I have a confession to make. I grew up in South Jersey and I bleed Phillies burgundy. But over the past few years, I’ve grown more and more fond of the A’s. I’m even staying up past my bedtime to watch them. Maybe it was Moneyball. Maybe it’s exciting players like Chapman. Maybe it’s their fans. Maybe it’s the way they approach personnel. Whatever it is…they’re fun. And this minor league system is fun. It has a bit of everything. Heisman candidate? Check. First-round arm recovering from TJS? Check. Cuban stud muffin? Check. It’s deep, and it was difficult to whittle this list down to ten (pro tip: if you want to sound cool…say the ‘h’ before the ‘w’ in whittle…thank me later). It would have been even harder to put this together if Franklin Barreto, Renato Nunez, Dustin Fowler, and Ramon Laureano hadn’t graduated. But that’s the fun/challenging part of the gig. I have to pick ten guys in a system with more than ten decent specs to talk about. Then I get to defend my choices on the interwebs. #Blessed.
1. Jorge Mateo, SS/OF | Age: 23 | ETA: 2019
Mateo’s stock is down after a disappointing year in Triple-A (25 steals, .230 average, .280 OBP), but the combination of 80 speed and a little pop is hard to pass on. It’s personal preference, but I lean bats over arms when all else appears equal. That’s why I’m sticking with Mateo in this top spot. There are probably owners out there feeling the fatigue, so I’m exploring what I can get away with to acquire Mateo on the cheap this offseason. The 2019 ETA will put him on some redraft radars as well. This feels like a make-or-break year.
2. Jesus Luzardo, LHP | Age: 21 | ETA: 2020
Luzardo’s stock, meanwhile, just continues to rise. He’s in the rarified air of “best pitching prospects” now. The lefty threw 109 innings across three leagues in 2018 and posted a 129/30 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Everything is plus or better – the heater, the curve, the change, the control. He’s the total package and we’ll probably see him get a cup of coffee in late 2019.
3. A.J. Puk, LHP | Age: 23 | ETA: 2020
There’s not a whole lot to discuss here since Puk missed the entire 2018 campaign recovering from Tommy John surgery. His fastball/slider combo is nasty so it’s a matter of developing the feel. That will take a bit of time after the injury. If the A’s feel he’s ready, Puk might also be in the mix for some MLB innings later this year.
4. Lazaro Armenteros, OF | Age: 19 | ETA: 2021
Lazarito is a toolbox the A’s signed out of Cuba back in 2016. He’s a strong, athletic player with both power and speed. In 79 games in the Midwest League this year, he hit .277 with eight homers and eight steals. There’s a decent amount of upside to gamble on in the offensive profile, even if his defense confines him to left field. Now’s a good time to buy in before he hits the upper levels.
5. Sean Murphy, C | Age: 24 | ETA: 2019
Murphy gets tagged as a defense-first catcher – which he is – but there’s enough offense here to make him interesting in fantasy. He spent the majority of the 2018 season in Double-A, where he hit .288 with eight homers and three steals. I wrote off Austin Hedges back in the day, and he’s made me eat crow by averaging sixteen homers over the past two years…in San Diego! I don’t usually invest in catchers, but Murphy looks like the best bet after Mejia.
6. Austin Beck, OF | Age: 19 | ETA: 2021
There are a handful of outfield prospects converging on Oakland around 2021, and Beck is one of the better ones. You could argue he is just as toolsy as Armenteros, with above-average power and speed. It’s just a question as to whether his plate discipline will allow both to play up. He’s an interesting ‘buy low’ because once he figures out the approach he could take off.
7. Kyler Murray, OF | Age: 21 | ETA: 2021
Ranking Murray is kind of a crap shoot. Obviously he’s a stud athlete – currently second in the Heisman voting as Oklahoma’s quarterback – but there isn’t a whole lot to go on in terms of predicting his baseball future. The A’s rolled the dice on him in the first round of the draft, and Boras says he’s going to play baseball. I’m placing him here assuming that’s the case. At worst his speed and athleticism should carry him for a while. At best he’s the next Bo Jackson!?
8. Kevin Merrell, SS | Age: 22 | ETA: 2020
Merrell strikes me as a safe low-ceiling/high-floor type of player that’s handy to have around on a dynasty roster. He’ll likely stick up the middle on defense, while his double-plus speed and above-average hit tool should keep him in a lineup, perhaps as a table setter. If he had even a touch of pop I’d throw him in the tier above, but that’s not his game.
9. Greg Deichmann, OF | Age: 23 | ETA: 2020
A power bat from the left side, Deichmann missed time in 2018 due to a wrist injury. He’s a bit old for high-A, so it’ll be interesting to see what he does with the jump to Double-A this year. He fits the three-outcome mold with high strikeout and walk rates to go along with the above-average power.
10. Jameson Hannah, OF | Age: 21 | ETA: 2021
Hannah has plus speed and a decent enough hit tool. There’s just not much power in the bat and he’s yet to reach the upper levels of the minors. He looks like a fourth outfielder in real life and a depth piece in dynasty leagues with the chance for a bit more to develop in the next year or two.