Compiling this piece as Billy Beane’s tenure in Oakland reportedly draws to a close, I could not help but wonder what his career would have looked like had Jeff Lunhow never come to Houston. The rest of that division has not been formidable these past few cycles. Do the A’s win the division and skip the Wild Card game every year? Does that help them get over the hump? I realize this sort of speculation is all but useless to the functioning of a society, but when we were tallying up the tab on trashcan gate, I don’t think we stopped to measure the cost of that scandal on the memory of Billy Beane. We didn’t know his days in baseball were numbers in the hundreds at the time, but now that we do, I’m thinking his legacy was more impacted by the banging in Houston than just about anyone’s. Makes me think a lot of fans, myself included, would like to see this team catch all the lucky breaks some October, is all I’m saying.
Perhaps these prospects can help.
Format: Position Player | Age on 4/1/2021 | Highest level played | ETA
1. LHP A.J. Puk | 26 | MLB | 2019
This enormous trickster got some shine last Spring just being pictured next to Randy Johnson during a pen session. Whether he was able to glean some tall lefty wisdom from the Unit remains to be seen, as Puk battled shoulder soreness rather than opposing batters this season. He’ll fall down some lists because he seems more likely than ever to become a relief pitcher, but I’m not sure about that. Oakland needs starters. Starters have more monetary value. Oakland needs monetary value. And relief pitching isn’t really a way to protect an injury prone arm. I don’t know where we got that idea. It’s better now that managers pump the breaks on warming guys up or using them on three straight days, but it’s still hell on a human arm. As much as I like Soderstrom, Puk retains the top spot because he’s got elite, bat-missing upside. Might even profile as a strong number two or borderline big-league ace thanks to four plus pitches, elite release extension and a deceptive arm angle, assuming he can stay on the mound. This winter he’s worked with Eric Cressey’s performance agency alongside Max Scherzer, Lance Lynn and more. Bump.
2. RHP Daulton Jefferies | | 25 | MLB | 2020
Jefferies possesses the kind of command required to remove a man’s throat with one swift motion and hold it aloft while yelling “Wesley” across a moon-struck lake. As a fastball changeup dominant command artist, Jefferies can be safely expected to rebound from his two-inning debut massacre that must’ve felt like having a bottle smashed over the head for anyone who started him. There’s a solid chance he breaks Spring with the big club and puts together an effective rookie campaign.
3. C Tyler Soderstrom | 19 | HS | 2024
Glowing reports from the training site suggest Soderstrom is a bat well beyond his years. While the team would certainly prefer to keep him at catcher, he merits a spot this high on the chance that he’ll bump to a different spot where he can race to the big leagues. If he’s so good with the glove he belongs behind the plate, I might sell him on the strength of his prospect stock, which will actually benefit from the slower timeline due to the non-fantasy lists rightly rewarding catchers.
4. SS Robert Puason | 18 | NA | 2025
Puason earned high marks for his physicality at a young age and signed a monster 5.1 million dollar deal during the 2019 international period. Where he needs work, and presumably got some as one of the youngest players at a training site in 2020, is making contact. Lucky for him, Oakland specializes in teaching pitch selection and patience at the plate, but his contact woes are nevertheless concerning enough that I almost dropped Puason a few notches down the list but settled here because the topside is tremendous, even if I’d be selling my own shares if I had any at the moment.
5. OF Pedro Pineda | 17 | NA | 2025
Signed on January 15 for about $4 million, Pineda features present barrel control and a knack for solid contact that makes him an interesting companion piece to Puason on their way up the system.
6. OF Luis Barrera | 25 | AA | 2021
Barrera led the team in batting average at the training site and drew rave reviews regarding his MLB readiness. He won’t be needed in center soon with Laureano under team control, but Barrera might remain athletic enough to take over the captain’s chair when that time comes. He’s got a well-rounded skill set, enough speed to steal a base, and he’s been hitting well for a long time now, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him quietly hit the ground running so many underranked A’s prospects from winter’s past.
7. OF Brayan Buelvas | 18 | R-Ariz | 2024
Buelvas was 2.6 years younger than league average when he slashed .300/.392/.506 across 44 AZL games in 2019, stealing 12 bases in 17 attempts for good measure. Good on Oakland for finding a gem in a developing Colombian baseball market. He’s produced roughly big league average exit velocities according to Baseball America, so while he doesn’t look the part at 5’11” 155 lbs, Buelvas could be a sneaky power bat to go along with plus speed and good idea of what he’s doing on the diamond. Nice dynasty sleeper stock here.
8. OF Junior Perez | 19 | R-Ariz | 2024
Part of the eventual return for Jorge Mateo, Perez has a much clearer path to fantasy relevance in Oakland than he would’ve in San Diego. Despite early success on the base paths, he doesn’t have the kind of speed to help us much there, relegating him to the corner outfield spots and leaving his bat to carry the fantasy profile. I think it can. He’s got present loft and quick hands. As this list shows, Oakland’s lineup has not been an easy one for young players to crack. Beane is clever and opportunistic with veterans. Perhaps a changing of the guard makes it more likely for an above average corner bat to get his chance.
9. 1B Seth Brown | 28 | MLB | 2019
I thought the A’s would want to see what Brown could do for their big league club a while ago, so I’m fighting the urge to just take an L here and move along. I just can’t shake the feeling that he’ll take a turn in the fantasy spotlight sooner than later. I don’t think he’ll be a centerpiece or a star, but he’s more athletic than he looks at first glance, and he’s always hit everywhere he’s been. He’ll be a redraft waiver add sometime in 2021. It’s not a Luke Voit in St. Louis scenario, necessarily, but that’s not a crazy parallel thought to have while looking at his age and wRC+ scores throughout the minors.
10. OF Greg Deichmamn | 25 | AA | 2021
A 2nd round pick (43 overall) in 2017, Deichmann has struggled with strikeouts as a professional. In his defense, he cut that K rate from 34.1 percent in A+ to 30.3 percent in AA before heading to the prospect-packed fall league to close 2019. He was about two years older than the average player in Arizona but made the most of his opportunity, smashing nine home runs in 23 games. He still struck out too much (29 times), but if he can produce anything close to the .982 OPS he posted in that tiny sample, nobody will care about the swing and miss. At least not during the regular season. He also swiped 19 bags in his 80 games at AA, so he’s got that going for him.
Thanks for reading!
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