The September call-ups continue for the Oakland A’s, both because they have so many good prospects ready in Triple-A and because they can’t keep anyone on their MLB roster healthy for more than 15 minutes at a time. They will add two pitchers in the next three days: right-handers Raul Alcantara and Jharel Cotton.
The new guys will join the rotation in the upcoming series against the Angels. Alcantara will start Monday’s holiday afternoon game (vs. Jered Weaver), while Cotton will go Wednesday afternoon (vs. Alex Meyer, himself making just his second MLB start). Each pitcher will be officially promoted on the day of his start. Susan Slusser had the original news break at the S.F. Chronicle.
In an interesting coincidence, both pitchers’ routes to Oakland held a direct relationship with Josh Reddick. Alcantara was acquired in the same trade as Reddick back in 2011, from the Red Sox in return for closer Andrew Bailey. Five years later, when the A’s dealt Reddick to the Dodgers, Cotton was part of the return package. Despite the gap in acquisition dates, though, the two pitchers were both born in 1992 (Cotton is 24, while Alcantara is still 23).
Alcantara was once the A’s top pitching prospect, but his progress was slowed by Tommy John surgery in 2014. He worked his way up to Double-A to start 2016 and was only mediocre there, but upon a late-season promotion to Triple-A he caught fire. In eight starts for the Nashville Sounds, he allowed a total of only six earned runs and issued only three walks. He profiles as a pitch-to-contact guy who uses his mid-90s fastball to pound the strike zone, and although he appears to be more of a flyball pitcher he will at least be in the right home park to make that work for him.
Alcantara, AAA: 8 starts, 1.18 ERA, 45⅔ ip, 32 Ks, 3 BB, 1 HR, 2.80 FIP
Cotton’s trajectory has been the opposite of Alcantara’s. Whereas the latter has fallen over recent years due to injury, Cotton’s stock has shot up since being a 20th-round draft pick in 2012. By the beginning of this year he’d worked his way up to Triple-A, and out of 50 pitchers who’ve thrown at least 90 innings in the PCL this year he leads them all in strikeout rate (28.2% of batters). He’s struggled at times with homers, but his huge K rates and tiny hit rates will hopefully overcome that weakness — after all, in his second start for Nashville he came one out away from a perfect game. He might end up being a two-pitch guy, with just his mid-90s fastball and excellent changeup, and he stands only 5’11, so he’ll have to prove he can start despite those less-than-ideal traits.
Cotton, Nashville: 6 starts, 2.82 ERA, 38⅓ ip, 36 Ks, 7 BB, 3 HR, 3.41 FIP
Even though these feel like emergency call-ups, prompted by Sean Manaea and Andrew Triggs both pulling their backs in the same week, the fact is that these are both exciting prospects. We’ve been waiting five long years to see Alcantara in an A’s uniform, and now he’s here. Cotton’s name was thrown around in trade rumors all year before landing here in a major blockbuster, and now he’s here just over a month later. Both got here because they dominated in Triple-A Nashville, not just because of circumstance opening a door for them.
Add it all up, and there will be a good reason to watch A’s baseball this week -- two exciting MLB debuts against the loser Angels.
More on Cotton: Our scouting report from the day after the trade.
Pronunciations: (Alcantara: al-CAHN-ter-uh) ... (Jharel: juh-RELL)
While we’re on the topic of Sept call-ups:
Melvin says it's unlikely third baseman Matt Chapman will make his Oakland debut this year despite 3-HR night in Triple A Saturday.— Carl Steward (@stewardsfolly) September 4, 2016