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TRACK RECORD: Born in Peru to Venezuelan parents, Luzardo will become the first ever Peruvian-born major leaguer when he debuts. The quality of his stuff ensures that he will be remembered as more than the answer to a trivia question. Luzardo moved with his family to Florida when he was 1 year old and went on to attend Stoneman Douglas High, the BA High School Team of the Year in 2016, his senior season. Luzardo was sidelined for much of that season after having Tommy John surgery in March. He still ranked as the No. 50 prospect for the 2016 draft, when the Nationals selected him in the third round. When Luzardo returned to the mound in 2017, he made just three appearances in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League before Washington traded him to the Athletics in a deal for relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. Oakland also picked up future closer Blake Treinen and prospect Sheldon Neuse in the deal. Luzardo emerged as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball in 2018, when he earned an Opening Day assignment to high Class A Stockton, despite having just 12 appearances in short-season ball, then quickly advanced to Double-A Midland and spent August at Triple-A Nashville.
SCOUTING REPORT: Few pitching prospects combine feel for three plus or better pitches with plus control like Luzardo. He dots both sides of the plate at 92-93 mph and tops out at 97 when he smells a strikeout. His plus fastball is true but features late hop and appears to jump at batters thanks to a high spin rate. That contributes to numerous swinging strikes up in the zone. Luzardo’s mid-80s changeup is one of the best in the minors, and he isn’t afraid to throw the 70-grade pitch to same-side batters or throw it twice in a row. The pitch fades and dives dramatically to his arm side, away from the barrel of righthanded hitters. Luzardo has made progress with his low-80s curveball since turning pro, to the point it usually plays above-average and flashes plus. He can land his 1-to-7 downer breaking ball for strikes or alter its shape as needed. A cohesive delivery helps Luzardo control his pitches and gives him a chance to develop plus command to go with a repertoire that missed bats at an elite rate in the minors in 2018.
THE FUTURE: The A’s expect Luzardo to factor in their big league rotation at some point in 2019, when he is on pace to complete his meteoric rise to the big leagues. He has No. 2 starter potential based on his pitch quality, polished command and confident, competitive mound presence.
TRACK RECORD: The Athletics pounced on Puk—the No. 1 prospect on the BA draft board in 2016—when the Florida lefthander fell to No. 6. Wild in college, he streamlined his delivery in 2017 and led all minor league starters with 13.2 strikeouts per nine innings while advancing to Double-A Midland. Puk pitched well at big league camp in 2018 but tore his ulnar collateral ligament and had Tommy John surgery in April.
SCOUTING REPORT: Puk opened spring training with 10 scoreless innings and would have factored in the 2018 rotation had he not missed the year. He touched 99 mph in Cactus League games and sat in the mid-90s with a double-plus fastball that batters struggle to square up. He has surrendered just three home runs in 158 pro innings because of the extreme downhill plane, incredible extension and unique angle he creates from his 6-foot-7 frame. Puk throws a vicious mid-80s slider with lateral movement that draws plus-plus grades from some scouts. He has gained confidence with his changeup since turning pro and sells the pitch with improved arm action and deception to the point it flashes fringe-average. He should be able to develop average control.
THE FUTURE: Puk generates swings and misses with all three of his pitches and profiles as a No. 2 starter, assuming he makes a full recovery from surgery.
TRACK RECORD: Murphy slipped to the Athletics in the third round in 2016 in part because he broke the hamate bone in his left wrist as a Wright State junior. He broke the hamate in his right hand in 2018, costing him a chance to play in the Future Game and interrupting what had been a standout campaign at Double-A Midland.
SCOUTING REPORT: Murphy is an exceptional defensive catcher who should hit enough to avoid being relegated to the bottom of the lineup. A high school growth spurt pushed him to 6-foot-3, but he retains the agility of a smaller man and the accompanying chip on his shoulder. Murphy shows at least plus raw power in batting practice and has the bat speed and strength to hit home runs, though he hasn’t completely synced his swing in games to the satisfaction of all scouts. He has hit for average in the minors thanks to above-average plate discipline and plate coverage and an all-fields approach. Runners don’t often test Murphy, whose double-plus arm and consistent sub-2 second pop times draw consistent praise. All he needs is improved throwing accuracy. He blocks and receives well but like most young catchers must add nuance to his game-calling and pitch presentation.
THE FUTURE: Murphy returned to action at the tail end of 2018 and then added offseason reps in the Dominican League. He will catch every day at Triple-A Las Vegas in 2019 until the A’s call him up to begin what should be a lengthy career as a first-division catcher.
TRACK RECORD: Murray vexed scouts in 2018 because he had major league potential in both baseball and football—with no clear indication which sport he preferred. The Athletics thought his upside in baseball outweighed the downside of losing him to the NFL, so they selected him ninth overall and signed him for a near-slot bonus of $4.66 million. The deal allowed Murray to play quarterback for Oklahoma in 2018, when he was a contender for the Heisman Trophy.
SCOUTING REPORT: Despite not playing baseball regularly since he was a high school junior, Murray showed remarkable ability on the diamond as a redshirt sophomore in 2018. More surprising was that it came on the heels of a lackluster 2017, both in Big 12 Conference and Cape Cod League play. He hit for power, recorded high-end exit velocities and showed surprising fluidity in center field. He is a premium athlete who could be a standout defensive center fielder with an at least average arm. He appeared to pace himself in college by not cutting loose on throws or on the bases, and scouts believe he has more in the tank, with a chance for plus power, plus speed and a plus glove.
THE FUTURE: Murray has not participated in baseball activities since signing but committed to attending A’s minicamp in February as he prepares for his first spring training. But because he has one year of college eligibility left on the gridiron, and because he could be drafted by an NFL team in April, the book is not entirely closed on football.
TRACK RECORD: A torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee cost Beck time on the showcase circuit as a rising high school senior, but it didn’t cost him in the draft. The Athletics drafted him sixth overall in 2017 as the first prep bat off the board. Because he had less track record with wood bats, Beck struggled at the outset of his pro career, but he led the low Class A Midwest League with 146 hits in 2018.
SCOUTING REPORT: With a more sound hitting approach and a bit more discipline, Beck could develop into a plus hitter with a strong defensive profile. A tendency to chase up in the zone, put early-count pitches in play and pop the ball up on the infield restricted his hit tool at Beloit, but still he hit .296 as a 19-year-old in a pitcher’s league. Beck shows above-average power in batting practice but hasn’t accessed it in games because his swing emphasizes line drives rather than loft. Strength and bat speed won’t be a barrier to unlocking his power. Beck is a plus runner who can go get the ball in center field with plus range and plus athleticism. He keeps runners honest with a plus arm.
THE FUTURE: If Beck develops power he could develop into an impact center fielder, but early in his pro career he is viewed by some scouts as a future second-division starter or extra outfielder. He can begin to alter perceptions with a big year in the high Class A California League in 2019.
TRACK RECORD: The Athletics were smitten by Armenteros when they scouted him at the 15U World Cup in 2015. They signed the 17-year-old Cuban outfielder a year later for $3 million, even knowing it would trigger penalties that would diminish their ability to sign international free agents during the 2017 and 2018 periods. Armenteros spent his first full season at low Class A Beloit in 2018, missing April while in extended spring training and most of June with a left quad strain.
SCOUTING REPORT: Armenteros’ double-plus raw power, selective batting eye and major league body attracted attention in the Midwest League. The A’s expect his game power to improve as he learns to stop chasing breaking balls and continues to adapt to U.S. culture. He could develop plus power and an average hit tool thanks to an all-fields hitting approach and knack for hard contact. Armenteros runs well for his size and has strong baserunning instincts, but he is limited to left field by a below-average arm and a body type that projects to slow down as he matures.
THE FUTURE: Armenteros must get to his power regularly to profile as a major league left fielder. He can begin addressing that at high Class A Stockton in 2019.
TRACK RECORD: Hannah parlayed a career year as a Dallas Baptist junior into a second-round selection by the Athletics in 2018. Reliever Vic Black is the only DBU player ever to be drafted higher—by one pick. Hannah hit the ground running at short-season Vermont before being sidelined with a left foot sprain that limited him to just 23 games. He continued to rehab in instructional league, appearing in games only near the end.
SCOUTING REPORT: Hannah packs surprising pull-side punch into a 5-foot-9 frame but is best known for a sweet lefthanded swing paired with plus athleticism and double-plus speed. Scouts express confidence in his ability to hit for average because of his quick, fluid, compact stroke that lives in the hitting zone. Hannah drives the ball to both gaps and keeps infielders honest by dropping down occasional bunts. He is a plus runner out of the box and a 70 underway who is an expert baserunner with an elite success rate on stolen bases. Hannah profiles as a plus center fielder who reads angles well but has an unremarkable arm.
THE FUTURE: Hannah’s attributes give him a high floor and make him a probable big leaguer, if only as an extra or semi-regular outfielder. But if he realizes his offensive potential, he can advance quickly and impact games as a table-setter.
TRACK RECORD: Drafted in the late rounds out of both high school and as an eligible sophomore, White returned to Clemson for his junior year in 2016 but hit just .272 with limited power. Intrigued by White’s athleticism, the Athletics selected him in the 11th round. He climbed to Double-A Midland in 2018 and began turning tools into skills. He led the Texas League in hits (154), on-base percentage (.388) and runs (81), while ranking second in average (.306), third in walks (62) and fifth in doubles (30).
SCOUTING REPORT: White stands as the best pure hitter in Oakland’s system and was regarded as the best defensive second baseman in the TL. Plus speed enables him to steal bases and also dabble in center field. The biggest player development challenge facing White is learning to pull the ball and improve his launch angle to hit more home runs. Even if he doesn’t, his strong plate discipline and loose swing produce power to the right-center field gap, while an all-fields approach gives him a plus hit tool. A shortstop in college, White tends to be error-prone at the position and profiles best at second base with the requisite range, arm and actions.
THE FUTURE: White shares some similarities with Chris Taylor as an athletic college shortstop who runs but isn’t quite reliable enough to play shortstop every day. Like Taylor, White looks at home playing second base, third base or outfield, and his bat will determine his ultimate role.
TRACK RECORD: Mateo ranked as the Yankees’ No. 1 prospect in 2016 and then checked in at No. 3 for the Athletics in 2018 after joining the organization—along with Dustin Fowler and James Kaprielian—in the Sonny Gray trade. After a big season at Double-A in 2017, Mateo appeared close to big league ready. Instead he scuffled through a miserable 2018 season at Triple-A Nashville.
SCOUTING REPORT: Mateo draws plus grades for his glove, double-plus grades for his arm and some 80 grades for his speed, but he came up short where it counts most—his bat—in the Pacific Coast League. He hit .230 because of poor plate discipline, too many swinging strikes and too many lazy fly balls for a batter with below-average power and a low walk rate. If Mateo can swing at more strikes, he has the bat speed and exit velocity to succeed. Even as an elite runner, Mateo stole just 25 bases in Triple-A, calling into question his basestealing instincts. Plus range and quickness give him a chance to excel at shortstop if he can curtail his error rate by improving his throwing accuracy.
THE FUTURE: Barring an offensive breakthrough, Mateo’s clearest path to Oakland will be as a glove-first shortstop or utility player. He has pro experience at second base and center field that could come into play.
TRACK RECORD: Neuse led the Big 12 Conference in slugging in 2016, when the Nationals made him a second-round pick. He advanced slowly in pro ball until the Athletics acquired him in the 2017 deal that sent relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to Washington. Neuse rapidly advanced to high Class A and then Double-A after the trade. A strong showing in the Arizona Fall League and then at big league camp set the stage for Neuse to open 2018 at Triple-A Nashville.
SCOUTING REPORT: Neuse lost all his momentum in the first half of the Pacific Coast League season, when he hit .224 with a 37 percent strikeout rate. He chased too many pitches and generally looked overmatched. Neuse reclaimed his season by hitting .321 in the second half with a 24 percent strikeout rate, indicating mental toughness to overcome adversity. He drives the ball to the gaps but doesn’t loft the ball well enough to produce big home run totals. He is a well below-average runner with heavy feet, but he is more than capable at third base, where his range is average and his arm plus. He touched 95 mph off the mound as a college closer.
THE FUTURE: The A’s have third base locked down for the foreseeable future with Matt Chapman, necessitating either a position switch or a new organization for Neuse, who has seen time at shortstop and second base in pro ball.
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