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Oakland A’s & Nashville Sounds 2015 Roster Outlook

It was another busy offseason for A's GM Billy Beane

A’s GM Billy Beane was a busy boy this winter

For the moment, as we sit here perched on the precipice of February, let’s go out on a limb and assume that the majority of the A’s offseason work is now finally done – which is never an entirely safe bet with general manager Billy Beane at the helm. But considering the massive amount of roster turnover and the vast number of new players the team has acquired, the shape of the A’s major league roster actually appears to be fairly clear at this point. While little has changed in the A’s outfield, the rest of the roster will look plenty different from the team that took the field to start 2014…

 

2015 OAKLAND A’S

While last year’s team started out with the tandem of John Jaso and Derek Norris behind the plate, the 2015 model figures to count on a catching platoon of fan-favorite Stephen Vogt and newly-acquired Josh Phegley, who arrived from the White Sox as part of the Jeff Samardzija trade.

The A’s 2015 starting infield looks to be entirely different from 2014, with Eric Sogard likely to be the only returning infielder on the roster, but this time in a utility role. 25-year-old Brett Lawrie will take over for Josh Donaldson at the hot corner, while Berkeley native Marcus Semien has been annointed as the team’s new shortstop. He’ll be mentored up the middle by former All-Star Ben Zobrist, who is set to be the team’s primary second baseman. Slugger Ike Davis should be stationed at first base against right-handers with free-agent catch Billy Butler as the designated hitter, while Butler should take over at first against lefties with Rule-5 pick Mark Canha serving in the DH spot as a sort of new-fangled Nate Freiman. With Zobrist taking over at second, last year’s primary second baseman and the almost-face-of-MLB, Eric Sogard, will likely serve in a utility role, backing up Zobrist at second, Semien at short and Lawrie at third. Sogard has experience at all three positions in both the majors and the minors.

Brett Lawrie: Can he make A's fans forget Josh Donaldson?

Brett Lawrie: Can he make A’s fans forget Josh Donaldson?

As mentioned, there aren’t a lot of new faces in the A’s outfield in 2015. Josh Reddick returns as the team’s rifle-armed right fielder, while Coco Crisp will man center field, as long as his health allows – and A’s fans better hope and pray that’s a lot – and Sam Fuld and Craig Gentry should share duties in left field. Of course, the 2015 version of the A’s does possess similar versatility to last year’s model. If needed, Zobrist is perfectly capable of playing in the outfield, with Sogard slotting in at second. Canha can also do time in the outfield if needed and, like Sogard, Semien has played all over the infield with the exception of first base.

As far as the team’s starting rotation goes, only two members seem to be certain locks – veteran lefty Scott Kazmir and young righty Sonny Gray. General manager Billy Beane did mention in a conference call with reporters that returning lefty Drew Pomeranz and newly-acquired right-handers Jesse Hahn and Kendall Graveman may have “the inside track” for the remaining rotation spots. So assuming the GM’s opinion counts for something, one would have to assume that’s the group that’s most likely to make up the team’s starting five, though new acquisitions Chris Bassitt and Sean Nolin will surely be in on the competition as well and much will clearly depend on how spring training plays out.

It appears that the team may prefer to have Jesse Chavez back in the bullpen as a reliable long man and occasional spot starter if needed. And with Sean Doolittle set to miss the start of the season with shoulder issues, former Nationals closer Tyler Clippard is likely the leading candidate to take over Doolittle’s spot as the last man on the mound for the A’s. Fernando Abad and Eric O’Flaherty are set to be the team’s lefties out of the ‘pen, with Dan Otero and Ryan Cook available from the right side. That leaves one last bullpen spot available while Doolittle’s doing time on the DL. Since he’s out of options, it might be safe to give Evan Scribner the edge, though lefty Eury De La Rosa (acquired from Arizona) and righty R.J. Alvarez (picked up from the Padres) could also be distinct possibilities.

Of course, the team is counting on Doolittle to return at some point. And let’s not forget that A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker are both working their way back from Tommy John surgery with midseason returns quite possible for the pair.

 

2015 NASHVILLE SOUNDS

With all the young players the team acquired in trades, and plenty of minor league free agent signees as well, there will be a bit of a roster crunch at the top levels of the A’s farm system in 2015. And it’s going to be particularly difficult for many players to make the move up from Midland, with the possible exception of first baseman Max Muncy with the team’s top prospect, Matt Olson, set to take over at first for Midland in 2015. As things now stand, it appears that there are about 16 position players competing for what is typically 12 roster spots and 23 pitchers competing for what is typically 13 spots on the pitching staff at the A’s Triple-A affiliate. So let’s take a look at some of the players most likely to find themselves playing in Nashville as the PCL team begins its first season as the A’s top affiliate.

The team has two very experienced minor league catchers who’ve had the chance to get their feet wet in the majors and who’ll be waiting in the wings at Nashville in 2015. 28-year-old, lefty-swinging Bryan Anderson has caught 755 minor league games and has appeared in the majors with the Cardinals and the White Sox and even managed to get one at-bat with the A’s last year, while 34-year-old switch-hitter Luke Carlin has been behind the plate for 773 minor league games and has made appearances with San Diego, Arizona and Cleveland.

One of the A’s most exciting minor leaguers, speed-burner Billy Burns, should have the chance to run around the bases and tear up the turf in center field for Nashville in 2015. He’ll likely be flanked by a pair of minor league veterans – 29-year-old Matt Angle and 31-year-old Jason Pridie, who’s appeared with the Twins, the Mets, the Phillies, the Orioles and the Rockies – along with Josh Whitaker, who split last season between Sacramento and Midland.

Nashville’s infield should be anchored up the middle by shortstop Andy Parrino, newly-acquired second baseman Joe Wendle, and Tyler Ladendorf, who split time last season between second base and shortstop and can also play a little in the outfield. The corners could be a little crowded with Alden Carrithers returning at third base, newly-acquired Rangel Ravelo set to see time at third and first, Nate Freiman likely to play first and DH, as is Max Muncy, and Anthony Aliotti, who spent time at first as well as in the outfield for Sacramento last season, is also in the mix.

Infielders Colin Walsh and Niuman Romero, who was signed as a minor league free agent, will also be battling for a spot on the Nashville roster, but it might be tough unless injuries, trades or releases unexpectedly open the door to a roster spot. Due to the roster crunch, Romero, who’s spent over 700 minor league games at shortstop and second base, may end up sharing middle infield duties with Chad Pinder at Midland, where there aren’t a lot of legitimate shortstop options with the departure of Daniel Robertson in the Ben Zobrist deal with Tampa Bay.

Billy Burns: Will he set a new land speed record in Nashville?

Billy Burns: Will he set a new land speed record in Nashville?

When it comes to the Sounds’ starting rotation, between all the new acquisitions, minor league free agent signees and returning players, there should be an abundance of starting pitchers available at the Triple-A level that will make it almost impossible, barring some unexpected injuries, for any starters to make the move up from Midland, including deserving candidates like Nate Long and Chris Jensen. It also means that some better known pitching prospects like former 1st-rounder Deck McGuire aren’t likely to have much of a shot at starting the season with the Sounds.

If, as speculated, Kazmir, Gray, Hahn, Pomeranz and Graveman end up comprising the A’s starting five, that would leave seven solid candidates for the Sounds’ starting rotation, six of whom will be in major league camp this spring. Three of them are currently on the A’s 40-man roster and would probably be first in line – new acquisitions Chris Bassitt and Sean Nolin along with returning righty Arnold Leon – while minor league free agent additions Brad Mills and Rudy Owens, both of whom have gotten a taste of life in the majors, and returning righty Matt Buschmann would all be solid options. Zach Neal, who was one of Sacramento’s most solid starters last season, may be at a bit of a disadvantage since he won’t be participating in the major league camp with the others. But depending on how everything shakes out, they all have a legitimate shot at starting the season in the Sounds’ starting rotation.

Thanks to multiple minor league free agent signings, the bullpen picture is even more crowded, with at least 16 pitchers competing for what will likely be 8 bullpen spots in Nashville. Two who were acquired in trades during the offseason, lefty Eury De La Rosa and righty R.J. Alvarez, are on the 40-man roster, as is righty Taylor Thompson, who was claimed off waivers. As long as they don’t make the major league roster, they should all be assured spots, as should righty Fernando Rodriguez, who posted a 1.97 ERA at Sacramento and allowed 1 run in 7 appearances for the A’s last season.

That leaves five veteran minor league free agent signees – righties Kevin Whelan and Brock Huntzinger, lefties Ryan Verdugo and Jim Fuller and switch-pitcher Pat Venditte (yes, he throws with both arms!) – five returning players who spent all or part of last season at Sacramento – righties Angel Castro, Paul Smyth, Seth Frankoff and Tucker Healy, plus lefty Jeff Urlaub – and two solid pitching prospects who had strong seasons at Midland last year – righties Ryan Dull and Ryan Doolittle – all competing for the remaining four spots in the Sounds’ bullpen.

Of course, one never knows what unexpected injuries might sideline some arms to start the season but, regardless, a number of these names who don’t make the cut with the Sounds are bound to end up in the bullpen at Midland, where Nate Long, Chris Jensen, Sean Murphy and Drew Granier could all be returning to the RockHounds’ rotation this season, perhaps along with someone like Deck McGuire.

Speaking of the A’s Double-A affiliate, some of the team’s top prospects will be found in Midland’s infield this year, with Matt Olson at first, Renato Nunez at third, and Chad Pinder and Ryon Healy in the infield mix there as well. Top catching prospect Bruce Maxwell will be competing for a spot behind the plate with Blake Forsythe and Ryan Ortiz, as well as fellow backstops Beau Taylor and Carson Blair. Meanwhile, the outfield should primarily be comprised of returning RockHounds like Kent Matthes, Chad Oberacker and Conner Crumbliss, with the possible addition of Jaycob Brugman, who proved himself at both Beloit and Stockton last season.

But let’s clearly lay out the possible players on your 2015 Oakland A’s and Nashville Sounds opening day rosters right here (just click on each player’s name below to view their complete stats page)…

Friday, August 29th: Wade Kirkland Slugs Grand Slam in Stockton Win while Sacramento Slips into Second Place after Loss

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Stockton Ports Second Baseman Wade Kirkland (Grand Slam)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Stockton Ports Second Baseman Wade Kirkland (Grand Slam)

 

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE  (High-A)

Stockton Ports  17

Modesto Nuts       5

WP – Bowman 8-7 / 5.03

HR – Kirkland (4)

Farmhand Of The Game:

Second Baseman Wade Kirkland

(Grand Slam)

After scoring 11 runs in Thursday’s game, Stockton came back to put 17 runs on the board on Friday. Second baseman Wade Kirkland slugged a grand slam in the 6th inning to help put the game out of reach, while third baseman Ryon Healy collected 3 hits, including a pair of doubles, and drove in 3, and catcher Beau Taylor doubled, had a pair of singles and a pair of walks and drove in 4. Starter Josh Bowman allowed 5 runs over 5 innings of work to pick up his 8th win, while RHPs Andres Avila and Bobby Wahl each tossed 2 scoreless innings in relief for the Ports.

Click here for more on Sacramento, Midland, Beloit & Vermont…

Sunday, August 10th: Jaycob Brugman Hits Pair of Homers in Ports Victory while Sacramento Wins Slugfest in Reno

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Stockton Ports Outfielder Jaycob Brugman (2 Home Runs)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Stockton Ports Outfielder Jaycob Brugman (2 Home Runs)

 

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE  (High-A)

Modesto Nuts       2

Stockton Ports  6

WP – Alderson 3-0 / 2.76

HR – Nunez (29), Brugman 2 (7), Taylor (4)

Farmhand Of The Game:

Outfielder Jaycob Brugman

(2 Home Runs)

The Ports once again upheld their reputation for hitting home runs by slugging 4 round-trippers on Sunday night. Outfielder Jaycob Brugman belted 2 home runs to give him a total of 5 over Stockton’s last 5 games. Catcher Beau Taylor homered for the third straight night, while third baseman Renato Nunez hit his 29th home run in the 3rd inning to give Stockton the lead, and shortstop Daniel Robertson singled, doubled and walked to extend his hitting streak to 16 games and raise his batting average to .307. RHP Tim Alderson turned in his fourth straight quality start for Stockton, allowing just 2 runs while striking out 6 over 7 innings of work to earn his 3rd win for the Ports.

Click here for more on Sacramento, Midland, Beloit, Vermont & AZL A’s…

Monday, June 30th: AZL A’s Mount Comeback Win in 9th while Brandon Belt Homers Off Dan Straily in Cats Loss and Renato Nunez Named Cal League Player of the Week

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: AZL A’s Designated Hitter John Nogowski (4 for 5 / 3 RBIs)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: AZL A’s Designated Hitter John Nogowski (4 for 5 / 3 RBIs)

 

ARIZONA LEAGUE  (Rookie Short-Season)

AZL A’s          9

AZL Rangers  8

WP – Stull 1-0 / 1.50

Farmhand Of The Game:

Designated Hitter John Nogowski

(4 for 5 / 3 RBIs)

The AZL A’s came back from a 4-run deficit to score 5 runs in the 9th to win in a wild one on Monday. This year’s 34th-round draft pick for the A’s, designated hitter John Nogowski, had 4 hits and drove in 3 runs, including one of the key runs in the 9th,and scored the winning win, while first baseman Robert Kuhn doubled in a pair of runs with the bases loaded in the 9th, and catcher Seongmin Kim singled in the tying run for the A’s. Outfielder J.P. Sportman reached base in all 5 plate appearances, on a triple, 2 singles and a pair of walks, while outfielder Jonesy Zarraga had 2 hits and stole a base, and shortstop Edwin Diaz singled, walked, scored twice and drove in a run for the A’s. Starter Jesus Zambrano allowed 5 runs, 3 earned, on 7 hits over 5 innings, while RHP Cody Kurz surrendered 2 runs in 1 inning of relief. LHP Cody Stull gave up 1 run in 2 innings of work but still picked up the win, while RHP Jesus Rivas tossed a scoreless 9th to earn his 1st save for the A’s.

Click here for more on Sacramento, Midland, Beloit & Vermont…

Friday, June 20th: Nunez’s Big Bat Leads Ports to Victory while Cats Win and A’s Top Draft Pick Matt Chapman Makes Pro Debut

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Stockton Ports Designated Hitter Renato Nunez (3 for 5 / Home Run / 4 RBIs)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Stockton Ports Designated Hitter Renato Nunez (3 for 5 / Home Run / 4 RBIs)

 

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE  (High-A)

Bakersfield Blaze  5

Stockton Ports    9

WP – Duran 1-2 / 3.21

HR – Nunez (11)

Farmhand Of The Game:

Designated Hitter Renato Nunez

(3 for 5 / Home Run / 4 RBIs)

A big night from designated hitter Renato Nunez helped Stockton overcome an early 4-run deficit and best Bakersfield on Friday. Nunez collected 3 hits in the game, and he homered for the second straight night to put the Ports on the board in the 4th. He then singled in the tying run in the 5th, and also drove in a pair of runs in Stockton’s 5-run 6th. Thursday night’s hitting star, first baseman Matt Olson, drew 3 walks, while outfielders Dusty Robinson and Billy McKinney and second baseman Chad Pinder had a pair of hits apiece and each drove in a run for the Ports. Starter Chris Lamb had a rare rough outing, allowing 4 runs on 7 hits over 4 innings of work, while LHP Omar Duran struck out 5 in 2 innings of scoreless relief to pick up his 1st win for Stockton.

Click here for more on Sacramento, Midland, Beloit, Vermont & AZL A’s…

Tuesday, June 17th: Higley’s Slam Leads Vermont to Victory while Hounds Win in Addison Russell’s Return and A’s DL Drew Pomeranz & Acquire Brad Mills

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Vermont Lake Monsters Outfielder Justin Higley (Grand Slam)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Vermont Lake Monsters Outfielder Justin Higley (Grand Slam)

 

NEW YORK-PENN LEAGUE  (Class-A Short-Season)

Connecticut Tigers               0

Vermont Lake Monsters  5

WP – Perez 1-0 / 0.00

HR – Higley (1)

Farmhand Of The Game:

Outfielder Justin Higley

(Grand Slam)

Outfielder Justin Higley stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and 1 out in the bottom of the 1st inning and slugged a grand slam to provide all the runs Vermont would need and give starter Cristhian Perez a comfortable cushion to work with on Tuesday. Perez was impressive, walking none and striking out 5 over 7 shutout innings to earn the win, while LHP Kevin Ferreras got the final 6 outs for the Lake Monsters. Shortstop Yairo Munoz singled and stole a base, while third baseman Chris Wolfe drove in Vermont’s only other run in the win.

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Monday, June 16th: Jensen & Buschmann Pitch Hounds & Cats to Victory as Addison Russell Returns to Midland and A’s Sign Top Pick Matt Chapman

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Pitcher Chris Jensen (7 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 2 BB / 5 K / Win)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Pitcher Chris Jensen (7 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 2 BB / 5 K / Win)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Frisco RoughRiders        0

Midland RockHounds  3

WP – Jensen 4-6 / 4.02

HR – Aliotti (6)

Farmhand Of The Game:

Pitcher Chris Jensen

(7 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 2 BB / 5 K / Win)

RHP Chris Jensen delivered an impressive start for Midland on Monday, allowing just 2 hits over 7 scoreless innings to earn his 4th win, while RHP Tucker Healy got the final 6 outs for his 3rd save. Right fielder Anthony Aliotti singled, doubled, homered and drove in 2 runs, while designated hitter Miles Head had a pair of doubles, and second baseman Conner Crumbliss singled and walked twice for the RockHounds. In other news, shortstop Addison Russell returned to the RockHounds on Monday but remained on the bench. The A’s top prospect is expected to be back in action on Tuesday. RHP Sean Murphy also returned to the RockHounds from Stockton, while RHP Marcus Walden was reassigned to Midland from Sacramento, and outfielders Josh Whitaker and Kent Matthes were both placed on the disabled list on Monday.

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Monday, June 9th: Ports Win Behind Maxwell’s Big Blast while Cats, Hounds & Snappers All Fall

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Stockton Ports Catcher Bruce Maxwell (Home Run / 3 RBIs)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Stockton Ports Catcher Bruce Maxwell (Home Run / 3 RBIs)

 

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE  (High-A)

High Desert Mavericks  7

Stockton Ports             9

WP – Adkins 2-3 / 5.57

HR – Maxwell (5), Crocker (5)

Farmhand Of The Game:

Catcher Bruce Maxwell

(Home Run / 3 RBIs)

After exiting Saturday’s game due to being struck with a bat on the backswing and sitting out Sunday’s game, catcher Bruce Maxwell came back with a bang on Monday, blasting a 3-run homer to snap a 4-4 tie and provide the Ports with the margin of victory in Monday’s win at Stockton. Maxwell was named to the California League All-Star squad last week along with teammate Seth Streich. Outfielder Bobby Crocker also contributed a solo shot in the game, while second baseman Chad Pinder had 3 hits, including a double, and drove in a run. First baseman Matt Olson walked twice and doubled in a pair and Addison Russell, serving as the designated hitter for the night, went 0 for 4 with 3 strikeouts after going 2 for 3 in his first game back on Sunday. Starter Hunter Adkins allowed 4 runs over 6 innings of work but walked away with his 2nd win for Stockton.

Click here for more on Sacramento, Midland & Beloit…

Sunday, June 8th: Granier Helps Hounds Win while Cats, Ports & Snappers All Fall and Russell Makes Successful Return to Stockton

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Pitcher Drew Granier (6 IP / 6 H / 1 ER / 1 BB / 4 K / Win)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Pitcher Drew Granier (6 IP / 6 H / 1 ER / 1 BB / 4 K / Win)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Midland RockHounds  7

Frisco RoughRiders        2

WP – Granier 3-2 / 3.50

HR – Aliotti (4), Crumbliss (3)

Farmhand Of The Game:

Pitcher Drew Granier

(6 IP / 6 H / 1 ER / 1 BB / 4 K / Win)

RHP Drew Granier turned in a strong start on Sunday, allowing just 1 run over 6 innings to earn his 3rd win for the RockHounds. The season got off to a rough start for Granier when he allowed 7 runs in 1 2/3 innings on opening night, but he’s now posted an ERA of 2.97 over his last 10 starts. Granier was relieved on Sunday by RHP Tucker Healy, who struck out 5 in 2 scoreless innings of relief and has now struck out 19 while allowing just 1 run in 12 innings since joining Midland. First baseman Anthony Aliotti doubled, homered and drove in 3 runs, while second baseman Conner Crumbliss singled, homered and drove in 2, and third baseman Jefry Marte and outfielder Josh Whitaker had a pair of hits apiece for the Hounds. Meanwhile, infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima was placed on the disabled list on Sunday with a groin strain.

Click here for more on Sacramento, Stockton & Beloit…

Wednesday, May 21st: Buschmann & Atherton Pitch Cats & Ports to Victory while Snappers Win and Hounds Fall

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Sacramento River Cats Pitcher Matt Buschmann (7 IP / 4 H / 1 ER / 3 BB / 6 K / Win)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Sacramento River Cats Pitcher Matt Buschmann (7 IP / 4 H / 1 ER / 3 BB / 6 K / Win)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

El Paso Chihuahuas          1

Sacramento River Cats  4

WP – Buschmann 2-0 / 4.71

Farmhand Of The Game:

Pitcher Matt Buschmann

(7 IP / 4 H / 1 ER / 3 BB / 6 K / Win)

RHP Matt Buschmann turned in his most impressive start so far this season for Sacramento, allowing just 1 run on 4 hits while striking out 6 to earn his 2nd win on Wednesday. LHP Jeff Urlaub struck out 2 in 1 scoreless inning of relief, while RHP Philip Humber got the final 3 outs for his 1st save. Outfielder Shane Peterson had 2 hits and drove in 2 runs, while third baseman Alden Carrithers singled in a pair of runs for the River Cats.

Click here for more on Midland, Stockton & Beloit…