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A’s place Stephen Piscotty on injured list, recall Seth Brown

Outfielder Nick Martini was DFA’d to make room for Brown.

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Houston Astros v Oakland Athletics Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s placed outfielder Stephen Piscotty on the 10-day injured list, the team announced Monday. First baseman/outfielder Seth Brown was recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas to take his place, while outfielder Nick Martini was designated to make room for Brown on the 40-man roster.

Piscotty has been battling a right ankle issue since injuring it on a slide back into second base on Aug. 17. He was replaced by a pinch runner later in the inning, and has since been handled very carefully, often getting replaced defensively late in games. He was pulled in the sixth inning of Saturday’s game against the Giants and underwent an MRI on his ankle the next day, which revealed a high ankle sprain that will evidently require an IL stint.

This is another tough setback in what has been an injury-riddled season for Piscotty. He missed all of July with a sprained knee and was just now finding his swing, posting an .898 OPS (134 wRC+) in 16 games since his return on Aug. 3.

A timetable for Piscotty’s return has not yet been announced. But with just over five weeks remaining in the regular season, it seems his 2019 may be in jeopardy.

Piscotty, 2019: .252/.312/.416, 93 wRC+, 13 HR, 7.5% BB, 21.3 Ks

In a corresponding move, the A’s selected first baseman/outfielder Seth Brown from Triple-A Las Vegas. This is the 27-year-old’s first major league call-up after five seasons in Oakland’s minor league system.

The A’s selected Brown in the 19th round of the 2015 draft, and he never truly made it onto anyone’s radar. The left-handed hitter did not appear even once on the AN Community Prospect List over the past five years, and was left Rule 5 eligible last offseason but went undrafted.

Brown responded with one of the strongest seasons of his career. The slugger has already tallied a career-high 37 home runs in his first taste of Triple-A and has been particularly hot as of late, riding a nine-game hit streak. After starting his minor league career primarily as an outfielder, Brown has spent the majority of his time this season at first base and designated hitter, though 26 of his appearances have come in the corner outfield.

Brown, 2019 AAA: .297/.352/.634, 125 wRC+, 37 HR, 8 SB, 7.6% BB, 25.4% Ks

The A’s are likely to platoon Brown, as he hits righties significantly better than lefties (1.017 OPS vs RHPs, .889 OPS against LHPs in Triple-A this season). He is in Monday night’s starting lineup, batting sixth and playing left field.

Oakland’s 40-man roster is full, which forced the team to cut outfielder Nick Martini to make room for Brown. Originally signed as a minor league free agent, Martini was a mainstay at the top of the lineup down the stretch in 2018, and even led off the Wild Card game. But a knee injury in spring and the A’s offseason addition of switch-hitting outfielder Robbie Grossman bumped Martini down on the depth chart.

Martini did appear in two short stints with the team, in the first of which he was called upon to pitch in a blowout against the Houston Astros. But the left-handed hitter didn’t make enough of an impression to earn a permanent spot on the roster, and now the 29-year-old has been bumped from the 40-man roster entirely.

Martini, 2019 MLB: 13 PA, .091/.231/.364, 57 wRC+, 1 HR, 0.00 ERA
Martini, 2019 AAA: .328/.432/.482, 129 wRC+, 8 HR, 14.9% BB, 15.5% Ks

Hot Takes

Losing Piscotty is tough. He was a consistent force both in the A’s lineup and in the outfield from May 2018 on, and was finally starting to get into a rhythm at the plate. The A’s are a lot better with a healthy Piscotty, but there’s a significant chance they’ll have to push through the rest of the 2019 season without him.

If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that the A’s get to see what they have in Brown. His Triple-A stats are strong even after accounting for the offensive environment in Las Vegas and he adds a second left-handed power bat behind Matt Olson. Brown has already drawn comparisons to former Oakland slugger Brandon Moss, and if he can produce anywhere near Moss’ level, that would be a huge addition to the A’s lineup against right-handed pitchers.

The decision to designate Martini is a curious one. It appears that the A’s were comfortable riding his hot streak down the stretch in 2018, but ultimately view his .379 BABIP that year as unsustainable and don’t see the singles-hitter as a true offensive threat. They’ve played Grossman in his role this season, and he’s been just fine (96 wRC+). I’ll be shocked if Martini doesn’t catch on elsewhere, but at this point, he was just getting buried on the outfield depth chart.

Oakland has a 40-man roster crunch coming this offseason, with a handful of top prospects soon to become Rule 5 eligible. It seems the team is giving players like Brown and second baseman Corban Joseph auditions to see if they belong in the organization’s plans for 2020 and beyond, or if their roster spot is better spent on a player like Sheldon Neuse.

The A’s recent promotions of older minor leaguers in Joseph and Brown also has me curious about their plans for the expanded roster in September. Standout prospects like Neuse, Jesus Luzardo, and Sean Murphy would need 40-man roster spots, as would rehabbing lefty Sean Manaea and borderline candidates Matt Harvey and Kyle Finnegan. If Brown and/or Joseph don’t impress over the next week or two, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them designated themselves to make room for the above players.

Welcome to Oakland, Seth Brown!