Three A's relievers still competing for final spot in loaded bullpen

Three A's relievers still competing for final spot in loaded bullpen

With all the focus on the A's starting rotation, it can be easy to forget that there's also a battle for Oakland's final bullpen opening.

Blake Treinen, Fernando Rodney, Joakim Soria, Lou Trivino, Ryan Buchter, Yusmeiro Petit, and Liam Hendriks should have the first seven spots locked down. That likely leaves J.B. Wendelken, Ryan Dull, and Jerry Blevins competing for the eighth and final slot.

Blevins appears to be the favorite, despite struggling this spring. Oakland signed the 35-year-old to a minor-league contract in February, hoping to add a second left-hander to the bullpen.

However, in three appearances this spring, Blevins has an ERA of 23.14. That's not a typo. The decimal is in the right place - 23.14.

The veteran has allowed six earned runs, four hits, and three walks in just 2 1/3 innings. This comes on the heels of a disappointing 2018 season with the Mets, where Blevins finished with a 4.85 ERA, his highest since 2014.

Still, Blevins has the benefit of being left-handed on a team brimming with right-handed relievers. He also spent seven solid seasons with the A's from 2007-13, going 13-6 with a 3.30 ERA.

Wendelken, 25, is coming off a splendid 2018 campaign, in which he allowed just one run in 16 2/3 innings at the big-league level. He too has struggled this spring, however, allowing seven earned runs, nine hits, and four walks in 6 1/3 innings. The right-hander still has a minor league option remaining and the A's will most likely use it.

Dull has worked his way into the discussion with a tremendous spring. The 29-year-old right-hander has tossed 3 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing two hits and one walk, with five strikeouts, and his velocity has been up, as Bob Melvin noted.

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Dull signed a one-year deal worth $860,000 this offseason, avoiding arbitration. In four career seasons, he is 8-9 with a 3.63 ERA. Like Wendelken, Dull has options remaining, which could work against him, but he has at least garnered serious consideration for a 25-man roster spot.

A's top prospect ranking: Why Nick Allen comes in at No. 10 overall


A's top prospect ranking: Why Nick Allen comes in at No. 10 overall

Editor's note: Over the next two weeks, we will examine the top 10 prospects in the A's organization. For each player, we will provide a scouting report and a realistic timetable for reaching the major leagues, as well as what he needs to do to stay there.

No. 10 - Nick Allen, SS/2B

The A's selected Allen out of high school in the third round of the 2017 MLB Draft and he is beginning to develop into the shortstop they hoped he would be. At just 5-foot-9, the 21-year-old is far from imposing physically, but he is a defensive wizard.

Allen has tremendous range and a cannon for an arm, with MLB Pipeline assigning him a 65 fielding rating on the 20-80 scale and an arm grade of 60. There has never been any question about his defensive ability, which is already MLB quality. Now he's beginning to show improvement at the plate as well.

Allen struggled in 2018 at Class-A Beloit, slashing just .239/.301/.302 in 121 games. But this past season at High-A Stockton, that slash line shot up to .292/.363/.434, with improved power numbers across the board.

Allen also has above-average speed, with a 60 rating from MLB Pipeline. He stole 37 bases in 193 games over the past two seasons.

Allen can play shortstop and second base, both potential positions of need for the A's in the near future. Marcus Semien is set to become a free agent after the 2020 season and Jurickson Profar is far from a sure thing to return. Youngsters Jorge Mateo, Franklin Barreto, and Sheldon Neuse could also be options at the middle infield positions, but Allen has a great chance to earn a spot down the road.

Realistically, Allen doesn't figure to join the A's until at least 2021, with 2022 seeming more realistic. He just turned 21 earlier this month and has yet to play a single game above High-A.

Allen will likely start the 2020 season at Double-A Midland, with an opportunity to move up to Triple-A Las Vegas, based on his performance. If he continues to progress offensively, he could certainly earn a major league call-up at some point in 2021.

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Allen has already added some strength, which has been reflected in his increased productivity at the plate. He will need to continue his work in the weight room, without losing his speed, which should be his biggest weapon offensively.

While Allen will never be a power-hitter, he can use his speed to wreak havoc on the basepaths. If he maintains his magical defensive prowess, he has an opportunity to develop into a solid major leaguer for Oakland.

A's closer Liam Hendriks a finalist for AL Reliever of the Year award


A's closer Liam Hendriks a finalist for AL Reliever of the Year award

A's closer Liam Hendriks is one of three finalists for the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award.

Hendriks is joined by Astros closer Roberto Osuna and Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman. The NL finalists are Josh Hader, Will Smith, and Kirby Yates.

Hendriks, 30, enjoyed a breakout season in 2019, recording a 1.80 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. The right-hander notched 124 strikeouts in 85 innings, an A's franchise record for relievers, compared to just 21 walks.

Hendriks took over closing duties from Blake Treinen in the middle of the season and finished with 25 saves, along with eight holds. His 124 punchouts led AL relief pitchers and his 1.80 ERA ranked second among AL relievers with at least 40 innings.

Osuna posted a 2.63 ERA and 0.88 WHIP, with 73 strikeouts in 65 innings. Chapman finished with a 2.21 ERA and 1.11 WHIP, striking out 85 in 57 innings.

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The voting will be conducted by a panel of eight all-time great relief pitchers: Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter, Lee Smith, John Franco, and Billy Wagner. Both the AL and NL awards will be presented on October 26, before Game 4 of the World Series.