Athletics

Breaking down A's second baseman situation for this season, future

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USATSI

Breaking down A's second baseman situation for this season, future

OAKLAND -- When the A's acquired Jurickson Profar from the Texas Rangers this past offseason, they were hoping he would step in to replace the production of Jed Lowrie from last year. Unfortunately, he hasn't come anywhere near doing that.

Profar, 26, has struggled all season, both with his bat and his glove. Offensively, he is slashing a meager .205/.268/.382. Defensively, he has committed 12 errors, tied for the most among major-league second basemen.

Partly due to Profar's struggles, the A's gave former top prospect Franklin Barreto a chance to earn the starting second baseman job last month, but the 23-year-old found even less success than Profar at the plate. Barreto hit just .106/.125/.255 with 18 strikeouts in 48 plate appearances, ultimately getting sent back down to Triple-A Las Vegas.

Now with just a month and a half remaining in the regular season, the job appears to belong to unheralded 30-year-old Corban Joseph. Oakland selected Joseph's contract from Triple-A on Wednesday and he has started four straight games at second base.

"We're just trying to do the best we can with the position with a guy who's swinging a hot bat and has been the entire year," A's manager Bob Melvin said of Joseph. "When you have that kind of year and we're maybe not getting as much production as we want out of that position, you look somewhere else."

Melvin confirmed that Joseph, a left-handed hitter, will get the majority of playing time at second base, particularly against right-handed pitchers. That means Profar has once again been relegated to a backup role.

At this point, it seems highly unlikely that the A's will bring Profar back next season. He is earning $3.6 million this season and figures to get a similar salary in arbitration next year. Oakland could try to trade him this offseason or simply non-tender him.

The A's do have some talented young prospects waiting in the wings, in addition to Joseph. Barreto remains a possibility, though his value has certainly dropped a bit over the past few years. Another option is Jorge Mateo, whom the A's acquired from the Yankees in the Sonny Gray trade.

Mateo, 24, is having a productive year in Triple-A, slashing .297/.336/.524 with 17 home runs, 14 triples, 26 doubles, and 22 stolen bases. His elite speed makes him a highly-regarded prospect, ranked fourth in the A's system by MLB Pipeline.

Sheldon Neuse could potentially be another candidate beginning next season. The 24-year-old is primarily a corner infielder, but he has played seven games at second base this year for Triple-A Las Vegas and nine games at shortstop.

[RELATED: Khris Davis was once an underrated prospect]

Neuse is slashing an impressive .320/.389/.546 with 23 home runs and 92 RBI. He is ranked as Oakland's eighth-best prospect.

In the meantime, Joseph has a golden opportunity to take control of the starting second baseman job for the remainder of the season. And who knows, if he performs well down the stretch, he could earn the role for next year too.

Relive three iconic A's victories, performances against rival Astros

Relive three iconic A's victories, performances against rival Astros

Programming note: NBC Sports California will air three classic A’s-Astros games beginning Saturday at 3 p.m. PT.

Since joining the AL West after switching leagues in 2013, the Houston Astros quickly have morphed into one of the A’s most hated rivals.

Those seven seasons have produced plenty of classic matchups, as the clubs finished the season as the division’s top two teams in four of the seven years.

However, the coronavirus outbreak forcing an indefinite suspension upon MLB has robbed teams of getting a chance at revenge on Houston, after the organization was implicated in a nefarious sign-stealing scheme this offseason.

Nevertheless, there's still a way to get your fix, as fans can tune in to NBC Sports California on Saturday afternoon to relive three memorable A’s victories over the Astros.

Lowrie caps comeback -- Sept. 8, 2017

The A’s had their backs against the wall entering the bottom of the seventh inning, trailing Houston 7-3 on a cloudy fall evening in Oakland.

Then Marcus Semien walked to the plate. It took just one swing for the game to be tied at seven as the Bay Area native connected on his third career grand slam. After former A’s outfielder Josh Reddick gave Houston back the lead in the top half, the A’s brought out the power once again. 

Boog Powell led off the bottom half by tying the game with a solo home run, then a few batters later Jed Lowrie brought Semien home to deliver a walk-off win.

The A’s clearly fed off the momentum of that victory, as Oakland went on to sweep the four-game set.

Olson beats Astros -- Aug. 17, 2018

Neck-and-neck in the divisional race, these two adversaries faced off once again at the Oakland Coliseum just under a year later. 

In his 29th career MLB appearance, outfielder Nick Martini was the night’s first hero, tying the game in the bottom of the ninth with an RBI double to bring home Ramon Laureano, who initially was called out before a replay review reversed the ruling.

Slugger Matt Olson came up in the 10th, and lifted a towering shot just over the right-field fence, bringing the A’s to within one game of the AL West lead.

[RELATED: Why Olson's walk-off homer vs. Brewers was so impressive]

A’s offense explodes -- Sept. 10, 2019

A day after the A’s were hammered 15-0 at Minute Maid Park, the A’s returned the favor in a big way with a 21-7 win.

Astros starter Wade Miley lasted just a third of an inning before being relieved, having allowed six runs, all of which came on RBI singles.

Oakland ended up with six total home runs, including two apiece from Olson and young catcher Sean Murphy. It also was the first time in the expansive history of the A’s that the team scored 20 or more runs, had 25 or more hits, and hit at least six home runs in the same contest.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy what likely would have become America’s new greatest pastime this summer: Watching your team beat the Astros.

Chad Pinder, A's players will feel 'residual effects' when MLB returns

Chad Pinder, A's players will feel 'residual effects' when MLB returns

A’s utility man Chad Pinder is home in Charlotte, North Carolina getting plenty of things done. Watching Netflix, painting nursery furniture, and getting in decent workouts in his garage.

Productive, but not reassuring.

“This is kind of unprecedented in our lifetime, basically to have the nation on hold right now,” Pinder told NBC  Sports Bay Area this week. “It is a very scary time, especially in some the areas that are affected bad right now.”

It was only a few weeks ago Pinder and his Oakland teammates were in Mesa, Arizona getting ready for a highly anticipated 2020 MLB season. 

They, like most of the country, didn’t fully interpret the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at first.

“I don’t know if we initially realized what was going on,” Pinder said. “Thought maybe this would be a two-week break, month maximum. The more information you get, the more you see going around, you realize this is a long-term thing.”

Pinder, a highly-regarded clubhouse leader, now keeps in touch with teammates mostly through text messages.

“We have a group thread, everybody’s talking,” Pinder said.

Their main conversations are about MLB developments, and to keep each other in the loop of when baseball could resume. Players don’t have any more assurances or insights than the average fan does these days. But there are some certainties. 

“Even when we resume stuff, there will be residual effects of what’s been going on,” Pinder said.

[RELATED: Stewart better after coronavirus scare]

That aforementioned nursery project is indeed preparation for Chad and his wife Taylor’s first child, due in the late summer months. He is certainly seeing different perspectives of events right now, as they relate to the future.

“The way we handle this, the way we come out of this,” Pinder said. “We’ll look back on the rest of our lives and remember this time.”