Tag: Mark Canha

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

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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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Oakland A’s 2016 Depth Chart

oamlb_g_oakland_coliseum_600After a long cold winter, the first week of March has arrived and spring training games are finally underway. Between players on the 40-man roster and 22 non-roster invitees, the Oakland A’s have a total of 62 players in their major league camp – 33 position players and 29 pitchers. Every other player in the organization is based in the minor league camp, headquarted at Fitch Park in Mesa. Those 62 players in the big league camp represent the top tier of players in the organization, the ones the coaching staff and the team’s front office executives have deemed worthy of playing with the big boys and want to be sure to get a good look at this spring.

With that in mind, we wanted to examine the team’s depth chart at each position, with the assumption that the 62 players in the big league camp are at the top of the heap in the organization. So let’s take a look at who’s currently in line at each position in the A’s organizational depth chart. Next to each player’s name is the highest level they’ve played at, and below each positional depth chart is a list of players who appeared at that position for the A’s in 2015.

 

Stephen Vogt

Stephen Vogt

CATCHER

Stephen Vogt (MLB)

Josh Phegley (MLB)

Bryan Anderson (MLB)

Carson Blair (MLB)

Matt McBride (MLB)

Bruce Maxwell (AA)

Beau Taylor (AA)

(2015: Vogt, Phegley, Blair, Anderson)

Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley are set to return at the catching combo at the major leage level for the A’s this season. They are also the only two catchers currently on the 40-man roster. After that, the A’s catching corps is a little thin. Bryan Anderson and Carson Blair, both whom made a handful of appearances for the A’s last year, are expected to be at Triple-A Nashville this season, along with Matt McBride, who is primarily an outfielder. But the veteran has picked up his catcher’s mitt this spring for the first time since 2013 in order to increase his versatility as well as his chances of making it back to the big leagues. Should the A’s be in need of backup backstops this season, Anderson, Blair and McBride should be first in line to get the call. Bruce Maxwell and Beau Taylor are both expected to start the season back at Double-A Midland. But considering the frequency with which catchers tend to get banged up, anyone could get an opportunity to take a step up at any time.

 

Yonder Alonso

Yonder Alonso

FIRST BASE

Yonder Alonso (MLB)

Mark Canha (MLB)

Stephen Vogt (MLB)

Billy Butler (MLB)

Max Muncy (MLB)

Rangel Ravelo (AAA)

Matt Olson (AA)

(2015: Davis, Canha, Vogt, Muncy, Butler)

Last year, Ike Davis and Mark Canha got most of the starts at first base for the A’s. And this year, the left-handed hitting Yonder Alonso and the right-handed hitting Canha are expected to form the first base platoon for the A’s. If needed, Stephen Vogt can always come out from behind the plate and Billy Butler can always come out of the designated hitter spot to back up the pair. If a first baseman is needed for the longer term, lefty Max Muncy and righty Rangel Ravelo will both be at Triple-A Nashville and both are on the 40-man roster. Top prospect Matt Olson will also be at Nashville, but he’s not currently on the 40-man roster, and the A’s may prefer to wait till they’re ready to give the young slugger a full-time shot before giving him the call and starting his service time clock.

 

Jed Lowrie

Jed Lowrie

SECOND BASE

Jed Lowrie (MLB)

Chris Coghlan (MLB)

Eric Sogard (MLB)

Tyler Ladendorf (MLB)

Joey Wendle (AAA)

Chad Pinder (AA)

Josh Rodriguez (MLB)

Franklin Barreto (A)

(2015: Sogard, Lawrie, Zobrist, Ladendorf)

Eric Sogard got most of the starts at second base last year, but Jed Lowrie has returned to the A’s to serve as the team’s starting second baseman this season. Lefty-swinging Chris Coghlan was also acquired from the Cubs and could get some starts against right-handed pitchers since Lowrie struggled a bit against righties last year. Sogard is still in the picture though and, if he doesn’t make the major league squad to start the season, he could be optioned to Nashville, where he’d be available to return to Oakland at a moment’s notice should his services be needed. Middle infielders Tyler Ladendorf, Joey Wendle and Chad Pinder will all be at Nashville, and Ladendorf and Wendle are both on the 40-man roster, so it would be easy to bring them up if needed. Minor league free agent signee and non-roster invitee Josh Rodriguez could be at Nashville as well or, if the Triple-A roster is too crowded, he could end up at Midland, where top shortstop prospect Franklin Barreto is expected to start getting a little time at second base to increase his versatility.

 

Marcus Semien

Marcus Semien

SHORTSTOP

Marcus Semien (MLB)

Jed Lowrie (MLB)

Eric Sogard (MLB)

Tyler Ladendorf (MLB)

Chad Pinder (AA)

Josh Rodriguez (MLB)

Franklin Barreto (A)

Richie Martin (A)

(2015: Semien, Sogard, Parrino)

Marcus Semien appeared in 152 games at shortstop for the A’s in 2015 and is set to return as the team’s everyday shortstop in 2016. As long as he’s healthy, the 25-year-old East Bay native should start as many games for the A’s as anyone in the coming season. But if he does need an occasional day off, the A’s former everyday shortstop, Jed Lowrie, can easily slide over from second base to give Semien a breather. If Eric Sogard remains with the organization, he also has the ability to fill in at the position and served as Semien’s primary backup last season. Tyler Ladendorf, who’s on the 40-man roster, should be available at Nashville if needed. And Chad Pinder, who’s not currently on the 40-man roster, is set to be the primary starting shortstop for Nashville this year after turning in an MVP season at Double-A Midland last year. Non-roster invitee Josh Rodriguez has played over 400 games at shortstop in the minors, while 20-year-old Franklin Barreto is the organization’s top shortstop prospect and is set to start the season at Double-A Midland, and 21-year-old Richie Martin was the team’s top draft pick last year but is still relatively inexperienced and should start the season in A ball.

 

Danny Valencia

Danny Valencia

THIRD BASE

Danny Valencia (MLB)

Jed Lowrie (MLB)

Chris Coghlan (MLB)

Eric Sogard (MLB)

Max Muncy (MLB)

Tyler Ladendorf (MLB)

Renato Nunez (AA)

Chad Pinder (AA)

Josh Rodriguez (MLB)

Matt Chapman (AA)

(2015: Lawrie, Valencia, Muncy, Sogard)

With Brett Lawrie, the A’s primary third baseman last season, shipped off to the White Sox in the offseason, Danny Valencia, the A’s second-half hitting star last year, is set to take over as the team’s everyday third baseman in 2016. But Valencia has primarily been a part-time player throughout his career and if he needs a little time off, Jed Lowrie, who primarily played third base for the Astros last season, can always slide over from second base or newly-acquired lefty swinger Chris Coghlan can come in to give the right-handed hitting Valencia an occasional break against righties. Eric Sogard has appeared in a couple dozen games at the hot corner for the A’s over the past few seasons and could also be in the mix. Max Muncy, who appeared in 16 games at third base for the A’s last year, along with the versatile Tyler Ladendorf and the young slugger Renato Nunez will all be available at Nashville, and all are currently on the 40-man roster. Chad Pinder, who will also be at Nashville, played plenty of third base in college, while non-roster invitee Josh Rodriguez has spent the bulk of his time at third base over his last three seasons in the minors. And right behind them is the A’s top draft pick from 2014, Matt Chapman, who’s set to start the season at Double-A Midland and who’s defense at the hot corner is as solid as can be.

 

Khris Davis

Khris Davis

OUTFIELD

Khris Davis (MLB)

Josh Reddick (MLB)

Billy Burns (MLB)

Mark Canha (MLB)

Coco Crisp (MLB)

Chris Coghlan (MLB)

Sam Fuld (MLB)

Tyler Ladendorf (MLB)

Jake Smolinski (MLB)

Andrew Lambo (MLB)

Matt McBride (MLB)

Matt Olson (AA)

(2015: Reddick, Burns, Fuld, Canha, Smolinski, Crisp, Zobrist, Gentry, Ross, Ladendorf, Pridie)

While Josh Reddick and Billy Burns will be returning as the A’s starting right fielder and center fielder this season, new acquisition Khris Davis is set to take over in left field, where Sam Fuld and Mark Canha ended up getting the bulk of the starts last year. When he’s not starting at first base against lefties, Canha will be available to fill in in the outfield if needed, as will Coco Crisp, as long as he’s healthy, and new acquisition Chris Coghlan. There’s some question as to whether or not Sam Fuld will be able to make the opening day roster and, since he’s out of options, the A’s may not be able to retain him if he doesn’t. But if Fuld sticks around, then he’s another option to fill in at all three outfield spots. Tyler Ladendorf is expected to see plenty of time in center field at Triple-A Nashville this season, where corner outfielders Jake Smolinski and Andrew Lambo, both of whom have major league experience, are also set to spend plenty of time patrolling the outfield. And since all three are on the 40-man roster, it’d be easy to call up any of them if extra outfielders are needed. Non-roster invitee Matt McBride has seen time in the outfield for the Rockies over parts of three different seasons. He’ll be at Nashville this year but is not on the 40-man roster. The same applies to young slugger Matt Olson, who spent most of the second half of last season in right field for Midland and is expected to see plenty more time there in Music City this year.

 

Sonny Gray

Sonny Gray

STARTING PITCHING

Sonny Gray (MLB)

Jesse Hahn (MLB)

Chris Bassitt (MLB)

Kendall Graveman (MLB)

Rich Hill (MLB)

Henderson Alvarez (MLB)

Felix Doubront (MLB)

Jarrod Parker (MLB)

Sean Manaea (AA)

Dillon Overton (AA)

Eric Surkamp (MLB)

Chris Smith (MLB)

Raul Alcantara (AA)

(2015: Gray, Chavez, Graveman, Kazmir, Hahn, Bassitt, Brooks, Pomeranz, Doubront, Nolin, Martin, Zito, Mills)

The idea of a five-man starting rotation is a bit of a myth. Most teams end up using twice that many starting pitchers over the course of a season, and the A’s used 13 different starters last year. With that in mind, as A’s general manager David Forst well knows, building plenty of starting pitching depth can be key to any team’s success. High atop the A’s starting pitching heap is staff ace Sonny Gray. Free agent signee Rich Hill is set to join him in the A’s starting rotation, along with returning right-handers Jesse Hahn, Chris Bassitt and Kendall Graveman, as long as all are healthy. Free agent signee and former All-Star Henderson Alvarez, who is returning from shoulder surgery, is expected to be ready to join the rotation by the end of May. And lefty Felix Doubront, who’s started 85 games in the majors and is currently set to be the A’s long man out of the bullpen, will also be available to start if needed. After multiple elbow surgeries, Jarrod Parker will be working his way back into shape at Triple-A Nashville, where he’s likely to be joined by the team’s top two pitching prospects, left-handers Sean Manaea and Dillon Overton, along with minor league free agent signees Eric Surkamp and Chris Smith, both of whom have major league experience. Parker is the only one of that group currently on the 40-man roster and is also the only one with extensive major league experience so, if he can regain his form, he could be the first to get the call if needed. The A’s would like Sean Manaea to get some time in Triple-A but, as the organization’s top pitching prospect, if Manaea can show the ability to dominate Triple-A hitters early, then the team may have to find a way to find a spot for the promising lefty. The only other starting pitcher in the big league camp is right-hander Raul Alcantara, who returned from Tommy John surgery to make 15 starts for Stockton last season and is expected to start 2016 at Double-A Midland.

 

Sean Doolittle

Sean Doolittle

LEFT-HANDED RELIEF

Sean Doolittle (MLB)

Marc Rzepczynski (MLB)

Felix Doubront (MLB)

Daniel Coulombe (MLB)

Eric Surkamp (MLB)

Patrick Schuster (AAA)

(2015: Abad, Pomeranz, Venditte, O’Flaherty, Doolittle, Coulombe)

A healthy Sean Doolittle is set to return as the A’s closer this season, while new acquisition Marc Rzepczynski is expected to take on the role as the team’s primary left-handed setup man, with lefty Felix Doubront serving as the A’s long man and occasional spot starter. The organization isn’t terribly deep at the moment when it comes to left-handed relief options. Daniel Coulombe, who appeared in 9 games late last season with the A’s, will be at Nashville, along with non-roster invitee Eric Surkamp, who has major league experience with the Giants, Dodgers and White Sox. Minor league free agent signee Patrick Schuster may also be at Nashville but, with an abundance of arms fighting for spots in the Sounds bullpen, he could also start the season with Double-A Midland. None of the three are currently on the 40-man roster though, so if another southpaw is needed at the major league level, another roster move will have to be made.

 

Ryan Madson

Ryan Madson

RIGHT-HANDED RELIEF

Ryan Madson (MLB)

John Axford (MLB)

Liam Hendriks (MLB)

Fernando Rodriguez (MLB)

Ryan Dull (MLB)

R.J. Alvarez (MLB)

J.B. Wendelken (AAA)

Angel Castro (MLB)

Ryan Brasier (MLB)

Taylor Thompson (MLB)

Ryan Doolittle (AA)

Eduard Santos (AA)

(2015: Rodriguez, Scribner, Otero, Mujica, Clippard, Alvarez, Leon, Dull, Castro)

The A’s have really remade the right side of their bullpen this season. Free agent signees Ryan Madson and John Axford will be joined my trade acquisition Liam Hendriks as the team’s top three options from the right side. And since he’s out of options, Fernando Rodriguez is expected to return to take the fourth spot from the right side. If everyone else is healthy, then young righty Ryan Dull may have to start the season at Nashville as the first option to get the call if and when bullpen reinforcements are needed. Two other promising young righties at Nashville who are also on the 40-man roster, R.J. Alvaraez and J.B. Wendelken, may be the next two arms in line if extra help is needed. Behind them at Nashville will be Angel Castro, Ryan Brasier and Taylor Thompson, all of whom have major league experience but none of whom are on the 40-man roster. Two other right-handed relievers in the major league camp, Sean’s little brother Ryan Doolittle and minor league free agent signee Eduard Santos, will both be fighting for spots in the Nashville bullpen but may well wind up having to start the season at Double-A Midland.

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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.

Meet Your 2016 Oakland A’s

David Forst

Newly-minted A’s GM David Forst

As we sit here in late January, there are still about two and a half months to go until opening day for the A’s. But the first spring workouts are just a month away and the first spring games are just six weeks away.

It looks like most of the A’s major offseason work may be done, but you can never be too sure with Billy Beane and David Forst at the helm.

Of course, there could still be some surprising trades or injuries to come, but barring any more major moves or unexpected developments in spring training, the makeup of the A’s team that should be set to take the field in 2016 looks fairly clear, at least for the moment.

Today we’ll preview the A’s 2016 major league roster. And tomorrow we’ll take a look at the A’s Triple-A affiliate Nashville Sounds roster for the coming season (here).

 

Stephen Vogt

Stephen Vogt

CATCHERS

Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley, the A’s catching tandem from last season, appear set to return as the team’s primary backstops again next season. They also happen to be the only catchers currently on the A’s 40-man roster. The duo started behind the plate in 151 of the team’s 162 games in 2015 and, health willing, should be expected to do roughly the same again for Oakland in 2016. Catcher Carson Blair, who caught 11 games for the A’s last season, will be waiting in the wings at Nashville if needed.

 

MIDDLE INFIELDERS

Marcus Semien

Marcus Semien

The only member of the A’s 2015 opening day infield expected to return to a starting role in 2016 is shortstop Marcus Semien, who appears to have held on to his job with an improved second half in the field. He’ll be joined up the middle by former A’s infielder Jed Lowrie who returns to the team, thanks to an offseason deal with the Astros, to take over at second base. Meanwhile, long-time A’s infielder Eric Sogard, who has experience at second, short and third, appears set to shift to a utility role, just as he was in 2015 until multiple injuries pushed him back into action for 120 games last season. And if further reinforcements are needed, middle infielders Tyler Ladendorf, Joey Wendle and Chad Pinder should all be in reserve at Nashville.

 

CORNER INFIELDERS

Danny Valencia

Danny Valencia

With Brett Lawrie traded and Ike Davis non-tendered, things will be looking plenty different at the corner infield positions for the A’s in 2016 than they did when the 2015 season began. Danny Valencia, who was the A’s best hitter over the final two months of the season after being acquired off waivers during the first week of August, is set to be the team’s everyday third baseman and potential cleanup hitter. Meanwhile, Yonder Alonso was acquired from the Padres to take over as the A’s primary first baseman next season. A left-handed hitter, Alonso is generally expected to sit against lefties, though his platoon splits aren’t quite as extreme as some might assume. But the expectation is that Mark Canha will end up getting most of the starts at first base when southpaws are on the mound. The A’s primary designated hitter, Billy Butler, is always available to step in at first now and then if needed. And if Valencia should need a day off at third, Lowrie can always slide over from second, with Sogard taking over Lowrie’s spot up the middle.

 

OUTFIELDERS

Josh Reddick

Josh Reddick

The A’s outfield will remain largely unchanged from 2015. Rifle-armed Josh Reddick will return to hold things down in right field, while speedster Billy Burns will be back to patrol center field for the green and gold. Left field will be the biggest question mark as the 2016 season begins, but that doesn’t mean that there will be any shortage of available options. Of course, if by any chance, Coco Crisp should prove to be healthy and productive, then he would likely end up getting most of the starts there. But considering that Crisp’s injuries limited him to just 44 games last year, and he didn’t exactly set the world on fire when he did make it onto the field, it’s probably better to count on Mark Canha making most of the starts in left field, at least when he isn’t spending time at first base versus lefties. And with Sam Fuld back in the fold to fill in anywhere in the outfield as needed, as long as everyone is healthy, there won’t be room for Jake Smolinski or Andrew Lambo, the only other outfielders currently on the A’s 40-man, to crack Oakland’s opening day roster.

 

STARTING PITCHERS

Sonny Gray

Sonny Gray

As long as there are no health issues with any of the expected starters, Oakland appears set to begin the season with four familiar faces being joined by newcomer Rich Hill in the team’s starting rotation. Hill is the 35-year-old lefty the A’s signed as a free agent, and he may end up filling the fifth-starter role with the occasional day off, since the southpaw threw fewer than 100 frames last year. Of course, All-Star Sonny Gray will be returning to anchor the rotation, and he’s likely to be joined by fellow returning right-handers Jesse Hahn, Chris Bassitt and Kendall Graveman, as long as all are healthy to kick off the 2016 campaign. But the A’s also signed 25-year-old free agent right-hander Henderson Alvarez, who is just one season removed from his impressive 2014 All-Star campaign. Alvarez is returning from shoulder surgery though and is not expected to be ready to go before May. But if one of the A’s other five starters is either injured or struggling at that point of the season, then Alvarez could be ready to step right in. Lefties Sean Nolin and Felix Doubront and righties Aaron Brooks and Jarrod Parker are all on the 40-man roster and could represent starting options as well. But as long as everyone else is healthy, they seem far more likely to find themselves starting the season either at Nashville or in the A’s bullpen.

 

RELIEF PITCHERS

Sean Doolittle

Sean Doolittle

No area of the A’s 2015 team needed as big an overhaul as the bullpen, and it definitely got one. Out are Evan Scribner, Dan Otero, Edward Mujica, Fernando Abad and Drew Pomeranz, and in are free agents Ryan Madson and John Axford, trade acquisitions Liam Hendriks and Marc Rzepczynski, and a healthy Sean Doolittle, who will be returning to the closer’s role. Madson, Axford, Hendriks and returning right-hander Fernando Rodriguez should represent some solid and experienced set-up options from the right side. With Rodriguez out of options and likely to make the roster, that means young righty Ryan Dull may be forced to start the season in Nashville until an inevitable opening develops. Rzepczynski should be the primary left-handed set-up option for the A’s, while Nolin (who’s also out of options) could be set to replicate Pomeranz’s role as a left-handed long reliever for the team. Left-handed starter-reliever Felix Doubront is another A’s hurler who’s out of options. And if there’s an opening in the rotation or in the bullpen due to injury, trade or poor performance, then the veteran southpaw could be the first called upon to step in and take on whatever role is needed for the A’s.

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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.

The A’s Hottest Hitting Prospects This Spring

Billy Burns

Billy Burns: The speedster is one of the A’s top hitters this spring.

With the A’s reassigning seven players to their minor league camp this past weekend, including top prospect Matt Olson and second baseman Joe Wendle, it’s a good time to take a look at how some of the team’s top young hitting prospects have been faring so far this spring.

The A’s will be counting on youngsters like shortstop Marcus Semien, catcher Josh Phegley and first baseman/outfielder Mark Canha to play significant roles with the major league squad this year, while Josh Reddick’s oblique injury could potentially open up a roster spot for a guy like Billy Burns or Tyler Ladendorf. Meanwhile, prospects like Max Muncy, Joe Wendle and Matt Olson are set to start the season in the minors, where they’ll have the chance to hone their skills while they await the opportunity to crack the major league roster at some point in the near future.

Let’s take a look at how some of these players whom the A’s will be heavily counting on in the present and in the future have been faring so far this spring…

 

bbBurns, Billy2BILLY BURNS

0 HR / .392 AVG / .439 OBP / .549 SLG

Burns has been one of the team’s top hitters so far this spring. Known for his blazing speed, his bat has come alive in the first few weeks of March, and Burns currently leads the team in hits, runs and stolen bases. He’s gone 20 for 51 with 3 triples and a pair of doubles while swiping 4 bases and posting a .439 OBP. Burns is slated to start the season in center field for Triple-A Nashville, but if Josh Reddick isn’t ready to go on opening day, the A’s could decide to keep Burns around if, for nothing else, to be able to utilize his speed off the bench.

 

mmMuncy, Max2MAX MUNCY

1 HR / .286 AVG / .400 OBP / .536 SLG

Muncy was one of the team’s top hitters early this spring. He’s collected 5 extra-base hits and is tied for the team lead with 6 walks while posting an impressive .400 OBP. His plate discipline has always been one of the things that the A’s have loved about him, and his solid performance at the plate this spring has no doubt left a favorable impression on many. After spending all of last year at Double-A Midland, Muncy is ticketed for Triple-A Nashville this season, where he should see time at both first base and third base.

 

msSemien, Marcus2MARCUS SEMIEN

2 HR / .302 AVG / .362 OBP / .512 SLG
When he was acquired from the White Sox in the offseason in the Jeff Samardzija trade and pretty much anointed as the A’s new shortstop, no one was quite sure what to expect. Semien quickly made a good first impression by blasting a pair of home runs early on, but he’s also added 3 doubles and has been getting on base at a solid .362 clip. And it’s a good thing that Semien’s been such a steady presence in the lineup and in the field this spring since he appears to be the A’s plan A, B and C at shortstop this season.

 

tlLadendorf, Tyler3TYLER LADENDORF

1 HR / .319 AVG / .319 OBP / .468 SLG

Ladendorf has primarily been known as a glove man during his years in the A’s system, lending a reliable presence at second, short, third and occasionally in the outfield. But last season at Triple-A Sacramento, his bat began to heat up, and he’s carried that hot bat right into his first big league spring training camp this year. Ladendorf is currently 15 for 47 with a home run, a triple and a pair of doubles in 18 spring games and currently leads the team in RBIs with 11. He was originally slated for Triple-A Nashville, but if Josh Reddick is unable to go on opening day, Ladendorf’s ability to play all around the infield as well as in the outfield could make him a good addition to an A’s team that values versatility.

 

jpPhegley, Josh2JOSH PHEGLEY

2 HR / .250 AVG / .270 OBP / .556 SLG

Another young player acquired in the Samaradzija deal this offseason, Phegley is scheduled to share time behind the plate with Stephen Vogt this year. The backstop came to the A’s with the reputation for having a little pop in his bat, and he’s lived up to that reputation this spring, knocking 7 extra-base hits and posting a healthy .556 slugging percentage. Hopefully Phegley can keep it up because, without Donladson or Cespedes around this season, the A’s will definitely be looking for a few new power sources from the right side this year.

 

mcCanha, Mark2MARK CANHA

2 HR / .240 AVG / .296 OBP / .480 SLG

Another potential right-handed power source for the A’s, Canha currently leads the team in extra-base hits with 8 but is also the A’s spring strikeout leader with 20. The Rule-5 pick is expected to get the chance to show what he can do with the A’s this year and should start out the season with his name on the lineup card whenever the A’s find themselves facing lefties, whether it’s at first base, DH or in one of the corner outfield spots.

 

jwWendle, Joey2JOE WENDLE

0 HR / .286 AVG / .342 OBP / .371 SLG
When he was acquired from the Indians for Brandon Moss in the offseason, many people wondered what exactly the A’s saw in Wendle. But the second baseman has looked solid in the field and at the plate this spring. Before being reassigned to the minor league camp on Sunday, he was 10 for 35 with a pair of extra-base hits and a solid .342 OBP. Wendle is expected to start the season as the primary second baseman at Triple-A Nashville.

 

moOlson, Matt2MATT OLSON

1 HR / .195 AVG / .283 OBP / .341 SLG

The A’s top prospect according to many, Olson led all A’s minor leaguers in home runs as well as walks last season. And in his first big league camp this year, the big first baseman impressed early on before beginning to struggle a bit against better pitching. Just a few days shy of 21, Olson smashed 3 doubles and a home run while drawing 5 walks before being sent down on Sunday. He’s ticketed for Double-A Midland this season but, if he keeps flashing the mix of power and plate discipline the A’s love, the future could be sooner rather than later for Olson.

 

 

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.

A’s Asst GM David Forst Gives the Lowdown on Team’s New Acquisitions & Top Minor League Prospects

David Forst

David Forst

In what’s become his annual winter interview with bloggers, A’s assistant general manager David Forst addressed a wide range of topics covering both the major league squad as well as the team’s minor league system at A’s FanFest on Sunday.

When asked which of the A’s offseason acquisitions he was personally most excited about, Forst hesitated to single out any one player, but he eventually got around to talking about infielder Marcus Semien, who was acquired from the White Sox in the Jeff Samardzija deal, saying, “Marcus was a guy we were really focused on…We really believe in his ability to play the middle of the infield. As much as anybody we’ve added this offseason, he’s as deserving of an opportunity to play every day in the big leagues, so I’m looking forward to seeing what he does.”

Despite critiques by some of Semien’s range at shortstop, Forst praised his strong arm and quick release and said, “We’ve seen enough of Marcus to believe he can handle the position.”

Asked to assess the prospects of some of the A’s newly-acquired young pitchers with the team this season, Forst started out by praising right-hander Chris Bassitt, who arrived with Semien from the Sox, saying, “Bassitt pitched really well against us in September last year. He’s shown what he can do in the big leagues.”

But of all the A’s new arms, the A’s assistant GM sounded most intrigued by righty Kendall Graveman, who came over from the Blue Jays in the deal that sent third baseman Josh Donaldson to Toronto: “Kendall is the guy who moved up as quickly as anybody in the game last season and dominated almost every level. So you sort of hope that the projection on him continues to go in that direction.”

Regarding talk of Bassitt or lefty Sean Nolin, who was acquired along with Graveman in the Donaldson deal, possibly being useful bullpen pieces, Forst said the team plans to keep them as starters since, “We’re not going to get through the season with five starters.”

Ike Davis

Ike Davis

When asked how newly-acquired first baseman Ike Davis fits into the picture, Forst said, “I think he has a chance to fit into the way we set the lineup…particularly against right-handed pitching. There have not been any inconsistencies in his performance against righties…There’s no reason he’s not in the lineup against right-handers all the time.”

Forst also said that Davis had mentioned he wants to get a shot at getting some playing time in the outfield to increase his opportunities to play. But later, when asked about his abilities in the outfield, Davis sounded a little less enthusiastic, saying “I’m not going to be amazing…I can catch the ball if I get to it, and I can throw it in pretty quickly, but I’m down to do anything.”

Addressing the subject of team chemistry on a roster full of new faces, Forst admitted, “I recognize that we’re bringing twenty-something new guys into a clubhouse, and frankly they’re all down there shaking hands right now and introducing themselves.” But he expressed plenty of confidence in manager Bob Melvin’s ability to make it all gel.

Forst was asked about the apparent lack of home run power in the team’s new lineup and admitted, “We’re not unaware of that concern. The home run totals look different certainly than they did a year ago. That said, Coco’s hit 20, Reddick’s hit 30, Ike has hit 30…I don’t think power is as big a concern for us as some people have made it out to be.”

He also noted that the team has other advantages: “I do think we’re going to have a lot of options in terms of matchups and platoons. When you look at [Josh] Phegley and Davis and [Mark] Canha – all are here because of their particular skill sets.”

Forst discussed some of the infield prospects that fans can look forward to seeing at the team’s new Triple-A affiliate in Nashville this season. He mentioned that he expects Rangel Ravelo, acquired from the White Sox, to play “a good amount of third base” in addition to first base, and noted that Max Muncy could also see some playing time at third in addition to first for Nashville. And Forst named newly-acquired second baseman Joe Wendle along with Andy Parrino and Tyler Ladendorf as the Triple-A team’s middle infield options.

Matt Olson

Matt Olson

Regarding the A’s top young hitting prospect, first baseman Matt Olson, Forst seemed happy to still have him around after having recently traded away some of the team’s other hitting prospects: “I think Matt Olson is as surpised as anyone that he’s still here. In fact, when I called him last week to officially tell him he was coming to big league camp, I had to promise I wouldn’t trade any more of his friends.”

He praised Olson’s power and approach, saying that he “fits the bill” as the prototypical type of A’s hitter, and has hopes that he’ll go to Double-A Midland and pick up where he left off last year at Stockton.

Forst claimed that Olson’s Stockton teammate, third baseman Renato Nunez – who’s also ticketed for Midland – took a big step forward this year, particularly when it comes to his ability to handle breaking pitches and said, “At that age, with what he’s done, you can put a really high ceiling on a guy like that.”

As far as the team’s top draft pick last year, third baseman Matt Chapman, Forst praised his brief time at Double-A Midland and in the instructional league, saying the team saw a guy with a lot of power and a chance to be a really good third baseman and claimed, “Other than [Eric] Chavez, we haven’t seen anyone come through the system with that kind of ability and that arm at third base.”

Forst expects Chapman to start the season at Stockton but said, “If he keeps the power and increases the contact rate, he has the chance to move quickly.”

Another top prospect who appears likely to end up at Stockton is young shortstop Franklin Barreto, who came over from the Jays in the Donaldson deal. There have been some questions about Barreto’s ability to stick at short. But while admitting that he has some work to do on his throwing, Forst clearly stated, “We see Franklin at shortstop.” He also had praise for another one of the organization’s young shortstops, Yairo Munoz, whom he said was a popular target in offseason trade talks and who seems likely to end up at Beloit this season.

Speaking of Stockton though, with the team’s Triple-A affiliate moving from Sacramento to Nashville, Forst admitted that fans in Stockton might be getting a lot more chances to see some of the team’s rehabbing major leaguers this season, and mentioned pitchers A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker, both of whom will be returning from Tommy John surgery, as distinct possibilities to be seeing time in Stockton this season.

Forst said that he doesn’t expect the team to make any other significant additions before spring training and said that the front office was “not spending a lot of time” on highly-touted Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada. But he did mention that newly-hired assistant general manager Dan Kantrovitz and director of pro scouting Dan Feinstein were leaving that day to attend a two-day prospect showcase in the Dominican.

On the subject of Kantrovitz, who replaced former assistant general manager Farhan Zaidi who was hired as the Dodgers’ new general manager this offseason, Forst said the fact that he had a clear skill set in quantitative analysis made him a particularly attractive candidate for the job and that he’s now running the A’s analytics department and “was integral, as soon as he got here, in helping with the decisions we made on player personnel.”

Forst also praised the A’s new hitting coach, Darren Bush, whom he claimed Bob Melvin has leaned on heavily since he joined the coaching staff prior to the 2013 season and said that “moving him into the hitting coach position was a logical next step.”

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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.

Oakland A’s & Nashville Sounds 2015 Roster Outlook

It was another busy offseason for A's GM Billy Beane

A’s GM Billy Beane was a busy boy this winter

For the moment, as we sit here perched on the precipice of February, let’s go out on a limb and assume that the majority of the A’s offseason work is now finally done – which is never an entirely safe bet with general manager Billy Beane at the helm. But considering the massive amount of roster turnover and the vast number of new players the team has acquired, the shape of the A’s major league roster actually appears to be fairly clear at this point. While little has changed in the A’s outfield, the rest of the roster will look plenty different from the team that took the field to start 2014…

 

2015 OAKLAND A’S

While last year’s team started out with the tandem of John Jaso and Derek Norris behind the plate, the 2015 model figures to count on a catching platoon of fan-favorite Stephen Vogt and newly-acquired Josh Phegley, who arrived from the White Sox as part of the Jeff Samardzija trade.

The A’s 2015 starting infield looks to be entirely different from 2014, with Eric Sogard likely to be the only returning infielder on the roster, but this time in a utility role. 25-year-old Brett Lawrie will take over for Josh Donaldson at the hot corner, while Berkeley native Marcus Semien has been annointed as the team’s new shortstop. He’ll be mentored up the middle by former All-Star Ben Zobrist, who is set to be the team’s primary second baseman. Slugger Ike Davis should be stationed at first base against right-handers with free-agent catch Billy Butler as the designated hitter, while Butler should take over at first against lefties with Rule-5 pick Mark Canha serving in the DH spot as a sort of new-fangled Nate Freiman. With Zobrist taking over at second, last year’s primary second baseman and the almost-face-of-MLB, Eric Sogard, will likely serve in a utility role, backing up Zobrist at second, Semien at short and Lawrie at third. Sogard has experience at all three positions in both the majors and the minors.

Brett Lawrie: Can he make A's fans forget Josh Donaldson?

Brett Lawrie: Can he make A’s fans forget Josh Donaldson?

As mentioned, there aren’t a lot of new faces in the A’s outfield in 2015. Josh Reddick returns as the team’s rifle-armed right fielder, while Coco Crisp will man center field, as long as his health allows – and A’s fans better hope and pray that’s a lot – and Sam Fuld and Craig Gentry should share duties in left field. Of course, the 2015 version of the A’s does possess similar versatility to last year’s model. If needed, Zobrist is perfectly capable of playing in the outfield, with Sogard slotting in at second. Canha can also do time in the outfield if needed and, like Sogard, Semien has played all over the infield with the exception of first base.

As far as the team’s starting rotation goes, only two members seem to be certain locks – veteran lefty Scott Kazmir and young righty Sonny Gray. General manager Billy Beane did mention in a conference call with reporters that returning lefty Drew Pomeranz and newly-acquired right-handers Jesse Hahn and Kendall Graveman may have “the inside track” for the remaining rotation spots. So assuming the GM’s opinion counts for something, one would have to assume that’s the group that’s most likely to make up the team’s starting five, though new acquisitions Chris Bassitt and Sean Nolin will surely be in on the competition as well and much will clearly depend on how spring training plays out.

It appears that the team may prefer to have Jesse Chavez back in the bullpen as a reliable long man and occasional spot starter if needed. And with Sean Doolittle set to miss the start of the season with shoulder issues, former Nationals closer Tyler Clippard is likely the leading candidate to take over Doolittle’s spot as the last man on the mound for the A’s. Fernando Abad and Eric O’Flaherty are set to be the team’s lefties out of the ‘pen, with Dan Otero and Ryan Cook available from the right side. That leaves one last bullpen spot available while Doolittle’s doing time on the DL. Since he’s out of options, it might be safe to give Evan Scribner the edge, though lefty Eury De La Rosa (acquired from Arizona) and righty R.J. Alvarez (picked up from the Padres) could also be distinct possibilities.

Of course, the team is counting on Doolittle to return at some point. And let’s not forget that A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker are both working their way back from Tommy John surgery with midseason returns quite possible for the pair.

 

2015 NASHVILLE SOUNDS

With all the young players the team acquired in trades, and plenty of minor league free agent signees as well, there will be a bit of a roster crunch at the top levels of the A’s farm system in 2015. And it’s going to be particularly difficult for many players to make the move up from Midland, with the possible exception of first baseman Max Muncy with the team’s top prospect, Matt Olson, set to take over at first for Midland in 2015. As things now stand, it appears that there are about 16 position players competing for what is typically 12 roster spots and 23 pitchers competing for what is typically 13 spots on the pitching staff at the A’s Triple-A affiliate. So let’s take a look at some of the players most likely to find themselves playing in Nashville as the PCL team begins its first season as the A’s top affiliate.

The team has two very experienced minor league catchers who’ve had the chance to get their feet wet in the majors and who’ll be waiting in the wings at Nashville in 2015. 28-year-old, lefty-swinging Bryan Anderson has caught 755 minor league games and has appeared in the majors with the Cardinals and the White Sox and even managed to get one at-bat with the A’s last year, while 34-year-old switch-hitter Luke Carlin has been behind the plate for 773 minor league games and has made appearances with San Diego, Arizona and Cleveland.

One of the A’s most exciting minor leaguers, speed-burner Billy Burns, should have the chance to run around the bases and tear up the turf in center field for Nashville in 2015. He’ll likely be flanked by a pair of minor league veterans – 29-year-old Matt Angle and 31-year-old Jason Pridie, who’s appeared with the Twins, the Mets, the Phillies, the Orioles and the Rockies – along with Josh Whitaker, who split last season between Sacramento and Midland.

Nashville’s infield should be anchored up the middle by shortstop Andy Parrino, newly-acquired second baseman Joe Wendle, and Tyler Ladendorf, who split time last season between second base and shortstop and can also play a little in the outfield. The corners could be a little crowded with Alden Carrithers returning at third base, newly-acquired Rangel Ravelo set to see time at third and first, Nate Freiman likely to play first and DH, as is Max Muncy, and Anthony Aliotti, who spent time at first as well as in the outfield for Sacramento last season, is also in the mix.

Infielders Colin Walsh and Niuman Romero, who was signed as a minor league free agent, will also be battling for a spot on the Nashville roster, but it might be tough unless injuries, trades or releases unexpectedly open the door to a roster spot. Due to the roster crunch, Romero, who’s spent over 700 minor league games at shortstop and second base, may end up sharing middle infield duties with Chad Pinder at Midland, where there aren’t a lot of legitimate shortstop options with the departure of Daniel Robertson in the Ben Zobrist deal with Tampa Bay.

Billy Burns: Will he set a new land speed record in Nashville?

Billy Burns: Will he set a new land speed record in Nashville?

When it comes to the Sounds’ starting rotation, between all the new acquisitions, minor league free agent signees and returning players, there should be an abundance of starting pitchers available at the Triple-A level that will make it almost impossible, barring some unexpected injuries, for any starters to make the move up from Midland, including deserving candidates like Nate Long and Chris Jensen. It also means that some better known pitching prospects like former 1st-rounder Deck McGuire aren’t likely to have much of a shot at starting the season with the Sounds.

If, as speculated, Kazmir, Gray, Hahn, Pomeranz and Graveman end up comprising the A’s starting five, that would leave seven solid candidates for the Sounds’ starting rotation, six of whom will be in major league camp this spring. Three of them are currently on the A’s 40-man roster and would probably be first in line – new acquisitions Chris Bassitt and Sean Nolin along with returning righty Arnold Leon – while minor league free agent additions Brad Mills and Rudy Owens, both of whom have gotten a taste of life in the majors, and returning righty Matt Buschmann would all be solid options. Zach Neal, who was one of Sacramento’s most solid starters last season, may be at a bit of a disadvantage since he won’t be participating in the major league camp with the others. But depending on how everything shakes out, they all have a legitimate shot at starting the season in the Sounds’ starting rotation.

Thanks to multiple minor league free agent signings, the bullpen picture is even more crowded, with at least 16 pitchers competing for what will likely be 8 bullpen spots in Nashville. Two who were acquired in trades during the offseason, lefty Eury De La Rosa and righty R.J. Alvarez, are on the 40-man roster, as is righty Taylor Thompson, who was claimed off waivers. As long as they don’t make the major league roster, they should all be assured spots, as should righty Fernando Rodriguez, who posted a 1.97 ERA at Sacramento and allowed 1 run in 7 appearances for the A’s last season.

That leaves five veteran minor league free agent signees – righties Kevin Whelan and Brock Huntzinger, lefties Ryan Verdugo and Jim Fuller and switch-pitcher Pat Venditte (yes, he throws with both arms!) – five returning players who spent all or part of last season at Sacramento – righties Angel Castro, Paul Smyth, Seth Frankoff and Tucker Healy, plus lefty Jeff Urlaub – and two solid pitching prospects who had strong seasons at Midland last year – righties Ryan Dull and Ryan Doolittle – all competing for the remaining four spots in the Sounds’ bullpen.

Of course, one never knows what unexpected injuries might sideline some arms to start the season but, regardless, a number of these names who don’t make the cut with the Sounds are bound to end up in the bullpen at Midland, where Nate Long, Chris Jensen, Sean Murphy and Drew Granier could all be returning to the RockHounds’ rotation this season, perhaps along with someone like Deck McGuire.

Speaking of the A’s Double-A affiliate, some of the team’s top prospects will be found in Midland’s infield this year, with Matt Olson at first, Renato Nunez at third, and Chad Pinder and Ryon Healy in the infield mix there as well. Top catching prospect Bruce Maxwell will be competing for a spot behind the plate with Blake Forsythe and Ryan Ortiz, as well as fellow backstops Beau Taylor and Carson Blair. Meanwhile, the outfield should primarily be comprised of returning RockHounds like Kent Matthes, Chad Oberacker and Conner Crumbliss, with the possible addition of Jaycob Brugman, who proved himself at both Beloit and Stockton last season.

But let’s clearly lay out the possible players on your 2015 Oakland A’s and Nashville Sounds opening day rosters right here (just click on each player’s name below to view their complete stats page)…

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