After the four starters already on the roster are these five starting pitchers on the disabled list: Henderson Alvarez, Sonny Gray, Jarrod Parker (out for season), Chris Bassitt (out for season), and Felix Doubront (out for season). The A's will turn to their 10th starter for Wednesday's contest against the Seattle Mariners:
The Nashville Sounds rotation offers these options:
- RHP Daniel Mengden: 0.67 ERA in 4 starts, 27.0 IP, 23 K, 4 BB, 1 HR (6.33 K/BB);
- LHP Dillon Overton: 4.37 ERA in 7 starts, 45.1 IP, 42 SO, 8 BB, 2 HR (5.25 K/BB);
- RHP Zach Neal: 2.53 ERA in 7 starts, 42.2 IP, 21K, 4 BB, 3 HR (5.25 K/BB). 2016 MLB: Three runs and one home run allowed in one three-inning relief appearance against Boston;
Chris Smith is Nashville's fifth starter, but his call up is unlikely as he pitched on Saturday and he is also not on the 40-man roster. Eric Surkamp can't be recalled as it would be less than 10 days since he was sent to the minor leagues.
The prospect: Daniel Mengden
If you're just picking who has the best numbers and best promise, the answer is obvious: Daniel Mengden has been dominant in his four starts with Nashville.
But the A's have to evaluate, with 13 players on the disabled list -- including the pitcher that came into the year projected to be their ace and the outfielder who was the team's most consistent hitter -- just how much they want to try to squeeze a postseason run out of 2016 and how much they should marshal their resources for 2017 and beyond.
Triple-A statistics are not the end-all-be-all for evaluating how a prospect might do if he gets called up to the major leagues right now. There's a reason why "scouting the stat line" is a derisive idiom. Even relying on the statistics, four starts in Triple-A for Mengden just isn't a lot of data to work with.
For example, the reason why Rich Hill was such an interesting pick up for the A's was that observations of what (scouting) he was doing on top of how (stats) he was doing showed he potentially could stay an elite pitcher. Sean Manaea earned his call up after three Triple-A starts for the same reason, though he's still working on getting the results right at the major league level, which only goes to show how hard it is to move up.
The placeholder: Zach Neal
The placeholder starter is 27-year-old Zach Neal, who was pulled from his scheduled Sunday start, allowing Nashville reliever Angel Castro to start the contest instead. If Gray comes back on June 5, off days could allow Neal to make as few as two starts. If Gray's stay on the DL goes beyond June 5, off days allow the A's to only need a fifth starter on May 25, May 31, and June 14.
When you've got 13 players on the disabled list and two of them are your supposed ace and your actual most reliable hitter and you're not the Chicago Cubs, the team on the field is a placeholder team. It's not impossible for those placeholders to do something exciting until some of those players come back, and the schedule for the next month or so is pretty favorable, but this is just so rough. In a season where everything had to go right to squint at a contending team, a whole lot is going wrong.