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Oakland A's prospect watch: Daniel Gossett off to hot start in High-A Stockton Ports rotation

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Daniel Gossett threw seven strong innings for the High-A Stockton Ports on Wednesday, marking his second straight encouraging outing to begin the season. The right-hander limited the Lancaster JetHawks (Astros) to three runs, only one of which was earned, and he struck out seven batters while issuing only one walk. His overall line through two games:

Gossett, 2 starts: 12 ip, 13 Ks, 4 BB, 1 HR, 9 hits, 3 ER

There are two reasons in particular to be encouraged by those numbers: the strikeout rate, and the low hits and homers. Gossett, the Oakland A's second-round draft pick in 2014, only struck out seven batters per nine innings last season for Single-A Beloit, and he profiled as a pitch-to-contact guy who pounds the zone. Seeing him move up a level to High-A and strike out at least a batter per inning in each of his first two games is an interesting development. Meanwhile, the contact he does allow hasn't led to a huge number of baserunners, which suggests that hopefully he's throwing quality strikes rather than just sending meatballs over the plate.

Gossett has something to prove after struggling last year in his first full pro season. Despite being a recent high draft pick, he only clocked in at No. 27 in this year's Community Prospect List. However, he did quietly improve in the second half of 2015:

Gossett, Apr-Jun 2015: 15 games, 5.42 ERA, 76⅓ ip, 65 Ks, 37 BB, 12 HR, 89 hits
Gossett, Jul-Sep 2015: 12 games, 3.95 ERA, 68⅓ ip, 47 Ks, 15 BB, 4 HR, 62 hits

His strikeout rate remained pedestrian, but he cut his walk rate by more than half and began keeping the ball in the park. It was easy to be skeptical about him as he took his seemingly pitch-to-contact ways up to the hitter-friendly Cal League, but so far it looks like he's building on the momentum from the second half of last year. Gossett is quickly emerging as a guy to keep an eye on this year.

Unfortunately, his teammate Zack Erwin didn't have as much success in his own High-A debut. The lefty didn't make it out of the 4th inning despite throwing 79 pitches, though to be fair he was only denied the last out of the 4th due to a dropped third strike. There was some wildness, with three walks and a wild pitch, but on the bright side he struck out six batters and both of the runs he allowed were unearned after that 4th-inning error. Bobby Wahl came on in relief of Erwin and threw two full innings, a good sign for the oft-injured righty. Wahl struck out one, with two walks but no hits.

At the plate, outfielder James Harris continued to set himself apart with three hits (including a double) in seven at-bats. The other offensive stars have been outfielder Tyler Marincov, who doubled in each of the last two games and has a team-best 1.143 OPS through six games; and catcher Argenis Raga, who has hit safely in all five games he's played and is 7-for-17 with a pair of doubles overall. On the downside, 2015 draftees Mikey White (2-for-19) and Seth Brown (3-for-23) are yet to get going.

Tues/Wed games

The biggest story on the Triple-A Nashville Sounds the last two days was starter Jesse Hahn and his six scoreless innings, which we covered here.

In the bullpen, 25-year-old lefty Patrick Schuster is off to a strong start through his first three games, tossing four scoreless and hitless frames with six strikeouts and a walk. The only other lefty in the pen is Daniel Coulombe, who himself hasn't allowed a hit in his first two games. Right-handers Tucker Healy (4 ip, 6 Ks), Andrew Triggs (3 ip, 5 Ks), and J.B. Wendelken (4⅓ ip, 5 Ks) are also racking up the strikeouts through their first three games, with only Wendelken allowing a run. If a couple of those names continue their current performances, then the A's will be well-prepared whenever they end up needing to dip down for bullpen help.

The offense is still struggling to find a foothold, but at least Rangel Ravelo is finding a way to get on base. Ravelo picked up two hits on Tuesday and an RBI double on Wednesday, though his .618 OPS entering Thursday unfortunately ranks third-best on the team. Bruce Maxwell is the only other prospect doing anything at the plate, with a 4-for-12 start so far. The good news is that there's still plenty of time for the other guys to get going as they adjust to a new, higher level.

***

The Double-A Midland RockHounds didn't play Wednesday, but on Tuesday the defending champions were on the wrong side of a rout to fall to 2-4. Franklin Barreto and Matt Chapman both enter Thursday with .105 batting averages (2-for-19), and just like their Nashville counterparts the lineup has been slow to warm up.

***

... And it's the same story for the Single-A Beloit Snappers, who were shut out both Tuesday and Wednesday while collecting seven total hits. Dustin Driver didn't show anything new in his start, with four walks and four hits in 2⅔ innings (plus 3 runs, 3 Ks). However, a couple 2015 draftees did shine on the mound: Kyle Friedrichs threw four shutout frames in relief of Driver, pushing him to nine scoreless to start the year; and Boomer Biegalski threw 4⅓ on Wednesday with four strikeouts, one walk, and only one run, a stark improvement over his first effort.

Thurs games

We're through part of the Thursday action already. Here's a quick team-by-team summary, and we can use the comments section as a Game Thread for the rest of the night.

Nashville: Dillon Overton had an unremarkable start, with a line of 5 ip, 3 ER, 2 Ks, 1 BB, 9 hits. Andrew Triggs got blown up in relief (4 runs, 3 earned), though he allowed mostly singles and didn't get much help from his defense. However, the lineup has come alive, as every player has a hit including Tyler Ladendorf (3-for-4, 2B, BB), Chad Pinder (2-for-5), and Jake Smolinski (2-for-4, 2B, BB). This one is just about done, with the Sounds down to their last ups in the 9th down 7-5. (Update: Final score, 7-5)

Midland: It's a rematch of the Battle of the Alcantaras, and this time it went Raul's way. The righty posted a line of 4 ip, 2 ER, 3 Ks, 3 BB, 6 hits. That's not great, but his counterpart couldn't find the plate and got shelled when he did. Jaycob Brugman is 2-for-3 with a double and a steal; Franklin Barreto has a pair of steals; Matt Chapman has a hit, a walk, and a steal; and Ryon Healy has a pair of hits. The Hounds lead 7-2 entering the 6th. (Update: Healy homers, Hounds win 9-3)

Stockton: The game just began, with Brett Graves going against Modesto. Graves was the third-round pick in 2014, one spot after Daniel Gossett. (Update: Graves got buried with 3⅔ ip, 5 ER, 5 BB, 2 Ks, offense did little, Ports lose 5-2)

Beloit: Sadly, no good news on this front. Beloit nearly shut out again, but scratched across one token run in the 9th. At least 2015 draftees James Naile (4⅔ ip, 4 Ks, no BB) and Evan Manarino (4⅓ ip, 6 Ks, 2 BB) had good outings, and Skye Bolt did go 3-for-4 with a double.