Results tagged ‘ Arnold Leon ’
A’s Farmhand Of The Day
PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE (Triple-A)
Fresno Grizzlies 2
Sacramento River Cats 4
WP – Leon 1-1 / 4.50
Farmhand Of The Game:
Pitcher Arnold Leon
(6 IP / 6 H / 1 ER / 2 BB / 5 K / Win)
RHP Arnold Leon was solid in his fourth start for Sacramento, allowing 2 runs, just 1 earned, while striking out 5 over 6 innings to earn his 1st win. RHPs Paul Smyth, Jeremy McBryde and Evan Scribner each tossed 1 scoreless inning in relief, with Scribner picking up his 3rd save for Sacramento. Outfielder Kent Matthes doubled twice and drove in a run, while catcher Ryan Ortiz had 2 hits and drove in a pair, second baseman Jose Martinez singled twice, walked twice and stole a base, and third baseman Alden Carrithers had 3 walks in the win.
Sunday, April 13th: Myers’ Big Bat Leads Hounds to Victory while Ports & Snappers Fall and Cats Sweep Twinbill as Blanton Calls It Quits
A’s Farmhand Of The Day
TEXAS LEAGUE (Double-A)
Midland RockHounds 11
NW Arkansas Naturals 6
WP – Jensen 1-0 / 2.31
HR – Myers (1), Taylor (1)
Farmhand Of The Game:
Designated Hitter D’Arby Myers
(4 for 4 / Home Run / Triple / 2 RBIs)
Designated hitter D’Arby Myers had a big day at the plate on Sunday, collecting 4 hits, including a home run and a triple, driving in 2 runs, stealing a base and scoring 3 times for the RockHounds. Catcher Beau Taylor also homered and drove in a pair. And in his first game for Midland since signing as a minor league free agent, infielder Colin Walsh singled, doubled and drove in 2 runs but also made a pair of errors at third base. Starter Chris Jensen allowed 3 runs, just 1 earned, over 5 2/3 innings to earn his 1st win for the RockHounds.
Tuesday, April 8th: Whitaker Helps Hounds Put Up 20 while Herrera Wins 1st Start for Snappers and Cats & Ports Lose Late
A’s Farmhand Of The Day
TEXAS LEAGUE (Double-A)
NW Arkansas Naturals 8
Midland RockHounds 20
WP – Long 1-0 / 9.82
HR – Whitaker (2), Muncy (1)
Farmhand Of The Game:
Outfielder Josh Whitaker
(4 for 6 / Home Run / 4 RBIs)
After giving up 20 runs on opening day, the RockHounds struck back with 20 runs of their own on Tuesday night. Outfielder Josh Whitaker was the hitting star for the second straight night, homering in his second consecutive game, collecting 3 singles and driving in 4 runs. Designated hitter Max Muncy singled, homered and drove in 6 runs, while catcher Beau Taylor had 3 hits, including a double, and drove in a pair of runs, and outfielder D’Arby Myers singled, doubled, stole a pair of bases and drove in 3 runs. After a rough first start, RHP Drew Granier gave up just 1 run this time around but only made it through 4 innings after averaging almost 20 pitches per inning. RHP Blake Hassebrock had another rocky outing in relief, surrendering 6 runs, just 2 earned, on 5 hits over 2 innings. RHP Nate Long picked up the win after allowing 1 run in 2 innings of relief, and LHP Jeff Urlaub closed things out with a scoreless 9th for the Hounds.
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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Catcher Stephen Vogt turned out to be something of a secret weapon for the A’s last year. Acquired from Tampa Bay during the first week of the season, he started the year at Sacramento. But when catcher John Jaso went down with a concussion, Vogt got the call. And not only did he help propel the team during its pennant drive, but he also started every game behind the plate in the A.L. Divisional Series and ended up driving in the game-winning run in the A’s dramatic Game #2 victory.
So far this spring, Vogt’s been one of the team’s most productive hitters. With Jaso’s return though, Vogt finds himself battling for an opening day roster spot. But whatever happens, we figured that anyone who’s spent the time that Vogt has behind the plate for the A’s this spring ought to have a pretty good perspective on some of the A’s top pitching prospects, so we took the opportunity to get his take on some of the A’s most talented young pitchers.
On RHP Michael Ynoa…
I caught him in the bullpen and I caught him in live BP. And his fastball is there – it’s electric – it’s a good fastball. His curveball’s really good, and his changeup’s coming along. The biggest thing with him is just his command. He has a hard time staying in the strike zone at times. But when his stuff is in the zone, he’s pretty nasty. He’s definitely got good stuff and he’s got a lot of potential – just some of the issues he runs into are with his control and his command.
On RHP Raul Alcantara…
I actually hit against him in live BP. Same thing there, you know, good stuff, just a little raw. I think both those guys have a really good chance of being something special. His changeup was outstanding – it’s a really good secondary pitch – he’s got a good feel for it and it’s a good pitch. He throws hard and he’s got a lot of life on his ball.
On RHP Arnold Leon…
He’s outstanding. He’s got four quality pitches. He’s smart and he throws hard, and he’s able to command and control all four pitches. He’s got a lot of upside and he’s ready to go. I caught him probably three times at Sacramento. He’s very good and he’s got a good idea. His ball’s got a lot of life on it right now – his curveball’s good, his changeup’s good, and his slider’s a lot better than it was last year. So he’s going to be something special.
On LHP Drew Pomeranz…
That’s a left-handed power arm right there. The thing with him is his command at times. And I think as he gets deeper into the season, it’s going to get better. He’s pretty special. His changeup and curveball are good pitches. He’s got good stuff. Fastball command is his biggest thing.
On RHP Josh Lindblom…
It’s early in camp right now and he’s still getting a feel for his breaking pitches. But for the most part, his slider and his curveball are really good, and his fastball’s good and his changeup’s good. I mean, we’ve got a lot of good arms here and Josh is another one of those – it’s exciting to have him.
On the success he’s been having at the plate this spring…
I made some minor adjustments in the winter, but nothing crazy. Just trying to allow myself to stay back a little bit more and see the ball a little bit longer. It’s been working so far and I’ve just got to keep it going.
On having the chance to play in his native northern California…
Last year, being in Sacramento and Oakland was huge – just being back in my home state, close to where I grew up. I’ve had a lot of fun so far.
On the clubhouse environment in Oakland…
It’s pretty special. I’ve been blessed to be in two pretty special places – Tampa and here. They’re pretty similar atmospheres in the clubhouse. There’s a lot of personalities, but we all mesh well and have a lot of fun.
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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.
It appears that most of the A’s off-season work is done. The team has found capable replacements for departing free agents Bartolo Colon, Grant Balfour and Chris Young and filled a few other holes as well. It’s possible that someone like Alberto Callaspo, who’s set to earn close to $5 million and doesn’t have a full-time position, could still end up being traded before spring training is through. It’s possible that a few younger players with major league experience who are out of options like outfielder Michael Taylor or reliever Evan Scribner could be dealt as well. But for the most part, barring any unforeseen injury issues, it looks like the A’s are now holding most of the cards they’ll be playing to start the 2014 season. And it’s becoming increasingly clear who most of the players are that Sacramento River Cats fans can expect to be seeing at Raley Field in 2014 as well.
2014 OAKLAND A’S
One area that seems to be most clearly set for the team is the outfield, with Josh Reddick in right, Coco Crisp in center, Yoenis Cespedes in left and newcomer Craig Gentry serving as the fourth outfielder. The left side of the infield will also remain in place for the A’s, with the team’s most valuable player in 2014, Josh Donaldson, manning the hot corner and the team’s best-hitting shortstop in recent memory, Jed Lowrie, returning to shortstop.
The other four positions in the lineup – second base, first base, catcher and designated hitter – are the areas where the A’s will deploy their patented platoons. Free agent infielder Nick Punto is likely to take over for Adam Rosales and Callaspo as Eric Sogard’s platoon partner at second base. And based on manager Bob Melvin’s comments, it seems like that might push Callaspo into the role of Brandon Moss’s platoon partner at first base, which would then push Nate Freiman to Sacramento along with fellow first baseman Daric Barton.
Melvin’s recent comments also make it sound like John Jaso is likely to get most of the DH at-bats, replacing the departed Seth Smith in that position, while against left-handers, Craig Gentry would join the lineup in left field with Yoenis Cespedes moving into the DH spot. With Jaso getting most of the DH at-bats, that requires the A’s to carry a third catcher, and that’s most likely to be Stephen Vogt, who got plenty of valuable experience last year down the stretch and in the postseason for the A’s. And his left-handed bat is the perfect complement to righty-swinging backstop Derek Norris, who hit just .149 against right-handed pitching last year.
Basically, Vogt would be replacing Jaso in the catching platoon, just as he did late last year, with Jaso moving out from behind the plate to replace Seth Smith in the DH platoon, while Punto replaces Callaspo in the second base platoon, Callaspo replaces Freiman in the first place platoon and Craig Gentry takes Chris Young’s place in the lineup against left-handers.
As far as the pitching staff goes, the plan seems pretty clear. Free agent lefty Scott Kazmir will take over for Bartolo Colon as the veteran presence in the team’s starting rotation, while young righty Sonny Gray appears set to take lefty Tommy Milone’s spot in the rotation, just as he did late last season, with Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily rounding out the starting five.
Meanwhile, in the bullpen, Jim Johnson will take over for Grant Balfour as the team’s closer, while top-notch setup man Luke Gregerson will take the roster spot that Pat Neshek occupied most of last season and lefty Fernando Abad is likely to take Jerry Blevins’ spot on the left side of the bullpen, with fellow lefty Sean Doolittle and righties Ryan Cook, Jesse Chavez and Dan Otero rounding out the rest of the A’s bullpen – though it’s possible that, since he’s out of options, the team could also decide to have Evan Scribner take Otero’s spot to start the season. The A’s will also likely start the season with two relievers who are both recovering from Tommy John surgery on the disabled list – recently-signed free agent lefty Eric O’Flaherty and righty Fernando Rodriguez, who was acquired from the Astros in the Jed Lowrie deal.
2014 SACRAMENTO RIVER CATS
If we make the preceding assumptions about the major league roster, then the River Cats roster starts to fall pretty clearly into place. Of course, there are a few players who are out of options, and it’s quite possible that at least one of them won’t end up clearing waivers.
The A’s have two veteran minor league catchers to handle the River Cats pitching staff, returning backstop Luke Montz along with Chris Gimenez, who was recently claimed off waivers from Tampa Bay. Meanwhile, the team looks to be overloaded with first basemen, with Daric Barton, Nate Freiman and Anthony Aliotti all looking for playing time – unless the A’s end up trading Callaspo and opening up a roster spot for Freiman as Brandon Moss’s platoon partner. If not, there could still be plenty of playing time to be found for all three between the first base and the designated hitter spot.
Returning River Cat Andy Parrino appears to be set at shortstop. Hiro Nakajima is likely to get the majority of starts at third base while also picking up at-bats at other positions around the infield, while free agent signees Jose Martinez and Alden Carrithers should get most of the playing time at second base. Shane Peterson is set to return to Sacramento’s outfield, along with Jake Goebbert and, if they clear waivers, veteran minor leaguers Michael Taylor and Corey Brown (who was recently designated for assignment).
The River Cats should have plenty of worthy contenders for their starting rotation. If the A’s other five starters are all healthy to start the season, then Tommy Milone is likely to anchor Sacramento’s starting five, along with recently-acquired righty Josh Lindblom and lefty Drew Pomeranz. Returning River Cats Andrew Werner and Arnold Leon will also be competing for a spot as well as free agent signees Phil Humber and Matt Buschmann, with those don’t make the rotation starting the season in the River Cats bullpen. If he clears waivers, they’re likely to be joined there by Evan Scribner, along with returning River Cats Paul Smyth and Fernando Nieve and free agent signees Deryk Hooker and Jose Flores as well as Triple-A Rule 5 draftee Tim Atherton.
So that’s how things seem to be shaping up for both the A’s and the River Cats, assuming everyone clears waivers and Billy Beane doesn’t have any last-minute surprises up his sleeve!
A’s general manager Billy Beane has had a busy week – and it ain’t over yet! On Monday, the team signed free agent left-handed starting pitcher Scott Kazmir to a two-year $22 million deal. And later that same day, the A’s acquired right-handed closer Jim Johnson from Baltimore in return for second baseman Jemile Weeks and a player to be named later.
Then on Tuesday, the team traded two of its top minor league prospects, outfielder Michael Choice and second baseman Chris Bostick, to Texas for outfielder Craig Gentry and right-handed starter Josh Lindblom. The A’s then followed that up just hours later by sending outfielder Seth Smith to San Diego for right-handed reliever Luke Gregerson.
Just the previous week, the team dealt minor league outfielder John Wooten to Washington for left-handed reliever Fernando Abad. And two weeks prior to that, the A’s signed utility infielder Nick Punto as a free agent.
The A’s new outfielder, Craig Gentry – who was nicknamed “Kitten Face” in Texas – is a right-handed hitting outfielder who can play all three outfield positions. He brings excellent defense and speed and hits lefties well, so he figures to take Chris Young’s place as a right-handed platoon player and fourth outfielder who could take over full time in center field for the A’s when Coco Crisp becomes a free agent after next season.
In order to acquire Gentry, the A’s gave up their top outfield prospect, who also happened to be the team’s top major-league-ready hitting prospect, former 1st-round draft pick Michael Choice. After hitting .302 at Triple-A Sacramento in 2013, many had hoped that Choice would be given the chance to fill Young’s role on the A’s roster in 2014. But instead, he’ll get the chance to battle for a starting spot in the Rangers’ outfield this season.
Top talent evaluators are divided on Choice’s chances for success as a major league slugger. But the A’s have a history of undervaluing and trading away talented young outfielders who’ve gone on to become successful major league hitters elsewhere. And A’s fans have to hope that Choice doesn’t turn out to be the next Andre Ethier, Nelson Cruz or Carlos Gonzalez in Texas.
With Choice now gone, Shane Peterson and Michael Taylor are now the most major-league-ready outfielders at the upper levels of the A’s minor league system, while 20-year-old B.J. Boyd and 19-year-old Billy McKinney are the team’s top outfield prospects at the lower levels of the system.
The A’s also traded away their top second base prospect, Chris Bostick, in the deal. And it looks increasingly likely that shortstop Daniel Robertson might have to try to make the move to second base to provide a future double play partner for top shortstop prospect Addison Russell. With fellow second baseman Jemile Weeks now gone as well, Sacramento’s 2014 infield could be comprised of Daric Barton or Anthony Aliotti at first base, minor league free agent signee Jose Martinez at second base, Andy Parrino at shortstop, Hiro Nakajima at third base and Dusty Coleman as the utility infielder filling in at second, short and third.
Meanwhile, RHP Josh Lindblom is likely to start the season in Sacramento’s starting rotation, along with River Cats returnees Arnold Leon and Andrew Werner as well as recent minor league free agent signees Phil Humber and Matt Buschmann.
At the major league level, new acquisitions Scott Kazmir and Jim Johnson are clearly intended to take the place of free agents Bartolo Colon and Grant Balfour on the A’s pitching staff. With Kazmir guaranteed $11 million this season, Johnson expected to net $10-11 million in arbitration and seven starting pitchers currently on the staff, the A’s second-highest-paid starter, Brett Anderson at $8 million, is expected to be the A’s most appetizing bit of a trade bait to be dangled at next week’s Winter Meetings. And rumors already have the Blue Jays, Twins, Royals, Yankees, Indians and Mariners licking their lips over the left-hander.
Assuming the A’s are able to complete a deal for Anderson, the team’s 2014 rotation would then be comprised of five of the following six starters: Scott Kazmir, Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin, Dan Straily and Sonny Gray. Given the general health of starting pitchers, it wouldn’t be surprising if one out of any group of six starters wasn’t 100% healthy to start the season, so I wouldn’t bother spending too much time worrying about which five of the six will end up making the opening day cut – it’ll surely sort itself out by the end of spring.
As far as the A’s bullpen goes, new closer Jim Johnson, who has saved at least 50 games in each of the last two seasons, and new RHP Luke Gregerson, who has been one of the best setup men in the National League over the past couple of years, are set to join LHPs Sean Doolittle and Jerry Blevins and RHPs Ryan Cook and Jesse Chavez, who is out options and whom the A’s value as a long man and spot starter.
Since the team typically likes to carry seven relievers, there’s room for one more arm in the A’s pen, and RHP Dan Otero is clearly the most deserving candidate for the final spot. But since Fernando Abad, Evan Scribner, Pedro Figueroa and Fernando Rodriguez are all out of options, it’s possible that Otero could start the season being stashed at Sacramento, waiting for someone to hit the DL while one of the others is given a shot.
Over the past week and a half, the A’s farm system has suffered the loss of outfielder Michael Choice, second baseman Jemile Weeks, second baseman Chris Bostick and outfielder John Wooten. And in the last six months, the team lost its 2007 #1 draft pick James Simmons as a minor league free agent and traded away 2008’s #1 pick Jemile Weeks, 2009’s #1 pick Grant Green and 2010’s #1 pick Michael Choice. 2011’s #1 pick Sonny Gray has already made it to the majors, while 2012’s #1 pick Addison Russell should be starting the season at Double-A Midland and 2013’s #1 pick Billy McKinney is expected to start the year at Class-A Beloit.
As previously mentioned, LHP Brett Anderson is the most likely member of the A’s roster to be the next one to find himself on Billy Beane’s trading block, with infielder Alberto Callaspo not far behind. With six other starters on the staff, a long injury history and an $8 million salary attached to his name, Anderson is clearly expendable. And with a salary close to $5 million and no definite spot in the A’s lineup, Callaspo seems to just be taking up roster and salary space at this point.
Outfielders Seth Smith, Chris Young and Michael Choice have all recently departed, with Craig Gentry being the only outfielder the A’s have acquired to take their place. So it certainly seems like there could be room for one more big OF/DH bat to be added to the A’s lineup to help boost the team’s offensive output, possibly as the result of an Anderson deal.
It’s also been reported that the A’s have been inquiring about middle infielders and catchers in trade talks for Anderson. So the team could be looking for a second baseman to take the place of Eric Sogard, or a shortstop who would then enable Jed Lowrie to make the move to second, or possibly a catcher who would allow John Jaso to take over for Seth Smith in the designated hitter role.
The A’s major league roster currently shapes up with Jaso and Norris as the catching platoon, Donaldson, Lowrie, Sogard, Punto, Moss and Freiman serving around the infield, and Cespedes, Crisp, Reddick and Gentry making up the outfield. Since the team typically likes to carry thirteen position players, that leaves one last roster spot open. At this point, it would most likely be filled by Callaspo. But if he ends up being traded, then it would be Barton, unless, of course, the A’s acquire another big bat who would end up pushing Barton back to Sacramento.
With all the current question marks, one thing seems certain – Beane and company aren’t done dealing just yet, and the A’s roster is far from set. There are surely more changes to come. But for the time being, here’s how things are shaping up for the 2014 A’s and River Cats, assuming everyone who’s out of options can clear waivers.