Rewind the Athletics from the last two UTRMinor seasons and you would find a whole lot of misses and “what could have beens.” The 2014 season was filled with later misses, starting with Chris Lamb, who was released during 2016 spring training. His highpoint came during that 2014 season while with HiA Stockton and then a taste of Triple-A. The next season went completely south and it was apparent that he’d hit the proverbial wall, thus receiving the “thank you-but-good luck” talk. My top choice in 2014 was a central PA native, Seth Streich, who became a trade piece in the deal that sent Derek Norris from the San Diego Padres to Oakland. He has yet to pitch an inning with his new club, as he suffered a shoulder injury that required surgery and missed the 2015 season. He didn’t resurface during the 2016 season, which leaves me wonder if his funky, deceptive delivery calling played havoc in making a rehab. The TPS system completely missed the mark with Branden Kelliher. TPS loved the 8th round UTR after his debut season with the AZL Athletics, despite his 9.3 BB9 rate in 11 appearances with 7 starts. He was an arm straight out of high school that threw a 96 mph heater and a curveball that rates above average. Well…TPS can’t ascertain whether a kid can harness his command and control. My system did see him fall hard down through my spreadsheet in 2015, and this season was an absolute nightmare for the 20 year old. Over two levels, spending most with Short-Season Vermont, Kelliher finished with a 11.2 BB9 and 2.1 K9 rates. The switch may just suddenly flick on for the right-hander, so there’s time yet to develop. Speaking of turning on the switch, Bobby Wahl was my “One to Watch” prior to the 2014 season. He didn’t have the breakout that I expected and I mentioned (post-season) that he might be best suited for the bullpen. Well…that’s were he ended up full-time in 2015; and it all came together at Double-A Midland in 2016, earning him a promotion to Triple-A Nashville and leading the A’s system with 14 saves. The only bright spot from my 2014 selections was Dillon Overton, which is expected from a 2nd round draft choice. Overton went on to repeat the following year and garnered the “Solid Stash” tag. He had a successful stint at Triple-A and got the call-up to Oakland in late June.
The 2015 UTR-OAS roster also saw a “Solid Stash” for top draft pick in Sean Manaea, who had a solid year with Oakland in 2016. A solid year wasn’t had by Casey Meisner in 2016, who spent his first full-season since coming over from the New York Mets. You would’ve thought he experienced horrible luck in losing 11 straight outings during the start of the season, but a closer look would find that his command and control totally left him; and recent reports find that his size might be his only best trait…not good. Daniel Mengden made the 2015 UTR-OAS list after coming over from the Houston Astros at the trade deadline. He had an awesome 2016 running through Double-A and Triple-A hitters before landing in Oakland. The list for 2016 below contains new faces on the UTR front, except for Angel Duno. He snuck into the 2014 list after a successful 3rd season with the DSL Athletics. The 22-year-old Venezuelan was my pick for the 2016 “One to Watch” and has reached Lo-A Beloit. Lou Trivino also appears below; again from his role as a relief pitcher. He joined Sam Bragg, but Bragg earned the “Legit UTR” label and just spent 2016 with Double-A Midland with decent results.
The UTR international hopes for the Athletics hinged on the above mentioned Duno, Argenis Blanco, and Alexander Calderon. The 20-year-old Blanco repeated the Arizona League in 2016 displaying vast improvement. Calderon on the other hand, hasn’t made it state-side yet, spending his 3rd season in the DSL.
Top 5 Starting Pitchers – Factor Score/TPS
1. RHP Kyle Friedrichs – 25 /.131
24 years old – ( LoA Beloit/ HiA Stockton / Double-A Midland)
7th round – 2015
Friedrichs has received my highest score thus far for the American League. And why not, he was a workhorse in 2016. After throwing only 36 innings during his debut season in 2015 with Short-Season Vermont, he made 29 appearances (153 IP) going 6-9 with a 3.35 ERA. TPS, though, didn’t love that he lacked strikeouts (19%), but who can argue with the control. He issued only 16 walks and posted an 84% LOB rate. This performance will need to repeat in 2017 for Friedrichs to move-up the organization as he turns 25 years old at the end month; thusly falling off my UTR radar, which will occur anyway with a 2017 assignment at Double-A.
Manarino is almost a Friedrichs redux….doesn’t walk many (28), didn’t miss many bats (128), and pitched 150+ innings after only 38.2 at Vermont. Again impressive for both pitchers in their first full seasons. Manarino didn’t receive the same fast track like his counterpart Friedrichs, but his stock is higher being a lefty and having three secondary offerings that all rate outstanding. American League dynasty owners should keep close tabs on these two during their time at the level, especially in the California League.
23 years old – (LoA Beloit / Triple-A Nashville / HiA Stockton / Double-A Midland)
20th round – 2015
My opening recap of the Athletic system explained about the misses, but halfway through this year’s UTR-OAS roster, it appears I won’t be repeating that theme going into 2018. The first two (hopefully) will be making their way through Triple-A just like Naile did in 2016. Though, Naile only got a taste last season, he ripped through four levels in 2016 leading the system in innings pitched (156.2). And just like the previous mentions, he got it done without much flash. He did flash the glove however, garnering the Rawlings Minor League Gold Glove award. Naile is another soft tosser that has a sinking fastball that will elicit weak contact and some swing & misses.
A pattern for A’s pitchers is emerging. Boomer only threw 11.1 innings in his 2015 pro debut with the AZL Athletics, then went off the charts in 2016 pushing Naile for the most innings pitched with 153.1 over 28 appearances. He also limits the free passes (2.2 BB9) and not striking out many (115). Biegalski’s top offering is his advanced changeup, which he uses to his advantage, but is heady in mixing his other pitches as well. He might not get away with the off-speed stuff as he advances to the next levels, so it’s something to watch.
The beat goes on. Duno returns as a UTR-OAS after missing a mention in 2015. He didn’t put up the numbers like his one-time teammates, as an injury slowed him mid-season, but the season was a consistent success. Duno just turned 23 this past Tuesday (Jan 10th) Happy Belated Birthday. He went 7-7 with a 2.68 ERA over 121 innings with 16 walks and 76 strikeouts. He has a projectable frame, but doesn’t throw the heat with an upper 80s fastball. He comes at hitters with a near plus-slider and will pick around the zone with his fastball that has movement.
Top 3 Relief Pitchers – Factor Score/TPS
1. RHP Carlos Navas – 9 / .076