By: Chris Larson
As we continue to await word of the speculated trade involving, Jeurys Familia of the Mets and the Oakland A's, attention is now shifting towards the A's farm system and what prospects they might potentially have that other teams could want. After all, the A's are officially in buy mode as the trade deadline approaches, as they sit in third place in the AL West with a 55-43 record.
In the past, when the Oakland A's have been in a position to be a contender, Billy Beane & Company have been very aggressive in making the necessary additions to ensure that the A's make the playoffs and to give the team the best chance at playing as deep into October as possible. Just a few years ago, Billy Beane made deals involving Yoenis Cespedes and Jon Lester, Josh Donaldson and Brett Lawrie, and Jeff Samardzija along with Addison Russell. All of those deals were completed in 2014 and were done to give the A's the best shot at being a true contender in the AL West.
The same can be said for this year's Oakland A's team, in terms of how aggressive they will likely be, and Billy Beane himself has already come out publicly on record and mentioned how he expects the team to be buyers. Now, will the team buy to the point where they mortgage the future to address current needs? Probably not because the core is finally starting to show out in Oakland and the farm system is starting to look better and better, but that also gives the A's some valuable trade chips to potentially include in deals. What are some of those chips? Let's take a look.
Of course, before surveying any potential attractive prospects that the A's could look to deal, it's important to remember that the magnitude of prospects will depend on the player the A's are trying to acquire and what the other team might want back in return. It's doubtful that there is another impact player out there, given that Manny Machado has already been traded, but you never know what can happen as the clock continues to tick leading up to July 31st at Noon Pacific Standard Time, when you have 30 general managers that like to think outside of the box and look at every possible solution to improve their team.
To start off with, the two untouchables for the Oakland A's, will likely be their top two prospects in left-handed pitchers, Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk, both of whom are pictured above. Luzardo currently pitches down in Double A and is expected to arrive in the big leagues come 2020. So far this season, Luzardo has a 2.16 ERA over 83.1 innings of work and many scouts project him to be at least a number 3 starter, if he is capable of staying healthy moving forward. In terms of the entire league, Luzardo is currently the 20th best prospect in all of baseball. In addition, A.J. Puk, who was the A's number 1 draft pick during the 2016 Amateur Draft, figures to be a big part of the A's future as many project him to be a number 2 starter, maybe even an ace down the road. Unfortunately, Puk has missed this season so far and will stay sidelined recovering from Tommy John Surgery, but that doesn't mean that the A's are necessarily going to punt on him and give up given that he is still only 23-years old and is currently the 26th best prospect in baseball.
Now that those two names are out of the way, one prospect to watch as the deaadline approaches is the A's third best prospect in catcher, Sean Murphy. Murphy was selected by the A's during the third round of the 2016 Amateur Draft and is sort of blocked by both Josh Phegley and Bruce Maxwell at the big league level. What makes Murphy attractive is his ability to hit for power, especially from the right side of the plate, along with his defensive skills, which some scouts believe are tremendous. In fact, many scouts envision Murphy could someday be an everyday catcher at the big league level, which leaves the A's to determine if they want to put him out there as trade bait or keep him to be their catcher of the future while looking to move either Phegley or Maxwell.
Another potential name to keep an eye on is the A's 4th best prospect and the 71st best prospect in all of baseball, Jorge Mateo. Mateo has the ability to play both shortstop and in the outfield and comes highly touted by scouts. Scouts absolutely love Mateo's raw skills at the shortstop position, particularly in regard to how well he can throw the ball, but some are skeptical as to whether or not that will end up being his full-time position down the road. Some ultimately believe that Mateo will play either second base or centerfield eventually. Depending on the direction the A's go, could determine if Mateo is ultimately used as trade bait or not. Oakland has Marcus Semien locked down through 2021 and Franklin Barreto under control through at least 2023.
Finally, one other prospect to monitor leading up to the trade deadline and even this coming offseason is the A's fifth best prospect, outfielder Austin Beck. Beck projects to be a centerfielder eventually because many scouts note that he has tremendous speed and the right level of athleticism to be successful at that position. However, some scouts are a bit concerned about some of the holes that Beck has in his swing, but believe overtime those holes could improve. Currently, the A's look to have Dustin Fowler out in centerfield, for the foreseeable future as Fowler is under control through 2023, but that could always change once again depending on which way the A's go.
Ultimately, none of us truly know what Billy Beane might have up his sleeve as potential ways to upgrade the current A's roster, but what we do know is that we can expect the A's to make necessary upgrades, but upgrades that likely won't hinder the future outlook of the organization. Oakland has experienced that in the past and it appears as though they have finally learned their lesson, especially after saying last season that they needed to commit to a core group of players at the big league level, with that core being led by the likes of Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, and Stephen Piscotty. The last thing the A's need to do is set themselves back and take a step backwards among all of the progress that the organization has made the past few years.