A closer look at A's Top 10 minor league prospects

A closer look at A's Top 10 minor league prospects
January 24, 2014, 1:15 pm
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According to MLB.com, shortstop Addison Russell is the No. 12 minor league prospect. (USATI)

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The name that tops Baseball America’s just-released top 10 list of A’s prospects is no surprise.

Shortstop Addison Russell is a five-tool talent and considered one of the best prospects in all of the minors. He’s the consensus No. 1 prospect in the A’s farm system, and the 20-year-old stands a chance to crack the big leagues this season.

But beyond Russell, the rest of Oakland’s top 10 list features players you likely won’t see for a while. Russell is the only one of the 10 who appears to have a realistic chance of reaching the majors in 2014. And though the list includes some promising players, it illustrates how thin the A’s are in the upper levels of their system, as the Baseball America piece points out.

MLB.com also released its list of top 100 overall prospects, and while Russell ranked in impressively at No. 12, it’s notable that no other A’s made the list.

The trades of prospects such as pitchers A.J. Cole and Brad Peacock and outfielder Michael Choice stripped away some of Oakland’s marquee young players. However, that’s not a glaring problem in the short term, as the A’s big league core features many young players who aren’t far removed from the minors themselves.

Here’s Baseball America’s entire top-10 list of A’s prospects, with age in parentheses:

1) SS Addison Russell (20)
2) OF Billy McKinney (19) 
3) RHP Raul Alcantara (21)
4) RHP Michael Ynoa (22)
5) 3B Renato Nunez (19)
6) 1B Max Muncy (23)
7) RHP Dylan Covey (22)
8) RHP Bobby Wahl (21) 
9) SS Daniel Robertson (19) 
10) RHP Nolan Sanburn (22)

McKinney was Oakland’s first-round pick last June out of Plano, Texas. The A’s hadn’t selected a high school hitter in the first round since Eric Chavez in 1996, but in the past two drafts they’ve tapped Russell and McKinney with their top picks. McKinney is a center fielder who doesn’t possess blazing speed but has already impressed with his left-handed swing and advanced approach at the plate. He figures to start this season with low Single-A Beloit.

It seems like forever that we’ve been hearing about Ynoa, right? The spotlight was on the right-hander after he received a club-record $4.25 million signing bonus as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2008. But injuries – including Tommy John surgery in 2010 -- derailed him. The 6-foot-7 Ynoa finally put together a healthy season in 2013. He shined for Beloit but struggled with high Single-A Stockton, posting a 3-3 record and 3.69 ERA overall as the A’s monitored his innings carefully. Some scouts believe Ynoa’s future is as a reliever, but the A’s like him as a starter for now, and he’ll probably begin this season with Stockton.

Covey has an interesting story. The right-hander was drafted 14th overall by Milwaukee as a prep in 2010, but when a physical that summer revealed he had Type 1 Diabetes, he opted for the college route and went to the University of San Diego. The A’s took him in the fourth round last June, which they consider a bargain for the upside they believe he has. He could start the season at low Single-A.

Robertson was part of a trio of high school hitters drafted high in 2012 – Russell and first baseman Matt Olson were the others – that the A’s feel can develop together and eventually blossom in the majors. He sprays the ball to all fields and scores high marks for his smarts and work ethic. Russell’s presence at shortstop suggests Robertson may have to switch positions at some point, but that remains to be seen.