Month: March 2016

Exclusive: Down On The Farm with A’s Special Assistant Grady Fuson

gfDSC01787-1[2c]Long-time baseball man Grady Fuson served as the A’s scouting director from 1995 until 2001, when the team drafted such talented players as Eric ChavezTim HudsonMark MulderBarry Zito and Rich Harden. He left the A’s at the end of 2001 to become the assistant general manager of the Texas Rangers and, after moving on to head up the Padres scouting department, Fuson eventually returned to the A’s a little over six years ago to serve as a special assistant to the front office.

Of course, many know Fuson as the scout in the cinematic version of Moneyball who has a dramatic confrontation with Billy Beane and ends up getting fired – though that’s not quite how it happened (which we chronicled here).

During spring training, Fuson can most frequently be found patrolling the A’s minor league fields, now located at Fitch Park in Mesa, while keeping a close eye on the team’s most prized prospects. And it was there that we took the opportunity to pick the brain of one of baseball’s top talent evaluators to get the scoop on some of the A’s top hitting and pitching prospects…

 

AF:  The A’s have had a big crop of talented young players passing through the major league camp this year. So is it exciting to have a bunch of young guys like that around who are right on the cusp of breaking through?

GF:  Well the good thing is, after the trades last year, there’s a different look to the system now that there’s been some trades and we’ve brought some talent back. And last year’s draft looks looks like it’s panning out. So, within one year, you’ve seen the talent base come back pretty strong…That whole crew that was in Double-A last year – Nunez and Pinder and Olson – it’s a good group. And now there’s more depth coming in from behind.

AF:  Well, let me ask you about some of those guys in particular. Chad Pinder, whom I know you’ve always been high on, had a big year in the Texas League last year, which isn’t easy for anyone to do. And he’s had the chance to spend a lot of time in the big league camp. So what have you been seeing out of him this spring?

cp640461bGF:  He’s had a great camp. And the most impressive thing is all the early work and side work that [A’s infield coach] Ron Washington does in the backfields. Wash really didn’t know him, and Wash has been really, really impressed. And he agrees with me – there’s no reason why this guy can’t play a major league shortstop. He’s had a good camp. His at-bats have been good – they’ve been quality. I think he’s made a very positive impression on everybody.

AF:  It looks like he’ll be the primary shortstop at Nashville this year. But do you think he’ll be seeing a little time at other spots as well just to continue developing his versatility?

GF:  Yeah, it’s important to keep his versatility, for when he’s ready to make the next jump. So he’s going to play some second base, maybe he goes and plays third a little bit, but he’ll be a primary shortstop – he’s earned it.

AF:  Now what about Renato Nunez? He was able to keep his power numbers up at Midland last year, which is no small feat. But what does he still need to be working on at this point?

rn600524dGF: He’s working much better as far as his practice time, his B.P. time, his drill work. He’s trying to stay centered, trying to hit the ball to the middle of the field and to the opposite field. His natural move is to the pull side of the field, so there’s that deep count, breaking ball thing that kind of gets him in trouble. And his footwork with his throwing, his hands and his actions – his reactions have really improved over the years. He’s getting better with his feet, but there’s still some things with his throwing, getting his legs underneath him and his stride and tempo and pace, to improve his accuracy.

AF:  So do you think we’re still primarily going to be seeing him at third base this year? Or do you think he’s going end up getting much time at first base?

GF:  Probably mostly third. But everybody has to be versatile to some degree, so he’s probably going to have to go over there from time to time. If [Max] Muncy’s in Triple-A, we’ll see how that whole thing works itself out.

AF:  Matt Olson has gotten a good amount of time in the big league camp this spring, and he’s set to start out the year at Nashville. I’d like to know what you’ve been seeing out him lately and what you think he’s got to do to take things to the next level?

mo621566bGF:  Nothing’s really different – you know, defending, doing all the things he does well. And he’s showed some power. At the same time, the swing-and-miss, sometimes that catches up to him a little bit. But the bottom line is, he goes over there and some of those things get exposed and it just reminds us all what needs to happen to make this guy complete. He’s still young, he’s still learning, and he’s at a higher level of baseball now. But he comes to play, he does all the right things, and he never takes his offense to his defense. So he just needs to get his at-bats and get things going.

AF:  He played a lot of right field, particularly in the second half, at Midland last season. Do you think we’re going to end up seeing as much of him in the outfield as first base at Nashville this year?

GF: Yeah, I think that’ll take place as the season goes on. He’s an above average first baseman. He can play the outfield, but his defense lies at first. So it’s all going to depend on the depth of that club in the outfield and what’s needed out there. It’s certainly not a bad idea that he continues to go out there from time to time. But nobody’s trying to make him a full-time outfielder.

AF:  Now second baseman Joey Wendle was at Nashville all last season, but he never got a September call-up. So what does he need to do this year to try to move up the ladder?

jw621563dGF:  If you’re asking me personally, I think he’s a very gifted instinctual hitter. This guy can square up a baseball anywhere in the strike zone. He’s jumpy, he’s aggressive. If there’s anything I would like to see him do is kind of back down and become a hair more patient. I know he loves to swing it, and he can hit it. There’s a lot of things he can hit, but he can’t hit it all with quality. There’s still some polish on some pivots that I think he can take another move with. But this guy’s a gamer, and he plays hard – he plays with his hair on fire. He had a very solid year when it was all said and done in Triple-A. So he’s waiting in the wings and trying to make some improvements on some things that he needs to work on.

AF:  So far, he’s only played exclusively at second base here. Is there any thought to trying to increase his versatility at all?

GF:  No, he’s not the kind of guy that you would see moving to short or third.

AF:  Well, I guess second base it is then! I wanted to ask you about Max Muncy, whom you mentioned earlier. Are you expecting him to basically be splitting time between first base and third base again this year at Nashville?

GF:  Yeah, we haven’t had that discussion yet, but Bob [Melvin] has used him at both in big league camp. And when you think about the personnel that’s going to Nashville, if he goes back, it’s going to have to be creative – some time at first, some time at third, some time at DH.

AF:  Last year, Tyler Ladendorf broke camp with the A’s. Then he got hurt and was sidelined for much of the season. He’s been playing a lot of center field in camp this spring…

tl502285bGF:  Yeah, and he’s shined!

AF:  Do you expect we’re going to be seeing a lot more of him in center field this year at Nashville?

GF:  Yeah, ever since a year and a half ago, that’s what we’re trying to create out of him is maybe that super utility type guy. But he’s done an absolutely fabulous job in center. They hit these balls deep in gaps, and you’ve really seen him run down some balls and be instinctual. So it’s been a positive, positive thing for him.

AF:  So, with his ability to play second base and shortstop as well, it looks like he could really be a legitimate option up the middle for you across the board.

GF:  Sure, yeah.

AF:  You don’t really have that many true center fielders at the top of the system right now, so I guess that’s a good spot to have him in. Speaking of which, do you see Jaycob Brugman spending more time in center field than in the corners this season? Where do you see him spending most of his time this year?

GF:  Probably more center this year – he plays it well. He’s one of the best we’ve got, so he’ll probably spend a lot of time there. He’ll move from time to time but right now, the way it looks, mostly center.

AF:  Okay, let’s touch on some of the younger guys. I know you always talked about Matt Chapman’s power potential, and he’s really been showing it. He had a good season at Stockton last year. And he’s spent a lot of time in the big league camp this year and he’s really been having a great spring here.

mc656305cGF:  Yeah, he’s probably been the talk of this camp. You know, every year there’s a new kid who’s fortunate enough to have a very high-performance camp, and Chapman’s been the guy. And it’s putting pressure on some of the other infielders – they’re all wanting to change positions! But he’s done well. His B.P.’s have been electric, he’s driving the ball to right-center like nobody else, and he’s just had a very, very impressive camp all around.

AF:  What kind of challenges to do you see him facing in Double-A at Midland this year?

GF:  First of all, health. Let’s just find a way to stay on the field. He’s been with us a year and a half now. The year we signed him, he kind of broke down in Beloit. Then he broke down coming in last year and missed a lot of time early and got a late start, and then broke down with the wrist. So he needs to get 500 at-bats and 140 games. But he’s doing great things. He’s starting to get a little more rhythmic with his swing – not being so rigid – and you’re starting to see the results of that. I mean, who knows what the competition’s like? With his limited amount of experience, he could have some struggles early. But hopefully he’s the kind of guy who starts to figure some things out. So, a learning first-half and a performance second-half.

AF:  Well, we’ve certainly seen that happen before.

GF:  He’s been having a performance big league camp!

AF:  Another top prospect who’ll be at Midland this season is shortstop Franklin Barreto. I remember when you were first seeing him here last spring after you guys acquired him and he ended up getting into camp late and got off to a bit of a slow start. What kind of progress have you seen out of him since then over this past year?

fb620439bGF:  Amazing. Either I was completely blind or…this guy’s not anything like it looked when he first got here a year ago. He’s got an instinct for the baseball defensively – he’s not polished yet, but that’s the least of our worries. I mean, footwork, technique – we can do a great job cleaning that stuff up. But there’s a lot of life in his bat – the ball jumps. And he’s actually throwing it a little bit better in my opinion this spring. I mean, the whole package – it’s there.

AF:  So does he maybe remind you a little bit of Miguel Tejada at this point?

GF:  Yeah, that’s a good call.

AF:  Are we going to be seeing him at any positions other than shortstop this year? Is he going to get looks at second base or in center field at all?

GF:  Yeah, depending on the health of Yairo Munoz. Munoz has kind of been tender [dealing with a lingering quad injury]. He hasn’t done much early in camp. But if they both go to Midland, then they’re both going to have some time at second at short – if that’s the way it ends up.

AF:  Yeah, David Forst had mentioned a couple months ago that maybe they both might go to Midland and end up sharing time at second and short there. But what about Munoz’s progress last year? He started out the season not so hot at Beloit, then he gets bumped up to Stockton, and suddenly he looks like a whole different guy.

ym622168bGF:  Well you know…he can be a live wire one minute and he can kind of be a downer the next. It’s just about waiting for him to grow into being a man – getting some maturity mentally. And I think that was the big change, once he left Beloit and went to a higher level of competition. You talk to [Stockton manager] Rick Magnante, and he was a model citizen in the time he was at Stockton. And it showed up in his performance – he played better in Stockton than he played in Beloit. He’s always a guy that there’s some maintenance to, but that’s what we do here. Their character, their work ethic, their maturity is as big in the coaching arena as taking B.P. and doing all the drill work. He’s an extremely talented kid, and he does things different than a lot of people. He’s strong, he’s physical – he and Chapman probably have the two best arms you’re going to see in this system.

AF:  Well, given the challenge last year, he seemed to rise to the occasion anyway.

GF: Oh, definitely.

rm621006cAF:  Another top shortstop prospect who’s been in camp this spring is your #1 pick from last year, Richie Martin. He was over in the big league camp for a while. So what have you been seeing out of him in his first spring with the organization?

GF:  We didn’t do a lot with him last summer offensively, which is what we do with most of them for a while. If we’re going to start to tinker, it usually starts in instructional league. And the only thing we did in instructional league was just tried to build some rhythm moves into his swing. And it’s coming, it’s looking better – it’s certainly coming off his bat better. He’s not cutting his swing off. Defensively, you know, this guy’s not far off. He’s got to learn the pace of the game, so that he doesn’t overcharge and things like that. But as far as the skill set, no issues.

AF:  Okay, let’s talk about a couple of pitchers. First off, Sean Manaea – everyone’s been pretty excited about him here this spring. He’s set to start the year at Triple-A Nashville. So what does he need to do to get himself to the next level?

sm640455cGF:  Right now, it looks like just stay healthy. I mean, he’s been pretty dominant since we got him. Last year in the Texas League, he had 3-4-5 dominant starts. In the [Arizona] Fall League, he had a couple of dominant starts. And he’s been dominant for the most part down here in camp as well. You know, some command issues here and there – maybe a little violent move there. When he gets the adrenaline flowing, he gets a little off line and it wreaks a little havoc sometimes with his command – but that’s part of the growing curve. But the bottom line is, this guy’s been facing big leaguers up there. It’s not like he’s been pitching in the seventh inning against non-roster call-ups. He’s faced people’s big league names, and he’s had some dominant innings.

AF:  So it sounds like it won’t be long before he’s ready.

GF:  Yeah, I wouldn’t think so.

AF:  Another left-hander who got some time in big league camp is Dillon Overton. He’s been on that post-Tommy John recovery curve for a while, but he’s looked good here in camp this spring. So where is he at now and what have you been seeing out of him?

do592614cGF:  He’s healthy. He came in and you could tell he was prepared. He was a tick firmer – a lot of 88-92s. He pitched well – he put up zeroes. I think he had 6 innings with zeroes across the board – good changeups, his breaker was working.

AF:  I was going to ask you if his velocity was up a bit, and it sounds like it is.

GF:  Yeah, it is. It’s not what some people saw prior to him being hurt, but I don’t think he needs to get all that back to be a major league guy. And this is going to be the first year when he’s going to be opened up – there’s no restrictions.

AF:  So are there any other guys you’re feeling particularly good about this year that we ought to be keeping an eye on?

GF:  Yeah, two pitchers – Daniel Gossett and Brett Graves. Graves, when we drafted him, we thought he was a 90-95ish type guy. And from day one, the velocity’s been light. Last year was not a very good year. His breaking ball comes and goes. But this guy seemed really smart, he seemed like he was really into making himself a better pitcher. Late last year, we were trying to find out, “What’s missing, why do you think your velocity’s light?” “I don’t know, I haven’t changed anything.” I said, “Something’s had to change.” “I haven’t changed anything.” Well, come to find out, he stopped long-tossing. So he went back on a long-toss program for the last month or month and a half there and stayed on it all winter. And he’s been 92-96 every time out down here – good delivery, breaker’s harder and sharper, he’s throwing tremendous. And Gossett has slowed down his pace a little bit and he’s come back firmer. And he cut his hair, so he’s got better aerodynamics coming down the mound. [Laughter]

AF:  I’d heard Gossett had maybe added a cutter too.

GF:  Well, [minor league pitching coordinator] Gil Patterson is back, so Gil gives everybody a cutter. He’s the cutter master!

AF:  So I’m assuming we’re most likely to be seeing those two guys at Stockton this year.

GF:  Yeah, most likely.

AF:  Okay great, well we’ll definitely be sure to keep an eye on the two of them this year then. Thanks!

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Olson, Pinder & Chapman: Trio of Top Prospects Talks about Spending the Spring in Big League Camp

mo621566b#3 on A’s Farm’s Top 10 Prospect List, Matt Olson is one of the top young power-hitting prospects in the A’s system. He was the A’s third overall pick in the 2012 draft, selected right behind shortstops Addison Russell and Daniel Robertson, who would soon become his roommates and two of us his closest friends. A first baseman by trade, Olson began increasing his versatility by spending a good amount of time in right field at Midland last year. He’s set to get his first taste of Triple-A this season at Nashville, where we’ll get to see what kind of damage his big bat can do in the Pacific Coast League.

AF:  Well, this is the first time you’ve spent a prolonged period of time in the big league camp. So what’s it been like for you and what have you been able to get out of the experience?

MO:  It’s been good…it’s a nice feeling to be around these guys and soak up whatever they’re doing and just watch what they’re doing…I’m more of an observer than going up and asking things. So I watch guys’ routines and just how they carry themselves.

AF:  Now you spent last season at Midland, which isn’t known as a hitter’s paradise. So what kind of challenges did you face and what did you have to deal with as a hitter there?

MO:  Yeah, like you said, it’s generally not known as a hitter’s park, especially for lefties. But the thing is the mental side of it. You know, I kind of had to deal with the mental side of not letting the park affect me at the plate. And I did have a little time during the season where I did let it affect me. And I kind of had to remind myself to just go through your at-bat the way you normally would. And I started seeing some results after that.

AF:  So how does the major league pitching you’ve had a chance to face over here compare to some of the minor league pitching you’ve faced in the past?

MO:  Guys just have a better feel for their stuff, maybe a little better stuff, a little tighter sliders, faster fastballs. But mainly they just know what they’re doing better and they know how to approach each at-bat better.

AF:  You’ve always been a first baseman, but you spent a lot of time playing right field last year at Midland, particularly during the second half of the season. So where are you expecting to be position-wise this coming season?

MO:  I’ve been working out at first and outfield so far this spring. I’m pretty comfortable doing either – so wherever they need me, wherever I have a spot in the lineup.

AF:  You’ve always had a reputation as a pretty solid defensive first baseman. So what was it like when you first started going out and spending time in the outfield? What particular challenges are involved in getting used to playing out there?

MO:  It’s just different as far as knowing what to do with each ball – knowing what to do with a ball down the line, who to pick up when you’re coming to throw the ball to the cut-off. There was definitely a learning curve. I wouldn’t say I’m 100% comfortable out there – I don’t think I should be. I’ve just really been starting to pick it up in the past year or so. But I’m just trying to get some work in and get more comfortable out there to where I can just not even think about anything and just let it happen.

AF:  So have you seen or talked to your old roommates Addison Russell and Daniel Robertson lately?

MO:  I haven’t talked to them much. I actually haven’t seen Addison – he’s got his baby now. But I try to keep in touch with them and talk to them every once in a while. Us three aren’t the best at communicating with each other. But once we get back with each other all hanging out in person, it’s like we didn’t miss a beat.

AF:  And of all your old roommates at Stockton, I guess Chad Pinder was the only one you still had around to keep you company at Midland last year.

MO:  Yeah, just Pinder.

AF:  I remember in Stockton, it was you, Pinder, Robertson, Billy McKinney and Austin House all living together.

MO: Yeah, whoever I live with goes!

 

cp640461b#6 on A’s Farm’s Top 10 Prospect List, Chad Pinder was named the Texas League Player of the Year last season after leading all Midland regulars in batting average and slugging percentage as well as leading the league in total bases. He played exclusively at shortstop last season after primarily appearing at second base the year before at Stockton. Pinder is slated to begin the season as Nashville’s starting shortstop, though his ability to play short, second and third could increase the chances of him seeing some time in Oakland before long.

AF:  You’ve spent a lot of time here in the major league camp this spring, which is always a good thing. So what’s the experience been like for you?

CP:  It’s been awesome – learning a lot, getting my feet wet. So it’s been a good experience.

AF:  Is there anything in particular you’ve experienced here in the big league camp that’ll be helping you out down the road?

CP:  Honestly, just all the reps I’m getting. And I’m learning a lot about different things some of these big leaguers do and how they go about their business – I’d say that’s a big thing. The kind of dedication it takes, what they do around the clubhouse – all the little things I’ve picked up on.

AF:  Has anyone in particular been a big help to you here this spring?

CP:  Working with [A’s infield coach Ron] Washington has been tremendous. I mean, I can’t speak highly enough of him and all the stuff that I’ve gotten from him thus far.

AF:  So have you been out there working in the field with him every morning?

CP:  Just about every single day.

AF:  Is there anything in particular that you’ve picked up from Ron Washington that you’ll really be putting into play going forward?

CP:  Yeah, a lot of the techniques of fielding groundballs, the little things that normally I’ve never worked on, whether it be different arm angles, different angles working around the bag. There’s things that he drills into us.

AF:  And I guess he’s always going to make sure your footwork’s right too!

CP:  Yeah, no doubt, no doubt!

AF:  After spending the previous season playing second base in Stockton, you spent all last year at shortstop in Midland. So what was it like for you to get back into playing shortstop on a daily basis again?

CP:  It was nice, it was awesome. I obviously played it growing up, and I loved the opportunity to get to play it at this level.

AF:  Here in the big league camp, they’ve had you playing a lot of second base. Now moving back over there to second base, do you have to shift gears a bit, or does it come right back to you?

CP:  Yeah, it’s a little bit of shifting gears. But obviously playing there in Stockton for a full year and still getting reps there in practice at second base, it’s fine, it’s not a big deal.

AF:  The ballpark in Midland certainly isn’t known as a hitter’s park, but you obviously had a great season there, being named the Texas League player of the year. So what was the key to your success in the Texas League last year?

CP:  Honestly, I think playing in that environment helped me – knowing that I couldn’t get away with a cheap home run. I had to just focus on hitting line drives. And I think that playing in that environment helped make me a little bit more of a complete hitter last year.

AF:  So the challenge served you well then.

CP:  Yeah, definitely. It made me stay within myself and just try to hit the ball hard and make consistent hard contact.

AF:  Now your long-time roommate Matt Olson has been here in camp with you. It must be nice to have a familiar face around to go through this whole experience with.

CP:  Absolutely. I’ve known Olson basically my entire time in pro ball. And obviously we’ve been very close over the past couple years. So it’s nice to have him here for sure.

AF:  And do you ever see any of your old roommates from Stockton?

CP:  Yeah, I saw [Austin] House the other day. I saw D-Rob [Daniel Robertson]. I played with him in the [Arizona] Fall League this past year and we lived together in the Fall League. And Billy McKinney lives with us now during spring training. So we’re all still good friends.

AF:  So going forward into this season, is there anything you’re looking to try to do in the year ahead?

CP:  Just carrying everything over from last year, just staying consistent and not trying to do too much and just to continue to grow as a player.

 

mc656305c#4 on A’s Farm’s Top 10 Prospect List, Matt Chapman was the A’s #1 pick in the 2014 draft. The team selected him primarily for his defense at the hot corner and his power potential with the bat. And Chapman made good on that potential by leading all A’s minor leaguers with 23 home runs last year while appearing in just 80 games due to injuries. The 22-year-old has been one of the A’s young standouts this spring, clearly impressing manager Bob Melvin and the coaching staff in his first big league camp. Chapman will be starting the season at Double-A Midland, but he could be a prospect who’ll be rising fast.

AF:  You’ve been getting a nice, long look here in your first big league camp. So what’s this whole experience been like for you?

MC:  It’s been a pretty surreal experience. Just to be invited here was an honor. And to be able to be around still and be able to be with the big league team and practice with them and play in games has been a dream come true.

AF:  Well, you’ve obviously been having a lot of success here. So what accounts for how well you’ve been doing this spring?

MC:  I think getting healthy, and all the work that I put in this offseason is paying off. I’ve been working with the coaches – working with Ron Washington, working with [hitting coach Darren] Bush – trying to just keep staying consistent. But I think all the hard work I put in this offseason has helped me prepare for what I’ve been doing. I feel very confident with how hard I worked. So I was prepared.

AF:  Well, it sounds like you definitely didn’t take it easy this offseason. So is there anything in particular that the coaches have been working with you on here?

MC:  Defensively, just being in the right position always and to always be thinking. I was working on my base a lot, defensively, being more level so I can use my hands more and feet. And then offensively, not trying to overswing and do too much, just trying to take a nice consistent swing and not get myself out and make sure that I’m giving myself the best opportunity to get hits.

AF:  Are there any veterans who’ve been particularly helpful to you this spring?

MC:  Billy Butler, Khris Davis, Yonder [Alonso], [Stephen] Vogt, everybody’s been giving me little tips and things to either work on or how to be more professional. So I’m just trying to soak up as much stuff as I can while I’m here.

AF:  So what have you picked up here in big league camp that you’ll be applying going forward?

MC:  Just showing up everyday regardless of what’s going on, and always trying to keep the same positive outlook. You know, it’s a long season, so being able to stay even-keeled. And putting in the work so that, whether you have success or not, you won’t question whether you prepared yourself – you’ll know you gave everything you’ve got and left everything you had out there.

AF:  Well, it looks like you’ll be heading to the Texas League this year. So what are you anticipating for yourself in the season ahead at Midland?

MC:  All I’m really focused on is going out to Midland and playing everyday and staying healthy and just trying to get better and work my way up.

AF:  You’ve always had a reputation as a quality defensive third baseman with a powerful arm, and you’ve made some nice plays here in the spring. So are you still feeling as confident as ever out in the field at third base?

MC:  Of course, you always have to be confident. That’s how you give yourself the best opportunity to have success.

AF:  Well, when you’ve got an arm like yours, I’m sure it makes it a whole lot easier to be confident out there!

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Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm. You can also get our exclusive A’s minor league newsletter e-mailed to you free by signing up here.

Catching Up With The M Squad: Sean Manaea, Max Muncy & Bruce Maxwell

sm640455cSean Manaea was acquired from Kansas City last summer in the Ben Zobrist trade and immediately became the A’s top pitching prospect. He posted a 1.90 ERA in 7 starts for Double-A Midland last season and is expected to start the year atop Triple-A Nashville’s starting rotation. The big lefty has looked impressive in the major league camp this spring and it may not be long before Manaea ends up making his debut in the green and gold.

AF:  This is your first time pitching in big league camp with the A’s. So how’s the experience been for you so far?

SM:  It’s awesome. It’s really, really cool seeing all these guys on TV and then being here with them – that blows my mind everyday. It really is awesome, expecially when you have great pitchers like Sean Doolittle, Sonny Gray and Jesse Hahn – it’s unreal. I’m just trying to figure out as much as I can and pick their brains as much as I can while I’m here, so I can take it into the season and hopefully make it to the big leagues. That’s the ultimate goal is just to make it to the big leagues. But right now, it’s really awesome. I’m just trying to have a good time and have fun.

AF:  Well, it sounds like you’re definitely not taking it for granted anyway!

SM:  Yeah, I’ve learned not to take anything for granted. You don’t know how long you’re going to be here or what could happen. So I enjoy soaking up all I can every single day.

AF:  Is there anything in particular you’ve picked up here this spring that you know you’ll be able to carry forward with you into the coming season?

SM:  Yeah, just like the mentality stuff. Like [John] Axford, I was talking to him about his curveball, because a couple bullpens ago, I was having a hard time trying to throw it for strikes. So I was talking to him about it and just about tweaking pitches. And he told me that he was tweaking one of his pitches in the bullpen before he went in the game. And wow, that’s pretty crazy – just doing something a couple pitches before you get in the game. So that’s something that I’ve definitely thought about a lot and I could definitely be using that throughout the season.

AF:  So just learning how to make those constant adjustments.

SM:  Yeah, constant adjustments – that’s what the game’s all about.

AF:  How much time have you spent with A’s pitching coach Curt Young this spring and what has he had to impart to you?

SM:  I’ve been out here since January, and he’s pretty much been out here the whole time too. So pretty much every bullpen I’ve had and every time I’ve played catch, he’s been out there. He’s just been helping me a lot – talking about changeups, talking about pitching and stuff like that. It’s just been really, really cool what he’s had to say to me. So I’ve just been soaking up all I can about what he’s said.

AF:  Now you’re known to have a pretty good fastball and to throw pretty hard. But do you pay much attention to the actual velocity of your fastball or how hard you’re actually throwing it at any given time?

SM:  I don’t really worry about that stuff…The main focus for me is trying to minimize walks. That’s something I’ve kind of had problems with throughout my career. So just trying to minimize walks and be more consistent with my pitches, that’s what I’m really focused on. I know the velo will most likely be there.

AF:  Where do you feel you’re at with your secondary stuff at this stage in the spring?

SM:  Right now, my changeup feels really good coming out of my hand. I feel like I really have a good grip on it – a good feeling in my head and in my hand – and it’s doing what I want it to. So that’s where I want it to be, especially since I never really had a changeup before. And then the slider, it’s coming. There’ll be times when it’s good but then I feel like most of time it’s been kind of bad. So I’ve just got to worry about getting that right grip and being able to get that good feeling back in my hand. So that’s something that I have to be working on these next couple weeks before the season starts.

AF:  Is there anyone here who throws a slider who’s been able to offer any helpful advice?

SM:  Yeah, I’ve been talking to everybody and just trying to see what they have to say. With like [John] Axford and Ryan Madson, I was talking about tweaking pitches and what they would do if something’s not feeling right. And they told me maybe I’ve just got to do a completely different grip just to start things fresh. So, maybe I have to! It’s something I’ve been working on these past couple days.

AF:  You’ve gotten plenty of time in the big league camp and gotten into plenty of games. So how do you feel about getting to spend as much time on the mound here in the big league camp as you have?

SM:  I feel really great! Just being up here as long as I can, just trying to pick people’s brains and talk to them about how they go about their business – that’s something I’m really, really happy about. Just to be able to be up here and be with the big leaguers, that’s what I’m really most excited about.

AF:  Now assuming you start the season in Nashville, that’s not really all that far from where you’re from in Indiana. So are you looking forward to having some of your family being able to come see you this season?

SM:  Yeah, I think it’s only about three and a half or four hours from where my girlfriend lives. And then for my family, it’s only like a six or seven hour trip. So that’s not bad at all, especially since I’ve been playing in like Texas and Delaware and places like that. So I’m really looking forward to that and just having them be able to come and watch me play. That’s something I’m really excited about.

AF:  So is there anything in particular that you really want to work on or try to accomplish in the coming season?

SM:  I would say just keeping down the walks. I’ve had problems with that. I feel like that starts with my mechanics – maybe I have to smooth things out or maybe do something different with my arm. That’s something I’m really harping on, especially at the beginning, because if you start off well it’ll carry on through the rest of the season. So that’s the biggest focus for me is keeping down the walks and being more consistent with my off-speed stuff. So that’s what I’ve really been focused on since the beginning of the year.

AF:  Well, if you can do that, then I guess everything else probably ought to fall right into place!

 

mm571970bMax Muncy was the first member of Oakland’s 2012 draft class to reach the major leagues with the A’s when he made his big league debut last April. Muncy’s stock in trade has always been his keen eye at the plate. Originally drafted as a first baseman, the 25-year-old Texan has been learning to play third base over the past couple of seasons. And now this spring, the A’s are also trying to break him in at second base.

AF:  Now you were up and down between Nashville and the major leagues a few times last season. Was there anything in particular that you learned from that experience?

MM:  There’s always something that you can learn. For the most part, I was still relatively young in my career at the major league level, so there’s little things I can learn all the time. Last year, I was really trying to learn how to kind of prepare myself for games and how to get ready to come off the bench and how to be a guy who’s not going to be in the lineup everyday. That was something I’d never done before, so I had to learn how to do it. And I think every time I went up, I had to learn more and more about how to take care of that problem. And there’s always stuff that you can learn from those big guys up there, even if it’s not from your own teammates, guys you’re playing against on the road. One of the times I was up last year, we were in Arizona and I got to see [Paul] Goldschmidt go about his business, and he’s one of the best out there. So there’s always things you can  take from guys, whether it’s your own team or the other team.

AF:  You spent a lot of time learning to play third base last season. Are you still learning things there and are you starting to feel a little more comfortable over there now?

MM:  I’m still learning things there but, now that I’ve had some time to actually really work at it, I feel probably about a hundred times more comfortable than I did last year. And I think it’s showing a little bit this spring. It feels more like a natural position now. It doesn’t feel like it’s still something I’m learning – now it feels likes it’s there. It’s just one of those things that takes time and takes reps, and it takes game reps sometimes for that.

AF:  Well, they’ve been starting to stick you out there at second base now. So how’s that been going?

MM:  Well, you know, we’re still learning that one. But I think hopefully I’ve proven that, if you give me enough time to work on something, I can get good at it. So, second base is just one of those things that I’m going to need some time to work at it – I’m going to need some reps – but I feel it’s something that I can really pick up. It’s not a completely foreign position to me, having played it in high school, I know somewhat what I’m doing there. It’s just getting reps back at that position, having someone slide into you when you’re turning a double play – those kind of things.

AF:  Have you been spending much time working with Ron Washington in the field this spring?

MM:  Yeah, every morning. We actually split it up – we do one morning at second, one morning at third. We go back and forth every single morning. And it’s been a lot of fun working with him. He really knows what he’s talking about.

AF:  Is there anything in particular that he’s been focusing on with you?

MM:  Really just focus on the basic fundamentals – that’s something that he teaches evey single morning. A lot of coaches like to go out there and try to teach the advanced stuff, how to do certain plays. He really reiterates doing the basic fundamentals every single morning – just fielding a ground ball right at you, using your hands, just getting your feet involved. He tries to really ingrain that in your head. And that’s the kind of the thing I take away from him is to really focus on the fundamentals. And if you can do that, then the more advanced stuff just kind of comes on its own.

AF:  So what have you been focused on trying to do at the plate this spring?

MM:  Staying short and quick. The last couple years, I feel like I’ve kind of gotten away from my swing being real short and quick, with quick hands. I feel like I’ve gotten a little too big, and so I’m trying to get back to that this spring. And I feel like I’ve been doing a really good job of it. I’ve had a lot of hard contact…balls aren’t falling for me, but I’m just saving that for the season.

AF:  Well, just give it time. It all evens out, right?

MM:  Yep!

AF:  Is there anything in particular the coaching staff has been working on with you or trying to get you to do this spring?

MM:  We’re always working on that outside pitch – that’s something I’ve always struggled with. We started working on it last year – me and [A’s hitting coach Darren] Bush. And this year we’re still working on it – just being able to drive that low and outside pitch and not pull off of it and get a little more power to the opposite field.

AF:  Going forward, is there anything in particular that you’re really looking to focus on this season?

MM:  Well, my defense obviously. That’s something that’s been a work in progress over the last year or so, so obviously I’m going to be working on that. But I think one thing I really want to get back to is cutting down my strikeouts and getting back to a high walk rate, which I feel like last year, just getting out of rhythm, might have gotten away from me a little bit. And I want to get back to that this year – not chasing bad pitches. I got into a problem last year chasing some off-speed pitches down in the dirt, and hopefully I can get away from that this year.

 

bm622194bBruce Maxwell was a 2nd-round pick for the A’s in the 2012 draft. In his first few years in the A’s system, the focus was primarily on developing his catching skills. But this spring, Maxwell has impressed both at the plate and behind the plate while in major league camp with the A’s.

AF:  So how’s it been for you getting some time in big league camp this year?

BM:  It’s been going great, man. It’s the best year I’ve had, health-wise, performance-wise. I just feel very confident rolling into this season.

AF:  You’ve obviously made some big strides defensively behind the plate, and you’ve impressed the coaching staff here this spring. Bob Melvin has had lots of nice things to say about you lately. So how are you feeling about your work behind the plate these days?

BM:  I feel amazing. I feel better than ever. It’s a big confidence booster. And now I can try to channel a little more of my focus on my hitting, since my catching is more natural, more comfortable.

AF:  So you don’t have to spend as much time thinking about it now – you can just do it.

BM:  Correct.

AF:  So have you learned a lot from being around the big league veterans in camp and have you spent a lot of time with catching coach Marcus Jensen this spring?

BM:  Marcus is always with me. I tell people that Marcus is my creator. Ever since day one, I’ve been with Marcus. He always makes sure that I’m really sharp behind the plate and makes sure that everything’s refined. And honestly, just being around these guys and just kind of learning how to be a big leaguer – the consistency, the work ethic, the routines every morning. And over time, the more and more time I get behind the plate, the better I’ve gotten.

AF:  Have you spent much time talking with the big league catchers here, Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley? Have they had much to offer you?

BM:  Yeah, they’re very open individuals. If they see something, they give us a suggestion. If you ever have a question, they’re always open to answer it. Whether we’re at the field or not, their phones are always on and they’re always willing to help us younger guys.

AF:  What’s the difference between the kind of pitching you’re used to seeing in the minor leagues and the kind of pitching you’ve been facing here in the major league camp?

BM:  Besides the name on the back of the jersey, not much. Yes, they execute a little more and their stuff is a little sharper, a little tighter, a little more accurate. But, at the same time, it’s still the same game. I faced a few really good guys with the Cubs, and they get paid a lot of money to be that good…that time they got me, next time I’ll get them.

AF:  You spent the season at Midland last year, which isn’t exactly known as a hitter’s paradise. What kind of challenges does a hitter face playing there at Midland?

BM:  Every one you can possibly find! Between the wind blowing in, the ball not flying anywhere, it teaches you how to become a very good hitter, very accurate hitter, very efficient hitter. When it comes to fly balls, a lot of them don’t get out. It just teaches you a different way of hitting. It almost trains you to be a complete hitter, in all aspects, because that’s about the only way you’re going to put up the numbers there.

AF:  I guess if you can hit there, you can hit anywhere!

BM:  Correct.

AF:  I know you caught Sean Manaea in Midland last year. I’m not sure if you’ve caught him or had the chance to see much of him here in camp this spring. But I’m curious to know, as a catcher, what you feel his greatest strengths are and what impresses you most about him.

BM:  His confidence…he goes on the mound knowing he’s better than whoever he faces. And he lets his ball work. He’s got life on his fastball. He’s just very efficient. The ball jumps out of his hand – it really does. He’s got a wipeout slider and a very good changeup. He just has confidence, and he just goes out on the mound and does his job. And he’s the first person to pick you up. He doesn’t really take it too serious but, at the same time, it is his job and he’s very, very good at it.

AF:  And it seems like he has fun along the way too!

BM:  Oh yeah, he’s a live character – that’s for sure, that’s for sure!

AF:  Well, it’s always good to have a few of those around – it’s a long season.

BM:  Exactly. And he’s been like that since college.

AF:  Now going forward into the season, what are you thinking about heading into the year ahead?

BM:  Progressing – being that guy. I want to continue what I’m doing here in spring and carry that over into the season, and keep progressing behind the plate and keep progressing at the plate. My bat’s going to play a little better this year. That’s the goal – that’s what I’ve worked on. And I know my catching’s always going to play if I keep it as consistent as it has been.

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Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm. You can also get our exclusive A’s minor league newsletter e-mailed to you free by signing up here.

Bob Melvin Gives the Lowdown on the A’s Top Prospects

DSC04403bIn his pre-game press conferences in recent days, A’s manager Bob Melvin has had plenty of opportunities to offer his perspective on the plethora of A’s prospects who’ve appeared in the big league camp with the team this spring. No one has had as good a view of the current crop of prospects as the A’s skipper, and it’s clear that he’s liked what he’s seen…

 

On what’s impressed him most about young prospects Matt Chapman and Franklin Barreto this spring…

Everything! Really. As comfortable as they are playing in games – usually for younger players…just to be in big league camp should be an honor for them – but to be able to play as much as they have and produce like that? I remember when I was that age, I was just happy to be around, let alone playing in games like that. You can tell when they’re out there in the field, they’re not in awe of anything. They’re very respectful of who they’re playing with and the opportunities that they’re given here this spring, but they’re not scared of it. And both of them have really impressed – they’ve both swung the bat very well. It’s about as impressive a swing out of Barreto as I’ve seen all camp, whether it’s in batting practice or in the game. So they come as advertised. When we talk about younger prospects who are some of the better ones in the game, both these guys definitely are.

 

On Franklin Barreto’s future defensive prospects…

I think he’s a shortstop. He does like to play the outfield too. But one of the things that we wanted to do was keep him at one position in big league camp. I know he likes center field a little bit. We’ll see where it goes, but once you have a guy you feel can play shortstop, he’d have to play his way off there, and it doesn’t look like he will.

 

On Chad Pinder’s future defensive prospects…

Pinder’s already played different positions for us and has the ability to play second, short and third. So we look at him to be more versatile than we do Barreto right now. And Pinder even told me that he could play the outfield too. We don’t need him to do it right now. But he’s tried to do everything he can to impress us this camp. You’re talking about the Texas League player of the year. He had a great year last year. I would say he’s someone we’ll move around more than we will Barreto.

 

On Tyler Ladendorf

The injuries last year kind of set him back…and then at the end when he came back, he still wasn’t fully healthy yet. I’ve not seen him play better than he’s playing right now. He gives you great versatility. There are guys who give you versatility where they’re maybe not so great at certain positions – that is not the case with him. He can play short, he can play second very well, he can play center field, he can play any of the outfield spots. He’s one of those guys, when you talk about versatility, he does it all very well.

 

On catcher Bruce Maxwell’s performance this spring…

I was a little worried about him going [to play for Germany in the World Baseball Classic]. He was getting an opportunity to play here and was taking advantage of it. And you know, sometimes when you go away and you’re not here, other guys get some opportunities. But he did well, so we’re looking forward to getting him back and getting him some more opportunities, because he’s another guy who’s taken advantage of the opportunities that he’s had here this camp…He is a guy who has made us look at this thing differently based on what he’s done this camp. You’re always looking to add whatever depth you can at certain positions, and it looked like we were a little short at the catching position. But now we look at him differently, as a potential option for us, which is good to see. He’s a left-hander, he’s got some power, he does a nice job behind the plate, he uses the whole field. So it’s good to know that we have somebody we feel the potential is there, if something happened injury-wise or whatever, that we’d have a guy to draw from – he and Carson Blair.

 

On pitcher Sean Manaeas performance this spring…

He’s been pitching well, and making adjustments. Like in the last game, he really didn’t have a breaking ball at all. He came in in relief, which he’s not used to doing, and he basically pitched on fastball/changeup and had success doing it. You find out a lot about yourself when you’re a young kid getting your first taste of big league camp and one of your pitches isn’t working and you’re able to get by and have some success with what is maybe your third-best pitch. Each and every time he’s out there, we get to take a longer look at him and evaluate him and form an opinion on him. And to this point, it’s a very high opinion…He just needs to pitch. He’s very aware of what works for him and what doesn’t. He takes instruction well…and in an organization that’s had a lot of great heads of hair, he’s right up there!

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Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm. You can also get our exclusive A’s minor league newsletter e-mailed to you free by signing up here.

Ray Fosse’s Take on this Spring’s Crop of Top Prospects

rfphoto153BNot only has Ray Fosse now spent three decades as a broadcaster for the Oakland A’s, working alongside names like Bill King, Lon Simmons, Ken Korach and Glen Kuiper, but he’s also a former All-Star catcher who won two World Series rings with the A’s in 1973 and 1974. We took the opportunity to get his take on the A’s current crop of prospects in the major league camp this spring…

AF:  So how do you feel about seeing this new crop of young prospects that have come into the A’s camp this spring?

RF:  I give credit to [scouting director] Eric Kubota and the scouting department – and making the trades, like Franklin Barreto coming from Toronto. Watching him play, he’s been outstanding. But I think the thing that Billy Beane and David Forst, who’s now the general manager, have never said is, “We’re not going to try to win.” And now, you’re hearing clubs are trying to tank it so they can get high draft choices. I’m saying, “Wait a minute, you’re supposed to be trying to win at this level. How do you tell your fans you’re trying to get draft choices?”

AF: What’s been your impression of what some of the younger guys like Franklin Barreto and Matt Chapman have been doing here in the big league camp this spring?

RF:  The main thing to look at with those kids is getting the experience at this level. I experienced it – I knew I was going to Triple-A, but I got a chance to be with the big league players. And that’s something that you can never put a price tag on. But I think Franklin Barreto – just watching him last weekend against the Cubs when the A’s scored three in the bottom of the ninth inning – he ended up getting a base hit to drive in the second run. Then he was on first and, on a base hit, he went to third on his own – first to third, and then scored on a sac fly and tied the game. Just watching, at 20, his development – as [A’s coach] Ron Washington said, “Maybe he knows he’s going to the minor leagues, but what he’s doing is experiencing this.” You can look at Matt Chapman, Franklin Barreto, Chad Pinder and Matt Olson – that’s a pretty good infield for the future. They’re probably all going to develop together and maybe come up together, depending on what happens at this level. But they’re getting experience facing major league pitching in spring training – something that’s invaluable.

AF:  Since you were a catcher, I wanted to ask if you’ve had a chance to see much of catcher Bruce Maxwell this spring and what your impression has been of him.

RF:  Yeah, I like him. And I think it’s a good position to be in, because there’s Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley, and that’s it! I think what Bob Melvin and his staff are trying to figure out now is, in the event something happens, who’s going to come up. And Maxwell’s shown that he’s got a good idea. And whoever would come up…would be a back up, but it would be a great experience. So if I’m a catcher in the organization, I’m busting it and I’m learning as much as I can. When I signed with Cleveland many, many years ago, they were  looking for catchers because they didn’t have a lot in the organization. And it worked out, because I only spent two full years and two half years in the minor leagues and I was in the big leagues – and that’s signing out of high school as an 18-year-old. So it’s a great opportunity for a catcher. But I’ve enjoyed what Maxwell has done…just the way he seems to want to learn, the way he handles himself behind the plate. And we can never forget the most important job of a catcher is to catch – handle the pitching staff and catch. Offense is so prevalent at every position, but catching and handling the pitching staff are the keys to being a good catcher.

AF:  And since you were a catcher, you also know a little bit about pitchers. So I wanted to ask you what you’ve seen out of the A’s top pitching prospect, Sean Manaea, so far this spring.

RF:  I think the composure…Sean Manaea shows that confidence. Give credit to the A’s organization. The Royals were trying to win a World Series, which they did. And they were willing to give up someone like Manaea to get Ben Zobrist, who turned out great, but then he goes on to the Cubs. So they got him for a World Series…but the A’s were smart in picking up pitching – you can never have too much. And I think Sean Manaea, we may see him in Oakland sooner rather than later – a lot sooner than people think.

AF:  Well, it never hurts when you’re a big left-hander who throws hard, right?

RF:  Exactly. And again, showing the composure at this level. It is spring training, but you’re facing major league hitters. So I think that’s a big plus for him to be able to experience this but also to be able to show that he can pitch.

AF:  Thanks, Ray.

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Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm. You can also get our exclusive A’s minor league newsletter e-mailed to you free by signing up here.

A’s Spring Training Tour – 3/19/16

A’s Major League Camp at Hohokam Stadium

Hohokam

The field at Hohokam Stadium on Saturday.

 

Bob Melvin

Bob Melvin, seated on the Bob Welch memorial bench, when asked what most impressed him about Matt Chapman and Franklin Barreto said, “Everything!”

 

Josh Reddick

Josh Reddick taking it easy before batting practice.

 

Coco Crisp was lining the ball hard throughout batting practice.

Coco Crisp was lining the ball hard throughout batting practice.

 

Reddick, Fuld, Coghlan, Valencia

Josh Reddick, Sam Fuld, Chris Coghlan and Danny Valencia awaiting their turn in the cage.

 

Sean Manaea

When it comes to being in big league camp, A’s pitching prospect Sean Manaea is all smiles.

 

Matt Olson

Matt Olson has clearly been enjoying the chance to be on the field in big league camp.

 

Stephen Vogt

Stephen Vogt during catching drills.

 

Josh Reddick and Ray Fosse

Ray Fosse undoubtedly imparting some wisdom to Josh Reddick.

 

Stephen Vogt lends Ron Washington a helping hand during batting practice

Stephen Vogt lends Ron Washington a helping hand during infield drills.

 

Eric Sogard giving Andrew Lambo a few pointers.

Eric Sogard gives Andrew Lambo a few pointers during batting practice.

 

Bob Melvin and Stephen Vogt

Stephen Vogt clearly looks up to Bob Melvin.

 

Chad Pinder and Matt Olson

Chad Pinder takes batting practice while roommate Matt Olson looks on.

 

David Forst and Lew Wolff watching Josh Reddick's batting practice.

David Forst and Lew Wolff keeping a close eye on Josh Reddick during batting practice.

 

Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm. You can also get our exclusive A’s minor league newsletter e-mailed to you free by signing up here.

A’s Spring Training Tour – 3/18/16

A’s Minor Leaguers at Angels Minor League Complex

Tempe Diablo

The minor league complex at Tempe Diablo

 

Dillon Overton

LHP Dillon Overton was the starter in Friday’s AAA game – he was throwing about 88-89 mph.

 

Rangel Ravelo

Rangel Ravelo at first base in the AAA game – he’s expected to see plenty of time there for Nashville this season.

 

Raul Alcantara

RHP Raul Alcantara, who’s expected to start the season with Midland, was the starter in Friday’s AA game.

 

Josh Whitaker

Outfielder Josh Whitaker had 26 doubles and 12 home runs for Midland last season.

 

Brett Graves

RHP Brett Graves followed Alcantara in the AA game – his velocity has increased a bit this year.

 

Sandber Pimentel

Sandber Pimentel, who led Beloit with 13 home runs last season, manned first base in the AA game.

 

Rangel Ravelo

First baseman Rangel Ravelo put up a .304/.377/.439 slash line across three different levels last year.

 

Mound

Manager Rick Magnante convenes a meeting on the mound – but Sandber Pimentel doesn’t look too happy to be there.

 

Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm. You can also get our exclusive A’s minor league newsletter e-mailed to you free by signing up here.

A’s Top 5 Replacement Players for 2016

A's top pitching prospect - and America's next top hair model - Sean Manaea

A’s top pitching prospect – and America’s next top hair model – Sean Manaea

When it comes to the look of the A’s opening day roster this year, there aren’t really that many question marks at this point. Of course, that original 25-man roster will end up going through plenty of permutations once the season gets underway. And unexpected injuries are bound to pop up and open the door for deserving minor leaguers who are looking to land a spot on the major league roster.

We all know that the A’s will have plenty of top prospects at Triple-A Nashville this year – players like Matt Olson, Chad Pinder, Renato Nunez and Sean Manaea. But when injuries arise during the season and a replacement is needed, it’s not always the team’s top young prospects that will be the first to get the call. There are a couple of other important factors that will often come into play when a team is looking for replacements at the major league level. One is a player’s status on the 40-man roster and the other is a player’s previous major league experience.

More often than not, a player who’s already on the team’s 40-man roster will be the first to get the call, since adding a player who’s not on the 40-man roster will require making an additonal roster move that could expose another player who might end up being lost to another organization. And all things being equal, most teams, including the A’s, usually prefer to be able to add a player who’s already gotten his feet wet in the majors before. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the players who could be the first to get the call should reinforcements be needed from Nashville this season.

 

rd623430Ryan Dull (RP)

Dull impressed in 13 late-season relief appearances for the A’s last year, and many thought he’d shown enough to earn himself a spot in the A’s bullpen this year. But with the offseason additions of right-handed relievers Ryan Madson, John Axford and Liam Hendriks and the return of right-hander Fernando Rodriguez, who’s out of options, if everyone stays healthy through the spring, there doesn’t appear to be any room on the right side for Dull to break camp with the big league team. So it looks like the 26-year-old North Carolina native could open the season as the top right-handed relief arm at Nashville. In 16 innings in the second half of last season with the Sounds, Dull posted a 1.12 ERA while striking out 21. And if he can even come close to replicating those kind numbers next year, then he’s likely to be in the front of the line if and when bullpen reinforcements are needed in Oakland. Behind Dull, other right-handed relief options currently on the 40-man roster include R.J. Alvarez and J.B. Wendelken.

 

mm571970bMax Muncy (1B-3B)

A 5th-round pick for the A’s in the 2012 draft, Muncy moved through the system as fast as anyone from that draft class and made his debut with the A’s last April, ultimately making it into 45 major league games by the time the season was through. But there just doesn’t appear to be room for Muncy on the opening day roster this year. His ability to play both first base and third base makes him a valuable asset though, and he’s currently the only player in the A’s minor league system who can play both corner infield positions and has major league experience. Muncy’s posted a .378 on-base percentage in 386 games over his minor league career. And the A’s value his approach at the plate, knowing that he’s not prone to wasting at-bats by hacking at pitches he can’t handle. Top slugging prospect Matt Olson isn’t currently on the 40-man roster, but corner infielders Rangel Ravelo and Renato Nunez are. Neither has major league experience though, and Ravelo is primarily a first baseman who hasn’t seen more than two games at the hot corner since 2012, while Nunez is primarily a third baseman who’s only seen 16 games at first base in his minor league career and is considered a defensive liability at both positions. So if another corner infielder is needed this season, Muncy’s versatility and dependability should put him at the front of the pack.

 

tl502285bTyler Ladendorf (2B-SS-CF)

Ladendorf impressed in major league camp last spring and opened the season on the A’s roster before being sent down and then suffering an ankle injury that left him laid up for much of the season. If Ladendorf had any shot at earning an opening day roster spot this year, the acquisition of versatile infielder-outfielder Chris Coghlan quickly put an end to that. But that’s not to say that the A’s don’t still value Ladendorf’s versatility. In his minor league career, he’s started over 200 games at both second base and shortstop and has appeared in at least 50 games at third base and in center field, where he’s expected to see plenty of time this season at Nashville. If Sam Fuld doesn’t end up making the opening day roster, he may very well be lost to the organization since he’s out of options. And that would leave Ladendorf as the only A’s minor leaguer currently on the 40-man roster capable of stepping in in center field. If Eric Sogard doesn’t make the opening day roster and still ends up in the organization when the season starts (which may or not turn out to be the case), then he could be the go-to guy if the team needs another middle infielder. But if Sogard ends up elsewhere, then Ladendorf could be the clear choice if a middle infield need develops. Second baseman Joey Wendle also has a spot on the 40-man roster, but he hasn’t spent one inning at a position other than second base in the last three seasons, so his lack of versatility could hinder him. Meanwhile, infield prospect Chad Pinder has spent time at shortsop, second base and third base but isn’t on the 40-man roster and hasn’t yet seen time above Double-A, let alone in the majors.

 

js519295cJake Smolinski (LF-RF)

Smolinski appeared in 41 games for the A’s in the second half of last season after being acquired off waivers from the Rangers. And the former 2nd-round draft pick did a solid job, showing plenty of pop while primarily playing in left field against left-handers. But with outfielders Josh Reddick, Khris Davis, Billy Burns, Mark Canha, Coco Crisp, Chris Coghlan and Sam Fuld all currently ahead of him on the depth chart, Smolinski seems set to start the season back at Nashville. He hit like a house afire in his brief time at Nashville last season, posting an impressive .349/.402/.628 slash line in 25 games with the Sounds. Smolinski appears set to open the season as Nashville’s starting left fielder but can play either corner outfield position. At the plate, his specialty is crushing left-handed pitching. So if the A’s should end up needing a right-handed hitting corner outfielder at some point this season, Smolinski should be the obvious call.

 

al518911bAndrew Lambo (RF-LF)

Acquired off waivers from Pittsburgh in the offseason, the 27-year-old Lambo was once considered a top power-hitting prospect, and some believe he could prove to be a bit of a late bloomer like Brandon Moss. Lambo is a left-handed hitter who’s slugged 100 home runs while putting up a .280/.347/.467 slash line over his minor league career. He’s also made appearances with the Pirates in each of the last three seasons. While he’s split most of his time between the two corner outfield spots, Lambo has seen some action at first base as well. And the California native has been one of the hottest hitters in the A’s camp so far this spring, notching a pair of home runs and a pair of doubles in his first 19 at-bats while while posting an impressive .421/.476/.842 slash line. With so many other outfielders ahead of him in the A’s camp though, Lambo’s likely to end up seeing lots of time in right field for Nashville this season, at least until an opening for a left-handed hitting corner outfielder pops up for the A’s.

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Oakland A’s 2016 Depth Chart

oamlb_g_oakland_coliseum_600After a long cold winter, the first week of March has arrived and spring training games are finally underway. Between players on the 40-man roster and 22 non-roster invitees, the Oakland A’s have a total of 62 players in their major league camp – 33 position players and 29 pitchers. Every other player in the organization is based in the minor league camp, headquarted at Fitch Park in Mesa. Those 62 players in the big league camp represent the top tier of players in the organization, the ones the coaching staff and the team’s front office executives have deemed worthy of playing with the big boys and want to be sure to get a good look at this spring.

With that in mind, we wanted to examine the team’s depth chart at each position, with the assumption that the 62 players in the big league camp are at the top of the heap in the organization. So let’s take a look at who’s currently in line at each position in the A’s organizational depth chart. Next to each player’s name is the highest level they’ve played at, and below each positional depth chart is a list of players who appeared at that position for the A’s in 2015.

 

Stephen Vogt

Stephen Vogt

CATCHER

Stephen Vogt (MLB)

Josh Phegley (MLB)

Bryan Anderson (MLB)

Carson Blair (MLB)

Matt McBride (MLB)

Bruce Maxwell (AA)

Beau Taylor (AA)

(2015: Vogt, Phegley, Blair, Anderson)

Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley are set to return at the catching combo at the major leage level for the A’s this season. They are also the only two catchers currently on the 40-man roster. After that, the A’s catching corps is a little thin. Bryan Anderson and Carson Blair, both whom made a handful of appearances for the A’s last year, are expected to be at Triple-A Nashville this season, along with Matt McBride, who is primarily an outfielder. But the veteran has picked up his catcher’s mitt this spring for the first time since 2013 in order to increase his versatility as well as his chances of making it back to the big leagues. Should the A’s be in need of backup backstops this season, Anderson, Blair and McBride should be first in line to get the call. Bruce Maxwell and Beau Taylor are both expected to start the season back at Double-A Midland. But considering the frequency with which catchers tend to get banged up, anyone could get an opportunity to take a step up at any time.

 

Yonder Alonso

Yonder Alonso

FIRST BASE

Yonder Alonso (MLB)

Mark Canha (MLB)

Stephen Vogt (MLB)

Billy Butler (MLB)

Max Muncy (MLB)

Rangel Ravelo (AAA)

Matt Olson (AA)

(2015: Davis, Canha, Vogt, Muncy, Butler)

Last year, Ike Davis and Mark Canha got most of the starts at first base for the A’s. And this year, the left-handed hitting Yonder Alonso and the right-handed hitting Canha are expected to form the first base platoon for the A’s. If needed, Stephen Vogt can always come out from behind the plate and Billy Butler can always come out of the designated hitter spot to back up the pair. If a first baseman is needed for the longer term, lefty Max Muncy and righty Rangel Ravelo will both be at Triple-A Nashville and both are on the 40-man roster. Top prospect Matt Olson will also be at Nashville, but he’s not currently on the 40-man roster, and the A’s may prefer to wait till they’re ready to give the young slugger a full-time shot before giving him the call and starting his service time clock.

 

Jed Lowrie

Jed Lowrie

SECOND BASE

Jed Lowrie (MLB)

Chris Coghlan (MLB)

Eric Sogard (MLB)

Tyler Ladendorf (MLB)

Joey Wendle (AAA)

Chad Pinder (AA)

Josh Rodriguez (MLB)

Franklin Barreto (A)

(2015: Sogard, Lawrie, Zobrist, Ladendorf)

Eric Sogard got most of the starts at second base last year, but Jed Lowrie has returned to the A’s to serve as the team’s starting second baseman this season. Lefty-swinging Chris Coghlan was also acquired from the Cubs and could get some starts against right-handed pitchers since Lowrie struggled a bit against righties last year. Sogard is still in the picture though and, if he doesn’t make the major league squad to start the season, he could be optioned to Nashville, where he’d be available to return to Oakland at a moment’s notice should his services be needed. Middle infielders Tyler Ladendorf, Joey Wendle and Chad Pinder will all be at Nashville, and Ladendorf and Wendle are both on the 40-man roster, so it would be easy to bring them up if needed. Minor league free agent signee and non-roster invitee Josh Rodriguez could be at Nashville as well or, if the Triple-A roster is too crowded, he could end up at Midland, where top shortstop prospect Franklin Barreto is expected to start getting a little time at second base to increase his versatility.

 

Marcus Semien

Marcus Semien

SHORTSTOP

Marcus Semien (MLB)

Jed Lowrie (MLB)

Eric Sogard (MLB)

Tyler Ladendorf (MLB)

Chad Pinder (AA)

Josh Rodriguez (MLB)

Franklin Barreto (A)

Richie Martin (A)

(2015: Semien, Sogard, Parrino)

Marcus Semien appeared in 152 games at shortstop for the A’s in 2015 and is set to return as the team’s everyday shortstop in 2016. As long as he’s healthy, the 25-year-old East Bay native should start as many games for the A’s as anyone in the coming season. But if he does need an occasional day off, the A’s former everyday shortstop, Jed Lowrie, can easily slide over from second base to give Semien a breather. If Eric Sogard remains with the organization, he also has the ability to fill in at the position and served as Semien’s primary backup last season. Tyler Ladendorf, who’s on the 40-man roster, should be available at Nashville if needed. And Chad Pinder, who’s not currently on the 40-man roster, is set to be the primary starting shortstop for Nashville this year after turning in an MVP season at Double-A Midland last year. Non-roster invitee Josh Rodriguez has played over 400 games at shortstop in the minors, while 20-year-old Franklin Barreto is the organization’s top shortstop prospect and is set to start the season at Double-A Midland, and 21-year-old Richie Martin was the team’s top draft pick last year but is still relatively inexperienced and should start the season in A ball.

 

Danny Valencia

Danny Valencia

THIRD BASE

Danny Valencia (MLB)

Jed Lowrie (MLB)

Chris Coghlan (MLB)

Eric Sogard (MLB)

Max Muncy (MLB)

Tyler Ladendorf (MLB)

Renato Nunez (AA)

Chad Pinder (AA)

Josh Rodriguez (MLB)

Matt Chapman (AA)

(2015: Lawrie, Valencia, Muncy, Sogard)

With Brett Lawrie, the A’s primary third baseman last season, shipped off to the White Sox in the offseason, Danny Valencia, the A’s second-half hitting star last year, is set to take over as the team’s everyday third baseman in 2016. But Valencia has primarily been a part-time player throughout his career and if he needs a little time off, Jed Lowrie, who primarily played third base for the Astros last season, can always slide over from second base or newly-acquired lefty swinger Chris Coghlan can come in to give the right-handed hitting Valencia an occasional break against righties. Eric Sogard has appeared in a couple dozen games at the hot corner for the A’s over the past few seasons and could also be in the mix. Max Muncy, who appeared in 16 games at third base for the A’s last year, along with the versatile Tyler Ladendorf and the young slugger Renato Nunez will all be available at Nashville, and all are currently on the 40-man roster. Chad Pinder, who will also be at Nashville, played plenty of third base in college, while non-roster invitee Josh Rodriguez has spent the bulk of his time at third base over his last three seasons in the minors. And right behind them is the A’s top draft pick from 2014, Matt Chapman, who’s set to start the season at Double-A Midland and who’s defense at the hot corner is as solid as can be.

 

Khris Davis

Khris Davis

OUTFIELD

Khris Davis (MLB)

Josh Reddick (MLB)

Billy Burns (MLB)

Mark Canha (MLB)

Coco Crisp (MLB)

Chris Coghlan (MLB)

Sam Fuld (MLB)

Tyler Ladendorf (MLB)

Jake Smolinski (MLB)

Andrew Lambo (MLB)

Matt McBride (MLB)

Matt Olson (AA)

(2015: Reddick, Burns, Fuld, Canha, Smolinski, Crisp, Zobrist, Gentry, Ross, Ladendorf, Pridie)

While Josh Reddick and Billy Burns will be returning as the A’s starting right fielder and center fielder this season, new acquisition Khris Davis is set to take over in left field, where Sam Fuld and Mark Canha ended up getting the bulk of the starts last year. When he’s not starting at first base against lefties, Canha will be available to fill in in the outfield if needed, as will Coco Crisp, as long as he’s healthy, and new acquisition Chris Coghlan. There’s some question as to whether or not Sam Fuld will be able to make the opening day roster and, since he’s out of options, the A’s may not be able to retain him if he doesn’t. But if Fuld sticks around, then he’s another option to fill in at all three outfield spots. Tyler Ladendorf is expected to see plenty of time in center field at Triple-A Nashville this season, where corner outfielders Jake Smolinski and Andrew Lambo, both of whom have major league experience, are also set to spend plenty of time patrolling the outfield. And since all three are on the 40-man roster, it’d be easy to call up any of them if extra outfielders are needed. Non-roster invitee Matt McBride has seen time in the outfield for the Rockies over parts of three different seasons. He’ll be at Nashville this year but is not on the 40-man roster. The same applies to young slugger Matt Olson, who spent most of the second half of last season in right field for Midland and is expected to see plenty more time there in Music City this year.

 

Sonny Gray

Sonny Gray

STARTING PITCHING

Sonny Gray (MLB)

Jesse Hahn (MLB)

Chris Bassitt (MLB)

Kendall Graveman (MLB)

Rich Hill (MLB)

Henderson Alvarez (MLB)

Felix Doubront (MLB)

Jarrod Parker (MLB)

Sean Manaea (AA)

Dillon Overton (AA)

Eric Surkamp (MLB)

Chris Smith (MLB)

Raul Alcantara (AA)

(2015: Gray, Chavez, Graveman, Kazmir, Hahn, Bassitt, Brooks, Pomeranz, Doubront, Nolin, Martin, Zito, Mills)

The idea of a five-man starting rotation is a bit of a myth. Most teams end up using twice that many starting pitchers over the course of a season, and the A’s used 13 different starters last year. With that in mind, as A’s general manager David Forst well knows, building plenty of starting pitching depth can be key to any team’s success. High atop the A’s starting pitching heap is staff ace Sonny Gray. Free agent signee Rich Hill is set to join him in the A’s starting rotation, along with returning right-handers Jesse Hahn, Chris Bassitt and Kendall Graveman, as long as all are healthy. Free agent signee and former All-Star Henderson Alvarez, who is returning from shoulder surgery, is expected to be ready to join the rotation by the end of May. And lefty Felix Doubront, who’s started 85 games in the majors and is currently set to be the A’s long man out of the bullpen, will also be available to start if needed. After multiple elbow surgeries, Jarrod Parker will be working his way back into shape at Triple-A Nashville, where he’s likely to be joined by the team’s top two pitching prospects, left-handers Sean Manaea and Dillon Overton, along with minor league free agent signees Eric Surkamp and Chris Smith, both of whom have major league experience. Parker is the only one of that group currently on the 40-man roster and is also the only one with extensive major league experience so, if he can regain his form, he could be the first to get the call if needed. The A’s would like Sean Manaea to get some time in Triple-A but, as the organization’s top pitching prospect, if Manaea can show the ability to dominate Triple-A hitters early, then the team may have to find a way to find a spot for the promising lefty. The only other starting pitcher in the big league camp is right-hander Raul Alcantara, who returned from Tommy John surgery to make 15 starts for Stockton last season and is expected to start 2016 at Double-A Midland.

 

Sean Doolittle

Sean Doolittle

LEFT-HANDED RELIEF

Sean Doolittle (MLB)

Marc Rzepczynski (MLB)

Felix Doubront (MLB)

Daniel Coulombe (MLB)

Eric Surkamp (MLB)

Patrick Schuster (AAA)

(2015: Abad, Pomeranz, Venditte, O’Flaherty, Doolittle, Coulombe)

A healthy Sean Doolittle is set to return as the A’s closer this season, while new acquisition Marc Rzepczynski is expected to take on the role as the team’s primary left-handed setup man, with lefty Felix Doubront serving as the A’s long man and occasional spot starter. The organization isn’t terribly deep at the moment when it comes to left-handed relief options. Daniel Coulombe, who appeared in 9 games late last season with the A’s, will be at Nashville, along with non-roster invitee Eric Surkamp, who has major league experience with the Giants, Dodgers and White Sox. Minor league free agent signee Patrick Schuster may also be at Nashville but, with an abundance of arms fighting for spots in the Sounds bullpen, he could also start the season with Double-A Midland. None of the three are currently on the 40-man roster though, so if another southpaw is needed at the major league level, another roster move will have to be made.

 

Ryan Madson

Ryan Madson

RIGHT-HANDED RELIEF

Ryan Madson (MLB)

John Axford (MLB)

Liam Hendriks (MLB)

Fernando Rodriguez (MLB)

Ryan Dull (MLB)

R.J. Alvarez (MLB)

J.B. Wendelken (AAA)

Angel Castro (MLB)

Ryan Brasier (MLB)

Taylor Thompson (MLB)

Ryan Doolittle (AA)

Eduard Santos (AA)

(2015: Rodriguez, Scribner, Otero, Mujica, Clippard, Alvarez, Leon, Dull, Castro)

The A’s have really remade the right side of their bullpen this season. Free agent signees Ryan Madson and John Axford will be joined my trade acquisition Liam Hendriks as the team’s top three options from the right side. And since he’s out of options, Fernando Rodriguez is expected to return to take the fourth spot from the right side. If everyone else is healthy, then young righty Ryan Dull may have to start the season at Nashville as the first option to get the call if and when bullpen reinforcements are needed. Two other promising young righties at Nashville who are also on the 40-man roster, R.J. Alvaraez and J.B. Wendelken, may be the next two arms in line if extra help is needed. Behind them at Nashville will be Angel Castro, Ryan Brasier and Taylor Thompson, all of whom have major league experience but none of whom are on the 40-man roster. Two other right-handed relievers in the major league camp, Sean’s little brother Ryan Doolittle and minor league free agent signee Eduard Santos, will both be fighting for spots in the Nashville bullpen but may well wind up having to start the season at Double-A Midland.

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Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm. You can also get our exclusive A’s minor league newsletter e-mailed to you free by signing up here.

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