Things are never as bad as they seem in the moment. That is my takeaway from Tuesday night's devastating Oakland A's walk-off loss to the Seattle Mariners.
For many that one loss was enough to begin asking these questions: Who should the A's trade and for what kind of package? Can Ryan Madson really be the lockdown closer he was the first month-plus of the season? Was Sonny Gray's implosion and eventual exile to the disabled list a harbinger of doom? There's no possible way the A's can come back from this, can they?
I can't answer all those questions, and I don't pretend to have good answers for the ones I can. What I do know is that, as Tim Eckert-Fong mentioned in a comment after that game, "The difference between 21-26 and 20-27 isn't much." The past two losses won't be the difference between a winning and losing season. What happens with the A's from today forward can be the difference maker. Maybe some regulars get healthy and come back with same level of performance (Jed Lowrie). Maybe Rich Hill's dominance spreads like an infectious contagion of winning. Maybe a jolt from a minor league call-up starts a winning streak. My question now becomes, why not Daniel Mengden?
Here's the A's Situation
Gray is hurt. Kendall Graveman has been ineffective at best. Zach Neal is not a difference maker. I believe Mengden has what it takes to be a difference maker for this team. As Alex noted, the A's have pretty much exhausted their resources, in terms of depth pieces. Could it be time to turn to the hot prospect?
Jeremy gave some reasons why Mengden might not be the most likely candidate for a call-up. He hasn't seen enough action in the high minors for the A's to really know what they have in Mengden. Susan Slusser has also speculated that Mengden's debut might not be far off, although Neal's start yesterday signaled the A's aren't yet ready for him.
Reasons For Doubt
Back when the A's first acquired Mengden, Baseball Prospectus' Wilson Karaman told Athletics Nation that Mengden most likely had a future as a middle reliever, but has the potential to stick as a starter. That was back when Mengden was having slight control and home run problems, leading to high ERAs in high-A ball.
Earlier this year Fangraphs' scouting report on Mengden claimed he would be too hittable for more advanced minor league hitters.
Reasons for Optimism
In four starts at double-A Mengden struck out 28 batters, walked 12, and allowed just two earned runs. A promotion to triple-A hasn't seemed to stop him. He has lowered his walk rate, while maintaining a solid strikeout rate. In five starts with Nashville Mengden has 28 strikeouts to just five walks and three earned runs allowed. He has allowed only two home runs all year. He has pitched exactly seven innings in each of his last four starts, allowing no more than five hits in any of those starts, and just three earned runs total. There's no way to put a negative spin on Mengden's performance, he's been that good.
In his latest Fangraphs chat, pitching smarty pants Eno Sarris mentioned that an increase in velocity has triggered an increase in his interest in Mengden.
Is it Worth a Shot?
I'm always going to want to see the prospects get a chance. Yeah sometimes you end up with a Jemile Weeks or Travis Buck. Sometimes, though, you get a Huston Street or a Sonny Gray. By promoting Sean Manaea the A's have already shown a willingness this season to dip into the farm.
The season is nearly two months old and there is still so much baseball left and enough time for the A's to regroup and turn their record around. If Mengden can even be a mid-to-back-end starter I think that is good enough to call on him earlier than we all expected.