Youth Movement: A’s hope trio of top prospects make an immediate impact

By Morris Phillips

OAKLAND–The Dodgers traded for Mookie Betts, the Yankees signed free agent Gerrit Cole, who is anything but free, and the Twins struck late, adding Josh Donaldson to their collection of sluggers.

The A’s didn’t sign any big names, or little ones for that matter. But that doesn’t mean they stood put. A.J. Puk, Jesus Luzardo and Sean Murphy–each among the Top 60 prospects in all of baseball–are being counted on to be big league contributors starting on Opening Night July 24.

Luzardo, the A’s No. 1 prospect, has been cleared to resume workouts after testing positive for COVID-19, the timing of which threatened his availability for the opener. But while preparing to be cleared, Luzardo lobbied the coaching staff, and did whatever he could physically to gain preparedness.

“I figured out ways to get little lifts in my room while listening to my body,” Luzardo said. “If I was feeling good that day, I’d get after it. If I was a little tired, I took it lighter. I definitely tried to stay in shape.”

Originally tabbed as a starter, Luzardo could start the season in the bullpen, where he would remain ideally until he regains a starter’s stamina. Puk seems set as the fourth starter with Murphy assuming the starting catcher’s role after a successful, 20-game audition in 2019.

Puk, Luzardo and Murphy all saw time at the big league level last season, and given their performances, expectations are high that all three can excel and kiss the minor leagues farewell.

Murphy was a third round selection in the 2016 Draft and he’s moved quickly through the organization’s minor league structure,  compiling 90 extra-base hits in 235 games over four seasons. The 24-year old impressed manager Bob Melvin with his attention to detail in handling the pitching staff, so much so he was picked to start the AL Wild Card Game against the Rays. Murphy’s had issues with knee injuries so the shortened 60-game schedule may prove ideal for his adjustment to the majors.

Puk, the 6’7” flamethrower chosen sixth overall in the 2016 Draft, made ten appearances, all in relief, for Oakland in 2019. He was 2-0 with 3.18 ERA, striking out 13 batters in 11 plus innings of work. Despite missing all of 2018 due to Tommy John surgery,  Puk compiled 262 strikeouts in 183 innings at the various minor league levels.

The 24-year old hasn’t experienced any setbacks in either spring or summer training, giving him jump on veterans Daniel Mengden and Chris Bassitt for a spot in the starting rotation. No official announcements have been made but Puk appears on track to get a start against the Angels opening weekend.

Luzardo was acquired in the 2017 trade that sent Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to Washington. His profile as a polished performer has the A’s brass excited to see more after the 22-year old made just six appearances at the big league level in 2019 while battling injuries. In 43 minor league starts, Luzardo won 14 times compiling a 2.53 ERA. He also appeared in the 2019 Wild Card Game, throwing three innings, allowing just one hit, all while the A’s failed to rally from a five-run deficit.

A’s get back into the win column by beating the Royals 2-1 on Tuesday night

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Graphic: @Athletics

By Charlie O. Mallonee

The Oakland A’s got back into the win column on Tuesday night as they downed the Kansas City Royals 2-1 at the Coliseum. The A’s were down 1-0 going into the bottom of the seventh inning when they bit back at the upstart Royals.

Matt Olson hit a 450-foot home run into the center-field stands off a 2-1 pitch from the Royals starting pitcher Jorge Lopez. Lopez then had the most logical response to Olson’s home run — he hit Mark Canha with a pitch. No, Canha was not pleased.

With Canha at first, Seth Brown doubled to left-center field and drove Canha home to score what would prove to be the winning run of the game. Brown, who has been “clutch” for Oakland since being called up to the majors, made Lopez pay for his stupidity of hitting the next batter after Olson hit his home run. Lopez should have been ejected from the contest.

Focus on the A’s

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Photo: @Athletics
  • Oakland is now 24-8 (.750) versus the AL Central Division this season.
  • Liam Hendriks, who picked up his 23rd save of the season, has struck out 116 batters as a relief pitcher to set a franchise record. The old record was 115 and was set by Rollie Fingers in 1975.
  • A.J. Puk earned his second career win in this game. He has pitched 2.0 scoreless innings in each of his last outings. He gave up one hit and struck out two batters on Tuesday night.
  • Matt Olson now leads the A’s and American League first basemen with 35 home runs (that is after missing the first six weeks of the season due to injury).
  • Mark Canha has now been hit by a pitch 17 times this season. That ties him with Shin-soo Choo for the most HBP in the American League.
  • Relief pitcher Joakim Soria has not allowed a run in his last five appearances.
  • The A’s are now in Wild Card Slot #1 with a two-game lead over Tampa Bay, who is in Wild Card Slot #2. Cleveland is 1/2 game behind Tampa Bay for the second Wild Card spot.

Spotlight on the Royals

  • Royals starting pitcher Jorge Lopez has allowed three or fewer runs in each of his last three starts.
  • Cheslor Cuthbert recorded his first multi-hit game since August 8th in Detroit. He is hitting .341 with three doubles and one HR versus AL West teams this season.
  • Hunter Dozier is batting .345 with four doubles, a triple and seven RBI in the month of September.

Up next

The Royals and A’s meet in a getaway day game tomorrow that will get underway at 12:37 PM PDT. The Royals will send LHP Danny Duffy to the mound. He has a 6-6 record on the season with a 4.55 ERA. He had a no-decision in his last start in Houston.

The A’s will start RHP Homer Bailey, who they obtained from the Royals, on Wednesday afternoon. Bailey is 13-8 on the year with a 4.76 ERA. He won his last start versus the Astros in Houston.

Headline Sports podcast with Tony Renteria: Will this second meeting with Harper mean he’ll become a Giant?; Johnny Football is out of football again; Will Green and Durant leave Warriors after this season?; plus more

Photo credit: @NBCSGiants

On Headline Sports with Tony Renteria:

#1 The San Francisco Giants had a second meeting with free agent superstar Bryce Harper. Does that look like an indication that Harper likes what the Giants organization is all about and what they have to offer?

#2 Former Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel was released by the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes for violations of his contract. The Alouettes further informed the other eight teams in the CFL of Manziel’s release. The Alouettes did not give a reason why he was being released. But sources say Manziel violated his confidentiality agreement. It was reported that the CFL ordered his release.

#3 The Golden State Warriors have lost three of their last four games and have showed signs of tiring. They trailed the Miami Heat in Wednesday night’s game and talk has it that besides Kevin Durant who could go shopping after this season Draymond Green could announce for free agency after next season as well.

#4 The Sacramento Kings are coming off a tough loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night and hosted the Milwaukee Bucks Wednesday night and lost 141-140. The Kings–even when they lose–still make it interesting right until the end of the game.

#5 How concerned should the Oakland A’s be about their starting rotation now that pitchers Jharel Cotton and A.J. Puk are returning from surgery from last season? Can the A’s rotation stay healthy this season?

Join Tony each Thursday for Headline Sports at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

A’s invite 26 non-roster players to Spring Training

by Charlie O. Mallonee

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Hohokam Stadium the A’s Spring Training home

The Oakland Athletics have announced the non-roster players who have been invited to the 2017 Major League Spring Training Camp. Most of these players will not make the 25-man Major League roster, but they will gain valuable experience playing with and against Major League talent. These players will also have the benefit of working with the major league coaching staff.

These non-roster players will also be watched very closely by the player development staff to determine when they might be ready to play in the Major Leagues.

These are the 26 players who have been invited to the A’s Spring Training Camp in mid-February 2017:

  •     RHP Michael Brady: Signed as a minor league free agent Nov. 15…combined for a 3-6 record and a 2.89 ERA in 18 games (12 starts) with Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse in the Washington organization in 2016.
  • RHP Ryan Brasier: Second straight season as a non-roster invitee with the A’s…was 5-3 with a save, a 3.56 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 60.2 innings over 46 relief appearances with Triple-A Nashville.
  • RHP Simon Castro: Signed as a minor league free agent after going 0-5 with 10 saves and a 3.38 ERA in 50 relief appearances with Triple-A Albuquerque in the Colorado farm system.
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Matt Chapman rounds the bases after hitting a home run
  • IF Matt Chapman: The A’s first round pick in the 2014 draft returns for his second straight big league camp…combined to hit .237 with 36 home runs and 96 RBI in 135 games with Double-A Midland and Nashville…ranked third in all of minor league baseball in home runs and tied for 10th in RBI.
  • RHP Trey Cochran-Gill: Was acquired from Seattle for Evan Scribner following the 2015 season and went 4-5 with a 3.07 ERA in 42 relief appearances with Midland in 2016…added a 1.84 ERA in 10 relief appearances with Mesa in the Arizona Fall League.
  • IF Jermaine Curtis: Signed as a minor league free agent after hitting .291 with nine home runs and 50 RBI in 89 games with Triple-A Louisville in the Reds organization…added 42 walks for a .404 on-base percentage.
  • OF Jaff Decker: Hit .154 in 19 games with Tampa Bay last year and is a .162 career hitter in 60 games over four seasons in the majors…also batted .255 with 12 home runs and 35 RBI in 99 games with Triple-A Durham…signed as a minor league free agent Nov. 22.
  • LHP Felix Doubront: Missed the entire 2016 season after undergoing UCL reconstruction surgery April 12.
  • RHP Heath Fillmyer: Oakland’s fifth round pick in the 2014 draft combined for a 7-6 record and a 3.29 ERA in 26 games, including 24 starts, with Single-A Stockton and Midland.
  • RHP Daniel Gossett: The A’s second round pick in the 2014 draft pitched for Stockton, Midland and Nashville in 2016 and combined for a 10-6 record and a 2.69 ERA in 27 appearances, all starts…led the A’s farm system with 151 strikeouts.
  • RHP Tucker Healy: A 23rd round selection in the 2012 draft, he spent the entire 2016 season at Nashville where he went 4-3 with eight saves, a 3.61 ERA and .202 opponents batting average in 44 relief appearances…struck out 76 in 52.1 innings
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Kurcz on the mound in Las Vegas

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  • RHP Aaron Kurcz: Combined for a 9-1 record, five saves, a 3.03 ERA and .211 opponents batting average in 46 appearances with Midland and Nashville…was acquired by the A’s from Atlanta for international bonus slot 4 on July 6, 2015.
  • OF Andrew Lambo: Appeared in one game with Oakland and also hit .255 with four home runs and 30 RBI in 56 games with Nashville before missing the last half of the season following a diagnosis of testicular cancer.
  • C Ryan Lavarnway: Signed as a minor league free agent Nov. 21 after playing in the Atlanta and Toronto farm systems in 2016…combined to hit .266 with six home runs and 48 RBI in 91 games with Triple-A Gwinnett and Double-A New Hampshire.
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Richie Martin Shortstop
  • IF Richie Martin: The A’s first round pick in the 2015 draft returns for his second consecutive big league camp…combined for a .235 average, three home runs, 38 RBI and 14 stolen bases in 91 games with Stockton and Midland.
  • C/OF Matt McBride: Hit .209 with two RBI in 20 games with Oakland last year…also batted .267 with seven home runs and 30 RBI in 70 games with Nashville.
  • C Sean Murphy: Was the A’s third round selection in the 2016 draft and batted .228 with two home runs and seven RBI in 23 games in his professional debut with the A’s affiliate in the Arizona Rookie League and Short-Season Vermont.
  • OF Chris Parmelee: Went 4-for-8 with two home runs and four RBI in six games with New York (AL) last year and is a .248 career hitter with 30 home runs and 98 RBI in 311 games over six seasons in the majors…spent most of 2016 at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre where he hit .248 with 11 home runs and 29 RBI in 64 games…signed as a minor league free agent, Nov. 19.
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A.J. Puk 2016 1st-round draft pick
  • LHP A.J. Puk: Was the A’s first round choice in the 2016 draft and went 0-4 with a 3.03 ERA and .185 opponents batting average in 10 starts with Vermont in his professional debut…struck out 40 in 32.2 innings.
  • IF Josh Rodriguez: Returns for his second straight camp with the A’s as a non-roster invitee…played for Midland and Nashville in 2016 and hit .263 with nine home runs and 53 RBI in 88 games.
  • IF Max Schrock: Was acquired from Washington for Marc Rzepczynski Aug. 25…led all of minor league baseball with 177 hits after batting .331 with 32 doubles, two triples, nine home runs and 71 RBI in 129 games with Stockton, Midland, Single-A Potomac and Single-A Hagerstown.
  • RHP Chris Smith: Was a non-roster invitee with the A’s last year…went 6-8 with a 3.93 ERA in 22 starts at Nashville before joining Oakland Aug. 7…had no decisions, a 2.92 ERA and .165 opponents batting average in 13 relief appearances with the A’s.
  • RHP Josh Smith: Was claimed off waivers from Cincinnati Nov. 4 and outrighted to Nashville Nov. 18…went 3-3 with a 4.68 ERA in 32 games (two starts) with the Reds…was also 4-4 with a 3.80 ERA in nine games (eight starts) with Triple-A Louisville.
  • RHP Tyler Sturdevant: Signed as a minor league free agent Nov. 11…went 0-1 with a 3.93 ERA in 16 relief appearances in his Major League debut with Tampa Bay last year…was also 3-2 with four saves and a 3.66 ERA in 34 games with Durham.
  • RHP Cesar Valdez: Signed as a minor league free agent Nov. 17 after going 12-1 with a 3.12 ERA in 30 games (18 starts) with Triple-A Fresno in the Houston organization…ranked third in the Pacific Coast League in ERA and tied for fourth in wins…walked 13 and struck out 114 in 138.1 innings.
  • OF Kenny Wilson: Signed as a minor league free agent Nov. 15…combined to hit .255 with three home runs, 32 RBI and 30 stolen bases in 125 games with Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A New Orleans in the Miami organization.

A’s Minor League Spotlight: 2016 Number 1 Draft Pick LHP A.J. Puk

Puk

by Charlie O. Mallonee

Every team in baseball wants a tall, strong, left-handed pitcher that can throw hard and be the number one man in the rotation. The Oakland Athletics may have found that player in the 2016 MLB Draft.

With their number one pick (sixth overall), the A’s selected A.J. Puk – a 6-foot-7, 220 pound, left-handed pitcher out of the University of Florida. Richie Martin – Puk’s teammate at Florida – was the A’s number one draft pick in 2015. Martin is currently playing shortstop for the Stockton Ports of the California League.

The A’s 2016 second-round pick (47th overall) – right-handed pitcher Logan Shore – was also a teammate of Puk at Florida and the two are currently are teammates at short-season Class A Vermont.

Puk was considered to be a possible number one overall selection before the actual draft. Some inconsistency on the mound during his junior year along with some problems with back spasms caused him to drop down in the draft. Those problems did not deter the Athletics who did not hesitate to take Puk with the number six pick.

The fastball is Puk’s best pitch. It is rated well above above average and he throws it 96-97 mph regularly. He also has a plus slider that he delivers at 88-90 mph. Some within the A’s organization have referred to his slider as disappearing much like the slider thrown by Dave Righetti in his Yankee days – which is high praise. Puk is also rated high because he can maintain his velocity deep into games.

Puk’s third pitch is the change-up and it is still in the development stage. Scouts feel it should be major league ready soon. His control and consistency also needs improvement but that is why he is in the minor leagues. Given the chance to develop, Puk should become an impact starter for the Athletics.

Puk is currently pitching for the Vermont Lake Monsters of the short-season Class A New York-Penn League. He has a record of 0-2 in seven starts with an ERA of 2.70. In 20.0 innings pitched, Puk has given up 11 runs (6 earned) off 13 hits. He has walked six and struck out 27 batters. The big left-hander has a batting average against of .171 and a WHIP of just 0.95.

In his last start, Puk worked 3.2 innings. He gave up no runs on just one hit. Puk walked two and struck out eight batters. The only downside he had in the game was his high pitch count of 67 (43 strikes) which is probably why he was pulled from the game.

The current estimate is that fans could see Puk in a green and gold uniform sometime in the 2018 season which would mean he would progress through the farm system very quickly.