Infielders That Just Missed The Top-50 List
Note: The players below are in alphabetical - and not rank - order.
Dusty Coleman: A broken wrist hampered Coleman early in his professional career. For the past few seasons, it has been strike-outs that have been the shortstop's Achilles Heel. Coleman is an excellent athlete who has some power and good speed, but his inability to make consistent contact has kept him from getting an extended opportunity in Triple-A. In 2012, Coleman hit 15 homeruns for Double-A Midland, but he struck-out 182 times in 128 games. In 2013, Coleman traded that homerun power for a more contact-oriented approach. He still struck-out a lot (155 in 130 games with Midland), but he struck-out less than he did in 2012 and that resulted in a 59 point jump in his batting average (.201 to .260). Coleman's homer total dropped from 15 to three, although he tripled 10 times and hit 34 doubles (he had four and 16, respectively, in 2012). Coleman has a strong arm and good range at short and the speed to reach double-digits in stolen bases.
The A's have a crowded depth chart in their upper-levels in the middle infield, but Coleman reached Triple-A at the end of the 2013 season and could see time there again in 2014.
Edwin Diaz: The A's selected Diaz in the 15th round of this year's draft out of a high school in Puerto Rico. The 17-year-old spent his first professional season with the AZL A's. He appeared in 25 games and hit .239/.276/.359 with a homer. Diaz played mostly shortstop in high school and was a shortstop during his pro debut season, although he has a big frame and could eventually grow out of the position. His K:BB was an ugly 25:5 this season, reflecting how raw he is at the plate, However, he showed improvement with his approach during the A's fall Instructs.
Scout.com's National Baseball Analyst Kiley McDaniel was high on Diaz going into the draft, saying that "Diaz has great hands, giving him a chance, along with his above average arm, to be an above-average defensive third baseman and could project for 15 home runs but his bat still needs to improve." Diaz will be 18 for most of the 2014 season.
Carlos Hiciano: It has been our policy not to rank prospects who have yet to make their professional debuts in our top-50, so Hiciano was not technically eligible for the list this year. This may be the last year Hiciano's name isn't on the top-50 list for a while, however. The 17-year-old shortstop was signed to a six-figure deal out of the Dominican Republic on July 2nd. He was a consensus top-20 international amateur free agent prospect going into the July 2nd signing period. Scout.com's Kiley McDaniel ranked Hiciano 10th in the class.
The right-handed hitting shortstop made his organizational debut during the A's Dominican Instructs program this fall. A's International Scouting Coordinator Sam Geaney was impressed with Hiciano during the program, despite the fact that Hiciano was shaking off rust after not having played in games in several months. "He's a very exciting, athletic, young player with big upside and showed much of that during the program," Geaney said.
Hiciano has plus speed with some power projection and soft hands. For a full scouting report on Hiciano from McDaniel, click here. Hiciano will be 17 throughout the 2014 regular season. The A's are still determining whether he will debut in the DSL or the AZL next year.
A.J. Kubala: Kubala was the A's 34th-round pick in this year's draft out of Arlington Country Day in Florida. The corner infielder elected to forgo college and sign with the A's and he made his pro debut in the AZL this summer. Kubala was hampered some by injuries and struggled during his first pro season, posting a .167.266/.353 line in 26 games. His biggest issue at the plate was making contact, as he struck-out 41 times in 68 at-bats. When Kubala did make contact, he hit the ball hard, homering four times and doubling twice out of 10 hits overall.
Kubala has the potential to hit for big time power and he has a chance to stick at third base. He has a lot of rawness to his game and will take some time to develop. Kubala will be 19 for the first half of the 2014 season.
Tyler Ladendorf: Ladendorf hasn't been able to catch a break over the past few seasons in the A's organization. The talented defender has been stuck in a backlog of middle infielders at the upper levels of the A's system since arriving at the Double-A level in 2011. Ladendorf has had a few cups of coffee at the Triple-A level, but he hasn't been able to stay there for a long period of time thanks to the A's depth at the shortstop and second base positions. Ladendorf is a wizard with the glove and he can play several positions (second, short, third and the three outfield spots). He has above-average speed, although that hasn't translated into stolen bases over the past few seasons.
Ladendorf struggled with the bat during his first two seasons with Double-A Midland, but he showed improvement in 2013, posting a .263/.340/.398 line. His K:BB was a solid 45:27 in 266 at-bats. Unfortunately, Ladendorf missed nearly a month with injury, which may have cost him a chance at a longer look in Sacramento at the end of the year. He will be a minor league free agent at the end of the 2014 season if the A's don't add him to their 40-man roster before then.
Ladendorf can play all over the field.
Jesus Lopez: Like Hiciano, Lopez wasn't eligible for this year's list because he has yet to make his professional debut. However, also like Hiciaco, Lopez is likely to be a fixture on our top-50 list in the upcoming years. The native of Nicaragua was Kiley McDaniel's seventh-ranked "July 2nd" prospect going into the signing period and the A's inked him to a six-figure deal. The switch-hitting middle infielder is an advanced player already despite being only 16 when he signed.
He made his organizational debut at the A's US Instructional League camp this past fall. Lopez was the youngest player in the camp and he held his own despite never having faced professional pitching before the camp started. "The kid has skills. All of 16-years-old out here hanging with the boys," former A's minor league hitting coordinator Todd Steverson said after Instructs. "He fits in just fine. When he gets on the baseball field, you have to remind yourself that he is just 16. It's like, ‘that's a nice move he has there. Or those are some good actions, or that's a nice throw.' Not that he can't be good at 16, but he blends in well with guys who are more mature in this sport at this point."
According to McDaniel, Lopez has power from both sides of the plate and could project as a middle-of-the-order bat. A full scouting report can be found here. There is a decent chance that Lopez will make his regular season debut next year in the AZL as a 17-year-old.
Jefry Marte: The 2013 season was a bit of a lost year for Marte, who missed much of the year with leg injuries. The A's acquired Marte from the New York Mets for Collin Cowgill just before the start of the 2013 season. A former top prospect with the Mets, Marte had been pushed aggressively by New York, playing his age 20 season at the High-A level and his age 21 season in Double-A. The A's had Marte repeat at Double-A in 2013, and he spent most of the year with Midland. Marte struggled early in the season and missed most of May and June and half of July due to leg problems. Healthy in August, Marte hit very well, posting a .374/.406/.538 line and he finished with a .278/.349/.380 line in 245 at-bats with the RockHounds.
Marte has always shown big power in batting practice, but he has yet to translate that into in-game power, although he was starting to show flashes of that power at the end of the 2013 season. Defensively, Marte is still a work-in-progress at third base. Marte's effort level was criticized at times during the 2013 season, but he responded well to that criticism down-the-stretch, playing hard during the final few weeks of the season. He is still very young (he won't turn 23 until next June) and he has time to put it all together. Because of the time he missed this season, Marte is likely to start the year back with Midland.
Melvin Mercedes: Mercedes had a big professional debut in the AZL in 2012 after being selected in the 16th round by Oakland out of a Florida junior college. The speedy switch-hitter batted .381 with a .440 OBP in 31 games for the AZL A's in 2012. Mercedes struggled in the pitcher-friendly New York-Penn League in 2013, however. His batting average dipped to .228 and his OBP fell to .331.
Mercedes still showed a good sense of the strike-zone (21 walks in 49 games). He has above-average speed and the skills to be a top-of-the-order hitter. Defensively, Mercedes can handle both the second base and shortstop spots. He will be 22 for the entire 2014 season and he has a chance to jump to Low-A despite his struggles with Vermont last year.
Yairo Munoz: Munoz was the A's highest profile "July 2nd" signing in 2011. The Dominican shortstop debuted in the DSL in 2012. He hit only .229 with a 649 OPS, but the A's saw enough to give Munoz a shot in the US for the 2013 season. He spent the entire year with the AZL A's, appearing in 25 games. Munoz hit only .194/.286/.284 in 67 at-bats.
He did show improvement during the A's US Instructional League camp, however, and the Oakland brass expects better results from the soon-to-be 19-year-old next season. "I think the lifestyle of the United States was different and he probably underachieved as a hitter during the Arizona Rookie League season relative to the ability that he has got," former A's minor league hitting coordinator Todd Steverson said shortly after the Instructs camp ended. "Just now, at the conclusion of this program, I think he's starting to figure out the things that it takes to be a consistent performer as a professional baseball player. It's not just all about talent. It's about using your mental side. Using your brain to determine what's right and what's wrong and to learn from your mistakes."
Munoz has a very strong throwing arm and good range at short. He has above-average speed and gap power that could develop into some homerun power as he grows into his 6'1'' frame. He will be 19 throughout the 2014 season and is likely to repeat at the AZL level.
Rodolfo Penalo: It has taken Penalo a few years to hit his stride as a professional, but the switch-hitting middle infielder may now finally be ready to take the next step in his career. Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2009, Penalo has spent the past four seasons in the DSL. The 2013 season was by far his best as a pro, as he hit .311/.422/.404 with 29 stolen bases in 51 games.
At 5'7'', 140 pounds, Penalo is one of the smallest players in the A's system. He has excellent speed and a very good eye at the plate. Penalo understands his strengths, hitting the ball on the ground to take advantage of his speed. Injuries limited him during the final month of the 2013 season, but if he is healthy in 2014, he should make his US debut.
Stay tuned for the rest of the "Beyond the Top-50" series, as we look at the catchers, outfielders and pitchers that just missed our top-50 list.