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An SB Nation blog for Oakland Athletics fans



Updated: 2017-01-23T06:00:03-08:00

 



The Weekly Bernie, 1/23/17: Oakland A’s make free agent signings official

2017-01-23T06:00:03-08:00

The A’s signings of free agents Santiago Casilla and Trevor Plouffe were made official this week, and two beloved members of the baseball community were lost over the weekend due to tragic accidents, among other news. Welcome back to The Weekly Bernie! It’s the best dance in the game, so let’s get rolling once more! The A’s finalized their two most recent free agent signings of right-handed reliever Santiago Casilla and third baseman Trevor Plouffe over the past week. Casilla will, somewhat surprisingly, be a ninth inning option for the A’s going into the spring. The 36 year-old struggled in the closer’s role with San Francisco in 2016, but has a very strong track record overall. Plouffe, on the other hand, will see the bulk of his time at third base, pushing youngster Ryon Healy to first base and designated hitter. (The two seem to be getting along just fine, though.) To make room for the two additions, righty Zach Neal and outfielder Brett Eibner were designated for assignment, as Alex predicted last week. If I had to guess, I’d predict Neal makes it through waivers but Eibner is claimed and lost. Tragedy struck twice in the Dominican Republic on Sunday morning. Kansas City Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura, 25, and former Cleveland Indians infielder Andy Marte, 33, died in separate car accidents. Little is known yet about the cause of either accident. For more information and to offer condolences, check out the coverage on Royals Review and Let’s Go Tribe respectively. These incidents come less than four months after the untimely passing of Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez in a boating accident. On Wednesday evening it was announced that outfielder Tim Raines, first baseman Jeff Bagwell, and catcher Ivan Rodriguez will become the newest members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. For AN’s coverage, check out Alex’s piece on the trio. Near misses this year included closer Trevor Hoffman and outfielder Vladimir Guerrero. Both will almost certainly be enshrined in the Hall next year. The two top bats on the market both returned to their 2016 clubs this past week. Mark Trumbo, 31, signed a three year, $37.5 million contract with the Baltimore Orioles, while Jose Bautista, 36, is headed back to the Toronto Blue Jays on a one year, $18 million contract with two options (a 2018 mutual option for $17 million and a 2019 vesting option worth $20 million). Both players struggled in free agency due to an abundance of right-handed power bats on the market. However, both Trumbo and Bautista are quality hitters that should continue to succeed with their respective clubs. In addition to their two significant free agent signings, the A’s also picked up outfielder Alejandro De Aza and lefty Ross Detwiler on minor league contracts. Detwiler returns to the A’s as a depth arm after a passable performance for the club late in 2016, while De Aza could make the team out of camp as a left-handed hitting fifth outfielder. For more, once again, check out Alex’s write-up. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are in agreement with free agent infielder Luis Valbuena on a two year deal, per Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. Valbuena, 31, will provide insurance for the aging and injured Albert Pujols. The addition also adds depth to a lineup that already featured the game’s best player in Mike Trout as well as quality hitters such as Pujols, Kole Calhoun, Yunel Escobar, and C.J. Cron. If the Angels’ pitching staff can hold together, the team could be a surprise contender. The Marlins have acquired righty Dan Straily from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for prospects Luis Castillo, Austin Brice, and Isaiah White. Straily, originally drafted and developed by the A’s, enjoyed a bounceback campaign with Cincinnati in 2016, posting a 3.76 ERA over 34 appearances (31 starts). The 28 year-old’s slider was phenomenal, and while his 4.88 FIP didn’t agree with his success, he still has significant potential. The prospects sent to the Reds are each interesting in their own way, but none of the three are much more th[...]



Oakland A's 2017 Community Prospect List #9: Bruce Maxwell breaks out

2017-01-22T17:39:17-08:00

A second straight close election brings us the next player on our 2017 Community Prospect List, catcher Bruce Maxwell. Of eight players on the list so far, he’s the fifth with a realistic chance to appear in Oakland this season, possibly as soon as Opening Day. Here’s the current list, including their winning margins (the difference between their % of the vote, and the % of the runner-up): Franklin Barreto, SS (+67%) Matt Chapman, 3B (+26%) A.J. Puk, LHP (+38%) Jharel Cotton, RHP (+60%) Frankie Montas, RHP (+12%) Grant Holmes, RHP (+27%) Matt Olson, 1B/OF (+10%) Bruce Maxwell, C (+9%) Since being drafted in the 2nd round in 2012, Maxwell’s career can be split into two distinct eras. There was his quiet, steady, unremarkable rise up the minor league system, from 2012 through 2015. And there was 2016, in which he torched Triple-A and earned an MLB debut before many of his higher-profile teammates. His wRC+ by year (100 is average, higher is better): 2012, A-: 96 wRC+2013, A: 1132014, A+: 1002015, AA: 792016, AAA: 148!! He got better and better in Triple-A as the year went on: April 2016: 60 wRC+May: 121June: 131July: 278 (lol wut) Talk about a breakout. Back in 2015, Maxwell didn’t even make our preseason Top 25. He did make the list entering 2016, but only because we expanded it — he checked in at No. 28 in the A’s system. And now, suddenly, he’s comfortably in the Top 10 for the first time, at age 26 and entering his sixth season (fifth full year) in the organization. Maxwell held his own in the bigs when he got there, with a 103 wRC+ in 101 plate appearances. At this point he seems like all but a lock to at least carve out an MLB career as a backup, and maybe even more if his bat continues to play. If he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, he’ll be here sooner than later. Here is the process: Five candidates will be listed on the ballot. The voting will take place in the comments section. I will start with a comment listing all five players, and then I will respond to that with five new comments in the style of "Vote: Player Name" for each candidate. Please do not reply directly to the official "Vote" comments, so that the ballot can stay together in one group. Choose your ONE favorite by Rec'ing the comment with his name. Please only vote for one. The player who receives the most Rec's earns the next spot on the CPL, while the remaining four players move on to the next ballot where they are joined by a new nominee. In the comments, below the official voting, commenters will nominate players to be put onto the ballot for the next round. Similar to the ballot, I will start with a comment calling for nominations, which can then be made as a response to my comment. The format for your comment should be "Nomination: Player Name". After the first nomination for a player has been put in, all other votes for that player will come from Rec'ing that comment. The player with the most Rec's earns the nomination. If a prospect is traded, his name will be crossed out, and all other players will be moved up a space. If a prospect is acquired, a special vote will be put up to determine where that player should rank. * * * The new nominee is Renato Nunez. After hitting at every level of the minors, Renato finally stumbled in Triple-A. But he still got to make his MLB debut, and then he bounced back in his home country of Venezuela as one of the top hitters in winter ball. He’s still young, but given that his bat is his only path to the bigs, he’ll need to get it back on track stateside in 2017 if he wants to stay relevant. XBH = Extra-Base HitsHitter average rates: 100 wRC+, 8.0% BB, 20.0% Ks Renato Nunez, 3B Expected level: Triple-A | Age 23 2016 stats (AAA): 550 PAs, 78 wRC+, 23 HR, 5.6% BB, 21.6% Ks2016 stats (MLB): 2-for-15, 0 BB, 3 Ks2016 stats (LVBP): 193 PAs, .304/.389/.542, 11 HR, 21 BB, 38 Ks From John Sickels: Like Olson his reputation has slipped; more raw power than Olson but a much more aggressive approach hampers Nunez’s OBP; defense remains med[...]



How Much Should We Trust Internal Belief In Prospects?

2017-01-21T21:47:27-08:00

The A’s current approach to rebuilding has some fans nervous, because it relies on the success of many prospects and nothing is less predictable than the fate of prospects. Oakland has been disciplined in not trading any of its "exciting young core," preferring instead to sign free agents who have in common that are may not be elite players but they also will not block young players as they arrive. Matt Joyce, Rajai Davis, Trevor Plouffe, and Santiago Casilla are all on 1-2 year deals for relatively little money. The risk, of course, is that the A’s are leaning heavily on success from players who have yet to enjoy success in the big leagues — in many cases they haven’t even had so much as a cup of coffee and in other cases a small cup is exactly the sum total of their experience. Is it wise to bank so much on Franklin Barreto, Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Bruce Maxwell, Ryon Healy, Renato Nuñez, Chad Pinder, Jharel Cotton, Frankie Montas, Daniel Mengden, and so on? (Only Healy has sustained any big league success so far and even that was only a half season.) The answer lies in just how good the A’s think these young players are. Sure, there are no guarantees, but hitting on players in the draft is a bit different from hitting on players you already have, that your professional scouts have already seen on multiple occasions, that you have concluded are the real deal and will more likely hit their 75th percentile projection than their 50th or, heaven forbid, their 25th. In other words, it appears the A’s front office is "all in" on the young core and that’s absolutely fine so long as they are right. They need to do better than the usual rate of bust and disappointment associated with the draft and with the minors. Personally I’m a non-believer in Renato Nuñez and Chad Pinder, but the good news is that even if I’m right the A’s can do fine without those two thriving. They can’t, however, be wrong too many times and certainly not with the players on whom they are most depending. Let’s take a look at how the landscape might shake down for the lineup if several key prospects were to hit around their 70th percentile after all. Franklin Barreto: A 70th percentile projection might yield an average defender up the middle with a slash line of .280/.340/.440 and a tidy 15/15 combo of HRs and stolen bases. Matt Chapman: A 70th percentile projection might yield an excellent (but not quite gold glove level) defender at 3B with a slash line of .240/.320/.450, 25 HRs. Matt Olson: A 70th percentile projection might yield a very solid 1Bman or slightly below average RFer with a slash line of .230/.330/.430, 25 HRs. Bruce Maxwell: A 70th percentile projection might yield an average defender (good framing, not as good blocking) at catcher with a slash line of .250/.310/.400. Ryon Healy: A 70th percentile projection going forward might yield an average defender at 1B with a slash line of .270/.330/.450, 20 HRs. Plenty of slugging, to be sure, not as much batting average as you would like, pretty good defense. For better or worse, incumbents-under-contract-for-a-while Khris Davis and Marcus Semien share these qualities. I'm not sure where a .360+ OBP is going to come from unless Chapman or Olson hits his ceiling, but there is plenty of upside in this group — and it appears the A’s brass believes some of these guys are going to reach their potential. If most of them do, and if 1-2 break out to approach their ceiling, the A’s look like they’re in good shape. And if that doesn’t happen? If the A’s have blown it on evaluating their best prospects at the most crucial time to get it right? That...would be a real problem. I’ve been highly agnostic on a couple of these prospects, most notably Olson. One day I see lots of potential in someone so young who has already mastered walks, dingers and defense, and another day I see a long swing that could get terribly exposed at the highest level. .250/.360/.500? Totally could happen. .180/.280/.350? Totally[...]



Oakland A’s roster update after flurry of January moves

2017-01-21T07:52:03-08:00

For the first two months of the offseason, not much happened with the Oakland A’s. Then, as usual, a whole lot happened all at once. Now that the dust has settled on Oakland’s busy January, let’s take a look at the new state of the roster and depth chart. 40-man roster Pitchers Hitters Starters Sonny Gray (R) Sean Manaea (L) Kendall Graveman (R) Andrew Triggs (R) Jharel Cotton (R) Daniel Mengden (R) Raul Alcantara (R) Jesse Hahn (R) Dillon Overton (L) Frankie Montas (R) Chris Bassitt (R) Paul Blackburn (R) Relievers Ryan Madson (R) Sean Doolittle (L) Ryan Dull (R) Liam Hendriks (R) Santiago Casilla (R) John Axford (R) Daniel Coulombe (L) Bobby Wahl (R) Catchers Stephen Vogt (L) Josh Phegley (R) Bruce Maxwell (L) Infielders Ryon Healy (R) Trevor Plouffe (R) Yonder Alonso (L) Mark Canha (R) Matt Olson (L) Renato Nunez (R) Jed Lowrie (S) Joey Wendle (L) Chad Pinder (R) Marcus Semien (R) Franklin Barreto (R) Yairo Munoz (R) Outfielders Khris Davis (R) Rajai Davis (R) Matt Joyce (L) Jake Smolinski (R) Jaycob Brugman (L) A few thoughts: That outfield section isn’t as shallow as it looks. Remember that two of the infielders (Olson, Canha) are just as likely to find time in the outfield corners as at 1B. Also, the DH spot figures to draw from that infield group, as things currently stand. There are only 4 lefty pitchers and 8 lefty hitters (including switch) on the whole roster. The bullpen is deeper than it looks there, but many options aren’t on the roster yet. That’s something that can be sorted out during the spring. The important thing is the front line is set and there are numerous backups. Non-roster invites This is a partial list (23 of 29) of the spring training invites. I’ve removed a bunch of sub-AAA prospects who will only be there to gain experience and not actually compete for an imminent job (Puk, Fillmyer, Cochran-Gill, Murphy, Schrock, and Martin). Pitchers Hitters Starters Ross Detwiler (L) Felix Doubront (L) Daniel Gossett (R) Relievers Michael Brady (R) Simon Castro (R) Tucker Healy (R) Aaron Kurcz (R) Chris Smith (R) Josh Smith (R) Tyler Sturdevant (R) Cesar Valdez (R) Catchers Ryan Lavarnway (R) Matt McBride (R) Infielders Matt Chapman (R) Jermaine Curtis (R) Max Muncy (L) Chris Parmelee (L) Rangel Ravelo (R) Josh Rodriguez (R) Outfielders Alejandro De Aza (L) Jaff Decker (L) Andrew Lambo (L) Kenny Wilson (R) Most of those names won’t ever factor into the MLB squad, but a few will. The most likely bets are a couple relievers and an outfielder, plus maybe a catcher or eventually Chapman or Gossett. Forming a 25-man roster So how can we shave this group down to 25 in the dugout? There are enough veteran stopgaps present that there’s not too much room for creativity, so I won’t be including most of the prospects; this represents a safe guess, not an ambitious one. Starters (5): Sonny, Manaea, Graveman, Triggs, Cotton Relievers (7): Madson, Doolittle, Dull, Hendriks, Casilla, Axford, Alcantara Catchers (3): Vogt, Phegley, Maxwell Infielders (6): Healy, Alonso, Lowrie, Wendle, Semien, Plouffe Outfielders (5): Khris, Rajai, Joyce, Smolinski, De Aza There’s one obvious problem here: That’s 26 players, We need to make a cut. You might quibble with Cotton, but there will be a fifth starter. You might disagree with Alcantara, but there will be a seventh reliever; a long man who’s out of options seems like the perfect guess. You can dump Lowrie, but you’ll need to replace him with another middle infielder (Pinder?). Wendle and Smolinski make the most sense as a starting 2B and Joyce’s platoon partner in RF, but again, they represent necessary roster spots even if they aren’t the ones who end up filling them. That leaves two things. I included three catchers, which is far from a sure thing and is not the norm for most teams. However, the idea is reportedly on the table at least, so it’s not something [...]



Oakland A’s sign outfielder Alejandro De Aza to minor league contract

2017-01-20T14:34:03-08:00

The Oakland A’s signed outfielder Alejandro De Aza to a minor league contract on Friday, reports Jane Lee of MLB.com. De Aza is not on the 40-man roster, but he’ll be a non-roster invite at spring training (via Joe Stiglich, CSN). De Aza is a left-handed outfielder. He’s played all three spots in MLB, but most of his time has come in CF and LF. Overall his defense has hovered around average, with stints of both positive and negative performance. When he’s been asked to play CF regularly he’s been a bit stretched, but he’s capable of covering that position in spurts and of being a slight plus as a regular LF. His throwing arm has received consistently negative marks on both UZR and DRS. At the plate, De Aza has also been generally average in his career. As an everyday player from 2012-14 (mostly for the White Sox), he posted a 101 wRC+; in a part-time role in 2015 (with three different teams), he managed a 104 mark; and for his career he’s at 98. However, he tanked last season for the Mets, which is one reason he’s so easily available: De Aza, 2016: 267 PAs, .205/.297/.321, 72 wRC+, 6 HR, 9.7% BB, 25.1% Ks, -0.3 WAR* * average of -0.4 bWAR and -0.2 fWAR Still, from 2011-15 he averaged 2.1 fWAR and 1.3 bWAR, and at 33 years old next season he has time to bounce back from an off-year. His poor 2016 was split up into an atrocious first half and a decent second half, which is one encouraging sign for a player’s immediate future outlook. A look at his career numbers gives an idea of what to hope for if he returns to his previous form: De Aza, career: 2,808 PAs, .261/.328/.398, 98 wRC+, 51 HR, 7.9% BB, 21.6% Ks, 90 SB (at 67%) A decent hitter, gets on base a little bit if the hits are falling, some modest power, completely average plate discipline, and some speed but not a true burner. Toss in mediocre defense at two spots, and you have yourself a potentially viable MLB outfielder who can handle CF, which is a scarce commodity in Oakland right now. The A’s current outfield features Khris Davis, Rajai Davis, and Matt Joyce as the primary starters from left to right. Joyce should be a strict platoon player, so a smart bet would be Jake Smolinski joining him as a right-handed partner. The other thing the A’s could really use is a left-handed batter who can help out in CF, and that’s exactly what De Aza is. His main competitors in that skill profile are prospect Jaycob Brugman and fellow non-roster man Jaff Decker. One way or other, whether in Oakland or in Triple-A Nashville, his path to playing time was potentially eased a bit with the DFA of Brett Eibner on Friday. Hot take: To be honest, De Aza is better than I realized, especially in terms of his respectability in OBP and defense. He’s not a star, but the A’s are starved for outfield depth and he immediately becomes one of their better bench options. He’s another veteran stopgap, but if a prospect like Matt Olson or Jaycob Brugman forces his way into playing time in the outfield then the only way I can see De Aza getting in the way is if he is truly playing well. And if that happens, then I don’t think any of us will be complaining. The A’s have signed many minor league free agents this winter, as all teams do every year. Of that group, De Aza immediately strikes me as the one most likely to get playing time in Oakland, if not outright make the team out of camp. Here are some of the others whom I’ve posted about this offseason, and I plan to profile the rest before spring training starts (but MLB signings took precedence this month!): outfielders Jaff Decker and Kenny Wilson lefty starter Ross Detwiler re-signed lefty swingman Felix Doubront, catcher Matt McBride, outfielder Andrew Lambo, and righty relievers Chris Smith and Aaron Kurcz FanPost (apilgrim): righty reliever Josh Smith Still to come: C Ryan Lavarnway, 1B/OF Chris Parmelee, and RHP Tyler Sturdevant, among others [...]



Oakland A’s DFA outfielder Brett Eibner to make room for Santiago Casilla signing

2017-01-20T11:46:18-08:00

The Oakland A’s officially announced the signing of free agent RHP Santiago Casilla on Friday, and to make room on the 40-man roster they designated OF Brett Eibner for assignment, reports Jane Lee of MLB.com. Eibner was acquired by the A’s at the end of July, from the Royals in exchange for Billy Burns in a deal of two fringe players getting a change in scenery. He made his MLB debut in May for Kansas City, but in 44 games for Oakland he was absolutely awful -- he didn’t hit at all, and his well-regarded defense never appeared at any outfield position. Eibner, 2016 A’s: 123 PAs, .165/.252/.303, 53 wRC+, 3 HR, 10.6% BB, 22.0% Ks, -0.5 WAR* * average of -0.7 bWAR and -0.3 fWAR ... yes, those are negative numbers There was initially a hope that Eibner could be part of the CF solution, but nothing about his play in 2016 was encouraging and clearly the A’s are moving on with other plans in center. Rajai Davis is the stopgap starter now after signing in free agency, with other backups on the 40-man roster including platoon righty Jake Smolinski and Triple-A prospect Jaycob Brugman. The A’s also have minor league free agent Jaff Decker, who isn’t on the 40-man at this time but will be playing at spring training, and on Friday they signed Alejandro De Aza to a minor league deal. Meanwhile, as a right-handed batter, Eibner had become particularly redundant with the presence of Smolinski in an almost identical backup/platoon role, as well as the signings of righties Rajai and Trevor Plouffe. Of course, this move does not guarantee that the 28-year-old Eibner is gone from the organization, though it could be a couple weeks before we learn his fate. There are several possible results, but most likely he’ll end up going through waivers. If he makes it through without any other teams claiming him, as Rangel Ravelo and Max Muncy did this winter, then he could still wind up back at Triple-A Nashville this season. If so, then the A’s will have another OF depth option stashed in the minors. (My personal guess: probably lower than 50/50 that he gets claimed) Eibner is the second player the A’s have DFA’d this week. On Wednesday, they cut RHP Zach Neal to make room for free agent 3B Plouffe. All told, they removed a pitcher and a hitter to make room for a pitcher and a hitter. Last week we discussed which players the A’s might drop to make room for Plouffe and Casilla, and, to toot my own horn for a moment, I nailed both guesses (Neal and Eibner). I expect that my prize is coming in the mail. For more on the Casilla signing: Jan. 11: A’s sign Casilla Jan. 17: A’s now have 4 closers Jan. 18: Why Plouffe and Casilla make so much sense for A’s For more on Eibner: Meet Brett Eibner Eibner homers in first at-bat for Triple-A Nashville Eibner comic #1 Eibner comic #2 [...]



Oakland A’s on the MLB leaderboard

2017-01-19T22:10:26-08:00

Which A’s were at the top (or bottom) of the leaderboard last season It was a down year for the A’s, but it’s important to celebrate the wins individual members of the team accomplished, no matter how small. Also, the losses, as long as I can squeeze a poor joke out of them. For offensive statistics, I included only qualified players, excluding ones involving Billy Butler cause Billy Butler ain’t qualified for shit. For pitchers, I set the minimum requirement at 100 innings pitched since the A’s had exactly one qualified pitcher by normal standards (Kendall Graveman). Offensive edition Marcus Semien, 12th in games played with 159 This is what we call managing expectations. Click on this post expecting to hear good, normal, league leading stats? Nah. Marcus Semien physically stood between the lines a lot last year, and dammit, that’s cause for celebration. Khris Davis, tied third in home runs with 42 Imagine how many he would have had if he didn’t forget out to hit for two and a half weeks! This is a legitimate accomplishment to celebrate, especially considering that Davis played half his games in the concrete home run suppressor known as the Coliseum. Khris Davis, tied third in Isolate Slugging at .277 Not exactly surprising but still fun. Billy Butler, eighth worst in BsR (Base running runs above average) at -5.7 lol. This is particularly remarkable because A) Butler played on the short side of a platoon for a team that wasn’t exactly batting around the order with any regularity and B) he didn’t get on base at a particularly high rate. The dude was efficient at costing the A’s on the basepaths. Stephen Vogt, second lowest ground ball rate at 30.3% Catchers take enough of a beating as is, so good work by Stephen Vogt to avoid the automatic running groundballs require. Also, groundballs are boring. Yonder Alonso, tied 8th lowest HR/FB rate at 5.1% If Yonder Alonso had Andrelton Simmons’ defensive ability, you’d be excused for periodically thinking to yourself "huh, wish Alonso could get one out of here every now and then". Khris Davis, 2nd in HR/FB rate at 26.6% When Davis got under a ball, he basically got it out of the yard a quarter of the time. That’s incredible, and the Yin to Alonso’s lack of bang. Pitching edition Kendall Graveman, 9th in GB% at 52.1% The A’s groundballer got groundballs, something encouraging to see out of a guy who just doesn’t miss bats. Many of those found their way past the A’s slow footed infield, but Graveman’s ability to keep the ball down bodes well for his future, especially if the A’s ever put out a solid defensive team. Sonny Gray, 7th lowest swinging percentage at pitches outside the zone (O-swing %) Before we get too worked up, remember that a lot of this statistic is about a pitcher’s control. Gray was outside the zone far more than he’s ever been in his career, giving the statistic a higher denominator and therefore looking worse for Gray. It’s not all stuff related. But it is, somewhat at least, stuff related, and it’s an indication of sorts that Gray’s stuff wasn’t right last year. Sean Manaea, 4th highest swing percentage at balls in the zone (Z-swing %) Early in Manaea’s rookie campaign, the lefty was chased early from starts after hitters routinely jumped on his in zone offerings. As he progressed over the course of the year, he stopped spending so much time in the zone, and that benefited him tremendously. Manae’s ability to further develop his secondary pitches is ultimately huge to his overall success. Team edition Tied 4th, highest fastball percentage thrown at 60.6% If it seemed like the A’s were throwing fastballs too frequently last year, here’s your evidence. In and of itself, the 60.6% number doesn’t say a whole lot - the A’s found themselves in blowouts frequently, something that lends itself to throwing more heaters. A more interestin[...]



Oakland A's 2017 Community Prospect List #8: Does Matt Olson graduate to MLB this year?

2017-01-19T20:09:34-08:00

In our closest vote yet, slugger Matt Olson won the next spot on our 2017 Community Prospect List. Here’s the current list, including their winning margins (the difference between their % of the vote, and the % of the runner-up): Franklin Barreto, SS (+67%) Matt Chapman, 3B (+26%) A.J. Puk, LHP (+38%) Jharel Cotton, RHP (+60%) Frankie Montas, RHP (+12%) Grant Holmes, RHP (+27%) Matt Olson, 1B/OF (+10%) The A’s drafted Olson in 2012, so he’s entering his fifth full season in Oakland’s system. Here’s a look back at where he has ranked in our CPL during that time: 2013: 10th2014: 11th2015: 1st2016: 3rd2017: 7th His 1st-round draft pedigree got him onto those early lists, and his 37 homers in High-A got him to the top (plus, the A’s system was especially weak entering 2015). He has since fallen down but not bottomed out, thanks to a couple of seasons in the upper minors that don’t jump off the page at you but aren’t bad if you look at them in depth. This could be a defining year for Olson. He’s 23 and he’s already debuted in MLB, but now he’s on the cusp of reaching the bigs for good if he can just seize whatever opportunities he’s given throughout the summer. A breakout performance in the first half could ink his name into the A’s lineup for the foreseeable future. Another relatively quiet campaign won’t close the book on him, but it would surely drop him out of the Top 10 prospect list next winter and could leave him open to getting passed (and even buried) on the depth chart. The safe guess is that he’ll open this year in Triple-A, though if he has a huge spring then I could see him getting a shot early. Here is the process: Five candidates will be listed on the ballot. The voting will take place in the comments section. I will start with a comment listing all five players, and then I will respond to that with five new comments in the style of "Vote: Player Name" for each candidate. Please do not reply directly to the official "Vote" comments, so that the ballot can stay together in one group. Choose your ONE favorite by Rec'ing the comment with his name. Please only vote for one. The player who receives the most Rec's earns the next spot on the CPL, while the remaining four players move on to the next ballot where they are joined by a new nominee. In the comments, below the official voting, commenters will nominate players to be put onto the ballot for the next round. Similar to the ballot, I will start with a comment calling for nominations, which can then be made as a response to my comment. The format for your comment should be "Nomination: Player Name". After the first nomination for a player has been put in, all other votes for that player will come from Rec'ing that comment. The player with the most Rec's earns the nomination. If a prospect is traded, his name will be crossed out, and all other players will be moved up a space. If a prospect is acquired, a special vote will be put up to determine where that player should rank. * * * The new nominee is Richie Martin. The 2015 1st-round pick had a rough start to his first full pro season, missing the first couple months to a knee injury and then hitting poorly through July. However, a late surge, reportedly spurred by some adjustments to his swing, salvaged some positivity out of the campaign and even earned him a quick promotion up to Double-A at the end. He has a lot to prove in 2017, but at least his last impression was a good one. XBH = Extra-Base HitsHitter average rates: 100 wRC+, 8.0% BB, 20.0% Ks Richie Martin, SS Expected level: Double-A | Age 22 2016 stats (A+): 382 PAs, 78 wRC+, 3 HR, 9.4% BB, 19.1% Ks2016 stats (AA + playoffs): 13-for-40, 4 XBH, 6 BB, 10 Ks, 164 wRC+ From John Sickels: Not much of a hitter at this point due to lack of power but he makes contact at least and offensive improvement is possible in the[...]