A baseball season rarely goes as one expects it will, but it is nonetheless fun to try to predict what might happen before it begins. Below are five predictions on what might transpire during the 2015 Oakland A’s minor league season. I will check back on this list at the end of the year to see just how right or wrong I was.
Prediction 1: A’s will have 5 or more players reach 20+ homeruns
Last season, the Oakland A’s had just three minor leaguers reach the 20+ homer plateau: Matt Olson (37), Renato Nunez (29) and Jaycob Brugman (21). This season, I predict the A’s will see a bit of a power surge within their minor league system. Although Olson is playing in a much less homer-friendly league this year, he should reach 20 homers for the third straight year. Nunez is currently at extended spring training finishing a rehab of a calf injury, but he, too, has a good chance of reaching that 20-homer plateau. Matt Chapman, also at extended at the moment, will have an excellent opportunity to hit 20+ homers in the hitter-friendly California League, as will power-hitting Ports’ teammates Justin Higley, Tyler Marincov and Michael Soto. Sandber Pimentel has the power to reach 20 homers in the Midwest League, while Joey Wendle will be a threat to reach 20+ homers if he can stay healthy all season with Nashville. Kent Matthes, Chad Pinder, Ryon Healy and Brugman are four others to keep an eye for homerun totals this season.
Prediction: 2: Three A’s affiliates will make the post-season
In 2014, the A’s had just two affiliates reach their leagues’ post-seasons: the Midland RockHounds and the Stockton Ports. This year, I predict the A’s will have at least one more affiliate advance into the post-season. At the Triple-A level, the A’s missed out on a post-season run by one game last season. The A’s have sent a veteran and talented club to Nashville for 2015 and the Sounds are built to reach the post-season in their first year as an A’s affiliate. Double-A Midland’s roster is a hybrid of players who suited up for the A’s two 2014 post-season squads, and they, too, are in good position to get to a post-season. The A’s have more inexperienced rosters at High-A and Low-A this season, but I’m betting on either one of those two squads playing better than expected as a team and reaching the post-season, or for the A’s to have a post-season entrant from one of their two short-season squads.
Prediction 3: The A’s will have a pitcher reach the 150-strikeout plateau
The A’s didn’t have a pitcher reach even 140 strike-outs last season, but I’m going out on a limb to say that the A’s will have at least one hurler get to that 150-K mark in 2015. Some candidates to reach that “milestone” include Arnold Leon (struck-out 59 in 57 innings this winter and looked poised for a breakout season), Zach Neal (124 strike-outs last season; returning to Double-A, where he has dominated), Dylan Covey (has strike-out stuff and is learning to use it) and Daniel Gossett (struck-out more than a batter an inning in his pro debut).
Prediction 4: A’s will have at least two players lead their leagues in OBP
In 2014, Max Muncy and Matt Olson led their respective leagues in on-base percentage. I predict that the A’s will have two players lead their leagues in that category in 2015. Not surprisingly – given the value the A’s place on plate discipline – the A’s have several candidates to land at the top of their league’s leaderboards, including Muncy and Olson. Those other candidates are Alden Carrithers (career .400 OBP), Niuman Romero (.417 OBP last season), Colin Walsh (career .378 OBP and back in Double-A this season), John Nogowski and Branden Cogswell (college draft picks with advanced approaches at the plate), Sandber Pimentel (slugger with a good eye; will draw his share of “intimidation walks”) and Brett Vertigan (hitter with lead-off batter skills; can work a walk and lay down a bunt).
Prediction #5: At least three A’s minor leaguers will steal 30+ bases
Speed hasn’t been a calling card of the A’s system over the past decade, but Oakland does have some speedsters in their system at the moment. If he remains in the minor leagues for the majority of the season, Billy Burns is all but a lock to eclipse the 30 stolen base mark. He stole 54 last season during a year in which he struggled with the bat. Teammate Jason Pridie is a candidate to reach 30 stolen bases, as well. He had 28 in 34 chances last season for Colorado Springs. If Chad Oberacker and Bobby Crocker can get on-base enough to give themselves the opportunity to steal bases, both are solid candidates to reach that 30-stolen base mark. Franklin Barreto is another player whose chances will depend on how often he reaches base, but he did steal 29 in just 73 games last season in the Northwest League. Justin Higley had 16 stolen bases in 72 games last year and he, too, could challenge that 30-stolen base mark. Down in Beloit, leadoff hitter Brett Vertigan and shortstop Yairo Munoz could also be candidates to amass impressive stolen base numbers.