When the A’s signed 7 minor league free agents pitchers, re-signed 2 of their own minor league free agent hurlers, and acquired a number of other young arms in trades this offseason, it was inevitable that there was going to be a bit of a roster crunch at the upper levels of the minor league system once spring training began to wrap up. And that’s exactly what’s happening now.
It appears that the pitching staff at the A’s new Triple-A Nashville affiliate will consist entirely of pitchers currently on the 40-man roster and minor league free agent signees, plus a pair of fairly experienced arms in Fernando Rodriguez and Angel Castro. So if you’re a pitcher not on the 40-man roster or a minor league free agent signee, then it’s likely that you’re bound to wind up at the Double-A level or below.
Another effect of this roster crunch has been the release of a number of arms in the past week, including Andrew Werner, Drew Granier, Deck McGuire, Brandon “Branch” Kloess and Dakota Freese. And this week, we heard that RHPs Nate Long, Ryan Doolittle, Paul Smyth and Seth Frankoff were all being ticketed for Midland barring any last-minute trades.
With Nashville’s Triple-A rotation already full, it looks like RHP Zach Neal will be sent down to anchor Midland’s rotation, while RHPs Nate Long and Chris Jensen, both of whom had solid seasons at Double-A last year, will be returning to the RockHounds rotation once again. Other potential candidates for Midland’s starting staff include Chris Lamb, Jake Sanchez, Tim Atherton and Tanner Peters. RHP Sean Murphy, who spent most of last season in the RockHounds rotation, is still recovering from Tommy John surgery and will sit out the season.
Meanwhile, at Nashville, the starting rotation should consist of RHPs Chris Bassitt, Arnold Leon and Matt Buschmann as well as LHPs Brad Mills and Rudy Owens. LHP Sean Nolin will likely join the Nashville rotation once he’s fully recovered from sports hernia surgery. The Nashville bullpen is still a little crowded with 10 arms currently available to fill 8 slots: Ryan Cook, Eury De La Rosa, Fernando Rodriguez, Pat Venditte, Brock Huntzinger, Kevin Whelan, Ryan Verdugo, Jim Fuller, Chad Smith and Angel Castro.
It’s expected that the A’s may make a couple of deals before opening day to help clear the pitching logjam at the upper levels of the system. And to that end, it’s been whispered that the A’s have been talking to other teams about recently-demoted RHP Ryan Cook. But even if the A’s were to trade Cook, that might not be the last deal involving a young hurler that the team will end up making before opening day arrives.
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