Tag: Sonny Gray

Meet Your 2018 Oakland A’s!

by Bill Moriarity / A’s Farm Editor

A's top prospect Franklin Barreto

Top prospect Franklin Barreto

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

CATCHERS

Bruce Maxwell

Bruce Maxwell

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

 

OUTFIELDERS

Jaycob Brugman

Jaycob Brugman

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

 

INFIELDERS

Matt Chapman

Matt Chapman

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

 

PITCHERS

Kendall Graveman

Kendall Graveman

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

 

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

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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.

Thursday, April 27th: Sonny Gray Impresses in Sounds’ Victory while Snappers Win 6th Straight

A’s “Prospect” Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Sonny Gray (6 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 7 K / Win)

A’s “Prospect” Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Sonny Gray (6 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 7 K / Win)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

New Orleans Baby Cakes  2

Nashville Sounds             9

WP – Gray 1-0 / 0.00

HR – Barreto (4), Lavarnway (2), Canha (2)

“Prospect” Of The Game:

Pitcher Sonny Gray

(6 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 7 K / Win)

After tossing 5 scoreless frames in a rehab appearance for Stockton last weekend, A’s starter and Nashville native Sonny Gray turned in another impressive performance, this time in front of a hometown crowd at First Tennessee Park in the heart of Music City on Thursday. Gray allowed just 2 hits while walking none and striking out 7 in 6 scoreless innings to earn the win for the Sounds. Over his two rehab starts, Gray has allowed a total of just 3 hits while walking none and striking out 13 over 11 shutout innings, and he appears ready to rejoin the A’s rotation next week. It was an easy win for Nashville on Thursday. Shortstop and leadoff batter Franklin Barreto belted his team-leading 4th home run in the bottom of the 1st inning to give the Sounds an early edge, and Nashville never lost the lead. Barreto also drew a pair of walks in the game, while right fielder Mark Canha singled and slugged a 2-run shot. Designated hitter Ryan Lavarnway homered, doubled and walked, and second baseman Joey Wendle doubled, tripled and drove in 3 runs in the win. And with the A’s activating RHP Kendall Graveman, first baseman Matt Olson was optioned back to Nashville on Thursday.

Click here for more on Midland, Stockton & Beloit…

Saturday, April 22nd: Beloit Wins behind Nowlin’s Big Bat while Sonny Gray Impresses in Rehab Start for Stockton

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Beloit Snappers Designated Hitter Kyle Nowlin (Home Run / 3 RBIs)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Beloit Snappers Designated Hitter Kyle Nowlin (Home Run / 3 RBIs)

 

MIDWEST LEAGUE  (Class-A)

Burlington Bees    3

Beloit Snappers  8

WP – Altamirano 1-1 / 1.54

HR – Mercedes (4), Nowlin (2)

Prospect Of The Game:

Designated Hitter Kyle Nowlin

(Home Run / 3 RBIs)

With two men on and his team down by a run in the bottom of the 5th inning, designated hitter Kyle Nowlin stepped to the plate and slugged a 3-run homer to provide the margin of victory for the Snappers on Saturday. Center fielder JaVon Shelby doubled in a run in the previous at-bat to bring Beloit within a run, while left fielder Luke Persico doubled in 3 runs in the 8th, and first baseman Miguel Mercedes hit his team-leading 4th home run in the 2nd. After three rocky outings, starter Matt Milburn was outstanding for the Snappers on Saturday. The 23-year-old allowed just 2 hits over 4 scoreless innings, and he left the game with a 1-run lead. A string of errors by third baseman Eric Marinez, center fielder Shelby and shortstop Edwin Diaz allowed 3 unearned runs to score off of RHP Xavier Altamirano in the top of the 5th inning, but he still picked up the win after Beloit took back the lead in the bottom of the 5th, and RHP Brandon Bailey threw 3 scoreless innings in relief to hold Burlington in check as the Snappers snapped their 3-game skid on Saturday.

Click here for a complete report on Sonny Gray’s Rehab Start in Stockton…  

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Sonny Gray Back on Track in Impressive Rehab Start for Stockton

by Josh Moore / A’s Farm Stockton Correspondent

Saturday night with Sonny Gray in Stockton. Photo: Meghan Camino (https://meghanlaurelphotography.pixieset.com)

Saturday night with Sonny Gray in Stockton. Photo: Meghan Camino

It should come as no surprise that Sonny Gray’s first official minor league rehab start on Saturday attracted a lot of curious and concerned onlookers in Stockton. Among those in attendance at the nearly sold-out Banner Island Ballpark were A’s pitching coach Curt Young, bullpen coach Scott Emerson and hitting coach Darren Bush.

Five days before Saturday night’s appearance in Stockton, Gray made a decidedly more low-key return to the mound when he threw 3 innings in an extended spring training game in Arizona on Monday, which we detailed here. Prior to that, he’d been sidelined due to a lat strain suffered in a March 7th spring training appearance that saw him surrender 5 hits, 4 walks and 7 earned runs in just 2 innings of work.

On Saturday night in Stockton though, Gray looked incredibly sharp. He was originally scheduled for 4 innings or 65 pitches, whichever came first. Gray was so economical in his pitch count, however, that he was sent back out to complete a 5th inning of work. In all, he tallied 47 pitches – 34 of them strikes – while striking out 6 San Jose batters, walking none and allowing just 1 hit over 5 scoreless innings.

His form was fantastic and Gray looked extremely comfortable on the mound throughout the entire outing. Although Banner Island Ballpark’s speed gun can’t always be counted on, some scouts showed readings of 92-94 mph on his fastball, with it occasionally topping out as high as 95. Gray’s command was even more impressive though, as he found himself behind in counts just three times in the game – once with a 2-1 count and the other two times with 1-0 counts.

After striking out the side in the 2nd inning and tallying 4 strikeouts to San Jose’s first 6 batters, Gray faltered with location a bit in the 3rd frame. A fastball that caught too much of the plate was ripped to left field for a leadoff single by right fielder Christoph Bono. Although the first-base umpire later called Bono safe on a pickoff throw by Gray, his throw to first was on line and it appeared that he had picked off Bono. Later in the inning, another fastball caught too much of the plate and was lined to center field and would have landed for a single if not for an incredible catch by a diving Skye Bolt.

Gray went on to easily retire the side in order in both the 4th and 5th, barely breaking a sweat in either frame, and was eventually credited with the win after Stockton completed the 7-0 victory. A’s manager Bob Melvin announced on Sunday that Gray’s next appearance will be a 75-pitch outing for Nashville on Thursday. Following that, it’s yet to be decided whether he’ll need to make one more rehab start or if he’ll return to the Oakland rotation for his next outing. But if Saturday night’s performance was any indication, Sonny certainly appears confident and ready to go.

(Photo courtesy of Meghan Camino)

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Friday, April 21st: Shore Is Solid Again in Stockton Loss while Chalmers’ Wild Start Sinks Snappers, Hounds Fall in Slugfest & Power Outage Suspends Sounds

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Stockton Ports Pitcher Logan Shore (4 IP / 3 H / 1 ER / 1 BB / 5 K)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Stockton Ports Pitcher Logan Shore (4 IP / 3 H / 1 ER / 1 BB / 5 K)

 

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE  (High-A)

San Jose Giants   4

Stockton Ports    2

LP – Shore 0-1 / 2.81

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Logan Shore

(4 IP / 3 H / 1 ER / 1 BB / 5 K)

Stockton starter Angel Duno surrendered 2 runs on 5 hits over 3 innings of work and left the game with the Ports down by a run on Friday. RHP Joey Wagman pitched a perfect 4th before Duno’s tandem-pitching partner, RHP Logan Shore, took over in the top of the 5th, and last year’s 2nd-round draft pick for the A’s was solid once again. Shore threw 3 scoreless frames before allowing a run in the 8th. Unfortunately, since Stockton had tied the game, that proved to be the winning run and, while Shore ended up suffering his 1st loss, he allowed just 1 run and struck out 5 in 4 innings of relief on Friday. And the 22-year-old has now notched 17 strikeouts in 16 innings for Stockton so far this season. Third baseman Mikey White had 2 singles and drove in Stockton’s first run in the 2nd, while designated hitter Branden Cogswell had a pair of hits and brought home the tying run in the bottom of the 5th for the Ports. In other news, A’s starter Sonny Gray is set to make a rehab start for Stockton on Saturday night and, as an added bonus, it’ll also be Asparagus Night at the ballpark for the Ports!

Click here for more on Nashville, Midland & Beloit…

Tuesday, April 18th: Neal’s Solid Start Helps Sounds Snap Skid while Ports Come up Short in Extras

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Zach Neal (5 2/3 IP / 6 H / 2 ER / 0 BB / 5 K / Win)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Zach Neal (5 2/3 IP / 6 H / 2 ER / 0 BB / 5 K / Win)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Nashville Sounds          5

Oklahoma City Dodgers  3

WP – Neal 1-1 / 3.77

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Zach Neal

(5 2/3 IP / 6 H / 2 ER / 0 BB / 5 K / Win)

RHP Zach Neal turned in a strong start for Nashville on Tuesday, allowing 2 runs while walking none and striking out 5 over 5 2/3 frames to earn his 1st win and help the Sounds snap their five-game skid. Despite surrendering a home run in the 9th, RHP Bobby Wahl got the final three outs to pick up his 2nd save. After scoring a total of just five runs over the last five games, Nashville managed to push five runs across the plate in Tuesday’s win. And it was the first time that Sounds’ batters had put more than four runs on the board since the third game of the season back on April 8. Right fielder Mark Canha had 2 hits and drove in 2 runs, while third baseman Renato Nunez notched a pair of singles for Nashville. First baseman Matt Olson walked and singled in his team’s first run in the 2nd inning, and shortstop Franklin Barreto drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and also stole a base for the Sounds. Meanwhile, with A’s starter Kendall Graveman on the disabled list, Nashville RHP Cesar Valdez is scheduled to join Oakland and make the start for the A’s on Thursday. RockHounds RHP Corey Walter is expected to be added to the Sounds roster to replace Valdez, and second baseman Joey Wendle is set to begin a rehab assignment with the Sounds on Wednesday as he returns from a right shoulder injury.

Click here for more on Midland, Stockton & Beloit…

Sonny Gray Returns to the Mound in Arizona

by Joseph Hartsock / A’s Farm Arizona Correspondent

sghi-res-162663960_display_image2Today, I had the opportunity to watch Sonny Gray pitch in an extended spring training game against the Angels at the A’s minor league complex at Fitch Park in Mesa, Arizona. The 27-year-old Gray suffered a lat stain during spring training and, after being shut down, is now making progress in trying to get back to Oakland. Today, Gray was limited to three innings and about 15 pitches per inning, giving the A’s the ability to closely control and monitor his rehab. Gray had a rough first inning but seemed to calm down in the following two innings, and I believe it ended up being a great outing for a rehab start.

In the first inning, Gray was rocked for a home run by the Angels’ leadoff batter. The left-handed hitter seemed to be seeing the ball well out of Gray’s hand and was able to take the count full with a loud foul ball down the right-field line before hitting his solo shot to right-center field. The second batter saw seven pitches in his at-bat, mostly fastballs. This batter was overmatched by Gray and fouled off a few before ultimately striking out. Gray looked a little rough in the first inning. Sonny didn’t locate his fastball well, missing both high and low on some of his pitches. And because the A’s coaching staff was controlling his outing, they called the inning after facing only two batters.

The second inning went much more smoothly for Gray. He placed the ball well and mixed his pitches better, utilizing his fastball, changeup, slider and curve. In the inning, he didn’t allow a baserunner, struck out the first batter on three pitches and had the other two ground out to the infield. Even without a runner on base, Gray pitched from the stretch while facing the final batter of the inning and continued to maintain his smooth inning.

In Sonny’s third and final inning, he showed some of his athleticism when he came off the mound during a close play at first, calming some of my worries about his injury. The first batter Gray faced chopped a ball toward the second baseman. It wasn’t hit very hard and, with the second baseman playing back, Gray had to come off the mound make the play to his left. And with the first baseman rushing in, Gray had to race to first for the out. The next batter pushed a good breaking pitch to shallow right field to get on base. With a speedy runner now on first, Gray attempted to pick off the runner three times and nearly had the runner twice. I believe one was a bad call and the runner should have been called out. Gray walked his final batter of the day, and this was the same leadoff hitter who took him deep to start the game.

After the first inning, Gray looked great, mixing his pitches and over-matching most of the hitters. Besides the leadoff batter in the first inning, there were no solid hits off Gray, and he seemed to be calm and confident on the mound. Although the competition was nothing compared to big league hitters, it was a great step forward in his rehab.

After his outing, I was able to speak to Gray before he returned to the clubhouse. I asked him how he felt, and he said, “I feel great. It’s been eight months since I pitched in a game, so it felt great to be back out there.” He went on to talk about calming down in the second inning and continued to say how great it felt to be pitching in a game, while flashing a big smile on his face. Gray also told me that he would be heading to Stockton to pitch this Saturday and, if all goes well, he could be back with the big-league club in 11 days.

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

Meet Your 2017 Oakland A’s

0IMG_2486cAs the 2016 season came to an end and the A’s headed into the offseason, there were an awful lot of questions regarding the team’s roster for the coming season, and many of those questions still remained unanswered as the calendar turned to 2017. But a quartet of January free agent signings, along with a number of other minor moves, seems to have solidified the shape of the A’s roster for 2017.

At one time, it appeared that a number of rookie hitters might stand a good chance of making the 2017 opening day roster, including players such as catcher Bruce Maxwell and infielders Chad Pinder and Joey Wendle. But the way things are now shaping up, barring injuries, it looks like the A’s are likely to start the season with no rookie position players on the roster and perhaps just one or two rookie pitchers on the opening day squad.

Of course, the A’s being the A’s, it’s entirely possible that the front office could still have a few unexpected tricks up its sleeve before opening day. But after the flurry of roster moves over the past month, here’s how things are now shaping up for your 2017 Oakland A’s…

 

CATCHERS

Stephen Vogt

Stephen Vogt

Stephen Vogt was named to the American League All-Star squad for the second straight season last year, and the A’s current clubhouse leader is set to return as the team’s primary catcher again this season. Josh Phegley, who appeared in 73 games for Oakland in 2015, made it into just 25 games for the A’s last year due to injuries. Phegley has apparently recovered from last summer’s knee surgery and, as long as he’s healthy, is expected to serve as Vogt’s platoon partner in 2017. Rookie receiver Bruce Maxwell had an impressive Triple-A campaign and looked solid in 33 late-season games with the A’s last year. So if there are any health issues with Phegley or Vogt to start the year or at any point during the season, then Maxwell should be poised to step right in and pick up the slack.

 

MIDDLE INFIELDERS

Marcus Semien

Marcus Semien

Slugging shortstop Marcus Semien hit 27 home runs while appearing in a total of 159 games for Oakland in 2016. The iron-man infielder played in more games than any other member of the A’s squad for the second straight season, and we can probably expect to see more of the same kind of endurance from Semien again this year. Meanwhile, second baseman Jed Lowrie, in his second stint with the A’s, missed the final two months last season while undergoing foot surgery. The team expects him to be recovered from the procedure and has anointed him as its starting second baseman for the coming season, as long as he remains healthy. The A’s also signed infielder Adam Rosales as a free agent in late January, and one would expect that the versatile veteran could fill in fairly regularly for Lowrie at second base while also giving Semien a few more days off at shortstop over the course of the season. With Semien, Lowrie and Rosales in the picture, it doesn’t leave much room for other middle infielders like Joey Wendle and Chad Pinder, who are likely to be available at Nashville if any infield replacements are needed. Also waiting in the wings at Nashville will be shortstop (and possible future second baseman) Franklin Barreto, who’s considered the A’s top hitting prospect.

 

CORNER INFIELDERS

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Ryon Healy

Another one of the A’s January free agent signings was former Twins infielder Trevor Plouffe, whom the team made clear would serve as its starting third baseman, shifting young slugger Ryon Healy to first base and the designated hitter spot. Last year’s primary first baseman Yonder Alonso has been retained and the left-handed hitter is expected to man the position while righties are on the mound. Healy, who proved himself at the plate last year, is expected to be a regular in the lineup, likely serving as the designated hitter much of the time while possibly shifting back to his natural position at first base when Alonso sits against lefties. That would open up the designated hitter spot against lefties. Mark Canha missed most of last season after undergoing hip surgery but is expected to be at full strength come spring training. A’s general manager David Forst has frequently spoken favorably of Canha over the course of the offseason, and he would seem to be the most likely candidate for the role, while also being available to fill in at first base as well as in the outfield. If reinforcements are needed at the corner spots, the A’s top power-hitting prospect, third baseman Matt Chapman, will be just one step away at Nashville, as will other young sluggers like Renato Nunez and first baseman/outfielder Matt Olson.

 

OUTFIELDERS

Khris Davis

Khris Davis

Khris Davis clubbed 42 home runs while serving as the A’s starting left fielder last season and, fortunately for A’s fans, they can expect to be seeing the big bopper back in the cleanup spot for the green and gold again this year. American League stolen-base leader Rajai Davis was signed as a free agent to man center field and bat leadoff, while veteran left-handed hitter Matt Joyce was signed to be the team’s starting right fielder against righties, with returning right-handed hitter Jake Smolinski expected to serve as his platoon partner against lefties. Mark Canha, who is likely to see some time at first base and in the designated hitter spot, could also be available to fill in in the outfield corners. Meanwhile, down on the farm, two young left-handed hitting prospects who could step in and fill outfield roles if needed, Matt Olson and Jaycob Brugman, should be back for their second seasons at Nashville. And joining them there will likely be another left-handed-hitting outfielder, this one with plenty of major league experience, 32-year-old veteran Alejandro De Aza, who was signed to a minor league contract last month.

 

STARTING PITCHERS

Sonny Gray

Sonny Gray

There really don’t seem to be too many big question marks about the A’s starting rotation at this point. Sonny Gray, Kendall Graveman and Sean Manaea are set to top the starting five. And since Daniel Mengden recently fractured a bone in his right foot, it’s now even more likely that the final two spots in the rotation will be filled by a pair of pitchers the A’s front office has repeatedly spoken highly of during the offseason, rookie Jharel Cotton and reliever-turned-starter Andrew Triggs. The A’s used a total of 14 different starting pitchers last year though, so we’ll probably end up seeing plenty of other names in the starting mix before the season’s through. Jesse Hahn, who made 9 starts for the A’s last season, is likely to start the year at Nashville and could be called upon if needed. A pair of pitchers who each made at least half a dozen starts for the A’s in 2017, Ross Detwiler and Zach Neal, should be available at Triple-A as well. Flame-thrower Frankie Montas, who’s on the 40-man roster, is also expected to start at Nashville, as is 2014 2nd-round pick Daniel Gossett. Raul Alcantara, who made 5 starts for the A’s late last year and is out of options, may very well end up serving as a long man out of the A’s bullpen but could always shift back into a starting role if needed. And, of course, once he recuperates from his foot injury, Mengden will be available again at some point, as will righty Chris Bassitt and lefty Felix Doubront, both of whom are returning from Tommy John surgery.

 

RELIEF PITCHERS

Ryan Madson

Ryan Madson

Much like the starting rotation, the A’s bullpen picture appears to be fairly clear as well, with just a couple of key questions remaining. With the A’s surprising signing of former Giants closer Santiago Casilla in January, the big question is whether Ryan Madson will return to the closer’s role for Oakland in 2017 or if Casilla will wind up displacing him. However it ends up shaking out though, the pair should serve as two of the team’s top late-inning options. Joining them will be fellow righties John Axford, Liam Hendriks and Ryan Dull as well as southpaw Sean Doolittle. If the A’s would like to have a second lefty in the bullpen, then Daniel Coulombe, who appeared in 35 games for the A’s last year and is the only other left-handed reliever on the 40-man roster, would seem to be the obvious choice. 24-year-old right-hander Raul Alcantara is out of options though, so the A’s may want to use that final spot to protect the young starter and have him serve as the long-man out of the bullpen. But if the A’s wanted to hang on to Alcantara and have a second lefty in the bullpen as well, then they could always consider trading one of their other relievers. If they did decide to do that, then someone like Axford, who is in the final year of his contract and is owed $5.5 million this year, would seem to be the most likely candidate. And if any bullpen reinforcements are needed, one of the top options this year could be right-hander Bobby Wahl, who’s on the 40-man roster, struck out 10.8 batters per 9 innings across three minor league levels in 2017 and finished the year with 4 saves over the last month of the season at Nashville.

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

Local Boy Daulton Jefferies Makes Good as A’s 2nd Pick in This Year’s Draft

dj12805924_1071818282936327_5742636123770923759_n.0.0bThe A’s didn’t have to look far to find their second pick in this year’s amateur draft. With the 37th overall selection, the team took Daulton Jefferies, a 20-year-old right-hander who’s spent the past three years pitching right in their own backyard at UC Berkeley for the California Golden Bears.

While Jefferies’ fastball reportedly has been clocked as high as 95 mph, he also works with a changeup and a slider and possesses excellent command. He went 7-0 and posted a stellar 1.08 ERA while striking out 53 and walking just 8 over 50 innings of work in his junior year at Cal this season. But he missed about 8 weeks of the season due to calf and shoulder injuries. He was once considered a potential top 20 pick in the draft, but those injury issues may have caused him to tumble into the lap of the A’s, who were more than happy to have the opportunity to nab another top-tier talent.

Jefferies, who went to high school in Atwater, just a few miles north of Merced, says that he’s modeled himself a bit after A’s right-hander Sonny Gray. So the northern California native was clearly happy to find himself selected by the local team. An added plus to being taken by the A’s is the fact that he’s also friends with the other two young pitchers the team took on the first day of the draft, Florida’s A.J. Puk and Logan Shore. The trio had the chance to play together last summer on the USA Collegiate National Team and have been fast friends ever since.

We took the opportunity to talk with Jefferies on the morning after the draft and found him eager and excited to be part of a pack of promising young pitching prospects who will hopefully help guide the green and gold back to glory before long…

 

AF:  Well, congratulations on being selected by the A’s on the first day of the draft. So how did it feel waking up today knowing you were one of the top 40 picks in the major league draft?

DJ:  To be honest with you, it hasn’t really hit me yet! As soon as I got drafted, I ran to get an A’s hat…and when I woke up, it was the first thing I put on. But it hasn’t hit me yet – it’s pretty surreal.

AF:  So are you going to go to sleep with it on tonight too?

DJ:  I wouldn’t doubt it to be honest with you.

AF:  I know you’re from around the Merced area. So did you grow up as an A’s fan or a Giants fan or both?

DJ:  My family is a mix between Dodgers, Giants and A’s. I have a big family so it’s spread out a bit. But going to Berkeley certainly helps – going to see Sonny Gray pitch, going to see Marcus Semien, Mark Canha and Bob Melvin, who are Cal graduates. I grew up going to Giants games and A’s games.

AF:  It sounds like you grew up being pretty well acquainted with the A’s anyway. So have you seen or read Moneyball yet?

DJ:  Yes, I watched Moneyball. It was actually a really good movie. I didn’t get a chance to meet Billy Beane. But I’m sure I will, so I’m pretty excited.

AF:  Oh, I’m sure you will very soon! So did you have a favorite A’s player growing up?

DJ:  Not really. I remember watching Scott Hatteberg and that whole story. And then, Sonny Gray…I kind of try to model my game after him. He’s had a lot of success there. He plays the game the right way and plays it for the right reasons.

AF:  So are you looking forward to wearing those white cleats?

DJ:  Yeah, my uncles were teasing me about that, and the stirrups and everything. I’m pretty excited. As long as I’m a professional baseball player, I could wear a clown outfit and I wouldn’t care!

AF:  Can you tell me a little bit about your repertoire and how confident you are in each of your pitches and where they’re at at this point?

djNCAA California Coastal Car (3)DJ:  My fastball’s 90-94 mph and touches 95-96 mph. I can control both sides of the plate. Both 4-seam and 2-seam – the 2-seam more going in to righties and away to lefties. And then I build off my fastball and I build off my changeup. My favorite pitch to throw is my changeup. It probably goes from 84 to 88 or 89 mph. I like to throw it a lot to lefties and get hitters off balance, and then going to righties away and getting them to kind of reach and roll over and build off of that with a fastball inside and jam them. And then I just developed a slider this year, and it became one of those big out pitches for me. It usually goes from about 82 to 86 or 87 mph. I learned about myself a lot building off my off-speed. I don’t have a huge, over-powering fastball, like 96-98 mph range. So I just developed into what I think I am. I hit my spots and I can control both sides of the plate. And I don’t really care about strikeouts, as long as I get guys out and miss barrels. I don’t try to strike anyone out. But as long as I execute my pitches, everything will work out. But professional ball is a whole different animal, and I’m ready for it.

AF:  I was going to ask you about what you kind of touched on there. What’s your mentality like when you take the mound? Is there anything in particular you’re trying to remember to do or thinking about trying to accomplish whenever you take the mound for a start?

DJ:  First pitch strike and getting ahead of guys, and getting the leadoff guy out – that’s a big momentum shift. As a pitcher, you’re trying to get your offense back in the dugout so they can score some runs for you. So anything I can do to help speed up that process and get them back grabbing their bats is good.

AF:  You’ve had a good career at Cal over the three years you’ve been there, but you really had a great year this season. You went 7-0 with an ERA of 1.08, and it’s hard to do much better than that. So what was really working for you this season and was there anything different you were doing this year?

DJ:  You know, I think the summer helped me a lot with confidence. Being on the USA Collegiate National Team and playing against other national teams – it was kind of weird playing against 35-year-old Cubans – but it was a great experience, and it kind of opened my eyes to finding out what kind of pitcher I really am. The big thing for me was getting ahead and kind of attacking the hitter. I’m going to make the hitter earn his way on base, I’m not going to walk the guy – I hate walks with a passion!

AF:  You got off to a great start at Cal this year, and then you had a couple of injuries involving your calf and your shoulder and ended up missing about 8 weeks of the season. So can you tell me a little bit more about what happened there?

DJ:  The calf started first after facing Oregon State. And then my arm started to kind of stiffen up. I thought it was just normal soreness from throwing a complete game against Oregon State, but it didn’t really go away. And I just decided to shut it down. So I got the rest I needed. And I was extremely fortunate to be able to get back out there and play with my guys the last two games.

AF:  Did the A’s want to talk to you about the shoulder injury and look into the situation a little further before the draft?

DJ:  Yeah, I went to the workout [for draft prospects at the Coliseum] last week. And I got to see their doctor. He took me through some tasks, strengthening stuff and mobility with my shoulder. And guys in the big leagues get over this injury and I did too. And I’m just glad they had faith in me and I can’t wait to get out there. Jermaine Clark was my scout, and he had some nice things to say to me when I went there.

AF:  I guess you actually played together on the USA Collegiate National Team last summer with the A’s other top two picks from the first day of the draft, Florida pitchers A.J. Puk and Logan Shore.

DJ:  Yeah, we did. We’ve gotten to be pretty good friends. I text Logan and A.J. all the time. They’re a great group of guys. And just being around those guys with those repertoires and getting to see A.J. Puk pitch – when it looks like it’s 86 mph but, when you look up, it’s 97 mph, just because he makes it look so easy. But I couldn’t be more happy. I facetimed them this morning and we all had our A’s hats on, so it’s a pretty exciting time for us!

AF:  Well, I guess it must be nice to be starting your pro career with a couple of guys you already know and like and have played with before.

DJ:  Absolutely, it’s awesome!

AF:  So being a northern California guy yourself, is there anything else you’d like A’s fans to know as you embark on your career in the green and gold?

DJ:  I’m just so thankful for the opportunity. And I can’t wait to get out there and start the uprising of the Oakland A’s! And not just me, but Logan Shore and A.J. Puk and everyone else, we’re going to get this thing going and we’re extremely excited!

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

Thursday, June 2nd: Alcantara & Barreto Combine to Help Hounds Win while Pinder Has 3 Hits & Maxwell Homers in Sounds Victory

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Pitcher Raul Alcantara (7 2/3 IP / 8 H / 1 ER / 0 BB / 4 K / Win)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Pitcher Raul Alcantara (7 2/3 IP / 8 H / 1 ER / 0 BB / 4 K / Win)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Springfield Cardinals     3

Midland RockHounds  5

WP – Alcantara 5-3 / 3.90

HR – Barreto (5)

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Raul Alcantara

(7 2/3 IP / 8 H / 1 ER / 0 BB / 4 K / Win)

RHP Raul Alcantara turned in an impressive start for the RockHounds on Thursday. The 23-year-old held Springfield scoreless through the first 5 innings and ended up allowing just 1 run while walking none over 7 2/3 innings to earn his 5th win. Alcantara’s command was on point as he threw 72 strikes and just 21 balls on Thursday. Shortstop Franklin Barreto had a big night at the plate, collecting a single, a double and an inside-the-park home run while driving in 3 runs for the RockHounds. Catcher Beau Taylor, second baseman Wade Kirkland and designated hitter Danny Oh had a pair of hits apiece for Midland.

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