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.

A’s Minor League Spotlight: Richie Martin

 

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By Charlie O. Mallonee

Richie Martin is ranked at the fourth best prospect in the Oakland Athletics minor league system. Martin was the A’s first-round selection (number 20 overall) in 2015 out of the University of Florida.

Martin was drafted as a shortstop but most college shortstops wind up playing at some other position as a professional. That will not be the case for Martin. He possesses all of the tools necessary to play shortstop in the big leagues.

Martin has impressive range and speed. He also has that elusive first-step quickness that is needed to play short. Martin has an above average arm that allows him to get rid of the ball quickly. He is also an above average fielder. Think top 10 plays of the night.

As a hitter, Martin is seen as average with below average power. He is at his best when he sprays line drives to the opposite field. Martin is likely to be a number seven to nine in the order hitter.

The key for Martin to make it to the big leagues is not his bat but his defense. His skills at shortstop alone could make him an everyday player in the majors.

Martin is currently assigned to the Stockton Ports of the high Class-A California League. His season got off to a slow start as he injured his knee sliding into a base. Martin missed six weeks due to surgery to repair his left medial meniscus.

Martin has now appeared in 28 games for the Ports and has a .257 batting average, .330 on base percentage and .310 slugging percentage. He has 29 hits in 113 at bats and four steals in eight attempts.

Scouts speculate that Martin will be ready to play in the big leagues in 2018 which then begs the question what do you do with Martin? Marcus Semien has become a double threat by producing with power on offense and showing vastly improved defense. Semien’s emergence may make Martin available as a trade piece.

Teams are always looking for solid defense so Martin could be packaged to help bring the A’s players to fill holes where they see needs at this time. Whether it is as a player or as a trade asset, Richie Martin is an important part of the Oakland Athletics future.