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Oakland A’s prospect watch: Wyatt Marks debuts in High-A

Beloit’s standout starter finally moved up to Stockton.

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Photo credit: Justin Nuoffer | Beloit Snappers

The story of the Oakland A’s 2017 draft class so far hasn’t been their top picks, but rather 7th-rounder Parker Dunshee and 8th-rounder Brian Howard. The two starting pitchers began the season at High-A Stockton, but they performed so well that they quickly made their way to the upper minors. However, another mid-round starter is hot on their heels.

Drafted in the 13th round, Wyatt Marks began this year down in Single-A Beloit. Despite a lower assignment than Dunshee and Howard, Marks was the only one of the trio to make the preseason A’s Top 30 list on MLB Pipeline (No. 25). He’s still ahead of Dunshee at the midseason update, with Howard absent completely.

For his part, Marks put up excellent numbers in Single-A. In particular he racked up strikeouts at an impressive rate, especially in the context of starting rather than relieving. His overall line in 20 games (18 starts and two piggyback long reliefs):

Marks, A: 3.74 ERA, 106 ip, 127 Ks, 35 BB, 8 HR, 90 hits, 3.18 FIP

That’s nearly 11 Ks per nine innings, and over 29% of the batters he faced. He showed a top-notch ability to miss bats, with a gaudy 17.1% swinging-strike rate — that’s the highest for any starter in the 16-team Midwest League. The walk rate is only mediocre, but he was able to limit the hits and homers to make up for it.

It seemed to take forever for the 23-year-old to get the call up to Stockton, but he finally forced the issue in July. In five starts that month, he thrice went scoreless, twice went walk-less, and once went hitless for six frames.

Marks, last 5 gms in A: 0.87 ERA, 31 ip, 36 Ks, 9 BB, 1 HR, 18 hits, 2.58 FIP

His good times continued after his promotion to High-A. He made his Stockton debut on Friday, and despite moving from a pitcher’s league to a hitter’s league he once again went scoreless.

Marks, A+ debut: 6⅔ ip, 0 runs, 5 Ks, 4 BB, 3 hits

Of course, even with all of this success, there’s still the question of what his future role might be as he moves up the ladder. MLB Pipeline opines that his “future is likely in the bullpen” with the “upside as a high-leverage reliever,” which likely explains why he made their list ahead of sleepers Dunshee and Howard with their unremarkable stuff and their No. 5 starter projections.

In the meantime, though, Marks is earning his keep in the rotation in the lower minors. He threw at least six innings eight times for Beloit, and faced at least most of a third time through the lineup in 10 games there (and also achieved both of those feats in his Stockton debut). Melissa Lockard of The Athletic notes that he expanded his two-pitch college repertoire up to four offerings, including a four-seam, two-seam, changeup, and slider (which Pipeline calls a curve).

Of course, by this point in the year most of the stars of High-A have already moved up to Double-A, so the competition is probably weakened and we shouldn’t get too gaga over anything he does the rest of the way. But his first full pro season has already been an unmitigated success, and he’ll be a name to watch next summer — not to mention this-coming winter in our CPL voting.

Abandon ship!

Speaking of the stars clearing out to the upper minors, here’s a list of some top Ports who have been promoted to Midland this season:

  • SP Jesus Luzardo
  • SP Logan Shore
  • SP Parker Dunshee
  • SP Brian Howard
  • RP Miguel Romero
  • C Jonah Heim
  • 2B Nate Mondou
  • IF Edwin Diaz
  • OF Luis Barrera
  • OF Skye Bolt

On top of that list, when 3B Will Toffey was traded to the Mets (for Jeurys Familia) his new team immediately assigned him to Double-A. Stockton will make the Cal League playoffs because they won the first-half division title (44-26), but they have nearly an entirely new roster at this point and are a hair below .500 in the second half.

Milburn still on fire

In our last Stockton update we marveled at the hot streak of starter Matt Milburn, and he has continued to dominate. He did get knocked around in his next start after that article (4⅓ ip, 4 ER, 8 hits, 2 HR), but he followed it up with two more seven-inning, no-walk gems, each with just one earned run allowed. His last 10 starts, dating back to June 13:

Milburn, last 10 gms: 1.90 ERA, 66⅓ ip, 51 Ks, 4 BB, 2 HR, 69 hits, 2.84 FIP

The right-hander is still just a fringe prospect for now, and at age 25 he’s old for the league, but still. Nearly 13 strikeouts per walk is always impressive.

Deichmann returns to lineup

There’s not a whole lot going on in Stockton’s lineup now that so many of the top hitters have been promoted, but one big name is back in action. Outfielder Greg Deichmann, last summer’s 2nd-round draft pick and No. 12 on our preseason CPL, returned from the disabled list after missing more than three moths to a wrist injury. The lefty slugger had been off to a slow start to the season, but he only played two weeks before going down so the sample size is virtually useless. It’s basically a lost season for Deichmann, but at least he’s healthy again and primed to try again next year.

Another top 2017 pick who could return this month is infielder Kevin Merrell, reports Lockard in the link above. He’s been out with a sprained elbow. Meanwhile, outfielder Dairon Blanco is out for the year with a broken hamate, which has been the injury of the year in the A’s system (suffered by at least six hitters). As for the rest of the lineup, here are the remaining names of interest:

Persico, OF: .292/.357/.429, 114 wRC+, 4 HR, 9.2% BB, 15.9% Ks
Pimentel, 1B: .221/.309/.485, 111 wRC+, 14 HR, 11.3% BB, 32.2% Ks
Calabuig, OF: .295/.351/.381, 102 wRC+, 0 HR, 7.9% BB, 11.4% Ks

At the top is Luke Persico, a fringe name from the 2016 draft. Sandber Pimentel finally cooled off and hasn’t homered in his last 14 games, but he still has a 168 wRC+ in 37 games since late-June. 2018 draftee Chase Calabuig has slowed down since bursting onto the scene a month ago, but his tiny 6.0% swinging-strike rate still has my attention. He’s since been joined by 2018 draftmate Cobie Vance, an infielder from the 18th round (9-for-44, 40 wRC+, but low 12.5% K-rate and 6.3% swinging-strike rate).

In one final note, outfielder Eric Marinez returned from an 80-game PED suspension. His throwing arm is often praised by Lockard.

Sunday’s games

Full slate of action.

Triple-A Nashville: LIVE, Daniel Mengden vs. Sacramento
Double-A Midland: Won 10-2, Parker Dunshee vs. San Antonio
High-A Stockton: 6:00 p.m., Kyle Friedrichs vs. Visalia
Single-A Beloit: Won 10-7, Mitchell Jordan vs. Cedar Rapids
Low-A Vermont: LIVE, Chase Cohen vs. Lowell

Dunshee threw six scoreless in Midland’s victory.

Link to box scores