The A's are still holding out hope that center field prospect Kyler Murray will choose to play baseball professionally rather than football, but it feels like an uphill battle.
Earlier this week, the San Francisco Chronicle reported the A's are expecting their 2018 first-round pick to declare for the NFL Draft, with one source saying Murray was leaning toward a professional football career.
As disappointing as that would be for Oakland, there is a silver lining. The A's have a great deal of outfield depth beyond Murray, both at the Major League level and in the farm system.
We'll start with the big league squad, which features six young outfield options. Stephen Piscotty, Ramón Laureano, Nick Martini, Mark Canha, Dustin Fowler, and Chad Pinder are all under the age of 30, and all six are under team control for at least three more years.
Laureano has already shown he has the tools to be Oakland's center fielder of the future, not to mention the present. In just two months last season, the 24-year-old hit .288/.358/.474 with five home runs, 19 RBI, and seven stolen bases, and that doesn't even get into his defensive brilliance.
Piscotty, Canha, and Martini are all coming off career years and will have an opportunity to build on their efforts next season. Fowler and Pinder are also highly-regarded talents and figure to make an impact in 2019, and top infield prospect Franklin Barreto can play the outfield as well, adding even more depth on the roster.
At the minor league level, three of the A's top eight prospects are outfielders (four if you include shortstop Jorge Mateo, who played some center field in 2017). Austin Beck, Lázaro Armenteros, and Jameson Hannah are all 21 or younger and the A's think very highly of all three. Top 30 prospects Skye Bolt, Tyler Ramirez, and Luis Barrera are also coming off strong seasons and provide further depth in the organization.
Obviously, losing Murray to the NFL would hurt. There's no getting around that. But thanks to the A's additional outfield talent, it wouldn't be a devastating blow to the franchise.