Athletics

Ranking A's seven prospects in the 2018 Arizona Fall League

Ranking A's seven prospects in the 2018 Arizona Fall League

The A’s magical 2018 season ended in heartbreak with a loss to the Yankees in the American League Wild Card Game. But, the game never stops, especially for young prospects looking to make a name for themselves. 

Starting on Tuesday, Oct. 9, some of the best prospects in baseball will take the field in the Arizona Fall League. There are six teams in total — three in the West and three in the East — and the A’s are sending seven prospects to play for the Mesa Solar Sox this year. 

Before the first game of the 2018 AFL season, let’s rank the A’s prospects in the desert, from No. 1 to No. 7.

1. Eli White

White, 24, can do a little bit of everything. This past season, he played four positions in Double-A — second base, shortstop, third base, and center field. At the plate, he was a threat in the box and on the base paths. 

The future power-speed combo came out for White in 2018. He hit a career-high nine home runs while stealing a career-high 18 stolen bases. White also had a .306 batting average with an .838 OPS. His versatility on both sides of the ball make him an interesting prospect to watch. 

2. Skye Bolt 

While he’s No. 2 on this list, Bolt obviously is No. 1 in the best name category. 

Bolt, the A’s fourth-round draft pick in 2015, had his best season at the plate since going pro. The center fielder hit a career-high 19 home runs and swiped a career-high 19 bags while batting .260 with an .821 OPS. Bolt is more than a name, and his skills will keep you watching this fall. 

3. Luis Barrera

Barrera, 22, is another intriguing toolsy outfielder for the A’s. Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2012, Barrera truly put it all together this season while making it to Double-A for the first time. 

His speed is a factor in the outfield and as an offensive weapon. Though he hit just three home runs, Barrera did have 11 triples, 26 doubles and 23 stolen bases between two levels. 

4. Angel Duno

Duno, 24, turned from a starter to a reliever in his second stint with the Stockton Ports. And the move clearly was the right call. 

In 48 appearances out of the bullpen, Duno went 5-4 with a 2.68 ERA and went from allowing 25 home runs the year before to just four in 2018. Signed out of Venezuela in 2011, Duno will have to prove he can excel in his new role against greater competition. 

5. Calvin Coker

The A’s selected Coker in the 15th round of the 2018 MLB Draft, and he’s already had a taste of Triple-A. He’ll start much lower next year, though, after leaping from one start in short-season Single-A to Triple-A. 

The Auburn product needs to work on avoiding walks, and the AFL will be perfect for him to refine his repertoire. 

6. Sam Sheehan

Sheehan, 25, had bright spots mixed with frustrations in Stockton. He struck out 78 batters in 50 innings, and batters only hit .199 off him. He also walked 32 batters, hit another six and had a 4.32 ERA.

By the end of the AFL, Sheehan could be much higher on this list. 

7. Jake Bray 

Bray, like Sheehan, is another 25-year-old from San Diego who pitched for Stockton in 2018. His results weren’t quite as good as Sheehan’s, though. 

In 15 appearances as a reliever, Sheehan ended the year 1-3 with a 5.01 ERA for the Ports. He also allowed eight home runs and had a 1.46 WHIP. This will be a big test for him in the AFL.

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'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 his current team 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 his High-A run.

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

His days with the Sod Poodles didn't have him putting 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."

"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 he'll 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 spot 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.

He 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," he 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," he 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 -- I wouldn't shy away from anyone bringing me candy during spring training ... you know what I'm saying?"

Jessica Mendoza blames A's Mike Fiers for making Astros scandal public

Jessica Mendoza blames A's Mike Fiers for making Astros scandal public

Blaming the whistleblower is far too popular these days. On Thursday morning, Jessica Mendoza became the latest to join the wrong side of history. 

Mendoza, a former gold medalist softball player, blamed A's pitcher Mike Fiers for the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal becoming public information and the way it has "hurt the game." 

"Going public, yeah," Mendoza said Thursday morning on ESPN's "Golic and Wingo" when asked if she had a problem with Fiers speaking out on the Astros cheating while with a new team. "I mean, I get it. If you're on the Oakland A's and you're with a different team, I mean, heck yeah. You better be telling your teammates, 'Look, hey, heads up when you're pitching and you hear some noises, this is what's going on.' For sure. But to go public, yeah, it didn't sit well with me. 

"And honestly, it made me sad for the sport that that's how this all got found out. I mean, this wasn't something that MLB naturally investigated or that even other teams complained about because they naturally heard about and then investigations happened. It came from within. It was a player that was a part of it, that benefitted from it in the regular season when he when a part of the team.

"And when I first heard about it, it just hits you like any teammate would. It's something that you don't do. I totally get telling your future teammates, helping them win, letting people know. But to go public with it and call them out and start all of this, it's hard to swallow." 

Mendoza later tried to explain her remarks. 

Her original comments are wrong on so many levels, but let's start with the conflict of interest here. Mendoza is an MLB broadcaster for ESPN while at the same time working in an advisory role for the New York Mets' baseball operations. There's conflict of interest No. 1. And it doesn't stop there. 

Carlos Beltran was a player on the Astros when they won the World Series in 2017, the year that Houston is accused of electronically stealing signs. He also was the only player named in MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred's report on the cheating scandal. How does this tie back to Mendoza? Beltran was hired as the Mets' manager on Nov. 1, 2019.

There's conflict of interest No. 2. 

Shortly after Mendoza's remarks Thursday, Beltran and the Mets mutually parted ways.

In a November report from The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drelich, Fiers, who joined the A's halfway through the 2018 season, was the first player to confirm the Astros used technology to steal signs. 

“I just want the game to be cleaned up a little bit because there are guys who are losing their jobs because they’re going in there not knowing,” Fiers said

On Monday, MLB looked to clean the game up like Fiers wished. 

Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Lunhow were each suspended by MLB without pay for the 2020 season. Houston also had to forfeit its first- and second-round picks for the 2020 and '21 MLB Drafts. On top of that, the Astros were fined $5 million -- the highest allowable fine under the Major League Constitution -- and former Astros assistant GM Brandon Taubman was placed on baseball's ineligible list through the end of the 2020 World Series. 

Later that day, the Astros announced they fired Hinch and Lunhow.

Alex Cora, who was an Astros bench coach at the time and was linked to electronically stealing signs, parted ways with the Boston Red Sox as their manager Tuesday.

[RELATED: Where Luzardo, Puk rank among lefty pitching prospects]

What Fiers did in November was far from a sad day for baseball. It was an act of courage to put your name next to strong statements instead of hiding behind anonymous quotes. 

What Mendoza did Thursday, however, is nothing more than cowardice.