Oakland Athletics Top 30 Prospects

1. Jesus Luzardo, LHP

Age: 21 (9/30/97)

Highest Level: AAA

109.1 IP, 2.88 ERA, 2.94 FIP, 10.62 K/9, 2.47 BB/9, .218 AVG- A+/AA/AAA

The Luzardo-versus-Puk debate is essentially the same as asking you which flavor ice cream do you prefer, or whether you want a burrito or a burrito bowl at Chipotle. It’s 100% a personal preference and you’ll love whichever you chose. I ended up choosing Luzardo over Puk due to the plus command and above-average change. Luzardo was a high riser in prospect circles after a strong 2018 which was his first full season after Tommy John.

Luzardo has simple, repeatable mechanics with a bit of deception as the ball comes out from behind his ear. The arm is quicker than the body, which really helps the changeup play up. The changeup is his best pitch, with tremendous depth and fade. It’s his primary weapon against righties, traveling at the same plane as the fastball with late movement. Luzardo’s fastball sits 93-95 and in the Future’s Game he was bumping it up to 98 in his two-inning stint. Luzardo gets dinged for his lack of a consistent breaking ball, but it does flash above average occasionally. Luzardo is listed at 6-foot-1, but I’d be willing to bet he’s a bit under that 6-foot mark. He should be in Oakland during the second half of 2019 and has the ceiling of a number-two starter. His feel for pitching and makeup are both top of the scale. ETA: 2019.

2. A.J. Puk, LHP

Age: 23 (4/25/95)

Highest Level: DNP

DNP- Tommy John Surgery

Puk is the sports car that’s parked in the garage for the bright sunny days. The 6-foot-7 lefty is pretty much the antithesis of Luzardo in every way except they are both left-handers. Puk was generating some serious buzz with how good he looked early on this spring, until he went down with an elbow injury towards the end of spring which resulted in an April appointment with Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

When healthy, Puk led all of the minor leagues with 13.2 K/9 in 2017. He has a fastball that sits around 95 and touches 98. His slider is a 70-grade, two-plane out pitch and he has an average changeup to help get righties out. Puk should return to the mound in late May to early June, and depending on innings restrictions and health, could contribute out of the A’s bullpen in the second half. Assuming he bounces back health wise, we’re looking at a pitcher that has the ceiling of an ace if the command can improve. He misses so many bats. ETA: 2020.

3. Sean Murphy, C

Age: 24 (10/10/94)

Highest Level: AA/AAA

.285/.361/.489, 8 HR, .204 ISO, 130 wRC+, 8.5% BB, 16.3% K, 3 SB

Murphy’s defensive skills alone are enough to make him a catcher at the big league level. Murphy is an above-average defender in all aspects with an absolute rocket of a right arm. He draws positive reviews for his blocking, receiving, game calling and general leadership skills. His 70-arm and above-average pop times make him almost impossible to run on.

Murphy also contributes at the plate with skills that project as average. His plate skills are strong, and he’s tough to strikeout. He’s athletic for his size (6-foot-4) and some of his 26 doubles should turn into homers down the line. The potential for .250-.260 with 20 homers and above-average defense makes him a valuable asset. ETA: Late 2019.

4. Austin Beck, OF

Age: 20 (11/21/98)

Highest Level: A-

.296/.335/.383, 2 HR, .087 ISO, 103 wRC+, 5.6% BB, 21.9% K, 8 SB

Some context is needed when evaluating Beck’s 2018 season. The A’s had him make pretty significant alterations to his swing involving quieting his hands and eliminating his leg kick, which our own Lance Brozdowski broke down here. The goal was to get Beck to make more contact, and then they can re-introduce the leg kick later on to generate more power. The early results were positive as the strikeout rate dropped from 29% to 22% and his contact rate improved from 66% to 76%. The plus bat speed is still there, but the plus speed doesn’t play on the base paths as he’s only 15-for-22 in his career. The plus speed and plus arm do play in centerfield though and he projects as a plus defender there. Look for Beck to repeat Low-A in 2019. ETA: 2023.

5. Jorge Mateo, SS

Age: 23 (6/23/95)

Highest Level: AAA

.230/.280/.353, 3 HR, .123 ISO, 62 wRC+, 5.7% BB, 27.3% K, 25 SB

The former Yankee had a rough season in Nashville as sub-par plate skills impacted his production. Mateo’s 80-grade speed is the loudest tool in the organization, but his hyper-aggressiveness and propensity to get himself out with weak contact were exploited by the pitchers in the Pacific Coast League. The trade to Oakland does give Mateo an avenue to remain at shortstop long term, but all of that is moot if he doesn’t hit. His plus range and plus right arm are natural fits for the shortstop position, but he also has played some second base and centerfield and could settle in as a utility man if the bat doesn’t come around. It’s really hard for me to look past his 2017 in which he tallied 60 extra base hits and swiped 52 bases. Mateo will always carry fantasy value due to the top-of-the-scale wheels, just look at Billy Hamilton. ETA: 2019.

6. Lazaro Armenteros, OF

Age: 19 (5/22/99)

Highest Level: A-

.277/.374/.401, 8 HR, .123 ISO, 126 wRC+, 10.6% BB, 33.8% K, 8 SB

Lazarito was signed by the A’s for $3 million in 2016. After more than holding his own (131 wRC+) as an 18-year old in the AZL, Armenteros was ready for a full-season assignment in 2018. He wasn’t able to repeat his success though, as the strikeout rate shot up from 26% to over 33%, his power output decreased, his contact rate dropped from 69% to 60%, and when you factor in his .427 BABIP, his .277 average isn’t all that impressive. Armenteros struggles to generate enough loft (only 26% FB rate) to tap into his plus power potential. On the bright side, he does have a 27.5% line drive rate, has the frame to add on some good weight, and will take a walk. He’s limited to left field only due to his weak throwing arm. ETA: 2022.

7. James Kaprielian RHP

Age: 22 (3/2/94)

Highest Level: DNP

DNP - Tommy John Surgery

Kaprielian hasn’t thrown a competitive pitch since 2016, and has yet to throw in anything but an instructional league game as a member of the A’s organization. Acquired in the Sonny Gray trade, Kaprielian was able to get on the mound earlier this month for instructs and not shockingly was a little rusty. He was touching 99 with the Yankees before Tommy John, but in his inning of work he was 88-91 with life and added a slider in the low-80s. From the little video I saw it looks like he has a new arm slot also. He was scheduled to pitch in games this season, but a shoulder issue popped up during his rehab from TJ. When healthy he has four pitches and he will use them at any time. ETA: 2020.

8. Daulton Jefferies, RHP

Age: 23 (8/2/95)

Highest Level: ROK

2 IP, 0.00 ERA, -0.93 FIP, 22.50 K/9, 0.00 BB/9, .143 AVG.

The righty out of Cal has only thrown 20 1/3 pro innings since the A’s used the 37th pick on him in the 2016 draft. Staying healthy has obviously been a concern, but he throws three potential average-or-better offerings with his changeup being a borderline plus pitch, and he has plus command. Reports say Jefferies was hitting 95 during instructs. He missed 2018 after Tommy John surgery. ETA: 2020.

9. Skye Bolt, OF

Age: 25 (1/15/94)

Highest Level: AA

.260/.347/.474, 19 HR, .214 ISO, 121 wRC+, 11.1% BB, 23.3% K, 19 SB- A+/AA

Bolt was an elite college performer during his freshman year at North Carolina, but he wasn’t able to repeat it during his sophomore or junior seasons. The A’s were still impressed enough to take him in the 4th round in 2015. Bolt is a plus defender in center with a plus arm, and those skills alone are enough to get him to the big leagues. Offensively he struggles making contact and with pitch recognition, but made significant improvements in both areas during 2018 as he just missed a 20-20 season. ETA: 2020.

10. Jameson Hannah, OF

Age: 21 (8/10/97)

Highest Level: A

.279/.347/.384, 1 HR, .105 ISO, 119 wRC+, 9.5% BB, 25.3% K, 6 SB

The Dallas Baptist product was the 50th-overall pick this past June. Future leadoff hitter with an average hit tool and 60-grade wheels. Strikes out too much at present, but does barrel balls when he makes contact, he just needs more consistency there. I’d put a 60 on the raw power, but he doesn’t tap into it presently in games. He covers a lot of ground in centerfield, but teams will run on his 30-arm. ETA: 2021

11. Jeremy Eierman, SS

Age: 22 (9/10/96)

Highest Level: A

.235/.283/.381, 8 HR, .146 ISO, 95 wRC+, 4.9% BB, 26.2% K, 10 SB

The A’s took Eierman with the 70th-overall pick out of Missouri State. Eierman’s two loudest tools are his plus raw pop and plus throwing arm. The arm is strong enough that it will keep him on the left side of the infield. Eierman is an aggressive hitter, and needs to tone down the aggressiveness to fully tap into his power. There are also some concerns about how he’s hit with wood thus far. He’s got a very interesting fantasy profile with that power-speed combo and ability to stick at short. ETA: 2021

12. Parker Dunshee, RHP

Age: 24 (2/12/95)

Highest Level: AA

150.2 IP, 2.33 ERA, 3.20 FIP, 9.74 K/9, 1.85 BB/9, .218 AVG- A+/AA

Fastball sits 88-91, tops out at 93. His slider is in the mid-80’s and the changeup is developing. The changeup will ultimately decide his future value. He throws strikes but doesn’t get as many groundballs as I’d like. Future back-end starter for me because he lacks an out pitch. ETA: 2021.

13. Marcos Brito, 2B

Age: 19 (3/6/2000)

Highest Level: A

.241/.325/.288, 1 HR, .047 ISO, 89 wRC+, 11.2% BB, 20.7% K, 7 SB

Switch-hitting teenager that held his own against older competition. Brito is a plus defender at second base with quick-twitch actions and good range. He needs to add strength and incorporate the lower half more in his swing. He has a leg kick that occasionally creates timing issues which leads to weak contact. It will likely be a slow climb through the minors the rest of the way, but Brito performed well after an aggressive assignment for the 2016 International Free Agent. ETA: 2022.

14. Tyler Ramirez, OF

Age: 24 (2/21/95)

Highest Level: AA

.287/.370/.430, 10 HR, .143 ISO, 121 wRC+, 10.4% BB, 24.9% K, 5 SB

All Tyler Ramirez has done since entering the Oakland organization out of UNC is hit. Ramirez owns a career .285/.374/.420 line. His best offensive skill is the 60-grade hit tool, and it plays up a bit if you factor in the strong walk rate. He uses all fields with strong line drive rates and racks up doubles, but the power will always be limited by the linear swing and 5-foot-9 frame. He’s an average runner who can stick in center, but he profiles best on a corner where he is solidly above-average defensively. He also hasn’t shown a platoon issue thus far, and really is the ideal bench bat on a contending club. Jon Jay-ish. ETA: 2020.

15. Kevin Merrell, SS

Age: 23 (12/14/95)

Highest Level: A+

.291/.335/.365, 6 HR, .074 ISO, 91 wRC+, 5.9% BB, 21.9% K, 7 SB- ROK/A/A+

Is it wrong that I expected much more out of Merrell in the Cal League? The University of South Florida product was the 33rd-overall pick in the 2017 draft because of his speed and glove. He can fly, but his 70-grade speed hasn’t translated much in game in the stolen base department. Merrell has the glove and range to stick up the middle, but the complete lack of power is concerning. It’s difficult to project Merrell as anything other than a utility guy at this point. ETA: 2021.

16. Nick Allen, SS

Age: 20 (10/8/98)

Highest Level: A-

.239/.301/.302, 0 HR, .063 ISO, 73 wRC+, 6.6% BB, 16.6% K, 24 SB

Nick Allen is a 70 glove at shortstop. That 70 glove with a 60 arm is enough to play everyday at the six. He’s a great athlete with the leadership skills and makeup that you want on your team. I’m skeptical that he hits, but I’m always the last one out on elite defenders and athletes like this. It’s all going to depend on how long Oakland’s leash here is. His bat will still be developing long after he’s called up to Oakland. ETA: 2022.

17. Sheldon Neuse, 3B

Age: 24 (12/10/94)

Highest Level: AAA

.263/.304/.357, 5 HR, .094 ISO, 72 wRC+, 6% BB, 32% K, 4 SB

Neuse couldn’t build on last year’s dominant AFL stint, and the bottom completely fell out for the former National farm hand. The best skill here is the plus arm, and it might even be 80-grade from third base. Neuse is a thick-bodied kid, but he’s much more athletic than he looks. He has 60-grade raw pop, but there’s enough swing and miss in the profile to question if he ever gets to it. I can’t explain his 2018 season. It was an aggressive assignment putting him at Nashville, but there has to be an injury or something there, right? ETA: 2020.

18. Wyatt Marks, RHP

Age: 23 (6/28/95)

Highest Level: A+

133.2 IP, 3.30 ERA, 3.56 FIP, 10.71 K/9, 3.43 BB/9, .225 AVG- A-/A+

Marks misses bats at an elite level. In fact, he led all of NCAA Division I baseball with 15.17 K/9 and 4.40 H/9. The strikeouts have carried over since entering pro ball, and he’s averaging just over 11 K/9 for his career. The A’s have found something with this 13th-round pick out of Louisiana-Lafayette. He misses enough bats to profile as a mid-rotation piece or back-end reliever. ETA: 2020.

19. Brian Howard, RHP

Age: 23 (4/25/95)

Highest Level: AA

139.1 IP, 2.91 ERA, 3.95 FIP, 9.04 K/9, 2.39 BB/9, .222 AVG- A+/AA

Brian Howard is a 6-foot-9 kid from TCU that absolutely pounds the zone with his four-pitch mix. The fastball sits 88-92 and can touch 94. His best breaking ball is a cutter-slider hybrid that floats anywhere between 81-88 that he can manipulate. He also throws a curveball and a changeup. The cutter and curveball are his primary weapons against lefties. Howard has good command, and profiles as a back-end starter. ETA: 2020.

20. Grant Holmes, RHP

Age: 23 (3/22/96)

Highest Level: A+

6 IP, 4.50 ERA, 5.26 FIP, 12.00 K/9, 3.00 BB/9, .174 AVG

The former Dodger with the ginger flow, Holmes missed almost all of 2018 with a shoulder injury. The former first rounder was limited this spring to only throwing fastballs and changeups because of the injury, and unfortunately the shoulder injury flared up again and he was removed from the Arizona Fall League roster. Holmes is likely ticketed for the bullpen from here on out, and his stuff should play up in that role. His lack of extension always took a bit off the stuff. He hasn’t thrown his plus curveball in over a year so hopefully that pitch still has its 12-6 bite. ETA: 2020.

21. Luis Barrera, OF

Age: 23 (11/15/95)

Highest Level: AA

.297/.361/.426, 3 HR, .128 ISO, 115 wRC+, 8.3% BB, 16.4% K, 23 SB

Barrera can play every outfield spot, runs well, and has an above-average arm. He has an average hit tool and well below average power, but will take a walk. He’s a fourth outfielder. He’s having a nice stint in the AFL thus far, but I don’t think he drives the ball or defends well enough to be an everyday guy. ETA: 2020.

22. Dairon Blanco, OF

Age: 25 (4/26/93)

Highest Level: A+

.291/.342/.406, 1 HR, .115 ISO, 102 wRC+, 7.2% BB, 19.1% K, 22 SB

Dairon Blanco was an underrated Cuban signee with 80-grade speed during the 2017 J2 period. Blanco was old for the Cal League, but it was encouraging to see him post league average numbers in his first year stateside. He’s raw in the field and at the plate, but has proven to be a very good baserunner. He went 22-for-24 on the bases in 2018. ETA: 2022.

23. Kyler Murray, OF

Age: 21 (8/7/97)

Highest Level: NCAA

96-135 (71.1%) 1,764 YDs Passing, 21-3 TD-INT. 374 YDs Rushing 5 TDs

The A’s surprised everyone when they took the Oklahoma University outfield-quarterback with the ninth overall pick in the 2018 draft. The A’s must view the upside as being worth more than the risk here and have agreed to pay Murray $4.6 million with some insurance provisions built in just in case he gets injured playing football.

On the (baseball) field, Murray hit only .122/.317/.122 as a freshman and followed it up that summer with an equally disappointing .170/.273/.277 line in the Cape Cod League. His sophomore season was much better as significant improvements in his approach led to a .296/.398/.556 line with 36 extra-base hits (10 homers) and 10 steals. Outside of the heightened injury risk due to his football career, this is still a very risky pick by the A’s because he still struck out twice as much as he walked last year for the Sooners. I do think he has the bat speed, strength and athleticism to hit .250 with 22-25 homers. ETA: 2024.

EDIT: Ok, so it appears the 2018-19 Heisman Trophy winner is choosing to play football instead of riding the buses through the Midwest League. I actually think that this is a smart move for Murray’s financial future, but I’m dropping him down from the number four spot to here.

24. Lawrence Butler, OF/1B

Age: 17 (7/10/2000)

Highest Level: ROK

.226/.339/.330, 1 HR, .104 ISO, 98 wRC+, 14.5% BB, 34.7% K, 3 SB- ROK

The 2018 6th-rounder was the only high school pick by the A’s in the first ten rounds. The Georgia prep has been one of the most improved players during instructs after he held his own in the AZL. He has a beautiful left-handed swing, and has been taking better at bats out in instructs. Butler probably isn’t athletic enough to stick in the outfield, but I think he can hit enough to be an everyday first baseman for the A’s. He also recorded 107-mph exit velocity on a homer during instructs. ETA: 2024.

25. Dalton Sawyer LHP

Age: 25 (11/22/93)

Highest Level: DNP

DNP- Tommy John Recovery

The lefty was the A’s 9th-round pick in 2016 out of the University of Minnesota. He missed all of 2018 as he is recovering from Tommy John. When healthy Sawyer has a plus changeup with an above average curveball. His below average fastball plays up against lefties due to late sink and run. It also plays up due to the extension he gets from his 6-foot-5 frame. He’s a very cerebral kid and does an excellent job with sequencing. Delivery has a lot of moving parts. ETA: 2021.

26. Greg Deichmann, OF

Age: 23 (5/31/95)

Highest Level: A+

.199/.276/.392, 6 HR, .193 ISO, 77 wRC+, 9.2% BB, 34.1% K

Deichmann was a big power bat from LSU, with plus raw power and a strong throwing arm. He’s got the prototypical right-field profile. He gets knocked for being a bit stiff at times in the box and in the field, but he’s a slightly below-average runner underway. I’m giving him a pass due to a hamate injury that limited him to only 58 games in 2018. ETA: 2021.

27. Alfonso Rivas, 1B

Age: 24 (9/13/96)

Highest Level: A+

.285/.397/.383, 1 HR, .098 ISO, 137 wRC+, 14% BB, 17.1% K, 7 SB

Alfonso Rivas was the A’s fourth round pick out of the University of Arizona in this past June’s draft. His offensive profile would be more interesting if he was an up the middle prospect, but there’s still an intriguing set of skills here. Rivas has a future plus hit tool that get’s above-average present grades, and it plays up to double plus when you factor in the elite walk and contact rates. His ability to find the barrel cannot be taught, and he can carve out a career in the big leagues just off of his hit tool alone. Defensively, Rivas has smooth hands and an above-average arm but his lack of foot speed limits him to first base, even though he did spend sometime in the outfield while in college. Rivas is the rare college first baseman with some physical projection left, and he wouldn’t be the first guy with plus bat-to-ball to find an extra power grade as he rises up through the system. ETA: 2021

28. JJ Schwarz, C

Age: 23 (3/28/96)

Highest Level: A

.266/.398/.354, 0 HR, .089 ISO, 128 wRC+, 16.3% BB, 18.4% K- ROK/A

Former University of Florida catcher with above average raw power and the bat speed to match. The plate approach is strong, but Zack Collins-esque defensive concerns put question marks on future role. Schwarz was an inconsistent college performer, but he could be a steal in the 9th round. ETA: 2021.

29. Hogan Harris, LHP

Age: 22 (12/26/94)

Highest Level: DNP

The left-hander out of Louisiana-Lafayette was the A’s 3rd-round pick in 2018. He has a fastball in the 91-94 range, with an above-average hook. He also throws a slider and a change. The body lacks projection. His command right now is below average, but I think the A’s can unlock something here. ETA: 2022.

30. Gus Varland, RHP

Age: 22 (11/6/96)

Highest Level: A-

38 IP, 0.95 ERA, 2.16 FIP, 11.84 K/9, 1.89 BB/9, .172 AVG

The A’s nabbed Varland out of D-II Concordia in the 14th round this past June and received a $125,000 bonus. Varland has a high tempo delivery that he repeats well and a lightning quick arm to match. The fastball sits in the mid-90s and plays up due to the delivery. His best secondary pitch is the slider and he also has a fringy changeup that might push him to the pen. The body lacks projection as he’s already a stocky righty. The command is plus and he can pound the zone with his fastball-slider combo and could move quickly if the A’s commit to using Varland out of the pen. ETA: 2022.