With the minor league baseball season coming to an end, at least for the A's affiliates, we figured this would be the perfect time to look back on the past year and reexamine Oakland's top prospects.
The A's farm system features a great deal of young talent, some of which has already helped the major league club. We've also seen pleasant surprises among older players like Seth Brown, who has caught fire since making his big-league debut.
But for now, let's rank the top five prospects under the age of 25 in the A's system:
1. Jesús Luzardo
Despite battling injuries this season, Luzardo remains the top prospect in the Oakland organization. The hard-throwing left-hander finally earned his first major league call-up on Monday after a strong showing in Triple-A Las Vegas recently.
Luzardo, 21, went 1-1 with a 3.19 ERA in seven starts, notching 34 strikeouts against eight walks in 31 innings. Overall this season, he went 2-1 with a 2.51 ERA in 11 outings.
Luzardo has excellent command of his high-90s fastball, as well as his curveball and changeup. He mixes all three pitches incredibly well for someone his age and has the stuff and composure to be an ace for years to come.
2. A.J. Puk
Puk has already shown his ability at the major league level, allowing just one run in five innings over his last three outings, with six strikeouts. The 6-foot-7 left-hander is coming off Tommy John surgery but hasn't had any setbacks, and his fastball velocity is still close to 100 mph.
Puk, 24, has notched 38 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings this season between the majors and minors. In addition to his dominant fastball, he has a nasty slider and also mixes in a curveball and changeup. That four-pitch mix should prove effective for a long time.
Puk and Luzardo figure to be a dominant one-two starting pitching tandem for years to come, but for now, the two left-handers will work out of the bullpen.
3. Sean Murphy
Murphy also recently made his highly-anticipated major league debut. The 24-year-old catcher launched his first home run in his second career at-bat, continuing a power surge that began in Triple-A this season, where Murphy hit 10 homers in just 31 games.
Murphy has always been a terrific defensive catcher, but now his offense is starting to catch up. He slashed .308/.386/.625 in Triple-A this season, despite battling a couple of injuries.
Now fully healthy, Murphy looks poised to be a mainstay behind the plate in Oakland.
4. Sheldon Neuse
Neuse put up a huge season in Triple-A Las Vegas, slashing .317/.389/.550 with 27 home runs and 102 RBI in 126 games. Since joining the A's, the 24-year-old has struggled a bit, going 3-for-21 with a double and two RBI, but the power potential is undeniable.
Third base is Neuse's natural position, but with Matt Chapman occupying the hot corner, Neuse has moved over to second recently. He's picked up the position quickly, recording 10 putouts, nine assists, and two double plays without an error since joining Oakland.
Neuse has an opportunity to take hold of second base next season and beyond. His natural hitting ability, particularly his power, makes him an exciting prospect moving forward.
5. Jorge Mateo
Mateo has always had elite speed, but this season in Triple-A, he took a major step forward with his bat. The 24-year-old middle infielder slashed .289/.330/.504 with 19 home runs, 29 doubles, 14 triples, 78 RBI, and 24 stolen bases in 119 games.
Mateo made the vast majority of his starts at shortstop, but he also played some second base. He has tremendous range and a very strong arm, which allows him to play the shortstop position at a high level.
Mateo figures to join the A's at some point in September, as he's already on the 40-man roster. If nothing else, he could serve as an excellent pinch-runner. But moving forward, Oakland expects Mateo to be a key contributor at the top of the lineup.