Tag: Grant Holmes

Friday, July 14th: Holmes’ Strong Start Helps Hounds Win while Costa’s Big Bat Leads Vermont to Victory

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Pitcher Grant Holmes (7 IP / 3 H / 1 ER / 3 BB / 5 K / Win)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds RHP Grant Holmes (7 IP / 3 H / 1 ER / 3 BB / 5 K / Win)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Corpus Christi Hooks     1

Midland RockHounds  7

WP – Holmes 6-9 / 4.92

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Grant Holmes

(7 IP / 3 H / 1 ER / 3 BB / 5 K / Win)

RHP Grant Holmes turned in an outstanding start for the RockHounds, allowing 1 run on just 3 hits over 7 innings of work to earn his 6th win on Friday. RHPs Sam Bragg and Tyler Sturdevant each tossed 1 scoreless inning in relief for the Hounds. Right fielder J.P. Sportman collected 3 hits and drove in a run, while second baseman Max Schrock singled twice and drove in 3. Designated hitter Jermaine Curtis had 2 hits and a walk and scored twice, and catcher Sean Murphy singled, walked twice and drove in a pair of runs for the RockHounds.

Click here for more on Nashville, Stockton, Beloit, Vermont & AZL A’s…

Monday, July 3rd: Milburn Pitches Snappers to Victory while Hounds Are Nearly No-Hit & Sounds Suffer Late-Inning Loss

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Beloit Snappers Pitcher Matt Milburn (7 IP / 7 H / 1 ER / 1 BB / 6 K / Win)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Beloit Snappers Pitcher Matt Milburn (7 IP / 7 H / 1 ER / 1 BB / 6 K / Win)

 

MIDWEST LEAGUE  (Class-A)

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers  1

Beloit Snappers                 2

WP – Milburn 5-5 / 4.41

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Matt Milburn

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

RHP Matt Milburn turned in his third straight impressive start for the Snappers on Monday. Last year’s 29th-round draft pick for the A’s allowed just 1 run while stiking out 6 over 7 innings of work to earn the win over Wisconsin, and the 23-year-old has now given up just 2 earned runs and struck out 26 in 20 innings over his last 3 starts for the Snappers. RHP Heath Bowers tossed 2 scoreless innings in relief to pick up his 3rd save. Third baseman Trace Loehr collected 3 hits for the second straight game, while designated hitter Kyle Nowlin doubled in the winning run in the bottom of the 4th for Beloit.

Click here for more on Nashville, Midland, Stockton, Vermont & AZL A’s…

Sunday, June 25th: Hurlbutt Impresses in Ports’ Loss while Barrera, Terrell & McDonald Wield Big Bats for Beloit, Vermont & AZL A’s

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Stockton Ports Pitcher Dustin Hurlbutt (8 IP / 3 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 5 K)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Stockton Ports Pitcher Dustin Hurlbutt (8 IP / 3 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 5 K)

 

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE  (High-A)

Modesto Nuts     3

Stockton Ports  1

LP – Tomasovich 2-3 / 3.77

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Dustin Hurlbutt

(8 IP / 3 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 5 K)

Despite the fact that the Ports didn’t end up prevailing on Sunday, RHP Dustin Hurlbutt delivered another impressive start for Stockton. The 24-year-old allowed just 3 hits over 8 shutout innings and, setting aside his one spot start for Nashville, he’s now given up just 2 earned runs, struck out 24 and failed to allow a walk over his last 21 innings of work for Stockton. At one point, Hurlbutt retired 13 consecutive batters on Sunday, but he left after 8 frames with the game a scoreless tie. An error by shortstop Eli White helped lead to an unearned run off LHP Cody Stull in the top of the 9th. White then tripled and scored the tying run on a wild pitch in the bottom of the 9th, but LHP Andrew Tomasovich surrendered a pair of runs in the top of the 10th to suffer his 3rd loss for Stockton. To find out more about this year’s Stockton Ports, check out our recent podcast with Stockton skipper Rick Magnante here – A’s Farm Podcast with Rick Magnante

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

Tuesday, June 20th: Olson’s HR Helps Sounds Win in a Walk-Off while Vermont Claims Victory in Season Opener

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds First Baseman Matt Olson (2 for 4 / Home Run / 3 RBIs)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds First Baseman Matt Olson (2 for 4 / Home Run / 3 RBIs)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

GAME #2

New Orleans Baby Cakes  3

Nashville Sounds             6

WP – Castro 1-4 / 4.50

HR – Olson (17), Wendle (6)

Prospect Of The Game:

First Baseman Matt Olson

(2 for 4 / Home Run / 3 RBIs)

With two men on and the game tied 3-3 in the bottom of the 7th inning, first baseman Matt Olson stepped to the plate and slugged a 3-run homer to give the Sounds the walk-off win in the second game of Tuesday’s doubleheader. Both of Tuesday’s contests were 7-inning affairs. Second baseman Joey Wendle‘s 3-run homer tied the game in the 6th, while left fielder Renato Nunez singled, doubled and scored a run, and shortstop Franklin Barreto and designated hitter Bruce Maxwell had a pair of hits apiece for the Sounds. Starter Paul Blackburn allowed 3 runs, 2 earned, over 2 innings of work, while LHP Patrick Schuster tossed 2 scoreless innings in relief, and RHP Simon Castro notched the win after throwing a scoreless frame in the top of the 7th for Nashville.

Click here for more on Nashville, Midland & Vermont…

Thursday, June 15th: Sounds Fall Despite Blackburn’s Solid Start while Chapman, Puk & Sawyer Are All on the Move

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Paul Blackburn (5 2/3 IP / 3 H / 0 ER / 4 BB / 3 K)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Paul Blackburn (5 2/3 IP / 3 H / 0 ER / 4 BB / 3 K)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Iowa Cubs               4

Nashville Sounds  2

LP – Blackburn 4-6 / 2.86

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Paul Blackburn

(5 2/3 IP / 3 H / 0 ER / 4 BB / 3 K)

On a night when all the A’s affliates went down to defeat, for a while, it looked like Sounds starter Paul Blackburn might lead Nashville to victory. The 23-year-old threw 5 scoreless frames before a throwing error by shortstop Franklin Barreto helped open the door to a 3-run inning in the 6th. And when all was said and done, Blackburn was charged with 3 unearned runs over 5 2/3 innings to suffer the loss for the Sounds. Despite the loss, Blackburn has allowed just 1 earned run over his last 18 2/3 innings for Nashville. Barreto had a pair of singles and, after enduring a 1-for-23 slump, Barreto has now gone 8 for 24 with 4 multi-hit games in his last 5 contests. Third baseman Jermaine Curtis doubled and walked in his Nashville debut. With the promotion of Matt Chapman, who went 0 for 3 with a pair of walks in his big league debut on Thursday night, Curtis was reassigned from the RockHounds to the Sounds on Thursday.

Click here for more on Midland, Stockton & Beloit…

A’s Farm Report: Pitching Prospects Update – Puk, Gossett, Blackburn, Holmes & More

by Bill Moriarity / A’s Farm Editor

A.J. Puk

A.J. Puk

This week, we wanted to take a look at the pitchers currently appearing in all the A’s affiliates’ starting rotations. From A.J. Puk to Grant Holmes, from Daniel Gossett to Paul Blackburn, there are plenty of promising pitching prospects currently making their presence felt on the mound.

You can always stay up to date on all the A’s top prospects and the daily action in the A’s minor league system right here on Athletics Farm. A version of this report originally appeared on Athletics Nation

 

NASHVILLE SOUNDS

Current Starting Rotation: RHP Paul Blackburn, RHP Chris Smith, RHP Corey Walter, RHP Michael Brady, RHP Daniel Gossett (recently replaced by LHP Dalton Sawyer)

Daniel Gossett

Daniel Gossett

As most A’s fans know, RHP Daniel Gossett was scratched from his scheduled start for the Sounds on Saturday so that he could be available to make his major league debut for the A’s this week, filling in for injured RHP Andrew Triggs. Gossett’s season got off to a bumpy start. The A’s 2nd-round pick in 2014 posted an unsightly 6.27 ERA in 4 April starts, but put up a much more impressive 1.54 ERA over 6 starts in May. Overall, the 24-year-old has struck out 54 while walking just 19 with a 3.41 ERA over 60 2/3 innings for the Sounds. As solid as Gossett has been, RHP Paul Blackburn has possibly been even more effective. His season has been almost the opposite of Gossett’s. The Cubs’ 1st-round supplemental pick in 2012 was almost unhittable in April, with a 1.64 ERA, but he took a bit of a dip in May, compiling an ERA of 5.12. In his 2 starts in June though, the 23-year-old has allowed just 1 run and 5 hits over 13 innings of work. He’s also on the A’s 40-man roster, so a call-up at some point this season would be easy. But 36-year-old veteran RHP Chris Smith has probably been the Sounds’ best starter on the whole. He’s posted a 2.96 ERA over 51 2/3 frames, threw 6 no-hit innings in his last start, and is currently riding a 12-inning scoreless streak. RHP Michael Brady was a free agent signee in the offseason. He started out the year in the bullpen, but he’s been working out of the rotation recently and has now made 6 starts for the Sounds. The 30-year-old has compiled a respectable 3.67 ERA, but what’s most notable about him is the fact that he’s walked just 6 while striking out 42 over 41 2/3 innings for Nashville. RHP Corey Walter is a fairly recent arrival in the Sounds starting rotation, arriving from the RockHounds at the end of May. The 24-year-old was, by far and away, Midland’s best starter, putting up a 2.44 ERA for the Hounds, and he’s posted a solid 3.38 ERA over 4 starts for Nashville. The newest addition to the Sounds rotation is LHP Dalton Sawyer, who was called up from Beloit to fill in for Gossett on Saturday. The 23-year-old was the Snappers’ best pitcher, striking out 64 over 56 innings while compiling an impressive 2.25 ERA for Beloit. And last year’s 9th-round draft pick for the A’s turned in a quality start for the Sounds on Saturday, allowing 3 runs over 6 innings of work. But it’s unclear whether or not he’ll continue to stick around Nashville while Gossett is away. After his recent stint with the A’s, RHP Daniel Mengden was set to rejoin the Sounds starting rotation until he was sidelined by a lat strain, and he’s now doing time on the disabled list, as is RHP Raul Alcantara, and rehabbing RHP Chris Bassitt has been sidelined for the time being after experiencing some discomfort in his return from Tommy John surgery.

 

MIDLAND ROCKHOUNDS

Current Starting Rotation: RHP Grant Holmes, RHP Heath Fillmyer, RHP Brett Graves, LHP Evan Manarino, RHP Joel Seddon

Grant Holmes

Grant Holmes

Former 1st-round draft pick for the Dodgers, RHP Grant Holmes, was having a mostly disappointing season for the RockHounds until fairly recently. He had a 6.27 ERA in April and 5.52 ERA in month of May, but since the calendar turned to June, it’s been an entirely different story. The 21-year-old has struck out 17 while walking just 1 over his last 14 frames, threw 8 shutout innings in his last start and didn’t allow a hit until the 7th inning in that game. Overall, Holmes has notched 69 strikeouts over 62 innings for the Hounds this season. 23-year-old RHP Heath Fillmyer, who impressed while splitting time between Stockton and Midland last year, has been mostly mediocre for Midland so far this season, compiling a 4.22 ERA and a 1.63 WHIP over 13 starts for the RockHounds. RHP Brett Graves and LHP Evan Manarino were two of Stockton’s best starters in the early going. Graves was the first to earn his promotion to Double-A by putting up a 2.55 ERA and striking out 29 in 24 2/3 innings for the Ports, while Manarino posted a 3.21 ERA and walked just 3 batters over 47 2/3 frames for Stockton. Things have been a little tougher in the Texas League for both of them though. Graves has compiled a 5.97 ERA over his first 7 appearances, while Manarino has a 6.75 ERA after his first 3 starts for Midland. RHP Joel Seddon has recently stepped into the RockHounds rotation. The 24-year-old made 26 starts for Midland last year but started out this season in the bullpen, and he’s now made a pair of starts for the Hounds. In his last appearance on Friday, Seddon allowed just 1 run over 7 innings of work for Midland. There was room for Seddon in the RockHounds rotation with RHP Corey Walter, who had been the Hounds’ best starter, being promoted to Nashville, RHP James Naile sidelined since mid-May with an abdominal/oblique strain, and RHP Ben Bracewell‘s recent banishment to the bullpen.

 

STOCKTON PORTS

Current Starting Rotation: LHP A.J. Puk, RHP Casey Meisner, RHP Dustin Hurlbutt, RHP Angel Duno, RHP Brendan Butler

Logan Shore

Logan Shore

Stockton’s starting rotation originally consisted of the A’s top three draft picks from last year’s draft – LHP A.J. Puk and RHPs Logan Shore and Daulton Jefferies – but currently, Puk’s the only one still pitching. Last year’s top pick for the A’s has looked dominant at times, though he has been a bit inconsistent, as might be expected at this stage of the game. The 22-year-old has twice allowed just 1 hit over 5 shutout innings and has had outings where he’s notched as many as 12 strikeouts. Overall, he’s compiled an ERA of 3.98 while striking out 87 and walking 22 over 54 1/3 frames for the Ports. Shore was looking good until he was sidelined with a lat strain in mid-May. When the 22-year-old landed on the disabled list, he’d compiled a 3.12 ERA while striking out 32 and walking just 6 over 34 2/3 innings for Stockton. Unfortunately, Jefferies only had the chance to throw 7 innings before undergoing Tommy John surgery. RHP Casey Meisner, who struggled mightily for Stockton last season, has been showing signs of turning things around a bit lately. Though he has an ERA of 4.68 for the season, he’s also struck out 67 while walking just 19 over 59 2/3 frames, and he just threw 6 2/3 shutout innings in his last start on Sunday. RHP Dustin Hurlbutt put up a 2.84 ERA in April, then posted a 5.32 ERA in May, and now has a 2.77 ERA in 2 starts in June. But his peripherals have consistently looked pretty good, and he’s struck out 58 and walked just 16 over 55 2/3 frames for the Ports. RHP Angel Duno has a 1:4 BB:K ratio but a 5.46 ERA for the season. The 23-year-old Venezuelan has been hurt by the long ball, surrendering 10 home runs over 61 innings of work. RHP Brendan Butler is the newest addition to Stockton’s starting rotation. The 24-year-old was one of Beloit’s best starters, compiling a 2.32 ERA for the Snappers, and he threw 5 scoreless innings in his first start for Stockton. He seems to have taken the place of RHP Boomer Biegalski in the Ports rotation, though it’s not clear if Biegalski may end up serving in something of a tandem situation with Butler. Biegalski has been a big victim of the long ball since his arrival from Beloit, surrendering 10 home runs in just 37 innings, leading to a bloated 5.84 ERA. LHP Evan Manarino and RHP Brett Graves had been two of Stockton’s best starters, but both have been promoted to Double-A Midland.

 

BELOIT SNAPPERS

Current Starting Rotation: RHP Brandon Bailey, RHP Matt Milburn, LHP Zack Erwin, RHP Mitchell Jordan & RHP Jesus Zambrano (tandem), RHP Abdiel Mendoza (recently replaced LHP Dalton Sawyer)

Brandon Bailey

Brandon Bailey

The Snappers starting rotation had been surprisingly effective this season, but the recent promotions of two of Beloit’s best starters – LHP Dalton Sawyer and RHP Brendan Butler – could change things a bit. The top remaining starter in the Snappers rotation is RHP Brandon Bailey. Last year’s 6th-round draft pick for the A’s has put up a 2.51 ERA while striking out 52 and walking just 13 over 43 innings of work. Meanwhile, RHP Matt Milburn has mostly struggled, posting a 5.60 ERA over 13 appearances for the Snappers. LHP Zack Erwin, whom the A’s acquired from the White Sox in the Brett Lawrie deal, recently returned to the rotation after starting the season on the disabled list, and the 23-year-old has pitched well, compiling a 1.69 ERA over his first 3 appearances. Last year’s 10th-round draft pick for the A’s, RHP Mitchell Jordan, and 20-year-old Venezuelan RHP Jesus Zambrano represent the sole remaining starting-pitching tandem in the A’s system, and both are sporting ERAs over 5.00 at this point in the season. With Sawyer’s promotion to Nashville, 18-year-old Panamanian RHP Abdiel Mendoza was called upon to take his spot in the rotation. The youngster surrendered 4 runs in 2 1/3 innings in his first appearance, but it’s unclear whether or not he’ll continue to occupy the fifth spot in the Snappers starting rotation. RHP Dakota Chalmers, the A’s 3rd-round draft pick in 2015, was reassigned to the Vermont roster after struggling with his control. The 20-year-old walked 29 in 29 innings while also striking out 47. He’s set to get a restart when the Lake Monsters start their season next week. RHP Michael Murray had been pitching well for Beloit before landing on the disabled list in mid-May, putting up a 2.54 ERA over his first 8 appearances. LHP Ty Damron had also been playing a part in the Snappers tandem rotation but, although he hasn’t been placed on the disabled list, he hasn’t appeared in a game in the last two weeks.

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Top 10 A’s Prospects of the Week (6/4-10)

by Josh Moore / A’s Farm Contributor

A brief look at some of the top performers in the A’s minor league system over the past week…

gh6565501) RHP Grant Holmes (Midland – AA)

(14 IP/9 H/2 ER/1 BB/17 K/1.29 ERA/0.71 WHIP)

Coming in to the week, Holmes had allowed 43 base runners and 18 earned runs in his previous 25 1/3 innings. The right-hander turned it around in a big way with two gems this week, including Saturday’s 8-inning, 2-hit, 8-strikeout performance where he held the opposition hitless until the 7th inning.

 

rn6005242) 3B-OF Renato Nunez (Nashville – AAA)

(25 AB/2 HR/4 BB/7 K/.400 AVG/.483 OBP/.800 SLG)

Nunez is the last remaining member of Stockton’s 2014 infield not currently playing in the big leagues. But with the tear he’s on now, it might not be long before he joins Chad Pinder, Matt Olson and Ryon Healy in Oakland. Nunez has hit 5 home runs and 5 doubles over his last 12 games for the Sounds.

 

mm4737243) C-OF Matt McBride (Nashville – AAA)

(22 AB/3 HR/2 BB/4 K/.318 AVG/.375 OBP/.773 SLG)

The 2nd-round draft pick of the Indians back in 2006, McBride had hit 1 home run all season for Nashville before belting 3 in 3 straight games to start the week off with a bang for the Sounds.

 

mc6563054) 3B Matt Chapman (Sounds – AAA)

(28 AB/3 HR/2 BB/11 K/.286 AVG/.333 OBP/.643 SLG)

Chapman has the organization’s longest current hitting streak at 10 games and has hit safely in 13 of his last 14 games, while also hitting 5 home runs over his last 9 games for the Sounds.

 

pb6211125) RHP Paul Blackburn (Nashville – AAA)

(13 IP/5 H/1 ER/4 BB/9 K/0.69 ERA/0.69 WHIP)

The 1st-round supplemental draft pick for the Cubs in 2012, Blackburn has allowed 1 earned run or less in 4 of his last 5 starts since May 19. And last week, opposing hitters had a .114/.188/.182 slash line against the right-hander.

 

ew6422016) SS Eli White (Stockton – A+)

(20 AB/0 HR/1 BB/5 K/.400 AVG/.429 OBP/.500 SLG)

White came into the week on a 2-for-19 skid, but then managed to put together 3 multi-hit games in a row for the Ports. And Stockton skipper Rick Magnante told us last month that White is a guy who has the potential to really surprise people.

 

ed6415217) SS-3B Edwin Diaz (Beloit – A)

(20 AB/1 HR/3 BB/3 K/.300 AVG/.391 OBP/.550 SLG)

NOT the Seattle Mariners reliever, the 21-year-old Puerto Rico native has compiled a total of 7 multi-hit performances in his last 14 games for Beloit, and he belted a big 3-run blast in the first inning for the Snappers on Saturday.

 

em6427148) SS-3B Eric Marinez (Beloit – A)

(18 AB/0 HR/0 BB/4 K/.444 AVG/.444 OBP/.444 SLG)

Marinez started the week strong, slapping 8 singles in his first 11 at-bats. He might have placed even higher on the list if he hadn’t gone 0 for 7 in Thursday’s and Friday’s games. Since May 1, though, he’s put up a .317/.398/.404 slash line for the Snappers.

 

bs6157029) OF Brett Siddall (Stockton – A+)

(18 AB/1 HR/1 BB/4 K/.333 AVG/.368 OBP/.556 SLG) 924/1292/2216

Before Saturday’s 0-for-3 performance versus Modesto, Siddall had a 9-game hitting streak for Stockton, with 3 consecutive multi-hit games and a total of 5 extra-base hits over that span.

 

js60708010) RHP Joel Seddon (Midland – AA)

(10 IP/8 H/1 ER/2 BB/4 K/0.90 ERA/1.00 WHIP)

After making a 4-inning spot start for Nashville on May 30, the former 11th-round selection out of South Carolina returned to the RockHounds and picked up a 3-inning save before turning in a 7-inning, 1-run start to earn his 3rd win of the season last week.

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Saturday, June 10th: Holmes Impresses in Hounds Shutout Victory while Nunez, Chapman & Barreto Key Sounds Win

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Pitcher Grant Holmes (8 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 8 K / Win)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds RHP Grant Holmes (8 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 8 K / Win)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Frisco RoughRiders       0

Midland RockHounds  6

WP – Holmes 5-5 / 4.79

HR – Boyd (1)

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Grant Holmes

(8 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 8 K / Win)

On Saturday, RHP Grant Holmes turned in one of the best pitching performances of any A’s minor leaguer so far this season. Despite struggling during much of his debut season in the Double-A Texas League, the former 1st-round draft pick of the Dodgers was impressive in Saturday’s start against Frisco, flashing the form that the A’s have been hoping to see since acquiring him last summer in the Josh Reddick deal. The 21-year-old South Carolina native was perfect through his first 5 innings on Saturday, and he didn’t surrender a hit until he’d registered one out in the 7th. Holmes ended up allowing just 2 hits while walking none and striking out 8 over 8 shutout innings to earn his 5th win, and he’s now recorded 17 strikeouts over his last 14 frames for the RockHounds. LHP Brandon Mann gave up 1 hit in a scoreless 9th to complete the 3-hit shutout, while left fielder B.J. Boyd had 3 hits, including his 1st home run of the season, and second baseman J.P. Sportman singled, doubled and drove in a pair of runs to help the RockHounds win their third straight on Saturday.

Click here for more on Nashville, Stockton & Beloit…

Sunday, June 4th: Blackburn Leads Sounds to Shutout Victory while Murphy’s 2 HRs Help Stockton Win & Armenteros Makes Pro Debut

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Paul Blackburn (7 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 4 K / Win)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Paul Blackburn (7 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 4 K / Win)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Nashville Sounds  6

Iowa Cubs               0

WP – Blackburn 4-5 / 3.26

HR – Chapman (13), McBride (2)

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Paul Blackburn

(7 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 4 K / Win)

RHP Paul Blackburn turned in an impressive start for the Sounds on Sunday, allowing just 2 hits over 7 shutout innings to notch his 4th win for Nashville. And the former 1st-round supplemental pick for the Cubs now has an ERA of 1.44 over his last 4 starts for the Sounds. RHPs Tyler Sturdevant and Tucker Healy each contributed a scoreless inning in relief to complete the 4-hit shutout on Sunday. Third baseman Matt Chapman homered for the second straight day and doubled in the Sounds’ first run, while designated hitter Matt McBride also homered, doubled and drove in a pair, and catcher Ryan Lavarnway singled, doubled, walked and drove in a run to help the Sounds win for the fifth time in their last six games. Meanwhile, first baseman Matt Olson was recalled by the A’s, and RHP Daniel Mengden was optioned back to Nashville on Sunday.

Click here for more on Midland, Stockton, Beloit & the Dominican Summer League A’s…

Talking Top Prospects with A’s Assistant General Manager Billy Owens

by Bill Moriarity / A’s Farm Editor

A's Assistant GM Billy Owens

A’s Assistant GM Billy Owens

Now that we’re a couple of months into the minor league season, we wanted to step back and take a look at how some of the A’s top prospects have been shaping up so far this season. And there’s no one better to help us do that than A’s assistant general manager Billy Owens.

Owens originally joined the A’s organization back in 1999, working as an area scout and coaching short-season baseball over the next five years. He was then named the A’s director of player personnel in 2004. And about a year and a half ago, he was promoted to the position of assistant general manager, where the A’s have been able to put his extensive knowledge of the game and its players to use in a variety of different ways.

Owens took some time out to speak with us this week while he was busy scouting prospects for this year’s amateur draft. We asked him about ten of the most intriguing prospects in the A’s system – five hitters and five pitchers – and, as always, his knowledge of and enthusiasm for the A’s young players is apparent…

 

AF:  Let’s start out with the team’s top prospect, shortstop Franklin Barreto. He got off to slow starts the past couple of seasons, but this year, as a 21-year-old at Triple-A, he started out hot and has continued to hit well over the first two months of the season. What kind of progress have you seen out of him this year and what does he still have left to learn at the Triple-A level?

fb620439BO:  I think Franklin’s always been a gifted hitter. He’s a guy who we’ve scouted since he was 14 years old in Venezuela. He’s always been able to use the field, he’s got power that’s untapped, and he’s improving defensively. He’s very athletic, he’s got a short swing, but he still needs to tighten up his strikeout-to-walk ratio. He’s always been something of a free swinger. But kids like that who are so talented, they can touch a lot of different pitches, so they’re not apt sometimes to go deep in the count and do a lot of things in terms of plate discipline, because he can barrel the baseball. He’s talented, and for a 21-year-old kid who’s in a tough environment to hit in Nashville, one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in that league, it’s pretty impressive. He had a strong spring training this year, and I think that probably was the impetus for him to start out so strong this year in Nashville. He popped a couple of homers this year in spring training, and he really acclimated himself well to the major league staff. Everybody was able to see, the staff, the fans and the players at the upper level, what kind of talent Franklin has. And, obviously, he’ll get an opportunity at some point because he’s very talented.

AF:  It seems like he’s been playing with a lot more energy this year. I know the plan originally was for him to split time between shortstop and second base this year at Nashville, but I think he’s only played about half a dozen games so far this year at second base.

BO:  I think he’s playing a solid shortstop, and he’s such a good athlete that he could play all over the diamond. Obviously, short is probably the toughest place to play defensively, and he’s shown, at 21 in Triple-A, that he can handle the position fairly well. He’s got all the tools and all the components to handle the position. And just the way the roster’s constructed, we have a lot of guys there who have versatility and we have 40-man-roster players who are playing various positions there. So, from a positional standpoint, it just makes the most sense for him to be doing what he’s doing at shortstop and really kind of assert himself. Everybody has a different opinion about what his final destination’s going to be, but at some point, he’ll be a very productive major league player, and it’s nice to see him getting the bulk of his games so far at Triple-A at shortstop.

AF:  Another top prospect who’s started the season in Nashville is third baseman Matt Chapman. He missed some time in the first month with a wrist injury, but he’s certainly been making up for it since he’s been back, and he hit 11 home runs in the month of May. So what have you been seeing out of him and what’s he still got to work on at Triple-A?

mc656305BO:  I think, with Matt, his defensive talent is off the charts. He’s probably one of the most talented third basemen at any level. You hear the names of Machado and Arenado when you’re discussing his defense – that’s not hyperbole, that’s just the fact. This guy’s defense is superlative and, offensively, his power is undeniable. He had 36 homers last year. Our fans have been able to see it first-hand the last two spring trainings. He had a 3-homer game last year in his brief time in Triple-A. And for him, it’s just all about really defining that strike zone, you know, learning it. With the injury, he started out fairly slow in April. But in May, with the 11 homers, his strikeout rate is actually a little bit lower this month than it was for his whole Texas League season last year when he was the Texas League MVP, so that’s encouraging. I think Matt’s capable of making adjustments, he’s smart, and he’s not afraid at all, as we’ve seen so far in his two big league camps. With him, it’s just all about tightening that strike zone and eliminating some swings-and-misses. But the bottom line is that he’s a really gifted defender, and every time he steps up to the plate, he’s dangerous. And coming at a premium position, that’s a pretty solid package.

AF:  One guy at Nashville who really seemed to turn it up a notch in May is first baseman Matt Olson. I know there was some talk this spring about him altering his swing a bit. Has that played much into this recent uptick and where do you feel things are at with him at this point?

mo621566BO:  Matt Olson, he’s definitely a student of the game. And I always go back to Stockton with him. You know, out of the draft, he was more of an all-fields hitter, and then he had a pretty solid season there in Beloit his first year out as a teenager. But Stockton is a fairly hitter-friendly environment and it’s very inviting to right field, so Matt was able to pop 37 home runs that year. But I think with that, he also became a lot more pull-oriented by hitting those home runs that year at Stockton. And it carried over to Midland, where it became a pull-heavy approach, and the park wasn’t quite as friendly and the defensive shift was more in vogue. So, as he climbed the ladder and they started doing the defensive shifts and he still was pull-happy, he realized that he had to make adjustments to go back to that hitter who uses the whole field. And I think, for some guys, it’s always good just to get a taste of the big leagues to realize it is a little bit different, the pitchers can make adjustments and they can exploit your weaknesses. And Matt’s a smart kid, so he went to the big leagues, saw what it had to offer and realized he had to make some swing adjustments. So now his swing’s shorter, he’s using the field a lot more, and he’s more conscious of trying to barrel the ball to all fields. It’s definitely carried over so far in this Triple-A season and, quite frankly, I think at some point it’ll translate to the upper levels. He’s another one who’s a gifted defender, at first base. I’ve said it, all our instructors have said it – his defense has been spectacular at first base throughout his minor league career. And once he added some versatility by playing right field – I believe he actually led the Texas League in assists a couple of years ago in his first full-time duty in the outfield – he’s proven that he can play above-average major league first base defensively and also actually play an average right field. So, with the natural power that he possesses and an improved contact rate, he’ll have a chance to make his presence known at some point in the next year or two.

AF:  Another guy who had a pretty good month of May at Nashville is Renato Nunez. He’s been doing his usual thing and hitting lots of home runs. He’s got as many homers as anyone in your system right now. We know the power is real for Renato, but how far away do you feel he is from being where he really needs to be?

rn600524BO:  Renato is 23 years old…and he’s always been a kid who’s capable of barreling the ball to all fields. He got a majestic, pretty stroke. I believe, in Double-A, he hit around .280. Last year, he started out hot but then, for some reason in the second half, he got a lot more pull-conscious. And though he still had a high homer total, his average plummeted. This year, he had a strong spring training, and he’s got 13 or 14 homers to start the year. But I still believe that he’s got another click left in him, where at 23 years old, he’s got time to mature as a hitter and start bringing that average up. He’s got a swing that’s capable of touching the baseball at multiple spots in the strike zone, so he shouldn’t have to sell out for power to hit the homers. He should be able to use the whole field. He’s in that .240ish range right now in Triple-A. But I believe, within the next two or three years, that he’ll still have the opportunity to go ahead and become more of a line-to-line hitter and become more of a complete hitter. And with Chapman and Barreto manning the left side of the infield, Renato’s been able to go out to left field and do a solid job out there and sprinkle some games in at third base and improve his defense. But make no mistake, Renato’s a hitter and, at some point within the next two or three years, hopefully he’ll start using the field more and become the hitter he’s capable of becoming.

AF:  As you mentioned, he’s been playing a lot of field so far this season. Do you think that’s the most likely defensive landing spot for him at this point?

BO:  Well, I just think with Chapman being such a special defender at third base, you have Barreto playing short, and when Semien comes back, he can play short, so with all the different players we have the same age playing similar positions, it’s been nice to give Renato a chance to improve his versatility by getting comfortable in left field.

AF:  A guy at Nashville who isn’t always included in the top prospect talk but who’s an interesting player is outfielder Jaycob Brugman. He’s always seemed to out-perform expectations at every level. He was sidelined with a leg injury to start the season, but since he’s been back, he’s done nothing but hit over the past month. So what do you think his ceiling is?

jb595144bBO:  You know, he wasn’t a high-round draft pick, but since he’s been in our system, he’s always hit, whether it’s been in Beloit, or when he went to the California League and he wrecked it and hit 10 home runs in a month during his brief time in the Cal League. He went to Double-A and he was the igniter at the top of the lineup and played good defense in center field. And in Triple-A last year, they had one of the best records with one of the youngest teams in Triple-A – and at the top of the lineup, Jaycob makes things happen. He’s off to a great start. He missed some time with the injury in April, but since he’s been playing, he’s above .300. He uses the whole diamond, he’s got some power in there – he’s had double-digit home run seasons in the minor leagues. He’s got a very good throwing arm defensively, and he’s always been one the higher guys in assists. He takes really good routes in the outfield. So, I think he’ll eventually be a major league player. And it’s safe to say that he’ll be a fourth outfielder, but I think that if he’s assertive, he has a chance to surprise some people and do what he’s always done at the top level at some point when he gets the opportunity.

AF:  For the majority of his minor league career, he’s played center field, but most people seem to talk about him ending up as a corner outfielder. How do you feel about his ability to play center field at the major league level?

BO:  Well, I think he’s definitely capable of playing all three outfield positions and being a fourth outfielder. There’s no question in my mind that he can do that. And I think that Jaycob’s going to assert himself. He’s not a flyer, he’s not going to go up there and give you a blazing time down the line and do cartwheels and what not, but he’s efficient – he takes great routes and gets good angles. So, he can fill in at all three and be a fourth outfielder. But if he keeps on asserting himself, I think he’s going to surprise people at the top level, even defensively. He’s a technician and he’s efficient in center field with enough speed.

AF:  Okay, let’s talk about a few pitching prospects at Triple-A. Daniel Gossett was a 2nd-round pick of yours a few years ago. He took a big step forward last year, then he seemed to really impress people during his brief time in the big league camp this spring. He had a few bumpy starts early on this year, but he’s been on a nice little run at Nashville lately. So what have you been seeing out of Daniel Gossett this year and how close is he to being major-league ready?

dg605254BO:  Yeah, last year was a breakout year for Daniel. He was good at three levels last year. And being dominant in 2016 gave him a chance to go to big league camp in 2017 and get a taste of it. And honestly, I don’t think he was totally sharp. He showed some good stuff, but he wasn’t totally sharp at the end of minor league camp, and I believe it carried over to his first three or four outings at Triple-A, but he’s been able to right the ship. In May, he had an outstanding month. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is getting even better. I think in about 54 innings, he’s got 50 strikeouts and the walks are like 19, and he’s really pounding that strike zone. He’s up to 96 mph. He’s got a nice four-pitch mix. He’s being aggressive within the strike zone. So, if you wash away those first three or four outings of the year, he’s really on that good trajectory now to show what he’s capable of doing. He’s got a cutter that he throws 90 mph, he’s got a good slider, a solid curveball and an outstanding changeup. So, he’s got the pitches – he really proved that last year. And with that strikeout rate being so strong at Triple-A, the next step is just to continue to get more consistency and then, when an opportunity strikes, he’ll be ready.

AF:  Another slightly younger guy in that Nashville rotation who’s been performing well this year is 23-year-old Paul Blackburn. He’s a former 1st-round supplemental pick for the Cubs whom you guys got from Seattle in the Danny Valencia deal. So what do think about him now that you’ve had a chance to get a good look at him in your system here this year?

pb621112BO:  Paul, he’s a control arm. He’s in that low-90s range. His fastball’s between 89-92 mph. It’s got pretty good sink to it. He’s got a solid breaking ball. He’s a northern California kid. He was in our range in the draft a couple of years back and the Cubs took him, so we made a good trade with the Mariners, and he’s been solid. He was okay in big league camp. I think he was excited to play for the hometown team here. And then he impressed all our minor league instructors. And at Nashville, he’s been tough. He’s thrown strikes as advertised. He’s able to manipulate the ball within the strike zone. He changes speeds. He’s definitely poised at a young age to be doing as well as he’s done at Triple-A. He’s not a stuff guy, but he’s a strike thrower, and he commands the baseball within the zone with an assortment of pitches, and he changes speeds well, so we’re excited to have Paul.

AF:  A guy who’s recently joined the staff at Nashville from Double-A Midland is Corey Walter. He’s another guy who wasn’t a high draft pick – he was a 28th-rounder – but since he’s been in the system, it seems like he’s done nothing but get outs, and he just had a nice outing in his last start for Nashville. So what are your impressions of Corey Walter and what’s his ceiling look like to you?

cw657794BO:  Yeah, Corey Walter, he’s kind of been the pitching version of Jaycob Brugman. He came into the system unheralded, and he’s done nothing but pitch really well. He’s been versatile. He’s at a point where his fastball is 90-92 mph, and it’s got a lot of sink to it. He’s a pitch-to-contact guy where he forces the action on the mound. He’s got a nice slider to complement the heater and the sinker, and he also sprinkles in a changeup. But he’s been efficient, he’s been a strong strike thrower. He really came into his own in Stockton, and it carried over last year in multiple roles at Double-A. With the logjam of quality starters in Triple-A and the young guys in the big leagues, we sent him back to Double-A to start the year and he did his thing in the Texas League again, which he’s done for the last year and a half. And I think his versatility and the sinker is going to really treat him well going forward. He’s proven that he can start and get a chance to be an effective starter, but that sinker will play very well out of the ‘pen as well, and he’s a strike thrower, so he’s got a chance to be versatile from a pitching standpoint. And he’s always performed well.

AF:  Yeah, it’s nice to see him getting a chance in Triple-A. Let’s wrap up with a couple of your younger pitching prospects. Grant Holmes, who was a 1st-round draft pick for the Dodgers, has had some struggles at Midland this year but, at 21, he’s also one of the youngest pitchers in the Texas League. So what’s he got to do to get over the hump at Double-A?

gh656550BO:  With Grant, the velocity’s always been there. He’s got a high strikeout rate at Double-A, especially for a kid who’s 21 years old. For him, it’s just a matter of tightening his breaking ball and getting a little bit more separation as far as the miles per hour between the changeup and the heater. I think they kind of blend together at times, and he’s got to get that separation to give hitters something else to really gauge and think about. And from a pitching standpoint, being assertive and being aggressive within the strike zone, but also learning the zones where your strengths are and understanding the scouting reports of the opposition. You know, being 21 years old in an advanced league, in Double-A, coming over here in a trade, getting acclimated and used to a new environment – getting traded at such a young age is not easy – so coming over here, being young, and getting an aggressive promotion to Double-A at 21…hopefully he’ll have an opportunity here the next three months to really hit the ground running, make some adjustments, use that high velocity that he’s shown the whole time, improve that separation between the heater and the changeup and keep on tightening that breaking ball, and he’ll have a chance to have a strong second half.

AF:  Okay, let’s wrap things up with your top draft pick last year, A.J. Puk. He’s been throwing well at Stockton, racking up lots of strikeouts and looking dominant at times. What have you seen out of A.J. this year, where he’s at in terms of his development and what he’s got to do to get to the next level?

ap640462cBO:  When you look at Andrew Miller, David Price, Drew Pomeranz, those lefties who are so tall and throw hard – A.J.’s been up to 99 mph from the left side – if they can really simplify their delivery, because their stuff’s so good, that’s just the best thing going forward. So A.J.’s going to keep on refining and simplifying his delivery. But his stuff is unquestionable. His fastball has ranged anywhere from 94-99 mph, and it’s got this component to it at the end where it has a little bit of giddy-up and it misses bats. His breaking ball, especially his slider, misses bats, and his changeup misses bats – and that’s how you get the 69 strikeouts in 44 innings. And honestly, I think he’s got another click to him. He doesn’t need to try to miss bats so much, but he has an element of deception, the stuff is quality, and you don’t see 99 mph from the left side every day. So, what’s Michael Jordan say? “The ceiling’s the roof!”

AF:  Well, that’s a good place to have your ceiling! Thanks for taking the time to chat. I know it’s a busy time a year for you with the draft right around the corner.

BO:  All right! Go A’s! I’m looking forward to the next three months of the year and we’ll see where it goes.

AF:  And best of luck with the draft coming up!

BO:  Yeah, it’ll be fun. We’ll be in Oakland shortly. And it’ll be fun to have [A’s scouting director] Eric Kubota lead us and to see where all those draft magnets take us!

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