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Oakland A’s prospect watch: Daulton Jefferies out for year with Tommy John surgery

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Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s farm system took a hit last week with the loss of pitcher Daulton Jefferies, who will undergo Tommy John surgery, via Melissa Lockard of Oakland Clubhouse, and team beat writer Jane Lee. Jefferies, one of the A’s top picks in last summer’s draft, will miss the rest of the season.

The 21-year-old out of UC Berkeley already had health concerns when he turned pro, having missed time in college due to his shoulder and calf. Oakland gambled on him anyway, but unfortunately the injury bug won this round.

Jefferies was voted the A’s No. 12 prospect in our Community Prospect List last winter, but he only got into two games this season for High-A Stockton (7 innings) before going down.

Hot take: If you must look for a silver lining in this otherwise bummer news, consider this. The single most crowded demographic in the A’s organization right now is right-handed starting pitchers in the Midland/Stockton/Beloit range. They have such an overabundance that they had to create an entirely new rotation system with eight per team just to fit them all in

Of course, while losing a player hurts less when it’s from an area of strength, you’d still rather not have anyone get hurt at all. But even then, the guy they lost was probably the biggest injury risk of all of those low-minors starters. This result wasn’t necessarily expected, but it’s not exactly shocking either.

But that’s all just a feeble attempt to brighten up bad news. The bottom line is that this is a tough break for both Jefferies and the club, and we’ll have to patiently look forward to his comeback — hopefully by the second half of next season, if all goes well.

A.J. Puk: Nearly 2 strikeouts per inning

The loss of Jefferies is also a blow to the A’s 2016 draft class, as he was their second-highest pick (and No. 37 overall), but the good news is that their top pick A.J. Puk is dominating for High-A Stockton. The big lefty breezed through his first three outings, and although he gave up some runs on Sunday he didn’t get hit hard. In fact, he recorded most of his outs via strikeout, which has been a distinct theme for him.

Through Puk’s first four games, he has now thrown 15 innings and struck out 27 batters. That means 60 percent of his outs have come via the K, and 45 percent of all the batters he’s faced have gone down on strikes. Simply put, those numbers are off the charts.

What’s more, he’s only walked four batters to go with all those strikeouts — that’s nearly seven Ks per walk. As fun as the massive strikeout rate is, it might be even more noteworthy that he’s not beating himself with wildness and free passes. Case in point, the game-winning three-run rally he allowed on Sunday (single on popup to SS, single on fly to RF, triple on grounder to RF, K, RBI groundout, K) was more about BABIP and perfect timing than anything Puk did wrong (albeit, he did allow a BB and a HBP to score earlier).

Puk’s pounding of the zone has also brought him more efficiency, which was one of the major hurdles he faced entering the year after a college career full of short outings and high pitch counts. In his first three games he averaged around 62 pitches over four innings, which is right around normal, and even though he labored through 60 pitches over three innings on Sunday he still mostly threw strikes. All of this is far more encouraging to me than any small amount that I’m discouraged by his superficially ugly line on Sunday.

Puk, 2017: 4 games, 3.60 ERA, 15 ip, 27 Ks, 4 BB, 1 HR, 9 hits

Meanwhile, the other highly touted pitcher from the draft, righty Logan Shore, is plugging right along:

Shore, 2017: 4 games, 2.81 ERA, 16 ip, 17 Ks, 3 BB, 0 HR, 15 hits

Of course, neither of these guys has been asked to pitch a fifth inning in a game, nor to go through a lineup for a third time. There are still plenty more tests to be faced and passed, so let’s not get too carried away by these awesome early returns. But ... two strikeouts per inning? Good lord.

Other pitching standouts for the High-A Stockton Ports:

  • Brett Graves is still hot, with a line of: 0.63 ERA, 14⅓ ip, 15 Ks, 1 BB
  • Evan Manarino has been almost as good: 1.93 ERA, 14 ip, 13 Ks, 1 BB
  • Casey Meisner, however, has not yet turned things around after last year’s struggles: 11.57 ERA, 11⅔ ip, 7 Ks, 2 BB

Boomer called up

One more ramification of Jefferies’ injury is that the A’s got to move up a new pitcher from Single-A Beloit to replace him. They picked Boomer Biegalski, who was repeating with the Snappers despite a productive 2016 season. Boomer responded with four scoreless frames in his debut outing for Stockton, though he went on to give up a couple homers his next time out on Sunday. He is currently paired with Puk in one of the Ports’ starting tandems.

Bolt goes on DL, returns quickly

Outfielder Skye Bolt missed a couple chunks of time to nagging injuries in 2016, and true to form he already did a quick stint on the disabled list this year. (The injury was a groin strain, via Athletics Farm.) The minor league DL is only seven days, and that’s apparently all the time he needed because he returned on Saturday. He’s now 9-for-28 this year with another seven walks on top of that, good for a line of .321/.472/.429.

On the flipside, first baseman Sandber Pimentel pulled the opposite trick. He’d started the year on the DL, but he came off to replace Bolt on the active roster just over a week ago. However, now Pimentel is back on the DL, just as Bolt is back in the lineup. Welp. (Pimentel went 0-for-6 with 4 Ks in two games whilst active. He’s dealing with recurring back issues, says Athletics Farm.)

A few standout hitters for High-A Stockton:

  • From last year’s draft, shortstop Eli White (11th round) has arguably been the best hitter on the team: 73 PAs, .313/.397/.438, 8 doubles, 8 BB, 13 Ks
  • The team leaders in homers (3) are catcher Sean Murphy (last year’s 3rd-rounder) and OF Seth Brown (repeating High-A).
  • Two sleeper names off to interesting starts: 21-year-old catcher Lana Akau (5-for-17) and middle infielder Branden Cogswell (.308/.404/.410). The 24-year-old Cogswell was a 7th-round pick back in 2014 but missed all of last year. Neither of these guys are imminently on our prospect radar, but if they keep hitting then they could find their way on.
  • Mikey White, the 2nd-rounder from 2015, is off to another slow start — .191/.269/.234, 34.6% Ks, in 52 PAs, plus a game-tying, save-blowing defensive error with two outs in the 9th.

Sonny Gray rehab

We’re here to talk about prospects, not Sonny, but he did pitch for Stockton this weekend so let’s at least mention it. Here’s a link to Chris Biderman’s game roundup on MLB’s site, after Sonny retired 15 of 16 batters over five scoreless frames. Here’s the box score.

Monday’s games

Here’s what we have to look forward to on Monday.

Triple-A Nashville: 5:40 p.m., Daniel Gossett vs. Colorado Springs
Double-A Midland: 5:05 p.m., TBD (Friedrichs/Bracewell?) vs. Corpus Christi
High-A Stockton: 7:10 p.m., Brett Graves vs. Lancaster
Single-A Beloit: 4:30 p.m., Brendan Butler vs. Clinton

In Midland, the tandem of Kyle Friedrichs and Ben Bracewell is next in line. Graves’ tandem-mate is Casey Meisner, and Butler teams up with Ty Damron. For Beloit, Butler/Damron have racked up 38 Ks to 6 BB.

Link to box scores