Athletics

A's prospects Jesús Luzardo, Sean Murphy voted to make big impact in 2020

A's prospects Jesús Luzardo, Sean Murphy voted to make big impact in 2020

It was a devastating scene in the clubhouse when the A's fell to the Rays in the AL Wild-Card Game. And yet, there still was a sense of hope. 

The young names of the A's still lingered in the air with the promise of a strong 2020 -- and perhaps even stronger seasons after that. Afterall, we had yet to see an entire season from young pitching star Jesús Luzardo.

The presence of Luzardo to the Oakland big-league club could be a game-changer, according to some MLB executives.

MLB.com surveyed front-office officials about which prospects would contribute the most in 2020. Luzardo was voted No. 2 overall with 19 percent of the vote.

Luzardo suffered a few setbacks last season while he was well on the way to his MLB debut. A Grade 2 lat strain and a shoulder injury had his ETA delayed, but he more than made up for it during his debut against the Houston Astros. 

He struck out two in three innings and allowed one hit. After the regular season had concluded, he went 5-1 with a 1.50 ERA in 12 innings, striking out 16.

It was quite an impressive run despite the small sample size.

Catcher Sean Murphy also was mentioned in the poll with eight percent of the executives believing he will have an impact on the upcoming season. The 25-year-old played in 20 games in 2019 and slashed .245/.333/.566 with 13 hits and four home runs. 

[RELATED: Semien, Hendriks top breakout players of 2019]

In the MLB.com write-up from prospect analyst Jim Callis, he noted Murphy's production behind the plate has been one of his standouts, but the raw power also is something that was noticed -- hence those four homers during September call-ups.

This goes to show the league is noticing the young talent the A's possess. They'll need all the help they can get from the young guys in order to succeed enough to take the AL West title and avoid the detrimental wild-card game that year-after-year haunts them.

Cardinals' Kyler Murray claims he could play two sports at same time

Cardinals' Kyler Murray claims he could play two sports at same time

The game Kyler Murray played of "What will he choose?" ultimately ended with the dual-sport player deciding to be an NFL quarterback.

Despite the choice, Murray, the A's first-round pick (No. 9 overall) in the 2018 MLB Draft, believes if he were given a one-calendar year, he would be able to play both sports.

"Athletically, I think yeah, I could do it," Murray told The Arizona Republic's Bob McManaman

Murray added it's something he's done his entire life and "would love to add that to my resume."

The guy is a heck of an athlete, that's for sure. He ended up being the No. 1 overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2019 NFL Draft and became the first player ever drafted in the first round in both the NFL and MLB.

Not bad. 

He started 50 of his 51 games in a baseball uniform as an Oklahoma Sooner, hitting a .296 average with 10 home runs and 47 RBI. 

As a member of the Sooner football team, he threw for 4,361 yards and rushed for 1,001 scoring a combined 54 touchdowns. That was tied for the ninth-most in NCAA Division 1 history and he sealed his college campaign with a Heisman Trophy.

It was a difficult pill to swallow for A's fans that looked forward to seeing him in action. Both from a playing and marketing perspective.

When he made the decision to be an NFL player, he had to return a chunk of his signing bonus money ($4.66 million total) to the A's and would forfeit the remaining $3.16 million due that March. 

The A's retained Murray's rights, but the team did not get a compensatory draft pick.

[RELATED: A's prospect Reed will be perfect for Green and Gold]

General manager David Forst told reporters last year during spring training the A's knew there was a possibility he would choose football.

"We'll focus on what we need to do if he comes back to baseball at some point, and he'll come back with the A's," Forst said.

A's Buddy Reed hopes to reunite with Florida teammate A.J. Puk in 2020

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AP

A's Buddy Reed hopes to reunite with Florida teammate A.J. Puk in 2020

The player to be named later's name was Buddy Reed. The moment the A's acquired the outfield prospect from the Padres in a Jurickson Profar trade, I was told A's fans were going to love him.

That was quickly justified.

"I'm a pretty vibrant person," Reed told NBC Sports California. "I feed off other people's energy and I like others to feed off my energy. For the most part, I try and I like to stay as positive as possible."

That energy was apparent the moment he got the call from Padres general manager A.J. Preller that he would be joining the same organization as his roommate and former Florida Gator teammate A.J. Puk.

Reed and the A's No. 2 prospect have been living together since the two were drafted in 2016.

"A.J. was working out and I was trying to wait until he got home, but I just was like 'Yo, I got traded,' and we just started screaming and yelling."

The two reminisced about going to school together and Reed began to think about watching Puk blossom in his own journey.

"To be put on the same team as him and to see him thrive as he did coming off of Tommy John and then to get to the big leagues so fast -- it was really cool to see that and it's going to be even cooler, hopefully, if the cards are right -- to play with him and join him in an outfield position in the major leagues," Reed said.

Reed's transition to a new club won't have the typical "new kid on the first day of school" feeling. He's been facing the A's minor league teams for years.

While with Double-A Amarillo, he saw members of the A's organization more often than you might think. The Texas League possesses only eight teams so with the matchups being plentiful, he found himself facing the Midland Rockhounds often and developed friendships rapidly.

"Just from playing against the A's at pretty much every level and meeting the guys, seeing those over and over again, I definitely feel like I'm going to blend well with the group of guys I come to meet," Reed said.

He also hopes he repeats some of the same numbers he put up in the minors, specifically during his High-A run.

With the Lake Elsinore Storm in 2018, the outfielder slashed .324/.371/.549 with 102 hits and 12 home runs with a .921 OPS. 

During his time with the Sod Poodles last season, Reed didn't put up the numbers at the plate he would have liked, but his offseason training in Tampa, Fla. has him looking forward to 2020.

"Both sides of the ball are really important," Reed said. "I always continue my outfield work and then from a hitting standpoint, it's getting back to where I was when I was in High-A -- one of my best years in the minors. Obviously I was very fortunate enough to go to the Future's Game and things like that -- that was all a credit to what I was doing on both sides of the ball -- hitting, stealing bases, making plays in the outfield and throwing guys out."

In 121 games in Double-A last season, Reed's .228/.310/.388 numbers show what he needs to target for improvements. 

He's been focusing on the video element present time baseball technology has gifted us in order to get back to those High-A numbers. It sounds easier said than done, but he wants to keep his approach as simple as possible.

"When your brain starts going off on all different things, it's really difficult to bring it back to center," Reed said.

"I just want to be productive -- whether it's a productive out or a productive guy in the box, on offense -- I wanna show what I can do so defense as well."

MLB Pipeline's Jonathan Mayo complimented Reed's glove capabilities, telling NBC Sports California he's "one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball."

Now that Reed will be a member of the Green and Gold, he'll have plenty of talented guys to learn from on every part of the game. He currently trains at the same facility in Tampa as A's center fielder Ramón Laureano and mentioned him a few times who he looks forward to hopefully playing alongside.

And of course, the corner infielders.

"Matt Chapman and Matt Olson," Reed quickly said. "Just how they go about things hitting-wise because they're obviously really good offensively and produce a lot for the A's as well as defensively. Chapman is probably one of the best third basemen in the league so I think it would be interesting to watch those guys."

He would obviously love to be reunited with Puk, but this time, on a big-league field.

Reed knows pitchers Brian Howard and Parker Dunshee from his time in the minors as well who can keep him company until that dream takes place. Reed also knows former A's minor leaguer Richie Martin who lives with him and Puk at the moment if he needed any additional info on the A's.

"It's a pretty interesting little thing we have going on," Reed quipped.

I asked Reed what A's fans need to know about the new guy coming to the organization.

[RELATED: Why A's fans will love Buddy Reed]

"They're going to get a high-character, respectable person that just loves to be around other people and enjoys the game of baseball," Reed said.

"I'd like to thank the Padres for drafting me and giving me the opportunity to play at the next level. For me, with the A's, it's like a fresh start."

And he has some incentives to get on his good side.

"I mean, for one thing, as an A's fan, they should know I love candy," Reed said. "I wouldn't shy away from anyone bringing me candy during spring training ... you know what I'm saying?"