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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)…

Saturday, September 13th: RockHounds Score 9 Runs on Saturday to Even Up Texas League Series and Force Final Game on Sunday

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Designated Hitter D’Arby Myers (2 for 5 / Double / 3 RBIs)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Designated Hitter D’Arby Myers (2 for 5 / Double / 3 RBIs)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Texas League Championship Series – Game #4

Tulsa Drillers                  4

Midland RockHounds  9

WP – Hooker 1-0 / 5.40

Down 2 games to 1 and facing elimination in the best-of-five Texas League Championship Series on Saturday, the RockHounds brought out the bats and put 9 runs on the board to help them even things up and send the series to a decisive Game #5 at Midland on Sunday. The Hounds also got a strong outing from starter Deryk Hooker, who shut out Tulsa for 5 innings before allowing 2 runs in the 6th and exiting with two men on who would eventually come around to score. Hooker picked up the win, while RHP Murphy Smith struck out 5 in 3 scoreless innings of relief, and RHP Ryan Dull got the final three outs in the 9th. At the plate, five Hounds hitters had multi-hit games on Saturday. Designated hitter D’Arby Myers singled, doubled and drove in 3, while first baseman Max Muncy collected 4 hits and drove in a run, and third baseman Matt Chapman singled, doubled, walked and scored twice. Second baseman Daniel Robertson had 2 hits and 2 walks and drove in a run, and center fielder Kenny Wilson singled, doubled, stole a base, scored twice and drove in a pair for the RockHounds. The deciding game of the series is set to take place on Sunday with Nate Long taking the mound for Midland.

 

Sunday’s Game:

Tulsa @ Midland – 2:00pm PT / 4:00pm CT

 

 

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

Wednesday, September 10th: Max Muncy & Daniel Robertson Homer as Hounds Drop Game #2 of Texas League Championship Series

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Midland RockHounds First Baseman Max Muncy (Home Run)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Midland RockHounds First Baseman Max Muncy (Home Run)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Texas League Championship Series – Game #2

Midland RockHounds  2

Tulsa Drillers                  5

LP – Jensen 0-1 / 11.25

HR – Muncy (1), Robertson (1)

Tulsa managed to put 5 runs on the board over the first 4 innings against Midland, which would be all the Drillers would need to win Game #2 of the best-of-five Texas League Championship Series on Wednesday and even the series up at one game apiece. Starter Chris Jensen, who was solid all season for the RockHounds, had a shaky outing on Wednesday, allowing 5 runs on 7 hits over 4 innings of work to put the Hounds in a hole they could not climb out of. RHP Murphy Smith tossed 2 scoreless innings in relief, while RHP Ryan Dull pitched 1 2/3 perfect innings, and LHP Frank Gailey got the final out for Midland. With the RockHounds down by a run, first baseman Max Muncy homered in the top of the 2nd to tie things up. Muncy would also draw one of Midland’s only two walks later in the game. Daniel Robertson, starting at second base and batting leadoff, homered in the top of the 3rd to bring the Hounds within 2 runs, but that would be all the scoring the RockHounds would do on Wednesday. Shortstop Dusty Coleman singled and doubled, while outfielder Kent Matthes and pinch hitter D’Arby Myers both singled in the loss. The series will resume on Friday in Midland with RHP Shawn Haviland set to take the mound for the Hounds.

 

 

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

Tuesday, September 9th: Nate Long and Kent Matthes Combine to Lead RockHounds to Victory in Game #1 of Texas League Championship Series

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Pitcher Nate Long (8 IP / 3 H / 1 ER / 1 BB / 3 K / Win)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Pitcher Nate Long (8 IP / 3 H / 1 ER / 1 BB / 3 K / Win)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Texas League Championship Series – Game #1

Midland RockHounds  5

Tulsa Drillers                  1

WP – Long 1-0 / 1.13

HR – Matthes (1)

Nate Long’s arm and Kent Matthes’s bat combined to help the RockHounds win the opening game of the best-of-five Texas League Championship Series on Tuesday in Tulsa. Long, the Texas League wins leader, tossed another gem, allowing 1 run on just 3 hits over 8 innings of work to earn the win, while RHP Jose Flores got the final three outs for the Hounds. With the game tied 1-1 in the top of the 7th, left fielder Kent Matthes smacked a 3-run homer to provide the margin of victory for Midland. Center fielder Kenny Wilson and catcher Beau Taylor both drove in a run, while right fielder Jeremy Barfield and first baseman Max Muncy had a pair of hits apiece for the Hounds.

 

 

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

Saturday, September 6th: RockHounds Win Playoffs to Advance to Texas League Championship Series

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Midland RockHounds First Baseman Max Muncy (Home Run)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Midland RockHounds First Baseman Max Muncy (Home Run)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Texas League South Division Championship Series – Game #4

Frisco RoughRiders       4

Midland RockHounds  5

WP – Hooker 1-0 / 3.38

HR – Muncy (1)

The RockHounds notched their third straight victory over Frisco on Saturday night to clinch the Texas League South Division Championship and earn their ticket to the Texas League Championship Series. And Midland managed to claim victory on Saturday by collecting just 3 hits. First baseman Max Muncy got things going early by homering in the 1st inning to put the Hounds on the board. Shortstop Dusty Coleman singled and scored on a wild pitch in the 5th, and outfielder Jeremy Barfield, who walked 3 times, doubled and was stranded in the 8th – while designated hitter Conner Crumbliss drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the 5th. Starter Shawn Haviland gave up 3 runs in 4 innings of work, while RHP Deryk Hooker allowed 1 run over 2 2/3 innings to earn the win, and RHP Jose Flores tossed a scoreless 9th to pick up the save. Midland will now take on Tulsa in the best-of-five Texas League Championship Series starting Tuesday in Tulsa.

 

 

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

Monday, September 1st: Michael Soto’s HR Helps Snappers Go Out with a Win while Sacramento’s Season Ends with a Big Loss and Hounds & Ports Prepare for Playoffs

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Beloit Snappers First Baseman Michael Soto (2 for 3 / Home Run / 2 RBIs)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Beloit Snappers First Baseman Michael Soto (2 for 3 / Home Run / 2 RBIs)

 

MIDWEST LEAGUE  (Class-A)

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers  5

Beloit Snappers               11

WP – Bragg 4-0 / 3.23

HR – Soto (7), Pohl (6), Ludy (3)

Farmhand Of The Game:

First Baseman Michael Soto

(2 for 3 / Home Run / 2 RBIs)

With Beloit down by a run in the bottom of the 3rd, first baseman Michael Soto slugged a 2-run homer to put the Snappers up for good on Monday. Soto also singled and walked in the game, while catcher Philip Pohl hit a 2-run homer of his own, and designated hitter Josh Ludy launched a 3-run shot. Starter Joe Michaud allowed 5 runs, 3 earned, on 6 hits over just 3 innings of work, while RHP Sam Bragg tossed 2 scoreless innings in relief to pick up his 4th win for Beloit. And with the victory, the Snappers end their season with a 55-84 record. In other news, Beloit’s Kyle Finnegan and Matt Chapman were both promoted to the Double-A Midland RockHounds, who are headed to the Texas League playoffs.

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

Exclusive: Talking Top Prospects with A’s Special Assistant Grady Fuson

gfDSC01787-1[2c]Long-time baseball man Grady Fuson served as the A’s scouting director from 1995 until 2001, when the team drafted such talented players as Eric ChavezTim HudsonMark MulderBarry Zito and Rich Harden. He left the A’s at the end of 2001 to become the assistant general manager of the Texas Rangers and, after moving on to head up the Padres scouting department, Fuson eventually returned to the A’s a little over four years ago to serve as a special assistant to general manager Billy Beane.

Of course, many know Fuson as the scout in the cinematic version of Moneyball who has a dramatic confrontation with the A’s general manager – though that’s not quite how it happened (which we chronicled here), and he and Beane are both back on the same team and rowing in the same direction.

Prior to the amateur draft in early-June, Fuson’s duties primarily consist of scouting amateur prospects in preparation for the draft. But once the draft is complete, he begins a tour around the A’s minor league system, checking in on teams from Sacramento and Stockton to Midland and Beloit.

We were fortunate enough to catch up with Fuson in Stockton just before the major league All-Star break, and prior to Ports catcher Bruce Maxwell’s promotion to Midland. We took the opportunity to pick the brain of one of baseball’s top talent evaluators and get the lowdown on some of the A’s top prospects at Stockton, as well as a few other promising players from throughout the system…

 

AF:  So let me just start off by asking you, as a guy with a long background in both scouting and development, how does it feel to lose a couple of top-quality prospects like Addison Russell and Billy McKinney?

GF:  Well, it hurts, but I’m in this business for the same reason as the people I work for, and I know everything we do is about that big league club. As good as our club has been the last two years, to me, this is what you’ve got to do. And I think Billy [Beane] worked through this thing magically – the timing, the quality of the players we got. We didn’t just add pitching, we added aces, and this could end up being the difference in us possibly putting a ring on our finger or not. And when it’s all said and done, that’s a big part of development – drafting and developing these prospects to be at that level of interest so that they could be a part of a deal like that.

AF:  Well, this year, most of the A’s top prospects are right here in Stockton. Of course, shortstop Daniel Robertson was probably more affected by the Addison Russell trade than anyone. So what do you see for Daniel Robertson’s baseball future at this point?

drrobertson480_szmaxxpi_ibplc2rl2GF:  He’s on time with his progression. He has many talents. Maybe he’s not as “sexy,” if that’s the word, as Addison, but probably more consistent in some areas. But he’s taken another step in his maturity as a baseball player. You can’t out-work him – he’s here every day. He wants to get better, and he’s shown he’s better this year than he was a year ago. He’s becoming more consistent. The biggest thing – the thing we were all counting on when he signed – was coming into some power, and it’s starting to come. You can see it in his numbers, you can see it in BP – it’s starting to come. Everything else is in his hands, and he’s playing great baseball.

AF:  Did his development this year make it any easier for the organization to make the deal and trade away someone like Addison Russell?

GF:  Maybe to some hidden degree. But Billy’s come out on the record and said that we’re going to worry about 2015 and 2016 when we get to them. And it’s really no different down here in the system. You know, we’re not as deep as we were a couple years ago. We’ve made a lot of trades, we’ve made a lot of moves. But one good move is we do have a Daniel Robertson at a key position. Maybe he’s not on as a quick a path as Addison could be on, but Danny’s not far behind Addison in any category, trust me.

AF:  Another guy who looked to be really affected by the trade, particularly by Billy McKinney’s departure, was center fielder Herschel Powell. He had a great first half at Beloit before getting called up to Stockton and then was hit with the 50-game suspension after just a couple of weeks here. So what’s your take on his performance this year and the recent developments with him as well?

GF:  Well, he’s gone crazy a little bit this year. He really had a great first half at Beloit. He’s learning the little things a little better. He’s always been a runner, and he’s always had the tools to play center. He’s always been an aggressive hitter, and now he’s learning the strike zone. He’s getting on base more. His instincts stealing bases still need some work but are starting to come. He came here and had a quick two weeks, and it didn’t look like the Cal League was prepared to stop him. And now we got the “oopsie,” so we got to wait 50 [games].

AF:  With Powell out for a while, another outfielder who was hitting well at Beloit and is now getting a chance here in Stockton is Jaycob Brugman. I remember you telling me to keep an eye on him in spring training, and he’s gotten off to a pretty good start here in the California League so far.

GF:  Brugman’s a good player. He’s one of our better defenders on the corner. He reads balls well, and he’s a good thrower. He’s got the best release. There are not a lot of things he does that are way off the charts, but there’s nothing that he does below average. He does a lot of good things on all sides of the game.

AF:  Now first baseman Matt OIson’s been having a good year here – he’s been leading the California League in home runs and it looks like his plate discipline has improved as well.

GF:  As far as his strikeout percentage, he’s cutting that back a little bit. But the good thing is he’s walking. So there are times when he’s going to swing through pitches, but he’s also swinging at strikes, and that’s a big key for him going forward.

AF:  What kind of improvements have you seen Renato Nunez make this year at the plate but also in the field at third base?

rnrenato-nunez-2013cGF:  It’s a work in progress. It’s repetition, repetition, repetition. He’s not perfect, but he’s working on it. He’s getting there. There’s no reason not to think he’ll be fine there when it’s all said and done. The more offensive he becomes, the better at third he becomes! He’s gotten stronger. He’s a lot more physical this year. Last year, he tapered his body and thinned out at 19. This year at 20, he’s starting to add some good weight. His hands are quicker. He’s got another 10 yards to the ball when he hits it. He’s got a chance to be a beast when he’s done.

AF:  What about Chad Pinder? It was a big leap for him to skip the Midwest League and come right up to the California League this year, but he got off to a great start here.

GF:  First of all, we’ve got to go back to spring training when he showed up 25 pounds stronger, and it was good weight. He had a whole different look in his eye. He looked a little bit more confident. I thought last year he was kind of frozen a little bit in the pro game. It looked like he was out of sorts and uncomfortable, plus he got hurt and lost a lot of time. But after Instructional League, he got his feet on the ground and worked his tail off in the winter in our strength program. And in spring training, he was one of the more impressive young guys in the whole camp. So we pushed him a little bit and sent him here. He’s playing a new position – 80% of the time at second base. Back in his amateur days, it was more short and third. So he’s still learning a lot of the nuances at second. But offensively, he’s been aggressive. He needs to learn how to control the strike zone a little bit more as he continues to grow, but he’s really putting a charge into the baseball when he squares it.

AF:  The other guy you guys bumped up here to Stockton with Pinder, Ryon Healy, started off the season slow, but he’s really been turning it on here of late.

GF:  For me personally, that would be my most improved guy. From last summer to Instructional League and even into spring training, things were a little rough. He himself is learning a new spot at third base. But I can tell things are more comfortable. He’s moving his feet better, he’s got better angles and lines. But offensively, he’s got much more timing and rhythm, and his true hand-speed strength is starting to show up.

AF:  How do you feel Bruce Maxwell’s been doing both at the plate and behind the plate, and how has he been in terms of learning to work with the pitching staff and that whole aspect of the game?

GF:  That bat’s fine. There are still some things we’re working on as far as the pull side, but his discipline’s been good. His receiving’s better and he’s been throwing real well…One thing that’s been impressive in talking to the staff here is that he’s really taken a big leap in leadership. He runs our meetings before every series. We have a meeting with all the pitchers and go over the opposing club. And he’s basically taken charge of that meeting, so that’s a step in the right direction. He’s in there, pitchers are digging him, everything’s good.

AF:  Speaking of pitchers, Seth Streich has been having one of the best seasons of any guy in the system. What’s he been doing right, what’s been working for him and what’s allowed him to have the success he’s been having?

ssStreich2bGF:  The changeup. That’s been our plan of attack with him for a year now. He’s had one, but it wasn’t a pitch that he really used. It wasn’t a pitch that he thought he had to use. He’s been predominantly a fastball/curveball guy. His changeup’s been hard, it’s been flat. So all the guys have been working to soften up his change and get some bottom to it. And I think it’s really been an added weapon for him. I’ve always loved the way he throws his fastball. He’s one of our best as far as locating it down and away.

AF:  How is his overall fastball command at this point and how hard does he throw it?

GF:  He’s really good with his fastball – he’s always been able to nail his fastball. He’s 90-93 mph, in that area…but I’ll say the same thing now that I said two years ago, he’s a changeup away from being a really good pitcher.

AF:  Nolan Sanburn has finally been healthy all year and has been out there pitching on a regular basis. So how do you see him coming along at this point?

GF:  Good. I think he’s prepared to pitch at the next level if needed. The biggest thing is getting back on the field for a full year, staying healthy and getting the innings he needs instead of being hampered by low innings. You don’t get better not being on the mound, and now he’s getting on the mound consistently and he’s been solid.

AF:  Do you see him sticking in the bullpen in the foreseeable future?

GF:  Yeah, I see that. It’s probably up for future discussion though.

AF:  What about the guy everyone’s always interested in, Michael Ynoa? He’s had some good outings and some not-so-good outings here in Stockton this year. So where do you see things are at with him right now?

Michael YnoaGF:  He’s healthy. He’s throwing hard. Like you said, it’s been 50/50 success. The boys have been giving him a little bit more of a slider look instead of a curveball. Last night was the first time I’ve gotten to see this new little slider. And even though I saw his breaking ball a year ago in spring training as good as I’ve ever seen it, the bottom line is he just doesn’t repeat it enough to be effective with it. The slider that I saw last night on numerous occasions might be a very, very helpful pitch for him. When he threw it right, it had the perfect depth and angle for a slider to get some swings-and-misses. And that’s what Michael needs right now – he needs a pitch that he can get some more swings-and-misses with.

AF:  Now you were just in Sacramento, so is there anyone in particular there you could see helping the big club in the near future if needed?

GF:  Yes. Andy Parrino could go up there and play defense all day long. He’s swinging it a lot better than he did a year ago. He had a unique down year offensively last year, but Andy could be on anybody’s big league team in the right role. Shane Peterson continues to do everything you want to see out of a guy. He could be a fourth or fifth outfielder for anybody – thankfully, we haven’t needed that because of the job that Craig Gentry’s done. But he’s talented – he can play all three outfield spots, he gives you quality at-bats. There’s a flash of thunder in there, there’s a flash of speed in there. So there are a lot of things that could be attractive.

AF:  Have you had the chance to see much of Max Muncy or Billy Burns at Midland this year and, if so, where do you feel they’re at?

GF:  I think they’re both in good spots. Muncy has some hot streaks and has some cold streaks, but I think overall he’s been pretty consistent this year…I think he’s right on track – his patience, his ability to defend. We’ve toyed with him at third and that looks like a very playable option. Billy can steal a base on call and he’s played well in center field. You’ve got to remember, he’s a singles guy – and the higher up you play, the more they shorten the field, so he’s having to figure that out a little bit. You know, in spring training, everything’s opened up and nobody really cares. But once the season starts and guys start putting hitting charts against you and know where you hit it, they defend you a little bit different. So he’s kind of in the middle of that part of the learning curve.

AF:  And have you had a chance to see last year’s 2nd-round draft pick Dillon Overton, who’s been working his way back from Tommy John surgery down in Arizona?

dospringstate10weatherford4-3cGF:  Yeah, I saw his first rehab. He was at 90 mph. The curveball was there – it just wasn’t consistent. But he threw easy. He attacked the strike zone at 90 mph. He’s been throwing 3 innings.

AF:  Do you think there’s any chance of seeing him outside of Arizona this year?

GF:  Yeah, I think the plan is once we get him up to around a 5-inning-type pitch count, we’ll probably send him somewhere, but we’re not going to pitch him a ton.

AF:  Now what about a couple of young pitchers from the 2013 draft who’ve been on the sidelines, Chris Kohler and Dustin Driver? What’s the latest with the two of them?

GF:  Driver’s got a back issue, so he’s been out. I don’t think it’s too bad. Before that, he had an infectious disease for a while – it wasn’t anything major – but he was basically quarantined from the complex. Then when he came back from that, he threw a couple times and then that’s when the back thing popped up, right around the time of the draft.

AF:  And what’s the latest with Kohler?

GF:  Kohler’s elbow is just a slow go. It’s still biting him. They’ve gone back in and taken another look. I think he was going back in to have another MRI. But he’s not currently in any legitimate throwing program as we speak. I don’t see him see pitching a whole lot the rest of this season.

AF:  And finally, how much of this year’s 1st-round draft pick, Matt Chapman, did you get a chance to see prior to the draft and what’s your take on him?

mcimg_6735bGF:  I’ve seen parts of him for two years…He’s a very talented defensive kid. I can’t believe he didn’t play shortstop in college. He’s got a gifted arm. He’s got gifted hands. He reacts well. He’s very polished defensively. He’s got some raw power in there and very impressive strength. There are some things we’ve got to clean up a little bit in his approach and his moves. But he’s got a chance to be a complete guy – you know, hit, hit with some power. This guy’s got a chance to be a Gold Glover.

AF:  Well, let’s hope so! That’s great, thanks a lot.

 

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Friday, July 25th: Chad Pinder & Matt Olson Homer to Help Ports Win while A’s Acquire Former 1st-Rounder Deck McGuire for Sacramento

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Stockton Ports Second Baseman Chad Pinder (3 for 4 / Home Run / 2 RBIs)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Stockton Ports Second Baseman Chad Pinder (3 for 4 / Home Run / 2 RBIs)

 

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE  (High-A)

Lancaster JetHawks  5

Stockton Ports         7

WP – Sanchez 5-1 / 3.64

HR- Olson (29), Pinder (12)

Farmhand Of The Game:

Second Baseman Chad Pinder

(3 for 4 / Home Run / 2 RBIs)

Stockton jumped out to an early lead on Friday when second baseman Chad Pinder hit his 12th home run in the 1st inning for the Ports. Pinder finished the night with 3 hits, a walk, 2 RBIs and 2 runs scored, while first baseman Matt Olson hit his league-leading 29th home run, and outfielder Bobby Crocker collected 3 hits and drove in a run for the Ports. Stockton starter Jake Sanchez allowed 3 runs over 6 innings of work to earn his 5th win, while RHP Nolan Sanburn gave up 2 runs, 1 earned, in 2 innings of relief, and RHP Austin House pitched a perfect 9th to post his 13th save.

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

Monday, July 21st: Zach Neal Pitches Sacramento to Victory as Andy Parrino Returns to River Cats and Renato Nunez Homers to Help Stockton Win

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Sacramento River Cats Pitcher Zach Neal (5 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 3 K / Win)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Sacramento River Cats Pitcher Zach Neal (5 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 3 K / Win)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Sacramento River Cats  6

El Paso Chihuahuas          1

WP – Neal 3-5 / 4.48

HR – Whitaker (3)

Farmhand Of The Game:

Pitcher Zach Neal

(5 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 3 K / Win)

RHP Zach Neal delivered an impressive start for Sacramento on Monday, allowing just 2 baserunners on a pair of singles while walking none and striking out 3 over 5 innings of work to earn his 3rd win for the River Cats. Neal also had to endure a 67-minute rain delay in the middle of the 4th inning before returning to the mound. RHP Tucker Healy gave up 1 run in 1 inning of relief, while RHP Paul Smyth pitched 2 perfect innings, and RHP Jeremy McBryde tossed a scoreless 9th for Sacramento. Designated hitter Josh Whitaker homered for the second straight night, while third baseman Jose Martinez had 3 hits, and first baseman Daric Barton drove in 3 runs for the River Cats. Meanwhile, shortstop Andy Parrino was optioned back to Sacramento, while infielder Colin Walsh was placed on the disabled list. And River Cats outfielder Shane Peterson was named the Pacific Coast League Player of the Week.

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

Saturday, July 19th: Snappers Win Behind Marincov’s Big Bat while Tommy Milone Struggles for Cats and Josh Reddick Goes 0 for 4 for Ports

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Beloit Snappers Outfielder Tyler Marincov (3 for 4 / Home Run / Triple / 2 RBIs)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Beloit Snappers Outfielder Tyler Marincov (3 for 4 / Home Run / Triple / 2 RBIs)

 

MIDWEST LEAGUE  (Class-A)

Bowling Green Hot Rods  4

Beloit Snappers              5

WP – Adkins 1-3 / 5.40

HR – Marincov (12), Vollmuth (8)

Farmhand Of The Game:

Outfielder Tyler Marincov

(3 for 4 / Home Run / Triple / 2 RBIs)

Outfielder Tyler Marincov had a big night for Beloit on Saturday. Last year’s 8th-round draft pick for the A’s singled, tripled, homered and drove in 2 runs, including the tying run in the bottom of the 6th to help the Snappers snap their 3-game losing streak. First baseman B.A. Vollmuth singled, homered and drove in a pair, including the winning run in the 6th, while second baseman Melvin Mercedes, outfielder Justin Higley and designated hitter Ryan Mathews had a pair of hits apiece. Starter Hunter Adkins allowed 4 runs and struck out 6 in 6 innings of work to pick up his 1st win, while RHP Brendan McCurry struck out 4 in 2 scoreless innings of relief, and RHP Bobby Wahl pitched a perfect 9th to post his 4th save.

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