2020 MLB Draft Guide: Farm Report: Oakland Athletics (Free Preview)
Matt Selz gives you a break down of the top prospects and which ones to watch for the Oakland Athletics Farm System in the latest MLB Farm Report.
We’ve arrived at the “Moneyball” team with the A’s. The key to their success has been a constant flow of high-quality prospects coming through their farm system that they can build around for a few years at a time while filling in with the cheap and undervalued free agents. It shouldn’t be shocking to see the team this high in the rankings given the long list of very good major leaguers that they’ve produced over the last decade and continue to year-after-year and with their latest crop, the window to finally win Billy Beane a World Series might be bustin' wide open.
Top Prospects In The System
Pos. - LHP Ht/Wt - 6’0” 209 lbs. Bats: L Throws: L Age: 22
Level - Majors Drafted - 2016 (3.94) ETA: 2020
Grades: Fastball: 65 Changeup: 65 Slider: 60 Curveball: 55 Control: 60
What’s not to love about Luzardo. He’s got flat out filthy stuff from his upper-90s four-seam fastball, to his mid-90s sinking two-seam fastball, the changeup which is not only his best pitch, but perhaps the best changeup in the minors right now with tremendous sink and fade, the slider which is like a cutter-type breaking pitch, and the curveball with is a great breaking pitch in its own right. Velocity, command, and stuff are hard to find from a left-hander but Luzardo has all three and was very impressive in his brief major league debut last year after a shoulder injury slowed his start to the 2019 campaign. The only thing that is stopping him from being an impact frontline starter right now is his innings to this point as he’s topped 100 innings just once in three pro seasons with the other two being 43-inning campaigns around injury rehabs. In the 195.2 innings combined in the minors, Luzardo has posted a 2.53 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, .219 BAA, and a 234:43 K:BB ratio.
Pos. - LHP Ht/Wt - 6’7” 238 lbs. Bats: L Throws: L Age: 24
Level - Majors Drafted - 2016 (1.6) ETA: 2020
Grades: Fastball: 70 Slider: 65 Curveball: 50 Changeup: 55 Control: 50
Puk looked like the potential top overall pick in the 2016 until he went sixth overall to Oakland and progressed to Double-A in his first full season in pro ball including pitching the Future’s Game. Then Tommy John surgery cost him all of 2018 and half of 2019 before rehabbing enough to make his major league debut. The southpaw is a flamethrower in the true sense of the word with a fastball that sits at 97 mph and routinely touches 100 in his starts. The slider sits in the low-90s and induces a lot of whiffs with the action of the pitch and the delivery from Puk. The changeup is his third plus-pitch that can make hitters look silly in the box while he rounds out the arsenal with a curveball that he uses far less than the others but it’s still an average pitch that will keep hitters honest. Puk’s control isn’t in line with his stuff and that’s led to a higher walk rate since his surgery, and the control was average to start as it’s tough for taller guys to fully control their stuff on a regular basis. Puk has the stuff, frame, and approach to be a frontline starter, now it’s all about getting the innings back up and the control back after the Tommy John surgery.
Pos. - C Ht/Wt - 6’3” 232 lbs. Bats: R Throws: R Age: 25
Level - Majors Drafted - 2016 (3.83) ETA: 2020
Grades: Hit: 50 Power: 50 Run: 40 Arm: 70 Field: 65
Murphy went from walk-on at Wright State to one of the best catching prospects in the majors in just a few years. Oakland took him in the third round of the 2016 draft despite a hamate injury that kept him off the field for much of his last season in college. Murphy came in as a defense-first backstop with an elite-level arm and double-plus glove work in receiving and footwork that makes him a great blocker. The game-calling aspect moved him faster than maybe the bat would have but the bat has started to come around. Over the last two years, Murphy has played a combined 114 games between Double-A and Triple-A and slashed .288/.370/.521 with 19 home runs, 88 runs, 74 RBI, and three steals with a 17.8-percent K-rate and 10.0-percent BB-rate. So now not only is he a Gold Glove-caliber defensive backstop, though he needs to work on throwing would-be base stealers out, but the bat is coming along nicely to be an above-average offensive contributor at the catcher position, which fantasy-wise makes him a valuable stash with how shallow the catching position really is.
Pos. - RHP Ht/Wt - 6’0” 182 lbs. Bats: L Throws: R Age: 24
Level - Triple-A Drafted - 2016 (CBA.37) ETA: 2021
Grades: Fastball: 55 Changeup: 60 Slider: 45 Control: 60
The A’s took Jefferies in the Competitive Balance Round A after he answered questions about the health of his shoulder the year he was eligible for the draft. He was expected to be a quick riser through the system with the command being plus and his feel for pitching but Tommy John surgery cost him nearly two years in the interim. Jefferies was stellar in his return to the mound in 2019 and made it to Double-A while pitching 79 innings and racking up a 93:9 K:BB ratio. The fastball works in the low-90s but touches 94 at times but the command he has allows it to play up. The changeup is arguably his best pitch as he throws it from the same arm slot and with the same arm speed as the fastball and it creates a great tunneling effect while the pitch has great fade and depth to it. The slider is highly inconsistent and looks like a cutter at times as he changes his grips often to try and improve the pitch. If he can get the breaking pitch to be at least average, he’s a number four type starter waiting in the wings but if he doesn’t then a bullpen role is heading his way as the fastball would move up a tick in velocity and make the changeup that much more of a weapon.
Pos. - 2B/SS Ht/Wt - 6’0” 192 lbs. Bats: R Throws: R Age: 24
Level - Triple-A Signed - January 2012 ETA: 2020
Grades: Hit:45 Power: 45 Run: 80 Arm: 60 Field: 55
Mateo made waves early in his pro career with an 82-steal campaign in 117 in 2015 across two levels of the lower minors. That kind of speed is shocking to see and hence why he has an 80-grade for that tool and it wasn’t just the one huge steals year either. He stole 49 in 64 games in 2013 and 52 in 129 games in 2017. The issue for Mateo has been having the bat catch up to the speed and get him on base more often where the wheels can be an absolute game-changing force. In 702 career minor league games between the Yankees and Athletics systems, he was involved in the Sonny Gray trade, his slash line is .267/.325/.422 with 52 home runs, 283 steals, 445 runs, and 302 RBI but the bigger issue is that he has just 227 walks and 714 strikeouts including 139 or more Ks each of the last three years while playing 129 or fewer games. Mateo has been splitting time between shortstop and second base in the minors, though mostly at second, but has also played the outfield a bit too trying to find a place to break through at or to add to his versatility. The power is expected to fill in a bit more to the point of being capable of hitting 10-12 home runs a year while stealing 30 bags. His 119 games at Triple-A last year, granted in a hitter’s league with a juiced ball, campaign is pretty close what he is at his best with a .289/.330/.504 slash line and 19 home runs, 95 runs, 78 RBI, and 24 steals. Mateo is expected to be in a battle for second base duties in 2020 with Tony Kemp , Franklin Barreto , and Chad Pinder also in the discussion.
Prospects To Watch For
SS Age: 17 DSL Rookie ETA: 2024
Puason was signed in July of 2019 and was rated the second best international prospect in the class behind Jasson Dominguez who signed with the Yankees and both of whom got deals upwards of $5 million. The shortstop is 6’3” and 165 pounds at the moment with a lot of projectability left in his frame which will only make him a more impressive prospect going forward. He already has three plus tools from the speed, arm, and fielding aspects of things with a chance to have five above-average ones with power being the only real question mark. The lanky shortstop has smooth actions at short with a very strong arm and great footwork making him a candidate to stick at short long-term. Puason is also a switch hitter at the dish and has a knack for getting his barrel to the ball with a short smooth stroke from both sides while the power hasn’t yet shown up. There is a lot of projection left in his game, mostly on the offensive side, and eventually the youngster profiles as a likely number two or five hitter in a pro lineup capable of hitting for average with at least 15 home run pop and stealing 25-plus bags a year.
OF Age: 21 A-Advanced ETA: 2022
Beck was taken in the 2017 draft at sixth overall after a great senior season at North Carolina and a convincing pre-Draft workout. Oakland couldn’t let the toolsy, athletic, outfielder get passed them and their faith paid off as he reached full-season A-ball in his first full season in pro ball. He played 123 games and slashed .296/.335/.383 while adding two home runs, 60 RBI, 58 runs, and eight steals. The season put him in Advanced-A where he played 85 games and slashed .251/.302/.411 with eight home runs, 49 RBI, 40 runs, and two steals but that was a disappointing step backward compared to the year before. Beck is a guy that has good tools that haven’t translated to game action yet as he’s struggled at the plate to slow down and recognize breaking pitches which led to a 34-percent K-rate in 2019. The power and speed haven’t shown up the way they were expected to at this point either and he’ll need a rebound 2020 campaign to start moving up the prospect list and moving up levels in the A’s system.
RHP Age: 26 Triple-A ETA: 2020
A former first-round pick of the Yankees in 2015 after a strong career at UCLA, Kaprielian has had the unfortunate luck to not stay healthy enough to be on the mound very much in the pros to really show what he can do. He missed all of the 2017 and 2018 seasons due to Tommy John surgery and in his career in the minors has just 97.1 total innings. He has looked good in that time though with 68 innings coming at Triple-A last year for Oakland and his career numbers being a 2.96 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 111:23 K:BB ratio, and .216 BAA. The righty has transformed from mid-90s thrower to a low-90s guy with his fastball and improved his control to try and avoid more injuries and then backs that fastball up with quality secondary stuff. The slider and curve are both average and tend to blend a bit together at times while the change was a tad above-average with good fade. Coming off injury he now profiles as a backend type starter rather than a frontline guy like he did a few years ago but he’ll be a high-strikeout, potentially innings-eating fourth starter.
2B/SS Age: 21 Advanced-A ETA: 2022
Allen was a glove-first high school shortstop when the A’s took in the third round of the 2017 draft and signed him to a well-above-slot $2 million bonus. The first couple of years in pro ball showed that his offense had room to improve with a mid-.240s average in the first 156 pro games. However, in 2019 the offense took a big step forward with a .292/.363/.434 slash line in a half of a season a high-A before a high ankle sprain ended his season in June. He also had three home runs, 45 runs, 25 RBI, and 13 steals in the 72 games played. Allen can get too caught up in the launch angle talk from time to time and he should just stick with his good line-drive approach at the plate and use his speed to stretch singles into doubles. He profiles as a Gold Glove candidate shortstop who will likely hit eighth or ninth in the order and grab you 17-22 steals a year with a middling average and next to no power.
3B/SS Age: 25 Majors ETA: 2020
Neuse was a second-round pick out of Oklahoma in 2016 by the Nationals and was then dealt the following year to Oakland in the Sean Doolittle /Ryan Madson trade along with Jesús Luzardo . The righty has been progressing pretty smoothly through the system until the 2018 season when he took a step back in the first half of the season before regaining his offensive footing in the second half. The 2019 season was so good that he made the majors for the first time and saw 25 games with the Athletics at the end of the year. Typically his natural position is third base and he has the offense to fit that spot too with 20-plus home run pop in the bat and ability to be a run producer as well. In Oakland, being blocked by Matt Chapman , he played second base mostly but can also play shortstop in a pinch and left field as well as third base, setting him up to be a super-utility type. The bat doesn’t have to be as consistent in that role either which is good for Neuse.