Tag: Oakland Athletics minor league players

A’s Farm’s 2017 Mid-Season Organizational All-Star Team

by Bill Moriarity / A’s Farm Editor

Third baseman Matt Chapman

Third baseman Matt Chapman

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 2017. And with that in mind, it’s time to name A’s Farm’s 2017 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 players were selected from the primary starters 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 among the top starters for each team, while closers were selected from each team’s saves leader. Statistics listed are through games of Wednesday, June 21. And asterisks denote players with combined statistics from multiple minor league teams within the A’s system, but players’ major league statistics have not been included.

Outfielder Ryan LaMarre, who was recently released from the Nashville roster after being designated for assignment, is not included here since he is no longer in the A’s system. But Matt Chapman and Jaycob Brugman, who were recently promoted to the big leagues, are included since they were primary starters for Nashville and are still in the organization. Bruce Maxwell doesn’t appear here since, due to stints on the disabled list and with the A’s this season, he’s only started 19 games at catcher for Nashville this year. LHP A.J. Puk was recently promoted to Midland but spent most of his season with Stockton, while LHP Dalton Sawyer was recently promoted to Stockton but spent most of his season with Beloit, and RHP Corey Walter is currently with Nashville but made most of his starts with Midland and, consequently, all three pitchers are listed with the teams that they’ve made most of their appearances with this year.

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 – Ryan Lavarnway (158 AB / 4 HR / .266 AVG / .368 OBP / .392 SLG / .760 OPS)

Midland – Andy Paz (120 AB / 0 HR / .258 AVG / .323 OBP / .275 SLG / .598 OPS)

Stockton – Sean Murphy (145 AB / 8 HR / .297 AVG / .344 OBP / .524 SLG / .868 OPS)

Beloit – Collin Theroux (135 AB / 10 HR / .200 AVG / .294 OBP / .467 SLG / .761 OPS)

 

FIRST BASE

Nashville – Matt Olson (214 AB / 17 HR / .271 AVG / .365 OBP / .561 SLG / .926 OPS)

Midland – Viosergy Rosa (260 AB / 10 HR / .250 AVG / .327 OBP / .431 SLG / .757 OPS)

Stockton – Chris Iriart (189 AB / 8 HR / .206 AVG / .274 OBP / .370 SLG / .644 OPS)

Beloit – Miguel Mercedes (239 AB / 11 HR / .243 AVG / .300 OBP / .448 SLG / .748 OPS)

 

SECOND BASE

Nashville – Joey Wendle (212 AB / 6 HR / .274 AVG / .313 OBP / .453 SLG / .765 OPS)

Midland – Max Schrock (184 AB / 5 HR / .304 AVG / .340 OBP / .435 SLG / .775 OPS)

Stockton – Branden Cogswell (185 AB / 0 HR / .254 AVG / .325 OBP / .314 SLG / .639 OPS)

Beloit – Nate Mondou (228 AB / 0 HR / .289 AVG / .371 OBP / .377 SLG / .748 OPS)

 

SHORTSTOP

Nashville – Franklin Barreto (276 AB / 8 HR / .279 AVG / .321 OBP / .431 SLG / .752 OPS)

Midland – Richie Martin (163 AB / 3 HR / .233 AVG / .324 OBP / .344 SLG / .668 OPS)

Stockton – Eli White (245 AB / 1 HR / .265 AVG / .354 OBP / .363 SLG / .717 OPS)

Beloit – Eric Marinez (189 AB / 1 HR / .270 AVG / .347 OBP / .349 SLG / .697 OPS)

 

THIRD BASE

Nashville – Matt Chapman (175 AB / 16 HR / .257 AVG / .348 OBP / .589 SLG / .937 OPS)

Midland – Yairo Munoz (182 AB / 6 HR / .308 AVG / .338 OBP / .522 SLG / .860 OPS)

Stockton – Mikey White (200 AB / 7 HR / .235 AVG / .323 OBP / .420 SLG / .743 OPS)

Beloit – Trace Loehr (206 AB / 0 HR / .243 AVG / .286 OBP / .277 SLG / .563 OPS)

 

LEFT FIELD

Nashville – Renato Nunez (242 AB / 18 HR / .252 AVG / .315 OBP / .541 SLG / .856 OPS)

Midland – B.J. Boyd (256 AB / 1 HR / .316 AVG / .366 OBP / .430 SLG / .795 OPS)

Stockton – Tyler Ramirez (246 AB / 5 HR / .297 AVG / .394 OBP / .411 SLG / .805 OPS)

Beloit – Luke Persico (220 AB / 3 HR / .264 AVG / .329 OBP / .382 SLG / .711 OPS)

 

CENTER FIELD

Nashville – Jaycob Brugman (132 AB / 1 HR / .288 AVG / .373 OBP / .364 SLG / .737 OPS)

Midland – Brett Vertigan (239 AB / 1 HR / .280 AVG / .371 OBP / .381 SLG / .752 OPS)

Stockton – Skye Bolt (190 AB / 6 HR / .242 AVG / .344 OBP / .432 SLG / .775 OPS)

Beloit – JaVon Shelby (218 AB / 5 HR / .216 AVG / .304 OBP / .326 SLG / .629 OPS)

 

RIGHT FIELD

Nashville – Mark Canha (104 AB / 6 HR / .212 AVG / .339 OBP / .423 SLG / .762 OPS)

Midland – Tyler Marincov (247 AB / 9 HR / .275 AVG / .353 OBP / .470 SLG / .823 OPS)

Stockton – Seth Brown (260 AB / 11 HR / .238 AVG / .307 OBP / .412 SLG / .718 OPS)

Beloit – Luis Barrera (211 AB / 2 HR / .289 AVG / .332 OBP / .417 SLG / .749 OPS)

 

DESIGNATED HITTER

Nashville – Matt McBride (119 AB / 4 HR / .202 AVG / .263 OBP / .387 SLG / .650 OPS)

Midland – J.P. Sportman (264 AB / 6 HR / .284 AVG / .338 OBP / .417 SLG / .755 OPS)

Stockton – Brett Siddall (178 AB / 7 HR / .264 AVG / .328 OBP / .427 SLG / .755 OPS)

Beloit – Edwin Diaz (174 AB / 7 HR / .282 AVG / .371 OBP / .466 SLG / .837 OPS)

 

STARTING PITCHER

Nashville – Paul Blackburn (74 1/3 IP / 64 H / 25 ER / 25 BB / 54 K / 3.03 ERA / 1.20 WHIP)

Midland – Corey Walter (78 2/3 IP / 78 H / 24 ER / 21 BB / 52 K / 2.75 ERA / 1.26 WHIP) *

Stockton – A.J. Puk (68 IP / 48 H / 28 ER / 25 BB / 105 K / 3.71 ERA / 1.07 WHIP) *

Beloit – Dalton Sawyer (67 2/3 IP / 41 H / 17 ER / 26 BB / 72 K / 2.26 ERA / 0.99 WHIP) *

 

CLOSER

Nashville – Simon Castro (28 IP / 19 H / 14 ER / 20 BB / 48 K / 4.50 ERA / 1.39 WHIP / 3 SV)

Midland – Kyle Finnegan (29 IP / 29 H / 10 ER / 7 BB / 27 K / 3.10 ERA / 1.24 WHIP / 8 SV)

Stockton – Nolan Blackwood (28 2/3 IP / 24 H / 11 ER / 11 BB / 24 K / 3.45 ERA / 1.22 WHIP / 8 SV)

Beloit – Sam Sheehan (16 1/3 IP / 10 H / 5 ER / 9 BB / 21 K / 2.76 ERA / 1.16 WHIP / 3 SV)

 

Click here to see A’s Farm’s 2017 Mid-Season Organizational All-Star Team…

A’s Scouting Director Eric Kubota Offers the Inside Scoop on Oakland’s Top 11 Draft Picks of 2017

by Bill Moriarity / A’s Farm Editor

A's scouting director Eric Kubota

A’s scouting director Eric Kubota

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 he 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, Richie Martin in 2015 and A.J. Puk in 2016. And this year, we were eager to get his insights on #1 pick Austin Beck as well as the rest of the A’s top eleven picks from the first ten rounds of the 2017 draft.

We spoke with Kubota the week after the draft, just hours before the A’s were set to announce that they’d come to terms with 31 of their 41 draft selections, including 7 of their top 11 picks and, most notably, the team’s top pick, outfielder Austin Beck…

 

AF:  We wanted to get your take on your top 11 picks from the first 10 rounds of the draft this year. So let’s start out with your top pick. I know you guys were kind of surprised last year when pitcher A.J. Puk was available to you with the sixth overall pick. How confident were you that outfielder Austin Beck was going to be available to you with the sixth pick this year, how much did his workout at the Coliseum the week before the draft really impress you, and what was the one thing about him that really most grabbed you?

abAustin_Beck_t1u2zolz_rloc5a7f130EK:  Well, as far as whether we thought he would get to us, we did think there was a club or two ahead of us that really liked Austin…but we thought probably somewhere between #3 and #8 was where he was going to go, so we thought we did have a fair chance of getting him. And the workout itself, more than anything, was the culmination of the spring spent scouting Austin. Austin was a guy our scouts in that area liked a lot. Earlier in the season, we all went in and saw him and liked him. I mean, he’s hard not to like. What he does jumps out at you almost immediately. But having him come out to Oakland prior to the draft and having him working out on the field and being able to be around him, it was like the cherry on top of the sundae – it was kind of a finishing touch. And the thing that jumps out at me with Austin is just his natural ability to whistle the bat. I mean, what he can do as far as generating bat speed is something that we don’t get to see very often. So that ability really kind of jumps up and slaps you in the face when you see him.

AF:  Is there anyone you might compare him to?

EK:  As far as what he can do with the bat, he kind of reminds me of Andrew McCutchen, but physically, he reminds me a little bit of Kevin McReynolds.

AF:  Moving on to your second pick in the competitive balance round, shortstop Kevin Merrell out of South Florida. He’s really known for his speed, and some people think he was the fastest guy in the draft, but how confident are you that his bat will play at the major league level? And even though he played shortstop last year, it seems like there’s been a lot of talk about him possibly ending up as a center fielder. How do you feel things are going to end up shaking out for him in the field?

EK:  First and foremost, we love his bat. We think Kevin can really hit. That was all a part of the reason that we valued him and took him. It wasn’t just because he could run, which he can really do. But we really think he can hit. We think there’s a natural ability to put the barrel on the baseball. We think strength and power are developing there. I don’t think he’s ever going to be a power hitter per se, but he’s definitely going to hit some home runs. He’s strong enough to hit extra-base hits. As far as shortstop, probably coming into the year, we were less sure that he could go out and play shortstop in professional baseball, but he did a good job of it at USF this spring, and we’ll certainly give him every chance to stay there as he begins his professional career. Obviously, he has the kind of athletic ability where he could probably play at a number of different defensive positions.

AF:  Did you have any comps in mind for him?

EK:  Merrell – it’s kind of easy to go with the Brett Gardner comp.

AF:  Your 2nd-round pick was outfielder Greg Deichmann out of LSU. He’s a big lefty slugger who has that same combination of power and plate discipline as a guy like Matt Olson. How do you view him and how would you compare the two?

gdOYKFWSKEPIIKZWI.20161127154043cEK:  There’s definitely some similarities to Matt. I think one thing is that Greg is probably a little bit better athlete. Greg started his college career as a middle infielder, so there’s probably a little more athleticism there. But he’s certainly got a combination, like you said, of power and plate discipline. We had some guys go in there who really fell in love with the bat and the power potential.

AF:  I compared him to Olson, but did you have any other comps in mind for him?

EK:  Deichmann has some similarities to Seth Smith, whom A’s fans are familiar with.

AF:  Then your 3rd-round pick was high school shortstop Nick Allen. He’s got a combination of speed and defense that it seems everyone’s in love with. He kind made me think about Richie Martin in terms of that speed and defense combination. How would you feel about that comparison, and how do you feel about the ability of his bat to play out over the long run?

EK:  I think Richie’s probably a little bit more physical than Nick is. There’s certainly some similarities with the athleticism and defense. Anybody who’s ever scouted Nick just loves to watch this kid play. He’s a tremendous defender with tremendous defensive instincts. He’s got athletic ability, and we think he’s got a chance to hit. He’s not big as far as physical stature, but I think he knows what his game is, and we really believe in his ability to hit. We think he’s going to have a chance to be a premium shortstop who is going to have some offensive contribution as well.

AF:  I threw Martin out there, but did you have any other comps in mind for him?

EK:  On the older side of things, he kind of reminds me of like a Freddie Patek – they’re probably of the same stature. As far as the more modern game, you have some similarities to a Jimmy Rollins, although I’m not sure he’s going to come with the power that Jimmy had. But as far as physical stature and playing shortstop and just their baseball instincts, I think there are a lot of similarities.

AF:  In the 4th round, you guys took third baseman Will Toffey out of Vanderbilt. He’s not known as a real toolsy guy, but he gets the job done on the field and puts up the numbers. I know there was some talk that he’s the kind of guy that maybe the analytics guys like more than the old school scouts do. So what’s your take on him and how much do you like his bat?

EK:  There’s a lot of things to like about Will. And Will is a perfect example of analytics and scouting kind of coming together. We liked him from both an analytical standpoint and a scouting standpoint. He’s a deceptive athlete. I would probably argue with the fact that people say he doesn’t have tools, because he’s probably got a plus arm, he can really play defense, and he’s displayed the ability to hit. We do think the power’s coming along – that’s probably what’s going to develop last for Will. But as far as defense and being able to swing the bat, those are all things we really like about him.

AF:  Did you have any comps to offer on him?

EK:  Toffey, I kind of get a Bill Mueller out of him. I think there’s a lot of similarities there.

AF:  In the 5th round, you took high school catcher Santis Sanchez out of Puerto Rico who, for most of us, is probably the biggest unknown quantity among your top ten picks. He seems to be a strong-armed young catcher with some power potential. How many looks were you able to get at him and what are the key things you like about him?

0ss4403-6-White-19EK:  Well, the key tools are just what you said – arm strength and power. We do think he’s got a feel for the barrel as well. He’s a guy we saw a lot of actually as far as Puerto Rico goes. We had our national cross-checker [Michael Holmes] go in there in January and really love him. We had some other guys go in through the spring, and then [assistant general manager] Billy Owens went in late in April and loved him as well. So he was a guy we had consistent reports on, and we just think there’s a lot of upside to him. There’s been a pretty strong track record of really good catchers coming from Puerto Rico, and we’re hoping that Santis is the next in that line.

AF:  Well, I guess whenever you find a strong-armed catcher with power potential, that’s pretty much all you need to know!

EK:  Yeah, that’s a good place to start! And if they have the desire to be back there and work at it, those are all strong building blocks.

AF:  Did you have any comps to offer on Sanchez?

EK:  Sanchez, I’d just take the easy route and go with one of the Molina brothers – I might go with Bengie to be honest.

AF:  Don’t want to put too much pressure on him! Now in the 6th round, you took lefty reliever Logan Salow out of Kentucky, whom we just had a nice chat with on our A’s Farm Podcast. I know he’s got three pitches, with that slider that everyone loves, so do you think he’s going to get a chance to get looked at as a starter in your system?

EK:  I think we do think he can start. I know the role he filled at Kentucky, but we did see three pitches. The fastball and slider are both above-average pitches for our guys. We felt very fortunate that Logan was available to us in that spot, and I’m sure we’re going to give him every chance to start.

AF:  And continuing into the experienced-college-pitcher phase of the draft for you with RHP Parker Dunshee out of Wake Forest, whom you took in the 7th round. I imagine you looked at him as a solid, experienced, strike-throwing college pitcher, and that was basically what you liked about him.

EK:  We’ve seen a lot of Parker over the years. A couple of our scouts are Wake Forest alums and they still live in the area, so they see Wake a lot, and we’ve all seen Parker a lot over the years. Sometimes, there are guys you need to see over a period of time to really appreciate what they can do, and I think Parker’s one of those guys. He has major league caliber pitches, and he can really pitch. He’s probably more substance than style, but we do think there’s some upside to him. We think he’s the kind of guy who can move quickly in the organization.

AF:  In the 8th round, you took RHP Brian Howard out of TCU. The thing that most intrigues people about him is his height – he’s 6’9″. I know with those really tall guys, there are often problems and issues with their delivery. So how do you feel about his delivery, and do you feel there’s much work to be done there in terms of cleaning it up at all?

0bhHoward LebEK:  That’s probably his strength. His strength is his delivery, his ability to repeat his delivery, his ability to command the baseball. Those are all things he does very well, especially for his size. It’s funny you mention the height – it would be easy to assume that those flaws would be there, but for him, it’s kind of the opposite. He really commands the baseball well and controls his delivery well.

AF:  Well that’s good. If you’ve got a guy who’s 6’9″ with a repeatable delivery, that ought to make your life a lot easier! Did you have any comps on him?

EK:  Howard, I’d just go with the tall guy – he kind of reminds me of Mike Witt from back in the day.

AF:  In the 9th round, you went with LHP Jared Poche out of LSU. I know he was a consistent winner there at LSU, but what did you really like about him and what are his strengths as far as you’re concerned?

EK:  Well, Jared’s a guy we’ve seen since his high school showcase time, so we’ve seen him for many, many years. And the thing that he’s always done consistently is just compete and fight and find a way to get batters out. And for a left-hander who’s actually shown success in one of the finest college baseball programs in the country, we think that trait will take him a long way.

AF:  And then with your 10th-round pick, you took outfielder Jack Meggs out of Washington. Looking at his numbers, nothing really jumps out at you, so I’m curious to know what really put him on your radar?

EK:  Our scouts did like the baseball player there. Obviously, he did not have his greatest year statistically, but we really, really believe in his instincts. He’s a coach’s son, and he’s been around the game his whole life. We think he’s going to play above whatever his physical tools are, and he’s the kind of guy you can imagine over-achieving and finding his way into a role on a big league team.

AF:  And just one final question about your top pick from last year, LHP A.J. Puk. I don’t think you expected him to be available at #6 last year, and I know you were pretty excited to get him there. Now that you’ve had him in your system for a year, what are your impressions of last year’s top pick, A.J. Puk, at this point?

EK:  I would say that as excited as we were to be able to draft him a year ago, we’re even more excited about his progress that he’s made in that year. He’s really refined his delivery and his command. He’s shown the ability to miss bats. In a short sample in the minor leagues, he’s been really impressive. And he went out in his first start in Double-A the other night and pitched pretty well for a young kid who’s basically a year out of the draft.

AF:  Yeah, it looks like you might have a fast mover on your hands there!

EK:  Yeah, he’s big, he’s left-handed, he throws hard and he’s got a good breaking ball. As long as he keeps progressing like this, it’s a good combination to have!

 

A’s 2017 Draft Class

1st OF Austin Beck (North Davidson HS-NC), 1st Comp SS Kevin Merrell (South Florida), 2nd OF Greg Deichmann (LSU), 3rd SS Nick Allen (Francis Parker HS-CA), 4th 3B Will Toffey (Vanderbilt), 5th C Santis Sanchez (Intl Baseball Academy HS-PR), 6th LHP Logan Salow (Kentucky), 7th RHP Parker Dunshee (Wake Forest), 8th RHP Brian Howard (TCU), 9th LHP Jared Poche (LSU), 10th OF Jack Meggs (Washington)

11th SS Ryan Gridley (Mississippi St), 12th 1B Aaron Arruda (Fresno St), 13th RHP Wyatt Marks (Louisiana Lafayette), 14th OF Garrett Mitchell (Orange Lutheran HS-CA), 15th LHP Josh Reagan (South Carolina), 16th OF Payton Squier (UNLV), 17th RHP Josh Falk (Pittsburgh), 18th OF Raymond McDonald (Illinois-Chicago), 19th RHP Michael Danielak (Dartmouth), 20th RHP Osvaldo Berrios (PR Baseball Academy HS-PR)

21st RHP Heath Donica (Sam Houston), 22nd RHP Bryce Conley (Georgia St), 23rd RHP Malik Jones (Missouri Baptist), 24th RHP Slater Lee (Cal Poly SLO), 25th 1B Hunter Hargrove (Texas Tech), 26th C Nate Webb (Martin Luther King HS-CA), 27th OF Ben Spitznagel (UNC Greensboro), 28th LHP Pat Krall (Clemson), 29th RHP Adam Reuss (Wisconsin-Milwaukee), 30th LHP Cody Puckett (Middle Tennessee)

31st RHP Brandon Withers (James Madison), 32nd RHP Caleb Evans (Liberty), 33rd 2B Jake Lumley (Canisius), 34th 2B Justin Jones (UNLV), 35th C Cooper Golby (Lewis-Clark), 36th OF Logan Farrar (VCU), 37th 3B Raymond Gill (Gulliver Prep HS-FL), 38th 2B Wil Hoyle (Charles Jordan HS-NC), 39th LHP Haydn King (Archbishop Mitty HS-CA), 40th SS Jacob Hoffman (Stanford)

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A’s Farm Podcast Debuts with Draft Recap Special

It’s time for the 2017 Draft Recap Special on the debut episode of the A’s Farm Podcast. A’s Farm Editor-in-Chief Bill Moriarity and A’s Farm & A’s Nation contributor Josh Moore break down the A’s top picks from the first 10 rounds of the draft and also talk with A’s 6th-round draft pick, lefty Logan Salow from Kentucky. So don’t miss the chance to get the inside scoop on some of the top new prospects set to join the A’s system! The draft breakdown starts at the top of the show, and LHP Logan Salow joins the conversation at 37:00…

A’s Farm Podcast: 2017 Draft Recap Special
with hosts Bill Moriarity & Josh Moore and special guest pitcher Logan Salow

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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.

Top 10 A’s Prospects of the Week (6/4-10)

by Josh Moore / A’s Farm Contributor

A brief look at some of the top performers in the A’s minor league system over the past week…

gh6565501) RHP Grant Holmes (Midland – AA)

(14 IP/9 H/2 ER/1 BB/17 K/1.29 ERA/0.71 WHIP)

Coming in to the week, Holmes had allowed 43 base runners and 18 earned runs in his previous 25 1/3 innings. The right-hander turned it around in a big way with two gems this week, including Saturday’s 8-inning, 2-hit, 8-strikeout performance where he held the opposition hitless until the 7th inning.

 

rn6005242) 3B-OF Renato Nunez (Nashville – AAA)

(25 AB/2 HR/4 BB/7 K/.400 AVG/.483 OBP/.800 SLG)

Nunez is the last remaining member of Stockton’s 2014 infield not currently playing in the big leagues. But with the tear he’s on now, it might not be long before he joins Chad Pinder, Matt Olson and Ryon Healy in Oakland. Nunez has hit 5 home runs and 5 doubles over his last 12 games for the Sounds.

 

mm4737243) C-OF Matt McBride (Nashville – AAA)

(22 AB/3 HR/2 BB/4 K/.318 AVG/.375 OBP/.773 SLG)

The 2nd-round draft pick of the Indians back in 2006, McBride had hit 1 home run all season for Nashville before belting 3 in 3 straight games to start the week off with a bang for the Sounds.

 

mc6563054) 3B Matt Chapman (Sounds – AAA)

(28 AB/3 HR/2 BB/11 K/.286 AVG/.333 OBP/.643 SLG)

Chapman has the organization’s longest current hitting streak at 10 games and has hit safely in 13 of his last 14 games, while also hitting 5 home runs over his last 9 games for the Sounds.

 

pb6211125) RHP Paul Blackburn (Nashville – AAA)

(13 IP/5 H/1 ER/4 BB/9 K/0.69 ERA/0.69 WHIP)

The 1st-round supplemental draft pick for the Cubs in 2012, Blackburn has allowed 1 earned run or less in 4 of his last 5 starts since May 19. And last week, opposing hitters had a .114/.188/.182 slash line against the right-hander.

 

ew6422016) SS Eli White (Stockton – A+)

(20 AB/0 HR/1 BB/5 K/.400 AVG/.429 OBP/.500 SLG)

White came into the week on a 2-for-19 skid, but then managed to put together 3 multi-hit games in a row for the Ports. And Stockton skipper Rick Magnante told us last month that White is a guy who has the potential to really surprise people.

 

ed6415217) SS-3B Edwin Diaz (Beloit – A)

(20 AB/1 HR/3 BB/3 K/.300 AVG/.391 OBP/.550 SLG)

NOT the Seattle Mariners reliever, the 21-year-old Puerto Rico native has compiled a total of 7 multi-hit performances in his last 14 games for Beloit, and he belted a big 3-run blast in the first inning for the Snappers on Saturday.

 

em6427148) SS-3B Eric Marinez (Beloit – A)

(18 AB/0 HR/0 BB/4 K/.444 AVG/.444 OBP/.444 SLG)

Marinez started the week strong, slapping 8 singles in his first 11 at-bats. He might have placed even higher on the list if he hadn’t gone 0 for 7 in Thursday’s and Friday’s games. Since May 1, though, he’s put up a .317/.398/.404 slash line for the Snappers.

 

bs6157029) OF Brett Siddall (Stockton – A+)

(18 AB/1 HR/1 BB/4 K/.333 AVG/.368 OBP/.556 SLG) 924/1292/2216

Before Saturday’s 0-for-3 performance versus Modesto, Siddall had a 9-game hitting streak for Stockton, with 3 consecutive multi-hit games and a total of 5 extra-base hits over that span.

 

js60708010) RHP Joel Seddon (Midland – AA)

(10 IP/8 H/1 ER/2 BB/4 K/0.90 ERA/1.00 WHIP)

After making a 4-inning spot start for Nashville on May 30, the former 11th-round selection out of South Carolina returned to the RockHounds and picked up a 3-inning save before turning in a 7-inning, 1-run start to earn his 3rd win of the season last week.

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Talking Top Prospects with A’s Assistant General Manager Billy Owens

by Bill Moriarity / A’s Farm Editor

A's Assistant GM Billy Owens

A’s Assistant GM Billy Owens

Now that we’re a couple of months into the minor league season, we wanted to step back and take a look at how some of the A’s top prospects have been shaping up 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 about a year and a half ago, he was promoted to the position of assistant general manager, where the A’s have been able to put his extensive knowledge of the game and its players to use in a variety of different ways.

Owens took some time out to speak with us this week while he was busy scouting prospects for this year’s amateur draft. We asked him about ten of the most intriguing prospects in the A’s system – five hitters and five pitchers – and, as always, his knowledge of and enthusiasm for the A’s young players is apparent…

 

AF:  Let’s start out with the team’s top prospect, shortstop Franklin Barreto. He got off to slow starts the past couple of seasons, but this year, as a 21-year-old at Triple-A, he started out hot and has continued to hit well over the first two months of the season. What kind of progress have you seen out of him this year and what does he still have left to learn at the Triple-A level?

fb620439BO:  I think Franklin’s always been a gifted hitter. He’s a guy who we’ve scouted since he was 14 years old in Venezuela. He’s always been able to use the field, he’s got power that’s untapped, and he’s improving defensively. He’s very athletic, he’s got a short swing, but he still needs to tighten up his strikeout-to-walk ratio. He’s always been something of a free swinger. But kids like that who are so talented, they can touch a lot of different pitches, so they’re not apt sometimes to go deep in the count and do a lot of things in terms of plate discipline, because he can barrel the baseball. He’s talented, and for a 21-year-old kid who’s in a tough environment to hit in Nashville, one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in that league, it’s pretty impressive. He had a strong spring training this year, and I think that probably was the impetus for him to start out so strong this year in Nashville. He popped a couple of homers this year in spring training, and he really acclimated himself well to the major league staff. Everybody was able to see, the staff, the fans and the players at the upper level, what kind of talent Franklin has. And, obviously, he’ll get an opportunity at some point because he’s very talented.

AF:  It seems like he’s been playing with a lot more energy this year. I know the plan originally was for him to split time between shortstop and second base this year at Nashville, but I think he’s only played about half a dozen games so far this year at second base.

BO:  I think he’s playing a solid shortstop, and he’s such a good athlete that he could play all over the diamond. Obviously, short is probably the toughest place to play defensively, and he’s shown, at 21 in Triple-A, that he can handle the position fairly well. He’s got all the tools and all the components to handle the position. And just the way the roster’s constructed, we have a lot of guys there who have versatility and we have 40-man-roster players who are playing various positions there. So, from a positional standpoint, it just makes the most sense for him to be doing what he’s doing at shortstop and really kind of assert himself. Everybody has a different opinion about what his final destination’s going to be, but at some point, he’ll be a very productive major league player, and it’s nice to see him getting the bulk of his games so far at Triple-A at shortstop.

AF:  Another top prospect who’s started the season in Nashville is third baseman Matt Chapman. He missed some time in the first month with a wrist injury, but he’s certainly been making up for it since he’s been back, and he hit 11 home runs in the month of May. So what have you been seeing out of him and what’s he still got to work on at Triple-A?

mc656305BO:  I think, with Matt, his defensive talent is off the charts. He’s probably one of the most talented third basemen at any level. You hear the names of Machado and Arenado when you’re discussing his defense – that’s not hyperbole, that’s just the fact. This guy’s defense is superlative and, offensively, his power is undeniable. He had 36 homers last year. Our fans have been able to see it first-hand the last two spring trainings. He had a 3-homer game last year in his brief time in Triple-A. And for him, it’s just all about really defining that strike zone, you know, learning it. With the injury, he started out fairly slow in April. But in May, with the 11 homers, his strikeout rate is actually a little bit lower this month than it was for his whole Texas League season last year when he was the Texas League MVP, so that’s encouraging. I think Matt’s capable of making adjustments, he’s smart, and he’s not afraid at all, as we’ve seen so far in his two big league camps. With him, it’s just all about tightening that strike zone and eliminating some swings-and-misses. But the bottom line is that he’s a really gifted defender, and every time he steps up to the plate, he’s dangerous. And coming at a premium position, that’s a pretty solid package.

AF:  One guy at Nashville who really seemed to turn it up a notch in May is first baseman Matt Olson. I know there was some talk this spring about him altering his swing a bit. Has that played much into this recent uptick and where do you feel things are at with him at this point?

mo621566BO:  Matt Olson, he’s definitely a student of the game. And I always go back to Stockton with him. You know, out of the draft, he was more of an all-fields hitter, and then he had a pretty solid season there in Beloit his first year out as a teenager. But Stockton is a fairly hitter-friendly environment and it’s very inviting to right field, so Matt was able to pop 37 home runs that year. But I think with that, he also became a lot more pull-oriented by hitting those home runs that year at Stockton. And it carried over to Midland, where it became a pull-heavy approach, and the park wasn’t quite as friendly and the defensive shift was more in vogue. So, as he climbed the ladder and they started doing the defensive shifts and he still was pull-happy, he realized that he had to make adjustments to go back to that hitter who uses the whole field. And I think, for some guys, it’s always good just to get a taste of the big leagues to realize it is a little bit different, the pitchers can make adjustments and they can exploit your weaknesses. And Matt’s a smart kid, so he went to the big leagues, saw what it had to offer and realized he had to make some swing adjustments. So now his swing’s shorter, he’s using the field a lot more, and he’s more conscious of trying to barrel the ball to all fields. It’s definitely carried over so far in this Triple-A season and, quite frankly, I think at some point it’ll translate to the upper levels. He’s another one who’s a gifted defender, at first base. I’ve said it, all our instructors have said it – his defense has been spectacular at first base throughout his minor league career. And once he added some versatility by playing right field – I believe he actually led the Texas League in assists a couple of years ago in his first full-time duty in the outfield – he’s proven that he can play above-average major league first base defensively and also actually play an average right field. So, with the natural power that he possesses and an improved contact rate, he’ll have a chance to make his presence known at some point in the next year or two.

AF:  Another guy who had a pretty good month of May at Nashville is Renato Nunez. He’s been doing his usual thing and hitting lots of home runs. He’s got as many homers as anyone in your system right now. We know the power is real for Renato, but how far away do you feel he is from being where he really needs to be?

rn600524BO:  Renato is 23 years old…and he’s always been a kid who’s capable of barreling the ball to all fields. He got a majestic, pretty stroke. I believe, in Double-A, he hit around .280. Last year, he started out hot but then, for some reason in the second half, he got a lot more pull-conscious. And though he still had a high homer total, his average plummeted. This year, he had a strong spring training, and he’s got 13 or 14 homers to start the year. But I still believe that he’s got another click left in him, where at 23 years old, he’s got time to mature as a hitter and start bringing that average up. He’s got a swing that’s capable of touching the baseball at multiple spots in the strike zone, so he shouldn’t have to sell out for power to hit the homers. He should be able to use the whole field. He’s in that .240ish range right now in Triple-A. But I believe, within the next two or three years, that he’ll still have the opportunity to go ahead and become more of a line-to-line hitter and become more of a complete hitter. And with Chapman and Barreto manning the left side of the infield, Renato’s been able to go out to left field and do a solid job out there and sprinkle some games in at third base and improve his defense. But make no mistake, Renato’s a hitter and, at some point within the next two or three years, hopefully he’ll start using the field more and become the hitter he’s capable of becoming.

AF:  As you mentioned, he’s been playing a lot of field so far this season. Do you think that’s the most likely defensive landing spot for him at this point?

BO:  Well, I just think with Chapman being such a special defender at third base, you have Barreto playing short, and when Semien comes back, he can play short, so with all the different players we have the same age playing similar positions, it’s been nice to give Renato a chance to improve his versatility by getting comfortable in left field.

AF:  A guy at Nashville who isn’t always included in the top prospect talk but who’s an interesting player is outfielder Jaycob Brugman. He’s always seemed to out-perform expectations at every level. He was sidelined with a leg injury to start the season, but since he’s been back, he’s done nothing but hit over the past month. So what do you think his ceiling is?

jb595144bBO:  You know, he wasn’t a high-round draft pick, but since he’s been in our system, he’s always hit, whether it’s been in Beloit, or when he went to the California League and he wrecked it and hit 10 home runs in a month during his brief time in the Cal League. He went to Double-A and he was the igniter at the top of the lineup and played good defense in center field. And in Triple-A last year, they had one of the best records with one of the youngest teams in Triple-A – and at the top of the lineup, Jaycob makes things happen. He’s off to a great start. He missed some time with the injury in April, but since he’s been playing, he’s above .300. He uses the whole diamond, he’s got some power in there – he’s had double-digit home run seasons in the minor leagues. He’s got a very good throwing arm defensively, and he’s always been one the higher guys in assists. He takes really good routes in the outfield. So, I think he’ll eventually be a major league player. And it’s safe to say that he’ll be a fourth outfielder, but I think that if he’s assertive, he has a chance to surprise some people and do what he’s always done at the top level at some point when he gets the opportunity.

AF:  For the majority of his minor league career, he’s played center field, but most people seem to talk about him ending up as a corner outfielder. How do you feel about his ability to play center field at the major league level?

BO:  Well, I think he’s definitely capable of playing all three outfield positions and being a fourth outfielder. There’s no question in my mind that he can do that. And I think that Jaycob’s going to assert himself. He’s not a flyer, he’s not going to go up there and give you a blazing time down the line and do cartwheels and what not, but he’s efficient – he takes great routes and gets good angles. So, he can fill in at all three and be a fourth outfielder. But if he keeps on asserting himself, I think he’s going to surprise people at the top level, even defensively. He’s a technician and he’s efficient in center field with enough speed.

AF:  Okay, let’s talk about a few pitching prospects at Triple-A. Daniel Gossett was a 2nd-round pick of yours a few years ago. He took a big step forward last year, then he seemed to really impress people during his brief time in the big league camp this spring. He had a few bumpy starts early on this year, but he’s been on a nice little run at Nashville lately. So what have you been seeing out of Daniel Gossett this year and how close is he to being major-league ready?

dg605254BO:  Yeah, last year was a breakout year for Daniel. He was good at three levels last year. And being dominant in 2016 gave him a chance to go to big league camp in 2017 and get a taste of it. And honestly, I don’t think he was totally sharp. He showed some good stuff, but he wasn’t totally sharp at the end of minor league camp, and I believe it carried over to his first three or four outings at Triple-A, but he’s been able to right the ship. In May, he had an outstanding month. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is getting even better. I think in about 54 innings, he’s got 50 strikeouts and the walks are like 19, and he’s really pounding that strike zone. He’s up to 96 mph. He’s got a nice four-pitch mix. He’s being aggressive within the strike zone. So, if you wash away those first three or four outings of the year, he’s really on that good trajectory now to show what he’s capable of doing. He’s got a cutter that he throws 90 mph, he’s got a good slider, a solid curveball and an outstanding changeup. So, he’s got the pitches – he really proved that last year. And with that strikeout rate being so strong at Triple-A, the next step is just to continue to get more consistency and then, when an opportunity strikes, he’ll be ready.

AF:  Another slightly younger guy in that Nashville rotation who’s been performing well this year is 23-year-old Paul Blackburn. He’s a former 1st-round supplemental pick for the Cubs whom you guys got from Seattle in the Danny Valencia deal. So what do think about him now that you’ve had a chance to get a good look at him in your system here this year?

pb621112BO:  Paul, he’s a control arm. He’s in that low-90s range. His fastball’s between 89-92 mph. It’s got pretty good sink to it. He’s got a solid breaking ball. He’s a northern California kid. He was in our range in the draft a couple of years back and the Cubs took him, so we made a good trade with the Mariners, and he’s been solid. He was okay in big league camp. I think he was excited to play for the hometown team here. And then he impressed all our minor league instructors. And at Nashville, he’s been tough. He’s thrown strikes as advertised. He’s able to manipulate the ball within the strike zone. He changes speeds. He’s definitely poised at a young age to be doing as well as he’s done at Triple-A. He’s not a stuff guy, but he’s a strike thrower, and he commands the baseball within the zone with an assortment of pitches, and he changes speeds well, so we’re excited to have Paul.

AF:  A guy who’s recently joined the staff at Nashville from Double-A Midland is Corey Walter. He’s another guy who wasn’t a high draft pick – he was a 28th-rounder – but since he’s been in the system, it seems like he’s done nothing but get outs, and he just had a nice outing in his last start for Nashville. So what are your impressions of Corey Walter and what’s his ceiling look like to you?

cw657794BO:  Yeah, Corey Walter, he’s kind of been the pitching version of Jaycob Brugman. He came into the system unheralded, and he’s done nothing but pitch really well. He’s been versatile. He’s at a point where his fastball is 90-92 mph, and it’s got a lot of sink to it. He’s a pitch-to-contact guy where he forces the action on the mound. He’s got a nice slider to complement the heater and the sinker, and he also sprinkles in a changeup. But he’s been efficient, he’s been a strong strike thrower. He really came into his own in Stockton, and it carried over last year in multiple roles at Double-A. With the logjam of quality starters in Triple-A and the young guys in the big leagues, we sent him back to Double-A to start the year and he did his thing in the Texas League again, which he’s done for the last year and a half. And I think his versatility and the sinker is going to really treat him well going forward. He’s proven that he can start and get a chance to be an effective starter, but that sinker will play very well out of the ‘pen as well, and he’s a strike thrower, so he’s got a chance to be versatile from a pitching standpoint. And he’s always performed well.

AF:  Yeah, it’s nice to see him getting a chance in Triple-A. Let’s wrap up with a couple of your younger pitching prospects. Grant Holmes, who was a 1st-round draft pick for the Dodgers, has had some struggles at Midland this year but, at 21, he’s also one of the youngest pitchers in the Texas League. So what’s he got to do to get over the hump at Double-A?

gh656550BO:  With Grant, the velocity’s always been there. He’s got a high strikeout rate at Double-A, especially for a kid who’s 21 years old. For him, it’s just a matter of tightening his breaking ball and getting a little bit more separation as far as the miles per hour between the changeup and the heater. I think they kind of blend together at times, and he’s got to get that separation to give hitters something else to really gauge and think about. And from a pitching standpoint, being assertive and being aggressive within the strike zone, but also learning the zones where your strengths are and understanding the scouting reports of the opposition. You know, being 21 years old in an advanced league, in Double-A, coming over here in a trade, getting acclimated and used to a new environment – getting traded at such a young age is not easy – so coming over here, being young, and getting an aggressive promotion to Double-A at 21…hopefully he’ll have an opportunity here the next three months to really hit the ground running, make some adjustments, use that high velocity that he’s shown the whole time, improve that separation between the heater and the changeup and keep on tightening that breaking ball, and he’ll have a chance to have a strong second half.

AF:  Okay, let’s wrap things up with your top draft pick last year, A.J. Puk. He’s been throwing well at Stockton, racking up lots of strikeouts and looking dominant at times. What have you seen out of A.J. this year, where he’s at in terms of his development and what he’s got to do to get to the next level?

ap640462cBO:  When you look at Andrew Miller, David Price, Drew Pomeranz, those lefties who are so tall and throw hard – A.J.’s been up to 99 mph from the left side – if they can really simplify their delivery, because their stuff’s so good, that’s just the best thing going forward. So A.J.’s going to keep on refining and simplifying his delivery. But his stuff is unquestionable. His fastball has ranged anywhere from 94-99 mph, and it’s got this component to it at the end where it has a little bit of giddy-up and it misses bats. His breaking ball, especially his slider, misses bats, and his changeup misses bats – and that’s how you get the 69 strikeouts in 44 innings. And honestly, I think he’s got another click to him. He doesn’t need to try to miss bats so much, but he has an element of deception, the stuff is quality, and you don’t see 99 mph from the left side every day. So, what’s Michael Jordan say? “The ceiling’s the roof!”

AF:  Well, that’s a good place to have your ceiling! Thanks for taking the time to chat. I know it’s a busy time a year for you with the draft right around the corner.

BO:  All right! Go A’s! I’m looking forward to the next three months of the year and we’ll see where it goes.

AF:  And best of luck with the draft coming up!

BO:  Yeah, it’ll be fun. We’ll be in Oakland shortly. And it’ll be fun to have [A’s scouting director] Eric Kubota lead us and to see where all those draft magnets take us!

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A’s Minor League Team Leaders

by Bill Moriarity / A’s Farm Editor

Franklin Barreto

Franklin Barreto

With the first two months of the minor league season almost in the books, it seems like a good time to take a look at the A’s minor league team leaders in a few key hitting and pitching categories. And it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to see the names of top prospects like Franklin Barreto, Matt Chapman and A.J. Puk high atop our list of A’s minor league team leaders.

Leaders are included for all four of the A’s full-season affiliates – Nashville, Midland, Stockton and Beloit. A minimum of 100 at-bats is required for the hitting categories and a minimum of 40 innings is required for the ERA and WHIP categories for pitchers. An asterisk indicates not just a team leader but also an organizational leader in a particular category, and the stats are complete through games of Sunday, May 28. Some of these names you may expect to see atop the lists, while others might come as a bit of a surprise!

You can always stay up to date on the A’s top prospects and all the daily action in the A’s minor league system right here on Athletics Farm. A version of this report originally appeared on Athletics Nation

Click here to see the A’s Minor League Team Leaders…

Meet Your 2018 Oakland A’s!

by Bill Moriarity / A’s Farm Editor

A's top prospect Franklin Barreto

Top prospect Franklin Barreto

Whatever happens with the A’s before the start of next season, one thing is certain – with many of the team’s current everyday players set to become free agents in the offseason, there’s bound to be plenty of turnover on the 25-man roster.

Center fielder Rajai Davis, first baseman Yonder Alonso, third baseman Trevor Plouffe, current shortstop Adam Rosales, as well as reliever John Axford, are all set to hit the free agent market in the offseason, and second baseman Jed Lowrie has a team option for 2018 and seems unlikely to return. Of course, most of these potential free agents are likely to be traded before the season is through but, one way or another, they’re all likely to be long-gone by the time 2018 rolls around.

The only regular position players in the starting lineup who are currently under team control for 2018 are outfielders Khris Davis and Matt Joyce, catcher Stephen Vogt, first baseman/designated hitter Ryon Healy and shortstop Marcus Semien, who will reclaim his starting shortstop role once he returns from the disabled list. Backup catcher Josh Phegley, utility infielder Chad Pinder and reserve outfielders Mark Canha and Jake Smolinski will also remain under team control for 2018. And the entire pitching staff, with the exception of Axford, will still be under control next year as well.

Of course, no one is ever certain what the A’s will do in the offseason, but it does seem as though the front office has structured this team to be ready for a big youth infusion next season – which could work well with the team’s stated intention of announcing plans for a new stadium before the end of the year.

So, disregarding any potential trades or free agent signings, let’s just assume that the A’s do decide to move forward with a full-on youth movement next season, stocking the roster with as many prospects as possible who are currently in the team’s minor league system. No one is saying that they will, or that they should, but just for the fun of it, let’s take a look at what a young, prospect-laden A’s team could potentially look like in 2018.

As previously mentioned, the pitching staff is already full of fairly young arms under team control, so any big changes would primarily involve position players, which is what we’ll mainly focus on here, though we will briefly touch on 2018’s potential pitching staff as well. It’s worth noting that every single position player proposed below for a potential prospect-laden A’s roster is currently age 29 or under, with Khris Davis the only potential everyday.player currently over the age of 26.

 

CATCHERS

Bruce Maxwell

Bruce Maxwell

The team’s current catching corps is set to be under team control for next year. 32-year-old Stephen Vogt is earning $2.965 million this season and will be eligible for arbitration for the second time in the offseason, while 29-year-old Josh Phegley is earning just $545,000 this year and will be arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason. With Vogt struggling so far this season and set to receive a raise through the arbitration system next year, this looks like an obvious spot to make a move to get younger. 26-year-old catcher Bruce Maxwell seems to have mastered Triple-A at this point, with a career slash line of .318/.386/.527 in the Pacific Coast League. And he’s looked fairly solid both at the plate and behind the plate during his 42 major league games for the A’s last year and this year. If the team does decide to put the left-handed-hitting Maxwell behind the dish next season, then it would make plenty of sense to keep Phegley around as his right-handed-hitting counterpart, and to try to make a deal to trade the popular Vogt either this summer or in the offseason to a club that’s looking for a little veteran catching help.

 

OUTFIELDERS

Jaycob Brugman

Jaycob Brugman

When we look at the A’s outfield picture for 2018, two things seem fairly certain: one Davis will stay and one Davis will go. 29-year-old left fielder Khris Davis, who’s hit 54 home runs since joining the A’s last season, is clearly the best-hitting outfielder on the A’s roster and seems likely to stick around. Davis is under team control for two more seasons, and he could serve as the most veteran presence on a young A’s squad next year while manning left field and holding down the cleanup spot. But 36-year-old center fielder Rajai Davis was always intended to serve as a one-year rental and is expected to depart via free agency in the offseason. One of last year’s other free agent signings, 32-year-old right fielder Matt Joyce, was signed to a two-year deal but has severely under-performed so far for the A’s. With one year left on his contract after this season, the team could try to foist him off on a contending club looking for a veteran left-handed bat, even if it means having to eat part of his deal. If the A’s do decide to go with a youth movement next year, there really won’t be much room on the roster for an under-achieving veteran outfielder with sub-par defensive skills. The A’s could replace Joyce in right field with 23-year-old slugger Matt Olson, who currently has 9 home runs, a .349 on-base percentage and a .508 slugging percentage for the Sounds while also leading the team with 19 walks. Olson has long been looked at as one of the top power-hitting prospects in the system and, though he’s mainly been playing first base for Nashville this season, he primarily played right field last year at Triple-A, has appeared at the position in half of his major league games, and has looked solid as a corner outfielder, where his strong arm can come in handy. Olson would immediately represent a defensive upgrade in the outfield and, potentially, an offensive one as well. When it comes to replacing Rajai in center, finding a successor in the A’s system could be tough since the A’s organization is sorely lacking in true center fielders, but there is one possible replacement who might be worth taking a chance on, and that’s Jaycob Brugman. Many in the A’s front office seem to feel that the 25-year-old is better-suited to serve as a part-time center fielder and really view him as more of a corner outfielder. And while he may not have the quickness and the range that one would ideally like to see in a true center fielder, it’s been a while since the A’s have had the luxury of having a true center fielder, and Brugman has shown a propensity for out-performing expectations at every level. He’s also experienced, having played more games in center field than at any other position in his minor league career. And while appearing in 154 games in center, Brugman has made just 2 errors at the position. Then there’s the fact that, while serving as the Sounds’ primary leadoff hitter, he’s boasting a .377/.441/.472 slash line this season since returning from the disabled list earlier this month. The former 17th-round draft pick has over-achieved at every minor league level, and he could do the same at the major league level as the A’s center fielder in 2018. It’s worth noting that Brugman and Olson are both left-handed hitters, but 28-year-old right-handed-hitting outfielders Mark Canha and Jake Smolinski both remain under team control for another few years and could be available to serve as platoon partners if needed.

 

INFIELDERS

Matt Chapman

Matt Chapman

The A’s could be due for the biggest turnover in the infield next year. 30-year-old first baseman Yonder Alonso, 30-year-old third baseman Trevor Plouffe, and soon-to-be-34-year-old utility infielder Adam Rosales are all expected to depart via free agency after the season, if they’re not dealt before then, while 33-year-old second baseman Jed Lowrie’s contract has a club option for 2018, which essentially puts him in the same boat as the rest. The only starting infielder expected to return is 26-year-old shortstop Marcus Semien, who remains under team control through 2020. Fortunately, the A’s do have some talented young players to put around him in the infield, including top prospects Matt Chapman and Franklin Barreto as well as a number of other promising young players. The 24-year-old Chapman has been the A’s top third base prospect since the day the team made him its top draft pick in June of 2014. He hit 23 home runs in just 304 at-bats for Stockton in 2015, mashed 36 between Midland and Nashville last year, and has hit 8 in just 88 at-bats while boasting a .557 slugging percentage so far this season for the Sounds. And to top it off, Chapman is also considered a top defender at the hot corner with an elite throwing arm. Widely considered to be the A’s top hitting prospect, Barreto just turned 21 a few months ago, but he’s already been tearing it up at Triple-A this year, putting up an impressive .320/.369/.510 slash line for the Sounds so far this season. Though Barreto has spent most of his time at the shortstop position, he’s also seen some time at second base, and many in the A’s front office have openly talked about the likelihood of him having to make the move to the other side of the bag, where the A’s are likely to soon have an opening. 25-year-old infielder Ryon Healy debuted with a bang for Oakland last season, posting a .305/.337/.524 slash line for the A’s. He’s been hitting at a more average pace so far this season while primarily serving in the designated hitter role, but Healy still holds plenty of promise. And given the chance to move out of the DH spot and play every day in the field at first base for the A’s in 2018 could be just what he needs to get back on track and really show what he can do. And speaking of designated hitters, 23-year-old slugger Renato Nunez has spent most of his minor league career playing third base, but since Matt Chapman has returned to health at Nashville, Nunez has been spending most of his time alternating between left field and the designated hitter spot for the Sounds. Nunez’s power has always been real, and he currently leads his team in home runs and doubles with 10 of each while sporting a .536 slugging percentage, and he even managed to hit a ball clear out of First Tennessee Park in Thursday night’s game. With his power bat and his defensive deficiencies, Nunez seems perfectly-suited to serve in the designated hitter role. And in a limited sample so far this season, 25-year-old infielder Chad Pinder has looked like one of the A’s best hitters. He’s gotten starts at shortstop, at second base, in the outfield and as the designated hitter so far for the A’s, and he’s also spent time at third base in college and in the minors. Pinder’s versatility could make him well-suited for a super-utility role, spelling Barreto at second, Semien at short and Chapman at third, while also filling in in the outfield and as well as in the designated hitter spot. We all know how much the A’s value versatility, and Pinder’s positional flexibility could make him a valuable piece for a young A’s team in 2018.

 

PITCHERS

Kendall Graveman

Kendall Graveman

As mentioned earlier, the major turnover for the A’s next year is likely to be on the position-player front, and that’s primarily because Oakland’s pitching staff is already full of fairly young arms who will be under team control for years to come. The organization currently has a dozen starting pitchers at the major league or Triple-A level who will all still be in their 20’s next year and will remain under team control for multiple years, with Sonny Gray the first to be eligible for free agency after the 2019 season. These pitchers (with their current ages in parentheses) include: Sonny Gray (27), Kendall Graveman (26), Sean Manaea (25), Andrew Triggs (28), Jesse Hahn (27), Jharel Cotton (25), Chris Bassitt (28), Daniel Mengden (24), Raul Alcantara (24), Daniel Gossett (24), Paul Blackburn (23) and Zach Neal (28). That represents a fair number of fairly decent young arms who still have the potential to get much better and will remain under control for years to come. That’s not even mentioning all the talented young arms the A’s currently have below the Triple-A level, including 24-year-old RHP Corey Walter and 21-year-old RHP Grant Holmes at Midland, and 22-year-old LHP A.J. Puk and 22-year-old RHP Logan Shore at Stockton. That should give the A’s plenty of pitching options to choose from in 2018 and beyond. As for the bullpen, it looks like that’s where most of the veterans may be found for the 2018 A’s. 34-year-old RHP John Axford is the only reliever eligible for free agency in the offseason, which means that most members of the A’s bullpen could be returning, including RHPs Ryan Madson, Santiago Casilla, Liam Hendriks, Ryan Dull and Frankie Montas, along with LHPs Sean Doolittle and Daniel Coulombe, all of whom remain under team control for 2018. Of course, 25-year-old RHP Bobby Wahl and 29-year-old RHP Josh Smith, who are both currently auditioning for the A’s, could also be options, as could 26-year-old RHP Tucker Healy, who’s currently sporting a 1.29 ERA for Nashville.

 

As mentioned earlier, this isn’t necessarily a prescription, but just a look at what could happen if they A’s do decide to move forward with a full-on youth movement next season. Of course, if the team does decide to deal potential free agents like Alonso, Plouffe, Lowrie, Rosales, Rajai Davis and Axford, or possibly even veterans like Vogt and Joyce, before the season’s through, that could net a number of new prospects in return who could potentially fill even more holes on a talented young A’s team next year. But, whatever happens, it’s certain that there will be a lot of new faces on the 2018 A’s, and most likely, many of them will be much younger faces.

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A’s Farm Report for Week of May 8-14: Brugman Returns, Gossett Gets Hot, Blackburn Goes Cold & Stockton Goes on Skid

Outfielder Jaycob Brugman

Outfielder Jaycob Brugman

 

After missing the start of the season with a leg injury, outfield prospect Jaycob Brugman‘s bat in now back in action for Nashville. Pitching prospect Daniel Gossett has been getting hot after a slow start, while his teammate Paul Blackburn has been cooling off after a fast start. And despite a promising pitching staff, the Stockton Ports have been struggling.

You can always stay up to date on the A’s top prospects and all the daily action in the A’s minor league system right here on Athletics Farm. A version of this weekly minor league report originally appeared on Athletics Nation

 

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

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 seven years ago to serve as a special assistant to the general manager.

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 frequently be found at the A’s minor league complex, now located at Fitch Park in Mesa, 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 inside scoop on some of the A’s top hitting and pitching prospects…

 

AF:  Let’s start out by talking a little bit about last year’s draft. I know you guys may not have even expected to have the chance to get the guy who turned out to be your top draft pick, left-hander A.J. Puk. But now that you’ve got him here in camp and you guys have had a chance to get a good look at him, what are your impressions of him now, and what have you got to work on with him to get him where he needs to be?

ap640462bGF:  Well ever since we signed him, we really haven’t seen any of the command issues that kind of bothered him a little bit in college. So for the most part, once he got signed and got out and got comfortable, he threw pretty good strikes in Vermont, did the same in instructs, and has done the same here. So now that we’re starting to feel comfortable about his location and his execution, [A’s minor league pitching coordinator] Gil Patterson has allowed him to bring back a curveball that apparently Florida had taken from him all those years. And it’s actually showing some signs of life. It’s a different angle than his slider, and it looks like it’s going to be a very good pitch for him. For him, it’s about a big man maintaining some consistency in his delivery so that he’s able to execute at the highest level. He had an unbelievable first major league inning in a spring training game – 97 mph, threw strike after strike, threw the baseball by all of them, it wasn’t even close!

AF:  I guess that opened a lot of people’s eyes.

GF:  Yes.

AF:  Last year, you guys took three pitchers at the top of the draft. After Puk, right-handers Daulton Jefferies and Logan Shore, a couple more experienced college pitchers, were your next two picks. So how are those two guys looking at this point?

GF:  Jefferies, as you know, experienced some shoulder issues last year at Cal and was shut down – probably not shut down long enough. They allowed him to go out and pitch at the end of the year, and he probably wasn’t 100%. So we spent most of the time rehabbing him all last summer. He hit the mound a couple of times late in the summer. He pitched effectively and pitched issue-free. So instead of pushing the envelope, we didn’t even bring him to instructional league really – he was here for a short period of time but did not throw. The rest and the recovery, for the medical guys, was more important. Now he’s showing up 100% healthy. He’s been pounding the strike zone – 93s-94s-95s with a filthy changeup. The breaking ball is the one thing that we still play with a little bit – still trying to play with a grip, play with an angle – so if there’s any pitch in there that needs some attention…but he’s a pretty good strike thrower and he’s got a knack for the bottom of the zone. He’s got a chance to be a special kid.

AF:  And what about Logan Shore?

ls624519GF:  Shore’s been very good. As a sophomore, there were some 93 and 94 mph four-seamers in there, much more than there were his last year in college. He pitched around 90 mph all year. Everything he threw had more of a sink to it. I think there was some question as to how much was left in this guy. I for one was excited to see if we could get that four-seamer back. Now being with him, everything he holds is a four-seamer! But velocity is up. There was one day he touched 95 mph, but he been pitching in the 92s and 93s. He’s got a filthy changeup. He’s another guy who could improve a little bit on the consistency of his breaking ball. He’s similar to Jefferies, maybe not as live and quick of an arm, but they both have plus to double-plus changeups and they’re both strike throwers.

AF:  How much thought have you guys given to maybe keeping all three of these guys together as a group to start the season?

GF:  We’ve had our thoughts. I think they’re all somewhat advanced college pitchers – there’s some polish there. Puk may be the lightest on overall command, but these guys have a chance to move quicker than the rest.

AF:  Is there anyone else from last year’s draft that you’ve been feeling particularly fond of lately?

GF:  Yeah, let me mention Skylar Szynski. He was a high school pick in the 4th-round – powerful kid, good arm, good breaker, makings of a changeup, around the dish. He tired easily after we signed him. He lost half the summer to fatigue. We brought him back for instructional league and didn’t have him do much because of the fatigue factor. But he’s come back to this camp and has looked very good. The ball is jumping out of his hand. He’s got decent moves in his delivery, which creates a lack of concern. There’s power in this kid’s game. It’s just about him getting on the mound now and getting to a level where he can go out and pitch a little bit. I’m unsure how we break here with him but, in my opinion, a very good draft pick.

AF:  So it sounds like it’s up in the air at this point whether he goes to a short-season or a full-season team this year.

GF: Yeah.

AF:  Okay, let’s talk a bit about some of the higher-level prospects now. Your top prospect, infielder Franklin Barreto, looked very good in big league camp this spring and he was recently sent over to the minor league camp. He’s going to start the season at Nashville, and he’s obviously very close at this point. What’s left for him to do to be major-league ready and what’s he got to work at Nashville this year?

fb620439bGF:  Not a whole lot! I mean, he’s really come on as an offensive player. There’s going to be power in his game for a little man. He’s probably got the quickest bat and quickest hands in the system. Nobody can ever have enough experience controlling the strike zone and learning how people pitch you and things like that. He’s played a little bit more aggressively in big league camp, which most young kids do. There were times that we were concerned about his effort. It showed up in the [Arizona] Fall League a little bit as well. Some of that’s fatigue – some of that could be attitude. But this guy has dominated, going down the line, making hard turns, everything in big league camp that would impress a major league coaching staff.

AF:  So should we assume this year at Nashville he’ll be spending time at shortstop and second base, splitting time between the two.

GF: Mm hmm.

AF:  Now what about third baseman Matt Chapman? He managed to keep up his power numbers at Midland which, as you know, no one ever seems to do. So obviously the power is real. He’ll be at Nashville this year. I know the question with him always has to do with how much contact he’s going to make. So what’s he got to work on at Nashville to be ready to take the next step?

GF:  That’s it – hopefully improving his strikeout rate. He looks better. It looks like there’s a little bit more separation to his move, which is going to give him a little bit more time to read and react. But everything else is solid. He’s hitting them just as far today as he did a year ago.

AF:  Well I guess we don’t have to bother worrying about his power and defense anyway.

GF:  Not at all.

AF:  A guy who made a big leap forward last year was catcher Bruce Maxwell. He really seemed to turn a corner with the bat last summer at Nashville. What clicked for him last year, and where do you feel he’s at both at the plate and behind the plate at this stage of the game?

bm622194bGF:  Yeah, it was a little bit of a breakout year for Maxie offensively. It was certainly a collection of the most competitive at-bats I’ve ever seen him have over the course of his career – and it held up in the big leagues. And the more quality at-bats he had there, the more he ended up playing, especially late in the year. The bottom line is we have Stephen Vogt and we have Josh Phegley, and when they’re both healthy, there’s kind of no place to go. So in his case, if he goes back to Nashville, it’s not that he’s being demoted. It’s just that right now he’s still waiting in the wings. I think everybody’s locked into the catch/throw – we’re okay – he’s done a great job with that the last two years. Maybe some blocking – you know, you could pick these guys apart left and right if you want but…he still gets exposed sometimes in blocking situations. But catching and throwing, he’s done a tremendous job.

AF:  At this point for him, it sounds like it’s mainly just a matter of standing in line and waiting his turn.

GF:  Yep.

AF:  Let’s talk about infielder Chad Pinder, who was recently sent back over to the minor league camp. Bob Melvin was just saying the other day that he thought that his bat was ahead of his defense and it may be just a matter of finding the proper home for him in the field. And now they want to try to make him more versatile defensively and have been talking about having him spend some time in the outfield this year at Nashville.

GF:  Well his defense last year threw us all for a loop a little bit, because of how well he played the year before at Midland. So he went through some growing pains, and I think he’s realized some of the things he’s done wrong. I think the big league staff and the front office, some people have gotten a different look at him – maybe he was a little intimidated or nervous, whatever it may be, in the big leagues last year and had a little stiffer look to him. But I think he’s put himself back on the map in this camp. I know the staff has been impressed. He’s done well offensively for the most part. But, you know, he goes back and tries to put another stage to his game, and see if he can improve on that defense. My thing with Chad has always been, he’s just been a guy who’s always had a very low walk rate. So very low walk rates usually equal guys with recognition issues. And with Chad, he’s gotten better in his two-strike situations, but for me personally, I see him get himself in trouble early in the count. He’s offering at pitches early in the count that are going to be low odds to square up. So if he can improve his recognition of what he wants to jump on early, I think that’s going to improve the whole on-base thing a little bit.

cp640461bAF:  And do you anticipate seeing him moving around a bit in the field and getting a little more versatile this year?

GF:  Yeah, without a doubt, which we’re big on in the big leagues. We platoon a ton. So the more versatility, the more options there are. The other thing that’s going to be interesting…he told me that he had his eyes done.

AF:  Lasik?

GF:  Yeah, and in the at-bats that I was seeing over there [in major league camp], he looked a little bit more patient and confident.

AF:  So maybe he literally is seeing pitches better at this point! A guy who’s in a somewhat similar situation as Pinder is first baseman/outfielder Matt Olson, who was also sent back over to the minor league camp recently. Bob Melvin was saying that they’re working on changing his swing a bit. So what’s he got to do this year to get himself to where you can see him being ready for the major leagues?

GF:  He’s got to define where the impact’s going to be. We already know what he can do defensively. He’s well above average at first, and he’s solid in the outfield. I’m sure if you wanted to put him at third, he could play it. He’s just a good defender. So it’s the same story with him going into this year as every year. There’s always been power, there’s always been on-base, but it’s about not having so many empty at-bats. So it doesn’t take a scientist to realize we need the contact rate to go up and the swing-and-miss rate to come down…and try to make him as good as he can be as far as his approach. This is the first year that he’s come back with a change – he’s a little bit more out in front of himself instead of tied up in the air – and it looks like it’s helping him. He’s been much more competitive in his big league at-bats this spring.

AF:  So it sounds like you’re trying to shorten his swing a bit.

GF:  Yeah, we’re trying to shorten it and we’re trying to get him to stay over the baseball a little bit better.

AF:  And you feel like he’s taken to that change fairly well?

GF:  Yeah.

AF:  Okay, let’s talk about Renato Nunez. It’s always sort of the same conversation about him. The power potential’s real, when he hits the ball it goes a long way, but the question has always been where he’s going to end up in the field.

rn600524dGF:  Well he’s got to learn to make himself more versatile. It’s going to be an interesting year for him, because he’s going to have to play some left, he’s going to have to DH, he’s going to have to play some first, and then he’ll get some third base time – but you’ve got Chapman there, and he’s probably going to get the majority of the time there. So it’s time for him to kind of change his game a little bit. He’s kind of an odd one, because he’s so young, and yet he’s like the most unheard of 22-year-old to hit 23 homers in the Pacific Coast League. So you’ve got to appreciate what this guy can do – this guy can change the course of a game with one swing. But he’s never come to big league camp and nailed it, you know, like Chapman did [last spring]. Sometimes those things need to happen to get that extra opportunity.

AF:  Another hitter likely to start the year back at Nashville who I wanted to ask you about is a guy I think you’ve always felt good about, and that’s outfielder Jaycob Brugman. He’s another guy who seemed to take a big step forward last year. He always seems to over achieve and exceed people’s expectations, and he had a really good season last year. So where do you feel he’s at and what’s he got to do at this point?

GF:  He’s close, I think he’s ready. But to open the year, he’s going to go back to Nashville. But there’s not a lot Bruggy needs to overcome to become our fourth, or somebody’s fourth, or fifth outfielder. And in a perfect world, if you’ve got a contending team, I kind of see him that way. He can play all three outfield spots, and he’s going to give you a good quality at-bat whether he’s getting four at-bats a night or two a week – and that’s a vital skill for a part-time player. Now in Bruggy’s case, if he does the things that he’s been doing in the minor leagues, which is a little combo of everything, then he’s going to make himself into an everyday player somewhere, here, somewhere. It was their first look at him in big league camp. They’ve heard most of the minor league coaches describe him. I thought he held his own and did fine and his at-bats were competitive.

AF:  Okay, let’s touch on a few pitchers before we wrap up. A pitcher who made a lot of progress last year was Daniel Gossett. He wasn’t particularly eye-opening at Beloit in 2015, but then he suddenly blows through Stockton, Midland and Nashville last year and looks good at every stop. So what clicked for him?

dg605254cGF:  Last year was his breakout year…he really turned it around. And I think it’s just about starting to execute in the finer spots of the strike zone. He’s always been a strike thrower, but it’s been control over command. But now I think his command is starting to tighten up. And when he wants to go down and away, he’s hitting it, and when he wants to come underneath the hands in, he’s hitting it. Before, a lot of his stuff was kind of center cut, and so there was a lot more contact off him and the strikeouts were down. And last year, that all flipped. And he did a very good job in big league camp. He pitched very well.

AF:  And I guess adding the cutter helped him a bit too.

GF:  Yeah, but he’s got a solid repertoire of pitches, and his fastball velocity’s up. He was 91-95 mph pretty much every outing last year.

AF:  Well that always helps! Another pitcher I wanted to talk to you about is Raul Alcantara, who’s out of options. He’s been pitching in the big league camp all spring and competing for a spot on the major league roster. Where do you feel he’s at and do you see his future more as a starter or a reliever at this point?

GF:  Well Raul’s ability to start, especially at the major league level, is going to be determined by his efficiency and command of a breaking ball. There’s no doubt that he’s got a good arm. He’s got a great changeup. So with Sonny Gray being down, it kind of eases the decision as to what we do. I’m not sure yet, we still have a couple meetings to have about…is he in the mix for the fifth starter role or does he kick it off as the long guy? But I think there’s enough opportunity now for him to possibly stay when we break. So we’ll see how that goes.

AF:  And finally, I wanted to ask you about Frankie Montas, who was one of the guys you got last summer from the Dodgers. He was hurt most of last season, but he pitched for you guys a bit in the Arizona Fall League and now he’s been pitching here in the big league camp this spring. So what’s he look like to you now that you’ve had the chance to get a look at him up close here in camp?

fm593423cGF:  I got to see him a little bit in instructs before we sent him over to the Fall League. I saw him in two outings in the Fall League, and I’ve seen him two or three times here. Easy 100 mph – probably one of the easiest big velo guys you want to see. The breaker comes and goes, but it can be filthy at times. Personally, I would like to see him utilize his changeup more, which I just haven’t seen – I don’t know if I’m running to the bathroom when he throws it! Especially if we’re going to think down the road as a starter, he’s going to need that changeup. But currently, he’s just not really using it that much. I think he went into this big league camp knowing that he was going to be used probably an inning or so at a time, because we’re going to have to watch his pitch counts this year and his innings, so he just attacked them with fastballs and sliders. But he’s done well.

AF:  I know there’s been a lot of talk about whether he’ll be a starter or a reliever, and the fact that he was injured and only threw so many innings last year, so realistically he can only be expected to throw so much this year. So is he going to start out the season as a reliever or is he going to have a chance to start at all?

GF:  He’s got to start out as a reliever at this point because he’s only been a one or two inning guy so far. And plus, we’re going to have to watch the innings. So he can go out and get a good half a year in the bullpen and, if he’s still feeling good and healthy and we’ve still got 50-60 innings to play with, then if we decide to go the starter route, he could attack that later. Or there’s a chance he’s on the club.

AF:  You mean, the major league club, right?

GF:  Yeah…in the bullpen.

AF:  Well that’d certainly be good news for fans who like to see guys who can bring the heat! Thanks as always for the insight.

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Talking with a Trio of Top A’s Prospects: Chapman, Gossett & Maxwell

IMG_3715bLast week at the A’s major league spring training camp in Mesa, we took the opportunity to chat with a trio of top A’s prospects, all of whom made our pre-season Top 10 Prospects List.

We caught up with catcher Bruce Maxwell and third baseman Matt Chapman, both of whom we’d spoken with a number of times before. And we also got the chance to speak with pitching prospect Daniel Gossett for the first time.

Maxwell and Chapman both spent plenty of time in the major league camp last spring, but it was the first time in big league camp for Gossett, who was clearly excited and enthusiastic about the opportunity.

After getting the chance to appear in three spring games, Gossett was reassigned to the A’s minor league camp the day after we spoke, but both Maxwell and Chapman are likely to remain with the major league squad till just prior to opening day.

 

MATT CHAPMAN

mc656305c#2 on our Top 10 Prospects List, third baseman Matt Chapman led all A’s minor leaguers with 36 home runs last season, slugging 29 at Double-A Midland to lead the Texas League and then adding another 7 in just a few weeks with Triple-A Nashville. 2014’s top draft pick for the A’s is also known as a top-tier defender at the hot corner with an elite throwing arm. The 23-year-old will start the year at Nashville, where he’ll try to prove to the A’s that he’s ready for the show sooner rather than later.

AF:  Well, it was a very solid season for you last year. You managed to hit 29 home runs while playing at Midland, which is considered to be a bit of a pitchers’ park. So how did you manage to keep your power numbers up going from Stockton to Midland when so few other guys have been able to do that?

MC:  Just really working with the coaches, swinging at the right pitches, getting good pitches to hit, and just letting your good swing take care of the rest. For me, working hard in the weight room and getting my strength up, and just trying to put good swings on the ball. I’m just going to keep trying to take good swings and letting the results happen.

AF:  You obviously kept your power swing going when you got a late-season promotion to Triple-A Nashville and hit seven more home runs in just a few weeks there. So how did you feel about your experience there?

MC:  It was fun. Every level you go up, there’s different challenges and different adjustments you need to make, so it was fun to kind of get a taste of that. And I’m assuming that’s where I’ll be this season. So it’ll be nice to have a little bit of experience and kind of know what to expect a little more this time around.

AF:  Making the move from High-A to Double-A and Triple-A last year, were there any particular adjustments you had to make against more advanced pitching?

MC:  Definitely, you’re always making adjustments. That’s something in baseball that I don’t think will ever stop. So for me, it might be just making those adjustments a little faster, because the pitchers have a plan of how they want to attack you. So for me, it’s just sticking with that professional approach and being able to not give in to those good pitches those pitchers are making.

AF:  Was having the chance to spend plenty of time in big league camp last year a helpful experience for

you? And did it boost your confidence a bit heading into the season?

MC:  Definitely. Being around these guys and trying to learn as much as I could was definitely a great experience – and also having some success and then being able to have that confidence that you are good enough to play at a higher level.

AF:  So how’s it been being back here in big league camp for your second year? Do you feel a little more comfortable this time around?

MC:  Definitely. It’s always nice to get some of that experience under your belt, so that when you come back again, you know what to expect, you kind of develop more of a routine, you know the guys a little bit better, put some more names to faces, and feel more comfortable just being yourself. It’s been fun.

AF:  Is there anything that the coaching staff has you working on in particular this spring?

MC:  From an offensive standpoint, my rhythm and timing – just really working on dialing in that good rhythm and good timing. And pitch selection – just being disciplined and really committing to getting the pitch that I’m looking for – and kind of just developing that professional hitting approach.

AF:  Now you’re known for your solid defense and your strong arm. So how confident do you feel out there in the field at third base?

MC:  I’m definitely confident. You should always be confident in your abilities, because when you’re confident, you play your best. And at this level, you should always want to play your best. So you should always be confident and believe in yourself. I’m definitely very confident in my ability on defense and err on the side of attacking every baseball.

AF:  So what are you focused on and what’s your mindset heading into this coming season?

MC:  My mindset coming into this season is to take everything that I’ve been working on this season in big league camp, everything that I learned from last season, successes and failures, and hopefully combine all those together and formulate the best version of me that I can be, then take that into the beginning of this season and go out there every day and try to get better and show them I’m ready to make the next step.

 

DANIEL GOSSETT

dg605254c#7 on our Top 10 Prospects List, right-handed starting pitcher Daniel Gossett blew through three levels of the A’s system last season, making as much progress as any pitcher in the organization, and his 151 strikeouts led all A’s minor leaguers last year. Oakland’s 2nd-round draft pick in 2014 (selected by the A’s right after Matt Chapman), the 24-year-old is set to begin the year as a member of the starting rotation at Triple-A Nashville but, depending on how things go, he could end up getting a shot to show what he can do in Oakland before the season’s through.

AF:  You made a big leap forward last season, pitching well at Stockton, Midland and then Nashville. So what accounted for your progress last year, what clicked for you?

DG:  I really focused on just staying with the process, trusting my stuff, and not trying to do too much. And now I get to be around all these guys [in the A’s major league camp], so I get to learn a ton every day. So this is an awesome experience for me. If I can just grab on to everything I learn here and just apply it, it’s going to be the best thing for me.

AF:  I was just about to ask what it’s been like for you to be in big league camp for the first time this spring.

DG:  It’s everything you dream of. This is the dream for everyone. Obviously I haven’t made it to the big leagues yet, but this is obviously a step up in spring training. And I’m honored and excited to be a part of all this and to be around all these guys and to learn as much as I can.

AF:  Has anyone here taken you under their wing a bit or been particularly helpful to you this spring?

DG:  I try and pick as many brains as I can and talk to everyone I can. But Sean Manaea’s been a rock for me, so that helps out a ton. I get to sit by him every day and ask him anything. I feel like he’s a good friend that I can lean on.

AF:  That’s funny because he was the new kid here just last year!

DG:  I guess he understands what I’m going through, so he can kind of look out for me a little bit as well.

AF:  So what was it like when you got out there on the mound in your first spring training game facing big league hitters for the first time?

DG:  Well the first one was actually a start – it was the home opener! It was the first time I’d ever pitched in a big league scenario and I’m starting the game. So there was a little anxiety, but it was awesome. It was great to be on the mound in a big league uniform. It’s still not the real deal, but it’s definitely a cool experience.

AF:  Let’s talk a little bit about your repertoire. What were you throwing last year and what was really working for you?

DG:  I was really able to work off my fastball, which was really good. My fastball control was pretty good. But then I was able to work on my changeup, which has been a staple for me. And then I added a cutter last year, which actually helped out a ton – another option to go to. So adding that pitch really helped out a lot. And [A’s minor league pitching coordinator] Gil Patterson and a guy who was in Stockton with me last year, Brett Graves, helped me out a ton with the cutter. I’ve just got to keep refining and keep working to see if I can make it a little bit better every day.

AF:  Well, in addition to Gil Patterson, you also had three different pitching coaches throughout the system to work with over the course of last season.

DG:  So I had Steve Connelly my first couple years. I had him in Vermont, then I had him in Beloit, then I had him in Stockton. And so that was great to have a building block there, a good firm relationship I could always lean on. Then I go up to Double-A at Midland and then Triple-A with Rick Rodriguez. And just getting different perspectives on pitching is awesome. These guys, that’s their job – they understand, they’ve been there. So I can learn from them and take different aspects from them and put it all together.

AF:  So how were those different parks for you to have to pitch in? Stockton’s known as a hitters’ park, while Midland and Nashville are known a little more as pitchers’ parks.

DG:  Oh yeah, Stockton and the whole Cal League is definitely a hitters’ league. But you’ve just got to trust in the process – just keep pitching and everything else is outside your control, so just control what you can. And I just try to see if I can wheel out the best I’ve got every day.

AF:  As you moved through three different levels last year, were there any significant adjustments that you needed to make moving from one level to another?

DG:  In Triple-A, definitely. You’ve got a bunch of guys up there with a ton of big league time, and they all have great approaches. And you’re not going to get many swings and misses out of the zone – you have to be good in the zone. Coming from Double-A and High-A, and I’m not trying to talk down about anyone, but I was getting more swings and misses out of the zone. Then you go up to Triple-A and you’ve got to be nasty in the zone, and that’s a bit of an adjustment.

AF:  You’ve got to work in the danger zone all the time!

DG:  Yeah, you’re always living right there on the edge, that’s for sure!

AF:  Even though you weren’t there for very long at the end of last year, how did you enjoy your time in Nashville?

DG:  Unbelievable! Everything there is great. Everything gets better the more you move up, that’s just the way it is. But Nashville’s got a brand new stadium, awesome fans, great city – there’s no down side. It’s really close to home for me too, five hours away, which is fantastic, so I got to spend some more time with my family.

AF:  I guess you didn’t miss all those bus rides across Texas when you were down at Midland.

DG:  That’s true. That’s not a bad deal. Going from the Texas League where I’ve got 12-hour bus rides, then [at Nashville] you’re jumping on a plane to head down to Louisiana. That’s fine with me. I’m not going to complain about that, that’s for sure.

AF:  So if you should end up starting the year back at Nashville, I guess that wouldn’t be such a bad thing then.

DG:  Absolutely. If I start the year playing baseball, that’s a good year!

AF:  So what are you focused on here the rest of the spring?

DG:  I just need to work on some consistency stuff. I need to be consistent in the zone. Just trust myself, that’s the biggest thing. Knowing that I’m facing big league hitters, sometimes I feel like I need to do more, but that’s not the case. You’ve got to do what you do and do it the best you can.

 

BRUCE MAXWELL

bm622194b#8 on our Top 10 Prospects List, Maxwell had a breakthrough 2016 season at Nashville and made his major league debut last July with Oakland, where he made a positive impression on manager Bob Melvin and the A’s coaching staff. The 26-year-old backstop is expected to start the season back at Triple-A Nashville, but if another catcher is needed on the major league squad at any point during the season, then Maxwell will likely be the first man to get the call.

AF:  You made a big leap forward offensively at Nashville last season. So what accounted for the improvements that you were able to make at the plate last year?

BM:  I feel like it was just trusting in the process, and learning from the guys who helped me, whether it be my coaches or my teammates, and just trusting in the hitter that I am, and finally getting enough at-bats to really put into play what I do best and stick to that. So once I had the confidence and the repetitions and the trust in the process, I was able to just kind of let my talent take over.

AF:  And what is it that you feel you do best as a hitter and what is the approach that works for you?

BM:  For the most part, I’m a big strong guy and I have power to all fields, keeping in mind that I use the opposite field very well, and to really try to perfect that craft of mine, so I can always rely on that at the end of the day. So being able to stay confident with that and not switch up my game depending on the pitcher or the situation in the game was my biggest thing. Sticking with that on a daily basis has really made me the consistent hitter that I know I can be and I know they know I can be.

AF:  Last spring, you had the chance to spend a lot of time in the big league camp. I’m sure that was a great experience fo you, but how important was it in terms of developing even more confidence in your own abilities and your own game?

BM:  It was huge…last year I got to show them what I’ve been working on and show them that I do belong and how I’ve come a long way catching-wise. So it was good to get that exposure…and put a good run in in spring. And it really helped me going into the season.

AF:  When you left the big league squad last spring, did Bob Melvin or the coaching staff have anything to say to you or any advice they left you with?

BM:  Yeah, they told me to keep doing what I was doing…and they just told me to make sure that I keep progressing behind the dish and the hitting will take care of itself. They just told me to keep with a good routine, keep my head on straight and just keep plugging away.

AF:  Well, we know there’s always work to do on the catching side, and you’ve obviously done a lot of that already. But where do you feel you’re at with your catching game at this point?

BM:  Honestly, I feel like I’m the best I’ve been. I feel comfortable back there…and I know my pitchers feel confident in me, especially a lot of the guys in Triple-A. I’ve got a good rep with a lot of the big league guys as well because I caught a lot of them in camp last year. And so it’s just about staying on top of it every day.

AF:  So are there any particular aspects that you’re really focused on or trying to work on behind the plate at this point?

BM:  Just making sure that I stay mobile, making sure my pitchers have a nice big target, and making sure that I just stay sharp with the little things back there. Me being as big as I am, the little things are what matter the most. So just trying to make sure those are on point every day, and trying to make sure that my pitchers have the best opportunity to throw strikes and have a big target and can be as confident and comfortable as they can be with me.

AF:  Coming out of college, you really hadn’t done a whole lot of catching at that point. And the main focus when you came into the A’s system was really getting you up to speed with your catching. So how does it feel to now be the #3 catcher on the depth chart for the A’s right there near the top of the food chain?

BM:  It feels good. When I started catching, it seemed like a long way off. I feel that I’ve learned and I’ve applied stuff and put it to use every day. And now my confidence is up there, so it feels good.

AF:  Let me get your quick take, as a catcher, on a few of the pitchers who’ve been here in camp with you this spring. I don’t know if you’ve gotten the chance to catch Jharel Cotton much. I know you didn’t get a chance to catch him at Nashville last year because you were already up in the big leagues when he came over.

BM:  Well I’ve played against Cotton for years. So I’ve known Cotton going on four years now. But he’s a competitor. On any given day, he’s going to go out there and give you his best effort. His pitches are very good, especially when he’s dialed in. And it’s fun to play behind him – he’s got a good pace. It’s his job to make hitters struggle, and that’s what he does. He has a good repertoire of pitches, and he’s a bulldog, so he’s going to go after you with everything he’s got and give you the best chance to win.

AF:  And what about that changeup of his?

BM:  It’s great! It’s not great to hit against him, but catching it’s not so bad.

AF:  And what are your impressions of Frankie Montas?

BM:  He’s kind of the same except he throws 100 mph. He’s got a really good breaking ball, and his changeup’s really good, but his fastball’s dominant. He goes out there cool, calm and collected, and he gives it everything he’s got. He attacks you – he forces you to make an adjustment and then, as soon as you make that adjustment, he makes the adjustment. So he’s strong mentally and even stronger physically.

AF:  And have you had the chance to work with Daniel Gossett yet?

BM:  I’ve caught him one time. But from what I know about him and what I’ve seen, he’s an aggressive pitcher. He’s got confidence in all his pitches. He’s just going to go right after you. He works around the corners and he works down in the zone very well.

AF:  So after having had the chance to be here before, do you feel a little more comfortable and a little more confident at this point?

BM:  It feels good. I feel like I have a good relationship with a lot of these guys. A lot of the guys in this room, I’ve played at Triple-A and Double-A with. But Yonder Alonso and Marcus Semien and a lot of guys I’ve developed good relationships with, so it feels like I belong here.

AF:  Last year, you were with the big league club pretty much till the very end, and you’ll probably be with them till the very end again this year. So whatever happens, wherever you end up, what’s your mindset heading into this season?

BM:  To keep aggressive…everybody wants to get better and better every year. So this year, it’s about repeating what I did last year, and just getting a little more refined in certain aspects, and just being the catcher I know I can be and my pitching staff knows I can be, and just winning a championship whether it be at Triple-A or in the big leagues.

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