Tag: Jharel Cotton

Meet Your 2018 Oakland A’s!

by Bill Moriarity / A’s Farm Editor

Third Baseman Matt Chapman

Third Baseman Matt Chapman

Back in May, we took a look at what a young, rebuilding A’s team might look like. But now that we’ve passed the July 31st trade deadline and the A’s have made a number of deadline deals, and even some post-deadline deals, to add players like Blake Treinen, Dustin Fowler, Boog Powell, Jorge Mateo, Sheldon Neuse, James Kaprielian and Jesus Luzardo to the system, it’s a good time to take another look at what the near future might look like for the A’s.

Of course, one never knows what the A’s might do in the offseason, but the fact that they don’t really have many veteran trade chips left to deal will definitely limit their ability to barter. And, as usual, it seems unlikely that they will splurge too much on the free agent market at this stage of the game. The team could dip its toe in the water to fill a few holes on a short-term basis, particularly on the pitching staff, but there aren’t likely to be any terribly significant commitments in the near term, at least not until a new stadium is within view.

Two players who’ve played significant roles this year seem likely to depart after the season – center fielder Rajai Davis, who’s set to become a free agent, and second baseman Jed Lowrie, whom the A’s hold a $6 million option on for next year. With the A’s now fully committed to a youth movement and with both Franklin Barreto and Chad Pinder capable of playing second base, it seems unlikely that the A’s will opt to bring back Lowrie. But is there still any chance that they might be able to get something for either of them before the season’s through the way they did with Yonder Alonso? It’s possible, but it seems like any deal that would have been possible probably would have happened by now. And looking ahead, there are only two significant players on the current roster who are due to become free agents after the 2018 season – outfielder Matt Joyce and reliever Santiago Casilla. Could the A’s possibly get anything for either player in the offseason? Anything’s possible but, if they can, it’s not likely to amount to much.

When looking at next season on the position player front, eleven guys seem to be pretty solid bets for the major league roster, leaving a number of others left to battle for one or two remaining spots, depending on whether the A’s choose to go with twelve or thirteen position players in 2018. The eleven most likely to lay claim to a roster spot include catchers Bruce Maxwell and Josh Phegley, infielders Matt Chapman, Marcus Semien, Franklin Barreto, Matt Olson and Ryon Healy, outfielders Khris Davis, Matt Joyce and Dustin Fowler, and super utility infielder/outfielder Chad Pinder. That leaves guys like Boog Powell, Jaycob Brugman, Mark Canha, Jake Smolinski and Renato Nunez fighting for the one or two remaining roster spots. When it comes to the pitching staff, things could be a little more up in the air, and one would have to suspect that’s where any offseason additions might be most likely to occur.

So, setting aside any possible offseason deals or free-agent signings, and adding in a fresh batch of summer arrivals, let’s take a position-by-position look at how things might stack up for the 2018 Oakland A’s…

 

Bruce Maxwell

Bruce Maxwell

CATCHERS

With Stephen Vogt’s departure and Bruce Maxwell making the move to the major league roster in June, the catching corps could prove to be one of the more predictable parts of next season’s roster. Maxwell and Josh Phegley seem set to split time behind the plate for the 2018 A’s, though the team could always give recently-acquired catcher Dustin Garneau the opportunity to compete with Phegley for the chance to serve as Maxwell’s platoon partner. The team’s top minor league catching prospect, former 3rd-round pick Sean Murphy, has played in just 39 games at the Double-A level and is probably another year away from factoring into the catching conversation.

 

INFIELDERS

Matt Olson

Matt Olson

With the departures of Trevor Plouffe and Yonder Alonso, and the likely departure of Jed Lowrie in the offseason, the A’s infield looks to be right at the heart of the youth movement in 2018. Young slugger Matt Chapman is set to anchor the infield at the hot corner, while Marcus Semien is expected to be back at shortstop. It seems likely that top prospect Franklin Barreto will get every opportunity to take over at second base, where he’s probably best-suited defensively and where he’s most likely to remain since the A’s acquired promising shortstop prospect Jorge Mateo from the Yankees in the Sonny Gray deal. The team seems ready to make Matt Olson its primary first baseman, though his consistent platoon splits make it likely that, like Yonder Alonso, he’ll frequently sit against lefties while Ryon Healy moves from the designated hitter spot to take over at first. Meanwhile, with Olson at first and Chapman at third, Healy looks likely to get the bulk of his at-bats in the DH slot once again, serving in that role against righties while seeing some time in the field against lefties. And with Olson likely to sit out against most lefties, that could give super-utility man Chad Pinder, who’s sure to make the squad, a good chance to get some regular at-bats against lefties while stepping into the field in any number of positions and giving various A’s regulars a bit of a breather by sliding into the DH spot for the day. And, of course, Pinder also has the ability to spell Semien and Barreto in the middle infield any time either of them is slumping or could just use a day off. The A’s could also decide to give a player who’s probably best-suited for the designated hitter role a shot to see what he can do as the regular DH against lefties. Right-handed slugger Renato Nunez may be limited defensively, but he’s currently leading the Pacific Coast League with 31 home runs while slashing an impressive .309/.387/.630 against Triple-A lefties this season. So, Nunez clearly could have the ability to do some damage from the DH spot when Healy makes the move to first against lefties. Behind Chapman, Semien, Barreto, Olson, Healy, Pinder and Nunez, other infield options down on the farm could include second basemen Joey Wendle and Max Schrock, shortstop Jorge Mateo, third baseman Sheldon Neuse and Yairo Munoz, who’s been increasing his versatility by playing third base, shortstop and center field for Triple-A Nashville this season.

 

OUTFIELDERS

Dustin Fowler

Dustin Fowler

With a couple of the team’s most veteran position players still in the outfield picture, the youth movement may have a slightly less dramatic effect on the A’s outfield alignment in 2018. The team still has control of its top home run hitter, Khris Davis, for two more seasons. So, assuming he sticks around for at least one more campaign, he’s likely to see most of his time in left field once again. And assuming Matt Joyce is back for the final year of his contract, then he’s likely to wind up back in right field against right-hander hurlers anyway. As for center field, the A’s clearly acquired Dustin Fowler from the Yankees to be their center fielder of the future, and that future is likely to start in 2018. Super-utility man Chad Pinder is capable of putting in time in the outfield. And since Joyce and Fowler are both left-handed hitters, he could well serve as an outfield platoon partner, particularly for Joyce in right. And if things line up as expected, then that would leave one or two more roster spots available for outfielders depending on if the A’s choose to go with twelve or thirteen position players and whether or not they decide to make room for Renato Nunez on the roster in 2018. Lefty-swinging outfielders Boog Powell and Jaycob Brugman, who’ve been the main men in center field over these past couple of months, will clearly move behind Fowler on the depth chart as soon as he returns from the disabled list. Though Powell and Brugman are both capable of playing all three outfield positions, the fact that they both hit from the left side severely limits their ability to serve in any sort of platoon role in the A’s outfield as it’s currently configured. And we all know how much the A’s value those platoon matchups. That could help the cause of a couple of other outfield options who happen to be right-handed hitters – Mark Canha, who still possesses some intriguing power potential, and Jake Smolinski, who’s always put up strong numbers against lefties, is capable of playing all three outfield spots, and is currently on a minor league rehab assignment after sitting out most of the season due to shoulder surgery. One thing that seems certain is that the one of the most interesting roster battles next season should be for the A’s last one or two remaining outfield spots.

 

STARTING PITCHERS

Paul Blackburn

Paul Blackburn

What once looked like a strong suit for the A’s, thanks to trades, injuries and poor performance, now appears to be a little more up in the air. Twelve different pitchers have made starts for the A’s this season. LHP Sean Manaea is the only A’s hurler to make it to the mound for more than 20 starts so far this season, and he also leads the teams in wins and strikeouts. RHP Kendall Graveman was looked at as the team’s ace-in-waiting behind Sonny Gray and was the A’s opening day starter this year, but injuries have limited him to 11 starts this season. Manaea and Graveman look to be locks to top the A’s rotation again in 2018. But don’t forget about a guy who put up better numbers than either of those pitchers have this season before undergoing hip surgery this summer – RHP Andrew Triggs. If he returns healthy and regains his form, then Triggs would also be in line to claim a rotation spot next season. A pair of rookies would appear to be the best bets to round out the rotation – RHP Paul Blackburn, who’s been solid in 9 starts for the A’s, and RHP Daniel Gossett, a former 2nd-round pick who’s shown plenty of promising potential. Behind those five (none of whom is currently over the age of 28), there are a number of arms who could be in waiting at Nashville but who also come with a number of questions marks. RHPs Jharel Cotton and Jesse Hahn have combined to make 31 starts for the A’s this season, and while both have shown great promise at times, they can both be wildly inconsistent as well. RHP Daniel Mengden, who showed such potential at times last season, is still in the picture and has recently returned to action for Nashville after missing much of the season due to injuries. Veteran RHP Chris Smith also remains in the mix and could serve as valuable rotation depth at Triple-A. Other potential starting options in the system include RHP Chris Bassitt (who’s been working out of the bullpen at Nashville while making his way back from Tommy John surgery), RHP Frankie Montas (who had been serving in a starting role at Triple-A before landing on the disabled list), RHP Raul Alcantara (who started the season on the A’s roster), RHP Corey Walter (who’s made 11 starts for the Sounds this season), and LHP A.J. Puk (the A’s top draft pick last year who’s put up an ERA of 5.36 and struck out 61 in 45 1/3 frames since joining Double-A Midland in June). Puk may not be ready to be a real rotation option for the A’s to start the season but, depending on how things play out, he could prove to be a legitimate option for the team before next season is through.

 

RELIEF PITCHERS

Blake Treinen

Blake Treinen

The bullpen could be the biggest question mark for the A’s heading into 2018. There aren’t too many locks here, nor too many talented young hurlers who look to be ready to bloom into superstar status. This could be an area the A’s seek to fill in with a few shrewd free-agent pickups, or the organization might just decide to make the best with what they’ve got and wait until the team looks like it might be ready to contend before investing in outside help for the bullpen. But looking at what’s in-house at the moment, RHP Blake Treinen seems to be the best option for the closer’s role. Of course, RHP Santiago Casilla is still under contract for next season, while the A’s will also maintain control of a couple of other familiar faces from the bullpen – RHPs Liam Hendriks and Ryan Dull. Two hard-throwing RHPs will remain in the mix as well – Frankie Montas, who’s still working to harness his potential, and Simon Castro, who has shown some promise in 13 appearances for the A’s this season. RHP Bobby Wahl will be returning from thoracic outlet surgery, while RHP J.B. Wendelken will be coming back from Tommy John surgery. And there are a number of possible long-relief options to consider as well, including RHP Chris Hatcher (who was recently acquired from the Dodgers), RHP Chris Smith (who could be well-suited for such a role), RHP Chris Bassitt (who’s been throwing multiple innings out of the bullpen at Nashville), RHPs Michael Brady and Josh Smith (both of whom have served in that role at times this season), and RHP Raul Alcantara (who started the season in that role for the A’s). On the left side of the bullpen, the A’s current options look to be fairly limited. Of course, LHP Daniel Coulombe, who’s made 53 relief appearances for the A’s this season, clearly stands atop the pack. LHP Felix Doubront has been serving in a relief role for Nashville since returning from Tommy John surgery, and the A’s recently acquired LHP Sam Moll, who’s made 139 relief appearances in the Rockies system over the last five years. But beyond that, there aren’t many more southpaws to be seen in the bullpen picture at this point anyway, so stay tuned.

 

One never really knows what the A’s might decide to do in any given offseason, and this one’s certainly no different. But one thing’s clear – the team is committed to rebuilding with this current crop of young players. There aren’t many veterans left to deal away at this point, so any significant additions would most likely have to come from the free agent market, though it seems unlikely that the A’s would be ready to make too much of a splash in the free agent pool at this stage of the game. Once plans for the A’s new ballpark are announced, we should start to get a much better sense of what the team’s long-term and short-term player personnel plans are. But for now, this is how the current crop of young players who are likely to make the squad next season is shaping up. And hopefully, A’s fans can look forward to watching this promising pack of prospects develop into a winning team that will be able to carry its winnings ways into a new ballpark somewhere in Oakland in the not-too-distant future.

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Get an Inside Look at Nashville’s Top Prospects from Hitting Coach Eric Martins & Pitching Coach Rick Rodriguez

by Bill Moriarity / A’s Farm Editor

0nsIMG_2587Eric Martins was the A’s 17th-round draft pick in 1994 and spent parts of seven seasons as an infielder in the A’s minor league system. After his playing career came to an end, the southern California native signed on as a scout for the A’s. He eventually made the move to coaching, first serving as the hitting coach for the A’s Double-A affiliate in Midland, and he’s now spending his second season handling some of the team’s top young hitters at Nashville.

Rick Rodriguez served as the long-time pitching coach for the Sacramento River Cats, where he had a hand in developing a number of the A’s most talented pitchers over the past many years. When the A’s Triple-A affiliate first moved to Nashville, the northern California native remained on the west coast to spend a season with the Single-A Stockton Ports. But he’s now serving his second season with the Sounds, helping to develop another crop of talented arms for the A’s.

We took the opportunity to talk with both of them about some of the A’s most promising prospects last weekend in Nashville…

 

ERIC MARTINS

emMartins, Eric2AF:  Yairo Munoz is a guy who got off to a bit of a slow start when he first came up to Triple-A, but it seems like something’s been starting to click for him lately. So, where do you feel he’s at at this point?

EM:  Well, Yairo came in and he’s notoriously known as being a free swinger. He’s got one of the highest first-pitch-swing-percentage rates in the organization. It’s one thing that I kind of talked to him about a little bit. You don’t ever want to take away a hitter’s aggressiveness, but it’s being able to recognize the pitches that he wants to swing at early. He’ll still have his lapses every once in a while, but I think that’s one thing that’s calmed him down a little bit. He’s been a little bit more selective. He’s worked a little bit more here. We’ve worked on his pitch selection and his approach, because he has the ability to hit the ball all over the yard. He’s so aggressive, he’s got electric hands. He’s one of those guys that’s kind of special, he’s a little bit free-spirited, he’s a little bit of a loose cannon, but the tools are evident. Like the other day, he kind of looked bad on a couple sliders and the guy hung him a two-strike breaking ball and he hit it over the left-field wall. And he’s been having really good at-bats the last couple weeks. I think the other thing is just being comfortable being here. These pitchers here pitch a little bit differently. And you get an aggressive guy like Yairo and they can feast on him for a little bit until he makes the adjustment, and he’s done that. He’s done a pretty good job of that.

AF:  Well, whatever you said to him seemed to get through anyway! Have you been working with him in the field as well?

EM:  Yeah, he’s been playing all over the field. When he’s out in center field, he reminds me of Carlos Gomez a little bit. He’s a little bit, like I said, of a loose cannon, but he has all the tools. His arm is tremendous. He’s done a great job in center field. He can run some balls down. His versatility has been huge for us, and it’s going to be huge for him. He’s played third base, he’s played shortstop, he’s played left field, and he’s looked really good in the outfield. He’s always been a pretty good infielder.

AF:  So, it sounds like you think he could work in center field.

EM:  I think he’s only going to get better out there. He’s made some tremendous catches out there. It’s just about knowing where to throw the ball. He’s got such a good arm that he just wants to show it off each time. He just needs to come up and find the cut-off man and know where he’s throwing the ball. But other than that, his angles and his routes have been pretty good. He’s covered some ground out there, and he’s looking more and more comfortable out there.

AF:  Well, he kind of likes to show off wherever he’s at in the field, right?

EM:  Yeah, he’s got the loud tools, so why not?

fb620439AF:  Franklin Barreto got a little taste of the big leagues this year and now he’s back here with you in Nashville. So, what did he learn from that experience and what are you working on with him at this point?

EM:  Well, I think it was good for him to go up and kind of see what those pitchers are going to do and how good they are. And he came down with instructions on some stuff that he needed to work on. And his at-bats have been really good since that point. He’s made consistent contact with two strikes, so his strikeout rates have gone down a little bit, and I think that’s one thing that they wanted to see. His mechanics have gotten a little bit better. He’s getting a little bit more comfortable staying inside the ball – he’s not worried about the pitches in anymore. He’s doing a good job with his approach and his work, and you can see his at-bats starting to trend back to where they were at the beginning of the year. But the consistency in the at-bats has been a little bit better.

AF:  It sounds like getting a look at major league pitching might have been a good, eye-opening experience for him.

EM:  Absolutely. I think he saw how the guys who don’t have the premium stuff can pitch and how good the guys who have the premium stuff are, so you’ve just got to find a way to battle.

AF:  A guy who’s been up and down between Nashville and Oakland a number of times this year is Matt Olson. What do you think he’s learned from all his trips to the big leagues this year?

EM:  I think with Olson, he’s so laid back and he understands, so it doesn’t really bother him, which is good. You know, it can bother a lot of people who are going up and down. He gets it, so it’s been easy on him. He just comes down and he does what he does, and he’s continuing to work on everything. He’s had such a good year, and he knows his time’s coming to get up there and be playing consistently. So, we just continue to work on the adjustments that he made in the offseason with his swing and his mechanics. So, he’s fine and he’s ready to go. When he gets that call and he’s going to be the everyday guy and get some consistent at-bats, you’re going to see who Matt Olson really is.

mo621566AF:  Yeah, he seems like a pretty low-key guy. It doesn’t seem like a lot would bother him.

EM:  No, real low maintenance. And that’s the thing, for him being so young, he gets it and he understands. The important thing for him is to get at-bats. And if there’s no at-bats for him up there, then he’s going to come down here and continue to get his at-bats and continue on with the good year that he’s had. It’s been a breakthrough for him as far as the consistency of his season – hitting close to .270 all year. It’s been a good year for him, where the last couple years have been kind of down. I think the mechanical tweaks that he made this offseason and early in spring training really helped.

AF:  Chad Pinder was back here in Nashville rehabbing for a while before heading back to the big leagues. So, what kind of things were you working on with a guy like that who’s rehabbing here?

EM:  Pinder was just getting his at-bats and getting his timing back. Having a lot of history with him, it was just a matter of getting his hands in the right position and his timing and all that stuff. He’s so strong and he can drive the ball all over the park. So, it was just a matter of him just seeing some pitches, working his at-bats and making sure his timing was there. He did have some strikeouts here, but he got in some counts and worked some at-bats. That was it for him. You don’t really want to change too much, because he’s been doing so good up there. It’s just those little fine-tuning things. And with me having the history with him, it was easy.

AF:  Well, you must be pretty familiar with a lot of these guys at this point.

EM:  Absolutely, it’s fun. I’ll still get some calls from the guys up there – Bruce and Chapman – checking in. And I’ll send them a text when they have a good game up in the big leagues – Brugman and I texted a couple days ago. So, it’s fun to see those guys having some success up there. They’re going to be a big part of things from now on.

AF:  A guy who spent some significant time in the big leagues and then found himself back down here was Mark Canha. It seems like he was on a bit of a tear here. So, what were you working on with him here?

mc592192EM:  Well, I think Mark just kind of simplified things here a little bit. He stopped worrying about his leg kick and the timing of his leg kick and just started concentrating on his hands. And it was one thing that he never really thought about so much. He was so worried about the timing of his leg kick that it kind of threw off his hands a little bit. So, now he’s kind of switched the roles a little bit, and he’s a lot simpler – the moves are a lot simpler. They’re not as unique and different. He still has a little bit of funk to his swing, but that’s who he is. And Mark can really hit. It’s just he gets in his own way sometimes when he over-thinks his mechanics. But he’s really simplified some stuff, and his at-bats have been outstanding. The power’s obviously there. He’s a really good hitter. He just needed to come down here and simplify some stuff, and I think he’s found his niche now.

AF:  Now that we’re heading into the final month or so of the minor league season, is there any particular message that you’re trying to convey to your hitters here at this stage of the game?

EM:  I just tell them to finish strong. I know some guys are getting tired. Some guys can be thinking elsewhere. They can be thinking, “Why am I not up in the big leagues?” Or they can be chasing their numbers. But they’ve got to realize that whatever numbers that they have now, there’s always something that you can get out of your at-bats. Don’t give any at-bats away. We had a couple of games in New Orleans that were back-to-back day games at the end of a 12-day road trip, and you could tell guys were tired, and we gave some at-bats away and didn’t really compete. You’ve got to kind of give them that a little bit, but you’ve got to rein them back in after a day or two, because they all count. At the end of the day, you give some at-bats away and you’re 0 for 4, that counts against you. So, don’t take any at-bats off – just keep competing and have quality at-bats.

 

RICK RODRIGUEZ

rrRodriguez, Rick2AF:  It’s kind of like you’ve been the supplemental A’s pitching coach this year with all the A’s starters who’ve been down here at one point or another this season – Graveman, Cotton, Hahn, etc. So, I wanted to ask you about working with some of those guys, starting with Jesse Hahn, who was pitching really well for Oakland earlier this year then ended up coming back down here. So, what have you been working on with him and what are you trying to do with him?

RR:  We have good communication between myself and [A’s pitching coach] Scott Emerson. He always has a plan of what these guys should do. So, he either sends me something or he calls me and says, “We need to work on this, this and this.” And with Jesse, it’s more his fastball command – just trying to command that fastball and working ahead in the count. He was working on a new grip on his changeup, so we’re trying to work that in. So, his command and his changeup.

AF:  Now when you have a guy like Kendall Graveman, who was working his way back from an injury and has been out for a while, what kind of things are you focused in that situation?

RR:  The biggest thing when coming back from an injury is trying not to let the injury itself affect you, just trying to keep with what you’ve done in the past. I think we were in New Orleans, and at some point, he felt confident enough to really just kind of let it go. And at that point, I think he realized he was over his injury and now it’s a question of commanding that sinker, commanding that cutter, and getting back to where he was before he got hurt.

AF:  So, I guess the first step is just gaining that confidence back that you’re actually healthy enough to be able to do what you need to do.

RR:  Yeah, it’s always in the back of your mind when you come back from an injury. It’s like, “Am I going to hurt anything again?” And then you realize, “Hey, I’m great – I’m healthy.” And then you can get back to your routine and what made you successful.

AF:  Now what about Jharel Cotton, who’s back up with the A’s now? He spent some time with you here. Where do you feel he’s at now? Did you feel you were able to help get him back to where he needs to be to be successful?

jc605194RR:  Yeah, I know his first outing coming back from the blister, he was a little rusty – he was out of sync, his fastball command wasn’t there, his changeup was up and down. His last outing, he seemed to command his fastball to both sides of the plate and he started to get his changeup with that late sink that I saw last year. His cutter’s always been there – just trying to get him to use his curveball a little bit more. But it was just more getting back into the swing of things – getting a routine and then trying to take that routine into the game.

AF:  Another guy you’ve had rehabbing here is Chris Bassitt, who’s been coming back from Tommy John surgery. After a bit of a setback, he’s been pitching out of the bullpen now. So, how’s he looking to you at this point?

RR:  This is his second go-around with the rehab. He looks more confident now. I think his elbow’s feeling better. He’s bouncing back a lot quicker. So, he’s just going to be coming out of the ‘pen. And if he pitches a day, we’ll give him a day off. And if he has two ups, we’ll probably give him a couple days off just to kind of rest that elbow. But he’s come along really good. His fastball command is there. He’s got his cutter back. I like his slow curveball – that kind of throws everybody off. But he’s doing well.

AF:  One guy who’s not actually rehabbing here who I wanted to ask you about is Corey Walter. He wasn’t a high draft pick, but he’s always pitched well and has had a great track record through the system. He got off to a good start here in Nashville, then he had a couple of crazy outings where he just got totally lit up and gave up something like 20 runs over two starts, and now it looks like maybe he’s starting to get back on track a bit again. So, what happened to him when he seemed to go off the rails there for a bit and where’s he at now?

cw657794bRR:  I think he’s still learning how to start. And as a starter, sometimes you go through a little phase where, for a couple outings or whatever, it’s not working and you’re trying everything. And I think that’s what he was going through. I know through the All-Star break, he had a couple of extra days – I think that helped him. Then with the rehabbers and some guys coming down from Oakland, we had to shuffle around, so he pitched out of the ‘pen a couple times. And it was a good chance to work on his sinker command on the side. He really needed to get that back down in the zone. And he did the other night. His slider was good and his split was better – it was a little sharper.

AF:  Do you see him staying as a starter in the near future or will he maybe be making a move back to the ‘pen?

RR:  I’m not sure what the plan is. I know he’s been starting, and I’m sure he’s going to be starting once all this rotation stuff gets cleared up. So, we’ll see how that goes, but I’m looking forward to him starting.

AF:  And as we enter the final month of the minor league season here, what messages are you trying to convey to your pitching staff at this point?

RR:  We just had a big e-mail from our pitching coordinator [Gil Patterson]. And the big thing I talk about is the fact that we have 4-6 weeks, so let’s make a good push and finish really, really strong. It’s important to finish strong, so that you go into that offseason really confident. You just want to be consistent and finish well, and then see what happens.

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Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm. You can also get our exclusive A’s minor league newsletter e-mailed to you free by signing up here.

Sunday, July 30th: Manarino & Twomey Lead Ports & Snappers to Shutout Victories while Holmes Helps Hounds Win and Canha & Rosa Collect Grand Slams

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Stockton Ports Pitcher Evan Manarino (7 IP / 6 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 7 K / Win)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Stockton Ports Pitcher Evan Manarino (7 IP / 6 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 7 K / Win)

 

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE  (High-A)

Stockton Ports  10

Modesto Nuts       0

WP – Manarino 5-7 / 4.63

HR – Siddall (17), Pimentel (9), Neuse (3), Barrera (3), Raga (2)

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Evan Manarino

(7 IP / 6 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 7 K / Win)

The Ports prevailed by an impressive margin for the third straight night on Sunday. LHP Evan Manarino turned in one of his best starts of the season, striking out 7 without allowing a walk while throwing 7 shutout innings for Stockton, and undrafted free agent LHP Brandon Marsonek tossed 2 scoreless innings in relief to complete the 7-hit shutout on Sunday. Ports batters continued their recent offensive outburst by blasting five home runs in the game. First baseman Sandber Pimentel had 3 hits and homered for the second straight night, while shortstop Sheldon Neuse homered for the third time in the last three days, belting a 3-run blast to put the Ports on the board in the 4th. Center fielder Luis Barrera slugged a solo shot, and catcher Argenis Raga and left fielder Brett Siddall both singled, homered and drove in a pair for the Ports.

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Tuesday, July 25th: Cotton & Canha Combine to Help Sounds Win while Fillmyer & Duno Pitch Hounds & Ports to Victory

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Jharel Cotton (6 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 9 K / Win)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Jharel Cotton (6 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 9 K / Win)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Las Vegas 51s          4

Nashville Sounds  10

WP – Cotton 3-0 / 2.95

HR – Nunez (26), Olson (20), Canha 2 (11)

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Jharel Cotton

(6 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 9 K / Win)

RHP Jharel Cotton made an impressive rehab start for the Sounds on Tuesday, allowing just 2 hits and striking out 9 over 6 shutout innings to notch his 3rd win of the season for Nashville. After making a pair of rehab appearances for Stockton, RHP Bobby Wahl made his first rehab appearance for the Sounds on Tuesday and gave up 1 run in 2/3 of an inning of relief. Right fielder Mark Canha had a huge night at the plate, collecting 5 hits, including a pair of home runs, while driving in 4 runs. First baseman Matt Olson belted his 20th home run, a 2-run blast, while left fielder Renato Nunez, slugged his league-leading 26th home run, a solo shot, and shortstop Franklin Barreto had 3 hits and drove in a run for Nashville. Meanwhile, A’s RHP Chris Bassitt was activated from the disabled list and assigned to the Sounds on Tuesday.

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Wednesday, July 19th: Olson’s Slam Highlights Sounds’ Comeback Win while Pinder, Graveman, Cotton, Bassitt, Dull & Alcantara All Make Rehab Appearances

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Designated Hitter Matt Olson (Grand Slam / 4 Walks)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds DH Matt Olson (Grand Slam / 4 Walks)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Nashville Sounds  11

Iowa Cubs                8

WP – Trivino 1-0 / 6.19

HR – Olson (19), Lavarnway (5), Wilson (1)

Prospect Of The Game:

Designated Hitter Matt Olson

(Grand Slam / 4 Walks)

With the bases loaded, two outs and the Sounds down by four runs in the top of the 8th inning, designated hitter Matt Olson stepped to the plate and slugged a grand slam to tie the game on Wednesday. Then in the 11th, catcher Ryan Lavarnway belted a 3-run blast to provide the margin of victory for Nashville. Olson also drew 4 walks in the game, while Lavarnway drove in another run with a sacrifice fly in the 6th. Right fielder Kenny Wilson homered in the 5th, and shortstop Chad Pinder went 0 for 2 with a walk in his second rehab appearance. RHP Kendall Graveman allowed 4 runs over just 2 1/3 innings in his first rehab start for the Sounds, while rehabbing RHP Jharel Cotton surrendered 4 runs in 3 1/3 innings of work. RHP Chris Bassitt tossed 1 2/3 scoreless innings in relief, and RHP Lou Trivino threw 3 scoreless frames to notch his 1st win for Nashville. Meanwhile, the A’s sent RHPs Zach Neal and Michael Brady to the Sounds, while Nashville infielder Melvin Mercedes was reassigned to the RockHounds on Wednesday. And Jon Heyman reported that the A’s and free agent first baseman Chris Carter had agreed to terms and that the slugger was expected to join the Sounds soon.

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Tuesday, July 18th: Munoz Continues Hot-Hitting in Sounds’ Loss while White & Barrera Have Big Games for Ports

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Center Fielder Yairo Munoz (3 for 5 / Home Run)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Center Fielder Yairo Munoz (3 for 5 / Home Run)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Nashville Sounds  7

Iowa Cubs             16

LP – Bracewell 1-2 / 4.76

HR – Munoz (3)

Prospect Of The Game:

Center Fielder Yairo Munoz

(3 for 5 / Home Run)

Yairo Munoz had a big game while making his eighth career start in center field for the Sounds on Tuesday. The 22-year-old collected 3 hits, including a home run, and is now 8 for 16 with a pair of home runs over his last 4 games for Nashville. Third baseman Renato Nunez doubled twice and singled, while right fielder Mark Canha had 2 hits, including a double, stole a base and drove in a pair, and designated hitter Chad Pinder went 1 for 5 with 3 strikeouts in his first rehab appearance for the Sounds. After turning in a pair of quality starts in his last two appearances for Nashville, RHP Ben Bracewell had a rough outing on Tuesday, allowing 10 runs, 8 earned, in just 2 2/3 innings of work to suffer the loss as the Sounds lost their third straight. In addition to Pinder, RHPs Kendall Graveman and Jharel Cotton have also joined Nashville on rehab assignments and both are expected to make appearances for the Sounds on Wednesday.

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Saturday, May 27th: Puk Pitches Ports to Victory with 5 Scoreless Frames

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Stockton Ports Pitcher A.J. Puk (5 IP / 1 H / 0 ER / 4 BB / 8 K / Win)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Stockton Ports Pitcher A.J. Puk (5 IP / 1 H / 0 ER / 4 BB / 8 K / Win)

 

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE  (High-A)

Stockton Ports                      4

Rancho Cucamonga Quakes  2

WP – Puk 3-4 / 3.43

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher A.J. Puk

(5 IP / 1 H / 0 ER / 4 BB / 8 K / Win)

LHP A.J. Puk turned in his second straight impressive start for Stockton on Saturday. Last year’s top draft pick for the A’s threw 5 shutout innings while allowing just 1 hit, walking 4 and striking out 8 with a fastball that was reaching into the upper-90s on the night. Puk earned his 3rd win for the Ports and has now allowed just 1 hit and 1 run while striking out 15 over his last 10 1/3 innings for Stockton. LHP Will Gilbert gave up 2 runs in 1 2/3 innings of relief, but RHP Nolan Blackwood tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings to post his 4th save for the Ports. Shortstop Eli White collected 3 hits, including a pair of doubles, while left fielder James Harris and third baseman Mikey White each singled in a run, and catcher Sean Murphy and center fielder Tyler Ramirez had a pair of hits apiece for the Ports.

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Friday, May 26th: Rosa Hits 2 HRs for Hounds while Mondou Helps Snappers Win in Extras

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds First Baseman Viosergy Rosa (2 for 4 / 2 Home Runs / 5 RBIs)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds First Baseman Viosergy Rosa (2 for 4 / 2 HRs / 5 RBIs)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Midland RockHounds  10

NW Arkansas Naturals   11

LP – Navas 0-1 / 13.50

HR – Rosa 2 (9)

Prospect Of The Game:

First Baseman Viosergy Rosa

(2 for 4 / 2 Home Runs / 5 RBIs)

Midland ended up suffering a heart-breaking walk-off loss in a slugfest on Friday, but first baseman Viosergy Rosa turned in an impressive performance for the RockHounds. After homering to put the Hounds on the board in the top of the 5th inning, Rosa came up with two outs, the bases loaded and the game tied in the 7th and slugged a grand slam over the left field wall to give his team a 4-run lead. Rosa was in an 0-for-14 slump headed into Friday’s game but he now has a team-leading 9 home runs for the Hounds. Starter Heath Fillmyer allowed 6 runs, 4 earned, over 5 1/3 frames, but LHP Brandon Mann gave up 2 runs in the 8th, and RHP Carlos Navas surrendered 3 runs without recording an out in the bottom of the 9th to suffer the loss as the Hounds lost in a walk-off. Designated hitter B.J. Boyd singled, doubled and drove in a pair, while left fielder Brett Vertigan had 2 hits and drove in a run for the RockHounds.

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Sunday, May 21st: Cotton Leads Sounds to Shutout Win while Fillmyer Pitches Hounds to Victory

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Jharel Cotton (7 IP / 3 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 9 K / Win)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Jharel Cotton (7 IP / 3 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 9 K / Win)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Nashville Sounds         4

Sacramento River Cats  0

WP – Cotton 2-0 / 2.25

HR – Olson (10)

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Jharel Cotton

(7 IP / 3 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 9 K / Win)

The Sounds shut out Sacramento for the second time in their last three games on Sunday. Starter Jharel Cotton delivered an impressive outing for Nashville, allowing just 3 hits while striking out 9 over 7 shutout innings to earn the win in his second appearance since being sent to the Sounds. RHP Michael Brady tossed 2 scoreless innings in relief to close out the 3-hit shutout on Sunday. First baseman Matt Olson had a big day at the plate, collecting 4 hits, including a home run and a double, while driving in 3 runs for Nashville. Third baseman Matt Chapman singled and doubled, while left fielder Kenny Wilson had a pair of hits and drove in a run, and center fielder Jaycob Brugman singled, walked and scored a run as the Sounds won for the third time in their last four games on Sunday.

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Meet Your 2018 Oakland A’s!

by Bill Moriarity / A’s Farm Editor

A's top prospect Franklin Barreto

Top prospect Franklin Barreto

Whatever happens with the A’s before the start of next season, one thing is certain – with many of the team’s current everyday players set to become free agents in the offseason, there’s bound to be plenty of turnover on the 25-man roster.

Center fielder Rajai Davis, first baseman Yonder Alonso, third baseman Trevor Plouffe, current shortstop Adam Rosales, as well as reliever John Axford, are all set to hit the free agent market in the offseason, and second baseman Jed Lowrie has a team option for 2018 and seems unlikely to return. Of course, most of these potential free agents are likely to be traded before the season is through but, one way or another, they’re all likely to be long-gone by the time 2018 rolls around.

The only regular position players in the starting lineup who are currently under team control for 2018 are outfielders Khris Davis and Matt Joyce, catcher Stephen Vogt, first baseman/designated hitter Ryon Healy and shortstop Marcus Semien, who will reclaim his starting shortstop role once he returns from the disabled list. Backup catcher Josh Phegley, utility infielder Chad Pinder and reserve outfielders Mark Canha and Jake Smolinski will also remain under team control for 2018. And the entire pitching staff, with the exception of Axford, will still be under control next year as well.

Of course, no one is ever certain what the A’s will do in the offseason, but it does seem as though the front office has structured this team to be ready for a big youth infusion next season – which could work well with the team’s stated intention of announcing plans for a new stadium before the end of the year.

So, disregarding any potential trades or free agent signings, let’s just assume that the A’s do decide to move forward with a full-on youth movement next season, stocking the roster with as many prospects as possible who are currently in the team’s minor league system. No one is saying that they will, or that they should, but just for the fun of it, let’s take a look at what a young, prospect-laden A’s team could potentially look like in 2018.

As previously mentioned, the pitching staff is already full of fairly young arms under team control, so any big changes would primarily involve position players, which is what we’ll mainly focus on here, though we will briefly touch on 2018’s potential pitching staff as well. It’s worth noting that every single position player proposed below for a potential prospect-laden A’s roster is currently age 29 or under, with Khris Davis the only potential everyday.player currently over the age of 26.

 

CATCHERS

Bruce Maxwell

Bruce Maxwell

The team’s current catching corps is set to be under team control for next year. 32-year-old Stephen Vogt is earning $2.965 million this season and will be eligible for arbitration for the second time in the offseason, while 29-year-old Josh Phegley is earning just $545,000 this year and will be arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason. With Vogt struggling so far this season and set to receive a raise through the arbitration system next year, this looks like an obvious spot to make a move to get younger. 26-year-old catcher Bruce Maxwell seems to have mastered Triple-A at this point, with a career slash line of .318/.386/.527 in the Pacific Coast League. And he’s looked fairly solid both at the plate and behind the plate during his 42 major league games for the A’s last year and this year. If the team does decide to put the left-handed-hitting Maxwell behind the dish next season, then it would make plenty of sense to keep Phegley around as his right-handed-hitting counterpart, and to try to make a deal to trade the popular Vogt either this summer or in the offseason to a club that’s looking for a little veteran catching help.

 

OUTFIELDERS

Jaycob Brugman

Jaycob Brugman

When we look at the A’s outfield picture for 2018, two things seem fairly certain: one Davis will stay and one Davis will go. 29-year-old left fielder Khris Davis, who’s hit 54 home runs since joining the A’s last season, is clearly the best-hitting outfielder on the A’s roster and seems likely to stick around. Davis is under team control for two more seasons, and he could serve as the most veteran presence on a young A’s squad next year while manning left field and holding down the cleanup spot. But 36-year-old center fielder Rajai Davis was always intended to serve as a one-year rental and is expected to depart via free agency in the offseason. One of last year’s other free agent signings, 32-year-old right fielder Matt Joyce, was signed to a two-year deal but has severely under-performed so far for the A’s. With one year left on his contract after this season, the team could try to foist him off on a contending club looking for a veteran left-handed bat, even if it means having to eat part of his deal. If the A’s do decide to go with a youth movement next year, there really won’t be much room on the roster for an under-achieving veteran outfielder with sub-par defensive skills. The A’s could replace Joyce in right field with 23-year-old slugger Matt Olson, who currently has 9 home runs, a .349 on-base percentage and a .508 slugging percentage for the Sounds while also leading the team with 19 walks. Olson has long been looked at as one of the top power-hitting prospects in the system and, though he’s mainly been playing first base for Nashville this season, he primarily played right field last year at Triple-A, has appeared at the position in half of his major league games, and has looked solid as a corner outfielder, where his strong arm can come in handy. Olson would immediately represent a defensive upgrade in the outfield and, potentially, an offensive one as well. When it comes to replacing Rajai in center, finding a successor in the A’s system could be tough since the A’s organization is sorely lacking in true center fielders, but there is one possible replacement who might be worth taking a chance on, and that’s Jaycob Brugman. Many in the A’s front office seem to feel that the 25-year-old is better-suited to serve as a part-time center fielder and really view him as more of a corner outfielder. And while he may not have the quickness and the range that one would ideally like to see in a true center fielder, it’s been a while since the A’s have had the luxury of having a true center fielder, and Brugman has shown a propensity for out-performing expectations at every level. He’s also experienced, having played more games in center field than at any other position in his minor league career. And while appearing in 154 games in center, Brugman has made just 2 errors at the position. Then there’s the fact that, while serving as the Sounds’ primary leadoff hitter, he’s boasting a .377/.441/.472 slash line this season since returning from the disabled list earlier this month. The former 17th-round draft pick has over-achieved at every minor league level, and he could do the same at the major league level as the A’s center fielder in 2018. It’s worth noting that Brugman and Olson are both left-handed hitters, but 28-year-old right-handed-hitting outfielders Mark Canha and Jake Smolinski both remain under team control for another few years and could be available to serve as platoon partners if needed.

 

INFIELDERS

Matt Chapman

Matt Chapman

The A’s could be due for the biggest turnover in the infield next year. 30-year-old first baseman Yonder Alonso, 30-year-old third baseman Trevor Plouffe, and soon-to-be-34-year-old utility infielder Adam Rosales are all expected to depart via free agency after the season, if they’re not dealt before then, while 33-year-old second baseman Jed Lowrie’s contract has a club option for 2018, which essentially puts him in the same boat as the rest. The only starting infielder expected to return is 26-year-old shortstop Marcus Semien, who remains under team control through 2020. Fortunately, the A’s do have some talented young players to put around him in the infield, including top prospects Matt Chapman and Franklin Barreto as well as a number of other promising young players. The 24-year-old Chapman has been the A’s top third base prospect since the day the team made him its top draft pick in June of 2014. He hit 23 home runs in just 304 at-bats for Stockton in 2015, mashed 36 between Midland and Nashville last year, and has hit 8 in just 88 at-bats while boasting a .557 slugging percentage so far this season for the Sounds. And to top it off, Chapman is also considered a top defender at the hot corner with an elite throwing arm. Widely considered to be the A’s top hitting prospect, Barreto just turned 21 a few months ago, but he’s already been tearing it up at Triple-A this year, putting up an impressive .320/.369/.510 slash line for the Sounds so far this season. Though Barreto has spent most of his time at the shortstop position, he’s also seen some time at second base, and many in the A’s front office have openly talked about the likelihood of him having to make the move to the other side of the bag, where the A’s are likely to soon have an opening. 25-year-old infielder Ryon Healy debuted with a bang for Oakland last season, posting a .305/.337/.524 slash line for the A’s. He’s been hitting at a more average pace so far this season while primarily serving in the designated hitter role, but Healy still holds plenty of promise. And given the chance to move out of the DH spot and play every day in the field at first base for the A’s in 2018 could be just what he needs to get back on track and really show what he can do. And speaking of designated hitters, 23-year-old slugger Renato Nunez has spent most of his minor league career playing third base, but since Matt Chapman has returned to health at Nashville, Nunez has been spending most of his time alternating between left field and the designated hitter spot for the Sounds. Nunez’s power has always been real, and he currently leads his team in home runs and doubles with 10 of each while sporting a .536 slugging percentage, and he even managed to hit a ball clear out of First Tennessee Park in Thursday night’s game. With his power bat and his defensive deficiencies, Nunez seems perfectly-suited to serve in the designated hitter role. And in a limited sample so far this season, 25-year-old infielder Chad Pinder has looked like one of the A’s best hitters. He’s gotten starts at shortstop, at second base, in the outfield and as the designated hitter so far for the A’s, and he’s also spent time at third base in college and in the minors. Pinder’s versatility could make him well-suited for a super-utility role, spelling Barreto at second, Semien at short and Chapman at third, while also filling in in the outfield and as well as in the designated hitter spot. We all know how much the A’s value versatility, and Pinder’s positional flexibility could make him a valuable piece for a young A’s team in 2018.

 

PITCHERS

Kendall Graveman

Kendall Graveman

As mentioned earlier, the major turnover for the A’s next year is likely to be on the position-player front, and that’s primarily because Oakland’s pitching staff is already full of fairly young arms who will be under team control for years to come. The organization currently has a dozen starting pitchers at the major league or Triple-A level who will all still be in their 20’s next year and will remain under team control for multiple years, with Sonny Gray the first to be eligible for free agency after the 2019 season. These pitchers (with their current ages in parentheses) include: Sonny Gray (27), Kendall Graveman (26), Sean Manaea (25), Andrew Triggs (28), Jesse Hahn (27), Jharel Cotton (25), Chris Bassitt (28), Daniel Mengden (24), Raul Alcantara (24), Daniel Gossett (24), Paul Blackburn (23) and Zach Neal (28). That represents a fair number of fairly decent young arms who still have the potential to get much better and will remain under control for years to come. That’s not even mentioning all the talented young arms the A’s currently have below the Triple-A level, including 24-year-old RHP Corey Walter and 21-year-old RHP Grant Holmes at Midland, and 22-year-old LHP A.J. Puk and 22-year-old RHP Logan Shore at Stockton. That should give the A’s plenty of pitching options to choose from in 2018 and beyond. As for the bullpen, it looks like that’s where most of the veterans may be found for the 2018 A’s. 34-year-old RHP John Axford is the only reliever eligible for free agency in the offseason, which means that most members of the A’s bullpen could be returning, including RHPs Ryan Madson, Santiago Casilla, Liam Hendriks, Ryan Dull and Frankie Montas, along with LHPs Sean Doolittle and Daniel Coulombe, all of whom remain under team control for 2018. Of course, 25-year-old RHP Bobby Wahl and 29-year-old RHP Josh Smith, who are both currently auditioning for the A’s, could also be options, as could 26-year-old RHP Tucker Healy, who’s currently sporting a 1.29 ERA for Nashville.

 

As mentioned earlier, this isn’t necessarily a prescription, but just a look at what could happen if they A’s do decide to move forward with a full-on youth movement next season. Of course, if the team does decide to deal potential free agents like Alonso, Plouffe, Lowrie, Rosales, Rajai Davis and Axford, or possibly even veterans like Vogt and Joyce, before the season’s through, that could net a number of new prospects in return who could potentially fill even more holes on a talented young A’s team next year. But, whatever happens, it’s certain that there will be a lot of new faces on the 2018 A’s, and most likely, many of them will be much younger faces.

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