Tag: Oakland Athletics minor league players

Preview: Top Prospect Barreto Headlines A’s AFL Squad

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

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

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

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

 

–A’s Prospects in the AFL in 2016–

 

fb620439Franklin Barreto

Shortstop

Age: 20

Midland RockHounds / Nashville Sounds

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

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

 

ym622168Yairo Munoz

Shortstop / Second Baseman / Third Baseman

Age: 21

Midland RockHounds

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

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

 

ms621011Max Schrock

Second Baseman

Age: 21

Midland RockHounds / Stockton Ports / Hagerstown Suns / Potomac Nationals

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

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

 

fm593423bFrankie Montas

Right-Handed Pitcher

Age: 23

Oklahoma City Dodgers / Tulsa Drillers

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

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

 

dc592229Dylan Covey

Right-Handed Pitcher

Age: 25

Midland RockHounds

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

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

 

sb595892Sam Bragg

Right-Handed Pitcher

Age: 23

Midland RockHounds

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

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

 

tc605184Trey Cochran-Gill

Right-Handed Pitcher

Age: 23

Midland RockHounds

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

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

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

So long, Sogie - nerd power is no more.

So long, Sogie – nerd power is no more.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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 Post-Season Organizational All-Star Team

A's minor league home run leader Matt Chapman

A’s minor league home run leader Matt Chapman

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

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

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

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

 

–THE CANDIDATES–

 

CATCHER

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

FIRST BASE

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

SECOND BASE

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

SHORTSTOP

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

THIRD BASE

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

LEFT FIELD

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

CENTER FIELD

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

RIGHT FIELD

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

DESIGNATED HITTER

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

STARTING PITCHER

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

CLOSER

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Ryon Healy

A’s infielder Ryon Healy

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

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

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

 

rh592387cRyon Healy

Third Baseman/First Baseman

Age: 24

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

 

aa570489bArismendy Alcantara

Second Baseman/Shortstop/Outfielder

Age: 24

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

 

bm622194bBruce Maxwell

Catcher

Age: 25

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

 

jw621563dJoey Wendle

Second Baseman

Age: 26

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

 

cp640461bChad Pinder

Shortstop/Second Baseman

Age: 24

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

 

jb595144bJaycob Brugman

Outfielder

Age: 24

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

 

mo621566Matt Olson

First Baseman/Outfielder

Age: 22

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

 

rn600524eRenato Nunez

Third Baseman/Designated Hitter

Age: 22

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

 

mc656305eMatt Chapman

Third Baseman

Age: 23

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

 

fb620439Franklin Barreto

Shortstop/Second Baseman

Age: 20

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

 

dm596043cDaniel Mengden

Right-Handed Pitcher

Age: 23

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

 

do592614cDillon Overton

Left-Handed Pitcher

Age: 25

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

 

jc605194bJharel Cotton

Right-Handed Pitcher

Age: 24

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

 

ra593417cRaul Alcantara

Right-Handed Pitcher

Age: 23

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

 

fm593423bFrankie Montas

Right-Handed Pitcher

Age: 23

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

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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.

Down on the Farm with Vermont Lake Monsters Pitcher Brandon Bailey

bb669064Brandon Bailey grew up in Colorado and attended Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, where he struck out 125 batters in 100 1/3 innings while posting a 2.42 ERA in his final season for the Bulldogs. The 21-year-old right-handed pitcher was drafted by the A’s in the 6th round of this year’s amateur draft and is currently playing for Vermont, the A’s Class-A affiliate in the short-season New York-Penn League. Bailey has put up a 3.41 ERA there while notching 32 strikeouts over 29 innings of work, and he recently earned his first professional win while striking out 9 in his last appearance for the Lake Monsters last Wednesday.

Last month, we shared Bailey’s first blog post about some of his experiences in the A’s minor league system in the weeks after the draft, which you can check out here. And last week, we shared his last post about the team’s trip to New York, which you can see here. And this week, we’re happy to share his post about why he hates bus rides, among other things. You can check out Brandon’s personal blog here and you can follow him on Twitter @BBailey_19

 

I hate bus rides, plain and simple. I don’t hate them for the countless hours of traveling on highways. I don’t hate them for the inconvenient arrival times back at our home ballpark after an 8 hour road trip. I don’t hate them due to the fact that there’s only one bathroom. For those of you who are unaware, having only one bathroom is a big deal because of the following scenario…If you have to “drop a deuce” your basically SOL. No one wants to be “That Guy” who is responsible for dropping the stink bomb which will consequently travel throughout the bus, pissing off everybody and their mom after you’ve performed your dirty deed. 35 males farting and burping in a small space is bad enough… Just imagine if someone took a sh*t that lingered until you arrived at your destination. Your only option is to focus up, squeeze your cheeks, and hold it.

Surprisingly, none of the reasons listed above are why I despise bus rides. No, I hate bus rides for one reason and one reason only… I can’t fall asleep. The majority of my teammates would probably say that if there was one person out of the group who should be able to find a comfortable position to catch some Z’s, it would be me. Why you ask? Because I’m a midget in a land of freakishly oversized giants that disguise themselves as incredibly talented baseball players. What ever happened to the good old days when guys over 6’6 dedicated their athletic ability towards making it rain on the hardwood or when guys that weighed over 220 pounds used their God given size to knock the snot out of people on the gridiron? I apologize for my short rant, I’m getting off topic. Where was I? Oh right, the reason I’m a perfect candidate to find a comfortable sleeping position is due to my 5’8 inch frame (5’10 on a good day or when I’m wearing cleats). My undersized stature allows me to maneuver myself into some creative lounging positions that my larger counterparts could not experience even if they tried. Imagine 6’7 left-hander AJ Puk finding a comfortable position to stretch out his freakishly oversized arms and legs… needless to say the man gets his own seat. Now me on the other hand, I’m fun-sized and should be taking advantage of my miniature layout, but regardless of what lounging position I decide to utilize it doesn’t matter. I CAN’T FALL ASLEEP!

Coming to terms with this unfortunate truth, I have recently turned to the essentials of staying awake: caffeine, my Beats headphones, my iPhone 6+, and my laptop. The majority of my time on the bus is spent listening to music, browsing my social media accounts, getting a few good games of Hungry Shark in, and texting my family and friends back home on the west coast. Unfortunately, at the beginning of this bus trip from Norwich, Connecticut back to Vermont, I received a text message from Verizon informing me that I’ve used 90% of my data for the month. Looks like no social media browsing for me. Instead, I decided I would begin working on my next blog post and 426 words later, here we are.

(photo: Greg Bessette)

Brandon Bailey on the mound for the Vermont Lake Monsters (photo:Greg Bessette)

There are only 8 games left in the season and while I’m not ready for baseball to be over, I couldn’t be more excited for the next four months and what they have in store. Classes start at Gonzaga tomorrow which means I’m officially a senior in college…

Not going to lie I just spent the last 20 minutes starring at that last sentence trying to comprehend what I had just typed but inevitably, I’m a senior and truth be told I never want to graduate. Gonzaga is my second home and I while I am currently testing the waters of what it’s like to be an adult in the real world, I’m ready to get back to school and be a normal college student where my only concern is how I’m going to pass my next Sport Law exam.

As the bus continues to make it’s way north towards Burlington, I’ve had a few songs pop up on my country playlist that have caused me to reminisce about my friends and family back home on the west coast. One song in particular is “Drink One For Me” by Jason Aldean. Every line from start to finish speaks to the way I’m feeling, reminding me of all my friends who are back up at Gonzaga celebrating the start of another semester and how I wish I could be there celebrating with them, especially my former Gonzaga Baseball teammates. While I’ve made my decision to chase my dream of playing in the MLB, I still can’t help but wonder what my life would be like if I had chosen to return to Spokane and play my senior year for the Zags. Although I don’t regret my decision, I do miss the Zag community that always made me feel like I was apart of one big family…the Zag family.

The good news is I will be returning to ZagLand in T-Minus 8 days and during those 8 days I get to do what I love most, throw baseballs.

My last outing on August 24th versus the Lowell Spinners (short-season Single A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox) was my best performance as a professional yet. I came out of the bullpen and pitched 5 innings of relief, striking out 9, and walking zero after our starting pitcher Logan Shore threw 3 solid innings before reaching his pitch count limit. Ever since Shore joined the team, he has been my favorite pitcher to watch because of how much he and I have in common on the mound.

First off, we both throw our fastball in the low 90s and posses the ability to fill up the strike zone with 3 pitches. The change-up is the best pitch in our arsenals and we feel comfortable throwing it in any given count. We also both throw sliders and have vocalized to our pitching coach that we want to focus on improving this pitch on the days we are not pitching. I try to take as many mental notes as I can when Shore takes the mound because I am aware that we do have a lot in common and I figure if I can mirror his tendencies and how he attacks hitters, that will only help me improve as a pitcher as well. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to try and model your game after a Golden Spikes finalist…

It should also be noted that Logan Shore is one of the most humble ballplayers I’ve ever had the opportunity to play alongside and he is the definition of what it means to be a professional. He has also become one of my good friends on the team, adding to the list of great guys that I’ve had the opportunity to get to know since the June draft.

While this season with the Lake Monsters might not be one of the most memorable seasons in terms of on-field success (our record is 24-44), it is however one of my most memorable seasons because it’s my first year in professional baseball. Now if I can just master the art of sleeping on this damn bus I think I’ll be alright…

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

sm640455cLHP Sean Manaea

Age: 24

Current Team: Oakland A’s

Acquired: Ben Zobrist trade – July 2015

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

 

dm596043bRHP Daniel Mengden

Age: 23

Current Team: Nashville Sounds

Acquired: Scott Kazmir trade – July 2015

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

 

cm641861bRHP Casey Meisner

Age: 21

Current Team: Stockton Ports

Acquired: Tyler Clippard trade – July 2015

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

 

jc605194bRHP Jharel Cotton

Age: 24

Current Team: Nashville Sounds

Acquired: Josh Reddick/Rich Hill trade – July 2016

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

 

fm593423RHP Frankie Montas

Age: 23

Current Team: Nashville Sounds

Acquired: Josh Reddick/Rich Hill trade – July 2016

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

 

gh656550RHP Grant Holmes

Age: 20

Current Team: Stockton Ports

Acquired: Josh Reddick/Rich Hill trade – July 2016

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

 

ap640462LHP A.J. Puk

Age: 21

Current Team: Vermont Lake Monsters

Acquired: 1st Round 2016 Draft – June 2016

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

 

djPFKSDMUFQUWSOHH.20151029180443RHP Daulton Jefferies

Age: 21

Current Team: Arizona League A’s

Acquired: Supplemental 1st Round 2016 Draft – June 2016

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

 

ls624519RHP Logan Shore

Age: 21

Current Team: Vermont Lake Monsters

Acquired: 2nd Round 2016 Draft – June 2016

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

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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.

Down on the Farm with Vermont Lake Monsters Pitcher Brandon Bailey

bb669064Brandon Bailey grew up in Colorado and attended Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, where he struck out 125 batters in 100 1/3 innings while posting a 2.42 ERA in his final season for the Bulldogs. The 21-year-old right-handed pitcher was drafted by the A’s in the 6th round of this year’s amateur draft and is currently playing for Vermont, the A’s Class-A affiliate in the short-season New York-Penn League. Bailey has put up a 3.41 ERA there while notching 32 strikeouts over 29 innings of work, and he just earned his first professional win while striking out 9 in his last appearance for the Lake Monsters on Wednesday.

We shared a blog post from Bailey last month about some of his experiences in the A’s minor league system in the weeks after the draft, which you can see here. And last week, he wrote a blog post about some of his more recent experiences, including the team’s road trip to New York, which he’s allowed us to share with our A’s Farm readers. You can check out Brandon’s personal blog here and you can follow him on Twitter @BBailey_19

 

Well it’s been about two weeks since my last blog post and so much has happened I’m not really sure where to start… So to avoid writers block I’m just going to regurgitate my thoughts onto this post and hopefully it all makes sense.

I’ll begin with the first thing that comes to mind and that’s my 2016 Chevy Colorado pick-up truck. I recently purchased this beauty back in June shortly after being drafted and while it might be cliche to buy a brand new vehicle after signing a professional sports contract, I actually needed a way of transportation due to an unfortunate event that took place in Spokane a month earlier. With about twenty days left in spring semester, “Carrie (named after the beautiful country singer Ms. Underwood)” my 2003 Saturn L300 was stolen outside my off-campus house in the Logan neighborhood. After about a week of waiting, I received a call from the Spokane Police Department informing me that they had found my car totaled and abandon in a parking lot. Just the news I wanted to hear right before finals week and the beginning of the NCAA tournament…

bb13906985_1283173931693703_8667903877788881164_nFast forward to the present and how this relates to me thinking about my new Z71, well it’s simple… This pick-up represents all of the hard work I have put in over the course of the past 12 years and I want to make it AWESOME. The truck was already sick when I drove it off the lot but since this is my first vehicle purchase ever, my plan is to go all out! I decided to have a few minor details done right off the bat which included installing a sunroof, running boards, tinted windows, and having the bed liner sprayed. Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of research on what I can do to make the truck even more jaw-dropping; Utilizing the knowledge of my cousin Matt and my new travel roommate Xavier Altamirano in order to make the best decisions in terms of performance and functionality.

Xavier or “X”, actually became my new travel roommate a couple weeks ago after Logan Shore, the A’s second round pick, arrived in Vermont and started rooming with his former college teammate A.J. Puk. Puk, who was Oakland’s first round pick this year, was my original roommate on the road and has become one of my closer friends on the Lake Monsters roster. After the news broke that Shore was going to be joining the team, I had a gut feeling that Puk would want to room with Logan since they both attended the University of Florida. Naturally, I was assigned a new roommate which was Xavier. X, who was recently voted as a NY-Penn League All-Star, has become my closest friend on the team and shares my love for jacked-up trucks. This past week, he provided me with a few great tips on what I can do to improve my new toy and I’ve decided to set a plan into action. I won’t share all the details simply because I don’t want to bore the two people who are actually reading this post but I will say that a 6 inch lift is in the works!

Besides my truck, the next thing that comes to mind is my team’s previous road trip to Brooklyn, New York where we played the New York Mets Single-A affiliate the Brooklyn Cyclones on August 9th through the 11th. It has always been a dream of mine to one day travel to the Big Apple but I never would have guessed this dream would come true at such a young age. During our three day span in the big city, I made it a point to venture downtown to Times Square to do some sight-seeing. X, myself, and another one of my teammates Ty Damron (a left-handed pitcher from Texas Tech) decided to take the subway north towards Manhattan on the morning of our final day in Brooklyn. You could easily tell we were not from the area because we were the only people on the subway attempting to decipher the complex map which was supposed to assist us in navigating our way downtown. After about 10 minutes of head scratching we decided to ask for help and were informed that we needed to take the exit onto 42nd Street.

bbCpmm8AwW8AASdB6Anticipation and excitement continued to build up inside my chest with each minute that passed. Ever since I was old enough to comprehend the game of baseball my favorite team growing up (besides the hometown team the Colorado Rockies) was the New York Yankees. Players like Derek Jeter, Paul O’Neill, David Cone, Mariano Rivera, and Bernie Williams fueled my love for the team in pinstripes. As we moved closer to the city, I could feel my passion for Yankee tradition surfacing. After about an hour of waiting, we finally made it to our destination and quickly made our way up to ground level. The experience I had next is almost indescribable…

Never had I seen something so magnificent, vibrant, and extraordinary. There is a certain aura or ambience that flows throughout New York City; A distinctive atmosphere that is luxurious and subtle, its occupants moving at a speed that seem to be faster than Usain Bolt himself (couldn’t resist mixing in an Olympic metaphor). Surprisingly, I was not overwhelmed. In fact, I felt rather comfortable. As we began exploring what the city had to offer, I made it a point to take as many pictures as possible. I saw the New Years Eve ball drop, Central Park, the Plaza Hotel made famous by one of my favorite Christmas movies of all time Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, NIKETOWN NYC where I bought two new pairs of shoes, St. Patricks Cathedral, and finally the Empire State Building. For those of you who are familiar with New York City you would know that my teammates and I traveled roughly 2.5 to 3 miles on foot and let me tell you… It was worth it!

As far as baseball goes, it seems that the team is starting to get back on track. Before this weekend home-stand where we played the Tri-City Valleycats and won the series 2 out of 3, the Lake Monster’s had lost 11 games in a row. It’s not easy facing adversity over the course of a two week span but we persevered and continued to show up to the ballpark ready to give it our all.

I’ve been throwing the ball pretty well as of late. In my last 3 games I’ve pitched 12.1 innings and struck out 9 batters. During that span I’ve only allowed 3 runs (2 earned) on 6 hits. I’m hoping to finish the final two and a half weeks of the season strong so I can go into the fall semester at Gonzaga feeling confident about my first season in professional baseball. With 4 starts left, my main goal is to continue to work fast and fill up the strike zone with all three of my pitches. I’ve also been working on developing a spiked curveball and I’m looking forward to focusing on adding this pitch to my arsenal this off-season.

Two and a half weeks left in the 2016 baseball season…The final stretch.

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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 20 Draft Picks Mid-Season Progress Report

A's top pick A.J. Puk

A’s top draft pick A.J. Puk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

ap6404621st Round

A.J. Puk

Age: 21 / Left-Handed Pitcher

Vermont Lake Monsters

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

 

djPFKSDMUFQUWSOHH.201510291804431st Round Supplemental

Daulton Jefferies

Age: 21 / Right-Handed Pitcher

AZL A’s

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

 

ls6245192nd Round

Logan Shore

Age: 21 / Right-Handed Pitcher

Vermont Lake Monsters

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

 

sm6692213rd Round

Sean Murphy

Age: 21 / Catcher

Vermont Lake Monsters + AZL A’s

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

 

ss1005989374th Round

Skylar Szynski

Age: 19 / Right-Handed Pitcher

AZL A’s

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

 

js6420695th Round

JaVon Shelby

Age: 21 / Third Baseman

Vermont Lake Monsters + AZL A’s

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

 

bb6690646th Round

Brandon Bailey

Age: 21 / Right-Handed Pitcher

Vermont Lake Monsters + AZL A’s

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

 

tr6692627th Round

Tyler Ramirez

Age: 21 / Outfielder

Vermont Lake Monsters + AZL A’s

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

 

wg6693358th Round

Will Gilbert

Age: 22 / Left-Handed Pitcher

Vermont Lake Monsters

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

 

ds6621219th Round

Dalton Sawyer

Age: 22 / Left-Handed Pitcher

Vermont Lake Monsters

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

 

mjOWLLPIGUVDSSBTJ.2015091521152810th Round

Mitchell Jordan

Age: 21 / Right-Handed Pitcher

AZL A’s

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

 

ew64220111th Round

Eli White

Age: 22 / Shortstop

Vermont Lake Monsters + AZL A’s

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

 

lp64197112th Round

Luke Persico

Age: 20 / Outfielder-Third Baseman

Vermont Lake Monsters + AZL A’s

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

 

nm67014813th Round

Nate Mondou

Age: 21 / Second Baseman

Vermont Lake Monsters + AZL A’s

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

 

nb67015414th Round

Nolan Blackwood

Age: 21 / Right-Handed Pitcher

Beloit Snappers + Vermont Lake Monsters

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

 

td64149915th Round

Ty Damron

Age: 22 / Left-Handed Pitcher

Vermont Lake Monsters

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

 

acanthony-churlin16th Round

Anthony Churlin

Age: 19 / Outfielder

AZL A’s

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

 

sm160122917th Round

Seth Martinez

Age: 22 / Right-Handed Pitcher

AZL A’s

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

 

sw0612Weber218th Round

Skyler Weber

Age: 21 / Catcher

AZL A’s

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

 

sgddyl6r89unolb91o19th Round

Sam Gilbert

Age: 22 / Right-Handed Pitcher

(Signed – Has Not Yet Played)

 

 

 

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

nstumblr_nn6zzrPnCN1qedy4lo1_500bRick Rodriguez served as the long-time pitching coach for the Sacramento River Cats, where he had a hand in developing a number of the A’s most talented pitchers over the past many years. When the A’s Triple-A affiliate moved to Nashville last season, the northern California native remained on the west coast with the Single-A Stockton Ports. But this year, he’s back in Triple-A with the Sounds helping to develop another crop of talented young arms for the A’s.

Eric Martins was the A’s 17th-round draft pick in 1994 and spent parts of seven seasons as an infielder in the A’s minor league system. After his playing career came to an end, the southern California native signed on as a scout for the A’s. He made the move to coaching last year, when he served as the hitting coach for the A’s Double-A affiliate in Midland, and he’s now handling some of the team’s top young hitters this year at Nashville.

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

 

RICK RODRIGUEZ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

ERIC MARTINS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

rn600524eAF:  Hey, this is going to be easy!

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

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

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

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

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

*          *          *

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Dillon Overton & Daniel Mengden on the Ups and Downs of Pitching

A wave of pitching injuries for the A’s this season has opened the door for a number of the team’s top pitching prospects to make their debuts in the major leagues a little sooner than expected. Sean Manaea was one of the first to get the call but many others soon followed, including right-hander Daniel Mengden and left-hander Dillon Overton. Both were dominating at Triple-A when they got the call. And both have been up and down a bit between Oakland and Nashville since, with neither laying claim to a permanent spot in the A’s rotation quite yet.

We had the opportunity to interview Mengden in the Oakland clubhouse just a couple of weeks ago. And we then had the chance to catch up with him and Overton for this piece just a couple of days after Mengden had arrived back in Nashville and just a couple of days before Overton was recalled to make his most recent start for the A’s.

 

DILLON OVERTON

do592614dThe A’s 2nd-round draft pick in 2013, Overton underwent Tommy John surgery just shortly after being selected by the A’s in the amateur draft. And roughly three years after being drafted and undergoing surgery, the 24-year-old made his major league debut with the A’s this June. The Oklahoma native has had an outstanding season at Triple-A for Nashville, and his 3.21 ERA still ranks as the third best in the Pacific Coast League. Overton has made four starts over three separate stints with Oakland so far this season, and he’s hoping to have a chance to stick around for more…

AF:  Well, this has been a big year for you. After having the Tommy John surgery and working your way back from that, you made it up to the majors this year. So how do you feel about the journey that you’ve been through?

DO:  You know, the process after you have Tommy John surgery is always an extremely long one. It’s not only a grind on your body, but it’s also a grind on your mind. And to be able to have the season that I’ve had this year, to start in Triple-A and make it to the big leagues, it’s awesome. I’m extremely blessed, and I’m happy with the way the season’s been going so far.

AF:  Now you’ve had a very good season here at Nashville. Are there any particular adjustments you’ve made to have the success that you’ve had here at this level this year?

DO:  Just staying on top of my pitches and keeping the ball down in the zone. The higher you move up in the system, the better the hitters get. A lot of the guys who are in Triple-A right now have been in the big leagues too. So you’re facing the same caliber of hitters as you would in the big leagues. I mean, some of them might be a little better in the big leagues. But it’s really no different – it’s just a different type of stage and a little more pressure. But I’ve been extremely blessed with the way the season’s been going and I’m happy with how I’ve done here at Triple-A, and hopefully I can get to the big leagues to stay there.

AF:  You’ve seemed to have very good command since coming back from the surgery. Did you always have excellent command throughout your college career as well?

DO:  Yeah, I’ve always prided myself on not walking many people every time I set foot on the mound, and I’ve been that way ever since I was a kid. I don’t like throwing balls – I hate it actually. But my command’s always been there, usually with every single pitch that I throw, so hopefully I can keep that going.

AF:  You’ve been back and forth a bit between here and Oakland of late, and you’re about to be going back there again. So what’s it like doing all that bouncing back and forth. Is it a little stressful or disorienting at all?

DO:  I mean, yeah, it’s not so much stressful, it’s more just tiring. But, then again, you really don’t care as long as you’re getting in big league games. To me, it doesn’t really matter as long as I keep getting those calls. And hopefully the plan is to one day get that call and stay up there.

AF:  Well, I’m sure you’re more than happy to overlook any minor inconveniences along the way!

DO:  Yes, exactly!

AF:  So was there anything different you noticed about the way that big leagues hitters approached you?

DO:  Really, the difference is up there, if you miss your spot, they will make you pay for it usually just about every time. Here you can get away with missing your spot some and they won’t hit it or they don’t put very good contact on it. But up there, if you miss your spot and you put it somewhere over the plate where they like it, they make you pay for it every time. So the few outings I’ve had up there, I think I’ve gotten better each outing I’ve gone up there. And I usually get up there a day before, so I’m able to watch the team that I’m gong to face. So just watching them before I throw, knowing their tendencies and what they do, that helps out a lot.

AF:  Is there anything in particular that the coaches really want you to be working on or focusing on at this stage of the game?

DO:  Really, just being more consistent with my curveball. Before I had surgery, I could throw my curveball at any point in time in any count. It really didn’t matter, I could throw it in there for a strike at all times. And when I had surgery, that kind of slipped away a little bit. I’ve been pretty inconsistent with my curveball. I’ll throw five or six really good ones, and then it’ll leave me for a little bit. So really, I’ve just been working on that and seeing if I can get that more on a consistent basis.

AF:  And how do you feel your velocity’s been this year? Has it been about the same as last year or has it been different at all?

DO:  I actually started out this year at a little bit higher speed than what I started with last year. I started this year about where I finished last year, which is a good sign. They always tell people about two and a half years after Tommy John surgery it starts coming back. But it’s been a really slow process for me velocity-wise with it coming back to where it was before I got hurt. But when you don’t have your velocity that you used to have, it makes you rely on everything else that you’ve got – command, using other pitches – when you used to be able to throw 95 and throw it by people. But I try not to think about it and just try to go with the flow.

AF:  But it does force you to have to be a lot better at everything else you do.

DO:  Yes! I tell myself and I tell a lot of other people, when I do, if I do, finally get that velocity back, it’s just going to make me that much better.

 

DANIEL MENGDEN

dm596043bAcquired from the Astros last summer in the Scott Kazmir trade, Mengden got off to a blazing start at Midland this season and quickly earned a promotion to Nashville, where he continued to impress. And his performance there earned him a promotion to Oakland, where the 23-year-old allowed just eight earned runs in his first four major league starts in June but then gave up twenty-three earned runs over his next five outings in July before returning to Triple-A. While with Oakland, Mengden had the opportunity to live with A’s outfielder Josh Reddick, who helped give him a good introduction to big league life before being dealt to the Dodgers at the trade deadline…  

AF:  Well, a little over a week ago we were talking in Oakland and now we’re here in Nashville, so let’s catch up! Let’s start out by talking about your time in Oakland. Your first four starts were great, and then the last five were a little rocky. So what do you think was the difference between those first starts up there and then those last starts up there?

DM:  Just execution. I was really good – my strike percentage was really good, my first-pitch strikes were really good – the first couple outings. The last four it wasn’t so good. I was falling behind, not throwing as many strikes, my breaking ball might not have been as crisp. And when I was getting to two strikes, I was stretching counts – you know, 2-2, 3-2. I think I could barely make it to the fifth inning three straight games – I was struggling to get to the fifth. And you know, I was not very good at excuting early. I was just trying to battle through. But besides that, it’s one of those things where you kind of get in a groove and are going really well and sometimes you kind of bounce out of it. You know, your body’s a little banged up all the way around. But we’ll be back on top of it and we’ll be good.

AF:  Do you feel the reason you weren’t executing was more mechanical, more mental, or more from your body just being physically tired?

DM:  I’m not really one for excuses. I’m not trying to blame one or the other. You know, it’s probably a little mix of all three. This is my first full year of throwing on a five-day rotation – I did it a little bit last year towards the end of the year. But I think I only threw 130 innings last year and I’m already at 120 right now. So I think maybe if I had to pinpoint one, my body might be a little banged up all the way around, just fatigued from having to throw every fifth day and not really being used to it. But I’m just trying to get my feet back under me. They told me to come down here and get healthy and I’ll be back soon. So I’m not too worried about it. I’m just trying to get healthy – I’m getting a couple extra days off. I’m really trying to get back into the groove.

AF:  I remember when we last talked a little over a week ago, you’d said, “Some of these major league innings can take a lot out of you.” And it made me wonder if maybe you were physically tiring a little bit at this point in the season.

DM:  Yeah, in the big leagues, winning and losing matters. It’s not that it doesn’t in Triple-A or Double-A, but we’re working on things. Everyone down here’s working on something – actually, probably three or four things – but everyone’s working to get better. So I guess it’s probably a little less stressful in the minors. In the big leagues, with guys on first and second and one out, with these next two hitters you’ve got to really try and get a ground ball, or with a guy on third and one out, you’ve got to try and pop a guy up or strike him out and then get the next guy out. So it is a little more stressful and I think it just fatigues you quicker – those ten pitches are way more intense.

AF:  So how did they tell you that you were going back down?

DM:  Curt Young and Bob Melvin sat me down and they just told me, “Hey, we’re going to send you down.” I had a feeling it was coming anyway. I’d had four or five so-so starts in a row. They just told me to get my feet back under me, don’t worry about it, you know, I’ll be back soon. Don’t know when that will be – could be a week, could be three or four weeks, could be September, could be never. You know, I’m 23 years old and having the chance to throw in the big leagues – which was a life-long dream – so I’m already living the dream at 23! So I’m not too worried about it at all. I’m just trying to get healthy, get feeling good again and hopefully get a shot.

AF:  I know that was a lot more than you expected when you started the year at Midland.

DM:  Yeah, sure. I think I told you, my goal was to make it to the big leagues by September. So I made it there early, but it takes a lot out of you.

AF:  How was facing major league hitters different for you than facing hitters down here in Triple-A?

DM:  Well, one thing is you can’t make a mistake. The moment you make a mistake by two or three inches, it’s a double. You make a mistake by a foot, it’s a home run. Even sometimes you’ll make good pitches and they’ll still get hits out of it. For example, I threw a curveball that was basically in the dirt and Wilson golfs it out for a single and two runs score. So I make a great pitch but, because the guy’s a big league hitter, he finds a way to hit it. That’s why it’s the highest level – you don’t get higher than that – those hitters know what they’re doing. And it’s all about executing…every single pitch matters. And, like I said, I feel like lately my execution has been so-so, and some walks and some two-strike hits have really killed me in certain situations. Not making a good enough pitch just led to problems. And once you make a couple mistakes, major league hitters are going to make you pay. And then it starts snowballing and long innings happen and suck pitches out of you and there you go, you’re at 100 pitches by the fifth inning already.

AF:  Now that you’re back here in Triple-A, what are you primarily trying to focus on doing while you’re down here?

DM:  You know, just the same things that I would up there – trying to get strike one, trying to execute all my pitches, getting early outs. I want to try to emphasize limiting the walks, trying to put the ball in play a little bit. And then, when I get to two strikes, putting them away with four pitches per hitter. You know, get them to 0-2, 1-2, maybe throw a ball and set something up and then get the guy out. It’s not my job to strike them out, it’s my job to get them out. A lot of pitchers really want the strikeouts, and I don’t care. The strikeouts will come when they come. I’m just trying to get early outs to try to lengthen the outings. You know, pitching five innings in the big leagues isn’t going to cut it. You’ve got to at least throw six or seven…you’ve got to be able to go deep in the games. So I’m just trying to keep my pitch count a little lower. Walks are, of course, the top priority – limit those to zero hopefully!

AF:  Now I know you were living with Josh Reddick when you were up in Oakland, along with Ryon Healy as well. So where are you living down here in Nashville now?

DM:  Well, I’m in my apartment that I had before I left. I’m living with Chris Jensen now. I originally lived with Eric Surkamp, but we designated him and then he got picked up by Korea, so now he’s playing over there. Chris Jensen got promoted from Double-A, so he’s been living in the apartment without me, and now we’re back together in the apartment. But it was kind of weird with all the speculation and talk about Reddick going around. So I kind of told him, “I appreciate everything you did for me…and how nice you’ve been to me and Ryon.” I was like, “I hope I see you again. If not, I’ll see you on the other side.” So it was kind of a weird goodbye in a way. You know, he’s a great guy and a great mentor. Even though he’s an outfielder and not a pitcher, it doesn’t matter. Taking me and Healy into his house, treating us like he said he was treated when he was brought up – it’s really nice knowing a guy’s taking us under his wing and really being there for us, helping us out with living and transportation. Anything we needed, he was there for us. And I think Ryon would say the exact same thing – we really appreciate everything he did for us. He’s a great overall player, he hustles 24/7, and I love watching him in a game. If he grounds out to short, he runs 100% down to first base. He plays the game the right way and he’s just a great mentor.

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