The 2017 minor league season got started on Thursday, so let’s take a look at how the rosters shook out for each Oakland A’s affiliate. We’re looking at the four full-season squads here — Triple-A Nashville, Double-A Midland, High-A Stockton, and Single-A Beloit.
Triple-A Nashville Sounds
The A’s top affiliate is absolutely stacked, with two national Top 100 prospects and a few more Top 200 guys. Nearly half the roster is on our Community Prospect List Top 30, and most of those top prospects are already on the 40-man roster — a few have even debuted in MLB. There is basically an entire new lineup of quality youngsters getting ready to knock on Oakland’s door sometime this season.
However, a Triple-A roster also must keep an eye toward the present day and give playing time to depth veterans who are next in line if someone on the A's gets hurt. Even though the organization has prospects with higher upside than, say, Ross Detwiler, Josh Smith, and Matt McBride, it's good to have someone around who is ready to be an emergency fill-in literally tomorrow if need be.
Players in bold are on the CPL. Players with an asterisk* are on the MLB 40-man roster.
Some notes on the roster:
- Name to know: Jaff Decker. He played well in Triple-A and profiles as the lefty-hitting backup/platoon CF the A’s roster could use. He can opt out of his contract on May 1, so it seems like a lock that he’ll be called up before then.
- More names to know: All the ones in bold font, especially on the hitters side. When these guys come up to Oakland, it will presumably be to do more than just fill in the bench.
- No word on the specifics of Brugman’s injury, other than “leg.” (via Melissa Lockard, Oakland Clubhouse)
- Defensive positions on Opening Day: Nunez DH, Olson 1B, Pinder 2B, Barreto SS. Lockard says Pinder/Barreto will alternate spots to stay sharp at both. Nunez is listed on the Sounds’ official site as a DH, so that could be a regular thing.
- I put Parmelee in the outfield because he played RF on Opening Day and I can’t imagine a scenario in which he takes playing time from Olson (who seems to be back at 1B now?). McBride is officially listed as an OF but I put him with the catchers.
- Ryan Christenson is now the manager after moving up from Double-A.
- The pitching staff leans toward the veteran side. Several young pitchers are up in Oakland, where the A’s have already lost three arms to the DL (Sonny, Mengden, Axford), and anyway the real logjam of SP prospects doesn’t begin until Double-A and below.
- Gossett and/or Blackburn are legit prospects who could debut this year, but the rest of the rotation are merely fringe swingmen who are more likely to relieve if they ever reach Oakland. Hopefully the A’s don’t need to bring up any more starters for a couple months!
- My biggest surprise: Brady in the rotation. I had him pegged as a guy who might be cut entirely if bullpen space was limited, but instead he went up to the rotation to fill in after Hahn’s promotion.
- Links: More on Sounds roster | A’s Top 30 prospects’ assignments
Double-A Midland RockHounds
The RockHounds are looking for their fourth straight Texas League championship, and yet they’ve still managed to make that only the second-most interesting story line of their season.
The always innovative A’s will try out a new pitching setup for every team from Double-A on down, employing two tandem starters for each game over a four-day rotation. That means eight names in the Starters column, with only five short relievers. They did this last year at Single-A Beloit, and frankly it seemed to work well. And the idea didn’t come a moment too soon, because otherwise they’d have way too many SP prospects to fit into the available rotations and I’ve spent the last month trying desperately to figure out how they were going to pull it off.
Overall this team lacks the star power of last year’s championship group, but there are a couple big names in the infield, and the pitching could be quietly excellent. The lineup isn’t destitute by any means, but it’s far less exciting than Nashville’s — decent all-around, but light on serious prospects.
Santiago Chavez (DL)
Yairo Munoz* (inj)
Beau Taylor (susp)
Players in bold are on the CPL. Players with an asterisk* are on the MLB 40-man roster. Abbreviations: (inj = injured) (susp = suspended).
Some notes on the roster:
- The SP tandems for the first four games: Walter/Mann, Naile/Holmes, Fillmyer/Seddon, Bracewell/Friedrichs. Each pair will alternate between who gets the start and who relieves, except for Fillmyer who will always start. (via Chris Hadorn and Will Korn, Midland Reporter-Telegram)
- More from that MRT article: “RockHounds manager Fran Riordan says the benefits to a piggyback rotation are maximizing the effectiveness of pitchers that don’t have to go through a lineup two to three times, potentially putting hurlers at less risk for injuries with reduced pitch counts, and to give more players an opportunity to throw extended innings.”
- This rotation setup will be fascinating to watch. Might it help keep pitching prospects healthier, in the short- and/or long-term? Or perhaps maximize guys who would have otherwise washed out as tweener swingmen? Could it even catch on someday as a way to organize an MLB rotation? Or will it totally bust?
- Also from MRT, Chris Hadorn with a profile of Grant Holmes.
- Munoz has a hamstring injury, but just a minor one.
- Taylor is serving a drug suspension.
- James Harris is notably absent, as he is rehabbing at extended spring training and hasn’t been officially assigned to an affiliate yet (unlike Munoz, who is listed on Midland’s roster but on inactive reserve).
High-A Stockton Ports
Like in Midland, the starting rotation should be the highlight that makes Stockton worth following. The Ports will use the same tandem starter system, with eight total pitchers making up the four-day rotation, and there are some serious big names in this group including the A’s top three picks from last summer’s draft.
However, the lineup also has some fun sleepers, from recent draft picks to guys like Iriart and Bolt who snuck onto our CPL. They’re light on top-shelf talent but rife with intrigue, so the offense could really go either way in terms of breakout or bust.
Players in bold are on the CPL.
Some notes on the roster:
- The SP tandems for the first four games: Graves/Meisner, Shore/Duno, Jefferies/Manarino, Puk/Hurlbutt. All four tandems will alternate between which pitcher makes the start and which relieves. (via Scott Linesburgh, Recordnet)
- 2016 draft pick roll call, in order of selection: Puk, Jefferies, Shore, Murphy, Ramirez, E.White, Blackwood, Vidales.
- Blackwood (14th round) and Vidales (28th round) made particularly big jumps up to High-A for their first full season.
- 2015 draft pick roll call, in order: M.White, Bolt, Lyons, Iriart, Siddall, Hurlbutt, Brown, Manarino.
Single-A Beloit Snappers
Finally, we have the Snappers. This level of the minors is pretty deep down the ladder, and if there’s a top prospect here then it’s because he’s super-young and taking a long-term development path. The rest of this group will be the best players from the middle rounds of last year’s draft, plus a handful of others who didn’t make the cut for High-A but are still showing just enough to get playing time somewhere.
If you’re following this team, then you are truly committed to the A’s system. Welcome! Fortunately the pitching staff is still fun since the system is so impacted that guys like Biegalski and Bailey are stuck down here. The lineup is basically the definition of the word fringe, but there are definitely a few deep sleepers.
Player in bold is on the CPL.
Some notes on the roster:
- The SP tandems for the first four games: Butler/Damron, Chalmers/Murray, Bailey/Milburn, Biegalski/Sawyer. (via Melissa Lockard, Oakland Clubhouse)
- Also from Lockard: Gilbert and Highberger will serve as a closer duo.
- 2016 draft pick roll call: Shelby, Bailey, Gilbert, Sawyer, Moundou, Damron, Nowlin, Gruber, Milburn, Highberger, Theroux. Also Goldstein, who was picked by the Mariners but then traded here (for Dillon Overton). Shelby thru Sawyer were taken in the top 10 rounds.
- Other key sleepers: Barrera (contact) and Mercedes (power).
- More on the Snappers roster
Several players haven’t yet been assigned to affiliates because they are rehabbing injuries at extended spring training or are otherwise inactive. Here’s a list of the ones I’ve been able to find so far, including the highest level they played at last year (h/t Lockard for some of these):
- RHP Trey Cochran-Gill (AA)
- RHP Kris Hall (AA)
- LHP Zack Erwin (A+)
- RHP Dustin Driver (A)
- RHP Skylar Szynski (RK)
- LHP Kevin Duchene (RK)
- LHP Chris Kohler (—)
- C Jordan Devencenzi (A)
- 3B Jermaine Curtis (AAA)
- OF James Harris (AA)
Injury info, via Bill from A’s Farm (visit his site!): “Jermaine Curtis and Jordan Devencenzi are both dealing with hamstring injuries as well. James Harris passed out a couple times during spring training and is undergoing some tests. Trey Cochran-Gill has a tired arm but is expected back before long. Kris Hall and Skylar Szynski have both been dealing with arm issues, and Kevin Duchene was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for a drug of abuse.”
A few more super-young top names who haven’t been assigned most likely because they are waiting for a short-season league (Ruiz isn’t super young, just new to the U.S.):
- RHP Norge Ruiz
- RHP Oscar Tovar
- SS Marcos Brito
- OF Lazaro Armenteros
And finally, some guys just don’t make the cut out of spring and are unassigned until a spot opens up. Otherwise, they’ll presumably wait until Low-A Vermont starts playing and try to catch on there. A few notables for whom I didn’t find any other info:
- RHP Chris Jensen (reached Triple-A last year)
- RHP Mitchell Jordan (reached High-A last year)
- RHP Branden Kelliher
- RHP Jesus Zambrano
- IF Jesus Lopez
- OF James Terrell (Bay Area local)
... And then here’s the rest of that list. As near as I can tell, this is every player currently employed by the A’s, but I’m sure there’s no way I got all of them: RHPs Yordy Alejo, Ismael Aquino, Marc Berube, Argenis Blanco, Joseph Camacho, Wandisson Charles, Frederick De La Cruz, Sam Gilbert, John Gorman, Manuel Manzanillo, Seth Martinez, Yeudy Minaya, Luis Romero, Armando Ruiz, Miguel Sanchez, Sam Sheehan ... LHPs Ivan Andueza, Jorge Martinez ... Cs Jarrett Costa, Roger Gonzalez, Robert Mullen, Skyler Weber ... CIFs George Bell, Javier Godard, Charley Gould, Miguel Guzman, Carlos Hiciano, Jean Carlo Rodriguez ... MIFs Brett Bittiger, Jesus Lage, Casey Thomas, Yerdel Vargas ... OFs Robert Bennie, Anthony Churlin, Jeremiah McCray, Enrry Pantoja, Luke Perisco, Kevin Richards, Jhonny Rodriguez.
With all these names and a limited number of space in the universe, the A’s released a handful of players this spring. Some of these guys you’ll recognize, and others never even reached the upper minors. They are listed here in order of the highest level at which they played in 2016. The numbers at the end are their draft year/round, for those drafted by the A’s.
|Max Muncy||UT||MLB||2012 (5th)|
|John Nogowski||1B||AA||2014 (34th)|
|Cody Kurz||RHP||A+||2012 (7th)|
|Justin Higley||OF||A+||2013 (13th)|
|Corey Miller||RHP||A+||2014 (10th)|
|Jose Brizuela||3B||A+||2014 (16th)|
|Rob Huber||RHP||A+||2014 (26th)|
|Jordan Schwartz||LHP||A||2014 (4th)|
|Tyler Willman||RHP||A||2014 (12th)|
|Max Kuhn||1B||A||2014 (13th)|
|Nick Collins||C||A||2015 (8th)|
|Steven Pallares||OF||A||2015 (10th)|
|Ryan Howell||3B||A||2015 (15th)|
|Derek Beasley||LHP||A-||2014 (30th)|
|Brett Sunde||C||A-||2015 (18th)|
The notables there are Muncy and Ravelo, two tweeners who finally got squeezed out of the picture. Muncy had worked on defensive versatility but never quite hit enough, while Ravelo’s bat seemed to disappear everywhere except the Venezuelan Winter League. Ravelo was acquired from the White Sox as the extra piece in the Shark trade.
And finally, the full depth chart. CPL prospects are in bold, the disabled list is in italics, and 40-man guys below the MLB cutline have asterisks.
Please feel free to point out any errors I’ve made, because there’s no way I got all of this perfect on the first try!