Oakland Athletics Preview: Which Prospects Will Wear the Green and Gold in 2016?
The Oakland Athletics’ roster this year sports a competitive, bounce-back look as they continue to prepare for the 2016 season. With the acquisitions of slugging outfielder Khris Davis and utility man Chris Coghlan, the A’s continue to foster organizational depth. But what’s in store for the next generation of the Green and Gold?
The A’s top pitching prospect, left-hander Sean Manaea, is expected to provide a flexible option behind the depth of the current pitching rotation. He missed a ton of bats last year with the Double-A Midland Rockhounds, whiffing 51 in merely 42.2 innings. He continued this success into the Arizona Fall League with a 3.86 ERA, allowing no home runs and a mere .224 average, not to mention a starting appearance in the Fall Stars game. Dealt to Oakland from the Royals for Ben Zobrist, he has quickly affirmed his status as a future ace with a mean fastball and a hard slider to follow up. This 34th-overall 2013 draft pick is bound to make an appearance for the Athletics in September, if not before.
Other pitchers likely to see some time with the A’s include left-handed pitcher Dillon Overton, a lanky hurler coming back from Tommy John surgery; right-hander Daniel Mengden, a former fourth-round draft pick; and fellow righty Ryan Dull, who has already seen some time with the A’s but may be pushed out of this year’s already-competitive Spring Training rotation.
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Much has been said of the two most coveted prospects of the A’s: shortstop Franklin Barreto (acquired in the oft-maligned Josh Donaldson trade last November) and first baseman/outfielder Matt Olson (drafted in 2013 as the 47th overall pick). Both have above-average power and OPS. Barreto batted .302/.333/.500 for the Class A Stockton Ports with 13 home runs, while Olson hit .249/.388./.826 with 17 homers for the Double-A Rockhounds.
Power is not lacking in the other infield positions for the A’s, either. Third baseman Matt Chapman smacked 23 long balls for the Ports, third baseman Renato Nunez had 18 dingers, and shortstop Chad Pinder hit 15 for Midland. Second baseman Joey Wendle also had a line of .289/.323/.442 with 10 homers for the AAA Nashville Sounds.
Expect to see Wendle in an A’s uniform sooner rather than later, given the A’s need for backup at the second base position at the major league level: only Jed Lowrie, Eric Sogard, and 9-game cup-of-coffee rookie Tyler Ladendorf appear ahead of him on the depth chart. The moment an unfortunate injury occurs in this sparse stable of second basemen, the A’s may swoop to bring up Wendle. Chris Coghlan can play second base as well, presuming he is not already in the lineup at a different position.
The A’s took a hit in dealing catcher Jacob Nottingham in order to acquire Davis, and remain left with Double-A prospects Bruce Maxwell and Beau Taylor to prepare for catching duties in the future. Carson Blair may be preparing for a stint in the squat, as he did play for the A’s for 31 lackluster at-bats (.129/.229/.226) in 2015. He may have been selected as Texas League Player of the Week in May for the Rockhounds, but in 33 games with the Sounds, he posted a .221 batting average with only 9 runs and 8 RBI. Very likely, the A’s will remain vigilant to patrol for trade possibilities to provide a cushion for Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley.
As mentioned there is considerable potency in the A’s current outfield. With Davis in left, Billy Burns in center, and Josh Reddick in right (in addition to a bench that contains Mark Canha, Coco Crisp, Sam Fuld, and Jake Smolinski) the A’s are fully loaded in the outfield. Barring that, the A’s have recently tested both Barreto and Olson in the outfield.
But there is another name that jumps out as a possibility for a September outfield callup, and that is left-handed hitter Jaycob Brugman. According to the A’s scouting report, Brugman “couples a smooth left-handed swing with good patience at the plate… He has solid defensive tools and likely fits best in one of the corners.” He appeared in 132 games for Midland last year, hitting .260/.343/.382 with 61 runs and 63 RBI. He has the potential to be a difference maker in the A’s future as a key cog to fill in a revamped lineup.
Which Oakland Athletics prospect do you think has the best chance of suiting up in Oakland this year? Will he be from Nashville, Midland, or Stockton?