Oakland A's infield prospect Chad Pinder is back with the Mesa Solar Sox after missing nearly two weeks for a personal matter, and he's already picked up right where he left off in terms of crushing the Arizona Fall League. He homered in his first game back on Monday, tripled on Tuesday, and then homered again on Wednesday, raising his tally to four homers and seven total extra-base hits in 32 plate appearances.
Meanwhile, lefty Sean Manaea had a bounce-back outing in his start on Monday. Manaea threw his standard four innings, and this time he allowed only one run. He struck out four and walked one while scattering four hits. Brendan McCurry and Kris Hall each appeared in relief on Tuesday; McCurry allowed a run, but Hall tossed a scoreless inning. (Video Links: McCurry | Hall) As for Aaron Kurcz, he seems to have left the team but I do not yet know why. He's been replaced by 28-year-old lefty Jeff Urlaub, who briefly reached Triple-A in 2014 and owns a career K:BB ratio of 5.06 but missed most of 2015 due to injury. Urlaub debuted on Wednesday and threw a scoreless inning.
Rounding out the A's on the squad this week are Renato Nunez, who went 2-for-8 with a walk in a pair of starts at third base, and Jaycob Brugman, who went 1-for-4 in his only action on Tuesday.
The key prospects continue to impress in the AFL. Manaea is handling the hitter-friendly league fairly well, and despite his seemingly high ERA he's been good in three of his four outings. Furthermore, his strong K:BB ratio is probably the best indicator of how well he's faring against his competition -- he could even be auditioning for a spot in Oakland sometime in 2016. But the best news is Pinder's return. After being named Texas League Player of the Year, he got off to a hot start in the AFL before stepping away for a bit. It's nice to see him shake off that absence and continue hitting with authority. It's the kind of thing that makes me optimistic that he's doing this because he's a genuinely good hitter, not just because he had a hot week or month or what have you.
As for Kurcz, Melissa Lockard offers the following thoughts at Oakland Clubhouse:
Aaron Kurcz had his Arizona Fall League stint cut short, but even if he isn't added to the 40-man roster this off-season, I think Kurcz has a shot to be a non-roster invitee to spring training (assuming he isn't selected in the Rule 5 draft, of course). Command has been an issue for Kurcz, but he has a big league arm and the A's will be looking to add some velocity to a bullpen that lacked in that area in 2015. He might face an uphill battle to make the team out of spring training, but a good spring with the big club could get him on that short-list of relievers recalled when the team has a need early in the season.
The overall AFL numbers:
Nunez: 16-for-58, 4 HR, 2 2B, 4 BB, 13 Ks, .840 OPS
Pinder: 10-for-31, 4 HR, 2 2B, 3B, 1 BB, 7 Ks, 1.182 OPS
Brugman: 8-for-39, 2B, 3B, 3 BB, 11 Ks, .538 OPS
Manaea: 4 starts, 16 ip, 17 Ks, 4 BB, 1 HR, 5.63 ERA
McCurry: 7 games, 8 ip, 7 Ks, 2 BB, 0 HR, 5.63 ERA
Hall: 7 games, 7⅓ ip, 8 Ks, 2 BB, 2 HR, 8.59 ERA
Urlaub: 1 game, 1 ip, 0.00 ERA
Kurcz: 4 games, 4 ip, 6 Ks, 4 BB, 1 HR, 11.25 ERA
The Solar Sox play today (Thu.) at 5:35 p.m. PT. (Link to live play-by-play)
Venezuelan Winter League
Last weekend, we took a look at how thoroughly Rangel Ravelo was dominating the Venezuelan Winter League. Unfortunately, in his final plate appearance on Saturday, he was hit by a pitch, charged the mound, and injured his left index finger in the ensuing brawl.
The good news is that the injury is only a dislocation, not a fracture, according to Venezuelan beisbol site ElEmergente.com (h/t Lockard). The word was that Ravelo could be back as soon as Friday, but now he's also been suspended three games for the brawl so perhaps that means it'll be more like Sunday when we see him again. Either way, in the meantime he received the league's Player of the Week award! Despite missing the last several games, he still leads the league in walks and shares the lead in homers; his 1.538 OPS outpaces the runner-up by nearly 500 points.
The other key prospect in the LVBP is Franklin Barreto. The 19-year-old homered on Monday, making it two bombs in three games dating back to last week, but his defense is beginning to become a more interesting story. He has made eight starts at shortstop and committed nine errors in those games; the LVBP site doesn't let you sort for errors, but after perusing some box scores I'm fairly certain Barreto leads the league. However, he's also made 4 starts in LF and another in CF, so the process of shifting him to a different position may already be starting. He hasn't made an error in the outfield yet, but errors are a nearly useless measure of outfield defense so don't take that for too much; he does, however, have an outfield assist in LF (threw out a runner at home).
The overall LVBP numbers, with the usual caveat that Barreto is only 19 and playing in a Triple-A equivalent:
Ravelo: .510/.636/.902 (1.538 OPS), 5 HR, 21 BB, 8 Ks, 3 SB
Barreto: .176/.246/.314/ (.559 OPS), 2 HR, 4 BB, 12 Ks, 2 SB
Jose Torres: 7 games, 4⅔ ip, 3 runs, 5 Ks, 5 BB, 0 HR
Carlos Navas: 1 game, 1 ip, 3 runs, 4 hits
Jesus Zambrano: 2 games, 5⅔ ip, 3 runs, 1 K, 2 BB, 1 HR
Victor Veliz: 10 games, 5 ip, 5 ER, 2 Ks, 2 BB