Stock Up, Stock Down for A's Top 10 Prospects for Week 18
The Oakland Athletics are in the midst of an historic season.
Not only do the A's have the best record in the majors at 67-43 and an eye-popping plus-164 run differential, but they also are the talk of the baseball community with the two boldest blockbuster acquisitions in recent history. Simply put, having a conversation about anything other than the accomplishments and improvements of the big league club may be doing the organization a disservice.
But let us step back from the mega-deals that general manager Billy Beane has orchestrated over the past weeks and take a closer look at the foundations of the A's organization.
What ensues is an examination of the A's top 10 prospects and whether or not their stock is trending "up," "down" or "even." Since this is the first edition of "stock up, stock down" for the A's minor league prospects since June 25, more weight will be given to the player's overall trending direction, rather than basing the player's trend on Week 18 performances entirely.
There is a reason why Beane felt comfortable in dealing away his cleanup hitter for a two-month quick fix in Jon Lester and his two most cherished prospects (Addison Russell, a career .300 minor league hitter, and Billy McKinney, who is 19 years old and hitting .310 in High-A ball) for Jeff Samardzija.
The performances of Renato Nunez, Chad Pinder and the other following prospects have not gone unnoticed at the big league level and should help explain the madness behind Beane's "moneyball" system.
No. 10: Bruce Maxwell, C
4-for-19, 1 RBI, 2 R, 4 K
Offensively talented catchers are a commodity. Offensively talented and left-handed hitting catchers are once-in-a-generation players.
Bruce Maxwell falls into the latter category; however, as presumed, he has not achieved once-in-a-generation status quite yet.
After becoming the highest-drafted Division III player since Cal Lutheran's Justin Hirsh nine years ago, Maxwell has struggled to replicate his collegiate success (.471 batting average with 15 home runs his junior season) at the professional level.
The A's organization attributes this to Maxwell exerting much of his focus on improving his defensive skills. His work is exemplified by the fact that he threw out 40 percent of potential base-stealers in Single-A. And as a result, he was rewarded with a promotion to Double-A.
The gaudy offensive numbers have yet to surface, but Maxwell's track record suggests that they will vastly improve.
High-A: 79 G, .273/.381/.746, 6 HR, 35 RBI, 11 2B, 33 R
Double-A: 10 G, .167/.194/.463, 6-for-36
No. 9: Max Muncy, 1B/3B
1-for-23, 1 R, 5 K
Everyone who has seen the movie or read the book, Moneyball, knows Beane's mantra: "Can you get on base?"
For Max Muncy, the answer is a resounding yes.
In 95 games in Double-A, Muncy has posted a stellar .379 on-base percentage that is aided by a league-high 69 walks. Just a year ago in Single-A, Muncy's on-base percentage was .400.
With such a mature approach in the batters' box and a knack for reaching base, anything additional Muncy provides from an offensive standpoint is simply icing on the cake.
Although seven home runs in 2014 may seem uninspiring, Muncy did belt 21 bombs a year ago in the California League. As the video above also supports, Muncy's power comes in bunches.
"Muncy has some hot streaks and has some cold streaks," special assistant Grady Fuson stated in an interview with Athletics Farm, "but I think overall he’s been pretty consistent this year. I think he’s right on track—his patience, his ability to defend. We’ve toyed with him at third and that looks like a very playable option."
Josh Donaldson is blocking Muncy at third base for the time being, but if Muncy continues to show an approach far past his age, he may force himself into the big league lineup sooner rather than later.
96 G, .259/.395/.774, 7 HR, 56 RBI, 20 2B, 49 R, 73 K, 69 BB
No. 8: Seth Streich, RHP
1 GS, ND, 0.1 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
Prior to his latest start, Streich was putting together one of the best seasons of any minor league pitcher in the A's farm system.
On Tuesday, however, Streich gave up three runs and recorded only one out before being removed from the game with an undisclosed injury. Streich has since been placed on the disabled list, and because of the uncertainty regarding the severity of the injury, his stock will drop slightly.
His latest shelling, however, should not detract from his season-long success.
In the same interview with Athletics Farm, Fuson attributes Streich's dominance to his newfound changeup:
He’s had one, but it wasn’t a pitch that he really used. It wasn’t a pitch that he thought he had to use. He’s been predominantly a fastball/curveball guy. His changeup’s been hard; it’s been flat. So all the guys have been working to soften up his change and get some bottom to it. And I think it’s really been an added weapon for him.
Streich's 3.16 ERA may appear to be middle-of-the-road, but he in fact ranks second in the offensive-prone California League. Furthermore, his 116 strikeouts and 1.16 WHIP, which also rank second in the California League, indicate that he is not allowing many baserunners and that his ERA may actually be a bit inflated.
22 GS, 9-6, 3.16 ERA, 110 H, 22 BB, 116 K, 114.0 IP
No. 7: Raul Alcantara, RHP
N/A (disabled list)
Raul Alcantara, a 6'3" right-handed pitcher, was formerly the A's top pitching prospect, as scouts were enthralled with his improvements on his changeup and slider during the course of the 2013 season. He added additional excitement to his potential in the big leagues with three excellent starts to begin the 2014 season.
Yet, he fell victim to Tommy John surgery and will be forced to wait until next season to continue to improve and reclaim his status as the top pitching prospect.
Alcantara did appear on my "Top Prospects Billy Beane Should Not Trade" list. At the same time, it is difficult to give anything other than a "stock: down" for any pitcher recovering from Tommy John surgery.
3 GS, 2-0, 2.29 ERA, 17 H, 5 BB, 10 K, 19.2 IP
No. 6: Chad Pinder, 2B
5-for-21, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 SB, 4 R
The A's are overflowing with talent at the Single-A level. Consequently, second baseman Chad Pinder perhaps has been slightly overshadowed by Matt Olson, Renato Nunez and Daniel Robertson.
Pinder went from Low-A Vermont straight to High-A Stockton, bypassing the entire Midwest League, making him highly vulnerable to some early-season struggles.
Making a mockery of that assumption, Pinder proceeded to hit .324 with an absurd 1.018 OPS and 21 RBI in April. Pinder has not cooled from his blistering pace, either, as he hit .327 in July.
The 22-year-old spent his collegiate career playing shorstop for Virginia Tech, but he has since been moved to second base due to Daniel Robertson's rise as the A's top prospect.
Regardless of where he plays in the field, his aggressive approach and superb hand-eye coordination have drawn comparisons to Evan Longoria, per his official MLB scouting report. I argue, however, that he may have more in common with Troy Tulowitzki, as Pinder is hitting .346 at home and .250 on the road.
Either way, the A's certainly are quite happy with his production thus far.
69 G, .301/.527/.878, 12 HR, 35 RBI, 22 2B, 4 3B, 6 SB
No. 5: Dillon Overton, LHP
1 GS, ND, 3.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
Working back from Tommy John surgery is surely an agonizingly difficult and trying process, but southpaw Dillon Overton is handling it with ease.
In six out of his seven outings since returning from the injury, Overton has thrown exactly three innings (he threw four innings on one occasion) and has held opposing hitters to a .232 average. His sparkling 31/3 K/BB ratio reveal his potential as a front-line big league starter.
Overton's arm (and elbow) is once again fully healthy, but the A's are not taking any chances with their lefty. He will likely be limited for the remainder of the season, but if he continues to pitch as flawlessly as he is right now, his stock will continue to rise.
7 GS, 0-2, 1.64 ERA, 19 H, 3 BB, 31 K, 22.0 IP
No. 4: Matt Chapman, 3B
4-for-17, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 5 R
The A's first-round draft pick in the 2014 draft, Matt Chapman wasted little time cementing himself as one of the organization's premier prospects.
Chapman needed only 14 at-bats in Low-A ball, in which he hit .429, to prove that he needed stiffer competition. His torrid offensive pace has slowed since being promoted to Single-A, but that is of little worry to the A's.
After all, it is clear that the entire organization is in awe of Chapman's defensive ability. In an interview with Athletics Farm, Fuson succinctly states, "He’s got a gifted arm. He’s got gifted hands. He reacts well. He’s very polished defensively. ... This guy’s got a chance to be a Gold Glover."
Low-A: 3 G, .429/.643/1.110, 6-for-14, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1R
Single-A: 28 G, .257/.416/.728, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 3 2B, 2 3B, 12 R
No. 3: Renato Nunez, 3B
7-for-24, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 3 R
The antiquated saying goes, "Everything that can be invented, already has been invented."
While that statement may not be true, saying, "Everything that can be said about Renato Nunez, already has been said," may be more verifiable. Backing up claim with evidence, here is my scouting report on Nunez, and here is why Beane should not trade Nunez.
As those articles reiterate, Nunez continues to toy with Single-A pitching. The third baseman heated up in a big way in the summer months, posting a .368 average with seven home runs in June and a .301 average with 10 home runs in July. Of course, all this production is coming from a 20-year-old, who is currently performing against pitchers nearly three years older, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
Perhaps more can be said about Nunez and his stock once he gets promoted to Double-A, where his swing-and-miss tendencies may become more pronounced with more advanced pitching.
But for now, his stock is clearly skyrocketing.
2014 Stats (Futures Game Selection)
99 G, .285/.558/.903, 27 HR, 81 RBI, 24 2B, 67 R
No. 2: Matthew Olson, 1B
8-for-24, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 8 R, 6 K, 4 BB
Matt Olson's stock gauge measures on a completely different playing field than most minor league baseball players. That is, his stock is considered "up" when he posts numbers like he did in June: .289/.726/1.185, 10 HR, 24 BB, 20 K.
It is an unfair task to ask of the 6'4" lefty to maintain such other-worldly numbers in order to keep his stock up, but that is what is expected from the California League home run leader.
A small area of concern for Olson is his 40 strikeouts in the month of July (two times as many as he had in June). Olson has spent the season masking high strikeout totals with high walk totals; yet, that was not the case in July as he managed only 26 base on balls.
But Olson is no different from any other power hitter in that there will be times of feast and times of famine. In fact, in the time that it took to compose this article, Olson changed his stock from "even" to "up," thanks to an outburst on Saturday night, in which he went 3-for-5 with a two-run home run and three runs scored.
110 G, .251/.541/.938, 31 HR, 74 RBI, 24 2B, 85 R
No. 1: Daniel Robertson, SS
7-for-21, 1 2B, 5 R
In response to the Addison Russell-Jeff Samardzija trade, Daniel Robertson turned in his best month as a professional baseball player.
In July, Robertson hit .304 and slugged .504 to go along with four home runs and nine doubles. Special assistant Fuson, per Athletics Farm, said:
Maybe he’s not as 'sexy,' if that’s the word, as Addison, but probably more consistent in some areas. He’s taken another step in his maturity as a baseball player. You can’t out-work him—he’s here every day. He wants to get better, and he’s shown he’s better this year than he was a year ago.
Fuson goes on to state, "We’ve made a lot of trades; we’ve made a lot of moves. But one good move is we do have a Daniel Robertson at a key position. Maybe he’s not on as a quick a path as Addison could be on, but Danny’s not far behind Addison in any category, trust me."
There have been cries that the A's are investing far too much into this season and sacrificing years of future success. Yet with seven out of the team's top 10 prospects owning an upward-trending stock, that notion appears to have little support.
107 G, .293/.457/.852, 14 HR, 45 RBI, 26 2B, 85 R