Athletics

A's make statement to rest of MLB by winning final three vs. Astros

A's make statement to rest of MLB by winning final three vs. Astros

If we thought the Astros made a strong statement in their 15-0 win Monday night, what do we call the A's response over the next three days?

Oakland finished off a magnificent series victory over Houston with a 3-2 win Thursday night, taking three of four from the mighty Astros for the second time in a month.

It's hard to overstate how impressive this series was for the green and gold. Houston entered with a league-best home record of 55-17 and hadn't lost three straight home games all season. Oakland took care of that.

"It's a good team and we want to come in and show that we can compete against these guys," A's first baseman Matt Olson told NBC Sports California. "We're making a push for that wild card right now and to be able to keep some good baseball going is big."

With Thursday's win, the A's moved into the top wild-card position, half a game ahead of Tampa Bay and one game ahead of Cleveland. Oakland also improved to a season-high 27 games over .500 at 87-60.

"That's big for us," Oakland manager Bob Melvin told reporters. "We played well against (the Astros) at our place and this is probably the toughest place in the American League to play. So to be able to come in and take three out of four, and do it in different fashions every night, it felt good."

The A's have now won 19 of their last 27 games and they've done it against some of the best competition in baseball. In addition to winning six of their last eight games against the Astros, Oakland took four of six from the league-leading Yankees last month.

"This is what it's all about," Olson said. "It makes it that much better when notching out these close wins matters a lot for us. It brings us closer. Everybody's pulling together."

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From here on out, the schedule lightens up a great deal. Oakland has 15 games remaining, with none of them coming against teams with winning records.

If the A's can take care of business in these final five series, they'll be postseason-bound for the second straight year. And the way they're playing, you better believe no one wants to face them.

A's top prospect ranking: Why Austin Beck comes in at No. 9 overall

A's top prospect ranking: Why Austin Beck comes in at No. 9 overall

Editor's note: Over the next two weeks, we will examine the top 10 prospects in the A's organization. For each player, we will provide a scouting report and a realistic timetable for reaching the major leagues, as well as what he needs to do to stay there.

No. 9 - Austin Beck, OF

The A's remain very high on Beck, and why shouldn't they? Oakland drafted the outfielder No. 6 overall out of high school in 2017 and he has shown flashes of his potential already.

Beck is still just 20 years old and coming off a solid season at High-A Stockton. In 85 games, he slashed .251/.302/.411 with eight home runs, 22 doubles, and 49 RBI. The previous year, he posted an even better .296/.335/.383 slash line at Class-A Beloit as a 19-year-old.

"He's got the ability to make contact to all fields," A's assistant general manager/director of player personnel Billy Owens told NBC Sports California earlier this year. "He's got power that's going to come to prominence as he rises through the organization and gets to the higher levels."

Beck has also displayed terrific defensive ability, both in center and right field. MLB Pipeline rates him as a strong fielder and thrower of the baseball, with above-average speed as well.

Said Owens: "He definitely can defend center field, he's got a powerful throwing arm, he's got a swing that can manipulate the baseball and go to all fields, and the raw power is definitely in there. So he's got a chance to be a five-tool player."

Beck will likely spend the majority of the 2020 season at Double-A Midland. If he performs well there, he figures to get a shot at Triple-A Las Vegas in 2021 and could potentially make his major league debut late that year, or in 2022.

[RELATED: A's prospect rankings: No. 10 -- Nick Allen]

For the moment, the A's have a lot of depth in the outfield, but that could certainly change by the time Beck is ready for the big leagues. Mark Canha is set to become a free agent after the 2020 season, while Chad Pinder is already entering his arbitration years.

If Beck can continue to develop his power stroke, while simultaneously improving his all-around approach at the plate, his natural speed and athleticism should put him in position to become an impact player for the A's in the not too distant future.

A's top prospect ranking: Why Nick Allen comes in at No. 10 overall

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A's top prospect ranking: Why Nick Allen comes in at No. 10 overall

Editor's note: Over the next two weeks, we will examine the top 10 prospects in the A's organization. For each player, we will provide a scouting report and a realistic timetable for reaching the major leagues, as well as what he needs to do to stay there.

No. 10 - Nick Allen, SS/2B

The A's selected Allen out of high school in the third round of the 2017 MLB Draft and he is beginning to develop into the shortstop they hoped he would be. At just 5-foot-9, the 21-year-old is far from imposing physically, but he is a defensive wizard.

Allen has tremendous range and a cannon for an arm, with MLB Pipeline assigning him a 65 fielding rating on the 20-80 scale and an arm grade of 60. There has never been any question about his defensive ability, which is already MLB quality. Now he's beginning to show improvement at the plate as well.

Allen struggled in 2018 at Class-A Beloit, slashing just .239/.301/.302 in 121 games. But this past season at High-A Stockton, that slash line shot up to .292/.363/.434, with improved power numbers across the board.

Allen also has above-average speed, with a 60 rating from MLB Pipeline. He stole 37 bases in 193 games over the past two seasons.

Allen can play shortstop and second base, both potential positions of need for the A's in the near future. Marcus Semien is set to become a free agent after the 2020 season and Jurickson Profar is far from a sure thing to return. Youngsters Jorge Mateo, Franklin Barreto, and Sheldon Neuse could also be options at the middle infield positions, but Allen has a great chance to earn a spot down the road.

Realistically, Allen doesn't figure to join the A's until at least 2021, with 2022 seeming more realistic. He just turned 21 earlier this month and has yet to play a single game above High-A.

Allen will likely start the 2020 season at Double-A Midland, with an opportunity to move up to Triple-A Las Vegas, based on his performance. If he continues to progress offensively, he could certainly earn a major league call-up at some point in 2021.

[RELATED: Why A's should move on from Grossman]

Allen has already added some strength, which has been reflected in his increased productivity at the plate. He will need to continue his work in the weight room, without losing his speed, which should be his biggest weapon offensively.

While Allen will never be a power-hitter, he can use his speed to wreak havoc on the basepaths. If he maintains his magical defensive prowess, he has an opportunity to develop into a solid major leaguer for Oakland.