Tag: Matt Olson

Meet Your 2018 Oakland A’s!

by Bill Moriarity / A’s Farm Editor

Third Baseman Matt Chapman

Third Baseman Matt Chapman

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

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

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

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

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

 

Bruce Maxwell

Bruce Maxwell

CATCHERS

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

 

INFIELDERS

Matt Olson

Matt Olson

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

 

OUTFIELDERS

Dustin Fowler

Dustin Fowler

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

 

STARTING PITCHERS

Paul Blackburn

Paul Blackburn

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

 

RELIEF PITCHERS

Blake Treinen

Blake Treinen

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

 

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

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Tuesday, August 8th: 5 HRs Help Stockton Snap Skid while Sounds Win in Extras

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Stockton Ports Third Baseman Sheldon Neuse (3 for 4 / 2 Home Runs / 4 RBIs)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Stockton Ports Third Baseman Sheldon Neuse (3 for 4 / 2 HRs / 4 RBIs)

 

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE  (High-A)

San Jose Giants  5

Stockton Ports   9

WP – Romero 1-1 / 11.81

HR – Brown 2 (19), Neuse 2 (6), Raga (4)

Prospect Of The Game:

Third Baseman Sheldon Neuse

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

Five home runs helped Stockton snap its four-game losing streak on Tuesday. Third baseman Sheldon Neuse wielded the biggest bat of the night, collecting 3 hits, including 2 home runs, while scoring 3 times and driving in 4 runs for the Ports. Right fielder Seth Brown belted a pair of home runs to give him a team-leading total of 19 while driving in 3 runs, and catcher Argenis Raga added a solo shot for Stockton. Starter Logan Shore allowed 3 runs over 4 innings of work, while RHP Miguel Romero tossed 2 scoreless innings in relief to pick up his 1st win for the Ports, and RHP Armando Ruiz got the final four outs for Stockton to secure his 2nd save.

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

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

by Bill Moriarity / A’s Farm Editor

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

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

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

 

ERIC MARTINS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

RICK RODRIGUEZ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 5th: Sounds Win with 5 HRs while Strong Starts from Fillmyer & Duno Aren’t Enough to Help Hounds & Ports Prevail

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds First Baseman Matt Olson (3 for 5 / Home Run / Walk)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds First Baseman Matt Olson (3 for 5 / Home Run / Walk)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Nashville Sounds  15

Reno Aces                8

WP – Doubront 2-2 / 4.15

HR – Nunez (29), Olson (23), Barreto (13), Munoz (6), Carter (2)

Prospect Of The Game:

First Baseman Matt Olson

(3 for 5 / Home Run / Walk)

Five home runs helped the Sounds win a slugfest in Reno on Saturday. First baseman Matt Olson reached base 4 times, collecting 3 hits, including his 23rd home run, while also drawing a walk, and Olson has now gone 7 for 18 with 3 home runs and 5 RBIs over his last 4 games for the Sounds. Center fielder Yairo Munoz singled, homered and drove in 4 runs, while third baseman Renato Nunez doubled, walked, hit his minor-league-leading 29th home run and drove in a pair. Shortstop Franklin Barreto singled and homered, and designated hitter Chris Carter doubled, walked and hit a 2-run homer for the Sounds. Starter Ben Bracewell gave up 8 runs over 3 2/3 innings of work, while LHP Felix Doubront tossed 1 2/3 scoreless innings in relief to notch his 2nd win for Nashville. Meanwhile, former Sounds catcher Ryan Lavarnway was designated for assignment by the A’s, and Nashville RHPs Jesse Hahn and Tucker Healy were both placed on the disabled list on Saturday. Hahn suffered a lat strain while Healy is dealing with a bicep strain.

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

Friday, August 4th: 4 HRs Help Sounds Snap Skid while 4 HRs Aren’t Enough to Help Snappers Prevail and Mengden & Ruiz Return to the Mound

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

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

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Nashville Sounds  8

Reno Aces              5

WP – Bassitt 2-2 / 8.75

HR – Nunez (28), Olson (22), Barreto (12), Carter (1)

Prospect Of The Game:

Second Baseman Franklin Barreto

(3 for 5 / Home Run / Double)

Four home runs helped the Sounds snap their four-game losing streak on Friday. Second baseman Franklin Barreto continued his hot hitting of late, collecting 3 hits, including a home run and a double, and the 21-year-old has now gone 12 for 20 over his last 5 games for the Sounds. First baseman Matt Olson doubled, hit his 22nd home run and drove in 3, while left fielder Renato Nunez walked, doubled, drilled his minor-league-leading 28th homer and drove in a pair, and designated hitter Chris Carter walked and slugged a 2-run shot for the Sounds. Starter Corey Walter gave up 2 runs in 3 1/3 innings of work, and RHP Chris Bassitt picked up the win despite allowing 2 runs in 2 innings of relief for Nashville.

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

Matt Olson: Riding the Nashville-to-Oakland Express

by Bill Moriarity / A’s Farm Editor

mo621566Matt Olson has been one of the top power-hitting prospects in the A’s system ever since the team made him its third overall pick in the 2012 draft. Since then, the Georgia native has slowly climbed the ladder step-by-step and finally made his major league debut for the A’s as a 22-year-old last September. He’s been up and down between Nashville and Oakland multiple times in 2017, and the young slugger demonstrated his power potential by hitting 4 home runs in 18 games for the A’s this season.

Olson’s always been known for his combination of power and plate discipline. And at Nashville this year, his 21 home runs are currently the second-most on the squad, while his 44 walks are tops on the team, and his .550 slugging percentage and .913 OPS are best among current Sounds. The left-handed hitter has also struck out 80 times in 280 at-bats for Nashville this year. The 23-year-old has primarily been playing first base this season, where he’s a defensive standout, but he spent most of his time in right field last year, where he’s more than capable of doing the job.

With the A’s youth movement in full swing, we’ll surely be seeing more of Olson in Oakland before the season’s through. A’s Farm first spoke with Olson in Stockton back in 2014, and we took the opportunity to catch up with him again last weekend in Nashville…

 

AF:  Well, it’s certainly been an interesting year for you. I think you’ve probably been back and forth between here and Oakland about a dozen times now!

MO:  Right around there, yeah!

AF:  So, has it been an interesting ride for you this year? And how’s it been adapting to all the back and forth?

MO:  Yeah, definitely. It’s definitely different than what I’ve been accustomed to. These past few years, I’m in the lineup every day playing 130-135 games and I’m getting five at-bats a day. Obviously, it’s an honor that they want me up there when I can get a spot. But it’s been a little bit of a transition having to kind of get a little more sporadic at-bats…but I’ve been working with it. It’s been good, a good experience, just getting as much time as I can under my belt.

AF:  I’m sure you’re happy to hop on a red-eye flight to Oakland anytime they call, right?

MO:  Yeah, definitely.

AF:  So, how comfortable were you able to feel during your time in the big leagues this year?

MO:  This year has gone a lot different compared to last year. Last year, with getting up there the first time and it being the end of the year, it all happened quick – it was a little bit of a whirlwind. Anytime I got in a game, obviously there were some nerves. And this year’s been a lot better. It’s been more about just being able to be out there playing the game, especially when I was up there for that week or week-and-a-half span where I was playing right field a lot, almost every day, and in the lineup a lot. It was good – it was nice to get into a rhythm and get that comfort level.

AF:  Well, you put a few out of the park during that stretch, so obviously you must have been feeling pretty comfortable then! How different was the quality of the major league pitching you faced compared to what you may have been used to seeing in Triple-A?

MO:  You can tell that guys have a little finer stuff. They’ll throw anything in any count. I wouldn’t necessarily say there’s a completely different way I’ve gotten pitched. But I faced a lot of guys I hadn’t faced before. So, I’m just kind of building a book with those guys and knowing what they like to do to me and take notes for when I face them further down the road.

AF:  Are there any things you’ve taken away or learned from your time in the majors?

MO:  Whenever I’m up there, I’m trying to learn better how to approach my day, the way I go about my routines – just finding the right thing that clicks for me. Everybody has their own things they like to do in order to get ready for the game mentally and physically. And I’ve really been able to figure out for myself what gets me ready for the game.

AF:  Has anyone on the big league squad been particularly helpful to you there?

IMG_0322bMO:  You know, everybody’s been really helpful. The guys who have been around, like Jed Lowrie and Matt Joyce and Yonder Alonso, some of the main position guys, kind of take a little extra time to explain things to the younger guys. Anytime they can offer a little bit of advice, they’ve done a really great job of helping us out. Even if it’s just a little minor thing, it’s nice to have those guys kind of helping you along. It kind of takes a little bit of the behind-the-scenes stuff off your chest and you can just go out there and play the game.

AF:  So, now that you’re back in Nashville, is there anything in particular that you’re focused on here?

MO:  Just having that same hunger that I had when I showed up at the beginning of the year. I felt like I had a tough year last year and I kind of had something to prove, and I came in ready to get after it and ready to start off strong. And I’ve just been trying to continue that all year long.

AF: You’ve had the chance to spend some time in the big league camp in spring training. How helpful has that experience been for you?

MO:  It’s very helpful. Just from having seen the guys, met them, hung out with them a little bit. It makes it a whole lot easier to make that transition. Ryon Healy last year got called up without ever having set foot in the clubhouse, except when he would come across [from minor league camp] for a couple games. So, I’m sure that was a bigger transition for him trying to meet the guys and be able perform for his first time in the big leagues. So, there is a factor to that. A lot of it, going up for the first couple times, is being able to put all the other stuff aside and just playing baseball.

AF:  Your first major league game was last September. So, what was it like for you the first time you stepped onto the field in a major league park?

MO:  It’s just one of those feelings that you can’t describe. It’s something that you’ve worked your whole life for, to be able to be out there, with my family and girlfriend up in the stands watching. It’s definitely a special moment, one I’ll never forget.

AF:  I know your family’s not that far from here in Georgia. So, do they get a chance to come see you much in Nashville?

MO:  Yeah, they’ve come up here a lot. It’s only a four-hour drive, so they’ve been up here four or five or six times already this year.

AF:  Having to go back and forth between Nashville and Oakland so many times this year, where have you been living here in Nashville and where have you been staying when you’re up in Oakland?

MO:  I’ve just been living right over here by the field. I started out as roommates with Chad Pinder, and then I was roommates with Matt Chapman, and now I’m in the place by myself right now. Luckily, Ryon Healy’s renting a house up there that has some spare bedrooms just in case guys were coming up and down. So, there’s a room there that I’ve stayed in all the times that I’ve been up there.

AF:  Well, I’m sure his spare room’s gotten plenty of use this year – I’m sure it hasn’t gone to waste! It must be nice to know that whenever you do go up to Oakland, there are plenty of familiar faces around, plenty of guys you’ve known and played with for a while.

MO:  Yeah, it goes along with that comfort level that I was talking about. It makes it a whole lot easier to be able to go out and play the game. When you’ve got guys like that you’ve played with a long time, it just makes it a smoother transition.

AF:  Speaking of familiar faces, you’ve got Ryan Christenson, whom you go all the way back to Beloit with, here as your manager in Nashville this year. So, what’s it like for you having him around this year?

MO:  It’s great. This is our fourth season together, so we know each other well. He’s awesome. I love having him as our manager. He knows the right time to get on somebody if they need it, but at the same time, he jokes around with us. He’s a good mix.

AF:  And he must know you and your game as well as anyone. He’s probably seen you play more than any other human alive!

MO:  Yeah, he definitely has!

AF:  So, as we head into the final part of the season here, what are you focused on at this point?

MO:  Just keeping that hunger. I understand there are a lot of moving parts, and this year I’ve been moving up and down those four or five times. And my goal is to just kind of block it all out and do what I have to do on the field. A lot of that stuff’s out of my control. The main thing is to go out there and keep that hunger and just perform on the field.

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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.

Tuesday, August 1st: Siddall Helps Ports Win Big, while Meisner Pitches Hounds to Victory as Mateo Makes Debut & Armenteros Has 4 RBIs for AZL A’s

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Stockton Ports Outfielder Brett Siddall (4 for 5 / Home Run / 2 Doubles / 4 RBIs)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Stockton Ports Outfielder Brett Siddall (4 for 5 / Home Run / 2 Doubles / 4 RBIs)

 

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE  (High-A)

Inland Empire 66ers  0

Stockton Ports       14

WP – Sawyer 2-4 / 3.57

HR – Siddall (18), Barrera (4), Raga (3)

Prospect Of The Game:

Outfielder Brett Siddall

(4 for 5 / Home Run / 2 Doubles / 4 RBIs)

Left fielder Brett Siddall continued his torrid hitting in the second half to help the Ports prevail for the fourth time in their last five games on Tuesday. The 22-year-old collected 4 hits, including a home run and a pair of doubles, while driving in 4 runs, and he’s now slashing .388/.452/.687 for Stockton in the second half. Catcher Argenis Raga singled and slugged a 3-run homer, while center fielder Luis Barrera singled and belted a 2-run blast, and right fielder Seth Brown singled, doubled, stole a base and drove in a pair. Ports pitchers shut out the 66ers on just 5 hits on Tuesday. Starter Dalton Sawyer struck out 7 over 5 scoreless innings to earn his 2nd win for Stockton, while RHP Kyle Friedrichs allowed just 1 hit over 4 scoreless frames to complete the shutout and pick up his 1st save for the Ports. Meanwhile, Midland shortstop Richie Martin was reassigned to Stockton, while infielder Edwin Diaz was sent back to Beloit on Tuesday.

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

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

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

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

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Las Vegas 51s          4

Nashville Sounds  10

WP – Cotton 3-0 / 2.95

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

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Jharel Cotton

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

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

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

Monday, July 24th: Holmes Impresses in Hounds’ Victory while Rodriguez Helps Snappers Win in a Walk-Off

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Pitcher Grant Holmes (7 IP / 3 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 5 K / Win)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds RHP Grant Holmes (7 IP / 3 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 5 K / Win)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Frisco RoughRiders        1

Midland RockHounds  13

WP – Holmes 7-10 / 4.54

HR – Sportman (7)

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Grant Holmes

(7 IP / 3 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 5 K / Win)

RHP Grant Holmes turned in one of his best starts of the season to help Midland win its fourth straight on Monday. The 21-year-old allowed just 3 hits over 7 scoreless innings to earn his 7th win, and Holmes has now surrendered a total of just 3 runs over his last 3 starts for the RockHounds. Right fielder J.P. Sportman singled in a run in the 7th inning and slugged a grand slam in the 8th, while center fielder B.J. Boyd had 3 hits, including a triple, and drove in 3, and designated hitter Jermaine Curtis singled twice, doubled, walked and drove in a run for the RockHounds.

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

Friday, July 21st: Jensen’s Strong Start & 4 HRs Help Sounds Win while Hounds Snap Skid behind Rosa’s Big Bat

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Chris Jensen (6 IP / 6 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 1 K / Win)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Chris Jensen (6 IP / 6 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 1 K / Win)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Nashville Sounds             7

New Orleans Baby Cakes  5

WP – Jensen 5-1 / 3.97

HR – Barreto (11), Lavarnway (6), Munoz (4), Pinder (1)

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Chris Jensen

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

RHP Chris Jensen turned in a strong start to help the Sounds win their third straight on Friday. The 26-year-old allowed just 1 unearned run over 6 innings of work to notch his 5th win for Nashville. Rehabbing RHP Ryan Dull pitched a perfect frame in the 7th, while RHP Tucker Healy gave up 4 runs in just 2/3 of an inning of relief, and LHP Patrick Schuster got the final out to secure his 1st save of the season. Sounds hitters slugged four home runs, all solo shots. Shortstop Franklin Barreto blasted his 11th in the 1st, while catcher Ryan Lavarnway clubbed his 6th in the 3rd. Rehabbing second baseman Chad Pinder belted his 1st in the 6th, and left fielder Yairo Munoz smacked his 4th in the 7th. Munoz also singled and stole a base for the Sounds. Meanwhile, RHP Frankie Montas and first baseman Matt Olson were both recalled by the A’s, while first baseman Chris Carter was signed to a minor league deal and sent to Nashville, and infielder Melvin Mercedes was reassigned to the Sounds roster on Friday.

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

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