Starting Pitcher
    Rank: N/A

     

    Kyle Finnegan is another low-level prospect not mentioned too often on "top" lists. Yet, in five starts so far, he's pitched well. His record and ERA currently reside at 1-1 and 2.83.

    Like Herschel Powell, Finnegan is producing at this level with a high sample size. He leads the team's pitchers in innings pitched so far.

    He's walking 2.8 per nine innings—quite a low amount—and striking out 4.1 per nine—also a low amount.

    With an impressive ERA, and a WHIP of 1.151, he's getting the job done even without striking out droves of batters each time he takes the mound.

Sam Bragg

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    This picture alone should speak to how new and unheard of Bragg is.
    This picture alone should speak to how new and unheard of Bragg is.Brandon Wade/Getty Images

    Team: Beloit Snappers (A)
    Position: Relief Pitcher
    Rank: N/A

     

    In debating the better Snappers pitcher—Kyle Finnegan or Sam Bragg—I felt both should get a mention.

    While Finnegan starts games, Bragg closes them.

    The 21-year-old is 2-0 with a 1.53 ERA in 17.2 innings pitched (fifth-most). In the seven games Bragg has pitched in, he has closed out four of them, earning one save along the way.

    Compared to Finnegan, Bragg's WHIP (0.736) is much lower. However, he's walking almost one full batter less per nine (2.0) and striking out over twice as many (8.7) per nine. 

Bruce Maxwell

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    Bruce Maxwell at A's spring training in February 2014.
    Bruce Maxwell at A's spring training in February 2014.USA TODAY Sports

    Team: Stockton Ports (Advanced A)
    Position: Catcher
    Rank: 17

     

    At 23 years old and still in Single-A, Bruce Maxwell just makes the cut here. But with a .323 average, he had to be recognized.

    In addition to the second-best average of regulars on the Ports, Maxwell has two doubles, three home runs and 11 RBI. Defensively, the catcher has caught 39 percent of runners attempting to steal a base, has turned three double plays and has 16 assists.

Chad Pinder

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    Team: Stockton Ports
    Position: Second Base
    Rank: 18

     

    Chad Pinder leads the Stockton Ports (regulars) with a .340 batting average. Maybe unsurprisingly, he leads the team in RBI as well (21).

    In fact, Pinder is leading the team in triples (3) and home runs (7), too. Because of that, his .660 slugging percentage and 1.035 OPS are tops on the team, naturally.

    According to MLB.com, he drew comparisons to Evan Longoria early on for his "all-around ability." Given what he's doing currently, he can still easily be considered a Longoria-type player.

    Learn more about Pinder in the video above.

Daniel Robertson

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    Team: Stockton Ports (Advanced A)
    Position: IF
    Rank: 3

     

    Daniel Robertson is one of the Athletics' top prospects at this moment, and so far he's proving he deserves the recognition. In 126 plate appearances, he's hitting .299. While he may not be producing tons of runs—only six RBI—he's scoring in bunches (a team-high 20 times).

    He's also walking more often than striking out (16 to 15).

    With Addison Russell having moved to Double-A Midland, Robertson has had a chance to shine at his natural position of shortstop. If he continues to be blocked, but proves he truly is a top prospect, he could be great trade bait for the A's if they decide to be buyers at the deadline.

Max Muncy

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    Team: Midland RockHounds (Double-A)
    Position: First Base
    Rank: 15

     

    Max Muncy may be the best hitting first baseman in the farm system right now.

    In 123 plate appearances—most on the team—he has a batting average of .320 and an OPS of .921. He's walked 23 times compared to 14 strikeouts, and has knocked in a team-high 18 runs.

    Muncy is 23 years old. The A's have quite a few first basemen, including Nate Freiman, Matt Olson and Anthony Aliotti. Muncy could jump a few of them soon or be dangled in a trade package. 

Chris Jensen

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    Chris Jensen was a California League All-Star just a year ago.
    Chris Jensen was a California League All-Star just a year ago.Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    Team: Midland RockHounds (Double-A)
    Position: Starting Pitcher
    Rank: N/A

     

    In four starts, Jensen is 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA. The 23-year-old pitcher has struck out 16 and walked 10.

    He's giving up quite a few hits per nine, walks too, and not really striking out a heckuva lot of guys per nine. Still, he's getting the job done, keeping runs scored to a minimum. Perhaps that's thanks in large part to defense behind him, but a WHIP of 1.342 is second-best among pitchers with over 19 innings pitched.

Raul Alcantara

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    Could Alcantara be the next pitcher to skip straight to the bigs?
    Could Alcantara be the next pitcher to skip straight to the bigs?USA TODAY Sports

    Team: Midland Rockhounds (Double-A)
    Position: Pitcher
    Rank: 4

     

    So far in three starts, Raul Alcantara—the A's top pitching prospect—is 2-0 with a 2.29 ERA.

    The (extremely minuscule) knock on Alcantara is a low strikeout rate of 4.6 per nine innings. But again, he's clearly helping his team win by keeping hits and runs allowed to a minimum. And that's good news for one of the top prospects in the A's minor league system.