Photo by Chris Lockard / OaklandClubhouse.com

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

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 two, we look at the position players who fell just short of top-50 inclusion.

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

Seth Brown, OF: After a team MVP season with the Vermont Lake Monsters in 2015, Brown had an up-and-down first full professional season. The A’s challenged the 2015 19th-round pick with an aggressive assignment to High-A Stockton. Brown held his own in the league, although his season saw a number of peaks and valleys. He finished the year with a .241/.340/.362 line with eight homers and 13 stolen bases. Brown, a left-handed hitter, struggled against southpaws, which dragged down his overall slashline. He had a strong final six weeks of the season, however. Brown has a solid overall skillset. He has a good eye at the plate, some power in in his bat and above-average speed. Brown is old for a prospect but has a chance to develop into a back-up outfielder at the big league level. 

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

Anthony Churlin, OF: Churlin was one of only two high school position players the A’s signed out of the 2016 draft. The 16th-rounder from Florida spent his pro debut season in the Arizona Rookie League. He got off to a slow start but hit well down-the-stretch. Churlin then attended the A’s fall Instructional League, where he impressed the A’s minor league coaching staff. Churlin is a well-built 6’1’’ and he generates some power in his swing. He has a good natural feel for hitting. High school players often take some time to develop, but Churlin is a bit older than most high school picks (he turns 20 this year), so the A’s could move him quicker than most.

Edwin Diaz, IF: Aside from Matt Chapman, there is arguably no more talented defensive infielder in the A’s organization than Diaz, the 21-year-old from Puerto Rico. Diaz came to the A’s in the 15th-round of the 2013 draft and he has moved slowly through the system ever since. After hitting just .100 in 45 games with the Beloit Snappers in 2015, he returned to Beloit in 2016 and spent the entire season in the Midwest League. His bat saw significant improvement, as he hit .231/.311/.331 with five homers in 92 games. Defensively, Diaz split most of his time between short and third base, although he did get a few games in at second. He has a 70-grade throwing arm and is an excellent athlete with good natural actions at all three positions. Diaz has work to do to become an upper-level hitter, but he could hang with anyone defensively even at this stage of his career. In an organization that has struggled to produce plus defenders of late, Diaz stands out with the glove.

Trace Loehr, IF: When the A’s took Loehr out of high school in the sixth round of the 2014 draft, it was thought that his bat would play quickly in the pros. He hasn’t yet found his footing as a hitter in the pros, but he has shown flashes of the offensive force he can be if he puts it all together. Last season, Loehr mixed in excellent and poor months with the Beloit Snappers. In April, May and July, he hit below .200. However, he found success in June (.291), August (.338) and September (.333). The A’s were hopeful Loehr could build off of his strong finish with the Snappers, but his spring has been waylaid by an injury. Loehr will be 22 in May, so he has some time for things to click.

Jesus Lopez, IF: From a numbers perspective, Lopez hasn’t shown a lot in his three seasons as a pro, but the now 20-year-old infielder has a high ceiling as a hitter and the A’s are still hopeful that he can figure it out during the regular season. In camp settings such as spring training and the fall Instructional League, Lopez has consistently performed well. A switch-hitter, Lopez has a graceful swing from both sides and has the ability to drive the ball into the gaps. He isn’t a pure burner, but Lopez has some speed and he is a good athlete. He will be 20 throughout the 2017 season, so he still has plenty of time to develop despite his slow start.

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

Melvin Mercedes, UT: Mercedes is the kind of player a manager loves to have on his roster because he is capable of doing pretty much everything on the field and he is willing to take on any role. Mercedes’ talents were on display during the final week of the season when he played all nine positions in one game for the Ports. Mercedes is far from a novelty, however. He has above-average speed, an excellent eye at the plate and arm strength and athleticism defensively. Mercedes continued to open eyes this off-season when he hit .260 with a .402 OBP in the Dominican Winter League. Mercedes doesn’t hit for power, but the switch-hitter can get on-base and make things happen with his legs. He played in a career-high 106 games last season and should challenge for a spot in Double-A this year.

Andy Paz, C: Paz, a native of Cuba who grew up in France, was the A’s first signing out of Europe. A member of the A’s organization since 2011, Paz has developed slowly thanks to injuries and a lack of openings for playing time at the catcher position around the system. He got an opportunity for regular at-bats with Double-A Midland last season and took full advantage of it, batting .320/.393/.420 with an 18:22 BB:K in 49 games. Paz has always had an outstanding approach at the plate and he is starting to hit the ball with more authority, as well. He is still developing defensively, but he has some raw arm strength and his footwork and game-calling improved as last season went on. He should get another chance at Double-A and could reach Triple-A by the end of this season.

Tyler Ramirez, OF: For a second straight year, the A’s used a top-10 round pick on an outfielder from the University of North Carolina. In 2015, it was Skye Bolt. Last year, it was Ramirez. While sharing an alma mater, Bolt and Ramirez are very different prospects. Bolt is one of the most physically gifted players in the A’s system but he has struggled to produce consistently at both the collegiate and professional levels. Ramirez doesn’t have Bolt’s set of tools, but he has been productive wherever he has played. Over his last two years at UNC, Ramirez posted OPSs of 907 and 1022. After signing with the A’s, Ramirez hit .230/.322/.360 with two homers and six stolen bases. Ramirez doesn’t have any one flashy tool, but he does everything well. In some ways, he is a similar prospect to Jaycob Brugman. Like Brugman, Ramirez is left-handed and has a line-drive swing that has some pop. He uses the whole field well and is a smart, instinctive runner once on the bases. Ramirez is also a tough at-bat. He works the count well and sees a lot of pitches.

http://www.scout.com/mlb/athletics/story/1765570-beyond-the-a-s-2017-top...

Argenis Raga, C: As a 21-year-old for most of last season, Raga faced a significant challenge catching everyday in the High-A California League. The native of Venezuela went through plenty of growing pains, but he also continued to show promise at the plate and growth behind it. Originally an infielder, Raga moved to catcher in 2014. He is still learning the ins-and-outs of the position, but he has above-average arm strength and the build to be a solid receiver. He also has a chance to be an above-average hitter at the position. Despite dealing with the rigors of catching everyday, Raga hit .263 with a .329 OBP last season. He didn’t hit for much power, but that is something that could develop over time. Raga has plenty of development left to do, but he will be worth watching this season.

Jean Carlo Rodriguez, IF: Rodriguez doesn’t have a particularly high profile within the A’s system, but the native of Panama has one of the better approaches at the plate of any young player in the A’s system. In 181 career minor league games, Rodriguez has a .351 OBP and a 69:80 BB:K. Last season, as a 20-year-old, Rodriguez hit .232/.303/.358 in 55 games for the Beloit Snappers. It was his first season above the Rookie ball level. A versatile defender, Rodriguez can play every position but catcher. His ceiling is as a utility player, but his on-base skills and defensive versatility make him a prospect to watch.

Jhonny Rodriguez, OF/1B: Rodriguez opened a lot of eyes in 2015 when he hit .284/.333/.450 in 27 games in the Arizona Rookie League as an 18-year-old. Rodriguez began his 2016 season with short-season Vermont and he got off to a good start with the Lake Monsters, hitting .283 in June. Rodriguez struggled in July but was hitting his way out of it in early August when the A’s sent him back to the AZL. Rodriguez continued to hit well for the AZL A’s when he returned to the desert and finished his 2016 season with a .240/.273/.347 line in 39 games. Rodriguez is a big man with a sweet swing. He can drive the ball to all fields, although he is still learning to lift it out of the ballpark. Rodriguez turned 20 last July and is still developing a consistent approach, but he is a talented hitter.

JaVon Shelby, CF: Shelby had a forgettable 2016 season. The son of former big leaguer John Shelby, JaVon entered the 2016 season with a chance to go in the first or second round of the draft. He got off to a fast start for Kentucky but struggled for much of the season, hitting only .212. The A’s still liked Shelby’s power-and-speed potential and they took him in the fifth round. Shelby spent most of his pro debut season with Vermont, where he continued to struggle. In 56 games, he hit only .189/.279/.309. Shelby did start swinging the bat better late in the season and even homered in three straight games during the final week of the year. Shelby made several adjustments at the plate during the A’s fall Instructional League, and the A’s coaching staff was pleased with the results. Shelby also made the move from third base to centerfield, where coaches were pleasantly surprised with his ability to track balls in the gap. Shelby has the potential to hit for power, draw a decent number of walks and steal some bases. He will need to improve his contact rate considerably, but the talent is there for him to rise up the ladder.

Brett Siddall, OF: A 13th-round pick in 2015, Siddall opened some eyes in his pro debut season when he posted an 826 OPS for the A’s two short-season squads. He got off to a fast start in 2016 with the Snappers, hitting .347 in April. He struggled in May and June before finding his footing in July. Unfortunately, he hit only .189 in August (although four of his nine homers came that month) and Siddall finished the year with a .241/.321/.356 line. Siddall has some power and a solid approach at the plate. He is also a fundamentally sound outfielder who can play both corners. He’s challenging for a spot in the California League this spring.

J.P. Sportman, UT: After a strong pro debut season in 2014 and an impressive showing in spring training in 2015, Sportman saw most of his 2015 season lost to a hamate bone injury. Despite the missed time, Sportman moved up from High-A Stockton in 2015 to Double-A Midland in 2016, where he played an important role on the RockHounds’ championship squad. Sportman hit a solid .267 and played in 120 games with the RockHounds. His overall line was .267/.309/.379 and he stole 18 bases in 24 chances. Defensively, Sportman showed versatility, playing left field, centerfield and second base. Sportman is an aggressive hitter who can sometimes be too aggressive, but he has a quick swing and some power in his 5’9’’ frame. Sportman also runs well. With his defensive versatility, his speed and his ability to hit for average, he has a chance to be a utility player in the big leagues. He is old for a prospect (25), but he could see time in Triple-A this season.

Beau Taylor, C: After struggling for parts or all of four seasons in Midland, Taylor finally had a break-through season at the plate for the RockHounds. The A’s 2011 fifth-round pick earned post-season honors for his .280/.383/.398 line for the RockHounds. Taylor also played outstanding defense behind the plate, leading the top staff in the Texas League and throwing out 36% of would-be base-stealers. Unfortunately for Taylor, his season ended on a bad note when it was announced in November that he had violated minor league baseball’s banned substance policy. He will be suspended for the first 50 games of this season. It was a disappointing turn for Taylor, who was positioned to start the year in Triple-A before the suspension. Now other factors may determine where he begins the season after his suspension is complete. Suspension aside, Taylor has a chance to be a solid back-up big league catcher. He began his career as a bat-first prospect, but he has developed into an above-average receiver. At the plate, he has a solid approach and he appears to have regained the stroke that allowed him to hit .328 with Stockton in 2012.

Josh Vidales, 2B: A senior selection out of last year’s draft, Vidales came to pro ball after a down season at the plate for the University of Houston. He made up for that in a big way with his pro debut, earning post-season All-Star honors in the Arizona Rookie League. With the AZL A’s, Vidales hit .345/.437/.507. He also played an above-average second base. Vidales’ work last season and this spring has earned him some playing time in big league spring games this year. He is old for a prospect who hasn’t played above Rookie ball yet, but Vidales is a switch-hitter who has an outstanding approach at the plate. He may not hit for power, but he has a knack for getting on-base and he can field his position. The A’s coaching staff was high on Vidales after Instructs and he should get an opportunity in full-season ball this year.

Mikey White, IF: White had a very tough first full professional season. The A’s 2015 second-round pick spent the entire year with High-A Stockton, where the hope was that he would be able to put up big offensive numbers in the hitter-friendly environs of the Cal League. Instead, White looked lost at the plate for much of the year and hit .247/.315/.352 with a 130:40 K:BB. Scouts thought White’s bat looked slow and that he didn’t show much strength in his swing. On the plus side, White hit .276/.343/.404 during the second half of the year after some changes to his swing mechanics and he was solid defensively at second and short. White was drafted more for his bat than his glove and he’ll need to continue the progress he made during the second half of last season to regain his prospect status. He now finds himself behind Max Schrock at second base and fellow 2015 draft pick Richie Martin at shortstop. That said, he’s only 23 and could quickly push his way back up the prospect ranks in the A’s system with a strong season.


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