Tag Archive for Oakland Athletics minor league players

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

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A’s Assistant GM Billy Owens

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

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

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

 

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

Sean Manaea

Sean Manaea

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

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

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

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

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

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

Franklin Barreto

Franklin Barreto

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

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

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

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

Matt Olson

Matt Olson

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

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

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

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

Matt Chapman

Matt Chapman

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

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

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

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

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Renato Nunez

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

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

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

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

Chad Pinder

Chad Pinder

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

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

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

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

Dillon Overton

Dillon Overton

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yairo Munoz

Yairo Munoz

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

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

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

Richie Martin

Richie Martin

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

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

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

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

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

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Daniel Mengden

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

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

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

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Getting To Know: A’s Pitching Prospect Daniel Mengden

The mustachioed Mr. Mengden

The mustachioed Mr. Mengden

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mengden hurling for the Hounds

Mengden hurling for the Hounds

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

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

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

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

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

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

DM:  98

AF:  Well that’s a good number!

DM:  Yeah!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DM:  Nope, just go throw the baseball.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rollie Fingers: Not a bad role model

Rollie Fingers: Not a bad role model

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

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

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

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

A’s 2016 Minor League Rosters

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

 

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

Oakland Athletics Roster

 

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

Nashville Sounds Roster

 

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

Midland RockHounds Roster

 

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

Stockton Ports Roster

 

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

Beloit Snappers Roster

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

tl502285bGF:  Yeah, and he’s shined!

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

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

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

GF:  Sure, yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GF:  Yeah, that’s a good call.

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

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

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

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

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

GF: Oh, definitely.

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

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

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

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

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

GF:  Yeah, I wouldn’t think so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GF:  Yeah, most likely.

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

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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.

Olson, Pinder & Chapman: Trio of Top Prospects Talks about Spending the Spring in Big League Camp

mo621566b#3 on A’s Farm’s Top 10 Prospect List, Matt Olson is one of the top young power-hitting prospects in the A’s system. He was the A’s third overall pick in the 2012 draft, selected right behind shortstops Addison Russell and Daniel Robertson, who would soon become his roommates and two of us his closest friends. A first baseman by trade, Olson began increasing his versatility by spending a good amount of time in right field at Midland last year. He’s set to get his first taste of Triple-A this season at Nashville, where we’ll get to see what kind of damage his big bat can do in the Pacific Coast League.

AF:  Well, this is the first time you’ve spent a prolonged period of time in the big league camp. So what’s it been like for you and what have you been able to get out of the experience?

MO:  It’s been good…it’s a nice feeling to be around these guys and soak up whatever they’re doing and just watch what they’re doing…I’m more of an observer than going up and asking things. So I watch guys’ routines and just how they carry themselves.

AF:  Now you spent last season at Midland, which isn’t known as a hitter’s paradise. So what kind of challenges did you face and what did you have to deal with as a hitter there?

MO:  Yeah, like you said, it’s generally not known as a hitter’s park, especially for lefties. But the thing is the mental side of it. You know, I kind of had to deal with the mental side of not letting the park affect me at the plate. And I did have a little time during the season where I did let it affect me. And I kind of had to remind myself to just go through your at-bat the way you normally would. And I started seeing some results after that.

AF:  So how does the major league pitching you’ve had a chance to face over here compare to some of the minor league pitching you’ve faced in the past?

MO:  Guys just have a better feel for their stuff, maybe a little better stuff, a little tighter sliders, faster fastballs. But mainly they just know what they’re doing better and they know how to approach each at-bat better.

AF:  You’ve always been a first baseman, but you spent a lot of time playing right field last year at Midland, particularly during the second half of the season. So where are you expecting to be position-wise this coming season?

MO:  I’ve been working out at first and outfield so far this spring. I’m pretty comfortable doing either – so wherever they need me, wherever I have a spot in the lineup.

AF:  You’ve always had a reputation as a pretty solid defensive first baseman. So what was it like when you first started going out and spending time in the outfield? What particular challenges are involved in getting used to playing out there?

MO:  It’s just different as far as knowing what to do with each ball – knowing what to do with a ball down the line, who to pick up when you’re coming to throw the ball to the cut-off. There was definitely a learning curve. I wouldn’t say I’m 100% comfortable out there – I don’t think I should be. I’ve just really been starting to pick it up in the past year or so. But I’m just trying to get some work in and get more comfortable out there to where I can just not even think about anything and just let it happen.

AF:  So have you seen or talked to your old roommates Addison Russell and Daniel Robertson lately?

MO:  I haven’t talked to them much. I actually haven’t seen Addison – he’s got his baby now. But I try to keep in touch with them and talk to them every once in a while. Us three aren’t the best at communicating with each other. But once we get back with each other all hanging out in person, it’s like we didn’t miss a beat.

AF:  And of all your old roommates at Stockton, I guess Chad Pinder was the only one you still had around to keep you company at Midland last year.

MO:  Yeah, just Pinder.

AF:  I remember in Stockton, it was you, Pinder, Robertson, Billy McKinney and Austin House all living together.

MO: Yeah, whoever I live with goes!

 

cp640461b#6 on A’s Farm’s Top 10 Prospect List, Chad Pinder was named the Texas League Player of the Year last season after leading all Midland regulars in batting average and slugging percentage as well as leading the league in total bases. He played exclusively at shortstop last season after primarily appearing at second base the year before at Stockton. Pinder is slated to begin the season as Nashville’s starting shortstop, though his ability to play short, second and third could increase the chances of him seeing some time in Oakland before long.

AF:  You’ve spent a lot of time here in the major league camp this spring, which is always a good thing. So what’s the experience been like for you?

CP:  It’s been awesome – learning a lot, getting my feet wet. So it’s been a good experience.

AF:  Is there anything in particular you’ve experienced here in the big league camp that’ll be helping you out down the road?

CP:  Honestly, just all the reps I’m getting. And I’m learning a lot about different things some of these big leaguers do and how they go about their business – I’d say that’s a big thing. The kind of dedication it takes, what they do around the clubhouse – all the little things I’ve picked up on.

AF:  Has anyone in particular been a big help to you here this spring?

CP:  Working with [A’s infield coach Ron] Washington has been tremendous. I mean, I can’t speak highly enough of him and all the stuff that I’ve gotten from him thus far.

AF:  So have you been out there working in the field with him every morning?

CP:  Just about every single day.

AF:  Is there anything in particular that you’ve picked up from Ron Washington that you’ll really be putting into play going forward?

CP:  Yeah, a lot of the techniques of fielding groundballs, the little things that normally I’ve never worked on, whether it be different arm angles, different angles working around the bag. There’s things that he drills into us.

AF:  And I guess he’s always going to make sure your footwork’s right too!

CP:  Yeah, no doubt, no doubt!

AF:  After spending the previous season playing second base in Stockton, you spent all last year at shortstop in Midland. So what was it like for you to get back into playing shortstop on a daily basis again?

CP:  It was nice, it was awesome. I obviously played it growing up, and I loved the opportunity to get to play it at this level.

AF:  Here in the big league camp, they’ve had you playing a lot of second base. Now moving back over there to second base, do you have to shift gears a bit, or does it come right back to you?

CP:  Yeah, it’s a little bit of shifting gears. But obviously playing there in Stockton for a full year and still getting reps there in practice at second base, it’s fine, it’s not a big deal.

AF:  The ballpark in Midland certainly isn’t known as a hitter’s park, but you obviously had a great season there, being named the Texas League player of the year. So what was the key to your success in the Texas League last year?

CP:  Honestly, I think playing in that environment helped me – knowing that I couldn’t get away with a cheap home run. I had to just focus on hitting line drives. And I think that playing in that environment helped make me a little bit more of a complete hitter last year.

AF:  So the challenge served you well then.

CP:  Yeah, definitely. It made me stay within myself and just try to hit the ball hard and make consistent hard contact.

AF:  Now your long-time roommate Matt Olson has been here in camp with you. It must be nice to have a familiar face around to go through this whole experience with.

CP:  Absolutely. I’ve known Olson basically my entire time in pro ball. And obviously we’ve been very close over the past couple years. So it’s nice to have him here for sure.

AF:  And do you ever see any of your old roommates from Stockton?

CP:  Yeah, I saw [Austin] House the other day. I saw D-Rob [Daniel Robertson]. I played with him in the [Arizona] Fall League this past year and we lived together in the Fall League. And Billy McKinney lives with us now during spring training. So we’re all still good friends.

AF:  So going forward into this season, is there anything you’re looking to try to do in the year ahead?

CP:  Just carrying everything over from last year, just staying consistent and not trying to do too much and just to continue to grow as a player.

 

mc656305c#4 on A’s Farm’s Top 10 Prospect List, Matt Chapman was the A’s #1 pick in the 2014 draft. The team selected him primarily for his defense at the hot corner and his power potential with the bat. And Chapman made good on that potential by leading all A’s minor leaguers with 23 home runs last year while appearing in just 80 games due to injuries. The 22-year-old has been one of the A’s young standouts this spring, clearly impressing manager Bob Melvin and the coaching staff in his first big league camp. Chapman will be starting the season at Double-A Midland, but he could be a prospect who’ll be rising fast.

AF:  You’ve been getting a nice, long look here in your first big league camp. So what’s this whole experience been like for you?

MC:  It’s been a pretty surreal experience. Just to be invited here was an honor. And to be able to be around still and be able to be with the big league team and practice with them and play in games has been a dream come true.

AF:  Well, you’ve obviously been having a lot of success here. So what accounts for how well you’ve been doing this spring?

MC:  I think getting healthy, and all the work that I put in this offseason is paying off. I’ve been working with the coaches – working with Ron Washington, working with [hitting coach Darren] Bush – trying to just keep staying consistent. But I think all the hard work I put in this offseason has helped me prepare for what I’ve been doing. I feel very confident with how hard I worked. So I was prepared.

AF:  Well, it sounds like you definitely didn’t take it easy this offseason. So is there anything in particular that the coaches have been working with you on here?

MC:  Defensively, just being in the right position always and to always be thinking. I was working on my base a lot, defensively, being more level so I can use my hands more and feet. And then offensively, not trying to overswing and do too much, just trying to take a nice consistent swing and not get myself out and make sure that I’m giving myself the best opportunity to get hits.

AF:  Are there any veterans who’ve been particularly helpful to you this spring?

MC:  Billy Butler, Khris Davis, Yonder [Alonso], [Stephen] Vogt, everybody’s been giving me little tips and things to either work on or how to be more professional. So I’m just trying to soak up as much stuff as I can while I’m here.

AF:  So what have you picked up here in big league camp that you’ll be applying going forward?

MC:  Just showing up everyday regardless of what’s going on, and always trying to keep the same positive outlook. You know, it’s a long season, so being able to stay even-keeled. And putting in the work so that, whether you have success or not, you won’t question whether you prepared yourself – you’ll know you gave everything you’ve got and left everything you had out there.

AF:  Well, it looks like you’ll be heading to the Texas League this year. So what are you anticipating for yourself in the season ahead at Midland?

MC:  All I’m really focused on is going out to Midland and playing everyday and staying healthy and just trying to get better and work my way up.

AF:  You’ve always had a reputation as a quality defensive third baseman with a powerful arm, and you’ve made some nice plays here in the spring. So are you still feeling as confident as ever out in the field at third base?

MC:  Of course, you always have to be confident. That’s how you give yourself the best opportunity to have success.

AF:  Well, when you’ve got an arm like yours, I’m sure it makes it a whole lot easier to be confident out there!

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MM:  Yep!

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

BM:  Correct.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BM:  Correct.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

Ray Fosse’s Take on this Spring’s Crop of Top Prospects

rfphoto153BNot only has Ray Fosse now spent three decades as a broadcaster for the Oakland A’s, working alongside names like Bill King, Lon Simmons, Ken Korach and Glen Kuiper, but he’s also a former All-Star catcher who won two World Series rings with the A’s in 1973 and 1974. We took the opportunity to get his take on the A’s current crop of prospects in the major league camp this spring…

AF:  So how do you feel about seeing this new crop of young prospects that have come into the A’s camp this spring?

RF:  I give credit to [scouting director] Eric Kubota and the scouting department – and making the trades, like Franklin Barreto coming from Toronto. Watching him play, he’s been outstanding. But I think the thing that Billy Beane and David Forst, who’s now the general manager, have never said is, “We’re not going to try to win.” And now, you’re hearing clubs are trying to tank it so they can get high draft choices. I’m saying, “Wait a minute, you’re supposed to be trying to win at this level. How do you tell your fans you’re trying to get draft choices?”

AF: What’s been your impression of what some of the younger guys like Franklin Barreto and Matt Chapman have been doing here in the big league camp this spring?

RF:  The main thing to look at with those kids is getting the experience at this level. I experienced it – I knew I was going to Triple-A, but I got a chance to be with the big league players. And that’s something that you can never put a price tag on. But I think Franklin Barreto – just watching him last weekend against the Cubs when the A’s scored three in the bottom of the ninth inning – he ended up getting a base hit to drive in the second run. Then he was on first and, on a base hit, he went to third on his own – first to third, and then scored on a sac fly and tied the game. Just watching, at 20, his development – as [A’s coach] Ron Washington said, “Maybe he knows he’s going to the minor leagues, but what he’s doing is experiencing this.” You can look at Matt Chapman, Franklin Barreto, Chad Pinder and Matt Olson – that’s a pretty good infield for the future. They’re probably all going to develop together and maybe come up together, depending on what happens at this level. But they’re getting experience facing major league pitching in spring training – something that’s invaluable.

AF:  Since you were a catcher, I wanted to ask if you’ve had a chance to see much of catcher Bruce Maxwell this spring and what your impression has been of him.

RF:  Yeah, I like him. And I think it’s a good position to be in, because there’s Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley, and that’s it! I think what Bob Melvin and his staff are trying to figure out now is, in the event something happens, who’s going to come up. And Maxwell’s shown that he’s got a good idea. And whoever would come up…would be a back up, but it would be a great experience. So if I’m a catcher in the organization, I’m busting it and I’m learning as much as I can. When I signed with Cleveland many, many years ago, they were  looking for catchers because they didn’t have a lot in the organization. And it worked out, because I only spent two full years and two half years in the minor leagues and I was in the big leagues – and that’s signing out of high school as an 18-year-old. So it’s a great opportunity for a catcher. But I’ve enjoyed what Maxwell has done…just the way he seems to want to learn, the way he handles himself behind the plate. And we can never forget the most important job of a catcher is to catch – handle the pitching staff and catch. Offense is so prevalent at every position, but catching and handling the pitching staff are the keys to being a good catcher.

AF:  And since you were a catcher, you also know a little bit about pitchers. So I wanted to ask you what you’ve seen out of the A’s top pitching prospect, Sean Manaea, so far this spring.

RF:  I think the composure…Sean Manaea shows that confidence. Give credit to the A’s organization. The Royals were trying to win a World Series, which they did. And they were willing to give up someone like Manaea to get Ben Zobrist, who turned out great, but then he goes on to the Cubs. So they got him for a World Series…but the A’s were smart in picking up pitching – you can never have too much. And I think Sean Manaea, we may see him in Oakland sooner rather than later – a lot sooner than people think.

AF:  Well, it never hurts when you’re a big left-hander who throws hard, right?

RF:  Exactly. And again, showing the composure at this level. It is spring training, but you’re facing major league hitters. So I think that’s a big plus for him to be able to experience this but also to be able to show that he can pitch.

AF:  Thanks, Ray.

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

A’s Top 5 Replacement Players for 2016

A's top pitching prospect - and America's next top hair model - Sean Manaea

A’s top pitching prospect – and America’s next top hair model – Sean Manaea

When it comes to the look of the A’s opening day roster this year, there aren’t really that many question marks at this point. Of course, that original 25-man roster will end up going through plenty of permutations once the season gets underway. And unexpected injuries are bound to pop up and open the door for deserving minor leaguers who are looking to land a spot on the major league roster.

We all know that the A’s will have plenty of top prospects at Triple-A Nashville this year – players like Matt Olson, Chad Pinder, Renato Nunez and Sean Manaea. But when injuries arise during the season and a replacement is needed, it’s not always the team’s top young prospects that will be the first to get the call. There are a couple of other important factors that will often come into play when a team is looking for replacements at the major league level. One is a player’s status on the 40-man roster and the other is a player’s previous major league experience.

More often than not, a player who’s already on the team’s 40-man roster will be the first to get the call, since adding a player who’s not on the 40-man roster will require making an additonal roster move that could expose another player who might end up being lost to another organization. And all things being equal, most teams, including the A’s, usually prefer to be able to add a player who’s already gotten his feet wet in the majors before. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the players who could be the first to get the call should reinforcements be needed from Nashville this season.

 

rd623430Ryan Dull (RP)

Dull impressed in 13 late-season relief appearances for the A’s last year, and many thought he’d shown enough to earn himself a spot in the A’s bullpen this year. But with the offseason additions of right-handed relievers Ryan Madson, John Axford and Liam Hendriks and the return of right-hander Fernando Rodriguez, who’s out of options, if everyone stays healthy through the spring, there doesn’t appear to be any room on the right side for Dull to break camp with the big league team. So it looks like the 26-year-old North Carolina native could open the season as the top right-handed relief arm at Nashville. In 16 innings in the second half of last season with the Sounds, Dull posted a 1.12 ERA while striking out 21. And if he can even come close to replicating those kind numbers next year, then he’s likely to be in the front of the line if and when bullpen reinforcements are needed in Oakland. Behind Dull, other right-handed relief options currently on the 40-man roster include R.J. Alvarez and J.B. Wendelken.

 

mm571970bMax Muncy (1B-3B)

A 5th-round pick for the A’s in the 2012 draft, Muncy moved through the system as fast as anyone from that draft class and made his debut with the A’s last April, ultimately making it into 45 major league games by the time the season was through. But there just doesn’t appear to be room for Muncy on the opening day roster this year. His ability to play both first base and third base makes him a valuable asset though, and he’s currently the only player in the A’s minor league system who can play both corner infield positions and has major league experience. Muncy’s posted a .378 on-base percentage in 386 games over his minor league career. And the A’s value his approach at the plate, knowing that he’s not prone to wasting at-bats by hacking at pitches he can’t handle. Top slugging prospect Matt Olson isn’t currently on the 40-man roster, but corner infielders Rangel Ravelo and Renato Nunez are. Neither has major league experience though, and Ravelo is primarily a first baseman who hasn’t seen more than two games at the hot corner since 2012, while Nunez is primarily a third baseman who’s only seen 16 games at first base in his minor league career and is considered a defensive liability at both positions. So if another corner infielder is needed this season, Muncy’s versatility and dependability should put him at the front of the pack.

 

tl502285bTyler Ladendorf (2B-SS-CF)

Ladendorf impressed in major league camp last spring and opened the season on the A’s roster before being sent down and then suffering an ankle injury that left him laid up for much of the season. If Ladendorf had any shot at earning an opening day roster spot this year, the acquisition of versatile infielder-outfielder Chris Coghlan quickly put an end to that. But that’s not to say that the A’s don’t still value Ladendorf’s versatility. In his minor league career, he’s started over 200 games at both second base and shortstop and has appeared in at least 50 games at third base and in center field, where he’s expected to see plenty of time this season at Nashville. If Sam Fuld doesn’t end up making the opening day roster, he may very well be lost to the organization since he’s out of options. And that would leave Ladendorf as the only A’s minor leaguer currently on the 40-man roster capable of stepping in in center field. If Eric Sogard doesn’t make the opening day roster and still ends up in the organization when the season starts (which may or not turn out to be the case), then he could be the go-to guy if the team needs another middle infielder. But if Sogard ends up elsewhere, then Ladendorf could be the clear choice if a middle infield need develops. Second baseman Joey Wendle also has a spot on the 40-man roster, but he hasn’t spent one inning at a position other than second base in the last three seasons, so his lack of versatility could hinder him. Meanwhile, infield prospect Chad Pinder has spent time at shortsop, second base and third base but isn’t on the 40-man roster and hasn’t yet seen time above Double-A, let alone in the majors.

 

js519295cJake Smolinski (LF-RF)

Smolinski appeared in 41 games for the A’s in the second half of last season after being acquired off waivers from the Rangers. And the former 2nd-round draft pick did a solid job, showing plenty of pop while primarily playing in left field against left-handers. But with outfielders Josh Reddick, Khris Davis, Billy Burns, Mark Canha, Coco Crisp, Chris Coghlan and Sam Fuld all currently ahead of him on the depth chart, Smolinski seems set to start the season back at Nashville. He hit like a house afire in his brief time at Nashville last season, posting an impressive .349/.402/.628 slash line in 25 games with the Sounds. Smolinski appears set to open the season as Nashville’s starting left fielder but can play either corner outfield position. At the plate, his specialty is crushing left-handed pitching. So if the A’s should end up needing a right-handed hitting corner outfielder at some point this season, Smolinski should be the obvious call.

 

al518911bAndrew Lambo (RF-LF)

Acquired off waivers from Pittsburgh in the offseason, the 27-year-old Lambo was once considered a top power-hitting prospect, and some believe he could prove to be a bit of a late bloomer like Brandon Moss. Lambo is a left-handed hitter who’s slugged 100 home runs while putting up a .280/.347/.467 slash line over his minor league career. He’s also made appearances with the Pirates in each of the last three seasons. While he’s split most of his time between the two corner outfield spots, Lambo has seen some action at first base as well. And the California native has been one of the hottest hitters in the A’s camp so far this spring, notching a pair of home runs and a pair of doubles in his first 19 at-bats while while posting an impressive .421/.476/.842 slash line. With so many other outfielders ahead of him in the A’s camp though, Lambo’s likely to end up seeing lots of time in right field for Nashville this season, at least until an opening for a left-handed hitting corner outfielder pops up for the A’s.

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Oakland A’s 2016 Depth Chart

oamlb_g_oakland_coliseum_600After a long cold winter, the first week of March has arrived and spring training games are finally underway. Between players on the 40-man roster and 22 non-roster invitees, the Oakland A’s have a total of 62 players in their major league camp – 33 position players and 29 pitchers. Every other player in the organization is based in the minor league camp, headquarted at Fitch Park in Mesa. Those 62 players in the big league camp represent the top tier of players in the organization, the ones the coaching staff and the team’s front office executives have deemed worthy of playing with the big boys and want to be sure to get a good look at this spring.

With that in mind, we wanted to examine the team’s depth chart at each position, with the assumption that the 62 players in the big league camp are at the top of the heap in the organization. So let’s take a look at who’s currently in line at each position in the A’s organizational depth chart. Next to each player’s name is the highest level they’ve played at, and below each positional depth chart is a list of players who appeared at that position for the A’s in 2015.

 

Stephen Vogt

Stephen Vogt

CATCHER

Stephen Vogt (MLB)

Josh Phegley (MLB)

Bryan Anderson (MLB)

Carson Blair (MLB)

Matt McBride (MLB)

Bruce Maxwell (AA)

Beau Taylor (AA)

(2015: Vogt, Phegley, Blair, Anderson)

Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley are set to return at the catching combo at the major leage level for the A’s this season. They are also the only two catchers currently on the 40-man roster. After that, the A’s catching corps is a little thin. Bryan Anderson and Carson Blair, both whom made a handful of appearances for the A’s last year, are expected to be at Triple-A Nashville this season, along with Matt McBride, who is primarily an outfielder. But the veteran has picked up his catcher’s mitt this spring for the first time since 2013 in order to increase his versatility as well as his chances of making it back to the big leagues. Should the A’s be in need of backup backstops this season, Anderson, Blair and McBride should be first in line to get the call. Bruce Maxwell and Beau Taylor are both expected to start the season back at Double-A Midland. But considering the frequency with which catchers tend to get banged up, anyone could get an opportunity to take a step up at any time.

 

Yonder Alonso

Yonder Alonso

FIRST BASE

Yonder Alonso (MLB)

Mark Canha (MLB)

Stephen Vogt (MLB)

Billy Butler (MLB)

Max Muncy (MLB)

Rangel Ravelo (AAA)

Matt Olson (AA)

(2015: Davis, Canha, Vogt, Muncy, Butler)

Last year, Ike Davis and Mark Canha got most of the starts at first base for the A’s. And this year, the left-handed hitting Yonder Alonso and the right-handed hitting Canha are expected to form the first base platoon for the A’s. If needed, Stephen Vogt can always come out from behind the plate and Billy Butler can always come out of the designated hitter spot to back up the pair. If a first baseman is needed for the longer term, lefty Max Muncy and righty Rangel Ravelo will both be at Triple-A Nashville and both are on the 40-man roster. Top prospect Matt Olson will also be at Nashville, but he’s not currently on the 40-man roster, and the A’s may prefer to wait till they’re ready to give the young slugger a full-time shot before giving him the call and starting his service time clock.

 

Jed Lowrie

Jed Lowrie

SECOND BASE

Jed Lowrie (MLB)

Chris Coghlan (MLB)

Eric Sogard (MLB)

Tyler Ladendorf (MLB)

Joey Wendle (AAA)

Chad Pinder (AA)

Josh Rodriguez (MLB)

Franklin Barreto (A)

(2015: Sogard, Lawrie, Zobrist, Ladendorf)

Eric Sogard got most of the starts at second base last year, but Jed Lowrie has returned to the A’s to serve as the team’s starting second baseman this season. Lefty-swinging Chris Coghlan was also acquired from the Cubs and could get some starts against right-handed pitchers since Lowrie struggled a bit against righties last year. Sogard is still in the picture though and, if he doesn’t make the major league squad to start the season, he could be optioned to Nashville, where he’d be available to return to Oakland at a moment’s notice should his services be needed. Middle infielders Tyler Ladendorf, Joey Wendle and Chad Pinder will all be at Nashville, and Ladendorf and Wendle are both on the 40-man roster, so it would be easy to bring them up if needed. Minor league free agent signee and non-roster invitee Josh Rodriguez could be at Nashville as well or, if the Triple-A roster is too crowded, he could end up at Midland, where top shortstop prospect Franklin Barreto is expected to start getting a little time at second base to increase his versatility.

 

Marcus Semien

Marcus Semien

SHORTSTOP

Marcus Semien (MLB)

Jed Lowrie (MLB)

Eric Sogard (MLB)

Tyler Ladendorf (MLB)

Chad Pinder (AA)

Josh Rodriguez (MLB)

Franklin Barreto (A)

Richie Martin (A)

(2015: Semien, Sogard, Parrino)

Marcus Semien appeared in 152 games at shortstop for the A’s in 2015 and is set to return as the team’s everyday shortstop in 2016. As long as he’s healthy, the 25-year-old East Bay native should start as many games for the A’s as anyone in the coming season. But if he does need an occasional day off, the A’s former everyday shortstop, Jed Lowrie, can easily slide over from second base to give Semien a breather. If Eric Sogard remains with the organization, he also has the ability to fill in at the position and served as Semien’s primary backup last season. Tyler Ladendorf, who’s on the 40-man roster, should be available at Nashville if needed. And Chad Pinder, who’s not currently on the 40-man roster, is set to be the primary starting shortstop for Nashville this year after turning in an MVP season at Double-A Midland last year. Non-roster invitee Josh Rodriguez has played over 400 games at shortstop in the minors, while 20-year-old Franklin Barreto is the organization’s top shortstop prospect and is set to start the season at Double-A Midland, and 21-year-old Richie Martin was the team’s top draft pick last year but is still relatively inexperienced and should start the season in A ball.

 

Danny Valencia

Danny Valencia

THIRD BASE

Danny Valencia (MLB)

Jed Lowrie (MLB)

Chris Coghlan (MLB)

Eric Sogard (MLB)

Max Muncy (MLB)

Tyler Ladendorf (MLB)

Renato Nunez (AA)

Chad Pinder (AA)

Josh Rodriguez (MLB)

Matt Chapman (AA)

(2015: Lawrie, Valencia, Muncy, Sogard)

With Brett Lawrie, the A’s primary third baseman last season, shipped off to the White Sox in the offseason, Danny Valencia, the A’s second-half hitting star last year, is set to take over as the team’s everyday third baseman in 2016. But Valencia has primarily been a part-time player throughout his career and if he needs a little time off, Jed Lowrie, who primarily played third base for the Astros last season, can always slide over from second base or newly-acquired lefty swinger Chris Coghlan can come in to give the right-handed hitting Valencia an occasional break against righties. Eric Sogard has appeared in a couple dozen games at the hot corner for the A’s over the past few seasons and could also be in the mix. Max Muncy, who appeared in 16 games at third base for the A’s last year, along with the versatile Tyler Ladendorf and the young slugger Renato Nunez will all be available at Nashville, and all are currently on the 40-man roster. Chad Pinder, who will also be at Nashville, played plenty of third base in college, while non-roster invitee Josh Rodriguez has spent the bulk of his time at third base over his last three seasons in the minors. And right behind them is the A’s top draft pick from 2014, Matt Chapman, who’s set to start the season at Double-A Midland and who’s defense at the hot corner is as solid as can be.

 

Khris Davis

Khris Davis

OUTFIELD

Khris Davis (MLB)

Josh Reddick (MLB)

Billy Burns (MLB)

Mark Canha (MLB)

Coco Crisp (MLB)

Chris Coghlan (MLB)

Sam Fuld (MLB)

Tyler Ladendorf (MLB)

Jake Smolinski (MLB)

Andrew Lambo (MLB)

Matt McBride (MLB)

Matt Olson (AA)

(2015: Reddick, Burns, Fuld, Canha, Smolinski, Crisp, Zobrist, Gentry, Ross, Ladendorf, Pridie)

While Josh Reddick and Billy Burns will be returning as the A’s starting right fielder and center fielder this season, new acquisition Khris Davis is set to take over in left field, where Sam Fuld and Mark Canha ended up getting the bulk of the starts last year. When he’s not starting at first base against lefties, Canha will be available to fill in in the outfield if needed, as will Coco Crisp, as long as he’s healthy, and new acquisition Chris Coghlan. There’s some question as to whether or not Sam Fuld will be able to make the opening day roster and, since he’s out of options, the A’s may not be able to retain him if he doesn’t. But if Fuld sticks around, then he’s another option to fill in at all three outfield spots. Tyler Ladendorf is expected to see plenty of time in center field at Triple-A Nashville this season, where corner outfielders Jake Smolinski and Andrew Lambo, both of whom have major league experience, are also set to spend plenty of time patrolling the outfield. And since all three are on the 40-man roster, it’d be easy to call up any of them if extra outfielders are needed. Non-roster invitee Matt McBride has seen time in the outfield for the Rockies over parts of three different seasons. He’ll be at Nashville this year but is not on the 40-man roster. The same applies to young slugger Matt Olson, who spent most of the second half of last season in right field for Midland and is expected to see plenty more time there in Music City this year.

 

Sonny Gray

Sonny Gray

STARTING PITCHING

Sonny Gray (MLB)

Jesse Hahn (MLB)

Chris Bassitt (MLB)

Kendall Graveman (MLB)

Rich Hill (MLB)

Henderson Alvarez (MLB)

Felix Doubront (MLB)

Jarrod Parker (MLB)

Sean Manaea (AA)

Dillon Overton (AA)

Eric Surkamp (MLB)

Chris Smith (MLB)

Raul Alcantara (AA)

(2015: Gray, Chavez, Graveman, Kazmir, Hahn, Bassitt, Brooks, Pomeranz, Doubront, Nolin, Martin, Zito, Mills)

The idea of a five-man starting rotation is a bit of a myth. Most teams end up using twice that many starting pitchers over the course of a season, and the A’s used 13 different starters last year. With that in mind, as A’s general manager David Forst well knows, building plenty of starting pitching depth can be key to any team’s success. High atop the A’s starting pitching heap is staff ace Sonny Gray. Free agent signee Rich Hill is set to join him in the A’s starting rotation, along with returning right-handers Jesse Hahn, Chris Bassitt and Kendall Graveman, as long as all are healthy. Free agent signee and former All-Star Henderson Alvarez, who is returning from shoulder surgery, is expected to be ready to join the rotation by the end of May. And lefty Felix Doubront, who’s started 85 games in the majors and is currently set to be the A’s long man out of the bullpen, will also be available to start if needed. After multiple elbow surgeries, Jarrod Parker will be working his way back into shape at Triple-A Nashville, where he’s likely to be joined by the team’s top two pitching prospects, left-handers Sean Manaea and Dillon Overton, along with minor league free agent signees Eric Surkamp and Chris Smith, both of whom have major league experience. Parker is the only one of that group currently on the 40-man roster and is also the only one with extensive major league experience so, if he can regain his form, he could be the first to get the call if needed. The A’s would like Sean Manaea to get some time in Triple-A but, as the organization’s top pitching prospect, if Manaea can show the ability to dominate Triple-A hitters early, then the team may have to find a way to find a spot for the promising lefty. The only other starting pitcher in the big league camp is right-hander Raul Alcantara, who returned from Tommy John surgery to make 15 starts for Stockton last season and is expected to start 2016 at Double-A Midland.

 

Sean Doolittle

Sean Doolittle

LEFT-HANDED RELIEF

Sean Doolittle (MLB)

Marc Rzepczynski (MLB)

Felix Doubront (MLB)

Daniel Coulombe (MLB)

Eric Surkamp (MLB)

Patrick Schuster (AAA)

(2015: Abad, Pomeranz, Venditte, O’Flaherty, Doolittle, Coulombe)

A healthy Sean Doolittle is set to return as the A’s closer this season, while new acquisition Marc Rzepczynski is expected to take on the role as the team’s primary left-handed setup man, with lefty Felix Doubront serving as the A’s long man and occasional spot starter. The organization isn’t terribly deep at the moment when it comes to left-handed relief options. Daniel Coulombe, who appeared in 9 games late last season with the A’s, will be at Nashville, along with non-roster invitee Eric Surkamp, who has major league experience with the Giants, Dodgers and White Sox. Minor league free agent signee Patrick Schuster may also be at Nashville but, with an abundance of arms fighting for spots in the Sounds bullpen, he could also start the season with Double-A Midland. None of the three are currently on the 40-man roster though, so if another southpaw is needed at the major league level, another roster move will have to be made.

 

Ryan Madson

Ryan Madson

RIGHT-HANDED RELIEF

Ryan Madson (MLB)

John Axford (MLB)

Liam Hendriks (MLB)

Fernando Rodriguez (MLB)

Ryan Dull (MLB)

R.J. Alvarez (MLB)

J.B. Wendelken (AAA)

Angel Castro (MLB)

Ryan Brasier (MLB)

Taylor Thompson (MLB)

Ryan Doolittle (AA)

Eduard Santos (AA)

(2015: Rodriguez, Scribner, Otero, Mujica, Clippard, Alvarez, Leon, Dull, Castro)

The A’s have really remade the right side of their bullpen this season. Free agent signees Ryan Madson and John Axford will be joined my trade acquisition Liam Hendriks as the team’s top three options from the right side. And since he’s out of options, Fernando Rodriguez is expected to return to take the fourth spot from the right side. If everyone else is healthy, then young righty Ryan Dull may have to start the season at Nashville as the first option to get the call if and when bullpen reinforcements are needed. Two other promising young righties at Nashville who are also on the 40-man roster, R.J. Alvaraez and J.B. Wendelken, may be the next two arms in line if extra help is needed. Behind them at Nashville will be Angel Castro, Ryan Brasier and Taylor Thompson, all of whom have major league experience but none of whom are on the 40-man roster. Two other right-handed relievers in the major league camp, Sean’s little brother Ryan Doolittle and minor league free agent signee Eduard Santos, will both be fighting for spots in the Nashville bullpen but may well wind up having to start the season at Double-A Midland.

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

A’s Farm’s 2016 Top 10 Prospect List

Former top prospect Sonny Gray – who will be the next A’s prospect to make it big?

Former top prospect Sonny Gray – who will be the next A’s prospect to make it big?

With the first A’s players set to start turning up at the team’s spring training camp in just a few weeks, it’s time to present A’s Farm’s 2016 Top 10 Prospect List.

It’s interesting to note that six players from last year’s list have made a return to this year’s list, including Franklin Barreto, who made his debut in the A’s system last season, along with returning prospects Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Renato Nunez, Chad Pinder and Dillon Overton.

New to this year’s list are starting pitcher Sean Manaea and catcher Jacob Nottingham, who were both acquired in deadline deals last summer, as well as last year’s top draft pick for the A’s, shortstop Richie Martin, and young shortstop Yairo Munoz.

Eight of this year’s top 10 are position players, while only two are pitchers – both of them left-handers. And half of this year’s top 10 could start the season at Triple-A Nashville, while another three to five players are likely to begin the year at Double-A Midland, with only one or two top prospects starting the year in A ball.

Most A’s prospect lists this year feature shortstop Franklin Barreto in the top spot, but we’ve opted to go with left-handed hurler Sean Manaea as the more mature, advanced and polished prospect who’s more likely to make a big impact at the major league level. So without any further ado, let’s take a look at A’s Farm’s 2016 Top 10 Prospect List

 

A’S FARM’S 2016 TOP 10 PROSPECT LIST

#1 – Sean Manaea (LHP)

#2 – Franklin Barreto (SS)

#3 – Matt Olson (OF-1B)

#4 – Matt Chapman (3B)

#5 – Renato Nunez (3B)

#6 – Chad Pinder (SS)

#7 – Dillon Overton (LHP)

#8 – Jacob Nottingham (C)

#9 – Yairo Munoz (SS)

#10 – Richie Martin (SS)

 

sm640455b#1 SEAN MANAEA

Left-Handed Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 24

Drafted 2013 – 1st Round

As a big lefty with big strikeout numbers who stands a chance of becoming the A’s #2 starter, behind staff ace Sonny Gray, at some point over the next year and a half, Manaea takes the top spot on our prospect list this year. Of course, how he fares while facing more experienced hitters at Triple-A Nashville next season will determine whether or not Manaea ends up finding himself on the fast track to Oakland. After coming over from Kansas City in the Ben Zobrist deal, the southpaw posted an impressive 1.90 ERA while striking out 10.8 per 9 innings in 7 starts for Double-A Midland, and he then went on to lead the Arizona Fall League in strikeouts by whiffing 33 in just 25 2/3 innings. Manaea works with a slider, a changeup and a fastball that occasionally touches 97 mph and can seem unhittable at times. Since being drafted in 2013, he’s missed some time due to both hip and abdomen injuries but, fortunately, he hasn’t experienced any arm issues thus far. As a 6’5” lefty who has the ability to put up gaudy strikeout numbers, the Indiana native has a lot of upside. And A’s general manager David Forst recently remarked that Manaea has “everything that you’re looking for out of a top-of-the-rotation guy.”

Likely To Start 2016 With: Nashville Sounds (AAA)

 

fb620439#2 FRANKLIN BARRETO

Right-Handed Hitting Shortstop

Age On Opening Day: 20

Undrafted – Signed as International Free Agent

Universally considered the best young hitting prospect in the A’s system, Barreto turned in an impressive .302/.333/.500 slash line as a 19-year-old at High-A Stockton last season after coming over from Toronto in the Josh Donaldson trade. The shortsop started off slow in April, batting just .171 with a .243 slugging percentage in the first month of the season. But he heated up as the season unfolded and, in July, he hit .375 with a slugging percentage of .700. Barreto obviously has the ability to swing the bat, but he also has some speed. And though he’s fairly small at just 5’9”, he has some pop as he showed by hitting 13 home runs last year despite sitting out six weeks with a wrist injury. The young Venezuelan can be a bit of a free-swinger though, and he drew just 15 walks against 67 strikeouts over 364 plate appearances last season. But the big question about Barreto surrounds his defense. While he has a strong arm, his play in the field can be erratic, and he chalked up a total of 34 errors in 86 games at shortstop last year. He spent some time in the outfield in the Venezuelan Winter League, and A’s general manager David Forst has indicated that he may end up dividing his time between shortstop and second base at Midland next season. But he also noted that Barreto is still quite young and that the team does believe he has the ability to stick at shortstop over the long run.

Likely To Start 2016 With: Midland RockHounds (AA)

 

mo621566#3 MATT OLSON

Left-Handed Hitting Outfielder/First Baseman

Age On Opening Day: 22

Drafted 2012 – 1st Round

Most A’s fans who follow the team’s farm system are pretty familiar with Matt Olson’s profile by now. The big, strong left-handed slugger is generally considered to be the team’s top young power-hitting prospect after notching 77 home runs over the last three seasons. While making his Double-A debut last year, his 17 home runs (at the power-crushing confines of Midland) were the fourth-most among A’s minor leaguers, while his 105 walks were the second-most, and his 139 strikeouts were the third-most. And 45% of Olson’s plate appearances resulted in either a home run, a walk or a strikeout last season. The 6’5” slugger has been solid defensively at first base, but he actually spent more time in right field during the second half last year, where he may not have a lot of range but where his strong arm serves him well. And the Georgia native is likely to see more time in the outfield at Triple-A Nashville next season. Olson’s combination of power and plate discipline will ultimately be his ticket to the show. But if he has the ability to play first base as well as the corner outfield positions, then that versatility should only accelerate his ascent to Oakland.

Likely To Start 2016 With: Nashville Sounds (AAA)

 

mc656305b#4 MATT CHAPMAN

Right-Handed Hitting Third Baseman

Age On Opening Day: 22

Drafted 2014 – 1st Round

2014’s #1 draft pick for the A’s missed the first month of the season due to a knee injury and the last month of the season due to a wrist injury, but that still didn’t stop him from leading the A’s minor league system in home runs with 23 in just 304 at-bats at High-A Stockton last year. Of course, the friendly confines of the California League helped make that possible, but it did prove that Chapman’s power potential, which the A’s front office has always believed in, could be real. Of course, that will be put to the test in the far less hospitable habitat of Midland next season. In the field, there’s no doubt that Chapman possesses a good glove and a great arm and is well-suited for the hot corner. He can be a bit too much of a free-swinger at times and he batted just .250 last year, but his walk rate was up over his inaugural campaign, boosting his on-base percentage to a respectable .341 for 2015. And with his solid defensive work in the field, if Chapman can just manage to get on base with enough frequency, he should hopefully have enough pop to make him a credible candidate to handle the corner in Oakland before long.

Likely To Start 2016 With: Midland RockHounds (AA)

 

rn600524#5 RENATO NUNEZ

Right-Handed Hitting Third Baseman

Age On Opening Day: 22

Undrafted – Signed as International Free Agent

Along with Olson, Nunez is one of the top two power-hitting prospects in the A’s system. The young Venezuelan hit 18 home runs in just 381 at-bats at Double-A Midland last season and has totaled 66 bombs over the last three years. His plate discipline could still use a little work, as he drew just 28 walks last season, but he did manage to lower his strikeout rate significantly in 2015. There’s no doubt that Nunez’s power potential is real, and it’s played at every level. The big question about Nunez has always concerned his defense. He’s primarily played third base throughout his minor league career, but he’s never really looked comfortable there. He appears slow in the field without a lot of range, and it’s hard to imagine seeing him handle the hot corner in the majors. Nunez got a handful of starts at first base last season and didn’t really look at home there either. But his bat may just be good enough to get him to the majors, perhaps sooner rather than later. And if the young slugger can live up to his potential at the plate, then the A’s will surely find a way to get his bat into the lineup one way or another.

Likely To Start 2016 With: Nashville Sounds (AAA)

 

cp640461#6 CHAD PINDER

Right-Handed Hitting Shortstop

Age On Opening Day: 24

Drafted 2013 – 2nd Round

Pinder moved up one notch on our list this year on the strength of his Texas League MVP season at Midland. He posted an impressive .317/.361/.486 slash line and showed plenty of pop, particularly for the pitcher-friendly Texas League, by putting up 32 doubles and 15 home runs in his Double-A debut. He could still stand to improve his plate discipline though, as he drew just 28 walks in 522 plate appearances this season. After primarily playing second base for Stockton in 2014, the Virginia native made a smooth transition back to shortstop in 2015. Though he doesn’t show great range, Pinder does have a strong arm that serves him well. Many feel that he’ll ultimately end up being a better fit at either second or third base, but he did show this season that he can do a credible job at shortstop. And being a versatile infielder with a decent bat may give Pinder as good a chance as anyone at getting a shot in Oakland sometime before the season’s through.

Likely To Start 2016 With: Nashville Sounds (AAA)

 

do592614b#7 DILLON OVERTON

Left-Handed Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 24

Drafted 2013 – 2nd Round

2013’s 2nd-round draft pick for the A’s underwent Tommy John surgery shortly after signing in the summer of 2013 and has been building himself back up ever since returning to action the following summer. The A’s have been handling the lanky lefty with great care, never letting him go more than 4 innings in an outing in 2014 and never letting him go more than 5 innings in an outing in 2015. Overton’s command has been sharp ever since his return from surgery, walking just 31 and striking out 159 in 163 innings over the past two seasons. But his velocity has yet to fully return, and his fastball has mostly been sitting in the high-80s. Overton does have an effective breaking ball and changeup though and, as mentioned, he commands his repertoire well. The Oklahoma native performed well at both High-A Stockton and Double-A Midland last year, putting up a combined 3.43 ERA on the season. A’s general manager David Forst recently said, “If we can get this guy to 91-92 [mph] again, he’s here in no time.” And if that does indeed happen, then Overton could have the potential to be a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter. But if his velocity doesn’t fully return, then he could still end up as a finesse lefty at the back end of the rotation or possibly an effective left-handed reliever coming out of the bullpen for the A’s.

Likely To Start 2016 With: Midland RockHounds (AA) / Nashville Sounds (AAA)

 

jn641924#8 JACOB NOTTINGHAM

Right-Handed Hitting Catcher

Age On Opening Day: 21

Drafted 2013 – 6th Round

Acquired from the Astros in the Scott Kazmir deal, Nottingham took over as the starting catcher at High-A Stockton last July and immediately became the top catching prospect in the A’s system. After not looking particularly impressive in his first two minor league seasons in 2013 and 2014, the 6’3” backstop had a breakthrough year with the bat in 2015, putting up a .316/.372/.505 slash line while playing with three different teams in A ball. The biggest boost came in his power numbers, as he collected 33 doubles and 17 home runs over 465 at-bats, though it may be a bit of a challenge for the young catcher to replicate those numbers in the pitcher-friendly Texas League next season. Nottingham walked just 33 times last year, so he could show a little more discipline, but his career minor league .284 batting average and .352 on-base percentage demonstrate his ability to be productive at the plate. Behind the plate, the big backstop has shown a strong arm, but his receiving skills could still use some work, as is evidenced by his 19 passed balls last season. He is still young though – he’ll be turning 21 just before opening day – so there is time for improvement. There’s a chance that Nottingham could end up being moved from behind the plate, and he did appear in 18 games at first base last season. But if he can stick at catcher, then his powerful bat could made him a potent backstop for the A’s in the not-too-distant future.

Likely To Start 2016 With: Midland RockHounds (AA)

 

ym622168b#9 YAIRO MUNOZ

Right-Handed Hitting Shortstop

Age On Opening Day: 21

Undrafted – Signed as International Free Agent

After spending the first few months of the season struggling to put up a .236/.278/.363 slash line with Class-A Beloit, Munoz seemed reborn after a promotion to the California League, where he posted a healthy .320/.372/.480 line over the last six weeks of the season while playing as a 20-year-old for High-A Stockton. Munoz possesses good speed and more pop than you’d expect out of a middle infielder, and he stole 11 bases while collecting 13 home runs and 26 doubles over the course of the season. The Dominican native also has a strong enough arm and enough range to be able to stick at shortstop, though he should easily be able to make the transition to second or third base if needed. Munoz just turned 21 and could start the season either as the primary shortstop at Stockton or splitting time at shortstop and second base with top prospect Franklin Barreto at Midland, which A’s general manager David Forst has mentioned as a distinct possibility. But either way, as a versatile young infielder with some speed and some pop, he’ll be given plenty of opportunites to prove himself, and he’ll get the chance to move up quickly if he does.

Likely To Start 2016 With: Midland RockHounds (AA) / Stockton Ports (A+)

 

rm621006#10 RICHIE MARTIN

Right-Handed Hitting Shortstop

Age On Opening Day: 21

Drafted 2015 – 1st Round

Last year’s top draft pick for the A’s, Martin came to the team from the University of Florida with a well-deserved reputation as a slick-fielding shortstop. A strong arm, good range and sharp instincts enable him to make lots of plays that few other shortstops his age can. So defense is definitely not a question with Martin. He possesses good speed as well, and he swiped a total of 45 bases over three college seasons. The question with Martin has always been about his bat. He put up a .284/.376/.376 slash line with 7 home runs during his collegiate career. The Florida native impressed in the Cape Cod League in 2014 by finishing second in batting with a .364 average. But his slash line in his first pro season at Vermont in 2015 was a rather uninspiring .237/.353/.342. Martin’s never shown much pop, but he has shown the ability to take a walk to get on base. And the hope is, with his solid defensive skills and his patience at the plate, that his bat will develop enough to make him a legitimate defense-first shortstop in the major leagues.

Likely To Start 2015 With: Beloit Snappers (A) / Stockton Ports (A+)

 

HONORABLE MENTION: CASEY MEISNER

Just barely missing out on our top 10 list this year was right-handed starting pitcher Casey Meisner, who was acquired from the Mets last summer in the Tyler Clippard trade. The 20-year-old was drafted out of high school by the Mets in the 3rd round in 2013, and the 6’7” hurler has put up a career 2.88 ERA while notching 208 strikeouts in 241 minor league innings since then. The tall Texan impressed in seven starts at Stockton last season and could start the year back at Stockton or at Double-A Midland if the A’s want to be aggressive with him. He’s still young, but he’s got a solid fastball that sits in the low-90s, a promising curveball, good command and plenty of potential.

 

Last Year’s Top 10 Prospect List

 

 

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