Minor League Teams

Meet Your 2016 Nashville Sounds

nstumblr_nn6zzrPnCN1qedy4lo1_500bYesterday we previewed the Oakland A’s 2016 major league roster (here), and today it’s time to take a look ahead at the Triple-A Nashville Sounds roster for the coming season. The Sounds will be beginning their second season as the A’s top affiliate in the Pacific Coast League, with Steve Scarsone returning as the team’s skipper. And many of the organization’s top young hitting prospects, including Matt Olson, Chad Pinder and Renato Nunez, are expected to make their Triple-A debuts at Nashville this season. The organization typically likes to start the season with 12 position players and 13 pitchers on the Triple-A roster, so let’s take a look at the players who are most likely to find themselves filling out the Nashville Sounds opening day roster in 2016.

 

CATCHERS

Carson Blair

Carson Blair

As things currently stand, it looks like last year’s primary catching corps at Midland could be taking over at Nashville this season. In 2015, Carson Blair made it all the way from Midland to Oakland over the course of his first season in the system after signing on as a minor league free agent, and he should start the year at Nashville as the most likely candidate to get the call should the A’s need reinforcements behind the plate. Bruce Maxwell, who spent all of last season at Midland, appears well-positioned to move up a level and join Blair as part of the Sounds’ 2016 catching combo. There is some chance though that Matt McBride, whom the A’s signed as a minor league free agent, could possibly end up taking over the role as the Sounds’ second catcher. The minor league veteran has primarily served as an outfielder and first baseman of late and hasn’t appeared behind the plate since 2013, but he has caught 169 minor league games and the A’s do currently have him listed among the catching corps on the team’s list of non-roster invitees to its major league training camp this spring. Meanwhile, top young catching prospect Jacob Nottingham should be starting the season just one level away at Double-A Midland.

 

MIDDLE INFIELDERS

Chad Pinder

Chad Pinder

Joey Wendle appeared in 137 of Nashville’s 144 games last season and didn’t spend one inning anywhere in the field other than at second base. And the 25-year-old prospect should be the starting second baseman in Music City again next season but, with Andy Parrino gone via free agency, Wendle’s primary double play partner this year is set to to be shortstop Chad Pinder, who is coming off his Texas League MVP season. The versatile Tyler Ladendorf is also likely to get playing time at both middle infield positions and should see some time in the outfield as well. Minor league free agent infielder Josh Rodriguez, whom the A’s signed in the offseason, has spent plenty of time at both middle infield positions as well as at third base but, if Wendle, Pinder and Ladendorf all start the season at Nashville, then Rodriguez could end up being a better fit for the second base spot at Double-A Midland, right across the bag from top shortstop prospect Franklin Barreto.

 

CORNER INFIELDERS

Renato Nunez

Renato Nunez

There should be no shortage of candidates for the corner infield positions at Nashville next season, but there will now be one less name in the mix with the release of first baseman Nate Freiman. Young slugger Renato Nunez will move up from Midland and should get the majority of the starts at third base, while Rangel Ravelo is likely to spend the bulk of his time at first base, with Max Muncy bouncing between both corner infield positions. Top prospect Matt Olson will also see some time at first base, but the slugger actually spent more time in the outfield than at first base during the second half of last season and seems poised to spend much more time in the outfield again next season. And if Nunez, Ravelo, Muncy and Olson all start the season with Nashville, until a roster spot opens up, first baseman/third baseman Ryon Healy may have to start the year repeating a level at Double-A Midland, where 2014’s #1 draft pick for the A’s, Matt Chapman, is likely to be the main man at the hot corner in 2016.

 

OUTFIELDERS

Jake Smolinski

Jake Smolinski

A trio of outfielders with MLB experience is set to see time in the Sounds’ outfield next season. If Josh Reddick, Billy Burns, Coco Crisp, Mark Canha and Sam Fuld all open the season on the A’s major league roster as expected, then Jake Smolinski will end up starting the year at Nashville, along with 27-year-old outfielder Andrew Lambo (who’s spent time with the Pirates) and 30-year-old outfielder Matt McBride (who’s appeared with the Rockies). Lambo and McBride are also capable of playing first base, and McBride could end up seeing some time behind the plate as well. Top prospect Matt Olson, who, as previously mentioned, spent more time in the outfield than at first base during the second half of last season, will be joining this experienced trio in the Sounds’ outfield mix and should be spending plenty of time roaming the outfield grass at First Tennessee Park as he looks to make his mark at the Triple-A level next season. All four of them will undoubtedly spend some time rotating through the designated hitter slot for the Sounds as well. But since they all are primarily corner outfielders, that could open up the opportunity for Jaycob Brugman to receive the bulk of the starts in center field for the Sounds, with Tyler Ladendorf available to give Brugman a break in center when he’s not busy appearing elsewhere in the infield.

 

STARTING PITCHERS

Sean Manaea

Sean Manaea

Since left-handers Sean Nolin and Felix Doubront are both out of options, it seems somewhat unlikely that they’ll be factoring into things at Nashville next season unless either of them could somehow manage to make it through waivers. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be plenty of other viable candidates for the Sounds’ starting rotation though. Right-hander Aaron Brooks, who made nine starts for the A’s late last year, seems as likely as anyone to start the season in the Triple-A rotation. And since the A’s front office has made it sound as if they still view Jarrod Parker as a starter, then Nashville’s rotation would appear to be Parker’s most likely landing spot in the coming season. Right-hander Zach Neal, who was one of the Sounds’ most reliable starters last year, seems like a good bet to open the season in the rotation, as does veteran righty Chris Smith, whom the A’s signed as a minor league free agent after he was solid in 22 starts for the Padres’ Triple-A affiliate at El Paso last year. The final spot in the Sounds’ starting rotation seems likely to go to the A’s top minor league pitching prospect, left-hander Sean Manaea, who was impressive at Double-A Midland last season after coming over from Kansas City in the Ben Zobrist deal. And if another spot should open up in the Triple-A rotation due to either injuries or trades, then another left-handed pitching prospect, Dillon Overton, could be in line to make the move up from Midland as well.

 

RELIEF PITCHERS

R.J. Alvarez

R.J. Alvarez

As usual, there are far more deserving candidates for the bullpen at the Triple-A level than there are available spots. The organization usually likes to start the season with eight relievers at Triple-A. And if there’s no room in the reconfigured major league bullpen on opening day for Ryan Dull – especially with Fernando Rodriguez out of options – then the right-hander may find himself waiting in the wings at Nashville to start the season. R.J. Alvarez and the recently-acquired J.B. Wendelken should join Dull as two other promising young righty relievers for the Sounds. Angel Castro, who made his major league debut with the A’s last season, was re-signed as a minor league free agent and will surely be back in the Nashville bullpen, along with returning right-hander Taylor Thompson, likely leaving room on the right side for one of either Ryan Brasier on Aaron Kurcz – and Brasier may hold the edge as he has major league experience and has received an invitation to the A’s major league spring training camp, unlike Kurcz. Meanwhile, Daniel Coulombe, who appeared with the A’s late last season after coming over from the Dodgers, and minor league free agent signee Eric Surkamp, who’s spent time in the majors with the Dodgers, Giants and White Sox, seem set to provide reliable relief options from the left side. Of course, there are plenty of other worthy candidates for spots in the Triple-A bullpen, including a couple of recent minor league free agent signees, lefty Patrick Schuster and righty Eduard Santos, as well as recently-acquired right-hander Trey Cochran-Gill, and organizational stalwarts like Seth Frankoff, Tucker Healy, Ryan Doolittle, Kris Hall and Jeff Urlaub, who’ve all done their duty at the Double-A level.

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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 2016 Minor League Staff

 

Nashville Sounds manager Steve Scarsone

Nashville Sounds manager Steve Scarsone

NASHVILLE SOUNDS (Triple-A)

Manager: Steve Scarsone

Pitching Coach: Rick Rodriguez

Hitting Coach: Eric Martins

Steve Scarsone returns to Triple-A Nashville for the second consecutive season after the Sounds finished 66-78 in 2015. This will be his fourth consecutive season as manager of the A’s Triple-A club and he now has a 634-632 record in nine seasons as a minor league manager, including stints in the A’s system with Midland from 2011-12, Stockton in 2010 and Kane County in 2009. Rick Rodriguez will be the pitching coach after holding that role with Single-A Stockton last year. This is his 32nd season in the A’s organization, which includes seven seasons as a player and two years as bullpen coach in Oakland (2011-12). Eric Martins takes over as hitting coach after making his minor league coaching debut as hitting coach at Midland in 2015. Brad LaRosa returns as the athletic trainer and AJ Seeliger was named strength and conditioning coach.

 

Midland RockHounds manager Ryan Christenson

Midland RockHounds manager Ryan Christenson

MIDLAND ROCKHOUNDS (Double-A)

Manager: Ryan Christenson

Pitching Coach: John Wasdin

Hitting Coach: Brian McArn

Ryan Christenson returns to Double-A Midland after guiding the RockHounds to their second consecutive Texas League championship last year. He is now 245-174 in three seasons as a manager and has led his club to the playoffs all three seasons. John Wasdin returns as Christenson’s pitching coach for the fourth consecutive season and Brian McArn moves up from Stockton to take over as hitting coach. This is McArn’s 19th season as hitting coach in the A’s farm system, which includes a stop at Midland in 2004. Justin Whitehouse returns as the athletic trainer and Henry Torres will be the strength and conditioning coach.

 

Stockton Ports manager Rick Magnante

Stockton Ports manager Rick Magnante

STOCKTON PORTS (High-A)

Manager: Rick Magnante

Pitching Coach: Steve Connelly

Hitting Coach: Tommy Everidge

Rick Magnante will manage at Stockton for the second consecutive season following a 74-66 showing in 2015. He is now 531-563 in 13 seasons as a manager in the minors. Steve Connelly is in his first season as the Ports pitching coach after holding that job with Short Season Single-A Vermont in 2014 and Single-A Beloit in 2015. Tommy Everidge joins Stockton as hitting coach after serving in that capacity for Vermont in 2014 and 2015. Travis Tims returns as athletic trainer and Sean Doran takes over as strength and conditioning coach.

 

Beloit Snappers manager Fran Riordan

Beloit Snappers manager Fran Riordan

BELOIT SNAPPERS (Class-A)

Manager: Fran Riordan

Pitching Coach: Don Schulze

Hitting Coach: Juan Dilone

Fran Riordan returns to manage Beloit for the second consecutive season after the Snappers finished 55-84 in 2015. He spent the previous 14 years managing in independent leagues. Don Schulze is in his first season as pitching coach at Beloit after spending last year at Nashville. This is 11th season as pitching coach in the A’s farm system. Juan Dilone will be the hitting coach after spending the previous seven years with the A’s affiliate in the Arizona Rookie League. Brian Thorson returns as athletic trainer and Matt Rutledge will serve as strength and conditioning coach.

 

Vermont Lake Monsters manager Aaron Nieckula

Vermont Lake Monsters manager Aaron Nieckula

VERMONT LAKE MONSTERS (Class-A Short-Season)

Manager: Aaron Nieckula

Pitching Coach: Carlos Chavez

Hitting Coach: Lloyd Turner

In addition to his duties as the A’s minor league field coordinator, Aaron Nieckula will manage the A’s Short Season club at Vermont for the second consecutive season. It is his 11th year as a manager in the A’s farm system and he has a 649-679 record over the previous 10 seasons. Carlos Chavez returns as pitching coach for the second consecutive year and Lloyd Turner takes over as hitting coach after spending the previous two seasons at Beloit. Toshi Nagahara returns as the athletic trainer and Omar Aguilar is the strength and conditioning coach.

 

Arizona League A's manager Webster Garrison

Arizona League A’s manager Webster Garrison

ARIZONA LEAGUE A’S (Rookie Short-Season)

Manager: Webster Garrison

Pitching Coach: TBA

Hitting Coach: Ruben Escalera

Webster Garrison will be the manager of the A’s affiliate in the Arizona Rookie League, his ninth season as manager. He last managed at Stockton in 2013 and has a 534-522 record over his previous eight seasons. This is his 24th season in the A’s organization, which includes 17 years as a minor league manager or coach and seven years as a player. Ruben Escalera will be the hitting coach after managing the club the previous two seasons and Gabe Ortiz will be a coach. Chris Lessner returns as the athletic trainer and Terence Brannic is the strength and conditioning coach.

 

Minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson

Minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson

Minor League Field Coordinator: Aaron Nieckula

Minor League Hitting Coordinator: Jim Eppard

Minor League Pitching Coordinator: Gil Patterson

Minor League Rehab Pitching Coordinator: Craig Lefferts

Minor League Defensive Coordinator: Juan Navarrette

Gil Patterson returns to the A’s organization as minor league pitching coordinator after spending the previous three years in the Yankees organization in a similar role. Patterson was the A’s minor league roving pitching instructor in 1996 and from 2008-12 and also coached in the A’s farm system from 1991-95. Jim Eppard was named minor league hitting coordinator after spending 13 seasons in the Angels organization. He spent the last two years as assistant hitting coordinator after a two-year stint as the Angels major league hitting coach. Juan Navarrete is in his 22nd season with the A’s and will be the minor league defensive coordinator and Craig Lefferts and Aaron Nieckula return for their second consecutive season as minor league rehab pitching coordinator and minor league field coordinator, respectively.

 

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.

Renato Nunez Joins Chad Pinder as A’s Top Hitting Prospects in Arizona Fall League while Matt Chapman Is Sidelined with Wrist Injury

afl_rsardpq5_oyouytpm1bWhile most baseball fans are focused on the drama of postseason play in the fall, it’s also an important time for some of the minor leagues’ top prospects. And starting next Tuesday, some of the A’s most promising young prospects will begin play in the Arizona Fall League. Last year’s top draft pick for the A’s, third baseman Matt Chapman, was originally scheduled to participate, but a lingering wrist injury will leave him sidelined, and he’ll be replaced by fellow third baseman Renato Nunez.

The Arizona Fall League has been going strong for the past couple of decades now, and its schedule runs for about 5-6 weeks from early-October through mid-November. There are 6 teams in the AFL, with each team comprised of prospects from 5 different organizations. A’s prospects will be playing for the Mesa Solar Sox this year, where they’ll be joined by players from the Angels, Marlins, Cubs and Rays, including former A’s prospect Daniel Robertson.

Attendance at AFL games typically hovers in the 200s, with the crowds comprised largely of scouts, agents and various professional baseball personnel. Most organizations use the AFL as an opportunity to get some of their top prospects a little more live game action to hopefully help advance their development.

Some of the A’s top young hitting prospects will be seeing action in Arizona, including shortstop Chad Pinder and third baseman Renato Nunez along with their Midland teammate, outfielder Jaycob Brugman, while the A’s AFL pitching contingent this year will be comprised of promising left-hander Sean Manaea as well as right-handed relievers Brendan McCurry, Kris Hall and Aaron Kurcz.

 

–A’s Prospects in the AFL in 2015–

 

cpPinder, Chad3Chad Pinder

Shortstop

Age: 23

Midland RockHounds

15 HR / 28 BB / 103 K / .317 AVG / .361 OBP / .486 SLG / .847 OPS

Pinder put together an impressive season while serving as Midland’s starting shortstop this year. The 23-year-old led all A’s minor league regulars with a .317 batting average, while his 86 RBIs were the second-most in the system next to Nashville’s Jason Pridie. Pinder possesses a little pop too, and he posted 15 home runs to go along with 32 doubles in the notoriously difficult hitting environment at Midland. Pinder could still stand to improve his plate discipline a bit though, and he’ll have the opportunity to work on that in the AFL while he prepares to take over as the starting shortstop at Nashville next season.

 

rnNunez, Renato3Renato Nunez

Third Baseman

Age: 21

Midland RockHounds

18 HR / 28 BB / 66 K / .278 AVG / .332 OBP / .480 SLG / .812 OPS

With Matt Chapman sidelined with a wrist injury, Nunez will now get the chance to make his AFL debut in 2015. The 21-year-old put together a solid season at Midland and, despite missing the first month of the season due to injury, still managed to post the third-highest home run total in the A’s minor league system with 18. Nunez also improved his walk and strikeout rates a bit this year while increasing his versatility by making a handful of starts at first base for the RockHounds. And the Venezuelan slugger will now have the opportunity to continue to refine his game in the AFL as he prepares to make his Triple-A debut in 2016.

 

jbBrugman, Jaycob3Jaycob Brugman

Outfielder

Age: 23

Midland RockHounds

6 HR / 62 BB / 89 K / .260 AVG / .343 OBP / .382 SLG / .725 OPS

The A’s 17th-round draft pick in 2013, Brugman is a solid all-around player who doesn’t jump off the page at you but manages to do everything well enough to be a productive performer on the field. The 23-year-old reduced his strikeout rate this season and totaled 8 triples, which were as many as anyone in the A’s system, to go along with 27 doubles, 62 walks and 11 stolen bases. Brugman will try to make a positive impression in the AFL as he hopes to boost his chances of opening the season as a member of Nashville’s starting outfield.

 

sm640455bSean Manaea

Left-Handed Starting Pitcher

Age: 23

Midland RockHounds

42 2/3 IP / 34 H / 9 ER / 15 BB / 51 K / 1.90 ERA / 1.15 WHIP

Manaea came over from Kansas City in the Ben Zobrist trade and was impressive in almost every outing for Midland. After finishing the season as the RockHounds’ top starter, the former 1st-round draft pick went on to throw 8 shutout innings in the first game of the Hounds’ three-game sweep of the Texas League Championship Series. The 6’5” lefty missed a lot of time early in the season with a groin injury, so he’ll look to make up for lost time in the AFL as he also attempts to firm up his reputation as the A’s most promising pitching prospect.

 

bmMcCurry, Brendan3Brendan McCurry

Right-Handed Relief Pitcher

Age: 23

Stockton Ports / Midland RockHounds

63 IP / 39 H / 13 ER / 17 BB / 82 K / 1.86 ERA / 0.89 WHIP

McCurry was the A’s minor league saves leader this year, notching 21 at Stockton before going on to post 6 for Midland, and he failed to convert just 1 save opportunity all season. The A’s 22nd-round draft pick in 2014 also walked just 17 while striking out 82 in 63 innings and has struck out an average of 11.7 batters per 9 innings over his minor league career. Much like Ryan Dull, McCurry isn’t physically imposing (he’s listed at 5’10” and 165 lbs.), but an impressive stint in the AFL could help put him on the fast track to the majors.

 

khHall, Kris2Kris Hall

Right-Handed Relief Pitcher

Age: 24

Midland RockHounds / Nashville Sounds

74 IP / 61 H / 23 ER / 57 BB / 77 K / 2.80 ERA / 1.59 WHIP

The A’s 8th-round draft pick in 2012, Hall has always put up solid strikeout numbers, but he’s also struggled with control issues throughout his career. The 24-year-old struck out 9.4 and walked 6.9 per 9 innings this season, and he allowed a meager 5 home runs over 74 innings of work. Hall is currently coming off his best season, and he has good stuff, but he’ll be looking to gain greater mastery of his command while working in the AFL.

 

ak594891Aaron Kurcz

Right-Handed Relief Pitcher

Age: 25

Nashville Sounds

26 IP / 29 H / 12 ER / 15 BB / 31 K / 4.15 ERA / 1.69 WHIP

The veteran among the A’s AFL contingent this year, Kurcz came over from Atlanta midseason. He has shown a consistent ability to put up big strikeout totals throughout his minor league career, but he also battles with bouts of wildness at times and has yet to make it to the majors since being drafted by the Cubs back in 2010. The 25-year-old Las Vegas native will be making his second consecutive appearance in the Arizona Fall League after playing for Surprise in 2014.

 

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 Set Fall Instructional League Roster

DSC04060x2

The A’s released their Fall Instructional League roster this week. Camp is set to open at the A’s minor league facilities in Arizona next week and will run for a month.

23 pitchers and 23 position players are currently scheduled to attend. And some high-profile prospects like catcher Jacob Nottingham and pitchers Chris Kohler and Dustin Driver will be participating.

The A’s top four picks from this year’s draft will also be attending – infielders Richie Martin and Mikey White, pitcher Dakota Chalmers and outfielder Skye Bolt. You can check out the full list of A’s prospects who are set to be in camp below…

 

–PITCHERS–

Dakota Chalmers

Dakota Chalmers

Xavier Altamirano

Ivan Andueza

Marc Berube

Boomer Biegalski

Brendan Butler

Dakota Chalmers

Wandisson Charles

Bowdien “Bubba” Derby

Dustin Driver

Mike Fagan

Heath Fillmyer

John Gorman

Ryan Gorton

Dustin Hurlbutt

Branden Kelliher

Chris Kohler

James Naile

Armando Ruiz

Jordan Schwartz

Matt Stalcup

Andrew Tomasovich

Oscar Tovar

Jesus Zambrano

 

Jacob Nottingham

Jacob Nottingham

–CATCHERS–

Iolana Akau

Jose Santiago Chavez

Robert Mullen

Jacob Nottingham

Brett Sunde

 

–INFIELDERS–

Richie Martin

Richie Martin

Joe Bennie

Edwin Diaz

Ryan Howell

Chris Iriart

Trace Loehr

Jesus Lopez

Eric Marinez

Richie Martin

Sandber Pimentel

Mikey White

 

–OUTFIELDERS–

Skye Bolt

Skye Bolt

Luis Barrera

Skye Bolt

Seth Brown

Justin Higley

Steven Pallares

Jhonny Rodriguez

Brett Siddall

James Terrell

 

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.

Meet Your 2016 Nashville Sounds!

nstumblr_nn6zzrPnCN1qedy4lo1_500b

Of course, we’ve still got just a little ways to go until the opening of the 2016 season. And, of course, there will certainly be some trades, some free agent signings (both major league and minor league), some releases, some injuries and, knowing the A’s, some totally unexpected developments during the offseason as well as in spring training.

Considering the way the 2015 season has played out for the A’s, there could certainly be some considerable changes to come. But, just for fun, let’s take a look at the players currently in the A’s organization who will most likely find themselves in the running for a roster spot in Nashville next season…

 

CATCHERS

Carson Blair

Carson Blair

Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley appear likely to return as the catching corps for the A’s in 2016. And with Carson Blair the only other catcher currently on the A’s 40-man roster, it seems reasonably safe to assume that he could be making a return trip to Nashville next season. The Sounds primary receiver this season, Bryan Anderson, can become a minor league free agent in the offseason if he’s not added to the A’s 40-man roster. And the A’s could replace him by signing another experienced minor league backstop, as they seem fond of doing. But if they don’t, then Midland’s Bruce Maxwell would probably be the most likely suspect to join Blair as part of the catching combo at Nashville next season.

 

CORNER INFIELDERS

Rangel Ravelo

Rangel Ravelo

It’s questionable whether the A’s will choose to offer Ike Davis arbitration in the offseason. And if they don’t, that makes it much more likely that Max Muncy will find a spot somewhere on Oakland’s roster next season. The left-handed hitter could serve as a great option to get some playing time at first base, third base and designated hitter, especially if right-handed hitters Brett Lawrie, Danny Valencia, Mark Canha and Billy Butler remain as the primary options at those positions. If he’s not added to the A’s 40-man roster, first baseman Nate Freiman can become a minor league free agent in the offseason. And Midland first baseman Matt Olson has been spending more time in right field than at first base during the second half of the season. So if Muncy finds a spot on the A’s opening day roster, Freiman departs for potentially greener pastures and Olson does indeed spend more time in the outfield – all of which seem likely – then Rangel Ravelo could find himself getting most of the starts at first base for Nashville next season. The situation at third base seems considerably less complicated. One of the organization’s top hitting prospects, Midland third baseman Renato Nunez, will be ready to make the jump to Triple-A next year, while his Midland teammate, Ryon Healy, who has been splitting time between third base and first base the past couple seasons, seems set to join Nashville as well, splitting time with Nunez at third and Ravelo at first in 2016.

 

MIDDLE INFIELDERS

Chad Pinder

Chad Pinder

One thing seems clear. After putting together an impressive season at Midland this year, it’s Chad Pinder’s turn to be the starting shortstop for Nashville next season. If he’s not added to the A’s 40-man roster, Andy Parrino can become a minor league free agent in the offseason, which will just help clear the path for Pinder. If Joey Wendle doesn’t win a starting job with the A’s in spring training, which seems less and less likely as Brett Lawrie spends more and more time at second base, then he’ll end up returning as Nashville’s starting second baseman again next season and serve as Pinder’s double-play partner. And if Tyler Ladendorf doesn’t land a roster spot as a utility man for the A’s, then he’ll also figure into the Sounds’ middle infield picture, along with Midland infielder Colin Walsh. If those two both end up on the Nashville roster, then expect to see them playing all over the diamond. While they’re both primarily suited to play second base, they’ve both got plenty of experience playing elsewhere. Ladendorf would most likely spend time at second base, shortstop and in the outfield, while Walsh would probably find time at second base, third base and in the outfield.

 

OUTFIELDERS

Matt Olson

Matt Olson

Craig Gentry and Jason Pridie were both staples of the Sounds outfield for most of 2015, but it’s quite possible that neither will be back in 2016. It would be surprising if the A’s chose to offer Gentry arbitration in the offseason, and it seems unlikely that Pridie would retain a 40-man roster spot throughout the offseason, though it is possible that he’ll manage to hang on. As mentioned earlier, top prospect Matt Olson has spent more time in right field than at first base during the second half of the season. And with Canha, Muncy and Ravelo all in the A’s first base picture and a lack of top-quality outfield prospects in the system, it seems likely that Olson will continue to see more time in the outfield at Nashville next season. Midland’s other primary outfielders – Chad Oberacker, Josh Whitaker and Jaycob Brugman – all seem ready to take the next step and could join Olson in the Sounds’ outfield picture next year. Jake Smolinski could land a spot with the A’s, sharing time with Coco Crisp in left field or giving Josh Reddick a break in right field against lefties. But if he doesn’t, possibly because the A’s acquire another outfielder, then he’ll be right in the middle of Nashville’s outfield mix next season as well.

 

STARTING PITCHERS

Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks

A number of potential starting pitching candidates for the A’s will be out of options next season, including LHPs Sean Nolin, Felix Doubront and Drew Pomeranz as well as RHP Jesse Chavez – as noted by Jeremy F. Koo on Athletics Nation – so it’s unlikely you’ll be seeing any of them doing time at Nashville in 2016. In addition, RHPs Chris Bassitt and Kendall Graveman seem to have earned spots in the A’s major league rotation. So who does that leave as the likely starters in Nashville next season? Well, Aaron Brooks seems as likely as anyone to start the season in the Triple-A rotation. When it comes to current Sounds starters, unless they’re added to the A’s 40-man roster, Brad Mills and Nate Long will both become minor league free agents in the offseason. And if RHP Cody Martin remains on the A’s 40-man roster through all the offseason’s wheelings and dealings, then he’s likely to land a starting spot, as is reliable RHP Zach Neal. A.J. Griffin, who’s still working his way back from injury issues following last year’s Tommy John surgery, seems unlikely to be a leading candidate for the A’s starting rotation next spring and could end up starting the year as one of Nashville’s starting five. Jarrod Parker is also working his way back from injuries after his Tommy John surgery. It’s not clear whether or not he’ll return to a starting role but, if he does, then he could pose another potential Triple-A rotation option. And a few Midland starters could factor into the picture as well. RHP Jake Sanchez has already been called up to finish the season with the Sounds, while LHPs Sean Manaea and Dillon Overton are two of the team’s most promising pitching prospects who could be pushed up to Nashville in 2016.

 

RELIEF PITCHERS

Aaron Kurcz

Aaron Kurcz

Well, it should be noted that in recent years the A’s have tended to sign a big batch of minor league free agent relievers to stock their Triple-A bullpen. So if that ends up being the strategy again this offseason, then the Sounds bullpen is likely to be comprised of a bunch of guys we’ve yet to meet! But there certainly are plenty of arms currently in the organization who could fill the relief role in Nashville next season. First of all, if not added to the 40-man roster, then familiar names like Angel Castro, Brock Huntzinger, Jim Fuller, Taylor Thompson and Ryan Doolittle could all become minor league free agents in the offseason. When it comes to arms currently on the A’s 40-man roster, if he doesn’t find a spot in the A’s bullpen, then Ryan Dull will certainly be returning to the Sounds, as will Dan Otero, R.J. Alvarez and Pat Venditte. Aaron Kurcz also seems highly likely to be making a return appearance in 2016. Arnold Leon is out of options but, if the A’s can manage to sneak him through waivers, then he could find himself back in Nashville as well. Jarrod Parker could also be a candidate to start the season in the Sounds bullpen as he makes his way back from a serious arm injury incurred after his Tommy John surgery. And then there are a number of RockHounds relievers who’ve all earned the opportunity to see time at Triple-A, most notably Seth Frankoff and Tucker Healy (who’ve both had a taste of the PCL), Kris Hall (who’ll be showcasing in the Arizona Fall League starting next month) and Brendan McCurry (who’ll also be in the AFL and has been one of the most impressive relievers in the A’s system over the past two seasons). Add in the inevitable minor league free agent signees, and there shouldn’t be any shortage of available relief arms to stock the bullpen at First Tennessee Park in 2016.

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Exclusive: Get the Inside Scoop on Nashville’s Top Players from Sounds Skipper Steve Scarsone

ssB9315342755Z.1_20141202162702_000_G409A1E4E.1-0cAfter spending parts of seven seasons as a big league infielder, Steve Scarsone has now spent seven seasons managing in the A’s minor league system.

He’s currently midway through his third season managing at Triple-A, though this year the California native had to head east as the A’s Pacific Coast League affiliate switched from Sacramento to Nashville.

Scarsone is handling a veteran club this year in Nashville where the average age is close to 29 and there are very few young prospects on the roster. We took the opportunity to talk with the skipper in Nashville last weekend to get his take on some of the team’s top players…

 

AF:  I know you spent a lot of time watching Max Muncy in the big league camp this spring, and now he’s back here with you at Nashville. I don’t know if you had the chance to see much of him playing at the major league level.

SS:  Not as much as you’d hope. A lot of times we’re playing at the same time. And by the time our game’s over, if they’re still playing, it’s like…

mmMuncy, Max2AF:  The last thing you need at that point is more baseball…

SS:  Sometimes, to be honest! But we tried to follow him as best we could. I know he wasn’t getting the consistent play, but that’s what he was brought up to do was to be that guy to help out and fill in. And it sounds like he did a pretty good job of it. It’s not easy for a guy to go up for his first time and not be in the everyday lineup and have to try to figure out not only how to compete at that level but how to compete at that level with three or four days in between games. I think it was a great experience for him. I think he’s taken a lot of positives out of it. And now, being here and playing every day, I think he’s shown a huge improvement defensively at third base, which is still somewhat of a new position for him. And his swing plays very nicely in this game – it’s a short swing. He has considerable power, very good pitch recognition, and he’s not afraid to take a walk. He’ll wait for his pitch. Right now he’s kind of struggling, but that won’t last very long. He’ll be fine. I think he’s going to be something that we’ll try to hold on to in this organization and see if we can find a spot for him.

AF:  So is there anything in particular that he needs to do to get himself into a position to get back up there?

SS:  No. From reports that I’ve heard, his return here was not due to his lack of performance. He was just kind of the odd man out up there. To be honest, with his age and experience level, getting a good half-season in Triple-A would be to his advantage – seeing some advanced pitching day in and day out and getting a chance to learn from his teammates and see how to handle himself on and off the field. He’s still relatively young. This year’s his first year in Triple-A, and getting an opportunity to play in the big leagues for a spell was icing on the cake for him. But I think he’s got a good mental outlook on what he needs to continue to try to fight towards, and I think he’ll be fine.

AF:  Like Muncy, one of the other younger position players you’ve got on this team here is Joey Wendle. So what have you seen out of him this year and where do you feel he’s at in his development?

SS:  I think the first thing that comes to mind when we talk about Joey is just his love for the game. He hustles on and off the field and plays as hard as he can. I think that’s a quality that sometimes kind of gets overlooked, because we get so caught up in defining tools and stuff like that. And it’s kind of that X factor that doesn’t really come up in a scouting report, but I think it’s very important to bring up for him because that’s a huge part of the kind of player he is – he’s kind of a throwback in a sense. But he’s given us great defensive play. I think he’s improved greatly in just his knowledge and experience and anticipation of what’s going to happen and how to be in the right spot at the right time. His work habits are obviously good. I really have enjoyed watching him progress. I think playing with some of these older guys has been a huge advantage for him. As coaches, we kind of find ourselves limited at times. There’s so much we can do. We can give them the work, we can give them the information, but the criticism and encouragement that comes from his teammates go leaps and bounds above what we can do as coaches. I think he’s benefited greatly from some of the older players that he’s playing with – just in terms of how to best prepare himself and how to play the game as a professional player. I think that’s going to help him along the way as he continues, and I’m sure he’ll make the next step too.

jwWendle, Joey3AF:  I talked to A’s infield coach Mike Gallego about him in spring training. He raved about his preparation and how much he had his head into every play and he was really impressed with his whole approach. Now you were an infielder too, so do you concur with that assessment?

SS:  Definitely. And what we’ve tried to do this year with him is to take that attention to what’s going on, his first step and his movements and everything, and try to smooth everything out so it’s a little bit more fluid through the play. Early on, he was getting himself into trouble kind of being a little bit too forceful to the ball instead of really reading the ball and getting the hop that’s going to be best for him. As a second baseman, you don’t have to be as aggressive as on the other side. So I’ve seen a great improvement on that in terms of taking the game in a little bit more and not trying to force yourself down the game’s throat.

AF:  So letting things come to him as opposed to maybe trying a little too hard and trying to force things all the time.

SS:  Exactly! And he’s taken to it very well – he’s got a very nice rhythm about him right now.

AF:  Now what about at the plate? Obviously, he could be a little more selective. But what have you seen in terms of the evolution of his approach at the plate over the course of the year, and what does he need to be thinking about doing up there right now?

SS:  I think that’s the key. The key for him is to get good pitches to hit, because he can handle just about any pitcher he sees. He has just as much success against left-handers as he does against right-handers. He’s shown some power. He’s able to hit the ball to all fields. I think, at times, he just gets a little too aggressive. So that’s been the process with him, to try to smooth out his offense just liked we’re trying to do on the defensive side. We have him hitting in the two hole, so there’s some more things that can happen up there. He’s willing to bunt and he tries to hit the hole when he has that opportunity. So there are a lot of good things that we’re seeing, and we know that the mentality is there. It’s just a matter of more and more reps. I think we’re going to see where it’s going to start to click for him more and more as this season finishes up. And I’d like to see how he comes back next season after having an offseason to just kind of rethink everything, because in the heat of the season, you just grind and grind and grind. Sometimes that offseason of reflection can be very useful. I really do look forward to seeing how he plays out.

AF:  So it sounds like you think he knows what he needs to do and he’s headed in the right direction and it’s just a matter of executing.

SS:  By all means, yes.

AF:  A guy who was a big hitter for you last year at Sacramento is Nate Freiman, but he’s really been struggling this year. So what’s been going on with him and what’s been holding him back?

nfNate+Freiman+Oakland+Athletics+Photo+Day+CFUGtYuCl4Ll2bSS:  Well, Nate showed up in spring and hurt his back. He was down all spring, and he was left in Arizona. He ended up joining us almost six weeks after the season started. And then, at that point, we were using him kind of sparingly to keep him from a relapse.So it took him seven or eight weeks into our season before he was kind of starting to play every day. He didn’t have a spring training. He found himself not getting off to a start, and he’s been kind of pressing, trying to contribute. He feels like he’s letting the team down. He’s a very selfless guy – he’s a great teammate. For him not to hit the ball and drive people in, it’s been very frustrating for him, and we’ve had several talks. Of course, he went through the situation where they took him off the 40-man roster, and he was stressed about that. We’ve all had to go through that at some point. It’s been a learning year for him. If you think about it, he went from Double-A to the big leagues. And then last year, he kind of went up and down. So he hasn’t had a 400+ at-bat season since 2012 when he was in Double-A with the Padres. He’s just now kind of getting a chance to get some more regular playing time. He’s working on it, he’s trying a bunch of different things and it’s frustrating. It’s tough to pull yourself out of the hole, but he’s got a good attitude and he works hard and he plays hard.

AF:  Is the back still an issue at all? Are there any lingering physical issues with him?

SS:  No, he’s 100% percent. That’s all fine. He’s just trying to get on some kind of a roll at the plate and start feeling like Nate again.

AF:  I wanted to ask you about a couple of pitchers here. The most interesting story on your pitching staff this year has to be Barry Zito. So what have you seen out of Barry and what he’s been doing here?

bzZito, Barry3SS:  Well, on the field, he’s pitched phenomenally. The numbers speak for themselves. He’s going deep into games, he’s controlling the games and he’s doing very well now. I would have loved to have been around when he was at the top of his game. He’s not an imposing pitcher like he was in terms of his velocity – there’s onbviously been a drop-off. But the curveball and the changeup are still there. He makes hitters look silly still. He sets them up and puts them down. And it’s just that experience and knowledge of pitching and the ability to make a pitch when he needs it that really has been impressive. No, not every pitch has been right where he wants it, and you can see that there’s some struggle there, but he never lets that bother him to where he can’t go back and make the pitch he needs when he needs it. And off the field, in the clubhouse, he’s been outstanding. He’s been a great source for these other guys. They look up to him, and he takes it with a ceratin modesty and grace. It’s actually fun to have him on the club.

AF:  Well, there aren’t too many minor league clubhouses with Cy Young winners in them.

SS:  But you know what what? He doesn’t wear that on his sleeve. He’s very humble. And I’m enjoying the fact that I got the chance to spend the summer with him.

AF:  So where’s his velocity been at lately?

SS:  He’s mid-80s with the fastball. When you just look at the fastball, that’s not very hard. But when you play it off of that changeup, which is arguably Tom-Glavine-like at times, and then the breaking ball, which is purely Barry-Zito-like, the velocity of the fastball probably looks about 92 to some of these hitters when he uses it at the proper time. On the scouting side, you’d probably say it’s not quite there. But in terms of effectiveness, he knows how to pitch, he knows how to get people out.

AF:  Do you have any update on a guy who was pitching here for you before landing back on the disabled list, A.J. Griffin?

ag456167SS:  He’s back in Arizona. I’m not positive where he’s at. It’s just one of those situations where trying to compensate for one injury kind of created a little bit of another. So it was decided not to push this. Obviously, I can’t talk too much about the medical side of it. He just needs to get himself feeling right.

AF:  And was it basically right shoulder soreness?

SS:  Basically.

AF:  And what about Sean Nolin, who recently went back on the disabled list again?

SS:  Sean’s still here with us. He started for us for four or five starts and he started feeling some stuff, so we slowed him down. He’s currently on the DL trying to regain some strength and ability to really get after it. But he’s on the mend and we’ll probably look to see him start to get himself into a rehab situation over the next week or so. And then hopefully over the next couple weeks we should see him back active. I don’t know if we’ll use him as a starter or in the bullpen. We’d have to build him up as a starter again, and I don’t know if we have enough time left in the season to get him built up.

AF:  Well, I guess it’s a good sign that he’s still here with you guys rather than being down in Arizona.

SS:  Yeah, it was just some small stuff. After coming off all the stuff he’s had to battle through the last year, everybody agreed that it was best for him to stay on a little bit of a slower pace rather than trying to push him into something and make things worse.

AF:  Another guy you’ve got here with quite a bit of major league experience is Ryan Cook. He’s been struggling a bit lately. But where’s he at, what’s been going on with him and what does he need to figure out to get back to where he used to be?

rc5l64jcRW2SS:  He went up and down early. Obviously, he started the season here. And I know he was frustrated. I think it was kind of a shock to him. He handled it pretty well, but you could tell he was struggling with the situation and all. And he didn’t really get off to a great start. Then he got called up and you thought, “Okay, he’ll back in a groove and he’ll stay there.” Then they did so many quick moves so soon with all those relievers. Since he’s been here, his attitude has greatly improved. He’s all about trying to get himself back on track and get himself back to the big leagues, which is a good sign. He’s an emotional guy. He’s high-strung. We’ve all seen him in Oakland – he’s out there giving it everything he’s got. He’s a hard charger. He’s just been kind of getting knocked around a little bit, so he’s getting a little bit of humility. And that sometimes can be a good thing. So he’ll continue to pitch and he’ll continue to give it everything he’s got. And I think that, at some point or another, Oakland will need him again and he’ll go up and step right back into where he left off.

AF:  Is there anything in particular that he’s been working on here?

SS:  No, no, he’s pretty much the same pitcher. He’s just trying to get a little bit more consistent with his control, trying to pitch a little bit more ahead in the count. He’s finding himself kind of getting behind and having to come across the plate with a little bit more of a hitter’s pitch. Two years ago when he was dominating in the big leagues, he was getting ahead, he was using both sides of the plate. He had late movement that was giving him opportunities for missing the barrel. But now I think he’s just trying to aim a little too much and probably losing a little bit of that late movement, and it’s being knocked around a little bit more than he’s used to. You know, sometimes that just comes from the pressure and from trying to be too fine and trying to take that next step to prove that he’s able and ready to go back up. But his velocity’s there and the pitches are getting stronger. So he’s still a valuable part of this organization.

AF:  Great, thanks!

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Exclusive: Get the Inside Scoop on Stockton’s Top Prospects from Ports Manager Rick Magnante & Pitching Coach Rick Rodriguez

DSC04178After spending the past nine seasons managing at Vancouver, Vermont and Beloit in the A’s system, Rick Magnante returned to his native California this season to pilot the California League’s Stockton Ports.

Meanwhile, another California native, Rick Rodriguez, who served as the long-time pitching coach for the Sacramento River Cats, remained on the west coast with the Ports when the A’s Triple-A affiliate moved to Nashville this season. We spoke with both of them about some of the team’s top prospects earlier this week in Stockton…

 

RICK MAGNANTE

rm533052d85a25f.imageAF:  I wanted to get your take on a couple of the top hitting prospects you’ve got here at Stockton. You’ve got last year’s 1st-round draft pick for the A’s, third baseman Matt Chapman. I remember when he first got drafted, everyone with the A’s talked to me about his power potential, and now here he is leading the A’s minor league system in home runs with 14 after getting a late start to the season. So what kind of development have you seen with him since he’s been here this year?

RM:  Last year, Matt came to Beloit with me, and he started off like a firecracker offensively, and also with the leather. Then he ran into a couple of injuries and it slowed his progress down. But he showed enough that they sent him to Midland for the playoffs, and he was kind of the catalyst for them winning that first round and did very well there. This spring, he got off to a slow start because he injured himself in the offseason working out, so he got here late. So he’s trying to play a little bit of catch-up. And every day we’re seeing marked improvement with him, not only at the plate, but with his defense. And you’re right when you talk about his tools. There certainly is raw power, there’s physical strength and there’s athleticism. There’s the potential to be a well-above-average defender. And, of course, his arm, on a scale of 2 to 8, is an 8. Then you take the intangibles, the make-up, the work ethic, the commitment, the desire to be a big leaguer, and the ability, at an early age, to deal with adversity, which is very impressive as well. His ability to handle that 0 for 4 with 2 or 3 punch outs and not allow it to affect his defense or his next at-bat or the next day is really a very telling sign of his character and what’s going to allow him to be successful and be that big league frontline player that we hope he’ll be some day.

mcChapman, Matt2AF:  So what’s the key to him maximizing his power potential?

RM:  Well, there are a couple of things. He’s got strength, he’s got leverage and he’s got bat speed. What he’s working on right now is a physical approach that creates some tempo and rhythm and puts him in a better position to maximize his power by getting ready early and seeing the ball longer. He’s got really above-average power to the off field, but to be able to get to that ball on the inner half and pull it to the short field where he can really maximize things. So his physical approach is something he’s working on right now. There’s some rigidity in his set-up. He’s a little bit of a still-bat hitter. We’re trying to get him to get some rhythm, some separation and a little flow to that approach so that he can really get to the ball and get through it. Right now, his physical strength is allowing him to overcome technique that needs to be improved.

AF:  So rather than starting from a static position getting a little more momentum into his swing.

RM:  Right, exactly.

AF:  Another big prospect you’ve got here is 19-year-old shortstop Franklin Barreto, who started off the season a little slow but now really seems to be rounding into shape. So what have you seen in terms of his learning curve over the first half of the season?

fbBarreto, Franklin2RM:  Well, it’s night and day from spring training to today, that’s for sure. First of all, he came into spring training, by his own admission, without doing much in the offseason. So he really wasn’t ready to really get into the flow of things. He had to kind of get in shape, which is not usually the case with most young players today. Secondly, he’s a 19-year-old Venezuelan who comes to a brand new organization knowing no one. So you can imagine that there’s going to be some adjustments, not only on the field, but getting to know the coaches, the staff, his teammates and getting comfortable. So that has taken some time as well. So with not a lot of at-bats in spring training, being in a new organization, and I’m sure in his own mind, trying to please and trying to excel, he probably put some undue pressure on himself. So all those things factored into his slow start. Now that he’s out here everyday, getting his at-bats and getting his work in, we’re starting to see the player Toronto had a year ago at 18 years old in the Northwest League that pretty much took the league by storm – driving in runs, stealing bases, scoring runs, everything. For me, he’s “Furcal-esque.” He’s got that same kind of sturdy, sub-six-foot body, good lower half, athleticism – and he’s only 19 years old. I’m not saying he is Furcal, because I saw Furcal in Lynchburg, and Furcal’s tools are a bit better. But who does he remind you of? That’s the type of player he reminds me of.

AF:  And what’s been the key to his improvement at the plate from the beginning of the season to now?

RM:  At the plate, it’s been timing and recognition for him. There’s a few moving parts in that swing. He’s a leg-lift guy, so that timing has to be more precise. There’s a little bit of bat waggle, there’s some movement – it’s not simple and pure. So anytime you’ve got a lot of moving parts going, it’s hard to coordinate that day to day and at-bat to at-bat. But we’re working on that, and he’s got a better understanding of how to get himself in a better position to recognize pitches and decide whether to take or to swing. In addition to that, he’s working hard on his defense. I guess if there was a knock on him it was that he made a lot of errors last year. And he continues to make errors. But the old adage in baseball is, “If a guy can hit, just give him 1,000 groundballs and the defense will get better.” And we believe it will. Whether he’s a shortstop or second baseman, I couldn’t make that call right now. He’s getting an opportunity to play shortstop, but basically he’s a center-of-the-diamond fielder.

bvVertigan, Brett2AF:  A guy who didn’t necessarily start the season as a top prospect but has been really key to your team here this year is center fielder Brett Vertigan, who’s been having a great season on the field for you. What have you seen out of him so far and what’s the key to what he’s been doing for your team here this year?

RM:  Well, he’s really faced some obstacles in his short career here with Oakland. He was a 10th-round draft pick, and we considered him a smaller version of a Brett Gardner type – a guy who could patrol the outfield and stay in center field, could run, throw, had a contact bat, was able to use the field, could bunt, steal bases, etc. And he had a pretty decent first year with us. And then he went to the Midwest League and he just kind of leveled off performance-wise. And then last year we seemed to have an abundance of outfielders and he found himself in extended spring training and then had to come back and went all the way back to Vermont. This year, when we went to spring training again, the outfield spots were pretty much the same and he found himself in the unenviable position of having to start the season again at Beloit, a league he had already played in two years previously. But I think the key for Brett is he does have tools, he has a skill set. He has aptitude, he’s a good learner and he can make adjustments. And he has grown a little bit this year because of the adversity he’s had to overcome. And when he joined us here, he basically jump-started the offense. He’s really been the catalyst for us putting together a pretty decent last month of June to finish on a winning note here in the first half. He’s a kid who’s worked hard. Now he’s gotten an opportunity and he’s made the most of it. So we just hope that he can continue it and accelerate his career, because there’s no doubt that, if he keeps playing well, he should be looked at as somebody who may advance this year as well.

AF:  I’m sure it’s pretty hard for you to imagine your lineup without him in it at this point – or at least I’m sure you wouldn’t want to!

js656996RM:  Well, it’s interesting because he came here because J.P. Sportman went down. And J.P. Sportman started off very well also. And had he not gotten hurt, Brett might not be here. With both of those guys on this club, we’re a better ballclub. And with only two guys on the bench, we are a little bit limited in our bench players, so it would be nice to have them both.

AF:  So what is the latest on Sportman’s status?

RM:  He just re-injured the hand in the same place again. And we decided it would be in his best interests to send him back to Arizona to rehab where he could get daily care and a little bit more monitoring of his condition. And I think when he gets back and healthy, then possibly he’ll be an Instructional League candidate or maybe even a Fall League candidate.

 

RICK RODRIGUEZ

rrrick_rodriguez_2011_05_24bAF:  So let me ask you about a few of the arms you’ve got here in Stockton. Let’s start with Dylan Covey, who’s been having a good year. He seems to have made some improvements and has been a lot more consistent this season. He might not strike out a lot of guys, but he still gets a lot of outs. What’s made it possible for him to develop a lot more consistency this year?

RR:  I think towards the end of spring, he just started using his fastball and getting more aggressive with it. And he’s been working on his command and sharpening his curveball. He’s got a nice little cutter coming along right now. His changeup is good. For me, it was just getting in a good routine that worked for him. In fact, his last outing was probably his best fastball he’s had, so hopefully the rest of the way he’ll have that fastball.

dc592229AF:  What are his best pitches and what does he need to work on to get to the next level?

RR:  He’s got good command with his fastball. His curveball can be a good pitch at times, but sometimes it can be a little off. His changeup is like a split – I think that’s probably his better off-speed pitch. I think he probably needs more consistency in terms of being down in the strike zone with his fastball. But he’s a pitcher. He knows how to pitch. He can change speeds. He’s learning how take something off of his fastball, so hopefully he’ll start using it out there during the games. He’s been very good, a real pleasure to work with.

AF:  A guy who’s been a bit of a surprise is Joel Seddon, who had been a reliever for much of his college career. You guys have turned him into a starter here this year, and he’s been really impressive lately. So what kind of progress have you seen out of him this year?

jsSeddon, Joel2RR:  A lot of these guys, it’s the first time I’ve ever seen them pitch. And in spring training, I always thought Joel was a starter, but they said, “No, he was a reliever.” And he came here in relief. And, it just so happened, we needed a starter. He fit the bill, and he’s taken off from there. He’s been really good with command of his fastball and all his off-speed pitches. He’s getting us deep into games. He’s a guy, I can just let him go.

AF:  Well, it seems like he’s got awfully good command, which helps make everything a lot easier.

RR:  Yeah, he can rely on his command. That’s his best tool. I told him, “It’s not like you’re throwing 95 mph. You have to hit your spots and change your speeds.” And he’s been doing that.

AF:  I want to ask you about a guy who was here with you for most of the season but has recently moved up to Midland, and that’s Dillon Overton. He’s been coming back from Tommy John surgery. So what have you seen in his development over the first half of the season and where’s he at on his road back?

doOverton, Dillon2RR:  From what I’ve seen, he’s another guy who’s a great command guy. He’s got great movement, he’s got an outstanding changeup and his curveball can be really good at times. But he’s starting to get into that groove now where he can rely on anything and throw any pitch at any time. Coming back from his injury, he’s kind of being limited on his innings pitched for the whole year. But everything is flawless out there. It’s really good to work with someone like that.

AF:  Where was he at in terms of his velocity when he was here?

RR:  I think he was anywhere from like 87-90 mph, maybe 91 mph every once in a while. He’s relying more on his command. But he’s getting there.

raAlcantara, Raul3bAF:  Another guy who’s been coming back from Tommy John surgery is Raul Alcantara. I know he’s just had a few appearances so far, but what have you seen out of him since he’s been back?

RR:  I see an extremely good fastball. His changeup has good late action down. His curveball is almost like a slider. He calls it a curveball, but I think it might be more of a slider – but it’s a good breaking pitch. I think he’s got all the makings of a good major league pitcher. I think it’s just a matter of getting him out there every fifth day, getting him some innings and trying to build up his arm strength.

AF:  The guy out of your bullpen who’s been very consistent for you in the closer role is Brendan McCurry. What’s enabled him to be as consistent as he’s been out of the bullpen for this team?

bm657680RR:  When we first started the year, I really didn’t know where he was going to pitch. I know our skipper liked him a bit as a closer. But he was a guy who was coming in in the middle innings and giving us a couple of innings here and there. And then he kind of evolved into finshing games and now he’s kind of our closer. But we had a talk. He’s got a very good fastball, but I think he was trying to trick too many guys. Now it’s like, “Hey Brendan, throw your fastball, use your fastball. You’ve got a really good fastball.” He’s got a good moving fastball. He drops down and throws that little sidearm curve or slider or whatever you want to call it. And he’s gotten it down now to where, instead of it being flat across the zone, it’s got a little bit of tilt. And now he’s able to get those hitters out a little bit more consistently. And he’s got a plus changeup. I think he’s going to be a good one.

AF:  So it sounds like you’ve really simplified things with him.

RR:  Yeah, I think he’s starting to understand that he doesn’t have to strike out everybody. He can get ahead with his fastball, and if they get groundouts early, that’s even better.

AF:  And he’s got a good number of pitches for a reliever.

RR:  Yeah, he comes at you from different angles. He’s tough. He’s got a great mentality out there. He’s out there going right after the hitters. I like it!

*          *          *

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 2015 Minor League Staff

 

Nashville Sounds manager Steve Scarsone

Nashville Sounds manager Steve Scarsone

NASHVILLE SOUNDS (Triple-A)

Manager Steve Scarsone

Pitching Coach Don Schulze

Hitting Coach Webster Garrison

Steve Scarsone was named manager of the A’s new Triple-A affiliate at Nashville.  This will be his third consecutive season as manager of the A’s Triple-A club as he guided Sacramento to a 79-65 record in each of the previous two seasons.  Scarsone now has a 568-554 record in eight seasons as a minor league manager, including stints in the A’s system with Midland from 2011-12, Stockton in 2010 and Kane County in 2009.  Don Schulze and Webster Garrison earn their first Triple-A assignments in 2015 as pitching coach and hitting coach, respectively.  This will be Schulze’s 10th year as a pitching coach in the A’s system, including the last four at Double-A Midland, and Garrison’s 15th as a coach or manager.  Brad LaRosa returns as the athletic trainer and Terence Brannic was named strength coach.

 

Midland RockHounds manager Ryan Christenson

Midland RockHounds manager Ryan Christenson

MIDLAND ROCKHOUNDS (Double-A)

Manager Ryan Christenson

Pitching Coach John Wasdin

Hitting Coach Eric Martins

Ryan Christenson takes over as manager at Midland after leading Stockton to an 85-55 record and a playoff appearance in 2014.  He made his managerial debut in 2013 at Single-A Beloit after spending six seasons as a player in the Major Leagues, including four with the A’s from 1998-2001.  John Wasdin will be the pitching coach on Christenson’s staff for the third consecutive season and Eric Martins was named hitting coach.  Martins served as a scout for the A’s for the past seven seasons.  Justin Whitehouse returns as the athletic trainer and A.J. Seeliger is the new strength coach.

 

Stockton Ports manager Rick Magnante

Stockton Ports manager Rick Magnante

STOCKTON PORTS (High-A)

Manager Rick Magnante

Pitching Coach Rick Rodriguez

Hitting Coach Brian McArn

Rick Magnante assumes the managerial reins at Stockton, his 13th season as a minor league manager.  He has a 457-497 record in his previous 12 seasons, including 55-84 last season with Beloit.  Rick Rodriguez will be the pitching coach after two seasons in that capacity at Sacramento.  Rodriguez is in his 31st season in the A’s organization, which includes seven seasons as a player and two years as bullpen coach in Oakland (2011-12). Brian McArn returns as hitting coach, his 18th in that role with the A’s and his fourth at Stockton (2011-12, 14).  Travis Tims returns as athletic trainer and Henry Torres takes over as strength coach.

 

Beloit Snappers manager Fran Riordan

Beloit Snappers manager Fran Riordan

BELOIT SNAPPERS (Class-A)

Manager Fran Riordan

Pitching Coach Steve Connelly

Hitting Coach Lloyd Turner

Fran Riordan joins the A’s organization as manager at Beloit after spending 14 years managing in independent leagues.  Riordan spent the last four seasons at the helm of Florence in the Frontier League, guiding the Freedom to a 190-194 record over that stretch.  Steve Connelly, who had his first professional coaching assignment as pitching coach at Vermont last year, takes over those duties at Beloit in 2015.  Lloyd Turner returns for his second consecutive season as hitting coach with the Snappers and Brian Thorson returns as athletic trainer.  JD Howell will serve as strength coach.

 

Vermont Lake Monsters manager Aaron Nieckula

Vermont Lake Monsters manager Aaron Nieckula

VERMONT LAKE MONSTERS (Class-A Short-Season)

Manager Aaron Nieckula

Pitching Coach Carlos Chavez

Hitting Coach Tommy Everidge

In addition to his duties as minor league field coordinator, Aaron Nieckula will manage the A’s short-season club at Vermont, his ninth year as a manager in the A’s farm system.  He has spent the last two seasons at Midland and guided the RockHounds to a 77-63 record and the Texas League Championship in 2014.  Carlos Chavez will be the pitching coach after two seasons with the A’s affiliate in the Arizona Rookie League.  Tommy Everidge returns for his second consecutive season as Vermont’s hitting coach and Toshi Nagahara returns as the athletic trainer.

 

Arizona League A's pitching coach Ariel Prieto

Arizona League A’s pitching coach Ariel Prieto

ARIZONA LEAGUE A’S (Rookie Short-Season)

Manager Ruben Escalera

Pitching Coach Ariel Prieto

Hitting Coach Juan Dilone

Ruben Escalera will manage the A’s affiliate in the Arizona Rookie League for the second consecutive season and ninth season overall.  He previously managed from 2002-08 and spent the five years in between in various roles as an instructor in the A’s system.  Ariel Prieto was named pitching coach after serving as a coach on the Major League staff the previous three seasons.  He previously served as pitching coach with the A’s rookie club from 2009-11 and will also serve as a liaison between the A’s Dominican Republic and United States based operations.  Juan Dilone returns for his seventh season as hitting coach and Gabriel Ortiz is in his second season as coach.  Chris Lessner returns as the athletic trainer.

 

Minor league hitting coordinator Greg Sparks

Minor league hitting coordinator Greg Sparks

Minor League Field Coordinator: Aaron Nieckula

Minor League Hitting Coordinator: Greg Sparks

Minor League Pitching Coordinator: Garvin Alston

Minor League Rehab Pitching Coordinator: Craig Lefferts

Minor League Defensive Coordinator: Juan Navarrette

Aaron Nieckula was named minor league field coordinator and will oversee minor league spring training, extended spring training and instructional league.  Greg Sparks will take over as minor league hitting coordinator after spending three seasons as hitting coach at Triple-A Sacramento.  Sparks is in his 18th season in the A’s organization, which includes eight years as minor league roving hitting instructor from 2004-11.  Garvin Alston was named minor league pitching coordinator after spending the previous six seasons as minor league pitching rehab coordinator.  Craig Lefferts, who spent the previous 12 seasons as a pitching coach in the A’s farm system, replaces Alston as minor league rehab pitching coordinator.  Juan Navarrette is in his 21st season with the A’s and will be the minor league defensive, base running and bunting coordinator.  

 

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.

Preview: Top Prospects Matt Olson & Daniel Robertson Lead A’s Arizona Fall League Squad

afl_rsardpq5_oyouytpm1bWhile most baseball fans are focused on the drama of postseason play in the fall, it’s also an important time for some of the minor leagues’ top prospects. And starting next week, some of the A’s most promising young prospects will begin play in the Arizona Fall League.

The league has been going strong for the past couple of decades now, and its schedule runs for about 5-6 weeks from early-October through mid-November. There are 6 teams in the AFL, with each team comprised of prospects from 5 different organizations. A’s prospects will be playing for the Mesa Solar Sox this year, where they’ll be joined by prospects from the Blue Jays, Angels, Nationals and Cubs, including one particular prospect by the name of Addison Russell.

Attendance at AFL games typically hovers around 200 or so, with the crowds comprised mostly of scouts, agents and various professional baseball personnel. Most organizations use the AFL as an opportunity to get some of their top prospects a little more live game action to hopefully help advance their development.

Some of the A’s top young hitting prospects will be seeing action in Arizona, including first baseman Matt Olson, shortstop Daniel Robertson and outfielder Boog Powell, while the team’s AFL pitching contingent this year will be comprised of right-handers Drew Granier, Tanner Peters, Ryan Doolittle and Austin House.

 

–A’s Prospects in the AFL in 2014–

mo621566MATT OLSON

First Baseman

Age: 20

Stockton Ports

37 HR / .262 AVG / .404 OBP / .543 SLG / .947 OPS

Olson had perhaps the best overall season of any A’s prospect this year. The 6’4” slugger led all A’s minor leaguers in home runs, walks, RBIs and total bases while playing for Stockton in the hitter-friendly California League. He’ll have the chance to prove his true power potential next season for Double-A Midland, where the hitting conditions for power-hitting prospects have historically been far more challenging.

 

dr621002DANIEL ROBERTSON

Shortstop

Age: 20

Stockton Ports

15 HR / .310 AVG / .402 OBP / .471 SLG / .873 OPS

With the trade of Addison Russell to the Cubs this summer, Robertson has now taken over as the A’s shortstop of the future. And he certainly earned that billing this year, leading all A’s minor leaguers in hits while putting up a healthy .310/.402/.471 slash line and playing solid in the field for Stockton. Robertson also got in a little postseason time with Double-A Midland, where he should be the team’s starting shortstop next season.

 

hp621471xBOOG POWELL

Outfielder

Age: 21

Beloit Snappers / Stockton Ports

3 HR / .343 AVG / .451 OBP / .435 SLG / .886 OPS

Powell was perhaps the A’s best minor league hitter in the first half while playing for Beloit. About a week and a half after being promoted to Stockton, he was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for amphetamines. But the speedy center fielder still hit well for Stockton before and after his suspension and ended the season with the best batting average and on-base percentage of any player in the A’s system.

 

dg607549xDREW GRANIER

Right-Handed Pitcher

Age: 25

Midland RockHounds / Sacramento River Cats

130 1/3 IP / 143 H / 71 ER / 76 BB / 94 K / 4.90 ERA / 1.68 WHIP

A 32nd-round draft pick for the A’s in 2011, Granier has earned his way up through the system with solid performances on the mound. The 25-year-old right-hander started and ended the 2014 season with a few rocky outings but was very dependable for Midland for most of the year. He’ll use the extra innings he’ll get in the AFL to try to gain greater command of his secondary pitches, which he’ll need to do if he hopes to climb the next rung on the ladder.

 

tp607312xTANNER PETERS

Right-Handed Pitcher

Age: 24

Midland RockHounds / AZL A’s

28 IP / 36 H / 17 ER / 8 BB / 17 K / 5.46 ERA / 1.57 WHIP

Peters had a solid season for Stockton in 2013 but was sidelined by shoulder issues after just three starts for Midland last year. The 24-year-old southern California native came back to get in a few outings in the Arizona League in August but can use some extra innings in the AFL as he looks to get himself back on track and ready to compete again in 2015.

 

rd543114RYAN DOOLITTLE

Right-Handed Pitcher

Age: 26

Midland RockHounds / Stockton Ports

57 1/3 IP / 53 H / 19 ER / 21 BB / 60 K / 2.98 ERA / 1.29 WHIP

After being drafted back in 2008 and missing significant time due to injury, Sean’s little brother will return to the A’s system for one more season. “Little Doo” struck out 60 in 57 1/3 innings for Midland and Stockton last season and could potentially pitch well enough in the AFL to help put himself into a position to be considered for a bullpen spot next to his big brother sometime before the end of next season.

 

ah572934AUSTIN HOUSE

Right-Handed Pitcher

Age: 23

Stockton Ports / Sacramento River Cats

61 2/3 IP / 50 H / 21 ER / 23 BB / 82 K / 3.06 ERA / 1.18 WHIP / 19 SV

After starting 9 games for Beloit in 2013, House led all A’s minor league relievers with 19 saves while striking out 82 in just 61 2/3 innings last season. The 6’4” right-hander should have the chance to close out a few more games in the AFL as he gets ready to serve as the RockHounds’ closer at Midland next season.

 

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.

The Stockton Ports: A Team That Plays Together – And Stays Together

drobertson-Oak3This year’s Stockton Ports are a pretty special team. Not only is the roster loaded with many of the A’s best young prospects, but the team finished the regular season with the best record in the California League at 85-55 and will begin play in a best-of-three California League playoff series starting Wednesday in Visalia.

In July, A’s Farm spoke with a number of the Ports’ top players about how their seasons have been going on the field – which you can see here – so this time around, we thought we’d take a look at how things have been going off the field. In particular, we spoke with four Ports players who’ve been living together all season – shortstop Daniel Robertson, first baseman Matt Olson, second baseman Chad Pinder and pitcher Austin House. Outfielder Billy McKinney began the season with them but, with his trade to Chicago, has since been replaced by pitcher Dylan Covey.

All four of the house regulars have had solid seasons for Stockton. Robertson finished the year as the California League hits leader, while Olson won the league’s home run title. Despite missing about a month’s worth of time due to injuries, Pinder was still second on the team in doubles and batting average, and House tied for the second most saves in the league.

While most people know the kind of money that major league ballplayers make, most fans don’t really appreciate what life is like in the minor leagues and would probably be a bit surprised to find five of the A’s top prospects all spending the season together in one two-bedroom apartment. But that’s the way it often works below the major league level, where cramped quarters and long bus rides are a way of life. But when you’re busy chasing the dream, it’s all a part of the adventure – and can also help to foster the kind of camaraderie that’s needed to succeed in a game that truly is a team sport.

We talked to Robertson, Olson, Pinder and House last week, just a day after they’d clinched the California League Northern Division second-half title and with less than a week left in the regular season…

 

(DR=Daniel Roberston, MO=Matt Olson, CP=Chad Pinder, AH=Austin House, AF=A’s Farm)

 

AF:  So we’ve got the four of you roommates together here the final week of the regular season. You’ve been living together all season long, and I know Billy McKinney was living with you before he was traded, but has anyone else taken his place since the trade?

ALL:  Dylan Covey.

AF:  So then Dylan took over Billy’s spot when he got here from Beloit.

ALL:  Right.

AF:  Well how’s this living arrangement been working out so far this year?

DR:  Honestly, I get so sick of these guys sometimes. No, I’m just kidding. It’s worked out great. We drove up here after spring training and found an apartment. We’ve got two to a room. [Austin] House lives in the living room.

AF:  So you’ve got your own room?

AH:  Yeah, I have my own room!

DR:  The only thing he’s missing is a door. But it’s worked out great. We’re there to sleep most of the time. If you get more people in, it kind of helps out with the money situation – it just makes it a little cheaper. And these guys are awesome to live with. So I’ve had a blast all year.

AF:  So who’s rooming with who?

DR:  Me and Olson, Pinder and Covey.

Daniel Robertson

Daniel Robertson

AH:  And then they all hang out in my room.

AF:  And you and Olson were roommates in spring training too, right?

DR:  Yeah.

AF:  So what’s your average daily schedule look like?

MO:  I’m always up first…no later than 10:00 most days.

DR:  He [Pinder] is the last.

AF:  So when are you usually getting up?

CP:  11:30.

AH:  And I wake up whenever they come out in my room.

AF:  So when do you normally leave for the park?

DR:  I’m normally driving every day. So whenever the crew is ready, we’ll take off. We normally get here around 1:00-1:30 after we go grab some food, either Subway or The Habit.

AF:  What’s The Habit?

AH:  It’s like a burger joint.

DR:  And they’ve got awesome salads and quality food. We basically have the same routine every single day. We’ve done it for five months straight, eating the same food every day. Then we show up here around 1:00-1:30 and start getting on it. And then afterwards, we’re fortunate enough to eat here. And then we just head home and hang out for an hour or two and call it a night.

AF:  So when do you guys usually crash at night?

ALL: 12:30 or 1:00.

AF:  So not too many late-night video game sessions then?

AH:  We do movie night every once in a while.

DR:  He [Pinder] will pick out a great movie. He’s really into those scary movies. He picks out great movies.

AF:  So what was the best movie of the year?

Chad Pinder

Chad Pinder

CP:  What did you think the best one I picked was?

DR:  Maybe The Devil Inside. That one was awesome.

ALL:  Yeah!

MO:  Great ending!

AF:  Well that’s sounds pretty unanimous! So who’s the most responsible member of the household?

AH:  Probably Danny.

ALL:  Yeah.

AF:  So he’s the adult?

DR:  I’m a clean freak. My area and the kitchen always have to be clean or it bugs me. I’m not going to lie.

AF:  So you’re the OCD one?

DR:  I’m the OCD one, I’ll admit it. There’s got to be that guy in the house who keeps everything neat because if there’s not then it just turns into a pig sty.

AF:  Who’s the messiest person in the house?

AH:  I’m going to go ahead and nominate you [Pinder]…He just leaves food, shoes or there’s always a pair of shorts or something…

MO:  I’m not too far behind him though.

AF:  Who’s the craziest or most random person where you never know what to expect from them?

ALL:  Billy [McKinney]!

DR:  When he was with us, you never knew his next move…I think, living there now, it’s probably House.

AH:  I usually ride pretty solo…I usually go by myself. I’m a pitcher.

AF:  Not only are you a pitcher, you’re a closer! So you’re really on your own wavelength.

AH:  Yeah, I usually kind of do my own thing.

AF:  So if you all end up in Midland next year by any chance, would you consider reconstituting this arrangement?

DR:  No, probably not. I’ve lived with Olson for three years now. It’s kind of getting old.

AH:  I might go back to hanging out with pitchers.

DR:  No, I’m just kidding. I would live with these guys for sure.

ALL:  Yeah.

AH:  Honestly, we get along pretty well. We have fun together and enjoy hanging out with each other.

AF:  So there could be chapter two in Midland?

Austin House

Austin House

AH:  There probably is going to be chapter two…but we’ve got to get to Midland first!

AF:  Of course. Now you’re just wrapping up your season here and you’re going to the playoffs. Looking back, you’ve accomplished a lot as a team this year, but what do you take out of your time here this season?

AH:  We kind of expected to be a winning team. We’ve got a lot of good players. Not saying that we expected to get to the playoffs or anything, but we expected to win.

DR:  I think last year we had a winning tradition in Beloit, and it’s most of the same guys here, with a couple of major additions like Chad Pinder and some of the other guys. We had the same coaching staff and most of the same crew here, and we won last year and we expected to carry it on again this year.

AH:  I think we kind of had a chip on our shoulder too because I think we could have won the Midwest League. And coming into this league, we had the same kind of squad, so we want to win it.

AF:  So you feel like you’ve got a little something to prove this year.

AH:  Exactly.

AF:  So I guess you’re looking forward to getting into the postseason and trying to go all the way then.

DR:  Yeah, I feel like if you get there, you want to make the most out of it and win it all, and not get bounced in the first round or something.

AF:  Now it looks like three of you [Robertson, Olson, House] are going to be together out in the Arizona Fall League this year.

AH:  He [Pinder] is responsible. He’s going to school.

AF:  Where are you going to school?

CP:  Virginia Tech.

AF:  So back home – what’s your major?

CP:  Communication studies – so not really a major. [Laughter]

AF:  How much do you have left to do?

CP:  35 credits, so I’m going to do 15 this fall and then knock out the rest periodically.

AF:  So are the rest of you looking forward to going to the AFL?

DR:  Yes, definitely. It’s an honor for sure. I think it’ll be fun. It’s just the next step of the process.

Matt Olson

Matt Olson

MO:  Seeing the competition, we probably haven’t faced half of those teams just because they’re on the east coast, so it’ll be good to see what all’s out there. And like he said, it’s an honor to be included.

AF:  Yeah, you’ll definitely be seeing a lot of talent out there you haven’t seen before. And you’ll also be seeing your old friend Addison Russell since he’ll actually be on the same team with you guys. I guess you must be looking forward to that.

DR:  Of course.

AF:  You’ve still got your place out in Arizona, right?

DR:  Yeah, it’s up to him if he wants to stay with us again or not.

AF:  Individually, you’ve each had really strong seasons this year. Starting with you Chad, you got off to a great start. You’ve had a few injuries, but you’ve still been out there most of the year and have had a really solid season while learning a new position at second base. What do you feel you’ve been able to accomplish this year?

CP:  I think the big thing was defense at second base. When I was first over there, I was like a fish out of water. I was really uncomfortable and making a lot of errors. And then I worked hard and it started to get better throughout the season. So I feel like that’s the main thing that I’ve gotten out of this year.

AF:  Austin, you’ve really been coming on strong in the second half, and your strikeout numbers have really been on the rise. Is there anything that’s been clicking here for you later in the season?

AH:  Just trying to be consistent every outing. I think in the first half, I was throwing well. Some of the results just weren’t where I wanted them to be, but that’s a part of the game.

AF:  Well, eventually it all evens out!

AH:  Yeah, it’s a full season.

AF:  Matt, you’ve had a great season, but you’ve really had an exceptional second half, hitting lots of home runs and walking a lot. Is there anything in particular you’ve learned or adapted to over the course of the season?

MO:  Yeah, I think just the experience of getting more at-bats under your belt, and just sticking to a plan up there. And obviously as the season goes on, you get more at-bats and you become more comfortable up there. I wouldn’t say there’s been any specific adjustments.

AF:  And what about you, Daniel? It’s late in the season, you’ve been out there grinding every day, and still you’re hitting as well as you have all season right now, so something must be clicking for you.

DR:  I just think it’s preparation and staying with the routine, getting the work in and just trying to stay within myself at the plate and trying to control the zone. Getting down to later in the season, you’ve got to stay mentally strong, and how you prepare is what will help you finish strong. Like Olson said, there’s no major adjustment that I’ve made. It’s just staying with the routine, and the more at-bats you get, the better you’re going to get. And it’s been a fun year.

AF:  As you look back on the season, were there any particularly memorable moments or highlights that stand out in your mind?

DR:  Last night, clinching the second half, especially beating a team that won the first half and dominated us in the first half. So to do it against them was pretty fun. You get into the playoffs and it’s a fresh start and anything can happen…One thing that sticks out in my mind, we didn’t win this game, but we were down 11-3 against San Jose a couple of weeks ago and scored seven runs in the bottom of the ninth, and that was probably one of the most exciting games I’ve been a part of in a while. We didn’t come out on top in that game, but we sure felt like we won with the display we put on in the bottom on the ninth – and those are games you like to play.

AF:  So did that help infuse you with a little extra confidence coming down the stretch, like you could come back in any situation?

AH:  Yeah, we’ve done it like five or six times.

MO:  We did at Visalia two weeks ago!

DR:  The other day in Rancho Cucamonga, we were down 2-0 in the top of the ninth and we put a couple of runs together and Ryan Gorton comes up with a big hit and the next thing you know we’re on top 3-2.

MO:  And Josh Reddick hitting that game-tying bomb for us!

AH:  It happens all the time! In the eighth inning, we’ll be down by four or something, and I know somehow we’ll pull it off. Who knows how? But we always do! We just battle until the very end.

AF:  So how did you guys celebrate when you clinched your playoff berth?

AH:  Just hung out with the teammates and enjoyed their company. That’s what’s good about our team. We have a real good clubhouse. It makes it easy to come to work when you enjoy your teammates, so we always have fun.

AF:  Well, I guess for you, it’s just like being at home!

ALL:  Yeah!

 

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