Category: Minor League Teams

Snappy Thoughts: Beloit’s 4-Game Series vs. Burlington (4/20-23)

By Ryan Christoffersen / A’s Farm Beloit Correspondent

bsThe Beloit Snappers recently hosted a 4-game series with the Angels’ Midwest League affiliate, the Burlington Bees, at Pohlman Field in Beloit that wrapped up on Sunday afternoon.

The Bees are managed by former A’s catcher Adam Melhuse, and the top prospect on the Bees roster is toolsy outfielder Jahmai Jones, who is the #1-ranked Angels prospect according to MLB Pipeline.

The Snappers and the Bees split the 4-game series, with Burlington winning the first 2 games 3-1 and 8-4, while the Snappers took the final 2 games 8-3 and 8-0.

 

Game #1:  Burlington 3 – Beloit 1

Ty Damron

Ty Damron

*LHP Ty Damron turned in another strong outing (4 IP/4 H/1 ER/1 BB/5 K) for the Snappers. Damron is a lefty who won’t blow you away with a big fastball, but he’s got great command. He also does an excellent job of keeping the ball low and getting ground balls, as evidenced by the five ground-ball outs he got in this game.

*RHP Brendan Butler, a 30th round pick in 2015, has had a magnificent start to his 2017 season. Butler looks to be a late-round gem that has a legitimate chance to move up the ranks fast. Butler pitched 4 scoreless innings of no-hit ball in the game. For the season, he has a 1.69 ERA with a 0.63 WHIP and a .137 batting-average-against while striking out 21 in over 16 innings.

*The Snappers struck out 12 times in the loss and didn’t draw a walk. The slider low and away was the main culprit on many of the strikeouts in this game.

 

Game #2:  Burlington 8 – Beloit 4

Dakota Chalmers

Dakota Chalmers

*RHP Dakota Chalmers (#14 A’s prospect on MLB Pipeline) started the game, but he didn’t last very long. Chalmers walked 4, hit a batter, and threw 4 wild pitches and got pulled after just a ⅓ of an inning. Chalmers was all over the place with his pitches. Our guess from the press box was that he was having trouble with his landing spot and that he didn’t have a good grip on the ball on a chilly April night. After such a strong start his last time out on the road (4 IP/ 1 H/ 0 ER/ 0 BB/ 10 K), hopefully we can just chalk this outing up to a bad day.

*Outfielder JaVon Shelby, the A’s 5th-round pick in 2016, went 3 for 4 with a stolen base.

*A’s 27th-round pick in 2016, speedy outfielder Cole Gruber had a rough day at the plate. He finished 0 for 5 with 4 strikeouts.

*Snappers infielder Eric Marinez was brought in to pitch to one batter in the 9th inning, and he struck out the Angels #1 prospect, outfielder Jahmai Jones, with a 94-mph fastball!

 

Game #3:  Beloit 8 – Burlington 3

Matt Milburn

Matt Milburn

*RHP Matt Milburn had his strongest outing of the year, going 4 scoreless innings, and the A’s 29th-round pick last year really had his cutter working effectively in this one.

*The A’s 6th-round pick from last year, RHP Brandon Bailey, also had a strong outing. Possessing more swing-and-miss stuff than his tandem-pitching partner Milburn, Bailey threw 3 scoreless innings while striking out 5 batters.

*LHP Andrew Tomasovich has been almost unhittable out of the Snappers bullpen. And he struck out 2 of the 3 batters he faced in this outing. Tomasovich will come at you from a couple of different arm angles. His fastball ranges from 92-94 mph, and he has a hard, breaking slider. The 23-year-old lefty spent all last season in Beloit, where he struggled with his control. But this season, he has really found his mojo, and he currently boasts a stat line of 8 IP/3 H/0 ER/0 BB/12 K.

*First baseman Miguel Mercedes and designated hitter Kyle Nowlin both went deep for the Snappers. Nowlin’s blast was hit just to the right of the batter’s eye in deep center field.

 

Game #4:  Beloit 8 – Burlington 0

Mitchell Jordan

Mitchell Jordan

*LHP Dalton Sawyer, the A’s 9th round pick last year, was dominant on the mound. He pitched 5 perfect innings for the Snappers, striking out 8. He threw 57 pitches, 42 of them for strikes.

*Drafted a round later than Sawyer, 10th-round pick RHP Mitchell Jordan followed Sawyer’s impressive effort with a solid 4 IP/3 H/0 ER/1 BB/2 K line on Sunday.

*Together, Sawyer and Jordan combined for a 3-hit shutout of the Burlington Bees, while walking just 1 and striking out 10. The two also threw a combined 100 total pitches, 75 of which were for strikes.

*Outfielders Luke Persico and JaVon Shelby and infielders Edwin Diaz and Eric Marinez all homered for Beloit.

*Edwin Diaz’s home run was impressive, going “oppo boppo” (opposite field) for an estimated distance of nearly 400 feet to right-center field.

 

Series Notes:

*Miguel Mercedes and Kyle Nowlin have been alternating between first base and designated hitter. And, so far, Mercedes appears to be the superior defender.

*Speaking of Kyle Nowlin, the A’s 21st-round pick from last year has really started hitting the ball with much more authority lately. He tallied two doubles and a home run in the series.

*Outfielder Luke Persico, the A’s 12th-round pick from last year, came into the Burlington series just 1 for 22 as a Snapper. But he really heated up in this series, going 5 for 10 with a home run and 5 RBIs.

*Beloit Snappers Media Relations Manager, Garrett Mansfield, commented during Game #4, “I really like Dalton Sawyer’s delivery. It’s just so smooth.” And I would have to agree with that observation. The 6’5”, 210-pound southpaw really does have a great-looking delivery that is just so silky smooth.

 

ds662121

bb656278

A’s Prospects of the Series:

LHP Dalton Sawyer                    RHP Brendan Butler

(5 IP/ 0 H/ 0 ER/ 0 BB/ 8 K)           (4 IP/ 0 H/ 0 ER/ 2 BB/ 5 K)

 

 

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.

Snappy Thoughts: Beloit’s 3-Game Series vs. Peoria (4/13-4/15)

bsby Ryan Christoffersen / A’s Farm Beloit Correspondent

The Beloit Snappers hosted the St. Louis Cardinals’ Midwest League affiliate, the Peoria Chiefs, for a 3-game home series at Pohlman Field in Beloit this week.

The Chiefs had a couple of the Cardinals’ 1st-round picks playing in the series, including 18-year-old outfielder Dylan Carlson (#16 Cardinals prospect on MLB Pipeline).

Peoria took Game #1 from Beloit by a score of 7-3 on Thursday, while the Snappers mounted a great comeback in Game #2 (in what shall now be known as “the Collin Theroux game”) to win by a score of 5-4 on Friday, and Game #3, which turned out to be a 12-0 shutout win, was completely dominated by the Snappers on Saturday.

 

Game #1:  Peoria 7 – Beloit 3

Edwin Diaz

Edwin Diaz

*Snappers tandem starters Matt Milburn and Brandon Bailey were not at their most effective on Thursday. Between the two, they walked 5 and gave up all 7 Chiefs runs in 5 ⅓ innings of work.

*The Snappers were very aggressive at the plate against Chiefs starter Ronnie Williams (#25 Cardinals prospect on MLB Pipeline), resulting in a lot of quick outs through the first 6 innings. In fact, Williams threw just 61 pitches through 6 innings of work.

*Half the Snappers 10 hits in the game came during their 3-run 7th inning.

*Snappers infielder Edwin Diaz led off the 7th inning with a booming home run to left field. It was his 2nd home run of the season and Beloit’s only extra-base hit of the game.

 

Game #2:  Beloit 5 – Peoria 4

mm642286

Miguel Mercedes

*Coming into Friday’s game, Beloit catcher Collin Theroux was 5 for 65 in his professional baseball career, including an 0-for-33 mark as a Snapper. Theroux proceeded to go 3 for 3 with 2 home runs and 4 RBIs and also made a terrific sliding catch in foul territory.

*Theroux’s first home run of the game, and of his pro career, was hit over the Pohlman Field scoreboard in left-center field and the estimated distance was over 430 feet!

*Theroux’s second home run was a game-tying 2-run shot that came in the 7th inning.

*Snappers pitcher Brendan Butler noted that Theroux had a good spring in Arizona and was starting to make better and more consistent contact. Maybe this career game will be a turning point in his young career.

*Outfielder Luis Barrera showed off his blazing speed by legging out a triple to lead off the bottom of the 7th inning and later scored.

*Designated hitter Miguel Mercedes hit the go-ahead home run in the 8th inning just over the wall in left field. It was his 2nd home run of the season for the Snappers.

*Starting Pitcher Boomer Biegalski allowed a lot of hard contact in the 1st inning, but he bounced back and pitched much better over his next 3 innings of work. Biegalski’s final line: 4 IP / 4 H / 3 R / 2 ER / 1 BB / 3 K.

*Last year’s 9th-round draft pick for the A’s, LHP Dalton Sawyer, pitched 4 very strong innings. Sawyer dominated the Chiefs with a mix of fastballs, sliders and changeups. Sawyer’s final line: 4 IP / 2 H / 0 R / 0 BB / 7 K.

 

Game #3:  Beloit 12 – Peoria 0

Ty Damron

Ty Damron

*Beloit hitters recorded 16 hits and scored 12 runs in the game. Not to be outdone, Beloit pitchers combined to throw a 5-hit shutout with 0 walks and 12 strikeouts.

*Beloit pitchers Brendan Butler, Will Gilbert, and Ty Damron were very efficient, needing just 112 pitches to get through the game.

*Snappers pitcher Ty Damron is technically considered a starting pitcher. But with the 8-man tandem rotation that the Snappers (and other A’s affiliates) are using, Damron came in as reliever in this one and actually got credited with a save in a 12-run game.

*Beloit’s Pohlman Field offered ideal hitting conditions on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, with a temperature near 80 degrees and a 23 MPH wind blowing out to right-center field. And Snappers hitters took advantage, with all but one Snapper getting at least one hit.

*The Snappers’ 3 home runs came from outfielder JaVon Shelby, who hit his 1st of the season, and infielders Edwin Diaz and Miguel Mercedes, both of whom hit their 3rd.

*Diaz had a big day at the plate, going 3 for 5 with a home run and 3 RBIs.

*Shortstop Eric Marinez showed off his range with a Jeter-esque jump throw to cut down Chiefs first baseman Stefan Trosclair.

*Shelby’s home run was impressive as it capped a 6-pitch at-bat in which he fouled off three straight good pitches from Chiefs pitcher Dailyn Martinez. Shelby was also wearing special cleats in honor of Jackie Robinson day across baseball. You can see what Shelby had to say about Jackie Robinson here...

 

Series Notes:

*The start of Game #2 was delayed by an hour and thirty-one minutes because of inclement weather. Miguel Mercedes’ go-ahead home run actually came with the rain coming down pretty hard. And the game had an announced attendance of 94. Yep, you read that right.

*Game #3 of the series saw Snappers pitchers retire 16 Chiefs batters in a row.

*Snappers pitchers combined for 35 strikeouts in the 3-game series.

*Infielders Edwin Diaz and Miguel Mercedes are tied for the team lead in home runs with 3 apiece.

*Edwin Diaz looks like a player who is just starting to tap into his power potential. With his powerful right-handed swing and his sturdy 6’2”, 195-pound frame, this 21-year-old infielder is a player to keep an eye on.

*It is hard to properly describe the amazing game that Collin Theroux had on Friday. It is just another great example of how baseball is such an unpredictable game. Anyone can be the hero on any given night!

ct657267

 

A’s Prospect of the Series:

Catcher Collin Theroux

(4 for 6 / 1 BB / 2 HR / 4 RBIs / 3 Runs)

 

*          *          *

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.

 

Snappy Thoughts: Beloit Snappers Season-Opening Series Recap

by Ryan Christoffersen / A’s Farm Beloit Correspondent

0bsc352b182e959069318064c6abd5681d09d53add9.jpg-590x1000b

Beloit’s Pohlman Field

The Beloit Snappers opened their season with a doubleheader vs. the Cedar Rapids Kernels (Twins affiliate) at Pohlman Field in Beloit on Friday, April 8th. This came after the originally-scheduled opening day on Thursday was postponed due to wet grounds at Pohlman Field.

While starting the season with a doubleheader is not ideal for anyone (players, coaches, fans, front office, the guys in the press box), it ended up being a fine day at the ‘ol ballpark. The Snappers split the doubleheader, losing the first game 4-0 and winning the second game 3-2.

 

Game #1:

Pitcher Xavier Altamirano

Pitcher Xavier Altamirano

*Starter Brendan Butler had an inconsistent first outing, allowing 4 runs, 3 earned, over 3 2/3 innings to take the loss. He was mostly hurt by a rough 2nd inning in which he gave up three straight hard-hit doubles.

*RHP Xavier Altamirano had a strong debut, throwing 3 1/3 scoreless innings out of the bullpen. He featured a slow curveball at 67-69 mph that really kept the Kernels off balance. Fellow Snappers hurler Dakota Chalmers mentioned that Altamirano had a really good spring training, so he was not at all surprised that Altamirano started off the season strong.

*Outfielder Cole Gruber, last year’s 27th-round draft pick for the A’s, had a chance to show off his speed by reaching base on a beautiful bunt single down the third base line in the 3rd inning.

*Kernels starting pitcher Eduardo Del Rosario really impressed, holding the Snappers to just 2 hits and striking out 7 over 6 shutout innings.

 

Game #2:

First Baseman Miguel Mercedes

First Baseman Miguel Mercedes

*Starter Ty Damron, last year’s 15th-round draft pick for the A’s, pitched 4 strong innings of shutout ball, painting the outside corner all night. The left-hander was a strike-throwing machine, notching 7 K’s on the night. Damron needed just 11 pitches to get through the first two innings. Overall, he threw a total of 58 pitches, 46 for strikes.

*The only trouble for Damron came in the 4th inning, when the Kernels loaded the bases with nobody out. He then struck out the next two batters on six pitches. The third out of the inning was not as easy as Kernels outfielder Christian Cavaness worked an 11-pitch at-bat before finally succumbing to a strikeout. During the lengthy at-bat, Snappers pitcher Michael Murray commented, “Rarely does a long at-bat like this ever work out in the pitcher’s favor.” In this case, Murray was glad to be wrong.

*The Snappers first two runs of the season were scored on wild pitches by Kernels starter Tyler Wells.

*Designated hitter Miguel Mercedes had the Snappers’ first extra-base hit of the season, a double scorched into left-center field that scored first baseman Kyle Nowlin to give the Snappers their first win of the season in a walk-off!

 

Series Notes:

Early season baseball can be sloppy. In this short two-game series, there were two runs scored via wild pitch, one run scored via a throwing error, one passed ball, one balk, and a total of three errors. Catcher Collin Theroux picked a man off first base in Game #1 of the doubleheader, while lefty reliever Will Gilbert picked off an inherited runner in the 7th inning of Game #2.

td641499

 

A’s Prospect of the Series:

Pitcher Ty Damron

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

 

*          *          *

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 Ports 2017 Opening Day Roster Preview

by Josh Moore / A’s Farm Stockton Correspondent

spRoFg4u4Y

Stockton’s Banner Island Ballpark

This year, Stockton has the pleasure of welcoming Oakland’s first four selections from last year’s draft onto its 25-man opening day roster, as the Ports add a total of 13 new players to the 2017 squad.

The main cause for excitement in Stockton this year revolves around the team’s retooled pitching staff, which will feature last year’s top three draft picks for the A’s: LHP A.J. Puk (#6 overall, Florida), RHP Daulton Jefferies (#37, Cal) and RHP Logan Shore (#47, Florida).

Of the 13 pitchers currently on the Ports pitching staff, eight of them are expected to work as part of four two-man starting pitching tandems, at least to start the season. In addition to top picks Puk, Jefferies and Shore, a couple of 2016 Snappers starters, RHPs Angel Duno (7-7, 2.68) and Dustin Hurlbutt (3-6, 2.57), will be joining a pair of Ports hold-overs, RHPs Casey Meisner (1-14, 4.85) and Brett Graves (7-10, 4.60), along with LHP Evan Manarino (10-6, 2.58), who split time between Beloit and Stockton last year. And this octet of promising young pitchers certainly has the potential to shape up as the California League’s most talented starting staff in 2017.

Last season, Stockton’s hitters struck out a total of 1,226 times (second worst in the California League), and the Ports were league-average or below in nearly all offensive categories. With a pair of last year’s more productive hitters, Joe Bennie (.302/.376/.449) and B.J. Boyd (.288/.346/.395), joining Midland this season, the Ports hope that some of the newcomers will step up to help replace their production.

Among the new arrivals are a number of 2016 draft picks who just got a chance to get their feet wet last year, including catcher Sean Murphy (3rd round, Wright State), outfielder Tyler Ramirez (7th round, North Carolina), shortstop Eli White (11th round, Clemson) and second baseman Josh Vidales (28th round, Houston). Joining them will be some more experienced prospects who spent all of last season with Beloit, including outfielders Skye Bolt (.231/.318/.345) and Brett Siddall (.241/.321/.356) as well as second baseman Trent Gilbert (.269/.327/.380).

The key to success for Stockton this season, however, will be the performance of its talented young pitching staff. It will surely need to improve on a 2016 staff that underwhelmed last year, even after adding highly-touted RHP Grant Holmes, who joined the Ports in August after arriving from the Dodgers in the Josh Reddick/Rich Hill deal. Among the five teams in the California League North Division last season, Stockton had the highest ERA (4.56) and WHIP (1.44) as well as the fewest saves (20), so there’s definitely plenty of room for improvement in 2017.

 

10 Ports Players to Watch in 2017

1. LHP A.J. Puk

ap640462bIf there was any doubt who to note first on this list, witnessing Puk’s performance in Stockton’s exhibition game versus Cal State East Bay on Tuesday evening erased all doubt. The big lefty will undoubtedly be the big attraction at Banner Island Ballpark this season. And he possesses a unique set of skills that will be dearly missed whenever he is inevitably sent to Midland, whether it be midseason or next season, so that he can terrorize Texas League hitters. Sporting a 6’7″ frame and long, reddish-blonde hair, Puk is a dominant figure on the mound. His unique ability to hurl a 98-mph fastball on a downward plane results in a distinct POP audible a quarter mile down Fremont Street. Though he was facing collegiate competition on Tuesday, Puk was absolutely a man amongst boys. Brought into the game in relief of starter Dustin Hurlbutt, Puk struck out 8 batters in 4 innings while allowing just two base runners. Puk made his spring training debut in major league camp for the A’s, striking out the side in the first of his two appearances in big league camp. In 10 starts at Vermont in 2016, Puk pitched to a 3.03 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP while striking out 40 in 32 2/3 innings, and he was most proficient against right-handed hitters, allowing a stingy .157/.232/.202 line against righties. At his best in 2016, Puk combined to allow just 3 hits and 2 walks over 8 2/3 innings while striking out 13 and allowing no runs in back-to-back August starts. Like many larger-framed pitchers, however, Puk is also prone to a wild, difficult-to-repeat delivery and occasionally lacks control because of it. In both his freshman and sophomore seasons at Florida, Puk averaged more than 4 walks per 9 innings and allowed 3.3 free passes per 9 frames at Vermont. For Ports fans, the news of Puk’s arrival could be bittersweet. As one of the most potentially electrifying pitchers in the California League, he might not end up staying in the league for long.

2. RHP Logan Shore

ls624519Dating back to their days together at Florida when Shore and A.J. Puk dominated SEC lineups together, and despite what’s been written above, the better pitcher statistically has actually been Shore. Logan didn’t feature a mid-to-high 90s fastball or double-digit K/9 numbers at Florida, but he walked only a fraction of the batters that Puk did (1.90 to 4.04 BB/9), showed off an ERA in the mid-2s compared to Puk’s in the mid-3s, and won 30 games over three seasons as opposed to Puk’s 16 victories. Shore’s best asset is probably his ability to control the strike zone, which he typically pounds with a plus changeup, slider and a fastball that sits in the low 90s with excellent command. In his brief stint in Vermont last season, lefties struggled to the tune of a .306 OPS while Shore pitched to an overall 2.57 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP, striking out 21 in as many innings for the Lake Monsters. He really impressed in a surprise spring training start in major league camp against the Angels, where he struck out 5 (including Mike Trout) over 5 solid innings and allowed just a single run thanks to some unusual spring training base-running shenanigans.

3. RHP Daulton Jefferies

djPFKSDMUFQUWSOHH.20151029180443Oakland’s second pitching selection in 2016 out of UC Berkeley, Jefferies was nearly as dominant as Shore against lefties in his first taste of pro action, holding them to a .167/.250/.222 slash line in the Arizona League in what was admittedly a very small sample size. Overall, in 11 1/3 innings, he pitched to a 2.38 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP while notching 17 strikeouts for the AZL A’s. Like Shore, Jefferies’ consistency and control are a large part of what makes him so good. He walked only 8 in 50 innings while putting up a 1.08 ERA in his final season at Cal. And in limited action in the Arizona League last year, he issued just 2 walks in his 11 1/3 innings of work. A rocky spring training outing in his only action in major league camp saw him yield 8 hits and 6 earned runs in 2 2/3 innings of work for the A’s, but Jefferies is certainly a prospect who has the potential to move through the A’s system quickly.

4. C Sean Murphy

sm669221Although Murphy is a defensive-oriented backstop with a laser for an arm, he hit .298 at Vermont before an 0-for-23 stretch cut his batting average to .237 last year. He finished last season on a high note, however, going 3-for-3 with a home run, 3 RBIs and a walk in his final game. He also caught both A.J. Puk and Logan Shore in each of their final starts last season. Murphy showed off his plus arm with a 1st inning laser beam to second base to nail the runner on a stolen base attempt in Stockton’s exhibition game on Tuesday, but the backstop appeared to be a little over-matched at the plate at times.

5. IF Mikey White

mw608383bWith the release of last year’s starting third baseman for Stockton, Jose Brizuela, White looks to take over the bulk of the third base duties for the Ports in 2017. The former Alabama standout was drafted by the A’s in the second round in 2015, just one round after the team selected fellow SEC infielder Richie Martin. And last year, he ended up hitting .247/.315/.352 in his first season with the Ports. Hitting in the seventh spot in the order behind Sean Murphy in Stockton’s exhibition game on Tuesday, White showed signs of improving his performance this year, drilling a 2-run homer to left, singling to left, and walking in his first 3 plate appearances against right-handed pitching.

6. RHP Nolan Blackwood 

nb670154A 14th-round selection out of Memphis, Blackwood projects to be Stockton’s primary closer in 2017. He’s a submarine-style pitcher similar to former A’s Chad Bradford and Brad Ziegler, but with a better fastball that reaches the low 90s. Blackwood began last season with Vermont, appearing 5 times in relief, allowing 2 earned runs in 6 1/3 innings (2.84 ERA, 1.11 WHIP) before being promoted to Beloit. Blackwood got off to a rocky start for the Snappers, where he allowed 9 earned runs in his first 8 2/3 innings while opposing batters crushed his pitches to the tune of a .415 batting average and an OPS of 1.020. In his final 6 appearances, however, the 6’5” righty managed to right the ship, holding opposing batters to a .114/.162/.114 slash line while allowing just 6 base runners in 11 1/3 innings. Blackwood continued his scoreless streak during two brief appearances in major league spring training camp for the A’s, throwing 1 1/3 shutout innings versus Milwaukee and Chicago, which will hopefully help provide him with an added boost of confidence heading into his debut season in Stockton.

7. 1B Chris Iriart 

ci664872bDefensive limitations aside, Iriart can swing it with power, as he combined to hit 22 home runs last season between Beloit and Stockton. His impressive .689 slugging percentage in 61 at-bats at Stockton last season more closely resembled most other Ports hitters’ OPS. Besides Iriart, only fellow first baseman Sandber Pimentel (.779) and outfielder Seth Brown (.702) return to the club with an OPS that was better than .700 last season, and the young slugger promises to provide the Ports will plenty of power in 2017.

8. OF Skye Bolt

sb621450A quick, switch-hitting center fielder, Bolt will instantly become Stockton’s best defensive outfielder. After electing not to sign with the Nationals after being drafted out of high school, he showed promise as a freshman at North Carolina, hitting .321/.418/.491, but he never saw his production match those numbers again over his next two collegiate seasons. Oakland selected the speedy center fielder in the 4th round in 2015, but he’s yet to come on strong at the plate in Vermont or Beloit during first two professional seasons, hitting a combined .233/.321/.358 while grounding into more double plays (14) than he has stolen bases (12). Bolt went 0-3 in Tuesday’s exhibition, striking out once, though his first two at-bats were loud outs, resulting in his counterpart in center field having to make two spectacular plays to keep him off the basepaths.

9. 1B Sandber Pimentel

sp622698Though Pimentel will open the season on the 7-day disabled list, he returns to Stockton for a second season after leading the Ports in home runs (21) and notching the second-most RBIs (66) and walks (60) on the team. 18 of the left-handed slugger’s 21 home runs came in 317 at-bats versus right-handed pitchers in 2016. Pimentel cooled off in the latter half of the season, doing most of his damage between May and July, when he slashed .257/.349/.530 and belted 17 home runs. Pimentel hit fifth in the order in Tuesday’s exhibition game and once again went yard to right-center.

10. RHP Matt Sergey

ms519270Finally, if you’re a fan of the classic underdog, I’ll try to sell you on Matt Sergey, even if just for this season. Once a 45th-round draft pick of the Milwaukee Brewers way back in 2007, the 27-year old Sergey has spent much of his time bouncing around the independent leagues. Despite an obvious lack of tools, and with a fastball that tops out in the low-90s and barely fringe-to-average secondary pitches, Sergey seems to pick his spots well and has a knack for missing bats. Matt spent parts of 2016 with Laredo in the independent American Association, where he pitched to a 4-0 record in 7 starts over 44 innings, allowing only 4 runs with a WHIP of just 0.93. His first attempt at A-level ball was last year at Stockton, where he made 12 appearances with mixed results. Despite Sergey’s success as a starter in Laredo, he’s probably not cut out to be starting pitcher, but his 13.7K/9 ratio in his 27 innings with Stockton last year indicate that he can indeed produce outs in limited stints. He made an appearance in Tuesday’s exhibition game, retiring the only four batters he faced. In 2016, 6 of Sergey’s 9 relief appearances for Stockton were in similar three-to-four-out situations; and in them, he didn’t allow a single run and struck out 12 in just 6 1/3 innings of work.

 

You can find the complete Stockton Ports opening day roster here.

*          *          *

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.

 

Beloit Snappers 2017 Opening Day Roster Outlook

by Ryan Christoffersen / A’s Farm Beloit Correspondent

bsHi there! My name is Ryan Christoffersen and I will be contributing to Athletics Farm this season from Beloit, Wisconsin. Beloit is the home of the Oakland Athletics’ Low Single-A affiliate, the Beloit Snappers (#OhSnap).

Working as a Stats Stringer and Official Scorer at Pohlman Field in Beloit, I am going to be at almost every home game. That means I will be able to keep everyone updated on what is happening and what I am seeing from the prospects playing for the Snappers. This is actually my second year working in the Pohlman Field press box. Last season, I was the Pitch F/X Operator for the Snappers, so I am already familiar with about ten of the players on the current roster.

Don’t forget to read the main source of news for the Beloit Snappers at snappersbaseball.com, where new Media Relations Manager Garrett Mansfield is doing some great work. And speaking of snappersbaseball.com and Garrett, check out his article on the Snappers opening day roster. That article and my following thoughts should work together to give Oakland A’s fans a very good idea of what prospects are in Beloit to start this season and why they should be very excited!

 

They’re baaaaack…

Ten Snappers making a return trip to Beloit this season…

bb664928

Leon “Boomer” Biegalski

RHP Boomer Biegalski: Real name is “Leon.” I prefer “Boomer.” It makes me think of Tom DeLonge’s character from the blink-182 music video First Date. Boomer Biegalski actually led the 2016 Beloit Snappers with 153 1/3 innings pitched. He finished with a respectable 3.70 ERA (3.96 FIP) and a 1.19 WHIP. He was even selected to play in the Midwest League All-Star Game. The problem with Biegalski last season was how poorly he pitched in the second half. Not only was his ERA about a full run higher after the all-star break (first half: 3.21 ERA, second half: 4.15 ERA), but his home runs allowed ballooned from 4 in the first half to 10 in the second half. It has got to be frustrating to return to Beloit after a full season there, but I would bet he is one of, if not the first, Snappers moved up this season.

SS/2B/3B Trace Loehr: Here is an interesting case. Loehr, like Biegalski, spent all of last season with the Snappers. A 6th-round pick out of high school in 2014, Loehr was the #26 prospect in the A’s organization according to MLB Pipeline going into the 2016 season. But it was a season full of speed bumps for this slick-fielding infielder. Loehr did not hit well in the first half, batting just .211/.241/.283. He had a short stay on the disabled list in late April/early May. And then, in late July, Loehr was arrested and was placed on the temporarily inactive list for almost two weeks. With limited information available on the incident, I have to assume Loehr was cleared of any wrongdoing. When he came back in August, he started to play really well, hitting .338/.372/.513 in 21 games with 4 stolen bases and numerous “web gems” in the field. If Loehr can continue to play closer to what he did last August, we could have a post-hype breakout player.

3B/SS Edwin Diaz: Spent all of last season with the Snappers. Has some potential with the bat, but a high strikeout rate (29.7%) is part of the reason he is back in Beloit.

LHP Andrew Tomasovich: Side-arm lefty reliever has some nasty swing-and-miss stuff (11.34 K/9 in 39 2/3 innings), but has trouble controlling it (1.64 WHIP, 5.67 ERA).

RHP Michael Murray: Made 12 starts for the Snappers last season. ERA was a little high at 4.28, but probably more representative of his season is the fact that he had a 3.66 FIP in 61 innings.

RHP Brendan Butler: Pitched well in 9 starts for Beloit in 2016 with 3.14 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 51 2/3 innings. Can he build off of successful 2016 season? If so, he could move up quickly.

OF Mike Martin: Pleasant surprise for Snappers in 2016 before getting hurt in July and missing the rest of the season. Hit .298 with a .372 OBP and 7 stolen bases in 34 games for the Snappers.

OF Luis Barrera: Young outfielder with exciting potential is going into his age-21 season. Hit .310/.361/.428 between Vermont and Beloit last season while playing all three outfield spots.

RHP Xavier Altamirano: Strong start to 2016 in Beloit, but struggled in May before being put on DL. Once healthy, he pitched in Vermont the rest of the year and had a 2.48 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 65 1/3 innings.

C Collin Theroux: 32nd-round pick in 2016 had a brief cameo in Beloit at the end of the season. In 21 at-bats, Theroux struck out 15 times and did not record a hit. Nowhere to go but up!

 

The Newbies

Top five new Snappers ranked in order of how excited I am to see them play this season…

  1. RHP Dakota Chalmers: Only Snapper ranked on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 Oakland A’s prospects at #14. I figure there is a good chance he spends the entire season in Beloit because he is just 20 years old and needs to work on his control.

  2. OF/3B/2B JaVon Shelby: An article from last year here on Athletics Farm talks about the 2016 A’s draft class with Athletics Scouting Director Eric Kubota. In the article, Kubota talks about how Shelby is capable of playing the outfield as well as third base and second base. He is described as a versatile, “toolsy” player with a lot of potential. Kubota even says he is “a Josh Harrison (of the Pirates) type of player.” Harrison is a versatile, productive and overall exciting player to watch – he also hit .337 in 79 games in the Midwest League in 2009. If Shelby even slightly resembles Josh Harrison, the Snappers are getting a fun player to watch.
  3. 1B Miguel Mercedes: Listed at 6’4”, 255 lbs., this power-hitting first baseman should be knocking home runs out of homer-friendly Pohlman Field all summer long. HOT TAKE ALERT! – Mercedes will finish in the top three in home runs in the Midwest League.
  4. LHP Will Gilbert: A college closer at North Carolina State, this guy looks to be the best bet as the Snappers best reliever to start the season. I have always heard one of the quickest paths to the majors are for left-handed relievers. From his good stats in Vermont to his high draft spot for a reliever (8th round), I could see Gilbert playing for the Oakland A’s in the big leagues in the not-too-distant future, provided he pitches up to his potential in Beloit.
  5. OF Cole Gruber: I am always pumped to see a player with blazing speed. Whether it is base stealing, running the bases, or making plays in the outfield, speed kills. Gruber led the Arizona League with 28 stolen bases while being caught just twice last season.

I hope you enjoyed my opening thoughts on the opening day Snappers roster! Growing up here in the midwest as a huge baseball fan, it was inevitable that I would take interest in the Midwest League. I really started to follow the Midwest League starting in 2004. In my experience, I have found that the Midwest League is a place for players to have their breakout seasons. While 2016 was a tough year in the standings, I am very excited for the 2017 Beloit Snappers. While lacking in top prospects, this team is full of players with breakout potential. #OhSnap

You can find the complete Beloit Snappers opening day roster here.

*          *          *

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 2017 Minor League Staff

 

Nashville Sounds manager Ryan Christenson

Nashville Sounds manager Ryan Christenson

NASHVILLE SOUNDS (Triple-A)

Manager: Ryan Christenson

Pitching Coach: Rick Rodriguez

Hitting Coach: Eric Martins

Ryan Christenson was named manager at Triple-A Nashville after guiding Double-A Midland to back-to-back Texas League Championships in 2015-16.  He began his managerial career in the A’s farm system in 2013 and has a 323-236 (.578) record while leading his clubs to postseason appearances in all four of his seasons.  Christenson is currently managing the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League.  Rick Rodriguez (pitching coach), Eric Martins (hitting coach) and Brad LaRosa (athletic trainer) return to the Nashville staff while Henry Torres joins the club as strength and conditioning coach.

 

 

Midland RockHounds manager Fran Riordan

Midland RockHounds manager Fran Riordan

MIDLAND ROCKHOUNDS (Double-A)

Manager: Fran Riordan

Pitching Coach: John Wasdin

Hitting Coach: Brian McArn

Fran Riordan replaces Christensen at the helm of Midland after managing at Single-A Beloit the previous two seasons.  Prior to that, he managed for 14 season in independent leagues.  John Wasdin (pitching coach), Brian McArn (hitting coach) and Justin Whitehouse (athletic trainer) return to Midland and Matt Rutledge joins the staff as strength and conditioning coach. [UPDATE: Pitching coach John Wasdin has joined the Baltimore organization as pitching coordinator, and Beloit pitching coach Don Schulze will now move up to serve as Midland’s pitching 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 returns as manager at Single-A Stockton for the third consecutive season and is in his 21st season in the A’s organization.  Steve Connelly (pitching coach), Tommy Everidge (hitting coach) and Sean Doran (strength and conditioning coach) also return to Stockton.  An athletic trainer to replace Travis Tims will be determined at a later date.

 

 

Beloit Snappers pitching coach Don Schulze

Beloit Snappers pitching coach Don Schulze

BELOIT SNAPPERS (Class-A)

Manager: Scott Steinmann

Pitching Coach: Don Schulze

Hitting Coach: Juan Dilone

Scott Steinmann joins the Oakland organization as manager of the Beloit Snappers in the Midwest League.  Steinmann had spent his entire professional baseball career, which began in 1996 as a player, in the Seattle organization.  His first coaching assignment came in 1999 at Everett of the Northwest League and he spent 17 seasons on various coaching staffs in the Mariners farm system, including nine seasons as a manager.  His most recent assignment was in 2015 at the helm of Single-A Clinton.  Don Schulze (pitching coach), Juan Dilone (hitting coach) and Brian Thorson (athletic trainer) return to Beloit and Omar Aguilar takes over as strength and conditioning coach. [UPDATE: With Midland pitching coach John Wasdin joining the Baltimore organization as pitching coordinator, Beloit pitching coach Don Schulze will now move up to serve as Midland’s pitching coach. And Carlos Chavez has been promoted from Vermont to take over as Beloit’s new pitching 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

The coaching staff at Short Season Single-A Vermont remains the same with Aaron Nieckula as manager, Carlos Chavez as pitching coach and Lloyd Turner as hitting coach.  Toshi Nagahara returns as athletic trainer and J.D. Howell will be the new strength and conditioning coach. [UPDATE: With Carlos Chavez moving up to serve as Beloit’s pitching coach, Bryan Corey will now take over as Vermont’s new pitching 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: Gabriel Ozuna

Hitting Coach: Ruben Escalera

The A’s affiliate in the Arizona Rookie League will also have the same staff, including manager Webster Garrison, pitching coach Gabriel Ozuna, hitting coach Ruben Escalera, coach Gabe Ortiz, athletic trainer Chris Lessner and strength and conditioning coach Terence Brannic.

 

 

Traveling instructor Steve Scarsone

Traveling instructor Steve Scarsone

Minor League Instruction Coordinator: Ed Sprague

Minor League Traveling Instructor: Steve Scarsone

Minor League Hitting Coordinator: Jim Eppard

Minor League Pitching Coordinator: Gil Patterson

Minor League Pitching Rehab Coordinator: Craig Lefferts

Minor League Defensive Coordinator: Juan Navarrette

Minor League Field Coordinator: Aaron Nieckula

Ed Sprague was named coordinator of instruction after serving as a consultant for the A’s player development department in 2016.  He hit .247 with 152 home runs and 558 RBI in 1203 games over 11 seasons in the majors, including part of one season with Oakland in 1998.  Following his playing career, the Stockton native was the head coach at the University of the Pacific for 12 seasons from 2004-15.  Steve Scarsone, who has spent the last eight seasons managing in the A’s farm system, was named traveling instructor.  Gil Patterson, Jim Eppard, Juan Navarrette and Craig Lefferts return in their roles as pitching coordinator, hitting coordinator, defensive coordinator and pitching rehab coordinator, respectively. Nate Brooks was named medical coordinator after 12 seasons with the A’s as a minor league athletic trainer and rehab coordinator.  Travis Tims, who begins his 10th season in the Oakland organization, replaces Brooks as rehab coordinator.  A.J. Selliger will take over as strength and conditioning coordinator in his fourth season in A’s system.  Brooks and Selliger replace Jeff Collins and Josh Cuffe, who have joined the Major League staff in Oakland.

(Information provided by A’s Media Relations)

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

0dsc04060xThe A’s released their Fall Instructional League roster on Monday morning. Camp is set to open at the A’s minor league facilities in Arizona next week and will run for a month.

22 pitchers and 27 position players are currently scheduled to attend. And some high-profile prospects like recently-acquired pitcher Grant Holmes, last year’s 1st-round draft pick Richie Martin and 17-year-old Dominican prospect Lazaro Armenteros will be participating.

Also attending will be the A’s top five picks from this year’s draft – promising pitchers A.J. Puk, Daulton Jefferies, Logan Shore and Skylar Szynski as well as catcher Sean Murphy. You can see the full list of A’s prospects who are set to appear in camp below…

 

–PITCHERS–

ap640462

A.J. Puk

Nolan Blackwood

Argenis Blanco

Brendan Butler

Dakota Chalmers

Ty Damron

Dustin Driver

Angel Duno

Will Gilbert

Nick Highberger

Grant Holmes

Dustin Hurlbutt

Daulton Jefferies

Casey Meisner

Abdiel Mendoza

A.J. Puk

Miguel Sanchez

Dalton Sawyer

Logan Shore

Skylar Szynski

Andrew Tomasovich

Oscar Tovar

Tyler Willman

 

sm669221

Sean Murphy

–CATCHERS–

Jarrett Costa

Roger Gonzalez

Sean Murphy

Collin Theroux

Skyler Weber

 

–INFIELDERS–

rm621006c

Richie Martin

George Bell

Marcos Brito

Chris Iriart

Eric Marinez

Richie Martin

Miguel Mercedes

Nate Mondou

Christopher Quintin

JaVon Shelby

Yerdel Vargas

Josh Vidales

Eli White

 

–OUTFIELDERS–

sb621450

Skye Bolt

Lazaro Armenteros

Rob Bennie

Skye Bolt

Anthony Churlin

Jeramiah McCray

Kyle Nowlin

Luke Persico

Tyler Ramirez

Kevin Richards

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.

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

nstumblr_nn6zzrPnCN1qedy4lo1_500bRick 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 moved to Nashville last season, the northern California native remained on the west coast with the Single-A Stockton Ports. But this year, he’s back in Triple-A with the Sounds helping to develop another crop of talented young arms for the A’s.

Eric 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 made the move to coaching last year, when he served as the hitting coach for the A’s Double-A affiliate in Midland, and he’s now handling some of the team’s top young hitters this year at Nashville.

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

 

RICK RODRIGUEZ

rrRodriguez, Rick2AF:  Well, we’ve checked in with you each of the past four seasons, but this is the first time you haven’t been in California. You’ve been a coach with Oakland, Stockton and the Sacramento River Cats, and you pitched for both the A’s and Giants, so when’s the last time in your career that you actually spent a full season outside of California?

RR:  It might have been back twenty-something years when I was with the Cleveland Indians back in 1988. That might have been the last time. But yeah, it’s been a long time since I’ve been out of the state.

AF:  Okay, let’s talk about a few of the arms you’ve got here at Nashville this year, some of whom you actually had for part of the year with Stockton last year too. Let’s start with Dillon Overton, who came back from Tommy John surgery. He’s had a great year here at Nashville and he’s been up and down a bit with Oakland. So what have you seen out of him here at Nashville this year and what does he need to do to get over the hump to become a long-term major league pitcher?

do592614dRR:  When he first started here, I think he was trying to feel himself out in the league. Now that he’s had some innings in, he feels comfortable here. He knows he can pitch at this level and at the next. Basically, the same as last year – he has good command of his fastball and a great changeup. He’s still working on his curveball, and he’s added a cut fastball – and I think that’s kind of helped him. And once he gets that cut fastball and maybe a little bit more consistency on his curveball, then he’ll be ready to handle all the big league hitters up there.

AF:  Is his velocity about where it was last year when you had him at Stcokton or has it changed it all?

RR:  It’s probably about the same. On any given start, sometimes it’s a little higher or maybe a little lower, but it’s roughly about the same. But his location has been very consistent.

AF:  Well, his command is obviously the thing for him. Another guy you had for a bit at Stockton last year is Daniel Mengden. He obviously got off to a great start this year, both at Midland and here at Nashville. And his first four starts for Oakland were really solid as well. So what really enabled him to make that leap this year and what does he need to do to get back to that level again?

dm596043bRR:  One thing that he was doing here was he was very consistent at getting ahead of hitters and, when he was ahead of hitters, he was able to put them away. I think that’s what he needs to get back to, and I think that’s what he needs to do to get over that hump in Oakland. He was doing that really, really well for the first few starts. Then it kind of got away from him and he was getting deeper into counts. So getting him back to where he was here – like I said, he was being able to put hitters away early in the count with his pitches. He’s another guy who has tremendous stuff and tremendous command. You know, sometimes you might get a little off-kilter, so we’re just trying to get him back on line.

AF:  It seemed like he had a lot more first-pitch strikes down here and in his first few starts with Oakland than in his last few starts there anyway.

RR:  Yeah, that’s what he was telling me when he came in and I talked to him for a little bit. I just told him, “Hey, we’re going to get you back right where you were and you’re going to be back up there.”

AF:  So I guess he knows what he needs to work on then – no one needs to tell him.

RR:  He knows what he needs to work on. He’s well aware of it and he’s ready to do it.

ra593417cAF:  Now a guy who’s had a couple of great starts since coming up here is Raul Alcantara. He was a little hot and cold this year at Midland, but he comes up here and he doesn’t seem to want to walk anyone or give up a run or anything. So what do you think of what you’ve seen out of him here at Nashville so far?

RR:  Well, he’s another guy I had in Stockton last year! He’s shown very good command of his fastball. Last year the velocity was there, the command was okay. His command of his fastball is a lot better. His changeup is kind of what I remember. It’s almost like a split-action type – it’s late, it’s hard, it goes down, hitters swing at it. He’s still working on his curveball to get that a little more consistent break – and I’ve seen more consistency in the action on the curveball. It still needs to be a little bit more improved but, other than that, he’s dominating so far. I hope it keeps going, especially the no walks!

AF:  Yeah, I’m sure that makes a pitching coach’s life a whole lot easier! Now Jesse Hahn has been up and down this season, but his last start in Oakland was really on point. But why do you feel he’s had the struggles he’s had this year, where do you think he’s at right now and what’s he got to do to get back to where he was?

jh534910bRR:  I think he’s right where he wants to be. Right when he was called up, he was working all his mechanical issues out and he was in a rhythm and it showed up there in Oakland. And we’re just going to continue the work that we’ve been doing here with his rhythm and tempo and mechanics. The one thing that I think he needs to do is just be consistent in his outings, pitch by pitch, just be consistent – that’s a big thing for him.

AF:  One guy out of the bullpen it seems has been overlooked a bit this year is Tucker Healy. He’s certainly been racking up the strikeouts at a good pace. What have you seen out of him here this year?

RR:  I had Tucker a couple years ago his first time in Sacramento, and now here. And the big difference is he’s matured in that he knows how to handle the hitters. He’s very aggressive, he goes right after them. He’s got command of his fastball to both sides of the plate, and he’s got that nasty slider that he throws. He just comes right at you – and that’s the biggest thing. I told him, “You look more confident in that you know what you want to do up here.”

AF:  Is there anyone else on the staff who you feel has really made significant progress over the course of the year here?

RR:  Oh man, everybody! Patrick Schuster is a guy who got off to a tremendous start. He’s a left-handed guy who’s more than a left-handed specialist. He did very well here and got a promotion up to Oakland. He’s back down here now, but I look forward to him going back up. Ryan Brasier has been throwing the ball very well. He’s got a power fastball and a good hard slider, and I’m looking for good things out of him.

 

ERIC MARTINS

emMartins, Eric2AF:  Let’s start out by talking about a couple of guys you had here this year who are now in Oakland. Catcher Bruce Maxwell really went on quite a tear here in Nashville before he went up and something really seemed to click for him here lately.

EM:  Well, that’s one of my special ones. They’re all special to me, but Bruce and I had a really good relationship. We tried to change him in the past to make him more of a pull power guy. And I came in last year and said, “Hey, let’s make you the hitter that you are and we’ll work on our pull side home runs.” And he’s really grinded it out and really gotten after it and set up a good routine and got back to being the hitter that he was comfortable being in college. Now everything’s kind of clicking on all cyclinders. Starting in spring training, he made some adjustments to his stance and his swing, and he really took off with it. Things just started to come together for him and he went on an impressive run. He’s one of the hardest-working guys around. He’s usually here before everybody – he’s here at 11 o’clock, he’s out stretching, he’s doing his routine – and we’ll just talk hitting. He’s one of those guys who’s real receptive and real into what he’s trying to do and takes instruction and suggestions well and runs with it. And it’s good to see him doing what he did finally.

AF:  Another guy you had here for a brief period of time before he went up to Oakland is infielder Ryon Healy, who was hot from day one this season. So what was working for Ryon Healy and what was he doing right this season?

rh592387bEM:  Well, we all know Healy can hit. I had him last year too and he had a great season in Double-A. The power numbers weren’t there and I just kept preaching to him, “Be a hitter first, your power’s going to come.” And I got to see him this offseason out in southern California. I got to work with him and Matt Chapman and couple other guys a lot during the offseason. And, of course, he was disappointed with spring training, not coming into big league camp, and having to go back to Midland. And he used that as fuel for his fire to prove people wrong. We’d have some conversations and I said, “Hey, just use that against them, force their hand.” And he did it. He came here and he was with his buddies, and there was a comfort level with his teammates and with myself, and we just kept him on track. He’s special hitter, and he understands his swing. And he’s another that I’m proud of. Just seeing him going up and having success and doing well up there, we all know what he can do.

AF:  A guy who was on kind of a similar path as Healy this year is outfielder Jaycob Brugman. He started out the year back at Midland, hit well there and came up here to Nashville and has continued to hit well here. So what kind of improvements have you seen out of Brugman this year?

jb595144bEM:  Brugman is just a great baseball player. He can go out and play all three outfield positions and play them well. He made some tweaks with his hands in the Arizona Fall League. When I saw him in spring training, that obviously was noticeable. And he really liked it – it got him into a better position to be able to drive balls a little bit more. He’s just a smart hitter, he really studies the pitchers. He has a real solid approach, he doesn’t stray away from his approach, and he’s going to give you a quality at-bat every time he’s up there. He’s done a great job. He went on a tear when he first got here where he was carrying the team, and it was unbelievable. I had Bruggy last year, and seeing him carry us through the playoffs was outstanding – and the year before, when he hit like ten home runs in ten games at Stockton. So he’s got that capability in him. Like I said, he’s going to give you a quality at-bat, he’s not going to back down lefty or righty, he studies the pitchers and he stays true to his approach.

AF:  Now Matt Olson started out the season kind of slow, but it seems like maybe things are starting to click a bit for him lately. Can you tell me about some of the challenges he faced early on and where you feel he’s at now?

mo621566EM:  You know, people seem to forget how young this team is. He’s only 22 years old playing in Triple-A, facing guys who have been up and down in the big leagues probably for the last five or six years, even when he was still in high school. I think the biggest adjustment for him was just understanding how pitchers were going to pitch him. They started playing him in the shift a little bit early in the year, which took away a lot of hits. Once again, he’s in another non-hitter-friendly ballpark. So all that taken into consideration, he’s handled it well and he’s stayed true to form. And we’ve made some adjustments with his approach. There’s a couple of little mechanical things with him. He was kind of coming off balls, and teams were trying to pound him in, and he was probably going out of the zone inside. So we kind of changed him staying over the ball a little bit and working on driving the ball to left-center field, and he’s kind of run with it. He’s finally taken it and stuck with it for a while and not given in to what the pitcher’s trying to do to him, but getting a good pitch for him to hit. And the last three weeks or whatever, he’s stayed true to form. He’s staying in there and having really good at-bats, and now he’s starting to show what he can do.

AF:  A guy who was on a bit of a similar track as Olson is shortstop Chad Pinder. He started out the season a little slow as well but wound up being a Triple-A All-Star. So tell me about some of the challenges he faced early on and where you feel he’s at at this point.

EM:  Like I said with Olson, just being young in this league and understanding how pitchers are going to pitch him. He’s coming off a Texas League MVP, so pitchers and other teams know about Pinder. So he’s just going to have to go out and really understand what they’re going to try to do to him. Probably about a month or a month and a half into the season, we did a little mechanical change where we spread him out a little bit to get him to a strong part of the field, which is right-center field. And he really took off then, had a real good June, carried the team, and started hitting some home runs and started driving the ball the other way. And now we’ve kind of stood him back up to where he normally is because now he’s sound on those balls out over the plate. You know, Pinder’s another one of those guys who’s just a hard-nosed player – he wants to win, he doesn’t care too much about his stats, he’s a baseball player, he’s a gamer, he’s a guy who’s going to go out and give you 110% each day. And it’s fun to see him develop into the hitter that he is. He’s a smart guy, he understands what he wants to do. He’ll go through his little spurts every once in a while, but he easily corrects himself. And if I see something, I can tell him, and he’s quick to make an adjustment. And he’s another guy, this core that we have, that’s special.

cp640461cAF:  As a former infielder yourself, I don’t know how much time you’ve spent with him in the field. But he had a lot of throwing errors, especially early in the season. So is there anything you noticed that was casuing him to be off with his throwing this year?

EM:  Yeah, he worked a lot with Ron Washington during spring training, which was outstanding – Wash is the best that there is. Pinder’s more of a rhythmic infielder, and a lot of the stuff that he did with Wash was hand work and stuff like that. But he kind of forgot how to be in rhythm with his feet, so that’s why his hands and his feet weren’t working and he was losing his arm slot a little bit. And you know, it was really bothering him. And me having him last year and getting to work with him in the infield, I kind of started noticing some stuff and we kind of got him back into being a little bit more rhythmic and doing the stuff that Wash has and incorporating his footwork on top of that with his throws. And I think he made like thirteen errors in the first month of the season, and in the last two months it’s only been like eight or nine. So he’s on top of it. We seem to forget that last year was his first full year playing shortstop too, so he’s still kind of learning some things. He’s picked up a lot from Wash, which has been outstanding. His hands are…I can’t say enough about Wash and what he does with the infielders!

AF:  So I guess you can definitely see the difference between pre-Wash Pinder and post-Wash Pinder!

EM:  Absolutely! So now he’s started incorporating his feet and his arm slot has gotten in a better throwing position, and now he’s right where he needs to be.

AF:  And one last guy to ask you about, third baseman Renato Nunez. He started out the season as probably this team’s best hitter. He still leads the team in home runs, but he’s had some struggles of late. So what’s been going on with him and what kind of challenges is he facing at this stage of the game?

EM:  I think Renato’s the same way – he’s 22 years old. Early in the year, he was just one of those guys who was locked in, and then the league figured him out a little bit. And he started having some at-bats where he was kind of chasing some balls and started looking for some pitches they wanted to get him out with instead of looking for pitches that he wanted to hit. So it was an ongoing struggle with an approach with him – nothing too mechanical – I think with him it was just trying to do a little bit too much. He started on fire, and I think he felt that if he just kept it going he could be there instead of Healy.

rn600524eAF:  Hey, this is going to be easy!

EM:  But you know what, this game humbled him real quick. But he’s a hard worker. I don’t really worry about him because he can hit – he’s a hitter, he has power, he’s got a chance to be a special guy in the middle of the lineup, hopefully for us. But he’s getting back now. His last week’s at-bats have been outstanding. Yesterday he had four quality at-bats and barreled up four baseballs and had one hit to show for it, but he had a sac fly. So it’s just him getting used to looking for his pitch and not trying to hit the pitch that he thinks the pitcher’s going to try to get him out with.

AF:  Now I know you started out as a scout for the A’s. So what made you want to switch over to coaching?

EM:  Well, I love scouting, I can’t thank [A’s scouting director] Erick Kubota enough for giving me an opportunity when I was done playing. I’d always done instructional league, which I love – I love being on the field, I love being around the players. And [A’s director of player development] Keith Lieppman called me a couple offseasons ago. I had drafted Daniel Robertson, and he was going to be in Midland last year – I’m not saying he was the reason why I took the coaching job but it was a good opportunity for me to be around him and that core group of guys that he came up with and see him flourish and help those guys. It was a situation where I thought I was ready to get back on the field. And I love the fact that I did it. Like I said, I love scouting and I love the scouting department. But now, having done both, it’s just opened up my eyes a lot. The scouting has helped me help these hitters on top of it, and I just really enjoy being around these guys.

AF:  So have you found it more fulfilling to have the opportunity to work a little more hands-on with these guys?

EM:  You know, both work. But now that I have an opportunity to work with these kids in Double-A and Triple-A and see them get to the big leagues and see that you have a little bit of a part in it…but with these guys, it’s all their ability. We just kind of keep guiding them in the right direction and give them some suggestions to help them out and that’s fulfilling. You see Bruce Maxwell and Ryon Healy up there, having had them the last couple years, it really is fulfilling seeing those guys up there performing.

*          *          *

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.

Dillon Overton & Daniel Mengden on the Ups and Downs of Pitching

A wave of pitching injuries for the A’s this season has opened the door for a number of the team’s top pitching prospects to make their debuts in the major leagues a little sooner than expected. Sean Manaea was one of the first to get the call but many others soon followed, including right-hander Daniel Mengden and left-hander Dillon Overton. Both were dominating at Triple-A when they got the call. And both have been up and down a bit between Oakland and Nashville since, with neither laying claim to a permanent spot in the A’s rotation quite yet.

We had the opportunity to interview Mengden in the Oakland clubhouse just a couple of weeks ago. And we then had the chance to catch up with him and Overton for this piece just a couple of days after Mengden had arrived back in Nashville and just a couple of days before Overton was recalled to make his most recent start for the A’s.

 

DILLON OVERTON

do592614dThe A’s 2nd-round draft pick in 2013, Overton underwent Tommy John surgery just shortly after being selected by the A’s in the amateur draft. And roughly three years after being drafted and undergoing surgery, the 24-year-old made his major league debut with the A’s this June. The Oklahoma native has had an outstanding season at Triple-A for Nashville, and his 3.21 ERA still ranks as the third best in the Pacific Coast League. Overton has made four starts over three separate stints with Oakland so far this season, and he’s hoping to have a chance to stick around for more…

AF:  Well, this has been a big year for you. After having the Tommy John surgery and working your way back from that, you made it up to the majors this year. So how do you feel about the journey that you’ve been through?

DO:  You know, the process after you have Tommy John surgery is always an extremely long one. It’s not only a grind on your body, but it’s also a grind on your mind. And to be able to have the season that I’ve had this year, to start in Triple-A and make it to the big leagues, it’s awesome. I’m extremely blessed, and I’m happy with the way the season’s been going so far.

AF:  Now you’ve had a very good season here at Nashville. Are there any particular adjustments you’ve made to have the success that you’ve had here at this level this year?

DO:  Just staying on top of my pitches and keeping the ball down in the zone. The higher you move up in the system, the better the hitters get. A lot of the guys who are in Triple-A right now have been in the big leagues too. So you’re facing the same caliber of hitters as you would in the big leagues. I mean, some of them might be a little better in the big leagues. But it’s really no different – it’s just a different type of stage and a little more pressure. But I’ve been extremely blessed with the way the season’s been going and I’m happy with how I’ve done here at Triple-A, and hopefully I can get to the big leagues to stay there.

AF:  You’ve seemed to have very good command since coming back from the surgery. Did you always have excellent command throughout your college career as well?

DO:  Yeah, I’ve always prided myself on not walking many people every time I set foot on the mound, and I’ve been that way ever since I was a kid. I don’t like throwing balls – I hate it actually. But my command’s always been there, usually with every single pitch that I throw, so hopefully I can keep that going.

AF:  You’ve been back and forth a bit between here and Oakland of late, and you’re about to be going back there again. So what’s it like doing all that bouncing back and forth. Is it a little stressful or disorienting at all?

DO:  I mean, yeah, it’s not so much stressful, it’s more just tiring. But, then again, you really don’t care as long as you’re getting in big league games. To me, it doesn’t really matter as long as I keep getting those calls. And hopefully the plan is to one day get that call and stay up there.

AF:  Well, I’m sure you’re more than happy to overlook any minor inconveniences along the way!

DO:  Yes, exactly!

AF:  So was there anything different you noticed about the way that big leagues hitters approached you?

DO:  Really, the difference is up there, if you miss your spot, they will make you pay for it usually just about every time. Here you can get away with missing your spot some and they won’t hit it or they don’t put very good contact on it. But up there, if you miss your spot and you put it somewhere over the plate where they like it, they make you pay for it every time. So the few outings I’ve had up there, I think I’ve gotten better each outing I’ve gone up there. And I usually get up there a day before, so I’m able to watch the team that I’m gong to face. So just watching them before I throw, knowing their tendencies and what they do, that helps out a lot.

AF:  Is there anything in particular that the coaches really want you to be working on or focusing on at this stage of the game?

DO:  Really, just being more consistent with my curveball. Before I had surgery, I could throw my curveball at any point in time in any count. It really didn’t matter, I could throw it in there for a strike at all times. And when I had surgery, that kind of slipped away a little bit. I’ve been pretty inconsistent with my curveball. I’ll throw five or six really good ones, and then it’ll leave me for a little bit. So really, I’ve just been working on that and seeing if I can get that more on a consistent basis.

AF:  And how do you feel your velocity’s been this year? Has it been about the same as last year or has it been different at all?

DO:  I actually started out this year at a little bit higher speed than what I started with last year. I started this year about where I finished last year, which is a good sign. They always tell people about two and a half years after Tommy John surgery it starts coming back. But it’s been a really slow process for me velocity-wise with it coming back to where it was before I got hurt. But when you don’t have your velocity that you used to have, it makes you rely on everything else that you’ve got – command, using other pitches – when you used to be able to throw 95 and throw it by people. But I try not to think about it and just try to go with the flow.

AF:  But it does force you to have to be a lot better at everything else you do.

DO:  Yes! I tell myself and I tell a lot of other people, when I do, if I do, finally get that velocity back, it’s just going to make me that much better.

 

DANIEL MENGDEN

dm596043bAcquired from the Astros last summer in the Scott Kazmir trade, Mengden got off to a blazing start at Midland this season and quickly earned a promotion to Nashville, where he continued to impress. And his performance there earned him a promotion to Oakland, where the 23-year-old allowed just eight earned runs in his first four major league starts in June but then gave up twenty-three earned runs over his next five outings in July before returning to Triple-A. While with Oakland, Mengden had the opportunity to live with A’s outfielder Josh Reddick, who helped give him a good introduction to big league life before being dealt to the Dodgers at the trade deadline…  

AF:  Well, a little over a week ago we were talking in Oakland and now we’re here in Nashville, so let’s catch up! Let’s start out by talking about your time in Oakland. Your first four starts were great, and then the last five were a little rocky. So what do you think was the difference between those first starts up there and then those last starts up there?

DM:  Just execution. I was really good – my strike percentage was really good, my first-pitch strikes were really good – the first couple outings. The last four it wasn’t so good. I was falling behind, not throwing as many strikes, my breaking ball might not have been as crisp. And when I was getting to two strikes, I was stretching counts – you know, 2-2, 3-2. I think I could barely make it to the fifth inning three straight games – I was struggling to get to the fifth. And you know, I was not very good at excuting early. I was just trying to battle through. But besides that, it’s one of those things where you kind of get in a groove and are going really well and sometimes you kind of bounce out of it. You know, your body’s a little banged up all the way around. But we’ll be back on top of it and we’ll be good.

AF:  Do you feel the reason you weren’t executing was more mechanical, more mental, or more from your body just being physically tired?

DM:  I’m not really one for excuses. I’m not trying to blame one or the other. You know, it’s probably a little mix of all three. This is my first full year of throwing on a five-day rotation – I did it a little bit last year towards the end of the year. But I think I only threw 130 innings last year and I’m already at 120 right now. So I think maybe if I had to pinpoint one, my body might be a little banged up all the way around, just fatigued from having to throw every fifth day and not really being used to it. But I’m just trying to get my feet back under me. They told me to come down here and get healthy and I’ll be back soon. So I’m not too worried about it. I’m just trying to get healthy – I’m getting a couple extra days off. I’m really trying to get back into the groove.

AF:  I remember when we last talked a little over a week ago, you’d said, “Some of these major league innings can take a lot out of you.” And it made me wonder if maybe you were physically tiring a little bit at this point in the season.

DM:  Yeah, in the big leagues, winning and losing matters. It’s not that it doesn’t in Triple-A or Double-A, but we’re working on things. Everyone down here’s working on something – actually, probably three or four things – but everyone’s working to get better. So I guess it’s probably a little less stressful in the minors. In the big leagues, with guys on first and second and one out, with these next two hitters you’ve got to really try and get a ground ball, or with a guy on third and one out, you’ve got to try and pop a guy up or strike him out and then get the next guy out. So it is a little more stressful and I think it just fatigues you quicker – those ten pitches are way more intense.

AF:  So how did they tell you that you were going back down?

DM:  Curt Young and Bob Melvin sat me down and they just told me, “Hey, we’re going to send you down.” I had a feeling it was coming anyway. I’d had four or five so-so starts in a row. They just told me to get my feet back under me, don’t worry about it, you know, I’ll be back soon. Don’t know when that will be – could be a week, could be three or four weeks, could be September, could be never. You know, I’m 23 years old and having the chance to throw in the big leagues – which was a life-long dream – so I’m already living the dream at 23! So I’m not too worried about it at all. I’m just trying to get healthy, get feeling good again and hopefully get a shot.

AF:  I know that was a lot more than you expected when you started the year at Midland.

DM:  Yeah, sure. I think I told you, my goal was to make it to the big leagues by September. So I made it there early, but it takes a lot out of you.

AF:  How was facing major league hitters different for you than facing hitters down here in Triple-A?

DM:  Well, one thing is you can’t make a mistake. The moment you make a mistake by two or three inches, it’s a double. You make a mistake by a foot, it’s a home run. Even sometimes you’ll make good pitches and they’ll still get hits out of it. For example, I threw a curveball that was basically in the dirt and Wilson golfs it out for a single and two runs score. So I make a great pitch but, because the guy’s a big league hitter, he finds a way to hit it. That’s why it’s the highest level – you don’t get higher than that – those hitters know what they’re doing. And it’s all about executing…every single pitch matters. And, like I said, I feel like lately my execution has been so-so, and some walks and some two-strike hits have really killed me in certain situations. Not making a good enough pitch just led to problems. And once you make a couple mistakes, major league hitters are going to make you pay. And then it starts snowballing and long innings happen and suck pitches out of you and there you go, you’re at 100 pitches by the fifth inning already.

AF:  Now that you’re back here in Triple-A, what are you primarily trying to focus on doing while you’re down here?

DM:  You know, just the same things that I would up there – trying to get strike one, trying to execute all my pitches, getting early outs. I want to try to emphasize limiting the walks, trying to put the ball in play a little bit. And then, when I get to two strikes, putting them away with four pitches per hitter. You know, get them to 0-2, 1-2, maybe throw a ball and set something up and then get the guy out. It’s not my job to strike them out, it’s my job to get them out. A lot of pitchers really want the strikeouts, and I don’t care. The strikeouts will come when they come. I’m just trying to get early outs to try to lengthen the outings. You know, pitching five innings in the big leagues isn’t going to cut it. You’ve got to at least throw six or seven…you’ve got to be able to go deep in the games. So I’m just trying to keep my pitch count a little lower. Walks are, of course, the top priority – limit those to zero hopefully!

AF:  Now I know you were living with Josh Reddick when you were up in Oakland, along with Ryon Healy as well. So where are you living down here in Nashville now?

DM:  Well, I’m in my apartment that I had before I left. I’m living with Chris Jensen now. I originally lived with Eric Surkamp, but we designated him and then he got picked up by Korea, so now he’s playing over there. Chris Jensen got promoted from Double-A, so he’s been living in the apartment without me, and now we’re back together in the apartment. But it was kind of weird with all the speculation and talk about Reddick going around. So I kind of told him, “I appreciate everything you did for me…and how nice you’ve been to me and Ryon.” I was like, “I hope I see you again. If not, I’ll see you on the other side.” So it was kind of a weird goodbye in a way. You know, he’s a great guy and a great mentor. Even though he’s an outfielder and not a pitcher, it doesn’t matter. Taking me and Healy into his house, treating us like he said he was treated when he was brought up – it’s really nice knowing a guy’s taking us under his wing and really being there for us, helping us out with living and transportation. Anything we needed, he was there for us. And I think Ryon would say the exact same thing – we really appreciate everything he did for us. He’s a great overall player, he hustles 24/7, and I love watching him in a game. If he grounds out to short, he runs 100% down to first base. He plays the game the right way and he’s just a great mentor.

*          *          *

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.

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

ssscarsone_steveAfter spending parts of seven seasons as a big league infielder, Steve Scarsone has now spent eight seasons managing in the A’s minor league system. He’s currently midway through his fourth season managing at Triple-A and his second season in Nashville, where his team currently holds a nine-game lead in its division.

Whereas last year’s Sounds squad was full of seasoned veterans, Scarsone is handling a team filled with promising young prospects this season. We took the opportunity to talk with the skipper in Nashville last week to get his take on some of the team’s top players…

 

AF:  You’re in your second year here in Nashville now, and it’s kind of a different team than you had last year. You’ve got a lot of younger prospects here this year, and I wanted to start out by asking you about a couple of guys you’ve had here this year who are already up in the big leagues. First of all, catcher Bruce Maxwell was on a real tear here this year when he got called up, and he really seemed to make a big leap forward this year. So what did you see happen for him over the course of this season to get where he’s at now?

bm622194cSS:  I think, more than anything, he found a sense of confidence and he started feeling like he belonged at this level, and probably the next. I think it had a lot to do with just getting a chance to play through some things. The bat wasn’t showing up early but the defense was okay. He really thrived off of working with this pitching staff – they’re all young guys he’s had before. They enjoyed throwing to him, he knew that, and he had a good rapport with them. And so he was building confidence with his teammates. [Hitting coach] Eric Martins did a phenomenal job keeping him focused on what he needed to do at the plate. I know that he worked very well and closely with Rick Rodriguez, our pitching coach, when it comes to the game plan with the pitchers and how to get hitters out, and I think that started generating a little bit of confidence. And then he and I got along very well. So I think he was just in a great environment here, the team was good, he felt confident with them, and he had already played with half of them. And then he started to feel a little something happening on the field, and I think it all kind of snowballed from there. You can see his openness and his increased focus within the game. He kind of got away from beating himself up after at-bats – he moved on much easier. Actually, it was a great transformation to get a chance to be a part of. We were so happy to let him know that he was going to go up – that was a joy for all of us.

AF: Well, it sounds like he gained a lot of confidence and just really came into his own this season. Now Ryon Healy is a guy who started out the year hot at Midland, then he came here in May and continued hitting up a storm, and now he’s up starting in the big leagues. So what did you see out of him over the time that he was here?

rh592387bSS:  I think that if you go back to spring when he did not get invited to [major league] camp, from what I heard though the grapevine in minor league camp, he had a bit of a chip on his shoulder – he was out to prove something. He started the year at Midland and did prove something and got himself here. His stay here was short. He made his mark. He continued to play with a little bit of an edge. I know we had conversations where I said, “Listen, I’m not going to treat you like I’m excited to have you here. I’m going to treat you like you still have to prove something – to me, to them. I think that’s the edge that you need.” And I think he kind of agreed with me. He’s obviously very talented, he’s got a great head on his shoulders, he’s smart, he knows what he needs to do, and I’d like to see him continue to have success up there.

AF:  As a former infielder yourself, how did you feel about his abilities at third base when he was here?

SS:  Well, we have Renato Nunez here, so he really didn’t play that many games at third base. He mostly played first base and DH’d. But there really wasn’t anything that stood out that had to be fixed. The glove was good, the arm was good, the footwork was what it is. He’s a big boy, so he’s not going to be as agile as some guys, but he’s going to make the plays and he’s going to be smart about what he’s going to do. And that’s what I thought was definitely going to be a plus for him – I knew that he was going to be able to think the game out and put himself maybe a step or two ahead of the play because he’s got an understanding of the situation.

AF:  Now I wanted to ask you about a guy you just mentioned, Renato Nunez. The first couple months of the season, he was one of your best hitters here, and he still leads the team in home runs, but things started to tail off for him in June and July. So what challenges is he facing at this stage of the game?

rn600524eSS:  I think he’s still trying to figure out how he wants to hit in the big scheme of things. The power numbers have obviously given him an opportunity to get to this level and put him on the map. He’s still a young guy, and some nights he’s smart about his at-bats and he takes what the pitcher gives him and he’s willing to go the other way. But other nights it seems like he’s going all or nothing and finds himself swinging at balls out of the zone and getting himself behind in the count or going down on strikes on pitches he probably should have no reason to swing at. But that’s the struggle as well as the benefit of youth. We know he’s going through some of these changes. He’s starting to kind of get a better idea of what’s happening and what the pitchers are trying to do to him, and this is all just part of the process. You’ll see it in the big leagues, guys will go up and have a great month or two and then the league figures them out the second time through. And then the hitter either falls to the wayside and we go to the next guy or he makes his adjustments and starts to become something that we hope he would be. And I think that’s where Renato is right now. It’s his second time through the league now and he’s starting to sense what’s happening. And I think if you look over the last five to ten games, they’re becoming much better quality at-bats. And this is just part of the process. We’re talking about a 22-year-old kid – I mean, he shouldn’t even be here yet anyway. He does have the power – that’s not going to go away. If this level here can help him develop himself into a better all-around hitter with power, well he’s just going to be better as a big league player down the road.

AF:  Another young guy who’s had to make some adjustments this year is Matt Olson. He got off to a rough start early on, but it seems like maybe he’s starting to get into a little bit of a groove lately. What challenges do you think he’s faced this year in Triple-A and where do feel he’s at at this stage in the season?

mo621566SS:  I like where he’s at right now. I think he’ll agree that he’s made some transitions, he’s made adjustments, along the same lines that Nunez has done. The only difference between the two is Olson did not get off to a good start and found himself battling with numbers that kind of were hard for him to swallow early on, hitting around .200. Those things were rough, but yet he was still having some quality at-bats. Then recently, over the last three weeks to a month, things are starting to drop for him and the hits are coming, which turns into a little bit more confidence. Now he’s getting himself in a better situation evey at-bat, and he’s having much more success. Had he gotten off to a start that was at least .250, I don’t think we would have looked at him like he’s struggling. But we’re seeing Olson with a positive climb now, and I think that too can be very beneficial for young players. Again, a young guy 22 years old, he definitely now can go back and say, “Okay, I had to make this adjustment, and now it’s paying off.” That’s as valuable as coming out and hitting .300 from the get-go and thinking things are all sweet and happy, and the next thing you know, he gets to the big leagues, and all of a sudden – bam, right in the face, reality hits him! I would rather these guys struggle a little bit here, make some adjustments, so that they can then have something to draw from as they make the next step, because they just might struggle up there with no safety net. At least down here, we’re building a little bit of a safety net so they have something to draw back on to hopefully keep that struggle time shorter when it really matters.

AF:  So they know what it’s all about as opposed to thinking that everything’s going to be a piece of cake…

SS:  It’s not an easy game! And the quicker they get to find that out without all the media and all the eyes on them…then when they are in that situation, they have a little bit more groundedness to them, and hopefully that’ll give them a better foundation to build on.

AF:  And then another guy in that group is shortstop Chad Pinder. He started out kind of slow like Olson but ended up being a Triple-A All-Star. He’s been kind of hot and cold this season, but what do you think of Pinder’s season and where he’s at at this point?

cp640461cSS:  I think Chad’s done a really good job of trying to continue to be a contributor on the team. You know, he probably doesn’t have all the upside of some of the guys we talked about earlier, but he might end up being the guy who stays up there longer because he has some consistency in his game and there’s really some substance there that has shown itself day in and day out. There’s a competitiveness, there’s a kind of intelligence about the game and obviously some ability. Whether he’s going to be a shortstop in the big leagues, that’s yet to be seen. But in his time here and his experience here at shortstop, we’ve seen some improvement, we’ve seen some changes that have been implemented through all the work he’s been doing. He’s just kind of one of those guys who could become like a foundation of an infield or an outfield where you look up in a couple years and say, “Oh yeah, he’s supposed to be here.” So I like what he’s done, he’s a great teammate and everybody really enjoys him. He plays hard, works hard and has fun doing it. And those are the guys you hope get a chance to have a little success at the major league level.

AF:  A lot of his errors this season seem to be throwing errors. Again, as a former infielder yourself, do you have a sense of what the problem may be that he’s been having with his throws?

SS:  It’s a number of things. Some of it’s mechanics. We’ve worked on different things, from footwork all the way up. We’ve implemented some of the drills that Ron Washington presented to him and to myself during spring training, so we’ve continued on with those. Sometimes he just doesn’t quite get in the right position to throw because of the way the play presents itself. Other times it’s kind of maybe trying to do too much, trying to be too quick and trying to catch up to the speed of the league a little bit. For all these guys, there has been a considerable amount of improvement over the past couple of months. You know, as much as I would love to say that each one of these guys is perfect, they’re not. But I can say that each one of them is improving and they’re getting to be more and more of a solid ballplayer, both offensively and defensively, which basically is what our objective is here at this level – to get them one step closer to where they’re going to be helpful for the big club.

AF:  Well, I guess that’s your job basically – just get them a little closer to where they need to be.

SS:  Yeah, yeah. It’s a slower process for some. But it is a process, and we understand that we have to go through that process.

AF:  And finally, you had a pretty veteran team here last year. So what’s it been like for you to have this much younger team here this year?

SS:  For me, it’s much more enjoyable in the sense that, as a teacher, there’s a lot more teaching going on. With an older group, you’re just trying to herd the cats and keep things from going astray. So this is more focused on continuing to build these guys up and get them better and better, whether it be physically, out on the field, or mentally or emotionally, just little opportunities to talk through the game and give them a little insight or give them a little different perspective on where their world’s at. They can have tunnel vision a little bit, and sometimes age provides some better vision, so we try to drop little nuggets on them every once in a while. But it’s been a great bunch of guys. They’ve played together for years now, so they have a good rapport, a good camaraderie, and it’s kind of blended out to the other guys who might be new to the organization. We’re just on a good little mission right now, and everybody’s just enjoying everybody’s contributions and friendship more than anything. It’s a happy bunch.

AF:  And everybody’s always a lot happier when you’re winning too!

SS:  But you could argue that we’re winning because we’re happy. So it could be one or the other – but they usually go hand in hand!

*          *          *

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.

%d bloggers like this: