Athletics

Five A's players who could make impact in 2019 season despite being cut

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USATSI

Five A's players who could make impact in 2019 season despite being cut

One of the biggest keys to the A's success last season was their depth, and not just at the major league level. Oakland got significant contributions from several players who started the season in the minors. Names like Lou Trivino, Ramón Laureano, Nick Martini, Mark Canha and countless others played crucial roles after earning call-ups.

The A's hope to receive similar production from their farm system this season. With that in mind, here are five spring training cuts who could make an impact later this year:

Dustin Fowler

Fowler put together a strong spring, batting .293 (12-for-41) with two home runs, four RBI, and two stolen bases. That followed a terrific season in Triple-A last year, where he slashed .341/.364/.520. He will likely be the first outfielder called up this year.

Fowler struggled at the major league level last season but his upside is enormous. Still just 24 years old, he has plenty of time to put it all together in Oakland. With his combination of power and speed and the A's uncertainty in left field, Fowler will likely get another big league opportunity sooner rather than later.

Daniel Mengden

Mengden has already proven he can retire major league hitters. He just has to do it consistently. Last season, the right-hander went 7-6 with a 4.05 ERA and 1.12 WHIP, certainly respectable numbers in the American League.

Unfortunately for Mengden, the A's were granted a fourth minor league option and elected to use it in his case. The 26-year-old struggled a bit this spring, but with Oakland's questionable starting rotation, he will almost certainly get another chance in the coming months, or even weeks.

Tanner Anderson

The A's were very high on Anderson when they acquired him from the Pirates this offseason, and they're still high on him now, despite optioning him to Triple-A. The 25-year-old looked extremely sharp this spring, allowing just one earned run in nine innings, with 11 strikeouts.

Anderson has experience both as a starter and reliever, and the A's love his versatility. The right-hander could be a prime option as the second pitcher in "opener" games later in the season.

Jorge Mateo

Mateo has loads of natural ability but is still a bit raw at the plate. Still, the 23-year-old middle infielder is a dynamic talent with top-end speed and could be a tremendous weapon for the A's late in the season.

Mateo slashed just .230/.280/.353 last year in Triple-A but notched a league-leading 16 triples as well as 25 stolen bases. This spring, he went 5-for-18 with a double, triple, and three walks. At the very least, Mateo will be a valuable pinch-runner in September.

[RELATED: Mateo impresses A's in spring training]

Sean Murphy

Murphy is unquestionably the A's catcher of the future. The only question is when that future begins. Oakland appears set for now with Nick Hundley, Josh Phegley, and Chris Herrmann splitting time behind the plate, but Murphy will put pressure on all of them to perform.

MLB Pipeline ranks Murphy as the A's third-best prospect, behind only pitching phenoms Jesús Luzardo and A.J. Puk. Murphy is already MLB-ready defensively and his offensive production is improving rapidly. If he puts up big numbers in Triple-A, he could earn a promotion sometime this year.
 

Ex-A's reliever Shawn Kelley has no hard feelings toward former team

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AP

Ex-A's reliever Shawn Kelley has no hard feelings toward former team

OAKLAND -- After Shawn Kelley's stellar stretch run with the A's last season, it seemed likely he would return to Oakland as a free agent.

The 34-year-old right-hander appeared in 19 games last August and September, registering a 2.16 ERA and 0.78 WHIP, with 18 strikeouts in 16 2/3 innings. But while there was initially mutual interest in a reunion, the A's decided to go in a different direction and Kelley signed a one-year, $2.75 million contract with the Texas Rangers.

"We talked from the very end of (the season) about getting something done," Kelley told NBC Sports California. "I think when they got (Joakim) Soria and gave him that money (two years, $15 million), my agent called right away because we were kind of worried. We had been talking to (A's general manager David) Forst. Both sides were like, 'Yeah, let's get something done.' When Soria signed, we kind of saw the writing on the wall. And then (Forst) wished me luck in whatever decision I made. He said, 'We spent a little on a couple of guys and so we wish you the best and thanks for everything you did coming over, but we're out of money.'"

Kelley says he carries no hard feelings toward his former squad, as he understands the business side of baseball. He still has a great relationship with his old teammates and manager.

"I talked to all the guys when they came to Texas and I talked to them (Tuesday)," Kelley said. "I went over and gave BoMel a big hug and told him, 'Man, I'm sorry. I wanted to be here. It just didn't work out.' That's part of it. It wasn't for a lack of effort. There was obviously genuine interest from me and definitely some genuine interest from their side. Things just go different ways sometimes in free agency."

Kelley has carried last year's success into this season with the Rangers. He is already 3-0 with a save and a 1.80 ERA, as well as a 0.80 WHIP. He has notched nine strikeouts in 10 innings without issuing a single walk.

"It's been great," Kelley said. "It's a good group. It kind of reminds me of what we had over there last year (with the A's), as far as a good mix of young guys with some veterans, a lot of energy, and a lot of will to not give in and keep fighting. It's been a good experience."

Kelley is extremely thankful for the opportunity the A's gave him last season, especially after the Nationals let him go following his now infamous -- and probably overblown -- glove-slamming incident. He believes his time in Oakland rejuvenated his career.

[RELATED: Versatile Pinder forcing way into everyday starting role]

"I had fun when I went over there and saw a renewed energy and passion for just going out and having fun and enjoying it, and it not feeling like work every day," Kelley said. "It was a great experience. I loved it."

For now, Kelley is happy to be a Texas Ranger, although he doesn't rule out a return to Oakland down the road.

"Hey, you never know," he smiled. "One day, I may be back."

Chad Pinder making strong case to A's for everyday starting lineup

Chad Pinder making strong case to A's for everyday starting lineup

OAKLAND – Chad Pinder is making it extremely difficult for A's manager Bob Melvin to keep him out of the starting lineup.

The A's utility star continued his breakout season Wednesday, going 2-for-5 with the game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the ninth, as Oakland completed a three-game sweep of the Texas Rangers with a 6-5 win.

"I'm just trying to stay short and put a good swing on a pitch that I can handle," Pinder said of his first career walk-off hit. "It was awesome. That was a big one for us, a three-game sweep, especially after taking three losses from the Blue Jays."

Pinder also got it done with his glove Wednesday, making a diving catch in left field to rob Shin-Soo Choo of a base hit in the fifth inning.

"He contributes," A's manager Bob Melvin said of Pinder. "If he has a slow offensive day, he contributes defensively. He gets big hits. He does timely things, as you saw again today. ... He's a smart player on top of everything."

Pinder is slashing .320/.342/.507 in 75 at-bats this season, with three home runs and 11 RBI. The 27-year-old started all three games this series against the Rangers -- two in left field and one at second base -- and proceeded to go 6-for-14 with three RBI and three runs scored.

"It's nice," Pinder said of his current hot streak. "When you're getting consistent at-bats, it gets you on a little bit of a roll. It's been good for me."

Pinder's .320 batting average leads the entire team and his .848 OPS ranks third, behind only Matt Chapman and Marcus Semien.

"The more he gets to play, the more he contributes," Melvin said. "You watch his day today, he didn't have great swings but he shoots a ball over there to right field with two strikes. In that at-bat, he's not trying to do too much.

"There are days that you feel really good about yourself and you feel kind of invincible. There are other days where maybe you're not feeling great and you do the best you can and identify how you're going to be pitched and not try to do too much. He's aware of all those things."

[RELATED: A's will get first look at phenom Vlad Jr. on Friday]

Pinder has already proven he can play just about any position on the diamond. Now he's proving he belongs in the starting lineup every game.