Results tagged ‘ Addison Russell ’
Wednesday, April 9th: Wahl Wins 2nd Start for Snappers while Goebbert’s Big Bat Leads Cats to Victory, Ports Come Up Short and Russell Expected to Miss a Month for Midland
A’s Farmhand Of The Day
MIDWEST LEAGUE (Class-A)
Beloit Snappers 3
South Bend Silver Hawks 2
WP – Bragg 1-0 / 1.69
Farmhand Of The Game:
Pitcher Bobby Wahl
(5 IP / 7 H / 1 ER / 1 BB / 7 K)
RHP Bobby Wahl, the A’s 5th-round pick in last year’s draft, was much more impressive in his second start for the Snappers, allowing just 1 run while striking out 7 in 5 innings of work on Wednesday. And when he left the mound after the bottom of the 5th inning, the game was tied. The 22-year-old was replaced by last year’s 18th-round pick, RHP Sam Bragg, who was equally impressive, allowing 1 run on just 1 hit while striking out 4 in 3 innings of relief to earn the win, while RHP Lee Sosa got the final 3 outs for his 1st save. Outfielder Herschel “Boog” Powell had a pair of hits and drove in a run, while outfielder Tyler Marincov singled, walked twice and scored twice, and shortstop Luis Baez, who entered the game when Chih-Fang Pan exited after the top of the 1st (presumably due to injury) doubled and drove in a run for the Snappers.
Sunday, April 6th: Alcantara Impresses in Double-A Debut as Russell Hits DL, Cats & Snappers Win and Ports Get Blanked
A’s Farmhand Of The Day
TEXAS LEAGUE (Double-A)
NW Arkansas Naturals 1
Midland RockHounds 2
WP – Alcantara 1-0 / 1.13
HR – Coleman (2)
Farmhand Of The Game:
Pitcher Raul Alcantara
(8 IP / 6 H / 1 ER / 1 BB / 1 K / Win)
Top pitching prospect Raul Alcantara was impressive in his Double-A debut for the RockHounds on Sunday. The 21-year-old allowed just 1 run on 6 hits over 8 innings of work to earn the win for Midland. The Hounds were held scoreless until shortstop Dusty Coleman tagged a 2-run homer in the bottom of the 8th inning to give his team the lead. RHP Seth Frankoff then came on to get the last 3 outs and earn his 1st save of the season for Midland. Earlier in the day, the team placed shortstop Addison Russell on the 7-day disabled list with a hamstring strain that resulted from a stolen base attempt on Friday night.
Friday, April 4th: McKinney Goes Deep Twice in Ports Loss while Neal Leads Midland to Shutout Win and Murphy Drops Cats Debut
A’s Farmhand Of The Day
CALIFORNIA LEAGUE (High-A)
Stockton Ports 3
Visalia Rawhide 4
LP – Ynoa 1-0 / 6.75
HR – McKinney 2 (2)
Farmhand Of The Game:
Outfielder Billy McKinney
(2 Home Runs)
2013’s top draft pick for the A’s, outfielder Billy McKinney, seems to be adapting nicely to the California League. On Friday, the 19-year-old tagged two home runs in two consecutive at-bats in the 3rd and 5th innings. Both solo shots tied the game at the time, though Stockton would ultimately go on to lose the contest. With the game tied in the bottom of the 9th inning, after getting the first out, RHP Michael Ynoa allowed a single, then followed it up with two wild pitches, allowing the runner to reach third, and the winning run eventually came around to score on a fielding error by second baseman Chad Pinder. Starter Tim Atherton allowed 2 runs in 4 innings of work and, in his professional pitching debut with the Ports, former outfielder Jeremy Barfield struck out 3 and gave up 1 run in 2 innings, while RHP Tucker Healy tossed 1 perfect inning in relief. Designated hitter Renato Nunez collected 3 hits on his 20th birthday, while catcher Bruce Maxwell had a pair of hits and drove in a run in the loss.
Here they are – the official opening day rosters for the A’s four full-season affiliates who will all be starting their seasons on Thursday. Beloit will kick off the day’s action at 4:30pm PDT, followed by Midland at 5:00pm PDT, then Sacramento at 5:35pm PDT, and finally Stockton at 7:00pm PDT. We know that RHP Drew Granier will be the opening day starter for Midland and RHP Bobby Wahl will get the call for Beloit, while Sacramento’s and Stockton’s opening day starters have yet to be officially announced. Be sure to follow @AthleticsFarm on Twitter all day Thursday for updates on all the opening day action.
SACRAMENTO RIVER CATS
(Pacific Coast League – Triple-A)
Stephen Vogt*, Ryan Ortiz
Nate Freiman*, Anthony Aliotti, Jose Martinez, Alden Carrithers, Hiro Nakajima, Tyler Ladendorf, (DL- Jake Elmore*)
Shane Peterson*, Kent Matthes*, Jake Goebbert, Michael Taylor
Joe Blanton, Arnold Leon*, Matt Buschmann, Sean Murphy, Josh Lindblom*
Philip Humber, Deryk Hooker, Jeremy McBryde, Jose Flores, Fernando Nieve, Paul Smyth, Joe Savery*, Eric Berger, Fernando Rodriguez* (Rehab Assignment)
NOTE: The A’s removed IF Hiro Nakajima from the 40-man roster on Wednesday and officially outrighted him to Sacramento. OF Michael Taylor cleared waivers on Thursday and was outrighted to Sacramento. IF Jake Elmore was placed on the DL on Thursday, and IF Tyler Ladendorf was promoted from Midland.
(Texas League – Double-A)
Ryan Lipkin, Beau Taylor
Max Muncy, Dusty Coleman, Addison Russell, Jefry Marte, Miles Head, Antonio Lamas
Billy Burns, D’Arby Myers, Chad Oberacker, Josh Whitaker, Conner Crumbliss
Zach Neal, Drew Granier, Raul Alcantara*, Tanner Peters, Chris Jensen
Murphy Smith, Nate Long, Ryan Dull, Blake Hassebrock, Seth Frankoff, Jesus Castillo, Andrew Werner, Jeff Urlaub, (DL-Frank Gailey)
(California League – High-A)
Bruce Maxwell, Ryan Gorton
Matt Olson, Chad Pinder, Wade Kirkland, Daniel Robertson, Renato Nunez, Ryon Healy
Bobby Crocker, Dusty Robinson, Aaron Shipman, Billy McKinney
Josh Bowman, Manny Correa, Seth Streich, Shawn Haviland, Tim Atherton
Nolan Sanburn, Michael Ynoa*, Jonathan Joseph, Ryan Doolittle, Tucker Healy, Kris Hall, Austin House, Jeremy Barfield, (DL-Omar Duran)
(Midwest League – Class-A)
Phil Pohl, Andy Paz
Ryan Huck, Melvin Mercedes, Chih-Fang Pan, Sam Roberts, B.A. Vollmuth, Michael Soto
Ryan Mathews, B.J. Boyd, Boog Powell, Tyler Marincov, (DL-Jaycob Brugman)
Dylan Covey, Kyle Finnegan, Lou Trivino, Ronald Herrera, Bobby Wahl
Andres Avila, Stuart Pudenz, Trevor Bayless, Sam Bragg, Lee Sosa, Chris Lamb, Brent Powers, Matt Stalcup
It’s been a little over nine years since Farhan Zaidi first joined the A’s front office as a baseball operations analyst back in January of 2005. And while he now embarks on his sixth season as the A’s director of baseball operations, the team has also seen fit to elevate him to the position of assistant general manager, joining long-time A’s assistant GM David Forst. But rather than represent any particularly new or expanded duties, the title really just reflects a recognition of Zaidi’s overall importance to the organization. Zaidi, Forst and general manager Billy Beane form a powerful troika of top thinkers at the head of the A’s organization, and if there’s an important decision to be made, you better believe that these three are all in on it.
As far as Farhan goes, his responsibilities can span a wide range of issues on any given day from dealing with contract negotiations to developing advance scouting reports. But most of his time and energy is really centered around player evaluation, whether that involves setting up the team’s analytic infrastructure for evaluating player performance or just keeping a personal eye on the team’s player personnel. Zaidi usually travels on at least half the team’s road trips and personally scouts about thirty top amateur prospects each year in preparation for the draft. So, from soup to nuts, if it falls under the heading of player evaluation, it’s bound to be on Farhan’s plate.
Zaidi was good enough to take a little time to talk with us in his office at Phoenix Municipal Stadium just a few days after Addison Russell went down with a hamstring strain and just a few days before news of A.J. Griffin’s and Jarrod Parker’s injuries first broke. Of course, we wanted to know about some of the team’s top prospects and, as you can see, Farhan was happy to oblige with plenty of interesting information…
AF: I want to start out by asking you about a few of the A’s top pitching prospects. First off, is Michael Ynoa going to continue as a starter or are you considering having him pitch out of the bullpen?
FZ: We’re considering both. He’s pitched in some short stints in big league camp and looked terrific. I think that’s a role that he could thrive in right away. As a starter, I think he may have some ups and downs. It’s an ongoing evaluation for us, whether we have the time and whether he has the time to go through that development curve as a starter, or whether we need him as a bullpen guy to move rather quickly. Even if he does go to the bullpen, I think we would like to still see him go through the lineup one time – throw two to three innings. That might be a nice intermediate option. He only threw under 100 innings last year so, if we did use him as a starter, he would probably run out of innings at some point late in the season. So maybe if you keep him to shorter stints, it allows him to pitch through the year – we might as well spread it out over the course of the season. And that also gives you a little insight into how he’d do as a reliever, so maybe it just gives you more data both ways.
AF: What about Raul Alcantara? Obviously, he looked great last year and in camp this spring. He’s probably your best all-around pitching prospect and, at 21, he’s also one of your youngest pitching prospects. Is there any thought of taking it slow with him since he’s so young or, if he’s ready, will you just let him rise as fast and as far as his talent takes him?
FZ: Yeah, the plan right now is for him to start the season in Midland. He was arguably Stockton’s best starting pitcher down the stretch last year – and he’s very advanced. He’s a guy who throws a lot of strikes and has a good changeup, which is obviously important for a starting pitcher. But the major league coaching staff was very impressed with him from the standpoint of being able to understand and execute signs and little things like that. Sometimes a guy who hasn’t pitched above A-Ball can be overwhelmed at this level, but he was completely unfazed by those aspects of the game. And I think our guys were really happy with him…Our perspective has always been with these guys that their performance and maturity will dictate how fast they move. We don’t like to necessarily impose strict timetables on guys. If you’re good enough to work your way up and get to the big leagues, no one in this organization is going to stop you.
AF: So you’re not going to worry about starting their clock at too early an age.
FZ: Whether it’s age or whether it’s service time, those factors are dwarfed by ability to perform.
AF: By being a good player!
FZ: Exactly, we like those guys.
AF: Well, I guess that’s the main priority! Now Arnold Leon, who was once a highly-touted prospect and then had some injury issues, has been looking really good again this spring. So are you guys excited about what you’ve been seeing out of him so far?
FZ: Very excited…he’s looked terrific. He’s a guy who’s been in both roles, but I think we’ve always felt in the long run he was a starting pitcher because he has four pitches and he throws strikes. And the thing that we’ve really liked is he’s gone right after guys in camp, he’s been very efficient, he’s had short innings. And this has kind of been an area of development for Arnold. Coming from Mexico, there’s a very particular pitching style there which tends to be to nibble a little bit and go deep in counts, a little bit more of a finesse approach. It’s just a different style of pitching, not just from what you see here in general but what we try to teach, which is to go right at guys. If you get ahead in the count, we don’t necessarily want you wasting three pitches and winding up with a twelve pitch at-bat. And he’s done that really well here, so we’re very excited. He’s a guy who finished the year strong in Sacramento and most likely will start the year in the rotation there. And with Alcantara, probably our best two starting pitching prospects.
AF: So he’s really in a good position to be moving up at some point.
FZ: Absolutely, he has really good stuff. For a guy who walked as few guys as he did last year, to be throwing up to 95 mph with four pitches and those kinds of walk rates, that’s a really exciting combination.
AF: What are your impressions of Matt Buschmann, whom you signed as a minor league free agent this offseason?
FZ: He was terrific in Double-A and Triple-A last year. I think he had an ERA under 3.00 and more than a strikeout per inning at both levels. He pitched really well the other day. He was up to 93 mph, which is the velocity we’d seen from him in the past. So he’s going to be in the Sacramento rotation. And based on what he did last year, he has the chance to be a factor for us…When we were looking at the minor league free agents and his name came up, I remembered him being a guy we really liked when he was in the San Diego system…and he was a high priority for us in the free agent market.
AF: Now you’re looking at having Philip Humber pitching out of the bullpen in Sacramento this year, right?
FZ: For sure, yeah.
AF: And you’re looking at having Andrew Werner pitching out of the bullpen in Sacramento too, right?
FZ: Yeah, he was actually pretty good as a starter in 2012 in the Padres system. He worked his way up from Double-A up to the big leagues. He took a step back last year, but he’s a guy who has some funk and deception. And we think it’s a good opportunity to try him in that role. Teams are always looking for lefty relievers, so we’ll see how that goes…Even last year when he struggled, he was still pretty good against left-handed hitters.
AF: Now I want to ask you about a few of your top hitting prospects. You’ve probably had the chance to see more of Addison Russell up close with your own eyes this spring than you ever have before. So what are your thoughts about him at this point?
FZ: He got off to a little bit of a slow start, but his last few games before he got hurt, just a lot of loud contact – just really exciting. If you think about how he started last year in Stockton, he was struggling early on. Now he’s moving up to Midland. I think people should have realistic expectations. That’s the single biggest jump in the minor leagues in our organization, going from the Cal League to the Texas League. We’ve had many college guys – Sean Doolittle, Nick Swisher back in the day – who really struggled in Midland. They hit in Stockton, they hit in Sacramento, but…it’s a tough place to play. So Addison is going to have his work cut out for him. And I think people are going to have to be patient with what he does on a daily basis. That said, knowing he’s going to have to make that big jump, seeing how he’s handled big league pitching in these games has been pretty exciting – good at-bats and obviously good performance.
AF: He certainly seems to have the ability to learn and make adjustments fairly quickly.
FZ: Yeah, guys with natural ability who have aptitude, you see that. You saw it with Yoenis when he first came over here in 2012 – he got better every month. And I think you’re absolutely right. That’s what we saw from Addison last year in Stockton. That’s what we’ve seen in a shorter time frame in big league camp here. And hopefully he continues it in Midland, because once you get to Double-A, there’s no soft spots in the pitching rotations like you see in A-Ball. So it’s going to be a challenge. But certainly, if he continues that sort of development curve, he should get on track there at some point.
AF: Is there anything in particular that you want him to work on there or are there any aspects of his game that you feel need to be fine-tuned a bit?
FZ: I think the biggest thing for him is going to be making sure his contact rate doesn’t slip too far. His strikeouts were a little high last year. Like I said, he’s going to be facing tougher pitching. And that’s going to be the thing to monitor with him. Especially for a guy with speed, you want those guys putting the ball in play and letting their legs do some work for them. So I think that’s probably going to be the single biggest stat that I’m going to be monitoring.
AF: Another guy who’s been making some appearances in big league camp for you this spring is Daniel Robertson. Now he’s expected to start the year at Stockton, and he’s been playing pretty much exclusively at shortstop up to this point. The closer that Addison Russell gets to the majors, do you start to think more about possibly giving him a little time at another position?
FZ: You know, when we drafted him, he was a guy who we saw starting at short but maybe moving to third eventually. But he’s been so good at short that we want to give him every opportunity to stay there. There are just so many things that can happen between now and the day that they’re both in the big leagues and we have to decide who’s playing what position. So from a development standpoint, we want both guys playing as much shortstop as possible for as long as possible.
AF: So you don’t feel that you’ve reached that fork in the road quite yet.
FZ: Yeah, we’re not at a point where we have to make a decision one way or another.
AF: Well, hopefully you will be soon.
FZ: Yeah, that would be a good problem to have!
Be sure to check back tomorrow for Part 2 of A’s Farm’s exclusive interview with A’s assistant general manager and director of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, in which he gives us the lowdown on some of the A’s most promising young position players like Billy McKinney, Billy Burns and Max Muncy and how the A’s have come to love high school players!
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Long-time baseball man Grady Fuson served as the A’s scouting director from 1995 until 2001, when the team drafted such talented players as Eric Chavez, Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito and Rich Harden. He left the A’s at the end of 2001 to become the assistant general manager of the Texas Rangers and, after moving on to head up the Padres scouting department, Fuson eventually returned to the A’s a little over four years ago to serve as a special assistant to general manager Billy Beane.
Of course, many know Fuson as the scout in the cinematic version of Moneyball who has a dramatic confrontation with the A’s general manager – though that’s not quite how it happened (which we chronicled here), and he and Beane are both back on the same team and rowing in the same direction.
During spring training, Fuson can most frequently be found patrolling the A’s minor league fields at Papago Park, keeping a close eye on the team’s most prized prospects. And it was there that we took the opportunity to pick the brain of one of baseball’s top talent evaluators to get the lowdown on some of the A’s top hitting and pitching prospects…
AF: So what are your impressions of Addison Russell after his first full year of pro ball now that he’s been out here in big league camp?
GF: I think the impression he’s made is the same. He hasn’t missed a beat. He’s played well on both sides of the ball. He’s made some very good plays at short. He’s gotten a lot of playing time. The first ten games or so until he had the hamstring strain, he almost played the last half of every game. So I think he’s had 25 at-bats over there and held his own in every category.
AF: Is there anything that he needs to focus on this season just to get him a little bit closer to being major-league ready?
GF: Well, you know, when he did come to camp, it looked like he toyed with his stance and his hand-set a little bit. So that was a little confusing at the beginning. But he figured a few things out with his hands and changed that. And you know, this kid looks like he’s really close – no matter where he goes, he looks like he’s close.
AF: So it’s just a matter of letting nature take its course at this point.
GF: Yep, nature will take its course.
AF: What about Daniel Robertson? Where’s he at in his development at this stage of the game?
GF: Robbie’s had a nice camp. He was here early for the mini-camp. He’s actually been over there [in the big league camp] quite a bit. He’s had some opportunities. He’s another guy who’s held his own. I think he’s impressed them with his at-bats. And he’s made some good plays on some tough hops over there. He’s got a very polished look for a 20-year-old.
AF: In the future, with Addison Russell moving along as quickly as he has and looking like the A’s shortstop of the near future, looking at Robertson down the line, are there other positions you could see him being a good fit at?
GF: Yeah, I don’t think any of us think there’s going to ever be an issue if he has to go over to second or if he has to go to third. But there’s not a guy you would talk to in this camp who doesn’t look at him as a shortstop, so we’ll just keep that going.
AF: Another guy who’s seen a little time in the big league camp this spring is last year’s top draft pick, Billy McKinney.
GF: Yep, Billy’s been over there a little bit. He actually had some quality at-bats. I was there for his first one. He battled a couple tough ones off and then they threw him an ultra-big-league slider and I think it froze him up a little bit. But yesterday, I think he went 0-2 in that count and battled back a little bit and hit a nice line drive to right. He’s done well…Those kids who get to go across the street [to big league camp], there’s nothing like it for them. I was talking to Renato Nunez this morning, and he came back from there, and he’s on fire. He was talking to all the guys over there, and it’s a thrill and a great experience for those kids to go over there for a day or two.
AF: Since you just mentioned him, I’m guessing Renato Nunez is probably going to get the chance to hit a lot of home runs at Stockton in the California League this year. What’s the outlook on him, especially defensively at third base?
GF: We’re still grinding away defensively. It comes and goes. Sometimes his feet get in the way a little bit. But a couple of balls the other day, he reacted really well on. And then a couple of balls he kind of kicked around. It’s a work in progress. You know, I think his body is still evolving. He was such a young guy when we signed him…now he’s bulked up a little bit and he’s a little stronger, so he’s still going into those years where his body’s still growing and he’s starting to learn what’s going to feel good in the future as far as what weight he plays at and everything. You know, that’s what the minor leagues are for is to figure all that stuff out before you get there.
AF: So he’s basically still a growing kid getting coordinated.
AF: So what about his bat? Are you just letting him go or are you working on anything in particular with him?
GF: It’s nothing major with him. It’s just time and repetition and doing the right thing more often. It’s taking a little bit more focus and intent in his batting practice as far as what he’s trying to do. And it’s all coming. I was down here where he hit today, and he hit about twenty out.
AF: What about Max Muncy?
GF: Muncy’s been all-world on both sides. He’s had quality at-bats every single time out. He’s stronger and the ball’s getting off the bat even a little bit farther. You could see his power really starting to come…One of the issues was always how much power this guy was going to have. He only hit 7 [home runs] at Baylor, but a few of us thought there was going to be some juice in there.
AF: I’ve talked to him a couple of times and he seems to be a pretty smart hitter who really thinks about hitting and has a good approach and knows what he’s doing up there.
GF: He is, yeah. Up and down the whole system, he might be one of our most complete hitters. He’s got the swing to match the eyes, and his plan, his patience, his pitch selection – he’s got a clue, he’s advanced.
AF: So now let me ask you about a couple of pitchers. Where’s Michael Ynoa at at this stage of the game?
GF: He’s ahead of where he’s ever been. He had a couple of the best innings I’ve ever seen him throw over on the big league side. In his first outing, he was 93-96 mph. He was around the plate with his fastball and threw some of the best breaking balls I’ve seen him throw. The arm strength is fully recovered and the shape to the breaking ball is intact, so now it’s just about turning him loose and letting him pitch.
AF: My understanding is that you guys are looking at starting him out in the bullpen this year.
GF: Yeah, we’re probably going to keep him in the bullpen for a while and just let that arm play…
AF: …and not have to worry about trying to fine-tune too many pitches.
GF: The changeup’s still a work in progress with him.
AF: Now what about Raul Alcantara? He looked really good in the big league camp and everyone seems to be saying nothing but good things about him.
GF: Yeah, I think they were really impressed by him. He’s a strike thrower. He changes speeds. He’s got the fastball and the changeup. The breaking ball has always been on the bubble a little bit. It’s not a big, buckling pitch, but it’s a strike. His poise and everything else that goes into it, he was impressive over there in the big league games.
AF: He’s potentially got to be your top pitching prospect right now.
GF: Yeah, one of them. We got a nice little group out of last year’s draft who are going to be fun to watch.
AF: What about Arnold Leon? He’s looked awfully good in the big league camp this year.
GF: The odds are he’s going to go back to Triple-A and be in that rotation, but he’s pitched very well. He’s got a four pitch mix, he’s throwing strikes, he’s a lot more aggressive and he’s using his fastball better. He’s got a very good curveball, he’s got a tremendous changeup, and he’s up to 94 mph – he’s got some weapons. You know, he’s everything you’re looking for.
AF: He really looks like somebody who could be ready to step in if they need someone at some point this year.
GF: Yeah, he’s close. He’s close.
AF: What about the new guy in camp, Billy Burns? Are you as excited about him as everyone else is?
GF: Yeah, no doubt…I never saw him as an amateur, or even with Washington. So I was expecting a little bit more raw of a player, and he’s not. He gets good jumps in the outfield. I think he’s got an idea of what he’s doing at the plate. The worst thing we could do is try to get him to hit it harder and farther. But everything you’ve heard about the legs is dead on – when this guy puts it in play, there’s action.
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–GRADY’S GUYS TO WATCH–
We asked Grady to tip us off to a few guys in the A’s system to keep an eye on and here’s what we got…
He’s very aggressive. He’s got a good fastball. He’s really taken to the changeup. He had a better breaking ball last year than he’s throwing in this camp. He’s kind of struggling with his breaker. But I really like the way he goes about it and the things he does.
We’re still building his innings, but he’s pitched 90 mph here. He’s got a good curveball. He’s really come a long way with the changeup. He’s around the plate. He’s got some strength in his body. And for 19, he’s doing great!
We took him fairly high last year. One of the issues with him was, for a college guy, he was very physically immature – nice frame, but no muscle – but he’s put on twenty pounds. And it’s good weight, and it is showing in the BPs and in the game work – so we’ll see!
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In spring training, A’s manager Bob Melvin mainly has his mind on trying to get his big league lineup ready to roll for the regular season. But with fifty-five players in camp everyday to start the spring, there are plenty of prospects who are bound to pique the skipper’s interest as well. And while we were in A’s camp for a few days, we took the opportunity to ask the affable Mr. Melvin about his impressions of some of the A’s most promising prospects.
On shortstop Addison Russell…
What we told him this year was just go out and play. We don’t want him to worry about too much here at big league camp. We just want to see what he has to offer athletically, and he’s shown that he has a lot to offer – whether it’s defensively or swinging the bat. He’s got a great awareness of what he needs to do in a particular plate appearance. He’s in the right position all the time. You never hear anything from him – he doesn’t even talk I don’t think. We didn’t want to cloud him up with too much instruction in this camp. We just wanted to see how the skills play out and then maybe at the end of camp talk to him about what we think he needs to work on.
On shortstop Daniel Robertson…
He’s a talented guy, and one of those baseball rats – he just loves to play. From what I understand, he’s always there early and just loves being in the clubhouse…I like him. For a guy who’s all of a sudden playing a little bit here in big league camp for the first time and hasn’t been in pro ball too long, my impressions are that he’s a tough kid and a good talent and a guy who would have to be ranked very high as far as the prospects go in our organization. So it’s nice to be able to get him some games here…I think experience-wise, it’s good. And whether it’s Billy McKinney or whether it’s Robertson, we like to get our prospects in some games here to get a taste of it…Those are two guys who, if you’re forecasting down the road, they’re going to be right in the middle of things. Sometimes it’s tough for us to keep guys who get to free agency. So you’re always mindful of two or three or four years down the road. And Billy [Beane] does a great job recognizing that and targeting certain guys for so many years out to try to keep this thing going in an upward direction.
On RHP Michael Ynoa…
Ynoa’s a big arm. He’s just had injury problems and has had trouble staying healthy for an entire season. We would love to see that this year, so he can progress. The fastball’s electric. He needs to work on his breaking stuff a little bit and be able to throw secondary pitches for strikes. We feel a lot better at this point in time than we ever have with him going into a season health-wise.
On RHP Raul Alcantara…
We heard from the development people that this is one of the guys in our system who has a chance to pitch in the big leagues as a starter, and we’ve seen exactly that. He’s handled everything we’ve thrown at him – he gets all the signs, he’s a clear thinker and he’s got good stuff on top of it. So we have very high hopes for him.
On RHP Arnold Leon…
Leon’s impressed. Last year was his first big league camp, and we were looking at a little shorter stints with him. But we’re lengthening him out a little bit. He looks way more comfortable here now, just his demeanor on the mound – and you’re seeing the results too. This is a guy who, as far as our pitching prospects go, ranks way up there…We’ve always, going in to this season, felt like he would potentially be an option for us. And with two guys [Parker and Griffin] going down, he moves up in the pecking order definitely. But he was a guy who we had our eye on regardless and who we were going to stretch out.
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At age 20, the A’s top prospect, shortstop Addison Russell, was invited to spend spring training in the A’s big league camp playing with and against major leaguers this spring. Most people expect Russell to be the A’s opening day shortstop in 2015, after Jed Lowrie’s expected departure via free agency, and many are even clamoring for him to make the team this year.
For now though, the talented 20-year-old is just trying to take things one step at a time. We took the opportunity to speak with him late last week in Arizona, just a few days after he strained his hamstring and just a few days before he was reassigned to the A’s minor league camp for the remainder of the spring.
AF: So how’s your hamstring feeling?
AR: It’s coming back. Just taking it easy, one step at a time. I’m not trying to do too much for now, just trying to make sure the thing’s 100% before I try to go back out there…We’re just kind of playing it by ear, just doing treatment every day and doing rehab. One day I could be doing rehab and the next day I might be ready to play. So we’re just playing it by ear right now.
AF: How do you feel overall about your time in the big league camp this spring?
AR: So far, it’s good. I’m settled down. I’m a lot more relaxed than I was last year. You know, it was my first year here, and this is my second year. So I’m starting to get a good grasp of everything and what’s going on here at camp. And I’m just having fun. You know, even though I’m down right now, I’m just having fun.
AF: Has anyone been helping you out or taken you under their wing this spring?
AR: I just try to look around and see what the guys are doing. Of course, I talk to all the guys – I talk to Coco [Crisp], I talk to [John] Jaso, I talk to all of them. I have a locker right by [Josh] Reddick and I pick his brain about certain things. I just talk to everyone.
AF: Was there anything particularly important that you learned last year in your first full season of pro ball?
AR: It’s just a long season. You know, you can’t try to do too many things all at once. You have a long period to accomplish the things that you want to accomplish. You always need to try to keep it on a bit of a pace. But I’m just trying to relax this year, and I think it’s going to work out for me.
AF: Is there anything that you want to work on or try to improve during this upcoming season?
AR: Just trying to learn more knowledge about the game. I want to gain more knowledge about the guys I play against every day, just so down the line if I play against them again I have that knowledge on them. And that’s kind of what I want to get out of this year.
AF: Was that little bit of time you spent at Sacramento for a few days at the end of last season eye-opening for you in any way?
AR: Oh yeah, for sure. You know, a lot of older guys, pitchers, know how to command their stuff. And it’s just a whole different atmosphere. I’m glad that the A’s put me in that position for me to see what it’s going to be like. And now that I have that knowledge, I know that I could go in there and be relaxed and just trust the type of player that I am.
AF: What’s it been like having your buddy Daniel Robertson over here with you in the big league camp on occasion this year?
AR: Oh, it’s fun. It kind of keeps him more at ease. Of course, this is his first year up here, and I try to relax him a little bit, and I think I do a good job. And whenever it’s just us two, we’re just goofballs together and we kind of take the stress off each other. And we kind of feed off each other and try to make each other better.
AF: I know you and Robertson and Matt Olson have all been living together out here this spring. So how’s that been going?
AR: It’s been fun. We were taken in the same class, same year, all high school guys. So we can relate to each other. We like playing with each other, and we love watching each other play. And we just kind of like to compete with each other and try to outdo one another, but it’s just a friendly competition.
AF: So if you’re all sitting around the house on a Friday night with nothing to do, what are you most likely to do be doing?
AR: We like to play card games. We like to play dominoes. We just like to talk to each other. They’re into video games, and I kind of just sit back and watch and make smart comments. I like those guys a lot, they’re positive people – and it’s just fun.
AF: So has your family been out to Arizona to see you yet?
AR: Yeah, they came a week and a half ago. It was really good to see my mom and dad. It was kind of a shock to them – I’m playing with guys they kind of grew up watching. It’s a good feeling.
AF: Everyone expects you to be starting the season at Midland. Have the A’s actually said anything to you about that yet?
AR: I have no verification on where I’m supposed to start. But wherever I do start, I just want to go out there and have fun and just play and not try to get to the big leagues so fast. I just want to relax and just have a good year. In time, I think I’ll be ready. And in time, they’ll know that I’m ready. And whenever that time is, I’ll be ready. I’m going to prepare myself every day as if maybe I do get the call up. But I’m not looking to get to the big leagues right away. There are still some things I need to work on in developing my part of the game to where I feel like I’d be ready for anything.
AF: Well, thanks a lot and best of luck with everything this season.
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As you may already know, A’s pitchers and catchers began reporting to the team’s spring training camp in Phoenix on Friday, with the team’s first workouts on Saturday. And there are already plenty of observations we can make about the major league team, as well as the minor league teams, at this point.
First of all, the A’s are still a very young team. On the 40-man roster, only two players – Coco Crisp and Nick Punto – were born before 1982, and only three of the team’s pitchers – Scott Kazmir, Jim Johnson and Jesse Chavez – will be over the age of 29 on opening day.
On Thursday, one day before pitchers and catchers began reporting to the A’s spring training camp in Phoenix, A’s assistant general manager David Forst told Bay Area radio station 95.7 The Game that he thought he knew what the A’s starting rotation was going to look like and mentioned Jarrod Parker, Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily. That would make Tommy Milone the sixth starter in waiting at Sacramento, with recent acquisitions Josh Lindblom and Drew Pomeranz right behind him.
Returning River Cats Andrew Werner and Arnold Leon, along with minor-league free-agent signee Matt Buschmann, will be the top contenders for the remaining spots in the River Cats rotation, with former perfect-game hurler Phil Humber likely serving time in Sacramento’s bullpen. Last year, Humber made 10 relief appearances for the Astros and came into 13 games out of the bullpen for Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Midland’s top three starters from last season – Murphy Smith, Sean Murphy and Zach Neal – would be the next in line to take a step up should there be an issue with any of the previously-mentioned A’s or River Cats starters. If the three of them remain at Midland though, the top three candidates to join them in the RockHounds rotation will be Drew Granier, Raul Alcantara and Tanner Peters.
The 21-year-old Alcantara is the hottest young pitching prospect in the A’s system at the moment, and the team would like to see him start the season in the RockHounds rotation and then see where his talent takes him from there. But at this point, it’s clear that Alcantara could be a fast-riser.
Former bonus baby Michael Ynoa will probably be the other most closely watched young pitcher in the A’s camp this spring. He’s been throwing hard in Phoenix, but the key for him will just be staying healthy and staying on the mound. It’s still expected that he’ll start the season at Stockton. But if he starts out well, he should be due for a quick promotion to Midland.
As far as relievers go, A’s manager Bob Melvin was impressed with Evan Scribner’s and Fernando Nieve’s initial bullpen sessions in Phoenix, and both are likely to end up starting the season as key cogs in the River Cats bullpen, as long as Scribner can clear waivers anyway.
One of last year’s biggest objects of attention when camp opened, Japanese shortstop Hiro Nakajima, won’t be making any headlines in big league camp this time around though, since Nakajima will be spending his time in the A’s minor league camp this year. But another shortstop, top prospect Addison Russell – who appears on schedule to become the A’s starting shortstop in 2015 – will definitely be getting a good chance to show the A’s staff what he can do this spring in the big league camp.
A’s Assistant GM David Forst on Top Prospects Russell & McKinney, Coco’s New Contract and What the A’s Expect from Reddick in 2014
As part of A’s FanFest this past weekend, a few representatives of the A’s took some time out to attend a bloggers-only press conference at the Coliseum. First up was A’s assistant general manager David Forst who volunteered a generous bit of time to talk about some top major and minor league players for the A’s. We had the chance to ask him about two of the A’s most promising young players – shortstop Addison Russell and outfielder Billy McKinney. Forst clearly couldn’t be more excited about the prospects for Russell, and he’s definitely not the only one in the A’s front office who feels that way.
Earlier in the day, in a question-and-answer session at the Oracle Arena, A’s general manager Billy Beane lit up like a Christmas tree when the subject of Russell came up. He characterized the young shortstop as a special kind of player who doesn’t come along very often and said he was “knocking on the door.” The A’s GM went on to enthuse, “We’ve had some great young players come through the system, and we’re as excited about Addison as we have been about a lot of the guys…that went on to be stars. So he’s got a chance to be a really, really good player.”
In his session, Forst also talked about some of the team’s top young pitching prospects and shared some interesting insights on the A’s draft philosophy that has seen the team increasingly shift its focus to high school players in recent years. On the major league front, the assistant GM discussed the challenge of having to fill a number of holes in the offseason, Coco Crisp’s recent contract extension, what the team expects from Josh Reddick and John Jaso in 2014, and how the A’s expect to contend in a strengthened American League West and push themselves past the competition in the postseason. But A’s Farm started things off by asking Forst to share his take on the A’s most promising young player in the pipeline…
On A’s top prospect Addison Russell…
I expect he’ll start the year at Midland. The thing that impressed me most about Addison last year, and there were obviously a lot…to see the way he kind of turned his season around…that tells me as much about Addison as a player as anything he did. You can go and watch him and see the power, see the swing, see the arm from the hole…with a guy like that, it’s really easy to see. But I remember having conversations in April with Todd Steverson, who at the time was our minor league hitting coordinator, and saying, “Hey, is this kid okay? Look, let him know we understand, he’s going to struggle.” And when I saw him myself in May, I said, “Hey, you’re not going to hit .200 forever – it’s just not going to happen.” I think he’s a confident kid, but anyone who spends a whole month doing that, there’s going to be a little bit of doubt. And within a couple weeks, he started to turn around. He’s going to hit, he’s going to have enough power for the middle of the diamond, he can throw from anywhere. There’s a reason he’s a top ten prospect in baseball. And to see him turn the season around, put everything together, and continue on into the [Arizona] Fall League, that’s a long year for anyone, particularly for a kid in his first full season…Everyone says we haven’t had a kid put it all together since Eric Chavez was there…and we’re going to see a lot of him in spring training. I know one of Bob Melvin’s main objectives is to get Addison a lot of reps because there’s no telling how soon he’s going to be here…You can see the tools and the ability, but when you spend time with him and you understand how much fun he has and how mentally strong he is, you really feel good about his chances going forward.
On last year’s top draft pick Billy McKinney…
I actually didn’t get to Arizona to see those guys. I saw Billy in March last year – I went to see him play in high school. There wasn’t a lot of consensus on the board last year in the draft room. It was just one of those years where we were picking so low that guys had different opinions. But by the time that we got down there, the nice thing was we did have a strong voice in Billy’s favor – and you always feel good about a pick when that happens. And he came out and hit the way we expected, sort of above what you’d expect for his years. He got a chance to go to Vermont and get his feet wet a little bit. And I know in Instructional League, he talked to [A’s farm director] Keith Lieppman and said, “Just so you know, I expect to follow Addison’s path and start in Stockton next year.” It’s nice to hear. You don’t put expectations on a kid like that, because we know how special Addison is, but we know he will go be with a full-season club. We know he can hit, he did a great job in center field, and we’re excited about Billy.
On the A’s recent shift to drafting top high school players like Russell and McKinney…
We didn’t like taking kids out of high school when the information was so limited. Things have evolved over the last ten years. These kids play in so many showcases – they play against the best competition in the country. We know so much more performance-wise about a high school kid than we did even five years ago, but particularly when the book (Moneyball) was written…Sure, you’re dealing with an extra three years of personal development, and any kid from the ages of 18 to 21 changes a lot…but I think we’ve gotten to the point where we are a lot more comfortable with what these kids show us on the field. Addison is from Pensacola, Florida. If he was only playing against kids in a 50-mile radius, then you’re not sure how he stacks up. But he went to California and played, he went to Texas and played, he went to Miami and played against all these kids. Billy did the same thing – he’s on that showcase circuit where you know how he stacks up against everybody in the country…When we didn’t take Mike Trout, it was because we thought, “this is a cold-weather kid from the northeast, we’re not sure how he stacks up against the rest of the country.” Well, if we’d stepped back to see that Mike did the same things and played those circuits and performed really well, we might have lined up our board differently. So really, it’s a different time with the high school kids. And if our scouts have seen a lot of them and they sort of check enough boxes, we feel really good about those guys – and Billy fell into that group.
Both Covey and Wahl were interesting conversations. Covey was a 1st-round pick in high school. Bobby was expected to potentially be a 1st-round guy, at least a top two guy. Both guys fell to an area where we paid over-slot for them because we wanted to, and we felt like both guys had some sort of marks against them that hurt their draft status. With Dylan, he never sort of performed the way people expected him to out of high school, but the stuff was always there and there was an upward trend in his college performance. And Bobby we knew had an injury history, but if we could get him healthy and keep him healthy, this was a 1st-round talent. So as far as the diversity of our draft portfolio, those guys fit really nicely after taking a guy like Billy [McKinney] in the 1st-round because they’re a little more advanced. And if they did stay healthy and kind of live up to what their pre-draft status was, you potentially have some top guys. And both guys went out and pitched great. Dylan obviously was able to make the jump to the Midwest League for a couple starts. But both those guys have a chance to start the year in Stockton, depending on how things shake out, and potentially move quickly because of their status as college players.
The goal of a 1st-round pick is always to get them here. You never draft someone hoping just to create an asset to move. With Grant and with Michael, it sort of worked out that way. But it’s a lot more rewarding certainly when Sonny Gray pitches here or ultimately when Addison Russell does get here. That’s what you want out of your 1st-round pick. I won’t say that we’re sort of focused on any position ever in the 1st-round – we’re looking for the best player…I know there’s been a lot made of trading those guys. Throughout the farm system, we’ve moved a lot of players and, as such, we’re sort of in a position where we need to rebuild. But there’s never a specific goal with a 1st-round pick.
On meeting the team’s key offseason needs…
When you look at our checklist at the end of October, replace Bartolo Colon, replace Grant Balfour, so you’ve got a starting pitcher and a closer. Craig Gentry was a guy we had been focused on for a long time who we just felt fit so well…with his ability to play all three outfield spots, running, hitting from the right side, so we sort of checked that one off…We added more pieces to the bullpen. We got some depth in the starting rotation with Josh Lindblom and Drew Pomeranz. These were all things that we sort of laid out in October. You just hope you can hit as many as possible.
On how the A’s expect to best the rest of the west in 2014…
We still feel like the make-up of the complete 25-man roster gives us a chance to repeat, and as great a job as Bob Melvin has done the last two years of managing that group – putting guys in the right spots, platooning, using the bullpen. We feel like from 1 to 25, we’re just as strong as we were, if not stronger than, the last two years. And certainly the bullpen – with adding Jim Johnson and Luke Gregerson to what was already an outstanding group, maybe potentially a full season of Dan Otero, and Jesse Chavez showed last year what he can do – that has to be a strength that we’re going to lean on a lot.
On the effect of increased national TV revenue on the team’s spending…
There’s no doubt our payroll is going to be higher this year probably than ever, certainly in the time I’ve been here. You just have to do the math and see we’re significantly above where we were last year. And that’s what allowed us to go get Jim Johnson, knowing there’s going to be a $10 million price tag on him, and to sign Scott Kazmir, even a move like signing Eric O’Flaherty, where you’re only adding a little bit for this year. But we had already sort of bumped up against our number, and [managing partner] Lew Wolff and [team president] Mike Crowley were very open to what we were trying to do with Eric for half a season and then backload the money. So there’s no doubt that, whether it’s the TV money, the success of the team, all these things have gone into ownership being very open to increasing the bar and letting us do some things this offseason that we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.
On avoiding long-term contracts and Coco Crisp’s extension…
I think we’ve benefited a lot from the flexibility over the last few years. Obviously having added Coco in the last 24 hours, but other than Yoenis Cespedes and Scott Kazmir, there was nobody signed for 2015. We don’t necessarily want to recreate the team every year, because obviously the fans like the players that are here and we like the certainty of the guys that we know, but that we’ve given ourselves the ability to do it is a huge factor in our success. So to commit to a guy like Coco, obviously we know the guy, we know the player, he’s so important to what we do, and it was just an opportunity where we felt like this was the right dollar amount to commit to him beyond the next couple of years.
On expectations for Josh Reddick in 2014…
We certainly expect Josh to bounce back. I don’t think anybody knows fully how much his wrist affected him last year, and Josh will never ever admit it privately or publicly. But the fact is that he had that injury in Houston early in the year. And when you look at the difference in his numbers between 2012 and 2013, a player with his talent, you have to assume there’s something else going on. So we fully expect Josh to bounce back – and I fully expect to have him under contract hopefully sometime in the next couple weeks. But Josh adds so much with his defense alone that it’s hard to calculate his value to the team. And if he does get back to being the offensive player that we saw in 2012, he has the chance to carry this team at times.
On expectations for John Jaso’s return in 2014…
He’s coming to camp as a catcher. He’s cleared all exams. He’s had no setbacks with his physical activity. Look, you can’t predict how he reacts when he gets hit by a foul tip – that’s a medical issue. We did everything we could in terms of giving him the rest he needed and getting him to see the right people. But he comes into camp as a catcher – same situation with him and Derek Norris. The nice thing is Stephen Vogt sort of emerged last year in John’s absence, and that’s a great problem to have. If you end up having a roster with all three of those guys, they’re great options for the DH spot and the catching spot.
Each of those guys we felt addressed, not necessarily a weakness, but somewhere we could get better. It’s hard to say how they specifically help us in the postseason, but anytime your pitching depth is strong – whether it’s with Kaz or Jim Johnson or Gregerson – you expect that to come into play in a tight postseason game. Nick has played in the postseason quite a bit, he’s been on winning teams, he knows a lot of the guys around the league. There’s no way that his experience isn’t going to help us when it comes down the stretch – it’s sort of subjective to say exactly what that is, but we’ve seen it before with players that we’ve brought in. So hopefully these guys fit as well as the group has the last two years. Ultimately, that’s what we’re trying to do is put that puzzle together to compete in September, and I think we have every reason to believe that these guys will fit.
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