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Oakland A's Top 50 Prospects

Oakland Athletics top-50 prospects mid-season review: 50-41

During the off-season, we named our top-50 prospects in the Oakland Athletics system. Now that we have passed the midway point of the season, we thought it would be a good time to check the progress of those players. In the first of our series, we take a look at the progress of prospects 50-41 from our off-season list.

Nate Mondou / Photo by Bill Seals
Nate Mondou is having another strong season. / Photo by Bill Seals

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 6/23/17

50. Kyle Finnegan, RHP

Finnegan’s first season as a full-time reliever was a success in 2016, and he has continued to build on that progress in 2017. The hard-throwing right-hander is the closer for the Midland RockHounds. He has converted eight of nine save chances and has a 3.10 ERA in 29 innings this season. Finnegan has a 27:7 K:BB and he has a 56% groundball rate. He will be representing the RockHounds in the Texas League All-Star game.

Finnegan’s stuff has taken a step forward in a relief role. His fastball sits in the upper-90s and his breaking ball has been sharper. Finnegan’s command has been an issue in the past, but he has cut his walk rate by more than half from 2016 to 2017 (5.8% this year). Finnegan should get an opportunity in Triple-A later this year and could push for a spot in big league camp next spring.

Progress: Shutting the door and raising his profile

49. B.J. Boyd, OF

Boyd spent most of the 2016 season with High-A Stockton before receiving a call-up to Triple-A Nashville for the final two weeks of the year. This season, Boyd has been a fixture in the Midland RockHounds’ outfield. He got off to a red-hot start, batting .372 in April before cooling some in May (.270 BA). Boyd has been back at it again in June, batting .324 so far this month. For the season, he has a solid .315/.364/.427 line. Boyd, too, is set to represent the RockHounds in the Texas League All-Star game.

Boyd isn’t hitting for much power this season (one homerun), but he has improved his strike-out rate and has run a bit more this season than he did last year (seven stolen bases after eight all of last season). He has excellent bat-to-ball skills and he uses the whole field well. Boyd is another candidate to earn a promotion to Triple-A before the end of the season.

Progress: Building off last year’s success

48. Nolan Blackwood, RHP

A 14th-round pick last season, Blackwood opened eyes immediately with a fastball that touched 94 from a sidearm release point. He was the first pitcher from the A’s draft class to reach full-season ball last year. This season, the A’s pushed Blackwood to High-A, and he has served as the Ports’ closer for most of the season. He has done well in that role, saving eight of nine opportunities. Blackwood has had a few rough outings, but he has generally pitched better than his 3.45 ERA would indicate. He has a 64% groundball rate and he has held opposing batters to a .229 clip.

Blackwood’s biggest “issue” so far this season has been with his command. He has an 8.9% BB%, which isn’t terrible but is up from last year. Other than that, he has been impressive in his first full season of professional baseball. Blackwood’s 19.4% K% is solid for a groundball pitcher. He is the type of pitcher who should improve his ERA and BAA as he advances and has more experienced infield defenders behind him.

Progress: Pitching well in High-A

47. Trey Cochran-Gill, RHP

Cochran-Gill earned a spot in big league camp as a non-roster player with a strong 2016 season and a good showing in the Arizona Fall League. Unfortunately, Cochran-Gill hasn’t been able to build off of that momentum this season. He suffered an injury late in spring training and has missed most of the season. He did make one appearance for the Stockton Ports on May 19, but was sent back to Extended Spring Training after allowing three runs in 1.2 innings.

Progress: Rehabbing an injury

46. Evan Manarino, LHP

Manarino had a strong claim for being the best pitcher in the A’s minor league system last season from a results perspective. The lefty posted a 1.98 ERA across two A-ball levels and walked only 28 in 150 innings. Manarino picked up where he left off at the start of the year, pitching well for High-A Stockton. In 47.2 innings, he posted a 3.21 ERA and a 41:3 K:BB. Manarino jumped up to Double-A Midland on May 29. He has struggled in his first five starts with the RockHounds, posting an 8.10 ERA in 26.2 innings.

Manarino doesn’t throw hard, so his command needs to be perfect for him to find success. He hasn’t been hitting his spots regularly with the RockHounds and Texas League batters have made him pay for it. His walk rate has gone from 1.6% with Stockton to 4.8% with Midland and his Midland K-rate is only 9.5% (it was 21.4% with Stockton). Manarino has plenty of time to turn it around, but he’ll need to regain his pinpoint accuracy to find success against Double-A hitters.

Progress: Trying to find his way in Double-A

45. Angel Duno, RHP

As his 5.10 ERA would indicate, Duno got off to a slow start this season with High-A Stockton after posting a 2.68 ERA with Low-A Beloit last year. Duno looks to have turned a corner, however. In four starts in June, Duno has a 1.93 ERA and a 23:1 K:BB in 23.1 innings. Overall, he has a 64:15 K:BB in 72.1 innings.

Duno, like Manarino, isn’t a hard thrower, and he needs to throw quality strikes to find success. He is doing a much better job of locating within the strike-zone recently and, if that continues, he should have solid numbers by the end of the season.

Progress: Starting to find his footing in High-A

44. Joel Seddon, RHP

A very bad outing on Tuesday jumped Seddon’s ERA with Midland from 3.40 to 4.63. Before that poor start, Seddon had a stretch of nine outings where he had allowed more than one run only once. Seddon has spent most of this season with Midland after spending all of last year with the RockHounds. In 56.1 innings with Midland and four innings for Nashville, Seddon has a 4.48 ERA and a 50:24 K:BB.

Although Seddon’s ERA is above 4.00, he has actually pitched better than that number would indicate this season. His K-rate is up nearly 8 percentage points over last season, while his walk-rate has risen only one percentage point. He has also improved his groundball rate considerably. Seddon has suffered from some bad luck on balls put into play, so look for his ERA to get back down into the threes during the second half. He is another candidate to get an extended look in Triple-A at some point this season.

Progress: Pitching better than his ERA would indicate

43. Joe Bennie, UT

After playing all over the field in 2016 for Stockton and Midland, Bennie was mostly a DH for the RockHounds early in 2017. He hit .238/.337/.350 in 22 games for Midland before requesting – and being granted – his release from the organization. Bennie signed on with the Rockland Boulders of the CanAm League and hit .297 in 18 games for the Boulders. He isn’t currently listed on their active roster.

Progress: Left the organization

42. Sam Bragg, RHP

Bragg returned to Midland for a second season after pitching very well out of the bullpen for the RockHounds in 2016. He also had a strong performance in the Arizona Fall League and was part of the league’s Rising Stars All-Star game. This year, Bragg has continued to shine out of the Midland bullpen. In 35.2 innings, the 24-year-old has a 2.78 ERA and a 31:9 K:BB.

Bragg has a fastball that sits in the low-90s and can touch 94, and he compliments that pitch with an above-average curveball that is a big bender. He also has a change-up, which he is continuing to develop. With 100.2 career innings in Double-A under his belt, Bragg is in line for a second-half promotion to Triple-A.

Progress: Pushing for a promotion to Triple-A

41. Nate Mondou, 2B

Since he turned pro, all Mondou has done is hit. The Wake Forest alum batted .298 in the pitcher-friendly New York-Penn League last season and he is batting .293 this year for the Low-A Beloit Snappers. Mondou also has a .373 OBP and 31 walks in 63 games. He recently started in the Midwest League All-Star game.

Mondou doesn’t hit for power (he’s yet to connect on his first pro homerun), but he sprays line-drives all over the field and he controls the strike-zone well. He’s also a solid base-runner who takes advantage of defenses to take extra bases whenever possible. Defensively, Mondou has shown better range and improved hands at second base this season. If the A’s have any movement with second basemen in their system during the second half, Mondou is a strong bet to move up to Stockton.

Progress: Midwest League All-Star

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