The Oakland Athletics 2016 season was forgettable to say the least. After a promising month of April, the A’s went on to post a record of 69-93, a one win improvement on their 2015 record and good enough for last in the AL West. Following a disappointing campaign, the organization announced that Lew Wolff would be stepping down from his role as managing partner and majority owner John Fisher would take his place. The A’s also replaced their team president, Michael Crowley, with the San Jose Earthquake’s Dave Kaval. While expectations for the 2017 campaign remain tempered, A’s fans are hopeful that the changeup in management is a sign of better days to come.
Note: my rankings are based on player ceilings and the likelihood they will reach that ceiling. The tiers are defined below.
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 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
If you feel like I slighted your favorite prospect or disagree with my rankings feel free to rake me over the coals in the comments.
1. Franklin Barreto, SS/2B
As of January 21, 2017 – Age: 20 (DOB 2/27/1996)
A J2 signing out of Venezuela by the Blue Jays in 2012, Barreto was part of the blockbuster trade that sent Josh Donaldson over to Toronto. Since then he’s made quick work of the A’s system, making his PCL debut at the ripe old age of 20. While his power tool has been slow to develop, his advanced approach at the plate and his plus speed on the basepaths translated into a AA slash line of .281/.340/.413 and 30/45 stealing. Though he is serviceable at short, his range and arm are better suited for second – he started over a third of his games there in 2016; with the shortstop position currently filled by emerging star Marcus Semien, expect Barreto to further increase his reps at second down at AAA. He also played a few games in center with Toronto, and while the A’s show no sign of moving him from the infield, he could be a temporary answer to the black hole that is center field in Oakland. Barreto will start the year in Nashville but if he continues to outperform his peers expect him to make his debut sooner rather than later.
2. A.J. Puk, LHP
Age: 21 (DOB 4/25/1995)
Once a consensus top-3 pick, Puk slipped down to #6 overall in the 2016 draft. He’s got a simple repertoire: mid-upper-90s fastball, decent changeup, and an inconsistent slider that shows promise but needs more work. He’s not afraid to pound the zone, striking out 40 in 32 2/3 innings while only walking 12. Puk showed decent development in college ball he will most likely need a few more years to develop his mechanics and fill out his 6’7” frame. It’s easy to see Puk slot into the middle of the rotation with the potential to be #2 starter someday.
3. Frankie Montas, RHP
Age: 23 (DOB 3/21/1993)
It may surprise some people to see Montas this high but I can’t write him off just yet and neither should you. A highly touted prospect that has struggled with injuries, he’s been traded twice in the past year – first in a three-team trade between CHW-CIN-LAD and then more recently in the LAD-OAK deal for Josh Reddick and Rich Hill. Luckily for Oakland he seems to be on the path to finally putting it together. In the Arizona Fall League he put elite numbers, posting a 0.53 ERA in 17 innings as a reliever. Though he has a truly electric fastball (capable of hitting triple digits), for him to truly succeed as a starter he needs to improve his changeup and get more consistent with his slider. If he doesn’t, he may be relegated to the bullpen. Either way, he’ll have a legitimate chance at a major league role this season with the ability to make a significant difference.
4. Jharel Cotton, RHP
Age: 25 (DOB 1/19/1992)
Of everyone on this list Cotton is the most major league ready, starting five games for Oakland last year after coming over from the Dodgers. Even though no one expects him to repeat his 2.15 ERA many see him as a viable #3 or #4 starter. He’s got a great changeup and an above average fastball to go with a low BB/9. His penchant for giving up the longball will be negated slightly by the Coliseum but if history is anything to fall back on then you can expect him to give up more than his fair share.
5. Grant Holmes, RHP
Age: 20 (DOB 3/22/1996)
Originally the headliner in the Dodger package for Reddick and Hill, Holmes has dropped a bit in the prospect lists after strong showings from Cotton in the majors and Montas in the AFL. While he’ll probably never be an ace, Holmes has the ingredients to be a quality #2 or #3 guy. He’s got a solid slider, 12-6 curve, and change to go along with a plus fastball that tops out around 95-95. He held his own over the course of a long season, posting a 8.3 SO/9 in 134 innings pitched. The ERA really blew up after he moved organizations but he’s still young and has shown signs of improvement in each successive year. If he can put it all together this season he’ll be poised to make his debut sometime late 2018.
6. Matt Chapman, 3B
Age: 23 (DOB 4/28/1993)
In 514 ABs last year, Chapman hit 36 home runs and struck out 173 times. That kind of power is hard to come by at any level but he seriously needs to work on his contact if he wants to cut down on those SOs. The glove and the arm might get him to the show but he needs some refining before facing major league pitching. The recently signed Trevor Plouffe will likely act as a stopgap until Chapman is ready to be promoted.
7. Daniel Gossett, RHP
Age: 24 (DOB 11/13/1992)
After being drafted in the second round of 2014 draft, Gosset has moved quickly through the A’s system earning himself a non-roster invitation to spring training. He’s got average stuff and he’ll never blow guys away but he’s proven himself as a quality strike thrower and inning eater. If he doesn’t start the year on the active roster he’ll be there before July, grading out as a solid back of the rotation guy if nothing else.
8. Renato Nunez, 3B
Age: 22 (DOB 4/4/1994)
Think of Nunez as a stronger Matt Chapman without the glove or OBP. He’s got significant power but struggles with the strikeout, punching out 119 times in 505 at bats. The reason he’s so high on this list is because he’s still young and has posted better numbers in the past. He will most likely start the year at AAA but between him and Chapman sharing time someone will have to move. Nunez’s power is a bit more developed and that may be the deciding factor on who gets promoted first. Either way he’s worth keeping an eye on.
9. Lazaro Armenteros, OF
Age: 17 (DOB 5/22/1999)
Lazaro is a long ways off but his strength and athleticism make him easy target for fanciful projections (I’ve seen once scout say he could be a 30/30 type). He’s got great bad speed and lifts the ball well but needs to adjust a long looping swing. He’s #9 on this list based purely on talent and at 17 years old he’s got a lot of time to develop it.
10. Matt Olson, RF/1B
Age: 22 (DOB 3/29/1994)
Drafted in the first round in 2012, Olson has consistently topped Oakland A’s prospect lists for the past four years. He burst onto the scene in 2013 and 2014 hitting a combined 60 home runs between A and high A but has since cooled off. He’s got a promising .100 delta between his batting average and his on base percentage but he needs to work on his contact (especially against lefties) if he hopes to make it in the majors. Another prospect who will start the year in AAA but will be knocking on the door if he has a strong early showing.
11. Norge Ruiz, RHP
Age: 22 (DOB 3/15/1994)
Ruiz recently signed out of Cuba as an international amateur and hasn’t pitched professionally in over a year. He’s advertised as a middle of the rotation guy with a serviceable fastball and competent breaking ball that was good enough for a pretty high K/9 in Cuba. The A’s are littered with average RHPs right now so they have no reason to rush Ruiz to the bigs. If he performs in his first year against minor league hitters expect him to get invited to spring training in 2018.
12. Max Schrock, 2B
Age: 22 (DOB 10/12/1994)
Schrock moved very quickly through the minors this year, starting the year at A in Washington’s system and finishing up AA with Oakland. He’s an athletic guy who will hit for contact, posting a .331 batting average over 534 at bats. He really came out of nowhere this year so it’s exciting to see what 2017 will bring for him. If he improves his OBP the A’s may be looking at the answer to the revolving door that is their second base.
13. Heath Fillmyer, RHP
Age: 22 (DOB 5/16/1994)
An aggressive pitcher with good control, Fillmyer is another back of the rotation option for the A’s. Where he lacks – 7.9 K/9 between A+ and AA – he makes up for in weak contact, generated mostly by hard sinking action on his fastball. He only started putting up good numbers last year so it will be interesting to see how he fairs after a full year at AA.
14. Daulton Jefferies, RHP
Age: 21 (DOB 8/2/1995)
Jefferies was taken in the first round of the 2016 draft and it’s easy to see why. He’s got easy arm strength with a smooth delivery and sound mechanics. The fastball is above average and the slider and the changeup are a work in progress. The nagging shoulder injury is a legitimate concern but the potential is there for a future at the front of the rotation.
15. Jaycob Brugman, OF
Age: 25 (DOB 1/18/1992)
Brugman was a 17th round draft pick by the A’s in 2013 and has continued to outperform expectations. In 609 plate appearances between AA and AAA Brugman slashed .285/.347/.438 with 52 BBs and 121 SOs. He struggles against lefties but projects to be a valuable platoon bat in an extra-outfielder role. Because the A’s are without a CF Brugman has a fighting chance at getting a shot at the starting job.
16. Logan Shore, RHP
Age: 22 (DOB 12/28/1994)
While the fastball is just barely average, Shore has the command and changeup of a ten year veteran. If he develops an extra pitch he could seriously improve his utility, with his ceiling right now being a #4 starter. That being said Shore has succeeded at every level and is poised to move quickly through the A’s system.
17. Raul Alcantara, RHP
Age: 24 (DOB 12/4/1992)
Alcantara posted decent numbers between AA and AAA in 2016 but got absolutely rocked in his 22 major league innings. His fastball is good and his changeup and slider are not bad but he needs to work on getting ahead in the count. He will have the first shot at the #5 spot in the rotation but will need to establish himself quickly if he wants to stay around.
18. Chad Pinder, 2B
Age: 24 (DOB 3/29/1992)
Pinder got his first taste of the majors last September where he put up mostly unremarkable numbers. He stands out from the other 2B options in his ability to hit for extra bases, though that also comes with the reality of a 25% strike out clip. It’s hard to see him as anything more than a utility guy with some pop.
19. Yairo Munoz, INF
Age: 21 (DOB 1/23/1995)
Munoz put up good numbers at AA this year and earned himself a trip to the AFL and the 40-man roster. That alone makes him worth a closer look but he needs improve his approach at the plate if he ever hopes to improve his average. He’s one of the many 2B options the A’s will inevitably try out but it doesn’t seem that he will ever live up to the hype that he once had.
20. Marcos Brito, SS
Age: 16 (DOB 3/6/2000)
Brito was another one of the international signings the A’s made this year. He’s a switch hitter who seems to favor the left but generates good contact from both sides. He’s still very young but the frame and athleticism are enough to profile him as a future starter someday.
21. Richie Martin, SS
Age: 22 (DOB 12/22/1994)
Martin was the A’s number one pick in last year’s amateur draft and is probably the best defensive shortstop in the organization. The problem is his bat – or lack thereof. He still has time to develop but the below-average bat speed and inability to get on base are not promising signs of future growth.
22. Bruce Maxwell, C
Age: 26 (DOB 12/20/1990)
Maxwell is all but confirmed as the backup catcher for next year’s A’s. After debuting last year he slashed .283/.337/.402 in 101 plate appearances while playing solid defense. If he puts up similar numbers in 2017 he’ll be one of the better backups in the league (for whatever that’s worth).
23. Dillon Overton, LHP
Age: 25 (DOB 8/17/1991)
While he certainly did not impress in his September call-up (12 home runs in 24 innings) he will be in the running for a spot in the back of the rotation. He’s probably better suited for long relief.
24. Dakota Chalmers, RHP
Age: 20 (DOB 8/8/1996)
Chalmers has a good fastball and an OK slider that he struggles to throw for strikes. He’s a starter for now but the bullpen would provide a greater ceiling for him.
25. Sandber Pimentel, 1B/DH
Age: 22 (DOB 9/12/1994)
Sandber has some serious raw power but needs more development to reach his true potential. There’s still time for him to improve his approach but as of now he projects to be a three-true-outcomes kind of guy.
26. Skylar Szynski, RHP
Age: 19 (DOB 7/14/1997)
It’s rare to see a high school guy with three good pitches but that’s what Szynski offers. He’s still very raw but he will have a lot of time to develop.
27. Luis Barrera, OF
Age: 21 (DOB 11/15/1995)
Barrera is not a great runner or fielder but he’s got a great approach and makes hard contact. He will more than likely move to one of the corner outfield spots in the near future.
28. Bobby Wahl, RHP
Age: 24 (DOB 3/21/1992)
He suffered through some injuries last year but pitched well enough in relief at AAA to garner some looks for the major league bullpen.
29. Paul Blackburn, RHP
Age: 23 (DOB 12/4/1993)
Drafted by the Cubs late in the first round back in 2012, Blackburn came over from the Mariners in the Danny Valencia trade. Simply put, Blackburn has struggled to live up to expectations. If he manages to reach the AAA level he may be worth a closer look but he still needs more development.
30. Kyle Friedrichs, RHP
Age: 25 (DOB 1/22/1992)
Friedrichs had a good year in A but struggled a bit when he got to A+. He has good tools but is on the older side for his level. At best he grades out to be a back of the rotation inning eater.
31. Evan Manarino, LHP
Age: 24 (DOB 12/28/1992)
Manarino was drafted in the 25th round in 2015 and had a mediocre year in the New York Penn League. 2016 was a very good year for him, posting a 1.98 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 150 innings between A and A+ ball. If he continues to put up good numbers he’ll move quickly through the system.
32. James Naile, RHP
Age: 23 (DOB 2/8/1993)
Speaking of moving quickly through the system, Naile started the year out in A and finished the year in AAA. His numbers were good but not fantastic, and he’ll likely start the year back at AA. Grades out to be another back of the rotation guy.
33. Skye Bolt, OF
Age: 23 (DOB 1/15/1994)
An 80-grade name out of the University of North Carolina, Skye Bolt has the raw talent and athleticism to succeed but has struggled to put it all together. I can see him as a .270/.330/.410 type of guy but that’s about it.
34. Chris Iriart, 1B
Age: 22 (DOB 10/7/1994)
In his first full year in the A’s system Iriart slashed .250/.340/.503 with 22 home runs. He doesn’t have the same pedigree as some of the other prospects on this list but he’s got a good approach at the plate and consistently outperforms expectations.
35. Joey Wendle, 2B
Age: 26 (DOB 4/26/1990)
Maybe I’m not giving Wendle enough credit but I just can’t see him making that big of an impact. He played well enough in his September call-up but there’s no reason to think he’ll ever get better, especially with the current logjam at second base position.
36. Brandon Bailey, RHP
Age: 22 (DOB 10/19/1994)
Drafted in the 6th round of this year’s draft, Bailey has shown flashes of greatness but needs more refinement. If he reaches the show it will be in a long relief role.
37. Tucker Healy, RHP
Age: 26 (DOB 6/15/1990)
The A’s thought they had something in Healy after a great 2015 at AA but opinions on him have soured after a mediocre year in the PCL. He specializes as a set-up man and middle relief is the only role I see him succeeding at.
38. Boomer Biegalski, RHP
Age: 22 (DOB 7/13/1994)
Leon Mathew Biegalski II was a 14th round pick out of Florida State and put up OK numbers in A ball last year. I want this kid to succeed just so I can find out how he got that nickname.
39. Sam Bragg, RHP
Age: 23 (DOB 3/23/1993)
Bragg once showed promise as a middle relief guy but hasn’t been able to put it together. If he can replicate his performance in the AFL he may get a September call-up.
40. Trey Cochran-Gill, RHP
Age: 24 (DOB 12/10/1992)
Trey came over in a trade last year with the Mariners and put up some decent numbers at AA this season in relief. He’ll start the year off at AAA and may get some looks if he keeps up the good work.
41. James Harris, OF
Age: 23 (DOB 8/7/1993)
A first round draft pick by the Rays in the 2011 draft, Harris has hit well in the lower minors but has failed to perform in his stints at AA or AAA. He’s coming off a good year at A+ but will need to pick up his game if he wants to make it.
42. Aaron Kurcz, RHP
Age: 26 (DOB 8/8/1990)
Kurcz has been bouncing around the minors for six years and will continue to do so if he can’t figure out how to get AAA hitters out.
43. Sean Murphy, C
Age: 22 (DOB 10/10/1994)
The A’s drafted Murphy in the third round of this year’s draft sent him to the AZL for some extra plate appearances. He’s a great backstop but needs to figure out how to produce more consistently.
44. Rangel Ravelo, 1B
Age: 24 (DOB 4/24/1992)
The A’s weren’t impressed with Ravelo’s mediocre year at AAA and DFA’d him to make room for Matt Joyce. They’ve invited him to spring training but he’ll need to seriously impress if he wants to stay with the team. Think of him as a James Loney type without the glove that needs to find out how to hit again.
45. Corey Walter, RHP
Age: 24 (DOB 8/11/1992)
The Dodgers signed Alvarez as part of their $150 million international class of 2015. This is what potentially cost them Yoan Moncada, but Alvarez could make it all worth it
46. Mikey White, IF
Age: 23 (DOB 9/3/1993)
The A’s selected White in the second round of the 2015 draft in the hopes that he can learn how to make more consistent contact. He’ll be a valuable utility player if he can raise his batting average and develop some power.
47. Casey Meisner, RHP
Age: 21 (DOB 5/22/1995)
Meisner was drafted in the third rounder back in 2013 but has struggled to fill out his 6’7” frame. He’s got easy arm strength and may be better suited for the bullpen but he needs to stay healthy.
48. Tyler Marincov, OF
Age: 25 (DOB 10/20/1991)
Marincov put together an OK year between A+ and AA this year but scouts worry his bat speed won’t be able to catch up to the major league fastball.
49. Eli White, SS
Age: 22 (DOB 6/26/1994)
White is another great defensive shortstop who needs to work on his contact and his approach at the plate.
50. Brett Graves, RHP
Age: 23 (DOB 1/30/1993)
Graves was once high on the prospect list after being drafted in the third round out of Missouri but hasn’t been able to put together even a decent year at any level in the minors.