With one of the bottom 5 payrolls in the Major Leagues, the Oakland Athletics have still managed to win two division titles in a row, losing in 5 games in the Division Series both years (both to the Tigers). They have accomplished this thanks to Billy Beane’s combination of shrewd free agent pick-ups, and a strong scouting department (think Sonny Gray). Without being able to spend top dollars on the biggest free agents every winter, the A’s will need to get a continuous stream of talent from their minor league system to make an impact, or to trade for major league talent. Here’s my top 10 list of who may be contributing to the A’s next championship run, and your fantasy team as well.
Apply what you’ve learned and win some cash! DSE Fantasy Baseball Leagues are now open for registration. CLICK HERE for more info!
1. Addison Russell – SS
Russell is the consensus top player in the Athletics minor league system currently and for good reason. As a 19 year old, Addison spent the year in High-A ball and played very well to the tune of a .271 average with 18 HR and 26 SB. His truly elite bat speed should allow him to hit for a high average in the Majors, with above average power for a shortstop as well. Russell also has above-average, if not elite speed, that allows him to swipe bags as well. Some have questioned his ability to play shortstop in the majors, but I feel his athleticism and baseball IQ will allow him to play average or above-average defense at the position. Addison projects to be a star at the next level, capable of hitting .275 and being a 20/20 guy as well. Russell will likely start this year in AA and continue to work on his plate discipline and defense. ETA: 2015
2. Billy McKinney – OF
The A’s used their 2013 first round choice (24th overall) on high school Texan Billy McKinney. After the draft, McKinney impressed in his first professional experience in both rookie ball and short season time. He combined to hit .326/.387/.437. McKinney is another player with excellent bat speed and an impressive eye at the plate. As Billy continues to grow into his body, he projects to develop average to above-average power as well. McKinney does not possess good speed or an arm however, so he is likely going to be looking at LF or 1B as his main options. If he continues to develop his strength and power, McKinney has the chance to be a 25-30 HR player who also hits for a high average. Without the power development, he may be relegated to more of a platoon or fourth outfield role. Look for McKinney to start the year in Low-A, and begin to work his way up. ETA: 2017
3. Raul Alcantara – P
Alcantara is a Dominican prospect originally signed by the Boston Red Sox (part of the Andrew Bailey trade). After a rough 2012, Raul took a big step forward in 2013 and really started to show the promise the Red Sox originally saw in him. Alcantara split the year between low-A and high-A last year and posted a solid 3.11 ERA with a 7.14 K/9 and 1.38 BB/9. His control is clearly solid, but could use continued work on his command to the corners of the zone. With a strong fastball/change-up combo, Alcantara will need to work on his secondary pitches if he wants to develop into true starter potential. Raul should begin the year in AA this season. If he does continue to develop, he has the potential to be an above-average #3 starter.
4. Renato Nunez – 3B
Nunez is a young Venezuelan the A’s signed in 2011. Renato shows excellent bat speed and flashed solid power in his A- ball debut last year slugging 19 HR in 128 games. What was disappointing was Nunez’s discipline, as he struck out 136 times and only walked 28. This is not uncommon for young international players though, and with some more experience it may improve. Nunez will likely start the season in the hitter friendly California League where he will need to hone his plate discipline. He is not overly athletic and profiles as more of a left fielder or first baseman at the major league level. I wouldn’t expect Nunez to ever hit over .260 in the major leagues, but his power has the potential to carry him there with 20+ HR. ETA: 2017
5. Michael Ynoa – P
Ynoa is one of those very talented players that may have just not had the chance to shine due to injury. Through 5 minor league seasons, he has thrown less than 120 innings COMBINED. He’s dealt with the gamut of shoulder injuries as well as Tommy John surgery. When healthy, the 6 foot 7 inch Dominican has plus stuff including a plus fastball and sharp curve. Control is where Ynoa is at his weakest, shown by his 4.16 BB/9 last year. Even at 22, without being able to throw very many innings in any of his seasons, Ynoa still has to develop. To be a starter, he needs a lot of work on his secondary pitches and control. The bullpen may be his best bet for the big leagues, as it would allow him to unleash his power stuff without the real need to develop as many pitches. If he can stay healthy and throw some innings this year and work on his mechanics, he has the potential to be a closer at the next level. ETA: 2015
6. Daniel Robertson – SS/3B
Robertson was the Athletics Supplemental first round pick in 2012 taken out of high school. Robertson’s value may be dependent on his ability to stay at shortstop (likely blocked by Addison Russell) or if he’s forced to move to third base. Either way he is a solid hitter, with a good grasp of the strike zone. At SS, Robertson would project to have a decent average and average to above-average power. When moved to third base, his power pans out to only average or lower for the position. With a lack of speed, and only a solid average to boast, he may not be as enticing as a prospect. Robertson will likely play in A+ ball this year and continue to work on his defense so he can stick at SS. ETA: 2016
7. Bobby Wahl – P
Wahl dropped in the 2013 draft to the 5th round due to a disappointing junior year in college, possibly due to injuries he played through. When healthy last year, Wahl impressed in his pro debut at the short season level with a K/9 rate of 11.63. Wahl has a strong repertoire with a fastball that sits comfortably at 90-95 mph, a plus slider, and average or better change-up. His inconsistencies in his delivery have led to control and command issues, and that will be his biggest hindrance as he continues to develop. Wahl will start his first full season in the pros at A ball and begin to hone his secondary pitches. If he can work on a more repeatable delivery and avoid the injury bug, Wahl has the potential of a solid #3 starter. However, if his command issues persist, the A’s may feel he is more effective as a power arm out of the bullpen, which will obviously hurt his fantasy value. ETA: 2016
8. Matthew Olson – 1B
Olson’s .225 average at A- ball last year may scare you off, but it shouldn’t necessarily. Don’t forget that he had 23 HR in addition to 32 doubles for an OPS .761 as a teenager. The big lefty has the kind of raw plus power that has the potential to hit 30 or more HR in the Majors if he can work on shortening his swing. Both his K% (26.5) and BB% (12.9) are well above average. He clearly has the patience to take walks (which improve is OBP) and pick his pitches, but when his swing gets long he does strike out, A LOT. He often reminds me of an Adam Dunn type. Yes, his body type will likely limit him to a 1B or DH role in the future, but he has the power to stick there. Olson will likely start in High-A this year and may hit even better in the hitter-friendly league. ETA: 2017/2018
9. Max Muncy – 1B
If you picture a 1B with the opposite tool set of Olson, you have an idea of Max Muncy. His power isn’t nearly as impressive, but he is a much more solid all-around hitter, hitting .285 with a .400 OBP in A+ ball last year. He struggled a bit with his promotion to the less hitter-friendly Double A, hitting only .250 with 4 HR in 47 games. Many scouts are convinced his decent power showing of 25 HR last year was boosted heavily by the California League and won’t project to higher levels. He does have good plate discipline as he walked a total of 88 times last year. This leaves us with a player who projects to be able to hit .275 or better, but may not be able to crack 20 HR. Playing at a premium power position like 1B, Muncy really is going to have to keep that OBP up and at least hit the gaps for doubles if he won’t be helping in the HR category. Muncy should start the season back at Double A where he ended last year. If he can continue the power he showed last year he is definitely one to watch, but I wouldn’t bet on it. ETA: 2015
10. Dylan Covey – P
Covey was the A’s fourth round pick in the 2013 draft, but was first selected 14th overall in 2010 out of high school before deciding to attend college (where clearly his stock dropped). Dylan is a sinker ball pitcher who will not strike out very many (K/9 of 6.98 in A- ball last year), but induces a ton of ground balls. Covey projects to be an innings-eater type with a solid mix of a sinking fastball, slider, curve, and change. He should pitch in both low-A and high-A next year and continue to improve his repertoire. Covey has strong control, and since he doesn’t miss a ton of bats, will need to work on his command if he is have success as a starter in higher levels. A number 3 innings-eater would appear to be his ceiling. ETA: 2017/2018