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A’s Farm Report: Early Season’s Hottest Pitchers

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Las Vegas starter Daniel Mengden
Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Now that the A’s minor league pitchers have had the chance to take a few turns through the rotation, it’s time to take a look at which of the A’s minor league starting pitchers have gotten off to the hottest starts in 2019. Daniel Mengden has been looking good as the leader of the staff in Las Vegas, while Brian Howard and Chase Cohen have been impressive for Midland and Beloit, and Brady Fiegl and Daulton Jefferies have both been outstanding for Stockton.

And speaking of pitching prospects, I recently had the chance to talk with A’s Special Assistant Grady Fuson for this season’s second edition of the A’s Farm Podcast. He offered updates on pitching prospects Jesus Luzardo, A.J. Puk and James Kaprielian, and I also got his take on some of the team’s top hitting prospects like Sean Murphy, Austin Beck and Jorge Mateo. On Murphy, he said he’s “really close” to being major league ready. And on Mateo, he thinks he’s really been “turning the corner” this season in Las Vegas. We also talked about the real story behind the Moneyball book and movie, what really happened with the infamous Jeremy Bonderman draft pick, and his thoughts on the sabermetrics vs. traditional scouting debate. And later on in the podcast, Stockton shortstop Nick Allen talks to Robert Bermudez about his first season in the California League. If you’re interested, you can check it out here – A’s Farm Podcast

LAS VEGAS AVIATORS (AAA)

RHP Daniel Mengden 24 IP/15 H/8 ER/8 BB/28 K/3.00 ERA/0.96 WHIP

RHP Paul Blackburn 16 IP/15 H/6 ER/5 BB/14 K/3.38 ERA/1.25 WHIP

RHP Jake Buchanan 22 IP/23 H/10 ER/8 BB/12 K/4.09 ERA/1.41 WHIP

Las Vegas Starting Rotation: Daniel Mengden, Paul Blackburn, Jake Buchanan, Tanner Anderson, Tyler Alexander

The Triple-A Las Vegas pitching staff is full of experienced veterans, and the Aviators’ top three starting pitchers – Daniel Mengden, Paul Blackburn and Jake Buchanan – all have some major league experience under their belts. Mengden leads all A’s minor leaguers with 28 strikeouts over his first 24 frames, and the 26-year-old tossed 7 shutout innings in Saturday’s victory for Vegas. Blackburn has shown good control, walking just 5 while striking out 14 in 16 innings of work, and the 25-year-old threw 7 shutout innings in his second start for the Aviators. Buchanan, who was signed as a minor league free agent in the offseason, has appeared in 29 major league games for the Astros, Cubs and Reds. The 29-year-old has been solid, and three of his 4 outings have been quality starts for the Aviators. RHP Tanner Anderson allowed 7 earned runs in his first start but has allowed 2 or fewer earned runs in each of his last 2 outings, while LHP Tyler Alexander has been a little wild, walking 7 in his first 14 1/3 frames. LHP Kyle Lobstein was originally part of a pitching tandem with Alexander but has since shifted to the bullpen.

MIDLAND ROCKHOUNDS (AA)

RHP Brian Howard 21 IP/17 H/4 ER/10 BB/12 K/1.71 ERA/1.29 WHIP

RHP Parker Dunshee 16 IP/16 H/6 ER/7 BB/14 K/3.38 ERA/1.44 WHIP

RHP James Naile 22.2 IP/19 H/11 ER/7 BB/9 K/4.37 ERA/1.15 WHIP

Midland Starting Rotation: Brian Howard, Parker Dunshee, James Naile, Matt Milburn, Grant Holmes/LoganVerrett (tandem)

The RockHounds’ pitching staff has been the most reliable among all the A’s affiliates in the early going this season. Brian Howard allowed just 1 run over his first 3 starts before giving up 3 runs in his last outing, but the 23-year-old has yet to surrender a home run in his first 21 frames for Midland. Though he hasn’t looked quite as dominant as he did most of last season, Parker Dunshee leads the staff with 14 strikeouts over his first 16 frames, and the 24-year-old allowed just 1 earned run for the RockHounds in his last start. James Naile made 24 starts for Triple-A Nashville last year, but he’s starting this season back in Double-A. The 26-year-old has shown his usual solid control, issuing just 7 walks, while also allowing just 1 home run, over his first 22.2 innings for Midland. RHP Grant Holmes, who’s been working as part of a pitching tandem with RHP Logan Verrett, is having his workload limited and has yet to throw more than 3 innings in any of his outings. Meanwhile, Verrett, who was signed to a minor league deal in the offseason, has been solid, walking just 1 and striking out 11 while posting an ERA of 3.77 over 14.1 frames for the RockHounds.

STOCKTON PORTS (A+)

RHP Brady Feigl 16 IP/10 H/4 ER/5 BB/22 K/2.25 ERA/0.94 WHIP

RHP Daulton Jefferies 12 IP/8 H/4 ER/1 BB/18 K/3.00 ERA/0.75 WHIP

RHP Wyatt Marks 14.2 IP/10 H/5 ER/8 BB/10 K/3.07 ERA/1.23 WHIP

Stockton Starting Rotation: Brady Feigl, Wyatt Marks, Xavier Altamirano, Mitchell Jordan, Daulton Jefferies/Jared Poche (tandem)

Last year’s 5th-round draft pick for the A’s, Brady Feigl, has been the star of Stockton’s starting staff in the early going this season. The 23-year-old’s 22 strikeouts in 16 innings are second only to Daniel Mengden in the A’s system, and he’s allowed just 1 home run while posting a 2.25 ERA over his first 3 starts in the hitter-friendly California League. Daulton Jefferies’ return to Stockton after undergoing Tommy John surgery two years ago has gotten off a great start. The 23-year-old has walked just 1 and struck out 18 over his first 12 frames while working as part of a pitching tandem with LHP Jared Poche. And while Wyatt Marks hasn’t been racking up the gaudy strikeout numbers that he did last season, the 23-year-old has compiled a 3.07 ERA while failing to allow a run over his last 2 starts for Stockton. Meanwhile, RHPs Xavier Altamirano and Mitchell Jordan have both been victimized by the long ball, with Altamirano giving up 3 home runs in 13.1 innings, and Jordan surrendering 6 homers in just 17 frames for the Ports.

BELOIT SNAPPERS (A)

RHP Chase Cohen 21 IP/13 H/4 ER/8 BB/18 K/1.71 ERA/1.00 WHIP

RHP Joe DeMers 15.2 IP/11 H/5 ER/1 BB/12 K/2.87 ERA/0.77 WHIP

RHP Adam Reuss 13.2 IP/9 H/5 ER/5 BB/11 K/3.29 ERA/1.02 WHIP

Beloit Starting Rotation: Chase Cohen, Joe DeMers, Adam Reuss, Bryce Conley, Daniel Martinez/Aiden McIntyre (tandem)

Last year’s 9th-round draft pick for the A’s, Chase Cohen, has been impressive for the Snappers in the early going this season, striking out 18 while allowing just 1 home run and 13 hits and compiling an ERA of 1.71 in 21 innings of work. The 21-year-old has yet to permit more than 2 earned runs in any of his outings and has failed to allow a run in 2 of his first 4 starts for the Snappers. Last year’s 11th-round pick, Joe DeMers, has also been outstanding. The 22-year-old has walked just 1 and struck out 12 while putting up an ERA of 2.87 over his first 15.2 frames in the Midwest League. Adam Reuss, who was the A’s 29th-round pick in 2017, has been as solid for the Snappers this season as he was for Vermont last year, posting a 3.29 ERA in his first 3 outings for Beloit. The 24-year-old had been working as part of a pitching tandem with RHP Bryce Nightengale, who has since shifted to the bullpen. RHP Reid Birlingmair had been working in tandem with DeMers, but he recently landed on the injured list, leaving RHPs Daniel Martinez and Aiden McIntyre as the only remaining tandem in the Snappers’ starting rotation.

INJURIES & PROMOTIONS

RHP Chris Bassitt was originally ticketed for Triple-A Las Vegas, but when A’s RHP Marco Estrada landed on the injured list and Bassitt was needed in Oakland, lefty reliever Cody Stull was sent to Vegas from extended spring training in Arizona. And with RHP Reid Birlingmair landing on the injured list at Beloit, RHP Michael Danielak was sent to the Snappers from extended spring training. Promising outfield prospect Luis Barrera, who’d been battling a sore shoulder, was finally placed on the injured list last week. Since the RockHounds needed a center fielder and the organization didn’t want to move Austin Beck, Jameson Hannah or Lazaro Armenteros up from Stockton, Chase Calabuig was promoted from the Snappers to the RockHounds. 20-year-old Cuban outfielder Lester Madden, who’d been hitting well for Beloit, also landed on the injured list last week. And with the Snappers needing replacements for both Madden and Calabuig, outfielders Anthony Churlin and Noah Vaughan were both sent to Beloit from extended spring training last week.

Visit Athletics Farm for updates on the A’s minor league teams and all the top prospects down on the farm.