Top 10 Prospects (2018): Oakland A’s: Does The Upside Outweigh The Obvious Questions?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The Oakland A’s do not own a system that is particularly impressive, though the selection of A.J. Puk and the return they received for Sonny Gray helped to bolster the system.  There are questions, especially with the actual upside of Franklin Barreto (though he’s still ranked #2 in the system), but there are some intriguing names that carry upside.  Let’s take a look at how things currently shake out:

 

1) A.J. Puk – Left-Handed Pitcher
Grade – A-
ETA – 2019

When you look at his 4.03 ERA and 1.25 WHIP over 125.0 IP between High-A and Double-A you are going to be somewhat disappointed.  However a .361 BABIP and 63.6% strand rate show that there was a lot of poor luck behind the numbers.  Just look at these key numbers:

  • 13.25 K/9
  • 3.46 BB/9
  • 15.6% SwStr%
  • 44.5% groundball rate

The groundball rate is more than enough, especially getting to pitch half his games in Oakland.  The upside is there to be one of the elite starters in the game and it could come quickly.  There’s even a chance that he gets to make his MLB debut before 2018 is over, especially since he’ll turn 23 early in the season and has already spent significant time at Double-A (64.0 IP).

 

2) Franklin Barreto – Shortstop
Grade – B+
ETA – Already Arrived

Barreto struggled in his first taste in the Majors, hitting .197 over 76 PA.  The issue was his inability to make consistent contact, with a 14.9% SwStr% and 39.9% O-Swing% leading to a 43.4% strikeout rate.  While that may be a bit extreme, his numbers at Triple-A reflect that type of risk:

  • Strikeout Rate – 27.6%
  • Walk Rate – 5.3%
  • SwStr% – 13.5%

He needs to improve his approach if he wants to fully tap into his power/speed potential, but there’s obvious risk that he never gets there.  He has “A-“ talent, but he needs to show the potential to improve in order to reach that ceiling.

 

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3) Jorge Mateo – Shortstop/Outfielder
Grade – B+
ETA – 2018

After a disappointing 2016 campaign Mateo rebounded in a big way in ’18, playing at High-A and Double-A, as he hit .267 with 12 HR and 52 SB.  When you think of Mateo you think of the gaudy stolen base totals, but he added 30 doubles and 18 triples last season which indicates that he’s not just a pure speed option (he could chip in 12-15 HR annually).

His speed is going to allow him to carry a higher than normal BABIP, though we’d like to see him improve his approach at the plate.  Last season he carried a 13.1% SwStr% and 6.8% walk rate, neither of which are ideal for a top of the order bat.  If he can improve there, he has the upside of an elite leadoff hitter.  With the transition happening to the outfield, he could arrive this season and make a significant impact.

 

4) Jesus Luzardo – Left-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B
ETA – 2020

Drafted in the third round of the 2016 draft, Luzardo didn’t make his professional debut until 2017 due to recovering from Tommy John surgery.  He only threw 43.1 innings between Rookie Ball and Low-A, but the numbers were highly impressive:

  • Strikeouts – 9.97 K/9
  • Control – 1.04 BB/9
  • SwStr% – 24.4%

It’s a small sample size, but it is eye opening considering it comes when first returning.  A strong start to 2018 will boost his grade to nearly “B+” and really put him on radars.

 

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5) Dustin Fowler – Outfielder
Grade – B
ETA – Already Arrived

Fowler appeared primed to make an impact for the Yankees last season, but suffered a significant knee injury in his first MLB game which promptly ended his season.  In 297 AB at Triple-A he hit .293 with 13 HR and 13 SB, and those numbers would’ve justified a “B+” grade.  However there are two significant issues that can’t be ignored:

  1. Will the knee injury cost him the speed aspect of his game?
  2. Will he be able to improve his plate discipline? (He posted a 13.0% SwStr% at Triple-A and could be exposed at the Major League level)

There’s ample upside, but we can’t ignore the risks.

 

The Rest:
6) Austin Beck – Outfielder (Grade – B)
7) Lazaros Armenteros – Outfielder (Grade – B)
8) Logan Shore – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – B-)
9) James Kaprielian – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – B-)
10) Sean Murphy – Catcher (Grade – B-)

Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com, MILB.com

Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Preseason Top 10 Prospect Lists:

AL EastAL CentralAL West
Baltimore OriolesChicago White SoxHouston Astros
Boston Red SoxCleveland IndiansLos Angeles Angels
New York YankeesDetroit TigersOakland A's
Tampa Bay RaysKansas City RoyalsSeattle Mariners
Toronto Blue JaysMinnesota TwinsTexas Rangers
NL EastNL CentralNL West
Atlanta BravesChicago CubsArizona Diamondbacks
Miami MarlinsCincinnati RedsColorado Rockies
New York MetsMilwaukee BrewersLos Angeles Dodgers
Philadelphia PhilliesPittsburgh PiratesSan Diego Padres
Washington NationalsSt. Louis CardinalsSan Francisco Giants

** ORDER OUR 2018 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT GUIDE TODAY **
Order Rotoprofessor’s 2018 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide for just $7.50!!  Click here for the details, but don’t miss out on the best bargain in fantasy baseball preparation.

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