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Prospects go big at spring batting practice

Manager Bob Melvin impressed by up-and-coming position-player power
MLB.com @JaneMLB

MESA, Ariz. -- The A's next wave of infield talent already has manager Bob Melvin excited.

"At least in the time I've been here, this is the best position-player group I've seen," he said. "We've always had waves of pitching, it seems, and now more so to the position-player end."

MESA, Ariz. -- The A's next wave of infield talent already has manager Bob Melvin excited.

"At least in the time I've been here, this is the best position-player group I've seen," he said. "We've always had waves of pitching, it seems, and now more so to the position-player end."

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Melvin came face-to-face with several of these players Saturday during batting practice at Fitch Park and deemed the experience "humbling."

Prospects Matt Chapman, Joey Wendle and Rangel Ravelo, along with Tyler Ladendorf, all hit walk-off homers off Melvin to conclude the session.

"I thought I had a good day going," Melvin quipped.

Chapman, in particular, has flashed some serious power during his first week in big league camp. Melvin said the third baseman "took me out to right, center and left." And on Thursday, when instructed to move a teammate over from second base, Chapman "got him over with a line drive over the right-field fence," Melvin said.

The A's No. 5 prospect is also considered among the best defensive players in the club's system. Chapman's arm strength, in particular, is excellent, and he's already earned rave reviews from infield coach Ron Washington, who called Chapman, 22, "a kid who's going to do big things."

Video: Top Prospects: Renato Nunez, 3B, Athletics

Corner infielder Renato Nunez, who hit 18 home runs and 23 doubles in 93 games with Double-A Midland last season, also comes with significant raw power. Chad Pinder, another highly regarded third baseman in the system, is also in camp after earning Texas League Player of the Year honors last season.

Ravelo, too, is likely to remain at third base, while first baseman Matt Olson will continue clocking time in right field this spring, Melvin said. The A's top overall prospect, shortstop Franklin Barreto, played some center field during his winter ball stint, but he's expected to stay put in the infield while in camp, working with possible future double-play partners like second baseman Wendle.

Video: Top Prospects: Joey Wendle, 2B, Athletics

Wendle, acquired in the Brandon Moss trade, is back in A's camp for a second time and appears close to big league ready, though he'll have to wait his turn with veteran Jed Lowrie slated to be the everyday second baseman and Chris Coghlan and Eric Sogard ahead of him on the depth chart.

That doesn't mean these young guys will be watched any less.

"This is a time where these are the guys you're a little bit more focused on," Melvin said. "This gives me an opportunity to see firsthand, because when you throw batting practice to guys, you really get an understanding quickly about what they can handle and what they can't, what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are. So this is a time of spring where we try to take a harder look at some of the younger guys.

"In our meeting yesterday, I addressed that I like the group we put together this year and the fact that, with our younger position players coming, we have a chance to do some good things this year and sustain it," Melvin said. "That's the goal, and that's the picture I want them to have in their head."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB.

 

Oakland Athletics, Matt Chapman, Tyler Ladendorf, Rangel Ravelo, Joey Wendle