Athletics

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

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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.
 

How A's J.B. Wendelken has earned Bob Melvin's trust in big situations

How A's J.B. Wendelken has earned Bob Melvin's trust in big situations

OAKLAND -- The A's have been searching for a reliable eighth-inning relief option for essentially the entire season. They might have found one potential answer in 26-year-old J.B. Wendelken.

The hard-throwing right-hander was terrific last season, allowing just one run in 16 2/3 innings, with 14 strikeouts. But after a slow start in 2019, Wendelken was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas, where he has spent most of this year.

Since returning to the A's earlier this month, Wendelken has pitched five perfect innings. That's right -- 15 up, 15 down.

"I've been feeling really good," Wendelken told NBC Sports California. "It's a little bit of an adjustment period, but that's the way it always is. I'm just coming in and giving the guys a chance to get ahead. That's all you can do out of the pen."

It appears Wendelken has already earned his manager's trust. On multiple occasions, Bob Melvin has utilized the young right-hander in late-inning, high-leverage situations.

"We've always felt like he was a guy that we could count on," Melvin said. "It's nice to have him here and he's pitched really well for us, so hopefully, he can gain some confidence from that."

"It's super exciting. It's one of those things where they put your faith in you and you have to step up," Wendelken said. "It's an adrenaline rush, but at the same time, it could be overwhelming. We all have a job to do. All we can do is go in there and be hard-nosed."

Throughout his career, Wendelken has relied on his mid-to-high 90s fastball, only occasionally mixing in a changeup and curveball. But during his time in Triple-A, he began developing a slider. 

"It's come a long way," Wendelken said. "It took a while to even get a swing and a miss. That was the big thing. We kind of laughed about it. In two months there (in Las Vegas), I didn't even get one swing and miss on it. I'm finally getting a little turnaround on it, so it's good to see some movement and some swings and misses."

[RELATED: Semien breaks Henderson's A's record]

As the A's make their final playoff push, they will continue to rely on Wendelken in the late innings. If he can maintain his effectiveness, it will go a long way toward putting Oakland over the top.

Marcus Semien reflects on breaking A's record held by Rickey Henderson

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Marcus Semien reflects on breaking A's record held by Rickey Henderson

OAKLAND -- Monday's 6-5 loss to the lowly Royals was surely a tough pill for the A's to swallow, but there was a bright spot for Marcus Semien.

The A's shortstop blasted his career-high 31st home run of the season in the second inning, a two-run shot to center field. More importantly, it was his 29th homer from the leadoff position, breaking Rickey Henderson's single-season franchise record of 28.

"I thought it was cool that he was here today sitting right behind home plate," Semien said. "He's still one of us. He spends a lot of time with us. He's like one of our teammates. It's pretty special."

As a Bay Area native, Semien truly understands the significance of passing Henderson, in any category.

"He was my dad's favorite player growing up," Semien said. "[He's] a Hall of Famer, so it's cool to be in any conversation with him."

Semien has put together an MVP-caliber season for the A's. The 28-year-old is slashing .284/.365/.519 with 31 home runs, 38 doubles, seven triples, and 87 RBI. He has also started every game of the season at shortstop, where he has a legitimate chance to win a Gold Glove.

"He's been fantastic," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "Durable, power, average, on-base (percentage), defense, one of the better players in the league."

Semien ranks in the top 10 in the AL for nearly every major offensive category. He leads the A's in hits, runs, doubles, triples, RBI, and walks, and he has joined some truly elite company with all of thsoe numbers.

Sure, those may seem like particularly specific qualifications, but anytime you're on a list with just Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, you know you've done something special.