Ryan Verdugo and Jim Fuller are two left-handed pitchers the Oakland Athletics signed on November 20, according to the transactions page at athletics.com. Both are players electing free agency after seven seasons in their teams' minor league systems, and both will turn 28 during the 2015 season. Verdugo and Fuller join the competition to relieve as left-handers in Triple-A Nashville against Jeff Urlaub and the switch-pitching Pat Venditte.
Lefty reliever depth
While it seems the three left-handers at the MLB club are entrenched, the competition for who is next in case of an injury above should be interesting with no further left-handed relief pitchers on the 40-man roster after Joe Savery was removed from the 40-man to allow Bryan Anderson to be called up in September. Savery elected free agency:
- MLB surely: Sean Doolittle, Eric O'Flaherty, Fernando Abad
- Next four, no particular order: Jeff Urlaub, Pat Venditte (switch), Ryan Verdugo, Jim Fuller
Verdugo is a ninth round selection of the San Francisco Giants out of Louisiana State in 2008. He was, with Jonathan Sanchez, part of the trade that sent Melky Cabrera from the Royals to the Giants in the 2011-12 offseason. He was sent from the Royals to the Reds for cash considerations last July.
Pete Grathoff profiled Verdugo in the Kansas City Star on May 31, 2014 ("Omaha lefty Verdugo, healthy at last, yearns to get back to big leagues"). On what sort of pitches he has:
Verdugo, who said his fastball is up to 91 mph, calls his change-up his best pitch. The Royals are having him work on a breaking ball as well, and that's coming along.
Grathoff's profile indicates Verdugo suffered a forearm strain early in the 2013 season that did not result in a Tommy John Surgery. He previously had TJS in high school. Verdugo returned later in 2013 and also played Winter League ball in Mexico, where he suffered a hernia. He returned to Triple-A on May 21, 2014.
I figure he's going to join the rotation or relieve in Triple-A Nashville.
Fuller is a 21st round selection of the New York Mets out of Southern Connecticut State University. He appeared to be progressing quite nicely in the Mets system, climbing the ladder from Class-A short season in 2009 to Low-A in 2010 and then High-A at the end of 2010. However, he suffered a torn labrum that caused him to miss the 2011 season, and stalled out in Low-A and High-A ball before finally advancing to Double-A in 2013. The Minnesota Twins claimed Fuller in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft in the 2013-14 offseason.
Fuller was seen as a potential LOOGY if he can stay healthy in Jeffrey Paternostro's prospect profile for Amazin' Avenue on September 26, 2013:
Fastball has ticked back up to the upper 80s, touching 91, and one scout referred to it as 'invisible.' The same scout called him 'a major league arm.' Fuller still throws the slow curve and appears to be working a low 80s slider into the mix as well, but it's the fastball deception that's going to be his ticket to the majors as a left-on-left guy.