The Blue Jays start the second half of the season in Oakland (aren't they lucky), playing three games against the A's in beautiful O.co Stadium.
The A's are 38-51, fourth in the AL West. They are 3rd from the bottom in runs scored per game, at 4.11 (we are 5th from the top at 4.91). Runs allowed they are second from the bottom at 4.89, quite the accomplishment when you remember the pitcher's park they play in (we are second from the top at 4.09).
I sent off some questions to Alex Hall, blogger with Athletics Nation, SB Nation's flagship blog.
What do you expect the A's to do at the trade deadline? Who will no longer be an Athletic? What would it take to get Josh Reddick?
It seems clear the A's will sell at the deadline, and the only question is how fully they will purge. Rich Hill is definitely gone, as he's an impending free agent and is expected to land an excellent haul. Marc Rzepczynski will certainly be gone too, as he'll be a free agent. But the other trade chips aren't as clear-cut.
The next most obvious candidate is Reddick, who is also headed to free agency. The A's haven't been able to come to terms on an extension (the dealbreaker is apparently a fourth year), and that has led to speculation that they'll just trade him instead. But I don't know, I just have a hunch that he's gonna stay here. Perhaps it's just some blind homer optimism, but I think they'll hold on to him and keep trying to sign him -- perhaps the presence of a qualifying offer can give them an extra advantage? I'm probably wrong, but every so often I get lucky and guess one right.
Next come some veterans who are still under contract after this year. Ryan Madson, Jed Lowrie, and perhaps even Yonder Alonso are some names who could draw interest. It might be a good time to sell high on Danny Valencia, but personally I would prefer to hang on to him because I think he can keep hitting in 2017. Stephen Vogt is also a possibility, but that would be a tough one for the fanbase. I doubt Coco Crisp or John Axford will get much interest, and Athletics Nation really hopes Coco retires here (preferably after this season).
Oh, and there's Sonny Gray. I believe that trading him would be a bad idea right now. He's having an awful year (5.16 ERA), so right off the bat you're surrendering value by selling low. There's a lot of pitching graduating from the farm right now, but most of it seems to be in the No. 3-5 mold -- they still need that ace at the top. Of course, that requires that Sonny figures out what ails him, but given their financial constraints that's probably the only real chance they have at an ace starter in the next couple years. I would keep him and bet on his 2017. If he's bad again we lose the gamble, but if he returns to form then he either leads you to a winning season or lands you a more appropriate trade haul down the road.
Can I ask how some of our old friends are doing? Liam Hendriks, Kendall Graveman, Mark Rzepczynski and Danny Valencia? (if you are wondering, Josh Donaldson has been pretty ok).
Hi. I ordered one Liam Hendriks from your company last winter, but I think the one you sent me is defective. Your website said that when he throws a pitch the batter is supposed to miss, but instead they keep hitting the ball, like, really hard all over the place. Can I please send him back for a new one?
I like whatever you did to Danny Valencia, though. Can you please do it to Billy Butler and Yonder Alonso as well?
Rzepczynski has been a solid but nondescript reliever, as usual. Graveman is doing exactly what he did last year -- he started out awful, but now he's on a hot streak and it's all balancing out to about league average.
I was just looking at all the players the A's have on the disabled list. 12 players, 7 of them pitchers. With out all the injuries do you think the A's would be in the race for the top of the division?
The A's could have been a .500 team if their entire starting rotation hadn't fallen apart. Chris Bassitt and Felix Doubront both went down with TJS immediately, which ate up the depth right out the gate. Sonny and Jesse Hahn were both mysteriously bad, and Graveman got off to that bad start. Eric Surkamp showed up to pour a bunch of gas on the fire. Sean Manaea rushed up to douse the flames, but he got lit up too because he's a rookie and that's how it goes sometimes.
But Rich Hill has been cool. Except for the month he missed on the DL, because of course. And Daniel Mengden has shown up to give us some more hope. And with Graveman and Manaea both looking better lately, and the depth starting to build back up in Triple-A, hopefully the crisis is over for now. But the damage is done for 2016 and this will be another losing season.
Missing their best pitcher (Hill) and their best position player (Reddick) for a month each was too much for a team that needed every single thing to go right. They also lost Valencia for a month, plus a bunch of other role players. But even with everyone healthy, the defense is the worst in baseball and the lineup didn't get the best-case scenario it needed to truly contend for October. In that sense, the injuries were just icing on the poop cake.
Are there any A's prospects you are expecting to see called up in the second half of the season?
How much time you got?
A couple of them are already here. You'll see Mengden in the opener, and Manaea is here but you won't face him until next year when he's got his control all figured out and is super awesome. Soon to join them will be lefty Dillon Overton, who is basically Tommy Milone but hopefully slightly better; he got shelled in a pair of starts in his first cup of coffee.
On the position player side, Triple-A Nashville is loaded with interesting options. Five of Oakland's top 12 prospects are in Nashville's lineup, but the irony is that their best hitter (Ryon Healy) is a guy who started the year buried on the depth chart (repeating Double-A, even) before forcing his way into the All-Star Futures Game.
Here is a list of guys we could see called up in the second half, in order of what I believe to be their likelihood. The number in parenthesis is their rank on our preseason Community Prospect List. I'm leaving out Arismendy Alcantara and Max Muncy, who already have some MLB experience and aren't really prospects anymore. All of this really depends on how many hitters get traded:
1. 1B/3B Ryon Healy (20) -- He's Nashville's best hitter, so let's see what he can do.
2. OF Jaycob Brugman (21) -- Just like Healy he fought his way up from Double-A, and if Reddick does get traded then the outfield depth could dwindle quickly.
3. SS Chad Pinder (5) -- There are several middle infielders in Triple-A who deserve looks at some point, so may as well trade Lowrie and get started.
4. 2B Joey Wendle (12) -- Same story as Pinder; Wendle doesn't hit as well, but he might field better and he's already on the 40-man roster.
5. C Bruce Maxwell (28) -- He got a long look in spring training and he's hitting well in Nashville, so if Vogt gets traded then maybe he gets his turn.
6. OF/1B Matt Olson (3) -- He doesn't seem quite ready yet, but maybe if he gets hot this month he can take advantage of a post-deadline opportunity.
7+ ... "3B" Renato Nunez (6) and 1B Rangel Ravelo (11) are already on the 40-man, but they just aren't hitting at all.
There are relievers too, but let's move on.
Can we have a scouting report on the starting pitchers we are likely to see?
On Friday you'll see Daniel Mengden. He appeared out of a time warp with a handlebar mustache and an old-timey windup, and it's probably best to just see him for yourself. He gets his fastball into the mid-90s, and he's got a wide arsenal of secondary pitches. He got hit by a liner in his last start and then gave up a bunch of runs afterward, which kind of soured his overall numbers, but otherwise he's been excellent so far.
On Saturday you'll see Sonny. He's been a little bit better lately but he's still not his old self yet.
On Sunday you'll see Rich Hill. In his two starts since returning from the DL he's struck out 16 batters in 12 innings, so, good luck with that. He was going to start on Friday but he had a blister so they pushed him back.
Which A has been your biggest surprise?
Mengden. He finished last year in High-A ball, and now here he is. And he's wonderful.
Ryan Dull is another. He had a crazy year in the minors last year and got a September call-up, but he only profiled as a solid middle reliever. Instead he set an MLB record for most inherited runners stranded to start a season (36) and even generated a small amount of All-Star buzz. It's a half season of relief work so take it for what you will, but the kid looks sharp so far.
(Deep down we all knew Danny Valencia would keep hitting because the universe owed us one.)
Who has been the biggest disappointment?
Sonny. But we already mentioned him a couple times. Let's make a list! (Obviously all injuries are disappointing, so I'm leaving DL sadness out of this.)
1. Sonny :-(
2. Jesse Hahn -- No idea what's wrong. He's healthy and his velocity is there, but he just lost his control. We hoped he'd fight for the No. 2 spot in the rotation but instead he's in Triple-A doing nothing of interest.
3. Chris Coghlan -- We had such high hopes, but he posted a 29 wRC+ in 51 games and got dumped back on the Cubs. That was only a month ago, but I literally already forgot he'd been on the team until I looked through the roster for guys to put on this list.
4. Billy Burns -- Followed up his breakout rookie year with 52 wRC+. Can't steal your way onto first base.
5. Yonder Alonso -- Traded Drew Pomeranz for Alonso. Just an enigmatic swingman for a solid 1B. Whoops. Pom became an All-Star (in Petco Park facing a pitcher every nine batters), and Alonso isn't hitting much at all (81 wRC+). Welp.
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