Tag: Jharel Cotton

Talking with a Trio of Top A’s Prospects: Chapman, Gossett & Maxwell

IMG_3715bLast week at the A’s major league spring training camp in Mesa, we took the opportunity to chat with a trio of top A’s prospects, all of whom made our pre-season Top 10 Prospects List.

We caught up with catcher Bruce Maxwell and third baseman Matt Chapman, both of whom we’d spoken with a number of times before. And we also got the chance to speak with pitching prospect Daniel Gossett for the first time.

Maxwell and Chapman both spent plenty of time in the major league camp last spring, but it was the first time in big league camp for Gossett, who was clearly excited and enthusiastic about the opportunity.

After getting the chance to appear in three spring games, Gossett was reassigned to the A’s minor league camp the day after we spoke, but both Maxwell and Chapman are likely to remain with the major league squad till just prior to opening day.

 

MATT CHAPMAN

mc656305c#2 on our Top 10 Prospects List, third baseman Matt Chapman led all A’s minor leaguers with 36 home runs last season, slugging 29 at Double-A Midland to lead the Texas League and then adding another 7 in just a few weeks with Triple-A Nashville. 2014’s top draft pick for the A’s is also known as a top-tier defender at the hot corner with an elite throwing arm. The 23-year-old will start the year at Nashville, where he’ll try to prove to the A’s that he’s ready for the show sooner rather than later.

AF:  Well, it was a very solid season for you last year. You managed to hit 29 home runs while playing at Midland, which is considered to be a bit of a pitchers’ park. So how did you manage to keep your power numbers up going from Stockton to Midland when so few other guys have been able to do that?

MC:  Just really working with the coaches, swinging at the right pitches, getting good pitches to hit, and just letting your good swing take care of the rest. For me, working hard in the weight room and getting my strength up, and just trying to put good swings on the ball. I’m just going to keep trying to take good swings and letting the results happen.

AF:  You obviously kept your power swing going when you got a late-season promotion to Triple-A Nashville and hit seven more home runs in just a few weeks there. So how did you feel about your experience there?

MC:  It was fun. Every level you go up, there’s different challenges and different adjustments you need to make, so it was fun to kind of get a taste of that. And I’m assuming that’s where I’ll be this season. So it’ll be nice to have a little bit of experience and kind of know what to expect a little more this time around.

AF:  Making the move from High-A to Double-A and Triple-A last year, were there any particular adjustments you had to make against more advanced pitching?

MC:  Definitely, you’re always making adjustments. That’s something in baseball that I don’t think will ever stop. So for me, it might be just making those adjustments a little faster, because the pitchers have a plan of how they want to attack you. So for me, it’s just sticking with that professional approach and being able to not give in to those good pitches those pitchers are making.

AF:  Was having the chance to spend plenty of time in big league camp last year a helpful experience for

you? And did it boost your confidence a bit heading into the season?

MC:  Definitely. Being around these guys and trying to learn as much as I could was definitely a great experience – and also having some success and then being able to have that confidence that you are good enough to play at a higher level.

AF:  So how’s it been being back here in big league camp for your second year? Do you feel a little more comfortable this time around?

MC:  Definitely. It’s always nice to get some of that experience under your belt, so that when you come back again, you know what to expect, you kind of develop more of a routine, you know the guys a little bit better, put some more names to faces, and feel more comfortable just being yourself. It’s been fun.

AF:  Is there anything that the coaching staff has you working on in particular this spring?

MC:  From an offensive standpoint, my rhythm and timing – just really working on dialing in that good rhythm and good timing. And pitch selection – just being disciplined and really committing to getting the pitch that I’m looking for – and kind of just developing that professional hitting approach.

AF:  Now you’re known for your solid defense and your strong arm. So how confident do you feel out there in the field at third base?

MC:  I’m definitely confident. You should always be confident in your abilities, because when you’re confident, you play your best. And at this level, you should always want to play your best. So you should always be confident and believe in yourself. I’m definitely very confident in my ability on defense and err on the side of attacking every baseball.

AF:  So what are you focused on and what’s your mindset heading into this coming season?

MC:  My mindset coming into this season is to take everything that I’ve been working on this season in big league camp, everything that I learned from last season, successes and failures, and hopefully combine all those together and formulate the best version of me that I can be, then take that into the beginning of this season and go out there every day and try to get better and show them I’m ready to make the next step.

 

DANIEL GOSSETT

dg605254c#7 on our Top 10 Prospects List, right-handed starting pitcher Daniel Gossett blew through three levels of the A’s system last season, making as much progress as any pitcher in the organization, and his 151 strikeouts led all A’s minor leaguers last year. Oakland’s 2nd-round draft pick in 2014 (selected by the A’s right after Matt Chapman), the 24-year-old is set to begin the year as a member of the starting rotation at Triple-A Nashville but, depending on how things go, he could end up getting a shot to show what he can do in Oakland before the season’s through.

AF:  You made a big leap forward last season, pitching well at Stockton, Midland and then Nashville. So what accounted for your progress last year, what clicked for you?

DG:  I really focused on just staying with the process, trusting my stuff, and not trying to do too much. And now I get to be around all these guys [in the A’s major league camp], so I get to learn a ton every day. So this is an awesome experience for me. If I can just grab on to everything I learn here and just apply it, it’s going to be the best thing for me.

AF:  I was just about to ask what it’s been like for you to be in big league camp for the first time this spring.

DG:  It’s everything you dream of. This is the dream for everyone. Obviously I haven’t made it to the big leagues yet, but this is obviously a step up in spring training. And I’m honored and excited to be a part of all this and to be around all these guys and to learn as much as I can.

AF:  Has anyone here taken you under their wing a bit or been particularly helpful to you this spring?

DG:  I try and pick as many brains as I can and talk to everyone I can. But Sean Manaea’s been a rock for me, so that helps out a ton. I get to sit by him every day and ask him anything. I feel like he’s a good friend that I can lean on.

AF:  That’s funny because he was the new kid here just last year!

DG:  I guess he understands what I’m going through, so he can kind of look out for me a little bit as well.

AF:  So what was it like when you got out there on the mound in your first spring training game facing big league hitters for the first time?

DG:  Well the first one was actually a start – it was the home opener! It was the first time I’d ever pitched in a big league scenario and I’m starting the game. So there was a little anxiety, but it was awesome. It was great to be on the mound in a big league uniform. It’s still not the real deal, but it’s definitely a cool experience.

AF:  Let’s talk a little bit about your repertoire. What were you throwing last year and what was really working for you?

DG:  I was really able to work off my fastball, which was really good. My fastball control was pretty good. But then I was able to work on my changeup, which has been a staple for me. And then I added a cutter last year, which actually helped out a ton – another option to go to. So adding that pitch really helped out a lot. And [A’s minor league pitching coordinator] Gil Patterson and a guy who was in Stockton with me last year, Brett Graves, helped me out a ton with the cutter. I’ve just got to keep refining and keep working to see if I can make it a little bit better every day.

AF:  Well, in addition to Gil Patterson, you also had three different pitching coaches throughout the system to work with over the course of last season.

DG:  So I had Steve Connelly my first couple years. I had him in Vermont, then I had him in Beloit, then I had him in Stockton. And so that was great to have a building block there, a good firm relationship I could always lean on. Then I go up to Double-A at Midland and then Triple-A with Rick Rodriguez. And just getting different perspectives on pitching is awesome. These guys, that’s their job – they understand, they’ve been there. So I can learn from them and take different aspects from them and put it all together.

AF:  So how were those different parks for you to have to pitch in? Stockton’s known as a hitters’ park, while Midland and Nashville are known a little more as pitchers’ parks.

DG:  Oh yeah, Stockton and the whole Cal League is definitely a hitters’ league. But you’ve just got to trust in the process – just keep pitching and everything else is outside your control, so just control what you can. And I just try to see if I can wheel out the best I’ve got every day.

AF:  As you moved through three different levels last year, were there any significant adjustments that you needed to make moving from one level to another?

DG:  In Triple-A, definitely. You’ve got a bunch of guys up there with a ton of big league time, and they all have great approaches. And you’re not going to get many swings and misses out of the zone – you have to be good in the zone. Coming from Double-A and High-A, and I’m not trying to talk down about anyone, but I was getting more swings and misses out of the zone. Then you go up to Triple-A and you’ve got to be nasty in the zone, and that’s a bit of an adjustment.

AF:  You’ve got to work in the danger zone all the time!

DG:  Yeah, you’re always living right there on the edge, that’s for sure!

AF:  Even though you weren’t there for very long at the end of last year, how did you enjoy your time in Nashville?

DG:  Unbelievable! Everything there is great. Everything gets better the more you move up, that’s just the way it is. But Nashville’s got a brand new stadium, awesome fans, great city – there’s no down side. It’s really close to home for me too, five hours away, which is fantastic, so I got to spend some more time with my family.

AF:  I guess you didn’t miss all those bus rides across Texas when you were down at Midland.

DG:  That’s true. That’s not a bad deal. Going from the Texas League where I’ve got 12-hour bus rides, then [at Nashville] you’re jumping on a plane to head down to Louisiana. That’s fine with me. I’m not going to complain about that, that’s for sure.

AF:  So if you should end up starting the year back at Nashville, I guess that wouldn’t be such a bad thing then.

DG:  Absolutely. If I start the year playing baseball, that’s a good year!

AF:  So what are you focused on here the rest of the spring?

DG:  I just need to work on some consistency stuff. I need to be consistent in the zone. Just trust myself, that’s the biggest thing. Knowing that I’m facing big league hitters, sometimes I feel like I need to do more, but that’s not the case. You’ve got to do what you do and do it the best you can.

 

BRUCE MAXWELL

bm622194b#8 on our Top 10 Prospects List, Maxwell had a breakthrough 2016 season at Nashville and made his major league debut last July with Oakland, where he made a positive impression on manager Bob Melvin and the A’s coaching staff. The 26-year-old backstop is expected to start the season back at Triple-A Nashville, but if another catcher is needed on the major league squad at any point during the season, then Maxwell will likely be the first man to get the call.

AF:  You made a big leap forward offensively at Nashville last season. So what accounted for the improvements that you were able to make at the plate last year?

BM:  I feel like it was just trusting in the process, and learning from the guys who helped me, whether it be my coaches or my teammates, and just trusting in the hitter that I am, and finally getting enough at-bats to really put into play what I do best and stick to that. So once I had the confidence and the repetitions and the trust in the process, I was able to just kind of let my talent take over.

AF:  And what is it that you feel you do best as a hitter and what is the approach that works for you?

BM:  For the most part, I’m a big strong guy and I have power to all fields, keeping in mind that I use the opposite field very well, and to really try to perfect that craft of mine, so I can always rely on that at the end of the day. So being able to stay confident with that and not switch up my game depending on the pitcher or the situation in the game was my biggest thing. Sticking with that on a daily basis has really made me the consistent hitter that I know I can be and I know they know I can be.

AF:  Last spring, you had the chance to spend a lot of time in the big league camp. I’m sure that was a great experience fo you, but how important was it in terms of developing even more confidence in your own abilities and your own game?

BM:  It was huge…last year I got to show them what I’ve been working on and show them that I do belong and how I’ve come a long way catching-wise. So it was good to get that exposure…and put a good run in in spring. And it really helped me going into the season.

AF:  When you left the big league squad last spring, did Bob Melvin or the coaching staff have anything to say to you or any advice they left you with?

BM:  Yeah, they told me to keep doing what I was doing…and they just told me to make sure that I keep progressing behind the dish and the hitting will take care of itself. They just told me to keep with a good routine, keep my head on straight and just keep plugging away.

AF:  Well, we know there’s always work to do on the catching side, and you’ve obviously done a lot of that already. But where do you feel you’re at with your catching game at this point?

BM:  Honestly, I feel like I’m the best I’ve been. I feel comfortable back there…and I know my pitchers feel confident in me, especially a lot of the guys in Triple-A. I’ve got a good rep with a lot of the big league guys as well because I caught a lot of them in camp last year. And so it’s just about staying on top of it every day.

AF:  So are there any particular aspects that you’re really focused on or trying to work on behind the plate at this point?

BM:  Just making sure that I stay mobile, making sure my pitchers have a nice big target, and making sure that I just stay sharp with the little things back there. Me being as big as I am, the little things are what matter the most. So just trying to make sure those are on point every day, and trying to make sure that my pitchers have the best opportunity to throw strikes and have a big target and can be as confident and comfortable as they can be with me.

AF:  Coming out of college, you really hadn’t done a whole lot of catching at that point. And the main focus when you came into the A’s system was really getting you up to speed with your catching. So how does it feel to now be the #3 catcher on the depth chart for the A’s right there near the top of the food chain?

BM:  It feels good. When I started catching, it seemed like a long way off. I feel that I’ve learned and I’ve applied stuff and put it to use every day. And now my confidence is up there, so it feels good.

AF:  Let me get your quick take, as a catcher, on a few of the pitchers who’ve been here in camp with you this spring. I don’t know if you’ve gotten the chance to catch Jharel Cotton much. I know you didn’t get a chance to catch him at Nashville last year because you were already up in the big leagues when he came over.

BM:  Well I’ve played against Cotton for years. So I’ve known Cotton going on four years now. But he’s a competitor. On any given day, he’s going to go out there and give you his best effort. His pitches are very good, especially when he’s dialed in. And it’s fun to play behind him – he’s got a good pace. It’s his job to make hitters struggle, and that’s what he does. He has a good repertoire of pitches, and he’s a bulldog, so he’s going to go after you with everything he’s got and give you the best chance to win.

AF:  And what about that changeup of his?

BM:  It’s great! It’s not great to hit against him, but catching it’s not so bad.

AF:  And what are your impressions of Frankie Montas?

BM:  He’s kind of the same except he throws 100 mph. He’s got a really good breaking ball, and his changeup’s really good, but his fastball’s dominant. He goes out there cool, calm and collected, and he gives it everything he’s got. He attacks you – he forces you to make an adjustment and then, as soon as you make that adjustment, he makes the adjustment. So he’s strong mentally and even stronger physically.

AF:  And have you had the chance to work with Daniel Gossett yet?

BM:  I’ve caught him one time. But from what I know about him and what I’ve seen, he’s an aggressive pitcher. He’s got confidence in all his pitches. He’s just going to go right after you. He works around the corners and he works down in the zone very well.

AF:  So after having had the chance to be here before, do you feel a little more comfortable and a little more confident at this point?

BM:  It feels good. I feel like I have a good relationship with a lot of these guys. A lot of the guys in this room, I’ve played at Triple-A and Double-A with. But Yonder Alonso and Marcus Semien and a lot of guys I’ve developed good relationships with, so it feels like I belong here.

AF:  Last year, you were with the big league club pretty much till the very end, and you’ll probably be with them till the very end again this year. So whatever happens, wherever you end up, what’s your mindset heading into this season?

BM:  To keep aggressive…everybody wants to get better and better every year. So this year, it’s about repeating what I did last year, and just getting a little more refined in certain aspects, and just being the catcher I know I can be and my pitching staff knows I can be, and just winning a championship whether it be at Triple-A or in the big leagues.

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Talking Top Prospects with A’s Assistant GM Dan Feinstein

A's Asst GM Dan Feinstein (photo: J.Meric/Getty)

A’s assistant GM Dan Feinstein (photo:J.Meric/Getty)

While still in college at UC Davis in 1994, Dan Feinstein got his foot in the door of the baseball world by landing an internship in the Oakland A’s media relations department. He then ended up spending nearly a decade as the team’s video coordinator before eventually getting the chance to serve as an amateur scouting assistant for the A’s in 2004.

Feinstein took the opportunity to join the Dodgers front office in 2005 when former A’s assistant general manager Paul DePodesta became that team’s general manager, but he wound up moving on to Tampa Bay, where he spent six seasons as the director of baseball operations under former Rays general manager Andrew Friedman.

The northern California native eventually returned to the A’s just prior to the 2012 season, and he was promoted to assistant general manager, professional scouting and player personnel in late 2015.

His duties currently include assisting executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane and general manager David Forst with all aspects of baseball operations, including contracts, trades, the construction of major and minor league rosters and arbitration, and he also oversees the team’s international scouting department. But we wanted to take the opportunity to get Feinstein’s inside perspective on some of the A’s top prospects, specifically the top five A’s prospects from A’s Farm’s recent top prospects list

 

AF:  Well, at the top of just about everyone’s A’s prospects list this year is infielder Franklin Barreto. He had a great spring in the big league camp before gettng sent over to the minor league complex, and he’s obviously getting very close to being in the major leagues. What excites you most about him, and what does he still need to work on to get his game where it needs to be?

DF:  Well, one thing we’ll talk about with a few of these guys…is that, even though he’s been with us for a little while now, he’s still just barely 21 years old – he turned 21 during this spring training. So it’s something we have to be mindful of, just how young he is, and how above his age he’s played at virtually every level he’s been at. He’s a fairly quiet kid but extremely confident. He’s a very advanced hitter for his age, excellent hand-eye coordination and bat speed. He has the ability to drive the ball to all fields. He’s a really talented young bat.

AF:  Should we expect to be seeing him getting time at both shortstop and second base this year at Nashville?

DF:  Yeah, we certainly think he has enough arm and range to stay at shortstop but, for the immediate future, he’ll probably be able to make the biggest impact at second base. He has very good hands. He’s still learning the nuances of playing the middle of the diamond. I know he’s spent a good deal of time this spring training just making sure that he has the proper footwork and that he’s getting in a strong position to throw. We certainly see him as a shortstop in the future, but he may have his biggest impact at second base this season.

AF:  So would you say that the primary focus for him in terms of improvement this season is more on his defense than on his offense then?

DF:  Yeah, I think that’s probably the case.

AF:  Okay, let’s move on to #2 on our list, and that’s third baseman Matt Chapman. First of all, we know his power is real since he managed to keep his power numbers up at Midland last year, which very few guys seem to be able to do. But he maybe needs to make a little more consistent contact. So what do you like about what you’ve been seeing out of Chapman at this point and what do you need to see out of him at Nashville this season to feel that he’s really major-league ready?

DF:  Matt is a really underrated athlete. He plays a really stellar third base. He’s kind of emerged as one of the best defensive third baseman in all of the minor leagues. He could probably play anywhere on the field if you let him.

AF:  Well, he did used to pitch in college too, right?

DF:  Yeah, and he threw really hard! I mentioned his athleticism, but also his bat speed, the strength in his hands and wrists, and his natural ability to defend. He’s got above-average range at third base. He’s got an extremely strong and accurate arm. There are just so many things to like about him. He did go to Triple-A [late last season], and all his stats might not have been exactly what he would have liked, but he still managed to hit 36 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A, and his power numbers didn’t drop off at all in his short stint in Triple-A.

AF:  Are there any adjustments that are being made to his swing or his approach at this point?

DF:  This spring, I know he’s made it a point to try to be a little more selective and really identify the pitches that he can attack.

AF:  So it sounds like pitch selection is really the main thing that he needs to focus on at this point then.

DF:  Probably, yeah.

AF:  #3 on our list is your 1st-round pick from last year, LHP A.J. Puk. I know you might not have even expected to have the chance to take him in the draft. But now that you’ve gotten him into system and you guys have gotten the chance to really get a good look at him, what are your impressions of him now? And I know when Sonny Gray was drafted, he needed to work on the changeup and maybe clean up some of his mechanics, so what do you have to work on with Puk to get him where he needs to be?

DF:  Well, first, A.J. has a rare combination of size and stuff from the left side. You just don’t see a whole lot of 6’7” left-handed pitchers with his kind of stuff. He has the ability to leverage the fastball downhill. He does have an out-pitch breaking ball. He certainly has the ingredients of a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher. In college, he was primarily fastball/slider. That’s mostly what we saw last spring. It’s really all he needed in college – he would throw an occasional changeup. This spring, he has gone back to a pitch that he threw early on in his college career. He’s got a curveball that we hadn’t really seen much of before. It’s a more true downward break, and that has the chance to be an out-pitch as well. Some of the things he’s working on here: certainly advancing his changeup and making it a more usable third or fourth pitch, being more efficient with his pitches and, like every young player, he’s just adjusting to the daily rigors of his first full professional season – setting his schedule, getting into the weight room, managing his nutrition and that kind of thing.

AF:  Okay, #4 on our list is RHP Jharel Cotton. The A’s got him last summer from the Dodgers. I know you guys have had the chance to get a much better look at him here this spring, and I’m sure you’ve liked a lot of what you’ve seen out of him so far. He certainly seems to be abe to fool a lot of hitters, especially with that changeup of his. So how are you feeling about him at this point and his possible role as a member of the A’s starting rotation going forward in the coming years?

DF:  We were excited to acquire him in the trade, and he continued to perform exceptionally well in Nashville when we got him. And then he came up and made five outstanding starts in the major leagues in September. He’s as confident a young man as you’ll see on the mound, and he does have a pretty exceptional changeup. It’s safe to say it’s one of, if not the best, changeups in our entire organization.

AF:  And finally, #5 on our list is RHP Frankie Montas. He also came over from the Dodgers last summer, but he’d been injured, and I know you didn’t really get to see a lot of him until the Arizona Fall League. So now that you’ve gotten a good look at him, what’s your evaluation of him? And since he really didn’t pitch many innings last year, what’s the plan for him going forward into this season?

DF: His fastball and slider both come as advertised. It’s an easy 97-98 mph pretty consistently this spring, and then the slider’s a real wipeout pitch for him. The onus is going to be on the coaching staff and us in the front office to manage his innings this year after coming off a real shortened season last year, and making sure that we can get the most out of him and get him through a full season healthy.

AF:  Now I know originally there was a lot of talk about having him working as a starter at Nashville this year, but Billy Beane has recently been quoted talking about him working out of the bullpen. Has that all been worked out yet? Is he likely to start the year working as a reliever or is he going to have a chance to start?

DF:  We’re not sure yet. It’s something that we’re going to discuss with the coaches over these last two weeks and figure out not only what’s best for his development but what the best makeup of our 25-man roster is. Something that he’s working on, the biggest thing, is the continued development of his third pitch – because we still believe he’s a starting pitcher – and to continue to develop that changeup and make it a real usable complement to his fastball and slider.

AF:  Okay, great. Thanks a lot for all that input!

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A’s Farm’s 2017 Top 10 Prospects List

Former top prospect Sean Manaea – who will be the next A’s prospect to make it big?

Former top prospect Sean Manaea – who will be the next A’s prospect to make it big?

Now that spring training is officially underway, it’s time to present A’s Farm’s 2017 Top 10 Prospects List.

It’s interesting to note that only four players from last year’s list have made a return to this year’s list, including familiar names like Franklin Barreto, Matt Chapman, Matt Olson and Chad Pinder. New to this year’s list are five pitchers – A.J. Puk, Jharel Cotton, Frankie Montas, Grant Holmes and Daniel Gossett – along with catcher Bruce Maxwell.

Dropping off last year’s list were pitcher Sean Manaea, who’s successfully joined the ranks of the majors, pitcher Dillon Overton and catcher Jacob Nottingham, both of whom left the organization via trades, and shortstop Richie Martin, infielder Yairo Munoz and third baseman Renato Nunez, who fell off due to some declines in performance last year. Though, having said that, Nunez easily could have found his way on to the bottom part of this year’s list, as could young right-handers Daulton Jefferies, Logan Shore and Dakota Chalmers, all of whom just barely missed out on making this year’s top 10.

Unlike last year, when eight of our top 10 picks were position players, things are evenly divided with five pitchers and five position players this year. And a sign of just how close most of the A’s top prospects really are at this point is the fact that a full seven of this year’s top 10 prospects are expected to start the season at Triple-A Nashville, just one step away from the majors.

Of all the various top 10 lists of A’s prospects that are currently out there, it’s our feeling that Baseball America and John Sickels, as well as the readers of Athletics Nation in their Community Prospect List, have come the closest to getting it right this year. But without any further ado, let’s take a look at A’s Farm’s 2017 Top 10 Prospects List

 

A’S FARM’S 2017 TOP 10 PROSPECTS LIST

#1 – Franklin Barreto (SS)

#2 – Matt Chapman (3B)

#3 – A.J. Puk (LHP)

#4 – Jharel Cotton (RHP)

#5 – Frankie Montas (RHP)

#6 – Grant Holmes (RHP)

#7 – Daniel Gossett (RHP)

#8 – Bruce Maxwell (C)

#9 – Matt Olson (1B-OF)

#10 – Chad Pinder (SS-2B)

Honorable Mention – Renato Nunez, Daulton Jefferies, Logan Shore, Dakota Chalmers

 

fb620439b#1 FRANKLIN BARRETO

Right-Handed-Hitting Shortstop

Age on Opening Day: 21

Signed as International Free Agent

Still just 21, Barreto is the youngest position player on this year’s top 10 list and is already universally recognized as the top prospect in the A’s minor league system. For the second consecutive season, the young Venezuelan got off to a bit of a slow start in the first half but then really caught fire during the second half. He posted a disappointing .236/.296/.350 slash line in the first half for Midland, but then came back to put up an impressive .337/.393/.490 line in the second half for the RockHounds. And while Barreto’s overall power numbers dipped a bit last year, which is not totally unsurprising for someone going from the homer-happy California League to the pitchers’ paradise of the Texas League, his plate discipline, his defense, and even his threat level on the base paths all improved last season. His walk total more than doubled, while his stolen base total went from 8 in 2015 to 30 in 2016 (most among A’s minor leaguers), and his error total dropped from 34 to 19 despite appearing in 244 more innings in the field last year. Barreto still needs to improve his discipline at the plate, and while relatively small at just 5-10, the hope is that he’ll continue to develop enough strength to be able to demonstrate power beyond his size. In the best of all possible worlds, one could envision him as a Venezuelan version of Miguel Tejada – which the A’s would be more than happy with! While Barreto’s played primarily at shortstop throughout his minor league career, he did appear in 33 games at second base last season. And he’ll probably continue to see at least a little more time there this year at Nashville, since most expect that Barreto’s immediate future in Oakland will most likely lie at second base.

Likely To Start 2017 With: Nashville Sounds (AAA)

 

mc656305c#2 MATT CHAPMAN

Right-Handed-Hitting Third Baseman

Age on Opening Day: 23

Drafted 2014 – 1st Round

The A’s top draft pick in 2014 out of Cal State Fullerton, Chapman arrived with a reputation as a rifle-armed third baseman with lots of power potential – and he’s certainly lived up to that advance billing. Most scouts currently consider the 23-year-old to be a top-tier defender at the hot corner with an elite throwing arm. Last season, he slugged 36 home runs, most of them while playing in the power-suppressing environment at Midland, and also added 27 doubles and 5 triples to his extra-base totals. And in 269 games since joining the A’s system, Chapman has clubbed a total of 64 round-trippers – nearly one every four games. There’s no question that when he makes contact, the ball is bound to go a long way – the question is how much contact he will make. In addition to his 36 home runs in 2016, Chapman also struck out 173 times last season while posting a batting average of just .237, though his walk rate did tick up just a bit last year. But the bottom line with Chapman is this – with his natural power and his prowess in the field, he should be able to bring enough to the table to make himself a valuable major league contributor, though his contact rate will determine just how valuable. He made an extremely positive impression on A’s manager Bob Melvin last spring. And along with Barreto, who will also be starting out the season in Nashville, the A’s hope that Chapman will help to form the heart of a talented and exciting young infield for Oakland beginning in 2018.

Likely To Start 2017 With: Nashville Sounds (AAA)

 

ap640462b#3 A.J. PUK

Left-Handed Pitcher

Age on Opening Day: 21

Drafted 2016 – 1st Round

The A’s took Puk with the 6th overall selection in last year’s draft after he’d previously been considered a possible #1 pick. He came to the A’s system as a flame-throwing lefty out of Florida with top-of-the-rotation potential whose fastball had been clocked as high as 99 mph in college. There have been some questions about the 6-7 southpaw’s mechanics and athleticism, as well as whether or not his slider really has the potential to play in a big way at the major league level. But the Iowa native struck out an average of 11 batters per 9 innings while allowing an average of just 6 hits and putting up an ERA of 3.03 during his inaugural season with Vermont in the New York-Penn League. He did turn in just 32 2/3 innings during his pro debut last year though, so our sample size of his work since joining the A’s system has been rather limited. Puk struck out the side in order in his first major league spring training game against Cleveland, but then allowed a home run and a pair of walks in his next appearance before being reassigned to the A’s minor league camp. The question is where the A’s, who’ve been fairly aggressive in the assignment of their high draft picks lately, will choose to have Puk start the 2017 season. It’s anybody’s guess, but the informed speculation thus far has seemed to center on Stockton. His ability to show consistency and maintain his mechanics throughout spring training, and how much work the A’s staff still feels needs to be done in that regard, may have a lot to do with where Puk ultimately winds up to start 2017.

Likely To Start 2017 With: Stockton Ports (A+)

 

jc605194c#4 JHAREL COTTON

Right-Handed Pitcher

Age on Opening Day: 25

Drafted 2012 – 20th Round

Of all the players on our top 10 list this year, Cotton is the only one to have been drafted lower than the 2nd round in the amateur draft; he wasn’t selected until the 20th round by the Dodgers in 2012. The 25-year-old over-achiever is also the most likely member of our top 10 list to open the season on the A’s roster in 2017. Cotton arrived last summer, along with fellow right-handers Frankie Montas and Grant Holmes, from the Dodgers in the Josh Reddick/Rich Hill deal. And in just his second start in the A’s system, he came within one out of pitching a perfect game for Nashville. Cotton ended up earning the Pacific Coast League strikeout crown with 155 K’s in 135 2/3 innings of work. And his strong showing at Nashville earned Cotton 5 late-season starts with the A’s, where he impressed by striking out 23 in 29 1/3 innings while posting a stingy 2.15 ERA. Cotton’s currently expected to open the 2017 season as Oakland’s #4 starter. And the A’s hope that the mid-90s fastball and solid changeup that have enabled Cotton to fool hitters at the minor league level will allow him to experience continued success at the major league level as well.

Likely To Start 2017 With: Oakland A’s (MLB)

 

fm593423c#5 FRANKIE MONTAS

Right-Handed Pitcher

Age on Opening Day: 24

Signed as International Free Agent

The only member of the trio of arms the A’s acquired from Dodgers in the Josh Reddick/Rich Hill deal last summer to have actual major league experience at the time, Montas made 7 appearances for the White Sox in 2015 before being dealt to the Dodgers prior to the 2016 season. Injuries sidelined Montas for all but 7 games last season, but he appeared plenty healthy just a few months ago when he returned to action in the Arizona Fall League and allowed just 1 earned run over 17 innings of work for the Mesa Solar Sox. The Dominican flame-thrower boasts a 100+ mph fastball and has struck out an average of 9.3 batters per 9 innings over his minor league career, though his command can occasionally be an issue. In the past, he’s appeared as both a starter and a reliever, but the A’s are planning on utilizing Montas in a starting role this season. The thinking is that if he can harness his talent, his stuff could make him an intimidating starter. He’ll get the chance to show what he can do every fifth day at Nashville and, if Montas can just learn to master his potentially overpowering stuff, it might not be long before he gets a long look in Oakland.

Likely To Start 2017 With: Nashville Sounds (AAA)

 

gh656550#6 GRANT HOLMES

Right-Handed Pitcher

Age on Opening Day: 21

Drafted 2014 – 1st Round

The Dodgers 1st-round pick in the 2014 draft, Holmes was the youngest arm the A’s received from the Dodgers last summer in the Josh Reddick/Rich Hill deal and, at just a month younger than Barreto, is also the youngest player on our prospect list this year. Holmes was a highly-coveted high school hurler out of South Carolina who reportedly received a $2.5 million signing bonus in 2014. He got off to a good start in the Dodgers system, putting up a 3.32 ERA while striking out 10.4 batters per 9 innings over his first two seasons in the minors. He was a little less impressive while pitching in the hitter-friendly confines of the California League last year, posting a 4.63 ERA while his strikeout rate fell to 8.3 per 9. But it’s important to keep in mind that, at the age of 20, Holmes was one of the youngest hurlers in the Cal League last season. There’s no question that Holmes is a big, strong kid with tremendous upside whom many evaluators consider to be the top pitching prospect in the A’s system behind Puk. And Baseball Prospectus currently considers him the A’s top pitching prospect and second-best overall prospect behind Barreto. Holmes will likely start his age-21 season pitching in Midland, which is a much more friendly environment for pitchers to perform in than the homer-happy California League. And if, while there, he can manage to improve his command and make some progress when it comes to developing his secondary pitches, then it could be a quick ascent up the ladder for the talented young righty.

Likely To Start 2017 With: Midland RockHounds (AA)

 

dg605254c#7 DANIEL GOSSETT

Right-Handed Pitcher

Age on Opening Day: 24

Drafted 2014 – 2nd Round

The A’s 2nd-round pick out of Clemson in 2014, Gossett made as much progress as any pitcher in the A’s system in 2016. His first full season at Beloit wasn’t particularly impressive, but after putting up a 4.73 ERA for the Snappers back in 2015, Gossett started off 2016 strong at High-A Stockton, then performed even better at Double-A Midland, before finally finishing up the season in impressive fashion at Triple-A Nashville. In 27 starts across three stops, Gossett put up a 2.69 ERA, while his 151 strikeouts led all A’s minor leaguers last season. The South Carolina native had always shown solid command as well as a reluctance to surrender the long ball, but a slight uptick in velocity as well as the addition of a cutter really boosted the young right-hander’s performance to another level in 2016. Last year, Gossett really started showing the A’s what they hoped they had when they made him their second overall pick in 2014, and he should have the chance to keep showing the organization just what he’s got to offer while pitching every fifth day at Nashville this season.

Likely To Start 2017 With: Nashville Sounds (AAA)

 

bm622194b#8 BRUCE MAXWELL

Left-Handed-Hitting Catcher

Age on Opening Day: 26

Drafted 2012 – 2nd Round

While Maxwell has continued to make steady progress behind the plate ever since he was drafted by the A’s, the burly backstop took a massive leap forward at the plate last year. After putting up a meager .243/.321/.308 slash line at Double-A Midland in 2015, Maxwell turned out to be one of Triple-A Nashville’s hottest hitters last year, posting an impressive .321/.393/.539 line before his elevation to Oakland last July. And he managed to hold his own in the big leagues too, putting together a solid .283/.337/.402 line in 92 late-season at-bats with the A’s. Maxwell didn’t spend a tremendous amount of time catching in college, so he had a lot to learn behind the dish and, fortunately, he proved to be a prized pupil and impressed A’s manager, and former catcher, Bob Melvin with his work behind the plate last spring. Now that his bat seems to be coming around as well, the left-handed hitter could prove to be a valuable asset with both his offense and his defense. He’s currently third on the A’s catching depth chart, so if anything should happen with either Stephen Vogt or Josh Phegley at any point, Maxwell would be the first man up to step in. And as we all know, nothing remains the same in Oakland for too long. So whenever the A’s decide that the time has come to make a change in their catching corps, then Maxwell could find himself getting the bulk of the at-bats behind the plate for the green and gold.

Likely To Start 2017 With: Nashville Sounds (AAA)

 

mo621566b#9 MATT OLSON

Left-Handed-Hitting First Baseman/Outfielder

Age on Opening Day: 23

Drafted 2012 – 1st Round

Along with Maxwell, Olson’s been in the A’s organization as long as any player on this year’s list, and he’s made an appearance on our annual top 10 prospects list ever since his first full season in the system. With the trades of Addison Russell and Daniel Robertson, Olson is the lone remaining member of the highly-touted trio of top high school prospects the A’s selected with their first three picks in the 2012 draft. The big, left-handed slugger had a monster year with High-A Stockton in 2014, putting up an impressive .262/.404/.543 slash line, but his numbers have declined in each of the past two seasons and he posted a more pedestrian .235/.335/.422 line at Triple-A Nashville last year, though he did have a very solid .263/.345/.475 line over his last 47 games for the Sounds. Olson’s profile as a hitter has always been the same ever since he joined the system – lots of walks, lots of strikeouts and lots of power. Since slugging 37 home runs at Stockton in 2014 though, his home run numbers have decreased, while his doubles have increased. The Georgia native totaled 17 homers at Midland in 2015 and at Nashville last season, while he put up 37 and 34 doubles, respectively. Olson’s power potential and plate discipline are clearly the qualities that will help grease his path to the big leagues. And while still just 22, he did get a quick look with the A’s during the final month of the season last year, getting into 11 games while seeing time at first base, where he’s a defensive standout, and in right field, where he’s more than capable. And with his increasing platoon splits in recent years, Olson could find himself getting a shot as the left-handed half of either a first base or right field platoon in Oakland sometime in the fairly near future.

Likely To Start 2017 With: Nashville Sounds (AAA)

 

cp640461b#10 CHAD PINDER

Right-Handed-Hitting Shortstop/Second Baseman

Age on Opening Day: 25

Drafted 2013 – 2nd Round

The A’s third overall pick in the 2013 draft, Pinder was named the Texas League MVP after putting up an impressive .317/.361/.486 slash line for Double-A Midland in the pitcher-friendly Texas League in 2015, but slipped a bit to a more ordinary .258/.310/.425 line last year for Triple-A Nashville. Pinder has some pop for a middle infielder, collecting 42 home runs and 87 doubles over his last three minor league seasons, and his potent bat has helped him push his way through the system fairly expeditiously. Pinder could still stand to improve his plate discipline though, as he’s struck out over 100 times in each of his last two campaigns and has yet to total more than 28 walks in any single season. While also playing some second base, Pinder has spent most of his time the past couple seasons at shortstop, but he led all A’s minor leaguers with 29 errors – most of them throwing errors – while serving as Nashville’s starting shortstop last season. He spent the last month and a half of the 2016 season in Oakland, playing primarily at second base, which is probably the most likely spot for him to find major league at-bats. But Pinder’s ability to play shortstop and second base, as well as third base, may make him well-suited to fill a utility role for the A’s, possibly starting in 2018.

Likely To Start 2017 With: Nashville Sounds (AAA)

 

Honorable Mention: Renato Nunez, Daulton Jefferies, Logan Shore, Dakota Chalmers

It would have been easy to swap Renato Nunez with Maxwell, Olson or Pinder in any of the final three spots on this year’s top 10 list. But the main thing that kept Nunez just a notch behind the rest was his lack of a discernible defensive position to call home. Maxwell has continued to show great improvement behind the plate, while Olson is a talented defensive first baseman as well as a capable corner outfielder, and Pinder’s versatility makes it possible for him to appear at shortstop, second base and third base. But while Nunez’s power potential is very real, it’s hard to imagine him getting many major league at-bats from anywhere other than the designated hitter spot at this point. Young right-handers Daulton Jefferies, Logan Shore and Dakota Chalmers, all drafted in the top three rounds within the last two years, also came very close to making our top 10 list this year. All three are clearly talented young hurlers who could rapidly move up the ranks. None has yet to throw 100 innings in the system though, so we’ve still got a lot more to see of them, but it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see some of their names popping up on next year’s list.

 

Last Year’s Top 10 Prospects List

 

 

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Meet Your 2017 Nashville Sounds

0nsIMG_2587We recently took a look at the likely A’s opening day roster for 2017, which appears to be reasonably well set, with the exception of a couple of minor question marks. This year’s Triple-A Nashville Sounds roster is a far more complicated puzzle to try to piece together at this point though. The main reason for this is that the A’s have invited a whopping 70 players to their major league spring training camp this year, and all but a handful of them already have major league or Triple-A experience and are expected to battle for 50 roster spots with Oakland and Nashville.

Some players, like LHP Felix Doubront and RHPs Chris Bassitt and Daniel Mengden, are likely to open the season on the disabled list. But if most of the others remain healthy, then that will leave plenty of players on the outside looking in. And with the A’s major league roster seeming to be fairly well set at this point, most of that roster crunch will be occurring at Nashville, and we may be looking at a fairly significant roster purge towards the end of spring training before rosters can be finalized.

While recent draftees, like LHP A.J. Puk and catcher Sean Murphy, certainly won’t be in contention to open the season anywhere near as high as Triple-A, and others players, like infielders Yairo Munoz and Max Schrock, appear set to start the season with Double-A Midland, there are certain players who will be guaranteed plenty of regular playing time at Nashville this season no matter what happens – top prospects like Matt Chapman, Franklin Barreto and Matt Olson, as well as others.

The A’s usually like to start the season with 13 pitchers and 12 position players at the Triple-A level. And while some recent trades and injuries have helped to relieve the pitching logjam at Nashville a bit, there currently appear to be about 18 position players jockeying for 12 Triple-A roster spots at this point, so something’s definitely going to have to give there. So, with all that in mind, let’s take a look at how things are shaping up for your 2017 Nashville Sounds…

 

CATCHERS

Bruce Maxwell

Bruce Maxwell

The catching corps appears to be one of the clearer areas when it comes to the Nashville roster. If Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley are both healthy to start the season, then it looks looks likely that Bruce Maxwell will start the year back at Nashville, getting most of the starts behind the plate for the Sounds. Matt McBride, who shared time with Maxwell at Nashville last season, appears set to do the same again this year. The A’s signed catcher Ryan Lavarnway as a minor league free agent in the offseason. But just as there doesn’t appear to be room for three catchers on Oakland’s roster, there doesn’t seem to be room for three catchers on Nashville’s roster either. And since Lavarnway spent most of last season at Double-A and Midland catcher Beau Taylor is set to spend the first 50 games of the season on the suspended list, Lavarnway may need to start the year on the Double-A RockHounds roster until an opening develops in the catching corps.

 

MIDDLE INFIELDERS

Franklin Barreto

Franklin Barreto

There’s no doubt that top prospect Franklin Barreto will have the chance to get plenty of at-bats as Nashville’s starting shortstop this season. And since it appears unlikely that either Joey Wendle or Chad Pinder will be able to crack Oakland’s opening day roster at this point, then Wendle should end up seeing the majority of the starts at second base for the Sounds, just as he has for the past two seasons, with Pinder splitting time between both second and short while possibly increasing his versatility by spending some time at other spots around the diamond as well. The A’s re-signed minor league free agent Josh Rodriguez, who’s spent most of his time at second and short of late, and also signed minor league free agent Jermaine Curtis, who’s spent most of his time at second and third. But if all the top prospects are healthy, it’s awfully hard to see where the at-bats are to be found for these two veteran minor leaguers. Meanwhile, infielders Yairo Munoz, Max Schrock and Richie Martin are likely to find themselves starting the season on the Double-A RockHounds roster.

 

CORNER INFIELDERS

Matt Chapman

Matt Chapman

Top power prospect Matt Chapman should find himself firmly entrenched at the hot corner for the Sounds in 2017. Renato Nunez clearly will get his share of at-bats too but, with Chapman viewed as the A’s third baseman of the future, most of them aren’t likely to be coming at third this year. Matt Olson has split time the past couple seasons between first base and right field, while minor league free agent signee Chris Parmelee, a former 1st-round pick with plenty of major league service time under his belt, is also experienced at first and in right, and he and Olson should end up sharing most of the at-bats at first and in right for the Sounds. But let’s not forget that first baseman Rangel Ravelo is still in the picture as well, though he was optioned off the 40-man roster in the offseason. The same is true of utility man Max Muncy, who has spent most of his time at first and third. The A’s signed minor league free agent infielder Jermaine Curtis, who’s spent the bulk of his time at the hot corner, but it seems highly unlikely that he’ll steal many at-bats from Matt Chapman so, if he can crack the Triple-A roster, most of his at-bats would be more likely to come from his secondary position at second base. The A’s also re-signed minor free agent Josh Rodriguez, who’s also far more likely to find at-bats at second than at third, if he can find a way to make it onto the Sounds roster.

 

OUTFIELDERS

Jaycob Brugman

Jaycob Brugman

The Sounds outfield picture is another complicated one to try to piece together at this point, with far more players than spots on the roster. Starting at the top, Mark Canha and Jake Smolinski seem to have the inside track for the final two major league roster spots with Oakland. And if things play out just that way, then major league veteran Alejandro De Aza, who signed a minor league contract in the offseason, would find himself back in Triple-A. However, if De Aza should manage to beat out either Canha or Smolinski, then the odd man out in that competition could be headed back to Nashville. Of course, Smolinksi and De Aza both have plenty of experience in center field, as does Jaycob Brugman, who is ikely to get plenty of at-bats for the Sounds this season, whether he’s starting in center or in either one of the corner spots. The A’s re-signed outfielder Andrew Lambo to a minor league contract, and added minor league free agent outfielder Jaff Decker, as well as Chris Parmelee who, like returning prospect Matt Olson, has spent plenty of time both in right field and at first base. Max Muncy, who will also be in the roster mix, saw significant time in the outfield last year as well. And it’s worth noting that, De Aza, Brugman, Lambo, Decker, Parmelee, Olson and Muncy give the organization a total of 7 left-handed hitters in the Triple-A outfield mix, and that’s on a team that’s only expected to carry 12 position players – of course, catcher Matt McBride spent plenty of time in the outfield last year as well – so something’s definitely going to have to give here one way or another!

 

STARTING PITCHERS

Jesse Hahn

Jesse Hahn

Until recently, the shape of the Sounds starting rotation was looking fairly clear. But the trade of Dillon Overton and Daniel Mengden’s recent foot injury have left things a little less clear. What is clear is that if RHP Jesse Hahn can’t beat out RHPs Andrew Triggs or Jharel Cotton, the favorites to fill the final two spots in the A’s rotation, then Hahn will wind up heading up the Sounds starting five. Two other apparent certainties to join him there are flame-throwing RHP Frankie Montas and former 2nd-round draft pick Daniel Gossett, who finished out the season strong for the Sounds. Beyond those three, the pitching picture starts to get a little murkier, though that’s certainly not for a dearth of viable candidates. LHP Ross Detwiler signed a minor league contract to remain with the organization, but since he has an opt-out clause, he could depart if not guaranteed a spot on the major league roster. But should he decide to stay, then he would likely garner a spot in the Sounds rotation. RHP Raul Alcantara could also be in the mix, but he’s out of options, and it seems unlikely that the A’s would try to sneak him through waivers to get him back on the Nashville roster. RHPs Zach Neal and Chris Smith were two of Nashville’s top starters last season, so they would represent a couple of experienced options, but both primarily shifted to working out of the bullpen during the latter part of last season. Meanwhile, a pair of RHPs the A’s signed as minor league free agents could represent two of the team’s top options – Cesar Valdez, who posted an impressive 1-to-9 walk-to-strikeout ratio for Triple-A Fresno last year, and Michael Brady, who put up a solid 2.89 ERA between Triple-A and Double-A last season. RHP Paul Blackburn, who spent all of last season at Double-A, could fight his way into the competition, as could RHP Heath Fillmyer, but both may be more likely to kick off the year at Midland. RHP Daniel Mengden, who recently underwent foot surgery, and RHP Chris Bassitt and LHP Felix Doubront, both of whom are returning from Tommy John surgery, will all prominently factor into the Sounds pitching picture as soon as they’re ready to return to action as well.

 

RELIEF PITCHERS

Bobby Wahl

Bobby Wahl

There should be no shortage of candidates to fill out the 8 spots in the Sounds bullpen this season. If the A’s should decide to keep RHP Raul Alcantara on the major league roster, since he’s out of options, and there are no further pitching injuries or trades at the major league level, then LHP Daniel Coulombe is likely to find himself starting the year back at Nashville. RHP Bobby Wahl, who posted a 2.65 ERA and 14 saves across three levels last year, RHP Tucker Healy, who struck out 76 in 52 1/3 innings for Nashville in 2016, and RHP Aaron Kurcz all seem likely to return to Music City as well. The A’s also signed minor league free agent RHPs Josh Smith, Tyler Sturdevant and Simon Castro, all of whom have some degree of major league experience under their belts and seem destined to be a part of Nashville’s relief corps this year. The final spots in the Sounds bullpen are likely to be filled by whoever among Zach Neal, Chris Smith, Michael Brady and Cesar Valdez don’t end up finding spots in the Sounds starting rotation. And unless injuries strike, it doesn’t appear that there will be any room for RHPs Trey Cochran-Gill or Sam Bragg, both of whom had solid seasons for Midland last year, to make the move up to Triple-A to start the season.

*          *          *

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Meet Your 2017 Oakland A’s

0IMG_2486cAs the 2016 season came to an end and the A’s headed into the offseason, there were an awful lot of questions regarding the team’s roster for the coming season, and many of those questions still remained unanswered as the calendar turned to 2017. But a quartet of January free agent signings, along with a number of other minor moves, seems to have solidified the shape of the A’s roster for 2017.

At one time, it appeared that a number of rookie hitters might stand a good chance of making the 2017 opening day roster, including players such as catcher Bruce Maxwell and infielders Chad Pinder and Joey Wendle. But the way things are now shaping up, barring injuries, it looks like the A’s are likely to start the season with no rookie position players on the roster and perhaps just one or two rookie pitchers on the opening day squad.

Of course, the A’s being the A’s, it’s entirely possible that the front office could still have a few unexpected tricks up its sleeve before opening day. But after the flurry of roster moves over the past month, here’s how things are now shaping up for your 2017 Oakland A’s…

 

CATCHERS

Stephen Vogt

Stephen Vogt

Stephen Vogt was named to the American League All-Star squad for the second straight season last year, and the A’s current clubhouse leader is set to return as the team’s primary catcher again this season. Josh Phegley, who appeared in 73 games for Oakland in 2015, made it into just 25 games for the A’s last year due to injuries. Phegley has apparently recovered from last summer’s knee surgery and, as long as he’s healthy, is expected to serve as Vogt’s platoon partner in 2017. Rookie receiver Bruce Maxwell had an impressive Triple-A campaign and looked solid in 33 late-season games with the A’s last year. So if there are any health issues with Phegley or Vogt to start the year or at any point during the season, then Maxwell should be poised to step right in and pick up the slack.

 

MIDDLE INFIELDERS

Marcus Semien

Marcus Semien

Slugging shortstop Marcus Semien hit 27 home runs while appearing in a total of 159 games for Oakland in 2016. The iron-man infielder played in more games than any other member of the A’s squad for the second straight season, and we can probably expect to see more of the same kind of endurance from Semien again this year. Meanwhile, second baseman Jed Lowrie, in his second stint with the A’s, missed the final two months last season while undergoing foot surgery. The team expects him to be recovered from the procedure and has anointed him as its starting second baseman for the coming season, as long as he remains healthy. The A’s also signed infielder Adam Rosales as a free agent in late January, and one would expect that the versatile veteran could fill in fairly regularly for Lowrie at second base while also giving Semien a few more days off at shortstop over the course of the season. With Semien, Lowrie and Rosales in the picture, it doesn’t leave much room for other middle infielders like Joey Wendle and Chad Pinder, who are likely to be available at Nashville if any infield replacements are needed. Also waiting in the wings at Nashville will be shortstop (and possible future second baseman) Franklin Barreto, who’s considered the A’s top hitting prospect.

 

CORNER INFIELDERS

rh592387c

Ryon Healy

Another one of the A’s January free agent signings was former Twins infielder Trevor Plouffe, whom the team made clear would serve as its starting third baseman, shifting young slugger Ryon Healy to first base and the designated hitter spot. Last year’s primary first baseman Yonder Alonso has been retained and the left-handed hitter is expected to man the position while righties are on the mound. Healy, who proved himself at the plate last year, is expected to be a regular in the lineup, likely serving as the designated hitter much of the time while possibly shifting back to his natural position at first base when Alonso sits against lefties. That would open up the designated hitter spot against lefties. Mark Canha missed most of last season after undergoing hip surgery but is expected to be at full strength come spring training. A’s general manager David Forst has frequently spoken favorably of Canha over the course of the offseason, and he would seem to be the most likely candidate for the role, while also being available to fill in at first base as well as in the outfield. If reinforcements are needed at the corner spots, the A’s top power-hitting prospect, third baseman Matt Chapman, will be just one step away at Nashville, as will other young sluggers like Renato Nunez and first baseman/outfielder Matt Olson.

 

OUTFIELDERS

Khris Davis

Khris Davis

Khris Davis clubbed 42 home runs while serving as the A’s starting left fielder last season and, fortunately for A’s fans, they can expect to be seeing the big bopper back in the cleanup spot for the green and gold again this year. American League stolen-base leader Rajai Davis was signed as a free agent to man center field and bat leadoff, while veteran left-handed hitter Matt Joyce was signed to be the team’s starting right fielder against righties, with returning right-handed hitter Jake Smolinski expected to serve as his platoon partner against lefties. Mark Canha, who is likely to see some time at first base and in the designated hitter spot, could also be available to fill in in the outfield corners. Meanwhile, down on the farm, two young left-handed hitting prospects who could step in and fill outfield roles if needed, Matt Olson and Jaycob Brugman, should be back for their second seasons at Nashville. And joining them there will likely be another left-handed-hitting outfielder, this one with plenty of major league experience, 32-year-old veteran Alejandro De Aza, who was signed to a minor league contract last month.

 

STARTING PITCHERS

Sonny Gray

Sonny Gray

There really don’t seem to be too many big question marks about the A’s starting rotation at this point. Sonny Gray, Kendall Graveman and Sean Manaea are set to top the starting five. And since Daniel Mengden recently fractured a bone in his right foot, it’s now even more likely that the final two spots in the rotation will be filled by a pair of pitchers the A’s front office has repeatedly spoken highly of during the offseason, rookie Jharel Cotton and reliever-turned-starter Andrew Triggs. The A’s used a total of 14 different starting pitchers last year though, so we’ll probably end up seeing plenty of other names in the starting mix before the season’s through. Jesse Hahn, who made 9 starts for the A’s last season, is likely to start the year at Nashville and could be called upon if needed. A pair of pitchers who each made at least half a dozen starts for the A’s in 2017, Ross Detwiler and Zach Neal, should be available at Triple-A as well. Flame-thrower Frankie Montas, who’s on the 40-man roster, is also expected to start at Nashville, as is 2014 2nd-round pick Daniel Gossett. Raul Alcantara, who made 5 starts for the A’s late last year and is out of options, may very well end up serving as a long man out of the A’s bullpen but could always shift back into a starting role if needed. And, of course, once he recuperates from his foot injury, Mengden will be available again at some point, as will righty Chris Bassitt and lefty Felix Doubront, both of whom are returning from Tommy John surgery.

 

RELIEF PITCHERS

Ryan Madson

Ryan Madson

Much like the starting rotation, the A’s bullpen picture appears to be fairly clear as well, with just a couple of key questions remaining. With the A’s surprising signing of former Giants closer Santiago Casilla in January, the big question is whether Ryan Madson will return to the closer’s role for Oakland in 2017 or if Casilla will wind up displacing him. However it ends up shaking out though, the pair should serve as two of the team’s top late-inning options. Joining them will be fellow righties John Axford, Liam Hendriks and Ryan Dull as well as southpaw Sean Doolittle. If the A’s would like to have a second lefty in the bullpen, then Daniel Coulombe, who appeared in 35 games for the A’s last year and is the only other left-handed reliever on the 40-man roster, would seem to be the obvious choice. 24-year-old right-hander Raul Alcantara is out of options though, so the A’s may want to use that final spot to protect the young starter and have him serve as the long-man out of the bullpen. But if the A’s wanted to hang on to Alcantara and have a second lefty in the bullpen as well, then they could always consider trading one of their other relievers. If they did decide to do that, then someone like Axford, who is in the final year of his contract and is owed $5.5 million this year, would seem to be the most likely candidate. And if any bullpen reinforcements are needed, one of the top options this year could be right-hander Bobby Wahl, who’s on the 40-man roster, struck out 10.8 batters per 9 innings across three minor league levels in 2017 and finished the year with 4 saves over the last month of the season at Nashville.

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Wednesday, September 7th: Nunez’s Big Bat Leads Sounds to Victory while Seddon’s 5 Shutout Frames Help Hounds Win

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Third Baseman Renato Nunez (2 for 3 / Home Run / Double / Walk / 5 RBIs)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Third Baseman Renato Nunez (2 for 3 / Home Run / Double / Walk / Sac Fly / 5 RBIs)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE AMERICAN CONFERENCE FINALS  (Triple-A)

GAME #1

Nashville Sounds         10

Oklahoma City Dodgers  7

WP – Kurcz 1-0 / 4.50

HR – Nunez (1)

Prospect Of The Game:

Third Baseman Renato Nunez

(2 for 3 / Home Run / Double / Walk / Sac Fly / 5 RBIs)

Third baseman Renato Nunez put up a big night at the plate to help the Sounds prevail in the first game of their PCL playoff series on Wednesday. Nunez hit a 3-run homer off starter Scott Kazmir in the top of the 1st inning to give the Sounds an early lead, then doubled in another run in the 4th, and drove in his final run of the night with a sacrifice fly in the 6th. Second baseman Colin Walsh singled in a pair in the 2nd, while shortstop Franklin Barreto singled, doubled, walked and drove in a run, and outfielders Jaycob Brugman and B.J. Boyd had 3 hits apiece in the win. RHP Jesse Hahn was charged with 6 runs over 4 1/3 innings of work, while RHP Aaron Kurcz picked up the win despite allowing 1 run in 2 innings of relief, and RHP Tucker Healy tossed a scoreless 9th to notch the save for Nashville. In roster news, Sounds RHP Jharel Cotton was promoted to Oakland on Wednesday while RHP Bobby Wahl was placed on the disabled list. Nashville Sounds Playoff Roster

Click here for more on the Midland RockHounds’ Game #1 Result…

15 Prospects Who Could Play Key Roles for A’s in 2017

Ryon Healy

A’s infielder Ryon Healy

After the team’s second consecutive losing season, the A’s roster is currently in just about as much flux as it’s been at any time in the club’s recent history. It’s anyone’s guess who will remain from the current roster when next season begins, but one thing seems certain. The team could be ready to offer more opportunities to its top prospects than it has been in a long, long time.

Already this season, prospects like Ryon Healy, Bruce Maxwell, Chad Pinder, Joey Wendle, Arismendy Alcantara, Daniel Mengden and Dillon Overton have seen time with the big league club, and even more top young players could be making their debuts with the A’s come 2017.

Of course, no one knows what the front office may do in the offseason. But if the team decides to commit to developing the next generation of the green and gold around a core of young prospects currently in the A’s system, here are a number of players who could play key roles next year. (For the purposes of this piece, players over the age of 26 aren’t considered “prospects.”)

 

rh592387cRyon Healy

Third Baseman/First Baseman

Age: 24

If any prospect is bound to play a prominent role for the A’s in 2017, it’s likely to be Ryon Healy. He spent a little more than half the season in the minor leagues, where he was the best hitter in the A’s system over the first three months of the season, putting up an impressive .326/.382/.558 slash line over a combined 85 games for Nashville and Midland. And in his seven weeks with the A’s, he’s hitting .287 with 11 doubles and 6 home runs. Healy’s clearly capable of playing third base, but he may be better-suited to play first base. His ability to play both the corner spots allows the front office some flexibility this offseason. But wherever he ends up starting next year, it seems pretty clear that Healy will find his name somewhere on the lineup card for the A’s in 2017.

 

aa570489bArismendy Alcantara

Second Baseman/Shortstop/Outfielder

Age: 24

Acquired from the Cubs early this summer for Chris Coghlan, Alcantara is a versatile player who’s spent time at shortstop, second base, third base and in the outfield in his minor league career. And even though he might not be a standout at any of those positions, we all know how much the A’s value versatility. Alcantara will also be out of options next season, so the team could end up losing him if he doesn’t make the roster. And it’s not hard to imagine an opening day A’s squad with the speedy and versatile Alcantara serving as the ultimate utility man and the 13th position player on the roster.

 

bm622194bBruce Maxwell

Catcher

Age: 25

Maxwell was one of Nashville’s best hitters this season, putting up a .321/.393/.539 slash line for the Sounds. The backstop also impressed manager Bob Melvin and the A’s coaching staff this spring with his work behind the dish. So it seemed likely that the team would want to get a look at him at the major league level at some point this season. Maxwell’s yet to make his mark at the plate in the majors, going 4 for 32 in his first 13 games, but that could turn around at any time and he is considered to be a capable major league receiver. So if Oakland should decide to move Steven Vogt or Josh Phegley this offseason, or if injuries should sideline either of them, Maxwell appears the most likely candidate to claim a spot in the A’s catching corps.

 

jw621563dJoey Wendle

Second Baseman

Age: 26

After coming to the A’s organization from Cleveland at the end of 2014 in the Brandon Moss trade, Wendle finally made his major league debut with the A’s this week. A steady if not flashy player, Wendle was leading the Sounds in hits, runs and total bases and his 52 extra-base hits tied him for the second most among A’s minor leaguers when he was promoted from Nashville. The team is planning to platoon the lefty-hitting Wendle with the righty-swinging Chad Pinder at second base for the rest of the season. And depending on how they perform, it’s possible that platoon could last into next season as well.

 

cp640461bChad Pinder

Shortstop/Second Baseman

Age: 24

The A’s third overall pick in the 2013 draft, Pinder pushed his way through the system fairly quickly while playing both shortstop and second base. He was named the Texas League Player of the Year as the everyday shortstop at Double-A Midland last season, and his 14 home runs this year trailed only Renato Nunez and Matt Olson among his Nashville teammates. Pinder will be serving as the right-handed half of the A’s second base platoon for the rest of the season and, depending on what happens, that platoon could persist into next season. But since Pinder also has plenty of experience at both shortstop and third base, it’s always possible that he could find a spot on the roster as the A’s utility infielder next year as well.

 

jb595144bJaycob Brugman

Outfielder

Age: 24

Over the first few months of the season, Brugman was probably the second-best overall hitter in the A’s system next to Ryon Healy, and he’s had an outstanding season while primarily playing center field and batting leadoff for Nashville and Midland. He currently has the second most hits and total bases among A’s minor leaguers as well as the third most doubles, triples and RBIs. Much like Wendle, Brugman’s a steady if not flashy player, but his consistent play has earned him some fans in the A’s front office and he could potentially see some time in the majors this month once Nashville’s postseason run is over. There may be some openings in the A’s outfield mix next season and, as a solid left-handed hitter, Brugman could potentially serve as the left-hander half of a platoon in center field or right field for the A’s next year.

 

mo621566Matt Olson

First Baseman/Outfielder

Age: 22

The A’s third overall pick in the 2012 draft, Olson has always been considered one of the top power prospects in the organization. His 34 doubles for Nashville are a team high, while his 17 home runs trail only teammate Renato Nunez on the Sounds, and his 71 walks are the most among all A’s minor leaguers. Olson struggled early in the season but has put up a solid .259/.345/.482 slash line in the second half. He’s made about two-thirds of his starts in right field this season and, while he’s a capable outfield defender, Olson is known as a top-notch defender at first base. He’s still just 22, so there’s no rush. But if the A’s decide to go all in on their youth movement in 2017 then, as a left-handed hitter with strong platoon splits, Olson could find a spot as the left-handed half of a platoon either at first base or in right field for the A’s at some point next season.

 

rn600524eRenato Nunez

Third Baseman/Designated Hitter

Age: 22

Along with Olson, Nunez has been considered one of the top young power prospects in the A’s system for a few years now. And his 23 home runs this season are the most at Nashville and the second most among all A’s minor leaguers next to Matt Chapman. He got off to a hot start early this season. And when Billy Butler was still struggling with the A’s, many were calling for Nunez to be called up and put in the designated hitter spot. Nunez’s defense at third base has always been a bit suspect, and he’s recently begun getting some starts in left field while also spending more time serving as the Sounds’ DH. Like Olson, he’s just 22, so he’s still got some time. But if Oakland should decide to cut ties with Butler one way or another this offseason, it could make it much more likely that the young power hitter will get a long look with the A’s sometime next season.

 

mc656305eMatt Chapman

Third Baseman

Age: 23

The A’s 1st-round draft pick in 2014, Chapman has been considered a top prospect from the moment he was drafted, primarily based on his defensive abilities and his power potential. He clearly has a cannon for an arm, and he’s currently leading all A’s minor leaguers with 33 home runs. After belting 29 bombs in the unfriendly confines of the Texas League, Chapman was promoted to Nashville a little over two weeks ago and has since hit 4 more for the Sounds. [Update: Chapman hit 3 home runs in Saturday’s game and now has 7 for the Sounds.] He deeply impressed A’s manager Bob Melvin in spring training, who seemed sad to see him go. And now that he’s in Triple-A, the 23-year-old is just one step away from the majors. It seems clear that another strong spring could get the A’s to start thinking about moving Healy across the diamond so that they can install Chapman at the hot corner sooner rather than later.

 

fb620439Franklin Barreto

Shortstop/Second Baseman

Age: 20

Barreto has been viewed as the A’s top young hitting prospect ever since his arrival from Toronto in the Josh Donaldson trade. And since joining the A’s system, the 20-year-old Venezuelan has followed a pattern of starting out slow each season and then catching on fire in the second half, and this year has been no exception. Barreto boasts a .320/.381/.467 slash line over the last 90 days, and his hot finish earned him a promotion from Midland to Nashville on the last day of August, so he’ll now have the opportunity to compete in postseason play for the Sounds. Barreto’s still just 20, but like Chapman, he’ll be finishing the season just one step away from the majors. Though he’s spent most of his minor league career as a shortstop, he’s also gotten some starts this season at second base. And coincidentally, that could be a key area of competition for the A’s this spring. Barreto will get his shot in the big leagues sooner or later and, if he keeps swinging a big bat, the A’s could decide he’s their best bet in 2017.

 

dm596043cDaniel Mengden

Right-Handed Pitcher

Age: 23

Mengden is set to be the first pitching prospect called up by the A’s with September’s expanded rosters. He looked impressive in his first 4 outings for Oakland this season, allowing just 8 earned runs over 4 starts in June, but he struggled in his next 5 appearances, giving up a total of 23 earned runs in 5 July starts before being sent back to Nashville. Mengden impressed after returning to Music City, putting up a 2.10 ERA in 6 starts for the Sounds. And overall, in 17 minor league starts this season, Mengden has posted an impressive 1.46 ERA while striking out 95 in 98 1/3 innings of work. The 23-year-old admittedly was feeling a little worn down after hitting a career-high in innings pitched this season. But after a little R & R in the offseason, if Mengden can return to the form he flashed in his first 4 big league starts, then he could put himself in contention for a return to the majors again next season.

 

do592614cDillon Overton

Left-Handed Pitcher

Age: 25

Overton made 5 starts for Oakland this season and mostly struggled, putting up a 10.97 ERA in his time with the A’s. But he was one of the best starters in the Pacific Coast League this season. His 3.29 ERA is currently the fifth best in the league and he’s struck out 105 in 125 2/3 innings for the Sounds. There’s obviously a big difference between what it takes to succeed at Triple-A and what it takes to make it in the majors. The A’s have been hoping that Overton’s velocity would tick up another notch since his return from Tommy John surgery. And if he could manage to add just a couple miles an hour to his fastball next season, it could make a world of difference. It’s also possible that the A’s front office could ultimately decide that Overton’s arm is better-suited to the bullpen and could take the opportunity to see how he fares as either a long reliever or a situational lefty.

 

jc605194bJharel Cotton

Right-Handed Pitcher

Age: 24

After coming to the A’s as part of a trio of talented young arms the team snagged from the Dodgers in the Josh Reddick/Rich Hill deal, Cotton made a strong impression when he came within one out of throwing a perfect game in his second start for Nashville. The 24-year-old has posted a 2.86 ERA in 6 starts for the Sounds and appears poised to claim the Pacific Coast League strikeout crown with 155 K’s in 135 2/3 innings of work this season. Cotton has consistently tallied big strikeout totals. His mid-90s fastball and his solid changeup have enabled him to succeed at the Triple-A level and, with a strong spring, he could put himself into contention for a spot in the major league rotation next season.

 

ra593417cRaul Alcantara

Right-Handed Pitcher

Age: 23

Alcantara has been a prominent pitching prospect in the A’s system since coming over from the Red Sox, along with Josh Reddick, following the 2011 season. Tommy John surgery slowed down his progress, but he’s made quite an impression in the second half this season, putting up a 1.18 ERA in 8 starts since joining Nashville in July. He’s yet to have a bad start at the Triple-A level, and it appears that Alcantara could finally be reaching his potential. He’s still just 23, but he’s been on the A’s 40-man roster for some time, so his option years are winding down, and the A’s may feel some pressure to give him a shot soon. He’s pitching as well as anyone at Nashville right now. So why not strike while the iron is hot? And Alcantara’s arm has certainly been as hot as anyone’s in the second half of 2016.

 

fm593423bFrankie Montas

Right-Handed Pitcher

Age: 23

Montas is the only one of the three arms the A’s acquired from the Dodgers who comes with major league experience. He made 7 appearances with the White Sox in 2015 before being dealt to the Dodgers prior to the 2016 season. Surgery during the offseason followed by a broken rib have sidelined Montas for most of the year. He only threw 16 innings in the Dodgers’ system this season, but he’s set to pitch in the Arizona Fall League, so the A’s front office will get a chance to get a good look at him before next spring. The Dominican righty boasts a 100+ mph fastball, and he’s struck out an average of 9.3 batters per 9 innings over his minor league career. Montas has mainly appeared as a starter in the minors. And if he looks strong in his return to action, the A’s could give him a shot at a rotation spot next year, or they could always choose to put his power arm in the bullpen and see how it plays out there.

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Thursday, September 1st: Barreto Has Big Hit in Sounds’ Walk-Off Win while Manarino Pitches Ports to Victory

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Shortstop Franklin Barreto (3 for 5 / Triple / GWRBI)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Shortstop Franklin Barreto (3 for 5 / Triple / GWRBI)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Iowa Cubs               5

Nashville Sounds  6

WP – Santos 3-2 / 3.03

Prospect Of The Game:

Shortstop Franklin Barreto

(3 for 5 / Triple / GWRBI)

With one out, a man on and the game tied in the bottom of the 9th, shortstop Franklin Barreto lined a triple to right-center field to bring home the winning run as the Sounds won in a walk-off in their final home game on Thursday. Including his big 9th-inning triple, Barreto had 3 hits in just his second game for the Sounds. Left fielder Colin Walsh singled, doubled, walked and drove in 2 runs, while catcher Bryan Anderson tripled in a pair, and first baseman Matt Olson singled and walked twice in the win. RHP Jharel Cotton turned in his second straight strong start, striking out 6 over 5 2/3 shutout innings, and he left with the game a scoreless tie on Thursday. But RHP Bobby Wahl walked 4 and was charged with 2 runs in just 2/3 of an inning in relief, while RHP Ryan Brasier gave up 2 runs over 1 1/3 innings of work, and RHP Eduard Santos picked up the win despite giving up the tying run in the top of the 9th for Nashville. The Sounds have already clinched the division title and are set to begin playoff play in Oklahoma City next Wednesday, September 7. On Thursday afternoon, A’s general manager David Forst told 95.7 The Game’s Damon Bruce that the A’s first September call-ups from Nashville will primarily be starting pitchers, and he mentioned RHPs Daniel Mengden, Jharel Cotton and Raul Alcantara as the most likely candidates. He also suggested that recent Sounds Joey Wendle and Chad Pinder are likely to split time at second base for the A’s the rest of the way this season.

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

A Look at 9 Promising Pitching Prospects A’s Added in Past Year

Sean Manaea made just 3 starts at Triple-A before joining the A's starting rotation.

Sean Manaea made just 3 starts at Triple-A before joining the A’s starting rotation this year.

Ever since last year’s trade deadline deals, the A’s front office has clearly been focused on adding as much top young pitching talent to the system as possible. And with the cost of major league pitching on a rapid rise in recent times, it’s easy to make sense of this strategy. In most of the team’s big trades, particularly at this year’s and last year’s trade deadlines, the focus has been squarely on pitching. And in this year’s amateur draft, the A’s took three top young pitching prospects with their first three selections – something that hasn’t happened anytime in the franchise’s recent history.

Last July, Oakland acquired LHP Sean Manaea from Kansas City in the Ben Zobrist trade, grabbed RHP Daniel Mengden from Houston in the Scott Kazmir deal, and got RHP Casey Meisner from the Mets in return for Tyler Clippard. This July, the A’s acquired RHPs Jharel Cotton, Frankie Montas and Grant Holmes from the Dodgers in the Josh Reddick/Rich Hill deal. And in this June’s amateur draft, the team took a trio of talented young arms with its top three picks – LHP A.J. Puk and RHPs Daulton Jefferies and Logan Shore. And that’s not even to mention the acquisition of RHP J.B. Wendelken and LHP Zack Erwin from the White Sox in last winter’s Brett Lawrie deal.

Between these deadline deals and the draft, the A’s have really restocked the organization’s pitching talent. So let’s take a look at some of the team’s top young pitching acquisitions since last year’s trade deadline deals and see how they’re shaping up…

 

sm640455cLHP Sean Manaea

Age: 24

Current Team: Oakland A’s

Acquired: Ben Zobrist trade – July 2015

The former 1st-round draft pick for the Royals was expected to spend most of the season at Triple-A. But due to injuries, Manaea was called up after making just 3 starts for the Sounds, and he’s now made 20 apperances so far for the A’s. The Samoan southpaw has struck out 100 in 117 1/3 innings for Oakland this season and has gotten stronger as the season has worn on, posting a 3.58 ERA in the second half. The A’s parted with former prospects Daniel Robertson and Boog Powell in the deal that originally brought Zobrist to Oakland. When the team turned around and acquired a top pitching prospect like Manaea in return for Zobrist, it added a high-ceiling young arm to the system. And it looks like the big strike-throwing lefty should prove to be a staple of the A’s starting rotation in the coming years.

 

dm596043bRHP Daniel Mengden

Age: 23

Current Team: Nashville Sounds

Acquired: Scott Kazmir trade – July 2015

When Oakland traded Scott Kazmir to the Astros last summer, most A’s fans were focused on the young catching prospect the team received in return, Jaycob Nottingham, who was soon dealt to Milwaukee in the Khris Davis trade. Despite being a former 4th-round draft pick for the Astros, much less attention was paid to Mengden – that is until this season. The 23-year-old started out the year by surrendering just 2 runs over his first 4 starts for Double-A Midland, which quickly earned him a promotion to Nashville, where he continued to be dominant in start after start. And, once again, thanks to injuries, by the second week of June, he had joined the A’s starting rotation. Mengden allowed just 8 earned runs over his first 4 starts for the A’s. He then struggled in his next 5 starts, giving up a total of 23 earned runs in that span before being sent back to Nashville. He’s been solid since his return, putting up a 2.16 ERA in 5 starts back in Music City. Mengden admittedly was feeling a little worn down after hitting a career-high in innings pitched this season. But the mustachioed Mr. Mengden should be in a prime position to compete for a spot in Oakland’s starting rotation next spring.

 

cm641861bRHP Casey Meisner

Age: 21

Current Team: Stockton Ports

Acquired: Tyler Clippard trade – July 2015

Meisner came to the A’s in the least high-profile of last summer’s deals, in return for reliever Tyler Clippard. A former 3rd-round draft pick for the Mets, Meisner got off to a great start for Stockton, posting a 2.78 ERA in 7 late-season starts for the Ports. He returned to the California League this year but has mostly struggled this time around the track, putting up a 4.59 ERA over 113 2/3 innings. The 6-foot-7 righty’s mechanics can be an issue and his command has been inconsistent this season. But Meisner’s been walking far fewer in the second half, and he’s still just 21. So even if he may not currently be considered among the team’s top prospects, Meisner still possesses a lot of potential.

 

jc605194bRHP Jharel Cotton

Age: 24

Current Team: Nashville Sounds

Acquired: Josh Reddick/Rich Hill trade – July 2016

Cotton came to the A’s as part of a trio of talented young arms the team snagged from the Dodgers in the Josh Reddick/Rich Hill deal, and the 24-year-old definitely made an impression when he came within one out of throwing a perfect game in his second start for Nashville. Cotton has consistently tallied big strikeout totals, and he currently leads the Pacific Coast League with 149 strikeouts in 130 innings of work. Cotton’s mid-90s fastball and his solid changeup have enabled him to succeed at the Triple-A level, and he’s expected to get a shot at the major league level before the season’s through. Cotton should also find himself in the competition for a starting spot in the major league rotation come next spring.

 

fm593423RHP Frankie Montas

Age: 23

Current Team: Nashville Sounds

Acquired: Josh Reddick/Rich Hill trade – July 2016

Montas is the only one of the three arms acquired from the Dodgers who comes with major league experience. He made 7 appearances with the White Sox in 2015 before being dealt to the Dodgers prior to the 2016 season. Surgery during the offseason followed by a broken rib have sidelined Montas for most of the year. He only managed to throw 16 innings in the Dodgers’ system this season, but it’s possible that he could be ready to return in time to participate in the Arizona Fall League this October. The Dominican righty’s headline pitch is his 100+ mph fastball, and he’s struck out an average of 9.3 batters per 9 innings over his minor league career. Montas has mainly appeared as a starter in the minors. Of course, it’s always possible that he could end up as an elite power arm pitching out of the bullpen, but the A’s will have to see how he looks once he gets healthy and back on the field before making any determination about the best path for him going forward.

 

gh656550RHP Grant Holmes

Age: 20

Current Team: Stockton Ports

Acquired: Josh Reddick/Rich Hill trade – July 2016

A former 1st-round draft pick for the Dodgers in 2014, Holmes was a highly-coveted high school arm who is the highest-profile hurler to come to the A’s in the recent deal with the Dodgers. As a young 20-year-old in the hitter-friendly High-A California League, Holmes had fared well for the Dodgers’ affiliate this year, posting a 4.02 ERA while striking out 100 over 105 1/3 innings of work before the trade. But Holmes has struggled since coming to Stockton, surrendering 19 earned runs over his first 19 innings while pitching for the Ports. He’d just passed his career-high in innings pitched prior to the trade, so he could just be a little worn down late in the season while also making the adjustment to a new organization. Holmes is a big strong kid who, just like Montas, has averaged 9.3 strikeouts per 9 innings over his minor league career and has to be considered one of the top young pitching prospects in the A’s system at this point.

 

ap640462LHP A.J. Puk

Age: 21

Current Team: Vermont Lake Monsters

Acquired: 1st Round 2016 Draft – June 2016

Widely reported to be a possible #1 pick in this year’s amateur draft, the A’s were thrilled to get their hands on a top pitching prospect like Puk with their first pick in the draft. Puk is a flame-throwing lefty out of Florida with top-of-the-rotation potential. The 6-foot-7, 220-pound power pitcher’s fastball has been clocked as high as 99 mph, and he pairs it with a solid slider. Since joining Vermont, Puk’s struck out 34 in 28 2/3 innings while posting a 3.14 ERA for the Lake Monsters. And with his outstanding fastball, a solid slider, an impressive frame and loads of raw talent, it’s easy to see why most people view Puk as a pitcher with tremendous upside and a player who could make a real difference for the green and gold before long.

 

djPFKSDMUFQUWSOHH.20151029180443RHP Daulton Jefferies

Age: 21

Current Team: Arizona League A’s

Acquired: Supplemental 1st Round 2016 Draft – June 2016

With their second selection in the competitive balance portion of the 1st-round of this year’s draft, the A’s took the talented young righty out of UC Berkeley. Jefferies’ fastball has been clocked as high as 95 mph, and he also features a slider and an occasional changeup while possessing excellent command. Despite being sidelined for eight weeks during his final college season with shoulder and calf injuries, Jefferies went 7-0 and posted a stellar 1.08 ERA while striking out 53 and walking just 8 over 50 innings of work for Cal. The A’s took things slow with Jefferies after the draft due to his previous shoulder injury, but he’s recently started seeing some action in Arizona. And in his first 4 brief appearances, the 21-year-old has shown off his pinpoint control by allowing just 1 walk and 1 run while striking out 12 over 8 2/3 innings for the AZL A’s.

 

ls624519RHP Logan Shore

Age: 21

Current Team: Vermont Lake Monsters

Acquired: 2nd Round 2016 Draft – June 2016

With the A’s 2nd-round pick in this year’s draft, the team took one of Puk’s college teammates from Florida, who recently joined his old friend at Vermont. Shore is a 6-foot-2, 215-pound righty who went 11-0 with a 2.44 ERA while striking out 80 and walking just 15 over 92 1/3 innings of work in his last season for Florida. The 21-year-old was actually the top performer on Florida’s pitching staff, while Puk was considered to have more upside. Shore doesn’t throw nearly as hard as the A’s top two picks but is a consistent strike-thrower with good control who also possesses an advanced changeup. What he may lack in velocity, he more than makes up for with solid command and an advanced understanding of pitching that many expect will help him rise quickly through the system. In his first 5 appearances for Vermont, Shore has allowed 3 earned runs and struck out 9 over his first 12 innings of work.

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Friday, August 26th: Cotton Earns Win & McBride Delivers Big Blow to Help Sounds Clinch Division Title while Murray Leads Snappers to Shutout Victory

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Jharel Cotton (7 IP / 5 H / 2 ER / 0 BB / 4 K / Win)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Jharel Cotton (7 IP / 5 H / 2 ER / 0 BB / 4 K / Win)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Nashville Sounds   5

Memphis Redbirds   3

WP – Cotton 11-6 / 4.50

HR – McBride (7), Rodriguez (5)

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Jharel Cotton

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

RHP Jharel Cotton turned in a strong start for the Sounds, allowing 2 runs over 7 innings of work to earn the win as Nashville clinched the Pacific Coast League American Southern Division title on Friday. And the team’s 78-56 record is currently the best in the PCL. After Cotton exited with a 3-run lead, RHP Eduard Santos pitched a perfect 8th. RHP Bobby Wahl then came on to close things out. He made things close by surrendering a run while also putting the tying run on base, but he managed to escape the jam to notch his 4th save for Nashville. Catcher Matt McBride had the big blow, belting a 3-run homer in the 4th inning to give the Sounds the lead. Shortstop Josh Rodriguez added a solo shot in the 5th, while second baseman Joey Wendle singled and doubled, and designated hitter Renato Nunez singled in a run in the win. The team’s last regular season game will be against New Orleans on Monday, September 5, with the Pacific Coast League playoffs set to begin on Wednesday, September 7. And in roster news, LHP Cody Stull, who posted a 1.46 ERA in 36 relief appearances for Stockton this season, was reassigned to the Sounds on Friday.

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

The division-winning Nashville Sounds

The division-winning Nashville Sounds (photo:milb.com)

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