The Oakland A's don't want to rush RHP Daniel Mengden, but with yet another injury to their starting rotation, the A's have decided that the time has come for Mengden to make his major-league debut. The right-hander has dominated at the Double-A and Triple-A levels this season, posting a 1.19 ERA in 68.1 innings. Just two years removed from his selection in the fourth round of the 2014 draft by the Houston Astros, Mengden will make his big league debut at Great America Ballpark in Cincinnati.
Mengden will make his debut against former A's starter Dan Straily, who has found a home in the Cincinnati starting rotation after stints in the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros organizations. Like Straily in 2013, Mengden's rise from A-ball to the big leagues has happened in seemingly a blink of the eye. The A's acquired Mengden last June as part of the Scott Kazmir deal with Houston. The right-hander was pitching for High-A Lancaster at the time of the deal, and he spent the rest of the season pitching for High-A Stockton. Mengden was solid for the Ports (4.25 ERA and a 41:10 K:BB in 42.1 innings), but he has been on another level since the start of this season. He began the year with Double-A Midland and blew through that level in one month, posting an 0.78 ERA in 23 innings. He struck-out 28 and allowed just 15 hits.
Mengden didn't miss a beat after a promotion to Nashville. In 45.1 innings over seven starts, Mengden has a 1.39 ERA and a 39:10 K:BB.
In a recent interview, Oakland A's Vice President of Player Personnel Billy Owens credited Special Assistant to the GM Grady Fuson for focusing the A's attention on Mengden when Oakland was negotiating with the Astros last July.
"Grady came back [from scouting Mengden] raving about his stuff, his delivery, his strike-zone ability, and his ability to change speeds and mix pitches," Owens said. "On Grady’s recommendation, Billy Beane and David Forst pulled the trigger on that deal with Jacob Nottingham and Mengden. He has been outstanding for us. He’s kind of like Sean Manaea. They both came over here, hit the ground running, threw strikes, put the ball in play, got strike-outs and embraced wearing the white spikes. It has been really fun to see what Daniel Mengden has done so far."
Mengden has a deep repertoire of pitches -- a two-seam and four-seam fastball, a cut-fastball, a slider and a change-up. The four-seam fastball has been clocked as high as 96 MPH this season, a jump up from where he was pitching last year. His cut fastball is arguably the best in the A's system. Mengden also offers plenty of deception with a delivery that mixes elements of motions from the Nippon Professional League and pitchers from the first-half of the 20th century.
Mengden hasn't officially been added to the A's roster as of Friday evening, but he is with the team and is expected to be activated on Saturday morning. The A's will need to make a move to open a spot on the 40-man roster for Mengden. James Naile will make a start for Nashville on Saturday in Mengden's place. It will be Naile's second spot start of the year for the Sounds. He allowed three runs in 5.1 innings for Nashville in his first outing. He has a 3.35 ERA in 53.2 innings for the Beloit Snappers.