For the first time since 2011, the Oakland A's were sellers at the trade deadline. This July, the A's dealt Scott Kazmir, Tyler Clippard, Ben Zobrist and Eric O'Flaherty. All four players brought back young talent to the A's organization. So how are those new members of the A's organization progressing? We take a look.
When the A's traded Kazmir to the Houston Astros on July 23, they received catcher Jacob Nottingham and right-hander Daniel Mengden in return. Nottingham was in the middle of a breakout season in the Astros' organization at the time of the trade. After two non-descript years at the short-season levels, Nottingham's bat took off this year in full-season A-ball. He hit .326/.387/.543 with 10 homers in the pitcher-friendly Midwest League before earning a promotion to the High-A California League. After that promotion, Nottingham hit .324/.368/.606 in 17 games for Lancaster before being traded to the A's.
After the trade, Nottingham remained in the California League with the Stockton Ports (in fact, the Ports were in Lancaster to begin a three-game series against the JetHawks at the time of the deal). He has been the Ports' regular catcher ever since the trade. In 31 games, Nottingham is batting .296/.349/.374 with six doubles and a homerun. For the year to date, Nottingham has a .317/.373/.507 line with 15 homers and only 84 strike-outs in 107 games played. The 107 games are more than double Nottingham's previous career-high in games played, with another 11 days left in the season.
Nottingham has been hot of late, batting .407 over his last 10 games and collecting two three-hit games over his last three games played. He was recently named a post-season Midwest League All-Star despite playing only half a season in the league. Nottingham won't turn 21 until next April, making him one of the younger position prospects in the Cal League.
Stockton Ports' broadcaster Zack Bayrouty says Nottingham looks to have found a second wind over the past week or so.
"You never know when a player gets traded how he is going to react emotionally, especially the way that Nottingham and Mengden were traded at the start of the series to the team that they were supposed to play," Bayrouty said. "He has impressed. He looks the part, for sure. Big-bodied guy. Young kid. I think what impressed me the most during this last week was that he made three awesome throws to second base. Defensively, it appears that he is developing really well.
"At the plate, you can put him in the middle of the order and with a kid as young as he is, there is definitely a lot of upside."
Daniel Mengden, RHP
Also part of the A's return for Kazmir, Mengden slid right into the Stockton Ports' starting rotation after the deal. The right-hander was a fourth-round pick of the Astros last season out of Texas A&M. The Houston native began the year as a teammate of Nottingham's in the Midwest League. Mengden made quick work of the Midwest League, earning a promotion to the Cal League after just eight appearances. He had a 1.16 ERA and a 36:8 K:BB in 38.2 innings with the Quad Cities River Bandits. Not surprisingly, Mengden's numbers took a dip playing for Lancaster in the Cal League (Lancaster is home to one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks in the league). His ERA was 5.26 in 49.2 innings with Lancaster, although his K:BB was a solid 48:18.
Since joining the Stockton staff, Mengden has improved all of his numbers across the board compared to his time in Lancaster. His ERA is 3.67 in 34.1 innings. Opponents are batting .211 against Mengden (compared to .298 with Lancaster) and he has a 36:8 K:BB. His groundout rate has improved, as well, as Mengden is now inducing 1.46 groundouts for every flyout. Only his homer rate has ticked up slightly in the wrong direction, from 0.72 per nine innings to 1.05 per nine innings. In his first full season as a pro, Mengden has a 120:32 K:BB in 122 innings to go along with a 3.52 ERA and a 1.15 GO/AO.
Bayrouty says Mengden is fun to watch pitch.
"He's very much a throw-back," Bayrouty said. "He has a big, exaggerated windup and even when he is working out of the stretch, he brings the ball up from his feet and has the big Rollie Fingers mustache that he waxes before each start. He's a very unique individual. When he goes out there, he's not intimidated at all. His very poised and there is a confidence about him despite his being eccentric at times. He has four pitches that he throws really well. I think when he was with Houston, they didn't want to have him throw his 12-6 curveball very much, but that's a curveball that he throws for a strike and I have seen him locate it on the corners and ring guys up with it at times.
"He has four quality pitches and he throws them all for strikes. He's also not afraid to let hitters put those balls in play. He's had stretches where he has retired a number of batters in a row. I think in his first start — which was against his old team — he retired the first 14 batters that he faced and 15 of 17 total. He'll go through these stretches like that because he isn't afraid to throw strikes and have these guys put the ball in play."
Casey Meisner, RHP
On July 27, the A's traded closer Tyler Clippard to the New York Mets for Meisner, a right-handed pitching prospect with a tall frame (6'7''). The 20-year-old was the Mets' third-round pick in 2013 out of a Texas high school. After spending his first two professional seasons in the short-season leagues, Meisner jumped to full-season ball this year with the Mets. He began the year in Low-A and he had a 2.13 ERA and a 66:19 K:BB in 76 innings. That performance earned Meisner a promotion to the Florida State League (High-A), where he continued to put up a solid ERA (2.83 in 35 innings), although his K:BB took a step back (23:14).
After the trade, the A's kept Meisner in High-A, assigning him to the Stockton Ports. At 20-years-old, Meisner is the youngest pitcher on the Ports' staff. His first three starts with Stockton were a little rough, as he didn't make it through the fifth inning in any of the outings and he allowed eight runs in 12.1 innings. His last two starts have been very good, however. In each start, he has gone exactly five innings. Combined over those 10 innings, Meisner has allowed one run on five hits and no walks. He has struck-out 10 during that stretch. The A's aren't likely to let Meisner go past five innings in any of his remaining starts, as he is already at 133.1 innings for the season. Meisner threw 62.1 official innings for the Mets' short-season club last year, although he racked up innings during the Mets' extended spring training and fall instructional league seasons.
Bayrouty says Meisner has settled in after getting used to the idea of moving organizations.
"I think he was a little bit shell-shocked after being traded," Bayrouty said. "I interviewed him last week and the impression that I got was that it really hit him hard that he was traded. He didn't see it coming. They shuffled the rotation a little bit and gave him a bit of a breather. He moved kind of to the back of the rotation and since then, he's had two great starts.
"He has great stuff. He's 6'7'' and he has good downward plane on the fastball. His off-speed stuff has looked really good. He really worked on using his change-up. That was a pitch that he used to struggle with. He said that he worked so hard on that pitch that he kind of forgot his curveball, but now that has come back. He has three quality pitches. He's throwing his fastball for strikes and it's got good velocity [topping out around 93 MPH]."
Sean Manaea, LHP
Manaea also had to overcome the shock of being traded during his first few weeks in the A's organization. Acquired on July 28 along with Aaron Brooks as part of the Ben Zobrist to Kansas City deal, Manaea took over the mantle of top A's pitching prospect after the deal. Manaea was the Royals' compensation round pick in 2013. A high-profile college pitcher, Manaea was projected to be a top-10 pick during parts of the 2013 season, but injury concerns caused his draft stock to fall. He signed an above-slot deal with Kansas City and he had an impressive pro debut season in 2014, when he struck out 146 in 121.2 innings at the High-A level.
Manaea missed the early part of this season dealing with a leg injury. He had thrown only 31.2 innings this season before the trade. Manaea had been with Double-A Northwest Arkansas at the time of the deal, so he didn't have to move leagues when the A's assigned him to Double-A Midland. Since then, Manaea has been a fixture in the Midland starting rotation. He has been outstanding for the RockHounds, posting a 2.73 ERA and a 4-0 record in five starts. The 6'6'' left-hander has a 31:12 K:BB in 29.2 innings.
OaklandClubhouse's Bill Seals recently spoke with Manaea about adjusting to his new organization. While Manaea has had the occasional bout of wildness (not uncommon for tall, young pitchers), reports on his stuff since joining the A's have been very positive. His fastball has been in the mid-90s and he has been able to use his slider as a dominating out pitch.
Aaron Brooks, RHP
A ninth-round pick of the Royals in 2011, Brooks -- the other half of the return for Zobrist -- made a steady path through the Royals system. He made his major-league debut with Kansas City last year and had appeared in two games with the Royals in 2015 before the trade to Oakland. The A's wasted no time getting a closer look at Brooks at the big-league level. Brooks was added to the A's starting rotation after the deal from Kansas City. Brooks had appeared in four games for the Royals in the big leagues in 2014 and 2015, but he had less than 10 innings of major-league experience before the trade.
Brooks had an immediate impact on the A's, tossing a combined 14.1 innings in his first two starts with Oakland. He allowed just two runs and he struck-out 12 while walking one over those two starts. Brooks' third start with the A's didn't go nearly as well, however. He was ambushed by a red-hot Toronto Blue Jays' line-up, allowing eight runs in 1.2 innings. When Brooks was needed as an emergency reliever in an extra-inning game against the Orioles in Baltimore, he allowed the walk-off homerun on the first pitch he threw. He was sent down to Triple-A after that outing so the A's could add a fresh arm to their bullpen.
Since returning to Triple-A, Brooks has been outstanding. In two starts for Nashville, he has allowed three runs in 12 innings. He has struck-out 11 and has yet to walk a batter. For the season, Brooks has a 3.56 ERA and a 103:21 K:BB in 118.2 innings at the Triple-A level. If A's starter Felix Doubront (foot) can't make his next start, Brooks is a strong candidate to replace Doubront in the A's rotation (they are on the same turn in the rotation). The A's will also need to replace injured starter Kendall Graveman once rosters expand in September (they don't need a fifth starter until then) and Brooks is a virtual lock to re-join the A's in September, if not sooner.
Brooks isn't over-powering, but his fastball has been effective at 89-92 MPH while with the A's. His change-up and curveball have been very difficult for hitters to square up and he has shown the ability to mix all four of his pitches well. With a strong September, Brooks will firmly be in the mix for the A's 2016 starting rotation next spring.
Dawrin Frias, RHP
The A's acquired Frias as the player-to-be-named-later in the trade that sent Eric O'Flaherty to the New York Mets. Frias, 23, has been pitching professionally since 2009 but has yet to advance past Low-A. He had a solid 2014 season in Low-A, posting a 2.98 ERA with 76 strike-outs in 57.1 innings. An injury kept Frias back at extended spring training to start the year and then he struggled once he was assigned to Low-A Savannah once again. He had been recently demoted to short-season Brooklyn at the time of the deal.
Frias' Cyclones were set to square-off against the A's short-season squad when he was traded, so he simply switched dugouts. Since joining the Vermont Lake Monsters, Frias has made three one-inning appearances. He has allowed one run on one hit and two walks in those three innings. He has also struck-out five. Frias is eligible for minor-league free agency at the end of the season, but the A's could try to re-sign him if they like what they saw from him after the deal.