Tag Archive for Oakland Athletics

The A’s Hottest Hitting Prospects This Spring

Billy Burns

Billy Burns: The speedster is one of the A’s top hitters this spring.

With the A’s reassigning seven players to their minor league camp this past weekend, including top prospect Matt Olson and second baseman Joe Wendle, it’s a good time to take a look at how some of the team’s top young hitting prospects have been faring so far this spring.

The A’s will be counting on youngsters like shortstop Marcus Semien, catcher Josh Phegley and first baseman/outfielder Mark Canha to play significant roles with the major league squad this year, while Josh Reddick’s oblique injury could potentially open up a roster spot for a guy like Billy Burns or Tyler Ladendorf. Meanwhile, prospects like Max Muncy, Joe Wendle and Matt Olson are set to start the season in the minors, where they’ll have the chance to hone their skills while they await the opportunity to crack the major league roster at some point in the near future.

Let’s take a look at how some of these players whom the A’s will be heavily counting on in the present and in the future have been faring so far this spring…

 

bbBurns, Billy2BILLY BURNS

0 HR / .392 AVG / .439 OBP / .549 SLG

Burns has been one of the team’s top hitters so far this spring. Known for his blazing speed, his bat has come alive in the first few weeks of March, and Burns currently leads the team in hits, runs and stolen bases. He’s gone 20 for 51 with 3 triples and a pair of doubles while swiping 4 bases and posting a .439 OBP. Burns is slated to start the season in center field for Triple-A Nashville, but if Josh Reddick isn’t ready to go on opening day, the A’s could decide to keep Burns around if, for nothing else, to be able to utilize his speed off the bench.

 

mmMuncy, Max2MAX MUNCY

1 HR / .286 AVG / .400 OBP / .536 SLG

Muncy was one of the team’s top hitters early this spring. He’s collected 5 extra-base hits and is tied for the team lead with 6 walks while posting an impressive .400 OBP. His plate discipline has always been one of the things that the A’s have loved about him, and his solid performance at the plate this spring has no doubt left a favorable impression on many. After spending all of last year at Double-A Midland, Muncy is ticketed for Triple-A Nashville this season, where he should see time at both first base and third base.

 

msSemien, Marcus2MARCUS SEMIEN

2 HR / .302 AVG / .362 OBP / .512 SLG
When he was acquired from the White Sox in the offseason in the Jeff Samardzija trade and pretty much anointed as the A’s new shortstop, no one was quite sure what to expect. Semien quickly made a good first impression by blasting a pair of home runs early on, but he’s also added 3 doubles and has been getting on base at a solid .362 clip. And it’s a good thing that Semien’s been such a steady presence in the lineup and in the field this spring since he appears to be the A’s plan A, B and C at shortstop this season.

 

tlLadendorf, Tyler3TYLER LADENDORF

1 HR / .319 AVG / .319 OBP / .468 SLG

Ladendorf has primarily been known as a glove man during his years in the A’s system, lending a reliable presence at second, short, third and occasionally in the outfield. But last season at Triple-A Sacramento, his bat began to heat up, and he’s carried that hot bat right into his first big league spring training camp this year. Ladendorf is currently 15 for 47 with a home run, a triple and a pair of doubles in 18 spring games and currently leads the team in RBIs with 11. He was originally slated for Triple-A Nashville, but if Josh Reddick is unable to go on opening day, Ladendorf’s ability to play all around the infield as well as in the outfield could make him a good addition to an A’s team that values versatility.

 

jpPhegley, Josh2JOSH PHEGLEY

2 HR / .250 AVG / .270 OBP / .556 SLG

Another young player acquired in the Samaradzija deal this offseason, Phegley is scheduled to share time behind the plate with Stephen Vogt this year. The backstop came to the A’s with the reputation for having a little pop in his bat, and he’s lived up to that reputation this spring, knocking 7 extra-base hits and posting a healthy .556 slugging percentage. Hopefully Phegley can keep it up because, without Donladson or Cespedes around this season, the A’s will definitely be looking for a few new power sources from the right side this year.

 

mcCanha, Mark2MARK CANHA

2 HR / .240 AVG / .296 OBP / .480 SLG

Another potential right-handed power source for the A’s, Canha currently leads the team in extra-base hits with 8 but is also the A’s spring strikeout leader with 20. The Rule-5 pick is expected to get the chance to show what he can do with the A’s this year and should start out the season with his name on the lineup card whenever the A’s find themselves facing lefties, whether it’s at first base, DH or in one of the corner outfield spots.

 

jwWendle, Joey2JOE WENDLE

0 HR / .286 AVG / .342 OBP / .371 SLG
When he was acquired from the Indians for Brandon Moss in the offseason, many people wondered what exactly the A’s saw in Wendle. But the second baseman has looked solid in the field and at the plate this spring. Before being reassigned to the minor league camp on Sunday, he was 10 for 35 with a pair of extra-base hits and a solid .342 OBP. Wendle is expected to start the season as the primary second baseman at Triple-A Nashville.

 

moOlson, Matt2MATT OLSON

1 HR / .195 AVG / .283 OBP / .341 SLG

The A’s top prospect according to many, Olson led all A’s minor leaguers in home runs as well as walks last season. And in his first big league camp this year, the big first baseman impressed early on before beginning to struggle a bit against better pitching. Just a few days shy of 21, Olson smashed 3 doubles and a home run while drawing 5 walks before being sent down on Sunday. He’s ticketed for Double-A Midland this season but, if he keeps flashing the mix of power and plate discipline the A’s love, the future could be sooner rather than later for Olson.

 

 

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A’s Farm’s 2015 Top 10 Prospect List

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

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

With the first A’s players set to start turning up at the team’s new spring training camp in just a couple of weeks, it’s time to present A’s Farm’s 2015 Top 10 Prospect List.

It’s interesting to note that half the players from last year’s top 10 list are no longer with the organization. #1 Addison Russell and #2 Billy McKinney were both dealt to the Cubs in the Jeff Samardzija deal, and #6 Daniel Robertson went to Tampa Bay in the Ben Zobrist trade, while #4 Michael Ynoa and #9 Nolan Sanburn were both shipped off to the White Sox, Ynoa along with Jeff Samardzija and Sanburn in the Adam Dunn deal.

Those returning from last year’s list include third baseman Renato Nunez, first baseman Matt Olson, who’s shot to the top of the list on the strength of a solid 2014 season at Stockton, and RHP Raul Alcantara, who’s dropped a few spots thanks to Tommy John surgery. But that still leaves room for seven new entries making their first appearances on the list this year, four of them freshly arrived in this offseason’s flurry of trades – pitchers Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin along with infielders Franklin Barreto and Joe Wendle.

Six of this year’s top 10 are position players, while only four are pitchers. Most A’s prospect lists this year feature either first baseman Matt Olson or shortstop Franklin Barreto in the top spot, but we’ve opted to go with Olson as the more mature, advanced and polished prospect. So without any further ado, let’s take a look at A’s Farm’s 2015 Top 10 Prospect List

 

A’S FARM’S 2015 TOP 10 PROSPECT LIST

#1 – Matt Olson (1B)

#2 – Franklin Barreto (SS)

#3 – Matt Chapman (3B)

#4 – Renato Nunez (3B)

#5 – Kendall Graveman (RHP)

#6 – Sean Nolin (LHP)

#7 – Chad Pinder (2B)

#8 – Dillon Overton (LHP)

#9 – Raul Alcantara (RHP)

#10 – Joe Wendle (2B)

 

moMatt+Olson+2014+Arizona+Fall+League+O_O__VUX80Kl2#1 MATT OLSON

Left-Handed Hitting First Baseman

Age On Opening Day: 21

Drafted 2012 – 1st Round

The two most important things to know about Olson are that he led all A’s minor leaguers in home runs (37) and also in walks (117) in 2014. And combining that kind of power and discipline as a 20-year-old is certainly a good way to endear yourself to an organization like the A’s. The 6’4” first baseman also led A’s minor leaguers in total bases and slugging percentage and tallied 31 doubles while cutting down his strikeout rate and raising his batting average from the previous season. Olson has a sweet swing, turns in solid defense at first base and got into a handful of games in the outfield at Stockton in 2014. After leading the hitter-friendly California League in homers last season, the much less friendly confines of Midland – where those west Texas winds have wreaked havoc with past prospects like Michael Choice and Grant Green – will pose a much bigger challenge for Olson’s big bat this year. But if he can keep the strikeouts at a manageable level, his raw power, willingness to take a walk and competence in the field should put him in a good position to make his way to the majors in the next couple of years.

Likely To Start 2015 With: Midland RockHounds (AA)

 

fbBaretto_and_Davis_i1c6k3mz_vqb1gd05b#2 FRANKLIN BARRETO

Right-Handed Hitting Shortstop

Age On Opening Day: 19

Undrafted – Signed as International Free Agent

A highly-touted young prospect out of Venezuela, Barreto found his way to the A’s in the Josh Donaldson trade this winter. While playing in the Class-A Northwest League as an 18-year-old last year, Barreto slugged 23 doubles while swiping 29 bases in just 73 games. Though fairly small at 5’9”, he swings the bat well and seems to have some pop, especially for a middle infielder, to go along with his speed. There’s a question as to whether or not he can stick at shortstop but, at his age, there’s still time to see just how much his skills can develop in the field. The A’s are looking to have him pull an Addison Russell and start the season as a 19-year-old at Stockton in the High-A California League. And after dealing Russell to the Cubs last season and Daniel Robertson to Tampa Bay in the offseason, the organization is also looking for Barreto to take over as the A’s latest shortstop of the future.

Likely To Start 2015 With: Stockton Ports (A)

 

mcMB13476f#3 MATT CHAPMAN

Right-Handed Hitting Third Baseman

Age On Opening Day: 21

Drafted 2014 – 1st Round

The A’s top pick in last year’s amateur draft, Chapman quickly found his way to the full-season Beloit Snappers last year. Chapman’s pedigree as an experienced college player at a top program (Cal State Fullerton) and his reputation as perhaps the best defensive college third baseman on the landscape helped give the A’s confidence in his ability to handle the challenge. While showing great plate discipline in the college game, the southern California native was a little too free-swinging during his time in the Midwest League – striking out 46 times while drawing just 7 walks. But Chapman performed well when he got a chance with Double-A Midland during the Texas League postseason after some late-season injuries created an opening for the slick-fielding third baseman with the RockHounds. The 21-year-old is likely to start the season with High-A Stockton in the hitter-friendly California League, where he should have the opportunity to unleash his power potential. And if Chapman can combine some genuine pop with his elite defense at third, then he could find himself on the fast track to the majors.

Likely To Start 2015 With: Stockton Ports (A)

 

rnRenato Nunez 8x10b#4 RENATO NUNEZ

Right-Handed Hitting Third Baseman

Age On Opening Day: 21

Undrafted – Signed as International Free Agent

Nunez moved up one notch on our list this year on the strength of a strong season at Stockton. The young slugger was second only to Olson in home runs and total bases among A’s minor leaguers last year. He also turned in a healthy .517 slugging percentage while hitting 28 doubles and 29 homers for Stockton. Nunez reduced his strikeout rate as well as his error total – from 39 down to 15 – between 2013 and 2014, but he still has plenty of work to do on both his defense and his plate discipline. Nunez struck out 113 times while drawing just 34 walks last year and it’s still a question whether or not he’ll be able to stick at third base, but he showed that his power potential is real. Like Olson, Nunez will face a bigger challenge having to hit at Midland this year, but if he can just learn to be a little more disciplined at the plate, his power could take him a long way.

Likely To Start 2015 With: Midland RockHounds (AA)

 

kg37-kendall-graveman2#5 KENDALL GRAVEMAN

Right-Handed Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 24

Drafted 2013 – 8th Round

After being drafted in 2013 out of Mississippi State, Graveman rocketed through the Blue Jays’ system and made it all the way to the majors for a brief spell last year. The Alabama native, who came to the A’s in the Josh Donaldson deal, has four pitches – highlighted by a solid fastball and an effective cutter – shows good command and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. Over four minor league levels last season, Graveman walked 31 while surrendering just 2 home runs over 167 1/3 innings. He definitely profiles as the kind of pitcher the A’s like, and A’s general manager Billy Beane has even said that Graveman might have an inside track on claiming one of the open spots in the A’s starting rotation this year. And with a strong spring, the odds are good that A’s fans could end up seeing Graveman on the mound every fifth day this year.

Likely To Start 2015 With: Oakland A’s (MLB)

 

sn20140225_mse_sv7_1687.0b#6 SEAN NOLIN

Left-Handed Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 25

Drafted 2010 – 6th Round

Like Graveman, Nolin came to the A’s in the Josh Donaldson deal, and the A’s apparently have had their eye on the lefty for quite a while. Also like Graveman, Nolin doesn’t walk many and doesn’t give up a lot of longballs. He’s also managed to strike out more than one batter per inning over his minor league career. The 6’4” lefty was sidelined for a while with a groin injury last year and was only able to throw 96 2/3 innings, but he struck out 24 in 22 1/3 innings during a strong Arizona Fall League campaign. Nolin will surely be in the competition for a spot in the A’s rotation this spring, along with Graveman, Drew Pomeranz, Chris Bassitt and others, but if he doesn’t make it, he’ll be waiting in the wings at Nashville.

Likely To Start 2015 With: Nashville Sounds (AAA)

 

cpDSC03243d#7 CHAD PINDER

Right-Handed Hitting Second Baseman

Age On Opening Day: 23

Drafted 2013 – 2nd Round

After a rough start in 2013, primarily due to injury, Pinder got off to a great start in 2014 and was perhaps the A’s best all-around minor league hitter early in the season. Some lingering injuries slowed him down a bit later in the season, but Pinder still performed well while making the move from shortstop to second base at Stockton. Pinder showed some power, putting up 15 homers and 32 doubles in just 94 games while posting a .489 slugging percentage for the Ports. His plate discipline could still use a bit of work as he drew just 22 walks while whiffing 99 times. His ability to show a little pop from the middle infield should serve him well though. But like Olson and Nunez, he’ll find himself facing a much more challenging hitting environment in Midland this year.

Likely To Start 2015 With: Midland RockHounds (AA)

 

dodillon_overton_yol4qgc8_l2u3nnii2#8 DILLON OVERTON

Left-Handed Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 23

Drafted 2013 – 2nd Round

The A’s 2nd-round pick in 2013, it was discovered shortly after the draft that Overton was going to need Tommy John surgery. Overton returned during the latter half of last season and looked impressive. The former University of Oklahoma ace struck out 53 while walking just 4 and allowing no home runs over 37 innings in the low minors last season. With a strong college pedigree and an effective fastball, slider and changeup, now that he appears to be healthy, the lanky lefty should start out the year with Beloit but could move up the ladder quickly if he can continue to confound minor league batters.

Likely To Start 2015 With: Beloit Snappers (A)

 

ra534361b3098d7.image4#9 RAUL ALCANTARA

Right-Handed Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 22

Undrafted – Signed as International Free Agent

Last year at this time, Alcantara was looking like the A’s top pitching prospect but, like Overton, Alcantara ended up in need of Tommy John surgery. Alcantara went under the knife last spring and hopefully, if all goes well, he’ll be able to make a return to the mound sometime later this season. But before the injury, Alcantara showed what he was capable of in 2013, walking just 24 and striking out 124 while posting a 3.11 ERA in 156 1/3 innings for Class-A Beloit and Stockton. His strong fastball and changeup combined with an aggressive approach on the mound could push Alcantara back to the front of the pitching pack if he can make a return to good health this season.

Likely To Start 2015 With: Arizona League A’s (Rk)

 

jw11275-JoeyWendle-400x300b#10 JOE WENDLE

Left-Handed Hitting Second Baseman

Age On Opening Day: 24

Drafted 2012 – 6th Round

The most important thing to know about Wendle is that the A’s traded slugger Brandon Moss to Cleveland for him straight up. And given the overall track record of the A’s front office, you’ve got to assume they must know something. Wendle was a solid college player and earned Cleveland’s minor league player of the year honors after putting up a .295/.372/.513 slash line in 2013, but he missed some time in 2014 with a broken hamate bone and saw his line dip to .253/.311/.414 over 87 games at Double-A. Wendle does appear to have a little pop in his bat, and it seems like middle infielders with some pop are an asset that the A’s have been zeroing in on of late. Wendle is slated to start the season at Nashville and, if all goes well, he could be in a position to take over for free-agent-to-be Ben Zobrist in 2016.

Likely To Start 2015 With: Nashville Sounds (AAA)

 

Honorable Mentions: Rangel Ravelo (1B), Max Muncy (1B), Yairo Munoz (SS), Chris Bassitt (RHP), Bobby Wahl (RHP), Daniel Gossett (RHP)

 

Last Year’s Top 10 Prospect List

 

 

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.

Oakland A’s & Nashville Sounds 2015 Roster Outlook

It was another busy offseason for A's GM Billy Beane

A’s GM Billy Beane was a busy boy this winter

For the moment, as we sit here perched on the precipice of February, let’s go out on a limb and assume that the majority of the A’s offseason work is now finally done – which is never an entirely safe bet with general manager Billy Beane at the helm. But considering the massive amount of roster turnover and the vast number of new players the team has acquired, the shape of the A’s major league roster actually appears to be fairly clear at this point. While little has changed in the A’s outfield, the rest of the roster will look plenty different from the team that took the field to start 2014…

 

2015 OAKLAND A’S

While last year’s team started out with the tandem of John Jaso and Derek Norris behind the plate, the 2015 model figures to count on a catching platoon of fan-favorite Stephen Vogt and newly-acquired Josh Phegley, who arrived from the White Sox as part of the Jeff Samardzija trade.

The A’s 2015 starting infield looks to be entirely different from 2014, with Eric Sogard likely to be the only returning infielder on the roster, but this time in a utility role. 25-year-old Brett Lawrie will take over for Josh Donaldson at the hot corner, while Berkeley native Marcus Semien has been annointed as the team’s new shortstop. He’ll be mentored up the middle by former All-Star Ben Zobrist, who is set to be the team’s primary second baseman. Slugger Ike Davis should be stationed at first base against right-handers with free-agent catch Billy Butler as the designated hitter, while Butler should take over at first against lefties with Rule-5 pick Mark Canha serving in the DH spot as a sort of new-fangled Nate Freiman. With Zobrist taking over at second, last year’s primary second baseman and the almost-face-of-MLB, Eric Sogard, will likely serve in a utility role, backing up Zobrist at second, Semien at short and Lawrie at third. Sogard has experience at all three positions in both the majors and the minors.

Brett Lawrie: Can he make A's fans forget Josh Donaldson?

Brett Lawrie: Can he make A’s fans forget Josh Donaldson?

As mentioned, there aren’t a lot of new faces in the A’s outfield in 2015. Josh Reddick returns as the team’s rifle-armed right fielder, while Coco Crisp will man center field, as long as his health allows – and A’s fans better hope and pray that’s a lot – and Sam Fuld and Craig Gentry should share duties in left field. Of course, the 2015 version of the A’s does possess similar versatility to last year’s model. If needed, Zobrist is perfectly capable of playing in the outfield, with Sogard slotting in at second. Canha can also do time in the outfield if needed and, like Sogard, Semien has played all over the infield with the exception of first base.

As far as the team’s starting rotation goes, only two members seem to be certain locks – veteran lefty Scott Kazmir and young righty Sonny Gray. General manager Billy Beane did mention in a conference call with reporters that returning lefty Drew Pomeranz and newly-acquired right-handers Jesse Hahn and Kendall Graveman may have “the inside track” for the remaining rotation spots. So assuming the GM’s opinion counts for something, one would have to assume that’s the group that’s most likely to make up the team’s starting five, though new acquisitions Chris Bassitt and Sean Nolin will surely be in on the competition as well and much will clearly depend on how spring training plays out.

It appears that the team may prefer to have Jesse Chavez back in the bullpen as a reliable long man and occasional spot starter if needed. And with Sean Doolittle set to miss the start of the season with shoulder issues, former Nationals closer Tyler Clippard is likely the leading candidate to take over Doolittle’s spot as the last man on the mound for the A’s. Fernando Abad and Eric O’Flaherty are set to be the team’s lefties out of the ‘pen, with Dan Otero and Ryan Cook available from the right side. That leaves one last bullpen spot available while Doolittle’s doing time on the DL. Since he’s out of options, it might be safe to give Evan Scribner the edge, though lefty Eury De La Rosa (acquired from Arizona) and righty R.J. Alvarez (picked up from the Padres) could also be distinct possibilities.

Of course, the team is counting on Doolittle to return at some point. And let’s not forget that A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker are both working their way back from Tommy John surgery with midseason returns quite possible for the pair.

 

2015 NASHVILLE SOUNDS

With all the young players the team acquired in trades, and plenty of minor league free agent signees as well, there will be a bit of a roster crunch at the top levels of the A’s farm system in 2015. And it’s going to be particularly difficult for many players to make the move up from Midland, with the possible exception of first baseman Max Muncy with the team’s top prospect, Matt Olson, set to take over at first for Midland in 2015. As things now stand, it appears that there are about 16 position players competing for what is typically 12 roster spots and 23 pitchers competing for what is typically 13 spots on the pitching staff at the A’s Triple-A affiliate. So let’s take a look at some of the players most likely to find themselves playing in Nashville as the PCL team begins its first season as the A’s top affiliate.

The team has two very experienced minor league catchers who’ve had the chance to get their feet wet in the majors and who’ll be waiting in the wings at Nashville in 2015. 28-year-old, lefty-swinging Bryan Anderson has caught 755 minor league games and has appeared in the majors with the Cardinals and the White Sox and even managed to get one at-bat with the A’s last year, while 34-year-old switch-hitter Luke Carlin has been behind the plate for 773 minor league games and has made appearances with San Diego, Arizona and Cleveland.

One of the A’s most exciting minor leaguers, speed-burner Billy Burns, should have the chance to run around the bases and tear up the turf in center field for Nashville in 2015. He’ll likely be flanked by a pair of minor league veterans – 29-year-old Matt Angle and 31-year-old Jason Pridie, who’s appeared with the Twins, the Mets, the Phillies, the Orioles and the Rockies – along with Josh Whitaker, who split last season between Sacramento and Midland.

Nashville’s infield should be anchored up the middle by shortstop Andy Parrino, newly-acquired second baseman Joe Wendle, and Tyler Ladendorf, who split time last season between second base and shortstop and can also play a little in the outfield. The corners could be a little crowded with Alden Carrithers returning at third base, newly-acquired Rangel Ravelo set to see time at third and first, Nate Freiman likely to play first and DH, as is Max Muncy, and Anthony Aliotti, who spent time at first as well as in the outfield for Sacramento last season, is also in the mix.

Infielders Colin Walsh and Niuman Romero, who was signed as a minor league free agent, will also be battling for a spot on the Nashville roster, but it might be tough unless injuries, trades or releases unexpectedly open the door to a roster spot. Due to the roster crunch, Romero, who’s spent over 700 minor league games at shortstop and second base, may end up sharing middle infield duties with Chad Pinder at Midland, where there aren’t a lot of legitimate shortstop options with the departure of Daniel Robertson in the Ben Zobrist deal with Tampa Bay.

Billy Burns: Will he set a new land speed record in Nashville?

Billy Burns: Will he set a new land speed record in Nashville?

When it comes to the Sounds’ starting rotation, between all the new acquisitions, minor league free agent signees and returning players, there should be an abundance of starting pitchers available at the Triple-A level that will make it almost impossible, barring some unexpected injuries, for any starters to make the move up from Midland, including deserving candidates like Nate Long and Chris Jensen. It also means that some better known pitching prospects like former 1st-rounder Deck McGuire aren’t likely to have much of a shot at starting the season with the Sounds.

If, as speculated, Kazmir, Gray, Hahn, Pomeranz and Graveman end up comprising the A’s starting five, that would leave seven solid candidates for the Sounds’ starting rotation, six of whom will be in major league camp this spring. Three of them are currently on the A’s 40-man roster and would probably be first in line – new acquisitions Chris Bassitt and Sean Nolin along with returning righty Arnold Leon – while minor league free agent additions Brad Mills and Rudy Owens, both of whom have gotten a taste of life in the majors, and returning righty Matt Buschmann would all be solid options. Zach Neal, who was one of Sacramento’s most solid starters last season, may be at a bit of a disadvantage since he won’t be participating in the major league camp with the others. But depending on how everything shakes out, they all have a legitimate shot at starting the season in the Sounds’ starting rotation.

Thanks to multiple minor league free agent signings, the bullpen picture is even more crowded, with at least 16 pitchers competing for what will likely be 8 bullpen spots in Nashville. Two who were acquired in trades during the offseason, lefty Eury De La Rosa and righty R.J. Alvarez, are on the 40-man roster, as is righty Taylor Thompson, who was claimed off waivers. As long as they don’t make the major league roster, they should all be assured spots, as should righty Fernando Rodriguez, who posted a 1.97 ERA at Sacramento and allowed 1 run in 7 appearances for the A’s last season.

That leaves five veteran minor league free agent signees – righties Kevin Whelan and Brock Huntzinger, lefties Ryan Verdugo and Jim Fuller and switch-pitcher Pat Venditte (yes, he throws with both arms!) – five returning players who spent all or part of last season at Sacramento – righties Angel Castro, Paul Smyth, Seth Frankoff and Tucker Healy, plus lefty Jeff Urlaub – and two solid pitching prospects who had strong seasons at Midland last year – righties Ryan Dull and Ryan Doolittle – all competing for the remaining four spots in the Sounds’ bullpen.

Of course, one never knows what unexpected injuries might sideline some arms to start the season but, regardless, a number of these names who don’t make the cut with the Sounds are bound to end up in the bullpen at Midland, where Nate Long, Chris Jensen, Sean Murphy and Drew Granier could all be returning to the RockHounds’ rotation this season, perhaps along with someone like Deck McGuire.

Speaking of the A’s Double-A affiliate, some of the team’s top prospects will be found in Midland’s infield this year, with Matt Olson at first, Renato Nunez at third, and Chad Pinder and Ryon Healy in the infield mix there as well. Top catching prospect Bruce Maxwell will be competing for a spot behind the plate with Blake Forsythe and Ryan Ortiz, as well as fellow backstops Beau Taylor and Carson Blair. Meanwhile, the outfield should primarily be comprised of returning RockHounds like Kent Matthes, Chad Oberacker and Conner Crumbliss, with the possible addition of Jaycob Brugman, who proved himself at both Beloit and Stockton last season.

But let’s clearly lay out the possible players on your 2015 Oakland A’s and Nashville Sounds opening day rosters right here (just click on each player’s name below to view their complete stats page)…

A’s Farm in Top 5 MLB Blogs in 2013!

A's Farm joins the Top 5!

A’s Farm joins the big 5!

Well, the results are in – and A’s Farm was ranked in the Top 5 MLB blogs for 2013! At our peak late in the season, we were averaging almost 6,000 hits per week and over 20,000 hits per month. And we want to be sure to thank all you devoted A’s fans who are clearly committed to learning as much as possible about the organization from top to bottom.

We also want to thank MLB Trade Rumors for repeatedly featuring A’s Farm as one of their top blog picks of the week, Baseball Reference for regularly featuring us in their player news section, and A’s Nation who’s allowed us to provide weekly minor league updates during the season for all those A’s fans who get their A’s news from the biggest and best A’s blog on the web.

In 2013, A’s Farm profiled the A’s top prospects, offered progress reports on the team’s top draft picks, named the A’s organizational all-stars, and featured interviews with top players and prospects like Dan Straily, Sonny Gray and Addison Russell, along with front office personnel like director of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, director of player personnel Billy Owens, scouting director Eric Kubota and super scout Grady Fuson. All that in addition to our daily updates on all the A’s minor league affiliates – the Sacramento River CatsMidland RockHounds, Stockton PortsBeloit SnappersVermont Lake Monsters and the Arizona League A’s.

Stay tuned for much more right here in 2014, and be sure to like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm, and sign up to get our weekly A’s minor league update e-mailed to you during the season to stay up to date on all the latest down on the farm!

A’s Farm in Top 3 MLB Blogs for 2nd Straight Month!

Whaddaya say Dick, can we make it 3 in a row?

 Whaddaya say Dick, can we make it three in a row?

A’s Farm cracked into the top 3 MLB blogs last month, and it looks like we managed to hang on to our top 3 spot again in August. Thanks to all you A’s fans out there who’ve made A’s Farm a regular stop to stay up to date on all the A’s minor league teams and top prospects!

In the past month, we’ve brought you progress reports on the A’s 2013 draft class as well as the A’s 2012 draft class, along with our recent feature on the A’s minor league hitting and pitching leaders this season.

Make sure you stay tuned to A’s Farm for updates on all the A’s top prospects. And if you haven’t already, be sure to like our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm, and sign up to get our weekly A’s minor league recap e-mailed to you free if you want to stay up to date on all the latest down on the farm!

A’s Farm Cracks into Top 3 MLB Blogs in July!

A's Farm has made the Big 3!

  A’s Farm has joined the Big Three!

After making it into the top 4 MLB blogs in each of the past two months, A’s Farm finally cracked into the top 3 MLB blogs in the month of July! Thanks to all you A’s fans out there who’ve made A’s Farm a regular stop to stay up to date on all the A’s minor league teams and top prospects.

In the past month, we’ve brought you our progress report on the A’s Top 12 Draft Picks, our mid-season updates on the Sacramento River Cats and the Stockton Ports, and our interviews with A’s super-scout Grady Fuson and Sacramento River Cats manager Steve Scarsone.

Make sure you stay tuned to A’s Farm for daily updates on all the A’s minor league teams and top prospects. And if you haven’t already, be sure to like our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm, and sign up to get our weekly A’s minor league recap e-mailed to you free if you want to stay up to date on all the latest down on the farm!

Getting To Know: A’s New Catcher Stephen Vogt

svvogt2Originally drafted by Tampa Bay back in 2007, veteran minor league catcher Stephen Vogt didn’t get his first cup of coffee in the big leagues until last year when, at the age of 27, he got into 18 games for the Rays. The A’s acquired him just after the 2013 season started and sent him to Sacramento, where he’s been one of the River Cats’ most productive hitters this season, batting .325 with 9 home runs in 231 at-bats.

With starting catcher John Jaso’s hand still bothering him, Oakland decided to call on Vogt this week. So now, at 28, the left-handed-hitting backstop is getting his second shot in the majors with the A’s. In his first at-bat against Cincinnati on Tuesday night, Vogt drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. Two night’s later, he homered against St. Louis for his first major league hit. And, fortunately, A’s Farm was there to catch up with Vogt on his first day in Oakland as the team prepared to play Cincinnati later that night…

 

AF:  So when did you find out you were coming up to Oakland?

SV:  Last night, right after our game. You know, we had the rain delay, so it was a little later – it was about 11:15. (River Cats manager) Steve Scarsone took me in the office and just said, “What’s the best thing you could hear right now?” I said, “I’m going up.” And he said, “There you are.” So here we are – I’m here tonight!

AF:  Did you come down to Oakland last night?

SV:  No, it was way too late last night. So we drove down this morning.

AF:  Do you know if you’re playing today?

SV:  I’m catching.

AF:  So you’re thrown in with a bunch of pitchers you never even had a chance to be around in spring training. What’s that like?

SV:  You know, it’s a learning curve. You have to rely on them. I’m going to help them out the best I can. I’ve talked with D-No (Derek Norris) and Jaso a little bit about them already, and they’ve been great in helping me out. So it’s just a matter of going out there and seeing what I can do.

AF:  Well, it’s three hours till game time. So have you had a chance to talk to tonight’s starting pitcher Tommy Milone yet?

sv51ce58484676a.preview-620bSV:  Not yet. I haven’t even met him.

AF:  So I guess you’re just hoping to meet him before you get out on the field.

SV:  Absolutely.

AF:  Do you have any family or friends here for your debut with the A’s tonight?

SV:  Yeah, my wife and daughter, and my parents and my grandparents and my aunt are going to be here tonight. I’m from Visalia, so everybody’s local.

AF:  You’ve been hitting well in Sacramento all year. So what accounts for your success at the plate this season?

SV:  A lot of it is just getting off to a good start. You come out in your first game of the year and get three hits, and it’s like, “All right, here we go.” And that lineup down there is a pretty good lineup, and hitting around a lot of good guys is going to get you a lot of good pitches to hit, and I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of success so far.

AF:  Well, down in Sacramento you’ve been catching Sonny Gray, who seems to have gotten over the hump this year. From your perspective as a catcher, what have you seen from him this season?

SV:  Electric stuff – three great pitches. He really is learning how to pitch. He’s learning how to get people out. He’s competing really well. Honestly, I just can’t say enough about how he’s coming along. He’s going to be something pretty special.

AF:  Is there any one thing that’s been the key to his success this year?

SV:  Just his command. When he’s on, he’s on. He struggles a little bit sometimes with his command. But for the most part, this year, he’s been outstanding. And he’s not far away. He’s got really good stuff.

AF:  So when you’ve got a game plan, he’s throwing it right where it’s supposed to be – which makes things a lot easier for you.

SV:  Absolutely. He’s a lot of fun to work with.

AF:  Well, best of luck to you tonight.

SV:  Thank you very much.

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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 weekly A’s minor league recap e-mailed to you free by signing up here.

Catching Up With: A’s Prospect Sonny Gray

by James Ham / A’s Farm Correspondent

sghi-res-162663960_display_image2Rumors broke last week that the Oakland A’s 2011 1st-round draft pick Sonny Gray might be in line to make his major league debut if Jarrod Parker couldn’t make his scheduled start. It turned out to be a false alarm, but Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily better bring their A-game, because Gray is coming.

The 23-year old right-hander out of Vanderbilt is now 4-1 with a 2.19 ERA in his 6 starts at Triple-A Sacramento this season. More importantly, in his last 3 starts, he’s been lighting the Pacific Coast League on fire, allowing just 2 runs in 21 innings while striking out 19 over that stretch.

“Being in my second year and understanding professional baseball a little bit better and being able to get in a little bit better routine, it’s something that I’m feeling a lot more comfortable and a lot more confident this year than I did early last year,” Gray told Athletics Farm last week.

In just his third season in professional baseball, Gray is turning heads with his array of pitches. He throws both a two-seam and four-seam fastball, as well as a curveball and a changeup.

“(My) fast ball command has gotten a lot better, and that’s something we’ve been working on,” Gray said. “Not only fastball command, (but) throwing it. You know, starting the two-seam where I want it for a strike and a ball. That’s just something that’s come with a little more experience and a little more routine. The changeup is getting better, I’m really confident in that right now. It’s gotten me out of big jams already this year. And the curveball is still there.”

After posting a complete game victory last week and facing just two batters in a game that was called due to rain earlier this week, Gray pitched a gem on Saturday night. In 6 innings of action, he struck out 8 and gave up only 3 hits. While it’s still early, he seems to be getting better every time out.

The A’s farm system has become a factory for major league starting pitching and Gray looks to be the next big prospect ready to make the jump.

“As soon as I got drafted by Oakland, I knew the accomplishments in pitching that this organization has been a part of in the history of baseball,” Gray said. “(It’s) a great pitching organization (with) a lot of good people around us that we can learn from.”

Like Michael Choice, the Athletics will give Gray as much time as he needs in Sacramento, but don’t be shocked if he is the first one to get the call this year if one of the A’s starters begins to stumble.

 

 

James Ham is known for his work covering the Sacramento Kings for Cowbell Kingdom. You can follow him on Twitter at @James_Ham.

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Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm to keep up with all the news down on the farm!

Exclusive: A’s Director of Player Personnel Billy Owens Talks 2012 Draft Class with A’s Farm

bo1151079bBelieve it or not, baseball’s amateur draft is only five weeks away, and hard-core A’s fans will soon have a fresh batch of hot prospects to ponder. With this in mind, it seems like a good time to take a look back at last year’s draft class and see where things stand. And it’d be hard to find anyone better-suited to help us do that than the A’s director of player personnel Billy Owens.

Owens originally joined the A’s organization in 1999, working as an area scout and coaching short-season baseball over the next five years. He was promoted to his current position in 2004, where he’s been able to put his knowledge of the game and its players to much more thorough use. Owens spoke with us earlier this week from an undisclosed location, where he was secretly scouting prospects for the draft. We talked about the A’s draft picks from last year’s first five rounds as well as a couple of top international prospects who are currently making their mark in the A’s system…

 

arfPCk2bFI5#1  (1st Round)

ADDISON RUSSELL

Shortstop / Age: 19

The A’s top draft pick in 2012, Russell got off to a blazing start last season. Just 19, the A’s invited him to big league camp this spring and aggressively started him off this year at Stockton in the High-A California League. He got off to a slow start and then had a brief stint on the DL, but he seems to have started heating up a bit over the past week or so.

BILLY OWENS: He had a sensational debut (last season), and we couldn’t be more excited. And seeing him in major league spring training – how he handled himself, the professionalism that he showed, just the constant energy that he plays with everyday – he has a maturity beyond his years. It’s obvious that he’s had tremendous parenting, and he’s got a lot of talent. It’s a pretty advanced assignment going to High-A ball, but we feel he’s going to be up for the challenge. We feel pretty confident that he can go there and handle himself. It’s a long year. We’re going to see how the season goes all the way through the end of the minor league championship season. And we’re pretty confident that he’s going to be able to catch up to the league, stay mature, show his tools, and be an exciting part of our system going forward.

 

drdanielrobertson_mlb_display_image#2  (1st Round)

DANIEL ROBERTSON

Shortstop / Age: 19

Robertson got off to a great start in the Arizona League last year but then struggled a bit with short-season Vermont in the NY-Penn League. He injured his knee in the instructional league. The ensuing surgery kept him out of competitive action this spring and delayed the start of his season. But he arrived in Beloit last week with a hot bat, blasting a home run in his first game.

BILLY OWENS: His make-up is outstanding. He’s a very coachable kid – talented, mature. He got dinged up a little bit, but he’s gone straight to Low-A (this season). I think his first night, he was a triple short of a cycle, and he got another hit yesterday, and he’s playing a solid shortstop. This kid definitely likes to play baseball and has been well-coached. His skill level is outstanding. He’s a solid shortstop prospect. He can definitely play the position. His hands are solid. He’s got a strong arm. He’s fundamentally sound.

 

mo15095_4110106706138_1463379083_n4#3  (1st Round)

MATT OLSON

First Baseman / Age: 19

Another one of the A’s top draft picks who got off to a great start in Arizona last year, Olson began the season with Beloit in the Midwest League. His bat remained cold through most of a very cold April in Wisconsin, but he’s begun heating up over the past week, homering in two consecutive games over the past few days.

BILLY OWENS: Matt Olson comes from a baseball family. His father played college ball. His brother plays at Harvard currently. And he’s a baseball rat. He can play first base, and he could even dabble in the outfield if need be. He’s got a short, efficient swing. I think initially he had such a strong debut – he hit a home run in his first at bat last year in Arizona rookie ball – he might have gotten a little too pull-confident and tried to force the issue with power. But we think that Matt Olson’s going to be a very good all-around hitter, be able to use the field line-to-line, and the power will just develop over time. He’s just a natural hitter. We like his hands – his hands are fluid, they’re strong, they’re direct. He had a couple of doubles the other night and hit his first home run. He’s using all the field again and squaring up multiple pitches. He’s got a very good eye – he walked 3 times the other night. I’m seeing the trends, and I’m more excited seeing the all-fields approach and the walks start to pick up versus the power. The power’s going to be there ‘cause this kid’s 6’4”, 230 pounds and just naturally strong. So it should be exciting.

 

bmBruce Maxwell#4  (2nd Round)

BRUCE MAXWELL

Catcher / Age: 22

Maxwell appeared to be a dependable hitter in his debut last year and has continued to look like a solid hitter this year at Beloit. He specializes in getting on base, but some have wondered about his ability to stick behind the plate. 

BILLY OWENS: His numbers at Birmingham Southern were just ridiculous. They were pretty amazing when you look at the extra-base hits versus the little amount of strikeouts. This kid’s got a tremendous eye, discerning at the plate. His swing path is fluid – it’s very compact, direct to the baseball. He’s strong, he’s going to have power, he’s going to be a high-walk guy. His catching is improving. Just at first glance, he reminds me of ex-Athletic Mickey Tettleton. He can catch, he’s probably going to mix in some first base down the road and get involved every now and then as a designated hitter. But first and foremost, he’s a slugger who’ll be an essential part of the Oakland Athletics organization.

 

nsresized_99261-5csanburn3colbw_47-15782_t728#5  (2nd Round)

NOLAN SANBURN

RHP / Age: 21

The first pitcher the A’s selected in last year’s draft, Sanburn appears to be a talented young hurler with an arsenal of pitches, but he spent a lot of his college career pitching out of the bullpen. So without a lot of innings under his belt, he still needs to build his stamina as a starter.

BILLY OWENS: We were excited to get Nolan when we got him. With his arm and his variety of pitches, it was a coup where we got him in the draft last year. When he went to rookie ball in short-season (Class-A), he was 96 mph+. His curveball broke off the table, and he’s got a solid changeup. He’s a very athletic kid. Just being predominantly a reliever in college last year, we’re starting to get him prepared him for X amount of innings. We’re kind of taking baby steps initially, but he’s raring to go and ready to unleash that arsenal out there.

 

bbmce_052312_0222B#6  (4th Round)

B.J. BOYD

Outfielder / Age: 19

Boyd was best known as a big Bay Area high school football prospect when the A’s drafted him last year. He’s loaded with talent and got off to a great start last year, but he’s young and his baseball skills will need a little refinement.

BILLY OWENS: He’s got a dynamic skill set. Last year, he was by far the fastest player in our draft class. And then he went straight out to rookie ball and showed that speed. He’s just explosive. He was an accomplished football player, had multiple Division I offers, but we were able to draft him. And all that carried over to rookie ball last year. That was a fun team that lost the final to the Rangers’ rookie ball squad, but B.J. was a catalyst for that team. He hit a few home runs, he walked, he hit for a high average, he stole bases, he played a good center field. The Midwest League is a great league, we’re proud to be there, but it’s a little bit cold initially, so we held a couple guys back. We’ve got him back there in extended (spring training), but at some point, I think he’ll be ready for the Midwest League this year. And I honestly believe that he’ll make a positive impression once he gets there. Right now he’s chomping at the bit, working hard in extended, shedding a few pounds, and getting ready to hopefully take the Midwest League by storm later on.

 

mm628x471b#7  (5th Round)

MAX MUNCY

First Baseman / Age: 22

Drafted out Baylor, Muncy was the only member of the A’s draft class to start last season in the Class-A Midwest League, and he held his own there. This year, the A’s decided to start him out at High-A Stockton along with Addison Russell, and Muncy has flourished. He already has twice as many home runs in April, 8, as he did all of last year at Burlington, and he currently leads all A’s minor leaguers in round-trippers.

BILLY OWENS: Maxwell Muncy is a guy we’re excited about. Armann Brown, our area scout out there in Texas, pointed Max out early, always liked the make-up. Max came from a good family structure and background. He’s at the field early. He’s there late. He’s watching video. He’s just ready to play everyday, so we’re excited. He’s amongst the minor league home run leaders, and we like his skill set. He can pick it at first base – we like his range there. His swing is the type of swing that’s going to be able to hit advanced level pitching. And first and foremost, this guy’s a baseball rat. I mean, he’s a cage-wrecker. You’ve got to turn the lights off otherwise he’s going to be in that cage 24/7. He’s a fun guy to watch.

 

rnnc3bac3b1ez-renato3(International Amateur Free Agent)

RENATO NUNEZ

Third Baseman / Age: 19

The A’s invested heavily in Nunez when they reportedly gave the young Venezuelan $2.2 million to sign back in 2010. He made his American debut in the Arizona Rookie League last year and didn’t disappoint, flashing the bat the A’s had hoped to see. He’s started this season wielding the biggest bat at Beloit, and he even celebrated his 19th birthday on opening night by blasting his first home run.

BILLY OWENS: He’s an exciting kid to watch. Sam Geaney, our international scouting director, and Julio Franco, our chief scout in Venezuela, they identified Renato all the way back to when he was 14 years old. And we were able to track him, follow him, and we were able to secure his services. He went to the Dominican Summer League at 16 years old and was able to get his feet wet and was able to do pretty well there. Last year, in the Arizona Rookie League, I believe he led the league in doubles. He just has that short stroke – it’s a very accurate barrel. He’s pretty advanced to send him at 19 years old to the Midwest League. This kid’s got outstanding make-up, he’s not afraid of anything. I think he’s hit 4 home runs, 5 doubles. He’s having a good start up there in Beloit. And it’ll be fun to watch him this year, because this kid likes to play a lot and his background is excellent and he’s a natural-born hitter.

 

mymichael-ynoa.p1(International Amateur Free Agent)

MICHAEL YNOA

RHP / Age: 21

The A’s originally signed Ynoa for over $4 million as a 16-year old. He’s now a 21-year-old. And thanks to injuries, through last season, he’d thrown less than 40 innings. But Ynoa finally appears to be healthy and is back on the mound for Beloit this season.

BILLY OWENS: It’s definitely fun to see Michael in the box scores. The talent’s always been immense, and now it’s just a matter of him continuing to increase his workload and get out there on the diamond. He’s a fabulous athlete. He’s topped out at 96-97 mph, his breaking ball is getting better everyday, and his command is improving. So seeing him every five days in that box score is an exciting thing, and hopefully he can keep on doing that, because the talent’s there. And hopefully we’re crossing our fingers that he’s passed certain hurdles and he can be out there and enjoy a healthy season.

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Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm to keep up with all the news down on the farm!

A’s Farm in Top 5 MLB Blogs for Second Straight Month in March!

Josh Reddick

Just like Josh Reddick’s beard, there’s no stopping A’s Farm!

A’s Farm finally cracked into the top 5 MLB blogs last month, and it looks like we managed to hang on to our top 5 spot again in March. Thanks to all you A’s fans out there who’ve made A’s Farm a regular stop to stay up to date on all the A’s top prospects!

In the past month, we’ve brought you our 2-part interview with A’s director of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, our spring training video updates, as well as our spring training tour diary, and our Prospect Watch featuring commentary from Farhan, Grady Fuson and A’s manager Bob Melvin.

Make sure you stay tuned for daily updates on all the A’s minor league affiliates now that the season’s underway. And if you haven’t already, be sure to like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm to keep up to date on all the latest down on the farm!