The most important thing about spring training is to take everything in context. Every team is doing its own thing to prepare for the season, and every player has his own unique goals and priorities and tasks to fulfill as he gets ready. That's why I can simultaneously say that the Oakland A's lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday, 6-3, while also making it clear that this was a positive game for the green and gold.
First, let's properly set the scene. This was a split squad day for the A's, which means that half the team was off winning a game against the Rockies. It would be fair to say that the better half of the team played in that other game. The squad that faced Arizona started only four players whom I expect to be on the Opening Day roster (Burns, Coghlan, Alonso, Semien), plus some backups (Fuld, Sogard, Muncy) and some minor league depth (Lambo, Maxwell). Meanwhile, the D'Backs put out most of their top players, including Pollock and Goldschmidt. The pitching matchup was $200 million man Zack Greinke against $2 million man Felix Doubront. This was never really a fair fight from the start, which is fine because the point of spring training is not to win the games. It's to get ready for the ones that count.
Next, let's write off a few of the bad things. The A's allowed six runs in this contest, but the pitching was mostly done by organizational filler. The first two runs were scored off of a supremely hittable Doubront (5 hits in 2 innings), but we already know what he is -- the emergency backup for the rotation if one of the top five guys gets hurt between now and whenever a better option becomes ready (like Henderson Alvarez or Sean Manaea). He'll pitch well sometimes, and he'll get beaten sometimes. The rest of the runs came off Chris Smith, a minor league free agent signing who will presumably serve as depth in Triple-A Nashville. After Smith came scoreless efforts from Eduard Santos, Patrick Schuster, and Zach Neal, none of whom are in serious competition to make the team. (Santos and Schuster were also MiLB signings this winter, while Neal pitched unspectacularly for Nashville last season.)
And what about Oakland's hitting? The first two runs came in a 3rd-inning rally, sparked by a sharp line-drive single from catching prospect Bruce Maxwell. Oakland's catching depth is extremely thin, so it would be nice if the 2012 second-round draft pick could show something this spring. Eric Sogard doubled to plate Maxwell, and then Billy Burns tripled to bring home Sogard. With a runner on third and one out, Sam Fuld struck out, and Burns was eventually stranded.
But the highlight of the game came in the 7th, when third base prospect Matt Chapman drilled a homer off of Josh Collmenter, an actual MLB pitcher. It's nice to see Chapman flash some power already, and it still would have been cool if he'd gone deep off some Double-A scrub. But Collmenter has thrown 637 innings in the bigs with a 112 ERA+ and solid peripheral stats, and that just makes this silver lining even shinier. Chapman, who ranks No. 4 on our Community Prospect List, figures to open the year in Double-A, and his home run is the single biggest takeaway of this game for me.
That's about it for this game. The only A's hit I haven't yet mentioned was a single by Yonder Alonso. The A's B-team took on Greinke, Goldy, Pollock, and the D'Backs A-team, and they lost just like you'd reasonably expect. There is no reason to be bummed about that. Instead, be stoked that Chapman homered and leave the rest of it behind.
Here's a full rundown of the performances of some key A's prospects today, from both games:
Sean Manaea: 2 ip, 0 runs, 4 Ks, 1 BB, 1 hit
Dillon Overton: 2 ip, 0 runs, 1 K, 0 BB, 1 hit
Daniel Mengden: 1.1 ip, 1 run, 2 Ks, 0 BB, 3 hits
Matt Chapman: 1-for-1, HR
Franklin Barreto: 1-for-2, HR
Matt Olson: 1-for-3, double, BB
Joey Wendle: 1-for-2, triple
Jaycob Brugman: 1-for-2, triple
Bruce Maxwell: 1-for-2
(Also: Renato Nunez, Rangel Ravelo, Chad Pinder, and Richie Martin combined to go 0-for-6, with a walk by Martin. B.J. Boyd and J.P. Sportman also made appearances, but each went 0-for-1.)