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Vermont Lake Monsters 2016 season review: A.J. Puk and the new draft class debut

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The A’s will hold the No. 6 pick once again in 2017.
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the Oakland A’s 2016 season is over, it’s time for a look back. There’s a long offseason ahead and plenty of dreary winter days for dreaming on the future, but first we need to digest all that has happened over the last six months.

Let’s start at the bottom and work our way up. That means we’re going all the way down to Low-A ball, to check in on the Vermont Lake Monsters.

As is normal for Low-A, this roster was largely made up of players from this summer’s draft class. They play a 76-game season, but the team’s record (28-48) isn’t particularly important at this low level. The point is more about the new guys getting out there and making their pro debuts, and staying healthy along the way. In that regard, the season was a success. Here’s a closer look.

Top performers

Here’s a quick rundown on a handful of guys who put up standout numbers. Remember that success (or failure) at this level doesn’t really mean much in the long run, because these guys will get their real tests next year in their first full seasons. But still, these early performances are all we have to look at for now, so here they are.

Hitters

Name Pos PAs Avg/OBP/SLG HR BB% K% wRC+
Luis Barrera OF 177 .321/.379/.421 2 9.0% 16.4% 141
Miguel Mercedes 1B 278 .258/.324/.448 12 8.3% 26.6% 130
Nate Mondou 2B 254 .298/.375/.364 0 9.4% 14.6% 127
Eli White SS 267 .279/.348/.361 2 9.7% 24.3% 115
Tyler Ramirez OF 176 .220/.324/.327 2 10.8% 22.2% 101
Sean Murphy C 85 .237/.318/.329 2 10.6% 14.1% 99
JaVon Shelby 3B 219 .186/.279/.309 5 11.4% 23.3% 81

Those 12 homers by Mercedes led the NY-Penn League (runner-up had 10). White stole 12 bases in 15 attempts. Barrera, a 20-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, hit well enough to earn a promotion up to Single-A Beloit for most of August.

Pitchers

Name R/L Games ERA IP K BB HR FIP
Logan Shore R 7 2.57 21 21 7 1 2.90
A.J. Puk L 10 3.03 32⅔ 40 12 0 1.93
Brandon Bailey R 10 3.08 38 42 9 1 2.12
Dakota Chalmers R 15 4.70 67 62 37 8 4.90
... Bullpen ...
Will Gilbert L 15 2.81 25⅔ 31 12 0 2.50
Dalton Sawyer L 14 3.38 18⅔ 26 10 1 3.12
Matt Milburn R 5 6.92 13 14 0 0 1.36

Chalmers, the high-profile 3rd-round pick from 2015, put in some innings at age 19. The walk rate was a bit high, which is understandable for a teenager learning to harness a powerful fastball, but at least he missed some bats along the way and put up decent numbers.

A few more names that aren’t listed here:

  • RHP Xavier Altamirano (2015, 27th round) washed out of Beloit but put up solid numbers as a starter for Vermont (2.48 ERA, 5.70 K/BB)
  • RHP Brendan Butler (2015, 30th round) made a few excellent starts and then moved up to Beloit
  • RHP Jordan Schwartz (2014, 4th round) pitched out of the bullpen and also moved up to Beloit

Draft review

Seems like as good a time as any to look at how the draft class is doing as a whole.

1. A.J. Puk, LHP: The big man did not disappoint after going No. 6 overall in the draft. His powerful stuff tore through the opposition (11 K/9), and he managed to find the plate (3.3 BB/9). His debut could not have been more encouraging.

1a. Daulton Jefferies, RHP: The Cal product only pitched in Rookie Ball, but he did well in his brief time. He finished just shy of a dozen innings, striking out 17 to only 2 walks.

2. Logan Shore, RHP
3. Sean Murphy, C: Two more top picks had solid debuts in Vermont. These guys will surely make the team’s Top 30 prospects list, and Shore might find his way into the Top 15.

4. Skylar Szynski, RHP: The high schooler pitched in Rookie Ball but put up some ugly numbers. No matter, though; he’s still a teenager, so there’s development to be done before we can reasonably expect to see results on the field.

5. JaVon Shelby, 3B
6. Brandon Bailey, RHP
7. Tyler Ramirez, OF: These are three college mid-rounders who seem like perfectly fun lotto tickets. Shelby’s low average makes it easy to overlook him, but he showed power and patience; Bailey put up great K and BB rates as a starter; and Ramirez flashed some on-base ability (and stole five bases without getting caught) while playing all three outfield positions.

8. Will Gilbert, LHP
9. Dalton Sawyer, LHP: These two lefties slotted into Vermont’s bullpen and put up enormous strikeout numbers (10.9 and 12.5 K/9, respectively). They also walked a lot of batters, so there’s work to be done as they settle in as pro relievers, but that’s an exciting first impression.

10. Mitchell Jordan, RHP: He mostly pitched in Rookie Ball, but when the High-A Ports needed a hand at the end of the season, he went up and tossed seven innings for them over a pair of outings. My hunch is that was more of an emergency assignment than a commentary on his place in the depth chart, but it’s possible they’re hoping to put him on a fast track.

11. Eli White, SS
13. Nate Mondou, 2B: The ACC division rivals (Clemson and Wake Forest) thrived at the plate. The A’s farm had so many interesting double-play combos -- Wendle/Pinder in AAA, Barreto/Munoz in AA, Martin/White in A+, and now Schrock joining in the mix as well. Now there’s another fun one to think about!

14. Nolan Blackwood, RHP: The sidewinding reliever was quickly promoted to Beloit, where he struck out a batter per inning over 20 frames.

15. Ty Damron, LHP: Not related to Poe Dameron.

28. Josh Vidales, 2B: Played in Rookie Ball, where he put up a .944 OPS (167 wRC+) with more walks than strikeouts.

29. Matt Milburn, RHP: His ERA is a gross, but ignore that for now. Between Rookie Ball and Vermont, he struck out 44 batters against 2 walks. That will always get my attention, especially when it comes with zero homers as well. He threw multiple innings almost every time out, up to four in one game, and all of that put together easily makes him my sleeper pick of this draft.

30. Nick Highberger, RHP: Like Jordan, he was plugging along fine in Rookie Ball before an emergency assignment in High-A Stockton for his final two games.

Conclusion

For as much as a Low-A season can be positive, this one was. Everyone showed up healthy, the top draft picks played well, and a couple guys earned tickets up the ladder. There should be plenty of names for Beloit and Stockton to draw from next year, and it’ll be fun to see which ones break out. The 2016 draft class is off to a good start!

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