We Might Be Talkin’ Filet Mignon

It’s very possible filet mignon is on the menu, but the Athletics may have to wait a few years for the first big taste.

I have to admit right off the bat that I’m a huge Josh Donaldson fan. I think he’s one of the most underrated players in the game.

Donaldson plays a position that has been weak in the American League for a few years. In my opinion, he follows only Adrian Beltre in overall 3B value. I like Evan Longoria, but I think Donaldson may be even better. Kyle Seager is up and coming. I remember being upset when Donaldson was left off the 2013 All Star team. I couldn’t believe it. But Beltre was omitted that year as well.

Some may not know that Donaldson was a Minor League catcher and was converted to third base when a huge need went unresolved. Now he has become an outstanding defender as well as an impact bat in the lineup.

General manager Billy Beane has indicated the gap between the Angels and the Athletics was difficult to close and having Donaldson wouldn’t really make the difference. Rather, he wanted a group of near Major League players to add depth to his roster.

At age 24, Brett Lawrie is four years younger than Donaldson. Lawrie, from Canada was developed by the Brewers and traded to the Blue Jays for pitcher Shaun Marcum. Lawrie is a former first round pick (16th overall) from the 2008 draft. He was a second baseman in the Brewers system and can still play there. Like Dondaldson, he is eligible for arbitration. Lawrie actually becomes a free agent in 2018. Donaldson not until 2019. So both are under team control for years to come.

Here’s my problem. Lawrie has not played a full season as a Major League player. He played in 125 games in 2012, then 107 and 70 this past season. His injury history is an issue. Can he stay on the field? If he can, I think he can be productive. But as productive as Donaldson? That’s my second question. Health is first, productivity second.

In that same three year time frame, Donaldson has played 75 games in 2012 (half the season was played at Triple-A Sacramento) then 158 and 158 this past season. Lawrie hit .247 in his limited time this year, Donaldson .255. Donaldson drove in 98 runs. Lawrie 38. Donaldson hit 29 homers. Lawrie 11. What am I missing here? There’s more. Much more to this deal.

It wasn’t Donaldson for Lawrie even up. The Athletics also yielded RHP Kendall Graveman, LHP Sean Nolin and SS Franklin Baretto. Baretto may be the hidden gem.

Graveman threw 4 2/3 relief innings for the Blue Jays this past season. He worked in five games and finished with an ERA of 3.86 and a 0.85 WHIP. He struck out four and didn’t issue a walk. His history with Toronto has been as a starting pitcher. That’s where the A’s will likely use him. He has a chance to pitch in the Oakland rotation this coming year. A chance. He has 37 Minor League starts. He never appeared as a reliever. His composite ERA is a very, very solid 2.30. His WHIP 1.07. We’re not talking chopped liver here. We’re looking at a very strong history in parts of two Minor League years from a 6-foot-2, 195 former pitcher for Mississippi State University. He was an eighth round Blue Jays draft pick in 2013. Left handed hitters hit better against him than righties. That’s to be expected. So-in summary, Graveman is a viable prospect. He has become the No. 14 prospect on MLB.com. And he’s not chopped liver. He’s a nice entree and a good addition to the Athletics menu.

Sean Nolin is a left-handed starter. I saw him in the recently concluded Arizona Fall League. He has become the No. 9 prospect on the MLB Top 20 Athletics prospect list.
Nolin threw 22 1/3 innings in Arizona. I saw several of his starts. He finished with a 2-1 record and a 4.03 ERA. He had a 1.16 WHIP.

Nolin is a big guy at 6-4, 230 pounds. The fact he’s left handed adds to his value. He has a composite 27-17 record in five Minor League seasons with a 3.06 ERA. His WHIP is 1.21. Nolin has started 86 of the 92 Minor League games in which he has appeared. He pitched for San Jacinto College in Texas and was a sixth round 2010 Blue Jays draft choice. Again, he has a chance to pitch out of the Athletics rotation at some point. A chance. So-in summary, Nolin is a serviceable lefty with good command and control. He is more prospect than suspect. He’s not a salami sandwich, but he’s not prime rib, either. He’s another nice addition to the entree menu.

Now for the prize of the lot. Franklin Barreto is a 5-foot-9, 175 pound shortstop with good range and a bat that plays. He’s only 18 years old. He was MLB.com’s No. 2 international prospect in 2012. I remember all the discussion about him. Toronto landing him was a coup. Oakland grabbing him may be an even bigger coup. He is already the No. 3 prospect in the Athletics system as assigned by MLB.com.

Barreto finished 2014 with an average of .311. He had 90 hits in 328 plate appearances in the low Minors. Among them were 23 doubles, four triples, and six home runs. He drove in 61 runs. He stole 29 bases in 34 attempts. He made too many errors (26) but he’s still learning. So-in summary, Barreto was a highly prized prospect coming out of Venezuela as a teenager. He can hit. He can hit for average and for power. He can play shortstop, although his offense is ahead of his defense. Barreto is no bowl of chicken soup. He’s possibly filet mignon.

So yes, the Athletics shipped a very, very fine All Star caliber, possibly game changing 3B to the Blue Jays in return for a good 3B when healthy and three prospects. Two are on the brink of being Major League ready. One could become a star in several more years.

While I think the Blue Jays will be very happy with this deal, I believe the Athletics are once again rolling the dice. Prospects are prospects. They aren’t proven players. The gap between daily competition in the Minor Leagues and big league players is huge. Huge. But. If Lawrie stays healthy and if one of the two pitchers can pitch, the deal will help Oakland. The operative word is “if”. The crescendo won’t take place until we find out if Barreto is filet mignon or…flank steak.

Thank you for reading my prospect profiles at MLBPipeline.com and for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

That’s it. I’m done.

One comment

  1. Charlie Caskey

    Hi Bernie, I write a Vancouver Canadians blog (yourvancs.com) which includes a podcast. If you have the time, we’d love to have you on to discuss your time scouting the AFL as well as anything else BlueJays related. Drop me a mail at yourvancs(at)gmail(dot)com to set up a time if that works.

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