In advance of Major League Baseball’s Rule 5 Draft the Oakland Athletics have chosen to protect five top prospects.
The Rule 5 Draft, which will take place on Dec. 8, allows teams the opportunity to select players from other organizations. Any player that is not part of his current organization’s 40-man roster is made available to the rest of the league at a minimal cost of $50,000 — though, the player must remain on the new team’s 25-man roster for the entirety of the following season or be offered back to the original team.
To make room for the quintet of young talent, Oakland has placed relief pitcher Josh Smith on outright waivers.
Barreto, the organization’s No. 1 prospect and No. 42 on MLB.com’s Top 100 prospects, is a middle infielder who spent much of the 2016 season with Double-A Midland, where he was named to the Texas League Midseason and Postseason All-Star Teams.
In 119 games with the Rockhounds, the 20-year-old Venezuelan swung his way to a .281 average with 10 home runs and 50 RBIs. He also drew 36 walks and scored 63 runs. A legitimate speed threat, he stole 30 bases on 47 attempts (64 percent).
Splitting time between the second base (33 games) and shortstop (81) positions, he committed 19 errors for a .957 fielding percentage. By comparison, the vastly improved Marcus Semien finished the 2016 campaign with a .971 fielding percentage.
After an Aug. 31 call-up to Triple-A Nashville, Barreto played just four games with the Sounds, collecting six hits, including a home run, in 17 at-bats (.353).
His .284/.342/.422 2016 slash and stolen base total place Barreto in favorable comparison to Philadelphia Phillies All-Star Odubel Herrera.
Munoz, the A’s No. 7 prospect, spent the entire 2016 season in Double-A, playing 102 games — 27 at second base, 25 at third base and 41 at shortstop — for the Rockhounds.
The 21 year-old slashed .240/.286/.367 with nine home runs, 39 RBIs and six stolen bases. It was a down season for Munoz, who is just one season removed from posting a .320 average with the High-A Stockton Ports.
The 24-year-old Brugman is the No. 22 prospect in the Oakland system.
In 132 games between Double-A and Triple-A, the Arizona product put up an impressive .285/.347/.438 slash with 12 home runs. He was productive, despite the modest home run total, driving in 87 runs while scoring another 77. He also stole seven bags.
Brugman, in unusual fashion, was more productive at the Triple-A level, batting at a .295 clip in 94 games as a member of the Sounds as opposed to his .261 average in 38 games with the Rockhounds. He also drove in runs at a higher rate, collecting 67 of his RBIs with Nashville.
Blackburn, who the A’s acquired as part of a Nov. 12 trade that sent Danny Valencia to the Seattle Mariners, spent the entire season in Double-A. Of his 26 games (25 starts), the 22 year-old spent 18 (18) in the Chicago Cubs’ farm system with the other eight (seven) with Seattle’s affiliate.
He finished the season with a 9-5 record and 3.27 ERA between the two organizations. In 143 innings, he struck out 99 while posting a 1.21 WHIP.
The Antioch native and heritage High School (Brentwood) graduate was drafted by the Cubs in the supplemental round (No. 56 overall) of the 2012 draft. In his five seasons of professional baseball, Blackburn boasts a respectable 29-17 record and 3.24 ERA over 90 games (85 starts).
A fellow right-handed hurler, Wahl has spent his entire professional career in the A’s system. He was drafted in the 15th round of the 2013 draft.
Wahl made 45 appearances, all in relief, at all three levels within the Oakland organization’s farm system. He played his largest role as a member of the Rockhounds rotation making 33 appearances and locking down 10 of his four saves in Double-A — the other four coming in Triple-A.
Overall, the 24 year-old finished 2016 with a 1-1 record and 2.65 ERA. With 65 strikeouts and 28 walks in 54-1/3 innings pitched, Wahl powered his way to 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings pitched and 2.3 strikeouts per walk — numbers comparable to those of Tampa Bay Rays ace Chris Archer.
Now part of the Oakland 40-man roster, each of the youngsters will likely receive invites to major league spring training camp in hopes of earning one of the remaining available 25-man spots.