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A’s Farm Report: Triple-A Update – Luzardo, Kaprielian, Playoffs & More

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Jesus Luzardo

There’s been plenty of action in Las Vegas lately! And no, not on The Strip, but at the brand-new Las Vegas Ballpark, which is actually in Summerlin. The team just clinched the division title on Sunday, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. So, let’s get caught up on all the latest developments in Sin City…

But first…if you haven’t already, be sure to check out our latest A’s Farm podcast. We recently had an in-depth conversation with A’s Assistant General Manager Billy Owens about a number of the A’s top prospects. You can hear it right here on A’s Cast. And, of course, you can always find daily updates on the A’s top prospects and all the daily action in the A’s minor league system on Athletics Farm.

-Las Vegas clinched the PCL Pacific Southern division title with an 8-1 win over Tacoma on Sunday. RHP James Kaprielian made the start in his Triple-A debut, with RHP Matt Harvey notching the final three outs in the 9th for the Aviators. Las Vegas will now face the Sacramento River Cats in a five-game playoff series starting on Wednesday.

-LHP Jesus Luzardo turned in his most dominant start yet for Las Vegas in his last outing on Friday. The 21-year-old allowed just 1 run and struck out 10 without walking a batter over 6 innings, with his fastball hitting a high of 99 mph. And Luzardo has now notched 34 strikeouts in 31 innings while sporting an ERA of 3.19 for Las Vegas.

-RHPs Grant Holmes and James Kaprielian both made their Triple-A debuts for Las Vegas this weekend. Holmes allowed just 1 run on 6 hits and struck out 5 over 4 2/3 frames on Saturday, while Kaprielian allowed 1 run on 6 hits and struck out 6 over 4 frames in Las Vegas’s division-clinching game on Sunday. Just prior to his promotion, Kaprielian had thrown 11.2 scoreless innings for Midland and had allowed just 5 hits over his last 17.2 frames for the RockHounds.

-In preparation for a possible bullpen role with the A’s, RHP Matt Harvey made his first relief appearance for Las Vegas on Saturday, setting down the side in order while notching a pair of strikeouts in the 7th inning for the Aviators. He came back the next night in the 9th and closed things out, hitting 95 mph, notching 1 strikeout and allowing 1 hit and 1 walk in a scoreless 9th to finish things off in Sunday’s division-clinching contest.

-Before looking sharp in Sunday’s start for the A’s, LHP Sean Manaea was outstanding in his last start for Las Vegas, allowing just 2 hits and striking out 12 while throwing 7 scoreless innings for the Aviators.

-RHP Paul Blackburn was one of Las Vegas’s best pitchers in the second half. The 25-year-old put up an ERA of just 3.06 after the All-Star break, and his 4.34 ERA on the season is currently good for fourth best in the hitter-friendly PCL.

-About a week and a half before being promoted to Oakland, the A’s moved Sheldon Neuse over from his usual spot at third base and began having him play every day at second base for Las Vegas. The organization was so interested in getting a better look at Neuse at second that they moved Franklin Barreto across the diamond to the hot corner and had him playing third base for the first time in his career. A’s Assistant GM Billy Owens recently reminded me that Neuse was a shortstop in college and praised his strong arm and sure hands and sounded very confident about Neuse’s ability to play second base in the future. Neuse compiled an OPS of .975 with 8 home runs for Las Vegas in August before getting the chance to make his major league debut.

-And before his promotion to Oakland, Seth Brown put up an impressive OPS of 1.128 with 10 home runs for the Aviators in August. And he’s still second in the PCL with 37 home runs.

-After being sent back down to Triple-A, infielder Franklin Barreto posted an OPS of .921 with 7 home runs for Las Vegas in August before his return to Oakland.

-After returning in mid-August from his recent knee re-injury, catcher Sean Murphy smacked 3 home runs in his first 3 games back at Triple-A. But then his bat went cold, and he ended up going 2 for 20 over his last 5 games for Las Vegas before his promotion.

-And if you’re wondering why Jorge Mateo hasn’t been promoted to Oakland yet…Though the shortstop’s had a strong season for Las Vegas, putting up an OPS of .825 while leading the league with 14 triples and leading the team with 24 stolen bases, he’s struggled a bit since returning from the Futures Game and then doing a brief stint on the injured list with a minor ankle injury in early August. The 24-year-old posted an OPS of just .590 during the month of August. But given his speed, there’s still a good chance that the A’s might give him the call once Las Vegas’s season is over.

-Outfielder Mark Payton has been the Aviators’ best overall hitter this season, compiling 30 home runs and 30 doubles while sporting a slugging percentage of .656 and an OPS of 1.055, both good for third best in the PCL.

-Infielder Trace Loehr, who was the A’s 6th-round draft pick back in 2014, has acquitted himself well at Triple-A since being promoted from Stockton, posting a 1.006 OPS with a slugging percentage of .606 over his first 14 games for the Aviators.

-Last year’s 4th-round draft pick, first baseman Alfonso Rivas, has also performed well at Triple-A since being promoted from the Ports, putting up a 1.005 OPS with an on-base percentage of .433 over his first 7 games for Las Vegas. Rivas is set to be a part of the A’s contingent in the Arizona Fall League this year.

-Midland infielders Edwin Diaz and Mikey White were both promoted to Las Vegas to take the place of Sheldon Neuse and Franklin Barreto on the roster. Diaz still leads the Texas League with 36 doubles while also leading the RockHounds with 14 home runs. Diaz has primarily played third base and shortstop this season, while White has mainly appeared at first base and third base this year.

-RHP Jharel Cotton has continued to be inconsistent as he makes his way back from Tommy John surgery. Cotton has an ERA of 9.19, though he’s struck out 22 in 15.2 frames for Las Vegas.

-RHP Daniel Mengden returned from the injured list after dealing with a sore elbow and allowed 1 run in 3.2 innings of work on Wednesday.

-After failing to allow an earned run in 11.2 innings and earning PCL Pitcher of the Week honors,

RHP Parker Dunshee surrendered 6 runs in just 2 innings of work on Thursday.

-A number of the Aviators’ top players this season have been designated for assignment by the A’s in recent days, including catcher Beau Taylor, outfielder Nick Martini, infielder Corban Joseph and pitchers Tanner Anderson and Wei-Chung Wang.

-Assuming Tanner Roark, Homer Bailey and Brett Anderson all leave as free agents and everyone else remains healthy or returns to full health (admittedly, a big “if”), then the A’s could have 15 possible starting pitchers in the major league and AAA mix next season, with approximately one-third of them former first-round or first-round supplemental draft picks…Fiers, Bassitt, Montas, Manaea, Puk, Luzardo, Cotton, Gossett, Mengden, Blackburn, Dunshee, Howard, Kaprielian, Holmes and Jefferies.

-And finally, after spending 14 seasons managing in the indy leagues and then managing at Beloit, Midland and Nashville, Las Vegas skipper Fran Riordan was recently named the PCL Manager of the Year in his fifth season as a manager in the A’s minor league system.

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