Sean Manaea made his third start of the season on Friday, and for the third time he delivered a strong performance for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds. He didn't match the flash of his previous outing, in which he struck out 11 batters, but he did limit Colorado Springs to just one run over six innings. Unfortunately, Nashville's bullpen didn't enjoy the same success and the team lost in the 9th inning.
Manaea's final line included four strikeouts, two walks, and six hits. He was also charged with an error on a bad pickoff throw, which is something he did multiple times this spring but probably isn't anything to worry about yet. The left-hander, arguably the top prospect in the A's system and definitely the most exciting name on the stacked Triple-A roster, is off to a good start as he proves himself at the highest minor league level. If he keeps pitching like this, then the only thing stopping him from moving up to the bigs is waiting for an opportunity to open up in Oakland's rotation.
The score was 5-1 when Manaea left the game, but the relievers coughed up the lead quickly. Tucker Healy, who had been lights-out in his first few outings, got hammered in this one (1⅓ ip, 4 runs, 3 ER, 2 Ks, 0 BB, 5 hits). He allowed one run in the 7th, then came back out for the 8th and served up three more to tie the score. Nashville retook the lead, but Angel Castro blew it once more in the 9th for a final score of 8-7.
Despite the loss, the Sounds lineup continued to heat up. Matt Olson had a big day, going 2-for-3 with a homer and a walk; on the downside, he also committed his first error in right field (where he's played 12 of his 13 games). His numbers are dragging a bit thanks to a low batting average, but his peripherals are close enough to where they need to be and as a few more hits fall in he'll start looking like his normal self. It's fair to question whether he can make enough contact against top-level pitching, but let's give him more than two weeks to adjust to his new level and get going. I mean, check out this opposite-field smash:
Joey Wendle also picked up a pair of hits, but most of the damage was done by a couple of the MLB depth guys -- Max Muncy drove in three on an RBI single and a two-run homer, and Jake Smolinski added a two-run double as well. On defense, Smolinski played center field after the promotion of Tyler Ladendorf to Oakland. In addition to the errors by Manaea and Olson, Renato Nunez also committed his fifth error of the season at the hot corner.
Friday's game was the second close one in a row for Nashville, as they picked up a 9-8 victory on Thursday. Wendle homered for the third time in five games, Andrew Lambo smashed a grand slam, and Muncy added a pair of doubles. Wendle now leads the team in dingers, as a reminder that April baseball is full of small samples. Renato Nunez and Rangel Ravelo each collected a pair of hits, but on defense Ravelo committed a fielding error and shortstop Chad Pinder botched two different throws.
Key hitting prospects: Season numbers
Renato Nunez, 3B: .306/.340/.510, 2 HR, 2 BB, 6 Ks, 2 SB (53 PAs)
Matt Olson, RF: .184/.347/.395, 2 HR, 10 BB, 14 Ks (49 PAs)
Rangel Ravelo, 1B: .308/.378/.359, 0 HR, 5 BB, 6 Ks (45 PAs)
Bruce Maxwell, C: .258/.361/.290, 0 HR, 5 BB, 7 Ks (36 PAs)
Chad Pinder, SS: .241/.254/.362, 1 HR, 1 BB, 18 Ks (59 PAs)
Joey Wendle, 2B: .190/.217/.379, 3 HR, 2 BB, 14 Ks (60 PAs)
Nunez is once again cutting his strikeout rate in the early going, as he has at every step up the ladder; he's down from 15.9% in Double-A last year to 11.3% so far this year. The other top guys are all showing sporadic signs of life but haven't fully broken out yet. Nunez (3B) and Pinder (SS) have each made five errors on defense already.
Key MLB depth: Season numbers
Max Muncy, 1B: .271/.345/.458, 2 HR, 5 BB, 7 Ks (55 PAs)
Andrew Lambo, OF: .233/.298/.419, 1 HR, 4 BB, 11 Ks, 10 RBI (47 PAs)
Jake Smolinski, OF: .214/.267/.375, 1 HR, 4 BB, 12 Ks, 2 SB (60 PAs)
Just keeping an eye on the guys who could be next up if there's another injury in Oakland.
Key pitching prospects: Season numbers
Sean Manaea: 3 starts, 1.50 ERA, 18 ip, 21 Ks, 4 BB, 1 HR
Dillon Overton: 3 starts, 2.81 ERA, 16 ip, 15 Ks, 2 BB, 0 HR
Jesse Hahn: 3 starts, 0.63 ERA, 14⅓ ip, 13 Ks, 6 BB, 0 HR
Tucker Healy: 6 games, 3.68 ERA, 7⅓ ip, 12 Ks, 3 BB, 0 HR
Daniel Coulombe: 5 games, 1.35 ERA, 6⅔ ip, 9 Ks, 1 BB, 0 HR
J.B. Wendelken: 5 games, 1.50 ERA, 6 ip, 9 Ks, 3 BB, 1 HR
Patrick Schuster: 5 games, 3.18 ERA, 5⅔ ip, 9 Ks, 1 BB, 0 HR
The bright side of Healy's torching is that it didn't involve any walks. He didn't lose control and give away a bunch of free runs, but rather threw strikes and simply got beat. That's still not a good thing, but it'll happen sometimes when you pound the zone. He kept the ball in the park, too, for what that's worth. With that gaudy strikeout rate, he's still my guy to watch in Nashville's bullpen. Coulombe and Schuster are likely competing to be the next lefty in line for Oakland's pen, so we'll keep an eye on them as well.
All four affiliates are in action on Saturday.
Triple-A Nashville: 4:35 p.m., Chris Smith vs. New Orleans
Double-A Midland: 5:05 p.m., Dylan Covey vs. San Antonio
High-A Stockton: 7:10 p.m., Daniel Gossett vs. Inland Empire
Single-A Beloit: 3:00 p.m., Jesus Zambrano vs. Burlington
Gossett is the name to watch today, as he enters with a 2.12 ERA and 22 Ks in 17 innings over his first three starts. Covey looks to get going in Double-A after two subpar outings. For Beloit, expect to see Angel Duno in piggyback relief of Zambrano.