There is no roster in the Oakland A’s organization with more talent from player 1 through 25 than the Triple-A Nashville Sounds. That talent hasn’t prevented a slow start to the season, however. Through Sunday, the Sounds were in last place in the American Southern division with a 7-10 record. A poor defense and an inconsistent offense have been the main culprits in the Sounds’ slow start thus far.
The Sounds are currently dead last in the Pacific Coast League in team batting with a .230 average and a .296 OBP. The Sounds have walked the fourth-fewest times in the league (50) and have scored the fourth-fewest number of runs (69 or 4.05 per game). On the plus side, they aren’t striking out that much (126) and they are second in the league in homeruns (15) and fifth in doubles (31). Nashville hasn’t run much, but they have a 100% success rate in seven stolen base chances.
As a staff, the Sounds have put together a solid start. They are third in the league with a 3.52 ERA and boast the best K:BB ratio in the league (149:49). Sounds’ pitchers have allowed the third-fewest homeruns (8) and have the third-lowest WHIP (1.30). Three of the Sounds five starters currently have ERAs under 3.00 and a fourth has an ERA of 3.52. The bullpen has been solid, for the most part, but have lost a couple of late leads that are the difference between a .500 record and a below .500 mark.
The Sounds have 22 errors on the season already and those errors have accounted for nine unearned runs. They lead the league in errors. On the plus side, Sounds’ catchers are fifth in the league in caught-stealing percentage and have committed just one passed ball over the first 17 games.
The Sounds are two games into a four-game set versus the New Orleans Zephrys at home. On Wednesday, the Sounds begin a four-game roadtrip to Round Rock before returning home for an eight-game set.
Comings and Goings
Unlike last April, the A’s haven’t had to shuffle their Triple-A roster much in the early going. Tyler Ladendorf became the first member of the Sounds to earn a promotion to Oakland when he replaced Danny Valencia (DL, hamstring) on the A’s active roster on Friday. Replacing Ladendorf on the Nashville roster was veteran infielder Josh Rodriguez, who joined the Sounds from Double-A Midland. Rodriguez made two starts at shortstop for Nashville over the week. He had been a non-roster invitee to big league camp and he has nearly a decade of minor league experience.
Starter Eric Surkamp was technically on the Sounds’ preliminary Opening Day roster, but he was added to the A’s rotation before Nashville’s season even began. Taking his place in Nashville on Opening Day was reliever Ryan Brasier. Outfielder Andrew Lambo began the season on the A’s active roster, but he was sent back to Nashville in time for the Sounds’ season-opening weekend series after Surkamp was added to the A’s roster.
A’s starter Henderson Alvarez will continue his rehab assignment by joining the Sounds’ rotation on Monday. Alvarez had a three-inning outing for the High-A Stockton Ports last week. Alvarez hopes to return to the big leagues sometime in May.
No member of the Sounds is off to a hotter start than left-hander Sean Manaea, who has arguably been the best starter in the PCL to begin the year. Through three starts, Manaea has allowed only three runs on 16 hits and four walks in 18 innings. He has 21 strike-outs and has allowed just one solo homerun. Manaea’s latest start came in the hitter-haven of Colorado Springs, and he held the Sky Sox to one run over six innings.
Manaea’s rotation-mates Dillon Overton and Jesse Hahn are also pitching well to start the year. Overton threw a seven-inning complete game in his last outing, establishing a professional career-high in innings pitched for one game. The lefty has a 2.81 ERA in 16 innings and a 15:2 K:BB. Overton has allowed 21 hits, but no homeruns. Overton was named the PCL's Pitcher of the Week for his complete-game effort.
Hahn struggled on Sunday pitching on three-days rest, but he began the year with 12 scoreless innings. Rain forced him off of his normal schedule and he threw a 2.1 inning outing on Wednesday and a 3.1 inning outing on Sunday. Hahn’s command wasn’t nearly as sharp in those two outings as it had been in the previous two, but that is understandable given the disruptions to his routine. Overall, Hahn has a 2.04 ERA in 17.2 innings with a 13:9 K:BB and a 2.00 GO/AO.
Relievers Daniel Coulombe, Ryan Brasier, J.B. Wendelken and Patrick Schuster are off to fast starts this season. Brasier has yet to allow a run in 7.1 innings. He has walked four, but he has struck-out eight and allowed just four hits. Coulombe has been charged with one earned run in 9.1 innings. He has walked only one, allowed just three hits and has struck-out nine. Fellow lefty Schuster has a 10:1 K:BB in 6.2 innings and a 2.70 ERA, while right-hander Wendelken has a 10:3 K:BB and a 1.29 ERA in seven innings, although he has allowed nine hits. Tucker Healy struggled in his last outing (which came in Colorado Springs), but he had six scoreless innings to start the year. He leads Sounds' relievers with 12 strike-outs in just 7.1 innings.
With the offense off to a slow start, Renato Nunez and Max Muncy have stood out for their early-season production. Nunez has a .309/.361/.509 line through 15 games and he has homered twice. He is still finding his way defensively (5 errors), but the improvements he showed with his bat control last season have continued into this year. Nunez has just seven strike-outs over his first 55 official at-bats. He has also shown some speed, tripling once and going 2-for-2 in stolen base attempts.
Muncy is tied with Joey Wendle for the team-lead in homeruns with three. Muncy also has a .278/.365/.500 line through 54 official at-bats. Like Nunez, Muncy is making regular contact (only eight strike-outs) and he has walked six times. Despite moving all around the field (six games in LF, four at 3B and three at 1B), Muncy has yet to be charged with an error.
Catcher Bruce Maxwell currently leads the Sounds with a .375 OBP. He is fourth on the team in batting average with a .265 mark. Rangel Ravelo is second on the team with a .283 average and he has a .358 OBP and a 7:6 K:BB. Andrew Lambo leads the team with 11 RBI, but he is off to a slow start otherwise after a hot spring. Same goes for Jake Smolinski, who leads the team with seven doubles but is otherwise off to a slow beginning to the regular season.