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

Nashville's Ryon Healy has been one of the A's best minor league hitters this season.

Nashville’s Ryon Healy has been one of the A’s best minor league hitters so far this season.

With the California League and the Midwest League All-Star breaks taking place this week and all the minor league affiliates right around the halfway points of their seasons, it’s the perfect time to take a step back and determine who the true standouts on the field have been in the A’s system in the first half of 2016. And with that in mind, it’s time to name A’s Farm’s 2016 Mid-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 and Class-A Beloit. Offensive starters were selected from the players who’ve had the most games played at each position for each team, 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 hurlers who’ve had at least ten starts for their team, while closers were selected from each team’s saves leader.

Statistics listed are through games of Tuesday, June 21. And asterisks denote players with combined statistics from multiple minor league teams within the A’s system. Ryon Healy and Jaycob Brugman both moved up from Midland to Nashville in mid-May, while Tyler Marincov was reassigned from Stockton to Midland right around the same time.

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 so far 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!

 

–THE CANDIDATES–

 

CATCHER

Nashville – Bruce Maxwell (142 PA / 2 HR / .276 AVG / .373 OBP / .382 SLG / .755 OPS)

Midland – Beau Taylor (183 PA / 2 HR / .280 AVG / .401 OBP / .393 SLG / .794 OPS)

Stockton – Argenis Raga (174 PA / 0 HR / .252 AVG / .329 OBP / .338 SLG / .667 OPS)

Beloit – Jose Chavez (120 PA / 0 HR / .214 AVG / .252 OBP / .232 SLG / .484 OPS)

 

FIRST BASE

Nashville – Rangel Ravelo (208 PA / 4 HR / .257 AVG / .322 OBP / .380 SLG / .702 OPS)

Midland – Viosergy Rosa (269 PA / 4 HR / .282 AVG / .394 OBP / .410 SLG / .804 OPS)

Stockton – Sandber Pimentel (242 PA / 11 HR / .264 AVG / .364 OBP / .481 SLG / .844 OPS)

Beloit – Chris Iriart (206 PA / 9 HR / .240 AVG / .335 OBP / .447 SLG / .782 OPS)

 

SECOND BASE

Nashville – Joey Wendle (277 PA / 6 HR / .253 AVG / .292 OBP / .410 SLG / .702 OPS)

Midland – Wade Kirkland (170 PA / 1 HR / .271 AVG / .313 OBP / .361 SLG / .675 OPS)

Stockton – Joe Bennie (303 PA / 6 HR / .296 AVG / .374 OBP / .442 SLG / .816 OPS)

Beloit – Trent Gilbert (234 PA / 1 HR / .276 AVG / .333 OBP / .379 SLG / .712 OPS)

 

SHORTSTOP

Nashville – Chad Pinder (281 PA / 9 HR / .276 AVG / .321 OBP / .455 SLG / .777 OPS)

Midland – Franklin Barreto (281 PA / 7 HR / .237 AVG / .299 OBP / .362 SLG / .661 OPS)

Stockton – Mikey White (242 PA / 1 HR / .215 AVG / .282 OBP / .292 SLG / .574 OPS)

Beloit – Trace Loehr (188 PA / 0 HR / .211 AVG / .241 OBP / .283 SLG / .524 OPS)

 

THIRD BASE

Nashville – Renato Nunez (282 PA / 11 HR / .243 AVG / .291 OBP / .440 SLG / .731 OPS)

Midland – Matt Chapman (298 PA / 16 HR / .230 AVG / .322 OBP / .460 SLG / .782 OPS)

Stockton – Jose Brizuela (214 PA / 5 HR / .226 AVG / .308 OBP / .363 SLG / .672 OPS)

Beloit – Edwin Diaz (189 PA / 3 HR / .239 AVG / .328 OBP / .337 SLG / .665 OPS)

 

LEFT FIELD

Nashville – Andrew Lambo (240 PA / 4 HR / .255 AVG / .321 OBP / .384 SLG / .705 OPS)

Midland – J.P. Sportman (238 PA / 2 HR / .261 AVG / .307 OBP / .360 SLG / .667 OPS)

Stockton – B.J. Boyd (226 PA / 1 HR / .315 AVG / .390 OBP / .391 SLG / .781 OPS)

Beloit – Justin Higley (232 PA / 4 HR / .252 AVG / .328 OBP / .393 SLG / .721 OPS)

 

CENTER FIELD

Nashville – Jaycob Brugman (312 PA / 8 HR / .289 AVG / .347 OBP / .484 SLG / .831 OPS) *

Midland – Brett Vertigan (249 PA / 1 HR / .248 AVG / .313 OBP / .320 SLG / .633 OPS)

Stockton – James Harris (324 PA / 2 HR / .302 AVG / .379 OBP / .393 SLG / .772 OPS)

Beloit – Skye Bolt (153 PA / 2 HR / .226 AVG / .314 OBP / .323 SLG / .637 OPS)

 

RIGHT FIELD

Nashville – Matt Olson (273 PA / 7 HR / .213 AVG / .327 OBP / .387 SLG / .714 OPS)

Midland – Tyler Marincov (302 PA / 12 HR / .275 AVG / .339 OBP / .473 SLG / .811 OPS) *

Stockton – Seth Brown (274 PA / 3 HR / .238 AVG / .344 OBP / .340 SLG / .685 OPS)

Beloit – Brett Siddall (261 PA / 3 HR / .255 AVG / .337 OBP / .355 SLG / .692 OPS)

 

DESIGNATED HITTER

Nashville – Ryon Healy (304 PA / 13 HR / .338 AVG / .395 OBP / .594 SLG / .990 OPS) *

Midland – Danny Oh (197 PA / 0 HR / .254 AVG / .328 OBP / .283 SLG / .611 OPS)

Stockton – Melvin Mercedes (225 PA / 1 HR / .266 AVG / .353 OBP / .328 SLG / .681 OPS)

Beloit – Ryan Howell (222 PA / 3 HR / .240 AVG / .374 OBP / .377 SLG / .751 OPS)

 

STARTING PITCHER

Nashville – Dillon Overton (83 2/3 IP / 85 H / 28 ER / 22 BB / 72 K / 3.01 ERA / 1.28 WHIP)

Midland – Corey Walter (57 IP / 53 H / 16 ER / 10 BB / 30 K / 2.53 ERA / 1.11 WHIP)

Stockton – Heath Fillmyer (76 2/3 IP / 74 H / 24 ER / 24 BB / 76 K / 2.82 ERA / 1.28 WHIP)

Beloit – Evan Manarino (74 IP / 66 H / 15 ER / 11 BB / 66 K / 1.82 ERA / 1.04 WHIP)

 

CLOSER

Nashville – Patrick Schuster (27 2/3 IP / 21 H / 5 ER / 11 BB / 28 K / 1.63 ERA / 1.16 WHIP / 5 SV)

Midland – Jake Sanchez (32 1/3 IP / 32 H / 13 ER / 11 BB / 33 K / 3.62 ERA / 1.33 WHIP / 3 SV)

Stockton – Carlos Navas (32 IP / 26 H / 13 ER / 11 BB / 42 K / 3.66 ERA / 1.16 WHIP / 4 SV)

Beloit – Cody Kurz (24 1/3 IP / 19 H / 12 ER / 20 BB / 23 K / 4.44 ERA / 1.60 WHIP / 6 SV)

 

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

Get the Inside Scoop on Oakland’s Top 11 Draft Picks of 2016 from A’s Scouting Director Eric Kubota

A's scouting director Eric Kubota

A’s scouting director Eric Kubota

The A’s took a familiar path in this year’s draft, selecting college players with fifteen of their top sixteen picks. And the team took a trio of talented college pitchers with their top three selections. Top pick A.J. Puk is a flame-throwing lefty out of Florida with top-of-the-rotation potential, while second pick Daulton Jefferies is a 20-year-old righty from Cal with pinpoint control, and Logan Shore is a solid strike-throwing righty also out of Florida who possesses an advanced understanding of pitching.

The man responsible for overseeing the A’s efforts in the amateur draft is scouting director Eric Kubota. Kubota started out his career in the baseball world by interning for the A’s in the mid-‘80s and eventually served as the assistant director of scouting and the supervisor of international scouting before succeeding Grady Fuson as scouting director following his departure after the 2001 season.

In past years, we’ve talked with Kubota about top picks like Addison Russell in 2012, Billy McKinney in 2013, Matt Chapman in 2014 and Richie Martin in 2015. And this year, we were eager to get his insights on #1 pick A.J. Puk as well as the rest of the A’s top eleven picks from the first ten rounds of the 2016 draft.

When we spoke with Kubota, three days after the conclusion of this year’s draft, the A’s had signed eight of their top eleven picks. And word has it that 4th-round pick Skylar Szynski’s signing should be official soon. But Puk and Shore will have to wait until Florida’s College World Series run is complete.

 

AF:  So now that the draft is in your rear-view mirror, how are you feeling about this year’s draft class overall and was there anything unique about the character of this year’s draft from your point of view?

EK:  Well, we’re certainly excited about this year’s draft class. To get the three pitchers we got at the top of the draft, we were extremely happy about it. We felt like there was depth throughout the draft which we were able to take advantage of. I’m not really sure it was unique, except I’m sure a lot of people will probably say it was kind of old school for us because there were a lot of college players from major programs that ended up falling into the spots where we picked them.

AF:  Well, I guess it must have been nice for you to have the #6 pick overall and to not have to wait until the 20s to have your first pick anyway.

EK:  Yeah, it’s nice on draft day. It’s not nice having to experience what has to happen to get you that spot though!

AF:  Exactly! Well, I know you didn’t expect to have your first pick, left-hander A.J. Puk out of Florida, fall to you with the sixth pick. How did you feel about having the chance to take him with your first pick and how would you assess his talent?

apajpuk-florida1-250x300EK:  Yeah, obviously, we were really surprised that he fell to us. As I mentioned before, we started hearing rumblings that he may be sliding, for whatever reason, but we still really did not believe it until he did get to us, so we were certainly happy about that. As far as him as a baseball talent, arguably – probably not even arguably – he was the college pitcher with the highest ceiling in this year’s draft. He’s 6’7”, we’ve seen him up to 97 mph, he’s got a wipeout slider at times, and we like the changeup. It’s just an intimidating look with intimidating stuff and a top-of-the-rotation ceiling.

AF:  Do you have any sense of why it was that he did end up falling to you? I don’t think many people were expecting him to fall to you at number six.

EK:  Right. It’s hard to say. It’s hard to know what was going on in those other draft rooms. I do know, in general, that teams are trying to maximize their draft pool. So maybe they felt there were better ways for them to do that. But I’m really not privy to why he slid – I think we were just happy that he did.

AF:  And obviously, with him and Logan Shore, we’re going to have to wait till Florida’s done playing for there to be any deals done with them.

EK:  Correct.

AF:  And with your next pick, the 37th overall in the competitive balance round, you took right-hander Daulton Jefferies out of Cal. I talked with him last week, and he seemed to have a pretty good understanding of pitching and what he needs to do to be successful. So what did you like about Daulton Jefferies that made you want to take him there?

djNCAA California Coastal Car (3)EK:  Well, first of all, I’m a Cal guy, so I’m biased – he’s obviously a smart guy! But he’s got a great idea of what he needs to do on the mound. He’s super athletic. We’ve seen him with three plus pitches, and he can really pitch. He’s competitive. There’s just so much to like about him moving forward. And he’s the kind of guy who can move quickly through the system.

AF:  He missed 8 weeks with the shoulder strain this season. But I know your medical staff had the chance to look at him both before and after the draft. So do you feel pretty confident about the shoulder issue going forward?

EK:  Yeah, we feel confident that in the long term it’ll be fine. And really, in a lot of ways, it was an opportunity for us that he did get hurt because I don’t think we thought that he would get to #37 had he been healthy all spring.

AF:  In the 2nd round, you took another right-hander and another guy out of Florida, Logan Shore. And he’s a guy, like Jefferies, who seems to be a smart pitcher who really knows how to pitch. He might not have that blazing fastball but he certainly seems to know what he’s doing on the mound and what he needs to do to succeed.

lsloganshoreuf300EK:  Well, he’s a physical right-hander. He’s been the Friday night guy at Florida for three years, which is pretty impressive when you consider the amount of pitching that they always have at Flroida. He doesn’t always go out and throw with the big velocity, but we’ve seen him up to 93-94 mph. We think it’s in there – he just doesn’t use it unless he needs it on occasion. He really knows how to pitch, he can locate, and he knows how to use his stuff – it’s not sexy, sexy stuff, but the way that he uses it is very sexy to us in a baseball way. He can really pitch and he’s competitive. He’s got a great changeup, and we do think that there’s probably more fastball in there than he shows on a weekly basis because he just hasn’t needed to use it.

AF:  So looking at this group of pitchers, is there anyone you might compare Puk to?

EK:  For Puk, as a starting pitcher, I would say James Paxton, although physically he may be more Andrew Miller-ish. But his stuff I think is similar to Paxton.

AF:  And what about Jefferies and Shore?

EK:  Yeah, Jefferies I always kind of likened to Mike Leake. And then Shore, I don’t have a great one, but he reminds me of Jake Peavy a little bit.

AF:  Well, all he has to do is be a little bit like Jake Peavy and he’ll be all right! I guess the development staff is probably looking forward to getting those three arms into the system.

EK:  I would think so. I’d think they’d be pretty happy to get those guys.

AF:  In the 3rd round, you took your first position player, catcher Sean Murphy from Wright State. He has a reputation as a strong-armed catcher. Tell me how you view his abilities behind the plate and what you expect to see out of him offensively.

smZMUNWMNGCNTJJNX.20150502043215bEK:  We think that the catching has really come along. We think he has a chance to be a really good receiver. He’s obviously got plenty of arm strength. And with the bat, there’s strength. We think that there’s more development left with the bat. We think he’s going to hit with some power and he’s going to hit for enough of an average that, when you combine it with his defensive skills, you’ve got a front-line major league catcher.

AF:  He seems to be one of those guys that everyone agrees ought to stick at catcher.

EK:  Right, he’s definitely a catcher. We think the bat may be behind the defense at this point. But we do see development there and we think he’s going to be able to play the game on both sides.

AF:  Any comparisons for him?

EK:  Murphy, I kind of thought of him as like a Mike Matheny type possibly.

AF:  Now in the 4th round, you took your only high school pick in the top 15 rounds, right-hander Skylar Szynski from Indiana. So tell me what you liked so much about him that made you want to make him your first high school pick in the 4th round.

ss100598937EK:  He’s a guy we liked. We had people who liked him as high as the 2nd round or the competitive balance round. He’s an athletic kid. He’s got a good body to build on. We’ve seen him up to 95 mph. He’s got a good breaking ball and the changeup is advanced for a high school guy. There’s a lot to like. Those are the traits that the industry likes in high school pitchers. You get them into your system and hope to develop them, but there’s a lot of physical skill to like.

AF:  Were you a little surprised that he was still available to you at that point?

EK:  Yeah, we were and we were definitely happy that he was.

AF:  Did you have a comp for Szynski?

EK:  I honestly didn’t have a great one, but one of my scouts said Collin McHugh.

AF:  In the 5th round, you went with former major leaguer John Shelby’s son, JaVon Shelby, a third baseman out of Kentucky. He’s considered a very toolsy guy, but I know he under-performed a bit with the bat last year.

jshttps-%2F%2Fkty-platform-secure-prod.silverchaliceEK:  Yeah, he certainly didn’t have the year offensively that he wanted. But we saw him a lot this spring and we liked the approach and we liked his aggressiveness at the plate. We think there’s strength in there for power. Like you said, he’s very toolsy. He’s a plus runner with a plus arm. And he did a good job at third base. He’s played second base in the past. We think his skills line up in center field as well. That versatility is something that we value, and we think he’s got a chance to play a lot of positions well. And we think he’s got a chance to hit and hit with some power.

AF:  So you think there are some real positional options for him going forward.

EK:  Definitely, definitely.

AF:  Did you have a comp for Shelby?

EK:  Maybe kind of a Josh Harrison. He’s bigger than Josh Harrison, but maybe a Josh Harrison type of player.

AF:  Well, Harrison definitely moves around the field like you mentioned. In the 6th round, you went back to pitching with right-hander Brandon Bailey from Gonzaga. He looks a bit like a Bowdien Derby clone from last year’s draft to me. How do you see him?

bbmaxresdefault2EK:  Yeah, we made those comparsions with Derby as well. He’s obviously a shorter right-handed pitcher. But we’ve seen him up to 93-94 mph. We think he can really pitch. He’s got a good changeup. He just has a really good feel for what he’s doing and he’s obviously performed at a high level.

AF:  He had some really nice strikeout numbers.

EK:  Yep, he’s got a changeup that he gets swings and misses with and he’s got a slider that he gets swings and misses with. I think he had 17 strikeouts in the West Coast Conference tournament a couple of weeks ago.

AF:  And is there anyone you’d compare him to, besides Bowdien Derby?

EK:  I thought maybe Kris Medlen potentially.

AF:  In the 7th round, you went back to a position player, center fielder Tyler Ramirez out of North Carolina. I know some scouts seemed to be a little divided on him, but he certainly seemed to put the numbers on the board. So what did you really like about him?

trNSATKSHRAIYJQGE.20150115212753EK:  Yeah, we think he can hit. That’s the thing that he can do. He can really hit. He’s an above-average runner, and we think he’s got a chance to stay in center field. But the thing that he brings is the bat, for sure.

AF:  So you think he’s got the skills to possibly stick in center field though?

EK:  We do. Yeah, we do.

AF:  And who would you compare him to?

EK:  Ramirez reminds me of David DeJesus.

AF:  Well, you closed out the last few rounds with more pitching. In the 8th round, you took left-handed reliever Will Gilbert who was the closer at North Carolina State. What did you like about him?

wggilbertside.0.0bEK:  He’s a left-hander with three average-to-better pitches and a feel to use them. He’s performed at a high level. He’s the kind of guy, coming in out of the bullpen, who could move quickly in an organization.

AF:  So it sounds like he’s going to stay in the bullpen then.

EK: Yeah, I would say so.

AF:  In the 9th round, you went with another left-hander, Dalton Sawyer out of Minnesota. I know I’ve heard some people think he might ultimately profile better as a reliever, but what’s your view of him?

dsMinnesotaDaltonSawyer1bEK:  Well, he’s another tall lefty. We’ve seen him up to 93-94 mph. He definitely had a good year as a starter this year and he’s going to go out as a starter. He’s a left-handed pitcher who’s physically imposing with velocity and a good changeup, so we’ll see where that takes him. One of my scouts said Sawyer reminded him of Jim Kaat. So if any of your readers remember Jim Kaat…

AF:  Well I do anyway!

EK:  I do too!

AF:  In the 10th round, you took right-hander Mitchell Jordan from Stetson. I can’t honestly say that I know a whole lot about him, so I’ll leave it to you to tell me what I ought to know about Mitchell Jordan.

mjSU_JordanMitchell2EK:  Yeah, he can really pitch. He’s got kind of average stuff, but he can really pitch. In a lot of ways, he’s kind of a poor man’s Logan Shore. If you look at his Cape Cod League last summer, he had an incredible summer on the Cape. I saw him over a month into the season, maybe five weeks in, and I saw him give up his first earned run, and he’d been starting the whole time I was up there. So he can really pitch.

AF:  So he sounds like one of those guys whose Cape Cod League performance really helped put him on the map.

EK:  It really helped, yeah.

AF:  Well, I guess at this point, you’ve signed 28 of your 41 picks. So you’ve been moving pretty fast, and I think you might even be a little bit ahead of last year’s pace.

EK:  Yeah, I think we’re in a good spot, and it’s worked out so far so good in that regard.

AF:  I wanted to ask you about your last two 1st-round picks. Last year was shortstop Richie Martin and the year before that was third baseman Matt Chapman. As a scouting director, how are you feeling about where those two guys are at at this stage of the game?

EK:  Yeah, we’re really happy with both of them. They both had to endure some injury issues. Matt had some injuries last year, and Richie got hurt in spring training, which has slowed their development a little bit. But I think, where we sit now, they’ve basically done what he expected. In fact, they’ve probably exceeded what we expected in certain cases. Chapman has certainly hit with the power we expected and he’s shown flashes of the defense that we expected, and he’s performing in a high-level league now. And Richie, having just gotten started after being hurt in spring training, is off to a good start. And everything that those guys have brought, as far as character, makeup and work ethic, has only made us happier to have them. They’re just great kids and they’re both going to make the most of their ability.

AF:  And now that the draft is finally over and you’re down to maybe just a dozen or so picks left to get in the fold, what’s next up on your agenda?

EK:  Our scouts are already out getting ready for next year. There’s events that happen this week, national events, and then next week. So we just get back on the horse and start working for next year.

AF:  Back out beating the bushes!

EK:  Yep!

 

A’s 2016 Draft Class

1st LHP A.J. Puk (Florida), 1st Lottery RHP Daulton Jefferies (UC Berkeley), 2nd RHP Logan Shore (Florida), 3rd C Sean Murphy (Wright State), 4th RHP Skylar Szynski (Penn HS-IN), 5th 3B JaVon Shelby (Kentucky), 6th RHP Brandon Bailey (Gonzaga), 7th OF Tyler Ramirez (North Carolina), 8th LHP Will Gilbert (North Carolina St), 9th LHP Dalton Sawyer (Minnesota), 10th RHP Mitchell Jordan (Stetson)

11th SS Eli White (Clemson), 12th OF Luke Persico (UCLA), 13th 2B Nathan Mondou (Wake Forest), 14th RHP Nolan Blackwood (Memphis), 15th LHP Ty Damron (Texas Tech), 16th OF Anthony Churlin (Island Coast HS-FL), 17th RHP Seth Martinez (Arizona St), 18th C Skyler Weber (Georgia), 19th RHP Sam Gilbert (Kansas), 20th RHP Brigham Hill (Texas A&M)

21st OF Kyle Nowlin (Eastern Kentucky), 22nd C Roger Gonzalez (Winthrop), 23rd RHP Christian Lindsay-Young (Niagara CC), 24th OF Robert Bennie (East Stroudsburg), 25th OF Jeramiah McCray (Martin Luther King HS-CA), 26th 1B Charley Gould (William & Mary), 27th OF Cole Gruber (Nebraska-Omaha), 28th 2B Josh Vidales (Houston), 29th RHP Matt Milburn (Wofford), 30th RHP Nick Highberger (Creighton)

31st RHP Sam Sheehan (Westmont), 32nd C Collin Theroux (Oklahoma State), 33rd C Jarrett Costa (Westmont), 34th SS Casey Thomas (Texas A&M-Corpus Christi), 35th LHP Daniel Rafferty (Bucknell), 36th RHP Brady Schanuel (Parkland), 37th OF Michael Farley (Chico HS-CA), 38th OF Matthew Frazier (Clovis North HS-CA), 39th SS Shane Martinez (John W North HS-CA), 40th SS Brett Bittiger (Pace)

*          *          *

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Local Boy Daulton Jefferies Makes Good as A’s 2nd Pick in This Year’s Draft

dj12805924_1071818282936327_5742636123770923759_n.0.0bThe A’s didn’t have to look far to find their second pick in this year’s amateur draft. With the 37th overall selection, the team took Daulton Jefferies, a 20-year-old right-hander who’s spent the past three years pitching right in their own backyard at UC Berkeley for the California Golden Bears.

While Jefferies’ fastball reportedly has been clocked as high as 95 mph, he also works with a changeup and a slider and possesses excellent command. He went 7-0 and posted a stellar 1.08 ERA while striking out 53 and walking just 8 over 50 innings of work in his junior year at Cal this season. But he missed about 8 weeks of the season due to calf and shoulder injuries. He was once considered a potential top 20 pick in the draft, but those injury issues may have caused him to tumble into the lap of the A’s, who were more than happy to have the opportunity to nab another top-tier talent.

Jefferies, who went to high school in Atwater, just a few miles north of Merced, says that he’s modeled himself a bit after A’s right-hander Sonny Gray. So the northern California native was clearly happy to find himself selected by the local team. An added plus to being taken by the A’s is the fact that he’s also friends with the other two young pitchers the team took on the first day of the draft, Florida’s A.J. Puk and Logan Shore. The trio had the chance to play together last summer on the USA Collegiate National Team and have been fast friends ever since.

We took the opportunity to talk with Jefferies on the morning after the draft and found him eager and excited to be part of a pack of promising young pitching prospects who will hopefully help guide the green and gold back to glory before long…

 

AF:  Well, congratulations on being selected by the A’s on the first day of the draft. So how did it feel waking up today knowing you were one of the top 40 picks in the major league draft?

DJ:  To be honest with you, it hasn’t really hit me yet! As soon as I got drafted, I ran to get an A’s hat…and when I woke up, it was the first thing I put on. But it hasn’t hit me yet – it’s pretty surreal.

AF:  So are you going to go to sleep with it on tonight too?

DJ:  I wouldn’t doubt it to be honest with you.

AF:  I know you’re from around the Merced area. So did you grow up as an A’s fan or a Giants fan or both?

DJ:  My family is a mix between Dodgers, Giants and A’s. I have a big family so it’s spread out a bit. But going to Berkeley certainly helps – going to see Sonny Gray pitch, going to see Marcus Semien, Mark Canha and Bob Melvin, who are Cal graduates. I grew up going to Giants games and A’s games.

AF:  It sounds like you grew up being pretty well acquainted with the A’s anyway. So have you seen or read Moneyball yet?

DJ:  Yes, I watched Moneyball. It was actually a really good movie. I didn’t get a chance to meet Billy Beane. But I’m sure I will, so I’m pretty excited.

AF:  Oh, I’m sure you will very soon! So did you have a favorite A’s player growing up?

DJ:  Not really. I remember watching Scott Hatteberg and that whole story. And then, Sonny Gray…I kind of try to model my game after him. He’s had a lot of success there. He plays the game the right way and plays it for the right reasons.

AF:  So are you looking forward to wearing those white cleats?

DJ:  Yeah, my uncles were teasing me about that, and the stirrups and everything. I’m pretty excited. As long as I’m a professional baseball player, I could wear a clown outfit and I wouldn’t care!

AF:  Can you tell me a little bit about your repertoire and how confident you are in each of your pitches and where they’re at at this point?

djNCAA California Coastal Car (3)DJ:  My fastball’s 90-94 mph and touches 95-96 mph. I can control both sides of the plate. Both 4-seam and 2-seam – the 2-seam more going in to righties and away to lefties. And then I build off my fastball and I build off my changeup. My favorite pitch to throw is my changeup. It probably goes from 84 to 88 or 89 mph. I like to throw it a lot to lefties and get hitters off balance, and then going to righties away and getting them to kind of reach and roll over and build off of that with a fastball inside and jam them. And then I just developed a slider this year, and it became one of those big out pitches for me. It usually goes from about 82 to 86 or 87 mph. I learned about myself a lot building off my off-speed. I don’t have a huge, over-powering fastball, like 96-98 mph range. So I just developed into what I think I am. I hit my spots and I can control both sides of the plate. And I don’t really care about strikeouts, as long as I get guys out and miss barrels. I don’t try to strike anyone out. But as long as I execute my pitches, everything will work out. But professional ball is a whole different animal, and I’m ready for it.

AF:  I was going to ask you about what you kind of touched on there. What’s your mentality like when you take the mound? Is there anything in particular you’re trying to remember to do or thinking about trying to accomplish whenever you take the mound for a start?

DJ:  First pitch strike and getting ahead of guys, and getting the leadoff guy out – that’s a big momentum shift. As a pitcher, you’re trying to get your offense back in the dugout so they can score some runs for you. So anything I can do to help speed up that process and get them back grabbing their bats is good.

AF:  You’ve had a good career at Cal over the three years you’ve been there, but you really had a great year this season. You went 7-0 with an ERA of 1.08, and it’s hard to do much better than that. So what was really working for you this season and was there anything different you were doing this year?

DJ:  You know, I think the summer helped me a lot with confidence. Being on the USA Collegiate National Team and playing against other national teams – it was kind of weird playing against 35-year-old Cubans – but it was a great experience, and it kind of opened my eyes to finding out what kind of pitcher I really am. The big thing for me was getting ahead and kind of attacking the hitter. I’m going to make the hitter earn his way on base, I’m not going to walk the guy – I hate walks with a passion!

AF:  You got off to a great start at Cal this year, and then you had a couple of injuries involving your calf and your shoulder and ended up missing about 8 weeks of the season. So can you tell me a little bit more about what happened there?

DJ:  The calf started first after facing Oregon State. And then my arm started to kind of stiffen up. I thought it was just normal soreness from throwing a complete game against Oregon State, but it didn’t really go away. And I just decided to shut it down. So I got the rest I needed. And I was extremely fortunate to be able to get back out there and play with my guys the last two games.

AF:  Did the A’s want to talk to you about the shoulder injury and look into the situation a little further before the draft?

DJ:  Yeah, I went to the workout [for draft prospects at the Coliseum] last week. And I got to see their doctor. He took me through some tasks, strengthening stuff and mobility with my shoulder. And guys in the big leagues get over this injury and I did too. And I’m just glad they had faith in me and I can’t wait to get out there. Jermaine Clark was my scout, and he had some nice things to say to me when I went there.

AF:  I guess you actually played together on the USA Collegiate National Team last summer with the A’s other top two picks from the first day of the draft, Florida pitchers A.J. Puk and Logan Shore.

DJ:  Yeah, we did. We’ve gotten to be pretty good friends. I text Logan and A.J. all the time. They’re a great group of guys. And just being around those guys with those repertoires and getting to see A.J. Puk pitch – when it looks like it’s 86 mph but, when you look up, it’s 97 mph, just because he makes it look so easy. But I couldn’t be more happy. I facetimed them this morning and we all had our A’s hats on, so it’s a pretty exciting time for us!

AF:  Well, I guess it must be nice to be starting your pro career with a couple of guys you already know and like and have played with before.

DJ:  Absolutely, it’s awesome!

AF:  So being a northern California guy yourself, is there anything else you’d like A’s fans to know as you embark on your career in the green and gold?

DJ:  I’m just so thankful for the opportunity. And I can’t wait to get out there and start the uprising of the Oakland A’s! And not just me, but Logan Shore and A.J. Puk and everyone else, we’re going to get this thing going and we’re extremely excited!

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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.

Getting to Know the A’s 2016 Top 11 Draft Picks

A's #1 pick A.J. Puk

A’s #1 pick A.J. Puk

After finishing poorly last season, Oakland earned the sixth overall pick in this year’s amateur draft. The A’s also had the 37th overall pick in the Competitive Balance Lottery Round A, which meant the team would pick eleven players in the first ten rounds of the draft. And with the tenth round concluding at the end of the second day of the draft on Friday, it’s now time to take a look at the A’s top eleven picks of the 2016 draft.

After taking three collegiate pitchers with their top three picks on Thursday, the A’s continued to focus on college arms again on Friday. Overall, the team selected seven college pitchers, one high school hurler and three college position players with its top eleven picks.

The three position players include third-rounder Sean Murphy, a strong-armed catcher from Wright State, fifth-rounder JaVon Shelby, a power-hitting third baseman out of Kentucky, and seventh-rounder Tyler Ramirez, a solid-hitting center fielder out of North Carolina.

The only high school player taken by the A’s in the top ten rounds was fourth-rounder Skylar Szynski, who pitched a perfect game in his sophomore season. Szynski has committed to Indiana, but the A’s are hopeful of signing him.

As we mentioned in yesterday’s day one draft recap, top pick A.J. Puk is a flame-throwing lefty out of Florida with top-of-the-rotation potential, while second pick Daulton Jefferies is a 20-year-old righty from UC Berkeley (Cal) with pinpoint control, and Logan Shore is a solid strike-thrower also out of Florida who possesses an advanced understanding of pitching. And all three played together as members of 2015’s USA Collegiate National Team last summer.

Most of the remaining pitchers taken on Friday tend to be big strikeout guys. And sixth-rounder Brandon Bailey out of Gonzaga is remarkably reminiscent of last year’s sixth-round pick, right-hander Bowdien Derby, who’s since been dealt to the Brewers. Both are under-sized west coast righties with gaudy strikeout totals whom the A’s selected in the sixth round.

We’ll be learning a lot more about all the A’s top picks in the coming days and can look forward to getting the chance to see much more of them at Vermont or Arizona, or possibly even Beloit, before the month is through.

 

apajpuk-florida1-250x300#1 – 1st Round

A.J. Puk

Left-Handed Pitcher

Florida

Age: 21 / 6’7” – 230 lbs.

Bats: Left / Throws: Left

2016 College Stats: 70 IP / 50 H / 25 ER / 31 BB / 95 K / 3.21 ERA / 1.16 WHIP

 

djNCAA California Coastal Car (3)#2 – 1st Round Lottery

Daulton Jefferies

Right-Handed Pitcher

UC Berkeley (Cal)

Age: 20 / 6’0” – 185 lbs.

Bats: Left / Throws: Right

2016 College Stats: 50 IP / 34 H / 6 ER / 8 BB / 53 K / 1.08 ERA / 0.84 WHIP

 

lsloganshoreuf300#3 – 2nd Round

Logan Shore

Right-Handed Pitcher

Florida

Age: 21 / 6’2” – 215 lbs.

Bats: Right / Throws: Right

2016 College Stats: 92 1/3 IP / 75 H / 25 ER / 15 BB / 80 K / 2.44 ERA / 0.97 WHIP

 

smZMUNWMNGCNTJJNX.20150502043215b#4 – 3rd Round

Sean Murphy

Catcher

Wright State

Age: 21 / 6’3” – 215 lbs.

Bats: Right / Throws: Right

2016 College Stats: 121 AB / 6 HR / 23 BB / 16 K / .281 AVG / .408 OBP / .504 SLG

 

ss100598937#5 – 4th Round

Skylar Szynski

Right-Handed Pitcher

Penn High School (Indiana)

Age: 18 / 6’2” – 195 lbs.

Bats: Left / Throws: Right

2016 High School Stats: 59 2/3 IP / 29 H / 12 ER / 18 BB / 78 K / 1.41 ERA / 0.79 WHIP

 

jshttps-%2F%2Fkty-platform-secure-prod.silverchalice#6 – 5th Round

JaVon Shelby

Third Baseman

Kentucky

Age: 21 / 5’11” – 175 lbs.

Bats: Right / Throws: Right

2016 College Stats: 198 AB / 12 HR / 29 BB / 67 K / .212 AVG / .335 OBP / .470 SLG

 

bbmaxresdefault2#7 – 6th Round

Brandon Bailey

Right-Handed Pitcher

Gonzaga

Age: 21 / 5’10” – 175 lbs.

Bats: Right / Throws: Right

2016 College Stats: 100 1/3 IP / 80 H / 27 ER / 31 BB / 125 K / 2.42 ERA / 1.11 WHIP

 

trNSATKSHRAIYJQGE.20150115212753#8 – 7th Round

Tyler Ramirez

Center Fielder

North Carolina

Age: 21 / 5’9” – 185 lbs.

Bats: Left / Throws: Left

2016 College Stats: 189 AB / 8 HR / 50 BB / 54 K / .333 AVG / .482 OBP / .540 SLG

 

wggilbertside.0.0b#9 – 8th Round

Will Gilbert

Left-Handed Pitcher

North Carolina State

Age: 22 / 5’11” – 165 lbs.

Bats: Left / Throws: Left

2016 College Stats: 44 2/3 IP / 43 H / 12 ER / 10 BB / 53 K / 2.42 ERA / 1.19 WHIP

 

dsMinnesotaDaltonSawyer1b#10 – 9th Round

Dalton Sawyer

Left-Handed Pitcher

Minnesota

Age: 22 / 6’4” – 190 lbs.

Bats: Left / Throws: Left

2016 College Stats: 94 2/3 IP / 79 H / 35 ER / 42 BB / 112 K / 3.33 ERA / 1.28 WHIP

 

mjSU_JordanMitchell2#11 – 10th Round

Mitchell Jordan

Right-Handed Pitcher

Stetson

Age: 21 / 6’2” – 205 lbs.

Bats: Right / Throws: Right

2016 College Stats: 80 IP / 73 H / 35 ER / 32 BB / 75 K / 3.94 ERA / 1.31 WHIP

 

11th SS Eli White (Clemson), 12th OF Luke Persico (UCLA), 13th 2B Nathan Mondou (Wake Forest), 14th RHP Nolan Blackwood (Memphis), 15th LHP Ty Damron (Texas Tech), 16th OF Anthony Churlin (Island Coast HS-FL), 17th RHP Seth Martinez (Arizona St), 18th C Skyler Weber (Georgia), 19th RHP Sam Gilbert (Kansas), 20th RHP Brigham Hill (Texas A&M)

21st OF Kyle Nowlin (Eastern Kentucky), 22nd C Roger Gonzalez (Winthrop), 23rd RHP Christian Lindsay-Young (Niagara CC), 24th OF Robert Bennie (East Stroudsburg), 25th OF Jeramiah McCray (Martin Luther King HS-CA), 26th 1B Charley Gould (William & Mary), 27th OF Cole Gruber (Nebraska-Omaha), 28th 2B Josh Vidales (Houston), 29th RHP Matt Milburn (Wofford), 30th RHP Nick Highberger (Creighton)

31st RHP Sam Sheehan (Westmont), 32nd C Collin Theroux (Oklahoma State), 33rd C Jarrett Costa (Westmont), 34th SS Casey Thomas (Texas A&M-Corpus Christi), 35th LHP Daniel Rafferty (Bucknell), 36th RHP Brady Schanuel (Parkland), 37th OF Michael Farley (Chico HS-CA), 38th OF Matthew Frazier (Clovis North HS-CA), 39th SS Shane Martinez (John W North HS-CA), 40th SS Brett Bittiger (Pace)

 

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 Take Talented Lefty A.J. Puk with Top Pick in the Amateur Draft

A's #1 pick LHP A.J. Puk

A’s #1 pick LHP A.J. Puk

With their #1 pick in the 2016 amateur draft, the A’s selected a University of Florida junior for the second year in a row. Last year, it was Gators shortstop Richie Martin, and this year it was LHP A.J. Puk. Baseball America had recently ranked the big lefty as the top overall pick in the draft, so the A’s have to consider themselves fortunate to still find him available to them with the 6th overall pick in the draft.

Puk is a 6-foot-7, 230 lb., 21-year-old power pitcher whose fastball has been clocked as high as 99 mph. He pairs it with a solid slider, but his changeup is still considered to be something of a work in progress. His command has also been spotty at times, and the Iowa native walked a total of 84 batters in 188 innings during his 3-year collegiate career. This season, Puk walked 31 and struck out 95 while posting a 3.21 ERA over 70 innings of work for Florida.

The last time the A’s took a pitcher with their top pick in the draft was 2011 when the team took RHP Sonny Gray. Like Gray, Puk is considered to have the talent to be a potential top-of-the-rotation starter. And if he develops as hoped, along with Gray and fellow lefty Sean Manaea, Puk could be a part of a talented trio atop the A’s starting rotation in years to come.

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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 Farm Report for Week of May 30-June 5: Nashville Prospects Are Hot, Hot, Hot!

Nashville's hot-hitting Ryon Healy

Nashville’s hot-hitting Ryon Healy

Nashville has been the hottest team in the Pacific Coast League over the past few weeks, winning 18 of its last 21 games. The team’s rise has been fueled by impressive performances from some of the system’s top prospects – players like Renato Nunez, Matt Olson, Chad Pinder, Ryon Healy, Jaycob Brugman, Joey Wendle, Max Muncy, Daniel Mengden and Dillon Overton. Fortunately for the struggling A’s, things have been looking up down on the farm lately! A version of this weekly minor league report by Athletics Farm originally appeared on Athletics Nation

 

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

A’s Top 10 Prospect Review with A’s Assistant General Manager Billy Owens

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A’s Assistant GM Billy Owens

Now that we’re about a third of the way into the minor league season, we wanted to step back and take a look at how all the players from our preseason Top 10 Prospect List have been performing so far this season. And there’s no one better to help us do that than A’s Assistant General Manager Billy Owens.

Owens originally joined the A’s organization back in 1999, working as an area scout and coaching short-season baseball over the next five years. He was then named the A’s Director of Player Personnel in 2004. And this past offseason, he was promoted to the position of Assistant General Manager, where the A’s are able to put his extensive knowledge of the game and its players to use in a variety of different ways.

Owens took the time to speak with us this past weekend while he was out on the road scouting prospects for next month’s amateur draft. We asked his opinion of each of the A’s top 10 prospects from our list and, as always, his enthusiasm for the A’s young players is obvious…

 

AF:  Okay, we wanted to go through our preseason Top 10 Prospect List with you and get your take on where they’re all at now that we’re about a third of the way into the minor league season at this point. So let’s start out with #1 on our list, pitcher Sean Manaea, who’s already made it to the major leagues, maybe even a little sooner than everyone expected due to all the injuries. He’s obviously a very talented young arm. Can you tell me a little bit about what you like about him and how you see his future in the major leagues shaping up?

Sean Manaea

Sean Manaea

BO:  Obviously, he’s young and it’s early in his professional career. It’s only his third full season. We made the deal last year with Ben Zobrist to acquire Manaea and he’s been super for us. He came over to Midland last year and he helped that team to a Texas League championship. He had a lights-out spring training. And with the injuries and Sean’s very good performance there in Nashville, we promoted him. He’s got really good stuff. He’s topped out at 96 mph. He throws from a slightly unusual slot that causes deception. He’s got a nice slider and a developing changeup, and he attacks the zone. It’s obviously early in his development, and there are going to be peaks and valleys, but at some point he’s going to settle in and be a really good major league starting pitcher. Physically, he reminds me of the old Pittsburgh Pirates lefty John Candelaria – he kind of throws from that same slot as the Candy Man. Sean’s going to be a really good pitcher, but it’s early and he’s young. He’s acclimated himself very well. He’s a hard-working kid, he doesn’t take himself too seriously and he takes everything in from the veterans. And it’s exciting to see what he’s done so far.

AF:  It looks like he could be more of a strikeout pitcher than Candelaria was in his heyday. He’s obviously very talented, but he’s hit a few bumps in the road early on. Is there anything in particular that he needs to do to get over the hump?

BO:  You know, they always tell you about the major leagues but, once you get there, it’s still a little bit different – it goes at a faster pace. And he obviously only had a handful of Triple-A starts. So he’s just got to fine-tune his stuff and keep on going pitch to pitch, because in the major leagues things happen quickly. So it’s nothing earth-shattering. His timetable’s just been accelerated…and at the end of the day, he’s going to be a really good major league starting pitcher.

AF:  So maybe just more of a mental adjustment for him then.

BO:  I wouldn’t even say that. I just think that the major leagues are the ultimate test. And so until you see it, until they make adjustments, until you adjust back, until you watch the video of the major league hitters, until they watch you, it’s a constant chess match. And you don’t really master that chess match until you’ve been through the wars and gone back and forth and settled in. So for a kid in his third full season, it’s a lot to ask, but he’s taken everything in his stride. He went 6 2/3 innings in his last two starts. Everything’s been positive, he’s aggressive and he’s having fun out there.

AF:  He certainly seems to have a good attitude, that’s for sure. #2 on our list is infielder Franklin Barreto. One good thing to see out of him this year is the fact that his errors in the field are certainly down from last year. He’s also been moving around, playing a little bit of second base in addition to shortstop. So how do you see his positional future shaking out and how do you view his play in the field this year?

Franklin Barreto

Franklin Barreto

BO:  I think that so far, he’s 20 years old in Double-A, he’s a really talented kid, he’s got 4 or 5 home runs already and he’s got 13 stolen bases. At the youth level, the best kid always plays shortstop. So from an athletic standpoint, he’s a talented kid. He’s almost a double-plus runner on a major league scale. He’s got power – he hit 3 home runs in major league spring training this year. Last year, he started off somewhat slowly but he finished over .300 in the California League, so offensively he’ll be fine. In Double-A, we’ve got guys like Matt Chapman and Yairo Munoz who are all capable of playing shortstop. So with all those guys on the same team, it’s been advantageous to move those guys around.

AF:  I think he’s only got about 9 or 10 walks so far this season. So would you like to see him improve his plate discipline a little bit at this point?

BO:  Yeah, but you’ve got to put it in context. He’s 20 years old in Double-A, and he’s always been a career .300 hitter and he’s an aggressive player. So we could sit here in May and talk about certain ratios, but not a lot of people have been 20 years old at Double-A putting up solid numbers. And just from development and games played, he’ll learn to tighten the strike zone and, from there, he’ll definitely flourish and be a really good player.

AF:  #3 on our list is Matt Olson. He’s been a top power-hitting prospect in the system for a few years now. But he’s struggled a bit so far this year at Nashville. I think he’s got just 3 or 4 home runs and he’s been hitting below the Mendoza Line for most of the season. So can you talk a little bit about the challenges that he’s faced adapting to Triple-A?

Matt Olson

Matt Olson

BO:  Yeah, I think we’re still very excited about Matt Olson. Triple-A is definitely a very big test, especially for a kid who’s still at a young age – 22 years old. Coming off a solid Double-A season, the first two months are definitely going to be challenging, but it’s been encouraging the last ten days or so where he’s tightening the strike zone and the walk-to-strikeout ratio is starting to pick up. You know, Double-A pitchers have really good stuff, and in Triple-A, they start being capable of really hitting their spots and pitching in sequences and really pitching to the scouting report. And then in the major leagues, they have both. So every level is a challenge as you climb the ladder. And I think Matt had to go to Triple-A to see the adjustments there that he had to be able to make. He’s a smart kid and a very talented player, and now hopefully from May going forward, he’ll continue to make those adjustments and tighten the zone. He had a really good second half last year in Midland. So this year, expect more of the same. He’ll make an adjustment from May going forward and have a really strong second half of the season.

AF:  He’s primarily been playing in right field this season. I think he’s only spent about half a dozen games at first base this year. Given that there could be an opening at that position in Oakland in the near future, do you expect him to continue getting most of his playing time in right field this season?

BO:  Yeah, I think that it increases his versatility. We’ve talked in the past about the fact that Matt’s a plus defensive first baseman, no question about it, but I also think he’s an underrated athlete. Last year, he went out to the Texas League and it was the first time that he’s really played that much outfield. And he had a ton of assists – he was among the league leaders in assists from the outfield. So going forward, having that versatility, he can always play a really good first base, and getting acclimated to right field at the higher level is only going to benefit Matt and the organization going forward.

AF:  #4 on our list is someone you’ve got to be pretty excited about this year, third baseman Matt Chapman. He’s leading the Texas League in home runs with 11, which isn’t an easy thing to do, and he’s been taking some walks as well. So what have you been seeing out of Matt Chapman at the Double-A level this year?

Matt Chapman

Matt Chapman

BO:  He’s been exciting from the moment he stepped in the organization. We picked late in the first round that year. And Eric Kubota identified Matt Chapman as somebody we’d have a chance to get with our pick that year in the draft but also somebody he thought was going to be a high caliber first-round pick, and he’s proven correct. I mean, Matt Chapman’s exciting. He’s got a ton of natural power to all fields, not just pull-side power. He’s got plenty of power to the opposite field, which he showed on a few homers in major league spring training. His throwing arm is top shelf – as good a throwing arm as you’ll see out there. For Team USA, when he was a rising prospect, I think he threw 100 mph as a reliever – his arm’s that good. And he showed it in major league spring training. I think he got voted one of the top defensive third basemen last year in the minor leagues. He’s a natural fielder, and he’s capable of sliding over to shortstop and playing a really good shortstop as well. The power is definitely going to be there, and it’s exciting to see him tighten the strike zone and improve the walk-to-strikeout ratio.

AF:  With the arm he has, do you feel he has enough range and enough natural ability to be able to play shortstop at the major league level?

BO:  Yeah, I think it’s possible. He’s definitely a top-flight third base defender, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could log some games at shortstop at that level.

AF:  #5 on our list is third baseman Renato Nunez. He got off to a good start at Nashville this year and he’s been leading the team in home runs there. So how do you feel about the way he seems to be handling things at Triple-A this year?

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Renato Nunez

BO:  It’s been exciting to watch Renato’s development. He’s made adjustments at every level. He hit almost 30 home runs in the California League, then he cut down on his strikeouts dramatically moving up to Double-A, and he’s continued to tighten the strike zone at the Triple-A level. And he’s got a nice swing – it’s short, it’s compact and he produces a lot of home runs with that swing. He’s capable of using the whole field, going line to line. He’s a solid offensive hitting prospect. It’s been fun to see him make the adjustments, and he definitely has a chance to continue that going forward and improve his numbers.

AF:  And what have you seen in terms of his defense at third base so far this year?

BO:  Yeah, he’s been solid over there. He’s definitely an offense-oriented player. But he works hard and shows flashes defensively. We have Eric Martins there, our hitting instructor, but he also has a lot of experience in the infield, and Steve Scarsone, our manager, who also was a very good infielder for a long time. They’re constantly helping Renato develop into a solid infielder. And time, reps and opportunity hopefully lead to progress and we’ll see where it goes.

AF:  #6 on our list is infielder Chad Pinder. He’s another guy who, like Matt Olson, has had some difficulties at Nashville early on. I think he’s only had about half a dozen walks there this year. Can you talk about some of the challenges he’s faced at the Triple-A level this season?

Chad Pinder

Chad Pinder

BO:  Yeah, it’s the same kind of thing we talked about. Triple-A is definitely another step – it’s a challenge. The pitchers are better, but Chad will definitely adjust. He’s been on a hot streak the last 10 or 15 games. He’s making a lot harder, more authoritative contact. He’s tightening the strike zone. He’s always been somewhat of a free swinger, and he’s had success doing that, but Triple-A poses more challenges with that style. He’s a very instinctive player, he’s a smart player and I believe he’ll adjust. Now that he’s seen that caliber of pitching for the first six or seven weeks of the season, we’re slowly seeing him making the adjustments – he’s starting to barrel more baseballs and he’s driving the ball a lot better towards the end of the month. So going forward, it’s definitely going to be exciting to see how he progresses this year. He’s an exciting player, and he’s just going to continue to progress and evolve and make adjustments.

AF:  He’s had about a dozen errors at shortstop so far, and I think a lot of them have been throwing errors. Has he just been rushing things a bit? How do you account for that?

BO:  For one, shortstop’s the most difficult position on the field – you get the most chances. And with young infielders, you don’t judge them by the number of miscues per se. He’s a solid fielder. He’s working hard with Eric Martins, he’s working hard with Steve Scarsone, and he’s continuing to improve. He only went back to full-time shortstop in the last year and a half. He’s steady and he had a solid major league spring training. So going forward, he’ll continue to work at it and he’ll be able to improve his shortstop positioning but also, at some point, be able to play all three infield positions, because you never know when opportunity’s going to arise.

AF:  #7 on our list is a pitcher who’s been at Triple-A this season, Dillon Overton. He’s a little ways past the Tommy John surgery now and it’s my understanding that he’s finally off the leash and free to go. He’s hit a few bumps in a couple of his starts, but his command has continued to be solid. What have you seen out of him at Triple-A this year?

Dillon Overton

Dillon Overton

BO:  Dillon’s a very good pitcher. He reads hitters very well. He just has a natural instinct to pitch, and he moves the ball in and out. He’s got a really advanced changeup and a solid curveball. His fastball will sit comfortably in that 87-91 mph range, a touch more occasionally. But he understands the game, he has a natural instinct for the mound and he’s got very good touch. He’s unpredictable out there as far as his sequencing. So he’s solid. He’ll definitely be a major league pitcher at some point, and then we’ll see exactly what role that is, but he can pitch, for sure.

AF:  Is his velocity about where it was last season or has it ticked up at all this year?

BO:  Yeah, I’d say it’s more similar to where it was last year. And honestly, I think we all saw Dillon pre-surgery and he showed flashes of having more velocity than he has as a pro. But, like you said, he’s got a fantastic strikeout-to-walk ratio. He’s progressed at every level, he gets hitters out, he pitches deep into ballgames now, and he pounds that strike zone. So he’ll be a major league pitcher regardless, and he’ll be a major league pitcher with the arsenal that he has currently.

AF:  #8 on our list was catcher Jacob Nottingham, whom you guys traded away in the offseason in the Khris Davis deal. Can I just ask you how hard it was to trade away a top catching prospect like that whom you guys had just made an effort to acquire?

BO:  I think that all 30 teams are trying to win as many games as possible. We’re excited to have Khris Davis. And when you make a trade, both organizations are trying to improve themselves. We were able to acquire a 30-home-run bat and they were able to acquire a good catching prospect and a solid pitching prospect. So both sides agreed to to the deal, and we’re happy.

AF:  #9 on our list is infielder Yairo Munoz. He got a bit of a late start to the season with some nagging injuries, but he’s been showing some pop in his time with Midland this year. What have you seen out of him in his time at Double-A so far this season?

Yairo Munoz

Yairo Munoz

BO:  He’s a talented kid and he always responds to challenges. He’s got a lot of tools – he’s got pop in his bat, he can run, he’s got a fabulous throwing arm. Matt Chapman and Yairo Munoz have the two best infield throwing arms in the system by far. He’s hit the ground running in Double-A. He got a taste of it last year, he got moved up for the playoffs, and now he’s been off to a good start. Like you said, he had some nagging injuries, but he’s there now and he’s having solid at-bats – he’s driving the baseball. He’s a natural shortstop. With him, Barreto and Chapman, with those three kids capable of playing shortstop, it’s allowed all three of them to gain some versatility by moving around. But Yairo is definitely a solid major league prospect, and I could see him moving up our rankings as time goes on.

AF:  I know he’s been playing shortstop, second base and now a little bit of third base this year. So do you see him continuing to see time at all three of those positions as the season continues?

BO:  Yeah, I just believe that the best players normally start off as shortstops. So from a draft process or when you sign a kid internationally, a lot of times you sign shortstops or you draft shortstops. And in our case, in the last couple of years, between Barreto, Chapman and Munoz, they’re all at the same stage of their development at Double-A. They all have shortstop/third base experience, but they’re on the same team. They can’t all play one position, so they’re going to move around and gain versatility and also help that team win ballgames.

Richie Martin

Richie Martin

AF:  Well, speaking of shortstops, #10 on our list is shortstop Richie Martin. Everyone was really looking forward to getting a better look at him in his first full season this year. Obviously it must have been disappointing to see him get hurt. But even though he’s been off the field, can you tell me what you like about Richie Martin based on what you’d seen out of him prior to his knee injury this spring?

BO:  Yeah, Richie’s got a very good shortstop profile. He’s strong defensively – he’s got all the actions you want to see. He’s got a strong throwing arm, he’s got very good hands and he’s got tremendous agility and flexibility for the shortstop position. Offensively, he’s got a line-drive bat and he uses the field. And I believe, last year, he was one of the youngest players from the SEC who got drafted. He’s got tools, he has intangibles and he’s got really good makeup. It’ll be exciting to see when he gets on the field and shows what he can do.

AF:  And with Nottingham off our list due to the trade, we replaced him with pitcher Casey Meisner. When he came over from the Mets in the Tyler Clippard trade last year, he got off to a great start and looked really solid at Stockton last season. But he seems to be struggling with his command a bit this year. So can you tell me what you’ve seen out of him so far this season?

BO:  He’s a tall kid – he’s 6’7”. When he’s pitching very well, he’s had a great angle on the ball – he throws downhill, throws strikes. He’s got a pretty good changeup and a solid breaking ball. At Stockton, it’s an offense-oriented park…and Stockton can be challenging. Starting this year, he’s been okay, but definitely he needs to keep on working on pounding that strike zone, getting ahead in the count and having a strong second half going forward.

AF:  And finally, one guy who wasn’t on our top 10 list, or many others, whom I have to ask you about just because he’s gotten off to such a great start is pitcher Daniel Mengden. He seems like a really smart pitcher who’s been tremendous so far this year. So what you’ve seen out of him and what accounts for his great start this season?

dm596043b

Daniel Mengden

BO:  He’s a student of the game. In college, he was a top-flight pitching prospect. He got dinged up in his junior year and it caused him to fall in the draft to the fourth round. Houston was able to get him there and then we were able to acquire Daniel and Jacob Nottingham in the Scott Kazmir trade. And since he’s come over, he’s been fabulous. He’s been up to 95-96 mph with the fastball. He’s got a solid breaking ball and a good changeup. He’s absolutely pounded the zone and been very efficient and aggressive. He keeps a book on the hitters. He’s been outstanding and it’s been fun to watch. He’s met every challenge and, going forward, we expect more of the same.

AF:  So is there anything else he needs to do to get to the next level?

BO:  He’s at Triple-A now and he’s knocking on the door. He’s putting up zeroes, he’s a diligent worker and he’s been very aggressive. When he came over to the system, he acclimated very well. So the future’s definitely bright!

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Getting To Know: A’s Pitching Prospect Daniel Mengden

The mustachioed Mr. Mengden

The mustachioed Mr. Mengden

Right-hander Daniel Mengden came roaring out of the gate this season and got off to as impressive a start as any pitcher in the A’s system. The Texas native allowed just two runs over his first four starts at Double-A Midland while notching 28 strikeouts in 23 innings to go along with his 0.78 ERA. When top pitching prospect Sean Manaea was promoted to Oakland, the 23-year-old was quickly summoned to Triple-A Nashville to take his spot in the Sounds starting rotation. And in his first start in Music City, Mengden appeared just as dominant, tossing six shutout innings to earn the win in his Nashville debut.

After attending Westside High School in Houston, Mengden blossomed into a star pitcher at Texas A&M and, after a particularly impressive sophomore season, he was considered a possible first-round draft pick. But injury issues in his junior year pushed him into the fourth round, where he was selected by his hometown Houston Astros in the 2014 draft. After spending parts of two seasons in the Astros organization, Mendgen was acquired by the A’s last summer, along with catcher Jacob Nottingham, in the trade that sent left-hander Scott Kazmir to Houston, and he ended up posting a 4.25 ERA over eight starts for Stockton last season.

Mengden is a four-pitch pitcher whose fastball has apparently topped out at 98 mph this year. “He’s been super,” said A’s special assistant Grady Fuson on Mengden’s hot start. “I saw him last year prior to the trade too. He’s got good stuff – his velocity, curveball and changeup are all solid.” And when asked what Mengden needs to do to make it to the next level, Fuson offered, “I’d like to see him more focused early in the count – he needs to get strike one more often.”

If he can keep it going, Mengden’s fast start this season could possibly put him on a similar path to former A’s pitching prospects Dan Straily and A.J. Griffin in 2012. After getting off to hot starts at Midland that year, they were both moved up to Triple-A, where they continued to impress, and the pair ended up finshing the season in the A’s starting rotation. And with expected A’s starters Chris Bassitt and Felix Doubront both sidelined for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, it’s not hard to imagine Mengden making an appearance in the major league rotation before the season is through if he can keep up the good work.

Also working in Mengden’s favor, as far as A’s fans may be concerned, is his distinctive handlebar mustache, reminiscent of legendary A’s reliever Rollie Fingers, which will certainly help endear him to the A’s faithful whenever he ultimately arrives in Oakland. We took the chance to speak with the mustachioed Mr. Mengden this weekend, just a day before he was set to make his second start for Nashville…

 

AF:  Well your season’s certainly gotten off to a good start. So is there anything in particular you attribute your early success to this year?

DM:  Well if I think about it, I probably would say it’s been the first offseason I’ve been able to work out and everything. When I was drafted by the Astros originally, I had a stress fracture in my back and I had to rehab that…so I think that’s one of the reasons why I’ve been going so well – kind of just being healthy. And I’ve really worked on normal stuff you’d work on during the offseason – just trying to make my pitches better and just trying to make my craft better overall.

AF:  You haven’t been at Triple-A for very long yet, but does anything seem different to you in terms of the batters you’re facing and their approach at this level?

DM:  I think it’s kind of the same. I’d say the one thing that’s different is maybe the approach is just a little bit better and their overall eye with two strikes and their knowledge of the strike zone’s a little bit better.

AF:  I believe you’ve got four different pitches you’re working with. So what’s exactly in your repertoire?

DM:  Yeah, I throw a fastball, both four-seam and two-seam, a cutter, a changeup and a curveball.

AF:  And which would you say is the strongest of your secondary pitches?

DM:  To put them in order, I’d probably say changeup, cutter, curveball.

AF:  How do you feel about your off-speed stuff at this point? Is there anything in particular you’re working on right now?

Mengden hurling for the Hounds

Mengden hurling for the Hounds

DM:  The one thing I really worked on this offseason was the curveball. It was more a sort of get-me-over pitch. And I really started working on making it an out pitch, making it sharper, being able to throw it harder. So that’s honestly been a really big key for me – being able to have four strong pitches, not just three then a curveball. I feel like what I’ve done with my curveball this offseason allows me to have four strong pitches that I can throw to hitters and keep them off balance.

AF:  So what’s your out-pitch that you’re most comfortable going to when you really need something in a tough spot?

DM:  I’ll really use all three, or actually all four, just depending on what the hitter shows me. And if one’s not working, I guess the one that’s always there is usually the cutter. That pitch is there for me most of the time. So if I would pick the one that’s the most consistent, it’d probably be the cutter.

AF:  I’ve heard reports that your velocity has been up a bit this season. So do you feel you’re throwing a little harder this year?

DM:  Yeah, I feel kind of the same, but the numbers that I’ve been getting back this year have been a little bit better.

AF:  What have they shown you topping out at this year?

DM:  98

AF:  Well that’s a good number!

DM:  Yeah!

AF:  Do you feel that’s primarily due to being healthy and the offseason work you were able to put in this year?

DM:  Yeah, I think so. In my first full season with the Astros, I was anywhere from 90-95, and then this year in spring training, I was getting it up there. In spring training, I hit 98 a couple times. And so far this year, there’s been a lot of 97s, and they’ve said I’m 93-94ish most of the time, instead of 90-91.

AF:  Well, those few extra miles an hour make a big difference! Looking at your numbers over the past couple of years, it doesn’t look like you’ve had all that much trouble with left-handed hitters. Do you have any kind of different approach against left-handed and right-handed batters?

DM:  Not really, I think the way my pitches are are a lot harder on lefties. I have a hard change and then a cutter on the hands and also a fastball and a curveball. I feel like it really affects them more than righties. I can run that cutter in on their hands and really blow them up, and then I can go down and away with the changeup and kind of get them all messed up. And really with all four pitches, I can keep them off balance.

AF:  Now going back to your trade to the A’s last summer, I know you’re from Houston and you were drafted by your hometown team, the Astros. So what was your reaction to the trade and how did you find out about it?

DM:  I was actually sleeping. I got a call about 9 in the morning. It was an assistant GM. I saw his name pop up and I was like, “Oh my gosh, what’s going on?” So I woke myself up really fast and answered the phone. And he just said straight up, “You’ve been traded to the Athletics. Wish you all the best, you’ve done great for our organization, blah, blah, blah.” And he said, “David Forst with the A’s will be in touch with you. Have a great career.” That was it, and so at that moment, I was like, “What?” It was kind of weird. We knew trades were going to happen because the Astros were making a run. We were all talking about it, but we thought maybe I’d have a safety blanket over me because I’m from Houston, but I was one of the first ones to go when me and Jacob [Nottingham] got traded. And the A’s organization’s been great, I love everything about it and it’s just been a great change for me.

AF:  And if I recall, I think your team, Lancaster, was playing the A’s affiliate, Stockton, the day you were traded, right?

DM:  Yes, me and Jacob packed up our bags and walked across the field and played our old team.

Mengden & Nottingham making their way from the Lancaster dugout to the Stockton dugout

Mengden & Nottingham making their way from the Lancaster dugout to the Stockton dugout last summer

AF:  I’d imagine getting traded in the middle of the season and having to meet a bunch of new teammates had to be a little weird for you. Did you know anyone with the Ports or become tight with anyone over there quickly?

DM:  Yeah, I knew Matt Chapman beforehand [from Team USA]. And getting traded over there, it was nice knowing somebody. And then me, Corey Walter and Joel Seddon became pretty good friends, and then we were all together at Midland to start the year, so it was nice.

AF:  Now coming over and joining a new organization, how did you feel about the A’s and their approach to things?

DM:  I liked it. It was way different from the Astros. The Astros were pretty strict – a lot of rules and stuff like that. And then getting traded over to the A’s, Rick Magnante, our manager at High-A, said, “We have two rules – be on time and wear white cleats.” So coming from the Astros to that, I was kind of blown away. Being here is really laid back. They let us just go out there and play baseball – be professional and go about your business. So it’s a lot of fun.

AF:  I guess there aren’t too many rules and regulations to have to remember anyway.

DM:  Nope, just go throw the baseball.

AF:  This spring was your first spring in the A’s minor league camp. Gil Patterson also just returned to the organization as the A’s minor league pitching coordinator. How much time did you spend with him and was there anything in particular that the coaching staff was really working with you on this spring?

DM:  Yeah, he’s a great coach. We worked on my stretch a little bit. My windup’s been pretty consistent for me. But we really worked on the stretch and really trying to find something that was comfortable for me and allowed me to be above the ball and get downhill with my pitches and throw pretty good strikes.

AF:  I know you’ve got that unusual motion where you’ve got your hands way up over your head before you come set. Where did that come from?

DM:  It came from back when I was in college. I was actually a catcher and a pitcher in college. My hitting wasn’t very good, so that’s why I’m a pitcher now. We just kind of threw it all together…one day, I was just messing around, throwing things together, and it started working.

AF:  Now you started out the year at Double-A Midland. John Wasdin is the pitching coach down there. How much did he contribute to the good start you got off to this year?

DM:  Yeah, he’s a great pitching coach and a great guy too. We worked on having a good plan going into the game, just keeping the ball down. Double-A and Triple-A, that’s where the real hitters are – the guys who can hit the fastball. So you’ve really got to be able to locate your fastball and use your other pitches as well.

AF:  And now that you’re in Nashville, you’ve got Rick Rodriguez as your pitching coach.

DM:  Yeah, he was our pitching coach in High-A last year. So it was nice getting to be with him for the last two months in Stockton and then being here is kind of nice. He knows me pretty well and what I like to do. So it’s nice having a guy you know around.

AF:  So when you head out to take the mound, what’s your focus? Is there anything in particular you’re trying to remind yourself to do?

DM:  Just pound the zone, establish strikes and let the defense play behind you.

AF:  Despite your success this year, I’ve noticed that your walk rate has actually been up a little over last year. Is there any particular reason for that and are you trying to cut down on that a bit?

DM:  Yeah, you never really want to walk people. I was talking about that with John Wasdin right before I got promoted. The one thing I can really work on is cutting down the walks. I think I had 12 walks at Midland in 23 innings, and I think I want to say maybe 8 or 9 were out of the stretch. I think I had 4 or 5 4-pitch walks. Sometimes I’d just kind of lose it. I’ve really been working on the stretch, and it’s slowly gotten better over time. But overall, my walks have been a little rough. I think I had close to 40 in around 130 innings last year, and I already had 12 in 23 this year. So I was really trying to work on that in my last outing. I was doing a good job of pounding the zone – I think I had 69 strikes in 96 pitches. And I was really trying to let the defense play and trying to use 3 or 4 pitches to get guys out instead of running the count to 2-2 or 3-2 and stuff like that.

AF:  So is there anything else in particular you’re focused on trying to do the rest of the season?

DM:  I’m just trying to stay as consistent as I can and just trying to go out there and make consistent starts for our team and give us a chance to win a ballgame.

AF:  And finally, I have to ask you where that handlebar mustache of yours came from.

Rollie Fingers: Not a bad role model

Rollie Fingers: Not a bad role model

DM:  It goes back to college. When I was at Texas A&M, our coach was pretty strict on facial hair and being clean cut, but he did allow us to grow whatever facial hair he grew. So he grew a normal bushy mustache, so I was was going to one-up him and grow a crazy Rollie Fingers mustache and curl it up. So I did it in college and the fan club did it and I started throwing well…then last year, I brought it back with the Astros organization. And then in the middle of the year last year, Ralston Cash with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization contacted me over Instagram and noticed I had a mustache just like him. He has his own charity foundation named after him, the Ralston Cash Foundation, and it helps children who’ve lost parents to cancer. He has these T-shirts with a silhouette of a guy’s face with a mustache on it, and he sells those T-shirts for his charity. And he asked if I wanted to join, since we had the same moustache, and help spread the word and help little kids around the U.S. So I told him, “Sure, I’d love to join.” So on my Instagram and Facebook, I try to help out when I can…but people kind of joked when I was traded to the A’s, it was like, “Hey, give me that guy with the stupid mustache!”

AF:  Well, you’re definitely in the right organization for mustache appreciation!

DM:  Yeah, Catfish Hunter and Rollie Fingers are good company. If I’m with them, that’s always good!

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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 2016 Minor League Rosters

Just follow the links we’ve provided here to take a look at the opening rosters for each of the A’s top affiliates this season. We’ve also included a link to the major league squad along with a few notes on each of the rosters below…

 

Both position players who were on the bubble for the A’s – Sam Fuld and Eric Sogard – opened the season on the disabled list, making the decision about what to do with each of them an easy one for Oakland. Pitchers Felix Doubront, Henderson Alvarez, R.J. Alvarez and Jarrod Parker also opened the season on the DL. And Doubront’s last-minute arm injury opened the door for outfielder Andrew Lambo to open the season with the big league squad…

Oakland Athletics Roster

 

Top prospects Matt Olson, Renato Nunez, Chad Pinder, Sean Manaea and Dillon Overton highlight Nashville’s opening day roster this season…

Nashville Sounds Roster

 

Top infield prospects Matt Chapman and Franklin Barreto headline Midland’s roster. They’re joined by returning RockHounds Ryon Healy, Jaycob Brugman and Carson Blair

Midland RockHounds Roster

 

Pitchers Daniel Gossett, Brett Graves and Heath Fillmyer move up from Beloit to join recent trade acquisition Zack Erwin and returning Ports pitcher Casey Meisner to form Stockton starting rotation this season…

Stockton Ports Roster

 

Promising pitcher Dustin Driver and talented outfielder Skye Bolt highlight Beloit’s opening day roster…

Beloit Snappers Roster

 

It looks like two promising infield prospects – Yairo Munoz and Richie Martin – will start the 2016 season on the sidelines. Munoz has dealt with nagging heel and quad injuries this spring, while Martin underwent knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus and is not expected to be back before late May.

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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.

Exclusive: Down On The Farm with A’s Special Assistant Grady Fuson

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

tl502285bGF:  Yeah, and he’s shined!

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

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

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

GF:  Sure, yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GF:  Yeah, that’s a good call.

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

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

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

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

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

GF: Oh, definitely.

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

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

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

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

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

GF:  Yeah, I wouldn’t think so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GF:  Yeah, most likely.

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

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