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Luzardo entered the season with five appearances outside the complex leagues, but that didn’t stop the Athletics from aggressively pushing him to high Class A Stockton. He quickly tamed the California League and moved onto the Texas League, where he has established himself as one of the top pitching prospects in the game. Luzardo pitches at 92-93 mph with precise command to both sides of the plate, and he can max out near 97 mph. His lethal, double-plus changeup might be the best in the minors, while he can change shapes with a swing-and-miss breaking ball that flashes plus. Luzardo ties the package together with a cohesive delivery and outstanding competitive makeup.
The No. 6 overall pick in 2016, Puk stood poised to contribute to the Athletics’ rotation this season until Tommy John surgery felled him during spring training. The 6-foot-7 lefty creates unique plane with his mid-90s fastball that is difficult to square up. When healthy in 2017, he peaked at 98 mph with a swing-and-miss changeup and slider he used to fan a minor league-best 13.2 per nine innings.
Murphy moves well behind the plate, especially for his 6-foot-4 size, and unleashes bazooka throws from his double-plus arm. That he has hit for average and plus power to all fields in the Texas League has sealed his status as the top position prospect in the system and one of the top catching prospects in baseball.
Outside of a few tape-measure home runs, Barreto hasn’t found much success in Oakland yet. The Athletics like his well-rounded game, though, and expect he will catch on to major league pitchers. After all, he has batted more than 1,200 times at Double-A and Triple-A at a young age because the ball comes off his bat so well. Barreto also brandishes plus speed, a strong arm and good hands at either middle infield spot.
Murray gained serious draft helium as an Oklahoma junior in 2018 by hitting .296 with 10 home runs, though his status as the projected starting quarterback for the OU football team clouded his baseball future. The Athletics struck a deal with Murray as the No. 9 overall pick this year, signing him for $4.7 million and allowing him to play football this fall and delay his baseball career until 2019. Scouts love Murray’s bat speed, power and glove in center field, but his skills are raw after not playing much baseball in 2016 or 2017.
Drafted sixth overall in 2017, Beck scuffled through much of his first pro summer in the Rookie-level Arizona League before adjusting in August and in instructional league. He looks like a different player this year in the Midwest League, where he has hit near .300 while showcasing plus defense in center field, a double-plus arm, plus speed and emerging all-fields power.
Mateo appeared close to the majors last year, when he swiped 52 bases and knocked 60 extra-base hits in a season he finished at Double-A. He has scuffled mightily during his first taste of Triple-A this year, however, failing to impact the ball regularly or even steal bases efficiently. Despite his struggles, scouts still see a lot to like about Mateo. He grades as a plus defender at shortstop with a double-plus arm and top-of-the-scale speed. Improving his plate discipline will determine how much he will hit.
Signed out of Cuba in 2016, Armenteros boasts loud raw tools and a body that has been compared with Andre Dawson. Assigned to the Midwest League in May and on the disabled list for most of June, "Lazarito” still electrifies observers in short looks. His raw power grades as double-plus, and his advanced hitting approach should help him access it in games. He runs well but is limited to left field by a poor arm.
The Athletics traded for Kaprielian while he was on the disabled list, and they still haven’t seen him pitch nearly a year later. He had Tommy John surgery in April 2017 while a member of the Yankees’ organization and then suffered a shoulder injury setback while rehabbing his elbow, but he is on target for a return later this summer. When healthy, Kaprielian shows mid-90s heat and a well-rounded arsenal of above-average weapons he has used to slice through low-level competition.
Neuse reached Triple-A to begin his third pro season this year—but 2018 does not resemble his previous work. All he did was hit in 2017 as he climbed from low Class A to Double-A, and he didn’t stop hitting at big league camp this spring. But Neuse’s time at Nashville had been marred by an uncharacteristic strikeout rate (37 percent) and low impact. He’s a deceptive athlete who plays a strong third base and can fill in at second base or shortstop.
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