Infielders/Catchers That Just Missed the Top-54
Please note that utility players who play both infield and outfield will be included in the final article in this series. Also, players are listed in alphabetical - not rank - order.
Iolana Akau: A 20th-round pick of the A’s in 2013, Akau signed an above-slot deal with Oakland, turning down a scholarship offer at Hawaii to turn pro. A native of Honolulu, Akau has spent virtually all of his first two pro seasons with the A’s Rookie League team. Akau did have one appearance with Low-A Beloit early last season, but he was hit by a pitch in that game and landed on the disabled list. Akau is a gifted defensive catcher with plus arm strength and the agility behind the plate to be an above-average receiver. He has yet to figure out professional pitching, however, hitting only .158 in 90 professional at-bats. The A’s have brought Akau along slowly, as he was very young when he signed with the team and hadn’t matured physically into his 5’11’’ frame. He will be 19 until late August. Akau added a significant amount of muscle this off-season and this may be the year that he finally breaks away from the A’s Arizona complex and plays for an affiliate for an extended period of time.
Jose Brizuela: Brizuela is in the unenviable position of being the second third baseman taken in an A’s draft class that saw a third baseman selected with their first pick. The A’s 16th-round pick out of Florida State nevertheless made a solid first impression in his pro debut. Brizuela hit .241/.310/.380 for short-season Vermont, but a late season fade brought down those numbers after he got off to a good start. After going 0-for-9 in his first two games, Brizuela batted .274/.344/.440 with three homers in 25 July contests. He hit only .233/.307/.333 in August. Brizuela has a solid approach at the plate and uses the whole field well, but he hasn’t shown prototypical third base power dating back to his collegiate days. He will also need to prove he can stick defensively at third base. Brizuela should start next season with Low-A Beloit.
Jose Chavez: The young Chavez was thrown into the fire last season when the A’s saw several of their veteran minor league catchers go down with injuries. Only 18 for most of last season, Chavez spent significant time with Low-A Beloit and appeared in a handful of games with Double-A Midland. He then finished out the season with short-season Vermont. Chavez hasn’t shown much with the bat as of yet (.172 BA last season against pitchers sometimes several years his senior), but Chavez has shown promise with the glove. He threw out 13-of-18 would-be base-stealers in the New York-Penn League and three-of-four in the Texas League. His throwing numbers weren’t as impressive in the Midwest League, but Chavez’s arm strength and quick release should lead to good throwing numbers in general throughout his career. Like Akau, Chavez will need to prove he can hit to reach the upper-levels, however. He could get another shot at Low-A in 2015.
Branden Cogswell: After an outstanding junior season at Virginia that ended in the finals of the College World Series, Cogswell had a disappointing pro debut with the A’s. The shortstop jumped into full-season ball with Beloit, but he managed just a .203 average in 40 games with the Snappers. The A’s sixth-round pick made several mechanical adjustments with his swing both during his MWL season and during the A’s fall Instructional League. He was pulling off of pitches frequently during the season and his plate coverage on the inner-half was spotty. Cogswell made progress correcting those flaws last year and could be in for a much improved season in 2015. Defensively, he showed promise at short, moving well into the hole and flashing a strong arm. The A’s have a crowd at shortstop at the Low-A level with Yairo Munoz and Franklin Barreto both possibly joining the Beloit roster. The A’s could move Cogswell to Stockton to start the 2015 season, much the same way they pushed Chad Pinder last year after his disappointing 2013 debut. Cogswell’s spring training will go a long way towards determining that Opening Day assignment. He profiles as a hitter who will get on-base frequently and hit for average, while not necessarily hitting for much power. Cogswell has experience at second base, as well as short, and could see time at both positions this season.
Argenis Raga: Raga burst onto the prospect radar last season when he hit .338/.400/.479 in 71 at-bats with the A’s AZL squad. Raga signed with Oakland as a teenager before the 2011 season. He spent two years in the Dominican Summer League before jumping to the States in 2013. Raga has shown a lot of versatility since turning pro, playing games at catcher, third base, second base, shortstop and first base. He has a strong throwing arm and is a good athlete. The A’s would love to have him stick at catcher, where his bat would be most valuable. He is still learning the nuances of the position, however, although he has shown promise both as a thrower and receiver behind the plate. Raga doesn’t have a lot of power in his swing yet, although he can reach the gaps from time-to-time. He has a solid approach and uses the opposite field well. Raga could get an opportunity with Vermont this season. He will turn 21 during the season.
John Nogowski: A teammate of Jose Brizuela’s at Florida State, Nogowski lasted until the 34th round of the 2014 draft despite strong collegiate numbers. The A’s convinced Nogowski to turn pro and he spent the majority of his debut season with the Vermont Lake Monsters. Nogowski didn’t hit for power in the New York-Penn League, but he did a solid job of reaching base, posting a .357 OBP in 50 games. Nogowski also showed an above-average glove at first. To make an impact as a first baseman in the pros, Nogowski will need to hit for power, but if he can add that element to his game, he could be quite a draft find thanks to his on-base skills and defensive abilities. He should jump to Low-A Beloit in 2015.
Michael Soto: Injuries prevented Soto from having a true breakout season in 2014 with Beloit, but he put together a solid season when he was on the field. Soto was the victim of bad luck, landing on the DL with a broken finger after a groundball took a bad hop on him at first base. A pin was placed in the finger to stabilize it and he missed a significant amount of time recovering. Soto hit well after returning from the injury. He hit .324/.402/.514 in 24 games with the A’s AZL team and then batted .291/.350/.500 in 31 games with Beloit. He finished the year with a combined line of .290/.353/.492 with nine homers in 71 games. Soto signed with the A’s as a teenager out of the Dominican Republic before the 2009 season. He made the jump to the States in 2011. After two solid seasons in the AZL, Soto played with Vermont in 2013, but he posted disappointing numbers. His resurgence in 2014 likely saved his career. Soto is already 23, but he has power potential in his right-handed swing. He also showed good bat control for a power hitter last season, striking out just 49 times in 238 at-bats. Soto has played some third base over the past few years, but he profiles best as a first baseman. If healthy this year, Soto could put up some big numbers with High-A Stockton.
Beau Taylor: Over the past few years, Double-A Midland has become the place where A’s catching prospects have lost their luster. Taylor is fighting to overcome that stigma. Taylor was the A’s fifth-round pick in 2011 out of Central Florida. He spent most of his pro debut with Low-A Burlington and then played the first half of the 2012 season with High-A Stockton. He earned a mid-season promotion to Double-A Midland that year and it was there he hit the first speedbump of his professional career. Taylor posted just a 578 OPS with the RockHounds in 2012. In 2013 and 2014, it was much of the same for Taylor at the plate, as he had a 548 OPS and a 670 OPS, respectively. Midway through the 2014 season, the A’s sent Taylor back to Stockton. He immediately began hitting well again, and he finished the year with a 987 OPS in 32 games with the Ports. He returned to the RockHounds for the playoffs and had four hits and a walk in 15 at-bats. Taylor is an excellent defensive catcher who receives the ball well and has a solid throwing arm. Offensively, he has shown he can hit for average and be selective at the plate at the A-ball levels. It hasn’t translated in Double-A as of yet. He is likely to get another shot with Midland after his strong finish with the Ports last year. It will likely be a make-or-break opportunity for Taylor, who turned 25 last month.