The Oakland A’s roster has undergone some changes lately, between the promotion of Dustin Fowler as well as some injuries to the starting rotation. Whenever the MLB club draws from the top of the minor league depth chart, the ripples tend to be felt throughout the system, and that’s finally happened this week. Normally we only look at one affiliate in each Prospect Watch post, but there were so many moves these last few days that it’s worth a quick roundup of all of them.
The biggest news out of Nashville is that Ramon Laureano is back from the disabled list. The outfielder was acquired last winter and placed No. 17 on our preseason Community Prospect List, and as a member of the 40-man roster it seemed possible he could reach Oakland sometime this summer. However, he broke a finger during spring training and spent the first couple months of the season on the shelf.
Laureano finally joined the lineup on Monday, and he wasted no time getting started. In his first plate appearance he lofted a sac fly to drive in a run, then his next time up he singled, and after that he launched a home run. He played again on Tuesday and took on 0-fer, but he did at least draw a walk along the way. On defense he lined up in RF for both games, which is where he spent most of his time last year as well. Laureano entered the season as something of a breakout candidate, so it’s extra nice to see him back in action.
Welcome back, Ramón!— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) May 22, 2018
In his 2018 and Triple-A debuts, @Athletics No. 21 prospect Ramon Laureano goes 2-for-2 with two RBIs and this long home run for @nashvillesounds. ▶️: https://t.co/ihxdm7NXzs pic.twitter.com/1LD09Fwx8m
The Sounds also added some pitchers to their roster. Their bullpen was short after the A’s called up extra relievers in Toronto, and on Wednesday they also sent starter Daniel Gossett up to Oakland. The A’s won’t continue to carry a nine-man bullpen but they will still need to add one more starter at some point, so either way Nashville was going to be down a couple of bodies overall. (Note: The A’s are going with a bullpen day on Thursday, with Josh Lucas making the “start,” reports insider Jane Lee). There are currently four new pitchers:
- RHP Carlos Ramirez was claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays on Sunday, and is now on the 40-man roster. Click here for a full scouting report.
- LHP Dean Kiekhefer was picked up a couple weeks ago and initially assigned to Double-A. He’s pitched well so far and might have the chance to be more than org filler, even though he turns 29 in June. He’s quite close to being the next southpaw on the depth chart. Click here for more.
- RHP Joseph Camacho looks to me like a temporary emergency replacement. He turns 24 next month and he’d never pitched above Single-A until this callup. Last fall he was also a last-minute addition to Double-A Midland’s playoff roster but didn’t get into a game, so this isn’t the first time he’s been the go-to “guy with a pulse” to fill a short-term hole. He did get to pitch for Nashville on Sunday but got blown up — he faced eight batters and five of them scored, including two homers (1 ip, 5 runs, 5 hits, 1 BB, 2 HR, 0 Ks). I expect this spot will soon go to someone else.
- RHP Matt Milburn made a start on Monday, and once again I interpret this as an emergency fill-in. Gossett was the scheduled starter but the A’s already knew they’d be bringing him up to Oakland a couple days later, so they needed a spot replacement. At that point it’s a matter of pulling up that day’s starter from a lower affiliate, just to eat some innings. Milburn got the call from High-A (where he’s been mediocre at best), and I expect he’ll return there shortly. To his credit, though, he held his own (4⅓ ip, 3 runs, 3 Ks, 1 BB, 6 hits, 0 HR).
Expect more moves to come on this pitching staff, as Oakland gets its own staff settled and Nashville’s emergency subs give way to more permanent replacements.
Non-prospect notes: The A’s also DFA’d catcher Dustin Garneau, who has spent all of this year in Nashville so far. Stay tuned to find out if he leaves the organization, or sticks around as non-roster depth. Meanwhile, Josh Phegley is back in Triple-A after his brief MLB adventure. Furthermore, Franklin Barreto was promoted to cover for the injured Khris Davis, and org filler utilityman Melvin Mercedes was brought back up to Nashville to replace him.
The RockHounds don’t have many serious prospects on their pitching staff, but they added a new one on Tuesday with the promotion of Logan Shore. The right-hander placed No. 13 on our preseason CPL.
Shore looked ready to ride a fast-track up the system when he was drafted in the 2nd round in 2016, but injuries have slowed him down significantly. In particular his lat has been the problem, costing him a couple months last season and then most of April this year.
Although he seemed like a good bet to open the year in Double-A, he wound up going back to High-A Stockton when he got healthy. After four dominant starts for the Ports, he’s finally headed to the upper minors for the first time.
Shore, 2018 A+: 1.21 ERA, 22⅓ ip, 25 Ks, 2 BB, 0 HR, 2.22 FIP
The Hounds’ rotation is beginning to get interesting. Shore joins two other top names: Jesus Luzardo, who is flying up national prospect lists (No. 26 overall via John Sickels, and No. 34 via MLB Pipeline); and Norge Ruiz, who barely missed making our CPL last winter.
The story in Stockton revolves around the disabled list. Besides losing Shore to his promotion, they also lost reliever Boomer Biegalski to an injury. No official word on his diagnosis, but Melissa Lockard of The Athletic opined that it could be a blister.
Oh man, now Boomer Biegalski leaves suddenly mid at-bat. Looked like he was looking at his finger maybe at a blister? So two pitchers leave this game with injuries, one for each team.— Melissa Lockard (@melissalockard) May 19, 2018
Biegalski is enjoying a breakout year as a reliever, so this is a particularly tough blow. But hey, if it is indeed a blister then that’s a whole lot better than an arm injury (though we’ve certainly learned that blisters can be a problem in their own right!).
Biegalski, 2018 A+: 2.91 ERA, 21⅔ ip, 36 Ks, 5 BB, 2 HR, 2.35 FIP
On the bright side, two pitchers are back from extended absences on the season-opening DL. Evan Manarino is a lefty soft-tosser who puts up incredible K/BB ratios but also gets hit hard; he’s like a lite version of Tommy Milone. Dustin Hurlbutt made a handful of starts in Double-A last year and held his own, albeit with a high walk rate.
Manarino, 2017 AA: 8.10 ERA, 26⅔ ip, 12 Ks, 6 BB, 4 HR, 5.15 FIP
Manarino, 2017 A+: 4.89 ERA, 103 ip, 93 Ks, 11 BB, 13 HR, 4.10 FIP
Hurlbutt, 2017 AA: 3.55 ERA, 45⅔ ip, 32 Ks, 25 BB, 5 HR, 5.18 FIP
Hurlbutt, 2017 A+: 3.23 ERA, 69⅔ ip, 74 Ks, 16 BB, 7 HR, 3.87 FIP
Neither of these two are serious prospects, but the book isn’t completely closed on them yet. However, simply putting up good numbers in repeat tours of Stockton won’t be enough; the most interesting thing they can do right now is make it back up to Double-A.
One more player is back from injury, and that’s 1B Sandber Pimentel. The 23-year-old slugger was out with a broken hamate in his hand, reports Lockard. He’s made the CPL in the past but he’ll have to work to regain his prospect stock, which has dipped after injury issues both this year and last (only 70 games in 2017).
Pimentel, 2017 A+: .279/.374/.484, 131 wRC+, 14 HR, 12.8% BB, 27.8% Ks
This is Pimentel’s third year with the Ports, so like with the pitchers above he’ll need to get himself up to Double-A before climbing back on any serious prospect radar.
Full slate of action.
Triple-A Nashville: LIVE, Eric Jokisch vs. Colorado Springs
Double-A Midland: 5:10 p.m., Joel Seddon vs. Arkansas
High-A Stockton: 7:05 p.m., Jake Bray vs. Rancho Cucamonga
Single-A Beloit: LIVE, Wyatt Marks vs. Peoria
Shore is scheduled to start for Midland tomorrow.