Last week, I looked at some of the top pitchers in the A’s minor league system, primarily focusing on the system’s starting pitchers. But this week, it’s time to take a look at some of the more overlooked arms, the ones that make up each affiliate’s bullpen. And while a number of bullpen arms have been performing well in the early going, RHPs Bobby Wahl and Miguel Romero have clearly been two of the most outstanding relievers in the organization so far this season. You can always stay up to date on the A’s top prospects and all the daily action in the A’s minor league system on my Athletics Farm site, and you can get the latest on the A’s top minor league relievers right here on Athletics Nation…
Pacific Coast League – Triple-A
RHP Bobby Wahl (16 2/3 IP / 9 H / 3 ER / 4 BB / 24 K / 1.62 ERA / 0.78 WHIP)
RHP Josh Lucas (10 2/3 IP / 5 H / 3 ER / 5 BB / 7 K / 2.53 ERA / 0.94 WHIP)
LHP Jeremy Bleich (15 1/3 IP / 13 H / 5 ER / 6 BB / 10 K / 2.93 ERA / 1.24 WHIP)
RHP Bobby Wahl continues to get better and, perhaps even more importantly, continues to stay healthy. The 26-year-old has been showing improved control, issuing just 4 walks and striking out 24 over 16 2/3 innings for Nashville. His 6/1 K/BB ratio this year is about twice as good as his career ratio, primarily due to his reduced walk rate. 27-year-old RHP Josh Lucas, who was acquired from the Cardinals for RHP Casey Meisner (who’s got a 2.25 ERA in 4 High-A starts this year), has made 9 appearances out of the Sounds bullpen so far this season, allowing just 5 hits but also walking 5 over 10 2/3 frames for Nashville. 30-year-old Stanford alum Jeremy Bleich has been serving as the primary lefty out of the Sounds bullpen, putting up a nifty 2.93 ERA for Nashville. RHP Emilio Pagan has been solid since being sent down to the Sounds, striking out 11 while failing to issue a walk over 6 innings of work since his arrival in Music City. RHP J.B. Wendelken, who’s returning from Tommy John surgery, recently arrived from Double-A and struck out 2 batters in his first inning of relief for the Sounds after recording 23 strikeouts in 13 1/3 innings for the RockHounds. RHP Raul Alcantara hasn’t been particularly impressive while serving in a long relief role, compiling a 6.64 ERA over 20 1/3 innings for Nashville. RHP Simon Castro struggled even more, allowing 7 earned runs over his first 6 appearances, and he was released by the organization the first week of May.
Texas League – Double-A
RHP John Gorman (16 IP / 15 H / 6 ER / 1 BB / 11 K / 3.38 ERA / 1.00 WHIP)
RHP Sam Bragg (18 1/3 IP / 20 H / 6 ER / 6 BB / 12 K / 2.95 ERA / 1.42 WHIP)
LHP Dean Kiekhefer (3 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 2 K / 0.00 ERA / 1.00 WHIP)
Like much of Midland’s pitching staff, the RockHounds relievers have been a little shaky this season. LHPs Cody Stull and Jarret Martin and RHP Nolan Blackwood are all currently sporting ERAs over 5.00. RHP John Gorman, who was taken by the A’s in the 31st-round of the 2015 draft, has been the most reliable bullpen arm for the RockHounds, issuing just 1 walk while striking out 11 over 16 innings for Midland. RHP Sam Bragg, who’s back for his third straight season at Double-A, has been doing his usual thing, often appearing for 2 innings at a time while not walking too many but not missing an excessive number of bats either. The RockHounds recently added LHP Dean Kiekhefer, who was released by the Cincinnati organization, as a minor league free agent. The 28-year-old southpaw has a 2.81 ERA over 325 minor league appearances, all but 2 in relief, and he’s already recorded a pair of saves for the RockHounds. RHP J.B. Wendelken notched 3 saves before being promoted to Nashville, while RHP Jake Sanchez registered 4 saves in 4 appearances before returning to the Sounds. And despite posting 3 saves, the side-arming Blackwood, who secured 19 saves in 20 opportunities for Stockton last season, has mostly struggled in the early going, surrendering 8 runs in his first 13 2/3 frames for Midland. Long-time A’s minor league RHP Tucker Healy, whom the team drafted in the 23rd round back in 2012, posted a 3.86 ERA over his first 5 relief appearances for the RockHounds, but he was released by the organization the first week of May and has since joined the Seattle system.
California League – High-A
RHP Miguel Romero (17 2/3 IP / 11 H / 4 ER / 0 BB / 16 K / 2.04 ERA / 0.62 WHIP)
RHP Angel Duno (24 IP / 18 H / 5 ER / 5 BB / 27 K / 1.88 ERA / 0.96 WHIP)
RHP Boomer Biegalski (19 1/3 IP / 17 H / 7 ER / 5 BB / 30 K / 3.26 ERA / 1.14 WHIP)
Along with the Sounds, the Ports have probably boasted the best bullpen in the system so far this season. After making a somewhat mediocre debut last year, 24-year-old Cuban RHP Miguel Romero has been outstanding in the early going. Perhaps most impressive has been his control. Romero has yet to issue a walk this season while striking out 16 over 17 2/3 innings for Stockton. He also leads the system with 6 saves, and it’d seem safe to assume that he’ll probably be getting a chance to show what he can do at Double-A before too long. Since shifting to a long-relief role, RHP Angel Duno has really flourished. The 24-year-old Venezuelan has walked just 5 and struck out 27 over 24 frames while posting a 1.88 ERA for the Ports. RHP Boomer Biegalski has also made the move to the bullpen and has been faring extremely well. The 23-year-old has tallied 30 strikeouts in just 19 1/3 innings while compiling a 6/1 K/BB ratio working strictly in relief for Stockton. LHP Will Gilbert, who was the A’s 8th-round draft pick in 2016, has been impressive since making his first appearance for the Ports in the last week of April. The 24-year-old southpaw has allowed just 2 hits while throwing 10 scoreless innings for Stockton. RHP Sam Sheehan was one of the Snappers’ best relievers last season, posting a 2.21 ERA while appearing in 29 games out of the Beloit bullpen. And while he’s registered 29 strikeouts in just 17 innings for Stockton, he’s also walked 11 and surrendered 13 runs over his first 12 games this season.
Midwest League – Class-A
RHP Nick Highberger (7 IP / 7 H / 0 ER / 3 BB / 4 K / 0.00 ERA / 1.43 WHIP)
RHP Seth Martinez (19 IP / 20 H / 4 ER / 6 BB / 13 K / 1.89 ERA / 1.37 WHIP)
LHP Ty Damron (12 IP / 13 H / 4 ER / 7 BB / 14 K / 3.00 ERA / 1.67 WHIP)
Beloit’s bullpen hasn’t really been overly impressive so far this season. RHP Nick Highberger, who returned to action the last week of April, has failed to allow a run in 5 relief appearances since getting back on the mound for the Snappers. RHP Seth Martinez, 2016’s 17th-round draft pick out of Arizona State, has been solid in a long-relief role, putting up a 1.89 ERA over 10 relief appearances. LHP Ty Damron, 2016’s 15th-round pick out of Texas Tech, has been the most effective lefty out of the Beloit bullpen, striking out 14 over 12 frames. 2016’s 10th-round pick, RHP Mitchell Jordan, has looked good in 1 start and 3 relief appearances, putting up a 2.25 ERA over 16 innings for the Snappers. LHP Josh Reagan, who was last year’s 15th-round pick for the A’s, leads the team with 4 saves, but he’s also walked 8 and allowed 8 earned runs in just 12 2/3 innings of relief for Beloit.
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