Yesterday, we brought you Part 1 of A’s Farm’s exclusive interview with A’s assistant general manager David Forst, where he gave us the lowdown on Jarrod Parker, Ryan Cook, Tommy Milone, Brad Peacock and more. In Part 2, we’ll cover Josh Reddick, Miles Head, Michael Choice, Sonny Gray and more top A’s prospects. So let’s get back to the action – we rejoin our game, already in progress…
AF: Well, the final big off-season trade was the one with the Red Sox for Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney. The main guy you got back in that deal was Josh Reddick. And I imagine you’ve got to be feeling pretty good about him at this point.
DF: Yeah, very good. I don’t think we knew ourselves that Josh would be capable of stepping right into the middle of the lineup and hitting the way he has and obviously hitting in the 3-hole for us pretty much all season. He’s really been our most consistent guy. We knew he was a good hitter, and we knew he was going to be an above average right fielder, but he has exceeded even our own expectations. So we’re very happy with Josh at this point, and I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t continue to hit in the middle of the lineup here.
AF: It seems like he’s making a lot of fans in Oakland real quick.
DF: Yeah, he is a fan favorite as well. He’s got a little bit of personality to him, which never hurts.
DF: Well, I’ll have to see how many of those we can corner.
AF: The other hitter in that deal was infielder Miles Head, who’s been putting up great numbers at Stockton this year. You’ve got to be pretty pleased with him as well.
DF: Yeah, he’s been outstanding. He just turned 21 a week ago. To come into his first exposure at High-A and put up those kind of numbers has been outstanding. And playing third base for the most part, a position that he hasn’t played in a while, and he’s been pretty good over there too. He’s been the best guy on that Stockton team to date and one of our most consistent hitters in all the minor leagues. Miles has done a great job.
AF: Do you see him spending a full season at Class-A, or might he get bumped up if he keeps hitting like he has?
DF: I think we’re open to having him move. We’re talking about just a 100 plus at bats right now. And you’d like to see a guy do it for probably at least twice that long. Our history in terms of moving guys up from the California League to Double-A has been to make them do it for at least a full half-season and then see where they are because it is a huge jump. People talk about the jump from Triple-A to the big leagues obviously being the toughest. But to go from A-Ball to Double-A is a significant jump and you’re really facing a different level of pitcher there, so you want to make sure guys are ready before you make that decision.
AF: The final guy in that deal was pitcher Raul Alcantara, who’s just 19 years old. And he’s been a little inconsistent at Burlington so far.
DF: Yeah, Raul will pitch all year at 19, so age is very much on his side. But like you said, he’s been kind of inconsistent. He had a very good start two starts ago where he threw 6 shutout innings and then came out the other day and walked 7 guys in 4 1/3 innings. So it’s a pretty typical trend line for a young kid first time in full-season ball. We weren’t even going to send him out to a full-season team after spring training, but he had a good camp and our guys liked the progress he was making. He really is very much in the development stage, working on both his secondary pitches and fastball command – the basic fundamentals you need a young pitcher to work on. And while he’s there, he’s holding his own, which is what you sort of hope for out of a 19-year-old.
AF: Okay, now getting beyond the off-season deals, there are some other guys in the system who people are always interested in finding out more about. And the guy who’s always at the top of that list is former first-round draft pick Michael Choice, who’s been playing at Midland and just hit his second homer of the year the other day. (He’s since hit his third).
DF: I don’t totally know what to make of the power numbers right now, other than to say that we’re not at all concerned about him. I think one thing you know for sure with Michael is that he’s going to hit for power. So I would imagine that we’re going to see a spurt here at some point where he puts together 5 or 6 home runs in a week and brings those numbers right back up. The nice thing is he’s maintained the average in Double-A that he put together in A-Ball last year. He’s walking, his on-base has been right around .350 all year, and he’s out there everyday and healthy. So I think there are a lot of good indicators when it comes to Michael, and we have no doubt the power numbers will catch up.
AF: I’ve noticed he has been getting on base at a pretty regular clip anyway, which is always good to see. Another guy at Midland who everyone’s had their eye on who’s also been a little spotty so far is last year’s first-round draft pick Sonny Gray.
DF: Yeah, I think we all had high expectations because of where Sonny was drafted and frankly how well he came out of the gate last year with his 20 innings in Double-A, which no one really expected him to do. So when you look and his ERA’s in the mid-fours and he’s not quite striking out a batter an inning, we obviously all had high expectations. But again, in Sonny’s first year out, he’s holding his own in Double-A and his stuff has been very good every time out. (Director of player development) Keith Lieppman was in there recently and was raving about his breaking ball as a major league out pitch. And I think it’s just a matter of time before Sonny figures it out and his command gets better and he starts putting up some dominating starts at that level.
AF: Another guy at Midland who’s a really interesting story is Sean Doolittle, who started out great at Stockton and was bumped up to Midland and so far has looked really good there too.
DF: Yeah, Sean has the potential to be a great story. Obviously, everybody knows what a great prospect he was as a position player. Unfortunately, his body just didn’t allow him to do it. But he’s now put together, between Stockton and Midland, I think 14 innings where he’s struck out 28 guys or something, and he’s touching 95-97 mph just about every time out. Obviously with a guy like that, you know his fastball’s going to play and it’s just a matter of working on his changeup and breaking ball. And that’s something we’ve stressed with Sean – not to just throw fastballs by guys but make sure he’s working on that other stuff. But as long as he continues to have success like that, then he’s going to move up the chain.
AF: Besides A.J. Cole, there are a few other highly-regarded pitchers who’ve also been struggling at Stockton so far this year – guys like Ian Krol and Blake Hassebrock. I think they’ve both had some injury issues too. I know Krol’s on his way back, but is Hassebrock likely to be out for a while?
DF: He’s got an oblique issue that’s been bothering him, so he’s not quite back to throwing yet. He’s been out almost two full weeks now I believe. But yeah, Blake struggled a little bit before he went on the DL. We’re not going to see him pitch I would guess for another few weeks. And Ian just got back from his own DL stint. He pulled a groin a couple of outings ago and missed about two weeks, but he threw three innings the other night and seems to be back on track. That whole Stockton rotation right now is struggling. And it’s a tough place for pitchers. There are a lot of ballparks there where the ball flies, and you’ve got some older hitters spread out throughout the league. So it’s going to take some time for these guys to adjust. But their stuff is good and, for the most part, their arms are healthy. But Blake Treinen and T.J. Walz are doing a nice job. You’ve got a good group. I think it’s just going to take a while for them to put it together.
AF: Yeah, Walz has really been the best starter so far at Stockton. And then down at Burlington, Sean Murphy and Drew Granier have both looked really good. I don’t know if their performances have been a bit of a pleasant surprise for you.
DF: Yeah, they’ve definitely opened up some eyes with their performance there and are in the conversation to move up at some point. Both guys have done well. Burlington’s right around .500, with not a lot of offensive performance to date. So it’s clearly been the pitching staff’s that’s carried them, and those guys you mentioned have been as good as anyone.
AF: I think they were both 32nd and 33rd round draft picks.
DF: Yeah, exactly, and they went out and had decent summers last year. But you really can’t evaluate these guys until they get into full-season ball. And they’ve both been very good.
AF: The one guy who’s really been driving the offense at Burlington so far this year is outfielder Dusty Robinson, who’s been looking like a real power prospect.
DF: Yeah, his slugging numbers have been good from day one. He’s a guy we really did like out of the draft last year. He didn’t go in a premium position, but J.T. Stotts, our area scout, was very vocal about wanting this guy and feeling like his swing was going to play at the next level. And Dusty’s put up excellent numbers in what is typically a tough hitting environment, between the cold weather there in April and May and some tough parks to hit in. But he has been their most consistent offensive performer.
AF: Is there anyone I didn’t bring up who’s prominent on your radar screen and particularly worth mentioning from your point of view?
DF: Nope, you were pretty thorough. I think you’ve covered just about everyone who’s doing all right so far.
AF: Well, hopefully everyone who’s on your radar screen is on A’s Farm’s radar screen!