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Oakland A's front office Q&A: Billy Owens, part 3

In the final part of our interview with Oakland A's Assistant General Manager Billy Owens, we discuss several prospects on the A's two Single A affiliates.

OaklandClubhouse: Mikey White is another player who is off to a slow start. What adjustments is he currently trying to make in Stockton? BO: The last handful of years, the guys we have pushed to High-A from the draft, the first two months have been a little bit rocky. They have had to adjust. From then on, when they make those adjustments, they had success in June, July and August. Mikey can snag the ball. He has been pretty steady there defensively. He is showing signs offensively of putting better at-bats together. He’s making more consistent contact. Going forward, he should improve his results.

OC: Up until the ankle injury a few days ago, B.J. Boyd might have been the hottest hitter in the Cal League. He is developing into a top-of-the-order hitter who gets on base at a high rate. Do you like the adjustments that he has made to his game?

BO: Besides the Midwest League, he has always hit. He has always put together pretty solid at-bats. I remember when he first came up to Rookie ball and then short-season, he was hitting like gangbusters. The Midwest League can be tough, especially for a kid from a warmer weather climate. You go out there and it is a beautiful part of the country, but it can be cold in April and May.

B.J. has definitely taken the ball and run with it this year. He’s having very good at-bats and is using the whole field. The stolen bases still aren’t there yet, but they have a chance to come. He can definitely run well. Down-the-line, in Double-A, Triple-A and possibly the major leagues, the power has a chance to develop and he could be a guy who hits double-digit homeruns. Kind of comparing him to Ryon Healy, I prefer a guy who has consistent at-bats and make a considerable amount of contact. With the strength that B.J. has, down-the-road, he’ll do more damage. 

OC: Another outfielder in Stockton having a big year is James Harris. You guys picked up him as a minor league free agent last year. He was a first-round pick of the Rays in 2011, but was really young at the time. Do you think he’s now finally reaching that potential that the Rays saw from him in 2011? 

BO: James is fun to watch. We all saw him play in high school (Oakland Tech). He played pretty close to the Coliseum, and he played in the Coliseum for a couple of games during high school. The Rays have a tremendous organization, but, for whatever reason, this being a young player, things just didn’t click. With our experience with him, we are able to pick him up. He was familiar with the organization. Right away, he hit the ground running. He was impressive in the Midwest League last year. The numbers were solid. He came to spring training and was probably the MVP of spring training. He put together great at-bats. He hustled. His energy was outstanding.

That has carried over the first two months of Stockton. This guy, since he signed with our organization, his focus has been very good. His at-bats have been excellent and if he keeps on having good at-bats, he has a chance to have a successful career. 

OC: Skye Bolt is off to a good start with the Beloit Snappers. Do you think he is starting to turn some of those tools that we talked about when he was drafted into production? Skye has a lot of talent. He has speed, he has power, he has patience. His on-base numbers are up there with the leaders in the Midwest League. In college, he walked a lot. He has a combination of tools that, when we were able to acquire him in the fourth round, it was pretty exciting. He did well last year in the short-season in the New York Penn League and had a really good Instructional League with our guys. So far this year, he has been fun to watch. He has shown good defense, glimpses of the power and the walk numbers have been good. He’s having solid at-bats most nights.

He has a diverse skill-set. It doesn’t guarantee success going forward, but his talents have been on display so far the first six weeks of the season.

OC: What kind of player do you see Brett Siddall becoming? Is there a comp?

BO: It’s important to remember with comparisons that you need comparisons for scouting purposes, but it doesn’t mean that they are going to be that player. You have to be able to write a scouting report so that when your superior is picturing a player from your scouting report, they are able to get a glimpse of what the player could be from the scouting report.

In Brett’s case, he could be like a Seth Smith, a quality, professional at-bat on the corner who can use the field and can run into 10-15 homers.

OC: Edwin Diaz has put together a nice last few weeks at the plate. He has always had one of the best throwing arms in the A’s system. Do you think he is starting to develop as a hitter now, too?

BO: [A’s Director of Player Development] Keith Lieppman has liked Edwin from his day one in the organization. Juan Navarette, our tremendous infield and defensive coordinator, has always had high praise for Edwin, too. We have to put it in context. He’s a young kid. He’s 20 years old, which would mean he’d normally be a junior in college. He’s in the Midwest League. His throwing arm has always been there and his defensive ability has always been solid. Just seeing professional pitching every day at the various levels has helped him. He has that experience behind him and his father played professionally, as well.

It’s exciting to see him having these professional at-bats in the Midwest League. From a talent perspective, it’s nice to have a kid who is 20-21 years old with his kind of throwing arm who can play the left side of the infield and put up those kind of at-bats. He’s definitely showing himself to be a prospect now.

OC: Stockton starters Heath Fillmyer and Daniel Gossett are off to solid starts with the Ports. What improvements have they been able to make when you compare where they were when they were both struggling in the Midwest League a year ago?

BO: In Heath Fillmyer’s case, he was really a position player during high school and junior college and really didn’t pitch until his last year in JUCO. Ronnie Vaughn has been with the A’s for 20 years [as a scout]. He signed Eric Chavez. He is a great scout. He recommended Fillmyer and we were able to get him in the fifth round. From there, he was inexperienced pitching, but he was athletic and he had arm strength. We were able to work on his delivery, give him a few tweaks.


I think last year on June 10, he was something like 0-9 with a sky-high ERA. But I remember where he had a really good outing around then. He went about seven innings. He touched 96. He used all of his pitches. He has a fantastic pick-off move and from that outing on, our staff there in Beloit said that this kid might turn a corner, and, lo and behold, his second half numbers were outstanding. His strike-out-to-walk rate picked up. His velocity was up to 96 the whole time. He had a tremendous Instructional League and it carried over into spring training. Heath Fillmyer is definitely one of our best pitching prospects. Just with his relative inexperience with pitching and his athleticism and arm strength, going forward, there are blue skies ahead for him. 

Daniel Gossett last year he was in a new environment. He pitched well in the ACC with Clemson, but for whatever reason, things just didn’t totally click for him last year. This year, from his first outing in spring training, he was hitting 93-94. He was aggressive in the strike-zone. The breaking ball picked up at least two clicks. He got a lot more swings-and-misses. His temperament was a lot higher. His overall arsenal was much improved over last year.

That has carried over into the Cal League. He has roughly a strike-out per inning. He was an outstanding starter in college and he is showing that kind of stuff now. Going forward, I think we are going to see more of the guy that we are seeing this year versus what we saw last year.

OC: Richie Martin has been at extended spring training rehabbing a knee injury, but what did you see from him before he got hurt and what would you expect to see from him once he is cleared to play?

BO: Richie can play defense. He has got tremendous all around ability. As you know, Ron Washington is the best infield coach in the major leagues. Seeing what he has done with various guys, I don’t like to get too excited, but Wash is remarkable as far as what he does with our infielders. With Wash, it’s amazing how good his infield instruction is, but it is also amazing to see the energy he brings. Richie is a guy who was going to work regardless, but you see some other guys who, in different circumstances, they may not be on the field at 5:30 in the morning, but when Ron Washington is on the field, everyone shows up. It’s amazing. Everyone shows up because they know that he is that good of a teacher and that he is fun to be around.

Photo by Kimberly Contreras

Richie was able to work with Wash in those early sessions and improve his defense. He had some positive at-bats in major league spring training. It was carrying over to minor league camp, as well. The ball comes off of his bat. I believe he was the youngest player in the SEC to be drafted last year. He’s got five-tool ability. Now, it’s a matter of putting everything in place, and he’s always been a guy who has good strike-zone discipline. He’s a toolsy kid with good strike-zone discipline who was one of the youngest college players drafted. He has a lot going forward. We are excited to have him. Once he gets healthy and is on the field, he has great make-up and great tools. We’ll see where it goes.

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