The Oakland A’s will be putting their best foot forward during this year’s Arizona Fall League. Top prospects Franklin Barreto and Matt Chapman and newly acquired fireballer Frankie Montas highlight a talented seven-player A’s contingent on the Mesa SolarSox roster.
Barreto, Chapman and Montas will be joined by Yairo Munoz, Dylan Covey, Trey Cochran-Gill and Sam Bragg. The A’s will also be sending manager Ryan Christenson to Mesa. He will skipper the SolarSox’s squad. Christenson’s RockHounds clinched a playoff spot on Tuesday. Christenson has managed four teams since joining the A’s minor league coaching staff and all four have made it to the post-season. He won the Texas League championship with the RockHounds last year.
Chapman will be the priority third baseman for Mesa this fall, meaning that he is designated to get the majority of the playing time at that position (organizations are given one priority spot to fill each fall). As of Tuesday night, Chapman led the A’s minor league organization with 32 homeruns between Double-A Midland and Triple-A Nashville. He had a .233/.327/.501 line through Tuesday night with 91 RBI and 68 walks.
The A’s top pick in the 2014 draft, Chapman is considered one of the best – if not the best – defensive third baseman in the minor leagues. He also played 10 games at shortstop this season and showed skills at that position, as well. Chapman has played in a career-high 132 games this season and he will get a chance to play into the post-season with the Nashville Sounds, who are headed to the PCL playoffs.
Barreto, the A’s top prospect, teamed up next to Chapman on the left-side of the Midland infield for much of this season. The 20-year-old shortstop got off to a slow start with Midland, but he is batting .281/.340/.413 with 10 homers after a strong second half. Since the start of the second half, Barreto is has a .337/.393/.490 line. Barreto leads all A’s minor leaguers with 30 stolen bases. He was promoted to Triple-A on Wednesday morning and made his debut with the Nashville Sounds at shortstop, batting second.
Like Chapman, Barreto has set a career-high with 120 games played so far this year. He played for Zulia of the Venezuelan Winter League last off-season. It isn’t clear whether he will re-join the Aguilas after the Arizona Fall League season ends. Barreto will be listed as a shortstop on the Mesa roster and should see most of his playing time at that position, but he could also see some time at second. Barreto has played 33 games at second for Midland this season. He also played some outfield in winter ball last season.
The versatile Munoz will head to Mesa listed as a shortstop, second baseman and third baseman. He has seen plenty of time at all three positions this season for Midland. The 21-year-old missed the first three weeks of the season with a leg injury he sustained during spring training. He has struggled with the bat in his first season in Double-A, hitting .237/.277/.356 with eight homeruns in 96 games thus far.
Despite those struggles, Munoz is still highly regarded within the A’s system for his arm strength, athleticism and power potential. He hit 13 homeruns and batted .260 in 136 games between Low-A Beloit and High-A Stockton last season.
Montas will be making his Oakland A’s debut when he throws his first pitch with the SolarSox. The right-hander was one of three pitchers the A’s acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Josh Reddick/Rich Hill deal in July. Montas was in his first year in the Dodgers’ chain after being traded by the Chicago White Sox during the off-season in a three-team deal that sent Todd Frazier to the White Sox.
A rib injury has limited Montas to just 16 innings this season, but he is expected to be healthy enough to pitch in the AFL. When healthy, the 23-year-old can top 100 MPH. He has 412 strike-outs in 398.2 career minor league innings. Montas made his major-league debut with the White Sox in 2015, striking out 20, walking nine and posting a 4.80 ERA in 15 innings. He will be used as a reliever this fall.
Right-hander Covey will also be using the AFL to make up innings lost to injuries during the regular season. Covey has been sidelined since May 8 with an oblique strain. He was in the midst of a strong start when the injury occurred, posting a 1.84 ERA with 26 strike-outs in 29.1 innings over six starts for Double-A Midland. Covey will be used as a starter this fall. He threw 140 innings in each of the last two seasons.
Covey was the A’s fourth-round pick in 2013. A first-round pick out of high school, Covey chose to go to college after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes shortly after the draft. After a three-year career at USD, Covey turned pro in 2013. He has a 4.20 ERA in 369 career innings. An extreme groundball pitcher, Covey can touch 95 with his four-seam, but he relies more heavily on his two-seamer, which sits at the 88-92 MPH range.
Covey will be joined by two of his RockHounds’ staffmates: relievers Cochran-Gill and Bragg.
Cochran-Gill is finishing his first season in the A’s organization. He was acquired during the off-season from the Seattle Mariners for Evan Scribner. The Clemson alum was a 17th-round pick of Seattle’s in 2014. He reached Double-A in his first full professional season and even threw one inning in Triple-A. With the A’s, Cochran-Gill has been at Double-A all season. He has a 3.07 ERA in 67.1 innings with the RockHounds so far this season.
Cochran-Gill is a groundball pitcher who features an above-average slider and a heavy sinker that has produced a 2.32 GO/AO for his career. He went through a dead arm period early in the season, but Cochran-Gill has bounced back and his velocity has jumped back up to the 91-93 MPH range. He has a 1.57 ERA for the second half of the season.
Bragg has a 4.33 ERA this year for Midland, but that stat isn’t indicative of how he has pitched for the majority of the season. The 23-year-old right-hander began the year in the Midland starting rotation as part of a tandem-starter duo. He struggled badly in that role, putting up a 15.12 ERA in April in 8.1 innings pitched. Bragg spent a brief period of time on the DL in late April and returned to his more traditional relief role in mid-May. Since then, he has been very effective. Removing April from his statline, Bragg has a 2.67 ERA in 54 innings pitched with a 58:12 K:BB. His ERA the second half of the season is 2.80 and he has a 38:6 K:BB in 38 innings pitched.
Bragg was an 18th-round pick of the A’s in 2013 out of Georgia Perimeter (JUCO). The hard-throwing right-hander can touch 96 with his fastball and he has an above-average breaking ball. The change-up has improved over the past two seasons, but that pitch will continue to be a focus for Bragg during the AFL and beyond. He has proved durable over his career, logging 75.1 and 74 innings his first two full seasons and 62.1 so far this year.