Oakland Athletics 2019 Midseason Top 50 Prospects

Marcos Brito, Vermont Lake Monsters, August 19, 2018 - photo credit Greg Bessette on Flickr

We’re well past the midpoint of the 2019 baseball season and it’s time to check in down on the farm for the Oakland A’s. This is my first article since taking over coverage of the Athletics and what better way to kick things off than with a deep dive of the entire system? Please note that my rankings may vary quite a bit from the previous ones. Come along for the ride as we get to know the A’s in waiting a little bit better. Keep in mind that these rankings are reflective of fantasy value and not real baseball value. 

Oakland is the perfect example of an organization with a middle of the road ranking that has the potential to explode into the top 10 or implode and find themselves in deep trouble. If that sounds scary to you, that’s because it is. The Athletics have become the poster child for the “pitching prospects are risky” crowd. Each and every one of their top 5 pitching prospects have missed at least a full season with a major injury. Ouch. The upside is that all 5 hurlers have MLB rotation-level stuff if they’re able to hold themselves together.

Headlining the A’s system are a pair of LHPs recovering from throwing arm injuries: Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk. Luzardo, who had Tommy John his senior year of high school, has missed the majority of 2019 with a shoulder strain and is currently recovering from a grade 2 lat strain while Puk recently has worked his way back from Tommy John surgery. Couple those concerns with another top prospect who has approach and character issues and you can see how things could get dicey for Oakland in a hurry. 


The Athletics have a handful of players who fall into the upper tiers who could find themselves in the middle and bottom tiers by the end of 2020 without much surprise, but it’s the price you pay when you gamble on tools and athleticism. Sometimes you get a perennial All-Star… other times you get trouble with the curve. 

All in all, Oakland has a bevy of prospects on the verge of MLB action with various levels of impact. The system is rather top-heavy and will find itself quite thinned next season assuming their top tier players graduate.

And with that, let’s dive into the Midseason Top 50! For reference purposes, you can find our Prospects1500 preseason A’s Top 50 prospects here.

 

Prospects1500 tiers:

Tier 1: Players with high expectations of both making the majors and playing at an All-Star level for a number of years
Tier 2: Players with an above average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 3: Players with an average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 4: Players who have the potential of making the majors, or have a high likelihood of making the majors but providing minimal impact (e.g. middle reliever, low-ceiling UT guys)
Tier 5: Players who are worth keeping an eye on, but likely to never make a team’s 40-man roster

 

Tier 1:
None

 

Tier 2:
1. Jesus Luzardo, LHP (Preseason Rank: #1)
Age: 21
Highest Level: AAA
ETA: 2019
What more can be said of Jesus Luzardo that hasn’t already been said? Frankly, not much. Luzardo is the cream of the crop of A’s organization and would be with the big league club already if not for injuries. The only true question that remains is whether or not he’ll be able to stay healthy for a full season’s workload. The lefty stud had TJ in high school and has missed the majority of 2019 with multiple injuries to his throwing arm (shoulder strain, lat strain). As of August 20th, Luzardo is back on the rehab trail in Triple-A and likely to debut with Oakland this season.

If by chance this is your first encounter with Jesus (not that one), he’s a solidly built left-handed pitcher who touches 98 with his fastball and has a plus slider and changeup. So, yes, he’s everything you’d hoped he would be. Luzardo has mid-rotation upside and is known for being more polished than expected at his age — which has helped him ascend the minor league ladder quicker than most.

2. Jorge Mateo, SS/2B (Preseason Rank: #6)
Age: 24
Highest Level: AAA
ETA: 2019
80. Grade. Speed. If there’s any one thing you need to know about Mateo, it’s that he has legendary speed and he uses that speed to swipe bags at alarming rates. He once stole 71 bases in 409 plate appearances at A ball. While he doesn’t run quite that much these days, the speed remains and he’s posted back to back 20+ steal seasons at AAA. With a bounce-back season at the plate this year, Mateo has put himself back on the map for dynasty players, posting a .295 AVG with 17 HR — a career-best by leaps and bounds. Don’t get too attached to the average though, Mateo projects closer to a .245 hitter at the majors with a below-average hit tool and aggressive approach.

The biggest concerns for Mateo appear to have disappeared for the moment. 2018 was a lost season for Jorge as he posted a 62 wRC+ in his AAA debut. Between his lackluster performance and concerns about his makeup making the rounds, his future as a major leaguer became a bit more cloudy. A huge rebound year in 2019 has Mateo on the upswing once more, but it should be noted that a transition to 2B or CF could be in the cards given his less than stellar defensive profile. No matter where he lands, Mateo has the potential to be a major fantasy asset who racks up steals in bunches with double-digit pop to go with it.

3. A.J. Puk, LHP (Preseason Rank: #3)
Age: 24
Highest Level: MLB
ETA: 2019
Yes, Oakland has another power lefty with multiple plus offerings and mid-rotation upside. And yes, this one is returning from injury, too. A.J. Puk is a towering presence on the mound (6’7”) who sits mid 90s with his fastball and has a nasty slider and promising change, to boot. Surprise, surprise, he misses bats. Puk set Oakland’s 2018 spring camp ablaze when he showed up in better shape and had all but claimed a spot in the rotation with his impressive showing, but it all came crashing down before it even started with every baseball fan’s least favorite phrase: Tommy John Surgery. 

Flashback to the present and A.J. just made his MLB debut on 8/21. This time, as a reliever. Before you freak out, the long-term plan is still to have him start, but for 2019, the A’s have used him exclusively in relief in AAA as he winds up his rehab stint. The A’s will tread cautiously, but Puk should be an impact arm out of the pen this year and move into the starting rotation for 2020.

4. Robert Puason, SS (Preseason Rank: NR)
Age: 16
Highest Level: N/A
ETA: 2024
Mi corazon por Puason. The Oakland farm system got a massive boost when they landed J2 stud, Robert Puason. The 16-year-old ranks as the #2 prospect in the 2019 international signing class and would have been #1 if not for superstar-in-the-making Jasson Dominguez. Puason has an athletic, extremely projectable 6’3” frame and projects to have an average hit tool to go along with plus power and plus speed. A shortstop with the potential to go .275/25/25? Sign me up. The A’s did just that (well, Puason, not me) for $5.1 million this summer, which speaks to the potential they see in him. While defense is decidedly less valuable for fantasy, it should be noted that Puason is a plus defender who is considered a virtual lock to stay at short. His glove will keep his offensive production at a premium position.

5. Sean Murphy, C (Preseason Rank: #2)
Age: 24
Highest Level: AAA
ETA: 2019
Murphy is going to be a better MLB catcher than he is a fantasy catcher. The hit tool is solid, but the raw power doesn’t translate to home runs due to a very level swing (31 HR in 814 MiLB AB). Couple that with Sean’s inability to stay on the field (106 PA in 2019) and you have to wonder what kind of offensive production we’re going to see from him in the majors. The upside here is that he’s competent enough on both sides of the plate to stick in the lineup as much as his health allows.

 

Tier 3:
6. Austin Beck, OF (Preseason Rank: #4)
Age: 20
Highest Level: A+
ETA: 2021
Beck is still as tooled up as ever, but he’s inching closer to boom-or-bust territory with each season. The power is up in 2019 (.179 ISO), but so are the Ks (35.6%) and the average has dipped (.263). Austin needs to refine his approach before we can expect much success in the upper levels.

7. Daulton Jefferies, RHP (Preseason Rank: #13)
Age: 23
Highest Level: AA
ETA: 2020
Jefferies is another talented but injury-plagued arm in the Oakland system. A righty with 4th starter upside, his best offering is a plus power change. His calling card is his plus command which helps his average stuff play up. Needs to log innings and stay healthy.

8. Luis Barrera, OF (Preseason Rank: #19)
Age: 23
Highest Level: AA
ETA: 2019
Toolsy and athletic, Barrera has a major league body, but not a major league approach. He has speed to burn which could be a fantasy asset if he cracks the MLB lineup. He’s posted a 139 wRC+ in AA this year and could get a cup of coffee in September.

9. Sheldon Neuse, 3B (Preseason Rank: #8)
Age: 24
Highest Level: AAA
ETA: 2019
A bounceback 2019 (129 wRC+) has put Neuse back in contention for a call-up. He’s a power bat with a good arm, but may not be athletic enough to stick at third (plus there’s that Chapman guy). The bat is much more average at 1B or RF.

10. Jordan Diaz, 3B (Preseason Rank: #35)
Age: 18
Highest Level: A-
ETA: 2022
2016 J2 signing with back to back strong showings at Rookie ball (2018) and Low-A (2019). Hit tool projects better than the game power, but Diaz has already stroked 8 long balls in 228 PAs. Those 8 HR have the 18-year old tied for 2nd in the NY-Penn league along with George Valera (also just 18). One to watch.

11. Nick Allen, SS (Preseason Rank: #11)
Age: 20
Highest Level: A+
ETA: 2022
Allen is a professional defender. The 70-grade glove will carry him through the system and make him a major leaguer. The bat projects to be league average hit tool with no power, but the glove will keep him in the lineup… probably. Manages to steal bases despite average speed (44 in 3 seasons) and has hit better than expected at High-A (123 wRC+). Hope for .260 with 10-15 SBs.

12. Lazaro Armenteros, OF (Preseason Rank: #5)
Age: 20
Highest Level: A+
ETA: 2021
Is there anyone more polarizing in the MiLB? Lazarito has tremendous physical tools, but has enormous approach issues. One should not have a 41.3% K-rate in High-A. Yet he still manages to produce at nearly 20% above league average (119 wRC+) at only 20-years old. Approach and discipline MUST improve. Might be an All-Star, might not make the majors… hashtag shrug emoji.

13. James Kaprielian, RHP (Preseason Rank: #7)
Age: 25
Highest Level: AA
ETA: 2019
In typical A’s pitching prospect fashion, Kap has stuff for days and an injury history longer than a CVS receipt. The pitch grades are compared to those of Puk, which is impressive, but 2019 is the first time he’s thrown those pitches in a game since 2016. Kap has mid-rotation upside if he can bandage himself together. I would venture to say extreme bullpen risk here given the inability to stay healthy.

 

Tier 4:
14. Grant Holmes, RHP (Preseason Rank: #16)
Age: 23
Highest Level: AA
ETA: 2019
Holmes is having a solid bounceback season in AA after missing 2018, but is most likely destined for the ‘pen in the long term as a FB/SL RHP. Might see him in the A’s bullpen sooner than later.

15. Parker Dunshee, RHP (Preseason Rank: #15)
Age: 24
Highest Level: AAA
ETA: 2019
Sometimes the sum is greater than the parts and that’s probably going to be the case with Dunshee. None of the pitches grade out higher than above average, but he makes them play up with improving command. Could stick as a back end starter. The first venture in AAA has not been kind.

16. Skye Bolt, OF (Preseason Rank: #10)
Age: 25
Highest Level: MLB
ETA: 2019
Athleticism and projectableness finally becoming production at AAA (116 wRC+). Probably a 4th OF, but switch hitting with a little pop should get him more ABs than other bench bats.

17. Logan Davidson, SS (Preseason Rank: NR)
Age: 21
Highest Level: A-
ETA: 2022
A better real-life player than fantasy as he’s a solid defender with average speed and average bat that may outgrow short. Early pro production will be key for Davidson who is notorious for a meager showing with the wood bat in the Cape Cod League.

18. Marcos Brito, 2B (Preseason Rank: #22)
Age: 19
Highest Level: A
ETA: 2022
Brito is a switch hitter with a plus hit tool, but that’s where the story ends right now. He’s struggled in 2019 (61 wRC+), but is young for the level. Needs to add muscle to have a serviceable MLB bat.

19. Kevin Richards, OF (Preseason Rank: NR)
Age: 19
Highest Level: A-
ETA: 2023
At 6’2”, 160 lbs with 70-grade speed, there is potential for Richards to develop into a serviceable fantasy player if he adds pop as he fills out. He could still contribute steals without the pop but would be tougher to crack the majors.

20. Tyler Ramirez, OF (Preseason Rank: #14)
Age: 24
Highest Level: AAA
ETA: 2020
Ramirez is moving in the wrong direction in 2019 despite a promotion to AAA. His production is fading while everyone else’s is rising. Will be relegated to org depth if he doesn’t find his stroke next year.

21. Jeremy Eierman, SS (Preseason Rank: 12)
Age: 22
Highest Level: A+
ETA: 2022
A below-average bat with potential plus power, but unlikely to stick at shortstop. Should he move to 2nd, he might be okay. A move to 3rd base all but kills his fantasy value. Not having a great season in A+ (77 wRC+).

22. Greg Deichmann, OF (Preseason Rank: #17)
Age: 24
Highest Level: AA
ETA: 2020
Deichmann is a big power (65!), small hit tool corner OF who is struggling with contact. His stock is fading quickly with another well below-average season in progress (77 wRC+). His saving grace this year has been 17 steals seemingly out of nowhere on average/below average speed. Hard to see it playing in the majors.

23. Kyle McCann, C (Preseason Rank: NR)
Age: 21
Highest Level: A-
ETA: 2023
Power hitting catcher out of Georgia Tech. Projected to migrate to 1B before reaching the majors where the bat isn’t as enticing, but could still play. Off to a solid start in the NY-Penn league (112 wRC+), but striking out at 30%+ right now.

24. Tyler Baum, RHP (Preseason Rank: NR)
Age: 21
Highest Level: A-
ETA: 2023
2nd-round pick out of UNC with above average FB/CB. Peripherals look better than ERA (4.50 ERA, 3.27 FIP, 2.88 xFIP) in 22 NY-Penn league innings thus far. We’ll see how well the stuff holds up in the longest season of his life. 

25. Jhoan Paulino, SS (Preseason Rank: NR)
Age: 18
Highest Level: R
ETA: 2024
Very much a work in progress, but building on a second solid season in rookie ball (85 wRC+) and has good pop (.167 ISO) and defensive instincts for his age. Stock stays up if he’s able to stay at short.

26. Marcus Smith, OF (Preseason Rank: NR)
Age: 18
Highest Level: R
ETA: 2024
Oakland’s 2019 3rd round pick out of Pembroke Hill HS. Leadoff hitter mold despite a little stockiness: 5’11”, 190 with above average hit tool and double plus speed. Off to a roaring start in the AZL (.361 AVG, 156 wRC+).

27. Kyle Finnegan, RHP (Preseason Rank: NR)
Age: 27
Highest Level: AAA
ETA: 2019
Fastball/Splitter middle relief guy who should see MLB innings soon.

 

Tier 5:
28. Brian Howard, RHP (Preseason Rank: #21)
Age: 24
Highest Level: AAA
ETA: 2020
Towering righty (6’9”) with average stuff and above average command. Height and extension create tough angles for hitters, helps stuff tick up. 115 innings of 2.97 ERA in AA this season but a rocky start in AAA. Maybe a back-end starter.

29. Miguel Romero, RHP (Preseason Rank: #33)
Age: 25
Highest Level: AAA
ETA: 2019
Fastball/Slider relief prospect. Likely gets a cup of coffee late this season or next.

30. Gus Varland, RHP (Preseason Rank: #44)
Age: 22
Highest Level: A+
ETA: 2021
Joined High-A Stockton in July and the results have been good in a month’s worth of starts (2.39 ERA, 25.5 K%… 4.00 FIP). Need to see more, chance to jump up to the next tier with strong August.

31. Hogan Harris, LHP (Preseason Rank: 27)
Age: 22
Highest Level: A+
ETA: 2020
2018 3rd rounder injured last year but pitching well in pro debut (3.23 ERA in 39 IP).

32. Drew Millas, C (Preseason Rank: NR)
Age: 21
Highest Level: R
ETA: 2019
2019 7th round pick. Known for his defense but the bat ticked up this season. 60-day IL.

33. Alfonso Rivas, 1B (Preseason Rank: #24)
Age: 22
Highest Level: A+
ETA: 2021
Undersized 1B/LF prospect who lacks pop but hits well. Tough profile, but hitting at each stop so far (2018: 137 wRC+, 2019: 129 wRC+).

34. Dalton Sawyer, LHP (Preseason Rank: #37)
Age: 25
Highest Level: AAA
ETA: 2020
5th starter stuff, but behind the clock. Has not pitched since 2017.

35. Wandisson Charles, RHP (Preseason Rank: #39)
Age: 22
Highest Level: AA
ETA: 2021
Big body, big arm reliever. 3 levels this year, but insane walk numbers.

36. Alex Pantuso, RHP (Preseason Rank: NR)
Age: 23
Highest Level: R
ETA: 2022
Late rounder in 2018. Big stuff, questionable control (41.8 K%, 15.2 BB%). Good results so far but very old for level.

37. Lester Madden, OF (Preseason Rank: NR)
Age: 20
Highest Level: A
ETA: 2023
Good frame (6’2”, 190) and decent tools. Slow start (73 wRC+) so far for the Cuban in his stateside debut.

38. Alexander Campos, 2B (Preseason Rank: #23)
Age: 19
Highest Level: R
ETA: 2024
Great bat speed and command of zone (15% BB), but no action yet in 2019 after poor 2018.

39. Lawrence Butler, OF (Preseason Rank: 25)
Age: 19
Highest Level: A-
ETA: 2023
Mostly dreaming on projectable frame. Power will come, but must develop hit tool.

40. Peyton Miller, RHP (Preseason Rank: NR)
Age: 20
Highest Level: R
ETA: 2023
2019 14th round pick out of JUCO. Touched 96. Yet to make pro debut.

41. Jose Mora, RHP (Preseason Rank: NR)
Age: 21
Highest Level: A-
ETA: 2021
Potential 3-pitch reliever. Closing in short season, 2.66 FIP in 21.1 IP.

42. Colin Peluse, RHP (Preseason Rank: NR)
Age: 21
Highest Level: A-
ETA: 2023
2019 9th rounder from Wake. Below average stuff but pitches well. 3.16 FIP in NY-Penn league. 

43. Chase Calabuig, OF (Preseason Rank: NR)
Age: 23
Highest Level: AA
ETA: 2022
League average production at AA with 7 steals and good eye at the plate (12% BB rate, 21.5% K rate)

44. Trace Loehr, IF (Preseason Rank: NR)
Age: 24
Highest Level: AAA
ETA: 2021
Versatile infielder with speed. 

45. Edwin Diaz, 3B/SS (Preseason Rank: NR)
Age: 23
Highest Level: AA
ETA: 2022
Decent pop for SS if he can manage enough games there for eligibility, 106 wRC+ in second run at AA.

46. Zack Erwin, LHP (Preseason Rank: NR)
Age: 25
Highest Level: AA
ETA: 2020
Old for level but found success in move to the bullpen. K% up 11 this year to 29.1% with walks remaining steady.

47. Eric Marinez, RHP (Preseason Rank: NR)
Age: 20
Highest Level: A+
ETA: N/A
Converted position player with easy velo. Potential reliever prospect.

 48. Danny Bautista Jr., OF (Preseason Rank: NR)
Age: 18
Highest Level: A-
ETA: N/A
Decent tools but nothing stands out. Holding his own at low-A (99 wRC+).

49. Yerdel Vargas, 2B/SS (Preseason Rank: #38)
Age: 19
Highest Level: A-
ETA: 2022
Has potential MLB tools, but struggling to produce on the field (54 wRC+).

50. Darlyn Montero, SS (Preseason Rank: NR)
Age: 17
Highest Level: DSL
ETA: 2025
Good frame, 6’2”, 170, 7 steals in DSL.




About Joe Drake 8 Articles
Joe Drake covers the Eastern League for Prospects1500. During the day, he can be found working in grant accounting at Dartmouth College. Joe is a lifelong baseball fan and avid fantasy baseball player of 15+ years. While he enjoys all formats, he believes that nothing beats a good dynasty league. Despite being a born and raised Mainer, Joe is a diehard Cardinals fan, but, the Red Sox are his AL team.

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