Every year, we rank the top-50 prospects in the Oakland A’s system. Below is that list, with a bit of information on each player. We hope you enjoy it!
This is the 13th year that we have released a top-50 prospects list and determining this list is never easy. We are often asked about our methodology in choosing these prospects and their ranking order. It is, without question, the most difficult task we undertake each year. Guessing the future value of a player is a subjective and unscientific proposition, at best. That being said, it is something that we take very seriously and put a lot of time and effort into.
We base our evaluations on the following criteria: 1) talent/ceiling (does this player have an unusual set of talents that, should he reach his maximum potential, would allow him to be a star?); 2) chances of having a big league career (is this player a future major league regular?) 3) projection (is this player likely to reach his maximum potential, whatever that potential may be?); 4) results on the field (did this player produce numbers that indicate he will have future success?); 5) age relative to level (did this player compete against age-appropriate competition last season and is he still young enough to have a long career in the big leagues?); 6) make-up (does this player project the temperament, intelligence and work ethic to succeed on a big stage?); 7) position (a middle infielder, centerfielder or catcher might be considered more valuable in the long run than a corner outfielder or infielder; same goes for a potential starting pitcher as opposed to a reliever).
Our assessments for all of these players are borne out of discussions throughout the season with baseball executives, scouts, players and other media members, as well as our staff’s own personal observations of the players being analyzed, where we have had opportunities to watch them play on numerous occasions.
Without further adieu, the list.
Oakland A’s 2019 top-50 prospects
- Jesus Luzardo, LHP: The A’s best left-handed pitching prospect since Barry Zito. Ticks all the boxes: stuff, command, maturity. How much of an impact he makes on the A’s in the big leagues in 2019 will depend on how many innings he’s allowed to throw.
- Sean Murphy, C: A broken hamate cut Murphy’s season almost in half, but he will be healthy this spring and is nearing big league ready. He has always been a special defender, but Murphy showed significant improvement with the bat in 2018, being more selective and hitting the ball with more authority. He has a chance to be a special player.
- A.J. Puk, LHP: The A’s 2018 season could have had a different ending if Puk hadn’t gone down with an elbow injury in the spring. He has October-level stuff when healthy and his command showed significant improvement in 2017. But it’s hard to know when Puk will be ready this season coming off of Tommy John surgery last April.
- Lazaro Armenteros, OF: A couple of injuries cut into Lazarito’s first crack at full-season ball, but he played enough with Low-A Beloit to show why he could be an offensive force in the big leagues. His approach is fairly advanced for a player of his age/experience level in that he sees a lot of pitches, and he has plus power and speed. He needs to cut down on the strikeouts, though.
- Austin Beck, OF: Beck hit .296 with a .335 OBP as a 19-year-old playing in the Low-A Midwest League. He also flashed plus potential defensively. His power was the only thing missing, but he should be able to tap into that tool as he gains experience against advanced pitchers.
- Kyler Murray, OF: The A’s shocked everyone by selecting Murray in the first round and then giving him permission to play football before reporting to the A’s. Murray then shocked everyone by winning the Heisman trophy. Now everyone is waiting to see which direction Murray takes his career. If he chooses baseball, he’ll be the tooliest player in the A’s system but he is still raw for a college draft pick.
- Jorge Mateo, SS: Mateo’s first full season as a member of the A’s was a disappointment, as he missed much of the spring with a knee injury and then struggled to get on-base with Triple-A Nashville. Mateo is still massively talented, but he’s entering his third option year. He needs a big 2019.
- Sheldon Neuse, 3B: Neuse was the star of the A’s big league camp, but then struggled once the regular season began. He turned things around after a rough April and May, hitting above .300 the rest of the way. There’s no question that Neuse can hit, but he only homered five times, however, and the power will need to improve if he is going to stay at third base. Of course, third base is blocked in Oakland, so look for Neuse to start moving around the field more in 2019 regardless of his power production.
- Jameson Hannah, OF: After a monster junior season at Dallas Baptist, Hannah went to the A’s in the second round of the 2018 draft. A potential everyday center fielder in the big leagues, Hannah’s pro debut season was cut short by injuries. When healthy, he can flat fly and has the ability to hit for average and get on base.
- Nick Allen, SS: Allen is hands-down the best defensive infielder in the A’s minor league system, and may be the best defensive infielder in the A’s organization, sans Matt Chapman. He struggled at the plate with Low-A Beloit as a 19-year-old, sometimes swinging like a 6’4’’ slugger instead of a 5’9’’ lead-off type. He had a solid August and will look to build off that with High-A Stockton in 2019.
- Parker Dunshee, RHP: Dunshee doesn’t throw that hard and he was a senior sign, so he doesn’t get much publicity nationally, but the right-hander can flat-out pitch. He dominated the California and Texas Leagues in his first full pro season, posting a 2.33 ERA and a 163:31 K:BB in 150.2 innings. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Dunshee helping the backend of the A’s rotation during the second half of the 2019 season.
- Grant Holmes, RHP: A shoulder injury cost Holmes nearly all of the 2018 regular season and a reoccurrence kept him out of the Arizona Fall League. The injury hasn’t required surgery and he’s expected to be healthy for spring training but he will be watched closely. When healthy, Holmes is a workhorse with a plus fastball and curveball, as well as a solid changeup and slider. Command can be an issue but it was improving before the injury.
- Tyler Ramirez, OF: Ramirez doesn’t stand out in any one area, but he does everything well, hitting for average, getting on base, running well, hitting for some power and fielding his position. He, too, could stand to cut down on the strikeouts, but he projects as the kind of player who has a long career in the big leagues.
- Kevin Merrell, MIF: Injuries impacted Merrell’s first full pro season and he put up disappointing numbers, but he is still a plus runner with the arm to stay at shortstop and enough on-base skills to have a shot at being a top of the order hitter in the big leagues.
- Jeremy Eierman, SS: Eierman was a potential top-15 pick going into the 2018 college season, but his numbers backed up during his junior season at Missouri State and he fell to the A’s at pick 70. Eierman flashed that power/speed combo that intrigued scouts in his pro debut season, homering eight times and swiping 10 bases in 62 games, but he also struck out 70 times in 247 at-bats, so major adjustments still need to be made with his approach.
- James Kaprielian, RHP: Kaprielian was expected back on the mound from Tommy John surgery in June, but setbacks kept him out of games until after the season during fall Instructs. His velocity hadn’t returned during those Instructs appearances, but he was healthy, which was still a significant development. He’s one of the most talented pitchers in the A’s system, but he needs to show he can stay healthy enough to pitch a full season at some point soon.
- Daulton Jefferies, RHP: Like Kaprielian, Jefferies was expected back from Tommy John surgery in June but suffered a setback in his first outing for the Rookie-league A’s and missed the rest of the regular season. The Cal alum has dynamic stuff when healthy. The A’s are hopeful that he will be this spring.
- Brian Howard, RHP: Howard is the tallest player in the A’s system at 6’9’’, but after his performance in his first full pro season, his height is only the second-most interesting thing about him. Howard uses his height well to make his fastball seem harder than it really is and he has a nice assortment of secondary pitches to lean on as well. For a tall pitcher, his command is above-average. Like Dunshee, he could sneak into the A’s rotation conversation sometime in 2019.
- Luis Barrera, OF: After a solid 2017 season, Barrera had a breakthrough 2018 that saw him hit .297 between High-A and Double-A. He then had a solid showing in the Arizona Fall League. A smooth athlete with a plus arm and above-average speed, Barrera can play all three outfield positions and is one of the better contact hitters in the A’s system. He doesn’t yet have over-the-fence power, but that could develop as the 23-year-old matures.
- Skye Bolt, OF: Bolt looked lost the first month of 2018 with Midland, but a return trip to Stockton got his swing going again and he finished strong in his return to the RockHounds during the second half of the season. Bolt also hit for power and ran well during the Arizona Fall League. The switch-hitter has some significant swing-and-miss to his game, but Bolt’s ability to hit for power, work a walk, run and play a plus-center field make him a unique talent.
- Jonah Heim, C: Acquired from Tampa Bay before the season, Heim split his first season in the A’s system between Stockton and Midland. He was impressive at the plate and behind it with the Ports, but struggled to hit after a mid-season promotion to Midland. The switch-hitter isn’t the first prospect to struggle in his initial taste of Double-A. Heim still offers intriguing offensive potential and solid defensive skills behind the plate.
- Greg Deichmann, OF/1B: Injuries wrecked Deichmann’s season after he put together a strong debut campaign in 2017 with short-season Vermont. He hit only .199 in 47 games with the Ports and his timing at the plate appeared off for most of those appearances. It’s way too soon to give up on Deichmann, however, as he has power to all fields.
- Alexander Campos, SS: Campos came over from Seattle in the Ryon Healy trade and he made his US debut in the Arizona Rookie League after playing in the Dominican in 2017. Campos hit only .127 in 28 games but coaches still liked what they saw from him athletically. He turns 19 in February.
- Wyatt Marks, RHP: Marks was a closer during his junior season at Louisiana-Lafayette, but he moved seamlessly into a starter’s role with the A’s in 2018. He posted a 3.30 ERA and struck out 159 in 133.2 innings between Beloit and Stockton. Marks’ command still needs a little shoring up, but his ability to miss bats even in longer outings makes him an intriguing prospect.
- Marcos Brito, IF: The A’s have been excited about Brito since they inked him to a seven-figure signing bonus on July 2, 2016. He made his US debut in the Arizona Rookie League in 2017 and played with short-season Vermont as an 18-year-old in 2018. Brito is still a work-in-progress, but he showed a solid approach with the Lake Monsters, posting a .325 OBP despite a .241 BA. He didn’t hit for any power, but he played a solid second base and should jump to Low-A in 2019.
- Alfonso Rivas, 1B/OF: A fourth-round pick out of Arizona, Rivas had a solid pro debut with Vermont, batting .285/.397/.383 in 61 games in a pitcher’s league. Rivas has an excellent approach and a smooth, line-drive swing, but he’ll need to add more power since he is limited defensively to corner outfield and to first base.
- J.B. Wendelken, RHP: Tommy John surgery cost Wendelken all of 2017 and knocked him off of the A’s prospect radar, but he burst back onto it with a vengeance in 2018. After posting a 2.96 ERA and striking out 75 in 48.2 innings between Midland and Nashville, Wendelken posted an 0.54 ERA in 16.2 innings with the A’s. He could play a big role in the A’s bullpen in 2019.
- Dairon Blanco, OF: Signed as an international free agent before the 2018 season, the native of Cuba had an impressive pro debut that was cut short by a broken hamate bone. Blanco hit .291 with a .342 OBP and 22 stolen bases in 82 games with the Ports before the injury. He also won the Cal League All-Star game MVP award. Blanco was healthy by the winter and he hit .314 with a .404 OBP in 25 games in Puerto Rico. Blanco will be 26 in April, but he’s one of the fastest players in the A’s system. If he can continue to show the ability to hit, he has a chance to be a fourth outfielder in the big leagues.
- Norge Ruiz, RHP: Ruiz signed a seven-figure deal with the A’s out of Cuba before the 2017 season. He missed the first half of 2017 with visa issues and had a disappointing 2018 campaign. Pitching mostly for Midland, he posted a 4.89 ERA with 86 strikeouts in 134.1 innings. Ruiz has good stuff but little deception and hitters seem to see the ball well out of his hand. He’ll need to add a wrinkle to find more success against advanced hitters.
- James Naile, RHP: Naile was a workhorse in 2018, logging 150.2 innings, mostly for Nashville. He was better most of the season than his ERA would indicate; that number took a hit thanks to a couple of very poor outings when he had to take his lumps to help a tired bullpen. Naile still needs a better changeup, but his sinker/slider combination give him a chance in the big leagues.
- Miguel Romero, RHP: It looked like Romero had figured things out the first half of the 2018 season. The native of Cuba, who signed around the same time as Ruiz, posted a 1.84 ERA and struck out 33 in 29.1 innings as the Ports’ closer to start the year. Then he got to Midland and the wheels fell off. Despite similar strikeout numbers (33 in 30 innings), he struggled thanks to an increase in walks (five to 13) and BAA (.202 to .297). He threw a lot more quality strikes with Stockton but was too middle-middle with Midland. He has the stuff to rebound quickly if he can hit more of the corners in 2019.
- Jordan Diaz, 3B: Signed on his 16th birthday in August 2016, Diaz has moved quickly. He spent the 2017 season split between the DSL and Arizona and made the full leap to Arizona in 2018. As a 17-year-old, Diaz hit .277/.371/.390 with a 19:22 BB:K. The native of Colombia has an advanced approach at the plate and a strong throwing arm. He’s mostly played third base but did get in a game at second and one at first this season.
- Hogan Harris, LHP: Harris was the first pitcher the A’s selected in the 2018 draft. A left-hander out of Louisiana-Lafayette, Harris didn’t pitch after signing with the A’s and will make his pro debut in 2019. Harris missed time his junior season with an oblique injury but still racked up 54 strikeouts and a 2.62 ERA in 58 innings. Harris can hit the upper-90s on occasion but lives in the 92-94 mph range. He has a plus breaking ball, as well as a promising changeup. Harris was a high school and college teammate of Marks.
- Rafael Rincones, OF: Acquired from Boston at the tailend of the 2017 season, Rincones made the jump from the DSL to the AZL in 2018. The switch-hitter from Venezuela flashed a little power and showed a solid understanding of the strike zone in 2018. He turned 19 in July and could make the jump to Vermont in 2019.
- Skylar Szynski, RHP: After undergoing a ligament repair surgery in 2017 on his right elbow, Szynski was expected to be able to pitch for most of the 2018 season. Unfortunately, the soreness returned and he had Tommy John surgery. He last pitched in 2016, but the 2016 fourth-round pick is still just 21 and he has high-ceiling stuff when healthy.
- Dalton Sawyer, LHP: Sawyer struck out 140 in 130.2 innings in 2017, and he was expected to be a big part of the Midland rotation in 2018. Unfortunately, he injured his elbow and had Tommy John surgery, costing him the entire season. Sawyer should return early in 2019, if his rehab progresses without significant setbacks.
- Yerdel Vargas, IF: Vargas was part of the same July 2nd international class as Lazarito, Brito and Diaz, but he’s progressed more slowly than those three. The middle infielder has hit only .195 over 71 games the past two seasons, all coming in either Arizona or the Dominican. Vargas is still 18 and has plenty of talent, but he’ll need to show some progress at the plate this season.
- Lawrence Butler, OF: Butler was the only high school pick the A’s made in the top-10 rounds in this year’s draft. The Georgia native came to the pros with a reputation for a solid approach at the plate, and he flashed that with a .339 OBP in 46 games for the AZL A’s. The 6’4’’ left-handed hitter has a smooth swing and should add power as he fills out his frame. He is limited to the corner outfield, so that power development will be key to his growth as a player.
- Payton Squier, OF: After showing an advanced approach at the plate while at UNLV, Squier joined the A’s as a 16th-round pick in 2017. His approach fell apart in his pro debut season, as he tried to be a power hitter and he managed just a .279 OBP despite a .262 BA. In 2018, Squier returned to his collegiate approach with excellent results. In 43 games for Vermont, he hit .323/.400/.437 with 22 walks and only 14 strikeouts. Squier turned 23 after the season, so he will need to move quickly, but if he maintains his 2018 approach, he could jump multiple levels in 2019.
- Wandisson Charles, RHP: Charles is the hardest throwing pitcher in the A’s system, but he still continues to struggle with his command. In 11 innings for Beloit, Charles struck out 19 but walked 17. He also missed the final month of the season with an injury. If Charles can put it together, he’s a backend of the bullpen type arm, but he’ll need to start hitting his spots better in 2019.
- Seth Brown, 1B/OF: After hitting 30 home runs for Stockton in 2017, Brown jumped to Midland and put together another solid year. Although he hit only 14 home runs, he still posted a .454 SLG and a solid overall line of .283/.342/.454. Brown did that while making a position change to first base, a spot he had played only sparingly until the 2018 season. Brown is on the older side for a prospect, but he produces year-in and year-out and is versatile defensively. He should get a crack at Triple-A in 2019.
- Gus Varland, RHP: A 14th-round pick out of Concordia University in Minnesota, Varland opened a lot of eyes in his pro debut season by allowing just four earned runs in 37 innings spread over three levels (Rookie, short-season and Low-A). He struck out 50 and walked only eight. Varland has an above-average spin rate on his fastball and is developing a cutter to go along with his changeup and slider.
- Nate Mondou, 2B: Mondou split his 2018 season between Stockton and Midland. He hit well with the Ports, showing some surprising pop and slashing .291/.361/.448 with eight home runs in 88 games. That earned Mondou a promotion to MIdland, where he hit .255 with a .345 OBP but was unable to find that power swing, slugging .297. Mondou is a grinder with a solid approach at the plate, but he’ll need to show that the bit of power he displayed in the Cal League can translate to the upper-levels to get a shot in the big leagues. Defensively, Mondou added to his versatility, logging a significant number of games at third base for the first time in his career. The second baseman also saw a few games in the outfield.
- J.J. Schwarz, C: Schwarz was one of the top freshman in the country in 2015, when he posted a 1027 OPS and hit 18 home runs in 70 games for the Florida Gators. Many pegged him as a potential first-round pick in 2017, but he struggled to duplicate those numbers in 2016 and 2017 and his draft stock slid. Schwarz had a strong rebound senior season with the Gators in 2018, posting a 959 OPS and hitting 13 home runs. He only got in a handful of games after turning pro thanks to the Gators’ long postseason run, but he should jump to full-season ball in 2019.
- Brady Feigl, RHP: After a three-year career at Mississippi where Feigl averaged a strikeout an inning, the right-hander landed with the A’s in the fifth-round of the 2018 draft. Bicep tendonitis cut Feigl’s pro debut down at 26 innings, but he pitched well in that stretch, posting a 1.73 ERA with 34 strikeouts and only eight walks. Feigl relies primarily on his fastball and slider but is working on improving his changeup, as well. The success of that third pitch will determine whether he can remain a starter in the upper levels.
- Chase Cohen, RHP: The A’s grabbed Cohen in the ninth round of the 2018 draft after he struck out 60 in 47 innings during his junior season at Georgia Southern. The right-hander continued to rack up strikeouts as a prodigious rate after turning pro, striking out 42 in 32.2 innings with Vermont. Walks were an issue for Cohen in college, and while he lowered his walk rate with Vermont, he will need to continue to refine his command. He has two potential plus pitches in a fastball that sits 92-94 and can touch 98 and a hard curveball.
- Matt Milburn, RHP: Milburn spent most of the 2018 season with Stockton, but twice he was called upon to pitch for Nashville in an emergency situation and he came through both times, allowing three runs in 10.1 innings over two starts. With the Ports, Milburn had a 3.49 ERA and a 111:16 K:BB. He threw two shutouts and had a 2.60 ERA in the second half for Stockton. Milburn doesn’t have any standout pitches, but he has arguably the best command in the system. He could be a future Zach Neal-type.
- Luke Persico, OF/1B: The A’s selected the versatile Persico in the 12th round of the 2016 draft out of UCLA. He put up ho-hum numbers his first two seasons in the organization, but Persico had a solid 2018. In 112 games for Stockton, he hit .287/.351/.420. He also showed his versatility, playing both corner infield spots and all three outfield positions. Persico has a strong arm, runs well and is a good athlete. He makes a lot of contact at the plate but will need to add more power to his game to take it to the next level.
- Calvin Coker, RHP: Coker, a 15th-round pick out of Auburn in 2018, spent most of his pro debut season in the Arizona Rookie League, but he made a few late-season appearances with Vermont and Nashville. Then when Grant Holmes was a late scratch from the Arizona Fall League, Coker took Holmes’ spot and took full advantage of his opportunity to raise his prospect profile. In 11 innings in the AFL, he held his own, allowing just 12 baserunners and a .167 BAA. He struck out 11. A sidearmer, Coker was a workhorse out of the Auburn bullpen in college. He could make the jump to High-A in 2019.
- Joe DeMers, RHP: The College Park HS (Pleasant Hill, Calif.) alum was the top high school pitcher in the state of California in 2015. He went to the University of Washington, and after a down freshman season, he became the Huskies’ ace. In 2018, he led Washington to their first College World Series appearance and he threw a perfect game along the way. DeMers was held out of pitching in the regular season after signing with the A’s due to his big workload at UW, but he participated in the A’s fall Instructional League and will be part of the A’s spring mini-camp. A workhorse-type, DeMers isn’t afraid to challenge hitters despite not having a plus fastball.
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