The Triple-A Nashville Sounds entered Tuesday looking to avoid a four-game sweep at the hands of the New Orleans Zephyrs (Marlins), and they succeeded thanks to a thrilling 7-6 victory. Shortstop Chad Pinder notched the walk-off hit with a double in the 9th inning.
Pinder is holding his own in his first few weeks at Triple-A, but there are some areas of his game that need to be fixed before he moves up to Oakland. His plate discipline has never been great, usually with around four strikeouts per walk, but so far this year he has just one walk against 21 strikeouts. Those rates simply must improve. He's currently striking out in 30% of his plate appearances, and it's tough to be productive when you give away that many outs. He can succeed without walking much, but not if he keeps whiffing like that; I'd like to see his K% get down closer to 20%, where it's been for most his career. But it's early, and there's still time for him to even things out.
The other issue with Pinder is his defense. He has already made eight errors at shortstop in only 15 games, which is reminiscent of 2015 Marcus Semien. I don't believe in fielding percentage at all, but when the mark is .887 there's not a lot of context that can explain it away. Of those eight errors, six have been classified as throwing errors and two as fielding miscues, which is troubling to me because Pinder's strong arm is supposed to be the bright point of his defensive profile. It has long been speculated that he won't stick at shortstop, though, so perhaps these errors are just inevitability announcing its presence.
With all that said, though, Pinder had a couple quality performances against New Orleans this week. On Monday he went 2-for-5 with an RBI triple, and on Tuesday he went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles. The sequencing makes his Tuesday look even better: his double in the 1st nearly scored a run (runner thrown out at plate), he drove in a run with a sac fly in the 2nd, and with one on and no out in the 9th he lined the walk-off double to left. Not a bad day at the plate.
A few other Sounds also had positive days on Tuesday, which was nice to see after a few quiet games. Joey Wendle did it all by going 3-for-4 with a double, a walk, and a stolen base, in addition to sparking the 9th-inning rally and scoring the winning run on Pinder's triple. Wendle has been serving as the team's leadoff hitter for over a week now, and he finally has his average up over the Mendoza Line in the early going. Renato Nunez and Max Muncy also chipped in with home runs for the Sounds.
On the pitching side of things, the most interesting game came on Monday. Henderson Alvarez made his second rehab start, this time lasting two innings (40 pitches) and allowing just an unearned on one hit along with a strikeout. Dillon Overton came on in "relief," essentially serving as a second starter, and fired off 4⅔ frames with a line of 2 runs, 3 Ks, 1 BB. Jesse Hahn made a start also, but I'm not going to draw anything from that -- he was on a limited pitch count due to rainouts disrupting the rotation, and he came out the other side with a blister issue (via Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle). As for the bullpen, J.B. Wendelken and Patrick Schuster each had a pair of scoreless outings and Tucker Healy had one as well.
Of course, the big stories out of Nashville over the last week have involved some players getting called up to Oakland. With Tyler Ladendorf already in the bigs to cover for the injured Danny Valencia, the next man up was reliever Andrew Triggs, who threw a scoreless frame in his MLB debut on Monday. On Wednesday, Triggs went down and journeyman catcher Matt McBride came up. Finally, the team has confirmed that top prospect Sean Manaea will make his own MLB debut by starting for the A's on Friday, which will likely send McBride back to Nashville.
Renato Nunez, 3B: .302/.357/.540, 3 HR, 4 BB, 10 Ks (70 PAs)
Chad Pinder, SS: .265/.271/.426, 1 HR, 1 BB, 21 Ks (70 PAs)
Rangel Ravelo, 1B: .259/.328/.315, 0 HR, 6 BB, 8 Ks (61 PAs)
Joey Wendle, 2B: .205/.256/.370, 3 HR, 4 BB, 18 Ks (78 PAs)
Matt Olson, OF: .160/.295/.320, 2 HR, 10 BB, 17 Ks (61 PAs)
Bruce Maxwell, C: .237/.341/.263, 0 HR, 6 BB, 8 Ks (44 PAs)
The numbers are still a bit low, but it's also still April so there's plenty of time for these guys to catch up. Nunez has been the standout, as once again he's moved up a level without missing a beat -- he's even cut his strikeout rate so far (14.3%), just as he has at every other step up the ladder. Also keep an eye on Wendle, who is showing signs of heating up lately.
Max Muncy, 1B/3B: .295/.389/.541, 4 HR, 7 BB, 9 Ks (72 PAs)
Andrew Lambo, OF: .224/.286/.362, 1 HR, 5 BB, 13 Ks (63 PAs)
Jake Smolinski, OF: .208/.260/.361, 1 HR, 5 BB, 13 Ks (77 PAs)
Ladendorf and McBride are the other key depth pieces, but of course they're each with the A's right now. Muncy doesn't have a whole lot of opportunity at the moment, with his positions blocked in Oakland and some hot prospects coming up behind him, but he's on fire at the plate right now and if the A's suffer more injuries at 1B/3B then they could do worse than giving him another look.
Dillon Overton, LHP: 4 games, 3.05 ERA, 20⅔ ip, 18 Ks, 3 BB, 0 HR
Sean Manaea, LHP: 3 starts, 1.50 ERA, 18 ip, 21 Ks, 4 BB, 1 HR
Jesse Hahn, RHP: 4 starts, 2.04 ERA, 17⅔ ip, 13 Ks, 9 BB, 0 HR
Daniel Coulombe, LHP: 6 games, 0.96 ERA, 9⅓ ip, 9 Ks, 1 BB, 0 HR
Tucker Healy, RHP: 7 games, 3.12 ERA, 8⅔ ip, 14 Ks, 4 BB, 0 HR
Patrick Schuster, LHP: 7 games, 2.16 ERA, 8⅓ ip, 12 Ks, 1 BB, 0 HR
J.B. Wendelken, RHP: 7 games, 1.12 ERA, 8 ip, 13 Ks, 4 BB, 1 HR
Andrew Triggs, RHP: 6 games, 5.14 ERA, 7 ip, 9 Ks, 3 BB, 0 HR
Manaea's next start will be in Oakland, which is ridiculously exciting. Hahn's numbers come via extenuating circumstances, thanks to the weather messing with his schedule, so I'm ignoring those for now. The bullpen is packed with monster strikeout rates, which is great to see in addition to their low ERAs.
Munoz activated in Double-A
Shortstop Yairo Munoz was voted the No. 7 prospect in the system in our Community Prospect List, but he is yet to play in 2016 thanks to "heel and foot issues" (via Oakland Clubhouse). However, the 21-year-old has officially been activated on the roster of the Double-A Midland RockHounds (via Marshall Hughes of KOSA-CBS7 and Melissa Lockard of Oakland Clubhouse).
Munoz broke out last year in High-A Stockton, batting .320/.372/.480 in 39 games while Franklin Barreto was out with an injury. He also earns favorable reviews for his defense, especially his throwing arm. Click here to read more about who he is and what he brings to the field. Lockard offers the following notes about what the future holds for Munoz:
According to Oakland A's General Manager David Forst, Munoz will be on a playing progression coming out of extended spring training, so he will have regular off-days in the early going. Forst says Munoz is expected to see time at shortstop, third base and second base as the season goes on.
Nashville is off on Wed., but the other three affiliates are playing.
Double-A Midland: 5:05 p.m., Joel Seddon vs. Corpus Christi
High-A Stockton: 6:30 p.m., Casey Meisner vs. San Jose
Single-A Beloit: 4:30 p.m., Xavier Altamirano vs. Lansing
Two goals for Seddon today: make it through at least the 4th inning, and record more innings pitched than runs.
One goal for Meisner: strike out more batters than you walk.
Altamirano didn't pitch with Boomer Biegalski last night, whereas to this point Beloit has been piggybacking a pair of four-innings guys in each game. We'll have to see if that practice continues or if they've identified a more concrete rotation.