Spring training is here! Oakland A’s pitchers and catchers have reported, and position players are filing in before Saturday’s report date. You already know the big stories, like Sonny trying to regain his old form and the rookies auditioning. But here are some early new developments in lower-profile areas.
1. Jesse Hahn comeback bid
Throughout the winter, we’ve talked a lot about Jharel Cotton and Andrew Triggs as top candidates for the last two spots in the rotation. Meanwhile, Jesse Hahn has been something of a forgotten man after his Sonny-esque off-year in 2016. However, the first word out of camp is that Hahn might just be a factor again.
C Stephen Vogt said #Athletics Jesse Hahn's sinker today was terrific, calling it "bowling ball-ish."— John Hickey (@JHickey3) February 16, 2017
Melvin said it appears Jesse Hahn has the sink back on his fastball, echoing what Vogt and Phegley said. Hahn has real shot at starter spot.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) February 16, 2017
Click here for more on Hahn, via Jane Lee of MLB.com. Our own Tim Eckert-Fong will also have a complete post on the topic soon.
2. Josh Phegley healthy
We know that Stephen Vogt is the A’s primary catcher. However, his right-handed platoon mate, Josh Phegley, played only 26 games last year due to a knee injury and other complications. With top prospect Bruce Maxwell emerging at the end of the season, we spent the winter unclear on how the catching situation might shake out.
Well, wonder no more. Phegley is healthy, being deemed “full strength” and “not considered to be limited in any way” by the inside reporters. Click these for specifics on Phegley and what he’s changed this spring:
3. Closer by committee?
The A’s have four arms in their bullpen with closing experience (Madson, Casilla, Doolitte, Axford), and that doesn’t include arguably their three best relievers (Dull, Hendriks, Coulombe). So who will close?
Answer: Maybe all of the above!
Melvin: "We might not have one particular closer." Says they're open to maybe doing things differently with so many closing options.— Jane Lee (@JaneMLB) February 15, 2017
Melvin says w/ four relievers w/ extensive closer experience, the A's have luxury of using one reliever late for 1 2/3 IP, 2 IP some games.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) February 15, 2017
More on the potential closer by committee:
4. A.J. Puk’s curve
One of the exciting new names in MLB camp is last summer’s 1st-round draft pick, A.J. Puk, who went No. 6 overall in the whole draft. His strength is his upper-90s fastball, which he complements with a slider and a change, but early reports say he has added a curveball to the mix.
AJ Puk tells me he has added a curveball to his repertoire; he had ditched it in college but A's like it as complement to cutter, slider.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) February 17, 2017
More on Puk:
5. Raul Alcantara vying for rotation or bullpen
This one is more of a confirmation of something we’ve been assuming all winter here on AN. Alcantara, acquired years ago from the Red Sox in the deal that brought Josh Reddick to Oakland, finally reached the bigs last year but got shelled in his brief audition.
However, he’s still a good pitching prospect, and since he’s out of minor league options he likely has a leg up on making the team because otherwise he’ll surely be lost on waivers. In such a situation, you assume a pitcher is vying for any available spot, rotation or bullpen, just to keep him in the organization. That appears to be the case.
Bob Melvin says Raul Alcantara seems to just get better each year. Alcantara is out of options, in the mix to start but could be long man.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) February 16, 2017
Melvin mentions Raul Alcantara as long relief candidate as well as No. 5 starter candidate. #Athletics— Joe Stiglich (@JoeStiglichCSN) February 16, 2017
More on Alcantara and the back of the rotation:
Of course, none of this means that Alcantara has a roster spot sealed up, but he’d probably have to be pretty bad this spring for the A’s to just let him go. A last-minute trade is also always a possibility.
While we’re on the rotation, here’s one more piece of the puzzle:
Melvin says Jharel Cotton has "leg up" on No. 4 starter job, but has to go out and earn it in spring. #Athletics— Joe Stiglich (@JoeStiglichCSN) February 16, 2017
Bonus: Mark Canha?
From that last Jane Lee link in the Alcantara section:
“Joyce, who will likely be sharing right-field duties with Mark Canha, ... “
Well now that’s interesting.