How Are the A's Prospects Doing?

By Jason Wojciechowski on May 16, 2014 at 10:36 PM

Well, how?

Addison Russell: Debuted a couple of days ago for Midland after hurting his hamstring before the season started. He's only got seven plate appearances, but he's already hit his first bomb and his first double of the year, so there's that. The key is getting reps the rest of the year. If he has some other injury and misses a few weeks, it could really hurt the overall development and leave the A's in an awkward position come 2015, perhaps feeling that they'll need a full-year shortstop rather than just a quick "wait three weeks so you get seven years of control" stopgap.

Bobby Wahl: Lots of strikeouts (8.6 per 9) and lots of walks (5.5 per 9) for Beloit. Plus he's been hit (10.4 hits per 9). It's 14 2/3 innings over four starts, mind, but it's not a great way to get going as a 22-year-old in the Midwest League. He's the average age for the league, but that includes a lot of nonprospects.

Daniel Robertson: He's getting on base (.387) for Stockton, though with just a .119 ISO. He's young for the league, and if he goes a level per year, he'd debut in the majors at 23, which means he has time to add pop if he's ever going to do. As the A's system is currently constructed, he's not going to play short in the majors, but at that level-per-year trajectory, with one extra year built in as a cushion, he'll be ready for Oakland in Josh Donaldson's last year of team control. With any luck, Robertson's development will let the A's trade the then-32-year-old Donaldson for a nice bag of goodies.

Billy McKinney: Last year's first-round choice got an aggressive assignment, but he's not really hitting at Stockton yet: .214/.347/.393. A batting average like that could be struggles or it could be luck or it could be a combination of the two. It's nice to see decent pop from a teenager in High-A, Cal League or not, and of course the walks (15 percent walk rate!) are enough to make any A's fan happy. McKinney is the second-youngest hitter in the entire league, just a month older than Carlos Correa, the Astros superprospect. McKinney actually has the better walk and isolated power numbers of the two, but Correa is hitting .309 and is, in any event, a shortstop, not a center fielder who is likely to move to a corner at the highest level.

By the way, there are 11 players in Cal League with at least 41 at-bats who are playing the season at age 20 or younger. Stockton has four of them. (Robertson, McKinney, Renato Nunez, and Matt Olson.) Suddenly the A's are the ... I don't know, the team that puts its prospects at advanced levels. Whatever team that is.

Raul Alcantara: Twenty-one and pitching in Midland, speaking of. He's got a 2.29 ERA, but it's completely unsupported by the periperhals: just 10 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings. He's on the 40-man, by the way, so he's burning an option striking out a dude every other inning in Double-A.

Michael Ynoa: Still hasn't been fully healthy, but has struck out 18 in 10 1/3 innings out of Stockton's bullpen. Too many walks and a .429 BABIP is the stat-line of a guy with big stuff who doesn't know where it's going, but remember that we're scouting the stat lines here. This is his second option year, so let's hope he pitches his way to Double-A by the end of the season and is ready for a midseason call-up come 2015. If not, 2016 is going to be ugly.

Remember: the A's broke amateur records to sign him, but the money they paid him is what the Rockies are paying Matt Belisle this season.

Nolan Sanburn: Also pitching out of Stockton's bullpen, also 22, also getting strikeouts (9.5 per nine), but with the added bonus of not walking anyone. The A's could move him quickly if they want to leave him in the bullpen.

Renato Nunez: Posting a .198 ISO in the Cal League, but he's whiffing a lot and not walking. He's not higher up in this post for a reason.

The other fun scout-the-stat-lines exercise is to look at organizational leaders regardless of pedigree. For instance:

Josh Whitaker, 25, Midland, right field, is killing it so far, leading the organization in OPS with a .320/.374/.602 line. He was a 25th-round pick, and he has hit before, but it was as a 22-year-old in the Midwest League, so the odds that he's suddenly somebody are remote.

On the other hand, check out Chad Pinder, last year's second-round pick. He's a college guy, so he's appropriately in the Cal League, but he's slugging .608 while playing second base. Maybe he's somethin'!

On the pitching side, check out Tucker Healy's silly 7:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio out of Stockton's bullpen. And 4.7 hits per nine. Silly. Sillier: minor league career 14.1 strikeouts per nine, 5.5 K/BB. Silllly.

But every team has a reliever who's old for the league and strikes out a million batters. What's even more fun is Zach Neal, who was released by the Marlins at the end of spring training in 2013. Between Midland and Sacramento this year, over 42 innings, he's got a 5.3 K/BB premised on an excellent 1.3 BB/9. He's not missing bats, and he hasn't done so since Low-A in 2010, so you get why his top PECOTA comparable is Mark Cohoon. Mark what. Mark who. What. What has happened here.