Photo by Chris Lockard / OaklandClubhouse.com

Oakland A's Director of Player Personnel Billy Owens discusses the 2015 Beloit Snappers, Vermont Lake Monsters and AZL A's

The Oakland A's have several intriguing talents in the lower levels of their system. Oakland A's Director of Player Personnel Billy Owens discusses prospects on the 2015 Low-A Beloit Snappers, short-season Vermont Lake Monsters and Rookie League AZL A's.

In part one of our season-in-review interview with Oakland A's Director of Player Personnel Billy Owens, we discussed several prospects from the A's Double-A affiliate, the Midland RockHounds. In part two, we reviewed the A's High-A affiliate, the Stockton Ports. In part three, we discuss several intriguing talents who played for the Low-A Beloit Snappers, the short-season Vermont Lake Monsters and the Rookie League AZL A's in 2015.

OaklandClubhouse: It was a rough year from a win-loss perspective for the Beloit Snappers, but it seemed like there were stretches during the second half of the year where they played better. The starting rotation, in particular, appeared to turn a bit of a corner. Do you think guys like Daniel Gossett, Brett Graves, Heath Fillmyer, etc. made adjustments this second half that will propel them to more success next season?

BO: Yes, definitely. There is a learning curve. They were able to make progress as the season went forward. I think the Fillmyer kid, he really took major step forward. To see what he did during the second half, for a kid who was really a shortstop in the amateur ranks who dabbled a little bit in pitching in junior college and then he came out and had a rough first two months from a result perspective. For him to really step up the second half and touch 96 every outing and really lower his ERA and his strike-zone percentage was better, Fillmyer really asserted himself this year in the Midwest League.

OC: Sandber Pimentel made a jump from the Dominican Summer League straight to Low-A, which is a tough leap. How do you feel he handled that transition?

BO: Sandber, if you look at the walk percentage, it was pretty high for that league. He hit right around 13 homeruns and he had that really strong May when he hit the majority of his homeruns for the season (8). It is a learning experience. You are taking about a kid who went from Rookie ball and didn’t play short-season A ball, going straight to Low-A, playing a 140 games in 155 days. It was a learning experience, but as a 20 year old with that kind of power and that walk-rate, he has talent.

OC: Mikey White was one of the first members of the A’s 2015 draft class to move up to full-season ball. What did you see from him in his first season as a professional?

BO: He definitely made a solid first impression for everybody within the organization. He went to Vermont and had a real long hitting streak up there. He also played a really solid shortstop. He has a very strong arm. I remember seeing opposing evaluators out there and they made a point of emphasis saying that they didn’t realize that his arm was that strong after seeing him in college. He definitely made positive strides showing that arm strength.

He uses the whole field [at the plate] and he’s got some power. We have seen him dating back to that Team USA squad in 2011. Those names are all over the major leagues and minor leagues right now. We have seen him all the way back in Colombia [with Team USA] and then playing for the Crimson Tide for three years and then go to the New York-Penn League. Definitely realizing that there is a higher brand of baseball in the Midwest League, Mikey is going to be just fine. Mikey has got good fundamental skills and he is going to grow into power. I believe that he should hit double-digits in homeruns in the future. Be right around that 12-15 homer range, move the ball around and tighten that strike-zone. He can play all over the field in the infield and he is going to be a good player for us in the system.

OC: Richie Martin started off really hot and then faded down the stretch with Vermont. What will he be working on during Instructs and what do you hope to see from him next season?

BO: Richie is a very talented kid. If you look at the SEC as far as who went high in the draft, I believe he was the youngest junior in the SEC. You are talking about a kid who was almost a full year younger than the competition, so that bodes well. He is a toolsy kid. He runs really well. He has raw power. The arm strength is plus. He has really good agility. He actually walked more than he struck-out in the SEC, which is probably the toughest college conference in the country. He’s got a lot of positive attributes.

Where we picked in the draft, we were elated to get him. Getting this player, he is probably a little bit different in that his ceiling is enormous but he also is a bit of a diamond-in-the-rough that is going to get molded. From a player development aspect, it’s going to be a very positive journey to get all of the kinks out and take advantage of all of his athleticism and having that youth going forward. We aren’t going to worry about the results right now, but after two or three years when it all comes to fruition, you are going to see a strong player with a lot of ability.

OC: Is Skye Bolt sort of similar in that respect – a lot of raw tools but still some polishing to do with respect to his overall game?

BO: Yeah. There are two different ways to get players. Both Richie and Skye are both really athletic and they both did a good job in their respective conferences. We believe with our strong player development – Keith Lieppman being the best in the game along with his staff – that these kids that have that true athleticism and that have that strong walk-to-strike-out rate to go along with that strong athleticism, we trust our player development to get the true baseball-playing ability out of them.

OC: Brett Siddall and Seth Brown were two lower round picks that had solid pro debuts. Were you pleasantly surprised to see how well that they did?

BO: Yeah, definitely. Seth Brown had a strong short-season and made the New York-Penn League All-Star team. I was there one night when he made a game-saving play in centerfield and then he won the game in the bottom of the ninth with a ringing double. He made plays on both sides of the ball within really a five-minute interval. He has a good body. He is definitely going to be able to play all three outfield positions. He has a short swing to the ball and he is going to hit for some power. He will need to be able to keep grinding and find a way to keep producing, but it was definitely a strong first year for him, as well as Brett Siddall.

Siddall reminds me of a player we had here for a little bit, Jake Goebbert, who got to the big leagues with San Diego last year. Similar player. Nice, efficient left-handed stroke. He is going to have some power, probably in that 15 homer range, and he can control the ‘zone. He has a really good idea of what to do at the plate.

If you combine them with the toolsiness of Skye Bolt – Skye Bolt is a plus runner, switch-hitter, has power and a history of controlling the strike-zone – if you combine those tools with the work ethic and with what Seth and Brett can do, it should be a positive outfield group going forward.

OC: On the pitching side, Bubba Derby had the most impressive pro debut from the pitchers in the draft class. What was his best pitch during his pro debut?

BO: Derby is good. He is a really athletic kid. He’s competitive. He’s about 5’11’’, but he’s a good athlete. He will touch a 94, but he sits comfortably in that 92-93 range. His change-up is definitely a swing-miss pitch, but the breaking ball is solid too. The change-up is plus, but the breaking ball has the potential to be plus, as well.

He is very competitive and he has some weapons on the mound. This kid was a Friday starter at San Diego State and I believe that they have had some guys from that school that were higher draft picks and he’s always been the Friday starter with positive results. I believe he was also the closer his freshman year, so he has some toughness to him. He’s definitely not just a kid who has had some success in short-season with pitchability. This guy has athleticism and pure stuff, along with the pitchability.

OC: A guy who joined the Vermont rotation late in the season from Rookie ball was Angel Duno. He has one of the best career K:BB rates I have seen from a pitcher his age. What is his story? Is he more of a finesse guy or does he have some velocity too?

BO: Angel Duno definitely has some velocity. He will touch 94. Strong delivery. He has one of the best deliveries in the system. Consistent. He pounds that strike-zone and his change-up is solid. His curveball has good shape to it. He needs to keep on working until he gets more spin rate and more of a devastating tilt to it. So the breaking ball is a work-in-progress, but the fact that he commands that fastball, he shows a good change-up and the more that we keep working with that breaking ball he will improve that pitch, he has a chance. But, first and foremost, you know that Angel is going to throw strikes.

OC: How did you feel Dustin Driver and Chris Kohler handled short-season?

BO: They get lumped together because they were drafted in the same class, but they are totally different guys on the mound. I think Dustin will touch 96. His secondary stuff is a work-in-progress but he’s got the physicality and he’s got the pure velocity. It’s just a matter of him gaining consistency and really getting assertive and throwing more quality strikes. The potential is there. The body is there. Now, he just has to keep harnessing his pitchability.

Kohler, he has battled a couple of injuries over the years. He is a kid who, when he first got drafted, he had a devastating curveball and he would get up to about 92 [with his fastball]. This year, he is probably more in that 87-90 range, touch 91. The curveball is still coming back. He’s got really strong pitchability. He pounds that ‘zone. He pitches to both sides of the plate. Now it is just a matter of him getting all of his arsenal back after the surgery because he definitely has a strong feel to pitch.

OC: How did you feel Dakota Chalmers’ pro debut went?

BO: He has a high ceiling. He can touch 96 and he pitched regularly in that 93-to-94 range. He’s got a good curveball. He’s got a good change-up. Now it is just a matter of sequencing and getting everything aligned. The first year for a high school kid, we are normally pretty cautious and we just want to do everything that is right for the player. Their innings are going to be limited. Once they go to Instructional League, totally get acclimated to the program and have a good off-season, then we will see where they are at for the next full season. That will be more indicative of the pure stuff he has going forward.

OC: Boomer Biegalski was a late sign out of Florida State. What was your first impression of seeing him in his limited time in Arizona this summer?

BO: He has always been a strong pitcher. He had a lot of success on the amateur side. In college, he took over that Friday starter role. He was able to dot both sides of the plate and mixed and matched his pitches. Not on the same magnitude – and this is just a comparison – but he is somewhat similar to a Justin Duchscherer, where it is more about pitchability than pure stuff. But the feel to pitch is definitely there. The acumen is there. He has always been a winner. We are excited to get him into the system and we’ll see where it goes.

OC: Jhonny Rodriguez had to go back to the Dominican for family reasons, but he was hitting well in the Arizona Rookie League before that. What kind of hitter do you think he can be?

BO: Jhonny has a nice swing. He has a good solid base and his swing is very fluid through the strike-zone. He has power potential and he defends nicely in the outfield corner. He definitely had to go back to the Dominican to take care of a few things, but going forward, he has a chance to continue to make strides for us and continue to have that sweet swing and show the power. He definitely has ability. You can see him maybe in that .260-.270 range and developing into that 15-20 homerun player in the system and then hopefully see where it goes from there.

OC: It was nice to see Jesus Zambrano get a chance to make a couple of starts in Nashville at the end of the season. He has always been young for every level he has pitched at. What kind of strides did he make this season?

BO: Jesus made positive strides. From a physicality standpoint, he’s grown over the years. He’s in that 5’11’’ range and he has grown a little stronger. The velocity when he was back in the Dominican Summer League was more in that 85-88 and through natural maturity, weight gain and getting older, now he is more in that 87-91 range. He probably has a little bit more of a tick going forward.

It was nice to see him go to that Triple-A level and not be afraid and pound the strike-zone and stay consistent in that 87-91. He has a solid change-up for a secondary pitch and the breaking ball has good shape and has a chance to be sharper in the future. He pounds the ‘zone. He throws strikes. Hopefully his stuff will get a tick faster from a velocity standpoint and he’ll still have that good pitchability.

Stay tuned for the final part of this interview, where we discuss several players on the Nashville Sounds, including Barry Zito, and discuss some of the A's 2015 rookie class.


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