It's September 1 during a losing season, which means it's time to think about calling up prospects for debuts and auditions. The Oakland A's have an off-day Thursday, so they may not be in a big rush to make any transactions just yet. That gives us time to argue about who should get the nod!
The first thing to consider is that the Triple-A Nashville Sounds are gearing up for a playoff run and have a real shot to win a league championship. The postseason starts next Wednesday. I do think the A's care about having their prospects go through a postseason run when possible, so I think they'll be slow to bring up some guys who might otherwise have gotten calls in the next few days. We'll have to factor that in as we look around.
Another consideration is the state of the 40-man roster. By my count there are 38 players on the roster, leaving two spots open. Even still, though, that doesn't mean they should rush to fill those spots -- Josh Phegley and Henderson Alvarez may yet return from the 60-day DL this month. And even if they don't, roster space will be at a premium this winter. There will be several other players coming off the 60-day DL (which doesn't exist during the offseason), and right at the same time they'll need to protect a huge list of prospects from the Rule 5 draft. Therefore, anyone who gets added now should really be a long-term guy whom they'll still want rostered in a few months. (See bottom of post for full depth chart, including which prospects are already on the 40-man.)
Next, let's look at where the youth movement has taken us so far. Here are some top rookie position players who are already in Oakland:
3B Ryon Healy
C Bruce Maxwell
SS Chad Pinder
2B Joey Wendle
They've got half the infield dedicated to youngsters already, between Healy at the hot corner and the Wendle/Pinder platoon at 2B, plus Maxwell serving as backup catcher. But otherwise, it's tough to see where else there is space for more bodies. They will almost certainly bring Arismendy Alcantara back up immediately as a utilityman -- when they send a player all the way down to High-A Stockton like that, it's a sign they want to bring him back quickly. Toss in Marcus Semien at SS, and Yonder Alonso at 1B as a defensive anchor to rein in all those young throwing arms, and anyone else would just be sitting on the bench.
I could see an argument for Colin Walsh, who spent time in the bigs this year with the Brewers. He's got sort of a Muncy-ish defensive profile, playing 2B/3B/LF ... and actually, kind of a Muncy-ish offensive profile too, with an emphasis on plate discipline and walks. Maybe that's an argument against Walsh, since the A's already have their Muncy and probably don't need another one. Two things working in Walsh's favor: he's a switch-hitter, and he'll turn 27 this month. You don't necessarily want to call a young rookie away from daily minor league games just to have him sit on the bench in Oakland, but Walsh isn't really developing anymore. He's ready to go, or as ready as he'll be. Unfortunately, the dealbreaker could be that he's not on the 40-man roster -- and the A's already didn't deem him worthy of Rule 5 protection last winter.
I don't expect to see Renato Nunez or Rangel Ravelo, neither of whom have hit well overall this year, but they're already on the 40-man so you never know. Matt Chapman and Franklin Barreto only just arrived in Triple-A, so they're probably there for the playoffs. I suppose Matt McBride could come up as a third catcher, at least until/unless Josh Phegley returns from the DL.
In the outfield, some playing time has opened up now that Coco Crisp has been traded. It's possible that Jaycob Brugman could get a look, maybe in a platoon with Jake Smolinski or Brett Eibner, but I'll bet he stays down for the playoffs and we don't see him for another couple weeks if at all. I also don't expect to see Matt Olson just yet. With Muncy forced off of 2B and looking for stray at-bats in the outfield, and Khris Davis and Danny Valencia still out there, the lineup seems full.
The pitching staff will certainly get some help, though. At the least, they'll probably need someone to make one start in place of Sean Manaea and his sore back -- with the off-day Thursday, that means they need someone Tuesday. Jesse Hahn started for Nashville last night and got shelled once again (7 runs, exited in 4th inning), so how about giving Jharel Cotton a look? He's already on the 40-man, and the Sounds have plenty of other starters to get them through the playoffs. Cotton has a full year of Triple-A under his belt, and he's looked excellent in Nashville since his acquisition. This is the guy I want starting on Tuesday. Jane Lee of MLB.com agrees that we'll probably see him this month.
I don't know what to expect with the rest of the starters. Dillon Overton and Raul Alcantara are both in their second full seasons after Tommy John surgery, so how hard does the team want to push them? Daniel Mengden has also thrown a lot of innings, and the Sounds will need someone to pitch for them in the playoffs. Lee cites Mengden as a likely returner, but if it was up to me I'd have him pitch the postseason and then shut him down -- he's had a great season, so cap it off by winning a PCL ring and then live to fight again next year.
That leaves the bullpen. The A's have already called up all the relievers on their 40-man, so in order to bring up more they'd have to cut one they already have. Presumably Sean Doolittle will still return this year, so he'd add one more arm. If at least two starters come up, then Zach Neal can slide back to a long man role, and at some point Ross Detwiler could join him if he gets squeezed out too. Note that Bobby Wahl and Tucker Healy will both be eligible for Rule 5 this winter and I think both probably need to be protected, but there's no rush to roster them just yet and I think they'll stay in Nashville for the playoffs anyway.
Where does that leave us? Here's how I think things could shake out over the next two weeks -- once Nashville's playoffs are over, though, just about anyone could theoretically come up to make a quick debut.
RHP Jharel Cotton
RHP Jesse Hahn
|LHP Dillon Overton
RHP Bobby Wahl
RHP Tucker Healy
UTIL Colin Walsh
1B Renato Nunez
1B Rangel Ravelo
SS Franklin Barreto
3B Matt Chapman
OF/1B Matt Olson
The high-profile promotions keep on coming. On Monday, starter Daniel Gossett joined the Sounds from Double-A Midland. He began the year in High-A, but made it up to Midland after just nine starts. He continued dominating in Double-A, striking out a batter per inning along the way, and now he'll get a quick taste of Triple-A before the end of the year. He already made his first start for Nashville on Tuesday, with a solid line of 7 ip, 2 runs, 1 K, 1 BB, 7 hits. Unlike other starters in the system, Gossett's innings don't seem to be an issue, as he only just passed his career-high in that Tuesday game (season total now 147). His final Double-A numbers:
Gossett, AA: 16 starts, 2.49 ERA, 94 ip, 94 Ks, 25 BB, 4 HR, 2.55 FIP
Meanwhile, the promotion of Joey Wendle to Oakland set off a middle infield chain reaction down the system. For Nashville, that meant adding the team's very top prospect, Franklin Barreto. The shortstop had a slow first half but heated up midseason, finishing well above league-average at the plate. He debuted for the Sounds on Wednesday, playing shortstop, and went 0-for-4.
Wendle, AAA: .279/.324/.452, 12 HR, 4.9% BB, 21.3% Ks. 14-for-18 SB, 103 wRC+,
Barreto, AA: .281/.340/.413, 10 HR, 7.1% BB, 17.8% Ks, 30-for-45 SB, 117 wRC+
Hitters (thru 139 games)
Chapman already has four homers in 15 games (72 plate appearances). Meanwhile, Olson has his wRC+ back up to an even 100 -- I still maintain that a league-average line from a 22-year-old in Triple-A can't be classified as truly disappointing.
|... Bullpen ...
Anyone else notice that we're starting to rack up hitters named Matt (Chapman, Olson, McBride) and pitchers named Daniel (Mengden, Gossett, Coulombe) (not to mention Valencia)? Still searching for that next Brandon, I suppose.
Mengden and Alcantara can crank out five-inning gems all day, but at this point those games don't tell me much -- what I want to see from them is a strong 6th and 7th as they begin to face the lineup for the third time. Looks like we'll have to wait until next year to see more of that. Meanwhile, Stull is off to a tough start in the pen.
All five affiliates are in action.
Triple-A Nashville: 4:35 p.m., Jharel Cotton vs. Iowa
Double-A Midland: 5:00 p.m., Joel Seddon vs. San Antonio
High-A Stockton: 7:10 p.m., Evan Manarino vs. Visalia
Single-A Beloit: 4:30 p.m., Michael Murray vs. Peoria
Low-A Vermont: 4:05 p.m., A.J. Puk vs. Hudson Valley
Awesome pitching slate. I'm watching all five of these guys. This would put Cotton on turn to start again Tuesday, right when the A's have their next opening.
Bonus depth chart!
The other day I posted an update of the big depth chart ... and then like 10 different moves happened right away. So, let's try it again! This is what things look like entering today, Sept. 1, as a snapshot right before rosters expand. The bold names are the members of my midseason Top 20 prospect list who are still in the minors.
I moved the minor league DL guys up to their actual levels, so you can see where they slot in when healthy. A couple more starters moved up, with Naile to Double-A and Jordan to High-A. One thing to note about Single-A Beloit -- by this point in the year, I want Single-A to be barren, because all the good players have moved up to High-A. And indeed, four pitchers and a hitter played well enough to jump out of Beloit. Success! There will be plenty of 2016 draftees to refill the roster next year and search for the next Friedrichs or Iriart.