Image credit: Jesus Luzardo (Photo by Bill Mitchell)
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Matt Eddy: Greetings. Welcome to the Athletics Top 10 Prospects chat for 2019. This is my first spin with Oakland. I assigned myself this organization because their personnel decisions and philosophy fascinate me.
J.P. (Springfield, IL):
- Thanks for chatting, Matt. What were scouts’ opinions of Jeremy Eierman’s pro debut, and whether or not he can stick at short? Will we see him in the 11-15 range?
Matt Eddy: SS Jeremy Eierman will rank in the system’s 11-15. He hit nearly as many HR in the NYPL as he did as a Missouri State junior, and power and bat speed (and underpinning exit velocities) are certainly his calling cards. He is a sound defensive shortstop with enough quickness and arm to at least be adequate at the position. The drawbacks for Eierman are questionable hitting ability, plate discipline and plate coverage. He worked on swing tweaks in instructional league to alter his hand position and improve his hitting rhythm. Some scouts also were turned off by his makeup as an amateur.
Frank (Indianapolis, IN):
- How many of these guys are worthy of making the BA 100?
Matt Eddy: LHP Jesus Luzardo, LHP A.J. Puk and C Sean Murphy are already included in the Top 100, and I think a case can be made for OF Kyler Murray joining the list in 2019 — if he chooses baseball.
Eric (San Francisco):
- Between Will Allen and Richie Martin, who are you higher on, both with the bat and the glove?
Matt Eddy: I would side with SS Richie Martin on both counts. He finished just outside the top 10 of this ranking, but we consistently heard 60 field and 60 arm, with the arm being a separator for him versus SS Nick Allen. However, Allen’s consistency in the Midwest League at such a young age was remarkable and he could surpass Martin eventually. As a 19-year-old he led all MWL shortstops in assists and fielding percentage and showed an innate feel fro the position and an accurate arm.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):
- Framing is a catcher’s skill that seems to be ever more discussed. Do we have any info on Sean Murphy’s framing ability?
Matt Eddy: I asked, but the A’s sources I contacted wouldn’t comment beyond saying he is consistent year over year. But rest assured, all major league organizations have their own proprietary metrics to measure things like framing ability and defensive range.
Tracy O. (San Pablo, CA):
- Stockton Outfielder Greg Deichmann struggled with Injuries this past season. Does he remain the top Left handed power hitter in the system?
Matt Eddy: Oh yeah. Catch the right source and you’ll hear whispers of 70 raw power for OF Greg Deichmann. I toyed with the idea of ranking him in the top 10. It’s just that with his lost year, virtually zero scouts saw him good. One would have to lean on 2017 and earlier intel to justify such an aggressive ranking. But that could end up being the right call if Deichmann roars back to life in 2019.
- If I’m looking for a strong contact/high OBP guy in this system, who stands out?
Matt Eddy: The A’s actually have a large number of potential table-setters. You might rule out a few based on their SO and BB rates, but the best candidate is probably Double-A 2B Eli White. Or OF Jameson Hannah could be that guy. OF Luis Barrera also is a line-drive hitter who is finding his footing as a hitter. 2B Marcos Brito is light years from the majors but displays the attributes you desire. 3B Jordan Diaz showed promising hitting ability in the Arizona League at a young age. SS Kevin Merrell certainly has the speed the bat toward the top of the order if his bat comes around. One non-traditional candidate could be 1B Alfonso Rivas, a fourth-rounder this year, who might have the best hitting approach and prettiest swing in the system.
Billy Chapel (Detroit):
- At what point in the season do you expect A.J. Puk to begin throwing in games? If he comes back and proves to be healthy who would you say has a higher ceiling between him and Luzardo?
Matt Eddy: If I had to bet, I would side with the A’s taking Puk’s rehab and return slowly in 2019. They have more to gain by playing it cautiously and making sure he’s at full strength and also ready to pitch in September and October if they make another playoff run. The first point about being 100 percent healthy is key in light of setbacks for James Kaprielian and Daulton Jefferies in 2018. With a 70 fastball and 70 slider, Puk could very well have the higher ceiling and a more traditional arsenal for an ace in today’s game. Were both healthy, Puk probably would have ranked No. 1, and I did consider such a ranking.
- I’ve heard Chad Pinder as a comp for Eli White. Would you agree with that?
Matt Eddy: I don’t think White hits the ball as hard as consistently as Pinder, but in terms of position versatility they are similar.
Greg (Glendale, CA):
- After 300 AB’s in HiA at age 25, can an argument be made that Dairon Blanco projects as a big league regular?
Matt Eddy: OF Dairon Blanco signed out of Cuba in late 2017 and was conservatively assigned to the Cal League at age 24 this season. He struggled initially but adapted to the speed of the game after a two-year layoff. Blanco was MVP of the Cal League all-star game and had begun to progress offensively at the time of his season-ending injury in early July. Because he is the fastest player in the system with some offensive potential, he certainly could be projected to the major leagues, possibly as a starter. But it’s too early to say definitively.
Mel Kiper jr. (ESPN Studios):
- Hindsight is 20/20 in the Draft but shouldn’t the A’s have taken Keston Hiura instead of Austin Beck and Nolan Gorman instead of Kyler Murray? The A’s had worked out both Hiura and Gorman at the Oakland Coliseum the weekend before the draft.
Matt Eddy: Interesting thought exercise. I don’t know what factors disqualified those players from being selected, so it’s hard for me to say. Perhaps the A’s thought they could get more for their money by drafting Beck and Murray and having more cash to spend elsewhere in the draft?
Barry (San Francisco):
- I’m sure the elephant in the room is in your honest opinion, do you think that Kyler Murray ends up playing baseball or is the chance of winning a heisman, getting drafted, and being a starting qb in the NFL to much to pass up? Not to mention in baseball he will be riding buses in short season ball most likely, in the NFL he will be in coach from day one.
Matt Eddy: This is a tricky question. I believe Murray will choose baseball because, despite the drawbacks to baseball you cite, he is more of a prototypical pro prospect in that sport. But you’re right that it would only take one NFL team to draft him high and commit to him as QB.
- Murray has not committed to baseball long term? I thought it was a foregone conclusion after this year he was quitting football? Was that not the case or has his great gridiron season possibly swayed his thinking?
Matt Eddy: Murray (and Scott Boras) negotiated with the A’s a minor league contract clause that excuses Murray from baseball (including instructional league, etc.) for the 2018-19 college football season. But there is nothing in the agreement that prevents him from continuing to play football, either collegiately or professionally, if he’s willing to leave money on the table. The A’s have not confirmed, but we have heard from multiple industry sources that Murray’s $4.66 million bonus is split in two installments (which is typical for draft picks), such that he received $1.5 million when he signed and can collect the balance if he reports to spring training.
Jacob (Bay Area):
- If Murray chooses football, will Oakland get a compensation pick?
Matt Eddy: Negative. Only unsigned draft picks can yield a compensatory pick in next year’s draft. And Murray most definitely signed.
Mitchell W. (Fresno, Calif):
- Can someone remind Jorge Mateo that you CAN’T steal First Base? Will he ever change his tendency to be a Hacker at home plate? Such a shame to waste that speed of his.
Matt Eddy: A legitimate concern, and one of three questions expressing more or less the same opinion.
Rule 5 forecaster (Sacramento, CA):
- Safe to say James Kaprelian and Richie Martin will be added to the 40-Man roster, but how about Skye Bolt? He is on the fence for me. Ditto with Grant Holmes and his Shoulder injury.
Matt Eddy: Hey Forecaster, I agree with you that RHP James Kaprielian and SS Richie Martin are obvious additions. I think the positives outweigh the negatives for RHP Grant Holmes (swing-and-miss stuff, proximity), especially with the DL loopholes available to teams in the R5 draft, i.e. a drafting team would need to keep him on the active roster for just 90 days, and the he could receive more minor league time while on “rehab.” An injured player with a ceiling can be attractive in the R5. The tougher yes/no 40-man questions surround OFs Skye Bolt and Luis Barrera and also C Jonah Heim. I would be surprised if all three got added.
Tristan (New Orleans, LA):
- Sheldon Neuse struck out 172 times yet only hit 5 home runs? That’s too many strike outs for a non-power hitter. Amazingly, he still managed to put up a .263 batting average. Where is his Future with Matt Chapman presenting a 5-year Road Block at 3rd Base?
Matt Eddy: For scouts who liked Neuse, the selling point was how rapidly he adapted not only to Triple-A but how he recovered from falling flat on his face there. A lack of a carrying tool is certainly a concern, but all of the options to round out the A’s top 10 ranking were imperfect.
- Obviously the A’s didn’t know he’d go out and win the Heisman but what is the level of concern within the organization that Murray won’t ever play baseball again?
Matt Eddy: The sense I got was that they are cautiously optimistic he will choose baseball, but I don’t think anybody views it as a foregone conclusion.
Kyle (Detroit, MI):
- What is Parker Dunshee’s upside/floor?
Matt Eddy: RHP Parker Dunshee doesn’t have huge stuff, but he locates an 88-90 mph fastball and can elevate for swinging strikes thanks to a high spin rate. He keeps hitters off balance with a wide array of secondaries. Some comps of interest were Dan Straily and David Phelps, so you can get a sense of what role he could fill if he reaches his ceiling. Obviously, it’s more difficult to dominate in the majors without a true out pitch than it is in the minors.
- Skye Bolt put together a good season after a slow start. What do you hear about him?
Matt Eddy: Bolt has always *looked* the part, so that seems to have led to some frustration early in his career when he didn’t meet expectations of production. He started to turn some of those tools into skills in 2018 and offers several interesting attributes as a switch-hitting center fielder who has shown power and speed. Scouts who like him could project him to 50s or better across the board, though it seems like the largest reservation would be his ability to hit for average.
- What are the ceilings for Parker Dunshee and Brian Howard? 6th/swing starters or is there more there?
Matt Eddy: In general, I think swingman is probably the most common projection. Neither has the type of “wow” stuff to light up a scouting report, but they do have good feel to pitch and now some track record of success in pro ball.
- Hi Matt, thanks for the chat! Can some of Beck’s early season woes be attributed to the weather? It seems nobody hits in the MWL in the spring. Am I just a homer for still thinking he has star potential?
Matt Eddy: Don’t give up hope. It’s way too early in Beck’s career to say with certainty how he will develop. Organizations are so sophisticated these days at marrying players’ exit velocity with an optimal launch angle, and Oakland will be intensely interested in developing Beck given his draft status. And of course, the old adage states that power is the last tool to develop, especially if the young hitter can actually hit. But you’re right that Beck did his best work later in the MWL season.
Matt Eddy: Thanks for all the great questions. Find me on Twitter at @MattEddyBA if you have any other questions.