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Renato Nunez leads Oakland A’s second wave of September call-ups

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Get this man some game action so I can quit using his clubhouse photos!
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s announced their second round of September call-ups on Tuesday. The Triple-A Pacific Coast League played its final game of the regular season on Monday, which means the Nashville Sounds are done for the year. That freed up several more prospects to come audition in Oakland:

  • RHP Raul Alcantara
  • RHP Daniel Mengden
  • DH Renato Nunez
  • 2B Joey Wendle

Alcantara was not on the 40-man roster, after being designated for assignment earlier this season. To make room for him, RHP Paul Blackburn was transferred to the 60-day disabled list — he was already expected to miss most of the final month of the season with a hand injury, so this just makes it official. Here’s more on each player, in order of how interesting I think they are.

Renato Nunez | DH

2017 AAA: .249/.319/.518, 109 wRC+, 32 HR, 8.8% BB, 26.5% Ks

The A’s have been developing Nunez since they signed him as a teenager back in 2010, but they’re running out of time before a make-or-break decision becomes necessary. He’ll be out of minor league options next year, which means this is probably the last time he’ll get called up to Oakland — either because he sticks as a productive player into next April, or because he doesn’t make the cut and gets DFA’d or traded. There’s no longer any in between.

The good news is that Nunez made serious strides in 2017. He had his first true off-year last season as a 22-year-old in Triple-A (including a brief MLB debut), but this time around he’s bumped up his OBP and fully rediscovered his top-notch power stroke. He ranks second in all of Triple-A ball with 32 homers, at a younger age (23) and with fewer plate appearances than the other two leaders.

Even with all those dingers, it figures to be an uphill battle for Nunez in Oakland. He still has to find a home on defense, and wherever he ends up he’ll presumably have to provide most or all of his value with his bat. What’s more, the corner/DH spots are already heavily populated, with stars like Khris Davis, Matt Chapman, and Matt Olson taking the most obvious positions of LF, 3B, and 1B. The most likely place to see Nunez this month might be DH, where the righty can take some at-bats from the extremely similar Ryon Healy.

Nunez’s true last chance doesn’t come until next spring, but he has an opportunity right now to get a head start on that final audition.

Raul Alcantara | RHP

2017 AAA: 2.67 ERA, 33⅔ ip, 22 Ks, 7 BB, 0 HR, 3.04 FIP
2017 MLB: 16.71 ERA, 7 ip, 2 Ks, 5 BB, 3 HR, 11.14 FIP

We’ve seen the right-hander get blown up in two stints in MLB — once last September, and once this April. But both of those trials came mostly as a starter, which is something that virtually nobody at Athletics Nation ever thought would work out even dating back to his days in Double-A.

Now Alcantara is finally a reliever, and the early signs from Triple-A are promising. The 24-year-old missed some time to injury this summer, but since his return to Nashville he’s done the following in 13 short relief outings: 2.55 ERA, 17⅔ ip, 10 Ks, 5 BB, 0 HR, 3.44 FIP. Those aren’t amazing numbers, but they’re good enough to make him worth a look in the A’s currently hapless pen. And considering he’s still only made 54 career appearances above High-A ball, mostly in a starting role he’s no longer serving, there’s reason to hope we haven’t seen his best.

If there’s a path for Alcantara to make the 2018 team, then this is how it would begin. Stay tuned to see if he pans out!

Daniel Mengden | RHP

2017 AAA: 4.17 ERA, 41 ip, 40 Ks, 18 BB, 5 HR, 4.89 FIP
2017 MLB: 10.13 ERA, 8 ip, 3 Ks, 3 BB, 4 HR, 10.01 FIP

After an encouraging rookie year, the 24-year-old lost most of 2017 to injury — first preseason foot surgery, and then a stress reaction in his rib cage. All told he’s only made 13 starts this season, including two in Rookie Ball rehab, nine for Nashville, and two stinkers for the A’s.

But this time last year we were fairly excited about the mustachioed righty, maybe not as a savior but at least as a budding back-of-the-rotation presence with some extra flair. Some folks on AN have him tabbed as a future reliever, but the jury’s still out on what a healthy Mengden can do — assuming such a thing proves to exist, given his quickly increasing medical record.

As for the present day, he’s set to start on Saturday in Oakland against his hometown Astros, reports insider Jane Lee. That means we’ll see him on AN Day at the Coliseum! It also means Chris Smith is headed to the bullpen, as the 36-year-old’s hot streak ended several outings ago. The competition for the 2018 rotation seems to be wide open right now, with lots of youngsters hovering on the fringes, and Mengden will be one of many looking to step up and grab the bulldog by the horns. (Editor’s note: That’s not how that saying goes.)

Joey Wendle | 2B

2017 AAA: .285/.327/.429, 94 wRC+, 8 HR, 3.7% BB, 16.1% Ks

He’s been toiling in Nashville for three seasons now, ever since being acquired straight-up for beloved All-Star Brandon Moss. His wRC+ marks for each campaign have been 101, 103, and now 94, and there aren’t any hidden differences in the rest of his numbers either. We know exactly what the 27-year-old can do in Triple-A, and it’s ... decent, for a second baseman with plus defense.

Oakland rolled with Jed Lowrie at second base this year, and it turned out to be a good call. The veteran had a wonderful year and could even draw some trade value. Now top prospect Franklin Barreto is here, infielder Yairo Munoz has logged time in Triple-A, and Max Schrock is right behind them wrapping up his tour of Double-A. It’s hard to see where Wendle fits into the picture at this point, especially considering he hasn’t been given much of a chance in all the time he’s been here, and the smart bet is probably that he’s not around in 2018. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned from watching the A’s it’s to not take anything for granted, as wildly unexpected things have a way of happening here.

The A’s now have 33 players on the gameday squad, including 16 pitchers and 17 position players. That means an 8-man bench! And an 11-man bullpen lol. This may be the end of the call-ups for this month, but if there are more then here’s an idea of whom they might be. The updated roster:

Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Sean Manaea (L)
Kendall Graveman (R)
Jharel Cotton (R)
Daniel Gossett (R)
Daniel Mengden (R)

Relievers

Blake Treinen (R)
Chris Hatcher (R)
Santiago Casilla (R)
Ryan Dull (R)
Liam Hendriks (R)
Daniel Coulombe (L)
Simon Castro (R)
Sam Moll (L)
Raul Alcantara (R)
Chris Smith (R)
Michael Brady (R)
Catchers

Bruce Maxwell (L)
Josh Phegley (R)
Dustin Garneau (R)

Infielders

Matt Olson (L)
Ryon Healy (R)
Jed Lowrie (S)
Marcus Semien (R)
Matt Chapman (R)
Franklin Barreto (R)
Renato Nunez (R)
Joey Wendle (L)

Outfielders

Khris Davis (R)
Matt Joyce (L)
Boog Powell (L)
Chad Pinder (R)
Mark Canha (R)
Jake Smolinski (R)

10-day DL: None

60-day DL: RHP Paul Blackburn, RHP Andrew Triggs, RHP Bobby Wahl, OF Dustin Fowler