Coming into the season, I had planned on doing frequent minor league updates. I figured that everyone would be interested in the top prospects because the A’s are clearly rebuilding and aren’t expected to do much at the major league level. Quite frankly, I thought it would be a refreshing change of pace to the redundant drab of a bottom-dwelling ball club. Thankfully, I’ve been wrong so far.
The A’s split the four game series against Detroit keeping their record above .500 (18-17) and are getting damn close to June while still staying relevant. And they did it with the bats, no less (except vs. Justin Verlander but who can blame them), thanks to power surges from Josh Reddick and new third baseman Brandon Inge. Inge, by the way, became only the second player in history to record four RBIs in four out of five games. Who’s the other guy? Lou Gherig.
If you are on a two-man list, and the other guy is the Iron Horse, that’s a pretty good list.
It’s interesting to see how our expectations impact how we view the season. The A’s and Tigers have nearly an identical record (Detroit’s dead even at .500) but because both teams were expected to finish on opposite ends of the spectrum, their fans are having drastically different reactions.
This is the most fun I’ve had watching baseball since 2006.
But I really do want to check in on our top prospects. Hopefully the A’s will play well enough to necessitate only an occasional prospect update.
This update will be a sort of “Where are they now?” focusing on the various players involved in the trades made by the A’s this offseason. I’ll start with the trade sending Gio Gonzalez to the Washington Nationals for four prospects.
If you missed my take on the trade you can read it here.
I think the A’s got the biggest haul of their offseason with this deal but Gio Gonzalez has been dominant for the Nationals with an ERA under two as well as 50 strikeouts in 42.2 innings. That hurts even though Tom Milone has been very successful so far for the A’s this year. Milone, the only piece in that trade currently in the majors, probably won’t have to wait long until some of his buddies formerly from the Nats organization join him. Brad Peacock has been pretty solid at AAA Sacramento striking out nearly a batter every nine innings and has an ERA of 3.66. He doesn’t have much left to learn in the minors and will probably be the next pitcher called up should someone fall to injury or poor performance.
Peacock’s catcher at AAA, Derek Norris, is also putting up good numbers. After lowering his batting average three consecutive years in Washington’s system, Norris is hitting a robust .293/.333/.500 this year. He’s hitting in a hitter friendly environment in the Pacific Coast League, but those are impressive numbers nonetheless. If he keeps this up, Kurt Suzuki could become available (albeit at a high price) in a midseason trade.
The only disappointment from this trade so far has been A.J. Cole, a high upside pitcher in A+ Stockton. Cole is pitching in yet another hitter friendly league, the California League, and it shows. To date he has an ERA of 7.15. Ouch.
He is young for his level and he’s still striking guys out so it isn’t time to get worried, but it’s time to take notice. I haven’t heard anything that suggests his stuff has diminished so hopefully this is just a rough stretch that he’ll remedy with adjustments. I ranked Cole as the A’s third best prospect and I have high hopes for him.
Next up is the Trevor Cahill trade, which you can read about here. At the time it was a surprise and I thought the A’s could have received more. The early returns are proving me wrong, though.
Cahill’s been solid with a 3.65 ERA, but he isn’t striking out many batters and his walks are a bit up too; Cahill could struggle in the launching pad that is Chase Field in Arizona.
The A’s received Jarrod Parker, Collin Cowgil and Ryan Cook in return for Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow.
Parker, whom I ranked as the A’s top prospect, has been great. He’s earned a promotion to the big club earlier than expected and has faired very well in his first few starts with the green and gold. The 23-year-old has pitched over 25 innings, has a 2.10 ERA and 17 strikeouts. The only problem is that he also has 12 walks but I’m confident that will work itself out; he’s still very young. The interesting thing is how Parker is getting hitters out.
Before his Tommy John surgery, he was a power pitcher with a sharp, nasty slider. Now, instead of using a straight fastball in the upper nineties, he’s using a two-seamer with movement in the lower nineties. That nasty slider has been replaced by a plus changeup. If he can get that slider back for a third plus pitch, the sky is the limit for this kid.
Cowgill is the quintessential max-effort guy. He doesn’t have the best set of physical tools, but he gives everything his little body has to give and can play all three outfield positions. He may not be a starter but he should be on the A’s for a while and will be a fan favorite in the mold of Eric Byrnes.
The biggest surprise of this deal has been Ryan Cook, a reliever who was thought to be a throw-in to the trade. I read a scouting report when the trade was finalized that said Cook throws in the upper nineties and all I could think about was Billy Beane’s endless track record of finding quality relievers. He delivers again with Cook, who has pitched 17.2 innings this year, has seventeen strikeouts and has given up zero runs. Zero. He’ll be the closer before the year is done.
And speaking of closers, does anybody still miss Andrew Bailey? I feel bad for the guy but he’s out for the season and though Ryan Sweeney (who also went to Boston in the Bailey deal) is having a nice year, we know what he is at this point. On the other hand, Josh Reddick, the main piece coming to the A’s in that trade has been great. He plays excellent right field defense and has earned the number 3 spot in the batting order hitting .289/.340/.549 with nine homers.
I said when the trade went down that I like Reddick more than most but I didn’t think he’d be putting up all-star numbers at this point in the season. Keep it up, Reddick.
Raul Alcantara, a young, raw pitcher and Miles Head, a good hitting first baseman playing third base in the minors for the A’s also came over in the trade and are playing well. Alcantara isn’t dong anything special, but he’s so young we need more information. Head is on fire, killing the ball at a .344/.387/.656 clip. But keep in mind, just as A.J Cole’s numbers are inflated from pitching in the California League, Head’s numbers are also inflated from hitting there.
Obviously, it’s impossible to judge any trade until a few years have passed but it’s clear that the A’s plan is unfolding as they envisioned. With the exception of Cole, all the pieces received in these trades have met or exceeded expectations. The rest of the system has a wide range of talent so I’ll update many other prospects soon.
About the Author
Written by Josh Muller
My name is Josh Muller. I was born and raised in Oakland, California and currently live in San Francisco. I watch sports religiously and organize my calender year to coincide with baseball season. I'm a diehard A's and Warriors fan, love talking sports all day and believe that the words "Opening Day" are the two greatest in the English language.