Name: Argenis Raga
Height/Weight: 6’1’’, 175
How Acquired: Signed as an amateur free agent on May 27, 2011
Argenis Raga may not be a well-known name in the Oakland A’s system right now, but if his breakout second-half of the 2015 season is for real, the young Venezuelan backstop could be on a rapid ascent up the prospect ladder next season.
Raga signed with the A’s shortly before the start of the 2011 short-season as a 16-year-old. The native of Maracay, Venezuela, made his professional debut that season with the A’s Dominican Summer League team. He split his playing time defensively between catcher and middle infield. Raga didn’t show a lot with the bat (480 OPS), but he did post a respectable K:BB (15:10). The next season he repeated in the DSL and showed improvement at the plate, hitting .265/.332/.355 in a league known for being tough on power hitters.
Argenis Raga Statistics
The A’s brought Raga over to the US for his age-18/19 season in 2013. He logged half of his games at catcher and spent the rest of his time moving around the infield, playing everywhere but shortstop. He again didn’t hit much but showed enough to be brought back to the Arizona Rookie League the following season.
Last season, Raga opened some eyes when he took a step forward with the bat in the Arizona Rookie League. In 26 games, he hit .338/.400/.479. It wasn’t a huge sample size, but it put Raga on the radar for a spot on a full-season squad in 2015. After a strong spring, Raga made the Opening Day roster for the 2015 Beloit Snappers, making his full-season debut at age 20.
The first half of the season was rough for Raga. Like so many of the members of the Snappers’ line-up, Raga struggled to get going with the bat in April and May. At the halfway point in the season, he was hitting only .157 in 89 at-bats. At that point, the A’s decided that Raga should take a step back and they assigned him to the short-season Vermont Lake Monsters.
A change of scenery seemed to be all Raga needed to get going. In five games, he reached base six times and hit a homerun. The A’s sent Raga back to Beloit on July 1. From that moment on, Raga was the best hitter in the Snappers’ line-up. In 38 games (138 at-bats), Raga hit .355/.385/.464. He hit 12 doubles and a homer and he drove-in 21. That late surge left Raga with a .278/.327/.383 line in 66 games for Beloit for 2015 despite the very slow start.
Defensively, Raga played almost exclusively at catcher this season. According to Oakland A’s Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman, Raga’s defense took a significant step forward in 2015. He threw out only 21% of would-be base-stealers, but he improved his passed ball and error rates over last season and his ability to call a game improved, as well.
Oakland A’s minor league field coordinator Aaron Nieckula saw Raga at spring training and again during the first week of the Vermont Lake Monsters’ season. Nieckula, a former minor league catcher himself, says that Raga has the physical tools to be a solid defensive catcher.
“[Raga] is athletic, has good size and moves around pretty well,” Nieckula said. “He is still learning the position, how to block, receive, throw, all that good stuff. He works hard.”
Offensively, however, is where Raga made his most significant improvements this season. During spring training, Raga was able to pull the ball hard, but mostly on the ground. He made some adjustments during the season and when he returned to Beloit during the second half, Raga was able to drive the ball in the air to the pull-side much more consistently. He also improved his pitch selection, although that wasn’t reflected in his walk totals. Those who saw him said that Raga was much more aggressive on balls he could handle in the strike-zone and he did a better job of laying off bad pitches early in the count, getting in many more favorable hitter’s counts.
Raga’s versatility should benefit him as he moves up the A’s system. He is nimble for a catcher, has some arm strength and has shown the ability to play third and second. Raga has a strong arm and has a solid frame that should allow him to fill out even more as he matures physically. Raga has demonstrated an aptitude for making adjustments in-season and for learning new skills, both characteristics that should help him as he progresses up the system.
Raga is one of a group of promising catchers in the lower levels of the A’s system, so there will be some competition for him for a spot on the High-A Stockton roster next season. He won’t turn 22 until late July and the A’s may prefer he get another half-season in Beloit before he moves up to High-A.