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A’s sign pitcher Austin Pruitt to minor league contract

Another candidate for the rebuilding pitching staff!

Houston Astros v Chicago White Sox Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s have added another name to the mix as they rebuild their pitching staff.

The A’s signed swingman Austin Pruitt to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, the team announced Sunday.

The right-handed Pruitt has a fair bit of MLB experience, tossing around 200 innings for the Rays from 2017-19, but he’s been limited by injury since then. A hairline fracture in his elbow cost him the short 2020 season and required surgery, and he didn’t return to action until last July, as a member of the Astros. They soon traded him to the Marlins, who cut him in September, and he totaled only seven innings overall for the year.

Before the elbow injury, Pruitt was settling in as a serviceable and versatile arm. His ERA improved each year in Tampa Bay, reaching league-average in 2019, and his FIP marks were all average or better. Ten of his 73 appearances were starts, while out of the bullpen he notched five saves and a hold with only two blown leads.

  • Pruitt, MLB career: 4.83 ERA, 207 ip, 152 Ks, 50 BB, 27 HR, 4.23 FIP

Those are mediocre numbers, but they’re not terrible. Relative to the league his 88 ERA+ is sub-par, but FIP and Statcast (.315 xwOBA) both see him as a solid performer. The low strikeouts remove some margin for error, but the low walk rate helps, and his homer rate is within reason.

In terms of stuff, Pruitt uses four pitches: four-seam fastball, slider, curveball, changeup. The heater averages just under 92 mph and has topped out slightly over 94, with good spin rate. Of his secondaries, he uses the slider against righties, the change against lefties, and the curve against both, giving him enough different looks to go through a whole lineup if needed.

Here’s a look at some video, in his return from injury last summer:

Now age 32, Pruitt will look to bounce-back with Oakland. He’s not on the 40-man roster, and if he does get added at some point then he won’t have any minor league options, but he’ll get his chance to reprove himself this spring.

Analysis

It’s open tryouts for the staff this month, and this is another free spin on a pitcher with some MLB experience. There’s no such thing as a bad minor league signing.

If he’s healthy, Pruitt can be a contributor. Not a star, but a useful glue-guy who can be effective in multiple different roles. He can eat multiple frames at a time as a spot starter, he can fill the middle innings as a reliever, or he can even help hold an occasional late lead.

His previous employers offer another endorsement of sorts. The Rays liked him enough to give him lots of work, then two years ago the Astros liked him enough to go out of their way to acquire him, and it only didn’t work out in Houston because he got hurt. Those are two clubs who have been quite good at identifying pitching talent lately, and they both identified Pruitt.

Perhaps he’ll make it to Oakland this year and help out, or maybe this is the last we’ll hear of him. Such is the nature of minor league free agents. But there’s plenty to like with Pruitt, and it doesn’t cost anything to try him out, so add him to the list of candidates for auditions this spring.

Welcome to Oakland!