Oakland Athletics' Top 10 Prospects for 2015

Mike Rosenbaum@GoldenSombreroMLB Prospects Lead WriterJanuary 19, 2015

Oakland Athletics' Top 10 Prospects for 2015

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Addison Russell was viewed as the only potential star in Oakland's farm system headed into 2014, but that obviously changed when he was dealt in early July to the Cubs in the Jeff Samardzija-Jason Hammel trade. Outfielder Billy McKinney, the A’s first-round pick in 2013, also was shipped out in the trade.

    However, general manager Billy Beane and the A’s have done an admirable job restocking their farm system since the end of the season. In late November, the team traded All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays in return for Brett Lawrie and three prospects: right-hander Kendall Graveman, left-hander Sean Nolin and shortstop Franklin Barreto, who ultimately replaced Daniel Robertson as the team’s top shortstop prospect after he was dealt to the Rays.

    The A’s then received another four-player package in early December, this time from the White Sox, as they traded Samardzija for infielder Marcus Semien, catcher Josh Phegley, right-hander Chris Bassitt and first baseman Rangel Ravelo.

    Oakland also gained a few other notable prospects in offseason trades, acquiring second baseman Joey Wendle from Cleveland in exchange for Brandon Moss, and then adding late-inning reliever R.J. Alvarez from San Diego as part of the Derek Norris trade.

    The A’s top prospects spent last season at High-A Stockton, where first baseman Matt Olson led the California League with 37 home runs, while third baseman Renato Nunez swatted 29. Second baseman Chad Pinder also tallied 50 extra-base hits in his full-season debut, though only 13 left the yard.

    The organization also received a breakout performance from Jaycob Brugman, as the 23-year-old outfielder posted impressive numbers across both Class-A levels and will now likely begin 2015 in Double-A.

    Unfortunately, few of the team’s pitching prospects progressed as hoped last year, as right-hander Raul Alcantara, Dillon Overton and Bobby Wahl each spent time on the disabled list. However, the organization did land a few intriguing arms in the 2014 draft in college right-handers Daniel Gossett and Brett Graves, whom they selected in the second and third rounds, respectively.

    Here are the Oakland Athletics’ top 10 prospects for the 2015 season.

How They're Ranked

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Position Players

    • Body type/athleticism
    • Speed
    • Hitting mechanics, bat speed
    • Injury history
    • Statistical trends
    • Age vs. level: How well a player fared at a certain level relative to his age and that of the competition
    • Tools: Number of projectable tools a player possesses in relation to his position, age and competition; present vs. future tool grades
    • Hit tool: In the evolution of the prospect landscape, the hit tool is the most importantbut also the hardest to project.
    • League and park factors
    • On-base skills: Approach; strike-zone management; pitch recognition
    • Makeup/character
    • Defensive tools and skill sets; present vs. projected position
    • Place on organization's depth chart
    • Positional scarcity; up-the-middle potential 

    Pitchers

    • Body type/athleticism/strength
    • Mechanics: Delivery; arm speed; release point
    • Age vs. highest level of experience
    • Injury history (durability)
    • Statistical trends
    • Arsenal quality and depth
    • Pitch projections: Present vs. future grades
    • Hitability: How tough is he to barrel? Does he keep the ball on the ground/in the park?
    • Control/command: Is he usually around the zone? Does he effectively command his stuff? How much development/refinement is needed?
    • Pitchability: Feel (and confidence) for using and sequencing entire arsenal.
    • Approach: Does he fearlessly attack and challenge opposing hitters?  
    • Projection: Does he project as a starter? If so, what type? Or is he likely to be relegated to the bullpen? If so, why?

    Resources

Close Calls

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    RHP R.J. Alvarez
    RHP R.J. AlvarezRalph Freso/Getty Images

    Joey Wendle, 2B

    R.J. Alvarez, RHP

    Rangel Ravelo, 1B

    Daniel Gossett, RHP

    Jaycob Brugman, OF

    Chris Kohler, LHP

10. Chris Bassitt, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 02/22/1989 (Age: 25)

    Height/Weight: 6’5”, 210 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: 16th round, 2011 by White Sox (Akron)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: Debuted in 2014

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballCurveballSliderChangeupControl
    6040504550

    Scouting Report

    A broken hand prevented Bassitt from making his 2014 debut until mid-July, but the 25-year-old quickly made up for the lost time with six strong starts in the Southern League, which convinced the White Sox he was ready for the highest level. Bassitt ultimately appeared in six games (five starts) for the South Siders down the stretch, posting a 3.94 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 29.2 innings, and then continued his season with a strong performance in the Arizona Fall League.

    In December, Bassitt was traded to the A’s along with Marcus Semien, Josh Phegley and Rangel Ravelo in exchange for Jeff Samardzija.

    Bassitt, a 6’5”, 210-pound right-hander, sits mostly 91-94 mph with his fastball as a starter while working more toward the high end of that range in short bursts out of the bullpen. His secondary offerings grade out as either fringe-average or average, with his slider and changeup showing decent bat-missing potential. Bassitt does have some stiffness to his delivery that impedes his ability to consistently throw strikes, leading some to believe he’s best suited for a bullpen role in the long run.

    Ceiling (OFP): 45 (No. 5 starter/late-inning reliever) – Low risk

9. Raul Alcantara, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 12/04/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 225 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: 2009 (Dominican Republic)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 7

    ETA: Late 2016

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballSliderChangeupControl
    60506050

    Scouting Report

    Raul Alcantara, fresh off a breakthrough 2013 campaign, moved up to Double-A Midland last season but made only three starts before undergoing Tommy John surgery in May.

    The 22-year-old right-hander’s fastball sat comfortably in the low 90s before his injury—at times playing up thanks to his smooth delivery and extension toward the plate—with a changeup that flashed plus with late fade and arm speed. Alcantara’s slider remains a work in progress due to a lack of feel and confidence at times, but it generally showed good bite and could be an average offering at maturity.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (No. 3 starter) – High risk 

8. Chad Pinder, 2B

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    Position: 2B

    DOB: 03/29/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 195 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Second round, 2013 (Virginia Tech)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 9

    ETA: 2016

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5050456050

    Scouting Report

    Chad Pinder was unfazed by the jump from Short Season Vermont to High-A Stockton, as the 22-year-old batted .288/.336/.489 with 50 extra-base hits (13 home runs) in 436 plate appearances while learning a new position.

    A right-handed hitter, Pinder’s bat speed, barrel control and solid approach fuel his projection as an average hitter at maturity, and he improved his in-game power last year by tacking on some serious muscle prior to the season. However, it’s worth noting that Pinder did most of his damage at the hitter’s paradise that is High-A Stockton, posting a .958 OPS in 49 games compared to a .675 OPS in 45 road contests.

    Defensively, Pinder has an average defensive profile at the keystone as well as the ability to play both shortstop and third base. His speed is fringe-average and limits his range, but his strong instincts and above-average arm strength should allow the glove to play up. His bat might not support an everyday gig, but Pinder should be able to carve out a role as a utility infielder.

    Ceiling (OFP): 45 (below-average regular/utility infield) – Medium risk

7. Dillon Overton, LHP

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    Position: LHP

    DOB: 08/17/1991 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 172 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted: Second round, 2013 (Oklahoma)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 10

    ETA: 2016

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballCurveballChangeupControl
    50505555

    Scouting Report

    Dillon Overton returned from Tommy John surgery last June to have a dominant professional debut, posting a 1.95 ERA with 53 strikeouts against just four walks in 37 innings (12 starts) between the Rookie and Short Season levels.

    Overton, 23, profiles as a prototypical control left-hander, with a fastball in the high 80s to low 90s that plays up through natural deception, a curveball that has average potential and a changeup that flashes plus with late drop and good speed differential.

    The left-hander will likely make his full-season debut in 2015.

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (No. 4 or 5 starter) – Low risk

6. Sean Nolin, LHP

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    Position: LHP

    DOB: 12/26/1989 (Age: 25)

    Height/Weight: 6’5”, 235 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted: Sixth round, 2010 by Blue Jays (San Jacinto College North, Texas)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 9 (Blue Jays)

    ETA: Debuted in 2013

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballCurveballSliderChangeupControl
    5050455550

    Scouting Report

    Nolin had a forgettable big league debut with the Blue Jays back in 2013, as he allowed six earned runs on seven hits in just 1.1 innings and allowed eight of the 11 batters he faced to reach base. Although he made it back to the major last season and made one appearance out of Toronto’s bullpen, the 25-year-old left-hander spent most of the year at Triple-A Buffalo, where he pitched to a 3.50 ERA with 74 strikeouts in 87.1 innings (17 starts).

    Nolin was traded to the A’s during the offseason along with Brett Lawrie, Franklin Barreto and Kendall Graveman in the Josh Donaldson deal.

    At 6’5”, 235 pounds, Nolin is a physically mature pitcher with repeatable mechanics and a clean arm action. The left-hander features an average four-pitch mix but lacks a dynamic offering, giving him the profile of a back-end starter once fully developed. His fastball registers in the low 90s with some arm-side action, but it can be very hittable when left up in the zone. He locates it well to both sides of the plate and has a feel for changing hitters’ eye levels with the pitch.

    Nolin’s changeup is his only offering that grades out above average, as it’s highly effective when used off a well-located fastball, with his arm action and release point giving the pitch natural deception. The southpaw’s slider and curveball are both average-at-best offerings and lack future projection, though he does have the confidence to throw them early in count for a strike.

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (No. 4 or 5 starter) – Low risk

5. Kendall Graveman, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 12/21/1990 (Age: 24)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 195 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Eighth round, 2013 by Blue Jays (Mississippi State)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: Debuted in 2014

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballCutterSliderChangeupControl
    5555454555

    Scouting Report

    Selected by the Blue Jays in the eighth round of the 2013 draft out of Mississippi State, Graveman raced through the minor leagues last season, making stops at each of the four full-season levels before appearing in five games with Toronto as a September call-up.

    Prior to working out of the Blue Jays’ bullpen, the 24-year-old made 27 starts across the Low-, High-, Double- and Triple-A levels, posting a 1.83 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 115/31 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 167.1 innings. He allowed only two home runs during that span and held opposing hitters to a .231 batting average.

    A 6’2”, 195-pound right-hander, Graveman works in the low 90s with his fastball and generates late sinking action with his extension toward the plate. He also throws a cutter that grades out similar to his heater and features hard slice to his glove side. He’s adept at pounding the zone with both pitches, commanding them to each side of the plate, and he isn’t afraid to challenge opposing hitters.

    Graveman’s curveball has the potential to be an average offering but probably will be more toward fringe-average due to his arm action, while the right-hander’s changeup projects as average and plays nicely off of his fastball and cutter.

    Graveman might open next season in the minor leagues, but his strong command profile and ability to keep the ball on the ground make him a clean fit at the back end of the A’s rotation.

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (No. 4 or 5 starter) – Low risk

4. Renato Nunez, 3B

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    Position: 3B

    DOB: 04/04/1994

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 185 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: 2010 (Venezuela)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 6

    ETA: 2017

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    4560355545

    Scouting Report

    Nunez, like the rest of his High-A Stockton teammates, enjoyed playing everyday last season in the California League, as the 20-year-old slugger overcame a pedestrian first half to bat .279/.336/.517 with 60 extra-base hits (29 home runs) and 96 RBI in 563 plate appearances.

    Nunez’s calling card is his plus-plus raw power that could play plus in games, although he’s still incredibly raw with little approach and plate discipline, as evidenced by his 113 strikeouts against 34 walks last season. The right-handed hitter can turn around a good fastball, but off-speed stuff can give him fits, especially when he’s geared toward pulling the ball rather than using the whole field.

    Nunez’s defense at third base was noticeably better last season, confirmed by a drop from 39 to 15 in his overall errors total, though he’ll have to work to remain at the position. Nunez’s below-average speed and thick lower half give him fringy range as well as limited lateral quickness at the hot corner, portending a move across the infield to first base could happen. However, he does have good hands and plus arm strength working in his favor.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (solid-average regular) – High risk

3. Matt Chapman, 3B

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    Position: 3B

    DOB: 04/28/1993 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 205 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2014 (Cal State Fullerton)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NA

    ETA: 2017

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5055457060

    Scouting Report

    Chapman spent most of last summer at Low-A Beloit after his selection by the A’s with the No. 25 overall pick, but the 21-year-old struggled to adjust to pro ball, batting just .237/.282/.389 with 16 extra-base hits and a 46-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 202 plate appearances.

    Chapman is a right-handed batter with a mature 6’2”, 205-pound build and a swing geared toward hitting line drives from gap to gap. His showed a patient approach and good pitch recognition during his final year at Fullerton but seemed to get stuck between being too aggressive and too passive at times during his pro debut.

    The 21-year-old’s plus raw power shows more in batting practice than games. His above-average bat speed is partially strength-driven, and his swing generally isn’t conducive for consistent power; he’ll tie himself up with a short, quiet stride and struggle to achieve an ideal contact point, letting his hands can get too far away from his body. However, Chapman does have strong wrists/forearms as well as good hip rotation, and he drives the ball with backspin carry from his pull side to right-center field.

    Chapman’s athleticism at third base translates to average range, and he also shows soft hands to go along with a consistent glove. His footwork is decent despite an overall lack of quickness and he will struggle to control his body at times, but he at least compensates for some of his defensive shortcomings with good instincts and an advanced feel for the game. Meanwhile, Chapman boasts legitimate plus-plus arm strength that will rank among the best in the majors once he arrives, as he sat in the mid- to upper-90s with his fastball during a stint on the mound with Team USA back in 2013.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (solid-average regular) – High risk

2. Matt Olson, 1B

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    Position: 1B

    DOB: 03/29/1994 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 236 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted: First round, 2012 (Parkview HS, Ga.)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 4

    ETA: Late 2015

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5060305550

    Scouting Report

    Matt Olson, the No. 47 overall pick in the 2012 draft, ranked second in the Low-A Midwest League in 2013 (his full-season debut) with 23 home runs. This past season, the 20-year-old slugger led the California League and ranked third in all of the minors with 37 home runs. He also paced the league with 111 runs scored, 278 total bases and 117 walks.

    The California League is hitter-friendly, but Stockton is slightly slanted toward pitchers, which makes Olson's higher output at home (.262/.402/.591 with 21 homers) as opposed to on the road (.262/.406/.496 with 16 homers) all the more impressive.

    Olson projects for an average hit tool, as he already displays good feel for hitting with good patience and a willingness to work deep counts. His 6’4”, 236-pound frame and long limbs leave holes in swing and lead to a fair amount of swing-and-miss; however, it also generates the booming, plus power that has translated to 60 home runs with an extra-base hit rate of 51.2 percent in his first two full seasons.

    A third baseman in high school, Olson is an underrated athlete at first base with fluid actions and good footwork around the bag, while his solid-average arm serves him well at the position. But while he may be better defensively than the average first baseman, Olson’s future will always be tied to his offensive profile. Luckily, the 20-year-old’s approach and massive power should give him an opportunity to make an impact at the highest level, possibly even earlier than expected.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (solid-average regular) – Medium risk

1. Franklin Barreto, SS/2B

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    Position: SS/2B

    DOB: 02/27/1996 (Age: 18)

    Height/Weight: 5’9”, 175 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: 2012 by Blue Jays (Venezuela)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 5 (Blue Jays)

    ETA: 2018

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5045606050

    Scouting Report

    Barreto shined at the plate last season in the Short Season Northwest League, as the 18-year-old shortstop batted a cool .311/.384/.481 to go along with 33 extra-base hits and 29 stolen bases. Once viewed as the potential heir to Jose Reyes in Toronto, Barreto was dealt to the A’s in November in the Josh Donaldson deal.

    Barreto is undersized at 5’9”, 175 pounds, but he’s an excellent athlete with plus speed and the potential for four average-or-better tools at maturity. The right-handed batter showcases advanced bat-to-ball skills and a knack for making hard contact, using his strong hands and quick wrists to whip the barrel through the zone on line-drive plane. It’s hard to gauge his power potential due to his age and lack of experience against quality arms, but his approach and bat speed suggests it will be at least fringe-average.

    The 18-year-old is raw at shortstop with an inconsistent glove and overaggressive actions, although his body control and feel for game should naturally improve with further experience. Barreto showcases plus arm strength across infield but has fringy accuracy, often rushing his throws rather than setting his feet, while his overall defensive profile could also be a clean fit at second base.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (solid-average regular) – High risk