- Athletics left-hander A.J. Puk remains an exciting prospect for the club, but various arm injuries have prevented the 25-year-old from making a major league start. It doesn’t appear as if that will change in 2020. Manager Bob Melvin said that Puk, who’s working back from shoulder inflammation, is expected to pitch out of the bullpen if he takes the hill this year, per Shayna Rubin of the Mercury News. However, the A’s still don’t have a timetable for Puk’s season debut.
The Athletics announced Tuesday that they’ve placed right-hander Jordan Weems on the 10-day injured list with a strained right lat and recalled right-hander James Kaprielian from their alternate training site.
Oakland already has a deep rotation — Sean Manaea, Jesus Luzardo, Mike Fiers, Frankie Montas, Chris Bassitt — so it seems that Kaprielian’s Major League debut will be made out of the bullpen. It’s been a long time coming for the former first-round pick and top 100 prospect, whom the A’s acquired in the trade that sent Sonny Gray to the Bronx.
Kaprielian, now 26 years old, was selected with the No. 16 oveall pick out of UCLA by the Yankees back in 2015. The 6’3″, 225-pound righty was impressive early in his pro career, but an elbow issue cost him most of the 2016 season. He made it back to pitch in the Arizona Fall League that year, which seemingly put him on track for a healthy 2017 season.
That, however, didn’t prove to be the case at all. Tommy John surgery early in 2017 would wipe out Kaprielian’s entire ’17 campaign, and the win-now Yankees bit the bullet when they traded the still highly regarded righty to Oakland in the aforementioned Gray deal. Oakland hoped to be acquiring a high-end talent when his stock was down due to injury, but he missed the 2018 season as well while recovering from that surgery.
Kaprielian finally made his organizational debut with the A’s in 2019, and he enjoyed strong results across three minor league levels. In 68 frames between Class-A Advanced, Double-A and Triple-A, Kaprielian worked to a combined 3.18 ERA with 9.9 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and 1.06 HR/9.
It’s been a half decade since Kaprielian was drafted, and between his considerable injury troubles and the shortened 2020 season, he’s still thrown just 97 1/3 professional innings. But he’s been working at the Athletics’ satellite camp in Stockton and been deemed ready for a big league look by the club’s decision-makers. A spot in the rotation could eventually be in the fold for the righty in the future, but for the time being he’ll slot into the bullpen and await his first pitch off a big league mound.
With final roster decisions in the books and the 2020 season underway, it’s time to make some predictions. We’re polling the MLBTR readership on each of the game’s six divisions — though plenty more teams will crack the postseason under the rather inclusive new playoff qualification system. We’ve already surveyed the AL East, AL Central, NL Central, and NL East landscapes, and now we’ll turn to the American League West.
The Astros entered this season off three straight division titles, though they’ve undergone some major changes since winning the AL pennant in 2019. A sign-stealing scandal cost them general manager Jeff Luhnow and skipper A.J. Hinch, whom they replaced with James Click and Dusty Baker, respectively. On the field, they said goodbye to co-ace Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley in free agency. Their rotation suffered yet another massive blow this week when they placed reigning AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander on the injured list with a forearm strain. He’s one of many injured Astros pitchers, and to make matters worse, the club has been without slugger and 2019 AL Rookie of the Year Yordan Alvarez because of the coronavirus.
Despite all the issues they’re facing, the Astros at least still boast an above-average roster. They don’t look like a juggernaut in their current state, though, and that could give a division rival a chance to pounce.
The Athletics, winners of 97 games in each of the prior two seasons, boast an eminently talented roster that seems as if it’ll present the greatest challenge for Houston. The Rangers and Angels look more like wild-card possibilities than teams capable of upending the Astros, though a 60-game season could make it more likely for either to pull off an upset. Probably not the case for the Mariners, who are retooling and have gotten to a 1-4 start. While five games isn’t enough of a sample size to bury or crown anyone, the M’s have gotten crushed in three of their defeats and entered Wednesday with the majors’ worst run differential at minus-21.
Which team do you think is going to take the division title? (Poll link for app users.)
The Athletics have released right-hander Daniel Gossett and added fellow righty Ben Bracewell to their 60-man player pool, the club announced. Bracewell will report to the A’s alternate training site in San Jose.
Oakland designated Gossett for assignment last week after a couple of years of struggles in the majors and then a pair of injury-ruined seasons. Now 27 years old, the former second-round pick (2014) recorded a 5.91 ERA/5.67 FIP with 6.54 K/9 and 3.03 BB/9 in 115 1/3 innings and 23 starts as an Athletic from 2017-18 before undergoing Tommy John surgery in the latter of those seasons. He hasn’t taken a major league mound since June 3, 2018, though potential selling points for other clubs include a 2.87 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 128 1/3 Triple-A frames and one more minor league option.
Bracewell, 29, hasn’t gotten an opportunity to pitch in the majors yet, having been a career-long A’s minor leaguer since debuting as a professional in 2014. He spent parts of the previous three seasons in Triple-A ball and has done a respectable job at the minors’ top level, where he has pitched to a 3.88 ERA with 7.4 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 in 174 innings.
The Athletics’ A.J. Puk’s injury woes continued this week when the club placed the left-hander on the IL to start the season because of shoulder inflammation. While Puk is on track to begin throwing again, his 2020 debut still appears to be pretty far off, manager Bob Melvin revealed (via Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle).
“It’s going to be at least a couple of weeks of just playing catch — and not too far out,” Melvin said. “We’re a ways off before we have an update on him.”
Puk’s a former first-round pick (No. 6 in 2016) who has remained a standout prospect as he has climbed up the minor league ranks. He held his own in his major league debut in 2019 with 11 1/3 innings of 10-hit, four-run ball with 13 strikeouts against five walks. But Oakland’s goal isn’t for Puk to emerge as a key reliever – rather, the team’s hoping he will emerge as a front-line starter. Unfortunately, arm problems have been a regular occurrence for Puk, who underwent Tommy John surgery in April 2018 and has dealt with shoulder issues during the past several months. He still hasn’t made a major league start as a result.
Injuries in its pitching staff are nothing new for Oakland, which overcame a litany of health troubles from 2018-19 en route to back-to-back 97-win seasons and playoff berths. The A’s once again look like serious contenders as this season gets underway, but they’ve begun with a shorthanded rotation because of the absences of Puk and fellow star lefty prospect Jesus Luzardo. They opened the campaign with a rotation consisting of Frankie Montas, Sean Manaea, Mike Fiers, Chris Bassitt and Daniel Mengden.
The Athletics have announced their Opening Day, 30-man roster, revealing a series of transactions in the process. Oakland has designated right-hander Daniel Gossett for assignment in order to make room on the 40-man roster for fellow righty Daniel Mengden, who has been reinstated from the 60-day injured list. The A’s also formally placed southpaw A.J. Puk on the 10-day IL and optioned catcher Jonah Heim to their alternate site. Puk has been recently hampered by shoulder troubles, and it was reported two days back that he’d miss at least a couple of weeks.
Gossett, 27, hasn’t pitched since 2018 thanks to Tommy John surgery. He was limited to 24 1/3 innings that year and has yet to enjoy much in the way of success at the MLB level. Be that as it may, though, he has a nice track record in the upper minors, including a career 2.87 ERA, 8.2 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 128 1/3 innings in a very hitter-friendly Triple-A Pacific Coast League.
Gossett was a second-round pick back in 2014 and breezed through the minors before running into rough waters at the MLB level. Given that background and the fact that he still has a minor league option remaining, it’s certainly possible that a starter-hungry club will want to speculate on the right-hander. Oakland will have a week to trade Gossett, place him on outright waivers or release him.
JULY 21: Puk had a cortisone injection and will miss “at least” two weeks, Shayna Rubin of the Mercury News tweets.
While the seriousness remains unknown at this point, this certainly constitutes sub-optimal news for the A’s. Puk is scheduled for a visit with baseball surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache. That’s a bit of an ominous development, though it’s hardly proof of a major injury.
For the time being, righty Daniel Mengden is expected to step into the rotation. The A’s already had to dip into their rotation depth to fill in for southpaw Jesus Luzardo, who’s on his way back but will be spelled for the time being by Chris Bassitt.
Puk made it all the way back from Tommy John surgery last year and seemed primed for his first full MLB campaign in 2020. Then came some shoulder problems this spring. While it had seemed that Puk was on the mend, something obviously hasn’t fully healed up. He and the A’s will anxiously await further word on his outlook.
4:03pm: Payton has indeed been added to the Athletics’ player pool, the team announced.
3:02pm: The Reds have returned Rule 5 pick Mark Payton to the Athletics, per a club announcement. The 28-year-old outfielder was not claimed by another club on waivers. It’s not yet clear if he’ll be part of Oakland’s 60-man player pool.
Last season was Payton’s first in the Oakland organization, and he made an impression with a gaudy .334/.400/.653 batting line in 447 plate appearances at the Triple-A level. Payton bashed a career-best 30 home runs last year, albeit in an extremely hitter-friendly setting amid a leaguewide home run surge. (The Triple-A ball was the same as the MLB ball last year.) That said, Payton also altered his swing and hit fly-balls at a career-high rate in 2019, so the uptick in power wasn’t solely attributable to the league context.
Unfortunately for Payton, the Reds added multiple high-profile outfielders to a group that already included Nick Senzel, Jesse Winker, Aristides Aquino and Phil Ervin. Cincinnati signed both Nick Castellanos and Shogo Akiyama this winter, leaving Payton as a long-shot to make the club — even with an expanded roster. That crammed outfield already led to a DFA for Scott Schebler and Payton’s return to the A’s, but outfielder Travis Jankowski has been told he’ll make the Reds’ Opening Day roster, Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets.
6:54PM: The A’s have officially selected Weems’ contract and added him to their 40-man roster, as per a team announcement.
6:32PM: Right-hander Jordan Weems has been told he will be part of the Athletics’ Opening Day roster, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Weems will need to be added to the 40-man roster, so the A’s will have to make another transaction prior to their July 24 season opener.
The news marks quite a journey for the 27-year-old Weems, who is in line for his first taste of big league baseball after being drafted by the Red Sox in the third round of the 2011 draft. Originally selected as a catcher, Weems transitioned to pitching in 2016 and posted some solid numbers (3.87 ERA, 2.00 K/BB rate, 9.4 K/9) over 200 innings, though only 15 of those frames were at the Triple-A level.
After electing free agency last fall, Weems signed a minor league deal with Oakland in December and has since turned some heads within his new organization. “He has a riding fastball, that split-finger fastball and an occasional breaking ball,” according to A’s pitching Scott Emerson. “For a converted guy to be able to command the top part of the zone with a fastball and something soft at the bottom of the zone is pretty good for a guy who hasn’t done much pitching.”
This repertoire and a live fastball that has touched 98mph also attracted the attention of other teams, as Slusser writes that Weems “likely would have had multiple big league offers elsewhere” had the A’s decided against putting him on the MLB roster. If he hadn’t made the roster, Weems had an opt-out clause in his minor league contract.
The Athletics announced they’ve released infielder Ryan Goins. The 32-year-old had been in the A’s Summer Camp player pool after joining the organization on a minor-league deal over the offseason.
Goins is most well-known for his time with the Blue Jays from 2013-17. Over that stretch, he logged pretty significant playing time in the middle infield. He’s long rated well defensively (especially at second base), but has never managed anything approaching a league average season at the plate. For his career, he carries just a .230/.279/.335 line (65 wRC+) in 1680 plate appearances.
Since leaving Toronto, Goins has suited up with the 2018 Royals and 2019 White Sox, marking seven consecutive seasons of big league action. He’ll presumably now look to latch on with another club looking to bolster its infield depth.