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Jharel Cotton, Brett Eibner off to strong starts for Triple-A Nashville

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Jharel Cotton was sharp in his Nashville debut Thursday.
Jharel Cotton was sharp in his Nashville debut Thursday.
Denis Poroy/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s acquired four players at the trade deadline this year, and three of them are on the roster for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds: Frankie Montas, Jharel Cotton, and Brett Eibner. We don't yet know if we'll see Montas pitch this year or if we'll have to wait until fall/winter for his health to restore. The other two, however, are raring and ready to go.

The only position player the A's received in their dealings was the outfielder Eibner. The 27-year-old already debuted in MLB this year for the Royals, so he’s in Triple-A looking for his next chance in the bigs. Click here for our full scouting report, but here's the summary:

Eibner possesses real power, but his inability to make contact has kept his average down and prevented him from sticking in the bigs. He's made huge strides in the contact department this year, and combined with an above average and versatile glove with a plus arm, he's got a chance to stick around, at least as a fourth outfielder.

Eibner wasted no time showing off that power and making a good impression with his new club in his first at-bat on Monday:

"Boom! Welcome to Nashville, Brett Eibner!" He came up four more times in that debut game, and he walked each time. He's now played four games for the Sounds, and overall he's reached base in half of his plate appearances and cracked three extra-base hits. He's striking out a lot, but for now he's doing enough to make up for it. On defense he's played mostly CF, but on Thursday he shifted to RF.

The future of the A's outfield is wide open. Khris Davis is the one guy who seems like a sure thing long-term, and even then he might fit better as a DH. Jake Smolinski is playing well, and prospects Jaycob Brugman and Matt Olson should get their chances at some point. Add Eibner to that short list -- hopefully we'll get to see him in Oakland before the end of the year.

Eibner, MLB: 85 PAs, .231/.286/.423, 84 wRC+, 3 HR, 6 BB, 23 Ks, +5 DRS

Meanwhile, Cotton made his debut start Thursday and it went great: 6 ip, 1 run, 5 Ks, 1 BB, 95 pitches. He scattered six hits and his only run came on a solo homer. Click here for more on Cotton and the other pitchers acquired by the A's at the deadline. He's a 24-year-old right-hander with a mid-90s fastball and a plus changeup, whose season has been marked by huge totals of strikeouts and home runs.

Infield help?

If Jed Lowrie is felled by his bunion, there could be some playing time available in Oakland at second base. Fortunately, Nashville has a couple candidates playing well.

Arismendy Alcantara and Joey Wendle are both 2B options who are already on the 40-man roster. Alcantara has gotten some time in Oakland since his midseason acquisition so we've at least seen him in action, but he's been red-hot in Nashville. Since the beginning of July, he's batting .346/.370/.510 in 109 PAs in Triple-A, with extra-base pop and a strikeout rate well under 20%. Wendle has an .829 OPS over the last two months (54 games, 212 PAs), with a line of .291/.344/.485. In 19 games since the All-Star break, he has a .969 OPS and over half his hits have been for extra bases. Chad Pinder is also in the picture, showing good power but shaky defense, though he's not yet on the 40-man; he'll need to be added after the season anyway to avoid the Rule 5 draft.

It's the second half of a losing campaign, and it's time to get on with reality. Even if Lowrie was healthy (heck, even if the team were winning) there would be no reason to play him anymore, because frankly he's not performing well on either side of the ball and isn't going to get any better in his mid-30s. Now he's hurt, too, and at this point the A's should shut him down if he's not tradeable and make productive use of the remaining at-bats. They have done a good job racking up lots of middle infield options in the minors, so don't waste it now by letting a hobbled Lowrie block them all for no good reason. Pick one of those three options and bring him up ASAP. Get started now and maybe you can begin to identify your 2B for 2017.

Season stats

Hitters (thru 112 games)

Name Pos Avg/OBP/SLG HR BB% K% wRC+
Brett Eibner OF .308/.500/.692 1 27.8% 33.3% 210
Jaycob Brugman OF .285/.334/.440 5 6.9% 23.2% 102
Matt Olson OF .224/.329/.406 12 13.6% 26.5% 94
Chad Pinder SS .256/.306/.429 14 5.1% 22.4% 91
Joey Wendle 2B .263/.311/.439 10 5.4% 21.9% 94
Rangel Ravelo 1B .254/.312/.380 6 7.1% 15.2% 81
Renato Nunez 3B .229/.279/.420 18 5.6% 19.3% 79

Eibner's rate stats are mostly just for fun since they come in just 18 plate appearances. The hot start is nice, but let's see how he keeps it up and/or whether it earns him a quick trip up to Oakland. Bruggy and Olson have cooled off a bit, while Renato is at least hitting dingers in between all his outs -- in 19 games since the break, he's got six long balls despite a .222 average. If you're wondering, I don't include Alcantara on this table because he isn't technically a prospect anymore due to his relatively substantial MLB experience.

Pitchers

Name R/L Games ERA IP K BB HR FIP
Raul Alcantara RHP 3 0.44 20⅔ 14 0 0 2.42
Daniel Mengden RHP 8 1.25 50⅓ 44 11 3 3.64
Jharel Cotton RHP 1 1.50 6 5 1 1 4.78
... Bullpen ...
Patrick Schuster LHP 32 1.16 38⅔ 39 12 0 2.85
Aaron Kurcz RHP 26 2.90 40⅓ 33 11 0 3.04
Andrew Triggs RHP 16 2.95 18⅓ 21 5 0 2.96
Tucker Healy RHP 37 3.53 43⅓ 62 17 3 3.06
J.B. Wendelken RHP 34 5.02 37⅔ 54 22 5 4.71

Alcantara finally gave up an earned run in his third start, but only one in another gem of an outing. He still hasn't issued a walk in nearly two dozen Triple-A innings. Dillon Overton and Jesse Hahn will need to earn their continued spots in the big league rotation, as suddenly there are some new names knocking on the door (and Alcantara and Cotton are already on the 40-man roster burning an option year anyway).

In the bullpen, Daniel Coulombe is starting to look like a permanent fixture in Oakland, and Zach Neal is still up as a long man. I've added Kurcz to this list -- you might recognize his name from last year's prospect watch series, but he fell off my radar last winter after posting a 5.5 BB/9 rate in 2015 and then getting blown up in a brief stint in the Arizona Fall League. Now the 25-year-old has cut that walk rate in half, and while he doesn't have the gaudy strikeout rate of his pen-mates, he's still putting up a strong season. Just one more name for the depth pile.

Friday's games

All five affiliates are in action.

Triple-A Nashville: 6:05 p.m., Ross Detwiler vs. Colorado Springs
Double-A Midland: 5:00 p.m., Heath Fillmyer vs. Corpus Christi
High-A Stockton: 7:00 p.m., Grant Holmes vs. San Jose
Single-A Beloit: 5:00 p.m., Rob Huber vs. Kane County
Low-A Vermont: 4:05 p.m., Jesus Zambrano vs. Lowell

Holmes, acquired with Cotton in the big deadline trade, makes his debut in the A's organization. Fillmyer has been steady in three starts since his promotion to Double-A. Huber is making a spot start (first of his pro career!), which I assume is just to fill in after the well-deserved promotion of Evan Manarino to Stockton (he was originally scheduled to go today for Beloit).

Link to box scores