The 2016 Oakland A’s Top 10 Prospects

Announcement: After peaking as the #3 book among all baseball books on Amazon last year, my new book, The 2016 Prospect Digest Handbook, is on sale! Check it out here!

And for those wondering what CALs are, here’s an article on the Comparison And Likeness program I designed.

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1. Sean Manaea, LHP                                                       
Born: 02/01/92 Age: 24 Bats: L Top CALs: Jake Arrieta, CC Lee,

Jhonny Nunez, Brad Mills, Scott Elbert

Height: 6-5 Weight: 235 Throws: L
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 22 A+ 121.7 7 8 3.11 3.11 10.80 3.99 28.4% 10.5% 0.37 69.5%
2015 23 R 5.0 0 0 1.80 5.22 10.80 1.80 31.6% 5.3% 1.80 100.0%
2015 23 A+ 19.7 1 0 3.66 1.78 10.07 1.83 27.2% 4.9% 0.00 55.6%
2015 23 AA 49.7 6 1 2.36 3.24 11.23 3.81 29.7% 10.1% 0.72 82.8%

Background: One of my favorite prospects in the entire 2013 draft class, Manaea, nonetheless, tumbled to the 34th overall pick due to some hip issues. And the Royals, playing the under-slot early-pick-and-spend-big-later-game, grabbed Manaea and signed him to a hefty $3.5 million deal. Two years later KC packaged the former Indiana State hurler along with right-hander Aaron Brooks for the services of Ben Zobrist, a move that’s already paid off in a big way for Kansas City, but could also come up huge for Oakland in the coming years. Assuming Manaea can stay healthy. Last year, in another injury-shortened campaign, the 6-foot-5 southpaw made 13 starts between the Carolina and Texas Leagues, totaling just 69.1 innings with 84 punch outs and 25 walks with a 2.73 ERA. For his brief professional career, he’s sporting an impressive 236-to-80 strikeout-to-walk ratio in just 196.0 innings of work.

Projection: Relax. The injury was an abdominal strain, not of the arm variety. Ignoring his ability – or inability – to put together a healthy campaign, Manaea’s numbers have been nothing short of phenomenal since entering pro ball. He’s punched out nearly 29% of the batters he’s faced while walking 9.7%. He’s breezed through two stints in High Class A and made it look quite easy in his seven-game tryout in Class AA. Outside of the Dodgers’ Julio Urias, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better southpaw pitching prospect. As long as he stays healthy.

Ceiling: 3.3- to 3.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

2. Franklin Barreto, SS                                                  
Born: 02/27/96 Age: 20 Bats: R Top CALs: Alen Hanson, Richard Urena,

Corey Seager, Bryan Cuevas, Claudio Bautista

Height: 5-9 Weight: 175 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 17 R 194 16 6 4 0.299 0.368 0.529 0.230 6.7% 21.6% 161
2014 18 A- 328 23 4 6 0.311 0.384 0.481 0.170 7.9% 19.5% 141
2015 19 A+ 364 22 3 13 0.302 0.333 0.500 0.198 4.1% 18.4% 122

Background: Clearly things don’t look well for Oakland’s chances to come out ahead in the Josh Donaldson-for-Brett-Lawrie offseason deal with Toronto. For those counting at home Donaldson mashed to the tune of .297/.371/.568 while setting career bests in nearly every single offensive category: doubles (41), homeruns (41), RBI (123), wRC+ (154), wins above replacement (8.8 bWAR and 8.7 fWAR), and slugging percentage (.568). Brett Lawrie, on the other hand, performed like…Brett Lawrie.  The new Oakland third baseman batted .261/.316/.406 between 2012 and 2014, his last three full seasons in Toronto. He followed that up by hitting .260/.299/.407 in Oakland. It’s nearly identical. Two other players acquired by Oakland in the deal – Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin – are backend starters, at best. So it’s up to Barreto, a foot-nothing shortstop, to help firm up Oakland’s side of the deal. And he’s doing just that.

A tiny-sized shortstop, Barreto packs more offensive punch than his 5-foot-9, 175-pound frame belies. And he’s continued to defy anyone that suggests otherwise too.

Barreto opened up his professional career as a 17-year-old in the Gulf Coast League, hitting .299/.368/.529. Toronto bumped him up for a quick – and largely underwhelming – 15-game crash course in the Appalachian League to close out his debut. He spent the next year, his final in the Toronto organization, batting .311/.384/.481 with 33 extra-base hits in Short-Season ball.

Upon acquiring Barreto, Oakland made another bold decision and pushed the promising shortstop straight up to Stockton. And he was nothing short of spectacular. In an injury-shortened campaign, he slugged .302/.333/.500 with 22 doubles, three triples, and 13 homeruns – in just 90 games. Prorating that over a full minor league season: 34 doubles, five triples, and 20 homeruns.

Just one more interesting tidbit: the last time a 19-year-old shortstop posted a wRC+ total of at least 122 was in 2013, former Oakland A’s top prospect Addison Russell.

 

Projection: In last year’s book I wrote:

“And now the bad news, sort of: the Venezuelan-born shortstop, who originally signed with Toronto for a shade under $1.5 million in 2012, stands just 5-foot-9. To put that into perspective, only five players – David Eckstein, Jimmy Rollins, Miguel Tejada, Omar Vizquel, and Rafael Furcal – have stood 5-foot-9 or less, posted an OPS+ [of] 100 or better, and appeared in at least 120 games.

And not to throw out something so cliché, but this is such an Oakland move – acquiring a promising offensive-minded prospect despite any perceived physical limitations. You really do have to love that type of mentality. CAL is also a pretty big fan of Barreto’s just two seasons into his career, linking him to Dilson Herrera, Alen Hanson, and former A’s shortstop of the future Addison Russell.”

Well, he didn’t add any height to his vertically challenged frame. And CAL is still a fan by tying him to Dodgers current shortstop of the future Corey Seager.

While Stockton’s home field tends to inflate power numbers – his overall production, according to StatCorner, drops from .302/.333/.500 to .300/.330/.481 – Barreto has such a strong foundation in place for future success: above-average power, strong contact rates, solid-average or better hit tool, and speed. His lone red flag is a bit nitpick-y: he walked just 4.1% of the time last season, but that number was a lot higher in Short-Season ball two years ago. It remains to be seen if his small stature will allow him to stay at shortstop, but there’s plenty of offensive firepower here.

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

3. Matt Olson, 1B                                                                
Born: 03/29/94 Age: 22 Bats: L Top CALs: Chris Parmelee, Chris Carter,

Jonathan Rodriguez, Nick Weglarz, Jaff Decker

Height: 6-5 Weight: 230 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 19 A 558 32 0 23 0.225 0.326 0.435 0.210 12.9% 26.5% 114
2014 20 A+ 634 31 1 37 0.262 0.404 0.543 0.281 18.5% 21.6% 145
2015 21 AA 585 37 0 17 0.249 0.388 0.438 0.189 17.9% 23.8% 132
2015 21 AA 585 37 0 17 0.249 0.388 0.438 0.189 17.9% 23.8% 132

Background: If you were to sculpt the prototypical Oakland’s A’s slugging prospect it’d probably look something like the former supplemental first rounder: Olson stands a hulking 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, bats left and throws right, offers up oodles and oodles of power, walks at elite clips, and posts incredibly wRC+ totals despite some poor batting averages. And Olson continued to perform like…well…the typical Oakland A’s brooding slugger. In 133 games for Midland, the then-21-year-old first baseman slugged .249/.388/.438 with 37 doubles, 17 homeruns, and a ridiculously favorable 139-to-105 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His walk percentage last season, 17.9%, ranked fifth among all stateside prospects in full season ball.

Projection: Left-handers have given Olson some fits throughout the past couple of seasons: he’s posted OPSs of .613, .895, and .722 over the past three seasons. And while he’s not completely helpless against them, he could be a potential platoon bat if everything doesn’t work out. And just as I pointed out in last year’s book, CAL seems a little…hesitant at this point, linking him to Chris Parmelee, Chris Carter, Jonathan Rodriguez, Nick Weglarz, and Jaff Decker.

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2016

 

 

4. Renato Nunez, 1B/3B                                               
Born: 04/04/94 Age: 22 Bats: R Top CALs: Aderlin Rodriguez, Christian Villanueva,

Brandon Laird, Jeimer Candelario, Matt Davidson

Height: 6-1 Weight: 200 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 19 A 545 27 0 19 0.258 0.301 0.423 0.165 5.1% 25.0% 102
2014 20 A+ 562 28 3 29 0.279 0.336 0.517 0.238 6.0% 20.1% 117
2015 21 AA 416 23 0 18 0.278 0.332 0.480 0.202 6.7% 15.9% 124

Background: Another year, another quietly favorable year of production for Nunez. But it also marks the second consecutive year his wRC+ total has crept up. Going back to his debut in full season ball in 2013, Nunez has posted wRC+ marks of 102, 117, and 124 all the while being much younger than his competition. Last season, he slugged .278/.332/.480 with 23 doubles and 18 homeruns. But his overall production spiked tremendously after a slow start. Nunez batted .298/.331/.522 over his final 71 games. For his career, he’s sporting a .276/.32/.473 triple-slash line, with 108 doubles, six triples, and 75 homeruns in 440 games.

Projection: In last year’s book I wrote:

“Sort of a light Three True Outcomes hitter, Nunez has always flashed impressive power – he owns a career .195 Isolated Power – and a questionable bat. He’s always been young for his level of competition. But CAL isn’t overly impressed. Defensively, he took a hufe step forward last season.”

Nunez more or less matched his previous season’s triple-slash line (.279/.336/.517 vs. .278/.332/.480) despite moving up to arguably the most challenging minor league level. The power still grades out as an above-average skill and he shows a surprisingly strong contact rate. Oakland began shifting him from the hot corner to third base last season, so it’ll be interesting to see where he fits long term. There’s some offensive upside here, but CAL remains utterly unimpressed. If everything breaks the right way, Nunez could be a .260/.320/.415-type big league stick.

Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2014

 

5. Dillon Overton, LHP                                                   
Born: 08/17/91 Age: 24 Bats: L Top CALs: Tom Boleska, Chris Schwinden,

Chad Jenkins, Zack Segovia, Zachary Neal

Height: 5-11 Weight: 175 Throws: L
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 22 R 22.0 0 2 1.64 1.90 12.68 1.23 35.2% 3.4% 0.00 66.7%
2014 22 A- 15.0 0 1 2.40 0.91 13.20 0.60 37.9% 1.7% 0.00 69.2%
2015 23 A+ 61.3 2 4 3.82 4.07 8.66 1.76 23.9% 4.9% 1.03 71.4%
2015 23 AA 64.7 5 2 3.06 3.34 6.54 2.09 17.7% 5.6% 0.56 78.0%

Background: I pegged the former Sooner left-hander as one of my Top 25 Breakout Prospects for 2015 and wrote the following: “Healthy for the first time since he was fronting Oklahoma’s rotation as a sophomore in 2012, Overton, who missed the second half of 2013 and the majority of [2014], sparkled during his brief return last season. He should have everyone talking by midseason.” Well, didn’t have everyone talking, but put together an incredibly strong campaign in 2015 – some would say even a breakout. Overton began the year by making 14 appearances, 12 of which were starts, with Stockton in the California League, averaging nearly a punch out per inning while displaying incredible control. Oakland bumped him up to Midland in early July and he made another 13 starts (64.2 innings, 47 strikeouts, and 15 walks). He would finish his first healthy campaign by averaging 7.6 strikeouts and just 1.9 free passes per nine innings.

Projection: It’s hard to remember that it was Overton, not Jonathan Gray, who was supposed to front the Sooners’ rotation heading into his injury-plagued junior campaign. But life happens. And Overton’s already gained his previously promising form. He won’t miss a whole lot of bats at the big league level, maybe something like 7.2 or 7.3 K/9 during his peak years, but he commands the zone well to help compensate for the lack of punch outs. He’s a bit fly ball-prone, so it’s fortunate he’ll be spending half of his time pitching in the Coliseum. Solid #4-caliber arm with a peak as a decent #3.

Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2016

 

6. Daniel Mengden, RHP                                             
Born: 02/19/93 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: Cy Sneed, Justin Souza,

Sammy Solis, Paul Phillips, Eric Gonzalez

Height: 6-2 Weight: 190 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 21 R 6.3 0 0 4.26 0.51 15.63 0.00 44.0% 0.0% 0.00 40.0%
2014 21 A- 4.7 0 0 1.93 1.51 11.57 1.93 31.6% 5.3% 0.00 83.3%
2015 22 A 38.7 4 1 1.16 2.65 8.38 1.86 23.5% 5.2% 0.23 85.5%
2015 22 A+ 92.0 6 3 4.79 4.30 8.71 2.74 22.2% 7.0% 0.98 66.4%

Background: Not to be confused with Daniel Gossett, Mengden, a fourth round pick out of Texas A&M two years ago, was acquired from the Astros at the trade deadline for Scott Kazmir. The handlebar-mustachioed right-hander made quick work of the Midwest League in eight games, showed promise in 10 starts with Lancaster, but was ultimately plagued by some bad luck, and was equally solid following his acquisition. Overall, Mengden, a former position-player-turned-pitcher, tossed 130.2 innings across both levels (and in both organizations) while fanning 125 and walking just 36. Again, his aggregate ERA, 3.72, is a bit inflated thanks to his bloated BABIP (.367) with Lancaster and inflated homerun rate (1.28 HR/9) with Stockton.

Projection: I’ve always, always been a big fan of the former fourth round pick. Here’s what I wrote before the 2014 draft:

“I have a thing for position-players-turned-pitchers. Their arms have less wear-and-tear, they’re still learning to hone the craft and, subsequently, there’s still quite a bit of projection left, more so than the average collegiate player. My all-time favorite, of course, is Royals’ top prospect Kyle Zimmer.

And Mengden’s no different.

He’s already shown above-average control/command and an impressive ability to miss bats in the tough SEX, which should only improve as he gains more experience. Mengden’s not an elite pitching prospect, but he does have a pretty high ceiling, something along the lines of a steady #3.”

Mengden was able to maintain his strikeout rate while showing a strong feel for the zone in High Class A last season – a definite positive. Add in his ability to generate a ton of action on the ground – his groundball rate was typically been better than average – and Mengden looks like a big league, middle-of-the-rotation caliber arm.

Ceiling: 2.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

7. Chad Pinder, SS                                                      
Born: 03/29/92 Age: 24 Bats: R Top CALs: Adolfo Gonzalez, Jeff Bianchi,

Daniel Mayora, Derek Dietrich, Junior Lake

Height: 6-2 Weight: 190 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 21 A- 161 4 0 3 0.200 0.286 0.293 0.093 7.5% 25.5% 81
2014 22 A+ 436 32 5 13 0.288 0.336 0.489 0.201 5.0% 22.7% 112
2015 23 AA 522 32 2 15 0.317 0.361 0.486 0.170 5.4% 19.7% 135

Background: After dabbling with the move from second base to diamond’s most important defensive position two years ago, the organization made the full commitment to switch Pinder to shortstop in 2015. And, of course, there were noticeable bumps along the way; he committed 26 errors at the position last season. But Pinder’s offensive game didn’t seem to mind the change. In fact, he flourished. Spending the entire season in Class AA, the former second round pick out of Virginia batted .317/.361/.486 while setting a career high in homeruns (15) and tying his previous best in doubles (32). His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 35% — also a professional best.

Projection: I have two thoughts about Pinder. Well, two main thoughts:

  1. He sort of reminds of former Oakland farmhand Mark Teahen, whom the A’s – and GM Billy Beane – shipped off as part of the three-team mega-deal involving Carlos Beltran to Houston and Octavio Dotel coming to Oakland. But it’s more of a sense that I don’t see Pinder playing in the Athletics’ organization for much longer because he’s probably going to get shipped off at the peak of his value.
  2. With that being said, I’ve never been a particularly huge fan of Pinder, writing in his pre-draft analysis “that he doesn’t look like a future big league regular, unless his plate discipline and power numbers improve noticeably.” Well, they have and so do his odds of carving out a quasi-regular role at the game’s pinnacle level.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018

 

8. Casey Meisner, RHP                                                   
Born: 05/22/95 Age: 21 Bats: R Top CALs: Arquimedes Nieto, Jairo Heredia,

Colton Cain, Nick Additon, Jayson Aquino

Height: 6-7 Weight: 190 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 18 R 35.3 1 3 3.06 2.81 7.13 2.55 19.4% 6.9% 0.00 59.5%
2014 19 A- 62.3 5 3 3.75 3.18 9.67 2.60 24.2% 6.5% 0.58 64.8%
2015 20 A 76.0 7 2 2.13 3.64 7.82 2.25 21.9% 6.3% 0.71 84.0%
2015 20 A+ 32.3 3 1 2.78 3.35 6.68 1.95 18.5% 5.4% 0.28 67.5%
2015 20 A+ 35.0 3 2 2.83 4.71 5.91 3.60 15.0% 9.2% 1.03 74.9%

Background: Another fantastic pickup at the trade deadline. The club flipped offseason acquisition Tyler Clippard into promising right-hander Casey Meisner. A third round pick by the Mets in 2013, Meisner, like fellow mid-season pick Jacob Nottingham, was in the midst of a breakout season. The 6-foot-7, 190-pound rail-thin right-hander opened the year with 12 dominant starts in the Sally, posting a 3.64 FIP while averaging 7.82 strikeouts and just 2.25 walks per nine innings. Sandy Alderson & Co. bumped him up to the Florida State League in later June for another six starts before agreeing to part with him. After the acquisition, Meisner made another seven starts in High Class A, this time the Florida State League. He finished the year with a combined 2.45 ERA and a 113-to-40 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 143.1 innings of work.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:

“It’s almost getting too repetitive at this point, a little broken record-esque for those who remember them, but Meisner’s another one of the franchise’s under-the-radar-type arms. And despite the massive height, he does really well [in] pounding the zone consistently. CAL likens him to Zach McAllister. [He’s a] solid back-end of the rotation arm.”

After originally pegging him as a 1.0- to 1.5-win player last year, I’d bump that up a notch. Meisner generates a lot of action on the ground, continues to pound the zone with regularity, and still has some projection left in his lanky frame. He won’t blow anyone away with his heater, but it obviously plays up due to his size. There’s #3/#4-type upside here.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

 

9. Matt Chapman, 3B                                              
Born: 04/28/93 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: Tyler Kolodny, Marc Wik,

Jose Brizuela, Joe Sanders, David Vidal

Height: 6-2 Weight: 205 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 21 A 202 9 3 5 0.242 0.287 0.400 0.158 3.5% 22.3% 96
2015 22 A+ 352 21 3 23 0.250 0.341 0.566 0.316 11.1% 22.4% 139

Background: The club’s first round pick out of Cal State Fullerton two years ago got off to a bit of an auspicious pro debut, hitting a less-than-stellar .237/.282/.389. A former two-way player for the Titans during his three-year tenure, Chapman, who highlighted as a flame-throwing reliever at times, blossomed in the hitters’ haven known as Stockton last season. In an injury-shortened season, something that was pretty common in the Oakland farm system, Chapman batted .250/.341/.566 with 21 doubles, a trio of triples, 23 homeruns, and added four stolen bases for good measure. His overall production topped the Cal League average mark 39%, the ninth best showing in the league last year. And now the bad news: according to StatCorner.com, Chapman’s triple-slash line drops from .250/.341/.566 to .240/.330/.524 once adjusting for Stockton’s home park.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote prior to the 2014 draft:

“Now the bad news: the Titans’ home ballpark is incredibly hitter-friendly, so much so, in fact, that his 2013 park-adjusted wOBA (according to CollegeSplits) is 13 points lower than his raw total. On the positive side, Chapman’s power is solid-average with the potential to peak in the 17- to 20-HR range; the plate discipline is decent, as is the hit tool.

If everything breaks right, Chapman could develop into a league average regular (depending upon his defense). Nice solid prospect, far from elite.”

Apparently, I enjoy the phrase “now the bad news.” All joking aside, the analysis still holds true. Chapman has been the beneficiary of some hitter friendly home environments, but his numbers remain solid after adjustments are made. He’s basically the poor man’s version of Chad Pinder. Nice power, questionable hit too, solid eye at the plate.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

10. R.J. Alvarez, RHP                                                      
Born: 06/08/91 Age: 25 Bats: R Top CALs: Neil Ramirez, CC Lee,

Dan Jennings, Brandon Peterson, Jordan Norberto

Height: 6-2 Weight: 215 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 22 A+ 48.7 4 2 2.96 2.85 14.61 4.99 38.0% 13.0% 0.37 78.1%
2014 23 AA 43.3 0 1 1.25 1.48 12.67 2.70 36.1% 7.7% 0.00 84.8%
2015 24 AAA 35.0 3 3 4.11 3.54 10.54 4.37 26.3% 10.9% 0.51 68.4%

Background: One could make the argument that since 2012, no other minor league reliever has been more dominant – and consistently dominant – than Alvarez. A third round pick out of Florida Atlantic, Alvarez’s minor league track record is pretty impressive – and extensive. In 154.1 innings (spread out over four seasons), the hard-throwing right-hander has fanned 219 of the 655 total batters he’s faced, or just about one out of every three batters to dig in against him. He continued that trend last season, his first year in the Oakland organization. Making 31 appearances with Nashville in the PCL, Alvarez posted a 41-to17 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 35.0 innings. And for the second consecutive season he spent some time at the big league level – albeit a disastrous time. In 20.0 innings with Oakland he coughed up seven dingers and 22 earned runs. Ouch.

Projection: Mid 90s fastball with some spotty control issues. Alvarez has the talent and ability to develop into a late-inning, shutdown reliever – if his control/command can take a step or two forward. Along with the prodigious strikeout rates he’s sporting some big walk totals as well. The work in the big leagues last season should prove to just be one horrific blip on the screen.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2014

 

 

Note: All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.com.



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.