Oakland A's

Five A's players who could make impact in 2019 season despite being cut

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USATSI

Five A's players who could make impact in 2019 season despite being cut

One of the biggest keys to the A's success last season was their depth, and not just at the major league level. Oakland got significant contributions from several players who started the season in the minors. Names like Lou Trivino, Ramón Laureano, Nick Martini, Mark Canha and countless others played crucial roles after earning call-ups.

The A's hope to receive similar production from their farm system this season. With that in mind, here are five spring training cuts who could make an impact later this year:

Dustin Fowler

Fowler put together a strong spring, batting .293 (12-for-41) with two home runs, four RBI, and two stolen bases. That followed a terrific season in Triple-A last year, where he slashed .341/.364/.520. He will likely be the first outfielder called up this year.

Fowler struggled at the major league level last season but his upside is enormous. Still just 24 years old, he has plenty of time to put it all together in Oakland. With his combination of power and speed and the A's uncertainty in left field, Fowler will likely get another big league opportunity sooner rather than later.

Daniel Mengden

Mengden has already proven he can retire major league hitters. He just has to do it consistently. Last season, the right-hander went 7-6 with a 4.05 ERA and 1.12 WHIP, certainly respectable numbers in the American League.

Unfortunately for Mengden, the A's were granted a fourth minor league option and elected to use it in his case. The 26-year-old struggled a bit this spring, but with Oakland's questionable starting rotation, he will almost certainly get another chance in the coming months, or even weeks.

Tanner Anderson

The A's were very high on Anderson when they acquired him from the Pirates this offseason, and they're still high on him now, despite optioning him to Triple-A. The 25-year-old looked extremely sharp this spring, allowing just one earned run in nine innings, with 11 strikeouts.

Anderson has experience both as a starter and reliever, and the A's love his versatility. The right-hander could be a prime option as the second pitcher in "opener" games later in the season.

Jorge Mateo

Mateo has loads of natural ability but is still a bit raw at the plate. Still, the 23-year-old middle infielder is a dynamic talent with top-end speed and could be a tremendous weapon for the A's late in the season.

Mateo slashed just .230/.280/.353 last year in Triple-A but notched a league-leading 16 triples as well as 25 stolen bases. This spring, he went 5-for-18 with a double, triple, and three walks. At the very least, Mateo will be a valuable pinch-runner in September.

[RELATED: Mateo impresses A's in spring training]

Sean Murphy

Murphy is unquestionably the A's catcher of the future. The only question is when that future begins. Oakland appears set for now with Nick Hundley, Josh Phegley, and Chris Herrmann splitting time behind the plate, but Murphy will put pressure on all of them to perform.

MLB Pipeline ranks Murphy as the A's third-best prospect, behind only pitching phenoms Jesús Luzardo and A.J. Puk. Murphy is already MLB-ready defensively and his offensive production is improving rapidly. If he puts up big numbers in Triple-A, he could earn a promotion sometime this year.
 

A's exhibition game in Japan was perfect combination of culture and fandom

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AP

A's exhibition game in Japan was perfect combination of culture and fandom

While you were sleeping, baseball was being played. Or, you were better than a lot of us and stayed up to watch the A's take on the Nippon Ham Fighters:

Yeah -- I was asleep. Anywho ...

It appeared the A's were in midseason form, and that had a lot to do with Khris Davis doing Davis-like things and hitting the you-know-what out of the ball.

That alone is great, but listen to the crowd:

They love him.

Khrush ended up going 2-4 with two hits and two RBI in the A's 5-1 victory over the Fighters. And there was plenty going on beyond the game itself.

Stomper was getting in on the action:

As was Rickey Henderson:

Liam Hendricks made sure fans got a chance to get some autographs from Mike Fiers:

That's some teamwork. 

And the hats -- LOOK AT THOSE HATS:

The local crowd even chanted for the A's:

The A's bullpen appeared to be in dominant from what I've seen from those who drank enough energy drinks and adjusted to the time change. 

The Green and Gold finished with 11 hits across nine innings, and here's hoping the teams' foodie, Mark Canha, got plenty of food in his belly.

And it looks like he did:

Why top prospect Jesus Luzardo should be in A's rotation to open season

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USATSI

Why top prospect Jesus Luzardo should be in A's rotation to open season

Before the start of spring training, A's general manager David Forst said he would weigh two factors in determining whether top prospect Jesús Luzardo would start the season in the big leagues.

"The decision will be whether he's one of our best five guys versus if it's better for him long term to get some Triple-A time," Forst said. "If he's good enough, there's no reason not to have him in the rotation."

After a phenomenal spring, the answer is clear. Luzardo is good enough. And then some.

The 21-year-old left-hander allowed only one earned run on six hits in 9 2/3 innings, striking out 15. He isn't just one of the A's five best starters — he's arguably their best.

"In an ideal world, I would like to be up as soon as the team needs me, as soon as possible," Luzardo told NBC Sports California in January. "But at the end of the day, I'm not the one who makes that decision, and whatever happens, I'm going to be OK with it. That's part of God's plan."

MLB Pipeline ranks Luzardo as the No. 2 pitching prospect in all of baseball, and the No. 1 lefty. Last season, he went 10-5 with a 2.88 ERA last season between Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A, recording 129 strikeouts in 109 1/3 innings.

With Daniel Mengden and Paul Blackburn optioned to Triple-A, it appears the competition for the No. 5 starter job is down to Luzardo, Chris Bassitt and Aaron Brooks. Bassitt, 30, still has a minor league option remaining. Brooks, 28, does not.

Still, if the A's are basing their decision solely on merit, it's a no-brainer. Brooks struggled this spring, allowing six earned runs on 10 hits in nine innings. Bassitt surrendered six earned runs on 13 hits in 10 innings.

Luzardo has proven he's ready for the big leagues. There's no reason he should have to wait any longer.