Moneyball seems to be losing some of its touch. What once was an innovative way to examine the acquisition of players has now become common knowledge, and teams with more money are able to take advantage of this strategy. Because of this, Oakland with its small budget has had a rough go of it lately. The Athletics have missed the playoffs now in back-to-back seasons and have found their on-field talent diminished thanks to trades involving Yoenis Cespedes going to Boston, Josh Reddick going to Los Angeles and Josh Donaldson going to Toronto (in a move that still boggles the mind).
But Oakland has some help on the way. Their farm system is surprisingly deep and could help them rebound in a season or two. Unfortunately for them, they still have to compete with Houston, Texas and Seattle, three teams who have Oakland beat in on-the-field talent and in Houston’s case, prospect depth. Still, it will be interesting to see what Billy Beane does with this farm depth and how he plans to build the next Green and Gold contender.
By the way, if you are interested in more MLB prospects columns, head on over to our 2017 fantasy baseball rankings dashboard. Throughout the offseason, you will find the rest of our team prospect breakdowns, fantasy baseball prospect rankings, tiered positional rankings, keeper values articles, and more - all in one easy place.
Oakland Athletics Top Prospects for Dynasty Leagues
Today I am continuing my list of prospect systems in the AL West. I have already covered the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Angels farm system. Next up, I will delve into the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners. To read more about my prospect coverage, click here.
Top Overall Talent: Franklin Barreto
Top Prospect to Debut in 2017: Franklin Barreto
Just basing expectations off statistics, Barreto is one of the most exciting prospects in baseball. He consistently hits over 10 home runs (usually projecting for 15 per season) and has stolen over 30 bases in back-to-back seasons. All the while his strikeout rate has remained below the 20% mark and his batting average has always hovered around the .280-.300 area. What’s not to like? Scouts aren’t overly jazzed about his defense, believing either second base or center field to be his future home. But as far as dynasty owners are concerned, he is a dynamic prospect worthy of owning in all leagues, especially considering the likelihood of him seeing big league playing time as early as May of this season. Looking for a comp? Think Jose Peraza with a little less speed and a little more power.
Top Prospect who won’t debut in 2017: A.J. Puk
It was shocking to some to see Puk fall as far as sixth in last season's draft. The fact it was ‘shocking’ to see him fall just outside the top-5 is a testament to how good many believe Puk will be. The 6-foot-7 southpaw has easy upper-90 mph velocity on his fastball and a well above-average slider and changeup. Coming out of college, he is already used to taking on larger workloads so the only part of his development left is mastering his control. If he can figure out a way to consistently hit the strike zone, his stuff gives him the potential to be a future ace in Oakland.
Biggest Boom or Bust: Lazaro Armenteros
Have you seen the grades MLB.com gave to Armenteros? 55 for hit, 60 for power and 65 for speed. Knowing that, it should be clear we are talking about a potentially elite prospect. There are just a few problems. Armenteros has yet to play a single game in professional American baseball and is still only 17 years old. Scouts love his tools, though they acknowledge he might swing and miss too much for his own good. Dynasty owners willing to take a flier on a potentially elite prospect could stash him in the hopes they receive the “Cuban Bryce Harper” some have deemed him, but they must know owning him this early on in his development is a risk.
Biggest Sleeper: Jharel Cotton
It’s easy to underrate someone like Cotton in a system like the Dodgers where pitching prospects seemed to be a dime a dozen. But now in Oakland, Cotton should be considered one of their best pitching prospects and has a real shot to start in the big leagues right out of Spring Training. Now take a look at the numbers Cotton posted at Triple-A between Oakland and L.A. this past season: 28.2% strikeout rate, 7.1% walk rate and .214 opponent’s batting average across 135.2 innings of work. The 4.31 ERA wasn’t great and he did encounter a home run problem in Oklahoma City, but it had never been an issue before this season and shouldn’t hold him back too much moving forward. Owners looking for a sleeper pitching prospect with No. 3 starter upside and high strikeouts should look no further. Jharel Cotton is your guy.
Top Prospect Hitters
Best Power Hitter: Matt Chapman
Chapman surpassed 20 home runs for the second consecutive season in 2016, bashing 36 bombs in 135 games split 117/18 in Double-A/Triple-A. The 23-year-old third baseman has always flashed explosive, 30 home run-type power and has a good chance of demonstrating that power to owners right out of Spring Training for Oakland if he can put together a strong enough pre-season. His combination of elite defense and explosive pop give him a great chance to beat out fellow third base prospect Renato Nunez, especially now that Ryon Healy will be playing exclusively first base and designated hitter. Strikeouts remain an issue and he doesn't figure to hit for an average above .260, but Chapman will provide owners with enough home runs to be worthy of ownership.
Most Likely to Hit over .300: Franklin Barreto
Best Burner on the Bases: Franklin Barreto
As discussed earlier with Barreto, he is one exciting prospect to follow. Though not an absolute lock to hit over .300, his ability to make consistent contact and his advanced knowledge of the strike zone certainly give him a leg up over most other Athletics’ prospects. And of course with his speed, he should also be able to beat out infield singles and swipe 25+ bags per season. He stands out as a potential leadoff or No. 2 hitter for Oakland by the middle of this season.
Top Prospect Pitchers
Strikeout Machine: A.J. Puk
As discussed earlier, Puk has outstanding stuff. Anytime you talk about a southpaw capable of touching 97 mph late in games, you know you are talking about someone special. Puk wasn’t the Friday night starter while at Florida, but he absolutely had the best stuff and figures to be the best of what was really a great pitching staff. His high-octane fastball/slider combination with an improving changeup give him the potential to consistently post up league-leading strikeout numbers if he makes the necessary improvements in his control. You are looking at a possible 200 K per season arm right here.
Best Command: Jharel Cotton
Cotton has never really had much of an issue with command over the course of his big league career. The right-hander has consistently sub-10% walk rates in the minors and rarely ever exceeds even 8.0%. And though occasionally Cotton gets hammered in the zone, owners can rest assured knowing that he is pitching in a pitcher-friendly ballpark and can balance out the occasional home run with plenty of strikeouts. Even if the home runs end up as a bit of an issue, owners can rest assured knowing he won't get in too much trouble walking high numbers of batters per season.
Top 10 Dynasty Prospects for the Oakland Athletics
1. Franklin Barreto (2B/SS, AAA)
Barreto's power/speed combination is incredibly valuable, especially if he shifts to second.
2. A.J. Puk (SP, A-)
Puk’s biggest issue is his command, but his dominant stuff means he could be a future ace if/when he reaches the big leagues.
3. Jharel Cotton (SP, MLB)
One of the most underrated pitchers in baseball, Cotton has been a true strikeout machine throughout his career and will be a big sleeper in dynasty leagues and redraft leagues.
4. Matt Chapman (3B, AAA)
I’m not as high on Chapman as others, but he is undeniably powerful and 30 home runs regardless of a poor batting average will be valuable in dynasty leagues.
5. Lazaro Armenteros (OF, NA)
The "Cuban Bryce Harper,” Armenteros has insane upside and could be a future .300 hitter with 30/30 potential. Owners just have to wait a little bit and hope he doesn’t flounder out before he gets to the big leagues.
6. Grant Holmes (SP, A+)
Holmes’ stock took a huge hit in 2016 as a result of ineffectiveness at High-A, but he certainly has the talent to raise his value quickly with his stuff. Possibly a great buy-low candidate here.
7. Frankie Montas (SP/RP, AAA)
Montas missed a lot of time due to an oblique injury, but he has a great fastball and nice slider to help him get plenty of swings-and-misses. He will need to improve his changeup and control if he hopes to remain a starter, but his high-octane stuff would play well as a closer.
8. Matt Olson (1B/OF, MLB)
The second coming of Brandon Moss, Olson is another guy who is stuck at DH, first or right field due to his lack of athleticism. For dynasty owners, the only thing that should matter is his capability to belt 25+ home runs per year with a .240-.250 average.
9. Daniel Gossett (SP, AAA)
Though not the most dominant of pitchers, Gossett had an outstanding season at Double-A and his above-average repertoire and deceptive arm action help give him a No. 4 starter’s floor.
10. Joe Wendle (2B, MLB)
Wendle has always been an underrated prospect, but he started to make a name for himself when he was called up on August 31. He possesses an interesting power/speed combination that could be quite valuable for someone playing second base.
I was genuinely surprised by how strong this farm system actually was. Barreto, Puk and Armenteros are probably their only potential “elite or closer” guys, the overall depth of this system is a definite strength.
What do dynasty owners find when they step back and look at the system as a whole? Lots of pitchers and power-hitting middle infielders. But really, the strength is the pitching. The A’s don’t have a lot of frontline starters in their system, but they could easily fill out a rotation with No. 3 starters if they wanted. Guys like Logan Shore, Paul Blackburn and Raul Alcantara provide the team with plenty of reliable starters who all could potentially have big league futures. Then there’s some solid power-hitting middle infielders like Max Schrock (Carson Cistulli’s favorite player) and Chad Pinder who could’ve received a spot towards the backend of the list, but just didn’t quite make the cut. This system is very underrated and I urge dynasty owners to look through it to find some talented dynasty sleeper prospects.