As part of the new rules for the 2020 Major League season, each of the 30 organizations will maintain a 60-man player pool for the duration of the campaign. Some members of the player pool will feature on the active Major League roster while others will work out at an alternate training site in the hopes of staying fresh for a potential callup or getting in much-needed development time.
The MiLB.com staff is rounding up the notable prospects in each organization’s 60-man player pool and analyzing what the new system will mean for their 2020 seasons.
Shrewd Drafts, trades and a well-timed free-agent signing have made Oakland one of the best of the so-called small-market teams. Last year proved to be no exception as the A's powered their way to the top American League Wild Card spot after winning 97 games. Billy Beane's club hopes to find similar success in the unique 2020 campaign with a blend of veterans, young talent and prospects, including 20 of its top 30, per MLB.com.
In what might be considered a surprise, Oakland decided to add first-rounder Tyler Soderstrom, the 26th overall selection in last month's Draft, as well as 17-year-old Robert Puason, the club's No. 4 prospect. Both will report with the other not-quite-ready-for-primetime contingent to ... somewhere. The A's planned on using Banner Island Ballpark, home of the Class A Advanced Stockton Ports, which sits approximately 66 miles from the Oakland Coliseum. However, the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in California has cast doubt on that strategy.
Jesus Luzardo, LHP: The only thing holding back Oakland's top prospect is health, after a strained rotator cuff cost him much of 2019. As it stands, Luzardo will certainly be a part of the A's when their season gets underway on July 23 or 24. The southpaw made his Major League debut last season as a 21-year-old and posted a 1.50 ERA and two saves in six relief appearances, striking out 16 and walking three in 12 innings. That success has been a staple for the native of Lima, Peru, who has won 14 of 21 decisions with a 2.53 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP and a 234-to-43 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 195 2/3 innings as a Minor Leaguer. Using a fastball that hits 98 mph and sits regularly in the mid-90s with an outstanding changeup and a solid breaking pitch, Luzardo has earned his spot as MLB.com's No. 12 overall prospect.
Sean Murphy, C: Like Luzardo, Murphy suffered through an injury-plagued season and he was limited to 41 games, 31 with Triple-A Las Vegas. Even so, Oakland's second-ranked prospect batted .293/.384/.580 with 11 homers and 31 RBIs between the Pacific Coast League and Oakland's two Rookie-level Arizona League squads. His success earned him a promotion to the Majors last September and he batted .245/.333/.569 in 20 games. The 25-year-old underwent left knee surgery in the offseason and was brought along slowly in Spring Training. Barring an injury or the unforeseen, he should be the primary catcher for the A's when the season begins.
A.J. Puk, LHP: Having a pair of left-handers within the Top-100 prospects in the game is a good thing, particularly when both figure to be part of the same rotation in the Majors this season. Puk made a successful return from the Tommy John surgery that wiped out his 2018 campaign and ended last year in the Majors. As with Luzardo, the 25-year-old pitched exclusively in relief for the A's, going 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA in 10 appearances. Using his 6-foot-7, 248-pound frame to its full advantage, Puk dials up his heater to the upper-90s and complements that with a nasty low-90s slider that nets him a majority of his strikeouts. Oakland's third-ranked prospect has limited opposing batters to a .221 average while averaging 12.9 strikeouts per nine innings in his Minor League career.
Robert Puason, SS: Perhaps the biggest surprise addition to any 60-man player pool in the league, the 17-year-old has yet to play a professional game. Puason was signed to a $5.1-million contract as the-then No. 2-rated international prospect by MLB.com, and he has a smooth stroke from both sides of the plate that reminds some of the late Tony Fernandez. Standing 6-foot-3 and weighing a wiry 165 pounds, Puason has plenty of room to mature physically, which the A's hope doesn't come at the expense of his ability to play a smooth shortstop.
Nick Allen, SS: Injuries short-circuited what had been a career-best season for Allen in 2019. The organization's No. 5 prospect was a midseason All-Star in the Class A Advanced California League and was batting .292/.363/.434 with 30 extra-base hits -- more than he had in his first two seasons combined -- and 13 stolen bases through 72 games with Stockton. Then Allen injured his leg sliding into home on June 27 and missed the rest of the season. Despite his uptick in offense, the 21-year-old is best known for a strong arm and a smooth glove that makes all the plays.
Sheldon Neuse, 3B: The 25-year-old has a major roadblock in his hopes of becoming a regular in the Majors, at least in Oakland. With All-Star Matt Chapman entrenched at the hot corner, Neuse will need to prove his worth with the stick and defensively at second base, where he played after making his Major League debut last summer. Powerfully built, the sixth-ranked prospect overcame a rocky 2018 with the best year of his career. Neuse established personal highs in homers (27) and RBIs (102) while batting .317/.389/.550 with Las Vegas.
Logan Davidson, SS: Last year's first-round pick (29th overall), Davidson got off to a rough start with Class A Short Season Vermont in his professional debut. He rebounded to bat .301/.400/.408 with seven extra-base hits and 17 RBIs in the final month of the season. Like Puason, Davidson is tall (6-foot-3) for a shortstop, but he makes up for any negatives with athleticism and a strong arm. Oakland expects his power to develop as he matures physically and on the field, but his swing is lengthy, which could lend itself to a lot of swings-and-misses.
Daulton Jefferies, RHP: Delayed by recovery from Tommy John surgery, the No. 8 A's prospect could find himself in the bullpen mix this season. Although he has yet to reach Triple-A, Jefferies posted a 3.42 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP while fanning 93 and walking nine in 79 innings across 21 games (12 starts) between Double-A Midland and Stockton. The 24-year-old isn't particularly overpowering, but his low-90s fastball plays up thanks to his ability to command it so well. Jefferies plays off his heater with a strong changeup, but his inconsistency finding a third pitch could lead him to a full-time reliever position. That role could prove his ticket to the Majors in 2020.
Luis Barrera, OF: An injury to Barrera's non-throwing right shoulder ultimately required surgery that cost him a majority of 2019. When he was healthy, the organization's ninth-ranked prospect showed off tremendous bat-to-ball skills that had him in the midst of a second straight All-Star-worthy season. Barrera batted .321/.357/.513 with 24 extra-base hits, including 11 triples, in 54 games with Midland. Featuring an above-average arm and speed, the 24-year-old could sneak onto Oakland's roster at some point should a need arise, but more than likely, he's a year away.
Tyler Soderstrom, C: Only weeks after graduating from college, the club's first-round pick in last month's Draft will be working out with some of Oakland's top prospects as an 18-year-old. The son of former big leaguer Steve Soderstrom, the backstop with the booming bat ranked 19th among MLB.com's Top 200 Draft prospects. He's got projectable power and his athleticism gives him a leg up on staying behind the plate. Should that not come to pass, Soderstrom has played at third and in the outfield, giving himself versatility in the event his defensive skills don't develop to Oakland's liking.
Other notables: The A's didn't hold back while putting some of their best young talent into the 60-man player pool. In addition to adding all of its top-10 prospects, Oakland piled on even more. Jonah Heim (No. 10), James Kaprielian (No. 11), Greg Deichmann (No. 13), Brayan Buelvas (No. 14), Grant Holmes (No. 15), Skye Bolt (No. 16), Tyler Baum (No. 19), Kyle McCann (No. 23), Buddy Reed (No. 24), Brian Howard (No. 25), Miguel Romero (No. 26) and Parker Dunshee (No. 27) will get their chance to impress.
Coming off a 97-win season and with little roster turnover from a year ago, on paper the A's look to be in good shape for the sprint of a 60-game campaign. Having the ability to fill from within a talented system that includes three top-100 prospects puts Oakland in an enviable position to weather potential storms that may arise.
Michael Avallone is a writer for MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MavalloneMiLB.