Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Top 32 International Oakland Athletics prospects: #16-1

Continuing through this installment, here are the 16 premier assets housed upon Oakland's farm acquired from outside the United States: 

#16: Yairo Muñoz (SS)

Oakland's $280,000 middle infield investment, Muñoz, similarly to Fang Pan, garnered attention upon his entry into the organization after the previous participant and alumni of the Under Armour showcase in Chicago which left scouts drooling over his defensive capabilities and arm strength, one listing him specifically as the second best arm amongst all of the attendees only behind Byron Buxton. Predominantly a line drive, contact heavy, defensive specialist, Muñoz additionally boasts plus speed and projected baserunning instructs that ought to service him well as he ascends through to Vermont following his AZL debut during this most recent campaign. While only accumulating 77 plate appearances, Muñoz flashed his defensive excellence and produced a 7:11 BB/K that equates to a cumulative .215/.292/.326 slash between his 186 PAs with a 17:34 BB/K and five stolen bases. It's a sample that shall have to be extensively developed for a consensus to be achieved, but Oakland already has outstanding confidence in the 19 year old after his placement upon the preliminary Stockton spring roster and an upcoming assignment to Vermont looming. As a 20 year old asset approaching the 2015 campaign, Muñoz figures to compete for Beloit as his stock is soaring at sneakily rapid pace. 

#15: Jean Carlo Rodriguez (2B)

The Pamaminian middle infield sensation, Rodriguez was a revelation amongst his Dominican adversaries during the 2013 stint, with the debut promising to plop the 18 year old in Phoenix come June. Inking for a mere $7,500, Jean Carlo is one the more noticeable coups the A's have ever staged. 

"One of the breakout participants within the DSL during the previous campaign, JC Rodriguez shall undoubtedly debut in the AZL alongside Lopez in what is expected to be an exhilarating Arizona middle infield. The Panamanian, Rodriguez was inked alongside Miguel Mercedes in February of 2013 for just over $7,500 following the national tournament that drew Oakland's Panamanian scout, Juan Mosquera, to the youngster. He would be flown to the Dominican and began upon his first DSL stint as a 17 year old, obliterating the Caribbean competition through 254 PAs with a 7.5% BB%, 7.9% K%, .302/.373/.378 slash, 128 wRC+ and a .327 BABIP in one of the more successful debuts of any A's international free agent in recent memory. JC also demonstrated his versatility, logging 20 contests apiece at 2B and 3B to coincide with eight games at SS and an additional five bouts in LF that wowed the coaching contingent present in the DR and brought Rodriguez a DSL ASG berth. Entering 2014, the 18 year old prodigy is one of the most heavily anticipated short season arrivals this season and further validates the A's now teeming pipeline through Panama. 

Jean Carlo has exceptional strike zone recognition and contact percentages as as what would be the equivalent of a high school senior, after having exhibited phenomenal improvement over the previous calendar year and a relentless work ethic that bodes extremely well for Oakland's investment in Rodriguez. Boasting eerily similar dimensions to Lopez (5'11", 175 pounds) and merely average arm strength, his route seems more justly suited for 2B, but at this stage of his development it would be foolish to make a definitive consensus on the Central American middle infielder. He and Lopez shall receive their plate appearances somehow out in Papago"

#14: Jose Torres (LHP)

The southpaw and Venezulan native, Torres seems poised for a Beloit debut should he remain physically in tact, as his sensational repetiore and projectability have him slotted as one of the A's more underrated arms within the system. Preparing for his Snappers debut, the 20 year old shall tackle full season opposition for the first instance in his career en route to a campaign through the system

"The crowning international LHP prospect within the A's midst, Torres has often been forgotten after just recently partaking in his first attempt at Vermont during an injury riddled 2013. But for the 6'2", 180 pound Venezuelan who signed alongside fellow countrymen Renato Nuñez and Anderson Mata on July 2nd of 2010, Torres seems poised for a breakout campaign in Wisconsin should he be physically intact. The developing 20 year old continues to increase notches upon his velocity, now currently sitting at 87-90 MPH, accompanied by a plus curveball and an inconsistent but effective changeup, and has received acclaim from the organization for his projectability upon the mound. With Anderson Mata, another Venezuelan lefty, having fallen and being proven unable to make a trek to the US thus far, Torres now stands unchallenged as the premier Caribbean lefty for the Athletics, with Omar Duran falling slightly behind the Caracas native.

Torres has had sporadic opportunities within the Athletics system thus far, only accumulating 141 IP through his three MiLB campaigns after commencing in the Dominican academy as a 17 year old in 2011. Cumulatively, between his DSL attempts, 2012 AZL debut as an 18 year old, and his previous Vermont stint, Torres owns a less than desirable 102:68 K/BB as he has demonstrated a difficulty with precision throughout his first few professional outings. However, the lanky youngster consistently has been forgiven with a stellar 1.75 career GB/FB ratio between his 38 appearances (30 starts) and allowed a mere 5 HRs allowed while housed within the short season affiliates. The statistics ought not to be as revered with JT at this stage, with his offerings still being meticulously developed since 2010 and his mechanics having gone through countless alterations through organizational experimentation. Once Torres matures entirely, has his fate decided upon definitively for a pitching delivery, and has his velocity balloon to its absolute potential, you're looking at a menacing prospect for the A's"

#13: Jesus Zambrano (RHP/Pictured above)

The youngest player under contract throughout the entire organization during 2013, Zambrano's performance as a 16 year old (8/24/1996) made him eligible for a surprise instructional league assignment and now assuredly AZL debut this summer. 17 years of age throughout the approaching season, Zambrano will be the most youthful stateside asset for the Athletics by a lengthy margin. His projectable athleticism supplanting his physical limitations, Zambrano shall contend in Arizona and possibly even receive a surprise assignment to Vermont around his 18th birthday, as he's essentially the closest thing to Julio Arias the A's have in their possession. 

Similarly to Herrera, Zambrano was a low budget signee that raised eyebrows in the Dominican last summer as the absolute youngest player in the organization (Born 8/24/1996) as a 16 year old for practically the entire campaign. The performance was additionally enough to have him trotted out to the states as a instructional league participant this past September and now has him being considered as a 17 year old on the 2014 AZL roster, picking up where Edwin Diaz and Iolana Akau left off. Signing on his 16th birthday in 2012 for a $150,000 sum, Zambrano was one of the youngest of the Latin class of that year and hopes to capitalize upon his impressive maturity come June.

Through his 14 outings within the DSL during his debut, he breezed past 61 1/3 IP while permitting a mere 12 BBs and 4 HRs while striking out 48 and composing a consistent GB/FB ratio. He had stretches where he would struggle mightily with hard hit contact, but to reiterate, as the youngest player in the organization at only 16 years old, it was a sensational start to his professional career. In regards to the scouting report, Zambrano has flaky fastball velocity at the moment, inconsistently breaking the 90 MPH threshold, but has two legitimate secondary offerings in his curveball and changeup that have impressed. With an advanced repertoire for a 17 year old, plus athleticism, and eerily similar dimensions (5'11", 170 pounds), the comparisons are already flying about Zambrano as 2014's Ronald Herrera in Arizona, which isn't too outlandish to presume as Zambrano has the intangibles for a consistent AZL attempt.

"I see him as Ronald Herrera's clone" said fellow A's instructional league participant, Dominique Vattuone.

"I actually saw him a lot, in the beginning we were throwing partners. Based on that and the interactions we had throughout the facilities in lifting, eating, running, etc; he's a good guy, just young. I feel like in instructs he was able to see the rest of what the A's have to offer by coming to the month long workouts. I know at each affiliate things and operations are different, but being able to come and experience it first hand he is able to go back after learning and accelerate from there... He's a small guy that has the tools to be successful and move forward in this game through experience and maturing as a pitcher"

#12: Omar Duran (LHP)

Boasting 97-98 MPH velocity when refreshed, Duran overpowering and freightening fastball has completely negated lefties over his tenure while his painfully inconsistent command and occasional collapse out of the stretch have evened any potential to be an elite farmhand for the Athletics. Regardless, his enticing repetiore and strikeout production have the recent AZFL attendant preparing for a Rockhounds berth come 2014 

"One of the most outstanding strikeout assets upon the farm, Duran has been as erratic as he has been effective throughout his professional stint with the Athletics. The aging Duran and recent Rule 5 eligible reliever had his first legitimately extensive sample size achieved with Stockton after practically vaulting over the Midwest League entirety after just three appearances and 3 2/3 innings with mediocre results. Versus the California League, he once more struggled out of the stretch with his delivery occasionally disintegrating, a similar issue with with fellow Dominican Ports buddy, Jon Joseph. Regardless, he excelled for the most part through 33 appearances and 53 frames with the second highest K% (35.3%) in the organization behind Tucker Healy, another former Stockton bullpen member who should shift towards Midland as well to accompany Duran. His 84 cumulative strikeouts contrasted with his 41 walks distributed (17.5% BB%) and demonstrated his absurd inconsistency, often unnecessarily being thrown into high leverage situations. That, compounded by his plus groundball rate (1.67 GB/FB through Stockton, with a lifetime 1.87 rate) wound up inflicting significant damage upon his traditional statistics throughout his campaign, unfortunately. However, Duran's 3.43 FIP was for more indicative of his potential brought to the Athletics as he additionally had permitted zero career dingers upon the mound prior to 2013, where he surrendered a respectable four in the ruthless confines of Banner Island. 

The 24 year old received an AZFL berth, where he noticeably struggled through 9 2/3 IP with an amassed 9 H, 6 R (1 HR), 7 BB, 6 K (2 WP) line before he would succumb to injury. Though it shouldn't jeopardize his 2014 attempt, it showcased Duran's fatigue after his first extensive campaign in a full season affiliate. The pronounced 6'3", 210 pound lefty failed to acquire a 40 man position following his lackluster outing in the AZL, and therefore didn't follow Pedro Figueroa's path as another Dominican southpaw to snag a roster post before ever having pitched past Stockton. Still, Midland seems likely for Duran to showcase his capabilities and convince the Athletics to extend him into 2015 following his MiLB free agency come September. Utilizing his devastating 96-98 MPH fastball (93-95 if used for multiple frames) and a filthy curve to stall opponents with an arsenal that completely frazzles batters. Albeit in a minuscule 81 plate appearances, lefties only hit .123/.298/.138 off Duran and he features to be project as a LOOGY who could probably fare somewhat decently in a purely LHB exclusive role versus major league competition at the moment. His next task will be having to solve the advanced opposition of the Texas League with the Rockhounds however, and will continue to be one of the most peculiar relievers currently under an Athletics contract"

#11: Gregory Paulino (RHP)

The 6'3", 180 pound Dominican ace, Paulino features a sensational changeup that Athletics personnel have proclaimed as a major league caliber offering... Possessing a MLB change as a 20 year old is freightening enough, but Paulino now seemingly guaranteed placement in the 2014 Snappers rotation has the youngster primed for a breakthrough campaign amongst Midwest League foes following a 29 IP, 22:8 K:BB, 3.61 FIP debut with Vermont despite an extensive absence with injury. The Lake Monsters opening day starter, he owns a career 2.15 GB/FB through 159 1/3 IP, Paulino resembles Oakland prized Dominican arm, Raul Alcantara, even though Paulino is only four months younger. 

"Paulino, representing the Dominican Republic, is a prized asset for the Athletics, with a unbelievably mature changeup that he's utilized while accompanied with a 91-93 FB to knock his way through the Santo Domingo and Phoenix acadmies, and even received an incredibly rare and unforeseen promotion to the AZL from the DR in his debut season. After logging a relatively consistent 60 IP for the AZLers to conclude 2012, Paulino was escorted to Vermont to commence with the Lake Monsters and was awarded with opening day duties against Tri-Cities. Unfortunately, Paulino only managed 29 IP following 6 1/2 weeks of being absent thanks to a debilitating injury that practically made him non-operational for the rest of the year. Still, he took advantage of his opportunities and manufactured a decent statistical result versus the NYPL batters in what should prove enough to slingshot him to Wisconsin for a full season attempt. While Paulino's output may not dazzle onlookers at this stage, a 20 year old Dominican arm with a 6'3", 180 pound dimension and a changeup which A's personnel has described as "MLB ready" is enough to make him an absolute must know prospect for Athletics fans"

#10: Edwin Diaz (INF)

Oakland's second consecutive Puerto Rican draftee as a 15th rounder following Robert Martinez' 19th round pickup the year prior, Diaz was reeled in for $100,000 and was the second most youthful draftee behind Iolana Akau. Entering 2014, Diaz figures to contend in Vermont at some instance as he is currently slotted on the Snappers spring roster 

"The 15th rounder and second ever draftee for the A's from Puerto Rico (Robert Martinez/19th round/2012), Diaz arrived following a $100,000 signing bonus and features the son of the former 1993 Texas second rounder by the same name. Hailing from Vega Alta and Martine HS (The institution that produced the Molina brothers), the 17 year old Diaz instantly becomes a must know prospect for A's fans as his remarkable defense and solid hitting mechanics provide Oakland with a lucrative rookie leaguer to develop as he transitions onward to Vermont. 

The 6'2, 180 pound beanpole began alongside fellow 17 year old, Iolana Akau, during this previous AZL stint with a .239/.276/.359 slash in just shy of 100 PAs with a 22-92 performance (6 doubles, one triple, one HR) and a 5:25 BB/K. Not a half bad professional debut aside from the lackluster discipline, which will be assuredly emphasized in the upcoming seasons for Diaz. He additionally was granted entry onto the Leones De Ponce in the Puerto Rican winter league this offseason, however was never officially activated to participate with the Leones. As 2014 approaches, it'll likely be a secondary AZL assignment with a probable Vermont promotion to conclude the short season campaign for the blooming Eddie"

#9: Vicmal De La Cruz (OF)

Oakland's accompanying piece signed alongside Renato Nuñez during the 2010 period for $800,000, VDLC has yet to acclimate towards domestic arsenals following a snafu with his vision and two consecutive campaigns of inept performance within Arizona as a result. Regardless, his potential is still present, but it'll require a Vermont assignment for Vicmal to definitively demonstrated whether or not he retains any hope of progressing through the Athletics system.

VDLC has been one of the most disappointing Athletics prospects over the previous two seasons in encores of a showstopping debut in 2011 in which the Dominican hit .318/.438/.453 in 235 AZL PAs with an outstanding 37:27 BB/K and resulted in him as a consensus top 15 prospect prior to the 2012 season. Unfortunately, this performance was enough to convince the organization to promote the youngster to the AZL and he would attempt the Arizona gauntlet, unfortunately however with drastically worse results, amassing 43 strikeouts (29.1% K%) in what was a horrendous discipline regression. However, it was said this was attributable to him requiring corrective lenses, which gave A's fans some optimism that the $800,000 investment still had the capability to regain his 2011 form. Yet, Vicmal had an even *worse* 2013, where his discipline once more was stagnant and for his first campaign as a professional saw his power statistics bottom out, something that at least made his 2012 somewhat passable. It's curious as to why Oakland never immediately transitioned VDLC to the northeast following his initial 2011, but evidently there was some mechanical tweak they wished to perform that has since made Vicmal inept.

A prime athlete and July 2nd prospect in 2010 inked alongside Renato Nuñez, Vicmal was seen as high as #6 on scouting listings of the A's prospects entering 2012, and has since been completely absent from the thoughts of A's fans. It's been an incredibly frustrating couple of attempts for De La Cruz, who finally hopes to receive some sort of opportunity outside of Arizona despite the lackluster production as of recently. As Mike Ynoa has proven though, Vicmal being signed at the age of 16 still reinforces his potential, as the recently turned 20 year old has proven he can dominate in a baseball format beforehand. This is likely the final season for Vicmal to demonstrate improvement though, or else trade possibilities shall be explored for the international piece who was the most expensive investment for the A's for a duration of three years until this recent signing of Jesus Lopez last July for a $950,000 sum" 

#8: Jefry Marte (3B) 

The chip acquired for placement of Hiroyuki Nakajima upon the 40 man roster, Marte's injury riddled Midland crusade as a 21 year old corner infielder following a non-roster invitation during the spring was a disappointment despite his tremendous August that salvaged value for the Dominican entering this impending 2014 stint. Competing with Sacramento prior to roster cuts, he'll be in contention for a Rivercats post throughout the year while being housed in Texas. 

"Marte, the Rule 5 eligible Dominican third baseman who was acquired for Collin Cowgill prior to 2013, unfortunately was not bestowed with a consecutive non-roster invitation this spring, but is currently slotted upon Sacramento's preliminary roster before he shall undoubtedly be shuttled to Texas. A former Mets #1 overall international prospect, Marte has found it difficult to materialize as he has gradually risen through towards the AA caliber of competition, never having replicated his sensational GCL debut campaign as a teenager. However, he demonstrated some promise for the Athletics during his organizational debut for the Rockhounds, hitting .278/.348/.370 with a 107 wRC+ in an accumulated 278 plate appearances as the farmhand struggled mightily once more to achieve his supposed power projection assigned to him half a decade prior and was significantly suppressed by the unforgiving Texas plains. Additionally, Marte meandered through numerous hindrances, compromised the majority of his campaign as he was absent from Midland from May 5th until July 7th, appearing within a minuscule AZL rehabilitation stint inbetween. However, in Marte's concluding effort within August, his only month in which he amassed more than 100 PAs, he hit .374/.406/.538 as his newly adopted line drive extensive approach and philosophy resulted in a BABIP surge for the La Romana native. Similarly to Ladendorf, Marte additionally has an extraordinarily beneficial LHP split (.328/.378/.463) that ought to assist with his projection onward for Oakland. A grobbling fanbase may criticize Marte's inevitable lack of power production as he'll never fully encompass the dependent dinger phenom he has slated to morph into, but the mechanically sound and precise international asset presents a remarkable approach and contact heavy production, which should result in a momentary Sacramento assignment at some instance during the 2014 campaign. Still 22 years old until June 21st, Marte is incredibly youthful for Texas League purposes" 

#7: Carlos Hiciano (CF/SS/3B)

A sterling testament to athleticism within the Athletics system, Hiciano's $750,000 contract inked alongside Lopez this previous July has him as one of the Athletics most enticing potential riddled farmhands after a phenomenal showcase in the DPL prior to the signing period. Alongside fellow DPL alumni such as Barrera and Muñoz, Hiciano was given 70 speed and 60 arm tools by Baseball America, among the highest througout the eligible prospects vying for seven figure contracts over the previous summer, and now ranking as the second most speedy Athletics prospect behind Billy Burns at the moment. The 6'2", 175 pound shortstop has been speculated to shift to center field as he continues to physically develop while other pundits slot him at third base seeing as though stature is more indicative of a third baseman and his infield comfort and experience could make for a more smooth transition. The defensive intangibles shall be prevalent regardless of projected assignment however, as the 17 year old (10/29/1996) possesses the capability to perform at any premium positional post. The hitting mechanics are the most questionable at this instant, likely fielding 50-55 marks projected forward, but have occasionally dissolved amongst competition with his mechanics sometimes becoming loopy and easily exploited. Still, his frame and recent success within Florida and the conclusion of the DPL circuit convinced the Athletics to opt for the impressive specimen, now other potential prominent outfielder to try out following Vicmal's struggles as of recently. He'll debut within the DSL and remain throughout the 2014 campaign, with the upside to become a consensus top 15 Oakland prospect by 2015. 

#6: Jesus Lopez (2B/SS)

Lopez was the most widely heralded July 2nd eligible prospect last summer outside of the Dominican Republic or Venezuela and the A's lassoed the 16 year old Alberto Callaspo impressionist for $950,000 in the third largest amateur international free agent contract distributed all time in franchise history. Notable for his presence at the plate after just having commenced the transition to switch hitting in 2012, Lopez shall likely commence in Arizona after an instructional league assignment the previous September and participating upon Beloit's roster this spring

"This is your newly acquired international phenom, A's fans. The Nicaraguan shortstop inked for a $950,000 sum, the most Oakland has spent on an amateur international free agent since Renato Nuñez for $2.2M in 2010, this past July 2nd as the A's nabbed him from Houston's clutches and coincided his signing with Carlos Hiciano and Yhoelnys Gonzalez immediately afterwards. The 5'10", 170 pound 16 year old (Born10/5/1996. Yes, you are old) received similar acclaim to Renato as being one the best hitters within his class, with a compact and consistent swing that vaulted him up scouting reports and landed him as the #14 overall prospect on Baseball America's 2013 July 2nd prospect list. With stellar offsensive instincts, Lopez figures to develop for more line drive/gap capabilities whereas Renato initially had the characteristics for greater power production. The switch hitter receives greater recognition for his left handed approach than the righty stance at this point, but obviously can be tweaked as he progresses with the organization. The downsides for Lopez are a lack of athleticism, with subpar speed and mediocre arm strength which some hypothesize shall shift the youngster to 2B as opposed to shortstop. And indeed, Lopez was granted with a greater workload at second while making his stateside debut in Fall Instructs for the A's this previous October, and ought to be a more desirable destination for him to develop once June and the AZL campaign rolls along"

#5: Arnold Leon (RHP)

Now a relevant competitor for a rotation berth following casualties of Jarrod Parker and AJ Griffin, Leon's extensive repetiore and outstanding command shall likely permit the Mexican prodigy onward to log his Oakland debut at some instance throughout the 2014 season. With awe inspring control (3.8% BB% in 144 IP between Midland and Sacramento in 2013), the former TJS recipient in gradually inching his way upward upon an absurdly competitive rotation depth chart

"Despite the uptick in notoriety following the pitch he threw which incited the Mexico/Canada WBC brawl last March, most forget that Leon remains a premier prospect within Oakland's system and a 40 man roster member that'll commence in the MLB camp at Phoenix Municipal in the coming weeks. While the organization has constantly vacillated in regards to a starting or relieving route for Leon to partake in over recent years, he primarily was in the Rockhound and Ricercat rotations last season between 25 appearances (24 starts) compared to a 44 appearance, bullpen exclusive attempt between Stockton, Midland and Sacramento in 2012. The previous two campaigns came after TJS in which Leon opted for in 2010, and caused him to be absent for the majority of 2011. The stocky 6'1", 205 Mexican native has drawn comparisons to Jesse Chavez for a probable projectable role that he'll likely encompass should be arrive in Oakland, as a long relief/spot start specialist. Still, Leon could thrive in a late inning bullpen post thanks to a diverse repertoire and a velocity increase to 95-96 MPH from a pedestrian 92-94 MPH in a bullpen position comparatively to when starting for multiple innings. Regardless, Leon has proven himself an intriguing asset for the A's to utilize in 2014, and dependent upon performance amongst a ridiculously competitive Sacramento staff, could debut in Oakland if injury requires a replacement. 

Leon began in Midland the season prior and grappled with Texas League foes for 72 2/3 IP (13 starts), with a 15.3% K%, 3.5% BB% and a 1.11 HR/9, exhibiting precision and phenomenal recognition of the strike zone. Despite the mediocre strikeout percentages, something that in 2012 (74 K in 66 2/3 IP) was an above average trait thanks to his conserved arm in his bullpen role, Leon demonstrated his reliable groundball rate and tallied up enough appearances to convince Oakland to slot him in Sacramento. In a nearly identical sample size to conclude his 2013 (71 1/3 IP), Leon accumulated a 16.3% K%, 4.3% BB%, 0.50 HR/9 and a plus 3.23 FIP in a performance slightly better than his AA attempt as Arnold finished with a career high 144 IP, nearly double that of his previous mark of 74 1/3 frames in 2009.

The 25 year old Culiacan native hinges upon his aforementioned precise fastball placement alongside an exceptional changeup, revised curveball, tertiary slider and a cut fastball that have propelled him to the edge of a major league berth. Whether the A's decide upon a bullpen position or to consider him for a permanent rotation role when he ascends to Oakland is unknown at the moment, but it seems as though shall be granted entry into the Rivercats rotation come April"

#4: Ronald Herrera (RHP)

Alongside Alcantara, the 18 year old Herrera, following his $20,000 signing in 2012, has burst forth to relevance and become a consensus top 25 Athletics prospect with a sound delievery and precise pitch placement that made him one of the most feared AZL arms throughout the league prior to his promotion to Vermont for a brief two outing tenure. Now competing for a Snappers post, Herrera's remarkable breakthrough makes him one of Oakland's most sought after farmhands, not turning 19 until May 3rd. 

"Featuring as one the breakout performers throughout the entirety of the organization in 2013, Herrera shot out of obscurity and onto the A's radar with his phenomenal stateside debut in the AZL that produced a two start stint with Vermont to conclude his campaign and now places him squarely in consideration for a coveted Beloit rotation position entering 2014. Only but a diminutive 5'10", 170 pounds, Herrera initially inked for a modest sum in 2012 and was flown from his Venezuelan home to the Santo Domingo academy to contribute to the DSL squad as a 17 year old and fared well between 58 1/3 IP, constructing a 44:20 K/BB and permitting a lone dinger in a season that caught the attention of the A's and convinced them to ship Herrera out to the instructional league. The 18 year old wound up remaining domestically in what would be a AZL berth that saw him mixed into the Papago rookie league rotation, and inbetween his 14 appearances (9 starts), Herrera would bomb past collegiate draftees and advanced international batters en route to one of the most dominant stretches of any AZL/GCL pitching prospect in 2013. This was enough to convince the A's to push Ronnie even further to Vermont to make a two appearance debut with the Lake Monsters. Overall, he would battle through 78 1/3 IP with 66 strikeouts recorded, 13 walks allowed, and three dingers surrendered during his year that now has the organization considering stitching his name onto a Snappers uniform this May.

Born on 5/3/1995, Herrera is the second youngest player within the organization currently housed within the states (Chris Kohler born 5/4/1995) and would be 18 for the first month of the MWL schedule, a full five months younger than when Alcantara began in Burlington as a 19 year old in 2012. Similarly to Alcantara, Herrera has received acclaim for his precision and possesses a pinpoint changeup, mature curveball and a fastball that can graze 95 MPH despite pitching consistently at 88-92, accompanied by a tendency to keep the ball towards the lower portions of the strike zone that has resulted in plus groundball rates. The Maracay native wowed during this previous September in the instructional league and has the A's minor league coordinators raving about his potential, so no matter how skeptical you are, Herrera is an absolute must know prospect for Oakland fans. And he, alongside Gregory Paulino, is in all likelihood the next Alcantara/Ynoa down on the farm. Should he not be granted with a shuttle to Wisconsin, he'll commence in Vermont and undoubtedly receive some sporadic Beloit attempts after his 19th birthday in August.

Unfortunately, his height and physical stature places a ceiling upon any velocity increases, but with a mid-90's fastball already in his possession and remarkable control with his secondaries, Herrera ought to be fine with what he already has, which as a 18 year old who had practically zero notoriety around his name at the time of his signing is more than what a lot of 21-22 year old college draftees have"

#3: Renato Nuñez (3B)

The offensive gem upon the list, Renato's $2.2M bonus was the 4th largest ever distributed to an amateur in Athletics history, and second most taxing amongst positional prospects behind Addison Russell. The Venezulan sensation hacked his way through Wisconsin despite noticeable regression following April, becoming overwhelmed by advanced arsenals and succumbing to his lackluster defensive performance. Still, it seems as though Renato is comfortably poised for Stockton for a debut with the Ports, promising to demonstrate his might within the exploitable California League. His mechanics shall undoubtedly have to be revised, but the nearly 20 year old still presents an enormous amount of potential for Oakland following an instructional league and mini camp assignment, set to compete with Alcantara for Oakland's Futures Game representative this summer. 

"He debuted in Oakland's Papago facility with the AZLers and floundered through a pitiful 2011 initiation, struggling to manufacture any sort of passable production after 207 PAs. But as it is for Latin youngsters, there usually is a huge learning curve to master, and Renato seemed to master it instantly as he  made tremendous progress transitioning into his sophomore season, most noticeably sharpening his discipline (2.9% BB% in 2011/9.1% in 2012) and finishing with a .325/.403/.550 slash which earned the third baseman a jump to Beloit to kick off 2013, bypassing Vermont entirely. 

Renato initially began with an incredible power surge, establishing himself as one of the premier teenage full season slugging chips alongside Byron Buxton and Joey Gallo with a .310/.380/.592 result after his first Midwest League month. Afterwards however, the 19 year old tapered off drastically, regressing to shades of his 2011 self with large sequences of looking completely unprepared for caliber of pitching he was facing which would eventually be broken up by a dinger or two, only to continue once again. Through a lengthy 545 PAs, Nuñez finished with a dissapointing .258/.301/.423 line with a .165 ISO and a .330 wOBA. Plus, he regressed defensively as well, quite possibly featuring himself as the most inadequate defensive infielder amongst A's prospects during 2013 and earning the 'Yordy Cabrera Award'"

#2: Michael Ynoa (RHP) 

Oakland's $4.25M investment is now headed for a secondary attempt at Stockton following a lackluster fit of regression in an encore of a brilliant Beloit breakthrough for the 6'7", 210 pound right hander. With his second option having just been recently expended and his first legitimate MLB camp logged, Oakland shall assuredly push Ynoa through to Midland by July and onward to Sacramento in 2015, as unless injury occurs, he'll be out of options prior to the 2016 campaign. With one of the best fastballs in the organization and still thriving youth comparatively to his fellow counterparts, Ynoa is a top 5 Oakland prospect and still has the capability to easily materialize into a major league phenom.

"Ynoa has long been the organizational enigma after inking for $4.5M as a 16 year out of the Dominican Republic in 2008, the largest signing bonus in Athletics history and the second largest sum provided to an amateur Latin free agent of all time, as he has dealt with a litany of various injuries and hindrances that have stunted his development and prevented him from amassing professional experience. Finally, in 2012 Ynoa arrived in the United States and was able to accumulate a decent amount of frames after a brief nine AZL innings in 2010 before surgery. Ynoa, despite the less than desirable results of 3 HR and a 25:25 K/BB in 30 2/3 IP between Arizona and Vermont, still and most importantly was able to pitch in a competitive format and get through innings. As the offseason began, Oakland felt as though their investment into Ynoa was too monumental to risk as they placed him upon the 40 man roster to prevent any probable Rule 5 possibility of a team smuggling the righty away from the A's. With that, Ynoa was granted the opportunity to attend the major league spring training facility in Phoenix and gain valuable expertise with significantly more advanced arms. Unfortunately, a bout of chicken pox prevented Ynoa from arriving prior to being optioned, and thus was regulated to the minor league camp before his assignment. Once again, Ynoa suffered another preseason setback and whatever shread of optimism was still held by A's fans about him dwindled even further before his first career full season opportunity with the Snappers in Wisconsin. 

The lanky 6'7" 21 year old defied expectations though, as he not only strung together his first ever stretch of prolonged starts, but actually was consistent as well, establishing himself as one of the premier pieces within the Midwest league between his 15 outings. Ynoa went 54 2/3 IP with a 3.53 FIP, 21.0% K%, 7.9% BB% and only three dingers allowed for Beloit before being permitted to rise to High A Stockton. The Cal League proved to be a more difficult hurdle for him however, regressing towards the 2012 model of Ynoa with mediocre 20:17 K/BB in his 21 IP and was trashed with a 56.1% LOB% as baserunners often plated following reaching and Ynoa's mechanics dissolved when attempting to pitch out of the stretch. Despite that, Ynoa represented the A's in the Futures Game in New York alongside Addison Russell and received national acclaim after his televised inning against elite competition. And he finally was able to successfully was able to navigate through a significant amount of innings and made it through a season practically undetered (He did miss 4 weeks in August with a shoulder injury though)

Ynoa has an absurd amount of upside, with a fastball ranging from 91-97 MPH that is incredibly effective when placed where it's intended. Additionally, Ynoa's most polished secondaries include a devestating curveball that often misses lumber and a developing changeup which will be sharpened as he progresses into AA Midland. The biggest issue is his consistency, as his mechanics and sequencing while he delivers his pitches can deteriorate randomly which will obviously need to be corrected. If he can harness his potential, Ynoa could still morph into the perennial phenom that the organization had hoped to acquire when they signed him as a pimply 16 year old out of Latin America. Despite that roadblock in Stockton, the A's could opt to rush him to Texas with Rockhounds as he commences his second option year. If he is retained in the 209, he'll likely ascend to Midland by June"

#1: Raul Alcantara (RHP)

Alcantara is the pinnacle of international excellence in the Athletics system, as the 21 year old shall frontline a tantalizing Rockhounds rotation following a successful sophomore stint in the Midwest League and equally as impressive campaign through Stockton, showcasing the best changeup in the organization and a plus fastball that coincided with mindboggling precision. The #1 overall pitching prospect the A's is primed to attempt a Sacramento climb should he dispatch AA offenses and could become a major league option for Oakland by opening day of 2015. With 40 man exemption and a MLB spring now assisting Alcantara towards stardom, the Dominican chip and Bailey trade piece seems readied to become the next international pitching sensation for Oakland. 

"Alcantara originally inked with Boston for $500,000 out of the Dominican as a 16 year old and progressed through their minor league ladder before being shipped with Josh Reddick and Miles Head to Oakland. After a disappointing campaign in 2012 with Burlington, struggling mightily with control, Allie completely turned around in 2013 with the Snappers and the Ports as he developed into one of the premier arms in the organization. He became one of the most precision precise pitchers for the Athletics this past season, stifling his Midwest league counterparts before receiving a midseason bump to central California. With the Ports, his production saw a slight dip (71 1/3 IP, 3 HR, 7 BB, 58 K with Beloit/79 IP, 8 HR, 17 BB, 66 K in Stockton) and the dingers permited increased, but that is expected with 20 year olds making their first adjustments within the Cal League. 

Alcantara features a lively fastball with an accompanying changeup as his primary secondary offering. He also possesses ideal pitching dimensions at 6'3", 180 pounds, as he figures to continue to be stretched out through Midland and Sacramento, however he could likely adapt to a bullpen role. As now easily the youngest 40 man member for Oakland, not turning 21 for another two weeks, Alcantara seems primed for another additional breakout campaign in 2014, entering as a consensus top 5 and for most a top three organizational prospect."

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