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Oakland A’s place Burch Smith on injured list, recall James Kaprielian

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Right forearm strain

Texas Rangers v Oakland Athletics Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s placed pitcher Burch Smith on the 10-day injured list on Sunday, the team announced. The diagnosis is a right forearm strain.

To replace Smith on the active roster, pitcher James Kaprielian was recalled from the alternate training camp.

On Saturday, Smith pitched against the San Francisco Giants but appeared to pull himself from the game. While working his second inning, he threw a fastball a few miles lower than his norm and then motioned for manager Bob Melvin to come to the mound, along with the trainer. Smith was immediately removed.

More details from Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle: “He will get an MRI Monday. Injured list likely but team believes it’s muscular issue, not structural and the hope is he doesn’t miss too much time.”

Of note, Smith had Tommy John surgery in 2015.

The loss of Smith is a particular bummer for the A’s because he’d been one of the hottest pitchers in the majors entering Saturday, which was quite a surprise for the under-the-radar offseason acquisition. Even after allowing a three-run homer to the Giants, his numbers are still sparkling.

Smith: 2.25 ERA, 12 ip, 13 Ks, 1 BB, 1 HR, 7 hits, 2.30 FIP

In his place, Oakland turns to Kaprielian, who ranks No. 6 on our current Community Prospect List. The right-hander got his first-ever call to the majors two weeks ago, but it only lasted one day before he was sent down and he didn’t get a chance to pitch.

Rather than write up Kaprielian again, here’s what we said about him upon that previous callup. Nothing has changed.

This is the first trip to MLB for Kaprielian, who was already on the A’s 40-man roster. He was drafted in 2015 by the Yankees but got hurt almost immediately, and ended up missing nearly three full seasons (2016-18) to Tommy John surgery and related complications. During that time, he was traded to the A’s in the mid-2017 Sonny Gray deal.

The right-hander finally got healthy in 2019 and got his pro career on track. He showed well in both High-A and Double-A, with strong peripherals including at least a strikeout per inning, and he even pitched one game in Triple-A that went well. Already age 26 after his lengthy injury layoff, he’ll get a chance in the majors that many observers would be excused for having thought might never happen.

- Kap, 2019 (A+): 4.46 ERA, 36⅓ ip, 43 Ks, 8 BB, 6 HR, 4.43 FIP
- Kap, 2019 (AA): 1.63 ERA, 27⅔ ip, 26 Ks, 8 BB, 2 HR, 3.60 FIP
- Kap, 2019 (AAA): 2.25 ERA, 4 ip, 6 Ks, 0 BB, 0 HR, 0.80 FIP

It’s been a while since Kaprielian has registered on national prospect radars due to his extreme health questions, last making a major Top 100 list in pre-2017. But his stock has remained intriguing enough to hold steady on our Athletics Nation Community Prospect List, where he ranked No. 6 this past winter. Likewise, entering 2020 he was still in the A’s Top 10 according to both Keith Law and Athletics Farm.

In terms of stuff, in his return last summer Kaprielian didn’t show the premium velocity he once had before his surgery, but he was still in the 90s and able to get up around 95. He also has a wide array of secondary pitches, and demonstrated good control in the minors. Of course, we’ll all find out more when we get to see him with our own eyes in a real MLB game.

The addition of Kaprielian is just the latest step in the A’s youth movement, which is odd in that it’s happening during a contending season. Four of the top six names are now in the majors, including pitchers Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk as well as catcher Sean Murphy, though Puk is currently on the injured list. It’s feasible they could also be joined at some point by pitcher Daulton Jefferies (No. 5) and/or infielder Sheldon Neuse (No. 8).

While billed as a possible future starter, Kaprielian’s role will presumably be in the bullpen for now. The arm he’s replacing, Weems Smith, was being used in a multi-inning low-leverage role, and that would make perfect sense for Kap at this moment.

The updated active roster is below.

Oakland A's 28-man roster
Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Frankie Montas (R)
Jesus Luzardo (L)
Sean Manaea (L)
Mike Fiers (R)
Chris Bassitt (R)

Relievers

Liam Hendriks (R)
Yusmeiro Petit (R)
Joakim Soria (R)
Jake Diekman (L)
T.J. McFarland (L)
James Kaprielian (R)
Daniel Mengden (R)
Lou Trivino (R)
J.B. Wendelken (R)
Catchers

Sean Murphy (R)
Austin Allen (L)

Infielders

Matt Olson (L)
Marcus Semien (R)
Matt Chapman (R)
Tony Kemp (L)
Chad Pinder (R)
Franklin Barreto (R)
Vimael Machin (L)

Outfielders

Khris Davis (R)
Mark Canha (R)
--Ramon Laureano (R) (susp)
Stephen Piscotty (R)
Robbie Grossman (S)

10-day IL: LHP A.J. Puk (shoulder), RHP Burch Smith (forearm)