Mid-Season Review: A's Prospects 20-11

During the off-season, we named our top-54 prospects in the Oakland A's system. Now that we have passed the midway point of the season, we thought it would be a good time to check the progress of those players. In the fourth of our series, we take a look at the progress of prospects 20-11 from our off-season list.

Note: this is not a re-ranking of current prospects. A new top-50 prospects list will be released this off-season. Click here for the pre-season Oakland A’s top prospect list.

Note: Stats as of Sunday, July 12

20. Max Muncy

It has been a whirlwind season for Muncy thus far. Invited to big league camp for the first time this spring, Muncy opened a lot of eyes with an impressive stint at the plate and he earned an early season call-up to the big leagues when utilityman Ben Zobrist landed on the DL with a knee injury. It was the first time in Muncy’s professional career that he had been promoted a level during a season. Muncy spent more than two months on the A’s roster. He appeared in 34 games with Oakland, many of them coming at third base. In 79 big league at-bats, he hit .203/.273/.367 with seven doubles and two homeruns. Muncy was sent back to Triple-A in early July. In 26 games for Nashville so far this year, he is batting .268/.363/.495.

It would be unfair to judge Muncy’s big league future based on his first stint with the A’s. His playing time was sporadic and he was often forced to play at a position (third base) that he had hardly played before this spring. He handled himself well and should grow as a player from that experience. Muncy will get regular at-bats while with Nashville and, if he continues to hit like he has since being sent back down to Triple-A, he should get another chance with the A’s this September (or earlier if the A’s make a few deadline deals). His defense at third will need to continue to improve for him to be a viable option at that position moving forward, but Muncy has demonstrated a willingness to put the work in. With his ability to get on-base and his improving power numbers, Muncy could be a valuable player for the A’s if he can play an average third base.

Status: Playing regularly with Nashville

19. Mark Canha

Canha came to the A’s this off-season via the Rule 5 draft (the Rockies selected Canha from the Marlins and then traded his Rule 5 rights to the A’s). It was his roster spot to lose this spring, and Canha did more than enough to ensure that he made the A’s Opening Day roster. Since then, he has played a regular role in the A’s line-up, appearing in 62 games and racking up 207 official at-bats. He currently has a .246/.307/.415 line with eight homers and 33 RBI. Canha has also swiped five bases in six chances.

Although Canha has some experience at third base, he has played only two innings there for the A’s. He has split the rest of his time between first base and the outfield. The A’s were originally interested in Canha as a platoon player to hit against left-handed pitching, but he has actually struggled versus lefties this year. (.155 in 78 plate appearances). He has hit righties extremely well (.294 BA and an 891 OPS) and has seen increased playing time against right-handers of late. Canha had a rough May, but he has otherwise maintained an OPS+ of 106 or higher every month this season. With the A’s getting very little production from Sam Fuld, Canha should see more playing time versus right-handed starters as the season goes on. He could win a starting spot in the A’s 2016 outfield with a strong finish.

Status: Establishing himself at the big-league level

18. Raul Alcantara

Alcantara entered the 2014 season as the A’s top pitching prospect, but he hurt his elbow in early April and eventually had Tommy John surgery. After 14 months of rehab, Alcantara returned to live game action on June 8 with High-A Stockton. He has made six starts for the Ports thus far. Working on a strict pitch limit, Alcantara has amassed 18.1 innings in those six outings. He has a 4.91 ERA and a 13:5 K:BB. In his last outing, he left the game in the third inning after being struck in the left (non-throwing) elbow by a line-drive. X-rays were negative and he is scheduled to start on Monday evening.

Alcantara’s fastball velocity is back in the familiar 92-95 MPH range that it was before the injury. His secondary pitches have shown promise since his return, but he is still re-establishing his feel for both pitches. Before the line-drive incident, Alcantara had strung together two straight four-inning outings. He should be able to stretch out to five innings in the next few weeks. Assuming he shows progress, he should see some time in Double-A before the end of the year.

Status: Back on the mound

17. Ryon Healy

Healy’s overall numbers for Midland this season aren’t particularly impressive, but those watching him play everyday say that he has hit the ball a lot better than those numbers would indicate. In 77 games, Healy has a .269/.314/.374 line with five homers and 17 doubles. In his first season in the Texas League, Healy has fallen victim to the power-sapping Texas League winds. The right-handed hitter has had at least four balls caught in spots that would have been homeruns in the California League last year and several other well-struck balls that were knocked down by the wind. Healy did homer in the Texas League All-Star game and was in the middle of a hot streak when he took a bad hop off of his face on July 4. He hasn’t played since then and was placed on the DL late last week.

Despite the sub-700 OPS, Healy’s season thus far has shown some promising signs. Never a particularly patient hitter, Healy has increased his walk rate this season while maintaining a better than 20% line-drive rate on batted balls. He is on-pace to strike-out a little more than last season, but he is also on pace to double his walk total. Healy has a quick, short swing that produces line-drives to all fields. He is still refining his approach but is making progress being more selective. It’s hard to judge power numbers in the Texas League. If he can continue to make progress on increasing his walks and keeping a solid batting average, it will be a successful season.

Status: Adding patience

16. Rangel Ravelo

The A’s were excited to acquire Ravelo this off-season from the Chicago White Sox as part of the deal that sent Jeff Samardzija to Chicago. Ravelo reached Double-A as a 22-year-old with the White Sox last season and hit .309 with an 859 OPS. Unfortunately, Ravelo hasn’t been able to show much so far this year thanks to a wrist injury that required surgery this spring. He rehabbed for the entire first half of the season, returning to game action at the start of the short-season schedule. After nine games with the Arizona Rookie League A’s, Ravelo was promoted to Double-A over the weekend. He reached base four times in his first two games with the RockHounds. In 11 total games for the AZL A’s and Midland thus far, Ravelo has 12 hits in 32 at-bats and he has walked eight times.

Throughout his minor league career, Ravelo has demonstrated the ability to hit for average and to make regular contact. In 432 minor league games, he has struck-out just 233 times. Although 11 games is not a good sample size, Ravelo is showing those tendencies so far this year, striking out just five times. The biggest question with Ravelo is whether he will be able to hit for enough power to be a profile first or third baseman. He hit a career-high 11 homeruns in 2014, but wrist injuries have been known to sap power numbers. That will be something to watch the rest of this season with Ravelo. He is a strong candidate to participate in the Arizona Fall League after missing the first three months of the season.

Status: Back in action

15. Yairo Munoz

Munoz was one of the biggest surprises in the A’s system last season when he hit .298 in the New York-Penn League as a 19-year-old. He had an outstanding spring training and got off to a good start with Low-A Beloit this season, earning a spot in the Midwest League All-Star game. He has struggled badly in June and July, however, and his overall numbers have fallen to .229/.267/.351 with eight homers for the year.

Part of Munoz’s struggles can be attributed to bad luck. He has a .249 BABIP after posting a .338 BABIP last year. Munoz doesn’t strike out a lot for a young hitter and his walk rate – while still below-average – has actually doubled over last season. He just isn’t finding a lot of holes right now. His groundball rate is high and his line-drive rate has dropped – and both factors are contributing to his decreased batting average. He has the potential to be an above-average power hitter for a middle infielder, and he has shown some of that power this season. He has also improved his base-running, stealing nine bags in 11 chances. Defensively, Munoz has a strong arm and range, but he is still struggling to make the routine play. He isn’t the first young player to struggle in the Midwest League. If Munoz can finish the season with a strong final few weeks, he will still be in a solid position to move up to High-A next year, although he will have competition from the A’s 2015 draft class that included two polished collegiate shortstops in the top-two rounds.

Status: Slumping in the Midwest League

14. Chad Pinder

Pinder’s career has followed somewhat of an unusual path. The A’s 2013 competitive balance pick split his time defensively in college between shortstop and third base, but many scouts projected him as a third baseman in the pros. The A’s had Pinder play mostly shortstop in his pro debut with Vermont, although he was limited to 42 games thanks to a myriad of injuries. In 2014, Pinder jumped to High-A, but he had to move positions with Daniel Robertson entrenched at shortstop. Pinder spent virtually the entire 2014 season learning a new position at second, only to move back to shortstop in 2015 with Midland when Robertson was traded to Tampa Bay during the off-season.

Thus far, Pinder’s move back to shortstop has been a success. He has handled the position well, showing better footwork than he did in 2013. Offensively, Pinder is holding his own in the difficult Texas League. In 286 at-bats, he has a .297/.356/.444 line with 16 doubles, a triple and eight homeruns. He has decreased his strike-out rate slightly while raising his walk rate significantly. Pinder has had trouble staying healthy the past three seasons, but he has only had one injury that has caused him to miss time this year, a sore hip that kept him out about 10 days. If he can maintain what he has done thus far this year, Pinder will almost certainly move into the A’s top-10 prospects list next year and should see some time in big league camp next spring.

Status: Opening eyes at short

13. Joey Wendle

The A’s acquired Wendle from the Cleveland Indians this off-season in the Brandon Moss trade. After a solid spring, Wendle was assigned to Triple-A and he has spent his entire 2015 season batting near the top of the Nashville Sounds’ line-up. Wendle got off to a fast start with Nashville, but he has struggled to get on-base consistently for most of the season. His OBP has dropped below .300 for the year and he has seen his walk rate fall by half compared to his 2014 rate. Wendle’s power numbers are also down a bit from his 2014 season in the Cleveland organization.

Wendle has never walked a ton as a pro, but to see his walks drop off this precipitously is surprising. His power numbers are also down compared to where he was before he broke his hamate bone midway through the 2014 season. The good news is that he has been healthy and he is on-pace to break his previous career-high for games played in a season (107). He has also been better than advertised defensively at second base. The A’s are still very high on Wendle, but it would be good to see his offensive production return to his early season levels during the final six weeks of the year.

Status: Looking for a hot streak

12. Bobby Wahl

Wahl was one of the stars of minor league spring training camp for the A’s. He dazzled with his upper-90s fastball and devastating breaking ball. The A’s jumped Wahl to Double-A even though he made only nine High-A appearances last season. Thus far, Wahl has been inconsistent with Double-A Midland. Some nights, he has looked like a future MLB closer. Others, he has struggled to locate and has been hittable. His 4.15 ERA in 30.1 innings is reflective of those inconsistencies.

Wahl missed nearly a month on the disabled list, returning to the RockHounds’ active roster on July 9th. Since then, he has thrown two scoreless innings. He has 34 strike-outs and 13 walks in 30.1 innings this season. Texas League batters are hitting .280 against him, although many of those hits have been groundball singles. He has allowed just two homeruns and he has a 1.30 GO/AO. Wahl has struggled with minor injuries the past two seasons and that has interrupted his development. He needs a solid stretch of healthy appearances to work on repeating his delivery and locating his pitches. A healthy second half could put Wahl in a position for a non-roster invite to big league camp next spring and a possible shot in the A’s bullpen sometime in 2016.

Status: Searching for consistency

11. R.J. Alvarez

Like Wahl, Alvarez has the plus fastball-breaking ball combination that teams look for when building the backend of their big league bullpens. Also like Wahl, Alvarez has struggled with location and with his health at times during his professional career. Alvarez joined the A’s this off-season as part of the Derek Norris trade and he was projected to play a significant role in the A’s bullpen in 2015. Like so many who have pitched in relief for the A’s this season, Alvarez struggled early with Oakland. He made 10 appearances with the A’s and posted a 13.00 ERA and a 2.11 WHIP. He struck-out 16 in nine innings, but he also walked six and allowed 13 hits (including four homers).

Alvarez has been much better with Nashville. He has allowed runs in just three of his 17 outings for the Sounds. In one of those outings, he allowed six runs in 1.2 innings, and that outing has left his ERA at 3.98 in 20.1 Triple-A innings. Alvarez has 27 strike-outs and 10 walks for Nashville and he has yet to allow a homerun. He missed a month with a right forearm strain but returned to the Nashville active roster on Friday and threw a scoreless inning. The A’s would undoubtedly like another look at Alvarez at the big league level this season. If he can string together a few healthy and productive weeks, he could be in-line to return to the A’s in August after the trade deadline.

Status: Healthy once again

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