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Oakland A’s prospect watch: A.J. Puk coming up to MLB, Jesus Luzardo back up to Triple-A

Insider Martin Gallegos reports Puk is getting the call to Oakland.

The Oakland A’s plan to call up pitching prospect A.J. Puk on Tuesday, reports insider Martin Gallegos. They already have an open spot on their 40-man roster, and reliever Wei-Chung Wang was officially optioned to Triple-A on Monday.

After having Tommy John surgery early in 2018, Puk returned to action in June and worked his way back up to Triple-A in late July. The left-hander appeared in nine games for Las Vegas, striking out 16 of the 44 batters he faced over 11 innings, with just three walks. He hasn’t yet pitched on back-to-back days, but he did go on just one day’s rest a couple times.

Puk, AAA: 4.91 ERA, 11 ip, 16 Ks, 3 BB, 3 HR, 5.54 FIP

The A’s plan to use Puk as a reliever, adds Gallegos, which does not come as a surprise. Although his long-term future is expected to be in the starting rotation, the team wants to limit his innings this year to ease him back from his surgery and long-term recovery layoff.

The call-up of Puk marks the first arrival of Oakland’s three blue-chip, Top 100 national prospects, with the others being fellow lefty Jesus Luzardo and catcher Sean Murphy. Even despite his injury status, most of the major preseason lists had Puk among the Top 40 prospects in the sport, thanks to his upper-90s heater and elite slider.

More about Puk tomorrow when the news becomes official!

Luzardo back on track, mostly

It’s been an up-and-down season for the A’s top prospect, but at least it’s back on the up side.

After reaching Triple-A in June, only to go down with a new lat injury, Luzardo is now healthy and back in Triple-A once more. After missing a month, he pitched once in Rookie Ball in early August, then once in High-A, and then on Thursday he started for Las Vegas. His results weren’t great, but at least he’s worked his way back up to the league where he last left off.

Luzardo, Thu AAA: 3⅓ ip, 5 run (4 ER), 1 K, 1 BB, 1 HR, 6 hits

A’s manager Bob Melvin said the following, via Gallegos: “It’s tough to evaluate pitching performances in AAA. Let’s give him a pass on that one and see how he does next time out when the pitch count goes up. Every now and then you have an off-outing. I’m guessing that’s what that was last night.”

And more, from Athletics Farm: “A’s minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson thinks Jesus Luzardo may have been a little too pumped up and may have been trying to overthrow a bit.”

Plus some video of Melvin, discussing the possibilities of when Luzardo might get the call and what his role might be in Oakland:

Luzardo is scheduled to pitch again on Tuesday, so he’ll get a chance to move on from his shaky re-debut.

Midland Trio

Next up are the other three top names who missed the 2018 season to injury, all of whom are now healthy and with Double-A Midland.

  • Grant Holmes is hot. He began August with his worst start of the year, but each of his next two times out he tossed five scoreless innings, with a total of 15 Ks, 2 BB, and 5 hits.
  • James Kaprielian has pitched twice since our last update, bringing his total to five games in Double-A. His two recent performances were both excellent, going four innings each with a total of one run (on a solo homer), 5 Ks, 1 BB, and 2 hits.
  • Daulton Jefferies also pitched twice since the last check-in, and he walked his seventh batter of the year in Double-A (out of 262 faced, a 2.7% rate). But he also struck out eight in his six total innings of work, albeit with a two-run homer in the latest outing.

Their Double-A numbers:

Jefferies, AA: 3.66 ERA, 64 ip, 64 Ks, 7 BB, 7 HR, 3.15 FIP
Holmes, AA: 3.48 ERA, 72⅓ ip, 69 Ks, 26 BB, 9 HR, 4.37 FIP
Kaprielian, AA: 2.50 ERA, 18 ip, 15 Ks, 5 BB, 2 HR, 4.36 FIP

Re-joining them in Midland is Brian Howard, who got lit up in four tries in Triple-A. His first tour of Vegas ends with a 13.81 ERA in 14⅓ innings, including 28 hits, 8 BB, and 4 HR.

Other top names

As long as we’re talking pitching prospects:

  • Parker Dunshee (AAA) has a 2.89 ERA in his last four starts, covering 18⅔ innings. His ERA is still 5.63 for the season, though.
  • Kyle Finnegan (AAA) is finally succeeding in Triple-A, after struggling there each of the last two years. Since moving up for good in late-June, the high-octane reliever has thrown 22 innings with 30 Ks, 8 BB, and 3 HR, with the emphasis on that acceptable walk rate. Could he play his way into a September call-up?
  • Hogan Harris (A+) is still holding his own in Stockton. The lefty is now the team’s second-highest remaining 2018 draft pick (3rd round) after SS Jeremy Eierman, now that OF Jameson Hannah is gone via trade, and he has a strikeout per inning and more than three per walk, to go along with a 3.48 ERA.

For more on some top hitters, here’s the weekly update from A’s Farm.