2013 Oakland A’s Top Prospects

System Overview: Already a middling system prior to the trade that sent Jed Lowrie to Houston, the farm system was further weakened by the departures of right-hander Brad Peacock and catcher Max Stassi, both of whom would have ranked #7 and #11 among the list, respectively.

And once overlooked — and underappreciated, at least by pundits — right-hander Dan Straily supplants Bartolo Colon in the rotation, it’s awfully thin and quite dependant on young talent. Several of the team’s top picks last season — Addison Russell, Matt Olson, Daniel Robertson, and Nolan Sanburn — showed varying degrees of promise and remain several years away from contributing at the big league level, as are Miles Head, Renato Nunez and Chris Bostick.

Otherwise, center fielder Michael Choice, right-hander Sonny Gray, and infielder/outfielder Grant Green remain the lone noteworthy prospects that could contribute within a year

 

 

#1. Dan Straily, Age: 24, Position: RHP

Inexplicably left off of the organization’s Top 30 list by Baseball America prior to last season, Straily, whom I analyzed mid-season at my old site, continued his rapid ascent through the minor leagues, making stops in both Double- and Triple-As, as well as a seven-game stint with the big league club.

Beginning the year in Double-A, Straily made 14 starts for Midland, throwing 85.1 innings with an impressive 108 punch outs (11.4 K.9) to just 23 walks (2.4 BB/9). His Skill Independent ERA, or SIERA, was an impressive 2.35 with the team, among the better marks in the upper minors.

The organization then promoted him to Sacramento where, unsurprisingly, he dominated the competition once again, posting elite strike out (11.1 K/9) and walk (2.6 BB/9) numbers, as well as an even better SIERA, 2.29.

In total, he struck out 190 and walked just 42 in 152 minor league innings last season.

The former 24th round pick also tossed 39.1 innings with the A’s (7.32 K/9 and 3.66 BB/9).

Projection: Even after another impressive minor league showing Straily’s not garnering as much respect as other top pitching prospects, and it’s a bit baffling. He performed well against all levels of competition, 2012 being the best season of his professional career. He’s combined above-average to elite K-rates with strong control. During my last writing of Straily, I mentioned how he could develop into a solid #3, maybe #2, but he looks an awful lot closer to a good #2 now. He seems to be the odd man out in Oakland’s rotation heading into 2013, but an early falter by Bartolo Colon could lead to Straily’s permanent promotion.

Ceiling: 4.0- to 4.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Above-Average to Inevitable

 

#2. Michael Choice, Age: 23, Position: CF

Among the youngest players in the Texas League, Choice, the tenth overall pick in the 2010 draft, turned in a solid, yet uninspiring, campaign last season, hitting .287/.356/.423 with 15 doubles, two triples, 10 homeruns and five stolen bases. His total offensive production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, was 17% better than the league average. He also lost a significant amount of time due to a fractured hand.

Projection: Granted Midland’s ballpark tends to suppress homerun totals, Choice’s power saw a noticeable decline in 2012. After slugging 30 homeruns and posting an Isolated Power, or ISO, of .257 in 2011, the young center fielder posted totals of just 10 and .136. And his road numbers — 6 and .139 — left a lot to be desired. There is a silver lining, however, prior to his injury Choice’s power production was improving monthly. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him begin the year in Double-A for a quick refresher before moving up to Sacramento. He’s also made tremendous strides in his contact rates. He could end up developing into a .270/.340/.460-type hitter.

Ceiling: 3.5- to 4.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling:  Moderate

#3. Addison Russell, Age: 19, Position: SS

Among a surprising amount of impressive high school performers making their debuts, Russell made brief stops at three levels last season: Arizona Rookie, New York-Penn, and Midwest Leagues. He spent about half the time in rookie ball — 26 of his 55 total games — but hit a combined .369/.432/.594 with 10 doubles, nine triples, seven homeruns and 16 stolen bases.

Projection: Per the usual, I’ll hold any long term evaluations for debuting prospects until after the 2013 season, but Russell showed an impressive skill set: a solid-average eye at the plate, above-average power, good speed and modest K-rates.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

#4. Miles Head, Age: 22, Position: 1B/3B

A tremendous find late in the 2009 draft, Head, who was nabbed in the 26th round by the Red Sox and was acquired in the Ryan Sweeney deal, absolutely destroyed High-A pitching in a repeat cameo, mashing to the tune of .382/.433/.715 with 18 homeruns in 67 games. His total offensive production was 90% better than the league average. Of course, this comes with the caveat that Stockton’s ballpark tends to inflate homeruns. Still, though, he managed to hit a cool .384/.452/.659 on the road.

The organization bumped the then 21-year-old to Double-A, where his production dipped noticeably — .272/.338/.404 — but still managed to perform at an above-average level.

In total, he hit .333/.391/.577 with 32 doubles, eight triples, and 23 homeruns. His production was a combined 53% better than the average.

Projection: Oakland doesn’t get enough credit for shifting Head back to third base, where he played just nine games in 2009. And according to the raw — exceptionally RAW data — he’s handled the transition well, making just 15 errors in 260 total chances. Head’s bat, which had a ceiling as solid- to above-average across the diamond, plays far better at the hot corner. He profiles as a solid .280/.350/.480-type hitter capable of smacking 25 or so bombs. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see his patience improve next season, somewhere in the above-average range, and his K-rate normalize.

Ceiling: 3.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

#5. Sonny Gray, Age: 23, Position: RHP

Fast-tracked after a solid career at Vanderbilt, Gray headed back to Double-A last season after making a five-game audition the previous year. The 5-foot-11 right-hander made 26 starts for the RockHounds, striking out just 99 (5.9 K/9) and walking 58 (3.5 BB/9). He generated a ton of groundballs (54.8% GB-rate), but posted a rather vanilla 4.35 SIERA. He also made one start with Sacramento.

Projection:  After showing some promising peripherals during his brief 2011 stint (8.1 K/9 and 2.70 BB/9), Gray’s strikeout rate plummeted to 5.9 K/9, nearly 1.5 punch outs below the league average. And his control, 3.5 BB/9, was also slightly below the league average (3.2 BB/9) too. As concerning as it appears now, it wouldn’t be a shock to see his K-rate normalize to somewhere north of 7.0 nest season given his track record in college. And while he generates an elite amount of groundballs, his control/command will likely keep him from becoming anything more than a solid mid-rotation-type guy.

Ceiling: 3.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

 

#6. Matt Olson, Age: 19, Position: 1B

Another supplemental first round pick in last June’s draft, 47th overall, Olson showed some serious three-outcome potential during his debut, mashing nine homeruns, walking 19 times and adding 50 punch outs in 213 total plate appearances. Overall, he hit .282/.352/.521.

Projection: Brief sample aside, Olson showed some pretty impressive power last season, swatting a bomb every 20.8 at bats while posting a ridiculous .272 ISO. He showed be headed back to the NYPL to begin the 2013 season.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

#7. Grant Green, Age: 25, Position: IF/OF

Green, the 13th overall pick in the 2009 draft from USC, spent the entire year honing his trade against the PCL competition, both offensively and defensively.  In 125 games with the River Cats, he hit .296/.338/.458 with 28 doubles, six triples, 15 homeruns and 13 stolen bases. His overall offensive production was just 2% better than the league average.

Defensively, with the ultimate goal of extracting as much value as possible out of an average bat, the organization moved Green all over the diamond, having the 24-year-old spend time in center (30 games), left (49), shortstop (19), second (19), and third (11). Some of the results were better met than others.

Projection: Depending upon of where the organization plays Jed Lowrie — I’m guessing he’ll be the Opening Day shortstop — Green has a legitimate shot at winning the second base job when camp breaks. He shows a below-average eye at the plate and solid-average power with a bit of speed, though his base stealing technique could use improvement. Depending how his defense grades out, he could be a league average regular, maybe a touch higher.

Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average

 

#8. Ian Krol, Age: 22, Position: LHP

A ninth round pick out of Neuqua Valley High School in 2009, Krol greatly outperformed his unsightly 5.20 ERA last season. The young left-hander showed a solid ability to miss bats (8.3 K/9) and mixed in a strong feel for pitching, allowing just 2.4 BB/9. His SIERA, 3.59, was more than 1.5 runs better.

Projection: Plagued by an incredibly low strand rate (55.5%), Krol could be poised for one of the system’s bigger breakouts in 2013, in large part due to regression. He’s historically shown a solid-average K-rates and control. And if he can remain relatively healthy, he could develop into a solid #3 or #4 starter.

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

 

#9. Daniel Robertson, Age: 19, Position: 3B/SS

Nabbed with the 34th overall pick in last June’s draft, Robertson evenly split his time between the Arizona Rookie and New York-Penn leagues last season, hitting a combined .241/.330/.400 with 12 doubles, two triples, five homeruns and a trio of stolen bases.

Projection: Robertson’s production in the Arizona Rookie League — .297/.405/.554 — was far more impressive than his stint with the Vermont Lake Monsters (.181/.238/.234), where he simply looked overmatched. He’s likely headed back to the NYPL to begin 2013, where we’ll get a better feel for his ceiling.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

#10. Shane Peterson, Age: 25, Position: 1B/OF

Drafted in the second round of the 2008 draft by the Cardinals, Peterson, the lone hope remaining in the ill-advised Matt Holiday deal, began the year hitting .274/.441/.420 with Midland, showing an absurdly high walk rate (21.5%), slightly below-average power, and decent speed. His production upon his promotion to Sacramento, however, really took off. In 39 games with the River Cats, Peterson hit a red-hot .389/.484/.618 while showing the best power numbers of his entire career, despite playing in a pitcher-friendly home ballpark.

Projection: Long term, Peterson’s a bit of ‘tweener. There’s some value in his bat and on the base paths, but it doesn’t play very well at first base or in either outfield corner. He’s likely to settle in as a very good fourth outfielder, perhaps peaking as a fringe everyday player for a season or two. Fortunately for him, With Chris Carter recently shipped off to Houston in the Jed Lowrie deal, he could be a dark horse at either first base or DH.

Ceiling: 1.0- to 1.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average

 

#11. Renato Nunez, Age: 19, Position: 3B

After posting a moderately strong .268/.301/.407 line during his stay in the Dominican Summer League as a 17-year-old in 2011, Nunez showed incredible improvement stateside last season, hitting .325/.403/.550 in Arizona. Along with 18 doubles, he added three triples, four homeruns, and was a perfect 4-for-4 in stolen bases. His total offensive production was 46% better than the league average.

Defensively, his fielding percentage (archaic, I know) improved from .851 to .900.

Projection: Nunez showed an above-average eye at the plate (9.1% BB-rate), strong contact skills (17.2% K-rate), and above-average power (.225 ISO). Still years away, but he’s certainly one to watch.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

#12. Chris Bostick, Age: 20, Position: 2B/SS

A solid find in the closing rounds of the 2011 draft, Bostick, who was picked in the 44th round, showed a promising offensive skill set in the New York-Penn League last season, hitting .251/.325/.369 with 16 doubles, four triples, three homeruns and a dozen stolen bases. His total offensive production was 9% better than the league average, despite being two years younger than the league’s average hitter.

Projection: Bostick showed solid patience at the plate, walking 8.5% of the time, with good speed and below-average power, which has to a chance to develop into double-digit homerun potential. It’s still incredibly early to get an accurate read on his ceiling, but there’s enough potential to develop into a big leaguer.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

#13. Sean Murphy, Age: 24, Position: RHP

A 6-foot-6, 215 pound right-hander out of Keystone College in the 2010 draft, Murphy posted some strong peripherals across A-ball and High-A last season, averaging 9.0 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9. He also posted a strong SIERA, at 3.33.

Projection: The largely positive performance comes with a rather crevice-sized caveat: Murphy was simply too old for both levels of competition last season. He’s likely headed to Midland to begin 2013, so it will be interesting to see how he adjusts to a more age-appropriate level of competition. He looks like a serviceable backend starter, or more likely as a decent middle inning reliever.

Ceiling: 1.5-win (starter); 0.5-win (reliever)

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate (starter); Moderate (reliever)

 

#14. Tanner Peters, Age: 22, Position: RHP

Peters turned in a pretty solid showing with Burlington last season, throwing just over 68 innings with 66 punch outs and 18 walks. His fly ball tendencies — he only generated groundballs 37% of the time — mixed with a hitter-friendly home ballpark led to a bit of high homerun rate, at 1.05 HR/9.

Projection: There’s really not a tremendous amount of data to go with Peters — he’s thrown only 98 total professional innings — but the early returns have been a bit favorable. It’s hard to tell at this point if he’s anything more than a useful depth arm.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

#15. Michael Taylor, Age: 27, Position: OF

A toolsy outfielder with ideal size (6-foot-5 and 255 pounds), Taylor posted his best season since 2009, hitting .287/.405/.441 with 31 doubles, one triples, a dozen homeruns and 18 stolen bases during his fourth stint in Triple-A. His total offensive production was 25% better than the PCL average.

Projection: Already 27 and once a top prospect, Taylor is entering his prime without establishing himself at the next level. He’s always shown six-tool potential (the sixth being the ability to get on-base), but for whatever reason it’s never really translated on the field. He could probably start for a pair of teams — Astros and Mets — but he’s nothing more than fourth outfield fodder now.

Ceiling: 1.0- win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average

 

#16. Nolan Sanburn, Age: 21, Position: RHP

A second round pick in last year’s draft, Sanburn was mainly used a reliever during his final season at the University of Arkansas, just four of his 22 appearances were starts. The former Razorback tossed 40.2 innings, with 49 punch outs (10.8 K/9) but walked a whopping 22 (4.9 BB/9).

Sanburn threw an additional 18.2 innings in the Oakland organization, showing a similar K-rate (9.2) with much improved control (2.9) against the NYPL competition.

Projection: The improvement in his walk rate isn’t likely to stand considering his background. But he’s young enough to develop some semblance of control, and maybe he develops into something more than depth.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

Photo of Dan Straily Courtesy of Ben Margot/AP



About

After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.