A’s Major League Camp at Hohokam Stadium
In what’s become his annual winter interview with bloggers, A’s general manager David Forst addressed a wide range of topics covering both the major league squad as well as some of the system’s top prospects at A’s FanFest on Sunday.
In his session, Forst discussed how he sees the team’s starting rotation shaping up, whether or not the A’s may still be able to make some additions to the roster, the likelihood of signing outfielder Josh Reddick long-term, last year’s lack of clubhouse chemistry, the future of top prospects Sean Manaea, Franklin Barreto and Yairo Munoz, and much more.
On the A’s starting pitching this coming season…
Going into the offseason…after Sonny [Gray], [Kendall] Graveman and [Chris] Bassitt, there were a lot of question marks. So you add Rich Hill early on, which was important to us. And then when you look at how the back end shapes up, between Jesse [Hahn], who’s feeling really good, Jarrod [Parker], who’s healthy as we speak now – obviously, he had an unfortunate setback last year – Aaron Brooks, whom we saw a little bit of, Felix [Doubront], who got to start a little bit, all these guys will figure in ultimately till Henderson [Alvarez] is ready. And signing Alvarez, it was key for us to know that he’s probably not going to be there the first six or seven weeks. We’re looking at June 1 as probably our best guess right now. But if you have Sonny, Rich, Graveman, Bassitt and then the rest of that depth, you feel pretty good about filling it till Alvarez gets there, and over the course of the season.
On the A’s top pitching prospect, left-hander Sean Manaea…
As far as Sean has come and as great as he is, we really do want him to start the year in Triple-A. I said that about Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill many years ago too and they ended up here, so you never know what’s going to happen over the next two months. But once Sean got healthy with Kansas City and then made the transition [to the A’s organization], there was really nothing lacking from his game – and he continued in the [Arizona] Fall League just getting innings. There’s velocity, there’s command, there’s three pitches, there’s everything that you’re looking for out of a top-of-the-rotation guy. So we couldn’t be happier with where Sean is right now. And we’ll see him during spring training. I’ve already talked to [A’s pitching coach] Curt [Young] and said, “Let’s get him out there and get him some innings and have him face big league hitters.” But if everything goes right, I don’t see him starting the year with us – and that’s not anything he did, that’s just sort of how we’ve planned it.
Well, right before we traded for Sean, he was throwing 94 mph in the Fall League – and you really felt good. And unfortunately, then he had the groin injury, and it really just lingered. I mean, the guy we saw here throwing 86, that was not the guy we traded for, and I don’t think that’s who Sean thinks he is. So, ultimately, until he gets out on the mound in spring training, you just don’t know. But if he got back to being that guy, it changes his outlook completely. And for a player who’s out of options, like he is, certainly it’s important for us to get a read in February and March as to where he fits – and if that fifth starter spot, if that’s him, great, that fits us really well, and if he ends up in the bullpen giving us some length, that works too. I think you don’t know on him until he gets out there. For Dillon, this has been a long process for him coming off of [Tommy John] surgery. Again, you talk about that number 94 [mph], when I saw him pitch his junior year, that’s the guy he was – and sophomore year as well. He’s come back really well performance-wise off the surgery – he pitched great in Double-A. And you just sort of dream, “Hey, if we get this guy throwing 91-92 again, he’s here in no time.” So the fact that he can compete where he’s at and throw strikes and use the cutter and the changeup is great. If you add a little bit of fastball velocity, then he becomes really special again – the way he was viewed going into his junior year at Oklahoma.
On the free agent and trade market for the A’s as we approach the end of January…
Well, as always with the free agent market, we sort of just stay in touch – we’re never the aggressors. The one thing we did this year with Ryan Madson is we were aggressive, we sort of went to the top of the market. He was such a good fit with his stuff and his experience at the back of the pen. But otherwise, we sort of let the market come to us, and I think we’ll continue to do that. I can’t say there’s anybody out there right now that…we’re sort of really in on. We’re happy with the moves we’ve made. We do have some trade conversations ongoing, but that’s normal for this time of year, just to kind of stay in touch. But it’s a pretty unique market right now to be here on January 24 with all these guys out there…Yeah, we’ve made some of our best signings in February – Billy [Beane] has always said that over the years. I can’t think of anyone specifically off the top of my head right now that I think might fall to us, but we do have the flexibility, both payroll and roster-wise, to sort of be opportunistic if it’s there.
On committing to former platoon player Danny Valencia as the A’s everyday third baseman in 2016…
I think having Danny for a full season was a big part of our offseason plan, the way we put the club together. Obviously, hitting right-handers, going into 2015, was the knock on him. And he will be the first to say that he consciously made adjustments – opening his stance, getting his foot down earlier against righties. It’s not my department to work with hitters, but there are things that he did. And I talked with [A’s hitting coach] Darren Bush over the course of the second half when Danny got here and said, “Hey, is this guy for real?” Because his performance against righties did not suggest he was going to do what he did. And Darren is confident. No one is more confident than Danny, I can tell you that. Without you even asking, he will tell you he can hit right-handed pitching. I think we feel really good about him being at third base every day.
On the possibility of Josh Reddick and the A’s coming to terms on a contract extension…
We obviously just got Josh’s one-year number done but, in the course of that conversation, I have spoken to his agent about an extension. So it’s something we will continue to talk about…Look, the relationship that Billy [Beane] and I have with Josh, the relationship I have with his agent, we will have conversations over the next two months and see if it works. I mean, there’s obviously a lot of money to be made out there on the free agent market. But Josh, as long he’s been here, has kind of become the face of our team, somewhat the drive and the energy of this club. So it’s something we will make an effort at. It takes two to kind of get to that place, so we’ll see where it goes…Till we get into the conversation, you never know where it’s going to go.
Billy has been very upfront that he did not have the season he’d hoped to have. And he did make an effort, everything from getting his Lasik corrected to putting a gym in his home to working with a personal chef in the offseason. He has taken every step you want to see over this four or five month period – he’s done it to sort of show that he’s serious. So, on paper, there’s no reason to believe he doesn’t get back to the player we signed. So that’s clearly important for our club if he’s going to take a lot of DH at-bats. Coco is healthy as we sit here right now, which is kind of the best you can hope for. He’s spent time in the offseason working on his neck, working on his various wrist and knee issues, his elbow – there’s a list of things – but he is healthy…So he’s excited about the year. We just need to get him on a field and have him run down a fly ball or take batting practice. Until he does those baseball activities day in, day out, it’s hard to say how he holds up.
On last year’s perceived lack of clubhouse chemistry and what the team has done to address it…
Well, I certainly won’t deny that it’s something that we talked about and addressed with [A’s manager] Bob [Melvin]. Look, anytime you get off to the start that we did and then the season plays out that way, not everybody’s going to be happy. And we’ve always talked about this chicken-and-egg thing – does winning breed chemistry or vice versa? So when you have a season like we did, guys are going to be unhappy, not everybody’s going to get along – that’s part of it. And frankly, you learn a lot about people, players and staff, when you go through that season. And I can tell you that I feel great about Bob after what he went through and dealt with in 2015. That said, we did look into the makeup and the personalities of the guys we brought in and did as much background as we could do on a free agent – a guy like [Ryan] Madson or [John] Axford, whom you haven’t had here. We made a trade with San Diego and [former Padres coach and new A’s coach] Mark Kotsay knew those guys. So we had some ability to look into guys in the offseason, and it was something we talked about a lot. I don’t think we will ever get to the point where we’re bringing in good guys over talent, but it’s part of the equation. And certainly, coming off of last year, it’s something we’re cognizant of.
I will say Franklin wanted to play some center field. We want him to get time at second base and center field, that will continue, but ultimately we still believe he can play shortstop. So, if he and Yairo end up together in Midland to start the year, they’ll go back and forth between second and short…but certainly Yairo can really play the position, and we feel really good about that. What he did in the California League over a short period of time was really impressive. You look at both those guys, the bat’s playing at 19-20 years old, and you feel really good about moving them through the system. So I think we’ll continue to have both of them at short. And as long as it’s sort of tenable moving up, we’ll do that. At some point, we may have to make a decision on one or both. And I know Franklin likes working on center field. I think anytime you have a season the way he did and you make 30+ errors [at shortstop], it’s hard to sort of have that confidence. And there’s a lot of pride. I don’t think he wants to go out there and let teammates down. But he’s 19 years old. And the list of guys – whether it’s [Eric] Chavez or [Miguel] Tejada – who made 30+ errors in the Cal League and then went on to do just fine, it’s a long list. And everybody believes that Franklin has the athleticism and the fundamentals to play shortstop if we decide that’s where he should be.
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As we sit here in late January, there are still about two and a half months to go until opening day for the A’s. But the first spring workouts are just a month away and the first spring games are just six weeks away.
It looks like most of the A’s major offseason work may be done, but you can never be too sure with Billy Beane and David Forst at the helm.
Of course, there could still be some surprising trades or injuries to come, but barring any more major moves or unexpected developments in spring training, the makeup of the A’s team that should be set to take the field in 2016 looks fairly clear, at least for the moment.
Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley, the A’s catching tandem from last season, appear set to return as the team’s primary backstops again next season. They also happen to be the only catchers currently on the A’s 40-man roster. The duo started behind the plate in 151 of the team’s 162 games in 2015 and, health willing, should be expected to do roughly the same again for Oakland in 2016. Catcher Carson Blair, who caught 11 games for the A’s last season, will be waiting in the wings at Nashville if needed.
The only member of the A’s 2015 opening day infield expected to return to a starting role in 2016 is shortstop Marcus Semien, who appears to have held on to his job with an improved second half in the field. He’ll be joined up the middle by former A’s infielder Jed Lowrie who returns to the team, thanks to an offseason deal with the Astros, to take over at second base. Meanwhile, long-time A’s infielder Eric Sogard, who has experience at second, short and third, appears set to shift to a utility role, just as he was in 2015 until multiple injuries pushed him back into action for 120 games last season. And if further reinforcements are needed, middle infielders Tyler Ladendorf, Joey Wendle and Chad Pinder should all be in reserve at Nashville.
With Brett Lawrie traded and Ike Davis non-tendered, things will be looking plenty different at the corner infield positions for the A’s in 2016 than they did when the 2015 season began. Danny Valencia, who was the A’s best hitter over the final two months of the season after being acquired off waivers during the first week of August, is set to be the team’s everyday third baseman and potential cleanup hitter. Meanwhile, Yonder Alonso was acquired from the Padres to take over as the A’s primary first baseman next season. A left-handed hitter, Alonso is generally expected to sit against lefties, though his platoon splits aren’t quite as extreme as some might assume. But the expectation is that Mark Canha will end up getting most of the starts at first base when southpaws are on the mound. The A’s primary designated hitter, Billy Butler, is always available to step in at first now and then if needed. And if Valencia should need a day off at third, Lowrie can always slide over from second, with Sogard taking over Lowrie’s spot up the middle.
The A’s outfield will remain largely unchanged from 2015. Rifle-armed Josh Reddick will return to hold things down in right field, while speedster Billy Burns will be back to patrol center field for the green and gold. Left field will be the biggest question mark as the 2016 season begins, but that doesn’t mean that there will be any shortage of available options. Of course, if by any chance, Coco Crisp should prove to be healthy and productive, then he would likely end up getting most of the starts there. But considering that Crisp’s injuries limited him to just 44 games last year, and he didn’t exactly set the world on fire when he did make it onto the field, it’s probably better to count on Mark Canha making most of the starts in left field, at least when he isn’t spending time at first base versus lefties. And with Sam Fuld back in the fold to fill in anywhere in the outfield as needed, as long as everyone is healthy, there won’t be room for Jake Smolinski or Andrew Lambo, the only other outfielders currently on the A’s 40-man, to crack Oakland’s opening day roster.
As long as there are no health issues with any of the expected starters, Oakland appears set to begin the season with four familiar faces being joined by newcomer Rich Hill in the team’s starting rotation. Hill is the 35-year-old lefty the A’s signed as a free agent, and he may end up filling the fifth-starter role with the occasional day off, since the southpaw threw fewer than 100 frames last year. Of course, All-Star Sonny Gray will be returning to anchor the rotation, and he’s likely to be joined by fellow returning right-handers Jesse Hahn, Chris Bassitt and Kendall Graveman, as long as all are healthy to kick off the 2016 campaign. But the A’s also signed 25-year-old free agent right-hander Henderson Alvarez, who is just one season removed from his impressive 2014 All-Star campaign. Alvarez is returning from shoulder surgery though and is not expected to be ready to go before May. But if one of the A’s other five starters is either injured or struggling at that point of the season, then Alvarez could be ready to step right in. Lefties Sean Nolin and Felix Doubront and righties Aaron Brooks and Jarrod Parker are all on the 40-man roster and could represent starting options as well. But as long as everyone else is healthy, they seem far more likely to find themselves starting the season either at Nashville or in the A’s bullpen.
No area of the A’s 2015 team needed as big an overhaul as the bullpen, and it definitely got one. Out are Evan Scribner, Dan Otero, Edward Mujica, Fernando Abad and Drew Pomeranz, and in are free agents Ryan Madson and John Axford, trade acquisitions Liam Hendriks and Marc Rzepczynski, and a healthy Sean Doolittle, who will be returning to the closer’s role. Madson, Axford, Hendriks and returning right-hander Fernando Rodriguez should represent some solid and experienced set-up options from the right side. With Rodriguez out of options and likely to make the roster, that means young righty Ryan Dull may be forced to start the season in Nashville until an inevitable opening develops. Rzepczynski should be the primary left-handed set-up option for the A’s, while Nolin (who’s also out of options) could be set to replicate Pomeranz’s role as a left-handed long reliever for the team. Left-handed starter-reliever Felix Doubront is another A’s hurler who’s out of options. And if there’s an opening in the rotation or in the bullpen due to injury, trade or poor performance, then the veteran southpaw could be the first called upon to step in and take on whatever role is needed for the A’s.
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In what’s become his annual winter interview with bloggers, A’s assistant general manager David Forst addressed a wide range of topics covering both the major league squad as well as the team’s minor league system at A’s FanFest on Sunday.
When asked which of the A’s offseason acquisitions he was personally most excited about, Forst hesitated to single out any one player, but he eventually got around to talking about infielder Marcus Semien, who was acquired from the White Sox in the Jeff Samardzija deal, saying, “Marcus was a guy we were really focused on…We really believe in his ability to play the middle of the infield. As much as anybody we’ve added this offseason, he’s as deserving of an opportunity to play every day in the big leagues, so I’m looking forward to seeing what he does.”
Despite critiques by some of Semien’s range at shortstop, Forst praised his strong arm and quick release and said, “We’ve seen enough of Marcus to believe he can handle the position.”
Asked to assess the prospects of some of the A’s newly-acquired young pitchers with the team this season, Forst started out by praising right-hander Chris Bassitt, who arrived with Semien from the Sox, saying, “Bassitt pitched really well against us in September last year. He’s shown what he can do in the big leagues.”
But of all the A’s new arms, the A’s assistant GM sounded most intrigued by righty Kendall Graveman, who came over from the Blue Jays in the deal that sent third baseman Josh Donaldson to Toronto: “Kendall is the guy who moved up as quickly as anybody in the game last season and dominated almost every level. So you sort of hope that the projection on him continues to go in that direction.”
Regarding talk of Bassitt or lefty Sean Nolin, who was acquired along with Graveman in the Donaldson deal, possibly being useful bullpen pieces, Forst said the team plans to keep them as starters since, “We’re not going to get through the season with five starters.”
When asked how newly-acquired first baseman Ike Davis fits into the picture, Forst said, “I think he has a chance to fit into the way we set the lineup…particularly against right-handed pitching. There have not been any inconsistencies in his performance against righties…There’s no reason he’s not in the lineup against right-handers all the time.”
Forst also said that Davis had mentioned he wants to get a shot at getting some playing time in the outfield to increase his opportunities to play. But later, when asked about his abilities in the outfield, Davis sounded a little less enthusiastic, saying “I’m not going to be amazing…I can catch the ball if I get to it, and I can throw it in pretty quickly, but I’m down to do anything.”
Addressing the subject of team chemistry on a roster full of new faces, Forst admitted, “I recognize that we’re bringing twenty-something new guys into a clubhouse, and frankly they’re all down there shaking hands right now and introducing themselves.” But he expressed plenty of confidence in manager Bob Melvin’s ability to make it all gel.
Forst was asked about the apparent lack of home run power in the team’s new lineup and admitted, “We’re not unaware of that concern. The home run totals look different certainly than they did a year ago. That said, Coco’s hit 20, Reddick’s hit 30, Ike has hit 30…I don’t think power is as big a concern for us as some people have made it out to be.”
He also noted that the team has other advantages: “I do think we’re going to have a lot of options in terms of matchups and platoons. When you look at [Josh] Phegley and Davis and [Mark] Canha – all are here because of their particular skill sets.”
Forst discussed some of the infield prospects that fans can look forward to seeing at the team’s new Triple-A affiliate in Nashville this season. He mentioned that he expects Rangel Ravelo, acquired from the White Sox, to play “a good amount of third base” in addition to first base, and noted that Max Muncy could also see some playing time at third in addition to first for Nashville. And Forst named newly-acquired second baseman Joe Wendle along with Andy Parrino and Tyler Ladendorf as the Triple-A team’s middle infield options.
Regarding the A’s top young hitting prospect, first baseman Matt Olson, Forst seemed happy to still have him around after having recently traded away some of the team’s other hitting prospects: “I think Matt Olson is as surpised as anyone that he’s still here. In fact, when I called him last week to officially tell him he was coming to big league camp, I had to promise I wouldn’t trade any more of his friends.”
He praised Olson’s power and approach, saying that he “fits the bill” as the prototypical type of A’s hitter, and has hopes that he’ll go to Double-A Midland and pick up where he left off last year at Stockton.
Forst claimed that Olson’s Stockton teammate, third baseman Renato Nunez – who’s also ticketed for Midland – took a big step forward this year, particularly when it comes to his ability to handle breaking pitches and said, “At that age, with what he’s done, you can put a really high ceiling on a guy like that.”
As far as the team’s top draft pick last year, third baseman Matt Chapman, Forst praised his brief time at Double-A Midland and in the instructional league, saying the team saw a guy with a lot of power and a chance to be a really good third baseman and claimed, “Other than [Eric] Chavez, we haven’t seen anyone come through the system with that kind of ability and that arm at third base.”
Forst expects Chapman to start the season at Stockton but said, “If he keeps the power and increases the contact rate, he has the chance to move quickly.”
Another top prospect who appears likely to end up at Stockton is young shortstop Franklin Barreto, who came over from the Jays in the Donaldson deal. There have been some questions about Barreto’s ability to stick at short. But while admitting that he has some work to do on his throwing, Forst clearly stated, “We see Franklin at shortstop.” He also had praise for another one of the organization’s young shortstops, Yairo Munoz, whom he said was a popular target in offseason trade talks and who seems likely to end up at Beloit this season.
Speaking of Stockton though, with the team’s Triple-A affiliate moving from Sacramento to Nashville, Forst admitted that fans in Stockton might be getting a lot more chances to see some of the team’s rehabbing major leaguers this season, and mentioned pitchers A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker, both of whom will be returning from Tommy John surgery, as distinct possibilities to be seeing time in Stockton this season.
Forst said that he doesn’t expect the team to make any other significant additions before spring training and said that the front office was “not spending a lot of time” on highly-touted Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada. But he did mention that newly-hired assistant general manager Dan Kantrovitz and director of pro scouting Dan Feinstein were leaving that day to attend a two-day prospect showcase in the Dominican.
On the subject of Kantrovitz, who replaced former assistant general manager Farhan Zaidi who was hired as the Dodgers’ new general manager this offseason, Forst said the fact that he had a clear skill set in quantitative analysis made him a particularly attractive candidate for the job and that he’s now running the A’s analytics department and “was integral, as soon as he got here, in helping with the decisions we made on player personnel.”
Forst also praised the A’s new hitting coach, Darren Bush, whom he claimed Bob Melvin has leaned on heavily since he joined the coaching staff prior to the 2013 season and said that “moving him into the hitting coach position was a logical next step.”
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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.
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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Major League Camp and Game vs. LA Dodgers at Phoenix Municipal Stadium
The A’s beat the Dodgers 7-4 with catcher Derek Norris blasting his team-leading 5th home run and A.J. Griffin allowing 4 runs and striking out 8 in 4 2/3 innings of work to earn his second win on the spring. But the arrival of new first baseman Nate Freiman (pronounced “Fry-man”) was the big development around camp today. Everyone from broadcaster Ken Korach to assistant GM David Forst made a point of introducing themselves to the 6’8” slugger. And Forst seemed particularly eager to see the team’s latest acquisition take batting practice, after which he pronounced, “The power is there.” After the game, it was announced that the team had optioned second baseman Jemile Weeks and outfielder Shane Peterson to Triple-A Sacramento.
Stay tuned for more from spring training in Phoenix, including interesting insights from Bob Melvin, Grady Fuson, Derek Norris and more…
As part of A’s FanFest this past weekend, a few members of the A’s staff took some time out to attend a bloggers-only press conference in the bowels of the Oracle Arena. One of those who stopped in to chat with us was A’s assistant general manager David Forst. And A’s Farm was especially eager to find out what it was that got the A’s front office so excited about shortstop Hiro Nakajima…
On the team’s belief that Japanese shortstop Hiro Nakajima could succeed in the major leagues…
I did not actually see him myself. We have a number of guys who’ve seen him back through the WBC in 2009 – a lot of our pro scouts, our international guys. Part of it is based on the numbers. His offensive numbers do translate well based on what other Japanese players have done here. But the reports, not only scouting reports, but from other players who’ve played with him – I think we mentioned Bob Melvin had talked to Ichiro and to Hideki about him. The guys who’ve done well over here are guys who have some leadership over there, who have the personality, who aren’t as affected by the off-the-field things that they gave to adjust to, which are huge. We saw that with Yoenis too – there’s so much that foreign players have to deal with aside from just baseball. We felt like he’d be able to handle that stuff, so his talent would play. Defensively, that’s the hardest thing for us to predict, because we don’t have the same metrics we have on the offensive side. But our reports are good – the hands, the arm strength. All the things you look for from a scouting perspective, we feel pretty good about…we do think he can play the position.
On evaluating defensive metrics…
The key on defense is to have everything sort of match up. If you’re looking at Range Factor and UZR and all the stuff that takes into account the Field f/x stuff, the SportVision data, the key is to have everything match up. So if you have conflicting reports, that’s when you sort of look at your scouting reports. I think you only feel good about defensive stats when things are aligned across the board.
On the team’s strategy in this year’s amateur draft…
We got together with (scouting director) Eric Kubota and his guys a couple weeks ago just to sort of go over the list. It’s a lot deeper in college players this year – both pitching and position players. We certainly didn’t set out to take a bunch of high school guys last year. That’s just where we felt like the talent was. But it is deeper in the college level…We’ve obviously traded away a lot of pitching. We have pitching here, and then there’s a little bit of a gap after guys like Brad Peacock and Sonny Gray. There’s a gap down to A ball, and having traded A.J. Cole and Blake Treinen kind of opened that gap up a little bit…Obviously you always need to replenish your pitching every year.
On the acquisition of catcher John Jaso…
He’s been on the target list for a while. You look at what he did in the minor leagues, the type of offensive player he was – he’s certainly the kind of guy that historically we’ve coveted. And he had a year in Seattle where he really finally broke out offensively. So as we watched him a lot over the course of the season, seeing him in our division, he was certainly a guy we thought about towards the end of the season and all off-season and figured out a way to see if Seattle would part with him. And it obviously took a long time for (Mariners’ general manager) Jack Zduriencik to come around. And getting Mike Morse was the piece that he needed. In fact, one of our pro scouts, Craig Weissmann, was an amateur guy with Tampa when he signed Jaso originally in the draft. So we’ve kind of had our eye on John for a while.
On trading pitching prospect A.J. Cole back to the Nationals in the John Jaso deal…
(Nationals’ general manager) Mike Rizzo had said a couple times in the last twelve months how disappointed he was in having given up A.J., so Billy sort of knew in the back of his head that that was going to get us in the door. And when things sort of matched up, he knew Seattle wanted Morse. And obviously Rizzo knew we didn’t have interest in Morse, but we were able to say, “Hey Mike, if you’re still interested in A.J., we might be able to work something out here.”
On pitchers’ workloads…
We’re always aware of it. It’s something that we constantly talk about. (A’s pitching coach) Curt Young does a great job of keeping track of these guys start by start and then on a three-starts-by-three-starts basis. But it’s certainly not a situation where we’re going in saying we’re going to cut pitcher A off here or whatever. Our trainers do a lot of work in between starts, and they do a good job of keeping track of historical comps for each guy. So whether it’s Jarrod Parker, who increased his workload significantly last year, or Brett Anderson, who had a limited workload because of the injury, I think we have the best feel for them just because our trainers have their hands on these guys after each start. So I expect that we will continuously talk about and be aware of it, but I don’t imagine that anyone will have a limit set on them to start the season.
On the possible need for the team to add more veteran pitching depth…
Obviously we’re aware that a lot of what we accomplished last year was based a lot on our starting pitching depth, and the fact that we ended up using 7-8-9 starters who were effective. The fact that Travis Blackley is still here obviously and can fill that role and you expect a full season out of Brett Anderson, we felt like adding Bartolo Colon was probably as much as we needed to do. At the same time, it’s just not easy to add those veteran guys when, on paper, you have a rotation like we do. It’s not necessarily an attractive place for a veteran guy to come and have to make the team or fight for it. So we feel like, with A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily in the 5-6 spot, with Brad Peacock and Sonny Gray at AAA, with Travis here being able to be a swing man, we feel like there is the depth there to get it done.
On clubhouse chemistry…
There’s no doubt that clubhouse culture is important, and it starts with Bob Melvin – that’s the most important thing. He set the tone for those guys, and they kind of followed his lead, which isn’t the case everywhere. I think there’s been a lot made of Jonny Gomes leaving and Brandon Inge, and you’re never going to keep all 25 guys together. But…we like the mix we have – personalities combined with guys who take it seriously on the field. But also you have a bunch of guys who should continue to get better, whether that’s about age or getting a chance to play everyday, this team should not have guys who regress – they should continue to trend upwards.
Well, the results are in – and in our first year out of the box, A’s Farm was ranked in the Top 10 MLB blogs for 2012! At our peak late in the season, we were averaging almost 5,000 hits per week and almost 20,000 hits per month. And we want to be sure to thank all you devoted A’s fans who are obviously committed to learning as much as possible about the organization from top to bottom.
We also want to thank MLB Trade Rumors for repeatedly featuring A’s Farm as one of their top blog picks of the week, Baseball Reference for regularly featuring us in their player news section, and A’s Nation who asked us to provide a weekly minor league update during the season for the hordes of A’s fans who get their A’s news from the biggest and best A’s blog on the web.
In 2012, A’s Farm profiled the A’s new players and top prospects, offered progress reports on the team’s top draft picks, named the A’s organizational all-stars, and featured interviews with GM Billy Beane, along with players like Josh Reddick, Derek Norris and Sean Doolittle, and front office personnel like assistant GM David Forst, scouting director Eric Kubota and director of player personnel Billy Owens. And in one of our most popular pieces of the year, A’s Farm profiled A’s super-scout and Moneyball bad guy Grady Fuson. All that in addition to our daily updates on all the A’s minor league affiliates – the Sacramento River Cats, Midland RockHounds, Stockton Ports, Burlington Bees, Vermont Lake Monsters and the Arizona League A’s.
Stay tuned for much more right here in 2013, and be sure to like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm to keep up to date on all the A’s minor league teams and top prospects down on the farm!
Now that we’re almost a month and a half into the season, it seems like a good time to reflect on the A’s big off-season moves and try to get a read on how all those new acquisitions have panned out. Of the ten players the A’s acquired in their three big deals with Arizona (for right-hander Trevor Cahill), with Washington (for left-hander Gio Gonzalez), and with Boston (for reliever Andrew Bailey and outfielder Ryan Sweeney), five of those players are currently on the major league roster, two are playing at Triple-A, and three are in Class-A. And we decided to get the lowdown on all these players from someone who’s got his finger on the pulse of not only the A’s major league roster but of all the minor teams as well – A’s assistant general manager David Forst.
Forst grew up in southern California, captained the Harvard University baseball team, and played independent ball in the Frontier League before landing an entry level position in the A’s baseball operations department in January of 2000. He’s currently in his ninth season as the A’s assistant general manager and general manager Billy Beane has entrusted him with a broad range of responsibilities that cover just about every aspect of the organization. So he’s the perfect man to give us the inside scoop not only on last off-season’s key acquisitions but also on all the top prospects down on the farm. So without any further ado, let’s go to the tape…
AF: Well, I know the amateur draft is coming up next month. So are you spending a lot of your time prepping for the draft at this point?
DF: I’m actually on the road probably two or three days a week now, but I’m discussing it a lot more than that with (scouting director) Eric Kubota and the guys in the office. The draft is sort of the top of our list right now.
AF: Well you’ve got a lot of high picks this year.
DF: Yeah, we have two comp picks and then an extra second round pick as well.
AF: I wanted to start out getting your take on the players the A’s acquired in all the big off-season deals now that you’ve had a chance to see them up close. So let’s start with the guys you got from Arizona in the Trevor Cahill trade. And obviously the key guy for you in that deal was former first-round draft pick Jarrod Parker, who’s already in the major league rotation for you.
DF: Jarrod’s come a long way just from the beginning of spring training. We knew when we traded for him that the further he got away from that surgery, the more he was going to resemble the prospect that everybody had in the top ten in the game. The second half in Double-A last year, he was getting better – he obviously was good enough for the Diamondbacks to call him up – and we’ve sort of seen that progress continue before our eyes. He had a nice spring training, but he certainly didn’t dominate. In fact, he made one start at the end where he was very disappointing. But he quickly made some adjustments in Triple-A. I think he made four starts down there at Triple-A. His command was better and his stuff was consistently good. We knew we were going to need a fifth starter, and it was the right time to give him an opportunity here. And he’s been outstanding up here. He’s shown no fear here in his first sort of regular stint in the big leagues, and he’s thrown strikes – which are really the two things that you worry about with a young kid coming into this environment, and he’s been outstanding.
AF: And I think he’s got a lower ERA than Trevor Cahill at this point too.
DF: Well, you try not to make that direct comparison. These trades are made for the long haul. But we’re happy with what Jarrod’s given us at the big league level.
AF: The other pitcher involved in that deal was reliever Ryan Cook, who’s turned out to be a big part of the A’s bullpen.
DF: Well, I can’t say I expected him to start out with 16 scoreless innings to begin the year, but Ryan’s been phenomenal. We saw a lot of him last year in the minor leagues. We discussed him at the deadline when we made the Brad Ziegler deal, so we had pretty good information on Ryan. In fact, when we made the deal, (Arizona GM) Kevin Towers was very reluctant to part with him. That was sort of the last piece that fell into place for us. We thought we had a good young pitcher on our hands, and he has answered every challenge so far. I think when you look at his stuff and what he’s been able to do in the eighth inning, he’s a guy you can project to be at the back of the bullpen for a long time.
AF: When you look at what he’s done so far, I assume you’ve got to see a potential future closer out there.
DF: Yeah, it’s something we’ve discussed. You never know how guys react until they’re actually there and have to get the last three outs. But just from a pure stuff standpoint, we certainly think Ryan has the potential to do it down the road.
AF: The other guy in that deal was outfielder Collin Cowgill, who is back up with the A’s now. He obviously had great numbers in Triple-A last year. But what do you think of what you’ve seen of him so far?
DF: Collin’s been exactly what we expected. He had a great spring training and made our club out of the gate. Unfortunately, there just weren’t enough at bats for him with the glut of outfielders we had. But he’s come as advertised – he plays the game hard, he’s aggressive, he’s smart in the outfield. I think this guy has a chance, when things sort of shake out, to start in the outfield for us here in the big leagues.
AF: How do you feel about his ability to play center field?
DF: He’s been one of our better guys in center field. Obviously, when Yoenis Cespedes went down, after Coco Crisp having already gone on the disabled list, and we were looking for someone, we called Collin up because we knew he had that skill.
AF: I remember Billy Beane telling me in the spring that you can never have too many guys who are capable of playing center field, and it looks like that’s played out very quickly for you this year.
DF: For sure, not everybody can do it for whatever reason. And we’ve hammered through our depth in that spot pretty quickly.
AF: The next big off-season trade was the one with Washington for Gio Gonzalez. One of those four guys you got in that deal is in the major leagues right now, and that’s Tommy Milone.
DF: Well, we knew Tommy was advanced as far as prospects go. And we knew it wouldn’t be long till he was in the big leagues just because when you look at the line he put up last year – you can’t walk 16 guys in a full Triple-A season without really knowing what you’re doing as a pitcher. When we made that deal, he was sort of painted as the fourth guy, and even as the potential throw-in by some outlets. But we knew he had the best chance to impact our major league team right away just because he really had nothing left to prove at Triple-A. And he’s been excellent. It’s no secret he doesn’t have overwhelming stuff or a plus fastball or whatever, but he doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. And he’s basically had seven quality starts, a couple of rough ones in the middle, but even in those, he still made some progress and has sort of fit nicely in the middle of our rotation.
AF: I was talking to Anthony Recker in spring training about Milone. And he said that his command was so good that he’s always able to put his pitches where he wants and at least execute the game plan.
DF: For sure, yeah, he’s fun to watch for that reason. You know when he does miss, he meant to miss and it’s for a reason. And I can understand why Recker said that. From a catcher’s standpoint, he’s exactly the kind of guy you want to work with.
AF: And I think he actually has one more win that Gio does at this point.
DF: Well, Gio’s having himself a pretty good year. I’m sure Washington’s very happy with him.
AF: Another pitcher who came over in that deal was Brad Peacock. He had a bit of a rough spring and isn’t currently on the major league roster, but he’s been pitching very well at Sacramento so far this year.
DF: Yeah, like you said, much like Jarrod, he didn’t exactly dominate in the spring. But he has gone down to Triple-A and pitched well. He just hasn’t quite gotten that consistency together. He’ll put together two good starts in a row then hit a little bit of a speed bump. But overall, his numbers are good. His ERA’s in the mid-threes and he’s striking out almost one an inning. So for us, watching Brad every time out, you want to see a guy put together four, five, six good starts in a row before you feel pretty good about having him here. And I imagine that time is probably not that far off.
AF: Another guy in that deal who’s currently at Sacramento is catcher Derek Norris. He’s been hitting close to .300 for most of the year. I’m not sure how he’s been looking behind the plate, but his numbers sure have been looking good.
DF: Derek has sort of turned his offensive numbers on their head a bit. The knock on him was that he couldn’t hit for average, all he did was walk. I think he got all the way through three or four weeks of the season before getting his third walk of the year, but he was hitting like .360 at the time. And he got raves from the coaching staff from day one on how he handled pitchers and his receiving skills. His throwing numbers have never been in question. He’s always been one of the best guys in the minor leagues as far as throwing out baserunners. He’s in a little bit of a funk right now. I think his average has dropped below .300 for the first time this year. But we couldn’t be happier with his progress on both sides of the ball. He just turned 23 years old and he’s just getting his first taste of Triple-A and he’s hitting close to .300 most of the season and catching every day. We feel very good about Derek.
AF: Do you view him as being major league ready at this stage of the game?
DF: Yeah, I mean you always like a guy to get as much experience in Triple-A as possible, particularly for a catcher, who has to handle a game plan at the highest level and still bring his offense along with him. So if we were in an emergency situation, I think we could feel comfortable with Derek catching everyday up here, which is a good feeling. But it’s also nice to have the luxury of having two guys up here with experience and knowing that you can have him spend time in Triple-A and not lose anything.
AF: The final piece of that deal was A.J. Cole, who a lot of folks really considered the top prospect of the bunch and were very excited about. But he’s really been struggling at Stockton so far this year.
DF: Well, yeah, he obviously hasn’t performed how anyone would hope. I know A.J. himself is frustrated. And I’ve spent some time talking with (minor league pitching coordinator) Gil Patterson and (director of player development) Keith Lieppman over the last couple weeks about A.J. to make sure we get a good read on what’s going on. His stuff continues to be outstanding. His fastball tops out at 95 mph almost every time out. Gil saw him pitch just the other day and said his secondary pitches were good. Just for whatever reason right now, he’s getting hit, and it’s pretty consistently every time out. We have actually spent some time talking about the best thing for A.J. – whether that’s heading back to the Midwest League or getting some time off from the rotation, something just to make sure he gets some success under his belt. But the good thing is he’s healthy and his stuff is good. We just need to make some adjustments and get him back on track as far as results are concerned.
Be sure to check back tomorrow for Part 2 of A’s Farm’s exclusive interview with A’s assistant general manager David Forst, in which he gives us the lowdown on Josh Reddick, Miles Head, Michael Choice, Sonny Gray and more top A’s prospects.