2016 Oakland A’s Top Prospects Round-Up

We sit down with the top #Athletics Prospects gurus and ask pressing questions

We posed five intriguing questions about the 2016 Oakland A's Top Prospects to guru's Brad Berreman of rantsports.com, Paul Nuccio of outsidepitchmlb.com, Melissa Lockard from OaklandClubhouse.com, Alex Hall from Athletics Nation, Gary Trujillo of Coco Crisp's Afro, Bill Moriarity of Athletics Farm and Katrina Putnam of Swingin' A's.

2016 Oakland A’s Top Prospects Round-Up Chat

#1. Who is the most under-rated/under-valued A's prospect?

Dakota Chalmers is typically found towards the end of top-20 lists when A's prospects are ranked, but he has more potential that just about any other arm in the Athletics' system. Chalmers needs to work on his control, as well as simplify his delivery, which means he's still a long way from being a major leaguer. However, Chalmers is still a teenager, and he's already throwing in the mid-90s. That kind of power is hard to find, and the A's are lacking it in the upper levels of their system.

If they can work with him on his mechanics and he can reign in his walk totals, he can be a very valuable part of the organization. And if everyone is going to rank (Franklin) Barreto at the very top of the system despite his defensive shortcomings, Chalmers power potential should at least warrant a higher slot on the list.

Katrina Putnam Swingin A's.com
Melissa Lockard Oakland Clubhouse.com

I'll give you two: Ryon Healy and Yairo Munoz. Healy gets dinged by prospect watchers because he doesn't walk a lot and he hasn't hit for as much power as one would think he would based on his body type. However, he is a really talented hitter. He has a knack for making hard contact all over the field and should hit for average in the big leagues.

Healy hasn't generated a lot of consistent lift on his drives yet, but when he does get that lift, the power is evident and I think that will continue to develop for him as he learns more about his swing. Defensively, Healy is an adequate third baseman and an excellent first baseman. He's a good enough athlete that he could be tried in a corner outfield spot, as well. He gets over-shadowed by Matt Olson, Renato Nunez and Matt Chapman, but he shouldn't be overlooked.

Munoz is an exciting talent. He has the ability to hit for average and power and he plays a premium position (SS) -- and plays it well. He lost focus a bit midway through last season and his stats suffered, but he immediately clicked back in after his promotion to Stockton. He has always played better when challenged. Munoz is bigger than many prototypical shortstops, but he is quick enough for the position right now and has plenty of arm. He runs well and has a chance to be an impact player on both sides of the ball.

Zack Erwin came over from the White Sox in the Lawrie trade, after being drafted in the 4th round out of Clemson in 2015. He's not an overpowering fastballer, but he's got a very good curve. He's only logged about 30 games between rookie and Single-A ball, but he had a 1.34 ERA and a .967 WHIP. And he's a lefty, so that's always a bonus.

Paul Nuccio Outside Pitch MLB.com
Brad Berreman Rant Sports.com

My most underrated/undervalued A's prospect right now is 1B Matt Olson. Had a down 2015 as he went up a level, but power hitting always has a place

One of my favorite pet prospects is Rangel Ravelo. He gets no love because he profiles as a first baseman but doesn't hit for enough power to get anyone's attention. But I don't believe that your first baseman needs to hit for power if you can make up for it elsewhere, and clearly the A's agree given that Yonder Alonso is currently manning the position.

Ravelo doesn't hit a lot of homers, but he does just flat-out hit. He hit in High-A, he hit in Double-A, and even when he stumbled a bit in his Triple-A debut he turned around and won the award for the top hitter in the Triple-A equivalent Venezuelan Winter League. Power is great and I'd rather have it than not, but there are other ways to succeed at the plate.

If not for a wrist injury that cost Ravelo half of 2015, we may have already seen him debut for Oakland. The picture is a bit crowded this spring, but he's healthy now, he's coming off a wonderful winter, and he's already on the 40-man roster. You won't see him on any lists of the A's top 10 prospects, but he could find himself making a difference in Oakland this summer.

Alex Hall Athletics Nation.com
Gary Trujillo Coco Crisp's Afro

I believe the prospects are rated exactly as they should be. Matt Olson doesn't get a ton of publicity outside of Oakland but I think he may have the chance to be an athletic (pardon the pun) slugger and perhaps a future All Star...the kid is a beast at 6'5, 230, and he's only 21 years old.

I think left-hander Dillon Overton has been a little under-rated due to his Tommy John surgery, though he’s consistently pitched well since his return, despite a dip in velocity.

Another arm who’s been off people’s radars a bit is right-hander Dylan Covey, who had previously been a 1st -round pick for the Brewers and who pitched well at Stockton last season. Since he doesn’t usually put up gaudy strikeout numbers, I think people tend to forget about him a bit.

Outfielder Jaycob Brugman is a guy who isn’t terribly flashy either but does a lot of things right and could end up as a solid fourth outfielder and occasional starter who can player everywhere in the outfield. Also, Lana Akau, who’s always been a really solid defensive catcher, made some big strides at the plate last year. And if he gets the chance to play in the hitter’s paradise of the California League this year, then he could end up making an even bigger impression

Bill Moriarity Athletics Farm.com

#2. What prospect has the best chance to be the break-out star this season?

This will hardly be unexpected, but Sean Manaea seems poised to have the biggest season of any Athletics' prospect. Susan Slusser reported that Manaea hit 97 MPH in his Cactus League debut on Friday, and while one start isn't proof that he's ready to join the big leagues, he seemed confident on the mound against major league competition.

Combined with the 1.90 ERA he posted in seven starts after joining Double-A Midland last season, Manaea has been impressive since coming over in the Kazmir trade. He's the only prospect that the front office has specifically mentioned when discussing the 2016 roster, so even though he should begin the year at Triple-A, it won't be long before he's part of the big league rotation.

Katrina Putnam Swingin A's.com
Melissa Lockard Oakland Clubhouse.com

Heath Fillmyer is a name to watch this season. The right-hander was a position player in high school and converted to the mound the year he was drafted (2014). He is still learning the nuances of pitching, but his stuff is special and he is starting to put it all together. Fillmyer's fastball is 93-96 and he has a change-up that sits in the 87-89 MPH range and acts more link a sinker than a change-up. His breaking ball also improved a lot last season. He's an excellent athlete who is coachable and a strong competitor.

Another prospect to watch is Sandber Pimentel. Like Munoz, he wore down a bit in the middle of his first season in a full-season league, but Pimentel showed power and patience in his time with Beloit. Playing in the hitter-friendly Cal League, Pimentel could put together a monster season.

Sean Manaea is a lefty with a strong fastball, slider and changeup. It’s going to be interesting to see him in spring training. He had a 2.94 ERA and K’d 236 in 196 innings pitched over the last 2 years of Rookie, A and AA ball.

Paul Nuccio Outside Pitch MLB.com
Brad Berreman Rant Sports.com

My Oakland prospect with the best chance to be a breakout star this year is P Sean Manaea. Seems likely to make his major league debut, health permitting.

In terms of breaking out at the MLB level, that would be Sean Manaea. I'd be shocked if he made the Opening Day rotation, but I'd be equally shocked if we didn't see him come up this summer when the A's inevitably need to fill in for an injury. Once he's in Oakland, he could make a name for himself quickly with his power arsenal.In terms of guys still moving up the ladder, I'll go with Yairo Munoz. He started his breakout last summer when he moved up to High-A Stockton for the final month, and my hope is that he can carry over that success into a monster 2016 that puts him on Top 100 lists next winter.

There's also a host of pitchers who could be breakout candidates, and it's impossible to pick from among them -- Casey Meisner, Daniel Mengden, and Zack Erwin are three of my favorites, and Heath Fillmyer has become a trendy recent pick as a guy who only switched to full-time pitching a couple years ago but has strong raw stuff.

Alex Hall Athletics Nation.com
Gary Trujillo Coco Crisp's Afro

No one will have a break out season, but Sean Manaea will probably get a handful of starts and maybe more if the season turns out to be a dumpster fire by the All Star break--which I don't foresee happening. The starting pitching in Oakland is also a bit young and suspect which means he could be called up for numerous reasons, all of which are bad. I'd like him to spend the year in AAA so we can truly see how he handles hitters close to the big league level.

The most likely suspect is clearly left-hander Sean Manaea. He’s a 6’5” southpaw whose fastball can get up to 97 mph. And in his 7 starts with Double-A Midland last year, he put up a 1.90 ERA and struck out almost 11 batters per 9 innings. If he’s throwing well at Triple-A and an opening develops in the major league rotation, as it inevitably does, he should get the chance to show what he can do in the big leagues. And as a big, hard-throwing lefty with the ability to post impressive strikeout numbers, he certainly has the potential to have a significant impact.

Bill Moriarity Athletics Farm.com

#3. What prospect do you expect to take the biggest leap forward in development this season?

Though he’s currently considered to be the A’s top hitting prospect, Franklin Barreto just turned 20 a little over a week ago and is still rather raw in many respects. But I believe he’s poised to make big strides forward in the coming season. After getting off to a rough start last season with Stockton, he really turned things around and just got better as the season wore on. He then got invited to participate in the A’s big league camp this spring and, as the youngest player in camp, quickly hit two impressive home runs early on. He could be ready to really mature at the plate this season. And after having the chance to work with Ron Washington this spring, his defense, which has always been a little suspect, may start to show some real improvement this season as well.

Bill Moriarity Athletics Farm.com
Brad Berreman Rant Sports.com

I'm going with 3B Renato Nunez or SS Chad Pinder.

A couple of weeks ago, I’d have said Jake Nottingham, but…. I’ll go out on a limb and say Jaycob Brugman… what the hell. : ) He was touted as a 5 tool OF-er when he was with BYU, but a more impressive slash line would be nice. His plate discipline seems to be improving. The A’s seem to have enough switch and lefty bats in the OF now, so I’m wondering if Brugman will go somewhere in trade. I don’t know if he’s made for that vast Oakland outfield.

Paul Nuccio Outside Pitch MLB.com
Melissa Lockard Oakland Clubhouse.com

The two guys I mentioned above could fall into this question, but to give you another name, I'll go with James Naile.

He was a 20th-round pick in 2015 and he opened a lot of eyes this summer and fall. Naile came to pro ball with a heavy two-seam sinker and a plus slider. He has since added a four-seam fastball that can touch 93 and works well with the sinker. His slider might be the best of any in the A's 2015 draft class. His change-up is also a solid pitch. It isn't clear whether he will be a late-inning reliever or a starter, but he is guy who could move up quickly.

Matt Olson had a rough start to his 2015 season, as he adjusted to the pitcher-friendly Texas League. He finished the year with a .249 average as a result, but he also posted a very respectable .826 OPS. Olson split time between first base and the outfield for the first time in his career, after getting just a few games in the outfield in 2014.

I look for him to continue to develop as an outfielder, and refine his hitting skills in the Nashville Sounds' much less-challenging ballpark. He's not quite major-league ready at the moment, but he seems poised to take the next step this year.

Katrina Putnam Swingin A's.com
Gary Trujillo Coco Crisp's Afro

Franklin Barreto will take huge strides this season as he is our number one prospect and has been impressive in Spring Training so far--the kid can rake.

Matt Olson's bat is ready for Triple-A, but it's his defense that I'll be paying the most attention to this year. In particular, I'm interested to see what position(s) he'll play. He's billed as a plus defender at first base, but the reports from the last year suggest that he has the arm and the mobility to play in the outfield as well. If he can make that switch, his prospect stock could soar, especially in a franchise that doesn't have much of any outfield depth after their current starting three of Davis, Burns, and Reddick (the latter of whom is a free agent after the season). So, I'm picking Olson because he has the chance to learn an entirely new skill that will add a whole new dimension to his profile. Not many guys move UP the defensive spectrum in Triple-A, especially not guys with high-profile power bats.

But if you want the biggest possible leap in development, keep an eye on Chris Kohler and Dustin Driver. They are a pair of super-young pitchers with massive upside, but neither has done much of anything in their pro careers so far because they have fought injuries. If either or both is healthy, and they can learn to harness their stuff, then they could leap onto the prospect map in 2016.​

Alex Hall Athletics Nation.com

#4. The A's have a surplus of shortstop prospects (Barreto, Martin, White, Munoz & Pinder) projectability wise, which one do you see moving the fastest through the system?

In terms of which shortstop prospect will reach the system first, I would have to go with Chad Pinder. All of the others are still multiple seasons away, and while Barreto has certainly gotten off to a hot start in spring training, he's only 20 years old and isn't guaranteed to stick at shortstop due to his weak defense. Meanwhile, Pinder batted .317/.361/.486 last season - posting the second highest average and third highest OPS in the Texas League. If Pinder continues to put up those kind of numbers in Triple-A, it would be hard to keep him in the minor leagues much longer.

Katrina Putnam Swingin A's.com
Brad Berreman Rant Sports.com

Among the shortstop cluster, I think Pinder will move fastest through the system.

The shortstop prospects are pretty tight, talent-wise. Pinder might be the frontrunner, but not by much. He’s got a good arm and has hit well in AA, but he might be more hot corner material because there’s a question about his range at SS. It sounds like Munoz might have the better range at the position, and after not hitting very well in the Midwest League, he really brought the bat to the Cal League. Scouts seem to love Barreto for his offense, but there’s concern about his glove, and talk of moving him to the outfield. But he’s only 19, so we’ll see.

Paul Nuccio Outside Pitch MLB.com
Melissa Lockard Oakland Clubhouse.com

Chad Pinder is most likely to reach the big leagues first, but whether that is as a shortstop or a second baseman or a utility player remains to be seen. He's definitely the most advanced of this group. Of that group, Yairo Munoz and Richie Martin are most likely to stick at shortstop. Both are talented defenders.

Franklin Barreto has the highest offensive ceiling, but I think his bat is ready before his glove is ready at short, so it's more likely he reaches the bigs as a centerfielder or a second baseman.

Mikey White played much better at short in his pro debut than was expected of him coming out of college, so he has a chance to stick there, but I think he'll end up moving around the infield. His bat could advance fairly quickly as he already has a solid approach.

I have a feeling that Barreto, Pinder, and White will be playing different positions by the time they reach MLB. Barreto's defensive questions are well-documented, while Pinder and White are both guys who have deferred to defensively superior teammates at times already in their pro careers.

If we're talking about which one will make MLB first, that would be Pinder. He's the highest up the ladder already, and he even has a shot to debut sometime in 2016 (even if that just means a Sept call-up). Barreto will probably make it at the youngest age, since he is actually the youngest of that entire group and will already be in Double-A this year -- if he has a best-case scenario year then he could be in the conversation for 2017, when he'll only be 21. Between Munoz, White, and Martin, that's a tough call. I already sang Munoz's praises above, but if the A's decide that White profiles best as a utilityman then they could fast-track him up the system -- after all, he did make the rare jump to full-season Single-A last summer in the same year he was drafted.

Alex Hall Athletics Nation.com
Gary Trujillo Coco Crisp's Afro

I really don't see any of these guys getting a call up for the 2016 season. It's almost unreasonable to talk about it at this point since any of them can be traded at any moment. Barreto is probably the only one slated to be a "for sure" ML starter...but the experts have been wrong before.

Munoz can hit but had problems with the glove....and he is very young. How well or terribly the big club does has so much influence on how quickly these guys get called up to the Bigs, and obviously we are hoping they do well and these guys have to wait their turn for a while.

Chad Pinder was the Texas League player of the year last season and is set to be the primary starting shortstop at Triple-A Nashville this year, so he could potentially be just one major league injury away from making his major league debut sometime this season. And his versatility – he can also play both second base and third base – only increases the likelihood that he gets an opportunity at some point in the relatively near future.

Having said that, after putting up a strong second half last year and looking good so far this spring, 20-year-old Franklin Barreto appears to be on the fast track. He’ll be one of the youngest players starting in the Double-A Texas League this year. And it’s not hard to imagine that, if he gets off to a good start, he could get bumped up to Triple-A in the second half and then could end up seeing time in Oakland by the end of the season. It’s still more likely though that he’ll make his first appearance in the green and gold sometime in 2017.

Bill Moriarity Athletics Farm.com

#5. What are realistic expectations for Dillon Overton for the 2016 season?

Brad Berreman Rant Sports.com

I think he'll spend a big chunk of 2016 in Triple-A and he could make his major league debut at some point (September call up?).

Realistically, he builds on his strong half-season in Double-A by establishing himself as a quality arm in Triple-A this year. The slightly optimistic take is that, with enough Triple-A success, he gets to make his MLB debut in 2016, even if only for a couple games. The super optimistic take is that he rediscovers some of the velocity he lost after Tommy John surgery, makes that MLB debut, and then sticks in the rotation for good as a quality big league starter. Put me down for the slightly optimistic guess.

Alex Hall Athletics Nation.com
Gary Trujillo Coco Crisp's Afro

Dillon recently had Tommy John surgery and is sort of a low-level prospect so I think the only realistic expectation is to bring him along slowly at the AA level. He pitched well before the injury in a notoriously hitter friendly Texas League--I expect him to be a starter for the Midland Rockhounds again this season.

The guy had a 13.25 K-to-walk ratio playing rookie league ball in 2014. Simple regression-towards-the-mean says that’s not going to be happening again soon. : ) I think he’ll be coming down to earth. I’m a little more interested in watching his fellow lefty Sean Manaea as they pitch in spring training.

Paul Nuccio Outside Pitch MLB.com
Melissa Lockard Oakland Clubhouse.com

I think there is a chance he'll finish the year in the big leagues. His pitchability is already among the very best in the A's system and the velocity on his fastball (which had been down after his Tommy John surgery) was ticking back up as last season went along. He has a few things left to clean up before he gets to the big leagues, but he is a strike-thrower who knows how to mix his pitches and he is pretty close to a finished product.

Because of Dillon Overton's 2013 Tommy John surgery, he has a fairly small sample size to go on in terms of making predictions. Last season, he only made 13 starts at the Double-A level, and while he posted a 3.06 ERA, he also was pitching in a favorable ballpark. I would predict that Overton will be back at Double-A to start the season, and while I do think he'll earn an early-season promotion to Nashville, I think he'll struggle with the adjustment at first. Although he's flown through the system so far, his FIP has reflected that his ERA is typically higher by about 20 points, meaning he's relied on his defense a little. Of course, with the Triple-A rotation being as bare as it is, the Sounds may see Overton sooner rather than later.

Katrina Putnam Swingin A's.com

Dillon Overton should have the chance to test himself at Triple-A this season. After coming back from Tommy John surgery, his command has been as good as ever, but he’s lost a little velocity off his fastball. He’s thrown well and shown pinpoint control everywhere he’s pitched since his return, including at Double-A Midland, where he put up a 3.06 ERA while walking just 15 in 64 2/3 innings last year. But the key will be getting his velocity back up to where it was before the surgery. Reports are that he’s been throwing a little harder this spring. If his velocity doesn’t fully return, then he could ultimately end up as finesse guy filling out the back end of the rotation or potentially as a lefty coming out of the bullpen. But if his velocity does fully return, then he could prove to be a solid rotation option in the near future. Either way, if Overton can fare well at Triple-A, then it’s possible we could see him serving some role in Oakland at some point before the season’s through.

Bill Moriarity Athletics Farm.com

We appreciate everyone taking the time to share their thoughts, opinions and commentary on the 2016 Oakland A's Top Prospects in our Round-Up Chat.