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Oakland A's prospect watch: Young pitchers Daniel Gossett, Chris Kohler showing promise

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Pics not available. Imagine a young pitcher standing there.
Pics not available. Imagine a young pitcher standing there.
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Before the season began, Athletics Nation voted on its annual Community Prospect List, ranking the 25 best players in the minors. With hope for the playoffs dwindling by the day, it's time for us to take a look at how those top prospects are doing. For the full 2015 list, as well as a list of the different categories that I've separated the prospects into, scroll to the bottom of the post.

Today, we will visit The Even Younger Hurlers, which is the second of a two-part category. Last time, we looked hard at the 2013 draft (Overton, Covey, Wahl), and this time we'll visit the two big high schoolers from that class (Driver, Kohler). We'll also tack on two big names from Oakland's 2014 draft: second-round pick Daniel Gossett, and third-rounder Brett Graves. In the previous post I was thinking about adding in lefty Chris Lamb, a 2011 draftee who I know has supporters on AN, but the 25-year-old was mercilessly crushed in Double-A this year and went back to High-A. If he does something worthy of attention, we'll let you know.

No. 16 -- Dustin Driver
No. 20 -- Daniel Gossett
No. 22 -- Chris Kohler
No. 25 -- Brett Graves

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Lots of credit to Athletics Farm for helping out with info for this post.

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No. 16: RHP Dustin Driver

Current level: Low-A (Vermont Lake Monsters)

2015 Low-A stats: 8 games, 4.65 ERA, 31 innings, 15 Ks, 14 BB, 2 HR, 4.74 FIP
2015 Single-A Stats: 4 games, 9.00 ERA, 11 innings, 9 Ks, 5BB, 0 HR, 3.65 FIP

Driver is still a bit of a mystery, since his pro career is in its infancy. The A's lured him away from college with a big signing bonus out of high school, and the now-20-year-old has the velocity, secondary pitches, and physical frame to succeed as a starter. The next step is getting him on the field and seeing what he can actually do. He missed all of 2014, though his problems weren't arm-related (illness, then back injury), and now we're finally getting our first real peek at him in 2015.

His year began in Single-A Beloit, but he quickly developed a blister on his pitching hand that affected his performance and even cost him a week on the DL. When the short-season Low-A Lake Monsters started their year, Driver moved east to join them, and if I had to guess I would assume this had been the plan all along due to his lack of pro experience. Beloit was probably just the lowest level available when he was ready to debut (but that's my speculation).

Driver has settled in reasonably well in Vermont. He's thrown five full innings in half of his games, with the team letting his pitch count get to around 70. Based on my general box score watching, that's a pretty long outing in Low-A; the A's new 2015 draftees seem to be topping out at three innings and 50 pitches per game even though most are older than Driver is, so he's being given as long of a leash as anyone. As for the results, honestly, I can't tell you exactly how to translate numbers at this super-low level of the minors. All I can say is that he is successfully pitching baseballs on a regular basis, which is a massive step up from last year. If you already believed in his potential, then there's no reason to stop now. If not, check back on him in a year or two and see if he's done anything.

No. 20: RHP Daniel Gossett

Current level: Single-A (Beloit Snappers)

2015 Single-A stats: 21 starts, 4.84 ERA, 113⅓ innings, 90 Ks, 45 BB, 14 HR, 4.69 FIP

Gossett was Oakland's second-round draft pick in 2014 (after 3B Matt Chapman), so this is his first full professional season. MLB.com offers this in their scouting report:

Gossett has a low-90s fastball that tops out at 94 mph. He commands the fastball well, which is crucial, because it's fairly straight. Gossett's best pitch is his hard slider, while his changeup is a reliable third offering.

Based on A's Farm's interview with Billy Owens, that description of the changeup might be optimistic, but if nothing else Gossett throws strikes and that's a starting point I can get excited about. Furthermore, those lackluster season numbers belie the fact that Gossett has been improving quickly:

Gossett, Apr/May: 10 starts, 5.84 ERA, 49⅓ innings, 42 Ks, 28 BB, 6 HR
Gossett, June/July*: 11 starts, 4.08 ERA, 64 innings, 48 Ks, 17 BB, 8 HR
* includes Aug. 1

His K/BB ratio is nearly double in that second split, from 1.50 up to 2.82, and he's walking only 6.3% of hitters since June. He's clearly not immune to the long ball, which makes sense for a strike thrower with a straight fastball, but I'm intrigued by how much better he's gotten as this season has gone on. Gossett seems like he's taking the first baby steps toward fulfilling his high draft pedigree.

(For more on Gossett, here is Curt Rallo of MiLB.com. The article discusses Gossett's focus on increasing his pitch arsenal, with praise for his changeup and mentions of a two-seamer and/or sinker. Rallo also notes that poor defense at the low levels of the minors can affect a pitcher's results.)

No. 22: LHP Chris Kohler

Current level: Low-A (Vermont Lake Monsters)

2015 Low-A stats: 7 games, 4.94 ERA, 31 innings, 32 Ks, 6 BB, 2 HR, 3.16 FIP

Kohler is similar to Driver, as a 20-year-old whose prospect stock rests entirely in his potential. He was another 2013 pick who missed all of 2014, but his issue involved his elbow. However, it doesn't sound as if it resulted in Tommy John, or any surgery for that matter. Here is an explanation (via Marshall Hastings of Baseball Essential):

"It was definitely long," Kohler said of the rehab process. "I had a little set back, I was only supposed to be out for a month and a half, ended up having to get an injection in my elbow. Took me down two more months, then I started working and bullpen and the long road to recovery."

As noted in that article, it was 22 months from Kohler's last game in Rookie Ball in 2013 until his first start for Vermont on June 23. The early returns are fantastic, though -- rather than the ERA, focus on the excellent strikeout and walk rates. He's consistently going five innings and surpassing 70 pitches, and he's only once issued multiple walks in a single outing. Back in April, Grady Fuson noted (via A's Farm) Kohler's need to recapture his old breaking ball after the long layoff, but based on the numbers so far I'll assume the recovery is going well. Heck, let Kohler tell you himself, from that same Baseball Essential game recap after his Vermont debut:

"It's good just knowing that I can do what I used to," Kohler said. "Elbow felt perfect, (velocity) is there, it's all there. Still working on my curveball a little bit to get back to where I was, change-up is good. Very confident."

(One last note: Kohler was scheduled to pitch on Saturday, according to the Lake Monsters' official site, but he did not end up doing so. I do not yet know if there was any reason for this.)

No. 25: RHP Brett Graves

Current level: Single-A (Beloit Snappers)

2015 Single-A stats: 21 starts, 5.13 ERA, 108⅔ innings, 67 Ks, 39 BB, 10 HR, 4.50 FIP

Like Gossett, Graves was just drafted last year. The general word on him is that he's got a lot of velocity but that he has work to do on the rest of his arsenal (slider/change). His numbers aren't much to look at yet, but there's still time for him to develop -- he's at least getting some professional innings under his belt. He must be doing something well, given that he was the only Beloit pitcher named to the Midwest League All-Star Game, where he retired both hitters he faced.

Here is what Billy Owens had to say about Graves in late May (via A's Farm):

Brett Graves kind of has a tick more velocity [than Gossett] - he's up to 94-95 mph. He sinks the ball really well. We're just trying to tighten those off-speed pitches so we can increase those strikeouts, but the groundball rate's been pretty good.

We'll have to wait and see on this 22-year-old. He has the talent to be a mid-rotation starter if he can hit his ceiling.

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The categories:

The Graduates
The MLB Pitching Depth
The Young Hurlers
- The Even Younger Hurlers
- The Middle Infielders
- The Corner Sluggers
- The Best of the Rest
- Stepping up in 2015
- The 2015 Draft
- The New Acquisitions

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The List

Each player is listed at the level at which he currently plays, and his stats only include his performance at that current level. The levels refer to the Nashville Sounds (AAA), the Midland RockHounds (AA), the High-A Stockton Ports (A+), the Single-A Beloit Snappers (A), and the short-season Low-A Vermont Lake Monsters (A-). For the hitters, I am going to focus less on raw numbers and more on league-adjusted stats (wRC+) and rates (K% and BB%).

* The following recent promotions are not reflected: Yairo Munoz to High-A (to cover for injured Franklin Barreto), R.J. Alvarez to MLB, Max Muncy to MLB

Oakland A's 2015 Community Prospect List (stats thru 7/31)
# Name Pos Age Level 2015 Stats
1 Matt Olson 1B 21 AA 441 PAs, 119 wRC+, 12 HR, 17.9% BB, 24.5% Ks
2 Franklin Barreto SS 19 A+ 354 PAs, 120 wRC+, 12 HR, 4.2% BB, 18.4% Ks
3 Matt Chapman 3B 22 A+ 330 PAs, 148 wRC+, 22 HR, 10.9% BB, 23.0% Ks
4 Renato Nunez 3B 21 AA 338 PAs, 109 wRC+, 14 HR, 6.5% BB, 16.6% Ks
5 Dillon Overton LHP 23 AA 6 starts, 4.50 ERA, 30 ip, 22 Ks, 6 BB, 3 HR, 3.73 FIP
6 Kendall Graveman RHP 24 MLB 17 starts, 102 ERA+, 96 ip, 1.85 K/BB, 0.3 fWAR
7 Yairo Munoz SS 20 A* 400 PAs, 86 wRC+, 9 HR, 5.5% BB, 15.5% Ks
8 Sean Nolin LHP 25 AAA On disabled list (shoulder)
9 Raul Alcantara RHP 22 A+ 9 starts, 3.56 ERA, 30⅓ ip, 21 Ks, 5 BB, 1 HR, 3.45 FIP
10 Joey Wendle 2B 25 AAA 453 PAs, 88 wRC+, 6 HR, 3.8% BB, 17.9% Ks
11 R.J. Alvarez RHP 24 AAA* 21 games, 4.13 ERA, 24 ip, 33 Ks, 12 BB, 2.47 FIP
12 Rangel Ravelo 3B 23 AA 80 PAs, 162 wRC+, 2 HR, 11.3% BB, 13.8% Ks
13 Mark Canha 1B/OF 26 MLB 254 PAs, 91 wRC+, 8 HR, 7.1% Ks, 20.5% BB, 0.6 fWAR
14 Chad Pinder SS 23 AA 389 PAs, 130 wRC+, 10 HR, 5.9% BB, 20.6% Ks
15 Chris Bassitt RHP 26 MLB 10 games, 127 ERA+, 40⅔ ip, 2.25 K/BB, 0.5 fWAR
16 Dustin Driver RHP 20 A- 8 games, 4.65 ERA, 31 ip, 15 Ks, 14 BB, 2 HR, 4.74 FIP
17 Billy Burns OF 25 MLB 340 PAs, 104 wRC+, 21 SB, 4.1% BB, 13.8% Ks, 1.1 fWAR
18 Max Muncy 1B/3B 24 AAA* 156 PAs, 106 wRC+, 4 HR, 13.5% BB, 26.3% Ks
19 Tyler Ladendorf IF/OF 27 AAA On disabled list (ankle surgery)
20 Daniel Gossett RHP 22 A 20 starts, 4.81 ERA, 106⅔ ip, 84 Ks, 44 BB, 13 HR, 4.71 FIP
21 Bobby Wahl RHP 23 AA 24 games, 4.18 ERA, 32⅓ ip, 36 Ks, 14 BB, 2 HR, 3.17 FIP
22 Chris Kohler LHP 20 A- 7 games, 4.94 ERA, 31 ip, 32 Ks, 6 BB, 2 HR, 3.16 FIP
23 Pat Venditte SHP 30 MLB On disabled list (shoulder, currently rehabbing in AAA)
24 Jaycob Brugman OF 23 AA 412 PAs, 102 wRC+, 5 HR, 9.7% BB, 17.0% Ks
25 Brett Graves RHP 22 A 21 starts, 5.13 ERA, 108⅔ ip, 67 Ks, 39 BB, 10 HR, 4.50 FIP
NR Bruce Maxwell C 24 AA 286 PAs, 74 wRC+, 1 HR, 10.1% BB, 12.9% Ks
NR Ryon Healy 3B/1B 23 AA 392 PAs, 100 wRC+, 6 HR, 6.1% BB, 13.5% Ks
NR Branden Kelliher RHP 19 N/A Extended spring training in Arizona
NR Dylan Covey RHP 23 A+ 20 starts, 3.69 ERA, 109⅔ ip, 69 Ks, 36 BB, 12 HR, 5.00 FIP
NR Sandber Pimentel 1B 20 A 377 PAs, 118 wRC+, 10 HR, 11.4% BB, 22.0% Ks

Next time, we will move on to looking at some hitters.