With the Arizona Fall League set to begin Tuesday, here’s a glance at the seven minor leaguers the A’s are sending to the annual prospect showcase.
Oakland will have four pitchers and three position players on the roster of the Mesa Solar Sox, joining prospects from the Astros, Cubs, Nationals and Tigers organizations for five weeks of games in the desert:
C Sean Murphy: Rated the A’s No. 4 prospect by Baseball America, the right-handed hitting Murphy was a third-round pick out of Wright State in 2016. He finished this past season with Double-A Midland despite it being his first full professional campaign. He has an excellent throwing arm with solid footwork behind the plate. Murphy finished at .250 with 13 homers, 48 RBI and a .723 OPS in 98 games split between Single-A Stockton and Midland. Participating in his first big league camp this past spring, Murphy impressed one former catcher in particular.
“The kid can throw,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said back then. “It's special. We heard that coming in, but to actually see him throw to bases, it's one of those where you tell the infielder, 'If the ball looks low, give it a chance, because it's carrying.’ It’s an electric arm for sure.”
Murphy turns 23 on Tuesday.
RHP Logan Shore: Lefty A.J. Puk got most of the buzz coming out of the A’s 2016 draft. But it’s Shore, Puk’s teammate at the University of Florida, who many felt was a more polished pitching product. Shore, 22, missed a good chunk of this season with a lat strain suffered in May. He finished 2-5 with a 4.09 ERA in 72 2/3 innings at Stockton. Shore made a nice impression in the spring with a spot start against the Angels that included a strikeout of Mike Trout. A’s special assistant Grady Fuson praised the right-hander during an A’s Insider Podcast interview in September.
“Great sinker, probably as good a changeup as we’ve got in the system. He basically almost makes the baseball stop.”
For much more on A’s prospects, listen to that entire podcast.
3B Sheldon Neuse: Acquired from Washington in the Sean Doolittle/Ryan Madson trade, the 22-year-old Neuse made a big impression with the A’s, hitting .380 with seven homers and 28 RBI in 40 games split between Single-A and Double-A. He also plays shortstop, but after his promotion to Midland, Neuse settled at third base with Jorge Mateo handling short for the Rockhounds.
“He’s got more of a third baseman/catcher’s type build, but the one thing that’s stood out since the day we got him is this guy looks like he might be as pure a hitter as we’ve got,” Fuson said. “He’s got a very good approach to the right-center part of the diamond. He’s strong. He’s physical.”
RHP Norge Ruiz: The A’s signing of this free agent from Cuba last December didn’t create a huge buzz because of the timing of it. But they gave Ruiz, now 23, a $2 million bonus, which speaks to the upside they believe he has. Ruiz posted a 2.55 ERA over three years in Serie Nacional, Cuba’s top professional league. He began this season pitching for the A’s Dominican Summer League team before moving to the Arizona Rookie League and eventually joining Stockton’s rotation, where he went 3-1 with a 5.71 ERA in eight starts.
OF Tyler Ramirez: A seventh-round draft pick out of North Carolina in 2016, Ramirez — who hits and throws left-handed — enjoyed a fine season split between Stockton and Midland. He hit .304 with 11 homers, 63 RBI and a .398 on-base percentage. Ramirez, 22, saw time in all three outfield spots this season but primarily played left field.
RHP Nolan Blackwood: A 6-foot-5 reliever with a submarine delivery, the 22-year-old Blackwood posted 19 saves and a 3.00 ERA for Stockton. That included an impressive 1.05 WHIP and .205 opponents’ batting average over 57 innings.
RHP Miguel Romero: Signed in February out of Cuba, Romero, 23, spent four seasons in Serie Nacional, mainly pitching out of the bullpen. It appears that’s the role the A’s envision for him as well. Romero pitched at four different levels this past season, including eight appearances (one start) and a 6.87 ERA for Stockton.