2018 Oakland Athletics Top 10 Prospects Chat

Steve Kroner: Welcome, A’s fans. I’m a rookie at this, so please bear with me. In any event, thanks for joining us. I don’t think I’ll get to every question, but I’ll do my best. Here goes …

J.P. (Springfield, IL): Thanks for chatting, Steve. How close was Sheldon Neuse to the top 10, and do you think his prospect stock rose after being acquired by the A's, in your opinion?

Steve Kroner: I am bound by the folks at BA not to pinpoint where a prospect in the 11-30 range is listed, but I can say if he is in that range. Sheldon Neuse definitely is in that range. And, yes, I believe his stock rose with what he did offensively after the A’s acquired him.

Frank (Indianapolis IN): How many of these guys are worthy of making BA's top 100 prospects list, if you had to guess?

Steve Kroner: I’d say A.J. Puk, without question. Beyond Puk, there are 3-4 who would be under consideration, but not locks.

Harry (Home): What's the skinny on Greg Deichmann? Was he in your 11-20?

Steve Kroner: I’ll put it this way: He was under consideration for the top 10. People really like his power potential. Because he was an infielder for most of his career at LSU, I think there’s still some question about his defensive ability in the outfield.

Grant (NYC): Besides power, what else does Renato Nunez bring to the table? Is he likely to be trade bait, seeing as there's no clear spot for him in the bigs?

Steve Kroner: Power is a pretty powerful thing to bring to the table. Could he be the next Khris Davis? Maybe. If he does find a position to play, my guess is it will be first base, but the way Matt Olson looked offensively and defensively the last 2 months of last season, that position could be Olson’s for quite some time.

J.P. (Springfield, IL): Did the A's get a potential steal in Nick Allen, considering where they popped him in the draft? Can his bat catch up to his defense? Will we see him within the next ten names in your list of 30?

Steve Kroner: I know some people in the A’s organization believe they got a steal. Someone called Allen the best defensive high-school shortstop he’d ever seen. Will his bat catch up with his defense is the question as he progresses through the system. I can say he’s in the 11-30 range on the list.

Paul (Oakland, CA): Can Merrell stick at short, according to scouts? How fast can he rise through the system?

Steve Kroner: From what I can glean, he could stick at short or go to second or center field. Fast is his calling card. He’s probably the second-fastest player in the organization behind Jorge Mateo. The A’s have a glut of middle infielders (somewhat thinned by the trades of Schrock and Wendle), but Merrell could move fairly quickly.

Jake (Philadelphia): Had he not been traded, about where would Schrock have ranked?

Steve Kroner: Again, I’m not supposed to list specific spots for players in the 11-30 range, but considering Max Schrock is no longer with the organization, I’ll simply say he would have been in the middle of that 11-30 range.

Grant (NYC): What's the consensus opinion of Grant Holmes at this point? Is he still a future mid-rotation guy, or are his chances of being a reliever becoming more likely?

Steve Kroner: From the people with whom I spoke, there was a wider range of opinions on Grant Holmes than on most players/pitchers in the Top 30. Yes, he’s in the 11-30 range. I think the A’s still view him as a starter.

Wes (London,Ky): Why no Sheldon Neuse?Cant ignor the stats right?

Steve Kroner: Hard to ignore the stats. Two main reasons why he didn’t make the top 10: 1) Which one of those 10 would you remove to put him in there? 2) He’s probably not a big-league SS, and the A’s have Matt Chapman seemingly ensconced at 3B for some time. But don’t get me wrong: I think with his bat, Neuse has a good chance of reaching the bigs in the next 2 seasons.

Jack (CA): Do you have an update on Daulton Jefferies rehab? Any insight on when and where he might make his 2018 debut? Thanks.

Steve Kroner: No update other than the A’s are still pretty high on him. Educated guess is he returns to the mound in the summer.

Alan (NC): Can Barreto remain at 2B or will he need to move to the OF? Thanks!

Steve Kroner: Good question. I certainly think he can remain at 2B (heck, there’s some thought that he still could play SS). A lot depends on what else happens with the A’s. For example, will Dustin Fowler be healthy enough to play CF? If he isn’t, I guess it’s conceivable Barreto could get a look there. To make a long story dull: Yes, he can remain at 2B.

Casey (Morgantown): Excited to see Luzardo make his debut late last season and look very impressive in doing so. With continues success is it unreasonable to see him as a top 25 type prospect this same time next season? Thanks for the chat!

Steve Kroner: Not sure he’d be a top-25 prospect, but I think if he continues to progress, he’d be at least a Top 100.

Casey (Morgantown): Is it safe to say Austin Beck would go much lower if they redrafted the 2017 class today? Those High School OF are so risky it seems. Is there still 30-30 potential there or are the tools not quite what everyone thought they would be?

Steve Kroner: I don’t think it’s safe to say at all, based on such a small sample size. He’s only 19 years old. Yes, he struggled some in his first taste of pro ball, but that can be a common malady. I’m sure the A’s folks still believe in his potential, particularly the power.

Ace (Maine): Do you think Deichmann and Merrell have the chance to be in the top 10 this time next year? Also what is the best case scenario for each of them?

Steve Kroner: Short answer: Yes on both. Not sure if you mean best-case scenario for 2018 or for their careers. I’ll guess you mean careers. For Deichmann, he becomes a 30-HR/year hitter. Merrell could be a super utilityman, with the potential to be a 30-SB/year player.

Ace (Maine): Would Schrock have landed anywhere near the top 10?

Steve Kroner: No.

Steve Kroner: No.

Darren (St. Louis, MO): Crystal Ball: what position does Sheldon Neuse play on the A’s major league roster? Seems like he is blocked by a multitude of Infield prospects. Chapman at 3B, Mateo/Barreto at SS/2B and Piscotty in RF. Is Left field the answer (if Fowler can play Center field ).

Steve Kroner: That’s a good question, and my crystal ball typically is shrouded by Bay Area fog. LF could be an answer. DH could be another.

Trevor (Gator country): Is outfielder Greg Deichmann the best power hitter in the system, now that Olson and Chapman graduated to the Bigs? Is his throwing arm good enough for Right field?

Steve Kroner: I think G. Deichmann is in the mix for being the best power hitter in the system. If you go on track record, you’d have to say Renato Nunez. If you’re looking at potential, you might say Austin Beck or Lazaro Armenteros. G. Deichmann probably fits somewhere in there. And yes, Deichmann’s arm is good enough for RF.

Carl Lewis (Los Angeles, CA): Who wins in a 100 yard foot race; Jorge Mateo, Kevin Merrell or Dairon Blanco?

Steve Kroner: Have to admit I’m not as familiar with Blanco. From the people with whom I’ve spoken, I’d say Mateo nips Merrell at the tape. It probably would be a fun thing to watch.

Felix (Sacramento, CA): RHP Wyatt Marks is intriguing. Does he rank in the back-end of the Top 30 Prospects? His college stats before the draft were tremendous, as was his Pro debut. Can he stick in a rotation?

Steve Kroner: Wyatt Marks in not in the Top 30 listings.

Darryl (San Francisco, CA): Wow, no Austin Beck in your Projected 2021 Lineup? That would be after 3 full years in the minors for him. Are you saying he is too raw and might be a Bust? I see skills of a player like Aaron Rowand in him. The good version of Rowand.

Steve Kroner: The projected 2021 lineup is nothing on which I would bet a nickel, considering so much can change. Still, if you assume Fowler and Pinder are around and thriving, LF could come down to Armenteros or Beck. Based on the admittedly small sample size in pro ball, I went with Armenteros. Beck might not be in the 2021 lineup and still have a solid career.

Doubting Thomas (Oakland, CA): Logan Shore ranks 10th, ahead of Sheldon Neuse and Grant Holmes? I’m not visualizing that. Please elaborate.

Steve Kroner: It wasn’t an easy call, but Shore clearly seems to be more polished than Holmes. Neuse has done big things offensively, but he might not have a position to play in Oakland. That said, you could be right.

Rick (Oakland): Barreto's high strikeout, low walk numbers scare me. Anyway he adjusts his approach? Seems talented but definitely risky.

Steve Kroner: I’m sure he can adjust his approach, but the high-strikeout numbers are a bit concerning, particularly for someone who doesn’t have big-time power. He turns 22 next month, so there’s still plenty of time for him to make an adjustment or two to make more consistent contact.

Barry (San Jose): I've seen people say Puk's ceiling is a No.2 starter. Why? Seems like all the stuff for a future ace.

Steve Kroner: I don’t get especially hung up on who’s a No. 1 starter, who’s a No. 2, et al. I do think Puk’s ceiling is awfully high. 13.2 strikeouts per 9 innings (his combined numbers from Single-A and Double-A last season) indicate a pretty high ceiling.

Carey (Northern Cal): Is Jesus Luzardo the next Gio Gonzalez? He might have the most upside of anybody on the list.

Steve Kroner: I have heard the Luzardo-Gonzalez comparison. Among pitchers in the organization, I’d say Luzardo has the second-highest upside behind Puk.

the Naked Guy (a Berkeley classroom): Four of the top six (plus Kaprielian at 8) were added via draft or trade in the past season. What does that say about the state of the system before and after the Yankees/Nationals trades and the addition of Austin Beck?

Steve Kroner: I think you know the answer to your question. Clearly, Billy Beane and David Forst and Co. thought the system needed improvement and with those trades in particular (and don’t forget the Reddick/Hill deal with the Dodgers in 2016), I believe the A’s enhanced their system considerably.

Chris (Chicago): Where are the A's on Renato Nunez? They called him up but didn't really give him ABs in September. Are they still high on him?

Steve Kroner: Good question. It’s hard to say, especially now that Khris Davis appears to be set as the main designated hitter. Nunez’s power can keep him in the conversation, but it’s difficult at this point to see a spot where he fits.

Bill (Oakland): Is there some debate that Mateo may end up the better player than Barreto?

Steve Kroner: Sure, for those who like debating. I think the short answer is Barreto probably is more major-league ready, but Mateo — because of his speed — could have a better career. If you’re an A’s fan, that’s a good debate to have.

Tim (San Dimas, CA): Greg Deichmann was excellent at Vermont, as a solid college bat should be, I guess, and seems to have the new hitters trifecta - good launch angle, walks a lot, and doesn't strike out much. How far apart are the scouting reports from the results? Did he miss the top 10 by much?

Steve Kroner: The results pretty much coincided with what I heard from the people with whom I spoke. I’ll put it this way: He was under consideration for the top 10.

the Naked Guy (a Berkeley classroom): Austin Beck scares me -- in the way Donavan Tate scared me. Lots of these tooled-up guys are boom or bust, and for every Mike Cameron there are a dozen guys who don't make the majors. I know it's only his first exposure to pro ball, but talk me down off the ledge, please.

Steve Kroner: Come down off the ledge, particularly if you’re naked and at a Cal classroom. Look, I can’t tell you Austin Beck is going to be a great player. I can tell you it’s way too early to say that he won’t be. He’s 19 and has played a full season of pro ball.

David (Bay Area): Jorge Mateo showed elite flashes 2nd half last year, especially with increased power. Seems like he might finally be the prospect he was believed to be when he was a top 30 prospect overall. Power, top speed in minors. If he hits, what can't he do?

Steve Kroner: Short answer: Not much. If he hits, with his speed and arm, he’ll play somewhere. The other minor question would be, At which position: SS, 2B or the outfield?

Aaron (Oak Town): Not prospects anymore but can you see Olson and Chapman hitting 30+ homers next year?

Steve Kroner: Yes. Heck, Olson hit 24 in 59 games last season. Chapman had 14 in 84. No guarantee either or both won’t have a sophomore slump, but you also can make the case that either or both will be better, simply because of having gone through a chunk of a big-league season.

the Naked Guy (a Berkeley classroom): The catcher spot in Oakland seems like it's ripe for the taking. What are the optimistic and realistic scenarios for Sean Murphy to slide into that spot at the Coliseum?

Steve Kroner: I agree the A’s don’t have a true No. 1 catcher. Sean Murphy’s arm will get him attention. I don’t think he’s ready to start the season at the Coliseum (his offense slumped some when he got promoted from Single-A to Double-A), but could he get a look by the end of the season? Sure.

Chris (Chicago): At this point, what's at the core of Richie Martin's slide down the A's depth chart? Poor handling? Bad luck/health? Or simply another busted 1st round bat (Weeks, Green, Choice, etc.)? Is there any encouragement that he'll ever hit?

Steve Kroner: I think it’s a combination of the injuries and his lack of offensive production. The A’s still view him as a top-flight defensive SS. I’d say he still has the ability to improve at the plate, but time might be running short.

Jack (Palo Alto): It seems like Dustin Fowler is consistently rated high up on team prospect lists this offseason. Do you believe that he will be able to fully recover from his injury, and where would he rank in the system had he not been injured?

Steve Kroner: I think people see the potential and what he produced in the Yankees’ system. I’m not a doctor, so I won’t speculate on whether he will be able to fully recover. I certainly hope he can. even if he had not been injured, I’m don’t think he’d be higher than the No. 4 spot he has.

Jack (Palo Alto): You seem to be the high man on Logan Shore - what are his strengths and what do you project him to do in the major leagues?

Steve Kroner: His strengths are control and his changeup. He doesn’t throw as hard as some of the other pitchers on the Top 30 list, but knowing how to pitch is an underrated skill. And I have to believe pitchers throwing 92-94 still can get MLB hitters out.

Drew W (NoVA): How close was Casey Meisner to the top ten? Thanks for the chat!

Steve Kroner: Casey Meisner is in the 11-30 range, but was not close to making the top 10.

Drew W (NoVA): Does Heath Fillmyer make his A's debut this season? Thanks.

Steve Kroner: I’d say it’s possible but not likely.

the Naked Guy (a Berkeley classroom): Did Raul Alcantara come up at all in your discussions with the A's? He seems to have interesting stuff but just hasn't been able to put it together in his cups of coffee. Is he still prospect eligible?

Steve Kroner: He still is prospect eligible, but is not in the Top 30.

Steve (Tallahassee): I understand that Renato Nunez won’t be winning any Gold Gloves and that he strikes out a lot. But, the power is serious. Is he just too one dimensional to make this list?

Steve Kroner: He made the 11-30 range. Power is serious, but it’s not the only thing.

the Naked Guy (a Berkeley classroom): Where were Yairo Munoz and Max Schrock on the top 30 before they were traded to the Cardinals for Stephen Piscotty a month ago?

Steve Kroner: They were in the 11-30 range. Munoz was rated ahead of Schrock.

the Naked Guy (a Berkeley classroom): Daulton Jefferies has already had shoulder problems as well as Tommy John. I know the 2021 projected lineup with Jefferies as the closer is just a lark, but what are the chances a six-footer with that kind of history can start?

Steve Kroner: I think he can start, depending on how well he recovers from surgery. There are people in the A’s organization who are very high on him.

VandyGuy (VandyLand): Mandatory Vandy guy question: what's the organization's view on Will Toffey? Perhaps not the debut they had wanted, but could he be aggressively assigned for 2018?

Steve Kroner: So, you’re the Mandy Vandy? In any event, I think the organization likes his discipline at the plate and his defensive ability at 3B. Probably would have preferred more than 1 HR in Vermont, but put it this way: He’s on the Top 30 list.

Nick (Rochester, NY): Reason for no Austin Beck or Nick Allen in the 2021 lineup? Skeptical on their respective ability to make it the majors or more of a reflection of how young they are?

Steve Kroner: Youth is the main reason, particularly for Beck. Allen would be youth and the A’s wealth of promising middle infielders.

Dylan B (San Carlos): Scouting reports on Sean Murphy say he has power, but it hasn’t shown up yet. With his defense, if his power comes in, he’s a monster prospect right? I’m really excited regardless

Steve Kroner: If Sean Murphy hits with power, he’s probably an All-Star.

Zach (Dayton, OH): Do the A's have any reliever prospects that are ready or close to being ready to make a big league impact?

Steve Kroner: A couple of possibilities: Lou Trivino (who’s on the 40-man roster) and Kyle Finnegan. Also, there’s still the possibility Frankie Montas can get back in the mix.

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Ex-National farmhand Neuse missed the top 10 but has got to be in the 10-20 range I'm thinking. Agreed?

Steve Kroner: Agreed.

Nick (Fremont): I was a little surprised that you ranked Shore above Grant Holmes - in that I've always viewed Shore as a back of the rotation guy and Holmes as someone who could potentially be a #3 guy - can you explain your decision? Thanks!

Steve Kroner: It was close, but I went with Shore’s performance — particularly his control — slightly over Holmes’ potential.

Shawn (Modesto): Casey Meisner's prospect stock has seemingly bounced around, high and low, during both his time with the Mets and the A's. What is the current perspective on Meisner? Is he still a top 30-type prospect?

Steve Kroner: I think you’re right that Meisner’s stock has risen and fallen, fallen and risen. He’s in the Top 30.

Brad (Oakland): Do you see Dustin Fowler being the Opening Day starter for 2018?

Steve Kroner: I’m pretty sure the A’s would like him to be, but because of that injury, it’s too hard to make a definitive assessment.

Ramon Laureano (Midland, TX): No questions about myself? Can I stick in Center Field long term?

Steve Kroner: I was hoping I’d get something like this. I can say you’re in the Top 30. Can you stick in CF long-term? That’s between you and the folks in the A’s organization. But, thanks for asking. By the way, good luck.

a.j. (dallas): What position would be Mateo's best position regardless of organizational need?

Steve Kroner: With his arm, still probably SS.

Bruce (Portland OR): Is Anthony Churlin on the A's radar at all? He had a pretty impressive season for a 19 year old last year in Vermont, but was only a 16th round draft pick the year before.

Steve Kroner: Put it this way: He’s not in the Top 30, but we do a depth chart of about 45-55 players in the system, and he did make that depth chart.

David (Satellite Beach, FL): Who is a pitcher that did not make the T-30, but who could possibly jump all the way into the Top 10, next spring? (Or is there anyone like that?)

Steve Kroner: Not sure there is anyone like that.

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): The A's minor league teams are really spread out: Wisconsin to Texas, California to Vermont. Is this a real negative or a minor inconvenience ?

Steve Kroner: In this day and age, I’d say it’s barely a minor inconvenience.

Smrt Baseball (Oakland): Tyler Ramirez have the ability to play center?

Steve Kroner: Good question. Short answer is he probably can handle CF on a short-term basis, but is better suited to a corner spot.

Steve Kroner: Folks, we’ve been at this for a little more than two hours. Sorry that I couldn’t get to all of your questions, but hope the ones I did answer shed some light for you. Thanks for the questions and the interest. I appreciate both. Adios. S.K.

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