Whenever I write a post about Oakland, I open with a shout out to the King Of Hyphy, and fallen solider Mac Dre. I know he’s from the Valley-Jo, but the man gets a great deal of Oakland love. It’s only a half hour north after all. Or maybe all this is just a poor excuse to link to this video. So put on your best Thizz Face, and let’s get into some Moneyball A’s talk. You ready? After unloading eventual MVP, and mullet superstar Josh Donaldson, the A’s have been in full on rebuild mode. Of course treadmill hero extraordinaire Billy Beane is still pulling the strings behind the scenes, but the sort of prospect crop needed for the A’s to compete has alluded them for the better part of a decade. However, things changed last July, spearheaded by the signing of Cuban Hype Machine Lazarito. The A’s then became heavy players in an active trade deadline, settling on a solid trade with the Dodgers. Unloading the aging Rich Hill, and impending free agent Josh Reddick for three solid prospect arms with some upside. All three Jhael Cotton, Frankie Montas, and Grant Holmes should factor into Oakland’s rotation in the next few seasons. With Cotton the closest to the O.Co, followed by Montas, and Holmes bringing up the rear. They then followed both of those moves with the savvy December signing of Cuban pitcher Norge Ruiz for $2 million; a player many think was the best arm in the 2016 international class. Saying the rebuild of the once prospect and pitching rich A’s began this July is a little disingenuous, as they did swing a trade for 2016 breakout rookie pitcher Sean Manaea at the 2015 deadline. Unloading Ben Zobrist to the future World Series champion Royals in the process. With a crop of young hitters, and pitchers matriculating to Oakland over the next few years, we could be looking at an up and coming organization. Time will tell if that holds true. It’s the Top Oakland Athletics Prospects for 2017 Fantasy Baseball.
Tier 1: Specs On The Beach
Potential stars. Consensus T100 prospects with premium fantasy ceilings.
Franklin Barreto, SS | Age: 22 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: AAA/AA
It can’t be easy being the guy traded for the MVP. Not that Barreto was traded for Josh Donaldson straight up, but he is the best of the package of prospects sent Oakland’s way. He was once a toolsy shortstop prospect, but he’s evolved into a player with an exciting offensive upside. Albeit one likely to move off of short in favor of second or centerfield. After struggling to begin the year, Barreto righted the ship, slashing .313/.369/.472 from June 1st on, with 8 homers, 27 doubles, 8 homers, and 20 steals. He’s got above average bat speed, and a line drive approach, spraying hits to all fields. His power is still middle of the road, and he might have to change his approach to reach 20, but he looks like he should be a .280 hitter with lots of doubles, triples, and 10-14 homers. His speed has long been his calling card, but he was caught stealing 19 times out of 52 attempts. A troubling number for his upside. It’s been noted that he might have lost a little speed over the last year or so as his body has matured, and the numbers bear that out. Meaning the 30 steal player we were dreaming on might not exist. It’s also not great for his future totals that the A’s were also one of the least run-happy teams in 2016. I’m not sure if this trend continues, but the money ball philosophy usually shies away from giving up outs. So all this to say that I’d pump the breaks on any steal projections above 25. My expectation for Barreto in his prime years is a .280/13/24 player who could collect solid counting stats at the top of the lineup.
A.J. Puk, LHP | Age: 21 | ETA: 2019 | 2016 Level: A-
I understand the Puk love, I really do. He’s a 6’7 lefty with a 98 MPH fastball, and a wipe out slider. To put it bluntly, his stuff is nasty. Here’s my issue, it’s too good to be true at the moment. “At the moment” being the operative phrase, because “at the moment” he struggles to repeat his mechanics, and find the plate with regularity due to that. I’m just not sure that’s ever going to improve, there’s a lot of moving parts and he’s not really athletic, relatively speaking. There’s frontline starter upside, that’s evident, it’s a matter of if he unlocks it or not.
Matt Chapman, 3B | Age: 23 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: AAA/AA
Chapman has serious boom in his bat, but if he’s just a Joey Gallo clone with defensive chops remains to be seen. Though you could be much worse things. His 29% strikeout rate last year certainly puts him in Gallo territory and his prodigious power does too. Don’t believe me? Here’s a video of him hitting a 98 MPH fastball for a homer. Still don’t believe me? Here he is tomahawking a high fastball to dead center. Yeah, he’s got that boom-boom. Chapman was third in all the minors in homers last year, and first in non-Reading aided homers. Sorry Dylan and Rhys. In the grand A’s tradition he’s an on-base magnate, averaging a 10% Bb rate throughout his professional career. So he’ll have more value in a league that counts OBP or OPS. Expect a low average say .220-.250 every year with 25-35 homers, and some rough stretches. His defense is good enough to play in Oakland now, and should move Ryon Healy to first some time this year. It just remains to be seen when that happens. My guess is sometime in late May to early June.
Jharel Cotton, RHP | Age: 25 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: MLB/AAA/AA
A little more than a month after Cotton was acquired from the Dodgers he made his Major League debut with Oakland. Cotton is another late round success story from the Dodgers system. Everything in Cotton’s repertoire plays off of his changeup with screwball movement. Take that Brent Honeywell! His fastball works low to mid 90’s, touching 96 on occasion. He also mixes in a two-seamer and a cutter from the same release point. On all three of his fastball’s the ball seems to explode out of his hand and onto the hitter. He’s a bit homer prone, but also gets a lot of popups, and weakly hit flyballs. A style that should play up in Oakland with their spacious dimensions. I like Cotton as a late round flier in almost all formats, and should probably be 100% owned in leagues with 16+ teams. The bullpen concerns seems to be fading with each passing start.
Tier 2: Floorboreds
Lacking the “star” upside. They might have some warts, but their ETAs are on the horizon.
Frankie Montas, RHP | Age: 23 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: AAA/AA
Moved twice in a year, first to the Dodgers in the Todd Frazier trade, then to Oakland at the trade deadline along with Jharel Cotton and Grant Holmes. Montas possesses the ability to miss bats, due to his easy upper 90’s velocity, and power slider. The A’s will continue to develop him as a starter, but whether or not he sticks in the rotation comes down to the development of his changeup. A pitch scouts believe could develop into an above average offering, and one the A’s have encouraged him to throw more. He’s had struggles with control and health, which are two more factors that call Montas’ future as a starter into question. Though he certainly has the stuff, makeup, and build to be a successful mid-rotation arm.
Norge Ruiz, RHP | Age: 22 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: N/A
A small right-handed “bulldog” starter out of Cuba, that a few sites ranked as the top arm in the International class. I’m not sure how much of that is proximity over projection, because Ruiz is nearly Major League ready. His arsenal features a plus mid-90’s fastball with late movement, a plus changeup, and above average offerings in the slider, and splitter. He enjoyed a successful three year career in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, posting a 2.55 ERA in nearly 375 innings. Scouts praise, his makeup, stuff, and pitchability. Said to be a groundball pitcher, but I have no data to back that claim up, so I’ll trust those that know.
Renato Nunez, 3B | Age: 22 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: AAA
The Oakland system is full of 3rd base prospects, but it’s easy to see Nunez as the most likely to be moved off the position. His power has played at every level, slugging 23 homers last year, even if his slashline took a shot. He’s played well in Winter Ball this season in his native Venezuela, and after a 15 at bat cup of coffee last season looks like a decent bet to see between 200-300 at bats in Oakland this year. He’s never going to be a star player, but could be a source of cheap power for years to come.
Matt Olson, OF/1B | Age: 22 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: MLB/AAA
Olson is a player I’ve long had a fondness for. It’s easy to get lost in the 16% walk rate (in nearly 3,000 professional at bats), and his monster power year in 2014, and ignore the obvious flaws. But since his big year in the Cal League, he’s had back to back years of 17 home runs and sub .250 batting averages. There is some swing and miss to his game, averaging around a 24% K rate over his career, but it’s the nearly 12% popup rate that scares me. For a player with such a patient approach, he makes a lot of bad contact. He also hasn’t shown the ability to hit lefthanders. This ultimately limits Olson’s floor to 4th outfielder who platoons against righties. There’s 30 homer pop in his bat, but there’s a lot of land mines he must avoid to unlock it.
Chad Pinder, SS | Age: 24 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: MLB/AAA
Pinder is the ultimate floorbored, boring hit tool middle infielder with a little pop, and not much speed. He’s got some swing and miss for a contact guy too. Could factor in as a streamer in deep leagues, but not the most exciting profile for fantasy. The bat is quick, and there are some that put his power in the 15-20 homer range. (Not I!) Seems like the kind of player Prospector’s like me sleep on, but could exceed expectations. He’ll just being doing it on someone else’s team.
Tier 3: Long Shot Lolitas
Sexy ceilings, but these youngsters also come with risks and distant ETAs
Lazaro Armenteros (Lazarito), OF | Age: 17 | ETA: 2021 | 2016 Level: N/A
The Cuban Hype Machine was in full force on Lazarito this time last year, since then its slowed considerably. As the toolsy prospect signed at the beginning of J2 for just $3 million dollars, quite a drop from Yoan Moncada, a player he was comped to early. There was some funny busy around his representation, but we won’t get into that. If you’re interested Google it. The scouting reports I’ve seen rate his mix of power/speed/hit tool all in the 55-60 range, meaning he has as much on paper upside as any player in the A’s system.
Grant Holmes, RHP | Age: 20 | ETA: 2019 | 2016 Level: A+
Like Montas and Cotton, Holmes was acquired in the Josh Reddick-Rich Hill trade. The 20 year old is a groundball artist generating gopher balls 55% of the time in 2016. He didn’t generate the strikeouts in High-A he had earlier in his career, but he was 20 in the notoriously hitter friendly Cal League. So those numbers could jump a little if he makes some mechanical tweaks. Struggled mightily against lefthanders, who hit .303 against him this season. He still possesses mid-rotation upside.
Logan Shore, RHP | Age: 22 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: 2018
It was Shore, and not Florida teammate (and roommate) A.J. Puk, that was Florida’s Friday night starter the last few years. While he’s far less exciting for fantasy than former/current teammate Puk, and possible 2017 number 1 pick Alex Faedo, his role at Florida speaks volumes about his pitchability. He offers the high floor low ceiling alternative to Puk. Shore’s upside is that of a number 4 starter with good ratios. He features two above average offerings in his fastball and change combo, and throws a fringe slider. All of Shore’s pitches play up due to plus control, and above average command. A good back end rotation filler in 24-30 team’s where those types are valuable. Not on my 12-16 team radar at the moment. If Shore ends up with a better career than Puk, it wouldn’t be a huge shock to this prospector.
Richie Martin, SS | Age: 22 | ETA: 2019 | 2016 Level: AA/A+
A defense first shortstop, that’s the best glove of the middle infielders named, but is far off Barreto, Pinder, and Munoz. I figured I should mention him, as he was part of that elite shortstop class in the 2015 draft.
Yario Munoz, SS/2B | Age: 21 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: AA
A middle infielder with a solid mix of hit tool, power, and speed. An offseason motorcycle accident, delayed his 2016, but also makes him the bad-ass of a deep shortstop pool in the A’s system. He’s been described as flashy but lacking baseball intangibles. As a fantasy owner, I’ll take my chances on the guy with flashy offensive tools over the high floor leader. You should do the same leadership never won anyone a fantasy league.
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