Tag Archive for Max Muncy

A’s Farm Report for Week of April 25-May 1: Prospects On The Move

RHP Daniel Mengden is on the move from Midland to Nashville.

RHP Daniel Mengden is on the move from Midland to Nashville.

There were plenty of players on the move throughout the A’s system this past week. Injuries at the major league level and the minor league level, particularly to pitchers like Chris Bassitt, Daniel Gossett and Dustin Driver as well as others, necessitated a number of different moves. But the promotions of Sean Manaea and Jesse Hahn to Oakland, the return of Yairo Munoz to action at Midland and the promotion of Daniel Mengden to Nashville represented some of the biggest moves this week. A version of this weekly minor league report by Athletics Farm originally appeared on Athletics Nation

 

Click here for this week’s update on Nashville, Midland, Stockton & Beloit…

Saturday, April 30th: Ryon Healy Helps Hounds Win 6th Straight while Henderson Alvarez and Brett Graves Team up to Pitch Ports to Victory

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds First Baseman Ryon Healy (2 for 4 / Home Run / Double / 2 RBIs)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds First Baseman Ryon Healy (2 for 4 / HR / Double / 2 RBIs)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

San Antonio Missions    3

Midland RockHounds  4

WP – Alcantara 1-1 / 7.06

HR – Healy (5)

Prospect Of The Game:

First Baseman Ryon Healy

(2 for 4 / Home Run / Double / 2 RBIs)

First baseman Ryon Healy helped lead the RockHounds to their sixth straight win on Saturday. Healy doubled in the Hounds’ first run in the bottom of the 1st inning to tie the game and came around to score the go-ahead run later in the same inning. He then hit his 5th home run, a solo shot, in the 5th inning to extend Midland’s lead to two. And with his 16 extra-base hits, Healy currently holds the Hounds’ best slugging percentage (.652). Shortstop Yairo Munoz had a pair of hits and drove in the go-ahead run in the 1st, while Franklin Barreto, making his first professional start at second base, collected 3 hits to extend his hitting streak to 8 games and also made a number of stellar plays in the field. Starter Raul Alcantara allowed 2 runs over 5 2/3 innings to earn his 1st win, while RHP Ryan Doolittle pitched a perfect 8th to extend his scoreless streak to 10 1/3 innings to start the season, and RHP Aaron Kurcz got the final three outs in the 9th to notch his 2nd save.

Click here for more on Nashville, Stockton & Beloit…

Thursday, April 28th: Max Muncy & Matt Olson Homer to Help Sounds win while Dylan Covey Pitches Hounds to Victory

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Left Fielder Max Muncy (Home Run / 3 RBIs)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Left Fielder Max Muncy (Home Run / 3 RBIs)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Nashville Sounds      7

Round Rock Express  3

WP – Smith 1-3 / 6.31

HR – Muncy (5), Olson (3)

Prospect Of The Game:

Left Fielder Max Muncy

(Home Run / 3 RBIs)

Left fielder Max Muncy smashed his team-leading 5th home run, a 3-run shot, in the top of the 5th inning to provide the Sounds with a healthy 5-run cushion on their way to besting Round Rock on Thursday. It was Muncy’s 3rd home run in his last 4 games and extended his current hitting streak to 8 games. Muncy currently leads all Sounds regulars in batting average (.292), on-base percentage (.382) and slugging percentage (.569). Right fielder Matt Olson socked his 3rd home run, a solo shot, in the 8th, while shortstop Chad Pinder singled in a run and drove in another with a sacrifice fly, and second baseman Joey Wendle singled, tripled and scored twice for the Sounds. Starter Chris Smith allowed 3 runs, just 1 earned, over 5 2/3 innings of work to earn his 1st win for Nashville. It’s expected that catcher/outfielder Matt McBride will be rejoining Nashville on Friday once LHP Sean Manaea is officially added to the A’s roster to make his major league debut Friday night against the Astros.

Click here for more on Midland, Stockton & Beloit…

Tuesday, April 26th: Chad Pinder Doubles in Decisive Run as Sounds Win in a Walk-Off, Daniel Mengden Tosses 5 Shutout Frames to Help Hounds Win and Sean Murphy Passes Away in AZ

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Shortstop Chad Pinder (2 for 4 / 2 Doubles / 2 RBIs)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Shortstop Chad Pinder (2 for 4 / 2 Doubles / 2 RBIs)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

New Orleans Zephyrs  6

Nashville Sounds       7

WP – Brasier 1-1 / 1.00

HR – Muncy (4), Nunez (3)

Prospect Of The Game:

Shortstop Chad Pinder

(2 for 4 / 2 Doubles / 2 RBIs)

With the game tied and Joey Wendle on first base in the bottom of the 9th inning, shortstop Chad Pinder stepped to the plate and lined a double into left field to drive in Wendle as the Sounds won in a walk-off on Tuesday. Pinder also doubled and scored in the 1st and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the 2nd. Wendle reached base 4 times in the game, on a pair of singles, a walk and a double, and also stole a base. Third baseman Renato Nunez hit his 3rd home run in the 5th and left fielder Max Muncy smacked his 4th home run in the 7th. Starter Zach Neal allowed 4 runs over 6 innings of work, while RHP Ryan Brasier got the final two outs in the top of the 9th to pick up the win for Nashville. The team will have Wednesday off, with LHP Sean Manaea scheduled to take the mound for the Sounds on Thursday.

Click here for more on Midland, Stockton & Beloit…

Sunday, April 24th: Snappers Come up Short despite 3 Late HRs while Jesse Hahn Struggles in Sounds Loss and Daniel Gossett & Dustin Driver Deal with Injury Issues

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Beloit Snappers Outfielder Skye Bolt (3 for 4 / Home Run / Walk)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Beloit Snappers Outfielder Skye Bolt (3 for 4 / Home Run / Walk)

 

MIDWEST LEAGUE  (Class-A)

Beloit Snappers  5

Burlington Bees    7

LP – Friedrichs 1-1 / 2.08

HR – Howell (1), Bolt (1), Collins (1)

Prospect Of The Game:

Outfielder Skye Bolt

(3 for 4 / Home Run / Walk)

Down by five runs heading into the 8th inning, the Snappers slugged three home runs over the final two frames to come within two runs of winning their fourth straight on Sunday. Skye Bolt homered in the 9th and reached base three other times in the game, on a pair of singles and a walk, and his .426 on-base percentage currently leads the team. Catcher Nick Collins homered to lead off the 9th and doubled and scored to put Beloit on the board in the 1st, while third baseman Ryan Howell homered to lead off the 8th and walked twice in the game. Starter Kyle Friedrichs allowed 3 runs over 4 innings of work to take the loss. RHP Dustin Driver left the game with elbow pain after grabbing his arm following a wild pitch with one out in the bottom of the 5th and the 21-year-old will be evaluated by A’s medical personnel to determine the extent of his injury. Driver was charged with 2 runs on 3 walks in 1/3 of an inning of relief for the Snappers.

Click here for more on Nashville, Midland & Stockton…

Friday, April 22nd: Beloit Wins behind Skye Bolt’s Big Bat while Stockton Wins in a Walk-Off & Nashville Falls despite Sean Manaea’s Solid Start

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Beloit Snappers Outfielder Skye Bolt (2 for 4 / Triple / Double / Walk / 3 RBIs)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Beloit Snappers Outfielder Skye Bolt (2 for 4 / Triple / Double / Walk / 3 RBIs)

 

MIDWEST LEAGUE  (Class-A)

Beloit Snappers  4

Burlington Bees    3

WP – Manarino 2-0 / 1.04

Prospect Of The Game:

Outfielder Skye Bolt

(2 for 4 / Triple / Double / Walk / 3 RBIs)

Last year’s 4th-round draft pick for the A’s, center fielder Skye Bolt, continued his hot start to the season by driving in 3 of the Snappers’ 4 runs on Friday. The 22-year-old tripled and scored in the 3rd inning to put Beloit on the board, then doubled in both the tying and winning runs in the top of the 7th for the Snappers. Bolt is now batting .340 for the season, which ties him for the team lead with fellow outfielder Brett Siddall, who tripled and walked in the game. Left fielder Justin Higley had 3 hits, a walk and a stolen base, while catcher Santiago Chavez had a pair of hits for the Snappers. Starter James Naile gave up 2 runs over 4 innings of work, while LHP Evan Manarino allowed just 1 run in 4 innings of relief to earn his 2nd win, and LHP Jared Lyons pitched a perfect 9th to pick up the save.

Click here for more on Nashville, Midland & Stockton…

Wednesday, April 20th: Dillon Overton Pitches Nashville to Victory as Sounds Split Twinbill while Henderson Alvarez Makes First Rehab Appearance in Ports Win

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Dillon Overton (7 IP / 5 H / 1 ER / 0 BB / 5 K / Win)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Dillon Overton (7 IP / 5 H / 1 ER / 0 BB / 5 K / Win)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

GAME #2

Nashville Sounds  8

Colorado Springs    1

WP – Overton 1-1 / 2.81

HR – Wendle (2), Muncy (1), Pinder (1)

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Dillon Overton

(7 IP / 5 H / 1 ER / 0 BB / 5 K / Win)

Starter Dillon Overton allowed 1 run on just 5 hits while walking none and striking out 5 over 7 innings of work to earn the 7-inning complete game victory in the second game of Wednesday’s doubleheader. And Overton has now struck out 15 over 16 innings while posting a 2.81 ERA in his first 3 starts for the Sounds. Max Muncy, making his second start of the season in left field, hit a 2-run homer to put Nashville on the board in the 4th inning and doubled in another run in the 6th. Second baseman Joey Wendle delivered his own 2-run shot in the 4th, while shortstop Chad Pinder slugged a solo shot in the 5th and also doubled and scored in the 4th, and third baseman Renato Nunez collected 3 hits, drove in a run and stole a base as the Sounds salvaged a split in Wednesday’s doubleheader.

Click here for more on Nashville, Stockton & Beloit…

Tuesday, April 12th: All 4 A’s Affiliates Fall but Hurler Kyle Friedrichs Delivers Another Strong Performance for Snappers

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Beloit Snappers Pitcher Kyle Friedrichs (4 IP / 5 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 2 K)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Beloit Snappers Pitcher Kyle Friedrichs (4 IP / 5 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 2 K)

 

MIDWEST LEAGUE  (Class-A)

Beloit Snappers        0

Clinton LumberKings  3

LP – Driver 0-1 / 4.76

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Kyle Friedrichs

(4 IP / 5 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 2 K)

The Snappers were shut out on just 2 hits on Tuesday night. Second baseman Jesus Lopez doubled to lead off the 3rd inning and designated hitter Trent Gilbert singled to lead off the 4th. Starter Dustin Driver walked the first 3 batters he faced to load the bases in the bottom of the 1st inning and ended up allowing 3 runs to score in the inning, which would turn out to be the only runs of the game. All told, Driver was charged with 3 runs, 4 hits and 4 walks over just 2 2/3 innings to take the loss. But RHP Kyle Friedrichs came in and tossed 4 shutout innings in relief. And combined with his impressive opening day start, last year’s 7th-round draft pick for the A’s has now thrown 9 scoreless innings to start the season.

Click here for more on Nashville, Midland & Stockton…

Exclusive: Down On The Farm 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 six years ago to serve as a special assistant to the front office.

Of course, many know Fuson as the scout in the cinematic version of Moneyball who has a dramatic confrontation with Billy Beane and ends up getting fired – though that’s not quite how it happened (which we chronicled here).

During spring training, Fuson can most frequently be found patrolling the A’s minor league fields, now located at Fitch Park in Mesa, while keeping a close eye on the team’s most prized prospects. And it was there that we took the opportunity to pick the brain of one of baseball’s top talent evaluators to get the scoop on some of the A’s top hitting and pitching prospects…

 

AF:  The A’s have had a big crop of talented young players passing through the major league camp this year. So is it exciting to have a bunch of young guys like that around who are right on the cusp of breaking through?

GF:  Well the good thing is, after the trades last year, there’s a different look to the system now that there’s been some trades and we’ve brought some talent back. And last year’s draft looks looks like it’s panning out. So, within one year, you’ve seen the talent base come back pretty strong…That whole crew that was in Double-A last year – Nunez and Pinder and Olson – it’s a good group. And now there’s more depth coming in from behind.

AF:  Well, let me ask you about some of those guys in particular. Chad Pinder, whom I know you’ve always been high on, had a big year in the Texas League last year, which isn’t easy for anyone to do. And he’s had the chance to spend a lot of time in the big league camp. So what have you been seeing out of him this spring?

cp640461bGF:  He’s had a great camp. And the most impressive thing is all the early work and side work that [A’s infield coach] Ron Washington does in the backfields. Wash really didn’t know him, and Wash has been really, really impressed. And he agrees with me – there’s no reason why this guy can’t play a major league shortstop. He’s had a good camp. His at-bats have been good – they’ve been quality. I think he’s made a very positive impression on everybody.

AF:  It looks like he’ll be the primary shortstop at Nashville this year. But do you think he’ll be seeing a little time at other spots as well just to continue developing his versatility?

GF:  Yeah, it’s important to keep his versatility, for when he’s ready to make the next jump. So he’s going to play some second base, maybe he goes and plays third a little bit, but he’ll be a primary shortstop – he’s earned it.

AF:  Now what about Renato Nunez? He was able to keep his power numbers up at Midland last year, which is no small feat. But what does he still need to be working on at this point?

rn600524dGF: He’s working much better as far as his practice time, his B.P. time, his drill work. He’s trying to stay centered, trying to hit the ball to the middle of the field and to the opposite field. His natural move is to the pull side of the field, so there’s that deep count, breaking ball thing that kind of gets him in trouble. And his footwork with his throwing, his hands and his actions – his reactions have really improved over the years. He’s getting better with his feet, but there’s still some things with his throwing, getting his legs underneath him and his stride and tempo and pace, to improve his accuracy.

AF:  So do you think we’re still primarily going to be seeing him at third base this year? Or do you think he’s going end up getting much time at first base?

GF:  Probably mostly third. But everybody has to be versatile to some degree, so he’s probably going to have to go over there from time to time. If [Max] Muncy’s in Triple-A, we’ll see how that whole thing works itself out.

AF:  Matt Olson has gotten a good amount of time in the big league camp this spring, and he’s set to start out the year at Nashville. I’d like to know what you’ve been seeing out him lately and what you think he’s got to do to take things to the next level?

mo621566bGF:  Nothing’s really different – you know, defending, doing all the things he does well. And he’s showed some power. At the same time, the swing-and-miss, sometimes that catches up to him a little bit. But the bottom line is, he goes over there and some of those things get exposed and it just reminds us all what needs to happen to make this guy complete. He’s still young, he’s still learning, and he’s at a higher level of baseball now. But he comes to play, he does all the right things, and he never takes his offense to his defense. So he just needs to get his at-bats and get things going.

AF:  He played a lot of right field, particularly in the second half, at Midland last season. Do you think we’re going to end up seeing as much of him in the outfield as first base at Nashville this year?

GF: Yeah, I think that’ll take place as the season goes on. He’s an above average first baseman. He can play the outfield, but his defense lies at first. So it’s all going to depend on the depth of that club in the outfield and what’s needed out there. It’s certainly not a bad idea that he continues to go out there from time to time. But nobody’s trying to make him a full-time outfielder.

AF:  Now second baseman Joey Wendle was at Nashville all last season, but he never got a September call-up. So what does he need to do this year to try to move up the ladder?

jw621563dGF:  If you’re asking me personally, I think he’s a very gifted instinctual hitter. This guy can square up a baseball anywhere in the strike zone. He’s jumpy, he’s aggressive. If there’s anything I would like to see him do is kind of back down and become a hair more patient. I know he loves to swing it, and he can hit it. There’s a lot of things he can hit, but he can’t hit it all with quality. There’s still some polish on some pivots that I think he can take another move with. But this guy’s a gamer, and he plays hard – he plays with his hair on fire. He had a very solid year when it was all said and done in Triple-A. So he’s waiting in the wings and trying to make some improvements on some things that he needs to work on.

AF:  So far, he’s only played exclusively at second base here. Is there any thought to trying to increase his versatility at all?

GF:  No, he’s not the kind of guy that you would see moving to short or third.

AF:  Well, I guess second base it is then! I wanted to ask you about Max Muncy, whom you mentioned earlier. Are you expecting him to basically be splitting time between first base and third base again this year at Nashville?

GF:  Yeah, we haven’t had that discussion yet, but Bob [Melvin] has used him at both in big league camp. And when you think about the personnel that’s going to Nashville, if he goes back, it’s going to have to be creative – some time at first, some time at third, some time at DH.

AF:  Last year, Tyler Ladendorf broke camp with the A’s. Then he got hurt and was sidelined for much of the season. He’s been playing a lot of center field in camp this spring…

tl502285bGF:  Yeah, and he’s shined!

AF:  Do you expect we’re going to be seeing a lot more of him in center field this year at Nashville?

GF:  Yeah, ever since a year and a half ago, that’s what we’re trying to create out of him is maybe that super utility type guy. But he’s done an absolutely fabulous job in center. They hit these balls deep in gaps, and you’ve really seen him run down some balls and be instinctual. So it’s been a positive, positive thing for him.

AF:  So, with his ability to play second base and shortstop as well, it looks like he could really be a legitimate option up the middle for you across the board.

GF:  Sure, yeah.

AF:  You don’t really have that many true center fielders at the top of the system right now, so I guess that’s a good spot to have him in. Speaking of which, do you see Jaycob Brugman spending more time in center field than in the corners this season? Where do you see him spending most of his time this year?

GF:  Probably more center this year – he plays it well. He’s one of the best we’ve got, so he’ll probably spend a lot of time there. He’ll move from time to time but right now, the way it looks, mostly center.

AF:  Okay, let’s touch on some of the younger guys. I know you always talked about Matt Chapman’s power potential, and he’s really been showing it. He had a good season at Stockton last year. And he’s spent a lot of time in the big league camp this year and he’s really been having a great spring here.

mc656305cGF:  Yeah, he’s probably been the talk of this camp. You know, every year there’s a new kid who’s fortunate enough to have a very high-performance camp, and Chapman’s been the guy. And it’s putting pressure on some of the other infielders – they’re all wanting to change positions! But he’s done well. His B.P.’s have been electric, he’s driving the ball to right-center like nobody else, and he’s just had a very, very impressive camp all around.

AF:  What kind of challenges to do you see him facing in Double-A at Midland this year?

GF:  First of all, health. Let’s just find a way to stay on the field. He’s been with us a year and a half now. The year we signed him, he kind of broke down in Beloit. Then he broke down coming in last year and missed a lot of time early and got a late start, and then broke down with the wrist. So he needs to get 500 at-bats and 140 games. But he’s doing great things. He’s starting to get a little more rhythmic with his swing – not being so rigid – and you’re starting to see the results of that. I mean, who knows what the competition’s like? With his limited amount of experience, he could have some struggles early. But hopefully he’s the kind of guy who starts to figure some things out. So, a learning first-half and a performance second-half.

AF:  Well, we’ve certainly seen that happen before.

GF:  He’s been having a performance big league camp!

AF:  Another top prospect who’ll be at Midland this season is shortstop Franklin Barreto. I remember when you were first seeing him here last spring after you guys acquired him and he ended up getting into camp late and got off to a bit of a slow start. What kind of progress have you seen out of him since then over this past year?

fb620439bGF:  Amazing. Either I was completely blind or…this guy’s not anything like it looked when he first got here a year ago. He’s got an instinct for the baseball defensively – he’s not polished yet, but that’s the least of our worries. I mean, footwork, technique – we can do a great job cleaning that stuff up. But there’s a lot of life in his bat – the ball jumps. And he’s actually throwing it a little bit better in my opinion this spring. I mean, the whole package – it’s there.

AF:  So does he maybe remind you a little bit of Miguel Tejada at this point?

GF:  Yeah, that’s a good call.

AF:  Are we going to be seeing him at any positions other than shortstop this year? Is he going to get looks at second base or in center field at all?

GF:  Yeah, depending on the health of Yairo Munoz. Munoz has kind of been tender [dealing with a lingering quad injury]. He hasn’t done much early in camp. But if they both go to Midland, then they’re both going to have some time at second at short – if that’s the way it ends up.

AF:  Yeah, David Forst had mentioned a couple months ago that maybe they both might go to Midland and end up sharing time at second and short there. But what about Munoz’s progress last year? He started out the season not so hot at Beloit, then he gets bumped up to Stockton, and suddenly he looks like a whole different guy.

ym622168bGF:  Well you know…he can be a live wire one minute and he can kind of be a downer the next. It’s just about waiting for him to grow into being a man – getting some maturity mentally. And I think that was the big change, once he left Beloit and went to a higher level of competition. You talk to [Stockton manager] Rick Magnante, and he was a model citizen in the time he was at Stockton. And it showed up in his performance – he played better in Stockton than he played in Beloit. He’s always a guy that there’s some maintenance to, but that’s what we do here. Their character, their work ethic, their maturity is as big in the coaching arena as taking B.P. and doing all the drill work. He’s an extremely talented kid, and he does things different than a lot of people. He’s strong, he’s physical – he and Chapman probably have the two best arms you’re going to see in this system.

AF:  Well, given the challenge last year, he seemed to rise to the occasion anyway.

GF: Oh, definitely.

rm621006cAF:  Another top shortstop prospect who’s been in camp this spring is your #1 pick from last year, Richie Martin. He was over in the big league camp for a while. So what have you been seeing out of him in his first spring with the organization?

GF:  We didn’t do a lot with him last summer offensively, which is what we do with most of them for a while. If we’re going to start to tinker, it usually starts in instructional league. And the only thing we did in instructional league was just tried to build some rhythm moves into his swing. And it’s coming, it’s looking better – it’s certainly coming off his bat better. He’s not cutting his swing off. Defensively, you know, this guy’s not far off. He’s got to learn the pace of the game, so that he doesn’t overcharge and things like that. But as far as the skill set, no issues.

AF:  Okay, let’s talk about a couple of pitchers. First off, Sean Manaea – everyone’s been pretty excited about him here this spring. He’s set to start the year at Triple-A Nashville. So what does he need to do to get himself to the next level?

sm640455cGF:  Right now, it looks like just stay healthy. I mean, he’s been pretty dominant since we got him. Last year in the Texas League, he had 3-4-5 dominant starts. In the [Arizona] Fall League, he had a couple of dominant starts. And he’s been dominant for the most part down here in camp as well. You know, some command issues here and there – maybe a little violent move there. When he gets the adrenaline flowing, he gets a little off line and it wreaks a little havoc sometimes with his command – but that’s part of the growing curve. But the bottom line is, this guy’s been facing big leaguers up there. It’s not like he’s been pitching in the seventh inning against non-roster call-ups. He’s faced people’s big league names, and he’s had some dominant innings.

AF:  So it sounds like it won’t be long before he’s ready.

GF:  Yeah, I wouldn’t think so.

AF:  Another left-hander who got some time in big league camp is Dillon Overton. He’s been on that post-Tommy John recovery curve for a while, but he’s looked good here in camp this spring. So where is he at now and what have you been seeing out of him?

do592614cGF:  He’s healthy. He came in and you could tell he was prepared. He was a tick firmer – a lot of 88-92s. He pitched well – he put up zeroes. I think he had 6 innings with zeroes across the board – good changeups, his breaker was working.

AF:  I was going to ask you if his velocity was up a bit, and it sounds like it is.

GF:  Yeah, it is. It’s not what some people saw prior to him being hurt, but I don’t think he needs to get all that back to be a major league guy. And this is going to be the first year when he’s going to be opened up – there’s no restrictions.

AF:  So are there any other guys you’re feeling particularly good about this year that we ought to be keeping an eye on?

GF:  Yeah, two pitchers – Daniel Gossett and Brett Graves. Graves, when we drafted him, we thought he was a 90-95ish type guy. And from day one, the velocity’s been light. Last year was not a very good year. His breaking ball comes and goes. But this guy seemed really smart, he seemed like he was really into making himself a better pitcher. Late last year, we were trying to find out, “What’s missing, why do you think your velocity’s light?” “I don’t know, I haven’t changed anything.” I said, “Something’s had to change.” “I haven’t changed anything.” Well, come to find out, he stopped long-tossing. So he went back on a long-toss program for the last month or month and a half there and stayed on it all winter. And he’s been 92-96 every time out down here – good delivery, breaker’s harder and sharper, he’s throwing tremendous. And Gossett has slowed down his pace a little bit and he’s come back firmer. And he cut his hair, so he’s got better aerodynamics coming down the mound. [Laughter]

AF:  I’d heard Gossett had maybe added a cutter too.

GF:  Well, [minor league pitching coordinator] Gil Patterson is back, so Gil gives everybody a cutter. He’s the cutter master!

AF:  So I’m assuming we’re most likely to be seeing those two guys at Stockton this year.

GF:  Yeah, most likely.

AF:  Okay great, well we’ll definitely be sure to keep an eye on the two of them this year then. Thanks!

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Catching Up With The M Squad: Sean Manaea, Max Muncy & Bruce Maxwell

sm640455cSean Manaea was acquired from Kansas City last summer in the Ben Zobrist trade and immediately became the A’s top pitching prospect. He posted a 1.90 ERA in 7 starts for Double-A Midland last season and is expected to start the year atop Triple-A Nashville’s starting rotation. The big lefty has looked impressive in the major league camp this spring and it may not be long before Manaea ends up making his debut in the green and gold.

AF:  This is your first time pitching in big league camp with the A’s. So how’s the experience been for you so far?

SM:  It’s awesome. It’s really, really cool seeing all these guys on TV and then being here with them – that blows my mind everyday. It really is awesome, expecially when you have great pitchers like Sean Doolittle, Sonny Gray and Jesse Hahn – it’s unreal. I’m just trying to figure out as much as I can and pick their brains as much as I can while I’m here, so I can take it into the season and hopefully make it to the big leagues. That’s the ultimate goal is just to make it to the big leagues. But right now, it’s really awesome. I’m just trying to have a good time and have fun.

AF:  Well, it sounds like you’re definitely not taking it for granted anyway!

SM:  Yeah, I’ve learned not to take anything for granted. You don’t know how long you’re going to be here or what could happen. So I enjoy soaking up all I can every single day.

AF:  Is there anything in particular you’ve picked up here this spring that you know you’ll be able to carry forward with you into the coming season?

SM:  Yeah, just like the mentality stuff. Like [John] Axford, I was talking to him about his curveball, because a couple bullpens ago, I was having a hard time trying to throw it for strikes. So I was talking to him about it and just about tweaking pitches. And he told me that he was tweaking one of his pitches in the bullpen before he went in the game. And wow, that’s pretty crazy – just doing something a couple pitches before you get in the game. So that’s something that I’ve definitely thought about a lot and I could definitely be using that throughout the season.

AF:  So just learning how to make those constant adjustments.

SM:  Yeah, constant adjustments – that’s what the game’s all about.

AF:  How much time have you spent with A’s pitching coach Curt Young this spring and what has he had to impart to you?

SM:  I’ve been out here since January, and he’s pretty much been out here the whole time too. So pretty much every bullpen I’ve had and every time I’ve played catch, he’s been out there. He’s just been helping me a lot – talking about changeups, talking about pitching and stuff like that. It’s just been really, really cool what he’s had to say to me. So I’ve just been soaking up all I can about what he’s said.

AF:  Now you’re known to have a pretty good fastball and to throw pretty hard. But do you pay much attention to the actual velocity of your fastball or how hard you’re actually throwing it at any given time?

SM:  I don’t really worry about that stuff…The main focus for me is trying to minimize walks. That’s something I’ve kind of had problems with throughout my career. So just trying to minimize walks and be more consistent with my pitches, that’s what I’m really focused on. I know the velo will most likely be there.

AF:  Where do you feel you’re at with your secondary stuff at this stage in the spring?

SM:  Right now, my changeup feels really good coming out of my hand. I feel like I really have a good grip on it – a good feeling in my head and in my hand – and it’s doing what I want it to. So that’s where I want it to be, especially since I never really had a changeup before. And then the slider, it’s coming. There’ll be times when it’s good but then I feel like most of time it’s been kind of bad. So I’ve just got to worry about getting that right grip and being able to get that good feeling back in my hand. So that’s something that I have to be working on these next couple weeks before the season starts.

AF:  Is there anyone here who throws a slider who’s been able to offer any helpful advice?

SM:  Yeah, I’ve been talking to everybody and just trying to see what they have to say. With like [John] Axford and Ryan Madson, I was talking about tweaking pitches and what they would do if something’s not feeling right. And they told me maybe I’ve just got to do a completely different grip just to start things fresh. So, maybe I have to! It’s something I’ve been working on these past couple days.

AF:  You’ve gotten plenty of time in the big league camp and gotten into plenty of games. So how do you feel about getting to spend as much time on the mound here in the big league camp as you have?

SM:  I feel really great! Just being up here as long as I can, just trying to pick people’s brains and talk to them about how they go about their business – that’s something I’m really, really happy about. Just to be able to be up here and be with the big leaguers, that’s what I’m really most excited about.

AF:  Now assuming you start the season in Nashville, that’s not really all that far from where you’re from in Indiana. So are you looking forward to having some of your family being able to come see you this season?

SM:  Yeah, I think it’s only about three and a half or four hours from where my girlfriend lives. And then for my family, it’s only like a six or seven hour trip. So that’s not bad at all, especially since I’ve been playing in like Texas and Delaware and places like that. So I’m really looking forward to that and just having them be able to come and watch me play. That’s something I’m really excited about.

AF:  So is there anything in particular that you really want to work on or try to accomplish in the coming season?

SM:  I would say just keeping down the walks. I’ve had problems with that. I feel like that starts with my mechanics – maybe I have to smooth things out or maybe do something different with my arm. That’s something I’m really harping on, especially at the beginning, because if you start off well it’ll carry on through the rest of the season. So that’s the biggest focus for me is keeping down the walks and being more consistent with my off-speed stuff. So that’s what I’ve really been focused on since the beginning of the year.

AF:  Well, if you can do that, then I guess everything else probably ought to fall right into place!

 

mm571970bMax Muncy was the first member of Oakland’s 2012 draft class to reach the major leagues with the A’s when he made his big league debut last April. Muncy’s stock in trade has always been his keen eye at the plate. Originally drafted as a first baseman, the 25-year-old Texan has been learning to play third base over the past couple of seasons. And now this spring, the A’s are also trying to break him in at second base.

AF:  Now you were up and down between Nashville and the major leagues a few times last season. Was there anything in particular that you learned from that experience?

MM:  There’s always something that you can learn. For the most part, I was still relatively young in my career at the major league level, so there’s little things I can learn all the time. Last year, I was really trying to learn how to kind of prepare myself for games and how to get ready to come off the bench and how to be a guy who’s not going to be in the lineup everyday. That was something I’d never done before, so I had to learn how to do it. And I think every time I went up, I had to learn more and more about how to take care of that problem. And there’s always stuff that you can learn from those big guys up there, even if it’s not from your own teammates, guys you’re playing against on the road. One of the times I was up last year, we were in Arizona and I got to see [Paul] Goldschmidt go about his business, and he’s one of the best out there. So there’s always things you can  take from guys, whether it’s your own team or the other team.

AF:  You spent a lot of time learning to play third base last season. Are you still learning things there and are you starting to feel a little more comfortable over there now?

MM:  I’m still learning things there but, now that I’ve had some time to actually really work at it, I feel probably about a hundred times more comfortable than I did last year. And I think it’s showing a little bit this spring. It feels more like a natural position now. It doesn’t feel like it’s still something I’m learning – now it feels likes it’s there. It’s just one of those things that takes time and takes reps, and it takes game reps sometimes for that.

AF:  Well, they’ve been starting to stick you out there at second base now. So how’s that been going?

MM:  Well, you know, we’re still learning that one. But I think hopefully I’ve proven that, if you give me enough time to work on something, I can get good at it. So, second base is just one of those things that I’m going to need some time to work at it – I’m going to need some reps – but I feel it’s something that I can really pick up. It’s not a completely foreign position to me, having played it in high school, I know somewhat what I’m doing there. It’s just getting reps back at that position, having someone slide into you when you’re turning a double play – those kind of things.

AF:  Have you been spending much time working with Ron Washington in the field this spring?

MM:  Yeah, every morning. We actually split it up – we do one morning at second, one morning at third. We go back and forth every single morning. And it’s been a lot of fun working with him. He really knows what he’s talking about.

AF:  Is there anything in particular that he’s been focusing on with you?

MM:  Really just focus on the basic fundamentals – that’s something that he teaches evey single morning. A lot of coaches like to go out there and try to teach the advanced stuff, how to do certain plays. He really reiterates doing the basic fundamentals every single morning – just fielding a ground ball right at you, using your hands, just getting your feet involved. He tries to really ingrain that in your head. And that’s the kind of the thing I take away from him is to really focus on the fundamentals. And if you can do that, then the more advanced stuff just kind of comes on its own.

AF:  So what have you been focused on trying to do at the plate this spring?

MM:  Staying short and quick. The last couple years, I feel like I’ve kind of gotten away from my swing being real short and quick, with quick hands. I feel like I’ve gotten a little too big, and so I’m trying to get back to that this spring. And I feel like I’ve been doing a really good job of it. I’ve had a lot of hard contact…balls aren’t falling for me, but I’m just saving that for the season.

AF:  Well, just give it time. It all evens out, right?

MM:  Yep!

AF:  Is there anything in particular the coaching staff has been working on with you or trying to get you to do this spring?

MM:  We’re always working on that outside pitch – that’s something I’ve always struggled with. We started working on it last year – me and [A’s hitting coach Darren] Bush. And this year we’re still working on it – just being able to drive that low and outside pitch and not pull off of it and get a little more power to the opposite field.

AF:  Going forward, is there anything in particular that you’re really looking to focus on this season?

MM:  Well, my defense obviously. That’s something that’s been a work in progress over the last year or so, so obviously I’m going to be working on that. But I think one thing I really want to get back to is cutting down my strikeouts and getting back to a high walk rate, which I feel like last year, just getting out of rhythm, might have gotten away from me a little bit. And I want to get back to that this year – not chasing bad pitches. I got into a problem last year chasing some off-speed pitches down in the dirt, and hopefully I can get away from that this year.

 

bm622194bBruce Maxwell was a 2nd-round pick for the A’s in the 2012 draft. In his first few years in the A’s system, the focus was primarily on developing his catching skills. But this spring, Maxwell has impressed both at the plate and behind the plate while in major league camp with the A’s.

AF:  So how’s it been for you getting some time in big league camp this year?

BM:  It’s been going great, man. It’s the best year I’ve had, health-wise, performance-wise. I just feel very confident rolling into this season.

AF:  You’ve obviously made some big strides defensively behind the plate, and you’ve impressed the coaching staff here this spring. Bob Melvin has had lots of nice things to say about you lately. So how are you feeling about your work behind the plate these days?

BM:  I feel amazing. I feel better than ever. It’s a big confidence booster. And now I can try to channel a little more of my focus on my hitting, since my catching is more natural, more comfortable.

AF:  So you don’t have to spend as much time thinking about it now – you can just do it.

BM:  Correct.

AF:  So have you learned a lot from being around the big league veterans in camp and have you spent a lot of time with catching coach Marcus Jensen this spring?

BM:  Marcus is always with me. I tell people that Marcus is my creator. Ever since day one, I’ve been with Marcus. He always makes sure that I’m really sharp behind the plate and makes sure that everything’s refined. And honestly, just being around these guys and just kind of learning how to be a big leaguer – the consistency, the work ethic, the routines every morning. And over time, the more and more time I get behind the plate, the better I’ve gotten.

AF:  Have you spent much time talking with the big league catchers here, Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley? Have they had much to offer you?

BM:  Yeah, they’re very open individuals. If they see something, they give us a suggestion. If you ever have a question, they’re always open to answer it. Whether we’re at the field or not, their phones are always on and they’re always willing to help us younger guys.

AF:  What’s the difference between the kind of pitching you’re used to seeing in the minor leagues and the kind of pitching you’ve been facing here in the major league camp?

BM:  Besides the name on the back of the jersey, not much. Yes, they execute a little more and their stuff is a little sharper, a little tighter, a little more accurate. But, at the same time, it’s still the same game. I faced a few really good guys with the Cubs, and they get paid a lot of money to be that good…that time they got me, next time I’ll get them.

AF:  You spent the season at Midland last year, which isn’t exactly known as a hitter’s paradise. What kind of challenges does a hitter face playing there at Midland?

BM:  Every one you can possibly find! Between the wind blowing in, the ball not flying anywhere, it teaches you how to become a very good hitter, very accurate hitter, very efficient hitter. When it comes to fly balls, a lot of them don’t get out. It just teaches you a different way of hitting. It almost trains you to be a complete hitter, in all aspects, because that’s about the only way you’re going to put up the numbers there.

AF:  I guess if you can hit there, you can hit anywhere!

BM:  Correct.

AF:  I know you caught Sean Manaea in Midland last year. I’m not sure if you’ve caught him or had the chance to see much of him here in camp this spring. But I’m curious to know, as a catcher, what you feel his greatest strengths are and what impresses you most about him.

BM:  His confidence…he goes on the mound knowing he’s better than whoever he faces. And he lets his ball work. He’s got life on his fastball. He’s just very efficient. The ball jumps out of his hand – it really does. He’s got a wipeout slider and a very good changeup. He just has confidence, and he just goes out on the mound and does his job. And he’s the first person to pick you up. He doesn’t really take it too serious but, at the same time, it is his job and he’s very, very good at it.

AF:  And it seems like he has fun along the way too!

BM:  Oh yeah, he’s a live character – that’s for sure, that’s for sure!

AF:  Well, it’s always good to have a few of those around – it’s a long season.

BM:  Exactly. And he’s been like that since college.

AF:  Now going forward into the season, what are you thinking about heading into the year ahead?

BM:  Progressing – being that guy. I want to continue what I’m doing here in spring and carry that over into the season, and keep progressing behind the plate and keep progressing at the plate. My bat’s going to play a little better this year. That’s the goal – that’s what I’ve worked on. And I know my catching’s always going to play if I keep it as consistent as it has been.

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