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|1. Matt Chapman, 3B|
|Born: 04/28/93||Age: 24||Bats: R||Top CALs: Jerry Sands, Jonathan Greene, Brandon Burgess, Marc Wik, Tyler Kolodny|
|Height: 6-0||Weight: 210||Throws: R|
Background: Just another tremendous job by the front office in – correctly – projecting the third baseman’s as-yet-untapped power coming out of Cal State Fullerton. The former Titan slugged just 13 homeruns in his three years as a starter. Since then, however, Chapman’s been a homerun-hitting machine – particularly over the past two seasons in the High Class A and Class AA. Over his last 215 games, 18 of which came in the Pacific Coast League, the former first round pick has bashed 59 homeruns – or an average of 44 dingers every 162 games. Last season Chapman opened the year up with Midland in the Texas League, hitting .244/.335/.521 with 26 doubles, four triples, and 29 dingers with seven stolen bases – just for good measure. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 41%.
He also put together a pretty torrid 18-game stretch in Class AAA at the end of the year, slugging one double, one triple, and seven homeruns in 76 at bats.
Projection: Per the usual, here’s what I wrote about the slugging third baseman coming out of college:
“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.”
I suspected the power was eventually going to come for Chapman, but I – and probably everyone else, maybe even including the Oakland organization – never suspected that he would unfurl 40-homer thump.
But, perhaps, here’s the most impressive part: only two hitters bested Chapman’s homerun total in Class AA last season – Dylan Cozens and Rhys Hoskins – both of whom played in a fantastically hitter-friendly environment in the Phillies’ organization. As for Chapman, well, once you adjust his numbers with respect to his park, they come out a still solid .240/.333/.512.
Here’s your classic Three True Outcomes hitter, capable of posting a .245/.340/.500 big league line.
Defensively, according to Clay Davenport’s metrics, Chapman has saved 42 runs over the past two season. Yeah, that’ll play.
Ceiling: 4.0- to 4.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2017
|2. Franklin Barreto, 2B/SS|
|Born: 02/27/96||Age: 21||Bats: R||Top CALs: Yamaico Navarro, Amed Rosario, Jorge Polanco, Alen Hanson, Dilson Herrera|
|Height: 5-10||Weight: 190||Throws: R|
Background: Pop Quiz #1: Since 2006, how many shortstops under the age of 21 have stolen more than 30 bases in any Class AA league? The answer: three – Franklin Barreto, Jose Ramirez, and Elvis Andrus. Barreto was acquired at the end of Oakland’s whirlwind 2014 season – one that saw the notoriously prudent franchise pull the trigger and deal top prospect Addison Russell to the Cubs in exchange for veteran right-handers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. Then only a couple months later turn around and send eventual MVP Josh Donaldson to Toronto for a package headlined by the Venezuelan-born shortstop.
From contender to rebuilder in a matter of months – it’s the Oakland Way.
For his part, however, Barreto turned in another stellar campaign against significantly older competition last season. In 119 games with the Midland RockHounds in the Texas League, the 5-foot-10, 190-pound shortstop slugged an impressive .281/.340/.413 with a career best 25 doubles, three triples, and 10 homeruns while swiping 30 bags in 45 attempts.
The then-20-year-old also got a brief – albeit successful – taste of the Pacific Coast League at the end of the year as well, going 6-for-17 with a triple and a dinger.
Projection: I’ve long been a fan of the diminutive, dynamite-laden infielder. Back in my original book (2014) I ranked him as the Jays’ third best prospect, falling only behind some right-handers by the name of Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez. Here’s what I wrote then:
“Barreto bypassed the foreign rookie leagues, which speaks to how the Jays view him. It’s still incredibly early, but he showed a strong hit tool, above-average power, and a decent eye at the plate. And despite the struggles in his 15-game stint in the Gulf, it wouldn’t be out the question to see the 18-year-old in A-ball next season.”
And I followed that up by ranking him as the second best prospect in the Athletics’ system following the trade, writing:
“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 in 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+ 100 or better, and appeared in at least 120 games at shortstop in a season since 2000.
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.
Barreto offers surprising pop, decent plate discipline, above-average speed, and a promising bat. That’s certainly a set of tools to bet on.”
Then in last year’s book I once again named him as the second best prospect in the system, with the following analysis:
“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.”
One year later and one step closer to making an impact at the big league level. Oakland experimented with the promising youngster manning the keystone position – a move that makes sense given his stature and the fact that Marcus Semien is currently blocking his path at shortstop.
After a terrible May, Barreto slugged .322/.381/.486 with 29 extra-base hits over his last 74 games. As predicted, his walk rate bounced back up to the numbers he showed in short season ball. The power is enough to keep pitchers – and outfielders – honest. And both the hit tool and speed are above-average offerings.
He has the makings of a .290/.340/.415 big league hitter.
Ceiling: 4.0-win player
MLB ETA: 2017
|3. A.J. Puk, LHP|
|Born: 04/25/95||Age: 22||Bats: L||Top CALs: Keegan Akin, Kyle Haynes, Austin Wright, Roman Madrid, Matthew Anderson|
|Height: 6-7||Weight: 220||Throws: L|
Background: There was quite a bit of talk leading into – and through – his junior season saying Puk, a 6-foot-7, 220-pound lefty hailing from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, had one helluva chance to go as the top pick in the draft last season. And if it weren’t for a bloated walk rate – he issued 37 free passes in just 73.2 innings – he likely would have heard his name called by the Phillies leading off the opening round. Puk finished his final year with the Gators by fanning a spectacular 101 hitters – or an average of 12.34 strikeouts per nine innings – en route to tallying a personal best 3.05 ERA. For his collegiate career he owns a 249-to-90 strikeout-to-walk ratio in just 192 innings.
Oakland happily snapped up the behemoth southpaw with the sixth overall pick and sent him directly to the New York-Penn League – where he promptly dominated. In 32.2 innings with the Vermont Lake Monsters, Puk averaged 11.0 strikeouts and just 3.3 walks per nine innings.
That’s one helluva start to a professional career.
Projection: Here’s what I wrote about him prior to the draft last season:
“Fun Fact: Between 2011 and 2015 there have been only seven southpaws who have averaged more than 12 K/9 in more than 50 innings, three of which were high round draft picks: Carlos Rodon, Danny Hultzen, and Jacob Lindgren. Puk is on pace to do it a second time in 2016.
So here’s a quote from Richie Martin, Puk’s former teammate and 2015 first round pick, courtesy of Baseball America: “He was throwing 96 to – I think he hit a 99 today.” Needless to say, the fastball velocity is at a premium – and that’s before his handedness is factored in.
Puk’s always missed an above-average amount of bats during his three-year career, fanning nearly 12 hitters every nine innings with the Gators and another nine (in 12 innings) with Team USA. The problem, however, is his lack of control/command – which hasn’t hurt him terribly against much inferior competition.
In three years the big lefty has averaged no fewer than 4.0 walks every nine innings and his walk rate actually took a large step backward in 2016 (4.47 BB/9). Puk’s also been a bit homer-prone as he’s coughed up 18 dingers in just 169 career innings – or about 0.96 HR/9. And, finally, another concern: the data’s rather limited as he’s thrown no more than 78.0 innings at any point in a season.
The quick – and wrong – comparison would be to tie Puk to Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale: both are hard-throwing, lanky lefties. Except that Sale showcased far better control/command. Instead, think of Puk as a similar pitcher to Andrew Miller. Consider the following comparison between two dominant college lefties:
He has front-of-the-rotation caliber potential, but his control/command will likely force him down a notch or two.
Ceiling: 3.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2018/2019
|4. Grant Holmes, RHP|
|Born: 03/22/96||Age: 21||Bats: L||Top CALs: Omar Poveda, Edgar Garcia, Randall Delgado, Giovanni Soto, Aneury Rodriguez|
|Height: 6-1||Weight: 215||Throws: R|
Background: Acquired as part of the Josh Reddick-Rich Hill deal with the Dodgers along with Jharel Cotton and Frankie Montas. Los Angeles grabbed Holmes in the first round out of Conway High School in 2014. And after a dominant debut and an equally impressive run through the Midwest League two years ago, Holmes settled in nicely in High Class A. In 26 games between both organizations, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound right-hander threw a career best 134.0 innings with a solid 124-to-53 K-to-BB ratio to go along with a 4.63 ERA and a 4.09 FIP.
Projection: Between the additions of three of my personal favorite prospects – Franklin Barreto, Frankie Montas, and Grant Holmes – I can come up with only two logical explanations:
- I’m as smart as the Oakland front office
- The Oakland staff is clearly a big fan of my writing
There’s probably a very real, distinct answer – this one involving a lot of luck on my behalf– but I’ll choose to ignore that one for now. Sarcasm clearly applies here, folks…
Anyway, despite a mediocre ERA and FIP last season, Holmes was actually pretty impressive: he was one of only six qualified arms under the age of 21 in any High Class A league last season. And of those other five young arms, only Justus Sheffield and Jack Flaherty posted a better strikeout-to-walk percentage.
But there’s also another interesting fact to point out. Consider his production pre- and post-trade:
- Pre-trade: 105.1 IP, 100 K, 43 BB, 4.02 ERA
- Post-trade: 28.2 IP, 24 K, 10 BB, 6.91 ERA
It might just be a case of the yips following his first big trade. Nevertheless, Holmes looks like a quality #3/#4-type arm in the making.
Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2018/2019
|5. Jharel Cotton, RHP|
|Born: 01/19/92||Age: 25||Bats: R||Top CALs: Wade Leblanc, Nick Tropeano, Philip Humber, David Rollins, Garret Olson|
|Height: 5-11||Weight: 195||Throws: R|
Background: Pop Quiz #1: Among the 57 qualified starting pitchers in either Class AAA league, where did Cotton’s strikeout-to-walk percentage rank last season? The answer: #1. Pop Quiz #2: Since 2006, how many qualified Class AAA arms have posted a better strikeout-to-walk percentage than Cotton’s 21.1%? The answer: one – Tommy Milone. That’s right; just one pitcher over the last 11 seasons has posted a better strikeout-to-walk percentage than Cotton’s mark last season. On a side note: I don’t think it’s a coincidence that both of the aforementioned pitchers found their ways to Oakland. Anyway, not too shabby for a former 20th round pick out of East Carolina University. Last season, between both the Oakland and Los Angeles organizations, the 5-foot-11, 195-pound right-hander threw a career best 135.2 innings with 155 strikeouts and just 39 walks to go along with a 4.33 FIP. For his career, Cotton has averaged 10 punch outs and just 2.6 free passes per nine innings with a 3.68 ERA.
Projection: Oh, you know, just another favorite arm of mine the club seems content on collecting. He first popped up on my prospect radar in the 2015 Handbook when I ranked him as the Dodgers’ 17th best prospect, writing:
“There aren’t too many sub-6-foot starting pitchers in the big leagues, and given the club’s…ahem…limitless pockets, Cotton’s probably going to get pushed into a late-inning relief role. Sneaky good.”
And it looked like I was correct in surmising that he’d end up in a relief role as I wrote the following in last year’s book:
“The transition to the bullpen is apparently underway: after making 16 starts between the Midwest, California, and Texas Leagues last season, Cotton pitched exclusively out of the pen over the season’s final six weeks. And the move wasn’t likely precipitated by an innings cap either; he tossed 126.2 innings two years ago and finished last season with 95.2 frames. His work as a reliever: 12.0 IP, 18 strikeouts, and four walks. He could bounce between a very good middle relief arm and solid setup man.”
Well, guess what? The Dodgers’ pulled a 180 and pushed the diminutive hurler back to the rotation last season and he sparkled.
Cotton was buried by the Dodgers’ payroll and shear depth. He should find a nice home in Oakland as a solid, and incredibly underrated, mid-rotation caliber arm. He’s also had a couple hiccups with the long ball, so the Coliseum should suppress that quite a bit next year.
Finally, during his debut Cotton showed a low 90s fastball, a hard cutter, curveball, and changeup.
Ceiling: 2.5- win player
Risk: Low to Moderate
MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016
|6. Frankie Montas, RHP|
|Born: 03/21/93||Age: 24||Bats: R||Top CALs: Luke Jackson, Anthony Banda, Randall Delgado, Jose Ortegano, Michael Feliz|
|Height: 6-2||Weight: 255||Throws: R|
Background: Talk about a man on the move. If Montas owned one of those suitcases from 1940s it’d be littered with travel stickers from all of the country. Let’s just count the miles he spent moving from organization to organization to organization over the past three-plus years:
- Boston sent Montas to the White Sox as part of three-team deal near the trade deadline in 2013.
- Roughly two-and-a-half years later Chicago sent him packing in another three-team deal that sent him to the Dodgers.
- And that stay in LA lasted all of 7.5 months as the Dodgers shipped him – as well as Grant Holmes and Jharel Cotton – to the Athletics in exchange for Rich Hill and Josh Reddick.
For those interested that’s about 3,300 miles in between all four organizations. You have to hope he signed up for frequent flier miles, right?
Anyway, as for his actual production…well…Montas didn’t exactly see much action on the mound last season; he was limited to just 16.0 innings between the Texas and Pacific Coast Leagues thanks to a rib resection surgery, a similar operation as the thoracic outlet procedure.
Projection: I’ve been on the Montas Bandwagon for a long time. I originally listed him as a Top 25 Breakout Prospect for 2014; the same year as I ranked him as the fifth best prospect in Chicago’s system. I upped the ante even further by listing him as the Sox’s second best prospect the following year, behind only budding ace Carlos Rodon.
Then in last year’s book I had him as the fourth best minor leaguer in a loaded Dodgers farm system, noting the following:
- During his 15.0-inning stint with Chicago last season Montas’ fastball averaged a shade over 96 mph. He complemented with a mid-80s slider, and a ridiculously hard, upper-80s changeup.
- Last season his strikeout percentage, 23.2%, ranked fourth among all qualified arms in the Southern League.
- His strikeout-to-walk percentage, 12.9%, finished as the fifth best mark in the league.
- Among all qualified arms in any Class AA level, his strikeout percentage was the sixth best; his strikeout-to-walk percentage ranked 15th.
His ceiling still resides in the upper half of a rotation, but he’s also missed significant time at various points in his career thanks to some freakish injuries. Fingers crossed that he can put together one healthy season. At the very least he’s a dominant – and I mean dominant – backend reliever.
Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player
MLB ETA: Debuted in 2015
|7. Daniel Gossett, RHP|
|Born: 11/13/92||Age: 24||Bats: R||Top CALs: Brad Mills, Cy Sneed, Chase Johnson, Erik Davis, Steven Matz|
|Height: 6-2||Weight: 185||Throws: R|
Background: Fun Fact Part I: Gossett’s 2.57 FIP topped the Texas League (minimum 90 innings). Fun Fact Part II: Among all Class AA arms with 90 innings, only Milwaukee’s Brandon Woodruff posted a better FIP (2.49 vs. 257). Fun Fact Part III: Oakland’s young right-hander posted the fifth best strikeout-to-walk percentage among all Class AA arms. Despite a dominant – and I do mean dominant – junior season with Clemson, Gossett, who posted a 107-to-30 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 107 innings with a 1.93 ERA, wasn’t taken until the second round, 65th overall. And after a disappointingly lackluster showing in the Midwest League two years ago, it looked like that Gossett’s dominance was all but a pipedream; in 144.2 innings with the Beloit Snappers the 6-foot-2, 185-pound right-hander posted a mediocre 112-to-52 strikeout-to-walk ratio en route to tallying a poor 4.49 FIP. But something seemed to click in him last season because he hardly resembled the same pitcher.
Gossett opened up 2016 with nine impressive starts in High Class A. Then he made the Texas League hitters look foolish over another 16 starts before making a brief, two-game appearance in the PCL. When the dust had finally settled, Gossett threw 153.2 innings while fanning 151 and walking just 41. He finished the year with a 2.94 FIP.
Projection: First, here’s what I wrote about the promising right-hander coming out of college three years ago:
“Sort of a sleeper. Gossett’s one of the better collegiate arms available in the draft and, yet, he somehow isn’t recognized as one. The important numbers – his strikeout and walk rates – have been trending in the right direction for quite some time.
He is a potential big league #4 [starter] – an innings eater who will miss some bats, limit some walks, and give up the occasional homerun.”
The original analysis still stands. Hell, it may have been a little low after his 2016 showing.
One of the most impressive things about Gossett’s season happened over his final seven games with the RockHounds in Class AA: he threw 45.1 innings and posted an absurd 49-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Oh, yeah, one final note: among all minor league hurlers with 150+ innings last season, Gossett’s 2.94 FIP was third best (out of 78 total arms).
Ceiling: 2.0-win player
MLB ETA: 2017
|8. Lazaro Armenteros, OF|
|Born: 05/22/95||Age: 18||Bats: R||Top CALs: N/A
|Height: 6-2||Weight: 205||Throws: R|
Background: The A’s made some waves on the international market when they signed the teenage outfielder out of Cuba for $3 million last July.
Projection: The only statistical data I could dig up on the young outfielder was stated in an article on ESPN. He batted .462 for Cuba in the 15-U World Cup in Mexico two years ago. And he also slugged .416 with a league-leading six homeruns in Cuba’s 15-U that year. The money they doled out was equivalent a Top 20 bonus in the draft last season.
Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell
MLB ETA: N/A
|9. Matt Olson, 1B/RF|
|Born: 03/29/94||Age: 23||Bats: L||Top CALs: Jon Singleton, Chris Parmalee, Dan Vogelbach, Lars Anderson, Nelson Rodriguez|
|Height: 6-5||Weight: 230||Throws: R|
Background: Olson announced his prospect status with authority – like a bad ass villain – three years ago. The former first round pick mashed to the tune of .262/.404/.543 with 31 doubles, one triple, and 37 homeruns in High Class A – at the ripe ol’ age of 20. What followed was one great season and a year of modest production. The hulking first baseman/right fielder slugged .249/.388/.438 with a 132 wRC+ in Class AA, the minors’ toughest challenge, a year later. But he saw a noticeable downturn in offensive numbers as he moved up to the hitter-friendly PCL last season, batting .235/.335/.422 with 34 doubles, one triple, and 17 homeruns to go along with a 102 wRC+. Olson also made a brief 11-game appearance in Oak-town at the end of the year as well, hitting a lowly – and rather odd – .095/.321/.143.
Projection: Tremendous, tremendous patience at the plate; Olson’s walked in more than 15% of his total plate appearances. And the power, while it’s declined since his offensive outburst three years ago, is above-average skill – perhaps, peaking in the 20- to 25-HR territory at the big league level. The hit tool, though, has been quite underwhelming. Throw in the fact that’s he’s been completely helpless against fellow southpaws the past two seasons, and it’s a recipe for a part-time – albeit potentially dominant – platoon bat.
Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player
Risk: Moderate to High
MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016
|10. Daulton Jefferies, RHP|
|Born: 08/02/95||Age: 21||Bats: L||Top CALs: N/A
|Height: 6-0||Weight: 180||Throws: R|
Background: Fun Fact: Despite churning out some impressive talent throughout the school’s history – Jeff Kent, Andy Messersmith, Brandon Morrow, Tyson Ross, Marcus Semien, Allen Craig, and Xavier Nady – the University of California went seven years between first round selections. Jefferies, who followed former Cubs top prospect Brett Jackson as the school’s latest first round pick, sparkled during his final two seasons with the Golden Bears. He threw 80.0 innings with an extraordinary 74-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio en route to tallying a 2.93 ERA during his sophomore season. And he looked poised for even bigger things during his junior campaign – 50.0 IP, 53 K, 8 BB, and a 1.08 – before a shoulder injury shortened what could have been a magical year for the slight-framed right-hander. The 6-foot, 180-pound hurler looked completely healthy during his pro debut, posting a 17-to-2 strikeout-to-walk
Projection: Per the usual, here’s what I wrote prior to the draft last season:
“Another one of the better arms in this year’s draft class, Jefferies has a long history of above-average control and he’s strikeout rates have been borderline spectacular the last two seasons. The lone question surrounding Jefferies will be whether he – and his small frame – can withstand grabbing the ball every fifth day. If he can, he looks like a #3-type arm.”
Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player
Risk: Moderate to High
MLB ETA: N/A
Author’s note: A special hat tip the following websites for the use of the their statistics – fangraphs, baseballreference, baseballprospectus, statcorner, and ClayDavenport.com