Oakland Athletics 2021 Preseason Top 50 Prospects

Jack Cecil reviews the top 50 Oakland Athletics fantasy prospects.

As we prepare for the season ahead, the Pitcher List staff will be creating profiles for every fantasy-relevant player for 2021. Players will be broken up by team and role through starting pitchers, bullpen, lineup, and prospects. You can access every article as it comes out in our Player Profiles 2021 hub here.

The Oakland Athletics consistently remain competitive, but rarely due to dominance in player development. With a new sheriff in town, Ed Sprague, a second year director of player development hopes to change that and turn this into a pipeline rather than a farm selling off their assets. The pieces here are not stand out dominant parts, but plenty of players on this list will make the MLB in one manner or another.

Note: These Top 50 lists are all done through a fantasy baseball-focused lens. Many players who are ranked higher or lower on other platforms will get a boost here. For example, players who profile as middle relievers or glove-first infielders likely won’t have much fantasy relevance, so they won’t be ranked as highly. 

 

1. Daulton Jefferies, RHP

 

Age: 25

Highest Level: MLB

One look at Jefferies, and you will not be wowed. He is not a hulking monster, he is 25 years old, and he does not possess one single attribute that you would notice immediately by seeing him pitch one game or by simply walking by. What Jefferies does have is pinpoint, telescopic lens accuracy with his pitches.

Do you remember Paula White was talking about strikes all over the internet a month ago? That’s what it is like watching Jefferies pitch. He is the only thrower of an immaculate inning I have ever seen in a minor league game.  While he does not have stuff that is going to explode off the page, do not forget that he’s pitching in the Oakland Coliseum, and the BABIP gods are going to be on his side with the cold air and extra foul territory.

So, the ceiling is not that of your typical No. 1 prospect, but the floor is substantially higher than what people seem to think. With two consecutive healthy years in a row, I am not overly concerned about his durability.

 

2. A.J. Puk, LHP

 

Age: 25

Highest Level: MLB

The opposite of what was just written about Jefferies applies to Puk. A 6-7 flame-throwing monster, Puk, on the right day, is breathing down the necks of every hitter in baseball with his upper 90s fastball paired with equally impressive extension. On the wrong day, he’s out due to rest or rehab. The injury bug seems to be a real concern here, as he seemingly has some issue every season. Shoulder surgery is his most recent woe, and it seems like he is becoming more and more likely to be pushed off into the bullpen if Oakland cannot find a way to get him to stay healthy.

 

3. Robert Puason, SS

 

Age: 18

Highest Level: N/A

What seems like eons ago, John Coppolella was leading a Braves organization that was caught breaking the international signing rules. One of the players who was verbally committed but then granted freedom from this process was Puason. A few years later, Puason is a high-ceiling, high-waisted, athletic, switch-hitting shortstop.

The buzzwords that have fallen upon previous top international signing shortstops also apply to Puason. He has all the potential you can ask for, and none of the experience that you want. The past year did not help, as we still do not have a stat sheet on Puason to look at, but the tools are what you’re buying here. If you have an established and competitive team, this is the kind of risk worth taking. If you are in a full rebuild, this level of risk is going to be a tough pill to swallow.

ETA: 2025

 

4. Tyler Soderstrom, C

 

Age: 19

Highest Level: N/A

Soderstrom does not have the extremes of the people above him have had in their profile. The positive is that Soderstrom is a catcher, and he hits. Wherever you go to find scouting grades on Soderstrom’s offense, you will regularly find a plus grade on his bat. That alone is hard to replicate throughout the minors, and his likely average power makes him seem all that much more tantalizing.

The snag in this whole situation is that his defense is questionable, and he is young enough where it can go in all sorts of directions. A plus hit, average speed and power outfielder is nothing compared to the same profile at catcher, and the A’s currently have a very good and very young defensive catcher in Sean Murphy. The road to the big leagues as a catcher in the minors is grueling, and it is frequently littered with names we once fantasized about.

The potential is what puts him at fourth on this list, but the risk prevents him from being higher. Need-based drafting is difficult to back, but if he makes it deeper into your first-year player draft than expected, Soderstrom may be the rare prep catcher worth gambling on.

ETA: 2025

 

5. Nick Allen, SS

 

Age: 22

Highest Level: High-A

Allen is a defense-first player, who is grinding his way up ranks with an incredible work ethic. He formerly was sitting on the sideline of fantasy lists because he was purely a glove, but now he is ascending after putting on considerable  weight, which has accelerated his offensive development. Low-A Beloit was unkind to Allen, but after moving up a level to High-A he clearly outworked the competition and was ready for the challenge. He was the most impressive of the prospects with the Stockton Ports, and he was young for the level. He showed great plate discipline, and when he did swing, he was on it. Allen is not going to be your top prospect, but if you are searching for the player who will max out his ability in Oakland, this is your hitter.

ETA: 2022

 

6. Luis Barrera, OF

 

Age: 25

Highest Level: Double-A

Take what I said about Allen at shortstop and transpose it into a Dominican outfielder, and you have Barrera. Hitters hit, and so far, Barrera has had no issue doing that in his minor league career. The issue is that his plate discipline is not quite up to Allen’s level, and he is coming off shoulder surgery in 2019. The cannon arm and blazing speed are what make him interesting, but those are traditionally supplementary tools. This likely is the line where you need to start asking some questions before you roster them. There is a chance Barrera has something click and this is way too low, but Oakland isn’t known for tearing up the basepaths, so his skillset may not be ideally suited for fantasy glory.

ETA: 2021

 

7. Brayan Buelvas, OF

 

Age: 18

Highest Level: Rookie

Buelvas is a young natural who we are all waiting to see how he does against stiffer competition. As a 17-year-old he straight up destroyed the AZL to the tune of .300/.392/.506. The issue is the projection is not there like it is for others who lit up inferior competition. He is fast, but not blazing, he can hit it hard, but he is not a power hitter. The pressure is all on his ability to hit his way through competition through quality contact. There is a chance he keeps up his raking ways and makes this look bad, but traditionally this is not the profile that dynasty owners fawn over.

ETA: 2024

 

8. Sheldon Neuse, 2B/3B

 

Age: 26

Highest Level: MLB

Like many Athletics minor leaguers, Neuse abused Las Vegas. His strikeout rate dropped, his walk rate rose, and he sported a .394 wOBA and a 126 wRC+. Neuse has prospect pedigree, and it seems odd that I do not expect him to keep hitting as he has through the minors, but make no mistake of it, he has hit a lot. Unfortunately, he did not keep it up in his 2019 debut, and he did not make it into the MLB in 2020.

Hopefully, he can keep up the good work and make this rank look light, but it’s hard to not be a little skeptical of the slower utility infielder, he played mostly third along with shortstop, second and left field in 2019, who has been fueling his strong offensive outputs before Triple-A in Las Vegas with a high strikeout and high extra base hit approach.

 

9. James Kaprielian, RHP

 

Age: 26

Highest Level: MLB

This is what they look like. Tall, athletic, strong, bulldog on the mound. His four-pitch mix consistently works. The days of him hitting 99 mph in college are gone, but him averaging 95 last year in his debut is a good sign that injuries could be behind him. Oakland needs pitchers, and while I am sure he wants to be a starter, he is such a competitor that I doubt there would need to be any conversation about him being in the bullpen to start 2021. The issue is he is older for a prospect, and he has been hurt a lot. He’s not the traditional prospect because of his age and pedigree, but he could be a classic late bloomer if a rotation spot opens up for him.

 

10. Junior Perez, OF

 

Age: 19

Highest Level: Short Season

As the player to be named later in the Jorge Mateo trade, Perez is raw and strong. He has had issues hitting for average so far but hitting 11 home runs in the AZL is no joke. At such a young level, it is promising that he is working walks, but at lower levels, the pitchers are all over the map, and these may not necessarily be hard fought walks. Hopefully, this turns into more down the line.

ETA: 2022

 

11. Logan Davidson, SS

 

Age: 23

Highest Level: Short Season

Davidson is an anomaly in the fact that he had a ton of success at Clemson, but proceeded to hit like his bat was made of rubber in pro ball. Equally questionable, how his .239/.345/.332 triple slash was 12% better than the league average. If Davidson can get back to his college ways of crushing then he is a solid player to add, if he hits like his Cape Cod and New York-Penn performance, it might be time to get off the bandwagon before the wagon is even built.

ETA: 2022

 

12. Jordan Diaz, 3B

 

Age: 20

Highest Level: Short Season

Diaz can hit the ball, everything after that comes into question with his short and thick build. He has gotten his hits at the past two levels he has played at, the question is how long he can stick at 3B, because he might be out of luck as far as fantasy owners should be concerned if he has to move to first.

ETA: 2022

 

13. Greg Deichmann, OF

 

Age: 25

Highest Level: Double-A

Deichmann is a tough player to read. In college he looked like a man among boys, getting bigger and better year after year. Everywhere else, that Deichmann has been yet to be seen. Through three minor league seasons he has played 184 games and his triple slash is .232/.320/.426. His lack of production can be attributed to playing through injury at some points, but overall the performance from his SEC days are hard to find now. Perhaps his AFL performance in 2019 was a glimpse of what he could potentially be, but I am in a wait and see mode with Deichmann at this point.

ETA: 2021

 

14. Jeff Criswell, RHP

 

Age: 21

Highest Level: N/A

Average pitcher body, potentially a plus fastball and slider, does not have a starters command or off speed. After this point, where we are going, there are no roads.

ETA: 2023

 

15. Grant Holmes, RHP

 

Age: 24

Highest Level: Triple-A

Once upon a time Holmes was that new hotness, the year was 2014. Since then, he’s missed large swaths of time repeatedly. He can still spin the hell out of a breaking ball, but the fastball is average, and the breaking ball is a slider, which traditionally is not super dependent on its high spin rate. The command was never great, and a few stints on the IL has not helped.

ETA: 2021

 

16. Tyler Baum, RHP

 

Age: 23

Highest Level: Short Season

Here is an undersized righty, Baum is average across the board with his three pitch mix and command. He is currently on the swingman trajectory because of this skill set.

ETA: 2023

 

17. Buddy Reed, OF

 

Age: 25

Highest Level: Double-A

Big, strong, fast, great in the field, great arm. After putting on a bunch of muscle before 2019 he proceeded to do what he has been doing for a while now, not hit enough. His pedigree means he’ll get plenty of shots, but in the end, this is not a fantasy baseball player.

ETA: 2021

 

18. Brian Howard, RHP

 

Age: 25

Highest Level: Triple-A

To say the least, Howard is an odd profile. At 6’9 you expect the next few sentences to be about power stuff and lack of command and body control. Howard brings an average arsenal with above average command. He throws strikes, and may one day be a backend starter. For the deep leaguers, him being on the cusp of the big leagues means he is probably rostered, but if he isn’t give him a look.

ETA: 2021

 

19. Vimael Machin, 2B

 

Age: 27

Highest Level: MLB

This is an MLB utility infielder. If good plate discipline and a guy who can put the bat on the ball is your thing, here is your guy.

 

20. Wandisson Charles, RHP

 

Age: 24

Highest Level: Double-A

A true wild card, Charles is a flame throwing beast. His breaking ball is average, mostly due to it being a hard slider. His command is barely existent, multiple Ks and multiple walks an inning are always in play. With relievers, if command magically showed up maybe a closer in waiting is possible, but right now we are nowhere near that possibility.

ETA: 2021

 

21. Parker Dunshee, RHP

 

Age: 26

Highest Level: Triple-A

Very similar profile to Howard, but much shorter, and even more strikes. Another backend starter.

ETA: 2021

 

22. Jeremy Eierman, SS

 

Age: 24

Highest Level: High-A

Eierman is an athletic SS who may be pushed off the position due to Nick Allen’s phenomenal defense, but Eierman is no slouch in his own right. At the plate, he is powerful, and he’s also quick on the basepaths. At this point you may be wondering, “why is he 22nd on the list?” This is because he also is sporting one of the more unusual bat paths that involves chopping down on the ball, but somehow getting under it frequently enough to not be a ground ball hitter. It seems like he’s clipping the ball at the only moment he can make contact as opposed to mimicking the ball’s flight and driving through it. He struck out a lot in High-A, but typically approach problems are bigger than mechanical ones, and this could be fixed, but until then, he is an athlete who struck out 32% of the time in High-A.

ETA: 2022

 

23. Gus Varland, RHP

 

Age: 24

Highest Level: High-A

He should be close to if not fully recovered from Tommy John surgery when 2021 begins. Gus shorter but thick and not fat build pitcher. He throws strikes, and if everything clicks, he could be an MLB middle reliever. I personally have seen him hit 97 mph, but the norm is low to mid 90s fastball, a breaking ball that flashes average, and a changeup that flashes above average.

ETA: 2022

 

24. Jonah Heim, C

 

Age: 25

Highest Level: MLB

Plus defensive catcher with an average hit tool but lacks power and speed, and has a superior catcher starting in Oakland already.

 

25. Seth Brown, OF

 

Age: 28

Highest Level: MLB

Like many hitters in Las Vegas, he abused Triple-A. His .986 OPS being a 126 wRC+ may seem odd, but hitters hit, and at this point on the list, production is what I am factoring in most heavily. He’s already had a cup of coffee in the bigs, and this feels like an Oakland guy for a couple of years as a back-of-the-roster guy.

 

26. Skye Bolt, OF

 

Age: 27

Highest Level: MLB

Below average hit and power on the speedy CF. Name grade outperforms talent so far.

ETA: 2021

 

27. Eric Marinez, RHP

 

Age: 25

Highest Level: High-A

A converted infielder, who failed a PED test. He is a reliever, with a power arm and one of the better changeups on the farm. No need to stash, but an interesting arm.

ETA: 2022

 

28. Austin Beck, OF

 

Age: 22

Highest Level: High-A

He doesn’t hit for enough power to justify his poor strikeout and walk rates, he also does not steal, and he has consistently been getting hurt for two years.

ETA: 2024

 

29. Miguel Romero, RHP

 

Age: 26

Highest Level: Triple-A

He will be a 27-year-old minor league reliever next year. He puts up strikeouts, but the walks are huge, and this doesn’t look like anything more than an up-and-down reliever.

ETA: 2021

 

30. Brady Feigl, RHP

 

Age: 25

Highest Level: High-A

This is a true innings eater. If he can gain some velocity, not that he is necessarily lacking, there could be a back end big leaguer here.

ETA: 2021

 

31. Lazaro Armenteros, OF

 

Age: 21

Highest Level: High-A

He set the California League record for strikeouts in 2019 … as a hitter. He has no ability to hit a breaking pitch and possesses a true 20-grade arm. There is power and speed buried in there, but it is deep down.

ETA: 2024

 

32. Marcos Brito, 2B

 

Age: 20

Highest Level: Low-A

At one point this was a high-profile signing, but he has never had a wRC+ higher than 89.

ETA: 2024

 

33. Rafael Kelly, RHP

 

Age: 23

Highest Level: High-A

This is a very interesting arm that gets no press whatsoever. He is throwing a sinker, cutter, splitter pitch mix, and he is up to 94 mph. His strikeouts and walks were a little out of line for a guy who did not have huge strike throwing problems. For the ultra deep league guys, this is a person to add that few if any know about.

ETA: 2023

 

34. Jonah Bride, 3B

 

Age: 25

Highest Level: Double-A

Progressively got better month by month. Not a true hitters body but makes the plays at 3B and executes the simple request of swing at strikes and take balls. Additional strength could do wonders here.

ETA: 2023

 

35. Hogan Harris, LHP

 

Age: 24

Highest Level: High-A

A third-rounder who had elbow issues, Harris has flown under the radar but has quietly been a producer. His stuff will not blow you away, but he makes it work and with better health. Lefties with a strong changeup like this frequently carve up the minors, so hopefully he can keep up the good work, he is a potential riser.

ETA: 2022

 

36. Aiden McIntyre, RHP

 

Age: 25

Highest Level: Low-A

Here is your Oakland Athletics strikeout leader in 2019. Here is also your Oakland Athletics walks leader in 2019. A driveline guy, if it clicks then get ready for a great K/BB ratio, but he was 23 in Low-A and we expect dominance in that situation.

ETA: 2023

 

37. Bryce Conley, RHP

 

Age: 26

Highest Level: High-A

A very sneaky very Oakland player here. He has had various minor injuries, and he has been old for his levels, but his stuff is good. I personally have witnessed him be the starter in two combined no hitters, so clearly when he is on, he really exceeds the expectations he does not have on him yet. This is a good one to watch for very deep leagues.

ETA: 2022

 

38. Jesus Zambrano, RHP

 

Age: 24

Highest Level: Double-A

An undersized, sinker-throwing reliever, he has been a strike thrower since day one, and his stuff is not bad. Hopefully, the strikeouts tick up and he can make his way to Oakland.

ETA: 2022

 

39. Lester Madden, OF

 

Age: 21

Highest Level: Low-A

A very physical Cuban. Needs to perform, had a lot of issues with off speed.

ETA: 2024

 

40. Joshwan Wright, 3B

 

Age: 20

Highest Level: Rookie

Hit well in rookie ball, stumpy and thick, controls the zone well.

ETA: 2024

 

41. Michael Danielak, RHP

 

Age: 27

Highest Level: High-A

Moved to the bullpen in 2019, and the strikeouts started to pile up. Old for the level, but someone to keep your eye on, because the stuff was good enough and he made it work.

ETA: 2022

 

42. Zack Erwin, LHP

 

Age: 27

Highest Level: Double-A

Really turned it on in 2019 as a reliever in Double-A, the Ks went way up and the walks stayed the same.

ETA: 2021

 

43. Chase Calabuig, OF

 

Age: 25

Highest Level: Double-A

An undersized performer who needs to keep it up all the way to the majors. So far, he has held up his end of the bargain.

ETA: 2021

 

44. Jose Morban, RHP

 

Age: 23

Highest Level: Short Season

A low 90s strike thrower, who had a nice combination of Ks, BBs, and HR to lead all qualified Oakland minor league pitchers in FIP.

ETA: 2024

 

45. Devin Foyle, OF

 

Age: 24

Highest Level: Low-A

I liked his build when I saw him in spring training in 2019. As crazy as it may sound, a .702 OPS in Beloit resulted in a 110 wRC+.

ETA: 2023

 

46. Ty Damron, LHP

 

Age: 26

Highest Level: High-A

Damron has quietly accumulated a lot of strikeouts and walks from the left side with a low 90s fastball that gets on hitters and an average breaking ball.

ETA: 2022

 

47. David Leal, LHP

 

Age: 23
Highest Level: High-A

Leal is a big bodied lefty who brings a motion a lot like Dontrelle Willis used to use. In his first year with Oakland, he had the best FIP in the organization out of any pitcher who threw a minimum of 40 innings (2.29).

ETA: 2022

 

48. Mickey McDonald, OF

 

Age: 25

Highest Level: Double-A

Mickey is a burner who plays great CF, and plays a small ball game despite being a tall guy. If he makes it to the bigs he could easily be a good defensive replacement, or pinch runner off the bench.

ETA: 2022

 

49. Ryan Gridley, 2B

 

Age: 25

Highest Level: High-A

Gridley is a small-statured 2B who packs a punch. While his power has yet to actualize as homers in game, he consistently shows a knack for hitting the ball hard in the air, while also keeping his strikeouts down in the 16% range at two levels last season. Once he locks into an attack angle that works best for him, he could see his production jump up.

ETA: 2023

 

50. Trace Loehr, 2B/3B

 

Age: 25

Highest Level: Triple-A

A true bat-to-ball hitter. Can play all over the infield, some added strength and we are in business because the swing decisions are already good. He has recently elected free agency, but I expect him to get a deal with someone looking for infield depth assuming he does not go overseas.

Sorry, Kyler Murray.

ETA: 2021

 

Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire | Design by J.R. Caines (@JRCainesDesign on Twitter and @caines_design on Instagram)

Jack Cecil

Jack previously worked for the Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics, Baseball Info Solutions, and TrackMan. He loves data driven decisions in all facets of baseball.

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