Every year, we take on the difficult task of ranking the top-50 Oakland A’s prospects. This year, that task was especially difficult, as the A’s have one of their deepest farm systems in recent history.
After counting down those prospects from 50-1, we recently revealed our final top-50 list for the 2018 season. To read that list, click here. To read our methodology for ranking the top-50, click here.
There were several players that we gave close consideration to adding to our top-50 list, but ultimately left out. Below are the players that were closest to making the list and a little about who they are as prospects. NOTE: These players are not in rank order but are listed in alphabetical order.
Sam Bragg, RHP
Bragg has done everything in his power to move up to Triple-A, but he has found himself stuck in Double-A for the past two years. He’s made the most of it, parlaying his time with the RockHounds into two Texas League titles. He’s also participated in the last two Arizona Fall Leagues, earning a ring his first year and going to the championship game in his second one.
Bragg has an above-average curveball that generates a lot of swings and misses, as well as a fastball that he can spot to both sides of the plate. He throws a lot of strikes and he increased his groundball rate by more than 5% from 2016 to 2017. After two strong years in the Midland bullpen, Bragg deserves a spot in the Nashville bullpen. Whether he gets that at the start of the season remains to be seen.
Marcos Brito, IF
Part of the A’s 2016 July 2nd free agent class, Brito made his debut in the A’s organization in 2017. After a 14-game stint in the Dominican Summer League, Brito joined the AZL A’s at the start of the Arizona League season and he played regularly for the A’s Rookie ball club. In 44 games, he showed an ability to get on-base, posting a .320 OBP despite hitting only .234. He struck-out 42 times in 171 at-bats, but he walked 21 times. Once on base, he flashed above-average speed on the bases.
Brito is a switch-hitter with the potential to be a table-setter at the top of a line-up. He has a line-drive swing and a surprisingly advanced approach for a player of his age (he just turned 18 in March). He still needs to add strength to his 6’1’’, 160-pound frame, but Brito’s debut season left room for optimism. Brito has an average throwing arm and did see some time at third base and shortstop, but he is primarily a second baseman. He could also see time in centerfield as he develops.
Trey Cochran-Gill, RHP
Cochran-Gill looked poised to join the A’s bullpen sometime in 2017 when he was invited to big league camp as a non-roster invitee. Unfortunately for Cochran-Gill, his 2017 season never got off the ground, as an injury limited him to all of one appearance. Now healthy, Cochran-Gill is looking to work his way back up the A’s reliever depth chart.
Before the injury, Cochran-Gill put together a 2016 season that included 73.1 innings for the 2016 Texas League champion Midland RockHounds and another 14.2 innings for the AFL champion Mesa Solar Sox. The right-hander is a fastball/slider pitcher who uses a three-quarters delivery to get movement and deception on all of his pitches. Command can be an issue at times, but he pounds the lower-half of the strike-zone and has allowed just six home runs in 186.2 career innings. He is an extreme groundball pitcher who can be used to clean up messy innings when he inherits runners on base. He may start the year back with Midland, but Cochran-Gill will be on the list for a promotion to Triple-A Nashville if he gets off to a strong start.
Edwin Diaz, IF
It’s been a slow rise through the A’s system for Diaz, who was a 15th-round pick in 2013. The native of Puerto Rico has only played 13 games above the Low-A level, but there are signs that he is on the verge of a breakout. Last season, Diaz put together his best offensive campaign with Low-A Beloit, hitting .255/.350/.414 in 89 games. Diaz struggled in a 13-game stint with High-A Stockton, but he posted a 784 OPS in the Puerto Rican Winter League and has had a solid spring training at the plate.
There’s no doubting Diaz’s defensive talents. He has one of the strongest throwing arms in the A’s system, as well as quick feet and soft hands. He has some power in his bat, as well. If he can figure out how to make more consistent contact, he could move quickly up the ladder. Diaz will be 22 throughout most of the 2018 season, so this is a big year for him to prove himself.
Zack Erwin, LHP
Acquired from the White Sox in the deal that sent Brett Lawrie to the South Side, Erwin’s first season in the A’s organization was nothing short of a disaster. The left-hander posted a 6.32 ERA in 98.1 innings with High-A Stockton and Low-A Beloit and then finished the year with elbow pain that eventually required arthroscopic surgery. After beginning the year finishing his rehab at Extended Spring Training, Erwin returned in 2017 looking like a different pitcher. In 95.1 innings for Beloit, he posted a 2.08 ERA and struck-out 91. He was even part of a combined no-hitter in August.
Erwin isn’t a hard thrower, with his fastball sitting in the 89-92 MPH range, but he mixes his two-seam and four-seam fastballs in well with his curveball and slider. He commands his pitches well and induces a lot of groundballs. Erwin turned 24 in January, so he’ll need to start moving up the A’s chain quickly this season. He is likely to return to Stockton to start the year.
Logan Farrar, OF
Not a lot was expected of Farrar – a 36th-round pick out of Virginia Commonwealth last season – but the outfielder made everyone stand-up and take notice with a breakout debut campaign. Splitting the season between the Arizona Rookie League and short-season Vermont, Farrar hit a blistering .341/.413/.495 with 24 extra-base hits in 56 games. He then went on to hit .353 with a home run and three walks in four postseason games for the Lake Monsters.
Farrar hit everything hard last year and he posted a 23% linedrive rate. Mostly a pull hitter, Farrar hit all four of his regular season home runs to right field. There was some swing-and-miss to his game, but Farrar walked at a solid rate. He was successful in all five of his stolen base attempts and handled centerfield defensively. Farrar will turn 23 in April, so he was old for his levels last season. As a lower round pick, Farrar will need to continue to prove himself at every stop, but he should get that opportunity with Low-A Beloit to start the year.
Tucker Healy, RHP
If it seems like Healy has been on the verge of making his major-league debut for several years, it’s because it has been years of Healy being almost-but-not-quite there. Now in his final season before being eligible for minor league free agency, Healy’s time may finally be upon us.
Healy is coming off of a strange season. He had a 2.48 ERA in 36.1 first-half innings for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds, but he struck-out an uncharacteristically low 26 while walking 18. Then he allowed 12 runs in 6.1 second-half innings before being shutdown for the season with a calf injury.
Healy’s command was off for most of the year, but when he’s on, he’s a major-league caliber reliever. He has a career K/9 of 11.47 and a career .219 BAA. A good first-half with Triple-A Nashville should put Healy back in position for a big league call-up given his career history.
Dustin Hurlbutt, RHP
What a difference a year made for Hurlbutt. Coming out of spring training in 2016, Hurlbutt didn’t break camp with a team, spending the first two months of the season at Extended Spring Training. He quickly showed why he deserved an opportunity in full-season ball, posting a 2.57 ERA in 98 innings for Low-A Beloit. In 2017, Hurlbutt opened the season in the High-A Stockton rotation. He would pitch his way out of the California League by midseason and finished the year strong with Double-A Midland. In total, Hurlbutt had a 3.65 ERA in 118.1 innings, which including a one-appearance cameo with Triple-A Nashville.
Hurlbutt was a senior when the A’s selected him in the 16th round in 2015 and he missed a year in college recovering from Tommy John surgery. His age is what holds his prospect status down some; he turned 25 in November. Otherwise, he is an under-the-radar arm who could surprise at the upper levels. In shorter stints, Hurlbutt can run his fastball into the upper-90s and he sits comfortably in the low-90s in his starts. His two-seam fastball gets plenty of sink and he can pitch up in the strike-zone with his four-seam. He also has a slider and a changeup that can be effective and a cut-fastball that he has flashed on occasion. Depending on how the A’s Opening Day rotation fleshes out, Hurlbutt could start the season in the Nashville rotation.
Jesus Lopez, SS
Lopez was a highly regarded international signing out of Nicaragua before the 2014 season. The switch-hitting middle infielder has consistently played well in camp settings – whether that be spring training or Instructional League – but until the second half of 2017, he hadn’t translated that success into the regular season. That changed when he joined the Low-A Beloit Snappers on July 11 after a short stint with short-season Vermont. With the Snappers, Lopez hit .280 with a .324 OBP. He also flashed some promise defensively, playing mostly at second but also adding time at shortstop and third base.
Lopez has a smooth stroke from both sides of the plate that generates line-drives to all fields. He sees a lot of pitches but can sometimes be too passive at the plate, leading to a lot of strikeouts. Defensively, he’s best suited for second base, although he offers the versatility to move to other infield spots. Lopez, 21, was expected to challenge for a spot in High-A Stockton this spring, but he hurt his heel in the first minor league spring game of the year and could miss the start of the season.
Tyler Marincov, OF
Marincov has had some tough luck since turning pro, and his luck was never worse than it was last season. Days away from a promotion to Triple-A, Marincov was hit in the hand with a pitch. That HBP sidelined Marincov for nearly six weeks and cost him the opportunity in Triple-A. Before the injury, he was in the middle of his best season as a pro. He was batting .275/.353/.470 with nine home runs and the best walk rate of his career. After he returned, Marincov struggled, batting only .227 with a 579 OPS. Marincov was able to make-up for some of that lost time during the winter, when he hit .293/.364/.468 with six extra-base hits in 21 Venezuelan Winter League games.
Marincov is a classic run producer with power to all fields. He isn’t fleet of foot, but Marincov is sure-handed and he has a strong throwing arm. Where Marincov has really struggled has been with making consistent contact. In 539 minor league games, he has struck-out 550 times. Marincov was improving his plate discipline before he was hit by that pitch. If he can continue to make progress in that area, he should finally get that opportunity in Triple-A.
Wyatt Marks, RHP
The A’s selected Marks in the 13th round last season after the right-hander led all NCAA pitchers in strikeouts per nine innings. Marks was a reliever for Louisiana-Lafayette, but the A’s elected to stretch him out as a tandem starter in the short-season Vermont rotation in his pro debut. He handled the role well, posting a 2.68 ERA with a 49:12 K:BB in 37 innings for the Lake Monsters.
A fastball-slider pitcher coming into the pro ranks, Marks spent his time during the A’s fall Instructional League working on his changeup. He is being stretched out as a starter this spring and the A’s will continue to see if they can develop all three pitches. Marks’ slider is a swing-and-miss offering that he can turn to in any count and his four-seam fastball can touch 96, while his two-seam sits in the low-90s and gets heavy sinking movement. He is likely to begin the season with Low-A Beloit.
Nate Mondou, 2B
The A’s 13th-round pick in 2016 out of Wake Forest, Mondou has hit at all three levels he has played at regularly since turning pro. After batting .298 with a .375 OBP for the short-season Vermont Lake Monsters in 2016, Mondou split his 2017 season with Low-A Beloit and High-A Stockton. He hit a combined .287/.366/.381. Mondou stole 16 bases and walked 54 times in 125 games.
Mondou doesn’t have a lot of power, but he sprays the ball around the field and he works the count well. Mondou is a solid base-runner with average speed, which allows him to swipe a few bags when other teams aren’t paying close attention. He came into pro ball as a bat-first second baseman, but Mondou has improved his defense over the past year. He will need to continue to get on-base at an above-average rate and play solid defense to move up the A’s crowded middle infield depth chart, but Mondou’s hit tool and ability to work the count make him a prospect worth keeping tabs on.
J.P. Sportman, OF/2B
After an underwhelming 2016 season with Double-A Midland, Sportman quietly put together a solid 2017 campaign with the RockHounds. Playing a career-high 130 games, Sportman hit .275/.327/.417 with 12 home runs and 14 stolen bases. He also showcased his versatility, splitting his playing time between all three outfield positions and centerfield.
Sportman has the tools to be a bench player in the big leagues. He can play multiple positions, he has a compact, line-drive swing that produces power to the gaps, and he has above-average speed. Sportman may have to begin the 2018 season back in Midland, but once the A’s have some movement either in the outfield or second base in Triple-A, he should receive a chance in Triple-A.
Beau Taylor, C
For a while, it appeared Taylor would never move past Double-A Midland in the A’s system. The 2011 fifth-round pick reached Double-A halfway through the 2012 season, but it wasn’t until last year that he finally found a way to move up to Triple-A. From 2012-2015, Taylor struggled with the bat with Midland, although he developed a reputation as one of the A’s top defensive minor league catchers. Then in 2016, he finally put together a solid season both offensively and defensively for Midland. Just as Taylor’s career trajectory was on the rise, he hit another speed bump when he was suspended for violating baseball’s banned substance policy.
After missing the first 50 games of the 2017 season, Taylor returned to Midland, where he hit .309 with an 870 OPS before finally getting that promotion to Nashville. He spent the rest of the season with the Sounds, hitting .289 in 41 games. This spring, Taylor has been in big league camp as a non-roster invitee after he re-signed with the organization as a minor league free agent during the offseason.
Taylor turned 28 in February, but he appears to be coming into his own as a player. Defensively, he calls a good game and he blocks balls well. Offensively, Taylor isn’t a big power threat – although he can hit it out on occasion – but he has a strong approach and makes consistent contact. The A’s currently have four catchers on their 40-man roster, but with Josh Phegley set to start the year on the DL, Taylor is likely to begin the season in Nashville.
Yerdel Vargas, IF
Part of the A’s high-profile 2016 July 2nd international signing class, Vargas made his A’s organizational debut in 2017. After getting his feet wet in the Dominican Summer League, he came stateside for the Arizona Rookie League, playing regularly for the AZL A’s. Vargas had a disappointing debut season offensively, as he hit only .208 with a .256 OBP as a 17 year old.
Vargas did flash plenty of tools in his debut season and it is far too early to write him off as a potential top prospect. On defense, he showed quick feet and a plus arm all over the infield. At the plate, Vargas showed flashes of gap power, although his approach still needs plenty of refinement. The A’s will take their time with Vargas, who just turned 18 in January.
Corey Walter, RHP
Walter has been a jack of all trades since turning pro with the A’s as a 28th-round pick in 2014. Until last season, Walter had dominated in every role he was handed, but his career hit a bit of a speed bump during his first stint in Triple-A. In 72.2 innings with the Sounds last season, Walter had a 5.20 ERA. It was the first time Walter had an ERA over 2.50 since he posted a 3.10 ERA with short-season Vermont in 2014.
Walter pitched much better as a reliever with the Sounds (2.84 ERA in 19 innings) than he did as a starter (6.04 ERA in 53.2 innings). Although Walter had success as a starter at the Double-A level, there had always been a sense around the organization that he slotted best in the upper-levels as a reliever because his strikeout rate as a starter has always been low. Walter has a hard, heavy sinker that is his best pitch and he can use it to get groundballs early in counts. He also throws a slider, a four-seam fastball and he added a split-changeup last season. It’s not clear whether Walter will return to the rotation or remain in the bullpen in 2018, but he is likely to get another crack at Nashville this year.
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