Sean Manaea opened a lot of eyes with his strong performance in spring training this year, and on Monday he won his Triple-A debut with the Nashville Sounds. The left-hander threw 5⅓ innings against the Colorado Springs Sky Sox (Brewers), allowing one run on four hits and striking out six batters without a walk. Manaea threw 89 pitches and was removed in the 6th after allowing two straight singles to lead off the frame, after which reliever Ryan Brasier entered and allowed one of the inherited runners to score for Colorado Spring's only run in the 7-1 affair.
Manaea last pitched on March 25 in the Cactus League, and after that game Susan Slusser reported that the lefty was experiencing some tightness in his leg. That tightness wasn't expected to become an issue and it looks like it hasn't, as Manaea was sharp in his debut -- in particular, the lack of walks is most encouraging for a guy who is in the minors partly to hone the command of his electric stuff. Nashville play-by-play man Jeff Hem had some great things to say about the 24-year-old's outing:
Hello, Sean Manaea. 1-2-3 T-1st including a K at 96 on inside black. Effortless-looking FB velocity. #Athletics— Jeff Hem (@JeffHemPBP) April 11, 2016
With Felix Doubront out of the picture due to Tommy John surgery, Manaea remains an option for Oakland's rotation sometime this summer. Eric Surkamp is currently the fifth starter, with Jesse Hahn getting some reps in Triple-A and Henderson Alvarez working back from a long-term injury. Here's a look at one of Manaea's strikeouts from Monday:
As for the rest of the Sounds, Tyler Ladendorf and Jake Smolinski chipped in with their first homers of the season -- in fact, they were the first homers for any Nashville hitter, after four dinger-less games to start the year. Andrew Lambo also drove in four runs, with most of them coming on a bases-clearing triple (though there perhaps should have been an error charged on the misplay of what looked more like a bloop single). Unfortunately, most of the top hitting prospects are off to slow starts so far, with Matt Olson, Chad Pinder, Rangel Ravelo and Joey Wendle all below the Mendoza Line (small sample alert).
On Saturday, another lefty starter, Dillon Overton made his own Triple-A debut and had mixed results. He only made it four innings on 82 pitches and was in trouble for much of his outing, but he did strike out eight batters against only one walk.
In Double-A Midland, the story of the last few days was third baseman Matt Chapman hitting his first homer on Saturday, followed by a double on Monday. He and fellow top prospect Franklin Barreto are off to slow starts in pitcher-friendly Midland, but they are each showing occasional signs of life in the early going.
On the pitching side, Daniel Mengden tossed six scoreless innings on Saturday, striking out eight batters against three walks. However, Joel Seddon (3⅔ ip, 8 runs), Sam Bragg (4⅓ ip, 8 runs, 5 HR), and Dylan Covey (4 ip, 2 runs, 4 BB) were less impressive in the subsequent two games. One more bright spot on the pitching side has been reliever Trey Cochran-Gill, who has throw four scoreless innings over two outings while striking out five batters with no walks.
The most interesting thing about the High-A Stockton Ports is their starting rotation. On Sunday, Heath Fillmyer was effective for 5⅔ innings (1 run, 3 Ks, 2 BB, 0 HR) en route to a victory, and on Monday Casey Meisner tossed six frames (2 runs, 4 Ks, 3 BB, 0 HR) in a no-decision.
On offense, the most impressive performance so far has arguably come from Oakland native James Harris. The center fielder is 6-for-18 with a homer, two triples, and a double while hitting out of the leadoff spot. Eric Sogard made an appearance on Monday as he starts a rehab assignment, going 2-for-4 with an RBI and a strikeout.
The Single-A Beloit Snappers split a doubleheader on Sunday after having a game snowed out, and they followed that with a win on Monday. The biggest story is easily Chris Iriart, a slugging first baseman who was picked in the 12th round of the 2015 draft. Iriart went 3-for-3 with two homers and a double in the second game on Sunday, and then followed that up by going 4-for-5 with a homer and a double on Monday. He is now 10-for-16 with three homers and three doubles so far, and he's collected 10 RBI in five games. Even better, he's struck out only three times in 19 plate appearances after fanning 30% of the time in his pro debut for Low-A Vermont last summer.
Steven Pallares, last year's 10th-round pick, also homered on Monday (and also stole a base!). Skye Bolt, the biggest name on the Snappers, is 3-for-11 so far with a pair of walks and only one strikeout.
On the pitching side, the best performance came from last year's 25th-round pick, lefty Evan Manarino (5 ip, 0 runs, 3 Ks, 0 BB). Angel Duno also had a solid outing on Monday (4 ip, 2 runs, 4 Ks, 0 BB). Less impressive were James Naile (4⅓ ip, 4 runs, 4 Ks, 2 BB) and Jesus Zambrano (2⅓ ip, 3 ER, 2 Ks, 3 BB).
Triple-A Nashville: Chris Smith, 4:35 p.m.
Double-A Midland: Chris Jensen, 5:05 p.m.
High-A Stockton: TBD, 7:10 p.m. (Zack Erwin hasn't yet pitched, so he's my guess for now)
Single-A Beloit: Dustin Driver, 4:30 p.m.