The Oakland A's 2016 draft class is settling in at short-season Low-A Vermont, but the first hatchling has already fought his way up to full-season ball. Right-handed pitcher Nolan Blackwood, the A's 14th-round pick, is already in the bullpen for the Single-A Beloit Snappers.
Blackwood is a pure reliever, having pitched out of the pen all three years at Memphis, so we're not talking about the next up-and-coming starter here. But the 21-year-old is a submariner, and that alone gets my attention. Much like a knuckleballer or a guy who pitches with both arms, the submarine style just makes the game more fun to watch. He'll still have to produce results in order to continue his way up the ladder, but at least he'll have a head start in our hearts.
In terms of stuff, Blackwood throws his fastball in the 88-91 mph range (Link 1, Link 2), and he has a couple secondary offerings though I haven't found what they are yet. Melissa Lockard of Scout.com reports his velocity has hit as high as 93, but even the more modest readings are excellent for a guy using his funky style. Remember that past A's submariners have been much softer tossers, from Chad Bradford (~80) to Brad Ziegler (~85). Blackwood is throwing with the velocity of a normal pitcher, but the deceptiveness that comes with his delivery. Granted, he appears closer to a sidearmer than a true Bradford-level knuckle-scraper, but there is funk to be found here (skip to 4:46):
And another look (skip to 4:11):
Blackwood appeared in five games for Low-A Vermont after the draft and pitched pretty well. Unfortunately, his Beloit debut was a bit rocky, as he allowed three runs on four hits while only recording four outs. He'll look to bounce back from that outing as the summer goes on. Blackwood posted a 2.33 ERA in college but his peripherals weren't anything special, as he had a modest strikeout rate and a normal walk rate. However, he only allowed one home run in 115⅔ innings over 83 games, and the smart bet is probably that he got a lot of grounders.
Last year, only two 2015 draftees made it to Beloit by the end of their debut season, both middle infielders: Mikey White (2nd round) and Tim Proudfoot (35th round). In 2014, it was just 3B Matt Chapman (1st round), SS Branden Cogswell (7th round), RHP Joel Seddon (11th), RHP Brendan McCurry (22nd). The hitters generally did poorly in those trials but the pitchers did well.
Thinning of the ranks
The Snappers lost two more members of their excellent rotation recently, as James Naile and Michael Murray moved up to join Kyle Friedrichs in High-A Stockton. But that's only bad news in that these Beloit updates will be that much less interesting now, as the whole point is for the young prospects to succeed and move up the ladder. You'd rather have your best youngsters concentrated in the upper minors because that means they're doing well and moving up, y'know?
The way I see it, the best-case scenario would be that the Single-A team is completely boring by the end of the year. That would mean that the best prospects did enough to get promoted, leaving a void to be filled next spring by the next round of new draftees and other top Vermont Lake Monsters. Keep that line moving.
Hitters (thru Sunday, 97 games)
Iriart is getting back in the swing after returning from the DL, with two homers in six games, albeit as part of a 4-for-21 with nine Ks. Martin is on the DL.
Pitchers (thru Saturday)
|... Bullpen ...|
The Snappers also added Brendan Butler from Low-A Vermont to round out their rotation. The right-hander, drafted in the 30th round in 2015, had a 1.97 ERA and four Ks per walk in seven games (37 ip) for the Lake Monsters. They also added Zack Erwin to their bullpen, down from Stockton where the lefty posted a 6.52 ERA in a failed attempt at High-A. Erwin debuted for Beloit on Sunday, throwing four innings and allowing a pair of solo homers.
All five affiliates are in action.
Triple-A Nashville: LIVE, Dillon Overton vs. Omaha
Double-A Midland: LIVE, Brandon Mann vs. San Antonio
High-A Stockton: 9:00 p.m., Kyle Friedrichs vs. Visalia
Single-A Beloit: Lost 8-7, Boomer Biegalski vs. Fort Wayne
Low-A Vermont: LIVE, Ivan Andueza vs. Tri-City
Overton keeps himself warm in Nashville, waiting for the next call to Oakland. Friedrichs is now unquestionably Stockton's top pitcher, with Heath Fillmyer up in Double-A. Biegalski got lit up for Beloit (2 ip, 5 runs). DH Miguel Mercedes now has six of Vermont's 15 home runs.