The Oakland A's have released seven minor league prospects, A's Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman confirmed. Those players are catchers Nick Rickles and Josh Miller, right-handed pitchers Derek DeYoung, Tyler Hollstegge and Jesus Rivas, and outfielders Vicmal De La Cruz and Rodolfo Penalo.
Rickles, a fan favorite during his time in the A's organization, was the team's 14th round pick in 2011 out of Stetson. The right-handed hitting catcher hit .310 with an 806 OPS for short-season Vermont during his pro debut season and landed on the organization's top-50 prospects list. He struggled with the bat in 2012 with Low-A Burlington, but opened eyes with his play behind the plate. Rickles repeated at the Low-A level in 2013, this time suiting up for the Beloit Snappers. He hit .258 with seven homers in 81 games for Beloit and was arguably the best defensive catcher in the Midwest League that season. He caught 42% of would-be base-stealers and earned praise for his work blocking balls and calling games.
Unfortunately, Rickles wasn't able to build off of that season in 2014. He injured his shoulder during spring training and had surgery to correct a torn labrum. He missed the entire 2014 season. Rickles returned in time for Opening Day in 2015 and he was assigned to High-A Stockton. He would spend the first half of the year with the Ports before moving up to Double-A Midland and, eventually, Triple-A Nashville for the second half of the season. Rickles hit .217 with four homers in 59 games this season and caught 35% of would-be base-stealers.
Miller, like Rickles, saw his career waylayed by a shoulder injury. The A's 2013 23rd round pick missed all of the 2014 and 2015 seasons with a shoulder injury that required surgery. The University of South Carolina - Aiken alum played for the Vermont Lake Monsters in 2013 and hit .176 in 40 games.
DeYoung was part of the same rehab group as Rickles and Miller in 2014. DeYoung was the A's 18th-round pick in 2012 out of Oakton Community College in Skokie, Illinois. He pitched a full season for Low-A Beloit in 2013, posting a 4.22 ERA in 113 innings. DeYoung allowed only seven homeruns and struck-out 83. The next spring, DeYoung was preparing to be on the High-A Stockton roster when he injured his elbow and eventually had Tommy John surgery. He returned to the live game action during the second half of the 2015 season, appearing in nine games in relief for the Lake Monsters. DeYoung struck-out 11 in 11.2 innings, but he also walked 12.
Hollstegge, the A's 21st round pick in 2012, threw only 11.2 innings for the A's two full-season A-ball clubs this season before he was shut down for the year with an injury. Injuries impacted Hollstegge throughout his career with Oakland. The University of North Carolina, Greensboro alum missed all of the 2013 season after having Tommy John surgery. His career-high in innings pitched came in 2014 when he threw 31.1 innings at three levels.
Rivas was a high-profile international amateur signing out of Venezuela before the 2011 season. Rivas was originally an outfielder, but he could never get on-track at the plate against professional pitching. He hit just .192 in 110 career minor league games as an outfielder. In 2013, Rivas converted to the mound, where he found more success. After posting a 3.95 ERA in 13 innings in the Dominican Summer League in 2013, Rivas finally made his US debut in 2014. He had a 2.14 ERA in 21 innings in the Arizona Rookie League. Rivas also made two appearances for short-season Vermont. In 2015, Rivas again split his season between Vermont and Arizona. In 17.2 innings between the two levels, Rivas had a 5.09 ERA and 12 strike-outs.
De La Cruz was also part of the A's international amateur signing class in 2010. The outfielder had a huge pro debut with the A's Dominican Summer League team in 2011, posting an 891 OPS in 58 games. He joined fellow 2010 amateur free agent signing and DSL prospect Renato Nunez in the US for the A's fall Instructional League that season and was one of the team's top outfield prospects heading into 2012. Unlike Nunez, who has blossomed into one of the top power-hitting prospects in the A's system, De La Cruz never adjusted to pitching in the US leagues. He hit .230 in 35 games in the Arizona Rookie League in 2012, and that was his best average over the next four seasons. This year, De La Cruz spent the entire short-season on the Vermont roster, but he appeared in just 19 games and hit only .148. He is still just 21 years old.
Penalo, an amateur free agent signing of the A's before the 2010 season, had the distinction of being one of the smallest players in the A's system. Generously listed at 5'7'', 130 pounds, the switch-hitting centerfielder spent four seasons in the Dominican Summer League before finally debuting in the US with the Arizona Rookie League A's in 2014. He returned to the AZL in 2015 and hit .222 with a .321 OBP in 41 games this season.