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Oakland A's top-50 prospects mid-season review: 10-1

During the off-season, we named our top-50 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 final piece in our series, we take a look at the progress of prospects 10-1 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. To view our preseason top-50 Oakland A's prospects list, click here.

Stats as of 7/24/16

10) Casey Meisner, RHP Meisner made a strong first impression on the A’s organization in 2015 when, as a 20-year-old, he posted a 2.78 ERA in seven starts with the High-A Stockton Ports after a deadline deal that sent him to the A’s from the New York Mets. Meisner returned to Stockton at the start of the 2016 season, but there was optimism that he might be ready for a mid-season promotion to Double-A at the beginning of the year. Instead, Meisner has struggled in his return to the California League. In 82.1 innings, he has a 4.26 ERA and a 66:44 K:BB. Opposing batters are hitting .281 against him.

Much of Meisner’s struggles this season have stemmed from mechanical issues with his delivery that the A’s have asked him to address. He has difficulty going downhill in his regular throwing motion, and the A’s have worked with him to eliminate some of the east-west motion in his delivery. He has struggled to repeat the new mechanics, which has impacted the life on his stuff and his command. Things have turned around a bit lately, however. Over his past three outings, Meisner has allowed one run on eight hits over 11.1 innings. He has 10 strike-outs and two walks over that stretch.

Meinser is 6’7’’ and it isn’t uncommon for pitchers of that height to struggle to maintain consistent deliveries. If Meisner can master his new mechanics, the upside is immense, as a more efficient delivery should allow him to add velocity to his fastball (which currently sits in the low-90s) and be more precise with his command. He is still just 21 and has plenty of development time left to get back on course.

The A’s had taken Meisner out of the rotation to give him some more lower leverage situations in which to pitch, but he has returned to his regular role after his recent run of success. If he is able to build off of his recent improvement, he should head into fall Instructs and next spring with positive momentum and he may be able to avoid repeating the Cal League a third time.

Status: Trying to master his mechanics

9) Dillon Overton, LHP It has been a memorable season for the A’s 2013 second-round pick, who made his major-league debut in May and figures to make a few more appearances at the big league level by the end of the year. The left-hander has spent most of the season in Triple-A and he has pitched very well in his first season at that level. In 103.2 innings, Overton has a 3.21 ERA and an 89:23 K:BB. He has started three games for the A’s. In 15 innings, his MLB ERA stands at 8.40, but much of that number stems from a poor start versus the San Francisco Giants in his second big league outing. He pitched well in a spot-start against the Houston Astros last week and is a candidate to join the A’s rotation again in September.

Overton’s road to the big leagues wasn’t easy. He had Tommy John surgery immediately after signing his first pro contract and didn’t make his pro debut until June 2014. He has pitched well since returning from the surgery, but he has had to learn to pitch differently than he did pre-surgery because his fastball velocity hasn’t returned to his pre-surgery levels (91-94 MPH). His fastball now sits in the 87-90 MPH range, making him more of a finesse pitcher than he was in college. When he is locating perfectly – as he does much of the time – Overton’s lack of velo doesn’t hurt him. His secondary offerings are solid and he can throw them in any count, allowing him to keep hitters off of his fastball. However, if he misses location – as he did in that start versus the Giants – he can be hittable.

Overton’s velocity has increased every year since the surgery and it is still conceivable that he could return to those pre-surgery levels next season. If he doesn’t, he still projects as a solid number five starter and he should be in the mix for a spot in the A’s rotation next spring.

Status: Pitching for another big league opportunity

8) Yairo Munoz, SS It hasn’t been an easy season for Munoz, who began the year in Extended Spring Training rehabbing a foot injury he sustained during spring training. He was cleared for game action in late April and joined the Midland RockHounds on April 26. He has remained with Midland all season. One of the youngest players on the team (21), Munoz has struggled at the plate, posting a .242/.283/.332 line in 244 at-bats. However, he has improved at the plate each month. Munoz had a strong finish to his 2015 season and could be poised for another solid final six weeks again this year.

Munoz has suffered from a little bad luck this season, as his BABIP is a below-average .276. He has excellent hand-eye coordination and sometimes struggles to wait for good pitches to hit. That has resulted in more groundballs to short and fewer line-drives to the outfield. Munoz has above-average power for a middle infielder, but he hasn’t been able to show it much this season because he hasn’t been swinging at pitches he can drive. Defensively, Munoz has seen time at short, second and third base. He has the tools to be a special defender at all three positions. Munoz has one of the strongest throwing arms in the A’s system and he has quick feet and good hands. He has handled moving around the infield well and continues to be one of the A’s better infield defense prospects.

Munoz is an outstanding all-around talent, but his approach at the plate will need to continue to evolve if he is going to tap fully into his offensive potential. He won’t turn 22 until next January, and he will enter next season with a full year of Double-A under his belt. Even if he has to repeat with Midland next year, he will still be ahead of most 22-year-olds in terms of development.

Status: Working on his approach at Double-A

7) Richie Martin, SS Like Munoz, Martin began his 2016 season in Arizona at Extended Spring Training rehabbing an injury. Martin’s injury was to his knee, a torn meniscus suffered in a slide mishap towards the end of camp. He missed most of the first two months of the season, joining the Stockton Ports on May 23. Since then, Martin has struggled with the bat while looking good with the glove at short. In 203 at-bats, the A’s 2015 first-round pick is batting .217/.305/.266 with just one homerun and 44 strike-outs.

Martin was considered a bit of a project offensively coming out of Florida, where he showed flashes of being a top-of-the-order threat but struggled with consistency. The A’s gave Martin a challenge assignment despite his flaws at the plate, and he has been working on several adjustments with his timing and set-up while competing in the Cal League. Although Martin was a college junior when he was selected, he was young for his draft year. He won’t turn 22 until December and he is more than a year younger than the league average. Martin’s approach at the plate is solid. His walk-rate is 9% this season despite his struggles. However, he has struggled to hit the ball with much authority, as the majority of his balls hit into play have been grounders on the infield. If he can get his timing down and start lifting some of those pitches into the air as line-drives, he should be able to increase his .267 BABIP and his overall average significantly. He is a gifted defender and has looked as advertised at shortstop. 

Martin’s numbers have been disappointing given where he was drafted, but the A’s have always taken a long view with his development at the plate. Martin may continue to struggle as he makes adjustments at the plate, but the A’s will be patient with his progress. 

Status: Working on timing and rhythm in Stockton

6) Renato Nunez, 3B Nunez got off to a solid start to his first season in Triple-A, but it has been a tough last two months for the 22-year-old third baseman. A prolonged slump has dragged down Nunez’s numbers considerably, and he has a .226/.278/.398 line through 91 games. He is tied for 14th in the league in homeruns (14), but the rest of his offensive game hasn’t been up to his usual standards thus far this year.

Nunez has always been an aggressive hitter, and PCL pitchers have taken advantage of that aggressiveness to get him to hit pitcher’s pitches. He isn’t driving the ball as consistently as he normally does and he is popping up hittable pitches when he gets them, a sign of over-anxiousness as he tries to break out of the worst slump of his pro career. His 2016 hit chart still shows him using the whole field, but there are a lot more groundouts and pop-ups than there were in 2015. After splitting time between first and third last season, Nunez has played exclusively at third base or DH this year. He has made some excellent plays at third, but he has also still been prone to the silly error. With Ryon Healy playing well at third in Oakland and Matt Chapman bringing a plus glove with him in Double-A, Nunez figures to be moved off of the hot corner at some point. However, with Matt Olson and Rangel Ravelo on the Nashville roster, there haven’t been any opportunities for Nunez at first base.

Nunez is young for his level and is seeing advanced pitching exploit his natural aggressiveness for the first time. He will need to adjust his approach to account for how he is being pitched to. Nunez has the bat speed and raw power to be a special slugger in the big leagues. How he adjusts his approach will go a long way towards determining if he reaches that potential.

Status: Working on his approach

5) Chad Pinder, IF Last season couldn’t have gone more smoothly for Pinder, who put together strong month after strong month en route to a Texas League MVP award. The 2016 season has been more up-and-down for the A’s 2013 supplemental round pick, but Pinder is holding his own in his first season at the Triple-A level. Through 90 games, Pinder is batting .256/.308/.433. Those numbers are down across the board from his 2015 slashline, but Pinder’s walk-rate has stayed the same and his ISO is actually up from last year. His BABIP is down sharply (by 76 points), which represents the bulk of his dip in numbers. His strike-out totals are also up from last year.

Pinder’s worst month was in April. Since then, he has hit for more power and he has controlled the strike-zone better. He is being more selective at the plate and is getting better pitches to hit. Nine of his 13 homeruns have come since June 1. Pinder played a lot of second base during spring training, but he has appeared in all but four games in the field at shortstop during the regular season. He went through a bad defensive slump at the start of the year. His throws, in particular, were all over the place. As the season has gone on, Pinder has improved his throwing significantly and has become a much more reliable defender.

There is no question that Pinder has experienced some growing pains in his first season in Triple-A, but he has made some positive strides as the season has worn on. If he can continue to improve over the final six weeks of the season, Pinder has a shot at a September call-up. He is one of many top A’s prospects who will need to be protected from the upcoming Rule 5 draft.

Status: Making adjustments at Triple-A

4) Matt Chapman, 3B Spring training was a coming out party for Chapman, who remained in big league camp for the entire spring and wowed with his in-game power and big league-ready glove at third base. He got off to a hot start with Double-A Midland at the beginning of the regular season, but Chapman has since cooled off. The power has been consistent for him all season, but Chapman has had trouble making contact and the strike-outs have dragged down his overall batting line. In 97 games, Chapman is hitting .225/.317/.466 and he has already struck-out 130 times.

Chapman’s walk rate has remained an excellent 11.3%, but his strike-out rate has jumped from 22.4% to 31.2%. The rise in strike-outs is alarming given that Chapman does have a good understanding of the strike-zone. He has been vulnerable to fastballs up in the strike-zone and that is a vulnerability that Texas League pitchers – who see him regularly in an eight-team league – have attacked. The A’s believe Chapman’s strike-outs are a result of timing issues with his swing and believe that they can be corrected. If they can, Chapman could rise in a hurry, as the rest of his game is pretty close to big league ready. He is a spectacular defender at third base and he can hit the ball out of any park in any direction.

The Texas League is a slog and Chapman may be wearing down a bit as he approaches his 100th game of the year after playing in only 80 games last year. If he can get through the year healthy while continuing to work on improving his timing at the plate, it will set him up well to start his age-24 season in Triple-A.

Status: Working out the kinks in Double-A

3) Sean Manaea, LHP Manaea’s stay in the minor leagues was a short one this season, as he forced his way into the big league rotation with three spectacular starts for the Nashville Sounds to open the year. Since then – save for a short stint on the disabled list – Manaea has been in the A’s rotation. He has experienced his ups-and-downs in the big leagues, but Manaea has been spectacular of late and still looks every bit the part of a foundation piece for the A’s rotation for years to come.

In three starts with Nashville, Manaea allowed three runs in 18 innings. He struck-out 21 and walked only four. Those three outings came on the heels of a strong showing in big league spring training, his first spring training as a member of the A’s. Since making his major league debut on April 29, Manaea has thrown 80 innings for the A’s. He has a 4.61 ERA and a 66:20 K:BB. In his last outing, Manaea didn’t allow a run over eight innings. He hasn’t walked a batter in each of his last three outings, including a five-inning relief appearance that came when A’s starter Rich Hill had to exit in the first inning with a blister issue. Manaea’s change-up and slider have been effective weapons for him in the big leagues. When he has gotten in trouble, it has been usually because his fastball command has wavered.

Because of injuries, Manaea threw only 120 innings last season between Extended Spring Training, the minor league regular and post-seasons and the Arizona Fall League. He is currently at 101.2 between the minor and major leagues. The A’s may limit him some in September to keep his innings around 160-170 for the year. 

Status: Big leaguer

2) Matt Olson, RF/1B Like Pinder, Olson got off to a slow start in his first Triple-A season. He hit only .161 in April, then put together a solid May before struggling again in June. Olson has rebounded in July and will be looking to string together two straight good months when August rolls around. Through 94 games, Olson has a .225/.332/.419 line with 11 homers and 53 walks.

Olson has been a three-true-outcomes hitter for most of his professional career, but his strike-outs spiked up during the first half of this season while his walks dipped. However, since the start of July, Olson’s strike-out totals are down and his power numbers are up. His walk totals are also down, but that may be a good sign. Early in the year, Olson was getting into way too many two-strike counts. He is the best in the A’s system at working the count, but he was constantly in pitcher’s counts early in the year. He has been a bit more aggressive early in the count the past few weeks and he is seeing positive results. Olson will always be a patient hitter, but he should benefit from learning to attack hittable pitches early in the count when the opportunities present themselves. Defensively, Olson has played most of his games out in right field and he has handled his own as an outfielder. He is a polished defender at first and will likely see a lot of his playing time in the major leagues at first. However, the fact that he has shown he can handle right field will only open more doors for him in the big leagues.

Olson (22) is the same age or younger than many of the players the A’s drafted this season. He may get an opportunity in the big leagues this September, but if he doesn’t, that won’t mean he isn’t still in the A’s future plans.

Status: Starting to click in Triple-A   

1)  Franklin Barreto, IF Stop me if you have heard this before – after a slow start, Barreto is starting to find his footing. The A’s top prospect posted a 646 OPS during the first half of the Texas League season, but Barreto has a 953 OPS in 21 games in the second half and appears to be getting back to the level of play he displayed with the Stockton Ports in 2015. Barreto hasn’t played in nine days thanks to a hamstring injury, but he is listed as day-to-day.

Although his overall numbers are down compared to last year, Barreto has actually improved at the plate in terms of his pitch recognition and plate discipline. He is starting to recognize what pitches he can do damage with and what pitches he should lay off of, even if they are strikes. He is walking more and working deeper into counts while maintaining the same strike-out rate from a year ago. Barreto is also using his legs as a weapon more frequently in 2016. He has already stolen 23 bases. The hamstring injury may prevent him from running a lot more the rest of the season, but he has already shown that speed will be a big part of his game. Barreto’s power numbers are down, but he has hit at least six flyball outs that would have been homeruns at Banner Island Ballpark last season. He is still using the whole field well.

Defensively, Barreto has also made significant strides. He has played a much more consistent shortstop than he did last season and has looked good at second base. There had been some talk last season that Barreto’s future was in centerfield, but it is looking more and more like he will be able to stay in the middle infield either at short or second. As a middle infielder, Barreto’s bat has the potential to be special.

Even with the recent time sidelined with the hamstring injury, Barreto is just one game short of his career-high. He should remain in Double-A the rest of this season and looks poised to make the jump to Triple-A at the start of next year.

Status: Heating up in Texas

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