Monday, February 17, 2014
The Outliers: Oakland Pitching
Any farm system one could select is overflowing with pitching assets that don't garner headlines upon Baseball America or BP, but rather comprise the remainder of the full season rosters and attempt continuously to tweak their approach to advance further throughout the organization. It is from this contingent that the surprises blossom forth, where a Dan Straily or AJ Griffin can rise and breeze through affiliates on a crusade to the majors. However, at this instant, Oakland's MiLB cast currently encompassing this group mostly succumb to a relatively common and even somewhat cliched complaint: Loads of potential, but excessive control/consistency issues. Between journeymen such as Brett Hunter and the six pitch enigma in Blake Hassebrock to recent draftees with devastating yet unbridled arsenals in that of a Kris Hall and Derek DeYoung, the A's have a considerable foundation for plus depth throughout the nation on the mound and the blueprint to produce another previously anonymous minor league sensation. As Straily and Griffin primarily made their most noticeable strides with performance and statistical output in Stockton, it's fitting to highlight some characters between the 2014 rosters of Stockton and Beloit who have yet to witness their potential materialize, but easily have top 20 upside should they preform during this upcoming campaign.
Kris Hall (RHP/Beloit):
The 8th rounder plucked from the 2012 Draft eligible fray, Hall impressed Athletics' scouts with his historical NAIA dominance during his eventual concluding season at Lee University that coincided with a considerable velocity increase and secondary refinement that slotted him as a projected 4th rounder and inclusion into Baseball America's Top 150 draftee suitors prior to 2012. Formally attending Cleveland St before their baseball representation folded, Hall shifted towards a more localized affiliate in Lee University and serviced as the squad's closing asset between his debut and a rotation headliner in 2012 in which he amassed over 100 frames and demonstrated his fearsome repertoire. The demonstrative righty standing 6'3", 210 pounds proceeded to breeze past inferior competition with a 92-96 fastball and a eyeopening 86-88 MPH slider that, while inconsistent and occasionally inept, can obliterate even highly advanced bats when effective. Reinforcing that with a favorable breaking offering, Hall was utterly brilliant through his outings while constructing a 122:48 K/BB, allowing only one dinger and 13 cumulative XBH, five double digit strikeout performances including a start where he tallied 15 punchouts, and his aforementioned innings production which was highlighted even further by an attempt in which he went 9 2/3 IP in a single contest. Despite plummeting to a degree amongst his supposed projection, the A's gladly scooped him up and immediately inked the then Lake Monster en route to a NYPL All-Star berth in a nearly bullpen exclusive capacity to conserve innings. Between 29 1/3 frames to commence his professional career, Hall struck out 27 comparatively to 15 walks punched despite zero HRs and an even GB/FB ratio after 14 appearances before Beloit began beckoning for the righty.
Hampered by an arm injury towards the earlier portion of the Snappers campaign, Hall accumulated only 11 IP between May and June and thus was featured predominantly as a middle relief asset to conclude the Midwest League attempt, as it was a frustrating and debilitating 2013 for the fireballing Ohio native. Between 53 IP (30 appearances/4 starts), Hall produced plus strikeout percentages with 56 amassed and a 23.1% K%, however it was overcome by a horrid 14.4% BB%, .324 BABIP, 1.02 HR/9 and a cumulative 4.77 FIP as he floundered throughout his initial full season stint. Regardless, as it was his first try at Beloit, he was granted with entry into the Instructional League and supposedly impressed A's personnel to an extent that Stockton is essentially guaranteed for Hall. There could be probable experimentation with him being stretched out, but he seems to profile more legitimately as a reliving piece, to some extent serving as a less refined version of Nolan Sanburn. The Cal League will be the next hurdle to overcome for the 22 year old, in an environment that could induce demotion or make him a household A's prospect for east bay residents.
Austin House (RHP/Stockton):
The A's organization adores Austin House, the hulking 6'4" New Mexico son who now is being groomed to become the next 7th/8th inning phenom for the Athletics following his 15th round selection in 2012 as Scott Emerson, Oakland's MiLB pitching coordinator, has stated the Athletics envision him in a "Ryan Cook role" as he progresses. Despite starting primarily prior to Ryan Dull and Tucker Healy departing for Stockton, House usurped their closing roles and fared considerably better than his erratic tenure with Beloit's rotation. Now, for the former Boston draftee and native New Mexican, Stockton's closing post seems certain as he'll showcase his 90-93 fastball, consistent slider, improving curveball, and changeup that has been called one of the best in the organization by that same Scott Emerson (Per OaklandClubhouse.com). With physical dimensions reminiscent of an AJ Griffin, House possesses the capability to ascend to minor league stardom with a diverse and effective arsenal. The complaint upon House at the moment seems to be mechanical inconsistency though, as he frequently shifts his arm slot while pitching and has thus squandered any sort of notoriety regarding him and has translated towards mediocre statistical outputs so far as a professional.
Upon arriving within the Athletics facility in Papago, House shifted instantly to Vermont and manned a bullpen role throughout the entirety of his debut and flourished between 25 2/3 NYPL innings by surrendering only 13 H, 3 ER and a lone wild pitch to accompany a 33:10 K/BB with no HRs permitted in a performance that granted him entry onto Burlington's postseason roster to conclude 2012. He would be retained in the MWL for another stint during this previous campaign, and as stated previously inconsistently attempted to latch on in the rotation prior to assimilating into his adopted closing post. Cumulatively however, House went 99 2/3 IP and completed with a pedestrian 4.28 FIP thanks to a 73:44 K/BB (17.0% K%/10.1% BB%) and nine dingers allowed (0.81 HR/9) in what was indicative of his sluggish inconsistency upon the mound. Regardless, House seemingly is headed towards Stockton according to the MiLB coaching staff and still is garnering rave reviews for his potentiality, as the 23 year old shall have to develop significantly with his mechanics should he hope to emerge from Banner Island Ballpark unscathed.
Matt Stalcup (LHP/Beloit):
The 9th round asset inked by the A's as the 2013 Draft commenced, Stalcup become the second consecutive 5th year collegiate senior sign within a draft proceeding for Oakland as they selected Ryan Mathews in the 27th round the season prior. The native Kansan and Pittsburgh St alumni, Stalcup featured as one of the most prominent Division II strikeout arms throughout his upperclassman tenure, between 148 1/3 IP (28 appearances/24 starts), 71 BB, 187 K, and a mere 9 HR allowed in a performance that enticed Oakland to him as their third LHP plucked during the draft behind Dillon Overton and Chris Kohler. Including setting the single game punchout record for the Gorillas with 15 retired in an eight inning outing, Stalcup signified the A's recent fondness of D2 phenoms after selecting Lou Trivino and Junior Mendez as well between the next seven rounds, with Oakland demonstraing they were not phased by the caliber of competition Stalcup faced or his age (Born 7/6/1990, second most elderly 2013 draftee behind Ben McQuown). Regardless, even more intriguing than his statistical output, Stalcup possesses a windmill delievery, nostalgic of the Warren Spawn era with some of the most unique mechanics in the Oakland system that provide unparalleled deception towards his 89-93 MPH fastball and refined breaking ball. It was a package that the Athletics drooled over and convinced them to transport the lefty to Vermont after placing his signature upon a contract, which unfortunately with his college eligibility having concluded only granted him with $7,500.
Stalcup struggled mightily with control upon his production, striking out a measly 19 through 28 2/3 IP to contrast with 15 walks distributed that dissappointed for those expecting his collegiate percentages to flawlessly transfer towards the NYPL. Still, opposition only mustered a .256 BABIP versus the puzzling left hander and only four XBH were smacked off of him out of 22 cumulative hits permitted (All doubles). Coinciding with this, Stalcup amassed a remarkable 2.56 GB/FB ratio and demomstrated that his delievery frazzled short season bats while inducing significant groundball and weakly hit contact. Against lefties, Stalcup was even more dominant with southpaws hitting .205/.294/.205 through 51 PAs in a performance that could have him to utilized in a long relief capacity versus lefty intensive lineups as he nears the majors and his projection becomes more defined. At the instant, Stalcup shall likely vacillate between starting and relieving roles throughout his impending 2014 with the Snappers, with a long relief position seeming to be the most logical MLB projection. Should he perform admirably against Midwest League competition, Stalcup could easily rise to Stockton and serve as a frighteningly underrated asset for the A's.
Derek DeYoung (RHP/Beloit):
DeYoung had a relatively consistent attempt in his first professional experience following a brief AZL debut in which he made only a lone appearance of 2/3 IP prior to a prompt 2013 Beloit assignment. The 18th rounder from Oakton CC started as one of the premier junior college arms in the midwest after punching out 104 in 75 2/3 IP despite an additional 47 walks permitted during his sophomore campaign. His selection by the Athletics was enough to convince the committee to Lynn who also received Division I scholarship offers from UCF, West Virginia and Coastal Carolina to abandon his academic ventures and suit up with Oakland. Wielding a fastball sitting 90-92 and approaching 94-95 when most rested to complement his plus curveball and developing changeup, DeYoung demonstrated his effectiveness versus full season offenses through 113 frames and 27 appearances (16 starts). He additionally was paired with Vince Voiro in a dual starting philosophy undertaken by Ryan Christenson that permitted every arm upon his roster to amass innings, and his 11 relief appearances all were within this format and explain his 38 IP (Over 3 1/3 IP per bullpen appearance) as a reliever comparatively to his 75 IP when commencing ballgames. DeYoung was able to construct a plus groundball rate with a 1.28 GB/FB and permit a favorable 0.56 HR/9 (7 HR) within one of the most offensively exaggerated ballparks throughout the Midwest League in Pohlman Field.
DeYoung produced some intriguing splits, including reverse splits within LHB/RHB matchups. One could presume DeYoung would be far more effective versus righties, however in nearly indentical sample sizes, RHB went .309/.355/.496 with 6 HR, 20 2B, 36:10 K/BB and a 0.81 GB/FB compared to his .215/.322/.310 slash with 1 HR, 10 2B, 47:31 K/BB, and a 1.31 GB/FB against lefties. Not much that can be derived from this versus MWL competition, but an integrating blip to note and track as he transitions onward to the Cal League. In regards to his starting/relieving splits, DeYoung was considerably more effective out of the bullpen with a 0.95 ERA and a 34:15 K/BB with one HR allowed throughout his 38 IP whereas he was putrid with a 5.88 ERA in 16 starts with more inconsistent control and power statistics. However, DeYoung still figures to intermittenly shift between starting and relieving facilities as he progresses, as he was one of the youngest full season arms in Beloit last season behind Alcantara and ought to develop gradually through his age 22 season in 2014. Cumulatively, his 3.89 FIP, 16.6% K% and 8.2% BB% may not by enough to immediately slot him in Stockton and he likely shall not be granted with Cal League priority, but should arrive in California some time this summer
Louie Trivino (RHP/Beloit):
Oakland's 11th rounder out of Slippery Rock Univerisity, Trivino boasts one of the most extensive repertoires of any Athletics prospect with a 91-95 MPH fastball, changeup, cutter, curveball and slider, in which utilized to orchestrate a flawless junior campaign going 83 2/3 IP with a 92:18 K/BB and barreling through eight complete games for the Division II squad. Intimidating opposing batters with his 6'5", 235 pound frame, Trivino inked for $100,000 and was shipped out instantly to Vermont where he featured in the Lake Monsters rotation through 60 2/3 IP (14 appearances/10 starts) with a 3.46 FIP, 18.0% K%, 7.7% BB% (47:20 K/BB), 0.30 HR/9 (2 HR) and an exquisite 2.39 GB/FB ratio in a performance that ought to propel him onward to Beloit as a permanent rotation member. His dominance also earned him a Instructional League invite and he impressed in Arizona en route to what should be a highly anticipated stint for the Pennsylvania native. The first said draftee from Slippery Rock since Matt Adams, Trivino hopes to follow his route to the majors with all the intangibles in tact and with no roadbumps thus far prior to full season competition.
Seth Streich (RHP/Stockton):
Evidently incorporating primal death screams into his delivery as evidenced by the photo above, Streich is more than just outstanding photographs, featuring as the A's prototypical future starting phenom with the intangibles and repertoire to trample past Cal League opposition en route to the upper reaches of the Athletics farm. Streich was the University of Ohio 6th rounder in 2012 behind Max Muncy that has since made attempts in Vermont and Beloit before his impending Stockton assignment. The imposing 6'3", 215 pound 23 year old features a 93-95 fastball, MPH changeup and developing 76-79 MPH curveball that shall likely determine his MiLB success, and despite struggling with these plus offerings throughout his collegiate stay, scouts theorize it was due to him focusing more so on batting as he manned 1B/DH duties for the Bobcats as well. He initially was advertised to organizations as possessing a lethal 85-87 MPH slider, but Oakland rather opted to eliminate this as they believed it constantly flattened out and thus rather decided to disband that and focus upon his curveball development. Additionally, Streich has dabbled with a cutter, but the reverence of a third secondary shall not be prioitized until he conquers his curveball and demonstrates more accuracy and consistency with that offering.
Already having established Streich has a tremendous amount of potential, he debuted in the AZL en route to Vermont where he manned 15 appearances (4 starts) with 34 2/3 IP while cruising past NYPL bats with a 42:17 K/BB and a lone dinger permitted to complement his 3.75 GB/FB before his Snappers attempt. Unfortunately, Streich would succumb to injury and most notably elbow soreness that squandered his August and only allowed the righty to accumulate 110 2/3 innings. Even with constricted opprorunities, he produced 82:41 K/BB (16.8% K%/8.4% BB%), a 2.32 GB/FB, and resulted in him only surrendering a pair of HRs to conclude with a 3.44 FIP as Streich seems well equipped to tackle Stockton come April. The elbow issue seems to not have persisted and surgery was not required, so Streich is poised so a prompt shift to the central valley as one of the most extreme groundballs arms with the organization. He currently is perched upon the cusp on the Athletics top 20 prospects, so a successful demonstration amongst Cal League foes will assuredly thrust him into the exclusive cast prior to 2015
Other notables: LHP Brent Powers, LHP Chris Lamb, RHP Stuart Pudenz, RHP Andres Avila, RHP Vince Voiro