5 A's Prospects Who Billy Beane Should Not Trade
At the trade deadline it is commonplace for contending teams to ship away prospects in return for established big league players.
The San Francisco Giants pulled the plug with two of their top pitching prospects to acquire Jake Peavy from the Boston Red Sox. The LA Angels parted with two hitting prospects and two pitching prospects to land closer Huston Street, who will provide an immediate fix to their bullpen. The Oakland A's also proved capable of parting with cherished prospects when they dealt shortstop-of-the-future Addison Russell and Billy McKinney for two years of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.
While the A's still have a need for an upgrade at second base and are blessed with the minor league talent to make such a trade happen, the organization has a slew of prospects who are far more valuable to its future than any big league second baseman currently on the market.
For Billy Beane, the general manager of the A's, it is a difficult decision to make: Is it worth sacrificing sustained success in the future for a World Series run this year?
For the following five prospects, the simple answer is no.
Ranked in a manner that factors in the current needs of the A's, and both the dominance and volatility of starting pitching (offense is at an all-time low, but Tommy John surgeries are at an all-time high) across all of baseball, the message is simple: Do not trade these five minor league players and the A's will be World Series contenders, not just in 2014, but for the next decade.
B.J. Boyd, CF
Arguably the most athletic and versatile player in the A's farm system, B.J. Boyd was recruited as a wide receiver to play collegiate football. Yet Boyd accepted the A's offer when the organization drafted him in the fourth round in the 2012 draft.
He has struggled in Single-A ball with the Benoit Snipers, hitting .222 with a .306 on-base percentage. His upside and athleticism are tremendous, but he will need to continue to work on the nuances that come with being a two-hole hitter, such as cutting down on his strikeouts (66 strikeouts and only 42 walks) and picking more opportune times to run (11 for 20 in stolen base attempts).
Bobby Wahl, RHP
Wahl is the A's No. 11 prospect, according to MLB.com, and a case could easily be made for his inclusion in the top five of this list. With that being said, many question marks surround the right-handed pitcher. Wahl was an ace at the University of Mississippi his junior season, as he went 7-4 with a 2.55 ERA and ranked inside the top 10 in the SEC in innings pitched, strikeouts and opponent batting average.
A blister plagued Wahl's senior season, however, causing his draft stock to plummet and allowing the A's to steal him in the fifth round, as you can read here. In his first year with the Snipers, Wahl is 0-4 with a 4.87 ERA and has bounced between starting pitcher and relief pitcher.
Dillon Overton, LHP
The one-two punch with Jon Gray (who was the No. 3 overall draft selection in the 2013 draft) at Oklahoma, Overton's situation is highly similar to that of Wahl's. Perhaps a bit forgotten due to injury, the A's were able to snag Overton for a drastically reduced price after learning he would need Tommy John surgery. His slider is his out pitch, and his low-90s fastball is above average for a left-handed pitcher with a cross-body delivery.
No. 5: Billy Burns, CF
Lets not beat around the bush. Billy Burns is fast. So fast, that when there was speculation that Reds' center fielder Billy Hamilton reached first base after laying down a drag bunt in 3.3 seconds, Burns was mentioned in the same breath of air by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
Burns, in fact, is very similar to Billy Hamilton. Both have been faced with doubt as to whether or not they will be overwhelmed with major league pitching. Both have profiled as fourth outfielders due to their lack of arm strength and defensive polish (a big reason why Burns will not be among the top three players on this list). But both continue to answer every doubt simply by running.
The son of Bob Burns, a former running back for the New York Jets, Billy Burns is ranked as Oakland's No. 17 prospect and projects to arrive in the majors as early as 2015.
Two years ago, Burns had a whopping 74 steals (third most in all of minor league baseball), aided by a .425 on-base percentage. Currently in Double-A with the Midland RockHounds, Burns had a "rocky" June but has been scalding hot in July, posting a .327/.400/.347 triple slash line. Burns leads the Texas League with 51 stolen bases and has only been caught five times. Burns has also scored from second on a sac-fly this season, as captured in the video above.
Whether it is his patient, contact-oriented approach in the batter's box or deciding to relearn how to switch-hit at the professional level in order to cut his home-to-first time from four seconds to 3.8 seconds, so much goes into the game and aura of Billy Burns that it is impossible to sum him up in one measly slide.
Mark Harris, his former hitting coach with the Nationals (before he was traded to the A's), states in an interview with Susan Slusser of SFGate, "He's so entertaining to watch. He's just not an average player. He can hit a ground ball to the pitcher and beat the throw."
The A's official scouting report calls Burns, "the most dynamic base-stealing threat since Rickey Henderson."
With such high praise being showered on a 5'9", 180-pound edge-of your-seat speedster, it is not one bit farfetched to envision Billy Burns as a staple of the green-and-gold outfield in the coming years.
No. 4: Raul Alcantara, RHP
With the volatility of starting pitching and escalating number of hurlers undergoing Tommy John surgery, it is becoming increasingly difficult to pinpoint young arms as future stars.
Raul Alcantara, the A's No. 2 pitching prospect (No. 7 overall in Oakland's system), is no different.
The 21-year-old right-handed pitcher has all the makings of a front-end big league pitcher. His 6'3", 225-pound frame allows his electric fastball to top out at 96 mph. His changeup has made major strides in Double-A Midland, and his hard slider adds a third lethal pitch to his arsenal.
Alcantara was enjoying success early in 2014, as he went 2-0 in three starts with a 2.29 ERA. Yet he succumbed to the injury bug in the spring and was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery, sidelining him until next season.
The A's are certainly overflowing with young pitching in the big leagues and in Triple-A. Combine that with the question marks surrounding Alcantara's health and durability, and it is unlikely that Alcantara makes an impact in the majors anytime soon.
Nevertheless, Alcantara has enjoyed five years of minor league success with the Red Sox and A's and continues to show the ability to adapt and compete against more talented hitting.
No. 3: Daniel Robertson, SS
If these rankings reflected the most pressing needs of the major league Oakland A's, then shortstop Daniel Robertson would be a lock for the top spot. Perhaps the A's organization ranks its prospects in such a fashion, as Robertson earned the prestigious "top prospect" honor as soon as Addison Russell departed for Chicago.
Alas, Robertson finds himself at the respectable No. 3 position in these rankings. Though he is polished and as consistent of minor league player as one will find, Robertson lacks the game-changing, highlight-reel skill set of the top two minor league players for the A's.
Currently in Class-A with the Stockton Ports, Robertson has drawn praise from Prospect Analysis writer John Sickels of SB Nation for his superb consistency both at the plate and at shortstop.
Robertson's short stroke, as evidenced in the video above, is conducive to hitting the outfield gaps on a consistent basis. Right on cue, his 25 doubles rank 10th in the California League. But do not let his compact swing fool you: Robertson has launched 14 home runs this season, second only to Corey Seager (brother of Kyle Seager) among shortstops. Robertson's keen eye at the plate—58 walks, which is fifth most in the California League—round out his all-around skills in the batter's box.
The A's official scouting report of Robertson questions whether or not he has the makings of a shortstop in the big leagues. After all, his grade of 40 (out of 80) in the speed department shows that he does not have the range of some of the more highly touted shortstop prospects around the MLB.
But again, watch the video above, and you will see hands of gold. His hands are extremely quiet while fielding ground balls and combined with his above-average arm, he may actually have the tools to stick at shortstop at the big league level.
Any way you spin it, if the A's continue to remain desperate for middle-infield help, whether it be at shortstop or second base, Daniel Robertson will always be in the conversation.
No. 2: Renato Nunez, 3B
You may remember Nunez as the lone member of the A's minor league system to earn a selection to the 2014 Futures All-Star Game. If not, here was my scouting report on him three weeks ago.
Little has changed with Nunez (the A's No. 3 prospect) as he continues to rake and continues to become evermore valuable to the A's and their future.
Since June, Nunez has hit .340/.412/.712 with 11 doubles and 15 home runs. With 25 home runs on the season, he ranks only second to his teammate Matt Olson (Hint: more on him in the very near future) in the California League. Nunez has also dazzled with his ability to maintain a high batting average of .285 (40 points better than that of Olson) and slugging percentage of .556 (26 points better than that of Olson).
The one knock on Nunez has always been his tendency to rack up the strikeouts. While a K/BB ratio of 80/28 is stellar if you are a pitcher, it is mediocre for a hitter.
But digging deeper, Nunez continues to improve his strikeout rate (strikeouts divided by plate appearances): In 2013 his strikeout rate was 25 percent; when I wrote a scouting report on him three weeks ago, his strikeout rate in 2014 was 19.8 percent; and since then, Nunez has decreased it to 19.1 percent. His walk rate of 6.7 percent in 2014 is still below average, according to FanGraphs, so his pitch selection still needs improvement.
Remember though, Nunez is only 21 years old and only in Single-A.
Also, if striking out 19 percent of the time seems alarming, consider that George Springer has found big league success while striking out 33 percent of the time. Granted Springer is facing much tougher pitching, but Nunez is also nearly five years younger.
Flaws are huge part of minor league baseball and every player has them. If Nunez continues to improve on his, his right-handed power bat will be invaluable for the A's upon his arrival to the majors.
No. 1: Matt Olson, 1B
The A's have the MLB's best record at 65-39 by rostering cheap, yet extremely talented players.
Here are some jaw-dropping numbers: third baseman Josh Donaldson (73 RBI) is currently earning $500,000 a year, ace Sonny Gray (2.65 ERA) earns $502,500, first baseman Brandon Moss (23 home runs) earns $4.1 million and left fielder Yoenis Cespedes (team-leading 97 hits), the team's highest-paid player, earns $10.5 million.
Comparing some notable players on the Dodgers (the team with the highest-payroll in the MLB): third baseman Juan Uribe (29 RBI) is currently earning $7.5 million a year, pitcher Dan Haren (4.49 ERA) earns $10 million, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (15 home runs) earns $21.8 million and a total of eight players on the Dodgers earn more than Cespedes does.
There was a method to the madness above. Taking salaries completely out of the picture, it is obvious that the players on the A's have outproduced those on the Dodgers substantially. Factor in the salaries, and the comparison becomes even more of a laughingstock.
The A's have the fourth-lowest payroll in the MLB, and eventually, they will not be able to afford the bulk of their offensive talent.
And when that time comes, prospect Matt Olson, the top prospect who Billy Beane should not trade, will enter the picture.
Olson's single best tool is his ability to hit for power. The sweet-swinging (again, watch the video above and you will agree) left-handed hitter has blasted 29 home runs in Single-A to lead the California League.
The 6'4", 236-pound slugger does tally some horrendous strikeout numbers, as his 107 are the eighthmost in the league. Still, his .245 average should rise because he also logs a gaudy amount of walks (91, which is 28 more than the second most in the California League), indicating that he sees the ball extremely well. A's Special Assistant Grady Fuson agrees in his interview with Athletics Farm on July 26, which you can find here.
The A's official scouting report also raves about his defensive ability at first base. Like shortstop Daniel Robertson, his soft hands will pay huge dividends as he continues to advance through the minor league system.
It is understandable why the A's sacrificed their two most prized minor league players to get Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel—they needed a piece to get over the hump in the playoffs. But now that they have added that critical piece, the A's should not sacrifice any more minor league talent to patch up their lack of production at second base.
It would not be out of the realm of possibility for Billy Beane to seek an upgrade from Eric Sogard and Nick Punto at second base. After all, the A's are overflowing with young pitching that is ideal trade bait. But in the interest of the A's success in the future, Billy Beane should not touch any of these five prospects.