It’s got to be hard to be an A’s fan. The organization continues to develop solid players — and there is an exciting wave on the way, led by the likes of Matt Olson, Matt Chapman and A.J. Puk — but you know they’re probably going to be traded as they enter into their primes.
The Graduate: Matt Olson, 1B: I could easily talk about Matt Chapman who appeared in more games than Olson but the slugging first baseman arguably has more fantasy value. A significant amount of Chapman’s value comes from his third-base defence (at least right now). Olson had an almost unprecedented power run with 20 homers in 43 second half games. He’ll probably never hit for much of an average and strikes out a lot but he off-sets that by getting on base via the free pass. Olson, 23, should play everyday in 2018 – perhaps split between first base and designated hitter. He hits in a big ball park but he has the kind of power that plays anywhere – as seen by his 12 homers in 27 home games.
First Taste of The Show: Franklin Barreto, SS/3B: It’s no doubt been painful for A’s fans to watch Josh Donaldson play like a MVP for the Blue Jays over the past three seasons — especially given how Brett Lawrie imploded. But the best is yet to come for Oakland and fans received a small taste of that during Barreto’s 24-game debut in ’17. He was way too aggressive in his first appearance in The Show and struck out 43% of the time. That’s a little worrisome when you consider he also struck out at a 28% rate in triple-A while producing just league-average numbers. The positive spin, though, is that he was still quite young for the league at 21 and showed the ability to hit for average — along with power and speed. He might need another two or three months at triple-A but he’s getting close to being an impact player.
The Stud: A.J. Puk, LHP: With Sonny Gray no longer in Oakland, the club is on a search for its next long-term ace. Drafted sixth overall in 2016, Puk just might be that guy. He showcased both a plus fastball and a plus slider in ’17. His changeup is good enough to throw hitters’ balances off. His control is better-than-average and once the command catches up, he’ll be a beast. He allowed just three home runs in 125 minor league innings in 2017 and once he starts leveraging his height a little more he may never give up a home run again. With just 64 innings of experience above A-ball, he’ll need more seasoning before hitting The Show – but could be up before the ’18 all-star break.
The Draft Pick: Austin Beck, OF: The A’s selected the 18-year-old outfielder sixth overall but he struggled in his first taste of pro ball. Small sample size debuts for teenagers should always be taken with a grain of salt. However, the amateur scouting report for Beck suggested that he struggles against good pitching and that was on display in pro ball when he struck out 51 times in 41 games and hit just .211. He’ll likely need a year of extended spring training in 2018 before moving up to short-season ball in June. If everything clicks, though, he has an intriguing mix of power, speed and center-field defence.
The Sleeper: Lazaro Armenteros, OF: Armenteros received a $3 million bonus to sign out of Cuba in 2016 and he’s already turning his raw tools into useable assets despite being just 18 years old. The outfielder is a true five-tool threat who can hit for power, run, and play solid defence (with a chance to be plus in all those areas). Like most young players, he needs to smooth out the rough edges at the plate with too many strikeouts and not enough walks. He won’t turn 19 until late May but could open 2018 in full-season A-ball if he has a strong spring.
The Tumbler: Richie Martin, SS: An extremely athletic player, Martin went 20th overall to the A’s in 2015 despite some questions about his ability to hit. And not much else has changed. He continues to look like a potential gold glove fielder at shortstop but he appears more and more destined to be a future utility player thanks to his weak offensive contributions. He has a little bit of speed but Martin doesn’t hit for average, he doesn’t walk much and he doesn’t have any power. After hitting .224 in double-A, he’ll likely return to that level in 2018.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.