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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.

Others: Dillon Overton, Daniel Gossett, Max Schrock, Paul Blackburn, Bruce Maxwell 

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.

Others: Dakota Chalmers, Marcos Brito, Daulton Jefferies, Skye Bolt, Skylar Szynski 

 

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  1. El Famous Burrito says:
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    Not a prospect anymore, but how do you feel about Ryon Healy this year?

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @El Famous Burrito: Made some serious adjustments in his approach last season and the results bore that out. I like him as CI type in 12 teamers.

  2. Another Dan says:
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    Got Chapman thanks to one of your posts last year. Liked the YouTube clips.

    Am about to round out my first year player draft. Heath Quinn still available. He’s my target. You said you have soured somewhat on Ockimey because of his problems with the shift, should he be owned in a league with 240 prospects owned? Lucius Fox ownable in same league?

    Am happy with my prospects, pretty much thanks to your input.

    Best wishes,

    Dan

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Another Dan: Fox is the upside play, and Quinn is the more safe power bat. Though neither are really safe. Power or tools, that’s the questions. Value Fox a little more long term.

  3. Matt says:
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    So I know you had Puk over Groome in your top 30 in October. But after diving deeper, would you toss Groome above Puk now?

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Matt: Yes I would, I’m not crazy about owning either to be honest. I do prefer Groome though. I’m the college bat king early in drafts this year, and would prefer to see which of Garrett, Manning, Anderson, Pint, and Wentz fell to me.

  4. Duda Want to Build a Snowman? says:
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    Hey Ralph – how likely do you think Tapia is to get regular playing time at some point this year (or is he a 2018 guy like Rogers)?

    Seems like Tapia’s only path would be losing Blackmon/Cargo to injury or trade AND the team keeping Desmond at 1B.

    Similarly, if DJ goes down for any significant amount of time, do you see Rogers getting the call, or still too early?

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Duda Want to Build a Snowman?: Way too early on Rodgers, Amarista or Adames would probably play there.

      I’m really unsure of where he’ll play. he might end up in AAA until needed. Too bad!

      • Duda Want to Build a Snowman? says:
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        @Ralph Lifshitz: You said it! Hey, at least we’ve got Dahl this year.

        I’ve been trying to pick my prospect bet for a 12 team weekly keeper league with pretty shallow benches and only 7 keeper slots. In my first year (last year) to build for 2017 when I could compete with the 10-yr vets in this league, I grabbed Moncada in reserve and will be keeping him . . . but it’s really tough to have anyone less than a Moncada-type take up your shallow bench and not play all year.

        My shortlist for this year started at Rogers, Tapia, Meadows, Brinson . . . but Brinson seems like the most likely guy to contribute this year (coincidentally, I’m also planning late $1-$4 grabs of Broxton and Thames . . . THANKS, GILPIN!).

        In any event, looking forward to that 2017 prospect list!

  5. Clint says:
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    Was listening to the Baseball America podcast re the Athetics’ minor system and man, they all felt this team didn’t know what F they were doing. Seemed to feel like the A’s move guys around to positions they shouldn’t be learning and aren’t even scouting pitchers like Puk well anymore. Apparently they were shocked at Puk’s poor showing enough the team’s discussing changing all of his mechanics around now?

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Clint: I actually thought Puk’s numbers were better than I thought they would be. Then again he was in short season A ball vs a lot of young raw hitters.

      I’m not sure how you could not like the trades for Manaea or Cotton/Montas/Holmes. They’ve restocked a system that was hurting for upside arms. They’ve had success tweaking mechanics for hitters (Donaldson and Healy) maybe they can do the same with Puk.

      Not going to lie, I don’t dislike this system, probably somewhere in the 13-16 range.

  6. Big Odio says:
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    Is it me or is the space between their floorboards and their specs smaller than most orgs? Montas will never be a starter. He’s a closer all day ever day…with increased control. Mark the words of Razzballs greatest closer report man ever!

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Big Odio: Smokey said that too?

      • Big Odio says:
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        @Ralph Lifshitz: his small mans complex lends itself to those delusions of grandeur

        • Ralph Lifshitz

          Ralph Lifshitz says:
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          @Big Odio: Montas is small?

  7. ichirosan says:
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    Hi Ralph,

    16 man dynasty league, keep forever 22 out of 28 players, plus 8 minor leaguers that can be retained without a roster spot before they reach rookie limits.

    I’m floating around the idea of trading Moncada. What would be the bare minimum you would settle for in return?

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @ichirosan: I’d want a legit haul. It would have to be an obvious overpay. Like a top 25 player or multiple top 50 guys. Something you couldn’t say no to. For example I was offered Goldy, Braun, and Salazar for my Trout and had to take it.

  8. Raoul Duke says:
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    I can only keep 6 in my minor league system. The obvious are Moncada and Urias, but which 4 are you keeping between Hader, Willie Calhoun, AJ Reed, Isan Diaz, Francisco Mejia and Christin Stewart? Thanks.

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