Development comes at its own pace, not the schedule you need, so it’s important not to rush prospects just because they are talented, shiny, or could help your big league team be more competitive sooner.
It’s also far from an exact science, since some prospects jump from AA to the big leagues, others find AAA to be a big step from AA, some are ready to thrive in the big leagues at age 22 while others need to marinate until their mid-20s before making that sudden leap.
The A’s would love their best prospects to get to Oakland sooner rather than later, with the “Matt clock” ticking — Chapman and Olson are in their first of 6 years of contract control, meaning they will not likely share too many charter flights with the likes of Austin Beck and Lazaro Armenteros. But the “next wave” is close and as it happens the time may be right to push the envelope a bit with some of them.
Sean Murphy is unquestionably the A’s catcher of the future, with the main question being whether the future begins early 2019, later 2019, or 2020. With Jonathan Lucroy only under contract this season, the catching position is certainly wide open next season and beyond and I would say the time is right for Murphy to be promoted to AAA.
Murphy played 53 games at AA Midland in 2017 and has logged another 53 this year. You love to hear the phrase “too good for the league” and it applies to Murphy’s hitting in 2018. Already considered a plus defensive catcher, Murphy’s bat has been consistently strong this season and he now stands at .313/.361/.536, having hit his 7th HR last night. The BB rate is still too low (5.6%) but the K rate is strong (16.5%), and perhaps most significantly Murphy has not been streaky — he has pummeled AA pitching all season long.
Meanwhile, at AAA there is no one blocking Murphy. The Sounds currently feature two LH batting catchers: Arizona’s most wanted, and no one else’s wanted at all, Bruce Maxwell ( who is off to a .160/.214/.240 start that won’t even scare a food delivery driver) and the 28-year old, .348 slugging, Beau Taylor. Murphy is 23 so a bump up to AAA would not be overly precocious following 106 AA games over two seasons.
*** Also read: Full Double-A Midland update, starring Eli White ***
Another Rockhound who might be due a promotion is another player who fits an impending Oakland need: the LH batting LFer Tyler Ramirez. Also 23, Ramirez is having a solid season repeating AA, where he batted a solid .308/.395/.428 in 58 games in 2017. This year Ramirez has, like Murphy, shown consistency, with a line that now reads .294/.374/.444.
If the A’s want to see whether Ramirez can provide an answer following Matt Joyce’s departure, this would be a good time to promote him to AAA and see if his strong batting skills persist. Similar to Murphy, Ramirez is already considered a good defensive player and is hardly blocked at Nashville where the Sounds are currently playing 27 year old Nick Martini (LH), 26 year old Anthony Garcia (RH), and the .361 slugging B.J. Boyd.
As for other candidates, I would say leave Richie Martin where he is (Midland) and see if his resurgence (.321/.393/.474 for the season in 50 games) stands the test of time. The sample of sudden success is still small. (Would you conclude that I only use words that start with ‘s’ just because that happened with 5 of the 8 words in the previous sentence?)
And Jesus Luzardo (5 more scoreless innings last night) can stay put, able to make the jump straight from Midland anyway whenever the time is right. He should finish the year at AA and then come to camp next spring to win a job either at AAA or the big leagues (and don’t be shocked if it’s the latter).
But with regard to Murphy and Ramirez, it’s not a matter of rushing them. They are 23, thriving at AA after repeating the level, and are the next possible candidate to solidify their position at the big league level with no one blocking them at AAA. It may be time to see what they can do at Nashville, with an eye on 2019. The future may not be now, but it sure may be now-ish.
*** Also on the topic of minor league movement: Bullpen depth mounting in Triple-A, starring Bobby Wahl and J.B. Wendelken ***
What should the A’s do right now with their best AA players?
This poll is closed
Promote Murphy and Ramirez to AAA
Promote Murphy to AAA, leave Ramirez at AA
Promote Ramirez to AAA, leave Murphy at AA
Leave them both at AA for now
You have the wrong guy: promote Richie Martin to AAA