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The Athletics were long enamored of Barreto. They scouted him at age 14 when he starred for Venezuela in the Pan Am Games. They and other teams regarded him as the top international prospect in 2012, and he signed with the Blue Jays for $1.45 million. When the A's decided to move Josh Donaldson in the winter of 2014, they targeted Barreto as part of the exchange they sought from Toronto. Two years later, the Blue Jays have made consecutive trips to the playoffs with 2015 MVP Donaldson, while Barreto remains the key part of the deal for Oakland. Sean Nolin and Brett Lawrie have moved on, while Kendall Graveman led the big league club in innings and wins in 2016. The second-youngest player in the Texas League on Opening Day, Barreto ranked sixth in the TL in batting (.281) and third and steals (30), then finished the season at Triple-A Nashville, which included an 8-for-19 showing in the Pacific Coast League playoffs. Barreto began the season slowly and turned things around in the second half. Scouts said he felt pressure to move quickly and wanted to get off to a good start, so he swung too often at pitches outside the zone. After expanding the strike zone too much in the first half, Barreto did a better job of controlling the zone and turning on pitches he can drive. A line-drive hitter with a low-maintenance swing, he has no problem catching up to high velocity. He has above-average bat speed, but his power projection might be limited because of his up-the-middle approach. His swing seems more geared for doubles and triples, though he can ride the ball out if he catches it right. Just 20, Barreto has already begun to thicken through his trunk and legs, and while he's still a plus runner, he was a burner when he signed. He matured quickly, which accounts for some strength gains, though he retains his quick-twitch ability. At shortstop, Barreto is an average defender. His arm grades as average, with some evaluators expressing concern about the firmness and accuracy of his throws from the left side. At second base, he is an above-average defender, with the shorter throw less of a concern. He also played center field in winter ball in the Venezuelan League in 2015, though he played shortstop and second base in the 2016 Arizona Fall League. His baseball instincts receive high marks. The A's have the luxury of a shortstop surplus. Major leaguer Marcus Semien is just 25 but has faced defensive challenges; Chad Pinder is a better defender than Barreto; Yairo Munoz is toolsy and fits at third base; and 2015 first-rounder Richie Martin has the best glove of the bunch. While center field remains an option, second base is Barreto's most likely short-term path to Oakland, with injury-prone incumbent Jed Lowrie entering the final season of his contract in 2017. Wherever Barreto ends up defensively, it's his bat that will do the heavy lifting. He will begin the 2017 season back at Triple-A, but he probably will make his big league debut at some point during the season.
Puk ranked No. 85 on the BA 500 out of an Iowa high school, but the Florida commit wasn't drafted until the 35th round by the Tigers. He ranked second in Division I as a sophomore with 12 strikeouts per nine innings and entered 2016 as the No. 1 prospect for the draft but dropped to the Athletics with the No. 6 pick after an inconsistent spring. Puk's $4,069,200 bonus is the largest for a draft pick in Oakland history. Puk leverages his size to get great extension on all of his pitches. His fastball touched 98 mph in 2016 with great downhill angle. Puk's long levers and relative lack of athleticism make it difficult at times for him to keep his torso over his front side consistently, and his inability to repeat his delivery gives him below-average command. A head-whack finish further complicates his delivery. A's coaches moved him to the first-base side of the rubber to help square him to the plate. Puk threw his changeup more often in his pro debut at short-season Vermont, but his slider lacked the bite and feel of its plus reputation in college. When he throws online to the plate, Puk is difficult to square up and shows a ceiling of a front-end starter, but he must become more efficient with his pitches and more consistent with his command. At worst, he could become a dominating high-leverage reliever.
A knee injury and then a wrist injury that eventually necessitated surgery truncated Chapman's first full season. But fully healthy in 2016, he blasted 36 homers at Double-A Midland and Triple-A Nashville, ranking third overall in the minors. In 2015, Chapman reworked his swing with high Class A Stockton hitting coach Brian McArn to tap into his power, and it has worked, with 59 homers the last two seasons. Chapman was more of a gap-to-gap hitter in college, but he has moved his hands back a little and found a consistent spot to start and trigger his swing. He has above-average raw power and can drive the ball out to all fields. His swing retains some rigidity and length, so he'll strike out a lot and is a below-average hitter. He has solid average pitch recognition and draws walks. Chapman showcases at least 70 arm strength with carry on the 20-80 scouting scale. He projects to be a plus defender at third base. While the A's have other third-base options such as Healy and Renato Nunez, Chapman is the best defender of the group. He likely will return to Triple-A Nashville to start 2017, but once ready he should push Healy off the hot corner in Oakland.
The Virgin Islands native played high school baseball in Virginia, then played at Miami-Dade JC. He spurned the Mets in 2011 as a 28th-rounder before signing as a 20th-rounder with the Dodgers after a year at East Carolina. Oakland acquired him (with righthanders Frankie Montas and Grant Holmes) on Aug. 1 while dealing Rich Hill and Josh Reddick to the Dodgers. Cotton led the Pacific Coast League with 155 strikeouts, a 1.08 WHIP and .214 opponent average. Cotton's best weapon is his double-plus 77 mph changeup, which has screwball action. His command of his fastball improved in 2016, and the 92-93 mph pitch can touch 96. He also throws two-seamers and cutters that give hitters different looks, and they all come out of the same release point. His delivery is not something pitching coaches would teach, but it works for him, and his athleticism belies his 5-foot-11 frame. Cotton mixes in a slider and curveball. Having succeeded as a September callup, Cotton will open spring training with a tentative spot in the big league rotation. He projects as a back-end starter if not a bit more.
Originally signed by the Red Sox, Montas has been traded three times, twice since last December. He went from the White Sox to the Dodgers after the 2015 season as part of the three-team trade involving Todd Frazier and Trayce Thompson, then joined Oakland as part of the return for lefthander Rich Hill and outfielder Josh Reddick. A broken rib that followed offseason rib surgery curtailed Montas in 2016. Evaluators of any stripe come away impressed with Montas' easy velocity. He hit triple digits in the Arizona Fall League in 2016 and paired that with a power slider at 90 mph with good depth that projects as an above-average pitch. He uses his changeup sparingly, but evaluators believe it eventually could be an average pitch, and the A's are pushing him to throw it more. Montas is thick but surprisingly athletic for his size, and his mound presence and poise grade as plus. The A's will continue using Montas in the rotation, and 86 of his 106 pro appearances have been as a starter. His physicality, velocity and pitch mix could still succeed in the rotation if his control improves, but his career walk rate of 3.8 per nine innings and spotty fastball command could push him to a relief role as soon as 2017.
The highest-drafted prep righthander ever from South Carolina--22nd overall--Holmes was drafted three spots ahead Matt Chapman, Oakland's first pick in 2014. The A's acquired Holmes from the Dodgers in the five-player deal that also yielded Jharel Cotton and Frankie Montas. Holmes pitched effectively early at high Class A Rancho Cucamonga, but after the trade he struggled with Stockton as he surpassed his previous career high for innings. Holmes has a power arm with a riding 92-95 mph fastball with tremendous sink that produces a well above-average groundball rate. His power curve at 80-83 mph gives him a strikeout pitch, and he can cut his fastball as well. His changeup has its moments and has a chance to be average but lefthanded hitters took advantage of its inconsistency, hitting .303 against him. Holmes is an above-average athlete but at times lands stiffly on his front leg and also has timing issues separating his hands and getting his arm in sync with the rest of his body. Holmes' delivery issues are correctable, and at 20 he was one of the youngest players in the California League. The A's may slow him down a bit and have him repeat high Class A in 2017, though his ceiling remains mid-rotation starter.
Pinder comes from a baseball family. His father played at Virginia Commonwealth and his younger brother Chase plays at Clemson. The Athletics have challenged Pinder since they drafted him 71st overall in 2013. They asked the former Virginia Tech third baseman to play second base in 2014, then shortstop in 2015 following the trades of Addison Russell and Daniel Robertson. Pinder held his own with each position switch and even won the Texas League MVP award at Double-A Midland in 2015. He started slowly at Triple-A Nashville in 2016, then rallied to make his major league debut. Pinder has fluid actions and an above-average arm that make him capable at shortstop and an asset at second or third base. His versatility is a major plus. At the plate, Pinder is an intelligent hitter with a solid plan, though his approach can be too aggressive for the Athletics' liking. He has a quick bat with average power and average feel to hit, and evaluators project he could hit 15-20 homers at his peak. He's a tick below-average runner. Pinder's defensive versatility and power potential make him a utility option in the big leagues for 2017. To be a regular, he'll have to win a battle with Joey Wendle and Jed Lowrie at second base.
A 16th-round pick out of a South Carolina high school in 2011, Gossett had high expectations at Clemson and mostly lived up to them--he went 23-9, 2.80--working with two big breaking balls and a fastball. Once the Athletics took him in the second round in 2014, they helped him develop a true slider and sharpened his curveball Gossett thrives with a four-pitch mix delivered with a short arm action and simplified delivery. His 90-95 mph fastball with glove-side run ticked up in 2016, and he locates down and away better. His soft-contact and strikeout rates improved while his walk rate stayed in line with career norms. He has worked with A's coaches to hone his slider, which has become a hard cutter, an 88-89 mph pitch that at times breaks straight down. His changeup drew the most swings and misses of any of his pitches, and he also mixes in a curveball. He earns high marks for his dedication, hard work and coachability. Gossett is on the fast track but should start 2017 back at Triple-A Nashville. Even with the infusion of pitching talent into the organization in 2016, Gossett ranks among the organization's best arms and could make his big league debut in 2017.
Martin became the fourth of the record five college shortstops selected in the first round of the 2015 draft, and signed after helping Florida reach the College World Series that year. He's young for his draft class and played his first full season at age 21 in 2016, when he returned from a spring training injury that required surgery to repair a torn meniscus his left knee. Martin impressed the Athletics with his dedication and work in continuing to try and improve his all-around game. His range and quickness are quality traits, and his above-average arm is adequate for shortstop. He's athletic but not unnecessarily flashy at shortstop, with solid actions and mechanics and excellent footwork. Offensively, Martin has work to do, but the A's like his swing plane and bat speed. He has bat-to-ball skills, decent plate discipline and strength but hits for below-average power. He's an above-average runner even after the knee issue. Martin is part of a shortstop surplus for the A's, but he should be the best defender of a group that includes Franklin Barreto, Yairo Munoz and Chad Pinder. He likely will start 2017 back at Double-A Midland, and if his bat develops, he eventually could push Marcus Semien down the defensive spectrum.
When the A's took him with the 62nd overall pick in 2012, Maxwell became the highest-drafted Division III player since Jason Hirsh in 2003. Primarily a first baseman in college, Maxwell embraced catching as a pro with his characteristic enthusiasm. His improvement behind the plate prompted Oakland to call him up in July when Stephen Vogt took family medical leave. He stuck on the big league roster the rest of the season. Maxwell has an above-average throwing arm, with improved accuracy, and pitchers praise his framing skills. He threw out 39 percent of basestealers at Triple-A Nashville in 2016, though he went 0-for-8 in the majors. Maxwell has soft hands and does a good job keeping pitches in front of him--a vast improvement from 2012, when he had 18 passed balls in 38 games. At the plate, Maxwell has plenty of strength, and his lefthanded swing takes a good plane through the zone. He has enough bat speed and selectivity, and he started to produce solid power numbers in 2016. He's a below-average, base-clogging runner. Vogt has been a fine bat-first catcher at a low price for Oakland, and Maxwell could at least compete with Josh Phegley as the big league backup. He's the most likely in-house replacement option for Vogt.
Armenteros, one of the best players in his age group at the time he left Cuba in the spring of 2015, signed for $3 million during the July 2 signing period. He played for Cuba's youth national team in August 2014 at the 15U World Cup, where he hit .462/.611/.962 with 10 walks and eight strikeouts in 36 plate appearances. Just 17, Armenteros has a strong, physical build with a combination of plus raw power and speed. One evaluator said Armenteros had the most gifted body of any 17-year-old he'd seen. But in brief looks in instructional league, Lazarito understandably looked raw and rusty. His swing had a tendency to get uphill, and he will have to develop an offensive approach. His arm, which was called plus prior to signing, was marked as just average by scouts who saw him in instructs, although that could be attributed to rust and poor mechanics. Armenteros is a long way off, but has at least average tools across the board. He is likely to start 2017 in extended spring training before starting his pro career in the Rookie-level Arizona League.
The Northern California native was the third pitcher in five years drafted out of Buhach Colony High in Atwater. But like Brett Mooneyham (Stanford) and Dylan Floro (Cal State Fullerton), Jefferies went to college before going pro. He was expected to be one of the first pitchers off the board in the 2016 draft, but a shoulder injury sidelined him for eight weeks and pushed him down the board and to the A's at No. 37 overall. Not particularly big, Jefferies carries durability questions as he missed time as a sophomore as well. But he is a superb athlete with a quick arm and a plus changeup that bottoms out. At its best, it earns 70 grades. His fastball sits at 90-92 with good location, has touched 96 mph in the past, and he has a knack for the bottom of the strike zone. Scouts said his slider was below average at times and looks more like a cutter than slider. Jefferies draws comparisons from Jeremy Hellickson to Sonny Gray. If he stays healthy, he'll zoom through the system and could be an impact starter, but his durability track record is a major red flag.
Shore was drafted in the 29th round in 2013 by the Twins out of high school, but instead went to Florida where he teamed with now organization-mate A.J. Puk. Shore was the more consistent pitcher at Florida than Puk, leading the Gators to two College World Series appearances in 2015 and '16. Shore has a changeup that grades as a plus pitch, with the rest of his stuff average across the board to go with potentially above-average command. In college Shore lived off his changeup and four-seamer, though he's not a power pitcher, generally sitting around 90 mph with his fastball. He does a great job locating the four-seamer and the A's are confident he will throw harder with more consistent fastball use. He showed a tight cutter at 84 mph, but his slider was below average and is the pitch the A's will work on with him most. Shore is described as studious, perhaps too much so as he tried to incorporate all he was taught rather than just trust his stuff and throw. His ceiling is as a back-of-the-rotation option who could move quickly, and he should pitch in the high Class A California League in 2017.
Munoz signed for $280,000 in January 2012 and made his full-season debut in 2015. While he hit into 26 double plays that year, he also hit 13 homers and finished with a flourish in high Class A. The Athletics aggressively pushed him to Double-A Midland in 2016 at age 21, even after he spent time on the shelf with heel and foot issues in spring training, delaying his regular-season debut in late April. Munoz split time between shortstop, third base and second base at Midland in deference to both Franklin Barreto and Richie Martin, and he played third almost exclusively in the Arizona Fall League. His arm is a plus--among the best in the system--and he has good hands and range. His speed is average to a tick above, but his inconsistent focus and aptitude lead to sloppy play defensively and keep his speed from playing consistently on the bases. Munoz's pitch recognition and plate approach are subpar and short-circuit his average raw power. Scouts can dream on his tools, and because he was one of the youngest players in the Texas League, he could repeat that level in 2017.
As a freshman at Mercer County (N.J.) JC, Fillmyer played shortstop and pitched just 7.2 innings, but that was enough to entice the Rockies to draft him in the 28th round as a pitcher. He passed on signing and decided to return to school and took the hint, moving to the mound full-time. He went 9-0, 0.68, drawing the attention of A's area scout Ron Vaughn and signing for $305,000 after being drafted in the fifth round in 2014. Fillmyer got knocked around in 2015, but in 2016 he put stuff and results together. The athletic righthander showed a much-improved changeup that now projects above average and improved command overall. His fastball is still an above-average pitch, working in the 92-96 mph range with good sink. Fillmyer has a much cleaner delivery with improved timing and tightened up the spin on his curveball, which projects as an average pitch. Fillmyer is solidly built and a good athlete on the mound. He missed the season's final week and Double-A Midland's playoff run because he had pitched a career-high 134 innings, which Oakland believed was enough. He should begin 2017 back at Double-A, with a promotion to Triple-A possible if he continues to progress.
Chalmers was the top prep pitcher in Georgia in the 2015 draft and fell to the A's in third round. They pounced and gave him $1.2 million--twice the slot amount--and Chalmers rejected a Georgia scholarship to go pro. He opened the year in extended spring training before joining 2016 first-rounder A.J. Puk and supplemental pick Logan Shore in short-season Vermont's rotation. Chalmers can throw his 92-94 mph fastball for strikes and needs to improve the consistency of his changeup and curveball. He got 40 percent swings-and-misses on his 1-to-7 curveball but was landing it for strikes just half the time. The A's believe repetition will sharpen it up. His changeup, while too firm at times, flashes above-average with good arm speed and downward action. Chalmers has some moving parts in his delivery, such as a head whack, that complicate his ability to stay on line to home plate. His back knee also tends to collapse, and the A's will try to improve his tempo. Chalmers just turned 20 in October, so the A's won't rush him. He is likely to start 2017 in low Class A Beloit.
The Athletics went heavy with high schoolers in 2012, drafting Addison Russell, Daniel Robertson and Olson, but only Olson remains in the organization. He made his big league debut in 2016 and is a classic Moneyball-era A's player, with plus raw power and a penchant for drawing walks to go with plenty of strikeouts. Still just 22, Olson has hit 34 home runs the last two seasons after ripping 37 in the high Class A California League in 2014, and his walk rate has diminished at upper levels while his strikeout rate has risen. A below-average hitter, he's been compared to the Orioles' Chris Davis for his power and patience, though he tends to do most of his damage to the pull side. Olson hit just .167 against lefthanders with only one homer and looks like a platoon player at this point. That said, Olson has excellent pitch recognition skills and is patient, almost to a fault. An above-average first baseman, Olson played the majority of his games in right field due to Oakland's surplus of corner infielders and is an average outfielder.
Nunez reached the majors in 2016, six years after being signed for $2.2 million. This is his seventh Prospect Handbook appearance, but he regressed overall on the season and faces a crossroads in his career. After a strong year at Double-A in which he cut his strikeout rate, Nunez struggled at Triple-A, in part because of a .249 average on balls in play. Still, Nunez has plus raw power, although it's mostly to his pull side, and has impact strength in his bat. But he's a below-average hitter, doesn't hit the ball to the middle or opposite field and doesn't make consistent contact. He's a below-average fielder at third base and moved to left field at Triple-A Nashville when Matt Chapman, a vastly superior defender, joined the roster. Meanwhile, Ryon Healy leapfrogged him to the big leagues. Nunez spent some time at first base in Double-A, and first and left may be his best and only paths to big league time in 2017.
Acquired along with Josh Reddick from the Red Sox in 2011 for Andrew Bailey, Alcantara was on a fast track before Tommy John surgery cost him virtually all of 2014. The A's were careful with him in 2015, not allowing him to throw his slider. He was back to full health in 2016 with a full arsenal, and finished the year in the majors. Alcantara has never had trouble throwing strikes and has above-average control of a four-pitch mix. After struggling at Double-A Midland, Alcantara broke through at Triple-A Nashville, flashing 97 mph with his fastball while sitting 92-94 and showing a changeup with above-average potential. The slider was back and firm, in the upper 80s, with bottom to it at its best. He mixes in a rare curveball as well. Still, none of his pitches consistently misses bats, and opponents hit .277 against him overall on the year. Consistency of his offspeed stuff will be the key for Alcantara, who was hit hard in five starts in the majors, allowing nine homers in just 22.1 innings. He logged a career-high 158 innings, showing he's back to full strength, and will compete for a rotation spot in 2017.
Murphy was not drafted out of high school in Ohio--he was just 5-foot-9, 145 pounds as a junior--and got just one scholarship offer, from Wright State. He went on to be a two-time All-Horizon League selection, and three years and 70 pounds later, he was the highest-drafted Raiders player since Keith Gordon in 1990. Murphy had the strongest arm of the catchers in the 2016 class, with scouts pegging it as a 70 on the 20-80 scale. Despite his size, Murphy has above-average athleticism, moving well side-to-side and displaying good footwork. He is physical and durable, presents a quiet target and he blocks balls well. At the plate Murphy has average power potential due to solid bat speed and strength, but his offense lags behind his glove right now. He broke the hamate bone in his left hand while in college and contracted MRSA during the summer, which cost him about six weeks. Murphy needs more reps behind the plate and at the plate, but could move quickly for a catcher due to his advanced defense. He might skip to high Class A Stockton if the Athletics want to push him.
Wendle signed for $10,000 as a sixth-round, senior sign after leading West Chester (Pa.) to its first-ever Division II national championship in 2012. Acquired from the Indians in December 2014 for Brandon Moss, Wendle hit hit .333/.376/.545 post-all-star break at Triple-A Nashville in 2016 and earned his first big league callup at the end of August, quickly becoming a favorite of Athletics manager Bob Melvin. Wendle's bat remains his best asset, though his walk and strikeout rates went backward at Triple-A. He has a short, compact swing and an advanced feel for hitting. He uses the whole field and makes good contact. He's an average defender and limited to second base, but does turn the pivot well and graded as an above-average defender at second during his small sample in the majors. Wendle worked with Triple-A Nashville manager Steve Scarsone and coach Eric Martins every day in 2016 to become a better fielder. He has average speed, but savvy on the bases allowed him to steal 16 bases in 20 tries last season, just below his 80 percent career success rate. Wendle started at second base for the A's for most of the final month of the 2016 season and will look to solidify the job in 2017 as a grinder who can do a little bit of everything.
A highly-touted recruit, Schrock struggled with injuries at South Carolina but still had a .392 career on-base percentage when the Nationals drafted him in the 13th round in 2015. The Athletics acquired Schrock in July 2016 for lefthanded reliever Marc Rzepczynski. In many ways, Schrock is similar to Joey Wendle, another bat-first A's second baseman who worked his way to the majors in 2016. Schrock has a simple swing, with good bat speed and a feel for the strike zone. His pro and amateur track records are short on strikeouts and he uses the whole field with some power, with double-digit home runs not out of the question. Schrock led the minors with 177 hits in 2016, and used his average speed and sharp instincts to steal 22 bases as well. He continued to perform in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .278 with five doubles in 13 games. An offense-first player, Schrock is adequate at second base with a below-average arm, but his hands are solid and he turns the pivot well on double plays. He should start 2017 back at Double-A Midland, where he finished the year, and could hit his way to Oakland soon.
The Cubs drafted Blackburn 56th overall out of high school in Brentwood, about 50 miles east of Oakland, and signed him away from an Arizona State commitment for $911,700. The Mariners acquired Blackburn with Dan Vogelbach at the 2016 trade deadline, and Seattle traded him to Oakland straight up for Danny Valencia that November. Blackburn's best offering is a plus upper-70s curveball he can land for a strike at any time, and he complements it with an average 90-93 mph fastball he commands well in the bottom half of the zone. Blackburn has induced more than 60 percent more groundouts than airouts in his career, a testament to his command of his top two offerings. His 82-86 mph slider ranks behind his curveball and his changeup grades below-average, but he is able to mix and match them well off his other pitches. Blackburn importantly showed durability after two disabled list stints in 2015--one for a foot injury and one for forearm soreness--by throwing 143 innings during the 2016 regular season at Double-A followed by two six-inning starts in the Southern League playoffs, including a win in the clinching game of the championship series. He will begin 2017 at Triple-A and could rise to Oakland as a groundball-oriented long man or spot starter.
Brugman was the Mountain West Conference's freshman of the year in 2011 and a two-time all-conference pick. In his fourth year in the system, Brugman reached Triple-A and is poised to contribute to the big club next season after being added to the 40-man roster. Brugman is a well-rounded, fundamentally sound player and an organization favorite. He has a smooth, compact lefthanded swing with average power, most of it to the pull side. He profiles as an average hitter with gap power, and he draws enough walks to hit toward the top of a lineup. He's a solid-average outfielder who positions himself well, which overcomes his average foot speed. His arm is average but accurate. He profiles as a fourth outfielder, one who can play all three spots.
Tovar was an under-the-radar signing from Venezuela in 2014 and made the transition to the U.S. after just one year in the Dominican Summer League, but his season started late because of a 25-game suspension for an undisclosed violation of the joint drug agreement. Tovar is slight but has a quick arm and can get his fastball up to 95 mph with late movement. He is aggressive in the strike zone, with a hard, power sinker. That helped him generate a robust groundball rate, and opponents slugged just .309 against him with no home runs in the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2016. His breaking ball is improving and his changeup is a work in progress but flashed above-average at times with good arm speed. Tovar doesn't miss many bats because he lacks separation on his pitches, but he does draw weak contact. He has a clean arm action and an easy delivery from the windup, but pitches with noticeably more effort with men on base. Tovar is likely to return to extended spring training with an assignment to short-season Vermont to follow.
Injuries have set back Wahl, Mississippi's former Friday starter. He dealt with an oblique issue in 2014, and even after the Athletics moved him to the bullpen, he felt numbness in his right arm that turned out to be a nerve impingement in his elbow. That necessitated surgery in 2015. But 2016 was Wahl's healthiest and most consistent season. He tamped down his walk percentage--at least until he got to Triple-A--and his opponent average was a career-best .194. Wahl's big pitch is his fastball, which touched 100 mph in 2016. His curveball is his best secondary pitch and shows some bite, but is not consistent and doesn't get many swings and misses. He also throws a sparingly-used changeup. Wahl's problem, beside injuries and lack of command, is he tends to pitch up in the zone, and even with his velocity he can be hit. He needs to get his fastball down in the zone and sharpen his curveball so that he can get batters to chase. But as one evaluator said, "100 is 100," so Wahl could earn a big league bullpen role as soon as 2017.
An Indiana commit, Szynski jumped up draft boards with a strong showing on the showcase circuit in 2016. The Athletics liked him enough to give him a $1 million signing bonus, about double the recommended slot of the 112th overall pick. He was one of just three high school players in Oakland's 2016 draft class. Szynski's pro debut didn't go as planned, however. In his first Rookie-level Arizona League start he got one out and gave up four runs, as the Brewers put up a 15 runs in the first inning. Overall he gave up at least one run in five of his seven outings, despite pitching more than two innings only once. Szynski has a quick arm and generates 92-93 mph velocity on his fastball that touches 95. Despite his rough debut, evaluators said his fastball, curveball and changeup all flashed above-average with solid-average command of all three. The Athletics made small tweaks to his delivery, which had some effort to it. Szynski has three pitches to start and a solid pitcher's body, and he'll likely report to extended spring training before heading to short-season Vermont in 2017.
Vargas, the No. 24 prospect in the 2016 international class, signed for $1.5 million, one of a handful of A's high-profile July 2 signings. Just 16, Vargas has a strong build already and quick bat speed. He cranks his back elbow and wraps his bat when he loads, creating a loop with some length and uppercut in his swing, leaving him especially vulnerable when he lunges and gets caught out front. Some scouts believed he was one of the better defensive shortstops in the class, with smooth hands and footwork to go with a strong, accurate arm. He is a quick-twitch athlete and projects to add size and strength as he matures, so the Athletics aren't sure where he'll end up on the defensive spectrum. Vargas is aggressive at the plate and had trouble recognizing pitches in the instructional league, which is not uncommon for international signees getting their first taste of organized ball. He has a high ceiling but is very far from reaching it, likely heading to the Dominican Summer League to make his pro debut in 2017.
One of the top college arms in the 2013 draft, Overton had Tommy John surgery after the Athletics drafted him. Three years later, his pre-surgery velocity has not returned, but Overton has adapted to his 86-91 mph fastball. He locates his fastball, average changeup and fringe-average curveball well. He also added a cutter, but needs to pitch inside more often to righthanders. He tends to stay away with his pitches. Scouts say Overton will need to learn to come in to miss the strike zone, and then go back away to entice batters to chase. He is a flyball pitcher who gave up just six homers en route to ranking fifth in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in ERA, but righthanded batters pounded him in his brief major league stint (.422/.455/.800) as he gave up 12 home runs in two stints lasting 24.1 innings. Overton's big league debut included the worst ERA in 20 or more innings by a big league rookie since 1994. He must adjust and make batters uncomfortable by pitching inside to fulfill his ceiling as a back-end starter.
Naile missed his sophomore season at Alabama-Birmingham after having Tommy John surgery in 2013, but Oakland selected him in the 20th round in 2015 after he led Conference USA in innings pitched (110) and strikeouts (92). Naile overcomes his fringe-average stuff with plus makeup and a bulldog mentality and that helped him pitch at four levels in 2016, reaching Triple-A. He tossed six scoreless innings in Game Five of the Double-A Texas League finals to pitch Midland to the title, getting 12 groundball outs with no flyouts, as is his modus operandi. Naile locates his 86-90 mph fastball well, commanding the bottom of the zone to generate an extreme groundball rate. His fastball has excellent sink and late run, and he mixes in a cutter on occasion. His slider is average at 79-83 and he has some feel for the changeup, but it's firm at 85-87. He's an excellent defender, winning a minor league gold glove, and has a strong pickoff move. Naile, who led the organization's minor leaguers with 156.2 regular-season innings, should start 2017 back at Midland.
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