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Fantasy Baseball Top 10 Prospects: Oakland A’s

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Brian Creagh ranks the top 10 prospects in the Oakland A’s farm system

Chicago White Sox v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

System Overview

What the system lacks in star power, it more than makes up for in depth and intriguing low-level prospects. The A’s did a phenomal job flipping Sonny Gray and restocking the farm system with three Top 100 prospects who are ready to break into the majors along with the big return from the Josh Donaldson trade 3 years ago. They have had success in the international market and acquired one of my favorite breakout candidates for 2018 in Lazaro Armenteros, and added some intriguing prospects through the draft in Austin Beck and Kevin Merrell. I would not be surprised if we see at least 50% of this list matriculate to the Major league roster in 2018 and the cupboard still won’t be bare for 2019 if that ends up being the case.

Top 10

  1. Franklin Barreto - SS
  2. A.J. Puk - LHP
  3. Jorge Mateo - SS
  4. Dustin Fowler - OF
  5. Grant Holmes - RHP
  6. Lazaro Armenteros - OF
  7. Austin Beck - OF
  8. James Kaprielian - RHP
  9. Jesus Luzardo - LHP
  10. Sheldon Neuse - 3B

1) Franklin Barreto - SS

Barreto has been on my radar since pre-2015, before being traded to Oakland in the Josh Donaldson deal. A bat-first prospect with enough glove to stick at SS, Barreto has always been young for his league and continued to put up results. His development culminated in a MLB debut in 2017, but with uninspiring results. In 76 PAs Barreto slashed .197/.250/.352 while hitting 2 HRs and stealing 2 bases and striking out 43% of the time (ouch!). This leaves me no less optmisitic on Barreto’s chances of developing into a 15 HR/20 SB guy with a serviceable average and the counting stats that go with a top-of-the-order hitter.

I’m sure Barreto will fall off many dynasty owner’s radars, and I would encourage everyone to put a feeler out and see what it might take to acquire him - his stock will rise again soon. He’ll only be 22 next year and while the path to playing time isn’t clear, I don’t expect Jed Lowrie or Marcus Semien to block Barreto for long if the A’s don’t come out of the gates quickly. Barreto went 37th in a recent minor league dynasty draft, and I regret not pulling the trigger on him with my 29th overall pick. His aggressiveness could result in some more early struggles in the majors, but if he reigns it in and returns to his early minor league discipline numbers, Barreto is going to be fantasy relevant for a long time - even if he ends up moving to 2B.

2) A.J. Puk - LHP

Puk was the #6 overall pick for the A’s in 2016 out of Florida University and has been lights out since becoming a professional. At 6’7” Puk is a presence on the mound and is able to control his pitches well despite the height. Puk’s fastball/slider combo is going to strikeout a lot of big league hitters and if he can get his changeup to even an average pitch - lookout. Puk is likely going to end up higher on all other prospect lists, and his #2 spot in this list is more a tribute to how much I love Barreto over anything negative to do with Puk. I tend to always favor the hitter, even when the SP looks as much of a slam dunk as Puk does.

The 41st pick in my minor league draft, I anticipate Puk to be a Top 25 prospect in many other lists and gain some steam the closer we get to draft season. He should be a factor in all fantasy formats in the second half of 2018 and if injury forces Puk up early in the season, I don’t see why he can’t be a Rookie of the Year candidate. My only demerit (and this is nitpicking and not really his fault) is he only has 64 innings in the upper minors. Dominating A-ball hitters as a college draftee is one thing, but doing it consistently in the uppers is where a prospect really solidifies his status. I see no reason why Puk won’t continue to dominate, but it could cause the A’s to keep him down longer than I expect.

3) Jorge Mateo - SS

Mateo is an absolute burner. He’s going to be on fantasy rosters for his one skill alone, regardless of whether the hit tool ever develops. Another piece of the Sonny Gray deal, Mateo came over from the Yankees Mateo has put up numbers that contradict a lot of the scouting reports of a skeptical hit tool and limited pop. Speed can cover a lot of weaknesses so I tend to trust the scouting reports, but Mateo is absolutely a Top 100 prospect thanks to his speed alone and 50+ SB potential atop the A’s lineup.

4) Dustin Fowler - OF

A freak knee injury in his MLB debut and a subsequent trade to Oakland in the Sonny Gray deal, gave Fowler’s career a weird turn after progressing smoothly up the Yankees farm system. He expects to be 100% by Spring Training and should compete for a spot on Oakland’s Opening Day roster. Fowler projects to be an average to slightly above-average Outfielder, but should contribute enough across the board to be relevant in all fantasy formats. He doesn’t mash, but has pop. He isn’t a burner, but is athletic enough to swipe a few bags, and has shown advanced ability to put the bat on the ball consistently. Nothing really jumps off the page, but it’s hard to find a weakness in his game. I’m wondering if the knee accident and trade has put a spotlight on Fowler that is hyping his stock in fantasy leagues. He went as early as 55th in my draft, but I like him more of a back-end Top 100 guy.

5) Grant Holmes - RHP

Holmes’ stock has taken a little bit of a dip as his stuff seems to have regressed in 2017, but the results still leave me on a positive note. Command issues and a fastball now sitting 91-93 mph are the largest concerns for Holmes, but the curveball is a plus pitch and he’s been playing young for his level at AA. The peripherals also suggest Holmes was a victim of some bad luck as his 4.02 FIP this year and 3.84 FIP with the Dodgers in 2016 hint at what Holmes might be able to become. The ultimate projection is a back-end rotation type with the upside of a #3 SP if he finds his fastball velocity again.

6) Lazaro Armenteros - OF

My favorite sleeper to emerge from the A’s system as a stud fantasy prospect. Armenteros is a recent free agent signing from Cuba and is a five tool talent who has shown the ability to put those tools to good use on the field at only 18 years old. The strikeout rates are ugly to look at, but the plate disciplines leaves me encouraged. The ranking of 3rd overall is probably a little aggressive, but no one below him on the list can match the upside of Armenteros. It’ll be a slow burn for him to matriculate to the majors, so if your league has shallower minor league rosters then I don’t fault you for preferring Fowler or Holmes, but if you’re looking to hit a home run Armenteros is the pick. The power should develop and he’s already flashed the speed to make him a very, very early 20/20 candidate at the highest level.

7) Austin Beck - OF

The first round pick of the A’s had a less than inspiring minor league debut. At only 18 years old and his first taste of pro ball, I won’t read too much into Beck’s numbers but the scouting reports leave me with questions on Beck’s ability to become a fantasy factor. Beck suffered an ACL tear in May 2016 and recovered in time to gain a ton of steam heading into the draft and even drawing Mike Trout comps. Every report notes the lack of opposing talent he faced and the ACL tear means he missed the showcase circuit that would’ve put him up against superior pitchers. Beck is going to need time due to his youth, injury, and slow start, but there’s still five-tool potential here - it just may take a little more time to materialize on the field. Keep Beck on your radar and a strong start to 2018 could find him on many mid-season Top 100 lists.

8) James Kaprielian - RHP

The third piece in the Sonny Gray deal from the Yankees, Kaprielian did not pitch in 2017 while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Kaprielian was an easy Top 100 candidate heading into the season, but I expect him to fall-off or be on the back end of most lists depending on your confidence in his recovery. He did have arm issues in 2016 as well after coming into professional baseball and adding 3-4 mph on his fastball, so put me on the skeptical side of the house.

The scouting reports glow over Kaprielian’s fastball/slider combination and at 6’4” 200 lbs he has the prototypical build of a future workhorse. The move from New York to Oakland certainly aides his fantasy value in terms of home ballpark and his name still carries some brand value to it. He went 103rd in my dynasty draft and that feels about where I’d be willing to take a risk on his upside.

9) Jesus Luzardo - LHP

In a list short on starting pitching, Luzardo is an intriguing arm who came over from the Athletics last season. Still only 19, Luzardo flashes strikeout upside and good control since his return from Tommy John surgery. The TJS history is the reason he went so late in the 2016 draft, he was likely a 1st round pick if healthy. He has a quality three-pitch arsenal and High-A should prove a good test for him if he gets there in 2018.

10) Sheldon Neuse - 3B

Part of the A’s return in the Sean Doolittle/Ryan Madson trade with the Washington Nationals, Sheldon Neuse is a 3B prospect with a ton of pop and questionable tools everywhere else. Neuse has been a benefactor of being older than his competition at 22 years old in Single-A. He’s a bit of a question mark, but his success in 75 PAs at AA for Oakland leaves the door ever so cracked that he might be able to carry this success to serviceable MLB bat. Very few dynasty formats will be deep enough for Neuse, but I don’t hate taking him as a lottery ticket.

Honorable Mentions

Nick Allen - SS
Sean Murphy - C
Kevin Merrell - SS
Dennis Herrera - LHP
Logan Shore - RHP

What do you think? Any other prospects that need to be on the radar for fantasy owners this season? Leave a comment below or don’t hesitate to reach out via email (bcreagh119@gmail.com) or Twitter