A major factor in any team’s future is depth in the minors.
Few have a clear idea of what Oakland’s farm system is really loaded with. There are significant pieces from Triple-AAA Nashville to High-A in Stockton, but how much talent is down there is a subjective question.
When looking at trade possibilities for Oakland’s position players, I created an A’s roster where all the starters were replaced by minor leaguers:
On 40-man roster
- C Josh Phegley, 27, (MLB)
- 1B Rangel Ravelo, 23 (Double-A)
- 3B Max Muncy, 24 (Triple-A)
- OF Billy Burns, 25 (MLB)
Not on 40-man roster
- 2B Joey Wendle, 25 (Triple-A)
- SS Chad Pinder, 23 (Double-A)
- OF Jason Pridie, 31 (Triple-A)
- OF Jaycob Brugman, 23 (Double-A)
Most of Oakland’s best prospects don’t crack this list because they are too young and still deep in the minors. Shortstop Franklin Barreto and third baseman Matt Chapman are with Stockton, first baseman Matt Olson and third baseman Renato Nunez are in Double-A Midland, and the A’s Nashville affiliate is as shallow as a Vince Vaughn character during the first 50 minutes of the film.
Which means that, while it may be hard to digest, it could be a year or two before the A’s are any good. Realistically, they’re ahead of schedule for a team without any depth at Triple-A.
There’s an immediate need to upgrade at the infield corners, and there is no pop anywhere to be found. Which is why it makes a whole lot of sense for Billy Beane to turn toward Major League=ready players currently in the minors.
Unless there’s something hidden deep in the A’s reports on McKinney, the team might want him back. With the promotion of Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber and others, McKinney is now the top prospect in the Cubs’ mile-deep farm system.
And Chicago has no practical spot for him. That’s where Ben Zobrist should go, but that’s another story.
The biggest improvements could be made at the corners. That means Mark Canha begins starting at first base, and someone replaces Brett Lawrie at third. He’s a defensive liability with all the talent in the world at the plate, but little common sense or discipline.
Lawrie must pretend to read the scouting reports, or secretly have a hard time reading, because even when a pitch is obvious well before it’s thrown, he makes the wrong decision.
And, given how much movement he shows on the field, I’m not sure he could sit still long enough to read a paragraph, let alone a detailed report.
No doubt the A’s need some bullpen help, and maybe a high quality pitcher to replace what they lose in Scott Kazmir and Jesse Chavez, but the A’s are exceptionally good at finding top-flight pitching.
What Oakland really needs is balanced hitting and defensive upgrades. Which could churn out a major result.