Month: July 2016

A Trio of Top A’s Prospects Talks about This Season at Triple-A

nstumblr_nn6zzrPnCN1qedy4lo1_500bThe A’s Triple-A affiliate Nashville Sounds currently lead their division by 8 ½ games. And solid performances by many Sounds players, combined with a wave of injuries for the A’s, has provided plenty of opportunities for prospects like Ryon Healy, Bruce Maxwell, Daniel Mengden and Dillon Overton to make their major league debuts for Oakland this season. But there are plenty more prospects in the pipeline at Nashville. Shortstop Chad Pinder and first baseman/outfielder Matt Olson have long been considered top prospects for the A’s, while outfielder Jaycob Brugman’s impressive play of late has begun to push him into that category as well. Earlier this week in Nashville, we took the opportunity to talk with this trio of talented young players about life in Triple-A this season…

 

CHAD PINDER

cp640461cAfter last year’s MVP season at Double-A Midland, Pinder started slowly at Nashville this year but ended up being named a Pacific Coast League All-Star. And though he’s had some struggles with his throwing at shortstop this season, the 24-year-old infielder currently leads the team in total bases and his 14 home runs are second only to Renato Nunez on the Nashville squad.

AF:  You started out the season here in Nashville kind of slow but you ended up as a Triple-A All-Star. So how do you feel you’ve developed as a player this year and what kind of adjustments have you had to make?

CP:  I’ve had to make quite a few adjustments this year. Coming from Double-A where maybe the pitching’s more raw, they’ve got a little bit better stuff here in Triple-A. The pitchers are a little smarter. A lot of guys have spent time in the big leagues. They know how to pitch guys like I am who are aggressive at the plate. And it’s kind of been an adjustment for me to have to change my approach a little bit – whether it be taking more pitches early in the count or making quicker in-game adjustments. You know, last year facing the same few teams [in the eight-team Texas League], it’s a little easier to get comfortable with those guys. And here you’re facing different guys every day, so it’s a little bit more or an adjustment.

AF:  Particularly early in the season, you had a number of errors, and a lot of them seemed to be throwing errors. So what’s your take on the cause of that?

CP:  Yeah, just a little mechanical stuff with my arm – my arm angle, arm slot. I’m kind of dragging my arm a little bit instead of getting on top. Last year, it was the transition to shortstop and my arm angle was a little higher. This year, I started to get more comfortable and started to kind of try and guide things, and I think that played a part in me kind of sailing some balls. That’s something we’ve been working on the past couple months. And I’ve just been trying to be more consistent with that in my pre-game prep and carry that over into the game.

AF:  I guess the good thing is you’re playing shortstop pretty much every day here, so you’ve got some time to work on things anyway.

CP:  Yeah, absolutely.

AF:  Is there anything else in particular that the coaches here are trying to have to work on right now?

CP:  Just what we were talking about – being more consistent with my arm angle, and having that consistency in pre-game prep and even in between innings when I’m throwing the ball to first base, so it’s just drilled into my head. As for the hitting side, I feel comfortable, I feel great at the plate right now. The hits may not be coming, but I feel good, I feel confident at the plate. And right now, we’re working on kind of just staying through the ball and continuing the same approach that I have.

AF:  It sounds like there’s a lot more focus on getting the defensive stuff squared away at this point.

CP:  Yeah, absolutely.

AF:  You’ve seen some guys you’ve spent a lot of time playing with, like Ryon Healy and Bruce Maxwell, making it up to the big leagues this year. So how do you feel when you see some friends of yours going up there and does it make you realize how close you are at this level?

CP:  Oh, definitely. Number one, it makes you realize how real it is and how close you are. And second, being with those guys for the past couple years, it gave me chills to see both of them go up. They’re both great people and tireless workers and both deserve the opportunities that they’re having right now, and I could not be happier for them.

AF:  I know in the past, you were living with Matt Olson in Stockton and in Midland. So what are your living arrangements like here in Nashville?

CP:  I’m still with Olson. When Ryon Healy got called up here, he moved in with us. But now he’s out, so now it’s just me and Olson.

AF:  Just the two of you? Are you getting tired of him yet?

CP:  Nope, not yet.

AF:  Well, hopefully you guys will get a chance to live together at the next level too.

 

MATT OLSON

mo621566Long considered one of Oakland’s top power-hitting prospects, Olson hit 37 home runs in 2014 for Stockton. The 22-year-old got off to a slow start for the Sounds this season, but his 54 walks lead all A’s minor leaguers and his 27 doubles are tops on his team. Considered a talented defensive first baseman, Olson’s primarily been playing right field this season to increase his versatility in the field.  

AF:  So how have you been enjoying this year playing here in Nashville in Triple-A?

MO:  Oh, it’s great. It’s a great town. We get good turnouts here. It’s been fun.

AF:  It’s almost like playing in a major league park here.

MO:  Yeah, it really is – new stadium, good field, good fans.

AF:  You started off a little slow this season. But in the last few weeks, it seems like things are maybe starting to click a little bit for you. So tell me what kind of challenges you’ve faced here at Triple-A this season and where you feel you’re at at this stage of the game.

MO:  Yeah, just a little bit of an adjustment period, as it is going from any level to any level. I’ve been feeling better lately and I’m just kind of in the whole process of adjusting and figuring out what I need to do for myself in order to adjust to what the pitchers are trying to do.

AF:  How do you feel that pitchers have approached you differently at this level and what adjustments have you had to make?

MO:  It’s just guys know what they’re doing with their stuff better. They know how to throw the pitch that starts on the plate then works off the plate – it might look like a strike initially. And I’ve kind of had to check myself and nail my approach in my own head.

AF:  Your home runs have been down a bit this year, but you’ve got 27 doubles. So how’s First Tennessee Park to hit in for a power hitter like yourself? I’ve heard it suppresses home run numbers a bit, so I’m just wondering if that’s maybe led to fewer home runs and more doubles for you this year.

MO:  It plays pretty big in the gaps. We definitely play in some more hitter-friendly parks in this league, for sure. I wouldn’t say it’s led to more doubles but, you know, it’s what you’ve got to work with and you just kind of have to adjust.

AF:  How would you say this park compares to Midland, which isn’t exactly known as a hitters’ paradise either?

MO:  They’re different in their own ways. In Midland, you’ve just got to deal with the wind. Here there’s not really wind blowing, it just doesn’t really carry. But you’ve just kind of got to deal with what you’re working with and try to get results.

AF:  You’ve spent the vast majority of your time here in right field this season. So how are you feeling out there at this point?

MO:  Yeah, I’ve felt very comfortable out there. It just kind of took some time of getting some consistent reps out there and getting game reads off the bat for me to feel completely comfortable. I feel good out there now.

AF:  With a little over a month left in the minor league season, is there anything in particular that you’re focused on or trying to work on over the last month or so here?

MO:  You know, its always just quality at-bats, obviously play good defense, do what we can to win. That doesn’t really change. You go and you adjust based off of how you’ve been doing and how you’ve been feeling. And right now, I’ve been feeling pretty good and I’m just trying to keep it going in the second half.

AF:  And how has it been for you playing here at this level with a bunch of guys you’ve been playing with for quite a while now?

MO:  Yeah, it’s great. It makes it a lot easier when you’re comfortable with guys, when you know you’ve got a core group of guys like we do – a lot of guys from Midland last year. And we work well together. It’s nice coming to the field every day when you enjoy people’s company and you know you’ve got a good team.

 

JAYCOB BRUGMAN

jb595144bA 17th-round draft pick for the A’s in 2013, Brugman’s solid play has allowed him to advance quickly through the system. And A’s special assistant Grady Fuson recently called Brugman “one of the most fundamentally sound players we have.” The 24-year-old has also been one of the most consistently productive hitters in the A’s system this season, and he’s been spending more time in center field this season to increase his outfield versatility as well.

AF:  Now, like Ryon Healy, you started this year back at Double-A in Midland. Both of you got off to great starts there and ended up here in Nashville and continued to hit well here. So what was your attitude and approach like starting the year back at Midland?

JB:  I mean, when you repeat a level, it’s all about your mindset and the way you go about your business. You have to have a positive attitude. It’s never fun repeating a level, but it’s okay. It just gives you time to master your craft. It gives you time to really refine your tools. My approach at the plate was the same as always. I just try to have good at-bats, be patient. I like to work the counts. I would like to walk more and be more productive in situational hitting, because all those things help the team win. And I just want to put the team in a position to win.

AF:  It seems like you’ve kicked your game up a notch this year. Is there anything in particular that’s clicked for you for you this year or are there any adjustments you’ve made that have really paid off for you?

JB:  I think it’s just over time I’ve been more comfortable with my style of hitting – more comfortable with driving balls in the gap – and really staying to that. A lot of guys sometimes will have success in certain areas and then they try to expand on that, like maybe trying to hit more home runs or whatever. But really, it’s just staying to your game. So each year I’ve just consistently tried to improve in what I’m good at – and that’s hitting doubles, driving in runs, getting on base, just producing in not-a-home-run way. I don’t steal too many bases. So I just try to keep the same style of play and try not to get too greedy.

AF:  Well, I guess maybe just getting to understand what your stye of play is and what works for you – sometimes you’ve got to play a little while to figure that out.

JB:  Yeah, it all comes with time and experience – that’s exactly right.

AF:  Most of time you’ve been in the A’s system, you’ve primarily played the corner outfield positions. But this year, you’ve been spending a lot of time out in center field. So how do you feel about playing center field and how do you feel about your abilities out there?

JB:  Well, this year’s the first time in pro ball I’ve played center [regularly]. I’ve played all my life in center. But this year I’ve been able to have a lot of games in center, which helped me kind of round out the whole outfield. I’ve played a lot in left, in right, and now in center. So I’ve been able to have experience at all positions, which I think helps me to be a more rounded player. Whenever they need a guy in left, I can be that guy in left; whenever they need a guy in right, I can be the guy in right; and the same with center. So I really like that I’ve been playing there so I can kind of round out all the positions. It’s nice.

AF:  Is there anything in particular you’re focused on or working on at this point?

JB:  Yeah, just trying to get a few more bags, try to steal some bases, be a little more aggressive, put more pressure on the pitchers. Sometimes, the game is going slow and you just need something to spark it, and sometimes a stolen base can do that. So I’m just trying to be a little more aggressive on the bases.

AF:  Well, you’ve been hitting at the top of the lineup a lot this season, so I guess that makes sense.

JB:  Yeah, I should profile as a base stealer also – we’re working on that.

AF:  What about seeing guys you’ve known and played with for a few years, like Ryon Healy and Bruce Maxwell, going up to the big leagues this year? How do you feel when you see your friends going up there and does it make you realize how close you are?

JB:  Yeah, it really does make you feel close. But just playing with those guys and seeing their dreams come true, it’s a great feeling. I’m really close to Healy and to Bruce. I’m really good friends with them and, seeing their success, it just really makes me happy.

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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.

Saturday, July 30th: Detwiler Leads Sounds to Shutout Victory while Key HRs by Marincov & Nogowski Help Hounds & Ports Win

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Ross Detwiler (6 1/3 IP / 4 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 7 K / Win)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds LHP Ross Detwiler (6 1/3 IP / 4 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 7 K / Win)

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Nashville Sounds       2

New Orleans Zephyrs  0

WP – Detwiler 3-0 / 2.60

HR – Nunez (17), Pinder (14)

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Ross Detwiler

(6 1/3 IP / 4 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 7 K / Win)

LHP Ross Detwiler turned in an impressive start for the Sounds on Saturday, allowing just 4 hits while walking none and striking out 7 over 6 1/3 shutout innings to earn his 3rd win for Nashville. RHP Ryan Brasier tossed 1 2/3 scoreless innings in relief, and RHP Tucker Healy got the final three outs in the 9th to complete the 6-hit shutout and notch his 7th save for the Sounds. Third baseman Renato Nunez belted his team-leading 17th home run, while shortstop Chad Pinder ripped his 14th round-tripper, and he’s second only to Nunez in that category for the Sounds this season. LHP Dillon Overton was promoted to the A’s to make Saturday’s start for Oakland, while the A’s traded Nashville outfielder Billy Burns to Kansas City in return for outfielder Brett Eibner, who was assigned to the Sounds on Saturday.

Click here for more on Midland, Stockton, Beloit, Vermont & AZL A’s…

Friday, July 29th: Hahn Takes Shutout through 6 but Still Suffers Loss for Sounds while Hounds Lose in a Walk-Off and Stockton, Beloit & Vermont All Fall

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Jesse Hahn (7 IP / 5 H / 3 ER / 3 BB / 4 K)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Jesse Hahn (7 IP / 5 H / 3 ER / 3 BB / 4 K)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Colorado Springs Sky Sox  3

Nashville Sounds              2

LP – Hahn 1-6 / 3.66

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Jesse Hahn

(7 IP / 5 H / 3 ER / 3 BB / 4 K)

Though he ended up suffering his 6th loss for the Sounds on Friday, RHP Jesse Hahn looked strong throughout most of the game. The 27-year-old threw 6 2/3 shutout innings before surrendering a 3-run homer with two outs in the 7th inning to take the loss. RHP Eduard Santos then followed with 2 scoreless innings in relief. Shortstop Chad Pinder had two hits, including an RBI triple to put the Sounds on the board in the bottom of the 1st. Then, down by a run in the 8th, Nashville loaded the bases with no outs on three consecutive singles but failed to push the tying run across the plate. The Sounds are now set to start a 12-game road trip in New Orleans on Saturday.

Click here for more on Midland, Stockton, Beloit, Vermont & AZL A’s…

Down on the Farm with Vermont Lake Monsters Pitcher Brandon Bailey

bb669064Brandon Bailey grew up in Colorado and attended Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, where he notched 125 strikeouts in 100 1/3 innings while posting a 2.42 ERA in his final season for the Bulldogs. The 21-year-old right-handed pitcher was drafted by the A’s in the 6th round of this year’s amateur draft and is currently playing for the Class-A Vermont Lake Monsters in the short-season New York-Penn League. Bailey recently wrote a blog post about some of his experiences in the A’s minor league system in the weeks since the draft. He’s allowed us to share it with our A’s Farm readers and we look forward to hearing more from Brandon about life down on the farm as the season unfolds. You can check out his personal blog here and you can follow him on Twitter @BBailey_19

 

It’s 1 o’clock in the morning here in Vermont and I’ve spent the majority of my off day doing jack sh*t…Which is typically normal for the average joe who plays baseball in the summer time like myself. Off days come few and far in-between during the months of June, July, and August, so when one of these rare (yet desperately needed) occasions presents itself, ballplayers have to take advantage.

If you’re like me, you generally spend the day sleeping in until noon and then casually taking a stroll to the kitchen to devour whatever happens to be in the fridge at that moment in time. When the stomach is full, you retrace your steps back into your bed where you open up your Macbook and watch some Netflix. This is then followed by some pointless online shopping for the newest Nike products to have hit the market in recent months. For players enrolled in summer school, you feel guilty for not touching the homework from the 6 week online course you mistakenly thought would be a cake walk back in March when you were registering for summer and fall classes. After about an hour of hell, the rest of the afternoon is yours to do whatever you so please. For me, I decided to call my mom today to see how things are going back home in Colorado. She informed me that my dad is working late tonight trying to rack up a couple extra hours in order to make up for being absent this upcoming Monday and Tuesday. My parents are flying out to Burlington to spend the weekend with me and I couldn’t be more excited! The only downside, my younger sister Bri is not going to be able to make the trip due to her busy work schedule at The Egg and I, a local brunch restaurant where she is a hostess part time.

bbA1_CCBL-Brandon-Bailey-Gonzaga3It’s only been two and a half weeks since I last saw my family but I miss them like crazy. On Saturday, July 9th, my older cousin Matt got married in Pueblo, Colorado and I was honored to be his best man and lucky enough to even be in attendance. The week prior to the wedding, I was spending my days at Fitch Park in Mesa, Arizona at the Oakland A’s Spring Training Complex. I was playing for Oakland’s Rookie Ball team in the Arizona League and was uncertain if the A’s would be willing to give me a few days off from work in order to attend my cousin’s wedding. After throwing a side (bullpen) on July 7th, I spoke with Keith Lieppman, the A’s Director of Player Development. He informed me that he was perfectly comfortable with me leaving for the wedding and casually mentioned he liked what he saw during my bullpen session. He also informed me that I was being promoted to the A’s single-A short-season affiliate the Vermont Lake Monsters and would catch a plane to Burlington on Sunday morning after the wedding.

Two and a half weeks may not seem like long time to the average person but for summer baseball players, two and a half weeks can feel like two and a half years at times. Distance and the time difference seem to be the two most difficult part about summer ball (at least for me). The past two summers I have spent 90 days of summer on the east coast playing baseball. Last summer I played in the Cape Cod Baseball League and lived in Yarmouth-Dennis, Massachusetts. This summer, I’m playing in the New York-Penn League and living in Burlington, Vermont. While the east coast is a beautiful part of the country, it does not compare to the West Coast, the Pacific Northwest, or the Colorado Rocky Mountains in my personal, biased opinion. The majority of my family and friends live on the West Coast and operate according to Pacific Standard and Mountain Standard time, a 2 hour difference from myself over on the East Coast, making it difficult for me to communicate with friends and family due to my busy schedule during the day.

I show up at the ballpark roughly around 2:00pm everyday and don’t leave the park until 10:30pm that evening. A typical day consists of: an active warm up, team game review, stretching, pitchers throwing program, conditioning, pitchers fielding practice, shagging for batting practice, grabbing a bite to eat off the spread, an individual workout with my strength coach Omar, arm care with the Lake Monster team trainer Toshi, “Suiting Up!” (or in other words put on the old uniform), sitting and watching a baseball game for 3 hours (unless I’m on a chart or pitching that day), shower, eat the post game meal, and finally…GO HOME! Not a bad work schedule for anyone who loves the game of baseball. However, by the time I return home to my host family’s house it is 11 o’clock at night and I am absolutely exhausted. My extreme fatigue would not be an issue if I played in the same time zone as my family or my girlfriend Wolfey because they would be going to bed at the same time as me. Unfortunately, it’s only 8:00pm where they are. Prime time for conversing and FaceTiming.

bb1024px-centennialfSince today was an off-day, I was able to catch up with my loved ones at a somewhat decent hour. As I hung up with Wolfey over our FaceTime chat at 9:00pm in comparison to our typical midnight conversations, I thought about how my summer was going. I thought about how I had just finished my book The Arm by Jeff Passan and how I was anxious for my parents to bring out more books for me to dive into. I thought about my first month in professional baseball and all of the crazy experiences I’ve already had. I thought about Gonzaga and how I missed my former coaches, teammates, and the beautiful stadium which makes up the Patterson Baseball Complex. I thought about Nike and how I passed up on an opportunity to be an intern at their world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon in order to chase the dream of hopefully one day playing in the big leagues. I thought about how different professional baseball is in comparison to the college game. I thought about what my future plans and goals for this offseason would be. I thought about the academic fall semester at Gonzaga and how it conflicts with the Arizona Instructional League in late September and early October. I thought about my signing bonus and how I’ve never been one to bitch or complain about taxes until I received my first of two bonus checks in the mail last week. I thought about pay day and how I needed to save every dime I can to pay for gas and food this fall. With all of these thoughts running through my mind as I lay in bed unable to sleep, I decided now was as good of time as ever to start something that I have been contemplating doing for about 2 years.

I’ve never been one to share my personal thoughts and experiences with more than a handful of people but I feel like this journey through professional baseball is one that I have to document. Being a Gonzaga student, I try to focus on developing my mind, body, and spirit which is part of the University’s core values and principles. Baseball has done a great job of developing my body but recently, I feel like I have been laking in the development of my mind and spirit. Maybe the best way to get the intellectual juices flowing would be to write about my experiences here in pro ball? And as I look at the time it’s 2:44 in the morning and 1,328 words later.

I guess there is no better time than the present to start doing the things you want to do and being the person you want to be.

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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.

Thursday, July 28th: Gossett Impresses Again as Hounds Win 4th Straight while Smith & Nunez Lead Sounds to Victory

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Pitcher Daniel Gossett (7 IP / 3 H / 1 ER / 0 BB / 9 K)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Pitcher Daniel Gossett (7 IP / 3 H / 1 ER / 0 BB / 9 K)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Midland RockHounds  3

Corpus Christi Hooks     2

WP – Trivino 1-0 / 0.00

HR – Chapman (24)

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Daniel Gossett

(7 IP / 3 H / 1 ER / 0 BB / 9 K)

For his fourth straight start, RHP Daniel Gossett gave up just 1 earned run for the RockHounds, but it wasn’t enough to earn him the win on Thursday. The 23-year-old also allowed 1 unearned run while scattering just 3 hits and notching a career-high 9 strikeouts without issuing a walk over 7 innings of work,  but he left the game with his team down by a run on Thursday. Over his last 4 starts for Midland, Gossett has given up just 4 earned runs and struck out 24 batters in 25 2/3 frames. Third baseman Matt Chapman homered for the second straight night, ripping his league-leading 24th round-tripper to put the RockHounds on the board in the 6th inning. He also singled in the 1st and walked and came around to score in the top of the 9th, while designated hitter Viosergy Rosa doubled in both the tying and winning run in the 9th to help the RockHounds win their fourth straight on Thursday. RHP Lou Trivino tossed a scoreless 8th to pick up the win, while RHP Bobby Wahl got the final three outs in the 9th to notch his 9th save for Midland.

Click here for more on Nashville, Stockton, Beloit, Vermont & AZL A’s…

Wednesday, July 27th: Graves Is Almost Perfect in Ports’ Win while Alcantara Leads Sounds to Shutout Victory

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Stockton Ports Pitcher Brett Graves (8 IP / 1 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 1 K / Win)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Stockton Ports Pitcher Brett Graves (8 IP / 1 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 1 K / Win)

 

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE  (High-A)

Stockton Ports             2

High Desert Mavericks  1

WP – Graves 5-8 / 5.11

HR – Pimentel (16)

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Brett Graves

(8 IP / 1 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 1 K / Win)

2014’s 3rd-round draft pick for the A’s, RHP Brett Graves, was nearly perfect for the Ports on Wednesday. The 23-year-old allowed just one base runner all night, on an infield single in the 7th inning, and ended up throwing 8 shutout innings to earn his 5th win for Stockton. RHP Carlos Navas notched his 6th save despite giving up a run in the bottom of the 9th to spoil the shutout. First baseman Sandber Pimentel slugged his 16th home run in the 2nd inning to put the Ports on the board, while left fielder James Harris singled in a run in the 7th, and second baseman Mikey White singled, doubled and scored a run for Stockton.

Click here for more on Nashville, Midland & Beloit…

Tuesday, July 26th: Fillmyer Pitches Hounds to Shutout Victory while Olson Homers in Sounds Loss

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Pitcher Heath Fillmyer (5 IP / 1 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 4 K / Win)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds RHP Heath Fillmyer (5 IP / 1 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 4 K / Win)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Frisco RoughRiders       0

Midland RockHounds  4

WP – Fillmyer 1-0 / 1.80

HR – Taylor (3)

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Heath Fillmyer

(5 IP / 1 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 4 K / Win)

RHP Heath Fillmyer turned in an impressive start in just his second outing for the RockHounds. The 22-year-old tossed a 5-inning, 1-hit shutout to earn the win in a game abbreviated by rain on Tuesday. And in his first two starts for Midland, Fillmyer has allowed 2 runs and struck out 8 over 10 innings of work. Designated hitter Beau Taylor belted a 2-run homer, while left fielder Josh Rodriguez singled in a pair of runs, and shortstop Franklin Barreto went 2 for 3 with a double in his return to action after sitting out nine games with a hamstring issue.

Click here for more on Nashville, Stockton, Vermont & AZL A’s…

Monday, July 25th: Sounds Win behind Alcantara’s Big Bat while Seddon Pitches Hounds to Victory and Snappers Sweep Doubleheader

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Designated Hitter Arismendy Alcantara (4 for 5 / Home Run / Double / 4 RBIs)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Designated Hitter Arismendy Alcantara (4 for 5 / HR / Double / 4 RBIs)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Omaha Storm Chasers  5

Nashville Sounds       12

WP – Detwiler 2-0 / 4.09

HR – Nunez (15), Alcantara (8), Ravelo (6)

Prospect Of The Game:

Designated Hitter Arismendy Alcantara

(4 for 5 / Home Run / Double / 4 RBIs)

Designated hitter Arismendy Alcantara had a big game in his return to Nashville on Monday. The 24-year-old collected 4 hits, including a home run and a double, and drove in 4 runs, while third baseman Renato Nunez singled, hit his team-leading 15th home run and drove in 2 runs, and first baseman Rangel Ravelo homered and drove in a pair. Starter Ross Detwiler allowed 4 runs over 6 innings of work to earn his 2nd win for the Sounds. And with Oakland optioning RHP Jesse Hahn back to Nashville on Monday, Max Muncy was recalled by the A’s.

Click here for more on Midland, Stockton, Beloit, Vermont & AZL A’s…

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 Oakland 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).

Prior to the draft in early-June, Fuson’s duties primarily consist of scouting amateur players in preparation for draft day. But once the draft is complete, he typically begins a tour around the A’s system while also checking out some of the team’s potential targets prior to the trade deadline.

We were fortunate enough to catch up with Fuson in Stockton a few days after the end of the major league All-Star break and a few days before the A’s added catcher Bruce Maxwell, whom we discussed, to the major league roster. And, as always, we were happy to have 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 from throughout the system…

 

AF:  I know that once the draft is done, you usually hit the road for a bit. So where have you been since the draft?

GF:  I’ve been to Nashville. I’ve been to Midland. I’ve been to Arizona. I’ve been to Stockton – I had to leave, and now I’m back in Stockton.

AF:  I really wanted to start out primarily focusing on some of the guys who’ve been at Nashville this season. First of all, let’s start out with a guy who started the year at Double-A and passed everyone by and is now up with the A’s in the big leagues – Ryon Healy. He was probably the best overall hitter in the A’s minor league system this season. So what clicked for him this year?

rh592387cGF:  Well, first of all, I think, if you go back, it clicked last year. He really put together a good second half and played well coming down the stretch there last year as well. This year, you know, he came in with a chip on his shoulder. I think he knew during the spring that he was the only guy of that Double-A group who didn’t get a big league invite [to the A’s spring training camp]. So I think he put it in his head that he wasn’t going to Triple-A. And you could tell, even joking around, that he was somewhat pissed. So the first week and a half in [minor league] camp, all he’s doing is trying to jerk balls out of the ballpark. And so it took us about a week and a half to kind of calm him down and let him know that all he was going to do was wreak for himself. But, with that said, his mentality about attacking pitches and driving the baseball continues to improve. And that’s what he’s been doing all year. His strike zone’s getting better, so he’s hitting better pitches, and he’s attacking them. His power numbers have come up, his on-base percentage is up, and he’s hitting the ball to all fields. He’s done everything you’d hope for in a hitter.

AF:  Well, it sounds like he’s definitely been a good kind of aggressive. Another guy who was in a similar spot this season is outfielder Jaycob Brugman. He also started the year kind of being left behind in Double-A. He hit really well there, got called up to Nashville and, next to Healy, he’s probably been one of the best hitters in the A’s system this season.

jb595144bGF:  Bruggy’s a very solid player. It’s hard to put all the upside together as far as him being like a star guy in the big leagues, but there’s no way you can count Jaycob out. This guy runs it, he throws it, he can swing it, he ambushes for a homer here and there, he can steal a base. And he’s also, offensively and defensively, probably one of the most fundamentally sound players we have on both sides of the baseball. He does things the way you’d teach it. Footwork in the outfield, reads routes, approach at the plate, swings at strikes, takes balls – you know, he’s got that skill set.

AF:  I know he’s always been talked about primarily as a corner outfielder, but he’s been playing a lot of center field this year at Nashville. So how do you feel about his abilities in center field?

GF:  Well, they’re good, they’re solid. They’re not off the charts. I don’t know that a lot of people are going to look at him and think he’s going to be our center fielder of the future. Can he play center field? Yes. Would be he a little bit exposed speed-wise if he was sitting in a big league outfield? Probably. There’s always going to be a burner who comes along and gets the same kind of reads with better speed. But I wouldn’t be afraid to put this guy in a big league center field anyway.

AF:  Another guy who’s really come on strong lately is catcher Bruce Maxwell. His average is up over .300 and he’s got nine or ten home runs now. So what’s been clicking for him?

bm622194cGF:  I think he’s starting to really have more competitive at-bats. I mean, he’s seeing it better. He’s more aggressive on balls in his zone. He’s not carving as many balls up in the big sky out in left-center as he did. He’s starting to feel the pull side of the ballpark with some backspin. There’s still a ways to go. But the bottom line is, as long as he can just be competitive with his at-bats and give you good at-bats, this guy’s going to find himself a job.

AF:  That’s the other thing I wanted to ask you about – how do you feel about his development as a catcher? I know a lot of time and effort has gone into that over the years for him.

GF:  That’s the one thing that’s been pretty good the last few years. He’s really developed himself into an above-average receiver. He’s got very good exchange, and timing and rhythm throwing. He’s become very accurate – he’s worked on it. He still gets exposed with his flexibility as far as sometimes blocking if balls take him way out to the sides. But Brucie’s done a good job – I’m proud of him.

AF:  Now a guy who started out the season slow but ended up being a Triple-A all-star is Nashville shortstop Chad Pinder. He got off to a rough start but seems to have turned things around a bit now. So where do you feel he’s at in the development curve?

cp640461cGF:  I still think there’s some room to go with Chad. He’s had some defensive lapses in Triple-A that he did not show last year in Double-A. I think a lot of it’s throwing. I personally mentioned it to him when I was in there that he’s dropping down. He’s really such a beautiful thrower from a high ¾ spot – that’s gotten away from him a little bit. He’s still driving the baseball, he’s still using the whole field. He still needs to take another step up as far as his pitch recognition – not that he’s a chaser or that he swings really out of the zone – just early in counts, what pitch he’s being aggressive on. To me, he’s still trying to go for too many pitches early in a count that aren’t the kind of pitches he can drive. And I think, over a period of time, that puts him behind in counts and changes the whole sequence that he’s going to get pitched. But he’s another 23-year-old in Triple-A getting his feet wet against experienced guys and hitting around .260 with a dozen homers and playing a solid everyday shortstop. So, as far as the path to the big leagues, he’s on time.

AF:  Yeah, it looked to me like most of his errors this year have been throwing errors. I wasn’t sure if he was just rushing things or if it was something more mechanical.

GF:  Yeah, more throwing errors. He’s dropping down…and that’s just not him. He is a guy who sets his feet. He’s usually very fundamental. Last year, he was so accurate with his throwing, and that carried him last year. He’s got to get back to that.

AF:  Now another guy who’s been on a bit of a similar path as Pinder this year is Matt Olson. He started the season off really rough, then things started picking up for him, but things have been a bit hot and cold with him this year. So where do you feel Matt Olson’s at with the whole Triple-A experience at this point?

mo621566GF:  Well, I think he’s seeing that his holes are becoming more and more exposed the higher up he goes. It’s not like they’re not being addressed. We’ve worked on numerous things trying to uplift his ability to make contact. It’s just going to be a work in progress. The talent has not changed – there’s still big strength in there, he’s still patient and he’s still disciplined. There’s just times where, with the way he delivers the bat, there just happens to be holes in that zone, and we’re just trying to shrink those holes. He definitely needs work staying over the baseball longer and driving baseballs in that shortstop area of the field. He’s losing too many balls in the air though – and he knows it. It’s been addressed, it’s being worked on and, actually, I would say in the last two or three weeks, the quality of his at-bats are getting better.

AF:  He’s spent most of the season playing right field. I know everyone’s always raved about his work at first base. So how do you feel about his work in right field?

GF:  He’s solid. He’s just not as good there as he is at first. So that tends to be a topic in the organization – is the outfield play hindering him offensively? I don’t think so. He likes playing the outfield. I think he knows he’s a very good first baseman but, right now, it’s increasing his versatility. It’s increasing the options, if he does get up there, of where Bob Melvin can use him. Everybody knows he’s probably the best defensive first baseman in the system, so he can always go back there. So when the time arises, when he’s needed, we’ll see where he goes.

AF:  Turning to pitching for a moment, let’s talk about Dillon Overton. He’s been solid at Nashville all year and he’s been up and down with the A’s a couple of times now. So what does he need to do to get over the hump at get to that next level where he can be a solid major leaguer?

do592614dGF:  I think just get some experience up there. He’s shown that he can dominate Triple-A. He’s had numerous games where he’s been dominating. He’s an excellent strike-thrower, he’s got pace to his game, and he’s got location. You know, you still wish there was a little bit more heat coming out of the fastball. And the less his fastball grows, the more perfect he’s going to have to be with his fastball location. He’s very good to the arm side. I think he’s going to have to be able to get into righties better if he’s going to pitch at 88-90 mph – he’s going to have to get in there with a purpose and then go back out. I think he’s still learning that part of it. But I think it’s experience. It’s like all of them, they need some time to see the big leagues – that second and third deck and brighter lights and tougher hitters.

AF:  Before we turn to a few guys at Double-A, are there any updates on Henderson Alvarez and his sore shoulder? Is he just totally shut down at this point?

GF:  Yeah, I don’t know for how long, but I don’t think it’s going to be anytime soon.

AF:  Okay, let’s touch on a few guys at Midland. Another guy who was in kind of a similar position as Ryon Healy this year is outfielder Tyler Marincov. He kind of got left behind at Stockton, hit very well there and earned a promotion to Midland, and now he’s been doing well there too. So what do you think of what we’ve seen out of Tyler Marincov this year?

tm595309cGF:  Well, obviously, from a performance standpoint, you look at his numbers, and everything’s much better. The one thing you see is that he’s driving the ball to the right side of the field better. There’s still some things mechanically I think he needs to get better at, especially if he’s going to take that game with some power to the higher levels. Basically, the same issues that we’re working with Chapman on are the same things with Tyler – a little bit better load and a little bit better separation so that he’s giving himself some time and space to recognize and get in position. But as far as how he’s performing, he’s performed admirably.

AF:  Well, that brings us to Matt Chapman. Obviously, hitting 22 home runs in the Texas League at this point in the season is not an easy thing to do…

GF:  He’s got more homers than hits!

AF: [Laughter] Almost! And he’s also striking out about once every three at-bats. So where is he at in the learning curve at this point?

mc656305dGF:  Obviously, stuck right in the middle! Yeah, the strikeouts are alarming, no doubt. But here’s what I can tell you, I can tell you the kid’s working at it. It hasn’t changed the way he goes about playing the game. His power is immense. It’s all about timing and positioning and how he’s seeing it. It’s the same thing I mentioned with Marincov, there’s a separation move that he’s not had since the day we signed him, and he’s been able to kind of get away with it. You know, one of the biggest things about Chapman that a lot of people are forgetting is that he’s missed two falls of our big instructional period. The first year he signed, when he was going into instructional league, he got hurt and couldn’t play. Then he got hurt coming into spring training. Then he got hurt when we were going to send him to the Arizona Fall League. And then this spring, he was in big league camp till the end. So there’s been two springs and two falls where really – and instruction is what it’s all about – he’s missed. So he’s learning on the fly. Skill-set-wise, he’s everything everybody thinks he is. He’s an above-average third baseman with a cannon arm. He’s an instinctual gamer as far as his presence. He’s got big damaging power that’s got a chance to be a game-changer. It’s just working on all these little things about hitting.

AF:  That’s an interesting point. It seems he really has missed a lot of instruction time. Of course, the other top prospect at Midland is shortstop Franklin Barreto. He’s kind of been doing the same thing he did last year in Stockton. He started out slow and then midway through the season started turning it on a bit and coming around. I know he’s missed a few games recently with a leg issue – I’m not sure how serious that is. But where do you feel he’s at at this point?

fb620439GF:  Well, for a 20-year-old, he’s probably playing about two levels up. He’s doing well. He’s kind of starting to come out of his shell from a personality standpoint. You know, last year, he was very quiet and unassuming – new organization, new people. This year, you can tell, he’s gravitating towards some coaching. He’s really wanting to put a plan together now. You’ve got to remember, this kid’s at Double-A when most kids at 20 are either being signed or in rookie ball. And putting an offensive plan together, situational hitting, those are things that you’re talking about as guys are getting closer to the big leagues. These things are coming fast for him. So I think we all need to realize how young he really is and understand that we have so much time to still work with this guy. Like any young player, there’s some moves here and there that we’re trying to put together so that they work a little more efficiently in his swing. But the plus run, the explosive hands, the ability to ambush a heater from time to time, that’s all there.

AF:  He’s also been doing a lot of running this year – he’s already stolen over 20 bases so far – which is obviously good to see. Do you think this current leg injury is much of a big deal though?

GF:  No.

AF:  Okay, and then one last guy at Midland who’s always interesting to talk about is infielder Yairo Munoz. He came out kind of strong but then he started struggling a bit. So what do you think about where he’s at right now?

ym622168GF:  I would say about what I said last year – talented, but careless. He lost all of spring training [due to injuries]. He came in heavy. This kid’s added thirty pounds in the last year. He’s starting to become more fit now, but it’s been a struggle for him carrying this extra weight. He was hurt with three different things and lost all of spring training. So the reality is, May – he didn’t get out till May – was basically his spring training. But by the time you get to Double-A, the instinctual side of the game needs to start building as far as positioning yourself, making throws with your legs underneath you, not trying to do everything on the run, narrowing your strike zone, getting more focused on pitches that you can hit – and he’s behind with that still. His talent skill is where it belongs but, in a perfect world, he would be in A-ball learning how to play the game with a little bit more focus and purpose. This kid’s very talented, but there’s just a lot of careless mistakes still going on in his game – swinging at stuff he doesn’t need to be swinging at, throwing on the run when he doesn’t need to be, a lot of style before substance sometimes. But [Midland manager] Ryan Christenson’s doing a great job harping on it down there. We’re staying with it and it’s one of those things where we don’t know when the maturity level’s going to kick in – hopefully it starts to come.

AF:  One interesting development this year has been the performance of the Beloit pitching staff, with guys like Evan Manarino and Boomer Biegalski and others there. What’s your impression of what some of those young pitchers have been doing there this season?

GF:  Manarino’s a college senior strike-thrower we signed a year ago. He’s a below-average-fastball guy, but he’s a strike-thrower. He’s a got a good breaker and he’s got a feel to pitch. He’s kind of doing what we expected him to do. He was a polished college pitcher. He doesn’t have big stuff, but he knows what he’s doing. Biegalski’s gone through a little fastball stage where he got erratic, so he never got to that changeup that he’s noted for. Now five out of his last six starts, his fastball command’s starting to improve, so you’re seeing his line score improve. So, to me, it’s all about his ability to stay in command of his fastball to get to his changeup.

AF:  Now just to touch on the draft a bit, you guys took three big pitchers at the top of the draft – A.J. Puk, Daulton Jefferies and Logan Shore. So what’s your overall impression of how the A’s came out of the draft this year?

GF:  We needed starters, and we got starters! Puk is a big, big physical man who’s got a big upside heater and a fair breaking ball. The changeup and the feel to pitch will show how far things are going to take him. Daulton Jefferies is more of a Sonny Gray-looking guy – kind of a slighter, smaller frame – but he’s got a live arm. He’s got tons of movement, he’s got a sinker and he’s got a knack for the bottom of the zone. He’s got good stuff and he locates. I can’t wait to get him healthy and get him out pitching. And Shore’s probably one of the better college pitchers in the draft, period. The biggest thing with Logan is he used his sinker, his two-seamer, all year in college and his velocity kind of went backwards a little bit. So he’s kind of pitching 87-91 mph – pitched great, don’t get me wrong – but a few of us saw this guy 92-93-94 mph last year using his four-seamer a little bit. And once we get him out and get him going, we’re going to see if we can’t get some of that back. But there’s not much to do with his breaking ball and changeup. He’s durable, he’s strong, he’s a strike-thrower, he knows what he’s doing. We got three good ones there.

AF:  I know they’ve been taking it easy with Jefferies after his shoulder injury earlier this year. Are we likely to see him at some point soon?

GF:  The plan with him is to keep strengthening the shoulder area a little bit, and he should be getting some innings in August. He’s not going to be stretched out big. We’ll just get him going, then he’ll be in instructional league and we’ll go from there.

AF:  And what about Shore?

GF:  Shore’s going to be limited. He was a 100+ innings guy in college. He’s going to go to Vermont and maybe pitch occasionally out of the bullpen. They may start him, but it’s not going to be with any depth.

AF:  And finally, was there anyone else the A’s took in the draft you’re particularly high on?

GF:  Some of the early guys – the high school pitcher we took, Skylar Szynski. He’s a very good-looking kid – athletic, six-foot-one, strength in his body, has got a quick arm, got a chance to have a plus breaker and a plus change. It looks like he’s going to be a strike-thrower – got to settle down his delivery, he’s a little quick-paced. So everything right now looks pretty productive.

AF:  Speaking of high school guys, last year’s 3rd-round pick, Dakota Chalmers, has looked pretty good at Vermont so far this year.

GF:  Dakota’s done well. He’s actually pitching better there than he has in extended, in spring and everywhere else.

AF:  Well, maybe he’s one of those guys who rises to the occasion – he needs a challenge!

GF:  That’s right, put him out in a real stadium!

AF:  So now where are you headed off to next?

GF:  Well, you know, the phone could always ring at any minute on trades. That’s always live.

AF:  Well, I guess it is that time of the year…

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Sunday, July 24th: Billy Burns’ Big Hit Keys Sounds’ Victory while 18-year-old Oscar Tovar Impresses Again in AZL A’s Loss

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Outfielder Billy Burns (4 for 5 / 2 RBIs / Stolen Base)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Outfielder Billy Burns (4 for 5 / 2 RBIs / Stolen Base)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Omaha Storm Chasers  5

Nashville Sounds         6

WP – Healy 4-1 / 2.97

Prospect Of The Game:

Outfielder Billy Burns

(4 for 5 / 2 RBIs / Stolen Base)

With two outs, the bases loaded and the Sounds down by a run in the bottom of the 8th inning, center fielder Billy Burns stepped to the plate and singled in a pair of runs to provide the margin of victory for Nashville on Sunday. Burns collected 4 hits on the day, stole a base and scored twice, while right fielder Jaycob Brugman singled, doubled and also drove in a pair for the Sounds. Starter Dillon Overton was charged with 5 runs in 7 innings of work, while RHP Tucker Healy tossed a scoreless 8th to earn his 4th win, and LHP Patrick Schuster pitched a perfect 9th to pick up his 6th save for the Sounds. And with RHP Jesse Hahn’s return to the A’s on Sunday, Arismendy Alcantara was optioned back to Nashville.

Click here for more on Midland, Stockton, Beloit, Vermont & AZL A’s…

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