Athletics

Cuban signee Dairon Blanco will be one of fastest players in A's organization

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OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Cuban signee Dairon Blanco will be one of fastest players in A's organization

Despite limitations on their current international spending, the A’s added a speedy outfielder from Cuba to their system.

Oakland had been scouting Dairon Blanco extensively for the past year or so after he defected from Cuba and settled in the Dominican Republic. He officially signed with the club Monday.

Blanco, who turns 25 next month, spent four seasons playing in Cuba’s top professional league, Serie Nacional. It’s been nearly two years now since he’s played competitively, so Blanco figures to require considerable time in the minors.

But his speed grades out at 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale, the highest grade possible, and he’ll instantly become one of the fastest players in the A’s organization.

“We’re thrilled,” said A’s assistant general manager Dan Feinstein, who heads up the team’s international scouting. “He’s been in the Dominican a while now, and we’ve been watching him. The first thing the jumped out to all of us is just how athletic he is. How fast he is. He’s a true ’80’ runner.”

The A’s made headlines two summers ago, signing a five-player international class that was headlined by outfielder Lazaro “Lazarito” Armenteros. They incurred penalties for spending over their $3.8 million bonus pool limit then. Because of that, they’re not allowed to sign any single international player for more than $300,000 in the current period, so Blanco did not break the bank.

Feinstein wouldn’t speculate on how quickly Blanco might be an option at the major league level. For now, the A’s are working to secure his visa so he can join the team this spring in Arizona. From there, they’ll decide which minor league affiliate he’ll join.

Feinstein is pleased with the development of that five-player class of teenagers that signed in July 2016. Armenteros and shortstops Marcos Brito and Yerdel Vargas all finished last season playing in the Arizona rookie league after making the permanent move to the United States.

Armenteros, one of the more highly touted international prospects to come along in recent years when the A’s signed him to a roughly $3 million bonus, hit .288 with four homers, 22 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 41 games of rookie ball. His mature physical build stands out for someone his age.

“It’s hard to believe he’s just 18,” Feinstein said.

It will be a few years still before fans see ‘Lazarito’ in the bigs. He’s likely to log time with Class A short-season Vermont in 2018. Armenteros probably won’t be among the non-roster invitees to big league camp this spring, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see him brought over from the minors to fill in for an exhibition or two. Last spring, he was believed to have become the youngest player in franchise history to appear in a Cactus League game, at age 17.

A's notes: Khris Davis continues to own Astros ace Justin Verlander

A's notes: Khris Davis continues to own Astros ace Justin Verlander

OAKLAND — Justin Verlander has made a lot of good hitters look silly over the years. Khris Davis is not one of them.

The A's slugger belted two home runs off Verlander, followed by a single, improving to 6-for-11 with four home runs in his career against the former MVP.

This was Davis' 21st career multi-homer game, and his sixth this season, tied for third most in Oakland history behind Reggie Jackson (eight), Jose Canseco (seven), and Mark McGwire (seven). Davis also set a career high with his eighth three-hit game of the season.

--- Despite allowing four earned runs, Verlander earned his 200th career win. He joins Bartolo Colon and CC Sabathia as the only active pitchers with at least 200 wins and 2,500 strikeouts.

--- The five home runs allowed by the A's tied a season high. Oakland also gave up five home runs June 5 at Texas.

--- The nine runs allowed by the A's were their most in a game since July 24 at Texas, a 13-10 win in 10 innings.

--- Sean Manaea allowed six runs, tying his season high. He gave up nine hits, also tying a season high.

--- Matt Olson went 1-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to seven games, tying a career high.

--- Mark Canha is 0 for his last 11 at the plate. He is batting .125 (5-for-40) in the month of August.

--- Jonathan Lucroy snapped an 0-for-15 skid with a base hit in the seventh inning. He is batting .189 (7-for-37) in August.

What the A's proved after taking four of six from Astros and Mariners

What the A's proved after taking four of six from Astros and Mariners

OAKLAND — Take notice, Major League Baseball. The A's have declared themselves here to stay.

Despite Sunday's loss, Oakland finished off an impressive 4-2 week with series victories against both the Astros and Mariners, their top two competitors in the AL West.

Now with 38 games remaining, the A's sit at 74-50, just a game behind Houston for first place, and 3 1/2 games ahead of Seattle in the Wild Card race. It has become clear that Oakland will be in this division race until the very end.

“We've believed in ourselves since Spring Training, even when not a lot of people thought we should,” reliever Emilio Pagan said. “I think we made a statement coming out and taking the series against them, and Seattle, two really good teams. We feel good going forward.”

“Other teams know that we're good and we're a legit team,” added catcher Jonathan Lucroy. “They know that they have to have their best stuff to beat us.”

The A's have been the hottest team in baseball for more than two months now. Oakland is 40-14 in the last 54 games, a pretty significant sample size, signifying that this is not a fluke. The A's have proven they are one of the elite teams in the sport.

“I would definitely say we're very confident,” reliever Lou Trivino said. “Obviously it would have been nice to get the win here today, but as long as you can continue to win every series, that's really all you need to do. If we can continue to play like we're playing, we're definitely very confident.”

“I think it shows what kind of team we've got, the depth we've got, and how we play,” outfielder Nick Martini added.

The A's have also shown they can beat the league's other top teams. Oakland is 5-4 against the Red Sox and Yankees, who own the two best records in MLB. After losing eight in a row to the Astros, the A's have taken five of the last seven meetings.

“We're just a better team now,” said manager Bob Melvin. “Before, maybe we go out and hope to win those games against them, and now I think we go out and expect to win the games.”

And why shouldn't they? The A's have only lost one of their last 18 series. That type of consistency builds incredible confidence, even for a team lacking experience. This group knows they can compete with anyone in the league, even the defending World Series champions, and they won't settle for anything less than a division title.

It's now a 38-game sprint to the finish. Game on.