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An SB Nation blog for Oakland Athletics fans



Updated: 2018-01-23T09:25:52-08:00

 



Elephant Rumblings: Lowrie is A’s Anchor, Austin Jackson Signs

2018-01-23T09:25:52-08:00

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Today in Baseball History:

  • 1928 - Alfonso (Chico) Carrasquel is born in Caracas, Venezuela. Carrasquel, the first in a great line of Venezuelan shortstops that includes Luis Aparicio, Dave Concepción, Ozzie Guillen and Omar Vizquel, will become the first Hispanic to appear in an All-Star Game, in 1951, at Briggs Stadium.

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Candidates to pull a Yonder Alonso on the 2018 Athletics

2018-01-21T19:00:02-08:00

It’s a game of adjustments. Prior to the Matts, the A’s 2017 wasn’t all that exciting. Sonny Gray’s resurgence was fun but tainted some by trade rumors and struggles, Rajai’s return was just meh, so on and so forth. The best story of that first half may have been that of Yonder Alonso, Swing Changer. In his final year before free agency, Alonso went from a mostly powerless groundball hitter to a flyball masher as he learned to swing up on the ball. What made Alonso’s change so especially sensical was the low stakes that accompanied it. A 2017 campaign similar to his 2016 might have ended in a DFA, with both Ryon Healy and Matt Olson vying for Alonso’s playing time. At 29 years young, Alonso was nearing a make or break time in his career and should he not have found his power stroke, was potentially on his way out of the game. Also important is the underlying skill that allowed Alonso to succeed with that change. Should Alonso have been me for example, swinging up on the ball would have done nothing. The directionality of my swing wouldn’t affect my results in the slightest, my scrawny arms unable to put the ball in play much less hit it for extra bases. Alonso had all the necessary tools to make the change. His pitch recognition has always been strong, he’s built like a tank and he’s long had the ability to make solid contact. All that was missing was the direction of his swing, and while the science and the mechanics and the practice that went into succeeding is undoubtedly complicated, the decision wasn’t: Yonder had nothing to lose and everything to gain by swinging up. Who on the A’s has the chance to make a low risk change? Jesse Hahn, reliever This is admittedly not a minor mechanical change, but it does seem low risk and like the right move to do. In his final option year, it’s make or break time for Hahn. He’s either going to stick in the bigs or he’s gone from the organization. The latter option might be best for Hahn who could potentially benefit from a change of scenery. So long as he’s still here, it’s best to try and find him an optimal home. The A’s have yet to really try Hahn as a reliever. He had a brief stint as the long guy in 2017 that went so well, he forced his way back into the rotation where he immediately returned to his inconsistent ways. Hahn’s small sample in the pen doesn’t mean he’ll succeed there, but it’s another indication the A’s should consider trying. With a hard sinker with lots of movement and a big looping curve, Hahn clearly has the stuff to excel in a shorter stint with the arm to eat some innings. Over his career, Hahn has always struggled with consistency. When his sinker has sunk, his curveball has hung and when he’s started to find his groove, his health has failed - it’s always one thing or another. Relievers don’t need the same arsenal a starter does, and Hahn can succeed with just two pitches and get by when that consistency does fail him. It’s unclear how long a leash Hahn will have, as the A’s haven’t seemed particularly enamored with him since his struggles commenced. It wouldn’t be a surprise for him to be out of the org at the end of spring. If the A’s do give him a precious roster spot, it’d be better to give him one with less pressure and less bearing on the team’s competitive hopes. Should Hahn continue his poor pitching of the past few years as the long man? It’s probably not the difference between a playoff berth or not, as the long man is often used in games that have already been decided. If he finds his groove? You don’t need me to tell you that the A’s could use relief arms and it’s obvious Hahn has the stuff to succeed. Liam Hendriks predictability behind in the count To be fair, every pitcher is better when the count is in their favor and worse when it’s not. That’s especially true for Hendriks. In his career, he’s 135% better ahead in the count than when he’s behind in the count, a number that jumped to 199% in 2017. That’s mucho. [...]



An Alternative Oakland A’s prospect list, Part 2

2018-01-21T13:07:20-08:00

Grover continues his contrarian viewpoint with spots 11-25. Welcome to the ongoing adventure that is a muppet talking baseball. There’s good news for prospect hounds as MLB Pipeline is starting to post their Top 10 lists for 2018 and are set to release their Top 100 prospects on January 27. Team reports will come out in February, although I’m not sure if they’ll release the Top 30 for all teams in one go or if they’ll stagger them. But the CPL waits for no institution of select and informed baseball knowledge so here is the remainder of my Top 25 list to help inform your decision making process. (Click here to see Part 1, aka the Top 10.) Or spark outrage. I’m results flexible. 11. Dustin Fowler Mark Canha. Matt Joyce. Jaff Decker. Jaycob Brugman. Billy Burns. These are some of the players who have started in CF for Oakland during the previous two seasons, so it’s not a low bar but rather a shallow trench that Fowler needs to cross in order to supplant them. Fowler has received Average or better grades across the board from almost every reputable source, with the one Plus tool everyone agreeing on being his 60 Grade Speed. There were questions about his ability to be a full-time CF for anyone expecting above-average defense up the middle … and then he blew out his knee. He’s got the range for RF, the bat for CF and the arm for LF. He’s a tweener whose Pinstripes pedigree got him on some Top 100 lists prior to his breakout season in AAA. Fowler is an aggressive, gap-to-gap hitter who doesn’t work the count and who saw his K% jump 5% in an (admittedly successful) attempt to hit for more power. Dustin Fowler was lining up to be the Rich Man’s Ryan Sweeney and now he gets to be Oakland’s Sweeney 2.0; a player who will serve you fairly well for a time (especially while making league minimum) but will always leave you looking for someone else to come along and take his place. Summary: Even assuming a full recovery I don’t think he has the wheels for CF or the bat for COF. A tweener. 12. Greg Deichmann Deichmann hit .274/.385/.530 for Short-Season Vermont and I’m absolutely giving him too much credit for the stat line. He was a touch too old and simply too advanced for the competition he was facing. But it would be rude of me to complain about a player succeeding in the manner one would expect from him given the situation. Deichmann has the arm strength and power and enough athleticism to fit the classic RF profile and I imagine he’ll be pushed a bit with an assignment to High-A Stockton come spring. I expect he’ll do well there, as advanced college bats with power tend to do, and a year from now he’ll probably fall out of my Top 15 … thus creating the argument that I’ll be underrating him. Summary: Classic RF profile and I’m probably giving him a touch too much credit for his Vermont performance. 13. Heath Fillmyer I’d call Fillmyer a long-time favorite of mine except I find it weird and maybe an indictment of how I view society to consider 3+ years as a “long-time”. The JC pick didn’t start pitching full-time until his 2014 draft season and he’s made steady progress since turning pro. He’s got low mileage on an arm that features a 55 Grade fastball, plus a curve and change-up that project to average. The A’s have 3 full seasons and 383 innings invested in turning the former SS into a SP and I think it’s going to work. He should start next season in Nashville’s rotation and if (when) it finally clicks for him he’ll end the year as one of Oakland’s starting five. Summary: Stuff took a half step back but he still passed the AA Acid Test. I’m hopeful the stuff ticks back up in AAA. 14. Ramon Laureano Ramon started the 2017 season on a few different Top 10 lists and ended the year without a spot on Houston’s 40-man roster, creating the opportunity for Oakland to pick him up in trade. This was primarily due to a horrid, no good first half that saw him produce a .193/.266/.277 slash line in A[...]



Oakland A’s 2018 Community Prospect List #6: Jesus Luzardo puts surgery in the rear-view mirror

2018-01-20T15:54:43-08:00

The teenager got his pro career started last summer after Tommy John recovery. After falling short in a close vote for the fifth spot, pitcher Jesus Luzardo joins our Community Prospect List at No. 6. Here’s the current list, including their winning margins (the difference between his % of the vote, and the % of the runner-up): A.J. Puk, LHP (+62%) Franklin Barreto, SS (+56%) Jorge Mateo, SS (+22%) Dustin Fowler, OF (+24%) Sean Murphy, C (+0%) Jesus Luzardo, LHP (+37%) We’ve already placed two members of the trade return from last summer’s Sonny Gray deal, in Mateo and Fowler. But Jesus Luzardo comes from a different 2017 trade, the one that sent Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to the Nationals. The Sonny swap brought in an exciting amount of talent, but Doo/Mad wasn’t far off. In addition to immediately replacing one of those departed relievers with Blake Treinen (currently Oakland’s closer), and picking up a strong hitting prospect in Sheldon Neuse (our next nomination; see below), the deal also netted a high-ceiling young pitcher in Luzardo. The lefty doesn’t come without flaws. Most notably, he already has a Tommy John surgery on his resume. Even worse, he incurred that injury at a particularly young age (18), which raises an extra red flag for his long-term future. Due to that setback he didn’t get on a professional mound until last June, and to this point he’s only thrown a few dozen innings and topped out at short-season Low-A ball. There’s a lot of risk tied up in this profile. However, there’s also plenty of reward to hope for. Luzardo made a brilliant return from surgery, making a mockery of Rookie Ball and then dominating at Low-A Vermont. He didn’t just record outs but matched them with airtight peripherals, including a strong K/BB rate. The Lake Monsters made the playoffs and he won his start there too, with five scoreless innings of one-hit ball. His velocity was back to pre-injury level, and clearly his command was there too. Even if he moves quickly up the system, it’ll be a while before we see Luzardo in green and gold. But he’s one more in the A’s growing collection of top-notch youngsters, which is exactly what you want to see from your rebuilding club. As a bonus, if he reaches MLB then he’ll be the first Peruvian-born player ever to do so. All glory to the Jesus Lizard! Here is the process: Five candidates will be listed on the ballot. The voting will take place in the comments section. I will start with a comment listing all five players, and then I will respond to that with five new comments in the style of “Vote: Player Name” for each candidate. Please do not reply directly to the official “Vote” comments, so that the ballot can stay together in one group. Choose your ONE favorite by Rec’ing the comment with his name. Please only vote for one. The player who receives the most Rec’s earns the next spot on the CPL, while the remaining four players move on to the next ballot where they are joined by a new nominee. In the comments, below the official voting, the community will nominate players to be put onto the ballot for the next round. Similar to the ballot, I will start with a comment calling for nominations, which can then be made as a response to my comment. The format for your comment should be “Nomination: Player Name”. After the first nomination for a player has been put in, all other votes for that player will come from Rec’ing his comment. The player with the most Rec’s earns the nomination. If a prospect is traded, his name will be crossed out, and all other players will be moved up a space. If a prospect is acquired, a special vote will be put up to determine where that player should rank. * * * The new nominee is Sheldon Neuse. He was acquired in the same trade as Luzardo, and upon his arrival in the A’s organization he went absolute ham. He decimated the High-A Cal League for a few weeks, then moved up to Double-A and kept hitting, th[...]



Makeup Issues: Who Is Jorge Mateo?

2018-01-20T10:53:40-08:00

Cindi really wanted to write this piece until I explained that I wasn’t talking about the type of makeup issues she is passionate about. Still, “super-medium hottie George Tomato” is one of her new favorite players and I had to hide her phone in order to stop her from weighing in. You can thank me later. Opinions differ on whether the A’s should be concerned, or how concerned they should be, around the “makeup issues” that have followed Jorge Mateo’s profile since “Poutgate” emerged while he was with the Yankees. In case you’ve been sleeping in a cave, or perhaps sleeping with Jake Cave, the concerns stem from a single incidence — a 2 week suspension levied by the Yankees — in July of 2016. Supposedly Mateo mouthed off, frustrated that he was not promoted from single-A to AA, though depending on what you read it is not clear whether this was the central issue or is perhaps there were deeper issues that the team chose to keep private. Mateo, who has a June birthday, had recently turned 21 at the time of the suspension. In analyzing the situation, I will open by saying that in the continuum of prospect and player analysts I tend to put a bit more stock in “makeup/character” issues just because they often intersect with areas I consider to be key: work ethic, coachability, the ability to handle adversity and make adjustments. So I do not take “makeup concerns” lightly, as they can predict whether a player will or will not follow the path that maximizes his potential — and this is what separates big league players from failed prospects, as all have potential but only some reach or approach it. That being said, Mateo’s issues don’t sound too many alarm bells for me. At 21 he was still very young when he acted perhaps in poor judgment. If he mouthed off unwisely or maybe broke a team rule (e.g., arriving late), hopefully the Yankees’ willingness to call him on it sent a constructive message that forced Mateo to mature. Certainly he responded in the very best way a player can: assault AA pitching and prove that you do belong at the higher level. Just yesterday, in my work as a middle school guidance counselor, I had an all-too typical conversation with a 7th grader who asked to talk to me because he was feeling guilty and remorseful over a dumb thing he just done. He had responded to a classmate’s dare that he didn’t have the guts to pick up the classroom phone and dial 9-1-1 by doing just that. When the first responders arrived, and students were informed that this cost the school money and the first responders valuable time, the student realized he had royally messed up. To his credit this student asked me if we could go find the principal so he could own up to being the one who made the call, and apologize to her for what he had done. To me that shows a lot of character, but he was having trouble not beating himself up for making the initial mistake. I pointed out to him that middle school kids are famous for doing dumb things; some learn from their mistakes, do the right thing to right to restore things any way they can, and come out wiser, while others repeat mistakes because they lack the character to own up, learn, and move on. 21 year olds are not middle school age, but they are still somewhat in that “young and dumb” stage of life -- they will look back on some of their choices and wonder what the heck they were thinking, or if they were thinking at all. To my knowledge Mateo has not mouthed off, broken any rules, or dogged it on the base paths, since he returned from the 2-week suspension. That’s a good sign. He has certainly played well and appears, from a baseball point of view, to be ahead of his peers in entering his age 22/23 season already having thrived at AA (.300/.381 /.525 in 30 games with the Yankees, .292 /.333/.518 in 30 games with Oakland). A promotion to AAA from the outset, to play along side Franklin Barreto at Nashville, is not o[...]



Oakland A’s 2018 Community Prospect List #5: Sean Murphy is elite behind the plate

2018-01-19T14:51:11-08:00

Optimistic take: He’s the Matt Chapman of catchers Our last vote on the Community Prospect list brought a rare twist, as the ballot ended in a perfect tie at the top. Sean Murphy and Jesus Luzardo each received 72 votes, which left it to me to cast the tiebreaking decision. My choice was Murphy. Here’s the current list, including their winning margins (the difference between his % of the vote, and the % of the runner-up): A.J. Puk, LHP (+62%) Franklin Barreto, SS (+56%) Jorge Mateo, SS (+22%) Dustin Fowler, OF (+24%) Sean Murphy, C (+0%) Last winter, Sean Murphy ranked 25th on our CPL. He had just been selected in the 3rd round of the draft, and that distinction was enough to help him crack the bottom of the list. Now he’s in the Top 5. Murphy’s calling card is his defense. On Thursday, MLB Pipeline ranked him fourth among all catching prospects, including a mention that he is “[one] of the better defenders at any position in the Minors.” His throwing arm earns even further praise, with an elite 70-grade — two other backstops received the same grade, but with a note that “Murphy [possesses] the most consistent footwork and release.” His defense alone is enough to virtually guarantee him an MLB career. His hitting is less of a sure thing. His scouting reports suggest he has power, but it hasn’t yet shown up outside of High-A Stockton in the hitter-friendly California League. His plate discipline has been good, though, with consistently low strikeout rates at each level and more walks than Ks in the Arizona Fall League. Add all that up, and you have the makings of the catcher version of Matt Chapman — top-notch defense and a game-changing throwing arm, power potential, and the ability to take a walk. That’s a best-case, super-optimistic way of looking at it, but the tools are there if he can maximize them. And he’s already on the fast track up, having graduated from High-A to Double-A halfway through his first full season. And what about that tour of Double-A? Murphy’s bat fell flat there in 53 games, but I’m giving him a mulligan for several reasons. Foremost, it was an incredibly aggressive promotion and it’s a bonus that he even played there at all so soon after being drafted. Furthermore, Midland is notoriously a pitcher’s park, and he’s a catcher which should earn him some extra patience at the plate as he develops. He also added a pair of dingers in 35 PAs in the Texas League playoffs, for what that’s worth. And finally, he showed improvement in the AFL (albeit still with no power), making that his most recent and highest-level sample to date. If he struggles again next summer then I’ll take it more seriously, but for now I’m not moved by his initially shaky line in the upper minors. Jesus Luzardo has an exciting ceiling and belongs in our Top 10, but he’s still a teenager coming off major surgery. My pick here is the more advanced catcher who already looks like a sure thing and also has the chance to be special when he gets here. Here is the process: Five candidates will be listed on the ballot. The voting will take place in the comments section. I will start with a comment listing all five players, and then I will respond to that with five new comments in the style of “Vote: Player Name” for each candidate. Please do not reply directly to the official “Vote” comments, so that the ballot can stay together in one group. Choose your ONE favorite by Rec’ing the comment with his name. Please only vote for one. The player who receives the most Rec’s earns the next spot on the CPL, while the remaining four players move on to the next ballot where they are joined by a new nominee. In the comments, below the official voting, the community will nominate players to be put onto the ballot for the next round. Similar to the ballot, I will start with a comment calling for nominations, which can then be made as a respons[...]