Minor league prospects for the Oakland Athletics are about as common as they come – and that’s OK.
After a recent evening of dining out with my wife, I came to the conclusion that maybe I’m not as cool as I thought. We decided to visit a brand new “Contemporary-Premium casual” restaurant and being that I wasn’t familiar with the menu, I decided to play it safe. Without hesitation I ordered a Bud Light, which was soon met with an arrogant smirk as I was handed a list of IPAs. Looking at dinner options I perused dishes like quail egg ravioli, bone marrow and pork belly, while really only wanting a straight forward dish like meat and potatoes.
To me this says the days of simplicity are over and that in this evolving culture, people are salivating for explosive, trendy products that push the envelop and defy the norm.
The same can be said for minor league baseball. When looking around the minor league climate, you will see hitters like Joey Gallo (Texas Rangers) and Kris Bryant (Chicago Cubs) who are pushing the envelop on what the new age young power hitter embodies. Aces like Jonathan Gray (Colorado Rockies) and Lucas Giolito (Washington Nationals) defy the norm of pitchers who generate easy velocity. In my world, I’d labe the aforementioned players as the IPAs and pork belly that all the cool kids want to indulge in.
The standard un-sexy Bud Light and hamburger players would share more of a likeness to the A’s prospects. If you ask me, that’s not a bad comparison. As Bud Light serves as a standard beer of choice, so do the A’s with their uncool – plain mean and potatoes – prospects.
Many baseball pundits labeled July 4, 2014 as the day the A’s farm system essentially died. While the team picked up Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel for the stretch run, they lost their highly touted, limited allocation IPA of a future shortstop. Addison Russell represented the future for A’s fans and hope that they would get to watch an All Star caliber shortstop for years to come. Most importantly, this continued a disturbing trend of trading away former 1st Round picks for short term help.
2012: Addison Russell (traded to the Cubs for Samardzija/Hammel)
2013: Billy McKinney (traded to the Cubs for Samardzija/
Even with all the negative commentary, I’ll go out on a limb and say that the A’s farm system is stronger even and losing these prospects. The A’s now turn their hopes to shortstop Daniel Robertson, power hitting first baseman Matt Olsen, and Venezuelan bonus-baby Renato Nunez. After strong second halves to this past season, both Robertson (.310 AVG, .402 OBP) and Olsen (37 HR, .404 OBP) have seen their stock rise and have been pushed into many expert’s Top 100 prospects lists. After a somewhat lackluster 2013 season, Nunez flashed his highly praised skill set, slugging 29 home runs. Potential ace Raul Alcantara (recovering from Tommy John surgery), pleasant surprises like Boog Powell and Seth Streich, along with Matt Chapman (2014’s 1st Round pick) now serve as strong pieces to a promising future.
Billy Beane has shown the ability to build teams without much home grown talent, but after three disappointing playoff finishes one has to look ahead to the A’s next push and who will lead it. It’s this crop of young prospects that server as hope to a brighter future and most importantly, a deeper run into the playoffs. Grab your 12 pack of Bud Light and get ready to watch the show.