Note: every season, it is our tradition to do a mid-year check-in on our preseason Oakland Athletics top-50 prospects. This is not a re-ranking of current prospects. A new top-50 prospects list will be released this off-season. To view our preseason top-50 Oakland A’s prospects list, click here.
Stats as of 7/6/17
10. Richie Martin, SS
After a strong showing in big league camp, Martin started the 2017 season where he ended the 2016 campaign, with Double-A Midland. The A’s 2015 top pick got off to a decent start with the RockHounds. He wasn’t tearing the cover off of the ball, but as of May 30, Martin was batting .245 with a .341 OBP and showing a strong glove while playing in a league with players – on average – more than two years his senior. Then he was hit in the head with a fastball and had to miss three weeks after suffering a broken nose. Since then, Martin has really struggled at the plate. As of Thursday, his season slashline was down to .212/.297/.308.
Martin came into pro baseball with the reputation for being a project at the plate, so the A’s are going to be patient with his development as a hitter. Being beaned is never an easy thing for a hitter to overcome, and it isn’t surprising that it is taking Martin a little time to get back to where he was before the incident. Defensively, Martin is one of the top infielders in the A’s system. He is an excellent athlete with good range, smooth hands and enough arm to play shortstop in the big leagues. He is part of a Midland middle infield that leads the Texas League in double-plays turned. Martin was young for his college draft class and won’t turn 23 until December. If he needs another half season in Double-A next year, it won’t be a major bump in the road for his development.
Progress: Trying to work his way out of a slump
9. Matt Olson, 1B/RF
Olson returned to Triple-A to start the 2017 season after posting an 820 OPS after the All-Star break for the Nashville Sounds in 2016. Olson spent last September with the A’s and worked with A’s hitting coach Darren Bush on some adjustments with his set-up that he carried into the 2017 season. Olson has found considerably more success in Triple-A this season and has flashed his potential at the big league level, as well. In 59 games with the Sounds, Olson is batting .270/.367/.558 with 17 homers. He has yo-yoed back-and-forth between Nashville and Oakland for much of the year, appearing in 16 games with the A’s in four separate stints with the team. He is batting only .179 in 49 big league at-bats, but he has been productive despite that number, hitting four homeruns and walking eight times. When Olson has hit the ball at the big league level, he has generally hit it very hard. He has also impressed defensively both at his natural first base and in right field, where he racked up three outfield assists in just 10 games played.
Olson was hit in the knee by a pitch in his first game back with Nashville on Wednesday and had to miss Thursday’s game as the knee swelled up on him. Assuming the injury isn’t serious, he should return to Oakland at some point after the July trade deadline. Offensively, Olson still strikes out more than one would like to see, but his ability to work a walk and hit for power brings a lot of value. That he can hold his own in right field and add value defensively at first base makes him an even more valuable future cornerstone for the A’s.
Progress: Looking to build off of a strong first half
8. Frankie Montas, RHP
The A’s acquired Montas last July from the Los Angeles Dodgers at the July deadline, but he didn’t make his A’s organization pitching debut until that fall in the Arizona Fall League. He missed nearly all of the regular season last year with a rib injury that required surgery. After pitching well in the Fall League, Montas earned a spot in the A’s bullpen on Opening Day. He got off to a decent start with the A’s and had a stretch of six scoreless outings in a row in mid-May. However, he allowed eight runs in two consecutive outings in early June and the A’s sent him back to Nashville, where he has been pitching as a starter ever since. In 13.1 innings, Montas’ ERA is an unsightly 6.75 for Nashville, but his peripherals suggest he has been unlucky. He has a 21:4 K:BB and hasn’t allowed a homerun.
Montas has electric stuff, flashing two above-average pitches and a third pitch – his change-up – that has a chance to be above-average. The fastball can touch 102 MPH, but it can also be a little straight, and when hitters are looking for the pitch, they have been able to make contact on it. If Montas can get comfortable enough to throw change-ups in fastball counts on occasion, he should be able to get hitters to stop looking dead-red in fastball counts. That should help him avoid the longball, something that was a significant issue for him in the big leagues this year. Montas will continue to stretch out as a starter for now for the Sounds, but he likely profiles as a reliever in the big leagues. He should get another shot with Oakland sometime during the second half of the season.
Progress: Working out the kinks in Triple-A
7. Chad Pinder, UT
Pinder began the year in Triple-A Nashville, where he was expected to share time at shortstop and second base with Franklin Barreto and, eventually Joey Wendle (Wendle began the year on the DL). Instead, Pinder got the call to the big leagues on April 16 when Marcus Semien landed on the big league DL with a wrist fracture. Pinder didn’t see much playing time in April, receiving only 17 at-bats. In May, he was in the line-up more consistently, and he hit .304/.385/.783 in 46 at-bats. Pinder was an everyday player for much of June. He saw his production tail-off as teams started to key in on him more, and he hit .195/.236/.329 in 82 at-bats. Defensively, Pinder played shortstop, second base and right field for the A’s, showing some promise at all three positions. Unfortunately, Pinder strained his left hamstring on June 23 and has been on the 10-day ever since.
Pinder is reportedly getting close to returning from the hamstring injury. When he does come off of the DL, the A’s will have a decision to make, as Semien has returned to the active roster. Pinder’s ability to play multiple positions gives him a chance to stick on the roster even with Semien back. Pinder’s plate discipline will need to improve at the big league level (he has just nine walks in 47 games), but he has shown impressive power potential and he has run the bases well. Pinder could be a valuable weapon for the A’s over the next few years with his defensive abilities and his power.
Progress: Returning from injury
6. Renato Nunez, IF/OF
The A’s had several highly rated position player prospects begin the year with Nashville, and Nunez is the only one who has yet to get a taste in the big leagues this season. That could change in the upcoming weeks, as Nunez is making a push for a promotion with a strong first half with the Sounds. After hitting 23 homers in 128 games for the Sounds in 2016, Nunez has already surpassed that total (he’s at 24) in just 81 games in 2017. He was struggling to hit for average for much of this year, but a recent hot streak has his average up to .260 and his OBP at .322. Defensively, Nunez is still looking for a permanent home, but he has seen time at first base and left field, as well as his natural third base spot.
Nunez may have the most power of any right-handed hitter in the A’s system and he has a beautiful swing that should produce at the big league level. He is still developing his approach at the plate, but he has shown some growth there, too, upping his walk rate more than 2% over last year. He still strikes out too much, but he has improved his strike-out rate each month so far this year. Defensively, Nunez will never be more than average at any position, but he has improved at third base and hasn’t embarrassed himself in left or at first. If he can continue to improve his approach and show improvement with the glove, he will get a look in the big leagues at some point this second half.
Progress: Leading the PCL in homeruns
5. Yairo Munoz, IF
Munoz’s season got off to a slow start when he injured his hamstring late in spring training and remained sidelined until May 3, when he joined the Midland RockHounds. Munoz was repeating at Double-A after hitting .240/.286/.367 as a 21-year-old at the level last year. Munoz came off of the DL swinging a hot bat and he hit .316/.348/.532 with six homers and 12 stolen bases in 47 games for the RockHounds. That earned Munoz his first trip to Triple-A on June 24. He’s off to a slow start with the Sounds, batting .212/.250/.231 in 13 games. Munoz is showing signs of breaking out of it. He has hit safely in seven of his last eight games.
A natural shortstop, Munoz has seen time at short, second, third base and centerfield this season. Munoz is a gifted athlete with above-average speed, solid baseball instincts and a plus throwing arm. With the A’s deep on middle infielders, Munoz has opened up another avenue to the big leagues by playing in the outfield. He will likely continue to move around the diamond on defense the rest of the season. As a member of the A’s 40-man roster, Munoz could join the A’s for his major-league debut in September if the bat picks up in Triple-A.
Progress: Getting his feet wet in Triple-A
4. Grant Holmes, RHP
Also acquired from the Dodgers in a July deadline deal last season, Holmes came to the A’s with a high ceiling and plenty of growing left to do as a starter. The Dodgers’ 2014 first-round pick has always played at least a level ahead of most players his age, and that was the case again this season, when he opened the year as the youngest member of the Midland RockHounds’ roster. Double-A was an adjustment for Holmes, who posted a 6.27 ERA in April and a 5.52 ERA in May. He has been much better since then, posting a 3.16 ERA over his last six appearances (37 innings). Holmes has maintained a strong K:BB over that period, as well, posting a 34:8 mark over that stretch.
Holmes won’t turn 22 until next March, so the numbers he has put up in Double-A thus far are impressive given his age (86 Ks in 85 innings and a 4.66 ERA). Holmes can catch too much of the plate at times, which has led to a high batting average against, but he has done good job of keeping the ball on the ground (1.12 GO/AO and only six homers allowed). Holmes has plenty of growing left to do, but he also continues to show signs that he can be an above-average major league starter in the future.
Progress: Holding his own in Double-A
3. Matt Chapman, 3B
Chapman’s season got off to a rough start when he injured his wrist during the first week. He missed nearly three weeks with the injury, but quickly got going at the plate after he returned. In 51 games with Nashville, Chapman hit .257/.348/.589 with 16 homers and 25 walks. On June 22, the A’s added Chapman to the 25-man roster, effectively handing him the everyday job at third base. Chapman’s tenure as the A’s third baseman was interrupted a few days later when he was hospitalized with an infection in his left knee. He missed two weeks recovering from the infection and returned to the A’s on July 3rd.
Chapman’s bat has yet to get going in the big leagues, as he has struck-out 13 times in 32 plate appearances. However, his glove has already made an impact. The A’s are willing to let him learn on the job at the plate while benefitting from his defensive prowess at third. Once Chapman gets his timing down at the plate, he should hit for power and work the count. The A’s hope to have Chapman anchoring their infield for the next several years.
Progress: Learning the ropes in the big leagues
2. A.J. Puk, LHP
The A’s top pick in 2016 has lived up to the advanced billing this season. Puk began his year with High-A Stockton, and he put up big numbers with the Ports before earning a promotion to Double-A on June 16. With Stockton, Puk struck-out 98 in 61 innings and posted a 3.69 ERA. In three starts with Midland, Puk has had outstanding, bad and solid outings. He went seven and six innings in his first and third starts, but lasted only a third of an inning in his second outing with the RockHounds. Puk will participate in the MLB Futures Game as part of the upcoming All-Star festivities.
Puk came to pro ball with a reputation for losing his command at times and he has walked 32 in 74.1 innings this season. He isn’t Mitch Williams on the mound, however. His wildness often comes as a product of trying to be a little too cute with two-strikes. Puk looks to get hitters to chase with two strikes, but Double-A batters have been more disciplined when he hasn’t been close to the plate. As he learns to throw more quality chase pitches, he should see his walk totals drop dramatically. Puk is holding opposing batters to a .203 average this season and he has allowed just one homerun. Lefties have hit .182 against him this year. The A’s won’t rush Puk, who is just 22, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him break into the big leagues at some point in 2018.
Progress: Racking up the strike-outs
1. Franklin Barreto, SS/2B
Barreto’s season has been filled with plenty of highs and lows. The A’s top prospect started the year red-hot for Triple-A Nashville, posting a 934 OPS in April. In mid-May, he started to slump and went a whole month without a walk. His batting average dropped from .341 on May 1 to .266 on June 9. Barreto began to heat up again after that and was batting .281/.326/.428 on June 23rd, when Pinder injured his hamstring and the A’s called on Barreto to replace him. Barreto’s stint in the big leagues has also been filled with highs and lows: he homered and singled in his first big league game and hit a walk-off homer on Tuesday, but he also has had his share of defensive troubles and has 18 strike-outs in 46 plate appearances. With Semien back on the A’s roster, Barreto is expected to return to Nashville on Saturday when the A’s call up starter Chris Smith.
Barreto will be back with Oakland at some point this season, likely after the July trade deadline. The A’s will want to get a long look at their dynamic middle infielder, who has already shown off his above-average power, speed and athletic ability during his short stint in the big leagues. The A’s will need to be patient with Barreto’s development as a major leaguer, but he has demonstrated over the course of his career an ability to make adjustments and eventually excel at every level. Although it seems like he has been on the radar forever, Barreto is just 21 years old and is meeting every expectation the A’s had of him when they acquired him from Toronto in November 2014.
Progress: Showing his potential
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