With fantasy prospect rankings, the key to knowing the usefulness of a specific player is how large and deep of a league you would need to be in for them to end up as a fantasy starter. We will be ranking 10 prospects in each system, but that doesn't mean that every one of them is useful if you play in a 12-team mixed dynasty league. With that said, we're aiming to provide useful information whether you play in a 10-team mixed, a 15-team AL-only, or a 24-team mixed.
Prospect rankings also come with the same caveat that must be rehashed every year. They represent a snapshot of how we view the players at the time of publication. There will inherently be more information published throughout the off-season, and so how we view a player may evolve significantly over time. We're going to get some of these right, we're going to get some of these wrong, and in general my reminder is to find information you trust, and use it to your advantage. If that comes from us, that's great and we're happy you're here. If it doesn't, we'll continue to work and hope that you'll keep checking in to see how we're doing.
The tiers are here though to provide some clarity when comparing players between different teams. It's by no means a perfect system, but the goal is to give you a general idea of which players we think are in a similar range in terms of value and ranking. Since the tiers are also expected to be relatively consistent across teams, there may be tiers that do not have prospects for certain teams.
Tier 1 - The Elite Prospects
These prospects are expected to be in the top-50 prospects overall, and have the potential to be among the top options at their position regardless of format or league size.
Oakland has no prospects in this tier.
Tier 2 - The Top 100 Candidates
These prospects are expected to be in the discussion for the top 100 prospects overall, and are expected to be starting options in all formats.
#1 - Franklin Barreto (SS/2B)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 21
Barreto is a borderline Tier 1/Tier 2 fantasy prospect. He has always been young for his level, yet his outstanding hit-tool has played everywhere he’s been. He boasts at least average raw power and has shown surprising speed on the basepaths. In 2016, most of which he spent at Double-A Midland, he slashed .284/.342/.422 with 11 HR and 30 SB. His defense might force him to shift to second base or even left field, which would put more pressure on his bat. Still, he remains a dynamic young offensive talent who should help the A’s and fantasy owners sometime in 2017.
#2 - A.J. Puk (LHP)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 21
After spending most of the 2015-16 seasons as a candidate to go 1-1 in the 2016 draft, Puk lasted until the sixth overall pick, where the Athletics selected him. The 6’7” lefthander features a double-plus fastball, an above-average slider, and a developing changeup. In 2016 he flashed dominance and generally showed good control. All told, he posted a very respectable 3.03 ERA with 40 strikeouts and a 1.07 WHIP in 32 IP. If he develops as expected, he should become a frontline starter and potential fantasy stud. His first taste of full-season ball awaits in 2017.
#3 - Grant Holmes (RHP)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 21
The 22nd overall pick in the 2014 draft, Holmes went from Los Angeles to Oakland as part of the 2016 trade-deadline deal that sent OF Josh Reddick and LHP Rich Hill to the Dodgers. Like many young power pitchers, Holmes has a plus fastball and a plus curveball, but his third pitch--in this case a changeup--remains a work-in-progress. In 2016 he pitched reasonably well at High-A Rancho Cucamonga but then struggled at High-A Stockton after the trade. He finished a combined 11-7 with a 4.63 ERA, 124 strikeouts and 53 walks in 134 IP. These numbers are fairly respectable for the hitter-friendly California League. Still, Holmes will need to tighten up his control if he’s to reach his ceiling as a No. 2 starter.
Tier 3 - The Next Group of Starters
These prospects would likely slot into the 100-200 range on an overall ranking list, and would be starters in mid-depth formats, like 12 and 14 team leagues.
#4 - Matt Chapman (3B)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 23
When the Athletics made Chapman the 25th overall pick in the 2014 draft, they knew they were getting a player with two elite tools: plus raw power and a double-plus throwing arm. Fantasy owners should be excited about the former. In 2016, splitting time between Double-A Midland (117 games) and Triple-A Nashville (18 games), Chapman slashed .237/.328/.519 with 36 HR and 96 RBI. His 173 strikeouts are cause for concern, and the batting average likely will remain an albatross. If he could hit .265 or .270 he’d be a Tier-2 fantasy prospect. Still, home-run power is fantasy’s most valuable commodity, and Chapman’s power is legitimate. He’ll open 2017 at Nashville and should reach Oakland by midseason.
#5 - Jharel Cotton (RHP)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 25
Acquired from the Dodgers along with Grant Holmes and Frankie Montas in the aforementioned Reddick-Hill trade, Cotton received a September callup to Oakland. There he enjoyed a tremendous five-game run as a starter (2-0, 2.15 ERA, 23:4 K:BB in 29.1 IP) and probably carved out a role for himself in the Athletics’ 2017 rotation. The former 20th-round pick out of East Carolina struggled at the beginning of his professional career, but sometime in mid-2014 the light went on for him, and he has been impressive ever since. His calling card is a double-plus changeup, which has served him well at every stop. He’s a very intriguing sleeper in 2017 re-draft leagues.
#6 - Renato Nunez (3B)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 22
Since 2013 Nunez has moved one level at a time through the Athletics’ system. He has played a steady third base and averaged more than 22 homers per season. Still, 2016 was a rough year for Nunez. After posting back-to-back OPS numbers north of .800 in 2014-15, Nunez in 2016 slashed .228/.278/.412 in 128 games with Triple-A Nashville. Furthermore, as a third baseman he probably has fallen behind Matt Chapman in the organization’s prospect pecking order. His bat is still an asset, but he could use a strong start to the 2017 season, which likely will begin back in Nashville.
#7 - Lazaro Armenteros (OF)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 17
Seventeen-year-old “Lazarito” looks like the most promising teenager to come out of Cuba since Yoan Moncada. Such comparisons can be overdone, particularly when a young player has yet to make his U.S. professional debut. But Armenteros boasts plus offensive tools across the board. He’s an advanced hitter with enough power-speed potential one day to become a fantasy star. That day, of course, remains quite distant. An eventual assignment to short-season Vermont seems like the most reasonable course for 2017.
#8 - Frankie Montas (RHP)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 24
The third key prospect acquired in the Reddick-Hill trade, Montas looks ready to help the Athletics in 2017. Assuming he is over the rib injury that cost him more than half of the 2016 season--he last pitched on June 15--the young righthander could compete for a spot in the Oakland rotation. On stuff alone, Montas belongs higher on this list. He has a double-plus fastball to go along with a power slider that grades above-average. Many scouts, however, see his future in the bullpen, which diminishes his potential fantasy value. Keep an eye on spring-training battles. And if Montas starts, watch out.
Tier 4 - Single League and Deep Format Plays
These prospects would likely slot into the 200-300 range on a ranking list, and would have the most value to mixed leagues with 16+ teams and single-league formats with 12+ teams.
#9 - Dakota Chalmers (RHP)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 20
The 97th overall pick in the 2015 draft, Chalmers gives the Athletics another young pitching prospect with frontline stuff. His four-pitch mix includes a plus fastball, an above-average curveball, and an above-average slider. The key for Chalmers, as for most young power pitchers, will be harnessing his stuff by developing a clean, repeatable delivery. He’s not there yet, as evidenced by his 37 walks in 67 IP at short-season Vermont, including a seven-walk outing at Brooklyn in August. In 2017 he should head to Low-A Beloit, where the Midwest League’s advanced hitters will challenge him.
#10 - Matt Olson (OF/1B)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 23
Like Chapman and Nunez, Olson boasts impressive raw power and appears ready to help the big-league club at some point in 2017. Whether he plays first base or right field is of less importance to fantasy owners than the fact that his home-run totals have diminished in the upper minors. After hitting 37 HR in 2014 while playing in California-League launching pads, Olson has hit only 17 HR in each of the last two seasons. Also like Chapman and Nunez, Olson’s power comes with a tradeoff: a .246 career batting average in the minors. Olson has shown the ability to draw walks, so there’s still a chance he becomes a middle-of-the-order threat in Oakland.