Photo by Bill Seals

Beyond the Oakland A's 2017 top-50 prospects: Pitchers

We recently ranked the top-50 prospects in the Oakland A's system, but those 50 are hardly the only players worth watching in the A's organization. We considered several other players before finalizing the list. In a two-part series, we take a look at those players who just missed the cut. In part one, we look at the pitchers who fell just short of top-50 inclusion.

PITCHERS THAT JUST MISSED THE TOP-50 

Please note that players are listed in alphabetical - not rank - order.

Xavier Altamirano, RHP: Altamarino had a big spring training last year and began the year as the Opening Day starter for the Low-A Beloit Snappers. He struggled with the Snappers and was sent back to Extended Spring Training in late May. In June, he joined the short-season Vermont Lake Monsters and he would spend the rest of the season in the Vermont rotation. In 65.1 innings, Altamarino had a 2.48 ERA and a 57:10 K:BB. Altamarino throws a lot of strikes and commands his fastball well. He also has a slider, a curveball and a change-up. He grew a lot last season mentally, learning to be aggressive with advanced hitters, and could be in for a much more successful return to the Midwest League. 

http://www.scout.com/mlb/athletics/story/1763537-oakland-a-s-top-50-pros...

Boomer Biegalski, RHP: Biegalski spent his first full professional season with the Snappers, tossing 153.1 innings over 28 appearances. For much of the season, Biegalski was one of the Snappers most effective starters. A rough stretch in late June/early July jumped his ERA out of the 2.00s, but it was a solid season for the Florida State alum nonetheless. Biegalski doesn’t throw particularly hard, but he has one of the best change-ups in the A’s system. He throws a lot of strikes and his breaking ball saw improvement from the beginning of the season to the end. He should get an opportunity with Stockton in 2017.

Argenis Blanco, RHP: Blanco was the ace of the AZL A’s staff in 2016, posting a 2.52 ERA in 60.2 innings. It was his second straight strong season in the Arizona Rookie League. Blanco repeats his delivery well, throws strikes and keeps the ball on the ground. He allowed only two homeruns last season. He has plenty of development left to do, but he should get his first opportunity since coming stateside to pitch outside of Arizona this year.

Ben Bracewell, RHP: Bracewell hasn’t followed the typical prospect path. Despite a very successful collegiate career at Mississippi State, Bracewell went undrafted after his senior season in 2014. A short stint in the independent leagues led to a contract with the A’s. Bracewell came to pro ball with three strikes against him: he was already 23, he had a history of a major shoulder injury from college and he was an undrafted signee. Since then, Bracewell’s performance has forced scouts to pay attention. In 159.1 innings over two-and-a-half seasons, Bracewell has a 2.65 ERA and he has allowed just nine homeruns. He had a 2.14 ERA in 88.1 innings for the Double-A Midland RockHounds last season. Bracewell split last season between the rotation and the bullpen and pitched equally well in both roles. A groundball pitcher with good command and a solid pitch mix, Bracewell doesn’t overpower hitters, but he gets plenty of weak contact. He may need to repeat in Double-A because of the A’s right-handed pitching depth in Triple-A, but given his versatility, he could be one of the first recalled to Triple-A from Midland if there is an opening.

Brendan Butler, RHP: A 30th-round pick in 2015, Butler may prove to be a steal in that draft. The New York native spent much of the first half in Extended Spring Training last year, but he was one of the bright spots in the lower levels for the A’s during the second half of the season. Splitting his time mostly between Beloit and Vermont, Butler had a 2.84 ERA in 92 innings. He struck-out 82, walked 26 and had a 1.77 GO/AO. Butler has a starter’s frame and a fastball that can touch 95 and sits 91-93 as a starter. He also has a good breaking ball and is working on a change-up. Butler fared well as a starter last season, although he may ultimately end up in the bullpen. He should see time in Stockton at some point in 2017.

Wandisson Charles, RHP: Charles throws gas. Whether he can figure out where the ball is going after he releases it remains to be seen. Charles has a big frame (6’6’’, 220 – although the listed weight is probably light) and an even bigger fastball that can touch 100 MPH. He was very wild last year, walking 33 in 36.2 innings, but he struck-out 48 and had a 2.18 GO/AO in the Arizona Rookie League. He needs plenty of polish, but Charles is a late-inning relief prospect to keep tabs on.

Zack Erwin, LHP: Erwin came to the A’s in the Brett Lawrie deal before the 2016 season. The lefty was a fourth-round pick of the White Sox out of Clemson in 2015. The A’s challenged Erwin with an assignment to Stockton to begin his first full professional season. He got off to a solid start, but he injured his elbow in early May and tried to pitch through it. The rest of the season went as one would expect from a player who was not pitching healthy; he finished the year with a 6.32 ERA in 98.1 innings between Stockton and Beloit. Erwin had his elbow scoped during the off-season and will begin the year in Extended Spring Training rehabbing the injury. A strike-thrower with a low-90s fastball and an above-average split-finger, Erwin could rise quickly back up the prospect ranks once he is healthy.

Kyle Friedrichs, RHP: In his first full professional season, Friedrichs came on strong, racking up 153 innings and posting a 3.35 ERA for Beloit, Stockton and Midland. Drafted as a senior in 2015, Friedrichs is on the older side for a prospect, but he came to pro ball with plenty of polish. He rarely cracks 90 MPH with his fastball, but everything Friedrichs throws has plenty of movement. He also throws a lot of strikes, walking only 16 last season. Sometimes those strikes get too much of the plate, but when he is dancing on the edges of the strike-zone, he is very difficult for opposing teams to lock in on. Friedrichs had Tommy John surgery in college, but he showed durability last season and should get an opportunity to continue starting this year.

Will Gilbert, LHP: Gilbert was a senior selection in the eighth round of the 2016 draft. The NC State alum is a reliever and could move quickly through the system. The left-hander had a 2.81 ERA in 25.1 innings for Vermont in his pro debut season. He struck-out 31 and walked 12. Gilbert’s command can occasionally get away from him, but he is very tough to hit, as evidenced by his .194 BAA. He was effective versus both lefties and righties last season. Gilbert could start the year with Stockton, depending on how the A’s divide up their relievers.

http://www.scout.com/mlb/athletics/story/470233-oakland-a-s-top-50-prosp...

Dustin Hurlbutt, RHP: Hurlbutt began the 2016 season in Extended Spring Training, but he proved he belonged in full-season ball when he joined the Beloit Snappers in June. In 98 innings, Hurlbutt had a 2.57 ERA and a 78:24 K:BB. He allowed only six homeruns. Hurlbutt overcame Tommy John surgery in college and was on the older side when he was drafted. He has quality stuff, with a fastball that can touch 94, a solid circle change-up and a slider. He has experience as both a starter and a reliever, and he could fit any number of roles for the A’s once the season begins.

Chris Jensen, RHP: Jensen is likely playing in his final year in the A’s system, unless he can work his way onto the A’s 40-man roster before the end of the year. The right-hander, acquired along with Drew Pomeranz for Brett Anderson before the 2014 season, finally broke through to Triple-A last year after spending two-and-a-half season with Double-A Midland. Jensen’s ERA was 4.58 in 147.1 innings between Midland and Triple-A Nashville last year, but he mixed in a lot of very good starts with a few big clunkers. Jensen reduced his walk rate while increasing his strike-out rate considerably last season and he gave up a lot fewer hits per nine innings. Jensen has a starter’s pitch mix and has always been very durable. He may not get his opportunity at the big leagues with Oakland, but minor league free agency could open some doors for him next off-season.

Aaron Kurcz, RHP: Kurcz re-signed with the A’s as a minor league free agent after spending the past one-and-a-half seasons in the A’s system. The hard-throwing right-hander was a non-roster invitee to spring training. Kurcz split last season between Double-A and Triple-A, posting a 3.03 ERA with a 55:17 K:BB in 68.1 innings. He has struggled with his command in the past, but he sacrificed some swing-and-miss last season to improve his strike-throwing and it was effective. Opposing batters hit just .211 against him and he allowed just four homeruns. Kurcz had a couple of rough outings in big league spring games, but those few outings won’t erase the success he had in Triple-A last year.

Abdiel Mendoza, RHP: Mendoza made his professional debut in 2016 as a 17-year-old in the Dominican Summer League. He put up terrific numbers in the DSL, posting a 2.32 ERA in 31 innings. Mendoza had a 25:9 K:BB and a .223 BAA. He came to the US for fall Instructs and generated a lot of buzz from A’s coaches, who see him as a potential fireballer with the ability to spin a breaking ball. Mendoza is only 5’10’’, 135 pounds, so much of his focus this year will be on nutrition and gaining strength in his frame.

Carlos Navas, RHP: Navas has been with the organization since 2010 and he extended his stay at least another year by re-signing with Oakland as a free agent this off-season. Navas pitched in his native Venezuela this off-season and had a breakout year in the VWL, posting a 2.28 ERA and striking out 30 in 27.2 innings. Navas doesn’t throw hard, but his fastball is “sneaky” fast and he gets a surprising number of swings-and-misses in the top half of the strike-zone. He has a big bending curveball and a decent slider. Navas isn’t afraid to challenge hitters with all four of his pitches. Even though he has been in affiliated baseball for seven years, he is only 24 and should get a shot in Double-A this year.

Jake Sanchez, RHP: For all intents and purposes, Sanchez should be in the A’s top-50 prospects list. He gets dinged for his age (27) and the fact that he appears to be blocked from Triple-A at the moment. Sanchez has done everything asked of him since moving to the bullpen last year. He served as Midland’s closer for large parts of last season and had a 3.11 ERA and a 72:18 K:BB in 66.2 regular season innings. Sanchez raised his profile considerably during the off-season when he posted an 0.52 ERA and saved 23 games in 24 chances for Mexicali of the Mexican Winter League. That effort earned Sanchez a spot on Team Mexico’s WBC squad. Sanchez can touch the upper-90s with his fastball and he compliments that four-seam fastball with a sinker, a split-finger fastball and a slider. He also has a deceptive delivery that hides the ball well. Sanchez has big league stuff, but in an A’s organization with a lot of right-handed relievers with good numbers at the Triple-A level, he will need a break to get a real opportunity with Oakland.

Cody Stull, LHP: Stull was dominant last season, posting a 1.61 ERA in 61.2 innings, most of which came with the Stockton Ports. The lefty struck-out 65, walked only 14 and allowed just three homeruns. With Stockton, left-handers hit only .133 against him. Stull doesn’t throw particularly hard, but he has an above-average change-up, a cutter that gets plenty of movement and a one-seam fastball that rides in on hitters. He has a tall, lanky frame and has demonstrated durability in his brief pro career. The A’s are light on left-handed relievers in the upper-levels, so Stull has an opportunity to move relatively quickly if he continues to pitch like he did last season.

Oscar Tovar, RHP: After wowing in the Dominican Summer League and in fall Instructs in 2015, Tovar had a somewhat disappointing 2016 season. His season began with a suspension for violating baseball’s banned substance policy. Once he served the suspension, Tovar pitched for the AZL A’s, racking up 43 innings. He impressed at times, posting a 3.56 ERA and a 2.32 GO/AO. However, he didn’t miss as many bats as one would expect given the quality of his stuff (31 strike-outs). Tovar is just 19 and he has a lively fastball that hits 95, as well as a promising breaking ball and change-up. Tovar isn’t particularly big (6’1’, 160), but he will get plenty of opportunities to develop as a starter. He could rise quickly up the A’s prospect list this year.

Lou Trivino, RHP: Trivino spent his first two seasons in the A’s system as a starter before moving into a bullpen role midway through the 2015 season. After moving to the bullpen, Trivino’s fastball clicked up from 91-93 to 95-97, occasionally tickling triple digits. He also features an effective cut-fastball and a slider. Trivino can struggle to repeat his delivery, but he improved his consistency significantly last year and put up a 2.85 ERA and a 61:25 K:BB in 60 innings between Midland and Stockton. The A’s have given him a few big league spring looks already, a sign they are keeping a close eye on the right-hander.

Jesus Zambrano, RHP: After a standout performance in the Venezuelan Winter League, Zambrano looked poised for a breakout season in 2016. Instead, he struggled with his command and his mechanics for most of the year, which resulted in a disappointing campaign. In 72.1 innings for Beloit and Vermont, Zambrano had a 4.85 ERA and a 42:23 K:BB. Zambrano turned 20 last August, so he is still very young and he has an advanced feel for how to mix his pitches. He needs to regain consistency with his delivery, but if he can find that again, he will go back up the prospect rankings. 


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