Tag: Oakland A’s

Meet Your 2017 Oakland A’s

0IMG_2486cAs the 2016 season came to an end and the A’s headed into the offseason, there were an awful lot of questions regarding the team’s roster for the coming season, and many of those questions still remained unanswered as the calendar turned to 2017. But a quartet of January free agent signings, along with a number of other minor moves, seems to have solidified the shape of the A’s roster for 2017.

At one time, it appeared that a number of rookie hitters might stand a good chance of making the 2017 opening day roster, including players such as catcher Bruce Maxwell and infielders Chad Pinder and Joey Wendle. But the way things are now shaping up, barring injuries, it looks like the A’s are likely to start the season with no rookie position players on the roster and perhaps just one or two rookie pitchers on the opening day squad.

Of course, the A’s being the A’s, it’s entirely possible that the front office could still have a few unexpected tricks up its sleeve before opening day. But after the flurry of roster moves over the past month, here’s how things are now shaping up for your 2017 Oakland A’s…

 

CATCHERS

Stephen Vogt

Stephen Vogt

Stephen Vogt was named to the American League All-Star squad for the second straight season last year, and the A’s current clubhouse leader is set to return as the team’s primary catcher again this season. Josh Phegley, who appeared in 73 games for Oakland in 2015, made it into just 25 games for the A’s last year due to injuries. Phegley has apparently recovered from last summer’s knee surgery and, as long as he’s healthy, is expected to serve as Vogt’s platoon partner in 2017. Rookie receiver Bruce Maxwell had an impressive Triple-A campaign and looked solid in 33 late-season games with the A’s last year. So if there are any health issues with Phegley or Vogt to start the year or at any point during the season, then Maxwell should be poised to step right in and pick up the slack.

 

MIDDLE INFIELDERS

Marcus Semien

Marcus Semien

Slugging shortstop Marcus Semien hit 27 home runs while appearing in a total of 159 games for Oakland in 2016. The iron-man infielder played in more games than any other member of the A’s squad for the second straight season, and we can probably expect to see more of the same kind of endurance from Semien again this year. Meanwhile, second baseman Jed Lowrie, in his second stint with the A’s, missed the final two months last season while undergoing foot surgery. The team expects him to be recovered from the procedure and has anointed him as its starting second baseman for the coming season, as long as he remains healthy. The A’s also signed infielder Adam Rosales as a free agent in late January, and one would expect that the versatile veteran could fill in fairly regularly for Lowrie at second base while also giving Semien a few more days off at shortstop over the course of the season. With Semien, Lowrie and Rosales in the picture, it doesn’t leave much room for other middle infielders like Joey Wendle and Chad Pinder, who are likely to be available at Nashville if any infield replacements are needed. Also waiting in the wings at Nashville will be shortstop (and possible future second baseman) Franklin Barreto, who’s considered the A’s top hitting prospect.

 

CORNER INFIELDERS

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Ryon Healy

Another one of the A’s January free agent signings was former Twins infielder Trevor Plouffe, whom the team made clear would serve as its starting third baseman, shifting young slugger Ryon Healy to first base and the designated hitter spot. Last year’s primary first baseman Yonder Alonso has been retained and the left-handed hitter is expected to man the position while righties are on the mound. Healy, who proved himself at the plate last year, is expected to be a regular in the lineup, likely serving as the designated hitter much of the time while possibly shifting back to his natural position at first base when Alonso sits against lefties. That would open up the designated hitter spot against lefties. Mark Canha missed most of last season after undergoing hip surgery but is expected to be at full strength come spring training. A’s general manager David Forst has frequently spoken favorably of Canha over the course of the offseason, and he would seem to be the most likely candidate for the role, while also being available to fill in at first base as well as in the outfield. If reinforcements are needed at the corner spots, the A’s top power-hitting prospect, third baseman Matt Chapman, will be just one step away at Nashville, as will other young sluggers like Renato Nunez and first baseman/outfielder Matt Olson.

 

OUTFIELDERS

Khris Davis

Khris Davis

Khris Davis clubbed 42 home runs while serving as the A’s starting left fielder last season and, fortunately for A’s fans, they can expect to be seeing the big bopper back in the cleanup spot for the green and gold again this year. American League stolen-base leader Rajai Davis was signed as a free agent to man center field and bat leadoff, while veteran left-handed hitter Matt Joyce was signed to be the team’s starting right fielder against righties, with returning right-handed hitter Jake Smolinski expected to serve as his platoon partner against lefties. Mark Canha, who is likely to see some time at first base and in the designated hitter spot, could also be available to fill in in the outfield corners. Meanwhile, down on the farm, two young left-handed hitting prospects who could step in and fill outfield roles if needed, Matt Olson and Jaycob Brugman, should be back for their second seasons at Nashville. And joining them there will likely be another left-handed-hitting outfielder, this one with plenty of major league experience, 32-year-old veteran Alejandro De Aza, who was signed to a minor league contract last month.

 

STARTING PITCHERS

Sonny Gray

Sonny Gray

There really don’t seem to be too many big question marks about the A’s starting rotation at this point. Sonny Gray, Kendall Graveman and Sean Manaea are set to top the starting five. And since Daniel Mengden recently fractured a bone in his right foot, it’s now even more likely that the final two spots in the rotation will be filled by a pair of pitchers the A’s front office has repeatedly spoken highly of during the offseason, rookie Jharel Cotton and reliever-turned-starter Andrew Triggs. The A’s used a total of 14 different starting pitchers last year though, so we’ll probably end up seeing plenty of other names in the starting mix before the season’s through. Jesse Hahn, who made 9 starts for the A’s last season, is likely to start the year at Nashville and could be called upon if needed. A pair of pitchers who each made at least half a dozen starts for the A’s in 2017, Ross Detwiler and Zach Neal, should be available at Triple-A as well. Flame-thrower Frankie Montas, who’s on the 40-man roster, is also expected to start at Nashville, as is 2014 2nd-round pick Daniel Gossett. Raul Alcantara, who made 5 starts for the A’s late last year and is out of options, may very well end up serving as a long man out of the A’s bullpen but could always shift back into a starting role if needed. And, of course, once he recuperates from his foot injury, Mengden will be available again at some point, as will righty Chris Bassitt and lefty Felix Doubront, both of whom are returning from Tommy John surgery.

 

RELIEF PITCHERS

Ryan Madson

Ryan Madson

Much like the starting rotation, the A’s bullpen picture appears to be fairly clear as well, with just a couple of key questions remaining. With the A’s surprising signing of former Giants closer Santiago Casilla in January, the big question is whether Ryan Madson will return to the closer’s role for Oakland in 2017 or if Casilla will wind up displacing him. However it ends up shaking out though, the pair should serve as two of the team’s top late-inning options. Joining them will be fellow righties John Axford, Liam Hendriks and Ryan Dull as well as southpaw Sean Doolittle. If the A’s would like to have a second lefty in the bullpen, then Daniel Coulombe, who appeared in 35 games for the A’s last year and is the only other left-handed reliever on the 40-man roster, would seem to be the obvious choice. 24-year-old right-hander Raul Alcantara is out of options though, so the A’s may want to use that final spot to protect the young starter and have him serve as the long-man out of the bullpen. But if the A’s wanted to hang on to Alcantara and have a second lefty in the bullpen as well, then they could always consider trading one of their other relievers. If they did decide to do that, then someone like Axford, who is in the final year of his contract and is owed $5.5 million this year, would seem to be the most likely candidate. And if any bullpen reinforcements are needed, one of the top options this year could be right-hander Bobby Wahl, who’s on the 40-man roster, struck out 10.8 batters per 9 innings across three minor league levels in 2017 and finished the year with 4 saves over the last month of the season at Nashville.

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

A’s President Dave Kaval Offers the Inside Scoop on Team’s New Stadium & Player Payroll Plans

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New A’s President Dave Kaval

Since assuming the job just a little over two months ago, it’s safe to say that new A’s president Dave Kaval has provided a breath of fresh air in the sometimes dank passages of the Oakland Coliseum. In a relatively short period of time, he’s already earned plenty of brownie points with A’s fans for his honesty, enthusiasm and willingness to engage with almost anyone and everyone who wants to engage with him. And after talking with some A’s employees who were on hand at FanFest, it’s clear that the energetic executive has brought a renewed sense of energy and purpose to the entire A’s staff. 

The 41-year-old likes to make things happen and he’s not afraid to try new things. His decision to return FanFest to Jack London Square for the first time since 1999 turned out to be a good call, with an estimated 15,000 A’s fans, most of whom seemed to be in a hopeful mood about the team, enjoying a fresh take on the event while out under the sun with the water in view.

Kaval kicked off the day with an inspiring message to A’s fans gathered on the main lawn for the team introductions. In his state-of-the-team address, he promised to announce the site of the team’s new stadium as well as a timeline for the new home of the A’s this year. And just a little later, he addressed those topics in greater detail, as well as others, during an interview session with a group of A’s bloggers.

The Stanford graduate had kind words for the work of bloggers and for alternative media in general: “I think media’s changing…I think the voices that are in this room are important…and I think some of our hardcore fans are more connected to the content you guys generate…I’ve always been a big believer in new media.”

In this session, as expected, Kaval was engaging and enthusiastic and seemed more than happy to address any questions that came his way. A’s Farm kicked off the questioning by asking the team’s top executive whether or not the A’s planned to increase their player personnel budget prior to moving into a new stadium, and he seemed to be a man with a plan…

We want to kind of duplicate what the Indians did in the early 1990s, which is to create a nucleus of really good young players who are hitting their prime when you open the ballpark. Then, if you guys remember, the Indians sold out 455 consecutive games which, in a smaller market, is a pretty incredible accomplishment. So to do that, the first thing you need to do is you need to know the timeline of when you’re going to open the new stadium – and we’re going to know that this year. Then I can go to Billy [Beane] and David [Forst] and say, “Hey, this is kind of the runway you have. Let’s put the pieces in place and make the necessary investments in order to get to that opening day where we have a nucleus of great young players who can compete for a world championship that season.” And Billy and David have done an amazing job of cultivating the young talent – I mean, you saw it in the playoffs this year. That’s not the issue – the issue is having the revenue to sign those players and keep them as part of your nucleus. So that’s the plan – I think it’s one that can work out very well. I think the exact dollar investment level is hard to know, but I think fans should hopefully be more in the know about what the plan is.

Asked to confirm that the club is indeed willing to make increased investments in player personnel prior to having a new stadium ready to go, Kaval made it clear that the team is…

Absolutely, 100%! I think seeing us actively go after [Edwin] Encarnacion, who’s a player who was going to get paid $20-25 million per year, that’s a huge move for the A’s. That’s not something that you’ve seen in the past. I think knowledgeable fans like you guys know that that’s a big statement – and it was a serious bid…but getting a player of that caliber to really anchor your offense, really support your young pitchers, because you’re going to have more run production, and really kind of put the fear into the opposing pitching, is a really important part of building a winning team.

When asked about his vision and priorites for the new stadium and when he will announce the team’s plans, he was fairly definitive…

Avaya Stadium

San Jose’s Avaya Stadium

This year we will announce the location and the timeline, and the timeline will include when we’re going to break ground. I was hopeful we could even make the announcement today, but we just haven’t done all the work necessary to make sure that we make the right decision, and to make sure that we get all the feedback from the community…In terms of design, I think the over-arching theme is intimacy. We want a ballpark that’s intimate, where you’re close to the action – think more like Wrigley or Fenway than Yankee Stadium or some of the bigger stadiums…The thing is we want somewhere where, even if you’re in the upper deck, you’re close to the action and every seat is a good seat. And if you come to Avaya Stadium, which we built for the Earthquakes, we have that, and it’s been so well received…It also creates an amazing fan experience – it’s loud, it’s raucous, it’s somewhere that we could take the Oakland fans and energize them and actually create a home-field advantage for our club…The other thing that I think is really important when you do a ballpark is you want to celebrate the history of the organization. So we want to go back all the way to Philadelphia. We’re looking at the possibility of putting in a museum that celebrates the actual history of the Athletics, all the way back to 1901 with the Philadelphia A’s, as well as our Kansas City period, then obviously here in Oakland – that’s a really important piece of the puzzle…And then I think you need to create neighborhoods – places in the ballpark where fans can gather and congregate and have a shared experience around the sport. And that could include things like we did at Avaya with the scoreboard bar. It could include an amazing bleacher section, with old-school bleachers. They might be wood – maybe we get reclaimed redwood and have a totally new thing, something that people actually appreciate and take pride in, because we want to have the people with the bed sheets and the signs. We don’t want to lose any of that with the new ballpark, because that’s how you give a building a soul, and that’s something that’s really important to us.

On the subject of the Raiders and how their actions might affect the A’s plans, Kaval didn’t seem too concerned with what the A’s Coliseum co-tenants were up to…  

It’s completely independent. We have our own path that we’re on. Now we were kind of surprised that they would actually leave – we’ve just been working under the assumption that they were going to be here. But we are charting our own course. We’re making our own decisions. I think, in the past, we were trying to tether our decisions too closely to theirs, and that got us in trouble. So we want to just say, “This is our plan to build our ballpark in the right location.” And then whatever happens with the Raiders happens.

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Howard Terminal

Asked what sites, besides the Coliseum and Howard Terminal, are currently being considered and what some of the major considerations are, Kaval provided more details about the team’s thinking and also revealed that some new technology had been deployed at FanFest…

The other two sites are in and around the Lake Merritt area…We’re trying to evaluate each one of those opportunities independently so we make a good decision…I think one thing about that location is that we kind of look at it as areas in and around the Lake Merritt BART station, because that’s a really important transit hub for the community. I think here, on this site at Howard [Terminal], some of the challenges are just around transit and making sure you can get people here. That’s the nice thing about having this event today…so we can understand how this site would even work. And actually, we’re flying a drone above us right now – it’s looking at where people go and patterns and all that stuff.

When asked what A’s fans can expect on the stadium front in the coming months, Kaval seemed eager to get the show on the road…

This year, as soon as possible, we’re going to announce where we’re going to build the ballpark. And this is as important – it’s one thing to just pick a site, but we’re actually going to announce the roadmap to opening day…There’s different pros and cons or challenges and opportunities with every site. And I think, at the end of the day, we want to shoot for something that can really be transformative. We want to make sure that we have a vibrant ballpark experience around the actual location and people are living there and there are bars and restaurants and it can be a place to be. That’s what these ballparks can do, and that’s our mission.

Discussing his efforts to draw fans back into the fold while the A’s are still playing at the Coliseum, Kaval promised to improve the fan experience at the A’s current home…

I think, for the first time, instead of just kind of punting on the Coliseum, we have a commitment to make sure that the fan experience can be enhanced. And I think you’re seeing that with the Shibe Park Tavern, where we’re investing millions of dollars in the Coliseum to create a truly east coast kind of throwback environment where fans can gather and have a great time, not even just for a game – it could be an away game and you have a viewing party. We have pool tables and artifacts from Shibe Park celebrating the history with the Philadelphia Athletics. The other thing is looking at the whole food truck pavilion that we’re going to build between the actual Coliseum and the arena – that’s going to be a great area. We’ll have up to 16 food trucks. You know, familes, millennials, everyone gathering. We’re going to have Adirondack chairs and games and kids’ zones and beer gardens. Whether you want a gluten-free gourmet food truck or you want to have chicken and waffles, all that stuff together is going to create a fun area. We’ll have video boards so you can watch the game. Those are important neighborhoods and areas to build for people to gather. So in the third inning of the game, instead of just going and getting a hot dog – and I will say, we’re not going to have any frozen buns – you can go outside – you get in and out privileges – and you can get a Vietnamese vegetarian wrap or whatever you want. So those are the types of things we’re doing, and we’re going to do more. You can’t change everything overnight, but we’re taking one step at a time to make sure the experience is better for the fans.

And finally, Kaval talked about his overall vision for the franchise and how he plans to win back the loyalty of some disappointed A’s fans…

The vision is to build a world-class stadium in Oakland and to win more world championships. And then I think the third piece, and this is something where we need to work with the community, is to really revitalize the community with the ballpark. So that’s where we need to take this organization. We’re working 24/7 to do that…And all I can do in my role is to take one step at a time and make progress in different areas – have FanFest free at Jack London Square, have opening day and see the food truck experience, see the Shibe Park Tavern, sign a player to a long-term contract – and then hopefully over time people will see that it’s not just rhetoric, there are actions that are supporting this that actually make me believe that this is a path that they want to be on but…they can decide whether to be an A’s fan or not – I think it’s way better than being a Giants fan – but it’s their decision. And we think we will attract that support. And I can already kind of feel it. It’s a little like a snowball, and it’ll happen!

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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.

 

A’s 2017 Minor League Spring Training Schedule

0dsc04060xIf you’re planning on checking out a little minor league action during your spring training trip this year, below is the A’s complete minor league spring training schedule.

Home games are played at Fitch Park at 651 N. Center Street in Mesa. There is no charge for entry and all games are scheduled to begin at 1:00pm local time, but things can always change without notice…

 

MINOR LEAGUE SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

3/13 – Triple-A & Double-A vs. White Sox at Camelback Ranch

3/14 – Camp Day

3/15 – Triple-A & Double-A vs. Cubs at Fitch Park

3/16 – Camp Day

3/17 – Triple-A & Double-A vs. Rockies at Salt River Fields

3/18 – Triple-A & Double-A vs. Giants at Scottsdale / High-A & Low-A vs. Giants at Fitch Park

3/19 – Camp Day

3/20 – Triple-A & Double-A vs. Cubs at Sloan Park / High-A & Low-A vs. Cubs at Fitch Park

3/21 – Triple-A & Double-A vs. Giants at Scottsdale / High-A & Low-A vs. Giants at Fitch Park

3/22 – Triple-A & Double-A vs. Cubs at Fitch Park / High-A & Low-A vs. Cubs at Sloan Park

3/23 – Triple-A & Double-A vs. Rockies at Fitch Park / High-A & Low-A vs. Rockies at Salt River Fields

3/24 – Triple-A & Double-A vs. Angels at Tempe DIablo / High-A & Low-A vs. Angels at Fitch Park

3/25 – Camp Day

3/26 – Camp Day

3/27 – Triple-A & Double-A vs. Cubs at Fitch Park / High-A & Low-A vs. Cubs at Sloan Park

3/28 – Triple-A & Double-A vs. Giants at Fitch Park / High-A & Low-A vs. Giants at Scottsdale

3/29 – Triple-A & Double-A vs. Dodgers at Camelback Ranch / High-A & Low-A vs. Dodgers at Fitch Park

3/30 – Triple-A & Double-A vs. Rockies at Fitch Park / High-A & Low-A vs. Rockies at Salt River Fields

3/31 – Triple-A & Double-A vs. Cubs at Fitch Park / High-A & Low-A vs. Cubs at Sloan Park

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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.

Preview: Top Prospect Barreto Headlines A’s AFL Squad

AFL 25 Years Logo_FNLWhile most baseball fans are focused on the drama of postseason play in the fall, it’s also an important time for some of the minor leagues’ top prospects. And starting on Tuesday, some of the A’s most promising young prospects will begin play in the Arizona Fall League.

2016 marks the 25th season of the Arizona Fall League. Each year, the league schedule runs for about 5-6 weeks from early-October through mid-November. There are 6 teams in the AFL, with each team comprised of prospects from 5 different organizations. A’s prospects will be playing for the Mesa Solar Sox this year, where they’ll be joined by players from the Indians, Marlins, Cubs and Blue Jays, and the team will be managed by former A’s outfielder and current Midland manager Ryan Christenson.

Attendance at AFL games typically hovers in the 200s, with the crowds comprised largely of scouts, agents and various professional baseball personnel. Most organizations use the AFL as an opportunity to get some of their top prospects a little more live game action to hopefully help advance their development.

Some of the A’s young infield prospects will be seeing action in Arizona, including shortstop Franklin Barreto, second baseman Max Schrock and versatile infielder Yairo Munoz, while the A’s AFL pitching contingent this year will be comprised of promising right-handers Frankie Montas, Dylan Covey, Sam Bragg and Trey Cochran-Gill. 2014’s top draft pick for the A’s, third baseman Matt Chapman, was originally scheduled to participate, but the decision was made to give the slugger a bit of a breather and his spot on the squad was taken by Schrock.

 

–A’s Prospects in the AFL in 2016–

 

fb620439Franklin Barreto

Shortstop

Age: 20

Midland RockHounds / Nashville Sounds

11 HR / 36 BB / 94 K / .284 AVG / .342 OBP / .422 SLG / .763 OPS

Barreto has been viewed as the A’s top young hitting prospect ever since his arrival from Toronto in the Josh Donaldson trade. And since joining the A’s system, he’s followed a pattern of starting out slowly each season and then catching on fire in the second half, and this year was no exception. Barreto boasted a .337/.387/.486 slash line over the last 90 days of the regular season, and his hot finish earned him a promotion from Midland to Nashville on the last day of August. In addition to hitting 11 home runs, the infielder led all A’s minor leaguers in stolen bases with 30 this past season. Barreto is still just 20, but he finished the year just one step away from the majors, and a strong AFL campaign could help expedite his estimated time of arrival.

 

ym622168Yairo Munoz

Shortstop / Second Baseman / Third Baseman

Age: 21

Midland RockHounds

9 HR / 23 BB / 76 K / .240 AVG / .286 OBP / .367 SLG / .653 OPS

Munoz entered the season as a consensus top ten prospect for the A’s, but he reported to spring training a bit out of shape and ended up being sidelined till the end of April after dealing with a string of nagging injuries. He then got off to a bit of a slow start over his first couple months of action at Midland. At the relatively young age of 21, Munoz didn’t have a particularly impressive season at the plate in his Double-A debut, but he did have the opportunity to expand his versatility in the field by getting into at least 25 games each at shortstop, second base and third base over the course of the season. He’s likely to continue to see time around the infield while also making up for lost at-bats from the spring during his stint in the AFL.

 

ms621011Max Schrock

Second Baseman

Age: 21

Midland RockHounds / Stockton Ports / Hagerstown Suns / Potomac Nationals

9 HR / 31 BB / 42 K / .331 AVG / .373 OBP / .449 SLG / .823 OPS

Schrock was acquired by the A’s from Washington at the end of August in return for reliever Marc Rzepczynski. The 21-year-old has done nothing but hit since the Nationals drafted him in the 13th round last year. He kept it up after joining the A’s system late in the season, and he sports an impressive .326/.369/.449 slash line over 175 games in his minor league career. After appearing in just 8 regular season and 8 postseason games in the A’s system, the team will have the opportunity to get a much better look at what they’ve got in the sweet-swinging infielder when he begins his stint in the AFL next week.

 

fm593423bFrankie Montas

Right-Handed Pitcher

Age: 23

Oklahoma City Dodgers / Tulsa Drillers

16 IP / 14 H / 4 ER / 3 BB / 22 K / 2.25 ERA / 1.06 WHIP

Montas was acquired this summer by the A’s from the Dodgers in the Josh Reddick/Rich Hill trade, and he actually comes with a bit of major league experience on his resume. He made 7 appearances with the White Sox in 2015 before being dealt to the Dodgers prior to the 2016 season. Surgery last offseason followed by a broken rib sidelined Montas for all but 7 games this year. The Dominican righty boasts a 100+ mph fastball and has struck out an average of 9.3 batters per 9 innings over his minor league career. Montas has mainly appeared as a starter in the minors. And if he looks strong in his return to action, it’s possible that he could compete for a rotation spot next spring, or the A’s could always choose to put his power arm in the bullpen and see how it plays out there. But the front office will first have to see how the big righty looks when he’s fully healthy and back on the mound in the AFL.

 

dc592229Dylan Covey

Right-Handed Pitcher

Age: 25

Midland RockHounds

29 1/3 IP / 21 H / 6 ER / 17 BB / 26 K / 1.84 ERA / 1.30 WHIP

A former 1st-round pick of the Brewers out of high school, Covey ended up heading to the University of San Diego after being diagnosed with diabetes during his post-draft physical. The A’s scooped him up with their 4th-round pick in 2013 and, after turning in a solid 2015 season at Stockton, the groundball pitcher got off to a decent start at Double-A in 2016 before an oblique injury caused him to miss four months of the season. And after making just 6 starts this year, the 25-year-old will be looking to make up for lost time in the AFL.

 

sb595892Sam Bragg

Right-Handed Pitcher

Age: 23

Midland RockHounds

65 IP / 60 H / 31 ER / 19 BB / 68 K / 4.29 ERA / 1.22 WHIP

The A’s 18th-round pick in the 2013 draft, the right-handed reliever has always had good control and solid strikeouts numbers. Bragg got off to a rough start in 2016, but he finished strong and ended up striking out 68 while walking just 19 over 65 innings for Midland. The right-hander had equal success against righties and lefties for the RockHounds, but he’ll be looking to gain greater overall consistency during his time on the mound in the AFL.

 

tc605184Trey Cochran-Gill

Right-Handed Pitcher

Age: 23

Midland RockHounds

73 1/3 IP / 71 H / 25 ER / 25 BB / 58 K / 3.07 ERA / 1.31 WHIP

The reliever came to the A’s from the Mariners in return for Evan Scribner as part of Oakland’s offseason bullpen purge. Originallly taken by the Mariners in the 17th round of the 2014 draft, the 23-year-old had failed to allow a home run in his minor league career prior to this past season. The Alabama native was especially tough on right-handers while coming out of Midland’s bullpen in 2016 and had a stretch of 3 ½ months this season where he didn’t surrender a round-tripper for the RockHonds.

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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.

A’s Send Down 11 Players This Week – 6 Become Free Agents

So long, Sogie - nerd power is no more.

So long, Sogie – nerd power is no more.

The A’s front office began the arduous process of paring the team’s roster down to 40 this week. With all the players on the disabled list needing to be activated in the offseason as well as a number of promising young prospects needing to be added to the roster in order to be protected in the Rule-5 draft, the task is particularly difficult this year.

The A’s begun the paring process on Wednesday when they outrighted pitcher Chris Smith and catcher Matt McBride to Nashville. The team followed that on Thursday by outrighting infielders Eric Sogard and Tyler Ladendorf, outfielder Andrew Lambo and pitchers Fernando Rodriguez, J.B. Wendelken and Donn Roach to Nashville and also announced that utility man Arismendy Alcantara was claimed off waivers by Cincinnati, then finished up by outrighting pitchers Jarrod Parker, Felix Doubront and Henderson Alvarez to Nashville on Friday.

Later on Friday, six of those players who were outrighted elected free agency – infielder Eric Sogard, catcher Matt McBride and pitchers Fernando Rodriguez, Jarrod Parker, Felix Doubront and Henderson Alvarez. Their tenure with the A’s has effectively ended, unless they choose to re-sign with the team, but they are now free to sign with any team.

With the recent subtractions, there are currently 38 players remaining on the A’s roster – 19 pitchers and 19 position players. Two of those players, outfielder Sam Fuld and pitcher Ross Detwiler, are eligible for free agency. And once they declare, as expected, the A’s roster will then stand at 36, which will enable the team to add infielder Franklin Barreto, outfielder Jaycob Brugman and relievers Bobby Wahl and Tucker Healy to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule-5 draft. All have performed well in their time at the Triple-A level and could be prime targets for other organizations if the A’s were to leave them unprotected.

Of course, this is the A’s, so further roster changes could occur at any time. But for now, you can check out the A’s current roster here.

 

 

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A’s Farm’s 2016 Post-Season Organizational All-Star Team

A's minor league home run leader Matt Chapman

A’s minor league home run leader Matt Chapman

With the 2016 minor league season now complete, it’s the perfect time to take a step back and determine who the true standouts on the field really were in the A’s system in 2016. And with that in mind, it’s time to name A’s Farm’s 2016 Post-Season Organizational All-Star Team!

Below you’ll find the primary starting players at each position for Triple-A Nashville, Double-A Midland, High-A Stockton, Class-A Beloit, Class-A Short-Season Vermont and the Rookie League Short-Season AZL A’s in 2016. Offensive starters were selected from the players who had the most games played at each position for each team over the course of the season, with notable players not leading in games played at a particular position listed in the designated hitter category. Starting pitchers for each club were selected from among the top starters for each team, while closers were selected from each team’s saves leader.

Asterisks denote players with combined statistics from multiple minor league teams within the A’s system, but players’ major league statistics and statistics acquired while with other organizations have not been included. And since he did not appear in more than 25 games at a particular position for any individual minor league team this season, Ryon Healy, who was having the best season of any hitter in the A’s minor league system prior to his promotion, is not included here.

Check out our list of All-Star candidates at each position. Then click on the link just below the list of contenders to find A’s Farm’s winning Organizational All-Stars at each position. The winners were determined based purely on performance, not potential. Remember, we’re not selecting the top prospects here, we’re choosing the top performers on the field this season. So take a good look at the candidates for yourself and then cast your vote in our poll for the top A’s Organizational All-Star of 2016!

 

–THE CANDIDATES–

 

CATCHER

Nashville – Bruce Maxwell (219 PA / 10 HR / .321 AVG / .393 OBP / .539 SLG / .932 OPS)

Midland – Beau Taylor (401 PA / 5 HR / .280 AVG / .383 OBP / .398 SLG / .781 OPS)

Stockton – Argenis Raga (330 PA / 2 HR / .263 AVG / .329 OBP / .356 SLG / .686 OPS)

Beloit – Jose Chavez (273 PA / 0 HR / .207 AVG / .246 OBP / .243 SLG / .489 OPS)

Vermont – Brett Sunde (92 PA / 0 HR / .250 AVG / .322 OBP / .300 SLG / .622 OPS)

AZL A’s – Robert Mullen (113 PA / 1 HR / .260 AVG / .363 OBP / .406 SLG / .769 OPS)

 

FIRST BASE

Nashville – Rangel Ravelo (416 PA / 8 HR / .262 AVG / .334 OBP / .395 SLG / .729 OPS)

Midland – Viosergy Rosa (535 PA / 9 HR / .255 AVG / .359 OBP / .383 SLG / .742 OPS)

Stockton – Sandber Pimentel (485 PA / 21 HR / .237 AVG / .342 OBP / .436 SLG / .779 OPS)

Beloit – Ryan Howell (411 PA / 7 HR / .216 AVG / .345 OBP / .354 SLG / .699 OPS)

Vermont – Miguel Mercedes (278 PA / 12 HR / .258 AVG / .324 OBP / .448 SLG / .771 OPS)

AZL A’s – Charley Gould (206 PA / 1 HR / .273 AVG / .340 OBP / .350 SLG / .690 OPS)

 

SECOND BASE

Nashville – Joey Wendle (529 PA / 12 HR / .279 AVG / .324 OBP / .452 SLG / .776 OPS)

Midland – Wade Kirkland (274 PA / 2 HR / .215 AVG / .249 OBP / .289 SLG / .538 OPS)

Stockton – Mikey White (521 PA / 6 HR / .247 AVG / .315 OBP / .352 SLG / .666 OPS)

Beloit – Trent Gilbert (521 PA / 4 HR / .269 AVG / .327 OBP / .380 SLG / .707 OPS)

Vermont – Nate Mondou (256 PA / 0 HR / .296 AVG / .376 OBP / .363 SLG / .739 OPS) *

AZL A’s – Josh Vidales (175 PA / 1 HR / .345 AVG / .437 OBP / .507 SLG / .944 OPS)

 

SHORTSTOP

Nashville – Chad Pinder (465 PA / 14 HR / .258 AVG / .310 OBP / .425 SLG / .735 OPS)

Midland – Franklin Barreto (525 PA / 11 HR / .284 AVG / .342 OBP / .422 SLG / .763 OPS) *

Stockton – Richie Martin (400 PA / 3 HR / .235 AVG / .327 OBP / .322 SLG / .649 OPS) *

Beloit – Trace Loehr (386 PA / 1 HR / .249 AVG / .292 OBP / .350 SLG / .642 OPS)

Vermont – Eli White (270 PA / 2 HR / .275 AVG / .344 OBP / .356 SLG / .700 OPS) *

AZL A’s – Jesus Lage (143 PA / 0 HR / .184 AVG / .277 OBP / .248 SLG / .525 OPS) *

 

THIRD BASE

Nashville – Renato Nunez (550 PA / 23 HR / .228 AVG / .278 OBP / .412 SLG / .690 OPS)

Midland – Matt Chapman (589 PA / 36 HR / .237 AVG / .328 OBP / .519 SLG / .847 OPS) *

Stockton – Jose Brizuela (403 PA / 16 HR / .254 AVG / .337 OBP / .446 SLG / .784 OPS)

Beloit – Edwin Diaz (340 PA / 5 HR / .236 AVG / .311 OBP / .331 SLG / .642 OPS)

Vermont – JaVon Shelby (222 PA / 5 HR / .193 AVG / .284 OBP / .315 SLG / .599 OPS) *

AZL A’s – Javier Godard (166 PA / 0 HR / .252 AVG / .319 OBP / .308 SLG / .627 OPS) *

 

LEFT FIELD

Nashville – Max Muncy (268 PA / 8 HR / .251 AVG / .360 OBP / .408 SLG / .768 OPS)

Midland – J.P. Sportman (515 PA / 5 HR / .267 AVG / .309 OBP / .379 SLG / .688 OPS)

Stockton – B.J. Boyd (490 PA / 8 HR / .287 AVG / .344 OBP / .386 SLG / .730 OPS) *

Beloit – Justin Higley (499 PA / 6 HR / .251 AVG / .325 OBP / .381 SLG / .706 OPS) *

Vermont – Luis Barrera (253 PA / 3 HR / .310 AVG / .361 OBP / .428 SLG / .789 OPS) *

AZL A’s – Kyle Nowlin (198 PA / 2 HR / .260 AVG / .389 OBP / .383 SLG / .772 OPS)

 

CENTER FIELD

Nashville – Jaycob Brugman (433 PA / 7 HR / .295 AVG / .352 OBP / .438 SLG / .790 OPS) *

Midland – Brett Vertigan (462 PA / 2 HR / .246 AVG / .314 OBP / .316 SLG / .629 OPS)

Stockton – James Harris (599 PA / 7 HR / .297 AVG / .370 OBP / .410 SLG / .780 OPS) *

Beloit – Skye Bolt (402 PA / 5 HR / .231 AVG / .318 OBP / .345 SLG / .663 OPS)

Vermont – Steven Pallares (343 PA / 1 HR / .168 AVG / .311 OBP / .189 SLG / .500 OPS) *

AZL A’s – Jeramiah McCray (123 PA / 0 HR / .202 AVG / .260 OBP / .316 SLG / .576 OPS)

 

RIGHT FIELD

Nashville – Matt Olson (540 PA / 17 HR / .235 AVG / .335 OBP / .422 SLG / .757 OPS)

Midland – Tyler Marincov (590 PA / 19 HR / .265 AVG / .341 OBP / .436 SLG / .776 OPS) *

Stockton – Seth Brown (532 PA / 8 HR / .241 AVG / .340 OBP / .362 SLG / .702 OPS)

Beloit – Brett Siddall (542 PA / 9 HR / .241 AVG / .321 OBP / .356 SLG / .677 OPS)

Vermont – Tyler Ramirez (205 PA / 2 HR / .230 AVG / .322 OBP / .360 SLG / .682 OPS) *

AZL A’s – Cole Gruber (154 PA / 0 HR / .214 AVG / .346 OBP / .294 SLG / .640 OPS)

 

DESIGNATED HITTER

Nashville – Matt McBride (274 PA / 7 HR / .267 AVG / .339 OBP / .441 SLG / .781 OPS)

Midland – Yairo Munoz (414 PA / 9 HR / .240 AVG / .286 OBP / .367 SLG / .653 OPS)

Stockton – Joe Bennie (574 PA / 13 HR / .283 AVG / .361 OBP / .421 SLG / .783 OPS) *

Beloit – Chris Iriart (394 PA / 22 HR / .250 AVG / .340 OBP / .503 SLG / .843 OPS) *

Vermont – Eric Marinez (241 PA / 1 HR / .251 AVG / .261 OBP / .332 SLG / .593 OPS)

AZL A’s – Casey Thomas (133 PA / 0 HR / .258 AVG / .300 OBP / .275 SLG / .575 OPS)

 

STARTING PITCHER

Nashville – Daniel Mengden (98 1/3 IP / 69 H / 16 ER / 29 BB / 95 K / 1.46 ERA / 1.00 WHIP) *

Midland – Daniel Gossett (153 2/3 IP / 125 H / 46 ER / 41 BB / 151 K / 2.69 ERA / 1.08 WHIP) *

Stockton – Heath Fillmyer (134 IP / 132 H / 49 ER / 39 BB / 118 K / 3.29 ERA / 1.28 WHIP) *

Beloit – Evan Manarino (150 IP / 135 H / 33 ER / 28 BB / 121 K / 1.98 ERA / 1.09 WHIP) *

Vermont – Xavier Altamirano (91 1/3 IP / 91 H / 32 ER / 21 BB / 75 K / 3.15 ERA / 1.23 WHIP) *

AZL A’s – Argenis Blanco (60 2/3 IP / 58 H / 17 ER / 17 BB / 48 K / 2.52 ERA / 1.24 WHIP)

 

CLOSER

Nashville – Tucker Healy (52 1/3 IP / 38 H / 21 ER / 26 BB / 76 K / 3.61 ERA / 1.22 WHIP / 8 SV)

Midland – Bobby Wahl (54 1/3 IP / 36 H / 16 ER / 28 BB / 65 K / 2.65 ERA / 1.18 WHIP / 14 SV) *

Stockton – Cody Stull (61 2/3 IP / 56 H / 11 ER / 14 BB / 65 K / 1.61 ERA / 1.14 WHIP / 6 SV) *

Beloit – Jared Lyons (59 2/3 IP / 47 H / 14 ER / 20 BB / 71 K / 2.11 ERA / 1.12 WHIP / 7 SV) *

Vermont – Dalton Sawyer (18 2/3 IP / 15 H / 7 ER / 10 BB / 26 K / 3.38 ERA / 1.34 WHIP / 3 SV)

AZL A’s – Joseph Camacho (29 2/3 IP / 27 H / 10 ER / 6 BB / 22 K / 3.03 ERA / 1.11 WHIP / 3 SV)

 

Click here to see A’s Farm’s 2016 Post-Season Organizational All-Star Team…

15 Prospects Who Could Play Key Roles for A’s in 2017

Ryon Healy

A’s infielder Ryon Healy

After the team’s second consecutive losing season, the A’s roster is currently in just about as much flux as it’s been at any time in the club’s recent history. It’s anyone’s guess who will remain from the current roster when next season begins, but one thing seems certain. The team could be ready to offer more opportunities to its top prospects than it has been in a long, long time.

Already this season, prospects like Ryon Healy, Bruce Maxwell, Chad Pinder, Joey Wendle, Arismendy Alcantara, Daniel Mengden and Dillon Overton have seen time with the big league club, and even more top young players could be making their debuts with the A’s come 2017.

Of course, no one knows what the front office may do in the offseason. But if the team decides to commit to developing the next generation of the green and gold around a core of young prospects currently in the A’s system, here are a number of players who could play key roles next year. (For the purposes of this piece, players over the age of 26 aren’t considered “prospects.”)

 

rh592387cRyon Healy

Third Baseman/First Baseman

Age: 24

If any prospect is bound to play a prominent role for the A’s in 2017, it’s likely to be Ryon Healy. He spent a little more than half the season in the minor leagues, where he was the best hitter in the A’s system over the first three months of the season, putting up an impressive .326/.382/.558 slash line over a combined 85 games for Nashville and Midland. And in his seven weeks with the A’s, he’s hitting .287 with 11 doubles and 6 home runs. Healy’s clearly capable of playing third base, but he may be better-suited to play first base. His ability to play both the corner spots allows the front office some flexibility this offseason. But wherever he ends up starting next year, it seems pretty clear that Healy will find his name somewhere on the lineup card for the A’s in 2017.

 

aa570489bArismendy Alcantara

Second Baseman/Shortstop/Outfielder

Age: 24

Acquired from the Cubs early this summer for Chris Coghlan, Alcantara is a versatile player who’s spent time at shortstop, second base, third base and in the outfield in his minor league career. And even though he might not be a standout at any of those positions, we all know how much the A’s value versatility. Alcantara will also be out of options next season, so the team could end up losing him if he doesn’t make the roster. And it’s not hard to imagine an opening day A’s squad with the speedy and versatile Alcantara serving as the ultimate utility man and the 13th position player on the roster.

 

bm622194bBruce Maxwell

Catcher

Age: 25

Maxwell was one of Nashville’s best hitters this season, putting up a .321/.393/.539 slash line for the Sounds. The backstop also impressed manager Bob Melvin and the A’s coaching staff this spring with his work behind the dish. So it seemed likely that the team would want to get a look at him at the major league level at some point this season. Maxwell’s yet to make his mark at the plate in the majors, going 4 for 32 in his first 13 games, but that could turn around at any time and he is considered to be a capable major league receiver. So if Oakland should decide to move Steven Vogt or Josh Phegley this offseason, or if injuries should sideline either of them, Maxwell appears the most likely candidate to claim a spot in the A’s catching corps.

 

jw621563dJoey Wendle

Second Baseman

Age: 26

After coming to the A’s organization from Cleveland at the end of 2014 in the Brandon Moss trade, Wendle finally made his major league debut with the A’s this week. A steady if not flashy player, Wendle was leading the Sounds in hits, runs and total bases and his 52 extra-base hits tied him for the second most among A’s minor leaguers when he was promoted from Nashville. The team is planning to platoon the lefty-hitting Wendle with the righty-swinging Chad Pinder at second base for the rest of the season. And depending on how they perform, it’s possible that platoon could last into next season as well.

 

cp640461bChad Pinder

Shortstop/Second Baseman

Age: 24

The A’s third overall pick in the 2013 draft, Pinder pushed his way through the system fairly quickly while playing both shortstop and second base. He was named the Texas League Player of the Year as the everyday shortstop at Double-A Midland last season, and his 14 home runs this year trailed only Renato Nunez and Matt Olson among his Nashville teammates. Pinder will be serving as the right-handed half of the A’s second base platoon for the rest of the season and, depending on what happens, that platoon could persist into next season. But since Pinder also has plenty of experience at both shortstop and third base, it’s always possible that he could find a spot on the roster as the A’s utility infielder next year as well.

 

jb595144bJaycob Brugman

Outfielder

Age: 24

Over the first few months of the season, Brugman was probably the second-best overall hitter in the A’s system next to Ryon Healy, and he’s had an outstanding season while primarily playing center field and batting leadoff for Nashville and Midland. He currently has the second most hits and total bases among A’s minor leaguers as well as the third most doubles, triples and RBIs. Much like Wendle, Brugman’s a steady if not flashy player, but his consistent play has earned him some fans in the A’s front office and he could potentially see some time in the majors this month once Nashville’s postseason run is over. There may be some openings in the A’s outfield mix next season and, as a solid left-handed hitter, Brugman could potentially serve as the left-hander half of a platoon in center field or right field for the A’s next year.

 

mo621566Matt Olson

First Baseman/Outfielder

Age: 22

The A’s third overall pick in the 2012 draft, Olson has always been considered one of the top power prospects in the organization. His 34 doubles for Nashville are a team high, while his 17 home runs trail only teammate Renato Nunez on the Sounds, and his 71 walks are the most among all A’s minor leaguers. Olson struggled early in the season but has put up a solid .259/.345/.482 slash line in the second half. He’s made about two-thirds of his starts in right field this season and, while he’s a capable outfield defender, Olson is known as a top-notch defender at first base. He’s still just 22, so there’s no rush. But if the A’s decide to go all in on their youth movement in 2017 then, as a left-handed hitter with strong platoon splits, Olson could find a spot as the left-handed half of a platoon either at first base or in right field for the A’s at some point next season.

 

rn600524eRenato Nunez

Third Baseman/Designated Hitter

Age: 22

Along with Olson, Nunez has been considered one of the top young power prospects in the A’s system for a few years now. And his 23 home runs this season are the most at Nashville and the second most among all A’s minor leaguers next to Matt Chapman. He got off to a hot start early this season. And when Billy Butler was still struggling with the A’s, many were calling for Nunez to be called up and put in the designated hitter spot. Nunez’s defense at third base has always been a bit suspect, and he’s recently begun getting some starts in left field while also spending more time serving as the Sounds’ DH. Like Olson, he’s just 22, so he’s still got some time. But if Oakland should decide to cut ties with Butler one way or another this offseason, it could make it much more likely that the young power hitter will get a long look with the A’s sometime next season.

 

mc656305eMatt Chapman

Third Baseman

Age: 23

The A’s 1st-round draft pick in 2014, Chapman has been considered a top prospect from the moment he was drafted, primarily based on his defensive abilities and his power potential. He clearly has a cannon for an arm, and he’s currently leading all A’s minor leaguers with 33 home runs. After belting 29 bombs in the unfriendly confines of the Texas League, Chapman was promoted to Nashville a little over two weeks ago and has since hit 4 more for the Sounds. [Update: Chapman hit 3 home runs in Saturday’s game and now has 7 for the Sounds.] He deeply impressed A’s manager Bob Melvin in spring training, who seemed sad to see him go. And now that he’s in Triple-A, the 23-year-old is just one step away from the majors. It seems clear that another strong spring could get the A’s to start thinking about moving Healy across the diamond so that they can install Chapman at the hot corner sooner rather than later.

 

fb620439Franklin Barreto

Shortstop/Second Baseman

Age: 20

Barreto has been viewed as the A’s top young hitting prospect ever since his arrival from Toronto in the Josh Donaldson trade. And since joining the A’s system, the 20-year-old Venezuelan has followed a pattern of starting out slow each season and then catching on fire in the second half, and this year has been no exception. Barreto boasts a .320/.381/.467 slash line over the last 90 days, and his hot finish earned him a promotion from Midland to Nashville on the last day of August, so he’ll now have the opportunity to compete in postseason play for the Sounds. Barreto’s still just 20, but like Chapman, he’ll be finishing the season just one step away from the majors. Though he’s spent most of his minor league career as a shortstop, he’s also gotten some starts this season at second base. And coincidentally, that could be a key area of competition for the A’s this spring. Barreto will get his shot in the big leagues sooner or later and, if he keeps swinging a big bat, the A’s could decide he’s their best bet in 2017.

 

dm596043cDaniel Mengden

Right-Handed Pitcher

Age: 23

Mengden is set to be the first pitching prospect called up by the A’s with September’s expanded rosters. He looked impressive in his first 4 outings for Oakland this season, allowing just 8 earned runs over 4 starts in June, but he struggled in his next 5 appearances, giving up a total of 23 earned runs in 5 July starts before being sent back to Nashville. Mengden impressed after returning to Music City, putting up a 2.10 ERA in 6 starts for the Sounds. And overall, in 17 minor league starts this season, Mengden has posted an impressive 1.46 ERA while striking out 95 in 98 1/3 innings of work. The 23-year-old admittedly was feeling a little worn down after hitting a career-high in innings pitched this season. But after a little R & R in the offseason, if Mengden can return to the form he flashed in his first 4 big league starts, then he could put himself in contention for a return to the majors again next season.

 

do592614cDillon Overton

Left-Handed Pitcher

Age: 25

Overton made 5 starts for Oakland this season and mostly struggled, putting up a 10.97 ERA in his time with the A’s. But he was one of the best starters in the Pacific Coast League this season. His 3.29 ERA is currently the fifth best in the league and he’s struck out 105 in 125 2/3 innings for the Sounds. There’s obviously a big difference between what it takes to succeed at Triple-A and what it takes to make it in the majors. The A’s have been hoping that Overton’s velocity would tick up another notch since his return from Tommy John surgery. And if he could manage to add just a couple miles an hour to his fastball next season, it could make a world of difference. It’s also possible that the A’s front office could ultimately decide that Overton’s arm is better-suited to the bullpen and could take the opportunity to see how he fares as either a long reliever or a situational lefty.

 

jc605194bJharel Cotton

Right-Handed Pitcher

Age: 24

After coming to the A’s as part of a trio of talented young arms the team snagged from the Dodgers in the Josh Reddick/Rich Hill deal, Cotton made a strong impression when he came within one out of throwing a perfect game in his second start for Nashville. The 24-year-old has posted a 2.86 ERA in 6 starts for the Sounds and appears poised to claim the Pacific Coast League strikeout crown with 155 K’s in 135 2/3 innings of work this season. Cotton has consistently tallied big strikeout totals. His mid-90s fastball and his solid changeup have enabled him to succeed at the Triple-A level and, with a strong spring, he could put himself into contention for a spot in the major league rotation next season.

 

ra593417cRaul Alcantara

Right-Handed Pitcher

Age: 23

Alcantara has been a prominent pitching prospect in the A’s system since coming over from the Red Sox, along with Josh Reddick, following the 2011 season. Tommy John surgery slowed down his progress, but he’s made quite an impression in the second half this season, putting up a 1.18 ERA in 8 starts since joining Nashville in July. He’s yet to have a bad start at the Triple-A level, and it appears that Alcantara could finally be reaching his potential. He’s still just 23, but he’s been on the A’s 40-man roster for some time, so his option years are winding down, and the A’s may feel some pressure to give him a shot soon. He’s pitching as well as anyone at Nashville right now. So why not strike while the iron is hot? And Alcantara’s arm has certainly been as hot as anyone’s in the second half of 2016.

 

fm593423bFrankie Montas

Right-Handed Pitcher

Age: 23

Montas is the only one of the three arms the A’s acquired from the Dodgers who comes with major league experience. He made 7 appearances with the White Sox in 2015 before being dealt to the Dodgers prior to the 2016 season. Surgery during the offseason followed by a broken rib have sidelined Montas for most of the year. He only threw 16 innings in the Dodgers’ system this season, but he’s set to pitch in the Arizona Fall League, so the A’s front office will get a chance to get a good look at him before next spring. The Dominican righty boasts a 100+ mph fastball, and he’s struck out an average of 9.3 batters per 9 innings over his minor league career. Montas has mainly appeared as a starter in the minors. And if he looks strong in his return to action, the A’s could give him a shot at a rotation spot next year, or they could always choose to put his power arm in the bullpen and see how it plays out there.

*          *          *

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A Look at 9 Promising Pitching Prospects A’s Added in Past Year

Sean Manaea made just 3 starts at Triple-A before joining the A's starting rotation.

Sean Manaea made just 3 starts at Triple-A before joining the A’s starting rotation this year.

Ever since last year’s trade deadline deals, the A’s front office has clearly been focused on adding as much top young pitching talent to the system as possible. And with the cost of major league pitching on a rapid rise in recent times, it’s easy to make sense of this strategy. In most of the team’s big trades, particularly at this year’s and last year’s trade deadlines, the focus has been squarely on pitching. And in this year’s amateur draft, the A’s took three top young pitching prospects with their first three selections – something that hasn’t happened anytime in the franchise’s recent history.

Last July, Oakland acquired LHP Sean Manaea from Kansas City in the Ben Zobrist trade, grabbed RHP Daniel Mengden from Houston in the Scott Kazmir deal, and got RHP Casey Meisner from the Mets in return for Tyler Clippard. This July, the A’s acquired RHPs Jharel Cotton, Frankie Montas and Grant Holmes from the Dodgers in the Josh Reddick/Rich Hill deal. And in this June’s amateur draft, the team took a trio of talented young arms with its top three picks – LHP A.J. Puk and RHPs Daulton Jefferies and Logan Shore. And that’s not even to mention the acquisition of RHP J.B. Wendelken and LHP Zack Erwin from the White Sox in last winter’s Brett Lawrie deal.

Between these deadline deals and the draft, the A’s have really restocked the organization’s pitching talent. So let’s take a look at some of the team’s top young pitching acquisitions since last year’s trade deadline deals and see how they’re shaping up…

 

sm640455cLHP Sean Manaea

Age: 24

Current Team: Oakland A’s

Acquired: Ben Zobrist trade – July 2015

The former 1st-round draft pick for the Royals was expected to spend most of the season at Triple-A. But due to injuries, Manaea was called up after making just 3 starts for the Sounds, and he’s now made 20 apperances so far for the A’s. The Samoan southpaw has struck out 100 in 117 1/3 innings for Oakland this season and has gotten stronger as the season has worn on, posting a 3.58 ERA in the second half. The A’s parted with former prospects Daniel Robertson and Boog Powell in the deal that originally brought Zobrist to Oakland. When the team turned around and acquired a top pitching prospect like Manaea in return for Zobrist, it added a high-ceiling young arm to the system. And it looks like the big strike-throwing lefty should prove to be a staple of the A’s starting rotation in the coming years.

 

dm596043bRHP Daniel Mengden

Age: 23

Current Team: Nashville Sounds

Acquired: Scott Kazmir trade – July 2015

When Oakland traded Scott Kazmir to the Astros last summer, most A’s fans were focused on the young catching prospect the team received in return, Jaycob Nottingham, who was soon dealt to Milwaukee in the Khris Davis trade. Despite being a former 4th-round draft pick for the Astros, much less attention was paid to Mengden – that is until this season. The 23-year-old started out the year by surrendering just 2 runs over his first 4 starts for Double-A Midland, which quickly earned him a promotion to Nashville, where he continued to be dominant in start after start. And, once again, thanks to injuries, by the second week of June, he had joined the A’s starting rotation. Mengden allowed just 8 earned runs over his first 4 starts for the A’s. He then struggled in his next 5 starts, giving up a total of 23 earned runs in that span before being sent back to Nashville. He’s been solid since his return, putting up a 2.16 ERA in 5 starts back in Music City. Mengden admittedly was feeling a little worn down after hitting a career-high in innings pitched this season. But the mustachioed Mr. Mengden should be in a prime position to compete for a spot in Oakland’s starting rotation next spring.

 

cm641861bRHP Casey Meisner

Age: 21

Current Team: Stockton Ports

Acquired: Tyler Clippard trade – July 2015

Meisner came to the A’s in the least high-profile of last summer’s deals, in return for reliever Tyler Clippard. A former 3rd-round draft pick for the Mets, Meisner got off to a great start for Stockton, posting a 2.78 ERA in 7 late-season starts for the Ports. He returned to the California League this year but has mostly struggled this time around the track, putting up a 4.59 ERA over 113 2/3 innings. The 6-foot-7 righty’s mechanics can be an issue and his command has been inconsistent this season. But Meisner’s been walking far fewer in the second half, and he’s still just 21. So even if he may not currently be considered among the team’s top prospects, Meisner still possesses a lot of potential.

 

jc605194bRHP Jharel Cotton

Age: 24

Current Team: Nashville Sounds

Acquired: Josh Reddick/Rich Hill trade – July 2016

Cotton came to the A’s as part of a trio of talented young arms the team snagged from the Dodgers in the Josh Reddick/Rich Hill deal, and the 24-year-old definitely made an impression when he came within one out of throwing a perfect game in his second start for Nashville. Cotton has consistently tallied big strikeout totals, and he currently leads the Pacific Coast League with 149 strikeouts in 130 innings of work. Cotton’s mid-90s fastball and his solid changeup have enabled him to succeed at the Triple-A level, and he’s expected to get a shot at the major league level before the season’s through. Cotton should also find himself in the competition for a starting spot in the major league rotation come next spring.

 

fm593423RHP Frankie Montas

Age: 23

Current Team: Nashville Sounds

Acquired: Josh Reddick/Rich Hill trade – July 2016

Montas is the only one of the three arms acquired from the Dodgers who comes with major league experience. He made 7 appearances with the White Sox in 2015 before being dealt to the Dodgers prior to the 2016 season. Surgery during the offseason followed by a broken rib have sidelined Montas for most of the year. He only managed to throw 16 innings in the Dodgers’ system this season, but it’s possible that he could be ready to return in time to participate in the Arizona Fall League this October. The Dominican righty’s headline pitch is his 100+ mph fastball, and he’s struck out an average of 9.3 batters per 9 innings over his minor league career. Montas has mainly appeared as a starter in the minors. Of course, it’s always possible that he could end up as an elite power arm pitching out of the bullpen, but the A’s will have to see how he looks once he gets healthy and back on the field before making any determination about the best path for him going forward.

 

gh656550RHP Grant Holmes

Age: 20

Current Team: Stockton Ports

Acquired: Josh Reddick/Rich Hill trade – July 2016

A former 1st-round draft pick for the Dodgers in 2014, Holmes was a highly-coveted high school arm who is the highest-profile hurler to come to the A’s in the recent deal with the Dodgers. As a young 20-year-old in the hitter-friendly High-A California League, Holmes had fared well for the Dodgers’ affiliate this year, posting a 4.02 ERA while striking out 100 over 105 1/3 innings of work before the trade. But Holmes has struggled since coming to Stockton, surrendering 19 earned runs over his first 19 innings while pitching for the Ports. He’d just passed his career-high in innings pitched prior to the trade, so he could just be a little worn down late in the season while also making the adjustment to a new organization. Holmes is a big strong kid who, just like Montas, has averaged 9.3 strikeouts per 9 innings over his minor league career and has to be considered one of the top young pitching prospects in the A’s system at this point.

 

ap640462LHP A.J. Puk

Age: 21

Current Team: Vermont Lake Monsters

Acquired: 1st Round 2016 Draft – June 2016

Widely reported to be a possible #1 pick in this year’s amateur draft, the A’s were thrilled to get their hands on a top pitching prospect like Puk with their first pick in the draft. Puk is a flame-throwing lefty out of Florida with top-of-the-rotation potential. The 6-foot-7, 220-pound power pitcher’s fastball has been clocked as high as 99 mph, and he pairs it with a solid slider. Since joining Vermont, Puk’s struck out 34 in 28 2/3 innings while posting a 3.14 ERA for the Lake Monsters. And with his outstanding fastball, a solid slider, an impressive frame and loads of raw talent, it’s easy to see why most people view Puk as a pitcher with tremendous upside and a player who could make a real difference for the green and gold before long.

 

djPFKSDMUFQUWSOHH.20151029180443RHP Daulton Jefferies

Age: 21

Current Team: Arizona League A’s

Acquired: Supplemental 1st Round 2016 Draft – June 2016

With their second selection in the competitive balance portion of the 1st-round of this year’s draft, the A’s took the talented young righty out of UC Berkeley. Jefferies’ fastball has been clocked as high as 95 mph, and he also features a slider and an occasional changeup while possessing excellent command. Despite being sidelined for eight weeks during his final college season with shoulder and calf injuries, Jefferies went 7-0 and posted a stellar 1.08 ERA while striking out 53 and walking just 8 over 50 innings of work for Cal. The A’s took things slow with Jefferies after the draft due to his previous shoulder injury, but he’s recently started seeing some action in Arizona. And in his first 4 brief appearances, the 21-year-old has shown off his pinpoint control by allowing just 1 walk and 1 run while striking out 12 over 8 2/3 innings for the AZL A’s.

 

ls624519RHP Logan Shore

Age: 21

Current Team: Vermont Lake Monsters

Acquired: 2nd Round 2016 Draft – June 2016

With the A’s 2nd-round pick in this year’s draft, the team took one of Puk’s college teammates from Florida, who recently joined his old friend at Vermont. Shore is a 6-foot-2, 215-pound righty who went 11-0 with a 2.44 ERA while striking out 80 and walking just 15 over 92 1/3 innings of work in his last season for Florida. The 21-year-old was actually the top performer on Florida’s pitching staff, while Puk was considered to have more upside. Shore doesn’t throw nearly as hard as the A’s top two picks but is a consistent strike-thrower with good control who also possesses an advanced changeup. What he may lack in velocity, he more than makes up for with solid command and an advanced understanding of pitching that many expect will help him rise quickly through the system. In his first 5 appearances for Vermont, Shore has allowed 3 earned runs and struck out 9 over his first 12 innings of work.

*          *          *

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A’s Top 20 Draft Picks Mid-Season Progress Report

A's top pick A.J. Puk

A’s top draft pick A.J. Puk

It’s been about ten weeks since this year’s amateur draft and about two months since the first of the players picked by the A’s began playing with either the Class-A Vermont Lake Monsters or the rookie-ball Arizona League A’s.

The A’s managed to sign all of their top 20 picks this year. The highest-drafted player Oakland’s front office wasn’t able to sign was 21-year-old right-hander Brigham Hill out of Texas A&M, whom the team took with its 21st pick in the 20th round. But the A’s were fortunate that they were able to ink all 20 of the players they picked before him and get those prospects into the system. And with about two months of play now in the books, it seems like a good time to take a look at how some the A’s newest prospects have been performing down on the farm.

The A’s focused on pitching with their top 20 picks this year, taking 12 pitchers in the top 20 and 7 in the top 10. The team’s top pick, LHP A.J. Puk, has been the standout among the pitching prospects so far this season. The 6-foot-7 21-year-old has looked dominant at times for Vermont, posting a 2.70 ERA while striking out 27 over 20 innings of work for the Lake Monsters.

The A’s second overall pick, RHP Daulton Jefferies, just started seeing some action in Arizona and, in 3 brief appearances, the 21-year-old has shown off his pinpoint control by allowing just 1 run while walking none and striking out 10 over 5 2/3 frames for the AZL A’s. Oakland’s third overall pick taken in the 2nd round was Puk’s teammate at Florida, RHP Logan Shore, who recently joined his friend and former college teammate at Vermont. And in his first 4 appearances, the 21-year-old has allowed 2 earned runs and struck out 8 over 9 innings of work.

The team’s top high school pick was RHP Skylar Szynski, who was taken in the 4th round. Though he’s currently sporting a 8.10 ERA, the 19-year-old’s numbers aren’t really that bad, having allowed 16 hits and just 4 walks while striking out 8 in 13 1/3 innings for the AZL A’s. Three other pitchers from the top 10 rounds who are currently at Vermont have all been perfoming well. 6th-round RHP Brandon Bailey, who’s primarily been used as a starter, has posted a 3.41 ERA over 29 innings since joining the system. LHPs Will Gilbert and Dalton Sawyer have both been working out of the bullpen, where 8th-rounder Gilbert has notched 23 strikeouts in 19 1/3 innings while 9th-rounder Sawyer has struck out 20 over 15 2/3 frames for the Lake Monsters.

Meanwhile, 10th-round pick Mitchell Jordan has been solid while serving in a starting role in Arizona, putting up a 3.24 ERA while walking just 7 and striking out 30 in 33 1/3 innings of work for the AZL A’s. The fastest riser of this year’s draft class has been the A’s 14th-round pick, RHP Nolan Blackwood out of the University of Memphis, who is the only member of this year’s crop to make it all the way up to the Beloit Snappers of the Class-A Midwest League. After looking solid in 5 relief appearances for Vermont, the 21-year-old has struggled a bit since joining Beloit’s bullpen, allowing 9 runs in his first 8 appearances for the Snappers.

When it comes to position players, the team’s three top 10 selections – 3rd-round catcher Sean Murphy, 5th-round third baseman JaVon Shelby and 7th-round outfielder Tyler Ramirez – all did a brief stint in Arizona before joining Vermont. Murphy’s power has yet to show itself as he has just 2 extra-base hits over his first 70 at-bats, while Shelby’s shown himself to be a bit of a free swinger, striking out 39 times in 144 at-bats while putting up a .188 batting average. Ramirez has fared a little better, with a .248/.348/.376 slash line over his first 39 games since joining the system.

The two standouts among the team’s position player picks have been shortstop Eli White and second baseman Nate Mondou, who’ve formed a productive double-play combo for Vermont and who were both recently named New York-Penn League All-Stars. 11th-rounder White has 10 doubles to go along with a .303/.365/.406 slash line, while 13th-rounder Mondou’s impressive .401 on-base percentage is among the five best in the league.

You’ll find the A’s top 20 picks of the 2016 draft along with their current statistics through August 19 listed below. The teams they’ve played for so far this season are noted, with the team they’ve appeared in the most games with listed first and their current team in bold…

 

ap6404621st Round

A.J. Puk

Age: 21 / Left-Handed Pitcher

Vermont Lake Monsters

20 IP / 13 H / 6 ER / 6 BB / 27 K / 2.70 ERA / 0.95 WHIP

 

djPFKSDMUFQUWSOHH.201510291804431st Round Supplemental

Daulton Jefferies

Age: 21 / Right-Handed Pitcher

AZL A’s

5 2/3 IP / 7 H / 1 ER / 0 BB / 10 K / 1.59 ERA / 1.24 WHIP

 

ls6245192nd Round

Logan Shore

Age: 21 / Right-Handed Pitcher

Vermont Lake Monsters

9 IP / 9 H / 2 ER / 3 BB / 8 K / 2.00 ERA / 1.33 WHIP

 

sm6692213rd Round

Sean Murphy

Age: 21 / Catcher

Vermont Lake Monsters + AZL A’s

70 AB / 1 HR / 7 BB / 9 K / .200 AVG / .273 OBP / .257 SLG / .530 OPS

 

ss1005989374th Round

Skylar Szynski

Age: 19 / Right-Handed Pitcher

AZL A’s

13 1/3 IP / 16 H / 12 ER / 4 BB / 8 K / 8.10 ERA / 1.50 WHIP

 

js6420695th Round

JaVon Shelby

Age: 21 / Third Baseman

Vermont Lake Monsters + AZL A’s

144 AB / 2 HR / 16 BB / 39 K / .188 AVG / .269 OBP / .271 SLG / .540 OPS

 

bb6690646th Round

Brandon Bailey

Age: 21 / Right-Handed Pitcher

Vermont Lake Monsters + AZL A’s

29 IP / 25 H / 10 ER / 9 BB / 27 K / 3.41 ERA / 1.17 WHIP

 

tr6692627th Round

Tyler Ramirez

Age: 21 / Outfielder

Vermont Lake Monsters + AZL A’s

117 AB / 1 HR / 15 BB / 35 K / .248 AVG / .348 OBP / .376 SLG / .724 OPS

 

wg6693358th Round

Will Gilbert

Age: 22 / Left-Handed Pitcher

Vermont Lake Monsters

19 1/3 IP / 15 H / 7 ER / 9 BB / 23 K / 3.26 ERA / 1.24 WHIP

 

ds6621219th Round

Dalton Sawyer

Age: 22 / Left-Handed Pitcher

Vermont Lake Monsters

15 2/3 IP / 13 H / 6 ER / 9 BB / 20 K / 3.45 ERA / 1.40 WHIP

 

mjOWLLPIGUVDSSBTJ.2015091521152810th Round

Mitchell Jordan

Age: 21 / Right-Handed Pitcher

AZL A’s

33 1/3 IP / 34 H / 12 ER / 7 BB / 30 K / 3.24 ERA / 1.23 WHIP

 

ew64220111th Round

Eli White

Age: 22 / Shortstop

Vermont Lake Monsters + AZL A’s

175 AB / 2 HR / 18 BB / 44 K / .303 AVG / .365 OBP / .406 SLG / .771 OPS

 

lp64197112th Round

Luke Persico

Age: 20 / Outfielder-Third Baseman

Vermont Lake Monsters + AZL A’s

141 AB / 2 HR / 16 BB / 31 K / .220 AVG / .297 OBP / .312 SLG / .610 OPS

 

nm67014813th Round

Nate Mondou

Age: 21 / Second Baseman

Vermont Lake Monsters + AZL A’s

164 AB / 0 HR / 17 BB / 26 K / .329 AVG / .402 OBP / .372 SLG / .774 OPS

 

nb67015414th Round

Nolan Blackwood

Age: 21 / Right-Handed Pitcher

Beloit Snappers + Vermont Lake Monsters

18 IP / 23 H / 11 ER / 6 BB / 15 K / 5.50 ERA / 1.61 WHIP

 

td64149915th Round

Ty Damron

Age: 22 / Left-Handed Pitcher

Vermont Lake Monsters

7 2/3 IP / 10 H / 5 ER / 6 BB / 9 K / 5.87 ERA / 2.09 WHIP

 

acanthony-churlin16th Round

Anthony Churlin

Age: 19 / Outfielder

AZL A’s

69 AB / 0 HR / 9 BB / 23 K / .217 AVG / .316 OBP / .232 SLG / .548 OPS

 

sm160122917th Round

Seth Martinez

Age: 22 / Right-Handed Pitcher

AZL A’s

2 1/3 IP / 3 H / 1 ER / 2 BB / 2 K / 3.86 ERA / 2.14 WHIP

 

sw0612Weber218th Round

Skyler Weber

Age: 21 / Catcher

AZL A’s

70 AB / 0 HR / 6 BB / 13 K / .171 AVG / .237 OBP / .200 SLG / .437 OPS

 

sgddyl6r89unolb91o19th Round

Sam Gilbert

Age: 22 / Right-Handed Pitcher

(Signed – Has Not Yet Played)

 

 

 

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

nstumblr_nn6zzrPnCN1qedy4lo1_500bRick 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 moved to Nashville last season, the northern California native remained on the west coast with the Single-A Stockton Ports. But this year, he’s back in Triple-A with the Sounds helping to develop another crop of talented young arms for the A’s.

Eric 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 made the move to coaching last year, when he served as the hitting coach for the A’s Double-A affiliate in Midland, and he’s now handling some of the team’s top young hitters this year at Nashville.

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

 

RICK RODRIGUEZ

rrRodriguez, Rick2AF:  Well, we’ve checked in with you each of the past four seasons, but this is the first time you haven’t been in California. You’ve been a coach with Oakland, Stockton and the Sacramento River Cats, and you pitched for both the A’s and Giants, so when’s the last time in your career that you actually spent a full season outside of California?

RR:  It might have been back twenty-something years when I was with the Cleveland Indians back in 1988. That might have been the last time. But yeah, it’s been a long time since I’ve been out of the state.

AF:  Okay, let’s talk about a few of the arms you’ve got here at Nashville this year, some of whom you actually had for part of the year with Stockton last year too. Let’s start with Dillon Overton, who came back from Tommy John surgery. He’s had a great year here at Nashville and he’s been up and down a bit with Oakland. So what have you seen out of him here at Nashville this year and what does he need to do to get over the hump to become a long-term major league pitcher?

do592614dRR:  When he first started here, I think he was trying to feel himself out in the league. Now that he’s had some innings in, he feels comfortable here. He knows he can pitch at this level and at the next. Basically, the same as last year – he has good command of his fastball and a great changeup. He’s still working on his curveball, and he’s added a cut fastball – and I think that’s kind of helped him. And once he gets that cut fastball and maybe a little bit more consistency on his curveball, then he’ll be ready to handle all the big league hitters up there.

AF:  Is his velocity about where it was last year when you had him at Stcokton or has it changed it all?

RR:  It’s probably about the same. On any given start, sometimes it’s a little higher or maybe a little lower, but it’s roughly about the same. But his location has been very consistent.

AF:  Well, his command is obviously the thing for him. Another guy you had for a bit at Stockton last year is Daniel Mengden. He obviously got off to a great start this year, both at Midland and here at Nashville. And his first four starts for Oakland were really solid as well. So what really enabled him to make that leap this year and what does he need to do to get back to that level again?

dm596043bRR:  One thing that he was doing here was he was very consistent at getting ahead of hitters and, when he was ahead of hitters, he was able to put them away. I think that’s what he needs to get back to, and I think that’s what he needs to do to get over that hump in Oakland. He was doing that really, really well for the first few starts. Then it kind of got away from him and he was getting deeper into counts. So getting him back to where he was here – like I said, he was being able to put hitters away early in the count with his pitches. He’s another guy who has tremendous stuff and tremendous command. You know, sometimes you might get a little off-kilter, so we’re just trying to get him back on line.

AF:  It seemed like he had a lot more first-pitch strikes down here and in his first few starts with Oakland than in his last few starts there anyway.

RR:  Yeah, that’s what he was telling me when he came in and I talked to him for a little bit. I just told him, “Hey, we’re going to get you back right where you were and you’re going to be back up there.”

AF:  So I guess he knows what he needs to work on then – no one needs to tell him.

RR:  He knows what he needs to work on. He’s well aware of it and he’s ready to do it.

ra593417cAF:  Now a guy who’s had a couple of great starts since coming up here is Raul Alcantara. He was a little hot and cold this year at Midland, but he comes up here and he doesn’t seem to want to walk anyone or give up a run or anything. So what do you think of what you’ve seen out of him here at Nashville so far?

RR:  Well, he’s another guy I had in Stockton last year! He’s shown very good command of his fastball. Last year the velocity was there, the command was okay. His command of his fastball is a lot better. His changeup is kind of what I remember. It’s almost like a split-action type – it’s late, it’s hard, it goes down, hitters swing at it. He’s still working on his curveball to get that a little more consistent break – and I’ve seen more consistency in the action on the curveball. It still needs to be a little bit more improved but, other than that, he’s dominating so far. I hope it keeps going, especially the no walks!

AF:  Yeah, I’m sure that makes a pitching coach’s life a whole lot easier! Now Jesse Hahn has been up and down this season, but his last start in Oakland was really on point. But why do you feel he’s had the struggles he’s had this year, where do you think he’s at right now and what’s he got to do to get back to where he was?

jh534910bRR:  I think he’s right where he wants to be. Right when he was called up, he was working all his mechanical issues out and he was in a rhythm and it showed up there in Oakland. And we’re just going to continue the work that we’ve been doing here with his rhythm and tempo and mechanics. The one thing that I think he needs to do is just be consistent in his outings, pitch by pitch, just be consistent – that’s a big thing for him.

AF:  One guy out of the bullpen it seems has been overlooked a bit this year is Tucker Healy. He’s certainly been racking up the strikeouts at a good pace. What have you seen out of him here this year?

RR:  I had Tucker a couple years ago his first time in Sacramento, and now here. And the big difference is he’s matured in that he knows how to handle the hitters. He’s very aggressive, he goes right after them. He’s got command of his fastball to both sides of the plate, and he’s got that nasty slider that he throws. He just comes right at you – and that’s the biggest thing. I told him, “You look more confident in that you know what you want to do up here.”

AF:  Is there anyone else on the staff who you feel has really made significant progress over the course of the year here?

RR:  Oh man, everybody! Patrick Schuster is a guy who got off to a tremendous start. He’s a left-handed guy who’s more than a left-handed specialist. He did very well here and got a promotion up to Oakland. He’s back down here now, but I look forward to him going back up. Ryan Brasier has been throwing the ball very well. He’s got a power fastball and a good hard slider, and I’m looking for good things out of him.

 

ERIC MARTINS

emMartins, Eric2AF:  Let’s start out by talking about a couple of guys you had here this year who are now in Oakland. Catcher Bruce Maxwell really went on quite a tear here in Nashville before he went up and something really seemed to click for him here lately.

EM:  Well, that’s one of my special ones. They’re all special to me, but Bruce and I had a really good relationship. We tried to change him in the past to make him more of a pull power guy. And I came in last year and said, “Hey, let’s make you the hitter that you are and we’ll work on our pull side home runs.” And he’s really grinded it out and really gotten after it and set up a good routine and got back to being the hitter that he was comfortable being in college. Now everything’s kind of clicking on all cyclinders. Starting in spring training, he made some adjustments to his stance and his swing, and he really took off with it. Things just started to come together for him and he went on an impressive run. He’s one of the hardest-working guys around. He’s usually here before everybody – he’s here at 11 o’clock, he’s out stretching, he’s doing his routine – and we’ll just talk hitting. He’s one of those guys who’s real receptive and real into what he’s trying to do and takes instruction and suggestions well and runs with it. And it’s good to see him doing what he did finally.

AF:  Another guy you had here for a brief period of time before he went up to Oakland is infielder Ryon Healy, who was hot from day one this season. So what was working for Ryon Healy and what was he doing right this season?

rh592387bEM:  Well, we all know Healy can hit. I had him last year too and he had a great season in Double-A. The power numbers weren’t there and I just kept preaching to him, “Be a hitter first, your power’s going to come.” And I got to see him this offseason out in southern California. I got to work with him and Matt Chapman and couple other guys a lot during the offseason. And, of course, he was disappointed with spring training, not coming into big league camp, and having to go back to Midland. And he used that as fuel for his fire to prove people wrong. We’d have some conversations and I said, “Hey, just use that against them, force their hand.” And he did it. He came here and he was with his buddies, and there was a comfort level with his teammates and with myself, and we just kept him on track. He’s special hitter, and he understands his swing. And he’s another that I’m proud of. Just seeing him going up and having success and doing well up there, we all know what he can do.

AF:  A guy who was on kind of a similar path as Healy this year is outfielder Jaycob Brugman. He started out the year back at Midland, hit well there and came up here to Nashville and has continued to hit well here. So what kind of improvements have you seen out of Brugman this year?

jb595144bEM:  Brugman is just a great baseball player. He can go out and play all three outfield positions and play them well. He made some tweaks with his hands in the Arizona Fall League. When I saw him in spring training, that obviously was noticeable. And he really liked it – it got him into a better position to be able to drive balls a little bit more. He’s just a smart hitter, he really studies the pitchers. He has a real solid approach, he doesn’t stray away from his approach, and he’s going to give you a quality at-bat every time he’s up there. He’s done a great job. He went on a tear when he first got here where he was carrying the team, and it was unbelievable. I had Bruggy last year, and seeing him carry us through the playoffs was outstanding – and the year before, when he hit like ten home runs in ten games at Stockton. So he’s got that capability in him. Like I said, he’s going to give you a quality at-bat, he’s not going to back down lefty or righty, he studies the pitchers and he stays true to his approach.

AF:  Now Matt Olson started out the season kind of slow, but it seems like maybe things are starting to click a bit for him lately. Can you tell me about some of the challenges he faced early on and where you feel he’s at now?

mo621566EM:  You know, people seem to forget how young this team is. He’s only 22 years old playing in Triple-A, facing guys who have been up and down in the big leagues probably for the last five or six years, even when he was still in high school. I think the biggest adjustment for him was just understanding how pitchers were going to pitch him. They started playing him in the shift a little bit early in the year, which took away a lot of hits. Once again, he’s in another non-hitter-friendly ballpark. So all that taken into consideration, he’s handled it well and he’s stayed true to form. And we’ve made some adjustments with his approach. There’s a couple of little mechanical things with him. He was kind of coming off balls, and teams were trying to pound him in, and he was probably going out of the zone inside. So we kind of changed him staying over the ball a little bit and working on driving the ball to left-center field, and he’s kind of run with it. He’s finally taken it and stuck with it for a while and not given in to what the pitcher’s trying to do to him, but getting a good pitch for him to hit. And the last three weeks or whatever, he’s stayed true to form. He’s staying in there and having really good at-bats, and now he’s starting to show what he can do.

AF:  A guy who was on a bit of a similar track as Olson is shortstop Chad Pinder. He started out the season a little slow as well but wound up being a Triple-A All-Star. So tell me about some of the challenges he faced early on and where you feel he’s at at this point.

EM:  Like I said with Olson, just being young in this league and understanding how pitchers are going to pitch him. He’s coming off a Texas League MVP, so pitchers and other teams know about Pinder. So he’s just going to have to go out and really understand what they’re going to try to do to him. Probably about a month or a month and a half into the season, we did a little mechanical change where we spread him out a little bit to get him to a strong part of the field, which is right-center field. And he really took off then, had a real good June, carried the team, and started hitting some home runs and started driving the ball the other way. And now we’ve kind of stood him back up to where he normally is because now he’s sound on those balls out over the plate. You know, Pinder’s another one of those guys who’s just a hard-nosed player – he wants to win, he doesn’t care too much about his stats, he’s a baseball player, he’s a gamer, he’s a guy who’s going to go out and give you 110% each day. And it’s fun to see him develop into the hitter that he is. He’s a smart guy, he understands what he wants to do. He’ll go through his little spurts every once in a while, but he easily corrects himself. And if I see something, I can tell him, and he’s quick to make an adjustment. And he’s another guy, this core that we have, that’s special.

cp640461cAF:  As a former infielder yourself, I don’t know how much time you’ve spent with him in the field. But he had a lot of throwing errors, especially early in the season. So is there anything you noticed that was casuing him to be off with his throwing this year?

EM:  Yeah, he worked a lot with Ron Washington during spring training, which was outstanding – Wash is the best that there is. Pinder’s more of a rhythmic infielder, and a lot of the stuff that he did with Wash was hand work and stuff like that. But he kind of forgot how to be in rhythm with his feet, so that’s why his hands and his feet weren’t working and he was losing his arm slot a little bit. And you know, it was really bothering him. And me having him last year and getting to work with him in the infield, I kind of started noticing some stuff and we kind of got him back into being a little bit more rhythmic and doing the stuff that Wash has and incorporating his footwork on top of that with his throws. And I think he made like thirteen errors in the first month of the season, and in the last two months it’s only been like eight or nine. So he’s on top of it. We seem to forget that last year was his first full year playing shortstop too, so he’s still kind of learning some things. He’s picked up a lot from Wash, which has been outstanding. His hands are…I can’t say enough about Wash and what he does with the infielders!

AF:  So I guess you can definitely see the difference between pre-Wash Pinder and post-Wash Pinder!

EM:  Absolutely! So now he’s started incorporating his feet and his arm slot has gotten in a better throwing position, and now he’s right where he needs to be.

AF:  And one last guy to ask you about, third baseman Renato Nunez. He started out the season as probably this team’s best hitter. He still leads the team in home runs, but he’s had some struggles of late. So what’s been going on with him and what kind of challenges is he facing at this stage of the game?

EM:  I think Renato’s the same way – he’s 22 years old. Early in the year, he was just one of those guys who was locked in, and then the league figured him out a little bit. And he started having some at-bats where he was kind of chasing some balls and started looking for some pitches they wanted to get him out with instead of looking for pitches that he wanted to hit. So it was an ongoing struggle with an approach with him – nothing too mechanical – I think with him it was just trying to do a little bit too much. He started on fire, and I think he felt that if he just kept it going he could be there instead of Healy.

rn600524eAF:  Hey, this is going to be easy!

EM:  But you know what, this game humbled him real quick. But he’s a hard worker. I don’t really worry about him because he can hit – he’s a hitter, he has power, he’s got a chance to be a special guy in the middle of the lineup, hopefully for us. But he’s getting back now. His last week’s at-bats have been outstanding. Yesterday he had four quality at-bats and barreled up four baseballs and had one hit to show for it, but he had a sac fly. So it’s just him getting used to looking for his pitch and not trying to hit the pitch that he thinks the pitcher’s going to try to get him out with.

AF:  Now I know you started out as a scout for the A’s. So what made you want to switch over to coaching?

EM:  Well, I love scouting, I can’t thank [A’s scouting director] Erick Kubota enough for giving me an opportunity when I was done playing. I’d always done instructional league, which I love – I love being on the field, I love being around the players. And [A’s director of player development] Keith Lieppman called me a couple offseasons ago. I had drafted Daniel Robertson, and he was going to be in Midland last year – I’m not saying he was the reason why I took the coaching job but it was a good opportunity for me to be around him and that core group of guys that he came up with and see him flourish and help those guys. It was a situation where I thought I was ready to get back on the field. And I love the fact that I did it. Like I said, I love scouting and I love the scouting department. But now, having done both, it’s just opened up my eyes a lot. The scouting has helped me help these hitters on top of it, and I just really enjoy being around these guys.

AF:  So have you found it more fulfilling to have the opportunity to work a little more hands-on with these guys?

EM:  You know, both work. But now that I have an opportunity to work with these kids in Double-A and Triple-A and see them get to the big leagues and see that you have a little bit of a part in it…but with these guys, it’s all their ability. We just kind of keep guiding them in the right direction and give them some suggestions to help them out and that’s fulfilling. You see Bruce Maxwell and Ryon Healy up there, having had them the last couple years, it really is fulfilling seeing those guys up there performing.

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