2020 Prospect Opportunities — Athletics

Today, we continue through the American League West teams in our 2020 Prospect Opportunities series, as we move onto the Athletics. As a strongly projected team, there aren’t many obvious holes. Outside of a couple of question marks on offense, their starting pitching staff looks pretty strong with no real pitchers at risk. Of course, any of their top prospects slated to make the rotation could stink up the joint, but the prospects behind them on the depth chart have no better chance to outperform.

American League Prospect Opportunities
AL East AL Central AL West
Blue Jays Indians Angels
Orioles Royals Astros
Rays Tigers Athletics
Red Sox Twins Mariners
Yankees White Sox Rangers

National League Prospect Opportunities
NL East NL Central NL West
Braves Brewers Diamondbacks
Marlins Cardinals Dodgers
Mets Cubs Giants
Nationals Pirates Padres
Phillies Reds Rockies

2B
At Risk: Tony Kemp
Replacement: Franklin Barreto & Sheldon Neuse

The second base battle in Oakland was one to watch during Spring Training, as the team seemingly had a myriad of options, none of which stood out. The favorite, perhaps on the strong side of a platoon, was veteran Tony Kemp, who served in a utility role for several years, posting just a .297 wOBA. Clearly, he wouldn’t have had a strong grasp on a starting job, even if he did win one at the outset.

Franklin Barreto is a former top prospect who may have opened the year on the short side of a platoon, but good performance, coupled with weak performance by Kemp, could have pushed him into a much larger role. After enjoying three cups of coffee with the Athletics, Barreto has now recorded 209 MLB plate appearances since 2017. They were a very bad 209 PAs, as he posted just a .253 wOBA and a hilariously poor 7/85 BB/K ratio. However, he does possess lots of power, posting low 20% HR/FB rates during his last two Triple-A stints, while showing off some speed as well. It’s the potential for a nice power/speed mix that has fantasy owners still caring. He needs to clean up that plate discipline and make better contact, of course.

Another option is the team’s ninth best prospect, Sheldon Neuse. He earned a cup of coffee last year, but didn’t do much with it. He majorly broke out at Triple-A last year, raising his wOBA by a crazy near .100 points, pushing his ISO from below .100 to over .200, and more than quadrupling his HR/FB rate from a lowly 4.5%. He even cut down on his strikeout rate dramatically, while increasing his walk rate into double digits for the first time. His minor league performance has been all over the map, so it’s hard to tell how real this was. But it’s worth remembering his name in case he proves it was no fluke.

RF
At Risk: Stephen Piscotty
Replacement: Dustin Fowler & Skye Bolt

Given his contract, it’s unlikely he loses his job, but Stephen Piscotty needs to perform better than a .306. This is especially true after being a negative on defense over the last two seasons, albeit barely. Although when healthy, he’s likely to start, let’s take this opportunity to review some OF replacement options. This could also come in handy if Mark Canha proves last season’s breakout was a complete fluke.

Dustin Fowler still exists! A former sleeper who failed to pan out, Fowler enjoyed a HR/FB rate rate spike last year. While his ISO settled well below his career high reached in 2017, his doubles and triples turned into homers. That could either suggest some flukiness (a fortunate gust of wind here and there), or the natural growth of power. He also still steals bases, swiping 12 last year, after 19 in 2018 between Triple-A and the Majors. He doesn’t swing and miss often, but he needs to work on his plate discipline, as he simply doesn’t walk often enough.

Aside from an amazing name, Skye Bolt has an intriguing skill set for fantasy owners. With low to mid-teen HR/FB rates since 2017 and ISO marks around .200, he possesses power. But he has also shown the desire to steal double digit bases. Lastly, he has posted BABIP marks of at least .308 every stint since 2017, thanks to a solid batted ball distribution light on pop-ups. He is willing to take a walk, having typically posted double digit walk rats, but his strikeout rate into the high 20% range last year. The good news is he has always kept solid SwStk% marks just into double digits, so the strikeouts appear more due to his plate patience, rather than a penchant for whiffing.

We hoped you liked reading 2020 Prospect Opportunities — Athletics by Mike Podhorzer!

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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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