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2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Oakland Athletics

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Oakland in 2016

12 – LHP AJ Puk
36 – C Sean Murphy
63 – RHP Daulton Jefferies
122 – RHP Logan Shore
159 – RHP Brandon Bailey
190 – RHP Mitchell Jordan
215 – OF Tyler Ramirez
222 – RHP Skylar Szynski
229 – 3B JaVon Shelby
283 – LHP Dalton Sawyer
304 – OF Kyle Nowlin
346 – OF Luke Persico
393 – 2B Nate Mondou
499 – OF Cole Gruber

Complete List of 2016 Oakland Athletics Draftees

1.6 – LHP AJ Puk

I vaguely remember writing a little bit about AJ Puk (12) somewhere along the line. Let’s check.

Ah, here’s something way back from June 2013…

LHP AJ Puk (Washington HS, Iowa): 85-90 FB, 91-92 peak; uses two-seam a lot; good 72-76 CB; shows 79-81 CU, pitch has improved some; hides ball well; emulates Sean Marshall; 6-6, 220 pounds

So young! And then again about a year ago from October 2015…

Extension, deception, and power would be three words that come immediately to mind when describing Puk. He’s every bit of 6-7, 225 with a delivery that hides the ball damn well. His power comes both with his left arm (92-96, 98 peak) and at the plate (he’d quickly be among the better hitting pitchers in the game), so it’s no big shock that some guy on the internet (that’s me) sees some similarities between him and the prospect version of Madison Bumgarner.

I’ve stressed it plenty since then, but couldn’t hurt to do it again here: prospect version of Madison Bumgarner. Prospect version. Bumgarner the prospect turning Bumgarner the big league ace was an absolute best-case scenario outcome. Could it happen for Puk? It’s not an impossibility, no. Is it likely? Also no. Let’s move forward to February 2016…

My non-scout view on Puk hasn’t changed much since he’s debuted as a Gator: he’s an excellent prospect who has always left me wanting after seeing him pitch up close. I wasn’t up close this past weekend, but I did check out his start against Florida Gulf Coast via the magic of the internet. Again, for all of Puk’s strengths he’s still not the kind of college prospect that gives off that 1-1 vibe when watching him. Even when he was cruising — 11 pitch first inning, 19 total pitches through two (15 strikes), and a 1-2-3 swinging strikeout to end the second that went slider, fastball, change — it was still on a very fastball-heavy approach with little evident feel for his offspeed stuff. His slider picked up from there and he mixed in a few nice changeups, but neither offering looked like a potential big league out-pitch.

In the third inning his defense let him down — literally and figuratively, as he made one of the two errors in the inning — but what really hurt him was his command falling apart. These are all players learning on the job so I don’t want to sound too negative, but he failed to locate an 0-2 pitch and that was what really led to his undoing. On the plus side, his velocity was good for a first start (90-94, 96 peak), his delivery looks better, the aforementioned handful of nice changeups were encouraging, and he responded really well in the fourth inning after losing his way in the third. I still struggle with his underdeveloped offspeed stuff, inconsistent command, and puzzling lack of athleticism (where did it go from HS?), but 6-7, 225 pound lefthanders who can hit 96 (98 at times last year) are worth being patient with.

That was early in the season, but it sounds more or less like the Puk that we currently know and love. Another overview on Puk from April 2016…

The Rays take advantage of our draft rules to land arguably this draft’s top college pitching prospect. Even coming off an aborted start due to a balky back, AJ Puk is currently trending up as he rides the roller coaster that has taken him from underrated (this time last year) to overrated (much of the offseason) to potentially a tad underrated once again. He probably never should have been pushed so heavily as a potential 1-1 guy — in the mix, sure, but not as the favorite/co-favorite — but his value settling even just a few picks after feels about right. It sounds a bit superficial because maybe it is, but 1-1 guys get picked apart in a way that even potential top five candidates do not. The focus has been on Puk’s inconsistent slider, underwhelming change, and spotty command. That’s what he can’t do. What he does well — pitch off an explosive mid-90s fastball, flash a dominant mid-80s slider, and use his 6-7, 225 pound frame to every advantage possible — he does really darn well. Needless to say he’d be a steal at thirteen.

Is a steal at thirteen also a steal at six? With so little separation between prospects at the top of this class, I buy it. In fact, I think Puk’s placement on my final pre-draft ranking (12th) created that first giant tier of “elite” prospects, at least by the standards of this class. The dozen at the top included Groome, Pint, Moniak, Lewis, Perez, Collins, Senzel, Ray, Lowe, Jones, Rutherford, and Puk. Most were rumored as potential 1-1 considerations at one point or another, and all would have been justifiable picks by the Phillies, in my view. The drop began right after Puk with the second tier of prospects that included Craig, Kieboom, Kirilloff, Erceg, Anderson, and Garrett. So, does that make Puk a steal at six? Sure!

Next stop takes us to the early days of May 2016 when it was time to really hone in on Puk and offer some possible comps and career paths for the big lefty…

I’ve long been in the “like but not love” camp when it comes to Puk, partly because of my belief there were superior talents ahead of him in this class and partly because of the handful of red flags that dot his dossier. The three biggest knocks on Puk coming into the season were, in some order, 1) command, 2) inconsistent quality of offspeed offerings, and 3) good but not great athleticism. It says a lot about what he does well that he’s risen as a prospect in my mind despite not really answering any of the questions we had for him coming into the season. All of this has held up so far…

Extension, deception, and power would be three words that come immediately to mind when describing Puk. He’s every bit of 6-7, 225 with a delivery that hides the ball damn well. His power comes both with his left arm (92-96, 98 peak) and at the plate (he’d quickly be among the better hitting pitchers in the game), so it’s no big shock that some guy on the internet (that’s me) sees some similarities between him and the prospect version of Madison Bumgarner.

I’ll be quick to point out again that it says “prospect version of Madison Bumgarner” without speaking to what the San Francisco ace grew into as a finished product in the big leagues. Bumgarner is a kind of special player who just kept adding on and getting better as he progressed up the chain. That’s not something that you can predict for any other prospect, though you can’t really rule it out either. You don’t know either way, is the point. Putting Bumgarner aside for now, I think there are two recent-ish draft lefthanders that can help create a basis for what to expect out of AJ Puk in the early stages of his pro career. In terms of a realistic prospect upside, Puk reminds me a great deal of recently promoted big league pitcher Sean Manaea.

Their deliveries are hardly identical – Puk is more over the top while Manaea slings it from more of an angle, plus Puk has a more pronounced step-back with his right foot at the onset and a longer stride, both aspects of his delivery that I personally like as it gives him better balance throughout – but they aren’t so different that you’d point to mechanics as a reason for tossing the comparison aside. They have similar stuff starting with fastballs close in velocity and movement (Puk has been 90-94 this year, up to 97), inconsistent yet promising low- to mid-80s sliders that flash above-average to plus (82-86 and more frequently showing above-average this year for Puk), and changeups still in need of development that clearly would be classified as distant third pitches (Puk’s has been 82-88 so far). Both have missed a lot of bats while also having their ups and downs in the control department with Puk being better at the former while Manaea maintained a slight edge at the latter. Both are also very well-proportioned, physical lefthanders with intimidating size with which they know how to use to their advantage.

A cautionary comparison for Puk might be current Mariners minor leaguer James Paxton. Paxton and Puk are closer mechanically – more similar with the height of their leg kick and overall arm action, though Paxton is more deliberate across the board — than Manaea and Puk, but the big difference between the former SEC lefthander and the current SEC lefthander is the breaking ball. Paxton’s bread and butter is a big overhand curve, a pitch that remains unhittable to this day when he can command it. Puk’s slider has its moments and it’s fair to expect it to develop into a true big league out-pitch (I do), but it’s not quite on that level yet. Paxton’s career has stalled for many of the same reasons some weren’t particularly high on Puk coming into the season: up and down fastball velocity partly attributable to a series of nagging injuries (also a problem of Manaea’s at times), an underdeveloped changeup, and consistently inconsistent command. I think Puk is ahead of where Paxton was at similar points in their development and prefer his ceiling to what we’ve seen out of Paxton to date, but the realistic floor comp remains in play.

One additional notable (or not) similarity between Puk, Manaea, Paxton, and Sean Newcomb, a fourth player often thrown into the mix as a potential Puk point of reference (it’s not bad, but Newcomb’s control issues are greater than anything Puk has dealt with), comes via each player’s respective hometown. We’ve got Cedar Rapids (IA), Valparaiso (IN), Ladner (BC), and Brockton (MA). That’s two raised in the Midwest, one in Canada, and one in New England. When you start to piece everything together, the similar career trajectories for each young pitcher (so far) begin to make some sense. All come from cold weather locales, all are large men with long limbs (thus making coordinating said limbs more of a challenge), and all are lefthanders, a fact that may or may not matter to you depending on your view of whether or not lefties really do develop later than their righthanded counterparts.

Put me down for a realistic Sean Manaea type of upside, a James Paxton floor, and the crazy pipe dream where literally everything works out developmentally ceiling of Madison Bumgarner. Do those potential career paths add up to a 1-1 draft pick? I’m not sure I have a good answer for that yet.

There’s more to judging a pitcher than K/9 and BB/9, but look at how similar Manaea (7.71 and 2.30) and Paxton (7.88 and 2.63) were in the respective age-24 seasons. That barely has anything to do with what we’re talking about, but I still think it’s cool. As for Puk, I’m sticking with those there names (plus a fourth to come) as possible career arcs for him to follow. He could come out and establish himself as a big league starter right away like Manaea seems to have done. He could have a few up-and-down seasons before settling in as a rotation fixture like Paxton. Or he could hit that 1% outcome (or whatever number you want to give it, this isn’t scientific), have some things click for him in the pros, and go full Bumgarner on the league. Or he could follow the path of this fourth guy we touched on later in May 2016…

I’m cheating and tacking Puk back on at the end here even after he got his own post last week. Like many draft-obsessed individuals, I watched his most recent start against South Carolina with great interest. I’ve seen Puk a few times in person and tons of times on the tube, but it wasn’t until Saturday night that the comparison between him and Andrew Miller really hit me. I saw about a dozen Miller starts in person back in his Tar Heel days (in a very different time in my life) and watching Puk throw brings back all kinds of memories, good and bad. The frustrating thing about this comp is that it doesn’t really tell us much. Maybe we can use it as a baseline floor for what Puk could become – though Miller’s dominance out of the pen is a tough expectation to put on anybody as a realistic worst case scenario – but pointing out the similarities between the two (size, length, extension, delivery, mound demeanor, fastball, slider, underdeveloped change…even similar facially minus Miller’s draft year mustache) hardly means that Puk is destined to the same failed starter fate. I mean, sure, maybe it does, but there’s so much more that goes into being a successful big league starter than what gets put down on a scouting card. I love comps, but they are meant to serve as a starting point to the conversation, not to be the parting shot. Every player is unique and whatever extra reasons are out there for Miller not making it in the rotation should not be held against Puk. Maybe that’s obvious, but it doesn’t hurt to say it again. I do think that Puk, barring injury, has a pretty clear big league skill set in some capacity (maybe not -0.15 FIP out of the bullpen good, but still good) even if he doesn’t reach his ultimate ceiling. In that way he is similar to Miller, so at least there’s that to fall back on. The odds that you get nothing out of Puk, again barring injury, are slim to none. For the risk-averse out there, that’s a comforting thought.

I’m 100% sure that nobody copied that thought from me, but the Puk/Miller comps started popping up left and right in the last few weeks heading into the draft in June. It was a weird coincidence (truly); that comp seemed to come together for a lot of the internet almost exactly at the same time. For good reason, too: Puk and Miller share a lot of similarities, as I attempted to outline above. There are certainly worse names to be compared to than Bumgarner, Miller, Manaea, and Paxton. Speaking of which, let’s see what Oakland scouting director Eric Kubota thinks

AF: So looking at this group of pitchers, is there anyone you might compare Puk to?

EK: For Puk, as a starting pitcher, I would say James Paxton, although physically he may be more Andrew Miller-ish. But his stuff I think is similar to Paxton.

Would you look at that? Turns out this Eric Kubota character is a pretty smart guy. I have a hunch he’s got a front office future if he’s interested.

1.37 – RHP Daulton Jefferies

If you follow the above link, you’ll see one of the best draft traditions the internet has to offer. Bill Moriarity of Athletics Farm has talked with A’s scouting director Eric Kubota about Oakland’s most recent draft for years now. His interview can also be found on Athletics Nation, my preferred landing spot due to the lively comment section that follows the piece. It’s a really well done interview (as always) and it gets the highest possible recommendation from me. Even if you’re not an A’s fan, you should check it out. If you did, you’d already know that Kupota compared Daulton Jefferies (63) to Mike Leake. That comparison was floating around pre-draft (via Perfect Game), as were comps to Walker Buehler (D1 Baseball) and Sonny Gray (PG again). Depending on how you feel about each guy, that could be a potential spectrum of outcomes for the young righthander out of Cal. In an odd coincidence, I actually gave Jefferies to Oakland in one of my weird mocks that wasn’t really a mock that everybody was confused by and/or hated…

A high performing college player who defies conventional scouting wisdom going to Oakland? That’ll work. Jefferies is really, really good.

Clearly, I’m a fan of Jefferies’s work. Before the season even began, I wrote this about him…

To have Jefferies, maybe my favorite draft-eligible college pitcher to watch, this low says way more about the quality at the top of this year’s class then his long-term pro ability. Jefferies brings three potential above-average to plus pitches to the mound on any given night. I like the D1 Baseball comparison to Walker Buehler, last year’s 24th overall pick. Getting Jefferies in a similar spot this year would be something to be excited about.

And finally from April 2016…

Jefferies is a rock-solid future big league starting pitcher. I love Daulton Jefferies. An overly enthusiastic but well-meaning friend comped Jefferies to Chris Archer after seeing him this past summer. That’s…rich. It’s not entirely crazy, though. Velocity-wise, at his best, Jefferies can sit 90-94 and touch 97. He’s been more frequently in the 88-92 band this spring (94 peak). He’s also focused far more on his low- to mid-80s slider than his mid- to upper-70s curve. I thought both had the potential to be above-average breaking balls at the big league level, but I can’t blame him for going all-in on his potentially devastating slider. Then there’s the compact, athletic delivery and plus fastball command and above-average mid-80s change-up that flashes plus and…well, you can see why he’d get such a lofty comp. Lack of size or not, Jefferies has the kind of stuff that could make him a number two starter if everything goes his way developmentally. That’s big time. High ceiling + high floor = premium pitching prospect. I think Jefferies draft floor is where Walker Buehler, a player that D1 Baseball comped to him earlier this year, landed last year. That would be pick 24 in the first round for those of you who haven’t committed Walker Buehler’s draft position to memory yet. A case could be made (and it kind of has above, right?) that slipping any further than that would be ridiculous value for his new pro team. I think he’s worth considering in the top ten depending on how the rest of the board shakes out.

I wimped out on my final ranking of Jefferies because I was spooked by the combination of his slight build (I know, I know…), velocity loss, and reported shoulder soreness, so consider all the praise above valid even in the face of what could look to be a dumb ranking in time. If healthy, Jefferies is a big league starting pitcher. Done deal in my mind. The only question then becomes how high up the rotation he can rise. Can he be a two? I don’t see why not. Three potential plus pitches and standout control seem to help support that case. I agree with those who see some of the prospect version of Mike Leake in Jefferies right now, but I think the finished product will wind up a better all-around pitcher than the $85 million man. If that’s enough to be a two for you, then he’s a future two.

2.47 – RHP Logan Shore

Living in Philadelphia, I happen to know more than a few Phillies fans who were hoping to grab AJ Puk and Logan Shore (122) with their first two picks. I think most fans were fine landing Mickey Moniak and Kevin Gowdy instead, but there has to be some lingering jealousy that Oakland got to live the Puk/Shore dream from a few spots lower on the draft board. Some words on the “other” Florida ace from May 2016…

Logan Shore has made similar progress over the last few seasons: 6.37 K/9 to 6.75 K/9 to 9.05 K/9. He’s always had solid fastball velocity and a devastating changeup. This year he’s found a few more ticks with the heater (more so in how he maintains it rather than a peak velocity jump), gained a little more consistency with his breaking ball, and arguably improved that already potent circle-change into something even scarier to opposing hitters. He’s gotten stronger, smarter, and better. I mentally wrote him off as one of the draft’s most overrated arms coming into the spring – thankfully I never wrote that on the site, but I’m man enough to admit I’ve had those thoughts on more than one occasion – but now I see the error in my ways. When a young arm has big-time stuff and command beyond his years, be patient with his development and don’t rely on one metric to make an ultimate judgment on his future. Shore is good and quite possibly still getting better.

Love the changeup, question the rest. That’s where I eventually landed on Shore before the draft. He commands his fastball as well as anybody, but was too often upper-80s (87-91, 93 peak) rather than low-90s (89-93, 95 peak) this past season. I think I’ve come around to valuing fastball command and movement (he’s got that, too) so much (and rightfully so), that velocity gets taken for granted a little bit. Shore’s fastball is still at least an average pitch if not slightly better at the lower velocity, but every little bit less heat you throw with pushes the degree you can get away with mistakes down a notch. I’ll put on my own personal “not a scout” scout hat and question Shore’s breaking ball outright. I know some like it just fine, but I’ve never seen it as anything much more than flashing average on his best days. It’s a fifth starter or so profile as is, but with significant room to improve if he can get back to that low-90s range more consistently and/or he figures out how to tighten up that slider. Assigning starter number designations isn’t a perfect science (and I say that knowing I just threw a “number two starter” ceiling on Daulton Jefferies), but I think we can all understand the gap in value between a fifth starter type (Shore now) and a potential third starter (if he can fill in the gaps in his game).

For what it’s worth, Eric Kubota said that Shore “reminds [him] of Jake Peavy a little bit.” Young, San Diego Peavy? No way. Mid- to late-career White Sox/Red Sox/Giants Peavy? I can see it.

3.83 – C Sean Murphy

If Logan Shore might have gone a little high for my personal tastes, then Oakland made up for it and then some by getting a borderline first round talent all the way down in the third round. Sean Murphy (36) is really good. His defense alone should carry him to the upper-minors (if not the big leagues) and his offense has a chance to make him an all-around above-average impact player. I’ll throw out Jonathan Lucroy as a best-case scenario and Max Pentecost — a former first round pick, it should be noted — as a comparable prospect contemporary. The love of Murphy isn’t new, of course. Here we are from March 2016 (with an embedded quote from October 2015 thrown in for good measure)…

I think I was pretty optimistic about Sean Murphy in the pre-season…

Watching Murphy do his thing behind the plate is worth the price of admission alone. We’re talking “Queen Bee” level arm strength, ample lateral quicks on balls in the dirt, and dependable hands with an ever-improving ability to frame borderline pitches. He’s second in the class behind Jake Rogers defensively — not just as a catcher, but arguably at any position — but with enough bat (unlike Rogers) to project as a potential above-average all-around regular in time. I expect the battle for top college catching prospect to be closely contested all year with Thaiss, Okey, and Murphy all taking turns atop team-specific draft boards all spring long.

…but there’s a chance that even the praise and his lofty ranking (22nd among college prospects, top three college catcher) undersold how good a player he is. Murphy has a chance to be a game-changing talent defensively as well as a significant contributor offensively. If you ever sat down and counted up all of the players that various experts considered first rounders you’d wind up with a first round approaching triple-digit selections; for that reason, I hesitate to call Murphy a future first round pick. I think it’s much easier to identify him instead as a first round talent, a minor distinction that speaks more about his ability as a player than an attempt to explain the vagaries of how teams draft. I have no idea if Murphy will be a first round pick in June. I don’t even know if he’ll wind up as one of the top thirty or so (“first round”) players on my final big board before the draft. What I do know is that he’s talented enough to warrant a first round pick, so fans of any team picking him then should be pleased. I also know that college players I like in that late-first to mid-second round range have had a tendency of slipping some on draft day, what with there being so many talented players that sorting through the top 100 can produce lists with all kinds of different orders. Brandon Lowe (ranked him 24/drafted in the third), Scott Kingery (25/second), David Thompson (35/fourth), and Harrison Bader (42/third) are all examples of this kind of player from last year. Those were all serious value picks in my mind, and I can see Murphy’s (late-first to third round) selection being written about in much the same way in a few months.

I’ll say this about more than a few guys before June 9th, but Sean Murphy will become one of the draft’s best values the moment he falls out of the first round. I think he’s going to be a really good big league starting catcher for a long time.

There you go. A’s scouting director Eric Kubota called Murphy a “Mike Matheny type.” Matheny had a career .239/.293/.344 line, good for a wRC+ of 62. That’s…not good. My memory and the numbers at least back up the oft-held assertion that his defense was pretty darn great. Maybe that’s where Kubota was coming from. The one red flag with Murphy’s game is how much power he’ll be able to produce as a professional hitter. I think there’s enough here for double-digit homers and plenty of gappers, but the possibility that his power plays lighter than expected is out there. The fact that he hit for more power than ever as a junior recovering from a broken hamate is a good (if not confusing) point in his favor. A slightly less offensive Lucroy feels like a reasonable ceiling with a solid floor of useful backup (and future manager?) a la Matheny.

4.112 – RHP Skylar Szynski

I like Skylar Szynski (222) just fine. Good fastball (88-94, 95 peak), potential above-average 76-80 breaking ball, and a hard 84-86 changeup, all boosted some thanks to advanced command from a teenager. It’s a nice package. A future in the pen could be in the cards unless Szynski can introduce something a little softer into his repertoire, but time is very much on his side there. I also liked Eric Kubota’s honest answer when asked about a comp for Szynski: “I honestly didn’t have a great one, but one of my scouts said Collin McHugh.” Honesty AND trusting a comp a scout passed on? Nice.

5.142 – 3B JaVon Shelby

A year ago I was banging the JaVon Shelby (229) as the next Ian Happ drum. A mere 67 strikeouts in 198 junior year at bats later and I think that call might have been off just a bit. It was never a direct one-to-one comp, but it’s still not a good look today. My bad. Delusional Happ optimism aside, I remain a fan of Shelby’s game. Here was an April 2016 take on him…

JaVon Shelby is a good prospect who might suffer some from the expectation that he’d finish the year as a great prospect. His physical gifts – above-average to plus speed, ample bat speed, impressive arm strength, athleticism that has allowed him to play third, the outfield, and improve every game at second – and scorching junior year start were great, but now he’s settled more into a good range. Good is still good, of course…it just isn’t great. Maybe the heightened expectations and failure to live up to them says more about us – me, specifically – than him. I still like Shelby quite a bit, but the red flag that is his approach remains. He checks every other box, so I’d still give him a chance sooner rather than later on draft day to see if the pro staff could work with him to figure things out.

Figuring out a way to improve Shelby’s approach at the plate and minimize a hole or two in his swing will probably be the difference between him being a regular and potential star at third base or him trying to make it as a power over hit, free swinging super-sub.

6.172 – RHP Brandon Bailey

Daulton Jefferies to Logan Shore to Brandon Bailey (159) to Mitchell Jordan to Seth Martinez…the A’s have a type when it comes to college starting pitchers. The heavy emphasis on command and offspeed-heavy repertoires makes the AJ Puk look even funnier (though not in a bad way) as this draft drags on. Time will tell if Oakland’s overarching approach will pay off, but I know for sure that I like the singular selection of Bailey here a lot. The righthander from Gonzaga has everything you’d want in a pitching prospect. He has a solid fastball (88-94), above-average 78-81 changeup, a mid-70s curve that flashes above-average, and a usable low- to mid-80s slider. He commands all of those pitches beautifully and sets up opposing hitters with what looks like relative ease. The whole package reads like a potential first round pick, but two factors have held Bailey’s prospect stock back. When I said he had everything you’d want in a pitching prospect that also included a few red flags you don’t: an injury history (he’s a Tommy John survivor) and an underwhelming physical profile (listed at 5-10, 175). First round command + fifth round stuff + tenth round red flags = a rough average of around a fifth round selection. That’s about where I ranked him (159th is a late-fifth rounder) and about where the A’s took him in the early-sixth round. I think he’s a future big league starter and potentially a damn good one, height be damned.

7.202 – OF Tyler Ramirez

Sometimes it kind of sort of maybe feels like I know a little bit about what I’m talking about. On Tyler Ramirez (215) from March 2016…

Ramirez doesn’t have a carrying tool that makes him an obvious future big league player, but he does a lot of things well (power, speed, glove) and leverages an ultra-patient approach to put himself in consistently positive hitter’s counts. His profile is a little bit similar to his teammate Zac Gallen’s in that both are relatively high-floor prospects without the kind of massive ceilings one would expect in a first day pick. Gallen is the better prospect, but I think many of the national guys are sleeping on Ramirez. I’ve been guilty of overrating Tar Heels hitters in the past, but Ramirez looks like the real deal. Former Carolina outfielder Tim Fedroff, a seventh round pick in 2008, seems like a reasonable draft day expectation in terms of round selected. I’d happily snap up a guy like Ramirez in that range.

Boom! Seventh round! Lucky guess aside, I think the point that the seventh round would be a great time to take a chance on a bat like Ramirez’s is the more pertinent one. A few weeks before the draft I actually compared Ramirez’s production as a junior to that of Bryan Reynolds from Vanderbilt. At that point they were really close — Ramirez’s power started to sag down the stretch — and they finished with relatively similar final years. It probably means nothing — even a numbers guy like me knows there’s more to this whole player projection thing than that — but it still creates a fun comparison to track going forward. An actual comparison I’ve gotten for Ramirez since signing is Randy Winn. Checked my archives and it turns out that I’ve used that once before on Ryan Boldt. Since I was curious, it turns out that Ramirez finished 215th on my draft rankings and Boldt came in 234th. Stands to reason that both should have long, successful careers with sustained runs of above-average play as everyday guys before eventually being traded for an over-the-hill mentally checked out manager.

8.232 – LHP Will Gilbert

Every system needs a few potential matchup lefthanders. That’s my attempt at an explanation for the A’s going with Will Gilbert in the eighth round. That and him being a money-saving senior-sign, of course. Gilbert has always gotten results despite ordinary stuff (87-90 FB, average or better 80-84 SL) and size (5-11, 170 pounds). Not much of an upside play, but can’t argue with #results.

9.262 – LHP Dalton Sawyer

On Dalton Sawyer (283) from April 2016…

Sawyer seems destined for the bullpen, a spot where his fastball (up to 94), mid-70s breaker, and effectively wild ways could get him to the big leagues sooner rather than later.

Six months later and that still sounds about right to me. Wish I had something more insightful to add, but think past-me nailed it. Or, you know, not at all. This was Eric Kubota on Sawyer after the draft…

Well, he’s another tall lefty. We’ve seen him up to 93-94 mph. He definitely had a good year as a starter this year and he’s going to go out as a starter. He’s a left-handed pitcher who’s physically imposing with velocity and a good changeup, so we’ll see where that takes him. One of my scouts said Sawyer reminded him of Jim Kaat. So if any of your readers remember Jim Kaat…

So maybe he will remain a starter. I suppose this Kubota guy might know better than an internet nobody like me, though I at least have the benefit of not having to worry about being strategic about setting player expectations. And, whoa, a Jim Kaat reference! That’s pretty cool. We’ll see if Sawyer has a Gold Glove or sixteen in his future, too.

10.292 – RHP Mitchell Jordan

On Mitchell Jordan (190) from March 2016…

I can’t get enough of Mitchell Jordan. His command, control, pitchability, and willingness to throw any pitch in any count make him a lot of fun to watch at this level. There will be understandable questions about how his slightly below-average fastball velocity (upper-80s, though it can sit low-90s and hit 93 on his best days) will translate to the pro game, but put me down as a believer that his command of the pitch coupled with the unpredictability of his pitch selection (happy to go CB, SL, or CU in plus or minus counts) will make him a viable long-term big league starting pitcher with continued development. He reminds me some of Kyle Hendricks, an eighth round pick out of Dartmouth in 2011. Feedback on Jordan has returned a wide range of potential draft outcomes with some saying as high as the third and others insisting his ceiling as fifth starter/swingman puts him closer to the bottom of the single-digit rounds than the top. Hendricks lasting until the eighth round has turned out to be a great value, so we’ll see if teams learned their lesson and pop Jordan sooner in 2016.

Jordan didn’t quite match Hendricks’s eighth round outcome, but he didn’t quite match his draft year excellence, either. Fair enough, I figure. Jordan was still very good from both a peripheral and stuff standpoint, so that fifth starter/swingman ceiling remains. Anecdotally, Jordan feels like the kind of pitching prospect that Oakland seems to get the most out of. I’m far more bullish on Jordan seeing success in the big leagues than I probably should be for a tenth round pick.

11.322 – SS Eli White

On Eli White from August 2015…

A fourth college shortstop, draft-eligible sophomore Eli White, understandably couldn’t agree to terms as a 37th round pick and will head back to Clemson to try again this year. I’d be surprised if his stock didn’t jump thirty or so rounds before next June rolls around.

Round 37 to round 11 isn’t quite a thirty round jump, but it’s close. White’s athleticism, speed, range at short, and flashes of offensive promise give him a shot to play regularly at short. All those positives ticked off in the previous sentence are exactly what teams look for in utility guys, too. I think White is a big league player based on that alone. Just for fun, let’s go back again in the archives to December 2015…

White is a good athlete who can really run with tons of bat speed and a high probability of sticking at shortstop. I compared him to Daniel Pinero last year and think he could have a similar impact in 2016.

They came by it differently, but White and Pinero wound up having very similar offensive debuts if you’re willing to lean on wRC+ as the best all-encompassing offensive stat out there. Check it out…

.261/.371/.317 – 16.0 K% and 13.7 BB% – 114 wRC+ – 175 PA
.279/.348/.361 – 24.3 K% and 9.7 BB% – 115 wRC+ – 267 PA

Top is Pinero (ninth round pick), bottom is White (eleventh round pick). There’s really no point to this other than I thought it was cool. I guess we could stretch a little and say that both guys are maybe regulars on the left side of the infield, but certainly toolsy enough to have long careers as backups otherwise.

12.352 – OF Luke Persico

Despite piling up well over 700 PA during his three years at UCLA, Luke Persico (346) is almost closer to a high school position player prospect than a college guy. That’s both a good and bad thing, though I tend to lean to the positive with the former Bruin. Despite a rough debut with Vermont, I have little personal doubt that Persico will hit as a pro. His kind of polish at the plate is what you want when drafting a major college guy this early in the draft. The big offensive question for Persico has long been and will continue to be whether or not he can ever find a way to consistently tap into his huge raw power during game situations. The gap between his brand of raw power and what he’s shown to date is one more often seen in teenager hitters who haven’t yet faced consistent big-time competition. Persico is at least an average runner with an arm to match, so it’ll be interesting to see if Oakland decides to play around with him defensively in the coming years. He played exclusively in the outfield in his debut, but his experience in the infield (1B, 2B, 3B) make him an intriguing potential Swiss Army knife defender if the A’s deem him playable at those spots. That kind of defensive intrigue is something we see more often with high school prospects than established three-year college starters. You see where I’m getting the college prospect with high school questions narrative from now? My hunch here is that Oakland looks at Persico, one of the younger players in this year’s college class, as a hitter with enough upside to be a potential regular in the outfield — or at least a high-level reserve — that they’ll opt to keep him focused on hitting as his primary developmental task rather than try to force him back in the dirt.

13.382 – 2B Nate Mondou

On Nate Mondou (393) in January 2016…

I wanted to mention the Daniel Murphy comparison I got for JR 2B/OF Nate Mondou that I heard recently, but I couldn’t remember the major media outlet that had it first. I could have missed it elsewhere, but I think mentioning it again would be one of those instances where I plagiarize myself. I hit thirty a few months back and my memory has gone up in flames since. In addition to Murphy, I’ve also heard Todd Walker as a reference point for Mondou’s bat. Lefty bats who love to attack early in the count, provide average or better power, and can hang in at the keystone spot are always going to be valued highly by pro clubs. Or at least they should.

I first tossed that Daniel Murphy comp out for Mondou in October of last year. Safe to say that a lot has changed out Murphy’s perceived value in the last twelve months or so. Timing really is everything. Mondou’s 2016 season saw an uptick in plate discipline — few more walks, few less whiffs — at the expense of some power. It’ll be interesting if we see more of the same as a professional. So far, that’s exactly what he’s done at Vermont.

14.412 – RHP Nolan Blackwood

On Nolan Blackwood from January 2016…

JR RHP Nolan Blackwood intrigues the heck out of me as a big (6-6) lanky (175 pounds) submariner with a legit fastball (88-91) and sustained success keeping runs off the board. His peripherals aren’t anything to write home about (4.11 K/9 last year), but the shiny ERA (0.52) is fun. A few more whiffs and continued success doing whatever he’s doing to get guys out (I’d love to see the batted ball data on him as I suspect he’s getting his fair share of ground ball outs and weak contact) would help him move way up the rankings.

That last line issued a challenge to Blackwood (in a pretend universe where he read it, of course) and he rose to the occasion. Blackwood bumped that K/9 from 4.11 as a sophomore to 7.54 as a junior. He gave up a few more runs (3.76 ERA), but that’s forgivable as that shiny 2015 ERA looked unsustainable from the outside looking in. Even better, that high GB% suspicion seemed to be on the money as Blackwood’s batted ball breakdown at MLB Farm had him at a 62.7 GB% in his debut. On top of all that, his velocity bumped just a bit to a more consistent 88-92 with an increasing number of 93’s sprinkled in as the year went on. I think we’ve got a future big league reliever here. If that’s the case, Blackwood would attempt to be only the third positive value player to come out of Memphis since 1981. He’ll have a long way to go to top Memphis’s best ever alum, Dan Uggla. I had no idea that he went to Memphis. Learned something new today.

15.442 – LHP Ty Damron

I have Ty Damron as a potential back of the rotation arm lefthander with the chance for three average or better pitches in his 88-93 fastball, upper-70s breaking ball, and a workable change. Ultimately, it looks like underwhelming command and below-average control could push him to the pen. That might be a blessing in disguise assuming his stuff plays up in shorter bursts the way it does for most pitchers. Now we’ve got a power lefty coming out of the bullpen all of a sudden. Cool. Maybe not as cool as the guy I now always think of when I read his name, but cool nonetheless.

16.472 – OF Anthony Churlin

I have absolutely nothing on Anthony Churlin. He plays baseball. That’s all I know.

17.502 – RHP Seth Martinez

Seth Martinez is the quintessential undersized athletic college workhorse with limited pro projection. There’s a chance he can keep doing his four-pitch mix thing with above-average overall command in a professional rotation, but I think he might be best served shifting to relief. Martinez as a starter is the kind of up-and-down arm you have stashed in AAA as the unofficial seventh or eighth member of a rotation. Martinez doing the sinker/slider thing with the occasional change added in for good measure out of the bullpen could be a long-term bullpen fixture.

18.532 – C Skyler Weber

Skyler Weber is one of the many highly athletic, average or better running catchers that I’ve profiled from this draft class so far. Starting to sense a trend here. I don’t see him hitting enough to be a big leaguer, but I’m never opposed to betting on an athletic backstop.

19.562 – RHP Sam Gilbert

Sam Gilbert, a righthanded reliever coming off of two lackluster seasons with Kansas, is a prime example of the limits of this site. I do my best to cover as much as I can but, alas, I’m only one man (with a wife, a full-time job, a part-time job, etc.), so liberties — I won’t call them shortcuts, but you can if you want — have to be made at times. Seeing a 6-0, 185 pound college reliever from Kansas with a 5.84 K/9 (2015) and 6.12 K/9 (2016) is pretty close to an insta-skip. Well, maybe he has elite control, I think. Nah: 4.86 BB/9 (2015) and 4.81 BB/9 (2016). Fine, his peripherals are ugly but might he have magic run prevention skills? He might…not: 4.62 ERA (2015) and 6.10 ERA (2016). So what in the world was Oakland thinking here? Sam Gilbert is an outstanding athlete with a two-way background who is still relatively new to pitching. His fastball climbed from upper-80s to low-90s to mid-90s as his time in Lawrence rolled on. Mediocre numbers or not, you take a chance on a highly athletic fresh-armed mid-90s throwing righthander in the nineteenth round every single time. Sometimes I catch guys like this, sometimes I don’t.

(Gilbert didn’t pitch this year for Oakland and I couldn’t pin down an exact reason why. If anybody knows anything, I’m all ears.)

21.622 – OF Kyle Nowlin

Wrote about Kyle Nowlin (304) last June after the Phillies selected him in the thirtieth round in 2015…

The second player selected from the Ohio Valley after Bosheers, Nowlin is an honest five-tool outfielder with real power (.690 SLG), speed (18/24 SB), athleticism, and, keeping up with one of the new scouting director’s first rules, an average or better hit tool. Asking around after the draft resulted in a surprise admission from a contact who said he preferred the all-around offensive game of the 31st round pick Nowlin over that of Kyle Martin, the fourth round pick. He said that if he came back for a senior season he would have the chance to jump up twenty or more rounds and potentially get into the single-digit round range as a high-priority 2016 senior-sign.

Like the player taken a round after him (stay tuned for that!), I thought Nowlin had sneaky eighth/ninth/tenth round upside as a money-saving senior-sign. Baseball did not agree with me. During Nowlin’s senior season, I wrote this: “I’m fascinated to see how Nowlin’s high BB% and K% will translate to pro ball; maybe it’s a cop-out, but I think he’s either going to be a really good player or a total washout with little middle ground.” With the benefit of a little more time and reflection, I think there’s definitely more of an opportunity for some middle-ground outcomes for Nowlin. I think a “really good player” could mean a bench bat/platoon option, but, if you disagree with that verbiage, then there’s a potential middle-ground outcome that is neither “really good” nor a “total washout.” It might take some hanging around as a supposed AAAA hitter to reach those heights, so there’s another potential middle-ground outcome that makes sense to me. A perfect world outcome for Nowlin that became all the more fitting after we found out what team had drafted him: righthanded Matt Stairs.

22.652 – C Roger Gonzalez

On Roger Gonzalez from February 2016…

I’m intrigued by Roger Gonzalez, a plus defender behind the plate and a potential contributor at it. The Miami transfer had a fine junior season and now rates as one of this class’s better senior-signs at the position.

As one might infer from the pre-draft take above, I thought Gonzalez could creep into the back of the top ten round mix as a money-saving senior-sign. He obviously didn’t, so getting him in the twenty-second round is a big win for Oakland. I’m a little surprised that he didn’t crack my top 500 heading into the draft. I think Gonzalez has a realistic big league backup backstop floor. He’s a legit defender, switch-hitter, and a good athlete with a history of taking good at bats and doing damage to pitches he can handle. Not sure what more you could want in a mid-round college catching prospect.

24.712 – OF Rob Bennie

Rob Bennie is an interesting power/speed guy with a good bit less in the way of plate discipline (22 BB/41 K as a redshirt-junior at East Stroudsburg) than one might expect from an Oakland draftee. The former Virginia Cavalier has a brother, Joe, who was drafted by Oakland in 2013. Joe has slowly but surely climbed the ladder, but has hit (or not hit, in a manner of speaking) a road block in his late-season promotion to AA. Rob should be so fortunate; hit your way to AA and then anything can happen.

25.742 – OF Jeramiah McCray

Listed as both Jeramiah McCray and Jeremiah McCray, but I’m pretty sure the former spelling is correct. That’s all I’ve got. Where’s Eric Kubota with a comp when you need him?

26.772 – 1B Charley Gould

Charley Gould can flat swing it. He was a far more interesting prospect as a catcher back in the day, but still should be a solid organizational masher at first base in the short-term. Whether or not he plays long enough to see that destiny through, however, remains to be seen. Turns out Gould is listed as being on the “voluntarily retired list” on his MiLB player page. Two minutes of searching couldn’t find anything out beyond that. If this is it for him in pro ball, we wish him luck on all future professional endeavors.

27.802 – OF Cole Gruber

I was 17-years-old when Moneyball came out. To say that Michael Lewis’s book shaped my baseball worldview would be an understatement. Still, I can admit that drawing a clear line between Oakland’s drafting in 2016 to those Moneyball days is a major stretch. But even with all the changes the last thirteen years have brought, the A’s seem to land a few personal favorite prospects of mine every draft. I can’t help that it makes me think we’re more on the same page than we probably are. Maybe I just want to believe. Anyway, Cole Gruber (499) joins Roger Gonzalez and Josh Vidales (below) as big-time favorites that Oakland managed to snag past round twenty. Here’s what was said about Gruber in March 2016…

Cole Gruber joins Taylor in what may be the country’s best pair of senior-sign hitters in one lineup. Gruber has always hit and has the bat speed to give confidence that he’ll keep doing so going forward, but his true calling card is his combination of speed and range in CF. When the first word out of one’s mouth after watching a prospect patrol center is “easy,” then you know you’ve got a keeper. Count me in as a big fan of his game, both aesthetically in the here and now and how it will translate to the pros.

And then in May 2016…

Cole Gruber will enter pro ball with two clear big league tools with his speed (43/50 SB this year) and CF range. I think he’s a solid mid- to late-round target.

Gruber finished his college career swiping 99 of 116 bases, good for an 85% success rate. He then went out and stole 28 of 30 bases (93%) in just 35 games in his debut. The guy knows how to steal a base. Between that skill and his range in the outfield, I think he can carve out a big league role down the line. And his name always makes me think of this.

28.832 – 2B Josh Vidales

Josh Vidales and this site go way back. Let’s take a quick tour through the years starting in December 2014…

I wish JR 2B Josh Vidales had even a little bit of power (.327 and .306 slugging the past two seasons) because his approach (88 BB/51 K career), defense (plus) and speed (26/34 SB career, not a burner but picks his spots really well) all rate high enough to be an entertaining prospect to follow professionally. The fact that he’s currently seen as a second base or bust (though, again, he’s fantastic there) defensive prospect works against him, though I wonder — I honestly don’t know — if that’s something he can change minds about this spring. If he could be trusted on the left side of the infield, then we’re talking a strong potential utility future, even without the power. For all his flaws, I’d still want him to be a member of my organization.

Then again in January 2016…

I’m all about SR 2B Josh Vidales. I can’t help it. He upped his SLG to .387 last year. That’s not great, but it’s an improvement. It also gave him his best ISO (.087) in his career. He kept getting on base with a .397 consistent to what he’s done in the past (now up to 123 BB/74 K career), swiped a few more bags (32/43 SB career), and played his usual brand of excellent defense at second. It’s not unusual to see spikes in production during a player’s senior season — far too often draft outlets overrate players on this basis, something I’ve been guilty of in the past — so hopefully Vidales enjoys the same fate this spring. If that’s the case, I think his consistent year-to-year output should get him drafted; this indirectly yet directly contradicts my previous point about overrating seniors, but this would be the case of a steady player having a better than usual senior year and not a guy having a breakout senior season out of nowhere. Consider the bigger than expected senior season prediction my attempt at wish-casting that others begin to see Vidales as I do. He’s an excellent college player and an honest pro prospect.

And finally in March 2016…

Vidales has been my guy for a while: he’s small (5-8, 160), he can defend the heck out of second base, and he’s an on-base machine. It’s a scary profile to project to pro ball, but I’d still take him late in the draft as an org second baseman and let the chips fall where they may.

I should have known that a team like Oakland would love Vidales as a player as I do. And, damn, did he go out and reward them (and me) for that love: how does .345/.437/.507 with 20 BB/16 K and 5/6 SB in 175 PA sound? Yes, he was a 22-year-old (he actually turned 23 in August) dominating teenagers in the AZL. But he still dominated! That has to count for something. Even if this is the peak of his pro career, I’ll take it. If he keeps hitting, well, that’s even better. There are few active players I root harder for than Vidales.

29.862 – RHP Matt Milburn

All I had on Matt Milburn before the draft were his consistently stellar numbers piled up over the years at Wofford. The guy got better every season before putting it all together for an outstanding (in terms of peripherals) senior season (9.40 K/9 and 2.65 BB/9 in 98.2 IP) with the Terriers. He then followed that up with a 10.82 K/9 and 0.49 BB/9 in 36.2 innings as a pro. The short-season competition wasn’t quite what it could have been for the 23-year-old, but standout peripherals are standout peripherals. I’ve made a point so far to mention that it’s his peripherals that are impressive…now why could that be? For whatever reason — and I honestly don’t know — his run prevention stats have always been pedestrian. His ERA as a senior with those great peripherals? 4.47. His awesome pro debut? 4.66 ERA. Weird, right?

30.892 – RHP Nick Highberger

Nick Highberger was always one of those “better stuff than results” guys while at Creighton. He has enough of the sinker/slider thing going to be an effective reliever, but he’s never been able to miss enough bats to have you feel really good about making that kind of actual prediction. I’m still on the fence because he still doesn’t miss those bats, but, man, can Highberger’s stuff kill some worms. His GB% could be so high that it wouldn’t surprise me if he became a bit of a cult favorite on certain corners of the internet who are into that sort of thing.

31.922 – RHP Sam Sheehan

Sam Sheehan (14.26 K/9, 5.35 BB/9, 1.48 ERA, 30.3 IP) was the closer this past spring for NAIA power Westmont. Solid, Still, I find the odds that the Oakland brass truly believes that two of the forty best amateur players available to them in the country came from Westmont to be quite long, but I’m just a guy on the internet. What do I know?

32.952 – C Colin Theroux

(Major copy/paste foul here. I have no idea how it happened. Only the second half of poor Colin Theroux’s draft profile was salvaged. Sorry, buddy. We join the second half already in progress…)

in his only year of D-1 ball (minus that one AB he had for Nevada as a freshman) will work out for the A’s. Maybe. In fairness, Collin Theroux did hit .273/.430/.500 with 39 BB/43 K in 202 PA at San Joaquin Delta in 2015 (with a successful run with the Madison Mallards in the Northwoods League to boot), so maybe there’s some hope after all. It would be a Disney-worthy story if he made it, I know that much.

33.982 – C Jarrett Costa

Jarrett Costa hit .333/.441/.492 with 27 BB/28 K in 183 AB for NAIA power Westmont this past spring. Solid. Still, I find the odds that the Oakland brass truly believes that two of the forty best amateur players available to them in the country came from Westmont to be quite long, but I’m just a guy on the internet. What do I know?

34.1012 – SS Casey Thomas

I’m sure Casey Thomas is a nice guy, but I’m not feeling this one. ISO in 2015: .046. ISO in 2016: .072. ISO in his pro debut: .017. Next!

40.1192 – 2B Brett Bittiger

Son of an A’s scout. Been around enough to have once been a forty-first (!) round pick of Oakland back in 2011. Hit .204/.252/.253 in his career at Division II Pace. I’m no fan of nepotism picks, but Pace is my sister’s alma mater so we’ll let it slide here.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Shane Martinez (Arizona), Matthew Fraizer (Arizona), Brady Schanuel (Mississippi), Michael Farley (San Jose State), Danny Rafferty (Bucknell), Christian Young (Niagara County CC), Brigham Hill (Texas A&M)

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2 Comments

  1. […] each respective school: 1969 (Nicholas Stipnovich and Joe Lasorsa), 2011 (Stephen Lumpkins), 2016 (Brett Bittiger), and 2016 (CJ Picerni). Figures I’m the only one without a draft pick from my school in the […]

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