By trading some of their top prospects including Michael Choice, Chris Bostick and Grant Green (who is no longer rookie eligible) and with the graduations of Sonny Gray and Dan Straily, the top of the Oakland Athletics’ top prospect list has been severely depleted over last year’s. There really aren’t too many elite guys in this organization anymore but the presence of Addison Russell is a big boost. There’s an exciting young class of players who were drafted in 2012 and 2013 who should be moving up and making people notice them in 2014.
Triple-A: Sacramento River Cats (Pacific Coast League)
Double-A: Midland Rock Hounds (Texas League)
High-A: Stockton Ports (California League)
Class-A: Beloit Snappers (Midwest League)
Short-Season A: Vermont Lake Monsters (New York-Penn League)
Complex-Rookie: AZL Athletics (Arizona League)
Dillon Overton – LHP
Date of Birth: August 17, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’2″/172 lbs
Acquired: 2nd round of the 2013 draft
2013 Stats: Did not play
Analysis: Overton is a bit of a wild card right now, having missed the entire 2013 season following Tommy John surgery. Pitching in college as the number two starter to Jonathan Gray (2013 #3 overall pick) at Oklahoma, Overton was throwing in the low 90s with a curveball and a changeup that, while he can throw them for strikes, are inconsistent at times. Overton profiles somewhat like a Justin Nicolino but without any innings of pro ball under his belt, it’s tough to figure out how good he’s going to be.
2014 Prognosis: 2014 will likely be almost a wash. If he pitches in game action at all, it will likely be towards the end of the season and the A’s will probably be much more cautious than otherwise with a college hurler.
Bruce Maxwell – C
Date of Birth: December 20, 1990
Height/Weight: 6’2″/230 lbs
Acquired: 2nd round of the 2012 draft
|2013||22||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A-A+||OAK||104||425||374||44||103||22||0||7||49||0||0||43||63||.275||.348||.390||.739|
Analysis: Maxwell makes the list for me for a couple of reasons. One, this system isn’t all that strong overall, and two, he’s the best catcher they’ve got. While his throwing has regressed as he’s moved up levels, his bat has proved fairly potent. In two years of pro ball, the left-handed hitting catcher has shown very good contact skills, not striking out much (only 63 times in his first full-season) and hitting for a solid average. While he only hit seven home runs in 2013, scouts think that he’ll have average power and, if he makes the show, could hit between 12 and 15 per season.
2014 Prognosis: At the very least, Maxwell will be back in High-A Stockton. Catchers generally take longer to develop with the bat and a nice, friendly hitting environment could be just what the doctor ordered.
Arnold Leon – RHP
Date of Birth: September 6, 1988
Acquired: International free agent out of Mexico in 2008
|2013||24||2 Teams||2 Lgs||AA-AAA||OAK||9||8||.529||4.12||25||24||144.0||168||76||66||13||24||97||7||5||1.333||10.5||0.8||1.5||6.1||4.04|
Analysis: Leon made the most starts in his minor league career in 2013 at fairly advanced levels after having been mostly a reliever up until then. While the numbers aren’t glowing, they’re certainly solid, especially his Triple-A numbers which come in an unforgiving pitching environment. The strikeout numbers are low and the rap on Leon is that he really only has two major-league-average pitches, his fastball and changeup. The plus side is that he gets some great movement and consistently gets more ground outs than air outs.
2014 Prognosis: He’s already on the 40-man roster and could make his major league debut in the Oakland bullpen in 2014.
Bobby Wahl – RHP
Date of Birth: March 21, 1992
Height/Weight: 6’2″/210 lbs
Acquired: 5th round of 2013 draft
|2013||21||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A–Rk||OAK||0||0||4.15||10||5||2||2||21.2||20||11||10||3||8||28||0||3||1.292||8.3||1.2||3.3||11.6||3.50|
Analysis: While Jason Parks at Baseball Prospectus is very high on Wahl, there are some doubts as to whether he’ll be a starter or a reliever and until I’m proven wrong, I’m going to side with the consensus on this one. Despite his size, Wahl has a very high-effort delivery, using a “drop-and-drive” type of mechanic which screams “reliever.” He throws quite hard, with his sinking fastball sitting in the 92-95 range and has two at least ML average potential offspeed pitches with a good slider and a very good changeup.
2014 Prognosis: Wahl was used mostly in relief this season so the question remains: was he coming out of the bullpen to limit innings on an arm that was taxed heavily in the college season? Or, was he working in relief because the A’s think he’ll be a reliever? How the Oakland A’s answer that question will determine where he starts 2014 and how quickly he moves through the system.
Miles Head – 3B
Date of Birth: May 2, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’/215 lbs
Acquired: Traded from the Boston Red Sox on December 28, 2011 with Josh Reddick and Raul Alcantara for Ryan Sweeney and Andrew Bailey; drafted by Boston in the 26th round of the 2009 draft
Analysis: Head has shown some very good power so far in the minor leagues but that all disappeared in 2013. Some believe that it’s due a shoulder injury that showed up late in 2012 and has sapped his power ever since while others think that Head is not doing himself any favors by coming into camp in 2013 out of shape. He missed half of 2013 with that shoulder injury but he still has legitimate plus power to go along with a good arm to play third base. If he rebounds, he could be a guy that sneaks up on people.
2014 Prognosis: Head will get another crack at the Texas League in Midland, hopefully, with better results than last year. The good news is that he’s still fairly young and has time to come back from a bad 2013.Jun 18, 2013; San Jose, CA, USA; California League first baseman Max Muncy (9) during the home run derby of the California League vs Carolina League All Star Game at San Jose Municipal Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Max Muncy – 1B
Date of Birth: August 25, 1990
Height/Weight: 6’/190 lbs
Acquired: 5th round of the 2012 draft
|2013||22||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A+-AA||OAK||140||625||523||89||143||25||3||25||100||1||2||88||102||.273||.381||.476||.857|
Analysis: Why do I like Max Muncy so much? Well, I’m a sucker for a guy who hits like has in the minor leagues. In only his second pro season, Muncy has shown power, the ability to get on base and some excellent contact skills (88 walks to 102 strikeouts is very good). Scouts like his ability to play first and think that he’ll be average (if not better) at the position. He has a very well developed approach at the plate and the big question that needs to be answered is whether Muncy’s big power numbers in Stockton are a result of the good hitting environment of the California League or him coming into his power.
2014 Prognosis: Muncy starts in the Texas League and tries to show that his power game isn’t a fluke.
Nolan Sanburn – RHP
Date of Birth: July 21, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’/175 lbs
Acquired: 2nd round of the 2012 draft
|2013||21||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A-Rk||OAK||1||3||.250||1.50||16||2||3||30.0||20||5||5||1||10||26||1||2||1.000||6.0||0.3||3.0||7.8||2.60|
Analysis: Sanburn, who was used mostly in relief in college, was thought to be getting shifted to the rotation as a pro. He had a minor shoulder injury early in the season and it appears that the A’s wanted to cut down on the strain in his arm and used him in relief this year. Sanburn has electric stuff, hitting the upper 90s out of the bullpen and has a plus hard curveball and still-in-progress changeup. His floor is thought to be of a late-inning reliever which is pretty darn good, but he could be moving up the list next year if he’s successfully converted into a starter.
2014 Prognosis: It probably depends on how the A’s want to use Sanburn. If they go slowly and stretch him out to be a starter, Sanburn could return to Beloit for some Midwest League action. If they decide to use him out of the pen, he might move through the system a lot faster.
B.J. Boyd – OF
Date of Birth: July 16, 1993
Height/Weight: 5’10″/220 lbs
Acquired: 4th round of the 2012 draft
Analysis: The A’s like what they got in B.J. Boyd, an athletic, speedy, toolsy player out of Palo Alto, California. A two-sport star in high school, Boyd is showing more polish to his baseball skills than originally thought and has put up some very good numbers in short-season play. He clearly will need to work on his base stealing skills, as evidenced by his 57% success rate in stealing bases last season but he is showing good contact and strike zone command with high OBPs and solid batting averages as well as some surprising power. His strikeouts have been sitting above 20% but if he continues to get on base as much as he does, they won’t be a problem.
2014 Prognosis: Now 20 years old, and with two short seasons under his belt, the kid gloves will likely be off of Boyd and he’ll start in Beloit and will likely be moved up to Stockton by mid-season if he performs well.
Billy McKinney – OF
Date of Birth: August 23, 1994
Height/Weight: 6’1″/195 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (24th) of the 2013 draft
|2013||18||2 Teams||2 Lgs||Rk-A-||OAK||55||243||215||36||70||9||3||3||26||8||1||20||33||.326||.387||.437||.824|
Analysis: Billy McKinney had a great showing in his first professional season, putting his smooth left-handed swing and excellent contact abilities to good use, mostly in the Arizona League. He showed well in a limited exposure to the New York-Penn League and is making the scouts pretty happy with this selection in the draft. He’s showing a lot of polish, a great approach at the plate and solid defense, despite the fact that he’s likely to move out of center field as he gets older.
2014 Prognosis: The A’s aren’t particularly aggressive with their young players. This could mean that 19-year-old McKinney will have another year of short-season ball, returning for the full year in Vermont. Whether he starts there or not, McKinney will likely finish the season in Beloit in the Midwest League.
Matt Olson – 1B
Date of Birth: March 29, 1994
Height/Weight: 6’4″/236 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (47th overall) of the 2012 draft
Analysis: At only 19, Olson is showing some serious power tools, playing first base in the Midwest League. Frequently, players with excellent raw power take time to be able to translate it into games but Olson already has 32 minor league home runs in just a season and a half, without leaving his teenage years. In 2013, however, that power came at the expense of his contact abilities. While he mashed, he only hit .225 and struck out 148 times. Olson has a good eye, walking 72 times which bodes well for his ability to produce even when he’s striking out a lot. Despite his size, scouts think that he’ll be an excellent defender at first base after having been drafted across the diamond as a third baseman.
2014 Prognosis: Olson could put up huge numbers in 2014 if he’s moved up to the California League. He could still hit tons of home runs if he tempers his “all-or-nothing” approach and looking for more line drives as the ball travels a long way the in thin air and high elevations of the Cal League.Nov 2, 2013; Surprise, AZ, USA; Oakland Athletics shortstop Addison Russell against the West during the Fall Stars Game at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Renato Nunez – 3B
Date of Birth: April 4, 1994
Height/Weight: 6’1″/185 lbs
Acquired: International free agent out of Venezuela in 2010; $2.2 million signing bonus
Analysis: Some rank Nunez higher than Robertson but I’m a little bit wary of the low walks in particular for Nunez. While he is a very gifted young ballplayer and, most likely, has a higher upside than his Beloit teammates Robertson and Olson, the low OBP (.301) that comes from less contact and fewer walks gives me pause. Nunez does have huge power potential as evidenced by his 27 doubles and 19 home runs in his first full-season of professional baseball at the age of 19 and the .258 batting average is fairly solid, again considering his age. The 136 strikeouts, especially combined with only 28 walks is somewhat concerning but the fact remains that Nunez is very young and has lots of time to work on his deficiencies. His defense has been solid but scouts aren’t sure if he’ll stay at third base.
2014 Prognosis: If the A’s want to be conservative, he’ll remain in Beloit for the first half of 2014. If they don’t, a promotion could be in order and Nunez could well be unleashed on the California League.
Raul Alcantara – RHP
Date of Birth: December 4, 1992
Height/Weight: 6’3″/180 lbs
Acquired: Traded from the Boston Red Sox on December 28, 2011 with Josh Reddick and Miles Head for Ryan Sweeney and Andrew Bailey; international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2009; $500,000 signing bonus
|2013||20||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A+-A||OAK||12||6||.667||3.11||27||27||1||1||156.1||157||74||54||11||24||124||8||1||8||1.158||9.0||0.6||1.4||7.1||5.17|
Analysis: I have Alcantara up a bit higher than some because I really like what he’s been doing. He made some big strides in 2013, cutting his walk rates by a huge margin and not even breaking 2.0 walks per nine innings in the California League. While his strikeout totals weren’t as high as you’d like to see, they were still pretty strong and consistent from one level to another. Considering the fact some of his numbers improved after moving into the hitter’s-paradise California League, you have to admit that there’s something there. He’s still developing his off-speed stuff but his fastball is in the low-90s and I like his fast arm-speed. He’s also showing some good durability, pitching 156 innings in 2013.
2014 Prognosis: With a solid showing in High-A, I can see the A’s moving Alcantara to Double-A Midland for his Age-21 season.
Daniel Robertson – SS
Date of Birth: March 22, 1994
Height/Weight: 6’/190 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (34th overall) of the 2012 draft
Analysis: Ok, here’s another contentious pick of mine. I like Robertson over Nunez because I think he’s more likely to realize his potential. Robertson, at the same age as Nunez, played in Beloit all season as the shortstop and put up some very solid numbers. With a 41 walk to 79 strikeout ratio and good contact skills, Robertson put up a .353 OBP but was no slouch when it came to power. With 21 doubles, a triple and nine home runs, Robertson had a very solid season in fewer plate appearances. Scouts love Robertson’s makeup and his ability to stick at shortstop longer than Nunez, for me, make him a slightly more sure bet.
2014 Prognosis: Robertson will move up to Stockton for a very strong infield for the Ports.
Michael Ynoa – RHP
Date of Birth: September 24, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’7″/210 lbs
Acquired: International free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2008; $4.25 million signing bonus
|2013||21||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A-A+||OAK||3||3||.500||3.69||22||21||1||1||75.2||68||39||31||5||35||68||9||1||7||1.361||8.1||0.6||4.2||8.1||1.94|
Analysis: It’s time for my confession of the day. I saw Michael Ynoa pitch early in the season in Lansing. That’s not the confession. The confession is that I was so focused on scouting the Lugnuts that I wasn’t paying much attention to the 6’7″ monster on the mound. Ynoa was very good that day, throwing four shutout innings but it seems like the A’s are very concerned on keeping Ynoa’s pitch counts down limiting him to just 75 2/3 innings in 2013 between Beloit and Stockton. Ynoa was outstanding in Beloit although he has struggled with his control which inflates his pitch counts and keep his innings down. In Stockton, however, he couldn’t get batters out, walking 17 in only 21 innings. Ynoa throws in the low-90s and gets a good downward plane which helps to keep the ball in the ballpark. He’s now 22, though, and despite missing some time with Tommy John surgery, he needs to start putting it all together, finding his command and pushing towards the majors.
2014 Prognosis: A return engagement in Stockton could be in the cards. However, if the A’s feel like they want to keep him away from the California League and he has a good showing in Spring Training, Ynoa could jump up to Double-A.
Addison Russell – SS
Date of Birth: January 23, 1994
Height/Weight: 6’/195 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (11th overall) of the 2012 draft
|2013||19||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A+-AAA||OAK||110||517||442||86||119||29||10||17||60||21||3||61||125||.269||.369||.495||.865|
Analysis: Well, it’s hard not to think that Addison Russell’s the best prospect the A’s have. In fact, he’s the only real elite prospect of the bunch right now. He’s answered all the questions that people might have for him and has excelled at higher and higher levels. Despite being drafted in 2012, the A’s accelerated Russell’s development and put him in the California League for 2013. He was outstanding, showing very good plate discipline, very good power (especially for a shortstop) and very good defense. He has good range, a great arm and good hands and he has been tabbed to be the A’s shortstop of the future.
2014 Prognosis: The only question is when the future comes for Addison Russell. Moved up to Triple-A for a taste before the end of the season, Russell didn’t do much but it brings about the question of how aggressive the A’s will be with this youngster who will only be 20 for the 2014 season. If the A’s want to continue to move him quickly, he could start in Triple-A Sacramento but I would wager that he’s more likely to spend a half-season in Double-A Midland before that. A September callup to the majors could be in store if he performs well at the high minor league levels.