Despite Pitching Injuries, A's Have Plenty Of Talent On Back Fields
Between a productive 2017 draft and a slew of trades that brought in potential everyday regulars, the A's farm system is in the best shape it’s been in quite a while.
It will look even better if and when the A’s pitchers get healthy.
With lefthander A.J. Puk (sore arm), Logan Shore (lat injury) and Grant Holmes (shoulder) likely to be held back at the start of the season, the A’s rehab ward is rather full. James Kaprielian and Daulton Jefferies came into spring training working back from Tommy John surgeries. The big league team is not immune either, as Jharel Cotton has also been lost to Tommy John surgery.
"Once those guys all come around together it’s a great core. It’s going to be a matter of time to get them healthy,” Oakland farm director Keith Lieppman said.
But even with many of the team’s best arms on the shelf, the A’s still have more interesting prospects playing on the back fields than they have had in several years. The A’s are especially full in up-the-middle defenders. Catcher Sean Murphy is one of the best defensive catchers in the minors, with an excellent arm, but also a quiet left hand that receives well.
Shortstop Nick Allen is a potential defensive whiz, something that could also be said about Kevin Merrell. But both of them are chasing recent trade acquisition Jorge Mateo. In a recent backfields game, Mateo showed both what he can do and what he needs to improve: he didn’t run out of the box on a fly ball that dropped, turning a triple into a double. But then he easily stole third on the next pitch before scoring soon thereafter.
“We had a very good draft last year, and with the acquisitions we’ve really replenished the system,” Lieppman said.
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The biggest name to watch as far as improvement is center fielder Austin Beck. The A’s 2017 first round pick struggled in his pro debut last season in the Arizona Rookie League. Beck hit .211/.293/.349 with 51 strikeouts in 152 at-bats.
“He really looks good this spring. He’s made a lot of changes. He was getting beat by anything over 92-93 mph,” Lieppman said. “He’s learned how to catch up and he’s doing it the right way. He’s shortened up and is using the other side of the field. Almost half of hits this spring are up the middle and to the opposite field.”