The Oakland A’s have seen several top pitching prospects recently return to the mound after missing time to injuries, and last week they added another one to the list.
Last Monday, Hogan Harris made his pro debut for Low-A Vermont. The left-hander was the A’s 3rd-round draft pick in 2018, but he didn’t pitch in the minors after the draft due to an elbow sprain. Now he’s back, and he’s appeared twice for the Lake Monsters, who began their short-season in mid-June.
Harris, 6/17: 3⅓ ip, 3 ER, 5 Ks, 1 BB, 2 hits
Harris, 6/22: 3⅔ ip, 0 ER, 3 Ks, 1 BB, 2 hits
In the first game, Harris kept his opponent scoreless through the first three innings, but then loaded up the bases in the fourth. He exited mid-inning with no runs on the board, but the bullpen behind him let all the inherited runners come home. In the second game, his defense made a pair of errors behind him, each of which led to an unearned run. Without those miscues, he’d presumably have completed four scoreless, especially considering his last batter of the game reached on an error that would otherwise have been the third out.
As usual when we see a pitcher come back from a long layoff, the important thing is not the numbers in these first few outings, although it’s nice to see Harris racking up some strikeouts and not issuing free passes. The important thing is that he’s pitching at all, and the real goal to set sights on is when the 22-year-old can work his way up to full-season ball and face proper competition.
In the meantime, here’s a scouting report from Kenon Carter, who covers the Tigers minors and saw Harris’ debut: “Harris features a fastball sitting 91 early (88-89 in the 4th), changeup 74-75 with some fade, and big bender that he loves at 67-69.” He offers this video of the curveball in action:
Here’s a look at that big curve from Hogan Harris. Got Gresuan Silverio looking earlier, keeps him off balance here again with 2 in scoring position. pic.twitter.com/HHVeCL0HZn— Kenon Carter (@Tiger_Lifer) June 18, 2019
Harris has only just begun his pro career, and his fellow top-round 2018 picks, like Jameson Hannah, Jeremy Eierman, Alfonso Rivas, and Brady Feigl, are all up in High-A Stockton already. But the first step in a journey to the majors is to begin pitching at all, and Harris has now done that, and with promising results too.
Other injury progress reports
Quick updates on the other top pitching prospects who have recently returned from injuries. The list is long, including seven members of our Community Prospect List Top 30 who either missed all of 2018, or missed the first couple months of 2019.
First up is Jesus Luzardo, who started in Triple-A on Saturday after beginning his year with two outings in High-A. He didn’t dominate against the tougher competition, but through three innings he’d struck out five and allowed just one run on a solo homer. He let through another run in the 4th before being pulled mid-inning, letting the pen behind him squash the emerging rally.
Luzardo, 6/22 AAA: 3⅓ ip, 2 ER, 5 Ks, 2 BB, 5 hits, 1 HR
For the left-hander, this was a return to Triple-A after finishing his meteoric 2018 with four games at that level. He’d been shaky in that brief audition, with a couple good performances and a couple disasters, but at the time he was a 20-year-old setting a career-high in innings. Now he’ll get a chance to fully prove himself. A’s manager Bob Melvin has noted that Luzardo will need to get results to get the call to Oakland, and won’t just make it on reputation and tools.
Next we move down to Double-A Midland. When we last checked in with Daulton Jefferies, he was coming off his first real clunker in nine tries, but he responded with two more gems that added up to 6 ip, 2 ER, 10 Ks, 1 BB. He’s now faced 136 batters in Double-A and walked two of them. Meanwhile, Grant Holmes matched his success with just one run in his six total innings, but without the same strong peripherals (2 Ks, 3 BB). Holmes is putting up lots of zeroes despite an unimpressive K/BB rate, and in 21 innings since his last IL stint he’s posted a 1.71 ERA despite only 12 Ks. It will be interesting to see which side gives first — does he begin striking out more batters, or does that 4.55 FIP catch up to him and lead to more runs?
Joining them now is A.J. Puk, who is officially listed on Midland’s roster as of Monday. The big lefty made one final tuneup in High-A on Friday, with his pitch limit increased from 40 to 50, but got knocked around a bit: 2 ip, 2 ER, 2 Ks, 2 BB, 3 hits. Again, though, the numbers aren’t always the most important thing with these injury rehab outings, and the fact that he’s been moved up tells us that the team saw what they were looking for despite the lackluster results in the box score. In terms of stuff, he was sitting at his usual 95-97 mph on Friday, reports broadcaster Zack Bayrouty.
Staying in High-A Stockton for now is James Kaprielian, who has now made seven appearances for the Ports spread over six games (twice in one suspended game). He last went Saturday, after a nine-day layoff due to the league’s All-Star break, and pitched into the 3rd without allowing a run, at least until the runner he bequeathed to the bullpen came around to score. His fastball sat at 90-93 mph, which is a tick lower than he’s shown thus far but still in the same neighborhood. Bayrouty recently sat down with Kaprielian for a lengthy interview (listen here), and the pitcher comes off thoughtful and well-spoken.
Also in Stockon is Gus Varland, last year’s 14th-round pick who opened eyes after the draft but missed the beginning of this season to knee surgery. He’s been sharp in two of his three outings, most recently going six innings with just one earned run. However, it’s worth noting that both good games came against the San Jose Giants, who are arguably the worst offense in the league. We’ll see what he does against more quality organizations.
Full season lines for each pitcher at their current level (note that Puk has moved up to Double-A):
Luzardo, AAA: 5.45 ERA, 3⅓ ip, 5 Ks, 2 BB, 1 HR, 6.42 FIP
Jefferies, AA: 3.44 ERA, 34 ip, 37 Ks, 2 BB, 4 HR, 3.37 FIP
Holmes, AA: 2.73 ERA, 29⅔ ip, 21 Ks, 13 BB, 2 HR, 4.55 FIP
Puk, A+: 6.00 ERA, 6 ip, 9 Ks, 4 BB, 2 HR, 6.88 FIP
Kaprielian A+: 3.66 ERA, 19⅔ ip, 19 Ks, 5 BB, 1 HR, 3.14 FIP
Varland, A+: 3.52 ERA, 15⅓ ip, 17 Ks, 5 BB, 3 HR, 4.67 FIP
In non-pitcher injury news, Double-A outfielder Greg Deichmann went on the IL after hurting himself making this sweet diving effort.