The Double-A Midland RockHounds won in 11 innings on Thursday by the score of 5-4. They did a good job scratching out just enough runs to win the close affair, but the most noteworthy tally came in the 5th on a solo homer by outfielder Jaycob Brugman. After managing only six dingers last year for Midland, he has already swatted five through the first quarter of this season.
Like teammate Ryon Healy, Bruggy is repeating Double-A ball despite a solid showing in 2015. Last year he managed a roughly average batting line (105 wRC+) with good plate discipline, and he crushed four more homers in six playoff games to help lead the Hounds to a league title. But with Nashville's outfield justifiably committed to MLB depth pieces like Jake Smolinski, Andrew Lambo, and Tyler Ladendorf, plus corner infielders like Matt Olson and Max Muncy getting reps out there just to get their bats in the lineup, there simply isn't room for Bruggy to get regular playing time. As a result, he's back in Midland.
The good news is that he's making the most of his time on this organizational plateau. In particular, he's rediscovering the power that eluded him last season -- his isolated slugging dropped from .251 (High-A, 2014) to .122 (Double-A, 2015) and has so far jumped back up to .200 (Double-A, 2016). If a prospect is forced to repeat a level due to being blocked, then at least it's nice to see him make strides at that level. Such improvement helps show us that the player truly is developing and is ready for tougher competition. Here are how his numbers have progressed:
2014, A+: 214 PAs, .282/.332/.533, 117 wRC+, 13 HR, 7.5% BB, 23.4% Ks
2015, AA: 566 PAs, .260/.343/.382, 105 wRC+, 6 HR, 11.0% BB, 15.7% Ks
2016, AA: 142 PAs, .277/.331/.477, 124 wRC+, 5 HR, 7.0% BB, 19.7% Ks
One thing I can't help but notice is that his BB/K rate seems to have an inverse relationship with his power -- when it improved (more BB, fewer Ks), his power went down, and vice versa. Is that a sign that he tried to be too patient last year and missed out on chances to drive the ball, as I believe happened to Josh Reddick in 2013 when he tried to become more selective and work more walks? That's something to watch for over the coming months as the sample size gets larger.
Of course, part of Brugman's profile is his all-around skill set. He's doing all of this while serving as the team's primary CF, and while I have no idea how good he is in center it's a good sign that the club is willing to play him there mostly every day. And that could end up being the last detail that helps punch his ticket up the ladder -- with Ladendorf up helping the big club in Oakland, Smolinski is being shoehorned into CF in Nashville. None of this means that I want to give up on Jake from A's Farm, as he's still a perfectly good depth piece, but the fact is that he's not hitting at all while also playing out of position and at some point something's gotta give. Maybe if the A's can find space for Muncy in Oakland, then Smolinski can shift back over to LF where he belongs and Bruggy can take CF. Hey look, another question where the most obvious answer is "dump Billy Butler and everything else falls into place."
Brugman is 24 years old and this is only his third full pro season, so there's still time for all of this to work itself out. For now, all he can do is keep plugging along and proving that he has mastered his current level.
Season stats (thru 33 games)
Ryon Healy, 1B: .346/.417/.639, 7 HR, 17 BB, 34 Ks, 191 wRC+
Matt Chapman, 3B: .248/.356/.528, 9 HR, 18 BB, 38 Ks, 142 wRC+
Yairo Munoz, SS (47 PAs): .250/.298/.545, 4 HR, 3 BB, 8 Ks, 132 wRC+
Jaycob Brugman, OF: .277/.331/.477, 5 HR, 10 BB, 28 Ks, 124 wRC+
J.P. Sportman, OF: .247/.330/.360, 1 HR, 11 BB, 22 Ks, 6 SB, 95 wRC+
Franklin Barreto, SS: .236/.292/.339, 3 HR, 7 BB, 31 Ks, 9 SB, 79 wRC+
Munoz could have just as easily been the lede for this update. The 21-year-old homered twice on Monday and again on Tuesday, and he's already making his mark in his first couple weeks off the DL. This is the second time he has moved up to a new level and found instant success, after his late-season run in Stockton last year, and that kind of adaptation to tougher competition is probably the best thing you can see out of a youngster. On defense, Munoz appears to be splitting SS and 2B duties with Barreto, with both of them getting time at each spot.
Random notes: Barreto's nine steals come in 14 attempts. Also, the strikeout totals of the top two guys work out to 26.0% for Chapman, and 22.5% for Healy, which are on the higher side but are acceptable for now given the way those guys are smashing the ball when they make contact.
On the downside, Sportman is 1-for-19 in five games since being added to this list. The Curse of the Alex Jinx!
Raul Alcantara, RHP: 7 starts, 4.68 ERA, 32⅔ ip, 33 Ks, 16 BB, 5 HR
Dylan Covey, RHP: 6 starts, 1.84 ERA, 29⅓ ip, 26 Ks, 17 BB, 2 HR
Joel Seddon, RHP: 6 games, 10.36 ERA, 24⅓ ip, 11 Ks, 13 BB, 3 HR
Trey Cochran-Gill, RHP: 10 games, 5.66 ERA, 20⅔ ip, 19 Ks, 7 BB, 5 HR
Bobby Wahl, RHP: 7 games, 3.97 ERA, 11⅓ ip, 11 Ks, 3 BB, 0 HR
Covey is on the DL with an oblique strain after leaving just one inning into his last start. It's unclear who will take his spot in the rotation, especially with Sam Bragg also currently on the DL. The rotation currently includes Alcantara, Seddon, reliever Corey Walter, and org filler Chris Jensen, but thanks to an off-day Wednesday they won't need a fifth man for another few days.
Cochran-Gill is unfortunately starting to lose his luster in the pen. He's given up nine total runs in his last three games, including four homers, and he's walked a pair in three of his last five games. However, it's worth noting that he was called on for some unexpected long relief when Covey went down, and you never know what might knock a pitcher off his groove. Hopefully he'll settle back down in his subsequent outings.
All four affiliates are in action.
Triple-A Nashville: 5:08 p.m., Daniel Mengden vs. Iowa
Double-A Midland: 5:05 p.m., Joel Seddon vs. San Antonio
High-A Stockton: 7:15 p.m., Casey Meisner vs. Bakersfield
Single-A Beloit: 4:30 p.m., Boomer Biegalski vs. Quad Cities
That's a fantastic pitching slate for the day. Mengden has quickly emerged as one of the A's most exciting prospects this year, and every good start he makes in Triple-A puts him one step closer to helping out in Oakland. Meisner is a top-10 guy in the system, so his starts are always relevant. And Biegalski is easily the top arm in Beloit so far. Seddon is probably only exciting to me given his complete and utter failure in the early going, but I don't give up on a sleeper after just a few weeks so I'm still rooting for him to get that ERA back into single-digits.