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Parker Here For Some Dull Yet Manaeacal Thoughts

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A Dull slider boring in on the hitter. (Yawn)
A Dull slider boring in on the hitter. (Yawn)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

In case the headline didn't make this clear, today I talk to you about three of the A's pitchers.

Jarrod Parker

The A's have made it clear that they still see Parker as a starting pitcher and that he will be preparing as such this spring. Parker won't make the Opening Day roster, partly because he has a lot of rust to shake off after missing two seasons and partly because the A's figure to have a "first five" in Sonny Gray, Jesse Hahn, Rich Hill, Chris Bassitt, and Kendall Graveman -- although Graveman has options and could conceivably be replaced by Sean Nolin or Felix Doubront (both of whom are out of options) or a new acquisition.

The question is where Parker falls on the SP depth chart. My sense of the A's thinking around Parker is that while he has the arsenal to succeed in relief one big factor with him is that he will become a free agent after 2017. The A's are going to try to get the very most out of Parker over the next two years after losing him for two.

This means trying to get a good starting pitcher, if they get anything at all, and it probably also means fast-tracking Parker to the extent his arm will cooperate. The clock is ticking, and service time accrues at an equal rate whether Parker is making his starts in Oakland or Nashville. As a result, for their investment in Parker you have to think the A's are going to see if they can squeeze as many starts as they can before the end of 2017 -- if the arm is willing.

I don't know who will be ready first, Parker (if ever) or Henderson Alvarez, but putting Alvarez aside you would think that the initial SP depth chart after the front five would be Nolin-Doubront-Brooks, and that once Parker is ready he might leapfrog past Brooks, past Doubront (if he's even still with the organization), and perhaps even past Nolin, for a need in the rotation. In other words, between May, 2016 and September, 2017, you will probably see none of Parker or you will see a lot of him.

Ryan Dull

Is Ryan Dull a significant part of the A's future bullpen success or is he the kind of "nice filler" that appears often but not especially well? Opinions seem to differ greatly on AN and for good reason: we saw the Jeckylliest of Jeckyls and the Hydiest of Hydes in Dull's small sample in 2015.

At first, fans were treated to dominance from a guy who could spot his low-90s fastball, disguised his slider in a manner that reminded one of Huston Street, got swings on the slider that harkened us back to the days of Kiko Calero and Michael Wuertz, and we also saw a changeup in which Dull showed a lot of confidence.

Then it got ugly, with balls soaring over the fence at an alarming rate. Suddenly, the fastball looked every bit low-90s, batters weren't chasing the slider as much, Dull's command slipped and we saw how reliant he is on being pinpoint with it.

What we know is that Dull probably isn't as good as he was his first 11 IP (3 hits, 0 runs, 4 BB, 13 K) and he probably isn't as bad as he was his last 6 IP (9 hits, 8 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 3 HRs). But where, in that vast middle, does his true talent fall going forward?

I do think that with a deceptive slider, low 90s is enough to sustain a lot of success if a pitcher has excellent command and a decent third pitch -- both of which apply to Street throughout much of his career and both of which described Dull when he first came up.

The question is whether Dull's command is good enough because he will not get away with a lot of mistakes. It's not "Street good" but I suspect it's solid enough to make Dull a "7th inning guy" (i.e., the third or fourth man out of the pen but not your closer or set-up guy), with the usual variance of relievers -- if you look at the third or fourth guy out of a team's bullpen you'll usually see someone whose career is spotty.

In any event we probably won't find out right away, because five of the seven bullpen spots belong to Doolittle, Madson, Hendriks, Axford, and Rzepczynski, with Fernando Rodriguez, Sean Nolin, and Felix Doubront out of options. A lot can happen between now and April 4th, from trades to injuries to a "Ryan Cook spring training," but as we sit here on February 6th I would place Dull 9th on the depth chart for Opening Day. He will, however, be a factor in 2016 and we'll see how the stuff plays.

Sean Manaea

I have nothing to say about him. I just wanted to work "Manaeacal" into the headline. I kid, I kid. (Sort of) Oakland has not one, not two, but three starting pitchers who figure to be non-factors in April but significant factors by June. One is Parker and one is Alvarez. And then there's Maude Manaea.

A multitude, nee a veritable plethora, of factors come into play in guessing when Manaea gets the call to Oakland. Parker and Alvarez are two of them, because if healthy Parker could be a wonderful surprise in deepening the depth chart. On the flip side, were Alvarez to have set-backs in his recovery it could hasten the call for Manaea.

Other factors, of course, include the health of the SPs Oakland is counting on to lead the charge into April, Manaea's own progress in mastering AAA, and whether by June the A's might be anywhere from "looking for a spark" to "raising the white flag" on the 2016 campaign.

I look at Manaea as most likely being the second half of either Jesse Hahn or Rich Hill, both of whom are expected to be in the middle of the A's rotation in April but neither of whom are exactly odds-on favorites to last an entire season. (Why have one Jesse Chavez when you can have two!)

Nicodamus sees Manaea settling into a strong AAA campaign after some initial wildness, being bypassed first by Alvarez and then, to some fans' chagrin, by the likes of Aaron Brooks, until around the All-Star break when in late July or so a key SP's transmission goes out -- which is when you call AAA, right? And up comes Manaea.

Hopefully taking the league by storm and helping to lead the A's to an unlikely charge into the playoffs. But that I'm not quite ready to predict.

Your thoughts on these three whippersnappers?