Oakland Athletics: Reviewing 2014’s Top Prospects, Part II – Sean Nolin and Raul Alcantara


Where Are the Oakland Athletics’ 2014 Top Ten Prospects Now?

While Oakland Athletics’ fans may be excited about next year’s potential harvest of minor league stars like Matt Olson and Chad Pinder, it’s easy to forget which players were considered top prospects even as recently as last season, given how few of them actually pan out as major leaguers. For every prospect who finds a home in the big leagues, there are plenty of others that struggle to succeed at that level – or even reach it in the first place.

Continuing our series, we’ll look at the A’s top ten prospect list from the 2014 off-season to see what kind of impact those players made last year, and where they’ll end up in 2016. Who fell off the list due to performance, and who made it to the majors? We’ll start at the bottom of the list and work our way up, using MLB’s 2014 Prospect Pipeline rankings.

Missed Part I? Be sure to check it out later.

Now, let’s continue with the next two names on our list:

#8 in 2014: Sean Nolin

Left-hander Sean Nolin was acquired before the start of last season as one of the many players in the Josh Donaldson deal. Nolin pitched extremely well for the Triple-A Sounds, but injuries limited his playing time. He made just 12 starts in Nashville, along with two relief appearances. However, he posted a 2.66 ERA and struck out 38 batters in 47.1 innings, with a 2-2 record.

The 25-year-old didn’t fare nearly as well when he made his debut as an Athletic, going 1-2 in six starts for the A’s. His 5.28 ERA in 29 innings was hardly on par with his minor league success.

There’s some history that implies that Nolan may be a better pitcher than he demonstrated at the major league level in 2015. In 2014, he pitched 96.2 innings across three levels, with most of that time spent in Triple-A Buffalo. He posted a 3.44 ERA that season, just one year after he finished the season with a 2.77 ERA in 110.1 innings, primarily as a Double-A pitcher, in 2013.

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However, Nolin also has a lengthy injury history – and that continued to be true last season. Nolin spent the winter recovering from hernia surgery, aggravating it in Spring Training. Later on, a shoulder injury and subsequent trip to the minor league disabled list limited the amount of major league playing time he was able to get in.

So will Nolin, once considered the eighth-best prospect in the A’s system, be a part of the Opening Day roster? It’s hard to say. Sonny Gray and Rich Hill are locks, but Jesse Hahn, Henderson Alvarez and Jarrod Parker are all dealing with last season’s injuries (although some of them are closer to being deemed healthy than others). That leaves Chris Bassitt, Kendall Graveman and Felix Doubront as the remaining competition. Nolin might not beat out Bassitt or Graveman, but he should have the advantage over Doubrant. Barring any further additions to the team, Nolin seems to have a solid chance at making the rotation out of camp, even if he’s not quite ready for it.

#7 in 2014: Raul Alcantara

Before the season began, Raul Alcantara was one of the top pitchers in the A’s system. Now, he’s only the 14th-ranked overall prospect. The Athletics picked up the right-hander following the 2011 season, in the Andrew Bailey trade with the Boston Red Sox.

After the trade, Alcantara showed enough potential to be #7 in the MLB.com Prospect Pipeline rankings, but his stock fell last season. This is largely due to the fact that he had Tommy John surgery in May 2014 and missed the entire year before finally returning to the High-A Stockton Ports in 2015.

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In 15 starts with the Ports, Alcantara pitched 48.2 innings and earned a 3.88 ERA – not bad for someone who hadn’t pitched in over a year. He struck out 29 batters during that span. Alcantara is capable of much more, however having posted a 3.11 ERA in more than 156 innings in 2013. If he can get back to the level he was at prior to needing surgery, he could be a valuable asset to the Athletics.

But don’t expect to see Alcantara any time soon. Even established pitchers often spend significant time in the minors following Tommy John surgery. As a prospect, Alcantara will need time to get back up to speed on his development. A September call-up isn’t impossible, but it’s more likely that the A’s won’t see him until 2017 at the earliest.

Next: Reviewing the 2014 Top Prospects: Muncy & Graveman

In the next edition, we’ll take a look at the #5 and #6 prospects on the list: Dillon Overton and Chad Pinder.