Oakland A’s top prospect A.J. Puk is headed toward Tommy John surgery, the team announced Tuesday. The prized pitcher will miss the entire 2018 season.
Puk, who earned the top spot on our Community Prospect List during the offseason, had been one of the A’s top pitchers throughout the spring before being cut from the big league roster a week ago Sunday. The 22-year-old left-hander, who has only pitched as high as the Double-A level, was expected to get a few starts in Triple-A with an eye on joining the big league club in the relatively near future.
That future will now not be a month away but at the very least a year away. Puk was suddenly shut down about a week ago with biceps tightness, which can be a precursor — but not always — to an injury to the ulnar collateral ligament. What was more concerning at the time was that there was no official acknowledgement from the team about Puk having been shut down and there was no information on the timetable for his return.
After having been examined by Dr. Doug Freedberg in Arizona, it was recommended that Puk get a second opinion on the “biceps tightness” that was plaguing his left elbow. Puk was then sent to the the nation’s top authority on UCL injuries, Dr. James Andrews, who confirmed that Puk’s UCL was, in fact, torn. Andrews recommended Tommy John surgery for the young hurler.
Tommy John surgery takes at least 12-18 months of recovery time, so the big league club won’t be seeing Puk until sometime during the 2019 season. This is a big blow for a team who already lost another promising young starter, Jharel Cotton, to the same procedure this spring, with yet another in Paul Blackburn currently hoping for the best regarding his own forearm strain. Oakland is also without Grant Holmes, one of their next-best pitching prospects after Puk, due to a rotator cuff injury (via Julian McWilliams, The Athletic).