Tag Archive for Sonny Gray

Oakland A’s 2016 Depth Chart

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

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

 

Stephen Vogt

Stephen Vogt

CATCHER

Stephen Vogt (MLB)

Josh Phegley (MLB)

Bryan Anderson (MLB)

Carson Blair (MLB)

Matt McBride (MLB)

Bruce Maxwell (AA)

Beau Taylor (AA)

(2015: Vogt, Phegley, Blair, Anderson)

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

 

Yonder Alonso

Yonder Alonso

FIRST BASE

Yonder Alonso (MLB)

Mark Canha (MLB)

Stephen Vogt (MLB)

Billy Butler (MLB)

Max Muncy (MLB)

Rangel Ravelo (AAA)

Matt Olson (AA)

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

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

 

Jed Lowrie

Jed Lowrie

SECOND BASE

Jed Lowrie (MLB)

Chris Coghlan (MLB)

Eric Sogard (MLB)

Tyler Ladendorf (MLB)

Joey Wendle (AAA)

Chad Pinder (AA)

Josh Rodriguez (MLB)

Franklin Barreto (A)

(2015: Sogard, Lawrie, Zobrist, Ladendorf)

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

 

Marcus Semien

Marcus Semien

SHORTSTOP

Marcus Semien (MLB)

Jed Lowrie (MLB)

Eric Sogard (MLB)

Tyler Ladendorf (MLB)

Chad Pinder (AA)

Josh Rodriguez (MLB)

Franklin Barreto (A)

Richie Martin (A)

(2015: Semien, Sogard, Parrino)

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

 

Danny Valencia

Danny Valencia

THIRD BASE

Danny Valencia (MLB)

Jed Lowrie (MLB)

Chris Coghlan (MLB)

Eric Sogard (MLB)

Max Muncy (MLB)

Tyler Ladendorf (MLB)

Renato Nunez (AA)

Chad Pinder (AA)

Josh Rodriguez (MLB)

Matt Chapman (AA)

(2015: Lawrie, Valencia, Muncy, Sogard)

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

 

Khris Davis

Khris Davis

OUTFIELD

Khris Davis (MLB)

Josh Reddick (MLB)

Billy Burns (MLB)

Mark Canha (MLB)

Coco Crisp (MLB)

Chris Coghlan (MLB)

Sam Fuld (MLB)

Tyler Ladendorf (MLB)

Jake Smolinski (MLB)

Andrew Lambo (MLB)

Matt McBride (MLB)

Matt Olson (AA)

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

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

 

Sonny Gray

Sonny Gray

STARTING PITCHING

Sonny Gray (MLB)

Jesse Hahn (MLB)

Chris Bassitt (MLB)

Kendall Graveman (MLB)

Rich Hill (MLB)

Henderson Alvarez (MLB)

Felix Doubront (MLB)

Jarrod Parker (MLB)

Sean Manaea (AA)

Dillon Overton (AA)

Eric Surkamp (MLB)

Chris Smith (MLB)

Raul Alcantara (AA)

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

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

 

Sean Doolittle

Sean Doolittle

LEFT-HANDED RELIEF

Sean Doolittle (MLB)

Marc Rzepczynski (MLB)

Felix Doubront (MLB)

Daniel Coulombe (MLB)

Eric Surkamp (MLB)

Patrick Schuster (AAA)

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

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

 

Ryan Madson

Ryan Madson

RIGHT-HANDED RELIEF

Ryan Madson (MLB)

John Axford (MLB)

Liam Hendriks (MLB)

Fernando Rodriguez (MLB)

Ryan Dull (MLB)

R.J. Alvarez (MLB)

J.B. Wendelken (AAA)

Angel Castro (MLB)

Ryan Brasier (MLB)

Taylor Thompson (MLB)

Ryan Doolittle (AA)

Eduard Santos (AA)

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

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

 *          *          *

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

A’s Farm’s 2016 Top 10 Prospect List

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A’S FARM’S 2016 TOP 10 PROSPECT LIST

#1 – Sean Manaea (LHP)

#2 – Franklin Barreto (SS)

#3 – Matt Olson (OF-1B)

#4 – Matt Chapman (3B)

#5 – Renato Nunez (3B)

#6 – Chad Pinder (SS)

#7 – Dillon Overton (LHP)

#8 – Jacob Nottingham (C)

#9 – Yairo Munoz (SS)

#10 – Richie Martin (SS)

 

sm640455b#1 SEAN MANAEA

Left-Handed Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 24

Drafted 2013 – 1st Round

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

Likely To Start 2016 With: Nashville Sounds (AAA)

 

fb620439#2 FRANKLIN BARRETO

Right-Handed Hitting Shortstop

Age On Opening Day: 20

Undrafted – Signed as International Free Agent

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

Likely To Start 2016 With: Midland RockHounds (AA)

 

mo621566#3 MATT OLSON

Left-Handed Hitting Outfielder/First Baseman

Age On Opening Day: 22

Drafted 2012 – 1st Round

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

Likely To Start 2016 With: Nashville Sounds (AAA)

 

mc656305b#4 MATT CHAPMAN

Right-Handed Hitting Third Baseman

Age On Opening Day: 22

Drafted 2014 – 1st Round

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

Likely To Start 2016 With: Midland RockHounds (AA)

 

rn600524#5 RENATO NUNEZ

Right-Handed Hitting Third Baseman

Age On Opening Day: 22

Undrafted – Signed as International Free Agent

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

Likely To Start 2016 With: Nashville Sounds (AAA)

 

cp640461#6 CHAD PINDER

Right-Handed Hitting Shortstop

Age On Opening Day: 24

Drafted 2013 – 2nd Round

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

Likely To Start 2016 With: Nashville Sounds (AAA)

 

do592614b#7 DILLON OVERTON

Left-Handed Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 24

Drafted 2013 – 2nd Round

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

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

 

jn641924#8 JACOB NOTTINGHAM

Right-Handed Hitting Catcher

Age On Opening Day: 21

Drafted 2013 – 6th Round

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

Likely To Start 2016 With: Midland RockHounds (AA)

 

ym622168b#9 YAIRO MUNOZ

Right-Handed Hitting Shortstop

Age On Opening Day: 21

Undrafted – Signed as International Free Agent

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

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

 

rm621006#10 RICHIE MARTIN

Right-Handed Hitting Shortstop

Age On Opening Day: 21

Drafted 2015 – 1st Round

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

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

 

HONORABLE MENTION: CASEY MEISNER

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

 

Last Year’s Top 10 Prospect List

 

 

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 GM David Forst Talks about the A’s Starting Rotation, Clubhouse Chemistry, an Extension for Reddick & Some of the Team’s Top Prospects

dfIMG_1730

A’s GM David Forst

In what’s become his annual winter interview with bloggers, A’s general manager David Forst addressed a wide range of topics covering both the major league squad as well as some of the system’s top prospects at A’s FanFest on Sunday.

In his session, Forst discussed how he sees the team’s starting rotation shaping up, whether or not the A’s may still be able to make some additions to the roster, the likelihood of signing outfielder Josh Reddick long-term, last year’s lack of clubhouse chemistry, the future of top prospects Sean Manaea, Franklin Barreto and Yairo Munoz, and much more.

 

On the A’s starting pitching this coming season…

Going into the offseason…after Sonny [Gray], [Kendall] Graveman and [Chris] Bassitt, there were a lot of question marks. So you add Rich Hill early on, which was important to us. And then when you look at how the back end shapes up, between Jesse [Hahn], who’s feeling really good, Jarrod [Parker], who’s healthy as we speak now – obviously, he had an unfortunate setback last year – Aaron Brooks, whom we saw a little bit of, Felix [Doubront], who got to start a little bit, all these guys will figure in ultimately till Henderson [Alvarez] is ready. And signing Alvarez, it was key for us to know that he’s probably not going to be there the first six or seven weeks. We’re looking at June 1 as probably our best guess right now. But if you have Sonny, Rich, Graveman, Bassitt and then the rest of that depth, you feel pretty good about filling it till Alvarez gets there, and over the course of the season.

 

On the A’s top pitching prospect, left-hander Sean Manaea

Sean Manaea

Sean Manaea

As far as Sean has come and as great as he is, we really do want him to start the year in Triple-A. I said that about Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill many years ago too and they ended up here, so you never know what’s going to happen over the next two months. But once Sean got healthy with Kansas City and then made the transition [to the A’s organization], there was really nothing lacking from his game – and he continued in the [Arizona] Fall League just getting innings. There’s velocity, there’s command, there’s three pitches, there’s everything that you’re looking for out of a top-of-the-rotation guy. So we couldn’t be happier with where Sean is right now. And we’ll see him during spring training. I’ve already talked to [A’s pitching coach] Curt [Young] and said, “Let’s get him out there and get him some innings and have him face big league hitters.” But if everything goes right, I don’t see him starting the year with us – and that’s not anything he did, that’s just sort of how we’ve planned it.

 

On left-handers Sean Nolin and Dillon Overton, both of whom were working their way back from injuries last year…

Well, right before we traded for Sean, he was throwing 94 mph in the Fall League – and you really felt good. And unfortunately, then he had the groin injury, and it really just lingered. I mean, the guy we saw here throwing 86, that was not the guy we traded for, and I don’t think that’s who Sean thinks he is. So, ultimately, until he gets out on the mound in spring training, you just don’t know. But if he got back to being that guy, it changes his outlook completely. And for a player who’s out of options, like he is, certainly it’s important for us to get a read in February and March as to where he fits – and if that fifth starter spot, if that’s him, great, that fits us really well, and if he ends up in the bullpen giving us some length, that works too. I think you don’t know on him until he gets out there. For Dillon, this has been a long process for him coming off of [Tommy John] surgery. Again, you talk about that number 94 [mph], when I saw him pitch his junior year, that’s the guy he was – and sophomore year as well. He’s come back really well performance-wise off the surgery – he pitched great in Double-A. And you just sort of dream, “Hey, if we get this guy throwing 91-92 again, he’s here in no time.” So the fact that he can compete where he’s at and throw strikes and use the cutter and the changeup is great. If you add a little bit of fastball velocity, then he becomes really special again – the way he was viewed going into his junior year at Oklahoma.

 

On the free agent and trade market for the A’s as we approach the end of January…

Ryan Madson

Ryan Madson

Well, as always with the free agent market, we sort of just stay in touch – we’re never the aggressors. The one thing we did this year with Ryan Madson is we were aggressive, we sort of went to the top of the market. He was such a good fit with his stuff and his experience at the back of the pen. But otherwise, we sort of let the market come to us, and I think we’ll continue to do that. I can’t say there’s anybody out there right now that…we’re sort of really in on. We’re happy with the moves we’ve made. We do have some trade conversations ongoing, but that’s normal for this time of year, just to kind of stay in touch. But it’s a pretty unique market right now to be here on January 24 with all these guys out there…Yeah, we’ve made some of our best signings in February – Billy [Beane] has always said that over the years. I can’t think of anyone specifically off the top of my head right now that I think might fall to us, but we do have the flexibility, both payroll and roster-wise, to sort of be opportunistic if it’s there.

 

On committing to former platoon player Danny Valencia as the A’s everyday third baseman in 2016…

I think having Danny for a full season was a big part of our offseason plan, the way we put the club together. Obviously, hitting right-handers, going into 2015, was the knock on him. And he will be the first to say that he consciously made adjustments – opening his stance, getting his foot down earlier against righties. It’s not my department to work with hitters, but there are things that he did. And I talked with [A’s hitting coach] Darren Bush over the course of the second half when Danny got here and said, “Hey, is this guy for real?” Because his performance against righties did not suggest he was going to do what he did. And Darren is confident. No one is more confident than Danny, I can tell you that. Without you even asking, he will tell you he can hit right-handed pitching. I think we feel really good about him being at third base every day.

 

On the possibility of Josh Reddick and the A’s coming to terms on a contract extension…

Josh Reddick

Josh Reddick

We obviously just got Josh’s one-year number done but, in the course of that conversation, I have spoken to his agent about an extension. So it’s something we will continue to talk about…Look, the relationship that Billy [Beane] and I have with Josh, the relationship I have with his agent, we will have conversations over the next two months and see if it works. I mean, there’s obviously a lot of money to be made out there on the free agent market. But Josh, as long he’s been here, has kind of become the face of our team, somewhat the drive and the energy of this club. So it’s something we will make an effort at. It takes two to kind of get to that place, so we’ll see where it goes…Till we get into the conversation, you never know where it’s going to go.

 

On Billy Butler’s and Coco Crisp’s offseasons as they look to rebound next year…

Billy has been very upfront that he did not have the season he’d hoped to have. And he did make an effort, everything from getting his Lasik corrected to putting a gym in his home to working with a personal chef in the offseason. He has taken every step you want to see over this four or five month period – he’s done it to sort of show that he’s serious. So, on paper, there’s no reason to believe he doesn’t get back to the player we signed. So that’s clearly important for our club if he’s going to take a lot of DH at-bats. Coco is healthy as we sit here right now, which is kind of the best you can hope for. He’s spent time in the offseason working on his neck, working on his various wrist and knee issues, his elbow – there’s a list of things – but he is healthy…So he’s excited about the year. We just need to get him on a field and have him run down a fly ball or take batting practice. Until he does those baseball activities day in, day out, it’s hard to say how he holds up.

 

On last year’s perceived lack of clubhouse chemistry and what the team has done to address it…

Bob Melvin

Bob Melvin

Well, I certainly won’t deny that it’s something that we talked about and addressed with [A’s manager] Bob [Melvin]. Look, anytime you get off to the start that we did and then the season plays out that way, not everybody’s going to be happy. And we’ve always talked about this chicken-and-egg thing – does winning breed chemistry or vice versa? So when you have a season like we did, guys are going to be unhappy, not everybody’s going to get along – that’s part of it. And frankly, you learn a lot about people, players and staff, when you go through that season. And I can tell you that I feel great about Bob after what he went through and dealt with in 2015. That said, we did look into the makeup and the personalities of the guys we brought in and did as much background as we could do on a free agent – a guy like [Ryan] Madson or [John] Axford, whom you haven’t had here. We made a trade with San Diego and [former Padres coach and new A’s coach] Mark Kotsay knew those guys. So we had some ability to look into guys in the offseason, and it was something we talked about a lot. I don’t think we will ever get to the point where we’re bringing in good guys over talent, but it’s part of the equation. And certainly, coming off of last year, it’s something we’re cognizant of.

 

On where prospects Franklin Barreto and Yairo Munoz may be getting most of their playing time in the future…

I will say Franklin wanted to play some center field. We want him to get time at second base and center field, that will continue, but ultimately we still believe he can play shortstop. So, if he and Yairo end up together in Midland to start the year, they’ll go back and forth between second and short…but certainly Yairo can really play the position, and we feel really good about that. What he did in the California League over a short period of time was really impressive. You look at both those guys, the bat’s playing at 19-20 years old, and you feel really good about moving them through the system. So I think we’ll continue to have both of them at short. And as long as it’s sort of tenable moving up, we’ll do that. At some point, we may have to make a decision on one or both. And I know Franklin likes working on center field. I think anytime you have a season the way he did and you make 30+ errors [at shortstop], it’s hard to sort of have that confidence. And there’s a lot of pride. I don’t think he wants to go out there and let teammates down. But he’s 19 years old. And the list of guys –  whether it’s [Eric] Chavez or [Miguel] Tejada – who made 30+ errors in the Cal League and then went on to do just fine, it’s a long list. And everybody believes that Franklin has the athleticism and the fundamentals to play shortstop if we decide that’s where he should be.

*          *          *

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.

Meet Your 2016 Oakland A’s

David Forst

Newly-minted A’s GM David Forst

As we sit here in late January, there are still about two and a half months to go until opening day for the A’s. But the first spring workouts are just a month away and the first spring games are just six weeks away.

It looks like most of the A’s major offseason work may be done, but you can never be too sure with Billy Beane and David Forst at the helm.

Of course, there could still be some surprising trades or injuries to come, but barring any more major moves or unexpected developments in spring training, the makeup of the A’s team that should be set to take the field in 2016 looks fairly clear, at least for the moment.

Today we’ll preview the A’s 2016 major league roster. And tomorrow we’ll take a look at the A’s Triple-A affiliate Nashville Sounds roster for the coming season (here).

 

Stephen Vogt

Stephen Vogt

CATCHERS

Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley, the A’s catching tandem from last season, appear set to return as the team’s primary backstops again next season. They also happen to be the only catchers currently on the A’s 40-man roster. The duo started behind the plate in 151 of the team’s 162 games in 2015 and, health willing, should be expected to do roughly the same again for Oakland in 2016. Catcher Carson Blair, who caught 11 games for the A’s last season, will be waiting in the wings at Nashville if needed.

 

MIDDLE INFIELDERS

Marcus Semien

Marcus Semien

The only member of the A’s 2015 opening day infield expected to return to a starting role in 2016 is shortstop Marcus Semien, who appears to have held on to his job with an improved second half in the field. He’ll be joined up the middle by former A’s infielder Jed Lowrie who returns to the team, thanks to an offseason deal with the Astros, to take over at second base. Meanwhile, long-time A’s infielder Eric Sogard, who has experience at second, short and third, appears set to shift to a utility role, just as he was in 2015 until multiple injuries pushed him back into action for 120 games last season. And if further reinforcements are needed, middle infielders Tyler Ladendorf, Joey Wendle and Chad Pinder should all be in reserve at Nashville.

 

CORNER INFIELDERS

Danny Valencia

Danny Valencia

With Brett Lawrie traded and Ike Davis non-tendered, things will be looking plenty different at the corner infield positions for the A’s in 2016 than they did when the 2015 season began. Danny Valencia, who was the A’s best hitter over the final two months of the season after being acquired off waivers during the first week of August, is set to be the team’s everyday third baseman and potential cleanup hitter. Meanwhile, Yonder Alonso was acquired from the Padres to take over as the A’s primary first baseman next season. A left-handed hitter, Alonso is generally expected to sit against lefties, though his platoon splits aren’t quite as extreme as some might assume. But the expectation is that Mark Canha will end up getting most of the starts at first base when southpaws are on the mound. The A’s primary designated hitter, Billy Butler, is always available to step in at first now and then if needed. And if Valencia should need a day off at third, Lowrie can always slide over from second, with Sogard taking over Lowrie’s spot up the middle.

 

OUTFIELDERS

Josh Reddick

Josh Reddick

The A’s outfield will remain largely unchanged from 2015. Rifle-armed Josh Reddick will return to hold things down in right field, while speedster Billy Burns will be back to patrol center field for the green and gold. Left field will be the biggest question mark as the 2016 season begins, but that doesn’t mean that there will be any shortage of available options. Of course, if by any chance, Coco Crisp should prove to be healthy and productive, then he would likely end up getting most of the starts there. But considering that Crisp’s injuries limited him to just 44 games last year, and he didn’t exactly set the world on fire when he did make it onto the field, it’s probably better to count on Mark Canha making most of the starts in left field, at least when he isn’t spending time at first base versus lefties. And with Sam Fuld back in the fold to fill in anywhere in the outfield as needed, as long as everyone is healthy, there won’t be room for Jake Smolinski or Andrew Lambo, the only other outfielders currently on the A’s 40-man, to crack Oakland’s opening day roster.

 

STARTING PITCHERS

Sonny Gray

Sonny Gray

As long as there are no health issues with any of the expected starters, Oakland appears set to begin the season with four familiar faces being joined by newcomer Rich Hill in the team’s starting rotation. Hill is the 35-year-old lefty the A’s signed as a free agent, and he may end up filling the fifth-starter role with the occasional day off, since the southpaw threw fewer than 100 frames last year. Of course, All-Star Sonny Gray will be returning to anchor the rotation, and he’s likely to be joined by fellow returning right-handers Jesse Hahn, Chris Bassitt and Kendall Graveman, as long as all are healthy to kick off the 2016 campaign. But the A’s also signed 25-year-old free agent right-hander Henderson Alvarez, who is just one season removed from his impressive 2014 All-Star campaign. Alvarez is returning from shoulder surgery though and is not expected to be ready to go before May. But if one of the A’s other five starters is either injured or struggling at that point of the season, then Alvarez could be ready to step right in. Lefties Sean Nolin and Felix Doubront and righties Aaron Brooks and Jarrod Parker are all on the 40-man roster and could represent starting options as well. But as long as everyone else is healthy, they seem far more likely to find themselves starting the season either at Nashville or in the A’s bullpen.

 

RELIEF PITCHERS

Sean Doolittle

Sean Doolittle

No area of the A’s 2015 team needed as big an overhaul as the bullpen, and it definitely got one. Out are Evan Scribner, Dan Otero, Edward Mujica, Fernando Abad and Drew Pomeranz, and in are free agents Ryan Madson and John Axford, trade acquisitions Liam Hendriks and Marc Rzepczynski, and a healthy Sean Doolittle, who will be returning to the closer’s role. Madson, Axford, Hendriks and returning right-hander Fernando Rodriguez should represent some solid and experienced set-up options from the right side. With Rodriguez out of options and likely to make the roster, that means young righty Ryan Dull may be forced to start the season in Nashville until an inevitable opening develops. Rzepczynski should be the primary left-handed set-up option for the A’s, while Nolin (who’s also out of options) could be set to replicate Pomeranz’s role as a left-handed long reliever for the team. Left-handed starter-reliever Felix Doubront is another A’s hurler who’s out of options. And if there’s an opening in the rotation or in the bullpen due to injury, trade or poor performance, then the veteran southpaw could be the first called upon to step in and take on whatever role is needed for the A’s.

*          *          *

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)…

Meet Your 2015 Oakland A’s!

A's GM Billy Beane: Rebuilding or retooling for another run?

A’s GM Billy Beane: Rebuilding or retooling for another run?

 

With the A’s heart-breaking 2014 campaign now over, the A’s faithful are left wondering, “What’s next?” But before we examine the possible answers to that question, let’s first take a look at who’s set to stay and who’s set to go…

 

A’s Eligible Free Agents:

Jon Lester, Jason Hammel, Luke Gregerson, Jed Lowrie, Alberto Callaspo, Geovany Soto, Jonny Gomes, Adam Dunn

 

A’s Arbitration Eligible Players:

Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Josh Reddick, John Jaso, Eric Sogard, Sam Fuld, Craig Gentry, Kyle Blanks, Jeff Samardzija, Jesse Chavez, Ryan Cook, Fernando Abad, Fernando Rodriguez, Jarrod Parker

 

A’s Pitchers under Team Control in 2015:

Jeff Samardzija, Scott Kazmir, Sonny Gray, Jesse Chavez, Drew Pomeranz, Sean Doolittle, Fernando Abad, Eric O’Flaherty, Ryan Cook, Dan Otero, Evan Scribner, Fernando Rodriguez, A.J. Griffin, Jarrod Parker, Josh Lindblom

 

A’s Hitters under Team Control in 2015:

John Jaso, Stephen Vogt, Derek Norris, Eric Sogard, Nick Punto, Andy Parrino, Josh Donaldson, Nate Freiman, Kyle Blanks, Brandon Moss, Josh Reddick, Coco Crisp, Sam Fuld, Craig Gentry

 

bbbilly-beane1c

Will Billy be wheelin’ and dealin’ this winter?

Assuming the A’s aren’t likely to re-sign any of the team’s potential free agents, the A’s available roster of players for the 2015 season doesn’t really look all that different from the roster of players the team started 2014 with. But with this season’s disappointment fresh in A’s fans’ hearts and minds, many have been calling for general manager Billy Beane and his staff to dismantle the current roster and begin the rebuild. If recent comments are any indication though, it looks like Beane and company aren’t ready for a rebuild quite yet and would rather retool for at least one more go-‘round with this current crop of A’s players. Beane was quoted in Bay Area media reports this week as saying that the A’s would be looking for a right-handed bat and that the shortstop position was also an area of concern for him. Those don’t exactly sound like the sentiments of a man looking to tear things down but rather of a man looking to build things back up.

When it comes to pitching, the A’s could actually be in a position to start off the 2015 season with a slightly stronger rotation than the team had in place at the start of 2014. Jeff Samardzija, Scott Kazmir, Sonny Gray, Jesse Chavez and Drew Pomeranz are all under team control and all performed well when given a shot in the rotation last year. The team began 2014 with Kazmir, Gray and Chavez in the rotation, along with Dan Straily and Tommy Milone. So Samardzija and Pomeranz would seem to represent something of an upgrade over Straily and Milone. Josh Lindblom should remain available at Triple-A, while A.J. Griffin could be ready to rejoin the rotation at some point during the season as he returns from Tommy John surgery. Jarrod Parker shouldn’t necessarily be counted on to rejoin the rotation though, since this is his second Tommy John surgery – only one player, Chris Capuano, has returned to a starting role after a second Tommy John surgery – but it’s possible that Parker could ultimately end up figuring into the A’s bullpen mix.

What will Doo do in 2015?

What will Doo do in 2015?

Sean Doolittle should return to the closer role, with Ryan Cook, Dan Otero, Fernando Abad and Eric O’Flaherty all coming back in supporting roles. With Luke Gregerson likely to depart via free agency and Jesse Chavez looking to return to the rotation, Evan Scribner and Fernando Rodriguez should have a good shot at stepping into their roles, and it certainly wouldn’t be surprising to see the A’s pick up a couple of affordable arms with high upside (a la Fernando Abad) to add to the competition for the final bullpen spots. But other than that, there really isn’t that much work for the A’s front office to have to do on the pitching side of things this offseason.

When it comes to the team’s position players, while many names remain the same, there could be a couple of notable holes to try to fill. Catchers Derek Norris, Stephen Vogt and John Jaso are all under team control. While Vogt should be ready to get back behind the plate again after offseason foot surgery, Jaso’s catching days could be coming to an end and his days as a designated hitter may be about to begin. With Jed Lowrie set to test the free agent waters, the A’s middle infielder corps currently consists of Eric Sogard, Nick Punto and Andy Parrino, which clearly will not suffice. Brandon Moss should return to platoon at first base with Kyle Blanks if he’s healthy, or Nate Freiman if he’s not. And in the outfield, Josh Reddick, Coco Crisp, Sam Fuld and Craig Gentry all remain under the A’s control for 2015.

So if the A’s front office is looking to retool for 2015, Beane’s comments this week about a right-handed bat and a shortstop being among the team’s areas of need make perfect sense. A productive right-handed hitting outfielder who could fill the role of the departed Yoenis Cespedes would be a big step towards getting the A’s offense back on track. Any number of players due to hit the free agent market or available on the trade market could fill that role. Finding a credible shortstop to take Lowrie’s place could be a little more challenging – especially since former shortstop-of-the-future Addison Russell was dealt away to the Cubs and new shortstop-of-the-future Daniel Robertson is just 20 and still likely a couple of years away – but it might not be quite as challenging as some might think.

Would Stew do a deal with the A's?

Would Stew do a deal with the A’s?

Though some of them will surely be beyond the A’s budget, shortstops such as Hanley Ramirez, Asdrubal Cabrera, J.J. Hardy, Stephen Drew, Clint Barmes, Mike Aviles and Rafael Furcal are all expected to hit the free agent market this offseason. But there could also be some interesting opportunities to be found with one the A’s most frequent trade partners. The Arizona Diamondbacks, now run by former A’s and long-time Beane acquaintances Dave Stewart and Tony LaRussa, currently control four credible shortstops, three of whom – Chris Owings, Didi Gregorius and, yes, Cliff Pennington – all had better WARs this season than Jed Lowrie according to Baseball-Reference, while the fourth, Nick Ahmed, is a former 2nd-round draft pick who turned in a solid .312/.373/.425 slash line at Triple-A in 2014.

So while many disappointed A’s fans might be calling for a rebuild, the A’s front office looks like it may be planning on retooling for another run in 2015. With staff ace Jeff Samardzija now firmly atop the A’s starting rotation – and last year’s goat Jim Johnson nowhere to be found around the bullpen – if Beane and company can manage to come up with a credible shortstop to replace Lowrie and a solid right-handed bat to fill Cespedes’ role in the lineup, then the A’s could very well end up heading into the 2015 season with a slightly stronger roster than they had when they kicked off the 2014 campaign. The ball is now in Billy’s court – let the offseason wheeling and dealing begin!

 

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

Spring Has Sprung!

Phoenix Muni

The A’s will be spending their last spring at Phoenix Municipal Stadium (photo via Kate Longworth’s twitter @KLongworthCSN)

As you may already know, A’s pitchers and catchers began reporting to the team’s spring training camp in Phoenix on Friday, with the team’s first workouts on Saturday. And there are already plenty of observations we can make about the major league team, as well as the minor league teams, at this point.

First of all, the A’s are still a very young team. On the 40-man roster, only two players – Coco Crisp and Nick Punto – were born before 1982, and only three of the team’s pitchers – Scott Kazmir, Jim Johnson and Jesse Chavez – will be over the age of 29 on opening day.

On Thursday, one day before pitchers and catchers began reporting to the A’s spring training camp in Phoenix, A’s assistant general manager David Forst told Bay Area radio station 95.7 The Game that he thought he knew what the A’s starting rotation was going to look like and mentioned Jarrod Parker, Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily. That would make Tommy Milone the sixth starter in waiting at Sacramento, with recent acquisitions Josh Lindblom and Drew Pomeranz right behind him.

Returning River Cats Andrew Werner and Arnold Leon, along with minor-league free-agent signee Matt Buschmann, will be the top contenders for the remaining spots in the River Cats rotation, with former perfect-game hurler Phil Humber likely serving time in Sacramento’s bullpen. Last year, Humber made 10 relief appearances for the Astros and came into 13 games out of the bullpen for Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Midland’s top three starters from last season – Murphy Smith, Sean Murphy and Zach Neal – would be the next in line to take a step up should there be an issue with any of the previously-mentioned A’s or River Cats starters. If the three of them remain at Midland though, the top three candidates to join them in the RockHounds rotation will be Drew Granier, Raul Alcantara and Tanner Peters.

Billy Beane and Bob Melvin

Billy Beane and Bob Melvin overseeing the action Saturday in Phoenix (photo via Kate Longworth’s twitter @KLongworthCSN)

The 21-year-old Alcantara is the hottest young pitching prospect in the A’s system at the moment, and the team would like to see him start the season in the RockHounds rotation and then see where his talent takes him from there. But at this point, it’s clear that Alcantara could be a fast-riser.

Former bonus baby Michael Ynoa will probably be the other most closely watched young pitcher in the A’s camp this spring. He’s been throwing hard in Phoenix, but the key for him will just be staying healthy and staying on the mound. It’s still expected that he’ll start the season at Stockton. But if he starts out well, he should be due for a quick promotion to Midland.

As far as relievers go, A’s manager Bob Melvin was impressed with Evan Scribner’s and Fernando Nieve’s initial bullpen sessions in Phoenix, and both are likely to end up starting the season as key cogs in the River Cats bullpen, as long as Scribner can clear waivers anyway.

One of last year’s biggest objects of attention when camp opened, Japanese shortstop Hiro Nakajima, won’t be making any headlines in big league camp this time around though, since Nakajima will be spending his time in the A’s minor league camp this year. But another shortstop, top prospect Addison Russell – who appears on schedule to become the A’s starting shortstop in 2015 – will definitely be getting a good chance to show the A’s staff what he can do this spring in the big league camp.

 

Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir

Starting pitchers Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir take to the mound in Phoenix (photo via Jane Lee’s twitter @JaneMLB) 

 

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 updates e-mailed to you free by signing up here.

A’s Hurlers Sonny Gray and Jim Johnson Excited to Do Their Part in 2014

DSC03136bAs part of A’s FanFest this past weekend, a few representatives of the A’s took some time out to attend a bloggers-only press conference at the Coliseum. The day’s sessions wrapped up with an appearance by the dynamic duo of young starter Sonny Gray and veteran closer Jim Johnson.

Gray, of course, distinguished himself last year by winning five games down the stretch for the A’s and besting Justin Verlander in Game #2 of the A.L. Division Series. And A’s Farm was curious to ask the young hurler about the adjustments he had to make coming up to the major leagues midseason…

 

On the differences of pitching in the major leagues…

sghi-res-162663960_display_image2I think, for me, the preparation was a lot more advanced up here than it was even in Sacramento. And it was just trying to learn the hitters, and meet with [pitching coach] Curt Young, meet with the catchers and stuff. That was a little bit of an adjustment, which was a good adjustment for me. I think just the information that you have up here is amazing – it’s crazy. We were able to really establish a plan, a way to attack a game, but at the same time, kind of continue to do what got me here and continue to pitch with the strengths that I have – and it worked well for us.

 

On the importance of his college experience…

I think it had a huge impact. If I would have signed out of high school, I don’t even know if I’d still be playing baseball. I was just a lot smaller, I was just so young. I’m a huge fan of the college route. You know, it doesn’t work for everyone. But for me, it made all the difference in the world, especially going to Vanderbilt – it was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

 

On getting ready for the season…

I’m just really excited to get to spring. I went to Phoenix like eight days ago and started throwing bullpens there with Curt, and a lot of guys were there…I’m just really ready to get there and start practicing and start getting this thing on the road.

 

On the learning curve for a young pitcher…

I still have a lot of learning to do. I’m just tweaking things here and there. Obviously, there’s something you can pick up from every player, and every single year. I learned a lot last year, and I was here for I think 14 starts [actually 10 regular season and 2 postseason starts]. I mean, I learned so much, and I’m just going to continue to pick up little things here and there. And I think that’s what makes baseball so fun for me – there’s so many things that you can pick up…Last year, Bartolo Colon – I mean, just the subtle way he does it that a lot of people don’t see. You know, he doesn’t talk much. But just the little things he would say here and there in the locker room. You know, his actions had a huge impact on me. To see somebody do it for that long, and the way he’s kind of changed his game completely, he had so much information.

 

The A’s new closer, Jim Johnson, led the league in saves in each of the last two seasons. The 6’6” right-hander will be counted on by the team to continue the success of departed closer Grant Balfour, and he seems eager to meet the challenge…

 

DSC03137bOn joining his new team…

I’m really excited to be here. I got to meet a lot of the guys for the first time officially [at FanFest]. I’ve played against quite a few of them for a couple years. You see how much fun they have on the field, and how that carries over, and the tight-knit group that they have. This is the time of year we’re all excited to just get out there and just start playing. I can tell it’s going to be a fun year.

 

On his past impressions of the A’s…

Every time we played Oakland…we knew it was always going to be a battle here, it’s always going to be a dogfight. It’s not an easy place to play…They’re a scrappy team, but they have fun, and that’s a good combination to have. You play so many games…so you better have fun and enjoy it. But when you’ve got those guys that are scrappy, that are grinding out at-bats and doing what they need to do to help the other guy down the chain, that leads to good things down the road. So it’s good to be on that side, absolutely.

*          *          *

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 updates e-mailed to you free by signing up here.

A’s Assistant GM David Forst on Top Prospects Russell & McKinney, Coco’s New Contract and What the A’s Expect from Reddick in 2014

DSC03126fAs part of A’s FanFest this past weekend, a few representatives of the A’s took some time out to attend a bloggers-only press conference at the Coliseum. First up was A’s assistant general manager David Forst who volunteered a generous bit of time to talk about some top major and minor league players for the A’s. We had the chance to ask him about two of the A’s most promising young players – shortstop Addison Russell and outfielder Billy McKinney. Forst clearly couldn’t be more excited about the prospects for Russell, and he’s definitely not the only one in the A’s front office who feels that way.

Earlier in the day, in a question-and-answer session at the Oracle Arena, A’s general manager Billy Beane lit up like a Christmas tree when the subject of Russell came up. He characterized the young shortstop as a special kind of player who doesn’t come along very often and said he was “knocking on the door.” The A’s GM went on to enthuse, “We’ve had some great young players come through the system, and we’re as excited about Addison as we have been about a lot of the guys…that went on to be stars. So he’s got a chance to be a really, really good player.”

In his session, Forst also talked about some of the team’s top young pitching prospects and shared some interesting insights on the A’s draft philosophy that has seen the team increasingly shift its focus to high school players in recent years. On the major league front, the assistant GM discussed the challenge of having to fill a number of holes in the offseason, Coco Crisp’s recent contract extension, what the team expects from Josh Reddick and John Jaso in 2014, and how the A’s expect to contend in a strengthened American League West and push themselves past the competition in the postseason. But A’s Farm started things off by asking Forst to share his take on the A’s most promising young player in the pipeline…

 

On A’s top prospect Addison Russell

I expect he’ll start the year at Midland. The thing that impressed me most about Addison last year, and there were obviously a lot…to see the way he kind of turned his season around…that tells me as much about Addison as a player as anything he did. You can go and watch him and see the power, see the swing, see the arm from the hole…with a guy like that, it’s really easy to see. But I remember having conversations in April with Todd Steverson, who at the time was our minor league hitting coordinator, and saying, “Hey, is this kid okay? Look, let him know we understand, he’s going to struggle.” And when I saw him myself in May, I said, “Hey, you’re not going to hit .200 forever – it’s just not going to happen.” I think he’s a confident kid, but anyone who spends a whole month doing that, there’s going to be a little bit of doubt. And within a couple weeks, he started to turn around. He’s going to hit, he’s going to have enough power for the middle of the diamond, he can throw from anywhere. There’s a reason he’s a top ten prospect in baseball. And to see him turn the season around, put everything together, and continue on into the [Arizona] Fall League, that’s a long year for anyone, particularly for a kid in his first full season…Everyone says we haven’t had a kid put it all together since Eric Chavez was there…and we’re going to see a lot of him in spring training. I know one of Bob Melvin’s main objectives is to get Addison a lot of reps because there’s no telling how soon he’s going to be here…You can see the tools and the ability, but when you spend time with him and you understand how much fun he has and how mentally strong he is, you really feel good about his chances going forward.

 

Billy McKinney: Following in Addison's footsteps.

Billy McKinney: Following in Addison’s footsteps.

On last year’s top draft pick Billy McKinney

I actually didn’t get to Arizona to see those guys. I saw Billy in March last year – I went to see him play in high school. There wasn’t a lot of consensus on the board last year in the draft room. It was just one of those years where we were picking so low that guys had different opinions. But by the time that we got down there, the nice thing was we did have a strong voice in Billy’s favor – and you always feel good about a pick when that happens. And he came out and hit the way we expected, sort of above what you’d expect for his years. He got a chance to go to Vermont and get his feet wet a little bit. And I know in Instructional League, he talked to [A’s farm director] Keith Lieppman and said, “Just so you know, I expect to follow Addison’s path and start in Stockton next year.” It’s nice to hear. You don’t put expectations on a kid like that, because we know how special Addison is, but we know he will go be with a full-season club. We know he can hit, he did a great job in center field, and we’re excited about Billy.

 

On the A’s recent shift to drafting top high school players like Russell and McKinney…

We didn’t like taking kids out of high school when the information was so limited. Things have evolved over the last ten years. These kids play in so many showcases – they play against the best competition in the country. We know so much more performance-wise about a high school kid than we did even five years ago, but particularly when the book (Moneyball) was written…Sure, you’re dealing with an extra three years of personal development, and any kid from the ages of 18 to 21 changes a lot…but I think we’ve gotten to the point where we are a lot more comfortable with what these kids show us on the field. Addison is from Pensacola, Florida. If he was only playing against kids in a 50-mile radius, then you’re not sure how he stacks up. But he went to California and played, he went to Texas and played, he went to Miami and played against all these kids. Billy did the same thing – he’s on that showcase circuit where you know how he stacks up against everybody in the country…When we didn’t take Mike Trout, it was because we thought, “this is a cold-weather kid from the northeast, we’re not sure how he stacks up against the rest of the country.” Well, if we’d stepped back to see that Mike did the same things and played those circuits and performed really well, we might have lined up our board differently. So really, it’s a different time with the high school kids. And if our scouts have seen a lot of them and they sort of check enough boxes, we feel really good about those guys – and Billy fell into that group.

 

Bobby Wahl: Will he be a fast riser?

Bobby Wahl: Will he be a fast riser?

On 2013 draft picks Dylan Covey and Bobby Wahl

Both Covey and Wahl were interesting conversations. Covey was a 1st-round pick in high school. Bobby was expected to potentially be a 1st-round guy, at least a top two guy. Both guys fell to an area where we paid over-slot for them because we wanted to, and we felt like both guys had some sort of marks against them that hurt their draft status. With Dylan, he never sort of performed the way people expected him to out of high school, but the stuff was always there and there was an upward trend in his college performance. And Bobby we knew had an injury history, but if we could get him healthy and keep him healthy, this was a 1st-round talent. So as far as the diversity of our draft portfolio, those guys fit really nicely after taking a guy like Billy [McKinney] in the 1st-round because they’re a little more advanced. And if they did stay healthy and kind of live up to what their pre-draft status was, you potentially have some top guys. And both guys went out and pitched great. Dylan obviously was able to make the jump to the Midwest League for a couple starts. But both those guys have a chance to start the year in Stockton, depending on how things shake out, and potentially move quickly because of their status as college players.

 

On the value of 1st-round draft picks and the recent trades of former 1st-rounders Grant Green and Michael Choice

The goal of a 1st-round pick is always to get them here. You never draft someone hoping just to create an asset to move. With Grant and with Michael, it sort of worked out that way. But it’s a lot more rewarding certainly when Sonny Gray pitches here or ultimately when Addison Russell does get here. That’s what you want out of your 1st-round pick. I won’t say that we’re sort of focused on any position ever in the 1st-round – we’re looking for the best player…I know there’s been a lot made of trading those guys. Throughout the farm system, we’ve moved a lot of players and, as such, we’re sort of in a position where we need to rebuild. But there’s never a specific goal with a 1st-round pick.

 

Craig "Kitten Face" Gentry: Just what the A's were looking for?

Craig “Kitten Face” Gentry: Just what the A’s were looking for?

On meeting the team’s key offseason needs…

When you look at our checklist at the end of October, replace Bartolo Colon, replace Grant Balfour, so you’ve got a starting pitcher and a closer. Craig Gentry was a guy we had been focused on for a long time who we just felt fit so well…with his ability to play all three outfield spots, running, hitting from the right side, so we sort of checked that one off…We added more pieces to the bullpen. We got some depth in the starting rotation with Josh Lindblom and Drew Pomeranz. These were all things that we sort of laid out in October. You just hope you can hit as many as possible.

 

On how the A’s expect to best the rest of the west in 2014…

We still feel like the make-up of the complete 25-man roster gives us a chance to repeat, and as great a job as Bob Melvin has done the last two years of managing that group – putting guys in the right spots, platooning, using the bullpen. We feel like from 1 to 25, we’re just as strong as we were, if not stronger than, the last two years. And certainly the bullpen – with adding Jim Johnson and Luke Gregerson to what was already an outstanding group, maybe potentially a full season of Dan Otero, and Jesse Chavez showed last year what he can do – that has to be a strength that we’re going to lean on a lot.

 

Jim Johnson: The $10 million man.

Jim Johnson: The A’s $10 million man.

On the effect of increased national TV revenue on the team’s spending…

There’s no doubt our payroll is going to be higher this year probably than ever, certainly in the time I’ve been here. You just have to do the math and see we’re significantly above where we were last year. And that’s what allowed us to go get Jim Johnson, knowing there’s going to be a $10 million price tag on him, and to sign Scott Kazmir, even a move like signing Eric O’Flaherty, where you’re only adding a little bit for this year. But we had already sort of bumped up against our number, and [managing partner] Lew Wolff and [team president] Mike Crowley were very open to what we were trying to do with Eric for half a season and then backload the money. So there’s no doubt that, whether it’s the TV money, the success of the team, all these things have gone into ownership being very open to increasing the bar and letting us do some things this offseason that we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.

 

On avoiding long-term contracts and Coco Crisp’s extension…

I think we’ve benefited a lot from the flexibility over the last few years. Obviously having added Coco in the last 24 hours, but other than Yoenis Cespedes and Scott Kazmir, there was nobody signed for 2015. We don’t necessarily want to recreate the team every year, because obviously the fans like the players that are here and we like the certainty of the guys that we know, but that we’ve given ourselves the ability to do it is a huge factor in our success. So to commit to a guy like Coco, obviously we know the guy, we know the player, he’s so important to what we do, and it was just an opportunity where we felt like this was the right dollar amount to commit to him beyond the next couple of years.

 

Josh Reddick: Hoping to reclaim his 2012 glory in 2014.

Josh Reddick: Will he reclaim his 2012 glory in 2014?

On expectations for Josh Reddick in 2014…

We certainly expect Josh to bounce back. I don’t think anybody knows fully how much his wrist affected him last year, and Josh will never ever admit it privately or publicly. But the fact is that he had that injury in Houston early in the year. And when you look at the difference in his numbers between 2012 and 2013, a player with his talent, you have to assume there’s something else going on. So we fully expect Josh to bounce back – and I fully expect to have him under contract hopefully sometime in the next couple weeks. But Josh adds so much with his defense alone that it’s hard to calculate his value to the team. And if he does get back to being the offensive player that we saw in 2012, he has the chance to carry this team at times.

 

On expectations for John Jaso’s return in 2014…

He’s coming to camp as a catcher. He’s cleared all exams. He’s had no setbacks with his physical activity. Look, you can’t predict how he reacts when he gets hit by a foul tip – that’s a medical issue. We did everything we could in terms of giving him the rest he needed and getting him to see the right people. But he comes into camp as a catcher – same situation with him and Derek Norris. The nice thing is Stephen Vogt sort of emerged last year in John’s absence, and that’s a great problem to have. If you end up having a roster with all three of those guys, they’re great options for the DH spot and the catching spot.

 

Nick Punto: He's been there, done that.

Nick Punto: He’s been there, done that.

On how he expects new additions like Scott Kazmir, Jim Johnson, Luke Gregerson and Nick Punto to help the A’s, particularly in the postseason…

Each of those guys we felt addressed, not necessarily a weakness, but somewhere we could get better. It’s hard to say how they specifically help us in the postseason, but anytime your pitching depth is strong – whether it’s with Kaz or Jim Johnson or Gregerson – you expect that to come into play in a tight postseason game. Nick has played in the postseason quite a bit, he’s been on winning teams, he knows a lot of the guys around the league. There’s no way that his experience isn’t going to help us when it comes down the stretch – it’s sort of subjective to say exactly what that is, but we’ve seen it before with players that we’ve brought in. So hopefully these guys fit as well as the group has the last two years. Ultimately, that’s what we’re trying to do is put that puzzle together to compete in September, and I think we have every reason to believe that these guys will fit.

*          *          *

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 updates e-mailed to you free by signing up here.

A’s & River Cats Roster Outlook

Scott Kazmir - the A's $22 million dollar man

Scott Kazmir – the $22 million dollar man

It appears that most of the A’s off-season work is done. The team has found capable replacements for departing free agents Bartolo Colon, Grant Balfour and Chris Young and filled a few other holes as well. It’s possible that someone like Alberto Callaspo, who’s set to earn close to $5 million and doesn’t have a full-time position, could still end up being traded before spring training is through. It’s possible that a few younger players with major league experience who are out of options like outfielder Michael Taylor or reliever Evan Scribner could be dealt as well. But for the most part, barring any unforeseen injury issues, it looks like the A’s are now holding most of the cards they’ll be playing to start the 2014 season. And it’s becoming increasingly clear who most of the players are that Sacramento River Cats fans can expect to be seeing at Raley Field in 2014 as well.

 

2014 OAKLAND A’S

One area that seems to be most clearly set for the team is the outfield, with Josh Reddick in right, Coco Crisp in center, Yoenis Cespedes in left and newcomer Craig Gentry serving as the fourth outfielder. The left side of the infield will also remain in place for the A’s, with the team’s most valuable player in 2014, Josh Donaldson, manning the hot corner and the team’s best-hitting shortstop in recent memory, Jed Lowrie, returning to shortstop.

The other four positions in the lineup – second base, first base, catcher and designated hitter – are the areas where the A’s will deploy their patented platoons. Free agent infielder Nick Punto is likely to take over for Adam Rosales and Callaspo as Eric Sogard’s platoon partner at second base. And based on manager Bob Melvin’s comments, it seems like that might push Callaspo into the role of Brandon Moss’s platoon partner at first base, which would then push Nate Freiman to Sacramento along with fellow first baseman Daric Barton.

Craig "Kitten Face" Gentry

Craig “Kitten Face” Gentry

Melvin’s recent comments also make it sound like John Jaso is likely to get most of the DH at-bats, replacing the departed Seth Smith in that position, while against left-handers, Craig Gentry would join the lineup in left field with Yoenis Cespedes moving into the DH spot. With Jaso getting most of the DH at-bats, that requires the A’s to carry a third catcher, and that’s most likely to be Stephen Vogt, who got plenty of valuable experience last year down the stretch and in the postseason for the A’s. And his left-handed bat is the perfect complement to righty-swinging backstop Derek Norris, who hit just .149 against right-handed pitching last year.

Basically, Vogt would be replacing Jaso in the catching platoon, just as he did late last year, with Jaso moving out from behind the plate to replace Seth Smith in the DH platoon, while Punto replaces Callaspo in the second base platoon, Callaspo replaces Freiman in the first place platoon and Craig Gentry takes Chris Young’s place in the lineup against left-handers.

As far as the pitching staff goes, the plan seems pretty clear. Free agent lefty Scott Kazmir will take over for Bartolo Colon as the veteran presence in the team’s starting rotation, while young righty Sonny Gray appears set to take lefty Tommy Milone’s spot in the rotation, just as he did late last season, with Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily rounding out the starting five.

Meanwhile, in the bullpen, Jim Johnson will take over for Grant Balfour as the team’s closer, while top-notch setup man Luke Gregerson will take the roster spot that Pat Neshek occupied most of last season and lefty Fernando Abad is likely to take Jerry Blevins’ spot on the left side of the bullpen, with fellow lefty Sean Doolittle and righties Ryan Cook, Jesse Chavez and Dan Otero rounding out the rest of the A’s bullpen – though it’s possible that, since he’s out of options, the team could also decide to have Evan Scribner take Otero’s spot to start the season. The A’s will also likely start the season with two relievers who are both recovering from Tommy John surgery on the disabled list – recently-signed free agent lefty Eric O’Flaherty and righty Fernando Rodriguez, who was acquired from the Astros in the Jed Lowrie deal.

 

2014 SACRAMENTO RIVER CATS

If we make the preceding assumptions about the major league roster, then the River Cats roster starts to fall pretty clearly into place. Of course, there are a few players who are out of options, and it’s quite possible that at least one of them won’t end up clearing waivers.

Daric Barton: Back in River City?

Daric Barton: Back in River City?

The A’s have two veteran minor league catchers to handle the River Cats pitching staff, returning backstop Luke Montz along with Chris Gimenez, who was recently claimed off waivers from Tampa Bay. Meanwhile, the team looks to be overloaded with first basemen, with Daric Barton, Nate Freiman and Anthony Aliotti all looking for playing time – unless the A’s end up trading Callaspo and opening up a roster spot for Freiman as Brandon Moss’s platoon partner. If not, there could still be plenty of playing time to be found for all three between the first base and the designated hitter spot.

Returning River Cat Andy Parrino appears to be set at shortstop. Hiro Nakajima is likely to get the majority of starts at third base while also picking up at-bats at other positions around the infield, while free agent signees Jose Martinez and Alden Carrithers should get most of the playing time at second base. Shane Peterson is set to return to Sacramento’s outfield, along with Jake Goebbert and, if they clear waivers, veteran minor leaguers Michael Taylor and Corey Brown (who was recently designated for assignment).

The River Cats should have plenty of worthy contenders for their starting rotation. If the A’s other five starters are all healthy to start the season, then Tommy Milone is likely to anchor Sacramento’s starting five, along with recently-acquired righty Josh Lindblom and lefty Drew Pomeranz. Returning River Cats Andrew Werner and Arnold Leon will also be competing for a spot as well as free agent signees Phil Humber and Matt Buschmann, with those don’t make the rotation starting the season in the River Cats bullpen. If he clears waivers, they’re likely to be joined there by Evan Scribner, along with returning River Cats Paul Smyth and Fernando Nieve and free agent signees Deryk Hooker and Jose Flores as well as Triple-A Rule 5 draftee Tim Atherton.

So that’s how things seem to be shaping up for both the A’s and the River Cats, assuming everyone clears waivers and Billy Beane doesn’t have any last-minute surprises up his sleeve!

Click here to see the projected 2014 A’s and River Cats rosters…