MLB.com Columnist

Jim Callis

Bumper crop of infielders are the lifeblood of A's system

Farm director Lieppman says group represents 'future' of the organization

Bumper crop of infielders are the lifeblood of A's system

Every Spring Training, prospects get a chance to show what they can do as they prepare for the season ahead. Some are competing for jobs in big league camp, others are prepping for the season as they vie for spots at Minor League affiliates up and down a team's system. MLBPipeline.com will be visiting all 30 camps this spring. Today, we check in on the Oakland Athletics.

MESA, Ariz. -- The future of the Athletics has been on display this spring in their big league camp.

Seven of the first eight players on MLBPipeline.com's Oakland Top 30 Prospects list are infielders: shortstops Franklin Barreto, Richie Martin, Yairo Munoz and Chad Pinder; first baseman Matt Olson; and third basemen Renato Nunez and Matt Chapman. Only Nunez is on the 40-man roster. But everyone else -- with the exception of Munoz -- is a non-roster invitee getting a chance to show manager Bob Melvin and his staff what they can do.

"The future of our organization really resides in that core group," A's farm director Keith Lieppman said. "There's a real intent to get them exposed to as much as possible. Whether they go up later in the year or up in 2017, we have a crop of guys in Double-A and Triple-A who are all going to have an opportunity to make the A's competitive in the future."

Oakland's Triple-A Nashville club will include Olson, Nunez and Pinder, plus three other infielders on their Top 30 list in first baseman Rangel Ravelo, second baseman Joe Wendle and third baseman Ryon Healy. Double-A Midland will feature Barreto, Chapman and Munoz. Martin, the A's first-round Draft pick last June, will head to high Class A Stockton and could be joined by infielder Mikey White, their second-rounder from a year ago.

Manaea, Olson discuss camp

Many of these players will see time at more than one position this year, to get them enough at-bats and to add to their value.

"All of these guys are capable of playing multiple positions," Lieppman said. "Olson has played some outfield in big league camp, so we can get a glimpse of whether he can be another Brandon Moss. That's part of our M.O., to try to create that versatility."

MLB Pipeline Spring Training reports
Date Overview 5 questions
March 3 Indians Justus Sheffield
March 4 D-backs Adam Miller
March 7 Brewers J. Nottingham
March 7 Mariners Alex Jackson
March 8 Cubs Albert Almora
March 8 White Sox Eddy Alvarez
March 9 Rockies B. Rodgers
March 10 Padres Logan Allen
March 11 Giants Lucius Fox
March 14 Royals M. Gasparini
March 14 A's Richie Martin
March 15 Rangers Dillon Tate
March 15 Angels Jahmai Jones
March 16 Dodgers Alex Verdugo
March 17 Reds Rookie Davis
March 18 Twins Tyler Jay
March 18 Astros Daz Cameron
March 21 Red Sox Travis Lakins
March 21 Tigers Steven Moya
March 22 Rays Jacob Faria
March 22 Braves Touki Toussaint
March 23 Orioles Chance Sisco
March 23 Nationals Erick Fedde
March 24 Mets D. Lindsay
March 24 Yankees Donny Sands
March 25 Blue Jays Rowdy Tellez
March 25 Cardinals Nick Plummer
March 28 Marlins Tyler Kolek
March 29 Phillies Nick Williams
March 30 Pirates Jameson Taillon

Obviously, that's a lot more infielders than can fit into Oakland's lineup down the road, so it won't come as a shock if executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane uses some as trade fodder. He already parted with a pair of talented young shortstops in Addison Russell (sent to the Cubs in the Jeff Samardzija /Jason Hammel deal) and Daniel Robertson (shipped to the Rays in the Ben Zobrist /Yunel Escobar trade).

Beane has also swapped veterans for infield prospects. Barreto was, by far, the best part of the package received from the Blue Jays for Josh Donaldson. Ravelo came from the White Sox in a subsequent Samardzija trade, while the Indians traded Wendle to the A's straight up for Moss.

Camp standouts

The 25th-overall pick in the 2014 Draft, Chapman led A's farmhands with 23 homers during his first full pro season -- despite playing just 80 games because of a left wrist injury that required surgery. He went deep twice in his first 10 at-bats in big league camp, and his play at the hot corner has been just as impressive as his power.

"He's been the talk of the camp," Lieppman said. "He's an outstanding defender with a plus-plus arm and he's got the power numbers. He's got all the skills and he's putting them into play right now."

The youngest player in Oakland's camp at age 20, Barreto has also hit a pair of homers. He excelled as the high Class A California League's second-youngest regular last year, batting .302/.333/.500 with 12 homers in 90 games before a bruised left wrist truncated his season. Scouts aren't sold that he'll stay at shortstop, but his bat should play anywhere on the diamond.

Lieppman said Barreto reminds him of another shortstop who came up through the system and wound up winning an MVP award and making six All-Star teams.

Barreto's solo shot

"It's been fun watching him," Lieppman said. "I look at him versus Miguel Tejada at a similar time, and they exhibit the same kind of tools. Franklin maybe doesn't have the same arm strength, but everything else is like Miguel."

Breakout candidates

Munoz struggled as a 20-year-old in low Class A last year, but he gave a hint of his offensive upside when he replaced an injured Barreto at Stockton and hit .320/.372/.480 in 39 games. He has similar skills to Barreto and could split time at shortstop with him, while also seeing action at second base in Midland.

"It's between Munoz and Chapman who has the best arm in our system," Lieppman said. "Either one of them could probably pitch. Munoz runs and he has some power. I look at him and he looks almost like a Starlin Castro kind of player. He's starting to get bigger, but he's still agile enough to play shortstop. He's competitive -- he lives to play."

Top Prospects: Munoz, OAK

Right-hander Dakota Chalmers pitched his way into first-round consideration last spring while at North Forsyth (Cumming, Ga.) High School, but wasn't as consistent as the Draft approached. Oakland wound up picking him in the third round and signed him for $1.2 million. He battled his control during his pro debut, but has the stuff to develop into a frontline starter.

"Dakota is maybe further along than Ryan Webb and Trevor Cahill were at this point for us," Lieppman said. "His curveball is kind of his signature pitch, and he also has a nice changeup and a good, live fastball. He just needs to shrink the zone down a little bit. He's a little scattered with his command, but that's typical of a young pitcher."

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.