Top 10 Prospects (2019): Oakland A’s: Is There Much Behind A Pair Of Potential Aces?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

While A.J. Puk is recovering from Tommy John surgery he’s still part of a clear Top 2 for the A’s.  The question is whether or not someone can develop behind the two potential aces, and while there are some intriguing names there’s also a clear drop in upside (at least presently).  Can anyone take a big leap forward?  Let’s take a look at the A’s Top 10 prospects and who could emerge:

 

1) Jesus Luzardo – Left-Handed Pitcher
Grade – A
ETA – 2019

With Puk sidelined Luzardo took the position as the team’s top prospect.  Pitching across three levels, including four starts at Triple-A, he posted a 2.88 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 10.62 K/9 and 2.47 BB/9 over 109.1 IP.  He did struggle at Triple-A, with a 7.31 ERA over 16.0 IP, but he’s also just 20-years old so you have to give him a little bit of a pass.

Pitching in Oakland his 47.1% groundball rate would be more than enough, especially when paired with his control and ability to miss bats (14.6% SwStr%).  He brings elite stuff and should continue to move quickly up the organizational ladder.  Being left-handed only helps, and he should arrive this season and instantly make an impact.

 

2) A.J. Puk – Left-Handed Pitcher
Grade – A-
ETA – 2020

He missed all of 2017 due to Tommy John surgery, and while that’s going to delay his arrival it doesn’t change the outlook.  With that in mind, it makes sense to simply re-publish what we said about him last year because nothing has changed (except for a little bit more risk as fully returning from Tommy John surgery is never a given):

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:

  • 25 K/9
  • 46 BB/9
  • 6% SwStr%
  • 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).

 

3) Sean Murphy – Catcher
Grade – B
ETA – 2019

It was a cameo appearance at Triple-A (8 AB), but having reached the highest level of the minors in 2018 it appears inevitable that Murphy arrives in Oakland in 2019.  A broken hamate bone helped to limit him last season, but when he was on the field he was impressive, hitting .285 with 8 HR over 270 AB.  There’s clearly at least a little bit more power coming, having added 27 doubles and 2 triples a year after hitting 13 HR over 395 PA.

Murphy’s best skill may be his approach, with an 8.0% SwStr% leading to a 16.3% strikeout rate and 8.5% walk rate.  That should help him continue to hit for a strong average (think .270ish) with 15 HR.  For a catcher, especially one viewed positively for his defense (which will keep him in the lineup), there’s a lot to like.

 

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4) Lazaro Armenteros – Outfielder
Grade – B
ETA – 2021

There is no questioning the potential upside of Armenteros, with 8 HR and 8 SB in 292 AB at Single-A last season.  It was his first season in full season baseball (he played 2017 at two levels of Rookie Ball), so it’s not a big surprise that there were some growing pains.  At the same time, there are some underlying metrics that can’t go overlooked:

  • SwStr% – 14.1%
  • Pull% – 51.7%

Obviously those types of marks, at such a low level, gives legitimate concerns over his approach and ability to post a viable average moving forward.  At the same time he’s just 19-years old (he’ll turn 20 in May) and needs to be given time to adjust after being signed out of Cuba.  It’s easy to envision him maturing and developing, but he needs to be watched closely.

 

5) Austin Beck – Outfielder
Grade – B-
ETA – 2021

Beck played the year at Single-A, hitting .296 with 2 HR and 8 SB over 493 AB.  None of those numbers are going to blow you away, but the 2017 first round draft pick (6th overall) played the year as a 19-year old and clearly has significant upside and talent.  He needs to improve his approach (12.6% SwStr%, 5.6% walk rate), because if he doesn’t the numbers could get ugly as he progresses and faces more advanced pitching.  Time will tell if he’s ultimately exposed, but for now the upside is there.

 

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The Rest:

6) Jorge Mateo – Shortstop/Outfielder (Grade – B-)
Mateo has long been hyped, but he was a significant disappointment playing 2018 at Triple-A as he hit .230 with 25 SB.  Maybe we want to point to 16 triples as a reason for optimism, but a 13.3% SwStr% and 5.7% walk rate don’t speak to the type of player he should be (and that’s a top of the order threat).  He’s never shown much of a propensity to draw a walk, and at this point is it something we can expect to develop?  Given his speed we’d like to hope so, but time will tell.

7) Kyler Murray – Outfielder (Grade – B-)
The A’s first round pick in 2018 (9th overall) didn’t play last season after he and Oakland agreed to allow him to play football in the fall.  It’s an intriguing decision by the organization, as they put their top pick with significant upside at risk.  There’s no questioning the athleticism and it will be interesting to see what he can do once he finally steps on a professional baseball diamond.

8) James Kaprielian – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
Acquired as part of the Sonny Gray trade (along with Jorge Mateo), Kaprielian’s grade takes a hit as he’s now missed two full seasons due to Tommy John surgery (in fact he’s only thrown 29.1 innings since being selected in the first round of the 2015 draft).  He has the ability to put things together, but consider him a complete crap shoot given the unknown and how he recovers from such a lengthy absence.

9) Richie Martin – Shortstop (Grade – C+)
Martin showed a solid skill set, playing the year at Double-A, hitting .300 with 6 HR (as well as 29 doubles and 8 triples) and 25 SB.  Maybe the offense, with his speed being his strongest asset, is finally starting to make strides and catch up to his defense.  If that’s the case Martin could really take a step forward in terms of his prospect status.

10) Jameson Hannah – Outfielder (Grade – C+)
Playing at Low-A Hannah, selected in the second round of the 2018 draft, hit .279 with 1 HR and 6 SB over 86 AB.  The speed is there to be a top base stealer, though we’ll have to see if he can hit enough to truly tap into it.

Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com, MILB.com, Baseball Reference

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Make sure to check out all of our 2019 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

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