Dustin Fowler

Home runs and web gems: A's prospects have successful Triple-A Opening Day

Home runs and web gems: A's prospects have successful Triple-A Opening Day

The A's have gotten off to a solid start, posting a 6-4 record after taking three out of four from the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox.

But the early-season success isn't limited to the big league club.

The Las Vegas Aviators, Oakland's Triple-A affiliate, took the field for the first time Thursday, and a few important names had memorable 2019 debuts.

Center fielder Dustin Fowler, acquired from the Yankees in the Sonny Gray trade, went 2-for-5 with two solo home runs. Shortstop Jorge Mateo, who was also acquired in the Gray trade, went 3-for-5 with a home run, a triple and three RBI, while Skye Bolt made an incredible diving catch to seal the first win in Aviators history.

Fowler and Mateo both impressed during spring training but were optioned to Las Vegas to continue to hone their games.

Elsewhere on the farm, 2016 supplemental first-round pick Daulton Jefferies took the mound for the first time in two years after recovering from Tommy John surgery. He tossed three scoreless innings in a 4-1 win for the Single-A Stockton Ports. Meanwhile, outfielder Greg Deichmann notched three hits, including two doubles, in his Double-A debut.

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All in all, it was a successful day on the farm for the A's.

A's projected to have one of fastest teams in MLB for 2019 season

A's projected to have one of fastest teams in MLB for 2019 season

The A's power pushed them to the postseason in 2018. Oakland ranked third in all of Major League Baseball with 227 home runs.

On the opposite end of their offense, they ranked last in steals with 35. 

Yet, they were one of the fastest teams in baseball by Statcast's Sprint Speed. And they're projected to be the ninth-fastest team in the game this season. 

The A's fastest average maximum-effort speed in 2018 was a tie between Ramon Laureano and Dustin Fowler at 29 feet/sec. To understand just how fast that is, 30 feet/sec is considered elite and the MLB average is 27 feet/sec. 

While Laureano only played in 48 games last season and Fowler 21 more at 69, two of the team's biggest keys to success weren't too far behind. Matt Chapman and Marcus Semien were tied at 28.3 feet/sec. 

Chapman only swiped two bags last season, but his speed certainly helped him score 100 runs. Semien, on the other hand, stole a career-high 14 bases. 

The A's also added speed with offseason acquisitions Robbie Grossman (27.7 feet/sec) and Jurickson Profar (27.6 feet/sec). 

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While steals are a dying art form of baseball in what's a game of power and launch angle, the A's can certainly use their speed in other ways to generate runs this season.

Why A's crowded outfield means there could be opportunity for trade

Why A's crowded outfield means there could be opportunity for trade

After last week's signing of 29-year-old Robbie Grossman, the A's find themselves with eight outfielders battling for three spots.

Stephen Piscotty and Ramón Laureano should have right and center field locked down, which leaves six players -- Grossman, Nick Martini, Mark Canha, Chad Pinder, Franklin Barreto, and Dustin Fowler -- vying for playing time in left.

While a team can never have too much depth, the A's still have other areas of need -- namely starting pitching. So it's worth asking, could a trade be in the works?

Barreto and Fowler probably carry the most value in a potential trade due to their youth and upside. Barreto, 22, has long been considered one of Oakland's top prospects, and despite limited playing time at the Major League level, he has shown flashes of his tremendous natural ability at the plate.

Fowler, 24, struggled in his first season with the A's last year, but performed extremely well in Triple-A, slashing.341/.364/.520 in 55 games. His short swing should eventually allow him to hit for a high average, and he has surprising natural power, not to mention plus speed.

Pinder and Canha also have some trade value. Pinder's versatility makes him an attractive option for any team. The 26-year-old can play any position besides pitcher and catcher (and he claims he can do those too). Pinder also has outstanding power, as he showed when he belted home runs of 460 feet and 448 feet in 2017.

Canha, 30, destroys left-handed pitching. Last season, he hit .282/.337/.604 with 13 home runs in 149 at-bats against southpaws. That makes him an excellent platoon option for any club.

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Martini and Grossman probably have the least trade value, but that should be just fine with A's fans. Martini, 28, hit .296 last season with an incredible .397 on-base percentage. Grossman wasn't far behind with a .273 batting average and .367 OBP. They are both excellent options in left field for Oakland.

Of course, the A's could elect to keep all eight outfielders to start the season and see how it plays out on the field. But don't be surprised if they move one or two of them in the next few months, especially if it means shoring up the starting rotation.