Athletics

A's 2019 Projections: Does Nick Martini improve on tail of successes?

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USATSI

A's 2019 Projections: Does Nick Martini improve on tail of successes?

Editor's note: Over the next few weeks, NBC Sports California will be analyzing a different A's player each day to project their numbers for next season.

Nick Martini was one of the best stories in baseball last season. After spending more than seven years in the minor leagues, the 28-year-old finally got to make his Major League debut with the A's, and he took full advantage of his opportunity.

Martini led Oakland with a .296 batting average and .397 on-base percentage, compiling an OPS of .811 in 55 games. The left-hander earned the A's starting left fielder role against right-handed pitchers and even led off 32 games.

The big question heading into 2019 is whether it was a fluke. Baseball Reference expects Martini to regress a bit next season, projecting a slash line of .265/.349/.415 with six home runs, 14 doubles, and 31 RBI.

Martini has proven in both the big leagues and the minors that he is an on-base machine. Last season at Triple-A Nashville, he reached base in 65 consecutive games, setting a Pacific Coast League record. He also owns the Division I collegiate record, reaching base in 93 straight games at Kansas State University.

Martini figures to enter the season as the A's primary left fielder against right-handed pitching. He will have to fend off the likes of Dustin Fowler, Mark Canha, and Chad Pinder, but if he performs at anywhere near last year's level, he won't have to worry.

A's manager Bob Melvin was impressed with Martini's sophisticated approach in the batter's box last season. For someone with limited big league experience, he understands how to work a count and rarely chases pitches out of the strike zone.

We expect another strong season from Martini in 2019. While it will be hard to match last year's numbers, we think he can at least come close. His plate discipline and opposite field approach should once again make him a solid leadoff option for the A's.

Projection: .281/.363/.414, 7 HR, 24 doubles, 44 RBI

A's 2019 projections: Chris Herrmann seeks improvement, starting time

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USATSI

A's 2019 projections: Chris Herrmann seeks improvement, starting time

Editor's note: Over the next few weeks, NBC Sports California will be analyzing a different A's player each day to project their numbers for next season.

It remains to be seen if the A's will add another catcher this offseason, but as of right now, the team would feature a Chris Herrmann-Josh Phegley platoon behind the plate.

Herrmann, 31, signed a one-year, $1 million contract with Oakland last month after playing for the Mariners in 2018. A left-handed hitter, Herrmann played just 36 games for Seattle, slashing .237/.322/.421 with two home runs, four doubles, and seven RBI.

Herrmann has never put up big numbers at the plate, hitting just .205/.282/.351 in seven career seasons. He did perform well in Triple-A last year, however, posting a slash line of .257/.416/.426 with six homers and 24 RBI in 42 games.

Defensively, Herrmann has a career fielding percentage of .993 behind the dish and has thrown out 32 percent of attempted base stealers, four points higher than the league average. The A's said they were impressed by his pitch framing and pop times.

Baseball Reference projects Herrmann to hit .227/.306/.399 with nine home runs and 30 RBI next season. If he does end up platooning with Josh Phegley, he figures to get the majority of starts since he is the left-handed bat.

We still think the A's would be wise to add a true starting catcher before the start of the season, but if Herrmann ends up being the de facto starter, he could certainly challenge his previous career-highs in both home runs (10) and RBI (28).

Projection: .235/.309/.398, 8 HR, 31 RBI

A's A.J. Puk making 'tremendous' progress following Tommy John surgery

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AP

A's A.J. Puk making 'tremendous' progress following Tommy John surgery

The A's farm system has taken on a life of its own this offseason with all the Kyler Murray talk, but it's time for an update on the organization's No. 2 prospect, A.J. Puk.

And so far, it appears to be a good one.

MLB.com's Jane Lee reported recently that "per general manager David Forst, A.J. Puk is already throwing pitches from flat ground," after undergoing Tommy John surgery in April of 2018.

While this may not sound like much, Lee considers it "tremendous progress," and indicates he is well on his way to return to game action. And the plan for him to sport a minor league uniform for the A's in 2019 is a huge possibility.

We could see him appear in a game around the midseason point, "if not sooner," Lee said.

Despite him being selected to MLB Pipeline's top left-handed prospects, his ETA to The Show is estimated to be 2020.

Things could change, of course -- everyone's rehabilitation process is different. But for the time being, this is great news for those curious about the lefty who has been compared to Randy Johnson.

[RELATED: Prospect breakdown on A.J. Puk]

Talk about pressure.

In 2017, across two teams (High-A Stockton and Double-A Midland), the A's 2016 first-rounder boasted a 4.03 ERA with 184 strikeouts in 125 innings.