Category: Interviews

FanFest Sheds Light on A’s Stadium Plans & Team’s Youth Movement

by Bill Moriarity / A’s Farm Editor

A's President Dave Kaval onstage at FanFest

A’s President Dave Kaval at FanFest

Each year, A’s FanFest not only offers an opportunity for fans to meet some of their favorite players, but it also offers a chance to get a look inside the organization’s plans for the year ahead.

Of course, the biggest question about the A’s future surrounds the team’s quest for a new stadium to call home. On that subject, team president Dave Kaval offered some very clear public remarks, and then we had the opportunity to explore the subject a little further with A’s Chief Operating Officer Chris Giles.

Regarding the team on the field and the young players the A’s are currently counting on, Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Billy Beane offered an array of interesting comments, and then we had the chance to chat with and get to know one of the team’s newest young arrivals, reliever Emilio Pagan. You’ll find more on both Beane and Pagan below. But first, let’s start with the all-important stadium issue…


Kaval’s & Giles’ Stadium Plans

In his introductory remarks to fans gathered for the morning’s player introductions, team president Dave Kaval took the stage and emphatically stated that the organization remained committed to opening a new, privately-financed stadium in Oakland by 2023, and he then went on to mention the three previously-discussed sites – Howard Terminal, the Coliseum and Laney College – as potential options.

In a small interview session just shortly after Kaval’s remarks, we had the opportunity to dig a little deeper and get some insight from A’s Chief Operating Officer Chris Giles. He discussed the team’s thinking after the Peralta Board of Trustees rejected the A’s overtures to open negotiations on the team’s preferred site adjacent to Laney College. And Giles echoed Kaval’s comments that the organization felt that all three sites still remain in play.

A's Chief Operating Officer Chris Giles

A’s Chief Operating Officer Chris Giles

“I think we feel like there’s still three viable sites [Laney College, Howard Terminal, the Coliseum]…and we continue to look at all three of those possibilities. We’re going to build here – it’s just a matter of where,” he said.

After having their initial advances spurned by the Peralta Board of Trustees, Giles indicated that the team was still eager to talk about the Laney College site but admitted that the ball is really in their court at this point.

“It’s really up to them. I mean, we’re giving them the time to kind of wrap their heads around that site and really figure out if that’s something they want to engage with us on. We’re willing to engage. But we view ourselves as a citizen of this community, and we want to find a place that’s not only good for the team but also great for the community as well.”

It’s clear that each of the three options currently under consideration has its own unique set of strengths and weaknesses. But regardless of the particular hurdles that any of the current options might present, Giles seems to feel that they each represent legitimate options.

“I would say none of them are impossible, but also none of them are without their challenges. If there was just one that checked all of the boxes on day one, we would just go that route. But there’s lots of different factors that we have to consider…We’ve got transportation, we’ve got weather, we’ve got the revenue potential – we’ve got all these different pieces.”

Last year, Kaval promised that the organization would name a stadium site by the end of 2017, which it did when it stated its intention to acquire the Laney College site. Giles indicated that the A’s would be a little more circumspect before making another public pronouncement on the stadium issue, though the team does still have a general timeline in mind for the next announcement.

“Our goal is to get a site deal for land and naming rights and all the different business components of getting it done sometime in the next 12 to 18 months. We’re very careful to make sure that we explore all of the different options but also that we’re very confident about the plan before we release it.”

Despite the recent setback with the Peralta Board of Trustees, Kaval still promised that the organization was committed to having a new stadium ready to go by 2023, and Giles concurred.

“As we think about the timing of what we’re trying to accomplish, our timing is still 2023. We laid out a time frame where this year was designed to be a consensus-building year, an exploratory year – there were lots of different bodies we had to work with when we were on the Peralta path. So, based on a lot of the conversations that we’ve had…we’re still very confident that that 2023 timeline makes sense.”


Beane’s Youth Movement

A's Executive VP of Baseball Operations Billy Beane

A’s Executive VP of Baseball Operations Billy Beane

During the first onstage question-and-answer session of the day, A’s Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Billy Beane offered some interesting comments while fielding questions about the A’s constant roster turnover and the team’s current youth movement.

Beane made it clear that the organization was committed to sticking with the team’s core of young players going forward. He seemed to brush off the notion of signing veteran free agents, not wanting to take away playing time from the team’s talented young players.

Beane claimed that Yankees general manager Brian Cashman would love to get back the three young players the A’s acquired from New York in the Sonny Gray deal. He was referring to center fielder Dustin Fowler, shortstop Jorge Mateo and pitcher James Kaprielian, and stated how difficult it was to acquire such top-tier prospects. Further comments made it clear just how much the front office values Mateo and how quickly he could find himself with the A’s, especially if he starts the year “just a phone call away,” as Beane put it, at Triple-A Nashville.

When it comes to the team’s top pitching prospect, former 1st-round draft pick A.J. Puk, Beane said he still needs a little more time in the minors, but he also added that “it wouldn’t surprise me” to see Puk as part of the big league staff at some point in 2018.


Meeting Mr. Pagan

Emilio Pagan

Emilio Pagan

Acquired this offseason from Seattle in the Ryon Healy deal, right-handed reliever Emilio Pagan may not be a familiar figure to most A’s fans, but he’s expected to be one the team’s key setup men this season. Pagan was a highly efficient member of the Mariners bullpen last year, walking just 8 batters over 50 1/3 frames while posting a 3.22 ERA and stingy 0.93 WHIP. According to the 26-year-old, his minimal walk total in his first major league season was due to a couple of key developments.

“I just got to a point where I was able to repeat my mechanics more. And when you can repeat your mechanics, it gives you a better opportunity to be in control of your body,” Pagan said. He then added, “I stopped going out of the full windup without runners on base, which I traditionally used to do, and just lived pretty much out of the stretch all year. And that seemed to work, and so I stuck with it and had a pretty good year.”

He said he was surprised when he got the call from Mariners general manager Jerry DiPoto to let him know that he’d been traded to the A’s for Ryon Healy.

“It was humbling for me to know that Oakland was willing to give up a guy like that to get me. So, obviously, I’m going to try to be the best version of me I can be each and every day going forward and help Oakland win a lot of games and hopefully get in the playoffs here soon.”

Pagan indicated that he was well aware of the youth movement currently underway with the A’s and that he already has some experience with some of the team’s top young stars, whom he now looks forward to competing alongside.

“I’m super excited. I know a lot about the young core. I’ve played against a lot of these guys coming up through the minors. [Matt] Chapman and [Matt] Olson obviously jump to the top…There’s a lot of talent…We were talking last night at dinner. We have a lot of confidence in ourselves and we’re going to try and shock some people and try and make a run at it, because I know there’s a lot of talent and we’re all very eager to get started.”

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A’s Prospects Shore & Brugman on Life in the AFL

by Nick Badders / A’s Farm Arizona Correspondent

00aflafl_striahgt_logo_4vdwdld9_cg5m3bavAfter catching up with A’s prospects Sheldon Neuse and Sean Murphy last week, A’s Farm took the opportunity to check in with a couple more of Oakland’s young stars in the Arizona Fall League this week: RHP Logan Shore and outfielder Jaycob Brugman.

The 22-year-old Shore was a highly-coveted college pitcher whom the A’s selected with their 2nd-round pick in last year’s draft, while the 25-year-old Brugman was the A’s 17th-round selection back in 2013.

Shore spent most of this past season honing his craft with Stockton in the High-A California League, while a hot start for Triple-A Nashville earned Brugman a promotion to Oakland, where he made his big league debut last June.

So far, Shore has made four starts for Mesa in the Arizona Fall League, while Brugman was only recently added to the Solar Sox roster after outfielder Tyler Ramirez was sidelined by a back injury.



ls624519bAfter making his pro debut with short-season Vermont in 2016, Shore kicked off the 2017 season with High-A Stockton. He allowed just one earned run or less in six of his first nine appearances for the Ports before landing on the disabled list in May with a lat strain. After a brief rehab stint in the Arizona League, Shore returned to Stockton in July, where he posted a 4.97 ERA over his final eight appearances for the Ports.

AF:  What have your impressions been of the Arizona Fall League so far?

LS:  It’s been good. It’s been challenging, which I knew coming in, being able to pitch against guys who are going to be in the big leagues in the next year or next couple years. It’s been a really good experience for me, and I know for all the other guys – Nolan [Blackwood], just talking with him, and [Sam] Bragg. And it’s hard. It’s a hard league to pitch in. It’s been fun though.

AF:  You mentioned a few guys you’ve played with. There are also a lot of players you have not previously played alongside. How is it playing with such a mix?

LS:  It’s cool. Even a lot of the guys…I played against in college, whether it be a couple of guys [who] went to Vanderbilt or Riley Ferrell was at TCU. And so these guys, the guys that I’ve heard of and I’ve seen play…it’s kind of cool to connect names to faces, and it’s been a lot of fun.

AF:  Another familiar face, Steve Connelly, is your pitching coach here. How beneficial has it been, having worked with him this past season in Stockton?

LS:  Yeah, he was my pitching coach all year. So, anytime you get someone who kind of knows you and knows my routine and how my pitches work and all that kind of stuff, it helps. If I don’t feel right, I can go to him and he can kind of tell me what he sees.

AF:  I talked with catcher Sean Murphy a while back and he mentioned that he was impressed by you. What has impressed you about him in his approach, and how have you learned from him as a catcher?

LS:  He just knows the game. It’s nice having a catcher you can trust and know that he…kind of sees hitters’ tendencies. And I can trust what he’s doing with calling pitches and that kind of stuff. Even with two strikes, if I want to be throwing a breaking ball or something and there’s a runner on third, I know one-hundred percent he’s going to block it and have no worries if I throw a ball in the dirt or anything like that. He’s as solid as they come. It’s been fun having him catch me in the beginning of the year and then obviously out here and all through the next few years.

AF:  Another guy I want to ask you about is A.J. Puk. You played together for three years at Florida and now you’re coming up through the A’s system together after being drafted almost next to each other last year. What’s your relationship like with him going back to college and looking at where you are now?

LS:  We were roommates all three years at school, starting freshman year in the dorms all the way through our junior year. We always joked about getting drafted by the same team and obviously never thought that was even a possibility. You know, the chances of that happening are so slim. Obviously, it happened and it’s been fun. We’re best friends. And he’s somebody that I look up to, just because he’s successful and he’s got a really, really long and big career ahead of him. So, it’s fun to have that friendship and push each other to get better.

AF:  What was your reaction when you found out that he was drafted and then, shortly thereafter, you found out that you were drafted by the same team?

LS:  It was weird. He was supposed to go at one. Then some things kind of happened and he fell to the A’s at six. Forty picks later, I find out I’m going to the A’s, and it was a really cool moment.

AF:  You two were drafted in 2016, so you haven’t been in the organization that long. What have been your impressions of how the organization has helped you grow and develop as a pitcher?

LS:  Just kind of learning who you are. I mean, you kind of learn who you are in college, but pitching in college and pitching in pro ball is a little bit different in my opinion. Having to go out there every five days, compared to every seven, playing 140 games instead of 75 or 80, it’s just a different ball game. You kind of have to learn who you are as a person, who you are in the weight room, that kind of stuff. It changes so much. So, the first year, this year, was really a big learning experience for me, figuring out what I need to do to put myself in the best possible situation every fifth day to be successful. It’s been going well.

AF:  You were pitching pretty well before your injury this year. Was it hard to get back into that groove on the mound after returning from the disabled list?

LS:  Yeah, it took a little bit. I mean obviously pitching out in the AZL [Arizona League] is a lot different than throwing in High-A or even in Low-A. It took me a couple of outings. I felt really good in the AZL and it was fine. And then when I went back to Stockton, I got hit around a little bit the first couple of games back. Overall, anytime you go through failures like that, it’s a good learning experience and you get stronger from that.

AF:  Outside of the talent level, what kind of differences have you noticed between the AZL, Stockton and now the Arizona Fall League?

LS:  Yeah, I mean, big jump in talent from AZL to Stockton. I would say from Stockton to here, it’s just the three or four top hitters in High-A are pretty much every hitter out here, which is fun. You’ve really got to lock in and really got to think ahead and be prepared.

AF:  There’s just a couple of weeks now left in the AFL season, so what are your plans for the offseason?

LS:  You know, just hang out with my family and friends and get some good work in and get ready for spring training in 2018. Obviously, being out here playing this long, through the middle of November, maybe take a week or so off and then start right back up working out and that kind of stuff.

AF:  Do you have any plans or goals for 2018? Any specific things you want to accomplish before spring training?

LS:  I mean, really just work on the things that I feel body-wise to put myself in the best possible situation to stay healthy next year. I mean, some things, obviously, I’m sticking with that I learned during the rehab process in the two months I was back in Arizona. Just kind of hone in on those things and whatever happens, happens next year, and just keep working hard.

2017 (Stockton): 72.2 IP / 81 H / 33 ER / 16 BB / 74 K / 4.09 ERA / 1.33 WHIP

2017 (AZL A’s): 8 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 13 K / 0.00 ERA / 0.25 WHIP

2017 (Total): 80.2 IP / 83 H / 33 ER / 16 BB / 87 K / 3.68 ERA / 1.23 WHIP

AFL: 16 IP / 24 H / 11 ER / 2 BB / 11 K / 6.19 ERA / 1.63 WHIP



jb595144bAn Arizona native, Brugman began the 2017 season with Triple-A Nashville. After posting a .307 batting average for Nashville in May, he soon earned a call up to Oakland, where he batted .266 over 48 games with the A’s. Shortly after the club acquired outfielder Boog Powell from the Mariners in August, Brugman was sent back to Nashville, where he ended up finishing the season on the disabled list. A back injury to outfielder Tyler Ramirez in the AFL recently opened a roster spot for Brugman on the Mesa Solar Sox squad, and he’s gotten into just four games so far in Arizona.

AF:  You haven’t been down here in the Arizona Fall League that long. So, how did it come about that you ended up in the AFL?

JB:  I was looking for a winter ball team, and one of the players [Tyler Ramirez] got hurt and the organization reached out to me and said, “Hey, it might be a good idea to play some games in the fall league if you’re looking for extra ABs,” because I got hurt in the season. So, I was like, “Sure, that sounds like fun.”

AF:  You were with the Solar Sox in 2015. So, how does it feel to be back? Have you noticed any differences or similarities?

JB:  It’s all the same. It’s pretty fun. I really liked it when I came in ’15. I like getting to know new players from different organizations, so that was a cool thing.

AF:  What is that like, playing with guys you haven’t played with before?

JB:  I’ve only played with one of the A’s guys before, so it’s fun to get to know other people. It really builds the networking throughout your career. Later down the road, you see someone you played with and it’s an instant connection.

AF:  Is there anything you are trying to work on or anything the organization wants you to try to work on in your few weeks here?

JB:  I’m trying to work on certain little things for my game here and there personally. Nothing specific from the organization, but I’m always trying to get better. And I know what I need to do to try and work on it now.

AF:  I want to take you back to this past season. Did you have an expectation of potentially getting called up to the big leagues?

JB:  I was hopeful. I went into it with the attitude of “I’m going to make them call me up.” That’s what you kind of have to do. It was good. I was fortunate enough to get called up and make my debut, and it was pretty awesome.

AF:  How’d you react when you found out you were being called up?

JB:  I was…just a lot of emotions. It was really fun. I was excited that the team in Nashville, the coaching staff – I’ve been with them for a few years – I was excited to have them experience it with me. So, that was fun.

AF:  Your manager in Nashville, Ryan Christenson, who’s sort of come up with you through the organization – Stockton, Midland, Nashville – will be the bench coach in Oakland next year. What kind of an impact has he had on you?

Jaycob Brugman (photo: Nick Badders)

Jaycob Brugman
(photo: Nick Badders)

JB:  Oh, huge. I’m really comfortable around him and I know I can ask him anything. He knows so much about the game. I’m constantly just asking him questions and we’re just talking baseball and that’s what he loves to do. He loves talking baseball, and that’s why he’s such a good coach, because he’s personable and loves baseball. It’s going to be a fun time up there. Hopefully I can get up there again this next year and be able to play with him on the bench.

AF:  What was the biggest takeaway or most valuable thing you learned in the big leagues?

JB:  Just how everything is amplified up there. Focus, all the little things, fundamentals. Doing it the right way and be professional. A lot of times in the minor leagues, you get lost in the small towns and the no-one-really-watching-you kind of thing. So, I just probably learned to go about my business in a better way and be a little more professional and kind of grow up a little, you know? Little bigger stage.

AF:  What were your impressions of the big league coaching staff?

JB:  They’re all great. I really liked them. Unfortunately, [Mark] Kotsay, the bench coach, he had to leave – you know the incident with his daughter. But he was great. Scar [Steve Scarsone] was his replacement. It was just a good group and all the guys, [Bob] Melvin and Chip Hale, it was really fun playing for them. Any big league coach will have an impact on you because they’ve been around so long and they’ve got so much to give.

AF:  You’ve played all three outfield positions throughout your career. Is there somewhere you feel most comfortable?

JB:  I like center field. I feel a little more comfortable out there. It’s where you play the most every day that you get comfortable with. So, whether I’m playing left every day, it’d be left, or right. I like them all, it’s just a fun time for sure.

AF:  Now you only have a couple of weeks left in the AFL season and then you’re off for the winter before spring training starts. Do you have any plans for the winter or anything you want to work on before spring training gets underway?

JB:  Yeah, I mean, I’m just going to work on different tweaks that I’ve made to my swing, things like that. But really just trying to rest the body and get it ready and as strong as I can get and come into spring training ready.

AF:  Outside of making it back to the Coliseum, do you have any goals or plans for 2018?

JB:  Just play as hard as I can and try to force their hand almost and not let them send me down – make the club and try and put pressure on them for me to be there. Just play my game and keep doing what I know I can do and have confidence and force their hand a little.

2017 (Nashville): 1 HR / 19 BB / 28 K / .275 AVG / .355 OBP / .340 SLG / .695 OPS

2017 (Oakland): 3 HR / 18 BB / 38 K / .266 AVG / .346 OBP / .343 SLG / .688 OPS

AFL: 0 HR / 7 BB / 2 K / .000 AVG / .438 OBP / .000 SLG / .438 OPS

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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 Prospects Neuse & Murphy Take on the AFL

by Nick Badders / A’s Farm Arizona Correspondent

00aflafl_striahgt_logo_4vdwdld9_cg5m3bavWith the Arizona Fall League now about halfway through its schedule, A’s Farm took the opportunity last weekend to check in with a couple of the A’s top young prospects in the AFL.

22-year-old infielder Sheldon Neuse and 23-year-old catcher Sean Murphy were both top picks in last year’s draft. Neuse was Washington’s 2nd-round selection, while Murphy was the A’s 3rd-round pick.

Both players performed well this season while spending time with both High-A Stockton and Double-A Midland. And they’ve both continued their strong performances for the Mesa Solar Sox this fall in the AFL.



sn641914bTraded from Washington to the A’s last July in the Ryan Madson/Sean Doolittle deal, Neuse started out the year at Class-A Hagerstown in the Nationals system. But he was bumped up to High-A Stockton upon joining the A’s organization, where he hit .386 with seven home runs in just 22 games. The infielder was then promoted to the Double-A Midland RockHounds for the last few weeks of the season and was part of their Texas League championship-winning team.

AF:  How much have you enjoyed having the chance to play in the Arizona Fall League?

SN:  It’s been fun – great atmosphere, good group of guys. We like to come out and compete and have fun at the same. It’s a good group and I’ve enjoyed being here.

AF:  You’re playing with some guys you played with in Midland. Is it nice being able to play with them a little longer since you’re new to the organization?

SN:  It’s nice, coming in to a new system halfway through the year and meeting a bunch of people. I wasn’t in Stockton very long. Got thrown right into a playoff run there in Midland, went a long ways, got to hang out with those guys a little bit longer. Then playing with some more here, you get familiarized with those guys, and it’s been fun. It’s been fun to hang around them – good ballplayers, good people.

AF:  What was your initial experience like in Stockton and Midland?

SN:  Just a different atmosphere. You’ve got better pitching, so you’ve really got to be on your game. You can’t take any at-bats off, ever. But even more so there, you’ve got to be locked in the whole time. I’d say the biggest difference is trying to stay within yourself, trying to trust the process.

AF:  Is there anything you’ve tried to work on in the AFL so far?

SN:  Just getting consistent, making sure I’m getting my best swing off, as much as I can. Battling with two strikes, trying to cut down on some of the strikeouts. And coming out and playing and just playing the best baseball I can.

AF:  You’ve spent time at third base and shortstop in your pro career, which position do you prefer?

SN:  Hitter.

AF:  Is there another position you’ve played outside of those two, either in high school or college? I know you pitched for a while before being drafted.

SN:  I can play anywhere, anywhere on the field. Anywhere they want to put me, I’m going to be comfortable there. I just want an opportunity to hit. So right now, just giving myself to play anywhere, showing that I can play anywhere in the infield, outfield, wherever they want me, just giving myself a chance to get in the lineup every day.

AF:  What was your reaction when you found out you had been traded?

SN:  I was excited. It was a new opportunity, a new door to go through. I can’t thank the Nationals enough for giving me a chance to play professionally and then the interest from the A’s. I left a bunch of good guys over there I still stay in contact with friends-wise, and a couple of those guys are on the team here. But just going into a new organization, it was a whole new opportunity. I took it with open arms and open mindset, and it’s been great.

AF:  It seems like you kicked things up a notch after the trade. You hit .380 combined at Stockton and Midland. Did you change anything or did the change of scenery help?

SN:  I think I just got hot, hot at the right time. I figured some things out, was able to get comfortable back in the box, stay confident and rode that wave last year.

AF:  You have played at four different levels since being drafted last year. How has the rapid rise been for you?

SN:  It’s been awesome – climbing that ladder, you know, chasing your dream. It’s happening a lot faster than I expected it to and just never stop working. This year is almost done. Wrap it up, stay healthy and finish the fall league strong. Then looking forward to next year.

AF:  What kind of differences did you see between the California and Texas Leagues?

SN:  Just pitching. You’re not going to get as many pitches to drive [in the Texas League]. You’re not going to get that many pitches over the plate. At different levels, guys can command. You’re going to get more off-speed pitches in hitters’ counts and better stuff, so you’ve got to be quick to the ball. And you’ve got to trust the work you put in to go out there and just play the game. See and react versus kind of work on stuff – you can’t do that at the next level because they’re going to eat you up. You’ve got to minimize your holes and maximize on opportunities and you get something to drive.

AF:  It seemed like the only change for you between Stockton and Midland was in your power numbers. Would you just chalk that up to a small sample size, playing just 18 games in Double-A, the California League being good for home runs, or Midland and the Texas League being brutal on power?

SN:  The ball flew better in California. You’ve got better pitching up there too in Double-A. And Midland, it’s a bigger ballpark. It’s going to play bigger, it’s going to be harder to hit those balls out. It’s the same process the whole time, the same mindset – just going in and looking for a pitch I can drive in the gap. If it goes out, it goes out. If not, I did my job. I drove the baseball, and that’s all I can do as a hitter.

AF:  What are your offseason plans?

SN:  Just enjoy some time off at first, spend some time with my family. And looking forward to getting back to work. I’ll probably work out normal come January and the new year and get ready for hopefully big league spring training.

AF:  Is there anything you’re going to try to work on when you do start working out again?

SN:  Just trying to pick up where I left off here. Staying confident and trying to stay consistent. Keep the swing that I have and try to get it more consistent if I can, to the point where it’s the same all the time. And try and go into spring training healthy as always, stay healthy the whole time and just make a good impression there.

2017 (Hagerstown): 9 HR / 25 BB / 66 K / .291 AVG / .349 OBP / .469 SLG / .818 OPS

2017 (Stockton): 7 HR / 9 BB / 25 K / .386 AVG / .457 OBP / .675 SLG / 1.132 OPS

2017 (Midland): 0 HR / 6 BB / 21 K / .373 AVG / .427 OBP / .433 SLG / .860 OPS

2017 (Total): 16 HR / 40 BB / 112 K / .321 AVG / .382 OBP / .502 SLG / .884 OPS

AFL: 3 HR / 5 BB / 12 K / .300 AVG / .364 OBP / .580 SLG / .944 OPS



sm669221bThe strong-armed backstop was drafted by Oakland in the 3rd round of the 2016 draft and has risen quickly, finishing the 2017 season with the Double-A Midland RockHounds after starting the year at High-A Stockton. Just before we spoke to him after last Saturday’s game, Murphy drove an RBI single to left field in the bottom of the 8th inning to tie the game and help Mesa come back from a 6-2 deficit to post a 9-6 win over Glendale.

AF:  How has the Arizona Fall League experience been for you, playing with guys from different teams you’ve never played with before?

SM:  It’s just fun, meeting new guys, playing baseball. Meeting some different personalities is always nice.

AF:  You’re playing with some guys you played with last season – Sheldon Neuse, Sam Bragg, Nolan Blackwood. How nice has that been to have familiar faces around?

SM:  Obviously, to have some familiarity with some guys helps. But as you get closer to the team, you gel with other guys. It’s just nice having friends here.

AF:  What are some of the differences you found between hitting at Stockton and hitting in Midland?

SM:  Well, the Cal League is a hitter’s league for sure. The ball flies there. Then you get to Midland and that’s a graveyard, every part of the park. That’s an adjustment, understanding I’m not going to hit any cheap home runs out there.

AF:  You were just drafted last year, then you ended this season in Double-A. How have you felt about such a quick rise?

SM:  I’m just going with it. You don’t want to look ahead and try and see where you want to be in a year. It doesn’t do you any good trying to make projections like that in your head. You just play every day. It doesn’t do you any good to think about that kind of stuff.

AF:  As a catcher, were there any pitchers you worked with this season who impressed you with their approach?

Sean Murphy (photo: Nick Badders)

Sean Murphy
(photo: Nick Badders)

SM:  Obviously, A.J. [Puk]. He’s growing every day. It’s cool to watch him develop and grow and change as a pitcher, become more of a big-league style pitcher. Logan [Shore], Daulton [Jefferies], Brett Graves, all good. Sam Bragg is a bulldog out of the bullpen. I like all those guys.

AF:  You were drafted as a catcher who was known for your outstanding defense. What have you done since you were drafted to work on your hitting?

SM:  Well, I’ve done a lot of stuff. Some of it didn’t work, some of it did. Biggest difference is obviously the mental game, having a better approach, understanding the head space I want to be in while I’m at the plate.

AF:  Is there anything you’re trying to work on in the AFL?

SM:  Continuing. I’m not trying to get overwhelmed, not trying to think about other stuff. Again, it’s such a mental game that every great adjustment starts in your own head. It’s not a “mechanical this, mechanical that.” You’ve got to understand where you are in space and what your brain is doing.

AF:  What are your offseason plans? Are you going anywhere, trying to focus on anything?

SM:  No plans right now. Spend some time with loved ones, get some rest, start back up. Physically working on some baseball skills, some weightlifting, eat well. That’s about it.

AF:  Take me through your at-bat in the 8th inning today. First-pitch swinging, what were you looking for?

SM:  There, I was looking for a fastball. You have the bases loaded. If he threw a slider, I was just going to take it. But it’s just guessing he’s going to throw a fastball. I was just going to try and hit it on a line somewhere. Hit it off the end a little bit, but the swing I put on it was good enough and it worked for a single.

2017 (Stockton): 9 HR / 11 BB / 33 K / .297 AVG / .343 OBP / .527 SLG / .870 OPS

2017 (Midland): 4 HR / 21 BB / 34 K / .209 AVG / .288 OBP / .309 SLG / .597 OPS

2017 (Total): 13 HR / 32 BB / 67 K / .250 AVG / .313 OBP / .410   SLG / .723 OPS

AFL: 0 HR / 6 BB / 5 K / .289 AVG / .396 OBP / .356 SLG / .752 OPS

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Getting to Know Snappers Slugger Kyle Nowlin

by Ryan Christoffersen / A’s Farm Beloit Correspondent

kn665065Last year, the A’s made slugging outfielder Kyle Nowlin their 21st-round draft pick out of Eastern Kentucky University. Nowlin grew up in the small town of Harrison, Ohio, about twenty miles northwest of Cincinnati. And after graduating from William Henry Harrison High, he headed off to college at EKU, which was one of two Division 1 schools that offered him a chance to play baseball. It turned out to be a great situation for Nowlin, since he got to see plenty of playing time starting as a freshman. And in his senior season, he led his college team with 21 home runs, a total which ranked in the top ten nationally.

After getting into 44 games for the Arizona League A’s last year, the organization sent Nowlin to the Beloit Snappers this season, where they also asked him to begin playing a new position – first base. Ever since the All-Star break, Nowlin’s been on a tear, putting up a .300/.402/.482 slash line in the second half, and he currently leads the Snappers with 63 RBIs and 59 walks, while his 24 doubles tie him for the team lead. As the minor league season was entering its final weeks, we took the opportunity to talk with Nowlin about his full season of pro ball…


AF:  You’ve been red hot since the All-Star break and had a tremendous month of July in which you had a .610 slugging percentage and an OPS over 1.000. To what do you attribute your success in the second half?

KN:  So, I went home during the All-Star break – took three days off from baseball. I came back here and started seeing the ball better. The hits started falling, which was not the case for me at all the first half of the season. I honestly can’t pick out one certain thing, but I’m sure the rest when I went home helped. I was able to clear my brain and start over. I kind of started a new season over after the All-Star break.

AF:  It’s interesting that different things work for different ballplayers. Sometimes it’s a change mechanically or maybe it has something to do with the mental side of it.

Kyle Nowlin (photo by Dave Baker)

Kyle Nowlin
(photo by Dave Baker)

KN:  Yeah, I think I just needed to get away from it a little bit. I was starting to get really frustrated with everything.

AF:  What are some of the statistics, if any, that you look at?

KN:  I honestly don’t look at them too much, because once I start looking at them, I start thinking about them. Especially if you’re doing well in a certain category, you don’t want to look at it. It seems like every time I do, the next few games I do nothing to contribute to those stats. I just start thinking about them too much. So, I tend to stay away from looking at my stats.

AF:  Watching you this season, I have noticed that you do a great job of hitting the ball to all fields, especially with power. Is that a conscious approach that you take at the plate?

KN:  When I was in high school, my coach told me that the right-center field gap is where I had the most power. So, I never have been a stereotypical pull hitter. I mean, a lot of the ground balls I hit are pulled. When I hit a line drive or fly ball, it is usually gap to gap. I tell myself to hit a hard line drive from left center to right center. It just so happens I wear out the right-center field gap kind of a lot.

AF:  Are there any particular adjustments you’ve made this season that have helped you succeed?

KN:  Not really anything at the plate. I used to be an outfielder. But then in instructs last year, they moved me to first base. So, I mean, that was a huge difference. In the infield, you have to be more focused than in the outfield.

AF:  That actually brings me to my next question. I’ve noticed a significant improvement from you defensively at first base as the season has progressed. What specific work has gone into that?

KN:  I think just reps, honestly. I had never played infield in my life growing up. So, that was a drastic change for me. At instructs last year, I looked like a baby deer trying to walk for the first time. I didn’t know how to do much of anything at first base. But just getting work there every day, seeing ground balls and seeing throws across the diamond really just helped me to get a feel for the position.

AF:  Some people don’t realize how much goes into playing first base.

Kyle Nowlin (photo by Dave Baker)

Kyle Nowlin
(photo by Dave Baker)

KN:  Yeah, like getting used to being around the bag with your footwork. The bag is kind of awkward at first. You don’t really know how to get there and you’re dancing around it. But once you get used to it, the footwork becomes more natural.

AF:  Is there anything that you’re working on, or that the coaches, particularly hitting coach Juan Dilone, are working on with you right now?

KN:  In the second half, Dilo hasn’t worked much with me, just because I’ve been swinging so well. He wants to let me do my own thing and not mess with anything. So, yeah, I guess I’m not really working on anything in particular at the plate.

AF:  So, on the personal side, where have you been living this year? Are you staying with a host family or are you sharing a place with some of your teammates?

KN:  I’m staying with a host family. It’s me, JaVon ShelbyNate Mondou used to live with us before he got promoted – now Josh Vidales lives with us ever since he got sent here. We are living with a woman named Janna. She’s awesome. There at the house is a whole basement we have to ourselves. It’s a pretty nice little setup.

AF:  What would you say is the most important thing you’ve learned this year?

KN:  A full season is a grind. You cannot take anything for granted. We have 140 games with just 12 off days, which include the three off-days during the All-Star break. So, if you have a bad day one day, you’ve just got to let it go. You’re going to probably get four to five at-bats the next day. You just can’t let something bother you so much that it sends you into a downward spiral.

AF:  With just a few weeks left in the season, what’s your main focus or goal you’re trying to accomplish?

KN:  I’m just trying to finish strong and play like I have been, aim for at least one to two hits a day, string together some good games. The body is wearing down a little bit from the grind of the season. We are currently on a 19-game stretch without an off-day. That’s a tough stretch, especially being in August. But I really want to enjoy the last few weeks we have here. You can’t play baseball forever, so you’ve got to enjoy it while you can!

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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.

Get an Inside Look at Nashville’s Top Prospects from Hitting Coach Eric Martins & Pitching Coach Rick Rodriguez

by Bill Moriarity / A’s Farm Editor

0nsIMG_2587Eric Martins was the A’s 17th-round draft pick in 1994 and spent parts of seven seasons as an infielder in the A’s minor league system. After his playing career came to an end, the southern California native signed on as a scout for the A’s. He eventually made the move to coaching, first serving as the hitting coach for the A’s Double-A affiliate in Midland, and he’s now spending his second season handling some of the team’s top young hitters at Nashville.

Rick Rodriguez served as the long-time pitching coach for the Sacramento River Cats, where he had a hand in developing a number of the A’s most talented pitchers over the past many years. When the A’s Triple-A affiliate first moved to Nashville, the northern California native remained on the west coast to spend a season with the Single-A Stockton Ports. But he’s now serving his second season with the Sounds, helping to develop another crop of talented arms for the A’s.

We took the opportunity to talk with both of them about some of the A’s most promising prospects last weekend in Nashville…



emMartins, Eric2AF:  Yairo Munoz is a guy who got off to a bit of a slow start when he first came up to Triple-A, but it seems like something’s been starting to click for him lately. So, where do you feel he’s at at this point?

EM:  Well, Yairo came in and he’s notoriously known as being a free swinger. He’s got one of the highest first-pitch-swing-percentage rates in the organization. It’s one thing that I kind of talked to him about a little bit. You don’t ever want to take away a hitter’s aggressiveness, but it’s being able to recognize the pitches that he wants to swing at early. He’ll still have his lapses every once in a while, but I think that’s one thing that’s calmed him down a little bit. He’s been a little bit more selective. He’s worked a little bit more here. We’ve worked on his pitch selection and his approach, because he has the ability to hit the ball all over the yard. He’s so aggressive, he’s got electric hands. He’s one of those guys that’s kind of special, he’s a little bit free-spirited, he’s a little bit of a loose cannon, but the tools are evident. Like the other day, he kind of looked bad on a couple sliders and the guy hung him a two-strike breaking ball and he hit it over the left-field wall. And he’s been having really good at-bats the last couple weeks. I think the other thing is just being comfortable being here. These pitchers here pitch a little bit differently. And you get an aggressive guy like Yairo and they can feast on him for a little bit until he makes the adjustment, and he’s done that. He’s done a pretty good job of that.

AF:  Well, whatever you said to him seemed to get through anyway! Have you been working with him in the field as well?

EM:  Yeah, he’s been playing all over the field. When he’s out in center field, he reminds me of Carlos Gomez a little bit. He’s a little bit, like I said, of a loose cannon, but he has all the tools. His arm is tremendous. He’s done a great job in center field. He can run some balls down. His versatility has been huge for us, and it’s going to be huge for him. He’s played third base, he’s played shortstop, he’s played left field, and he’s looked really good in the outfield. He’s always been a pretty good infielder.

AF:  So, it sounds like you think he could work in center field.

EM:  I think he’s only going to get better out there. He’s made some tremendous catches out there. It’s just about knowing where to throw the ball. He’s got such a good arm that he just wants to show it off each time. He just needs to come up and find the cut-off man and know where he’s throwing the ball. But other than that, his angles and his routes have been pretty good. He’s covered some ground out there, and he’s looking more and more comfortable out there.

AF:  Well, he kind of likes to show off wherever he’s at in the field, right?

EM:  Yeah, he’s got the loud tools, so why not?

fb620439AF:  Franklin Barreto got a little taste of the big leagues this year and now he’s back here with you in Nashville. So, what did he learn from that experience and what are you working on with him at this point?

EM:  Well, I think it was good for him to go up and kind of see what those pitchers are going to do and how good they are. And he came down with instructions on some stuff that he needed to work on. And his at-bats have been really good since that point. He’s made consistent contact with two strikes, so his strikeout rates have gone down a little bit, and I think that’s one thing that they wanted to see. His mechanics have gotten a little bit better. He’s getting a little bit more comfortable staying inside the ball – he’s not worried about the pitches in anymore. He’s doing a good job with his approach and his work, and you can see his at-bats starting to trend back to where they were at the beginning of the year. But the consistency in the at-bats has been a little bit better.

AF:  It sounds like getting a look at major league pitching might have been a good, eye-opening experience for him.

EM:  Absolutely. I think he saw how the guys who don’t have the premium stuff can pitch and how good the guys who have the premium stuff are, so you’ve just got to find a way to battle.

AF:  A guy who’s been up and down between Nashville and Oakland a number of times this year is Matt Olson. What do you think he’s learned from all his trips to the big leagues this year?

EM:  I think with Olson, he’s so laid back and he understands, so it doesn’t really bother him, which is good. You know, it can bother a lot of people who are going up and down. He gets it, so it’s been easy on him. He just comes down and he does what he does, and he’s continuing to work on everything. He’s had such a good year, and he knows his time’s coming to get up there and be playing consistently. So, we just continue to work on the adjustments that he made in the offseason with his swing and his mechanics. So, he’s fine and he’s ready to go. When he gets that call and he’s going to be the everyday guy and get some consistent at-bats, you’re going to see who Matt Olson really is.

mo621566AF:  Yeah, he seems like a pretty low-key guy. It doesn’t seem like a lot would bother him.

EM:  No, real low maintenance. And that’s the thing, for him being so young, he gets it and he understands. The important thing for him is to get at-bats. And if there’s no at-bats for him up there, then he’s going to come down here and continue to get his at-bats and continue on with the good year that he’s had. It’s been a breakthrough for him as far as the consistency of his season – hitting close to .270 all year. It’s been a good year for him, where the last couple years have been kind of down. I think the mechanical tweaks that he made this offseason and early in spring training really helped.

AF:  Chad Pinder was back here in Nashville rehabbing for a while before heading back to the big leagues. So, what kind of things were you working on with a guy like that who’s rehabbing here?

EM:  Pinder was just getting his at-bats and getting his timing back. Having a lot of history with him, it was just a matter of getting his hands in the right position and his timing and all that stuff. He’s so strong and he can drive the ball all over the park. So, it was just a matter of him just seeing some pitches, working his at-bats and making sure his timing was there. He did have some strikeouts here, but he got in some counts and worked some at-bats. That was it for him. You don’t really want to change too much, because he’s been doing so good up there. It’s just those little fine-tuning things. And with me having the history with him, it was easy.

AF:  Well, you must be pretty familiar with a lot of these guys at this point.

EM:  Absolutely, it’s fun. I’ll still get some calls from the guys up there – Bruce and Chapman – checking in. And I’ll send them a text when they have a good game up in the big leagues – Brugman and I texted a couple days ago. So, it’s fun to see those guys having some success up there. They’re going to be a big part of things from now on.

AF:  A guy who spent some significant time in the big leagues and then found himself back down here was Mark Canha. It seems like he was on a bit of a tear here. So, what were you working on with him here?

mc592192EM:  Well, I think Mark just kind of simplified things here a little bit. He stopped worrying about his leg kick and the timing of his leg kick and just started concentrating on his hands. And it was one thing that he never really thought about so much. He was so worried about the timing of his leg kick that it kind of threw off his hands a little bit. So, now he’s kind of switched the roles a little bit, and he’s a lot simpler – the moves are a lot simpler. They’re not as unique and different. He still has a little bit of funk to his swing, but that’s who he is. And Mark can really hit. It’s just he gets in his own way sometimes when he over-thinks his mechanics. But he’s really simplified some stuff, and his at-bats have been outstanding. The power’s obviously there. He’s a really good hitter. He just needed to come down here and simplify some stuff, and I think he’s found his niche now.

AF:  Now that we’re heading into the final month or so of the minor league season, is there any particular message that you’re trying to convey to your hitters here at this stage of the game?

EM:  I just tell them to finish strong. I know some guys are getting tired. Some guys can be thinking elsewhere. They can be thinking, “Why am I not up in the big leagues?” Or they can be chasing their numbers. But they’ve got to realize that whatever numbers that they have now, there’s always something that you can get out of your at-bats. Don’t give any at-bats away. We had a couple of games in New Orleans that were back-to-back day games at the end of a 12-day road trip, and you could tell guys were tired, and we gave some at-bats away and didn’t really compete. You’ve got to kind of give them that a little bit, but you’ve got to rein them back in after a day or two, because they all count. At the end of the day, you give some at-bats away and you’re 0 for 4, that counts against you. So, don’t take any at-bats off – just keep competing and have quality at-bats.



rrRodriguez, Rick2AF:  It’s kind of like you’ve been the supplemental A’s pitching coach this year with all the A’s starters who’ve been down here at one point or another this season – Graveman, Cotton, Hahn, etc. So, I wanted to ask you about working with some of those guys, starting with Jesse Hahn, who was pitching really well for Oakland earlier this year then ended up coming back down here. So, what have you been working on with him and what are you trying to do with him?

RR:  We have good communication between myself and [A’s pitching coach] Scott Emerson. He always has a plan of what these guys should do. So, he either sends me something or he calls me and says, “We need to work on this, this and this.” And with Jesse, it’s more his fastball command – just trying to command that fastball and working ahead in the count. He was working on a new grip on his changeup, so we’re trying to work that in. So, his command and his changeup.

AF:  Now when you have a guy like Kendall Graveman, who was working his way back from an injury and has been out for a while, what kind of things are you focused in that situation?

RR:  The biggest thing when coming back from an injury is trying not to let the injury itself affect you, just trying to keep with what you’ve done in the past. I think we were in New Orleans, and at some point, he felt confident enough to really just kind of let it go. And at that point, I think he realized he was over his injury and now it’s a question of commanding that sinker, commanding that cutter, and getting back to where he was before he got hurt.

AF:  So, I guess the first step is just gaining that confidence back that you’re actually healthy enough to be able to do what you need to do.

RR:  Yeah, it’s always in the back of your mind when you come back from an injury. It’s like, “Am I going to hurt anything again?” And then you realize, “Hey, I’m great – I’m healthy.” And then you can get back to your routine and what made you successful.

AF:  Now what about Jharel Cotton, who’s back up with the A’s now? He spent some time with you here. Where do you feel he’s at now? Did you feel you were able to help get him back to where he needs to be to be successful?

jc605194RR:  Yeah, I know his first outing coming back from the blister, he was a little rusty – he was out of sync, his fastball command wasn’t there, his changeup was up and down. His last outing, he seemed to command his fastball to both sides of the plate and he started to get his changeup with that late sink that I saw last year. His cutter’s always been there – just trying to get him to use his curveball a little bit more. But it was just more getting back into the swing of things – getting a routine and then trying to take that routine into the game.

AF:  Another guy you’ve had rehabbing here is Chris Bassitt, who’s been coming back from Tommy John surgery. After a bit of a setback, he’s been pitching out of the bullpen now. So, how’s he looking to you at this point?

RR:  This is his second go-around with the rehab. He looks more confident now. I think his elbow’s feeling better. He’s bouncing back a lot quicker. So, he’s just going to be coming out of the ‘pen. And if he pitches a day, we’ll give him a day off. And if he has two ups, we’ll probably give him a couple days off just to kind of rest that elbow. But he’s come along really good. His fastball command is there. He’s got his cutter back. I like his slow curveball – that kind of throws everybody off. But he’s doing well.

AF:  One guy who’s not actually rehabbing here who I wanted to ask you about is Corey Walter. He wasn’t a high draft pick, but he’s always pitched well and has had a great track record through the system. He got off to a good start here in Nashville, then he had a couple of crazy outings where he just got totally lit up and gave up something like 20 runs over two starts, and now it looks like maybe he’s starting to get back on track a bit again. So, what happened to him when he seemed to go off the rails there for a bit and where’s he at now?

cw657794bRR:  I think he’s still learning how to start. And as a starter, sometimes you go through a little phase where, for a couple outings or whatever, it’s not working and you’re trying everything. And I think that’s what he was going through. I know through the All-Star break, he had a couple of extra days – I think that helped him. Then with the rehabbers and some guys coming down from Oakland, we had to shuffle around, so he pitched out of the ‘pen a couple times. And it was a good chance to work on his sinker command on the side. He really needed to get that back down in the zone. And he did the other night. His slider was good and his split was better – it was a little sharper.

AF:  Do you see him staying as a starter in the near future or will he maybe be making a move back to the ‘pen?

RR:  I’m not sure what the plan is. I know he’s been starting, and I’m sure he’s going to be starting once all this rotation stuff gets cleared up. So, we’ll see how that goes, but I’m looking forward to him starting.

AF:  And as we enter the final month of the minor league season here, what messages are you trying to convey to your pitching staff at this point?

RR:  We just had a big e-mail from our pitching coordinator [Gil Patterson]. And the big thing I talk about is the fact that we have 4-6 weeks, so let’s make a good push and finish really, really strong. It’s important to finish strong, so that you go into that offseason really confident. You just want to be consistent and finish well, and then see what happens.

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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.

Ryan Christenson: Guiding Guys to the Big Leagues from Nashville

rc636148237120845988-ryan3by Bill Moriarity / A’s Farm Editor

Originally drafted by the A’s in the 10th round in 1995, Ryan Christenson began his major league playing career as an outfielder with the A’s back in 1998. He made it to the playoffs with the A’s 2000 team before being dealt to Arizona during the 2001 season. The southern California native made his last major league appearance with Texas in 2003, and finished out his playing career by spending the 2004 season playing in the Pacific Coast League.

He then left the game for a while to go into the business world before being bitten by the baseball bug again and returning to the field in 2013 to skipper the Beloit Snappers, the A’s Class-A affiliate in the Midwest League. Christenson quickly impressed the A’s organization with his ability to work with young players and, like many of his young charges, he moved through the system quickly, taking the reins at Stockton in 2014, before moving on to manage Midland in 2015 and 2016, and then becoming the skipper of the Nashville Sounds this season.

Christenson has managed many of the A’s top young prospects as they’ve moved through the system together. He began at Beloit back in 2013 with Bruce Maxwell, Matt Olson and Renato Nunez. In 2014 at Stockton, in addition to Maxwell, Olson and Nunez, he also had Ryon Healy, Chad Pinder and Jaycob Brugman, and he managed all six players again at Midland the next season. Top prospects Matt Chapman and Franklin Barreto came under his charge at Midland in 2016, and have spent time with him at Nashville this year as well.

Obviously, Christenson has had a major hand in helping to develop many members of the A’s current youth movement. He’s had the chance to watch the A’s top prospects play on a daily basis as much as any other human being alive and knows them as well as anyone. So, last weekend in Nashville, we took the opportunity to talk to the skipper about his job and also got his impressions of a few of the main members of the A’s youth movement like Bruce Maxwell, Chad Pinder, Matt Chapman and Franklin Barreto…


AF:  As a player, you played for that 2000 A’s team that started that four-year playoff run in Oakland with guys like Giambi, Chavez, Tejada and the beginning of the Big Three with Hudson, Mulder and Zito. Those guys you played with on that 2000 team really formed the core of those winning A’s teams of the early 2000s. So, what was that whole experience like for you and what did you take from that that may be of use to you now?

RC:  Obviously, just having been in the organization at every level, I still have a feel for the philosophy that we try to teach here as a player development person with the A’s now. I think one of the things that I remember most about that group there was just the closeness that we had with the young core group of players, because it seems like we all came through the system together and kind of all arrived in the big leagues together in the late ’90s, and then started to really play better baseball and were able to win the division there in 2000. So, that’s what I see and hope for with this group as we change over now. A lot of these guys have all come through the minor leagues together and have an opportunity to do something special at the big league level with that relationship already set in place.

AF:  After you retired as a player after the 2004 season, you were out of the game for a while until you came back and started managing at Beloit in 2013. So, what led to you getting back into the game at that point?

RC:  After I was done playing, I finished up my degree. I had a business degree and kind of saw myself going into the business world. I did that for a couple years but realized pretty quickly that being behind the desk was not where I really wanted to be. I felt myself starting to miss the game and realized how much I loved the game. As a player, I didn’t think that I was going to go into coaching, but I did feel that I was missing the game. And I had some friends like A.J. Hinch, Sal Fasano and David Newhan and some guys I was talking to who were in the game and were enjoying themselves…I interviewed in 2012 and didn’t get anything, thank goodness. And I happened to land in a perfect spot with the A’s, back where I came up. And it was just a good fit. It was everything I was looking for – with a boss like [farm director] Keith Lieppman, obviously some familiarity with [Vice President of Baseball Operations] Billy Beane and [General Manager] David Forst, and [special assistant] Grady Fuson was here, and I knew [assistant general manager] Dan Feinstein from my playing days. So, that just made it feel like a good place to start my coaching career.

AF:  You’ve coached at every full-season level in the system at this point, going from Beloit up to Nashville now. So, what’s the difference for you managing guys who are just starting out their careers in Single-A and then managing guys up here in Triple-A who’ve been around a bit and who’ve maybe even spent some time in the big leagues before?

RC:  The guys here already have a feel for what they have to do on a day-to-day basis. They have a pretty good understanding of the game. At the lower levels, you’re helping these guys understand what their day-to-day routine is going to be and how they get through a day. And then up here, it’s more managing the players than managing the work day – so getting to know these guys, having that relationship, because it’s a whirlwind here. Sometimes, you have to have some tough conversations; sometimes, you get to have some real exciting conversations as far as sending guys up. But if you don’t have a pulse of where they’re all at, then this job could spiral on you in a hurry.

AF:  Yeah, you’re actually in the middle of a lot of personal drama here in Triple-A. Guys here often find themselves going through some major changes one way or another.

RC:  Yeah, they are major. And a lot of them have wives and families. At the lower levels, you don’t have to deal with that issue. Moving around is a little bit easier. But here, it can be a major uprooting.

AF:  Yeah, going back and forth between Beloit and Stockton isn’t quite as dramatic a change in life as going back and forth between Nashville and Oakland! Now you started out in Beloit with guys like Bruce Maxwell and Matt Olson, and you’ve been with them almost every year through their minor league careers. So, what’s it like for you personally to see them making it to the major league level after having started out with them back in A-ball?

rc87435-6292763FrRC:  It feels good, just because you’ve seen all the work that they’ve put in. Somebody like Maxwell, you see the transition that he’s made to turn himself into a very, very good defensive catcher. He came in as this great hitter, but the catching has continuously gotten better. So, just to see him pay attention to that and turn himself into the best catcher we have in the organization has been really neat to watch. But just the fact that I’ve been around them for four or five years and had some pretty solid relationships with these guys, just to be able to see them go up there and do it on TV at the ultimate level, which is where they all wanted to be, is pretty cool.

AF:  A guy you had at Stockton, at Midland, and for a little while here at Nashville this year is Chad Pinder. He’s an interesting player with his versatility. How do you see him profiling as a major league player?

RC:  I think he’s panning out into being the super-utility guy that we’re seeing right now. I think the throwing and the glove on the infield are probably not the quality to do it every single day at this point, not that it can’t improve. But he’s got the tools to shift around and play any of the three infield positions and play them well. So, it’s good to have a guy who can bounce around and do all three versus one position every single day. And now that he’s shown that he can go in the outfield, the fact that we can put him out there anywhere on the field is huge. The first day in spring training when I saw him go to the outfield, his instincts and his first move and his desire to want to get a good jump and go get the ball kind of impressed me that he can do it, because he’s a tremendous athlete. He’s a very strong and powerful guy, and some of the home runs that we’ve seen him hit already this year up there show the capabilities that he has. But he’s got a short swing, which allows him to get the ball deep. I think he’s still kind of coming into his own and figuring out his approach. He needs to improve to be successful at the major league level as far as working counts a little bit more and drawing a few more walks. Not going out of the zone as much as he was and being an aggressive swinger is only going to help his numbers as far as what they really want to see him improve on, which is that on-base number, and he can certainly do that.

AF:  Earlier this year, you had two guys here who are considered two of the A’s top position player prospects – Matt Chapman and Franklin Barreto. Chapman’s up with the A’s now, and Barreto was up for a bit but now he’s back here in Nashville. What have you seen out of those guys, what makes them such special players, and what do they both need to do to really be able to succeed at the major league level on a long-term basis?

RC:  Well, I think both of them are right along the lines of what we were just talking about with Pinder. A refinement of their strike zone is the main thing. I think Barreto’s seen that at this level here and when he’s been in the big leagues. Somebody can be exploited that can’t lay off of that slider or that fastball that starts in the zone and by the time it gets to the hitting zone it’s dropped out of it. So, I think that’s where the improvement’s going to come offensively for all three of them – Chapman, Barreto and Pinder. Chapman is one of the best, if not the best, third basemen I’ve ever been around. The kid is absolutely electric. He’s as dynamic left and right as you can get, he’s got one of the best arms in the game at third base, and he’s got range. And especially in Oakland, he’s a perfect fit, with all that foul territory, so he’s going to be huge for them at third base. I still think they’re figuring out whether Barreto fits better at shortstop or second base. He’s a young player still kind of finding his focus. I think some of his errors that he’s made here are just a lack of focus at times, which you can see kind of drift in and out with young players. But I love what I’ve seen from him at second base. I’ve seen him make plays that remind me of Roberto Alomar. And Chapman and Barreto are both extremely powerful. Obviously, Barreto’s not as powerful as Chapman, but for a little guy, Barreto can really drive the ball to all parts of the ballpark, which is fun to watch.

AF:  Well, it sounds like he might be more of a standout player as a second baseman than as a shortstop.

RC:  I think so, I think in a perfect world. Just watching some of the young players we have in the minor leagues, I think Richie Martin is our best pure shortstop. He’s just as electric left and right as Chapman. So, I think if you can just envision those two guys on the left-hand side, that’s lock-down quality defense. Richie’s still kind of trying to figure himself out as a hitter. I’m not sure what they’re expecting or would like to see him hit, but it’s not a lot. He’s that good at shortstop. I think Barreto’s going to end up doing both. But possibly at this point in time, second base might be his better of the two.

AF:  And since you played with him, does Chapman remind you a bit of Eric Chavez?

RC:  I’m telling you, I played a lot with Chavy, and Chapman’s better than Chavez as a defender. Obviously, Chavy was a great hitter. But Chapman is better – I tell people he’s the best I’ve seen. I was always a baseball fan growing up, and I can never remember ever watching a better third baseman. He’s incredible – so much fun to watch.

AF:  So, now that you’ve had the opportunity to do this job for a few years, what’s the single best part of it for you?

RC:  My whole life I’ve just been a baseball fan. So, to be able to work in the industry of baseball has been a blessing. I was out of it and realized how much I love it and was able to get back into it. And it’s not always that easy just because you played to get back in – there’s only so many jobs to go around. But I feel very fortunate to be able to do that. And I’ve also been real fortunate to be around this young group that we’re trying to watch do something in the big leagues right now. It’s just been incredible to watch these guys play great baseball. We’ve done a lot of winning over the last four years. It’s been a great experience all around. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

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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.

Matt Olson: Riding the Nashville-to-Oakland Express

by Bill Moriarity / A’s Farm Editor

mo621566Matt Olson has been one of the top power-hitting prospects in the A’s system ever since the team made him its third overall pick in the 2012 draft. Since then, the Georgia native has slowly climbed the ladder step-by-step and finally made his major league debut for the A’s as a 22-year-old last September. He’s been up and down between Nashville and Oakland multiple times in 2017, and the young slugger demonstrated his power potential by hitting 4 home runs in 18 games for the A’s this season.

Olson’s always been known for his combination of power and plate discipline. And at Nashville this year, his 21 home runs are currently the second-most on the squad, while his 44 walks are tops on the team, and his .550 slugging percentage and .913 OPS are best among current Sounds. The left-handed hitter has also struck out 80 times in 280 at-bats for Nashville this year. The 23-year-old has primarily been playing first base this season, where he’s a defensive standout, but he spent most of his time in right field last year, where he’s more than capable of doing the job.

With the A’s youth movement in full swing, we’ll surely be seeing more of Olson in Oakland before the season’s through. A’s Farm first spoke with Olson in Stockton back in 2014, and we took the opportunity to catch up with him again last weekend in Nashville…


AF:  Well, it’s certainly been an interesting year for you. I think you’ve probably been back and forth between here and Oakland about a dozen times now!

MO:  Right around there, yeah!

AF:  So, has it been an interesting ride for you this year? And how’s it been adapting to all the back and forth?

MO:  Yeah, definitely. It’s definitely different than what I’ve been accustomed to. These past few years, I’m in the lineup every day playing 130-135 games and I’m getting five at-bats a day. Obviously, it’s an honor that they want me up there when I can get a spot. But it’s been a little bit of a transition having to kind of get a little more sporadic at-bats…but I’ve been working with it. It’s been good, a good experience, just getting as much time as I can under my belt.

AF:  I’m sure you’re happy to hop on a red-eye flight to Oakland anytime they call, right?

MO:  Yeah, definitely.

AF:  So, how comfortable were you able to feel during your time in the big leagues this year?

MO:  This year has gone a lot different compared to last year. Last year, with getting up there the first time and it being the end of the year, it all happened quick – it was a little bit of a whirlwind. Anytime I got in a game, obviously there were some nerves. And this year’s been a lot better. It’s been more about just being able to be out there playing the game, especially when I was up there for that week or week-and-a-half span where I was playing right field a lot, almost every day, and in the lineup a lot. It was good – it was nice to get into a rhythm and get that comfort level.

AF:  Well, you put a few out of the park during that stretch, so obviously you must have been feeling pretty comfortable then! How different was the quality of the major league pitching you faced compared to what you may have been used to seeing in Triple-A?

MO:  You can tell that guys have a little finer stuff. They’ll throw anything in any count. I wouldn’t necessarily say there’s a completely different way I’ve gotten pitched. But I faced a lot of guys I hadn’t faced before. So, I’m just kind of building a book with those guys and knowing what they like to do to me and take notes for when I face them further down the road.

AF:  Are there any things you’ve taken away or learned from your time in the majors?

MO:  Whenever I’m up there, I’m trying to learn better how to approach my day, the way I go about my routines – just finding the right thing that clicks for me. Everybody has their own things they like to do in order to get ready for the game mentally and physically. And I’ve really been able to figure out for myself what gets me ready for the game.

AF:  Has anyone on the big league squad been particularly helpful to you there?

IMG_0322bMO:  You know, everybody’s been really helpful. The guys who have been around, like Jed Lowrie and Matt Joyce and Yonder Alonso, some of the main position guys, kind of take a little extra time to explain things to the younger guys. Anytime they can offer a little bit of advice, they’ve done a really great job of helping us out. Even if it’s just a little minor thing, it’s nice to have those guys kind of helping you along. It kind of takes a little bit of the behind-the-scenes stuff off your chest and you can just go out there and play the game.

AF:  So, now that you’re back in Nashville, is there anything in particular that you’re focused on here?

MO:  Just having that same hunger that I had when I showed up at the beginning of the year. I felt like I had a tough year last year and I kind of had something to prove, and I came in ready to get after it and ready to start off strong. And I’ve just been trying to continue that all year long.

AF: You’ve had the chance to spend some time in the big league camp in spring training. How helpful has that experience been for you?

MO:  It’s very helpful. Just from having seen the guys, met them, hung out with them a little bit. It makes it a whole lot easier to make that transition. Ryon Healy last year got called up without ever having set foot in the clubhouse, except when he would come across [from minor league camp] for a couple games. So, I’m sure that was a bigger transition for him trying to meet the guys and be able perform for his first time in the big leagues. So, there is a factor to that. A lot of it, going up for the first couple times, is being able to put all the other stuff aside and just playing baseball.

AF:  Your first major league game was last September. So, what was it like for you the first time you stepped onto the field in a major league park?

MO:  It’s just one of those feelings that you can’t describe. It’s something that you’ve worked your whole life for, to be able to be out there, with my family and girlfriend up in the stands watching. It’s definitely a special moment, one I’ll never forget.

AF:  I know your family’s not that far from here in Georgia. So, do they get a chance to come see you much in Nashville?

MO:  Yeah, they’ve come up here a lot. It’s only a four-hour drive, so they’ve been up here four or five or six times already this year.

AF:  Having to go back and forth between Nashville and Oakland so many times this year, where have you been living here in Nashville and where have you been staying when you’re up in Oakland?

MO:  I’ve just been living right over here by the field. I started out as roommates with Chad Pinder, and then I was roommates with Matt Chapman, and now I’m in the place by myself right now. Luckily, Ryon Healy’s renting a house up there that has some spare bedrooms just in case guys were coming up and down. So, there’s a room there that I’ve stayed in all the times that I’ve been up there.

AF:  Well, I’m sure his spare room’s gotten plenty of use this year – I’m sure it hasn’t gone to waste! It must be nice to know that whenever you do go up to Oakland, there are plenty of familiar faces around, plenty of guys you’ve known and played with for a while.

MO:  Yeah, it goes along with that comfort level that I was talking about. It makes it a whole lot easier to be able to go out and play the game. When you’ve got guys like that you’ve played with a long time, it just makes it a smoother transition.

AF:  Speaking of familiar faces, you’ve got Ryan Christenson, whom you go all the way back to Beloit with, here as your manager in Nashville this year. So, what’s it like for you having him around this year?

MO:  It’s great. This is our fourth season together, so we know each other well. He’s awesome. I love having him as our manager. He knows the right time to get on somebody if they need it, but at the same time, he jokes around with us. He’s a good mix.

AF:  And he must know you and your game as well as anyone. He’s probably seen you play more than any other human alive!

MO:  Yeah, he definitely has!

AF:  So, as we head into the final part of the season here, what are you focused on at this point?

MO:  Just keeping that hunger. I understand there are a lot of moving parts, and this year I’ve been moving up and down those four or five times. And my goal is to just kind of block it all out and do what I have to do on the field. A lot of that stuff’s out of my control. The main thing is to go out there and keep that hunger and just perform on the field.

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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.

Jesse Hahn: Keeping It Simple with the Sounds

by Bill Moriarity / A’s Farm Editor

jh534910Like every single one of his teammates in Nashville, Jesse Hahn‘s main goal is to get to the big leagues. But unlike many of them, he’s already seen the promised land and has actually spent plenty of time residing there, having started 50 major league games between the A’s and the Padres. He’s experienced some ups and downs during that time though.

This season, the A’s optioned Hahn to Nashville towards the end of spring training but, thanks to injuries, he was quickly recalled. After looking impressive in April, he tailed off a bit in May, and then did a stint on the disabled list. He struggled at times after returning to action in June, and the A’s optioned him to Nashville at the start of July, where he’s been doing his best to master Triple-A hitters as well as his own arsenal.

His Pacific Coast League performances have been improving of late, and we spoke with Hahn just a day before his best outing for Nashville this season, when he allowed 1 run on 4 hits over 6 innings of work for the Sounds. And after spending some time talking with him, it’s clear that he has one simple goal in mind…


AF:  I wanted to get your perspective on your experience down here. Of course, Nashville’s a nice place, but we all know you’d obviously rather be up in Oakland than here in Triple-A. And I know you’ve got some stuff to work on here. So, what’s your focus while you’re here in Nashville?

JH:  To get back to the big leagues – I mean, you have to. You’ve got to keep your head up and you’ve got to keep working hard. I have this thing where when something doesn’t go my way, I just work harder. If I get sent down or if I end up here…I mean, Nashville’s a great city, don’t get me wrong. I enjoy it when I’m here. I enjoy the clubhouse, the coaching staff, all the guys in here, but at the end of the day, the main goal is to be in the big leagues and stay there. So, it gives you that motivation to work harder and get there.

AF:  I’m sure the coaching staff has particular things they want you to focus on here. So, what specific things are you really trying to work on here?

JH:  Yeah, I’m always trying to improve my changeup. I have a good one, but I need to use it more. So, this is a time and place to use it more and work on that. So, that’s kind of what I’ve been doing lately. And you can always touch up on your fastball command, especially myself. So, those are two things for me – fastball command and working on the changeup and just throwing it more.

AF:  What do you find the differences are between the times when you’re going really well and everything’s working for you and then the times when things just aren’t going so well for you?

JH:  You know, sometimes when you do struggle, you start thinking about things. You think about, “Wow, something might be wrong. I might have to fix something.” When it might not be – it might be that I just had a bad outing, I made the wrong pitches, I threw the right pitch but I didn’t execute it, instead of getting all caught up in, “Oh, it could be my mechanics – I need to work on this and work on that.” So, I’ve found that sometimes less is more – simplify things as much as you can, because it’s a complicated game. So, that’s kind of what I do – I try to take something really small and hopefully that’s the quick fix that I need.

AF:  Rather than thinking about everything too much and letting it all spiral out of control…

JH:  Yeah, exactly!

AF:  Is there much difference for you facing hitters at this level as opposed to hitters at the major league level?

JH:  I think guys here are a little more aggressive. At the big league level, they’re patient and they have a good approach. Up there, if you’re not locating your fastball, you’ll get behind in counts easily, whereas here, you might get a couple favors with guys swinging at some stuff. I mean, it’s a tough league to pitch in, but obviously the big leagues is a tougher league to pitch in. You can’t make as many mistakes in the big leagues. They’ll make you pay a little bit more, whereas here, you might be able to get by with a couple. But there’s not a huge difference – it’s a really good league.

AF:  Well, a good percentage of the guys down here have spent time up there before too. So, how do you feel your overall command is at this point?

JH:  I think it could use a little bit of a tune-up, but I feel good. I’m still working on things. I think every day you can work on your fastball command. There’s no such thing as perfecting it. You can always get better at it, so that’s kind of where I’m at.

AF:  Now what about the personal side of things? You had been living in the Bay Area, and then suddenly you had to up and move to Nashville. So, where are you staying out here?

JH:  I just stay in a hotel when I’m down here. I still have my place in Oakland in case I get called back up. Like I said before, keep it simple! My wife’s out here now. She goes back and forth. She’s still staying in Oakland, but whenever we get a long home stand, she flies out here with the dog just to make it seem the same, like things haven’t changed too much.

AF:  So, have you been able to spend much time getting to explore Nashville while you’ve been here?

JH:  Yeah, I’m out and about every morning. I’m a big food guy. I love to explore different restaurants and find what’s out there. So, every morning I wake up early and find a new breakfast spot and eat there and find a new lunch spot. And if we have time to get dinner, I go out and do that. But other than that, I’m not a big partier. I don’t really go out much, so that’s kind of it for me.

AF:  You’re going out in the day, not the night! So, now that we’re headed into the last part of the season, what are you thinking about trying to get done here in the remainder of the season?

JH:  Just trying to finish up strong, finish healthy and end up in the big leagues again. That’s where I want to be – that’s my main goal.

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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.

Mondou & Bailey on Making the Big Move from Beloit to Stockton

by Bill Moriarity / A’s Farm Editor

spRoFg4u4YThere’s been a mighty big turnover on Stockton’s roster since the start of the season.

And just since June, infielders Nate Mondou and Edwin Diaz, outfielder Luis Barrera and pitchers Brandon Bailey, Brendan Butler, Dalton Sawyer, Norge Ruiz and Miguel Romero have all joined Stockton from Beloit for the second half.

Late last week in Stockton, we took the opportunity to talk to a pair of those players, second baseman Nate Mondou and right-hander Brandon Bailey, who also happen to be roommates, to see how the duo was adjusting to life in the California League…



nm670148bThe lefty-swinging second baseman was the A’s 13th-round draft pick last year out of Wake Forest. Mondou spent the first few months of the 2017 season hitting near the top of the order for the Snappers, and his .296 batting average and .371 on-base percentage both led Beloit batters when he was promoted to the Ports. Since joining Stockton late last month, the 22-year-old has posted a .279/.352/.441 slash line over his first 28 games for the Ports. In a recent interview with Stockton manager Rick Magnante, the skipper said about Mondou: “His ability to swing the bat has been impressive. I think he’s a sleeper. I think you could see Nate in the big leagues.”

AF:  You started out the season in Beloit. And I know sometimes those first couple of rainy, chilly months in the Midwest League can be rough for hitters, so how did you handle hitting in the conditions there?

NM:  Definitely, it was freezing cold when we got there. It rained quite a bit. But in those type of situations, you’ve just got to stick with the process and try to simplify everything, because the outside conditions kind of made it tough. But overall, it was a good experience and I was able to learn a lot. It’s always good to learn how to play in those conditions before coming up to higher levels. So, overall it was good, but it was kind of tough at first like you said. Not being able to feel your hands at the plate is kind of rough.

AF:  Yeah, when your hands are on the verge of frostbite, it’s probably a little hard to hit.

NM:  Exactly!

AF:  You got off to a good start there though, and you had a nice hitting streak going there for a while, so you obviously managed to deal with it. But coming here to the California League in the second half has got to be a great development for you.

NM:  Definitely, very glad to be here. It’s definitely more of a hitters’ league. It’s a little bit of an adjustment just being able to hit the ball in the air a little bit more. In Beloit, it didn’t quite fly as well as it does here. So, I’m just kind of making little adjustments here and there to fit the ballpark and fit the league and everything. But I’m very glad to be here. It’s nice to have nice, dry, warm weather every day.

AF:  Where’d you grow up?

NM:  I grew up just about an hour south of Seattle, Washington…so it’s nice to be back on the west coast too.

AF:  Do you find any differences with the pitchers you’re facing here in the California League compared to what you were used to seeing in the Midwest League?

NM:  Yeah, it’s definitely another level up. There’s a little more consistency in the quality of pitching, and that carries over for both the starters and the bullpen guys. We definitely saw some very good arms up there in the Midwest League, but down here, it’s day in and day out, and every guy coming out of the ‘pen too.

AF:  What kind of adjustments have you had to make since you’ve been here in Stockton?

Nate Mondou (photo by Meghan Camino)

Nate Mondou
(photo by Meghan Camino)

NM:  Yeah, I think earlier in the year I didn’t really use the pull side of the field as much. I was kind of really, really focused on driving the ball the other way. And I think coming here, I’ve seen a lot more fastballs in, a lot more pitches inside, so I’ve kind of tried to open up the field, kind of going left-center/right-center rather than just kind of left of center field. So, that’s been the biggest thing for me, being able to open up that right side of the field.

AF:  What do you feel are the biggest strengths of your game? What are you really confident that you’re bringing to the table for a team?

NM:  I think the biggest thing is a quality at-bat. I’m going to try to grind out an at-bat no matter how tough the situation is and try not to take any at-bat for granted. Definitely working deep in counts, and once I get to two strikes, hopefully grinding a long at-bat out. I think that’s probably one of the biggest things for me, not taking anything for granted, not letting one at-bat slip through my fingers. So, quality at-bats – that’s probably one of the biggest things for me.

AF:  Now you’re a smaller guy, so people probably weren’t looking at you as being a big, powerful prospect coming out of school. So, have you had to play the game with that sort of underdog mentality, feeling like you had to prove to people what you were really capable of doing on the field?

NM:  Yeah, definitely. There’s always that height thing that’s always been mentioned at every level I’ve played at. So, it’s kind of nice to show people that doesn’t really matter and that you can work past it no matter what. I came out of college hitting a bunch of home runs and kind of had to change my approach once I got here to more of a table-setter type. So, I’m trying to hit more line drives, and I think that’s helped me succeed so far, especially with the average. The power numbers aren’t where they were in college, but I think I’m slowly working to kind of find the best of both worlds between the contact and the power.

AF:  Well, if you spend enough time in the California League, you might just become a power hitter again!

NM:  Exactly!

AF:  On the personal side, since you had to move here in the middle of the season, where are you staying at, who are you living with, and what’s life like off the field here in Stockton?

NM:  Yeah, it was kind of a whirlwind couple of days coming from Wisconsin out here and trying to figure out who I’m living with. But I’m living with Eli White and Brandon Bailey right now in an apartment. It’s a little bit more expensive than out there in Wisconsin, but it’s a nice setup and we’ve got a nice little spot and they’re a couple of good guys to live with, so I’m happy.

AF:  And you’ve got sunshine every day!

NM:  Exactly, no thunderstorms!

AF:  Well, you’ve got a little over a month of the minor league season left here now in Stockton. So, what are you really focused on this final month or so of the season here?

NM:  I think consistency is the biggest thing for me, just trying not to have a roller-coaster type of season. Of course, there’s always going to be ups and downs, but trying to keep it as close to the main line as possible. So, I think just finishing strong. I’ve had multiple coaches tell me so far this year, “It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish.” And that’s what people really care about. So, I had a good strong start, but I’m definitely focused on continuing that consistency throughout the year and finishing strong.



bb669064bThe A’s made Bailey their 6th-round pick in last year’s draft after he struck out 125 batters in 100 1/3 innings while posting a 2.42 ERA in his junior year at Gonzaga. He spent most of last season playing for Vermont, the A’s Class-A affiliate in the short-season New York-Penn League, where he put up a solid 3.08 ERA in 10 appearances for the Lake Monsters. But Bailey was even more impressive for Beloit in the first half of this season, posting a 2.68 ERA while notching 73 strikeouts over 57 innings of work for the Snappers. Since being promoted to the Ports earlier this month, the 22-year-old has struck out 27 in 19 1/3 innings while compiling a 6.05 ERA for Stockton. We’ve periodically featured blog posts by Bailey about his experiences in the A’s minor league system, which you can find here.

AF:  You got called up here to Stockton from Beloit about a month ago. So, how has it been for you adjusting to a whole new league here this past month?

BB:  It’s been exciting, just for the mere fact that I’m back on the west coast. Being a West Coast Conference guy in college, this is where we had our conference tournament, and I’m real familiar with the park. So, it wasn’t like a complete shock. I was really familiar with the park and how it plays. I was just really excited to move up a level. It’s a long season, and you’re just trying to climb the ladder. And at the end of the day, I just couldn’t be happier to be back on the west coast.

AF:  So, remind me where you were born and where you went to school.

BB:  I was born in Westminster, Colorado and lived in the Denver metro area my whole life. My parents still live there today. I reside in Broomfield, Colorado. That’s kind of my hometown – about 20 minutes north of Denver and 15 minutes east of Boulder. And when college came, I moved to Spokane, Washington, where Gonzaga University is. And that’s kind of where I’m living currently in the offseason, just because I’m trying to finish up my degree. I hope and plan to go back this fall to knock out that last semester that I have and be done, and then from there, just go back to spring training and do it all over again.

AF:  What are you majoring in?

BB:  Sports management with a minor in public relations.

AF:  Well, that might come in handy!

BB:  Yeah, definitely useful. I love being around sports, and it’s something that I would like to pursue after the playing career is over, whether that be working in professional baseball or I’ve always had a really big passion for Nike and all the products that they release, especially the N7 brand that they have going. My dream would be to work for Nike when it’s all said and done.

AF:  You got off to a really good start to the season in Beloit. So, is there anything you’ve found that’s particularly different here in the California League?

BB:  I think the biggest adjustment is that you can’t kind of give in in those hitter advantage counts. Sometimes in the Midwest League, the parks play big and you know if you get behind that you can challenge a little bit up. They might know your 2-0 fastball is coming, but the park plays big enough that you’re not going to get hurt. And so far, in the majority of these parks, if they’re bigger, the wind blows out really hard, and if they’re smaller, it blows out even more! So, you’ve just got to be really particular with all your pitches. And I think the emphasis for me, the biggest adjustment, is really emphasizing getting ahead in the count, putting the hitter in a position where they’re unfamiliar with what’s coming, where they’re kind of on their heels and they can’t be as aggressive as they might be in the 1-0 or 2-0 counts.

AF:  Yeah, with these parks in the Cal League, if you get behind, you can’t afford to groove one in there!

BB:  Yep, but I like that challenge a little bit too, because it makes me focus just that much more on trying to be that much more conscious and particular with my pitches, and I feel like that’s actually helping me get better. And I’ve heard that at Midland, the strike zone gets a little bit smaller. So, I’m just focusing on really hitting spots. And I think that’s good for me, because in college, I knew that I could just challenge you up with a fastball and the exact location didn’t really matter – I knew that I was probably going to win that battle. But here in pro ball, it’s not exactly the same.

AF:  Well, the strike zone might be smaller in the Texas League, but the good news is the parks are bigger – and the wind isn’t usually blowing out!

Brandon Bailey (photo by Meghan Camino)

Brandon Bailey
(photo by Meghan Camino)

BB:  There you go!

AF:  Tell me a little bit about your repertoire and what you’re working with.

BB:  I throw five pitches. It was four, but four days ago I learned a new pitch, so now it’s five. I throw a four-seam fastball which has a really high spin rate, so it’s got good ride and carry through the zone. I guess to the hitter, they perceive it as the ball kind of rising almost. Oakland’s really been encouraging me to throw the ball up in the zone, which, going into professional baseball, you’re taught your whole life to keep the ball down. But here, they want me to throw up with my fastball, so that’s really kind of a bit of a change for me, but it’s kind of nice at the same time, because I do like throwing up in the zone with that fastball. So, I throw a four-seam fastball, a four-seam changeup which spins the same way as the fastball – it just has an arm-side drop and run to it. And then, I throw a slider, which is now a true slider. In college, it was kind of more of a slurve, but I’ve tightened it up and I’ve been throwing it a lot harder lately, which is nice. And then this offseason, I added a spiked curve, just because I wanted to have a get-me-over breaking ball that looked a little bit different to the hitter, so that way they wouldn’t be able to sit on something hard early in the count, whether that be the fastball or the slider. And then, I just added a cutter four days ago, which is really exciting because, like I said before, my four-seam fastball’s pretty straight and true – it has good carry, but not a lot of movement to either side. And this cutter has been moving glove side with late action to it, so it’s just a nice extra tool that I can have in my repertoire just to keep the hitters honest.

AF:  Well, that’s a couple more pitches than most guys have at this level!

BB:  Yeah, so the biggest thing for me is the fastball/change has always been my bread and butter, so now it’s just trying to get those breaking pitches, along with the cutter, up to speed and hopefully get them to be big league average or a tick better than that.

AF:  So, have you used the cutter in a game yet?

BB:  Yeah, I did in a game versus the Quakes. I threw three – one was really good, one was straight as an arrow and one went in the dirt. So, I went one for three, but I’ll take it for only having thrown it for like two days in advance.

AF:  On the personal side of things, you had to make a move here in the middle of the season from Wisconsin to California. So, where are you staying at and who are you living with now?

BB:  I think the person who was most excited for me to move out here was my girlfriend, because she’s actually from Sacramento. So, when I told her, she was pumped. But I currently reside in an apartment complex about fifteen minutes north of the stadium. I’m living with Nate Mondou and Eli White in a two-bedroom apartment. It’s the typical minor league apartment. We’ve got the cardboard box as the TV stand. We’re all living on air mattresses. But at the end of the day, it’s still a lot of fun. They’re great guys to live with. I was able to room with Eli White in Vermont to start everything off last summer, so me and him are really good buds. And then with Mondou being in Beloit, we obviously knew each other. So, it’s been a good fit. It’s been a little bit of an adjustment going from a host family in Beloit to apartment living, but I kind of enjoy it. It’s a lot of fun.

AF:  Well, probably most of your time is spent out here at the park anyway.

BB:  Exactly! All you’ve got to do is wake up, make breakfast and then go to the park and you’re here basically the majority of your day anyway.

AF:  Well, we’re heading into the final month or so of the minor league season now. So, what are you thinking about and what are you trying to accomplish in the last month or so here?

BB:  I think it’s just to finish strong. At the start of the year, there can be some bumps in the road – everyone has their ups and downs. But I remember in spring training, [minor league pitching coordinator] Gil Patterson and [farm director] Keith Lieppman and [special assistant] Grady Fuson and all these guys saying, “It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish.” And they re-emphasize that when the first teams come out, because some guys aren’t exactly thrilled with where they’re starting. So, my goal is just to try to continue to work on my craft and really get a feel for these new pitches – the curveball and the cutter that I’m adding. And just try to finish strong here in Stockton and hopefully end on a high note and go into the offseason with some good goals to try and achieve, and then come back and hopefully fight like hell to make the Midland roster. I think, at the end of the day, it’s just trying to see progress with each day that you come to the field and when you leave the park, you can say, “I got better today.” So, the goal each day is to try to get a little bit better than you were the day before.

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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.

Stockton Center Fielder Skye Bolt Loving Life in the California League

by Bill Moriarity / A’s Farm Editor

sb621450bThe A’s made Skye Bolt their 4th-round selection in the 2015 draft after the Georgia native put up a .259/.383/.449 slash line in his junior season at the University of North Carolina. The center fielder was viewed as a toolsy prospect who possessed speed, a strong arm, a solid glove, good bat speed and some raw power potential. After spending 2015 with short-season Vermont and 2016 in Beloit, Bolt is now spending the 2017 season with Stockton in the California League.

After Monday’s contest, Bolt was sporting a .239/.338/.439 slash line for the Ports. He leads the team with 9 stolen bases and is tied for the team lead in walks with 42. The 23-year-old has significantly increased his power numbers this year and has already hit a career-high 10 home runs in 81 games this season. Last week, after batting practice in Stockton, we took the opportunity to talk with Bolt about his first season in the California League…


AF:  So, how do you feel your first season in the California League has been going for you so far?

SB:  Yeah, it’s been a great year thus far. The Cal League’s been very receptive. I enjoy the home ballpark. That’s obviously a blessing and a nice place to play day in and day out. Everybody here’s been real receptive. It’s a well-oiled machine. It’s been great thus far – good first half of the season, good start to the second half. Every day’s getting better than the day before it, and that’s the name of the game. For me, it’s been a great season as far as improving things I wanted to improve. And I’m going to keep putting the right foot in front of the left and repeat as we go into this last quarter of the season.

AF:  How is it hitting here in the California League as opposed to hitting in the Midwest League in Beloit? I know they’re very different environments.

SB:  Yeah, definitely! That first month and a half to two months out in Beloit is unfriendly to say the least. But the Cal League’s been great. You’re forewarned to not fall into a trap, especially here in Stockton with the short porch in right. And for me personally, it’s been beneficial for me – not in the sense of hitting the long ball and utilizing it, but keeping my approach away from trying to do damage to that side of the field. The Cal League is obviously great as far as other ballparks. There’s eight teams, so you get to see everybody. You start to build that understanding and familiarity with different pitchers – or the same pitchers. And that’s what you’re going to see as you go up the ladder. I know in Midland, our Double-A club, it’s a small league as well. But as you go up the ladder, you’re going to see guys over and over again. So, it’s a learning experience, just like everything else. But I’ve really, really enjoyed playing here.

AF:  I would think so. Those first couple of months of the season in the Midwest League, when it’s raining every other day, it must make it a little tough to get into a groove.

SB:  Absolutely! There’s no rainouts here. You’re going to play every day. The game on the schedule is going to be played one way or another. And that’s great!

Skye Bolt (photo by Meghan Camino)

Skye Bolt
(photo by Meghan Camino)

AF:  Have the pitchers here in the California League been approaching you any differently than what you’ve been used to seeing in the past?

SB:  Yeah, again back to seeing the same guys over and over again, you start to build a log. A lot of us guys keep track of what certain pitchers are trying to do to us. And that’s something that we visit quite often as we see them what seems like every two weeks. But I feel like guys are more in the zone. They’ve got more of an aggressive, attack-the-zone mentality, which for me as a hitter, I love. I enjoy a pitcher who’s going to attack the zone and going to come right at you. And that’s, for the most part, what we’ve gotten here in the Cal League – more refined arms working to attack the zone as they’re trying to go up the ladder as well.

AF:  Well, at least you’re more likely to see more pitches you can get the bat on anyway.

SB:  And that’s exactly it! You ask any hitter and they’ll tell you they’d much prefer that kind of guy.

AF:  What kind of adjustments have you had to make this season, and what have you really been trying to work on this year as a hitter?

SB:  For me personally, it’s been the duality of being a switch hitter and getting the reps on both sides and working with [hitting coach] Tommy [Everidge] on what I need day in and day out to maintain both sides of the dish, which to this point, I think I’ve done. And for me, the adjustment has been not missing my pitch. Reflecting back on the past two seasons, it’s just been a lot of misses. Did the pitcher get you out or did you get yourself out? You ask any hitter, and 70% of the time they’re going to say, I got myself out. And that’s the tough part of the game. But 70% of the time, it’s on us to get the pitch that you’re looking for and do with it what you’re supposed to. And most of the time with hitters, it’s “I missed my pitch” – it wasn’t the strike-three call. So, this season, it’s been not missing my pitch, being prepared each and every pitch, getting myself in a good hitting position, especially from the left side of the plate, to attack my pitch and do what I want with it. And thus far in the season, I’ve done a better job of that and I’ve started to do more damage with some extra bases.

AF:  I know the minor league season can be a bit of a grind, and we’re getting into the dog days here towards the end.

SB:  Yep.

AF:  So, this last month or so here, what are you really focused on and what are you trying to accomplish as we head into the home stretch of the season?

SB:  In the home stretch of the season, you want to be as aggressive as you can be. You don’t want to leave a season saying, “I wish I would have been a little more aggressive.” But being aggressive gives you more opportunities, and that’s something that I’ve aimed to do progressively over the past few seasons – be aggressive and let my tools play, and be the athlete that I know I can be and that I have to be in order to continue to go where I want to go in this game. And I can’t stress enough, I don’t think any position player wants to leave the season having this conversation with you or others saying, “I wish I was a little more aggressive.” Let it all out, attack your pitches, attack bases, take extra bases on the base paths – that’s my goal for this last quarter. So, this home stretch of the season, it’s just be aggressive, play my game and let the cards fall where they may.

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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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