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Baseball America preseason Top 10 Oakland A's Prospects

January 11, 2021
  1. James Kaprielian | RHP

10. James Kaprielian | RHP

*Born: *Mar 2, 1994

*Bats: *R *Throws: *R

*Ht.: *6'3" *Wt.: *225

*Drafted: *UCLA, 2015 (1st round - NY Yankees)

TRACK RECORD: That Kaprielian pitched in the majors for the first time in 2020 is a feel-good story in itself. A 2015 first-round pick of the Yankees who was traded to Oakland in the Sonny Gray deal, Kaprielian missed most of the 2016 season with a flexor strain and all of 2017 and 2018 recovering from Tommy John surgery and a subsequent bout with shoulder soreness. He returned in 2019, albeit under a monitored workload, and opened 2020 at the alternate training site. He received his first callup on Aug. 16 and made two appearances out of the Athletics’ bullpen.

SCOUTING REPORT: Kaprielian’s stuff continues to inch toward a return to form, though it’s still not where it was coming out of college. His fastball is back up to 93-95 mph as a starter and averaged 95 in relief. While his secondaries haven’t fully returned, he has the most trust in his above-average 85-86 mph slider with tight shape. Kaprielian’s curveball and changeup also show average potential, and he throws everything for strikes with above-average control. Kaprielian’s delivery remains effortful, leading to long-term health concerns.

THE FUTURE: The A’s are eager to see what Kaprielian looks like in 2021 now that his stuff is on the mend. He can reach his back-of-the-rotation potential only if health permits.

9. Greg Deichmann | OF

*Born: *May 31, 1995

*Bats: *L *Throws: *R

*Ht.: *6'2" *Wt.: *190

*Drafted: *Louisiana State, 2017 (2nd round)

TRACK RECORD: Bizarre injuries have plagued Deichmann since 2017, when he was hit in the face by a pitch as a junior at Louisiana State. He dealt with a combination of hamate, wrist and shoulder injuries in 2018 and 2019, but was healthy for the 2019 Arizona Fall League and hit nine homers in 23 games. That was enough for the Athletics to bring Deichmann to their alternate training site in 2020, and they added him to their 40-man roster after the season.

SCOUTING REPORT: Deichmann’s carrying tool is his plus raw power from the left side. He has the bat speed and lower body strength to hit 25-30 home runs in the majors, but it will likely come with a low average and elevated strikeout rate. Scouts have been concerned about Deichmann’s grooved swing since college, and he hit just .219 with a 30% strikeout rate at Double-A in 2019. Deichmann simplified his movements and made mechanical adjustments in 2020 to restore some athleticism to his swing in hopes of getting to his plus raw power more frequently. Defensively, Deichmann projects to be an average right fielder with an above-average arm.

THE FUTURE: The A’s were encouraged by Deichmann’s performance at the alternate site. Now he needs consistent at-bats—and to control the strike zone better—to build on it.

8. Jonah Heim | C

*Born: *Jun 27, 1995

*Bats: *B *Throws: *R

*Ht.: *6'4" *Wt.: *220

*Drafted: *HS—Amherst, N.Y., 2013 (4th round - Baltimore Orioles)

TRACK RECORD: Heim took a circuitous path to his major league debut in 2020. Drafted out of high school by the Orioles in 2013, he’s been traded twice: first by Baltimore to the Rays in 2016 for Steve Pearce, then a year later by the Rays to Oakland for Joey Wendle. Heim didn’t break camp with Oakland in 2020, but the A’s installed him as Sean Murphy’s backup midway through the season and kept him on their playoff roster.

SCOUTING REPORT: Heim is a strong defender with impressive receiving and blocking chops, especially considering his 6-foot-4 frame. He has a solid-average arm that plays up with his strong accuracy. Long branded a glove-first catcher, Heim’s bat has begun to catch up the last two seasons. He controls the strike zone as well as any player in the system and has begun to show moderate all-fields power to go along with his average hitting ability. Oakland challenged Heim prior to last season to play with more energy and assertiveness, and he responded by assuming more of a leadership role.

THE FUTURE: Heim should compete for a backup role again in 2021. Some in the A’s organization believe his ceiling is a second-division regular, but it will be tough for him to start in Oakland with Murphy entrenched behind the plate.

7. Luis Barrera | OF

*Born: *Nov 15, 1995

*Bats: *L *Throws: *L

*Ht.: *6'0" *Wt.: *205

*Drafted: *Dominican Republic, 2012

TRACK RECORD: Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2012, Barrera is on the doorstep of the majors after a slow climb through the system. A shoulder injury cut his 2019 season short at Double-A Midland, but he returned healthy in 2020 and was one of the Athletics’ top standouts at the alternate training site. He hit nearly .450 in camp at San Jose and won the program’s batting title on the final day.

SCOUTING REPORT: Barrera is a bit of a throwback as a dynamic slasher with a fervent passion for the game. He is a line drive-oriented hitter, though the A’s believe he has 15-home run potential with a slightly altered approach. Barrera is aggressive, sometimes to a fault, but he makes enough contact to make it work. The A’s believe he has developed a bit more selectivity. Barrera’s plus speed shows up both on the basepaths and in the outfield, where he’s an above-average defender with a strong arm who could play all three positions. Consistency was the missing ingredient for Barrera, but A’s officials say they saw much more of it at the alternate site.

THE FUTURE: Oakland’s starting outfield mix is mostly set entering 2021. Barrera could force his way into at least a part-time role if he carries his momentum into spring training.

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