Earlier I took a look at the bottom half of the Oakland A’s top-10 prospects. Today it is time to look at the cream of the crop in the A’s farm system.
After many joyful hours perusing scouting reports from all around the internet (Baseball America, John Sickels at Minor League Ball, Keith Law at ESPN, Jonathan Mayo at MLB, Jason Parks at Baseball Prospectus and Mark Hulet at Fangraphs), I did my best to condense the information from each source and relay the information here.
Without any further ado I present my top five A’s prospects:
5. Grant Green, IF/OF
Birth date: 9/27/1987 (Age 25)
Rank among A’s prospects: Baseball America (8); John Sickels (5); Keith Law (8); Jonathan Mayo (4); Baseball Prospectus (5); Fangraphs (6)
Green is another player that will look to make contributions to the big league club this season. He has moved up through the minors one step per year, posting solid offensive numbers at each stop, and looks poised to do the same in Oakland if there is room for him on the 25-man roster.
Green was initially drafted as a shortstop, where he played in 2010. He was then moved to center field in 2011 and in 2012 he was moved yet again, this time to second base. In all he played five positions last season and has developed a defensive versatility that should help him stick on a Major League roster.
His calling card is his borderline-plus hit tool, which should allow him to hit for a good average while providing solid gap-to-gap power. He has good baseball instincts which allows his other tools to play up, but he isn’t likely to be a big impact type of player.
Green is Major League ready, now it’s just a matter of opportunity. He doesn’t have a tremendous ceiling but could be a solid everyday player at best or a super utility guy.
4. Sonny Gray, RHP
Birth date: 11/7/1989 (Age 23)
Rank: Baseball America (5); John Sickels (4, #139 overall); Keith Law (2); Jonathan Mayo (6); Baseball Prospectus (4); Fangraphs (2)
Gray has probably the highest ceiling among the pitchers in the A’s upper minor league system and some of the best raw stuff. He has a plus-plus fastball in the 93-97 mph range, a sharp curveball and a potentially average changeup.
For all his raw stuff he still needs some refinement to reach his potential of a No. 2 or 3 starter. With his relative lack of height his pitches tend to come in flat and he has below average command, although he has managed to keep his walk rate to reasonable levels in the minors.
Right now he has the stuff where he could be a passable 5th starter candidate or a high leverage relief pitcher. Luckily for the A’s they have starting pitching depth, so they shouldn’t feel pressure to rush Gray. Instead they can let him work on refining his stuff in Triple-A this year.
Overall, Gray could potentially be a mid-rotation starter and failing that a back end starter or a closer type pitcher. There is a very good chance that he sees action with the A’s this season, even if it’s just a September callup.
3. Dan Straily, RHP
Birth date: 12/1/1988 (Age 24)
Rank: Baseball America (6); John Sickels (3, #99 overall); Keith Law (4); Jonathan Mayo (2); Baseball Prospectus (3, #85 overall); Fangraphs (3)
Straily shouldn’t be a new name for A’s fans, as he made severn starts at the end of last season but is just under the cutoff to retain his prospect eligibility. After being off the radar for most prospect watchers, Straily opened eyes in 2012 and has earned himself the chance to join the A’s rotation this year.
Straily doesn’t have overpowering stuff; he features a low-90s fastball, a plus changeup that is his best pitch, an average slider and an average curveball, but he does have a deep arsenal of average pitches with good command and feel for pitching. His lack of overpowering stuff limits his ceiling to that of a mid-rotation starter, but with his advanced feel should be able to maximize what he has.
Even though he led the minor leagues in strikeouts he will not be a guy that posts huge strikeout numbers in the Majors. He also shows a pretty extreme fly ball tendency which could lead to quite a few homers outside of Oakland.
Overall, Straily is ready for the big leagues and should be a solid choice for the back end of the A’s rotation.
2. Michael Choice, OF
Birth date: 11/10/1989 (Age 23)
Rank: Baseball America (2); John Sickels (2, #130 overall); Keith Law (3); Jonathan Mayo (3); Baseball Prospectus (2, #82 overall); Fangraphs (4)
Choice’s calling card as a prospect is his light tower power. After a slow start last season he started off July on a torrid pace, only to see his season end with a fractured hand.
In the minors he is currently a center fielder and seems to be able to handle the position well enough; however his professional future is slated more toward a corner spot. From the accounts I have read his glove should be good enough, but if he is going to make an impact it will be with his bat.
The question marks for Choice revolve around the amount of contact he will be able to make. With his big power comes some equally big swing and miss potential. On the plus side he has shown a good walk rate, so if he can maintain even a decent batting average he should be able to get on base plenty to go along with potentially 30 home runs per season.
Overall, there are still numerous questions for Choice, but he has the chance to be a middle of the order type of bat. Another positive is that he is relatively close to the Majors with the potential to help the A’s as soon as this season.
1. Addison Russell, SS
Birth date: 1/23/1994 (Age 19)
Rank: Baseball America (1, #48 overall); John Sickels (1, #30 overall); Keith Law (1, #10 overall); Jonathan Mayo (1,#48 overall); Baseball Prospectus (1,#22 overall); Fangraphs (1,#43 overall)
Russell is the A’s consensus top prospect and after his impressive start to his professional career looks like he might have been a steal with the 11th pick in last year’s draft. After graduating so much talent last season the A’s struck gold and quickly added more top shelf talent to their farm system.
The big question with Russell was if he would be able to play shortstop at the Major League level. After dropping some bulk from his upper body prior to his senior year of high school, there is less doubt. If that’s the case his ability to hit could make him an immensely valuable player.
He has plus bat speed, with great ability to make solid contact. He uses the whole field — which should lead to high batting averages — and has shown that he should develop at least average power.
On defense he has good hands and a strong arm; the one concern is that he doesn’t have more than average range. If he can maintain his athleticism as he moves up through the minors that shouldn’t be a problem, but there is a chance he may need to move to third base which would hurt his value.
Russell has done everything possible to start off on the right track. He should start the season at High-A ball and with a good season could end in Double-A.