Tag: Logan Shore

Meet Your 2018 Oakland A’s!

by Bill Moriarity / A’s Farm Editor

A's top prospect Franklin Barreto

Top prospect Franklin Barreto

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

CATCHERS

Bruce Maxwell

Bruce Maxwell

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

 

OUTFIELDERS

Jaycob Brugman

Jaycob Brugman

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

 

INFIELDERS

Matt Chapman

Matt Chapman

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

 

PITCHERS

Kendall Graveman

Kendall Graveman

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

 

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

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Thursday, May 18th: Barreto’s Big Bat Helps Mengden Win Strong Rehab Start for Sounds while 3 HRs Help Ports Prevail

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Shortstop Franklin Barreto (3 for 6 / Home Run / Double / 5 RBIs)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Shortstop Franklin Barreto (3 for 6 / HR / Double / 5 RBIs)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Nashville Sounds  13

Fresno Grizzlies        3

WP – Mengden 1-1 / 3.38

HR – Nunez (10), Chapman (8), Barreto (6)

Prospect Of The Game:

Shortstop Franklin Barreto

(3 for 6 / Home Run / Double / 5 RBIs)

The Sounds scored a season-high 13 runs in their victory over Fresno on Thursday night. Shortstop Franklin Barreto led the attack, collecting 3 hits to raise his average to .320 and driving in 5 runs to increase his team RBI lead to 27. The 21-year-old slugged his 6th home run of the season, a 3-run shot in the 3rd, then lined a two-out double to left to drive in a pair of runs in the 4th, and singled to load the bases but was left stranded in the 7th. Third baseman Matt Chapman also had 3 hits, including his 8th home run, a solo shot to put the Sounds on the board in the 3rd, while designated hitter Renato Nunez notched his team-leading 10th double as well as his team-leading 10th home run on a deep drive that left the park and drove in 3 runs for Nashville. Meanwhile, starter Daniel Mengden was impressive in his third rehab start for the Sounds, allowing just 1 run on 4 hits while walking none and striking out 7 to earn his 1st win this season. Reliever John Axford also looked strong in his third rehab appearance, retiring the side on 5 pitches in the 7th, and he’s expected to rejoin the A’s roster shortly. RHP Chris Smith surrendered 2 runs in 2 innings of relief for the Sounds. And with rehabbing RHPs Mengden and Chris Bassitt currently working in the Sounds rotation alongside RHPs Jharel Cotton, Daniel Gossett and Paul Blackburn, RHPs Smith, Zach Neal and Raul Alcantara will all be working out of the Nashville bullpen for the foreseeable future.

Click here for more on Midland, Stockton & Beloit…

Wednesday, May 17th: Schrock Hits 2 HRs in Hounds’ Loss while Nashville’s 3 HRs Aren’t Enough to Help Sounds Win

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Second Baseman Max Schrock (3 for 4 / 2 Home Runs)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Second Baseman Max Schrock (3 for 4 / 2 HRs)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Midland RockHounds  4

Frisco RoughRiders       7

LP – Finnegan 0-1 / 3.38

HR – Schrock 2 (5), Munoz (2)

Prospect Of The Game:

Second Baseman Max Schrock

(3 for 4 / 2 Home Runs)

Despite having his team fall for the fourth time in their last five games on Wednesday, second baseman Max Schrock had a big night at the plate for Midland. The 22-year-old prospect got off to a slow start in April but has been heating up in May, and the 5-foot-8 infielder muscled up to mash a pair of solo home runs in Wednesday’s contest for the Hounds. Schrock’s first round-tripper in the 4th inning gave the RockHounds the lead and, after falling to a two-run deficit, his second solo shot tied the game in the 6th. Just before Schrock’s second big fly, shortstop Yairo Munoz homered for the second time in the last two days to give the keystone combo back-to-back jacks. Munoz also doubled, stole third and scored a run on center fielder J.P. Sportman‘s RBI single in the 1st. Starter Brett Graves had a rare rough outing, allowing 4 runs on 9 hits over 5 frames, while RHP Ben Bracewell tossed 2 scoreless innings in relief and left with the game tied, but RHP Kyle Finnegan gave up a big 3-run homer in the bottom of the 8th to suffer his 1st loss for the Hounds.

Click here for more on Nashville, Stockton & Beloit…

Sunday, May 14th: Ports Drop 7th Straight Despite Brown’s Big Bat while Sounds & Hounds Both Get Blanked

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Stockton Ports Outfielder Seth Brown (2 for 4 / 2 Home Runs / 2 RBIs)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Stockton Ports Outfielder Seth Brown (2 for 4 / 2 Home Runs / 2 RBIs)

 

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE  (High-A)

Stockton Ports          4

Lancaster JetHawks  11

LP – Shore 1-3 / 3.12

HR – Brown 2 (7), Vidales (1)

Prospect Of The Game:

Outfielder Seth Brown

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

The Ports hit three home runs at The Hangar in Lancaster, but it wasn’t enough to keep Stockton from suffering its seventh straight loss on Sunday. Right fielder Seth Brown belted a home run in the top of the 2nd inning to tie the game 1-1, and then slugged his second solo shot of the day in the 7th to give him a team-leading 7 round-trippers on the season. Second baseman Josh Vidales smacked a solo shot of his own in the 6th, while third baseman Mikey White doubled twice and drove in a run, but that would account for all of Stockton’s scoring on Sunday. Starter Logan Shore had his rockiest outing of the season, allowing 4 runs on 8 hits over 4 1/3 frames to suffer his 3rd loss, while LHP Will Gilbert surrendered another 6 runs in just 1 2/3 innings of relief for the Ports.

Click here for more on Nashville & Midland…

Tuesday, May 9th: Ports Fall despite Shore’s 5 No-Hit Frames while Olson & Chapman Homer and Manaea & Bassitt Make Rehab Appearances for Sounds

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Stockton Ports Pitcher Logan Shore (5 IP / 0 H / 0 ER / 2 BB / 4 K)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Stockton Ports Pitcher Logan Shore (5 IP / 0 H / 0 ER / 2 BB / 4 K)

 

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE  (High-A)

Stockton Ports         0

Lake Elsinore Storm  5

LP – Lyons 1-1 / 2.19

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Logan Shore

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

Last year’s 2nd-round draft pick for the A’s, RHP Logan Shore, turned in an impressive outing for the Ports on Tuesday. The 22-year-old held Lake Elsinore scoreless over 5 no-hit innings and struck out 4 before exiting after throwing 68 pitches, 44 for strikes. It was his longest outing of the season after having worked as part of a two-man pitching tandem in all his previous appearances. Shore has been solid all season for Stockton, putting up a 2.37 ERA over his first 30 1/3 frames for the Ports, and he’s now allowed just 4 earned runs while walking 3 and striking out 20 in his last 18 1/3 innings over his last 5 appearances for Stockton. (You can see our recent interview with Shore here). LHP Jared Lyons took over after Shore’s exit and allowed 1 run in 1 2/3 innings of relief to take the loss, and RHP Nolan Blackwood then surrendered 4 more runs in his 1 inning of work for the Ports. Stockton was shut out on just 4 hits in the game. Catcher Jose Chavez singled, third baseman Mikey White doubled, and shortstop Eli White had a pair of hits for the Ports in the loss.

Click here for more on Nashville, Midland & Beloit…

Getting To Know: A’s Pitching Prospect Logan Shore

by Josh Moore / A’s Farm Stockton Correspondent

ls624519bIt was a surprise spring training start in late March that gave many A’s fans their first look at Logan Shore. Donning a nameless jersey with the very spring training-esque number of “92” emblazoned on the back, the 22-year-old faced an Angels lineup that featured most of the team’s best big-league bats.

Shore, who had just been selected by the A’s in the second round of the amateur draft the previous summer, set down the first seven batters he faced, including reigning American League MVP Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun, both on strikeouts. He didn’t allow a base runner until the third inning and, in his fourth and final frame, the kid from Coon Rapids, Minnesota retired the mighty Trout once again.

Shore would complete four full innings, allowing one run on just two hits while walking one and striking out three Angel batters. Although that one run earned him the loss that day, his impressive performance in a last-minute start opened a lot of eyes in the A’s big league camp.

Consistency and control have always been a big part of Shore’s success. Over the course of his college career at Florida, he walked an average of just 1.8 batters per 9 innings while compiling an ERA of 2.42 and increasing his strikeout rate every year. This year, in his age-22 season at Stockton, he’s currently sporting a 9.9 K/9 rate and a microscopic 1.1 BB/9 rate.

So far this season, Shore has surrendered one earned run or less in five of his seven appearances for the Ports, and he’s set to make his eighth appearance of the season for Stockton on Tuesday at Lake Elsinore. We took the opportunity to chat with Shore last weekend in Stockton and discussed his first season with the Ports, the organization’s recent tandem-pitching experiment, and what’s it’s like to have the chance to start his pro career alongside his long-time Florida roommate, A.J. Puk

 

AF:  A lot of folks got to see you for the first time in spring training, in that late-spring start you made against the Angels, when you struck out Mike Trout in the first inning. How much did that experience increase your confidence heading into this season at Stockton?

LS:  I think it was two starts before that that I was pitching against the Cubs and got to face [Anthony] Rizzo and [Wilson] Contreras over there, and I ended up striking out Rizzo twice. So, it was actually that which gave me confidence, especially going into that start, because I’d never faced big league guys before. It was my first full season in pro ball, so I didn’t have a whole lot of experience facing guys anywhere near that caliber. So really, for the Angels game, I was told the day before that I might start, so I was just going into it with an open mind and gave it all I had. There wasn’t a whole lot to lose.

Logan Shore

Shore in his Gator days

AF:  You’ve always done a great job of maintaining control of the strike zone and limiting your walks. But from your freshman year at Florida up through this season at Stockton, you’ve also been increasing the rate at which you’re striking out hitters every single year. What have you been learning and utilizing that’s helping you miss bats with greater frequency?

LS:  You know, honestly, my fastball has gotten a lot better as far as my velocity. I’m up two to three miles per hour since my last year in college. I think the command to both sides of the plate right now, from spring training until now, is the best in my career; on top of that, just throwing my changeup behind in the count and late in the count for swings and misses. My breaking ball has gotten a lot better too. That’s still going to be a work in progress but, for the most part, it’s gotten better from last year.

AF:  When we spoke with Brett Graves last week, he mentioned that he was pretty into TrackMan, and he gave us some insight into what he’s been looking at with A’s minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson. Is that something that you’re also focused on?

LS:  You know, I never really looked at it before. We started getting the information in instructional league last year. Gil loves it and has helped us understand the numbers and statistics and all that goes into it, and I think it does help. Like Brett said, it’s good to see how your data matches up against guys who are pitching in the big leagues. You look at spin rate, velocity, etc. I try not to look too in-depth into it and get too caught up in it, but it’s really amazing to see how my stuff matches up with guys who have been pitching in the big leagues for ten years.

AF:  You and left-hander A.J. Puk both came out of Florida together. So how has it now been for you to have the chance to come up through the A’s system together?

LS:  Being drafted with him was the best thing that happened since starting pro ball. Going back to college, we always joked about being drafted together to the same team. We roomed together our freshman, sophomore and junior years at Florida, so we’ve always been roommates, and now we’re roommates here again. But yeah, we always joked about being drafted to the same team but really never considered that it would actually happen. What are the odds?

AF:  Do you remember facing your current Stockton teammate Mikey White when he was at Alabama?

LS:  Oh, yeah. There are a lot of SEC guys. Anyone that comes from the SEC knows how tough it is to play in the SEC, so we sort of have this bond.

Logan Shore

Long-time teammates and roomates A.J. Puk & Logan Shore

AF:  The eight-man tandem pitching rotations that the A’s have been experimenting with, what were the positives and negatives that have come out of that?

LS:  Now we’re going to the five-day rotations with a couple of tandems. There were some positives and negatives. For me, the positives were that I was able to pitch out of the bullpen, which is something I had never done before. So learning how to come in when there was a runner on first and two outs and you have to get out of the inning, or learning how to come in when you’re up by one run in the seventh and finishing out the game. The negatives for me were also that I had never pitched out of the bullpen. I developed a good routine in my first year of pro ball, and then changing it up was kind of tough, because you think 5-man rotation, and you’re doing this, this and this. I had it all mapped out in my head. And we come to the next season and it gets kind of flipped on us, which is totally fine. I mean, it turned out that it worked pretty well, so I feel good, I feel fresh.

AF:  How is your relationship with catcher Sean Murphy behind the plate? I know you had a chance to pitch to him a little in Vermont last year and a little bit here in Stockton.

LS:  Before Murph got hurt… I loved throwing to Murph. I threw to him in short-season last year. He does an outstanding job, as well as all of the other catchers. Everybody does their homework and they’re all phenomenal behind the plate.

AF:  Random question time – what’s favorite type of music?

LS:  Right now, it’s been country.

AF:  Same with Brett Graves. Have you two been listening to music together or what?

LS:  [Laughs] He was probably the biggest impact on me during spring training. He was always there for me, always helping me with everything and kind of telling me what to do, where to go, where to be.

AF:  Have you been given any idea when you might be joining him in Midland?

LS:  Nah, that’s the fun part of the game. You never really know when you’re going to be promoted or anything like that. So, for me, it’s first year of pro ball, just trying to work hard every day.

AF:  What’s your favorite professional sports team besides the Oakland A’s and the Minnesota Twins?

LS:  [Minnesota] Wild.

AF:  True to your home state! Thanks for the chat. We’ll look forward to seeing you in Oakland.

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

Talking Ports Prospects with Stockton Skipper Rick Magnante

by Josh Moore / A’s Farm Stockton Correspondent

rmMGR_Magnante_dervlq1cStockton manager Rick Magnante originally began his professional baseball career as a 13th-round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians out of the University of Santa Barbara back in 1969. He first joined the A’s organization in 1995 as an area scout covering southern California. He also began managing short-season teams for the A’s in 2006 after his duties prepping for each year’s draft were through.

After spending five seasons in Vancouver and three seasons in Vermont, Magnante gave up his scouting duties and began managing full-time. He spent the 2014 season in Beloit and is now in his third season with Stockton.

Just before left-hander A.J. Puk’s impressive performance on Saturday, in which he allowed just one infield single and struck out 9 over 5 scoreless innings, we had the chance to chat with the Stockton skipper about the recent changes to team’s tandem-pitching rotation and well as many of the Ports’ most promising prospects…

 

AF:  First things first, you’re switching up the starting rotation a bit. You’re getting away from the eight-man tandem rotation and are stretching out a few of the guys now. Is that right?

RM:  Well, it’s a little bit of a hybrid now. There will be a couple of guys that piggyback. There will be three guys that get their own start: [A.J.] Puk, [Logan] Shore, and [Evan] Manarino. Those will be the three that will be on their own, and they’ll match up with what’s in the bullpen on that given day.

AF:  Do you have a pitch count for Puk, Shore and Manarino as they get stretched out? What could we expect from an innings standpoint?

RM:  I think we’re going to gradually increase them to where they can get back to 75-85 [pitches], and toward the halfway mark of the season, toward 100 and back on a starter’s number as it relates to what’s expected in the big leagues.

A.J. Puk

A.J. Puk

AF:  Puk’s previous three starts [prior to Saturday] were a little different than his first three. His BABIP was .522, everyone was making good contact against him, and he had three consecutive losses in those appearances. Was he trying something new?

RM:  I don’t necessarily think that he’s trying anything new. I think he’s just understanding that he’s in a professional environment now facing professional hitters. And when he’s making the pitches he’s capable of making, he’s pretty untouchable. But when he doesn’t make those pitches and falls behind or gets deep into counts, these guys – you have to give them credit – they can hit a little bit and it’s what they’ve been doing.

AF:  Back to the tandem-pitching experiment. How do you feel about it?

RM:  I think as far as getting guys more appearances, I get that, but I think we should mirror the model of what’s going on in the big leagues. If the big leagues are going to go to this same format, then I fully understand it. If they’re not, then I’m not sure if the Petri dish experiment is truly working. So, we’ve already amended it.

AF:  Let’s talk about some of the bullpen arms. Between Nolan Blackwood, Carlos Navas, Jared Lyons and Matt Sergey, they’ve managed to allow just 4 runs in their 41 innings of work. Everyone knows some of those names in the rotation, but for those who might not know much about the arms in the pen, tell me about a few of them.

Nolan Blackwood

Nolan Blackwood

RM:  Blackwood can pitch. They [the A’s] like him. He’s a down-under guy and it sinks at 91-92. He’s got the frisbee slider going the other way. He’s hard to pick up with a lot of deception.

AF:  Do you think Brad Ziegler with a slightly better fastball would be a good comparison for Blackwood?

RM:  Probably. This is really my first look at Nolan. I didn’t have him last year. He’s had a few appearances here and, like anybody, he’s probably a little nervous or anxious and maybe sometimes tries to do a little too much. On certain days, there’s one pitch that works. He’s got a sinking fastball at 90-92 – you don’t need to go to the frisbee slider if they’re not swinging at that. And if you don’t have the slider, then you’ve got to go with whatever your best pitch is. So he’s learning.

AF:  I wanted to ask you about Carlos Navas. He pitched very briefly in Triple-A last season, he’s 24 and he pitched extremely well in the Venezuelan Winter League to guys who are bit older than him, and he hasn’t given up a run yet this year here in Stockton. What’s his ceiling?

RM:  There’s no telling. He may move quickly through this organization as the need arises and he’s seasoned. He’s been able to combine a 2-seamer and a 4-seamer, and if he can keep himself on line – that would be his biggest Achilles heal – he doesn’t always work down the slope. He can get left-to-right and that’s when he starts to yank the stuff. This year, his mechanics have been better, he’s been more on line, he’s got two-plane action and he’s got a very good slider. He’s durable, he’s strong, he competes, and he’s got great character, so we all pull for him.

AF:  Casey Meisner has looked much better recently. He hasn’t allowed a run in a couple of his recent appearances. How do you view his development?

RM:  He’s just kind of working through it. You know, he’s a big, tall, rangy guy and sometimes those guys have a more difficult time repeating [their delivery]. It’s confidence as well. In his mind and in the mind of the organization, he probably had a very disappointing season [last year]. He’s a high school draft guy without a lot of experience, but he had a real solid season in the South Atlantic League and in the Florida State League when we traded for him. He came here and stepped right into a role and competed. And then last year was a hiccup for him.

AF:  Although Brett Graves has moved on to Midland, both he and Evan Manarino have done such a great job this year in Stockton. Both pitchers have had their finest strikeout-to-walk ratios of their careers. What are you doing with two guys like that to help them develop?

Evan Manarino

Evan Manarino

RM:  You have two guys who really have a feel to pitch. And they really treat this as an opportunity. They’re students of the game. They assess their performances and they write things down to remind them of what they did right or wrong in their previous outings in terms of how they attacked the hitters. For me, Manarino is Tommy Milone. That’s who he is. He’s unflappable out there. His fastball wouldn’t bust your lip, but he never throws it in the same place twice. It’s the same with the changeup. He mixes his pitches and keeps hitters off balance. He has to be very control-and-command oriented because, the fastball, if it’s not located, is hittable. He’s a pitcher. Graves, on the other hand, he’s got 92-94 in the tank, so he’s got a litmus-test fastball. So with him, it’s commanding the breaking ball and attacking hitters and knowing how to get people out.

AF:  Logan Shore, I believe, at Florida topped out at about 92 mph. Is he getting a little more on his fastball, and how is the development coming along on his slider?

RM:  Yeah, I think his velocity has been somewhere between 91-94 – he’s probably sitting somewhere around 92. I think that’s probably his comfort level. Right now, it’s basically fastball, change and a developing slider. I actually talked to him before we came out today and he’s really working hard to figure out a grip and get comfortable, and he really believes he’s got a slider when he throws it right. It’s a good pitch, but just doesn’t have the consistency yet.

AF:  Offensively, we’ve seen a few guys really hitting well of late – outfielders Skye Bolt and Tyler Ramirez, shortstop Eli White and, despite his slow start, infielder Mikey White has shown some power of late. Is there anyone you’ve been particularly impressed with?

RM:  I think the guy that really had a terrific April and was pushed a little bit in terms of his matriculation through the system has been Eli White. I think he got off to a great start, and I think he’s a guy who has the tools and the skill set and, with some development – maybe a season under his belt – could be a guy that will really surprise.

AF:  Skye Bolt is a guy we’ve all been focused on because of his tools, and he’s currently in the top ten in the California League in on-base percentage. What is he doing differently this season?

RM:  I think he has just made some strides in his basic approach to hitting. He just seems to be more on time, his pitch recognition is better, his path is more consistent. He’s got a lean, sinewy kind of body that doesn’t really say “power,” but when the ball comes off the bat, it can be electric at times. I would kind of liken him a little bit to [Josh] Reddick in terms of that kind of profile or prototype.

AF:  About the injuries to first baseman Sandber Pimentel and catcher Sean Murphy, how long should we expect that they’ll be out?

Sandber Pimentel

Sandber Pimentel

RM:  Pimie…I don’t know. We got him here kind of hoping we could rehab him to begin the year. And we got him back on the field, but then he swung a couple of times and he had to shut it down. It’s a back issue. I’m not an orthopod, so I can’t tell you, but we all thought it’d be better to send him back to Arizona and give him more hands-on treatment to see what happens. Certainly we’d love to have him here because he’s an impact guy for us. If we have him and we have [Chris] Iriart—a lefty/righty combo at first-base and DH—we’ve got some thump and some dangerous guys in the lineup. So, we certainly hope he’ll be fine. With Murph, it’s just a little wrist problem and those are quirky. Those are things that can be hard to work through.

AF:  Catcher Jose Chavez joined the team with Murphy’s absence and hit two home runs in his first six games. Is he someone we can expect to get more and more time while Murphy is out?

RM:  I think so. I think Chavy will get the lion’s share of the catching when Murph’s not capable of playing. And everybody’s always been very complimentary of Chavy’s ability to catch and throw – that’s his forte. It’s the bat that’s always been a little suspect as he has developed through the minor league system. Now he’s getting a little better feel on how to hit. He’s a little stronger. He’s a little more mature. He’s had more experience. So, hopefully we’re starting to see that if this guy has the ability to get to the big leagues, he’ll have a serviceable bat that’ll allow him to play some.

AF:  How much of a defensive drop-off do you see between Murphy and Chavez?

RM:  I would say in the receiving end, probably not too much. I think Murphy is a prodigy. I think he’s advanced and has a baseball IQ that shows that not only can he catch, and he can really throw, but he also has an idea on how to help his pitchers attack hitters and exploit their weaknesses and take advantage of that – and that’s a thinking man’s catcher, and that’s something you can’t really grade out unless you see it every day on the field.

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Friday, May 5th: Martin Helps Hounds Come Back to Win 4th Straight but HRs by Chapman & Canha Aren’t Enough to Help Sounds Prevail

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Shortstop Richie Martin (2 for 2 / Double / Sac Fly / Stolen Base / 2 Runs / GWRBI)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Shortstop Richie Martin (2 for 2 / Double / Sac Fly / Stolen Base / 2 Runs / GWRBI)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Corpus Christi Hooks      4

Midland RockHounds  10

WP – Friedrichs 1-3 / 5.16

Prospect Of The Game:

Shortstop Richie Martin

(2 for 2 / Double / Sac Fly / Stolen Base / 2 Runs / GWRBI)

A big 4-run 6th inning allowed the RockHounds to come back and win their fourth straight to complete the sweep of their series with Corpus Christi on Friday. Shorstop Richie Martin drove in the winning run in the 6th with a sacrifice fly and also singled, doubled, stole a base and scored twice in the win. Center fielder J.P. Sportman singled, doubled and drove in 2 runs, while catcher Andy Paz had 2 hits and drove in a pair, and second baseman Max Schrock singled twice and drove in the tying run in the 6th. Starter Ben Bracewell had another rocky outing for the Hounds, allowing 3 runs over 3 1/3 innings and exiting with his team down by a run. His tandem-starting mate, RHP Kyle Friedrichs, allowed just 1 run in 3 2/3 innings of relief to pick up the win as the RockHounds moved into a tie for first place in their division on Friday.

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Thursday, May 4th: Olson’s Early HR Leads Sounds to Victory while Bassitt Looks Strong in 2nd Rehab Start for Stockton

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

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

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Nashville Sounds      5

Round Rock Express  4

WP – C.Smith 2-1 / 2.39

HR – Olson (4), Parmelee (3)

Prospect Of The Game:

First Baseman Matt Olson

(Home Run / 3 RBIs)

First baseman Matt Olson slugged a 3-run homer in the top of the 1st inning to give the Sounds a lead they would never surrender on Thursday. Olson has been hot since returning from his brief stint with the A’s, hitting .320 with 2 home runs and 8 RBIs over his last 6 games. Designated hitter Chris Parmelee followed up with a solo shot in the 2nd, while left fielder Jaycob Brugman collected 3 hits, including a double, and third baseman Matt Chapman singled and tripled for the Sounds. Starter Chris Smith was solid, allowing 2 runs over 5 2/3 frames to earn his 2nd win, while RHP Chris Jensen gave up 2 runs in 2 1/3 innings of relief, and LHP Ross Detwiler threw a scoreless 9th to notch his 1st save for Nashville. And with Oakland catcher Josh Phegley landing on the 7-day concussion list, Sounds catcher Bruce Maxwell rejoined the A’s roster on Thursday.

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Wednesday, May 3rd: Marincov’s 3 HRs Help Hounds Win while Nunez Homers Again in Sounds’ Loss

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Outfielder Tyler Marincov (3 for 5 / 3 Home Runs / 5 RBIs)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Outfielder Tyler Marincov (3 for 5 / 3 HRs / 5 RBIs)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Corpus Christi Hooks      3

Midland RockHounds  12

WP – Holmes 2-1 / 5.16

HR – Marincov 3 (6), Rosa (5), Raga (2)

Prospect Of The Game:

Outfielder Tyler Marincov

(3 for 5 / 3 Home Runs / 5 RBIs)

Five home runs helped the RockHounds put 12 runs on the board in Wednesday’s win. Right fielder Tyler Marincov led the attack, hitting a 3-run homer in the 4th, then following up with solo shots in his next two at-bats in the 6th and the 8th. First baseman Viosergy Rosa singled, drew 3 walks, and hit a 2-run homer in the 1st, while catcher Argenis Raga slugged a 2-run shot in the 2nd, and second baseman Max Schrock doubled, singled twice, walked and drove in a run for the RockHounds. Third baseman Yairo Munoz went 1 for 5 and scored a run in his season debut after returning from the disabled list and, after a stint with the Sounds, shortstop Melvin Mercedes singled and walked in his return to the RockHounds. Starter James Naile gave up 3 runs in 2 2/3 innings of work, while his tandem-starting mate, RHP Grant Holmes, allowed just 1 hit and 1 walk while striking out 6 over 4 scoreless frames to earn his 2nd win for Midland. And with Munoz and Mercedes returning to the RockHounds roster, RHP Jesus Zambrano was reassigned to the Snappers and infielder Jean Carlo Rodriguez was sent back to extended spring training in Arizona.

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