Nashville Notes: Sounds Off to Sluggish Start

Much like their big league brethren, the Nashville Sounds are off to a slow start to the 2015 season. We check-in with the Oakland A's Triple-A affiliate.

Overview

Much like the big league team, the Oakland A’s Triple-A affiliate has had a rough start to its season. Going into Tuesday’s match-up versus Iowa, the Sounds were tied with the Memphis Redbirds for the worst record in the Pacific Coast’s American Southern division at 9-15.

As a team, the Sounds have been middle-of-the-pack in total offense and pitching. The Sounds are currently hitting .271/.352/.392 as a club, good for the eighth-best team OPS in the PCL (out of 16 teams). The Sounds are second in the PCL in OBP and walks (102). Power has been an issue, however, as Nashville has combined to hit just 13 homeruns (tied for second-fewest in the league). The Sounds also have the fourth-fewest stolen bases as a team in the league. Swing-and-miss has been an issue for Nashville, as they lead the league with 214 in just 842 official at-bats.

The Sounds’ team ERA of 4.16 leaves them eighth in the league. They have the fourth-lowest WHIP as a staff (1.32), but Nashville pitchers have been hurt by the homerun (22 given up, tied for third-most in the league). The Sounds have struck-out 194 and walked 90 in 210 innings this season. Starting pitching has been an issue for the Sounds all season despite a veteran staff. Nashville starters have managed just three quality starts all year.

The Sounds are one game into their four-game series with the I-Cubs in Nashville.


Comings and Goings

After a relatively stable first few weeks of the season, the Sounds have seen plenty of turnover on their roster in recent weeks. The first move of the year came on April 8, when the A’s sent outfielder Billy Burns down to Nashville. Burns began the year on the A’s Opening Day roster but didn’t receive an at-bat before being sent to Triple-A in favor of veteran free agent signee Cody Ross. To make room for Ross on the A’s 40-man roster, Oakland designated Alex Hassan for assignment. Oakland lost Hassan on waivers to the Rangers, taking him off of the Sounds’ roster. Ironically, this week the A’s released Ross, recalled Burns and re-claimed Hassan. Burns is currently with Oakland, while Hassan has returned to the Sounds.

A few days after Burns was sent to Triple-A in early April, utilityman Tyler Ladendorf was sent back to the Sounds to make room for Josh Reddick on the A’s 25-man roster. Ladendorf got off to a terrific start to the season with both the A’s and Nashville, but he injured his ankle running the bases in mid-April and was placed on the DL on April 21. He is expected to be out for several months after undergoing surgery on his left ankle.

When Ladendorf joined the Sounds’ roster, the A’s sent outfielder Matt Angle to Double-A Midland. Angle has remained with Midland since his demotion. To replace Ladendorf on the Sounds’ roster, the A’s signed minor league free agent Ryan Roberts on April 26.

The A’s recalled prospect Max Muncy on April 25 and he has played a bench role for Oakland since that time. Muncy replaced the injured Ben Zobrist on the A’s 25-man roster.

Injuries and ineffectiveness at the big league level have had a significant impact on the Sounds’ roster of late. Sounds’ starters Arnold Leon and Chris Bassitt have both seen time with the A’s out of the bullpen. Leon made one appearance (his major-league debut) with the A’s out of the bullpen before returning to Nashville. Bassitt, the Sounds’ Opening Day starter, has been a part of the A’s bullpen since April 23. On April 26, the A’s sent struggling right-hander Kendall Graveman down to Triple-A. He joined the Sounds’ rotation late last week.

While the Sounds’ rotation was in flux, the A’s called on right-handers Nate Long and Zach Neal to make spot starts for Nashville. Both right-handers have been with Midland for most of the season and are currently in the RockHounds’ rotation.

The Sounds’ bullpen has seen some roster movement, as well. Right-hander Ryan Cook earned a promotion to Oakland on April 26, only to be sent back to Nashville on May 3rd after a rough stretch with the A’s. Cook was replaced by Sounds’ reliever Chad Smith on the A’s roster. R.J. Alvarez had a brief stay with Nashville in late April and early May, returning to the A’s on May 2nd. Nashville also lost left-hander Eury De La Rosa when he was designated for assignment by the A’s in late April and claimed by the Dodgers. The Sounds did receive left-hander Jim Fuller and right-hander Seth Frankoff as bullpen reinforcements from Midland.

The Sounds’ clubhouse currently has a big-league feel to it, as Jarrod Parker, Sean Nolin and Nate Freiman are all with the Sounds on rehab assignments. Parker and Freiman have both made their Nashville debuts, while Nolin should debut soon.


Who’s Hot

After a rough 2014 season, Billy Burns got off to good start in Triple-A in 2015, putting himself in position for a promotion to the big leagues last week. Before leaving Nashville, Burns was batting .315/.378/.404 with five stolen bases in 21 games. In three games with the A’s, Burns has a walk and five hits in 14 official at-bats.

First baseman Max Muncy also had a strong start to the season, which put him in position to receive his first call to the big leagues when Ben Zobrist landed on the DL. Muncy hit .293/.408/.466 with seven extra-base hits in his first 15 games at the Triple-A level.

With Burns and Muncy in Oakland, second baseman Joey Wendle is the only position player on the A’s preseason top-25 prospects list still with the Sounds. Wendle could push his way onto the A’s roster in the near term, as he is also off to a solid start in his first taste of Triple-A. He leads the Sounds with an 884 OPS. He leads the team in doubles with eight and is tied for the team-lead in homeruns with three and triples with three. Wendle is currently riding a six-game hitting streak and is batting .310 over his last 10 games.

Utilityman Alden Carrithers leads the Sounds with 14 walks and he has struck-out just six times in 62 official at-bats. Carrithers has an 821 OPS. He has been versatile in the field, as well, logging time at second, third and left.

A slow start got Anthony Aliotti’s 2014 season off on the wrong foot, but the East Bay native has had a very different beginning to his 2015 campaign. In 16 games, Aliotti has a .314/.407/.373 line. He currently has a seven-game hitting streak.

The Nashville rotation has struggled but the bullpen has had some standout performances. Switch-pitcher Pat Venditte has a 1.13 ERA through 16 innings this season. He has allowed eight hits and eight walks and he has struck-out 14. Right-hander Fernando Rodriguez has also pitched well for the Sounds. He has a 2.81 ERA and 18 strike-outs in 16 innings. Rodriguez hasn’t allowed a run in his last five outings (8.2 innings). He has struck-out 13 and walked three over that stretch.

Right-hander Brock Huntzinger has followed a strong spring training with 17 strike-outs over his first 11.2 innings out of the Nashville bullpen. Huntzinger has a 3.09 ERA and a .209 BAA.

Before his promotion to Oakland, Chris Bassitt was by far the Sounds’ most effective starter. In 16 innings, Bassitt had a 3.38 ERA and a 16:4 K:BB. He has allowed just three runs and four hits in 9.1 innings out of the bullpen for the A’s, although he has walked seven.



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