The Triple-A Las Vegas Aviators got their 2021 season started a couple days later than the rest of the farm system, but they’re now in full swing.
So far, Las Vegas Ballpark has been the hitter’s paradise we remember from 2019. The Aviators have played five games, winning three of them, and the total run differential was 33-31 against them, more than six runs per team per game. One of the contests ended with an 11-10 margin.
So far, two top outfield prospects have stood out amid the lineup, getting off to exactly the hot starts we hoped to see from them.
- Barrera: 10-for-22, HR, triple, 2 BB, 5 Ks, SB, 197 wRC+
- Deichmann: 7-for-16, triple, 3 BB, 4 Ks, SB, 183 wRC+
Those are mostly just BABIP-fueled lines full of singles, but at least they’re out there making contact and hitting it well enough to keep finding turf. The aggressive slasher Luis Barrera already has a couple extra-base hits and a couple walks, and the classic slugger Greg Deichmann has kept the strikeouts in check, all of which are specifically encouraging signs for them.
They’ve only played five games, all against the same opponent, so it’ll take much longer for their stats to settle into any meaningful sample size. But for two exciting prospects who are both on the A’s 40-man roster already and are just now getting their first experience in Triple-A, it’s tough to ask for much more so far.
Also joining in the fun has been Jacob Wilson. The 30-year-old non-roster infielder is 6-for-20 with three homers and a pair of doubles.
Pitching: Jefferies, Blackburn
Aviators manager Fran Riordan went on the A’s Plus podcast with Matt Kawahara of the S.F. Chronicle last week and provided a couple of updates about his pitching staff.
Top starter prospect Daulton Jefferies opened the season on the injured list with biceps tendinitis, but he’s down in Arizona and has resumed throwing. More details per Bill Moriarity of Athletics Farm, “Jefferies threw a 2-innning sim game, will throw a 3-inning sim game later this week & could return after that.”
Also out is reliever Wandisson Charles, with a lat injury. Charles and Jefferies are both on the A’s 40-man roster.
Riordan also made a note about non-roster pitcher Paul Blackburn, who was DFA’d in February but cleared waivers and stayed in the organization. The right-hander, who has usually relied on groundball contact more than strikeouts, has seen an uptick in velocity this year, up to 95-96 mph. In the past he showed enough to earn 100 innings of MLB work over parts of four seasons, so if he’s suddenly throwing harder then it will be a most interesting development.
- Blackburn, first 2021 start: 5 ip, 3 runs, 4 Ks, 3 BB, 5 hits, 89 pitches
Unfortunately, it’s been a rough showing for much of the rest of the Las Vegas rotation. Grant Holmes, Parker Dunshee, and Brian Howard each had disasters with more runs than innings in their season debut starts. James Kaprielian held his own, and he’ll be called up to the majors on Wednesday to start against the Red Sox at Fenway, per insider Martin Gallegos.
- Kaprielian, first 2021 start: 4⅔ ip, 2 runs, 5 Ks, 1 BB, 8 hits, 76 pitches
Among the bullpen, non-roster free agent signings Cam Bedrosian, Domingo Acevedo, and Argenis Angulo have each spun three scoreless innings.
The final Triple-A note involves MLB rehab, as a couple injured members of the A’s are getting some work in minor league games before being activated.
On the hitting side, super-sub Chad Pinder played for Las Vegas on Monday, in the first day of his rehab assignment from a sprained left knee. He played shortstop and went 0-for-4, but he did reach on a three-base error.
On the pitching side, lefty top prospect A.J. Puk will begin his own rehab assignment with the Aviators this week, confirms John Shea of the S.F. Chronicle. Puk is dealing with a strained left biceps.