As MLB’s Opening Day quickly approaches, the Oakland A’s, like all teams, have started to assign some of their top prospects to minor league camps. With a Spring Training injury to Mike Fiers, A’s fans had high hopes that James Kaprielian (#12 on my A’s prospects rankings, link below) might finally break Spring Training with the big league team as the default #5 starter. Kaprielian has been a bit of a disappointment for A’s fans since the trade that brought him over from the Yankees in 2017, so forgive “us” for getting excited about the inevitable long-awaited light at the end of the tunnel. (Kaprielian was assigned to AAA Las Vegas on March 15, 2021)
Kaprielian is not the only A’s prospect that will probably make an impact at the major league level at some point during the 2021 season. Due to COVID having delayed most prospects development during the 2020 season, it’s not a surprise to see a team wanting a few top-level prospects to get a bit more seasoning down on the farm before being added to the MLB roster (and 40-man roster in some cases).
You can find my 2021 Tops 50 A’s Prospects here, if you haven’t yet had the chance to see the Prospects1500 outlook on the team’s minor league system. (*Note – the article was written back in January and some prospects have since been traded*)
Major League Baseball announced that the AAA MiLB season is slated to begin on April 6, 2021, with the rest scheduled on May 4, 2021.
Here is a list of a few names to keep an eye on, as the MiLB season gets underway in a little over a month.
A.J. Puk (1): Puk’s injuries are hopefully behind him and he should break camp as the #5/#6 starter (if the A’s decide to stretch out the rotation. He should graduate from prospect status in early 2021 and help solidify the bullpen as the A’s make another run at a division title. Puk is the only A’s prospect featured in our Top 50 that should make the MLB team out of Spring Training.
Daulton Jefferies (4): Jefferies seemed to edge out the aforementioned Kaprielian and has the inside track to replace Mike Fiers temporarily in the rotation. The fact that the A’s brought back Fiers on a 1-year deal tells me that the A’s don’t fully trust Jefferies (or Kaprielian) quite yet to be a long-term solution in the rotation.
Luis Barrera (10): The A’s seem set in the OF, with Mark Canha, Ramon Laureano and Stephen Piscotty, along with Ka’ai Tom and Seth Brown rounding out the bench. This isn’t an indictment on Barrera, who I think will be a solid MLB outfielder. This is just a numbers game. Tom is a Rule 5 Draft pick (from the Indians) and has to stay on the team all year (or be offered back to Cleveland). For this reason he gets the edge over some of the OF prospects with options remaining. Barrera is a “victim” of the numbers crunch.
James Kaprielian (12): As I mentioned, A’s fans had high hopes for Kaprielian to make the team in some form or another. The issue that forced him back in the minors was a late spending spree that saw the A’s bring back (Fiers) (starter), Yusmeiro Petit (bullpen), Sergio Romo (bullpen) and Trevor Rosenthal (bullpen). The A’s also acquired Adam Kolarek from the Dodgers. With a lot of arms already ahead of him, these signings forced Kaprielian back to AAA. I think he will be called on at some point, so stay tuned.
Skye Bolt (15): Bolt, like Barrera, is just a “victim” of too many outfielders and not enough roster spots. Should the A’s need power, and not speed, I could see Bolt getting the call before Barrera. Bolt, now 27, has had 10 MLB at bats (in 2019), collecting just 1 hit. However he profiles to have more MLB-ready power, a much desired asset in today’s game.
Vimael Machin (25): Machin spent the entire 2020 season with the big-league club, as a result of having been a rule-5 draft pick. Despite this, in the COVID-shortened season, Machin only collected 63 AB’s, still qualifying as a prospect. The A’s signed Jed Lowrie to join Tony Kemp, Chad Pinder and Elvis Andrus (acquired via trade from the Rangers) as middle infielders and Machin still has options. So he will start in AAA Las Vegas, so that he can play everyday. But if an injury occurs, he is the most likely to get the call.
Buddy Reed (27): Reed had a solid spring training, even if the numbers suggest otherwise. He impressed the A’s coaching staff, but was a long shot, at best, to make the club. Reed is not currently on the 40-man roster and has options available. With so many outfielders ahead of him, Reed will be an outlier to make an impact in 2021. However, he is one to keep an eye on nonetheless. Reed does profile as a fringe major leaguer, often referred to as the dreaded “AAAA” player. A player who might be too good for MiLB, but not quite good enough to stick in the bigs.
Others to keep an eye on, who might make an appearance in 2021, but are less likely, either due to development or being blocked by other players on the depth chart:
Nick Allen (5)
Greg Deichmann (9)
Grant Holmes (16)
Wandisson Charles (21)