We're not even sure Jor-El Cotton could save the A's.
The Situation: It’s September, and the Athletics’ rotation looks like Ivan Drago in the fourteenth round, so they will hand the ball to one of their top pitching prospects for what will likely be several turns in the rotation.
The Background: Cotton is a former 20th-round selection by the Dodgers out of the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2012, and he’ll be the second man from his native land to toe a big-league rubber. He showed some promise in a handful of appearances in the Pioneer League after signing, and posted solid numbers again to start his full-season debut in 2013. The Dodgers saw fast-track potential and jumped him into the Double-A bullpen, but he struggled with the assignment and returned to High-A, where he spent all of 2014 and piled up the second-most strikeouts in the California League. After injury forced a late start to his 2015 campaign, he went on to post an excellent season largely at Double-A, before continuing to pitch effectively in the rough-and-tumble PCL. He was traded to the Athletics as part of the return package for Rich Hill and Josh Reddick in July.
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The Situation: Oakland’s pitching staff has been ravaged by injuries, and with Sean Manaea and Rich Hill both rehabbing, Dillon Overton will be the next prospect to step up and get a chance to show what he can do in green and gold.
Background: Overton was a highly regarded prospect in his time at the University Of Oklahoma, and was actually the “go-see” pitcher to start the year on a staff that included Jon Gray. A so-so junior season along with injury concerns saw his stock drop, but Oakland saw enough to take him in the second round of the 2013 draft. He quickly underwent Tommy John surgery after signing, and didn’t make his pro debut until the summer of 2014. He overmatched hitters in his time in Arizona and the NYPL upon his return, and in much tougher surroundings in 2015, he was able put up solid numbers in the treacherous Cal League and even better numbers upon the promotion to Double-A. Before the call-up he was more than holding his own for Triple-A Nashville, posting a 3.01 ERA with 72 strikeouts in just under 83 innings.
Colby Lewis' near-magical day, and more from Thursday's action.
The Thursday Takeaway Colby Lewis’ day didn’t start out as anything particularly special—a 20-pitch first inning of exactly the sort of unremarkable-but-decently effective stuff you expect from Colby Lewis. It didn’t take long, however, for him to look not simply decently effective but uncommonly so. There was an impressive swinging strikeout courtesy of his slider in the second, then there were three straight flyouts in the third, and from there, he was really dealing. The next few frames zipped by, as Lewis breezed through with eight or fewer pitches per inning through the seventh, including a series of six straight groundouts. True to his typical style, the performance wasn’t flashy—just three strikeouts through seven, with his standard mix of high-80s fastballs and a slider not too far behind—but it was perfect.
Half the American League might have regrets every time they check an A's box score these days.
Danny Valencia made his major-league debut in 2010, joining the Twins as a 25-year-old former 19th-round draft pick with a modest minor-league track record. He hit .311/.351/.448 in 85 games as a rookie to force his way into Minnesota’s plans, at which point he was handed the Opening Day job in 2011 and remained the starting third baseman all season. He quickly turned back into a pumpkin and by mid-2012 the Twins had tired of him on and off the field.
They traded Valencia to the Red Sox for a non-prospect and three months later the Red Sox sold him to the Orioles, who kept him for a year before sending him to the Royals for little in return. Six months later Valencia was traded from the Royals to the Blue Jays in a low-wattage swap and he was placed on waivers a year after that, when the A’s claimed him. Valencia changed teams five times in less than three years while spending much of that stretch in the minors.
He looked like the epitome of a replacement-level player. Not capable enough defensively to be trusted at third base, but not good enough offensively versus right-handers to warrant a full-time job at first base or designated hitter. Valencia was a 31-year-old platoon corner infielder with a reputation for too much … well, let’s call it swag. If anything, hanging around for as long as he did without being a former top prospect was a victory in itself. But then, just as it looked like Valencia might be running out of stops to make, he started crushing the ball.
On the most interesting success story in baseball.
Rich Hill's latest major-league opportunity relied upon a batting practice flyball striking Steven Wright in the head along the warning track at Marlins Park last August. Two days later, the Red Sox signed Hill off the roster of the Atlantic League's Long Island Ducks, and a day after that, he made his first (non-rehab) start in affiliated ball in six years.
The A's ace adjusts but struggles again, the Yankees hit bombs, Corey Kluber bombs, and the best Bad-Braves Fun Fact we heard yesterday.
The Monday Takeaway
When this season began, Sonny Gray was Sonny Gray. Seven innings of one-run work on Opening Day paved the way for three more quality efforts, amounting to a 2.73 ERA four starts into his 2016 campaign. Then, on April 27th, the Tigers sent Gray to the showers after just two-plus innings. And while the right-hander bounced back to log seven innings six days later, the Mariners tagged him for 11 hits and seven runs during his time on the hill.
On replay reviews, genies out of bottles, and our nitpicky natures.
Early last week, Yonder Alonso was called out trying to steal second in the top of the second inning. He was initially called safe, but forensic replaying showed he came off the bag just a little bit for just a little bit. The Blue Jays challenged, and Alonso was called out. And then some folks got a little bit grumpy.
Testing the belief that ninth-inning losses hurt more.
There’s nothing more thrilling in baseball than a ninth-inning comeback. Unless, of course, it’s your team being victimized by the comeback. Then, there’s nothing worse. To have fought for eight innings and held the lead, only to have the game snatched away in the ninth. It might leave the other team breathless, but it will leave you with a nasty scar.
The Brewers look to settle the battle for center field, while Eric Sogaard might be facing Triple-A.
Keon Broxton emerging as possible center-field favorite in Brewers camp
The Brew Crew arrived in Arizona with a vacancy in center field, where Carlos Gomez once roamed before then-general manager Doug Melvin shipped him to the Astros at the 2015 trade deadline. At the time, now-GM David Stearns was in Houston, but since the Brewers hired him away in late September, it was Stearns’ job to fill the void created by his predecessor. And if Milwaukee Journal Sentinel beat writer Tom Haudricourt is reading the situation correctly, Stearns may have done so in a relatively nondescript December trade.
As Christmas approached, the Brewers struck a deal with the Pirates, sending first baseman Jason Rogers to Pittsburgh in exchange for two minor-leaguers: right-hander Trey Supak and outfielder Keon Broxton. The latter hit .273/.357/.438 in 133 plate appearances split between Double-A and Triple-A last year and has the athleticism to play up the middle, but with his 26th birthday looming in May, Broxton was running out of time to prove his major-league value. Now, his chance seems to have arrived.