The A’s had plenty of contributions from young players in 2012, including Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Donaldson, AJ Griffin, Jarrod Parker and more. That was a testament to a strong minor league system that took a hit with the graduation of those players. The 2013 version of the A’s rankings doesn’t have quite that much potential impact for this season, but they could still see players like Dan Straily, Sonny Gray and Grant Green arriving at the big league level, continuing the recent pipeline of young talent.
1. Addison Russell – SS (Last Year’s Rank: NR)
Russell was the club’s top pick last summer, signed quickly and performed well across three levels in his debut. My exposure to him in the NYPL left a positive impression, though I don’t think he remains a shortstop long term. Even as he likely slides to third base, he has the thump in his bat, the reactions and the arm strength to handle such a transition. Russell has the potential to turn into a middle-of-the-order hitter that plays solid defense on the left side, making him a potential All-Star player.
2. Dan Straily – RHP (NR)
Straily smoked the Texas and Pacific Coast Leagues as he raced to the big leagues as a 23-year old. Ranking him this highly in the system is a bit aggressive, but acknowledges his high floor and the potential for him to become a legitimate number three starter. His fastball sits in the low-90s with good sink. His change-up is a weapon against both right and left-handed hitters and he also mixes in a quality slider, giving him a complete arsenal. He pounds the strike zone with all three pitches and really came into his own as a pitcher in 2012.
3. Michael Choice – OF (1)
Choice’s fall from the top spot on this list a year ago is more indicative of the players that jumped him than anything. He remains a promising power hitter with true big league potential. he will always have plenty of swing and miss in his game but that shouldn’t hinder his plus power from playing in games. He has a chance to hit .260 or so with 20+ home runs at his peak, making him a solid contributor as he moves to left field down the line. Choice needs to continue polishing his approach in the minor leagues throughout 2013 but he could be ready to arrive at the big league level in 2014.
4. Miles Head – 3B (NR)
I was extremely skeptical of Head’s move to third base entering the year and while I still struggle to see him sticking at the position over the long haul, he has a chance to reach the big leagues while still playing the hot corner. Like Choice, head owns plus raw power, though he has better hit tool utility and should see his power manifest in games more consistently. Head isn’t nearly as impressive if he moves back over to first base but if his offseason of work on his quickness and reactions at the hot corner works, he could become a very real prospect at the position.
5. Brad Peacock – RHP (6)
Peacock struggled in 2012, posting a 6.01 ERA in his first season with the A’s. Not all was lost however, as Peacock learned the importance of commanding his fastball to all parts of the strike zone, showing improved command late in the year. His fastball can reach 95 mph at times, but can get a little true. Both his curveball and change-up have average potential and the A’s have had him playing with additional movement on his fastball. The profile isn’t huge, but if it all comes together, he could top out as a third our fourth starter.
6. Sonny Gray – RHP (2)
Gray had better results than Peacock in 2012 but he still struggled at times, particularly as he tried to locate his fastball and miss bats as consistently as he had as an amateur. His fastball still has plenty of zip, reaching 97 on rare occasions, but that velocity comes with considerable effort and an inability to utilize consistent mechanics. His curveball has tremendous potential and some scouts believe his two-pitch combo could excel in relief. If he sticks in the rotation, Gray projects as a third or fourth starter, though growth in his change-up and command are required to reach that ceiling.
7. Grant Green – IF/OF (3)
While much has been made of Green’s move back to the infield and his potential to be the A’s everyday solution at the keystone, his greatest value to a big league team may come from his solid offense and ability to play around the infield and outfield. His versatility is a strong point in his favor and could allow him to carve out a very lengthy career. As a hitter, Green has an aggressive approach with easy contact ability and average power potential, making him a solid contributor to a big league lineup.
8. Nolan Sanburn – RHP (NR)
Sanburn is a major projection play in this spot on the rankings. His fastball sits consistently in the 94-96 range and touches a few notches higher when he reaches back for more. He is a physical guy and while he has not pitched deep into games at this point in his career, scouts believe he could sustain that velocity for five to seven innings. His curveball shows plus potential but needs work to gain consistency. His change-up lags behind and he has to throw more quality strikes, but if the A’s develop his as a starter, he has impact potential with considerable risk.
9. Daniel Robertson – SS (NR)
Robertson looks more like a shortstop than fellow 2012-draftee Addison Russell, but he doesn’t have the smooth actions and projection to stay at the position. Most pro scouts that saw him last summer believe he will end up at third base long term where his potential for an average bat and average power will have to fully manifest for him to remain a serious prospect. Robertson was lauded for his on-field intelligence and hard-nosed style of play, giving him extra points in some scouts minds.
10. Renato Nunez – 3B (10)
Nunez holds his spot on this list despite considerable movement in the slots around him. His potential to be an above-average hitter with plus raw power is intriguing to scouts. He shows an ability to adjust as the 2012 season wore on and more and more scouts expressed belief in his offensive potential. Defensively, Nunez needs work at the hot corner but has some feel for the position and a strong arm, giving him a chance to hold on at third base.
11. Chris Bostick – SS (NR)
Another player I had plenty of exposure to during the 2012 NYPL season, Bostick stood out as a good athlete with a nice collection of tools. He defense at second base improved throughout the year and there were scouts that had seen him in 2011 that weren’t convinced he shouldn’t be over at shortstop still. He can play anywhere on the infield defensively. At the plate, Bostick has the potential for average power if he can develop a consistent trigger and swing plane, allowing him to make more consistent hard contact.
12. Bobby Crocker – OF (NR)
I’m a sucker for players like Crocker and I have to be careful not to push them too far up my rankings. I am comfortable having him in this range but I remain quite intrigued by his tool set. He is a physical presence on the field with good athleticism, allowing him to project for quality defense in the outfield. He also shows hints of hitting for a decent average with solid-average power and a little bit of speed in his game. It’s an overall package that entices scouts but he needs considerable work to bring it all together.
13. Matt Olson – 1B (NR)
Another pick from the 2012 draft, Olson has a well-rounded offensive projection, including the potential for average hitting ability and average power His swing is consistent with good bat speed and he can be fun to watch in the batter’s box at times. He is limited to first base defensively, despite a plus arm, and that will force his bat to reach its full potential. He has an outside chance to be an impact first-base bat, but it will take time to realize that ceiling.
14. Raul Alcantara – RHP (NR)
I still believe in Alcantara’s raw arm strength. After he came over from the Red Sox last off-season, there was some serious excitement around his potential. It was easy to get down on him during the 2012 season but he still showed good velocity and a quality breaking ball that flashed in the plus range. He needs a lot of work and A’s fans will have to be patient, but that patience could be rewarded with a big ceiling.
15. Max Stassi – C (15)
I refuse to give up on Stassi’s big league potential, in spite of numerous injuries that have delayed his Major League timetable. His defense stands out more than anything and he offers the potential to provide a plus glove behind the plate, controlling both the pitching staff and running game. He works counts well and has a good approach at the plate, showing some hitting ability and a little bit of pop. That’s a nice combination for a catcher and something that could show up in the big leagues in 2014.