The A’s have long been an organization dependent on their farm system to consistently rebuild. A small market team, the stars are consistently being sent out because of expense and therefore they need to have the next set of impact prospects ready. Lucky for the name their next class is near, with numerous top-level prospects ready to make an impact in the Majors.
The question is what’s next? Is there another wave of prospects ready to rise? Who should we be targeting? Let’s take a look:
1) Jesus Luzardo – Left-Handed Pitcher
ETA – Already Arrived
Grade – A-
Last year was supposed to be the full breakout of Luzardo, as he was expected to play a significant role in the Majors. Instead injuries virtually wiped out the year, limiting him to 43.0 IP in the minors and 12.0 IP in the Majors. He clearly continued to thrive when on the mound, totaling 73 K vs. 11 BB while also keeping the ball in the ballpark (5 HR allowed).
The stuff clearly isn’t a question, but can he stay on the field and throw a significant number of innings? At 6’0” and having undergone Tommy John surgery, it’s fair to wonder if he’s going to be able to stay healthy for 200+ innings consistently. As it is he hasn’t thrown more than 109.1 IP since being drafted so it’s going to take time for him to work his way up to that level. If he can, the upside and skills are impressive. Just look at what he did in the minors last season:
- Strikeouts – 11.93 K/9 (15.9% SwStr%)
- Control – 1.67 BB/9
- Groundballs – 53.4%
2) Sean Murphy – Catcher
ETA – 2020
Grade – B+
Another player who saw injury cost him an opportunity to make a significant impact at the highest level in 2019. A torn meniscus limited him to 150 AB in the minor leagues, though he made the most of them hitting .293 with 11 HR. He arrived in September and wasn’t as impressive on the surface, hitting .245 with 4 HR in 60 PA. However the approach remained impressive and that’s what may be the most important thing (minors // Majors):
- Strikeout Rate – 20.3% // 26.7%
- Walk Rate – 12.4% // 10.0%
- SwStr% – 7.5% // 12.1%
Obviously the Major League mark was based on a small sample size, and after an 8.0% SwStr% in ’18 there’s a lot to like. The real key was the development of his power, and when coupled with his approach and defensive ability (which will keep him in the lineup) the upside is tremendous. We are talking about a Top 5-10 fantasy catcher, and one you’d want to own.
3) A.J. Puk – Left-Handed Pitcher
ETA – Already Arrived
Grade – B+
The sixth overall selection in the 2016 draft, Puk underwent Tommy John surgery in 2018 and was limited to 25.1 IP in the minors and 11.1 IP in the Majors last season as he recovered. He has the stuff to be a top of the rotation arm, though there are questions with his control that’s going to help hold him back at least a little bit. Couple the injury with his height (6’7”) and that makes sense (3.4 BB/9 over his minor league career, 3.97 in the Majors last season).
He also runs the risk of being home run prone, something we saw last year (8 HR allowed). Pitching half his games in Oakland will help, but not completely solve the issue. That, along with the control, could limit him more to a mid-rotation starter as opposed to an ace.
4) Robert Puason – Shortstop
ETA – 2024
Grade – B-
Outside of Jasson Dominguez, Puason was the premier international prospect during the 2019 signing period and was rewarded with a $5.1 million bonus. That alone tells you the upside that people see in him, but he’s a long ways away and a lot can happen between now and his arrival. A switch-hitter who is expected to develop into a five-tool prospect, his speed could be his strongest asset. Of course we don’t know exactly how he’ll develop physically (he’s currently 6’3” and 165 lbs.), though a 25-30 SB threat with some power is a fair expectation at this point. Assuming he sticks at shortstop, that’s obviously a profile we’d all like.
5) Sheldon Neuse – Second Baseman/Third Baseman
ETA – Already Arrived
Grade – C+
Strikeouts have always been a concern, but he took a significant step forward in his development in 2019. After struggling in his first taste of Triple-A in 2018, hitting .263 with 5 HR over 537 PA, he erupted to hit .317 with 27 HR over 560 PA and the big change was in his SwStr%:
- 2018 – 15.4%
- 2019 – 12.5%
Obviously the 2019 mark is still slightly elevated, and it rose to 14.2% over 61 PA in the Majors, but it’s not an unacceptable mark when coupled with the power surge. He added 31 doubles and 2 triples, and while he may not be able to maintain that pace he could profile as a .270ish hitter (and better for those in OBP formats, with his 10.0% walk rate) with 15-20 HR. As a middle infielder, there would be value in those numbers. If he can prove last year’s breakout is for real, however, the grade would increase to the B/B- range.
The Next Five:
6) Daulton Jeffries – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+) – After undergoing Tommy John surgery Jeffries threw a total of 9.0 innings in 2017 and 2018, but he was healthy and impressive between High-A (15.0 IP) and Double-A (64.0 IP) last season. He combined for 93 K vs. 9 BB, a highly impressive ratio considering the missed time, and with a 15.8% SwStr% the question is going to be if the stuff (which is solid but not elite) will continue to play given the control. While he wasn’t generating enough groundballs (41.1%), the damage by home runs wouldn’t be as bad considering the other skills keeping people off base. There’s a lot to like and he could prove to be a sleeper who could develop into a solid option.
7) James Kaprielian – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+) – Acquired as part of the Sonny Gray trade with the Yankees, Tommy John surgery cost him all of 2017 and 2018. He returned to throw 68.0 innings across three levels in 2019, pitching to a 3.18 ERA. He was showing strikeouts (9.93 K/9) and control (2.12 BB/9), though completely lacked groundball stuff (34.4%). That’s something to watch, but if fully healthy he’s shown dominant stuff in the past and could see a significant spike in value/grade this season.
8) Nick Allen – Second Baseman/Shortstop (Grade – C) – Which one is the real Allen? Is it the player who hit .239 at Single-A in 2018 or the one who hit .292 at High-A in 2019? The truth is that his defense may be his best skill, though his 9.0% SwStr% does show that his approach is solid and there is a little bit of speed (37-for-50 on SB attempts the past two seasons). There isn’t much power, however, and without that can he maintain last years’ .348 BABIP? There’s some value, but he’s not going to be a difference maker.
9) Logan Davidson – Second Baseman/Shortstop (Grade – C) – Selected 29th in the 2019 draft, Davidson debuted at Low-A hitting .239 with 4 HR and 5 SB over 238 PA. His speed is supposedly his strongest skill, as of now, though some see his power emerging as he matures physically (he’s listed at 6’3” and 185 lbs.). Time will tell if that happens, but strikeouts will be a part of his game and his ultimately ceiling may not be overly impressive (especially if the power doesn’t develop fully).
10) Jordan Diaz – Third Baseman (Grade – C) – He played most of 2019 at 18-years old (he turned 19 in August) and was solid, hitting .264 with 9 HR over 300 PA at Low-A. There are questions about his defensive upside and his power potential, though considering his age his 11.6% SwStr% isn’t a poor mark. There’s enough intrigue in the numbers to keep an eye on him and see how he matures.
Source – MLB.com, MILB.com, Fangraphs
Make sure to check out all of our 2020 prospect rankings: