The Oakland A’s farm system has gone through a lot of change in 2017. A big group of prospects has graduated from Triple-A to MLB, and that has led to shakeups throughout the organization. Furthermore, a new draft class, some major trades, and a few key injuries have changed the landscape even further.
Lots of youngsters have gotten new opportunities to climb the minor league ladder this year, but there’s always someone else knocking on a door somewhere. Here’s a player at each level whose performance is worthy of a move up.
Low-A Vermont: Parker Dunshee, RHP
A- stats: 0.00 ERA, 24 ip, 27 Ks, 6 BB, 0 HR, 11 hits, 2.35 FIP
The college portion of the 2017 draft class is off and running at Low-A Vermont, with 18 members suiting up for the Lake Monsters. The lineup has been anchored by 2nd-round pick Greg Deichmann (207 wRC+ in 83 PAs), but I’m looking to the pitching staff on this roster.
To be clear, let’s not get too caught up in Dunshee’s perfect ERA. It’s impressive but it’s also a neat small-sample trick, and he will eventually give up a run. More important is that he’s backing it up with strong K and BB rates, suggesting the results are coming from more than just luck on batted balls. He’s dominating his current competition.
When the A’s took Dunshee in the 7th round, the college senior was considered a fast-track candidate. Now he’s breezing through his first test like someone gave him the answer key. How quickly will the A’s choose to get that track moving?
P.S. You could argue that I should have chosen 8th-round pick Brian Howard, another fast-track college senior selection who has put up the following line after Sunday’s game: 19⅓ ip, 19 Ks, 0 BB, 1.84 ERA. He’s faced 74 batters and hasn’t walked a single one.
For context, a few recent Low-A standouts: Daniel Gossett (24 ip, 25 Ks, 1 BB), Dillon Overton post-surgery (37 ip, 53 Ks, 4 BB), and Bubba Derby (37⅓ ip, 47 Ks, 10 BB). In terms of stuff, one report has Dunshee as such: “[fastball] was only 90-92, but he worked the zone, showed [average slider].”
Single-A Beloit: Zack Erwin, LHP
A stats: 1.68 ERA, 64⅓ ip, 68 Ks, 15 BB, 2 HR, 2.49 FIP
One of the most frustrating parts of the Josh Donaldson trade was when Brett Lawrie, a crucial part of the deal, was flipped the very next winter for pennies on the dollar. Worse yet, those pennies soured quickly last summer — reliever J.B. Wendelken tore his UCL, and 2015 4th-round pick Zack Erwin flamed out in High-A and eventually hit the DL himself. By this spring, it looked like the A’s had nothing to show for Lawrie.
But wait! We have signs of life, albeit all the way down in Beloit. Erwin is back in action, and he appears to have rediscovered the strike zone that eluded him last year. The soft-tosser won’t always rack up Ks like this, but it’s encouraging that he can do so against this low level of hitters.
The point of Erwin’s selection here isn’t to get overly excited about 13 good starts, but rather that hopefully he’s back to full health and ready to resume his development. The 23-year-old once profiled as a potential fast-track candidate, and I’d love to see him get another crack at High-A before the end of the year. The book isn’t closed on him or the Lawrie trade after all.
High-A Stockton: Brett Siddall, OF
A+ stats: .317/.383/.531, 145 wRC+, 18 HR, 6.3% BB, 22.0% Ks
Let’s move on to a different Canadian named Brett. I just wrote about Siddall last weekend, but here’s a quick refresher. Oakland’s 13th-round pick from 2015 was ice-cold this year until mid-May (57 wRC+), but he’s been an absolute monster ever since (172 wRC+). His heater has lasted 70 games now, with no signs of relenting. There is enough expendable outfield filler in the upper minors that the A’s could make room for an actual budding prospect if they so choose, even after Sunday’s acquisition of Boog Powell.
Double-A Midland: Max Schrock, 2B
AA stats: .319/.378/.444, 131 wRC+, 7 HR, 8.0% BB, 9.7% Ks
Schrock is a massive favorite here at Athletics Nation, where we’ve already pre-ordered his future MVP trophy. He doesn’t get prospect love because he’s little and he’s limited to 2B defensively, but he never stops hitting and he never strikes out. His ability to make contact is elite, and that’s helping him succeed in the upper minors in just his second full pro season.
Even better, Schrock is improving as the year goes on. Since the All-Star break (June 29), his wRC+ is 154, and since mid-July it’s 186. He doesn’t just put the bat on the ball; he also drives it.
Of course, nothing in life is simple. The A’s middle infield situation is already crowded enough this summer, especially with Jed Lowrie remaining in the picture into August. Schrock would deserve it if he got the call to Nashville, but if the 22-year-old winds up having to finish up his excellent campaign in Midland then it’s not the end of the world. Triple-A will still be there for him next year, but hopefully with more playing time available.
Triple-A Nashville: Matt Olson, 1B/OF
AAA stats: .272/.367/.568, 135 wRC+, 23 HR, 13.1% BB, 24.2% Ks
We’ve gotten to follow Olson’s journey from a high school draft pick all the way up to his MLB debut, and now all that’s left is to give him a full-time chance in Oakland. He scuffled last year in his first try in Triple-A, but this time around he’s firing on all cylinders at age 23. He’s even held his own in his brief, intermittent cups of coffee in the majors, posting an above-average batting line (110 wRC+) thanks to high rates of homers and walks — his signature combo.
I wrote most of this article last night, and this paragraph was going to lament how Olson was blocked by quality players at both of his positions — at 1B by All-Star Yonder Alonso, and in RF by productive veteran Matt Joyce. But then the A’s traded Alonso this morning, and now there is space to free the rookie.
When I look at Olson, I see the chance for Brandon Moss but with a better glove. He’s ready to go yesterday, and hopefully he’s about to get his opportunity for everyday reps in Oakland. Looks like this article has a happy ending!
... Wait, what’s this?
MLB Oakland A’s: Matt Chapman, 3B
MLB stats: Too bright to see with our puny human eyes
I have received word that Chapman has been deemed too good for Earth. He’s been called up to the Intergalactic Baseball League where he will play for a Cyborg squad known as the Mars Rovers. We will miss him and we thank him for his service. 00011010.