Below is an evaluation of the prospects in the Oakland Athletics farm system who readers should consider “imminent big leaguers,” players who might reasonably be expected to play in the majors at some point this year. This includes all prospects on the 40-man roster as well as those who have already established themselves in the upper levels of the minors but aren’t yet rostered. I tend to be more inclusive with pitchers and players at premium positions since their timelines are usually the ones accelerated by injuries and scarcity. Any Top 100 prospects, regardless of their ETA, are also included on this list. Reports, tool grades, and scouting information for all of the prospects below can also be found on The Board.
This is not a top-to-bottom evaluation of the A’s farm system. We like to include what’s happening in minor league and extended spring training in our reports as much as possible, since scouting high concentrations of players there allows us to incorporate real-time, first-person information into the org lists. However, this approach has led to some situations where outdated analysis (or no analysis at all) was all that existed for players who had already debuted in the majors. Skimming the imminent big leaguers off the top of a farm system will allow this time-sensitive information to make its way onto the site more quickly, better preparing readers for the upcoming season, helping fantasy players, and building site literature on relevant prospects to facilitate transaction analysis in the event that trades or injuries foist these players into major league roles. There will still be an A’s prospect list that includes Gunnar Hoglund, Max Muncy, Daniel Susac and all of the other prospects in the system who appear to be at least another season away. As such, today’s list includes no ordinal rankings. Readers are instead encouraged to focus on the players’ Future Value (FV) grades.
Let’s revisit what FV means before I offer some specific thoughts on this org. Future Value (FV) is a subjective valuation metric derived from the traditional 20-80 scouting scale (where 50 is average and each integer of 10 away from 50 represents one standard deviation) that uses WAR production to set the scale. For instance, an average regular (meaning the 15th-best guy at a given position, give or take) generally produces about 2 WAR annually, so a 50 FV prospect projects as an everyday player who will generate about that much annual WAR during his pre-free agency big league seasons.
Why not just use projected WAR as the valuation metric, then? For one, it creates a false sense of precision. This isn’t a model. While a lot of data goes into my decision-making process, a lot of subjectivity does too, in the form of my own visual evaluations, as well as other information related to the players’ careers and baseball backgrounds. A player can have a strong evaluation (emphasis on the “e”) but might be a great distance from the big leagues, or could be injury prone, or a superlative athlete, and context like that might cause one to augment the player’s valuation (no “e”). Using something more subjective like Future Value allows me to dial up and down how I’m interpreting that context.
There are also many valuable part-time players who can only generate so much WAR due to their lack of playing time. As such, FV grades below 50 tend to describe a role more than they do a particular WAR output; you can glean the projected roles from the players’ reports. In short, anyone who is a 40+ FV player or above projects as an integral big league role player or better.
Now some A’s thoughts. The A’s have bid farewell to most of their more recognizable top performers over the last year, most recently with the designation of Cristian Pache for assignment at the end of spring training (Pache, who was himself acquired as part of the Matt Olson swap, has since been picked up by the Phillies). The resulting vacuum created by that mass exodus has hoovered up several prospects, vaulting them to the bigs earlier than they might have been were they members of a less needy org. This sets up a sink-or-swim scenario, whereby even the guys who are still a bit too raw to thrive on a major league diamond (let alone navigate the unique quirks of the Oakland Coliseum) and may otherwise sink could be tasked with finding a way to stay afloat without the benefit of further minor league development. Some of them are more likely to be successful than others, with water wings provided by stunning basepath speed in the case of Esteury Ruiz, or the triple-digit tendencies of Luis Medina. In most other cases though, it’s safer to expect some dog-paddling out there while they continue to seek out a defensive home or come down from PCL-juiced slash lines.
The trio of Top 100 standouts atop this list should provide much needed support during Oakland’s ongoing rebuilding period. That said, with ever-tightening purse strings and the ongoing butting of heads between the team and the city of Oakland regarding a much-needed new ballpark, it’s hard to be optimistic about how ownership is approaching this phase of the team’s history. It’s one thing to rebuild, but it’s another to do so while your construction materials are being withheld, making it unclear if the task at hand is raising the barn or razing it in favor of greener pastures (or whatever the Las Vegas desert’s equivalent of a pasture is). As is often the case with Oakland rebuilds, the more hopeful outlook is the long-term one that sees the continued growth of the brightest spots on a relatively hazy horizon.
Athletics Imminent Big Leaguers and Top 100 Prospects