The A’s announced on Wednesday that top pitching prospect A.J. Puk underwent Tommy John surgery yesterday to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow. Dr. Neal ElAttrache performed the procedure on the highly touted southpaw, who will now be out for the entirety of the 2018 season.
The news isn’t a shock at this point, as Puk was originally recommended for Tommy John surgery back in late March after initially complaining of biceps soreness. Further testing revealed the problem to be ligament-related, and two doctors recommended that he undergo the season-ending procedure.
Puk, 23 later this month, was the sixth overall pick in the 2016 draft out of the University of Florida. The former Gators ace quickly ascended through the Athletics’ minor league system, tossing a combined 125 innings between Class-A Advanced and Double-A last season. In that time, he logged a 4.03 ERA with a gaudy 13.2 K/9 against 3.5 BB/9 while displaying above-average ground-ball tendencies. Entering the season, Puk was touted as one of the game’s top overall prospects, with Baseball America, Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus all tabbing him 30th overall, while MLB.com pegged him 32nd. ESPN’s Keith Law was the most bullish on Puk, ranking him 13th overall.
The towering 6’7″, 220-pound lefty showed well in Spring Training, working to a 3.38 ERA in 10 2/3 frames in big league camp and prompting some to speculate upon whether he could be an option for the Opening Day rotation — or at the very least a candidate to join the starting mix early on in the 2018 season. Instead, the A’s will now see their top prospect lose a full year of development, though it’s not difficult to envision him making an impact late in the 2019 season if his rehab goes according to plan.