Infielder Yairo Munoz made his 2016 debut for the Double-A Midland RockHounds on Wednesday, and on Thursday he really got things going by drilling his first home run of the season. Overall he went 2-for-7 in his first two games back, with one walk and one strikeout. He also scored from first base on a double, which is nice to see from a player who was out because of his foot.
Munoz entered the year as one of the more exciting prospects in the system. That's partly because of his raw talent, but also due to his late-season breakout last year at High-A Stockton. He posted an .852 OPS in 39 games for the Ports after they lost Franklin Barreto to injury, and that performance helped earn him the No. 7 spot in our Community Prospect List over the winter. Now he's back on the field and off to a solid start.
The 21-year-old is normally a shortstop, and unlike some other SS prospects in Oakland's system he's actually expected to stick at that position long-term. However, he played second base on Wednesday and then DH on Thursday, and there are a couple of good reasons for that. The first is that he is now teammates with Barreto, and though Barreto's defensive reputation is much lower and his future at shortstop is cloudy, it still makes sense to let the elite prospect do his thing and then fit everyone else in around him. That is, Barreto should stop playing SS when it's time for him to stop playing SS, not just because another good prospect happens to be in the same lineup, though there's room for Munoz to at least get a turn now and then. The other reason, specifically for DHing him in the second game, is that the club is working him back into things slowly, as noted by Melissa Lockard of Oakland Clubhouse:
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.
The RockHounds already featured two of the A's most electric prospects in Barreto and Matt Chapman, and now they have another compelling reason to check their box scores each day. Click here to learn more about Munoz, or check out his scouting report from MLB.com:
Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 50 | Run: 55 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50 | Overall: 50
Munoz is an excellent athlete whose tools are among the best in the A's system. His explosive right-handed swing yields hard contact from line to line, and there's enough physical projection remaining to forecast at least average power in his future. He already shows good feel for finding the barrel and works to drive the ball back up the middle, though, like many young hitters, he does deviate from his approach at times.
Munoz has the tools to stick at shortstop, with above-average speed and quick feet that give him good lateral range to go with his plus arm, although inconsistent footwork and a lack of body control have resulted in high error totals to begin his career. He needs refining, but Munoz has considerable upside as an everyday shortstop capable of impacting games on both sides of the ball.
Highlights from Tue-Thu
The return of Munoz wasn't the only good news for Midland this week, as the Hounds finished off a four-game sweep of the Corpus Christi Hooks (Astros). After winning the opener on Monday in a 14-inning thriller, they went on to victory Tue (2-0), Wed (3-1), and Thu (8-1).
The story on Tuesday was Daniel Mengden, who has been not only the bright spot in a disappointing Midland rotation but also one of the pitching standouts in the entire system so far. The right-hander was making his fourth start of the year, and for the third time he went scoreless with exactly eight strikeouts and three walks. His total line: 5 ip, 0 runs, 8 Ks, 3 BB, 6 hits. The one negative was that he needed 94 pitches for that performance, whereas in his other scoreless starts he was efficient enough to complete six innings.
Fortunately, Trey Cochran-Gill came on in relief and bounced back from giving up a grand slam in his last outing. He tossed three innings of shutout relief, though he did issue a pair of walks along the way (3 ip, 0 runs, 3 Ks, 2 BB, 1 hit). The offense scratched out a small-ball run for an early lead, which turned out to be enough on its own, but Ryon Healy added some insurance with a solo homer later on.
Wednesday brought Joel Seddon to the mound. Entering the game I set a goal for him to record more innings than runs, after his first three outings of the year ended in varying levels of disaster. He met that goal, finishing with a line of 5⅔ ip, 1 run, 1 K, 3 BB, 3 hits. There are still nits to pick with that overall performance, in particular the K/BB ratio, but hey, baby steps. It's better than six runs in three innings, and for what it's worth Seddon is a pitch-to-contact guy so I'm not that concerned with his strikeout rate. He actually faced the minimum through the first four frames, thanks to a caught stealing and a GIDP.
In the finale on Thursday, the offense stole the show. Munoz's homer was just one small cog in an eight-run effort, and in particular Franklin Barreto had a three-hit night to extend his hitting streak to six games. Over that span, Barreto is 12-for-27 (.444) with six strikeouts, raising his average to .247 on the season. Matt Chapman also chipped in with a homer, because it was a day ending in "y."
While the offense smashed the Hooks' pitchers, Dylan Covey put up arguably his best start of the young season: 6 ip, 1 run, 5 Ks, 5 BB, 3 hits. I say arguably because of those walks (plus a wild pitch), but at least when it comes to the bottom line of run prevention the results are beginning to improve (one earned run in his last two outings combined).
Ryon Healy, 1B: .313/.370/.566, 4 HR, 8 BB, 18 Ks (92 PAs)
Matt Chapman, 3B: .247/.375/.548, 6 HR, 13 BB, 21 Ks (88 PAs)
Jaycob Brugman, OF: .244/.295/.402, 3 HR, 5 BB, 18 Ks (88 PAs)
Franklin Barreto, SS: .247/.284/.351, 2 HR, 2 BB, 22 Ks (81 PAs)
Yairo Munoz, IF: 2-for-7, 1 HR, 1 BB, 1 K
Barreto batted in the leadoff position in all four games against Corpus Christi, and he responded by turning a couple of good games into an extended hot streak. Hopefully this is the beginning of big things in Midland for the 20-year-old. As for Munoz, it will be interesting to see where in the infield he gets the most playing time, and in particular how often the Hounds let him play shortstop over Barreto.
Daniel Mengden, RHP: 4 starts, 0.78 ERA, 23 ip, 28 Ks, 12 BB, 0 HR
Dylan Covey, RHP: 4 starts, 2.18 ERA, 20⅔ ip, 17 Ks, 14 BB, 1 HR
Raul Alcantara, RHP: 4 starts, 8.44 ERA, 16 ip, 20 Ks, 11 BB, 4 HR
Joel Seddon, RHP: 4 games, 11.74 ERA, 15⅓ ip, 8 Ks, 9 BB, 2 HR
Trey Cochran-Gill, RHP: 6 games, 3.00 ERA, 12 ip, 13 Ks, 3 BB, 1 HR
Sam Bragg, RHP: 4 games, 15.12 ERA, 8⅓ ip, 8 Ks, 6 BB, 5 HR
Bobby Wahl, RHP: 3 games, 4.50 ERA, 4 ip, 4 Ks, 1 BB, 0 HR
Mengden continues his stellar performance, and hopefully Covey is settling in too. My goal for Seddon's next start is to get his ERA into single-digits. In the bullpen, it was nice to see Trey get back on the horse after his first poor outing of the year last weekend.
All four affiliates are in action.
Triple-A Nashville: 5:05 p.m., Eric Surkamp vs. Round Rock
Double-A Midland: 5:00 p.m., Chris Jensen vs. San Antonio
High-A Stockton: 7:05 p.m., Joey Wagman vs. Modesto
Single-A Beloit: 4:30 p.m., Angel Duno vs. Great Lakes
Nashville just lost two starters to Oakland (Manaea and Hahn), so but they did get Surkamp back from the A's and he'll start in place of Manaea on Friday. Stockton recently placed Daniel Gossett on the disabled list, and Monte Vista (Danville) grad Wagman will take his spot for now. That makes Duno the biggest name of interest on the docket tonight -- he's yet to walk a batter through his first 17⅓ innings.