Athletics

A's outfield depth can withstand potential loss of Kyler Murray to NFL

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A's outfield depth can withstand potential loss of Kyler Murray to NFL

The A's are still holding out hope that center field prospect Kyler Murray will choose to play baseball professionally rather than football, but it feels like an uphill battle.

Earlier this week, the San Francisco Chronicle reported the A's are expecting their 2018 first-round pick to declare for the NFL Draft, with one source saying Murray was leaning toward a professional football career.

As disappointing as that would be for Oakland, there is a silver lining. The A's have a great deal of outfield depth beyond Murray, both at the Major League level and in the farm system.

We'll start with the big league squad, which features six young outfield options. Stephen Piscotty, Ramón Laureano, Nick Martini, Mark Canha, Dustin Fowler, and Chad Pinder are all under the age of 30, and all six are under team control for at least three more years.

Laureano has already shown he has the tools to be Oakland's center fielder of the future, not to mention the present. In just two months last season, the 24-year-old hit .288/.358/.474 with five home runs, 19 RBI, and seven stolen bases, and that doesn't even get into his defensive brilliance.

Piscotty, Canha, and Martini are all coming off career years and will have an opportunity to build on their efforts next season. Fowler and Pinder are also highly-regarded talents and figure to make an impact in 2019, and top infield prospect Franklin Barreto can play the outfield as well, adding even more depth on the roster.

[RELATED: Kyler Murray decision not the end of the world for A's]

At the minor league level, three of the A's top eight prospects are outfielders (four if you include shortstop Jorge Mateo, who played some center field in 2017). Austin Beck, Lázaro Armenteros, and Jameson Hannah are all 21 or younger and the A's think very highly of all three. Top 30 prospects Skye Bolt, Tyler Ramirez, and Luis Barrera are also coming off strong seasons and provide further depth in the organization.

Obviously, losing Murray to the NFL would hurt. There's no getting around that. But thanks to the A's additional outfield talent, it wouldn't be a devastating blow to the franchise.
 

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

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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.

A's vs. Astros lineups: Josh Phegley returns, Khris Davis bats seventh

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A's vs. Astros lineups: Josh Phegley returns, Khris Davis bats seventh

The A's have a quick turn around from a 3-2 walk-off win over the Houston Astros at the hands of Robbie Grossman on Friday night. The outfielder hit a single in the 13th inning and the team celebrated accordingly.

Saturday's game will be the third of the series against the 'Stros who fall two games behind in the four-gamer. And the good news for the A's gets better with catcher Josh Phegley returning to the lineup after being on the injured list with a sore thumb.

The addition will have him hitting ninth, two spots after designated hitter Khris Davis who drops down to spots in the lineup.

The A's will send Chris Bassitt to the mound to face Rogelio Armenteros who was promoted from Triple-A Round Rock to get the start in place of injured Gerrit Cole. The right-hander is 5-6 with a 5.05 ERA in Triple-A

Here are how the lineups look to shape up for the Astros-A's game. Coverage will be on FOX Sports 1. You can also follow in-game, here.

Houston Astros (78-45)

George Springer, RF
Jose Altuve, 2B
Michael Brantley, LF
Alex Bregman, 3B
Yordan Alvarez, DH
Carlos Correa, SS
Yuli Gurriel, 1B
Martin Maldonado, C
Jake Marisnick, CF
Rogelio Armenteros, P (1-0, 1.93 ERA)

Oakland A's (70-52)

Marcus Semien, SS
Robbie Grossman, LF
Matt Chapman, 3B
Matt Olson, 1B
Mark Canha, CF
Stephen Piscotty, RF
Khris Davis, DH
Corban Joseph, 2B
Josh Phegley, C
Chris Bassitt, P (8-5, 3.56ERA)