Photo by Chris Lockard / OaklandClubhouse.com

Oakland A's off-season coaching Q&A: Gil Patterson, part two

In part two of our off-season Q&A with Oakland A's minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson, we discuss Jharel Cotton, much of the 2016 Midland RockHounds' staff, as well as a few standouts from the 2016 draft class and two rising stars from the A's Dominican Academy.

http://www.scout.com/mlb/athletics/story/1725479-oakland-a-s-off-season-... OaklandClubhouse: What were your thoughts on Jharel Cotton? The near-perfect game was incredible and he had an impressive September in the big leagues. Are there areas he will need to improve to continue that success in the major leagues?

Gil Patterson: Wasnt that so great to see from him? Everyone knew about the change-up [before he was acquired from the Dodgers], but I didnt know about the little cutter. The breaking ball was usable. It was very solid. You know as well as I do that sometimes you can be fooled a little bit in September. Sometimes you are playing teams that might not have their top players in there, but, I tell you what, wasnt he great against the Astros [six innings pitched, two hits, one run allowed] when they were pushing for a playoff spot?

I really like him. He doesnt walk people, he pounds the strike-zone and he has pretty good swing-and-miss.

OC: Sam Bragg is putting together a solid Fall League season thus far. That experiment putting him into the a tandem starters role early in the year didnt go that well, but he was great when he moved back into the bullpen. Do you think that experiment was still beneficial to him even though the results as a starter werent good?

GP: I think more so that I made a mistake in judgment trying that. I still thought it was a good idea to try that with someone who had the high strike-outs and low walks, but it just seemed like he was more comfortable in that relief role. I dont think having him start those games did anything to make him better. I think he was just better because he was more comfortable in that role. Was [Midland pitching coach John Wasdin] did make him throw a change-up more frequently because you need that as a starter, and they continued that in the bullpen. So now his change-up worked for him plenty in that bullpen role. So you might say the one thing that it did was force us to make him throw some change-ups that were effective for him. In that aspect, yes.

The best thing that came out of the piggy-back rotations we had in Midland this year were the development of Ben Bracewell and, especially, Corey Walter. Thats what I was hoping for with Sam, the way that Bracewell and Walter performed. But, again, even if you are in the big leagues there is still a need for that middle long guy who can throw the fifth, sixth and seventh. That might be a good role for him. Hes had an impressive Fall League so far.

OC: With Corey Walter, whats the next step for him? Will he continue to be stretched out as a starter with the success that he had in that tandem role this season?

GP: I certainly hope so. He doesnt walk a soul. On the other hand, he doesnt strike-out a lot of people either. I see with him Josh Tomlin, Kyle Hendricks. Walter only strikes out five per nine in Double-A and David, Keith or you could say, how many is he going to strike-out in the big leagues? The answer is probably less, but I dont know for sure. But if a guy is getting two groundballs for every flyball and isnt walking people, I dont know if you take that away from him yet. He could throw his slider more to lefties. He didnt throw it enough and that could help his strike-out rate. But, if you have a year like he had, youd certainly like to think that you could start again. I definitely hope that that is the case. 

OC: Joel Seddon had a very strong second-half as a starter for the RockHounds this year. He seems to be able to pitch above his stuff as a starter. Do you see that role continuing for him?

GP: It was crazy. He might have been one pitch from being removed from that rotation and he went on that roll. It was tremendous to see. He gained confidence, and that might have been the biggest thing. In talking to Was, I asked why now and not in the beginning? and Was said Seddon said he didnt trust that his stuff was going to be good enough in the beginning. That part was good to hear that he learned to trust his stuff and didnt try to do too much. When he just threw his pitches and didnt over-throw them, he learned okay, my stuff does play.

http://www.scout.com/player/185489-joel-seddon?s=304

OC: Heath Fillmyer had a very nice year and made a successful jump to Double-A. Was confidence a big factor in him putting together the season that he had this year?

GP: I do think so. His attention to detail and game-planning is outstanding. I remember Cons [Steve Connelly] telling me that instead of Cons running the pre-game meeting, Filly would: this is what I want to do to this guy. This is what I want to do to that guy. The nice thing about him is that he is a strike-thrower. He has a change-up that has bottom. The curveball got better. Hes an athlete. He does those quick pitches occasionally, almost like Johnny Cueto. I remember that one game, Filly pitched behind Henderson Alvarez. They both pitched together in the Cal League and I remember thinking to myself: who is the major-league pitcher? I know he got tired at the end and we had to shut him down, but it was really, really nice for him to have a season like 2016, especially since the 2015 season was so rough for him. For him to come back and perform like he did, thats pretty good. 

OC: That Midland bullpen had a lot of velocity this year with Bragg, Kyle Finnegan, Lou Trivino, Jake Sanchez, Bobby Wahl, Trey Cochran-Gill, Andres Avila, etc. Im having a tough time remembering a group of harder throwers all together on an As affiliate. Do you feel like there is more velo in the organization right now than you remember from your earlier stints with the As?

http://www.scout.com/mlb/athletics/story/1710006-2016-year-in-review-mid... GP: Yeah, but dont forget when I was here that last year I had Blake Hassebrock, who never made the big leagues but threw in the upper-90s, Dan Straily, who wasnt a high-velo guy but struck-out a ton, Blake Treinen, Austin House, Seth Streich, Nolan Sanburn. So there was some velo here, but youre right, but especially when Trivino made that jump from Stockton to join Wahl, Bragg, Finnegan, Sanchez and Cochrane-Gill. I remember one game we threw three or four of those pitchers and we had 93 low, 98 high, 95 average. That was nice to see. I think Oakland didnt pitch John Axford or Ryan Madson that night and, so, it was like look at this, the fastball average in the big leagues was a lot less than in Double-A.

Sometimes you go out during the off-season and there are trades and six-year free agents are brought in, but arguably that whole staff could go to Triple-A next year and do just fine. It was a great year in Midland, especially with them winning it all. Those pitchers pitched extremely well. 

OC: Do you think this group of pitching prospects that are in the system right now would be competitive with the group that you had in 2008/2009 with the Brett Andersons, Trevor Cahills, Andrew Baileys, etc.?

GP: I sure do. Lots of great names that we have already talked about: the Fillys and the Gossetts and even Walter going forward. He averages 91-2 and touches higher. And then you add Grant Holmes and Jharel Cotton that we just picked up and you add in the draft guys like Puk, Shore, Daulton Jefferies. Youre right. Even the Beloit team, you had Boomer Biegalski, Brendan Butler, Dustin Hurlbutt, Angel Duno, Michael Murray. Those guys arent firm throwers, but they are pitchers.

OC: What were your thoughts on Holmes? The numbers in Stockton werent great initially. Was that a concern, or do you think that was more of a case of needing to get to know the system?

GP: You had to take a second glance because when you watch him warm up, you almost think hes going to throw a no-hitter each time out there. Then he gives up some hard contact [in the game] and you have to think, whats going on here. But this Instructional League, he threw only two outings and three bullpens, but I think we found some things. He has a really good change-up and his two-seamer really dive-bombs. Holmesy and Cons worked a little bit on the breaking ball to enhance it some and I think we were happy with that. 

I remember one day, he was playing catch and I said, I saw a couple of your four-seamers cut. How come some do and some dont? And he said, if I hold it this way, it cuts, but the Dodgers always wanted me to throw it straight. I said, you throw a pitch 94 that cuts? Show me. So he threw a couple and I said, remember that one that you threw straight? You arent throwing that one anymore. [laughs]

I think going forward that pitch will be more effective for him. You are just hoping that from game-to-game and week-to-week and month-to-month and year-to-year that guys are getting better. Thats our objective. I do think he made strides this fall, even if it was just over that two-and-a-half weeks in Instructional League.

OC: Did you see Daulton Jefferies pitch in the Arizona Rookie League?

GP: I did. 

OC: How did he look?

GP: Very good. Firm. He has a nice little tight cutter. Good change-up. Smart. Intelligent.

OC: Was not having him throw in Instructs out of precaution? 

GP: I think they were very happy with the way that he progressed [with his strength and arm care program] during Instructional League. As you know, sometimes things are more out of the hands of the pitching coaches and rightfully so. I dont know what Jeff [Collins, As 2016 minor league medical coordinator] and those guys know. Although I am the guy who had eight surgeries. [laughs]

http://www.scout.com/player/178361-daulton-jefferies?s=304

Hes going to start his throwing program a little bit earlier this off-season because you dont want to take too much time off. Hes going to take September, October and November off and start throwing in December, or maybe even in the last week of November. That will get the arm moving a little bit. You do need time off during the off-season, but you can take too much time off. Remember when you were a kid and you just used to play catch in the backyard? Even that helps. I told the guys, every once and awhile, go in the backyard and play catch. Get the blood moving a little bit.

OC: Brandon Bailey didnt throw in Instructs. Did you see him much in Vermont?

GP: Yes. I like him. I like him a lot. Everyone was, and rightfully so, on-board with A.J. Puk and Daulton, but, Ill tell you what, if he was in the big league in three years or so, I would not be surprised. He is aggressive. A strike-thrower with some life in his fastball. Good change-up. Two pretty good breaking balls. I like him a lot.

OC: Seems like people were buzzing a bit about Nolan Blackwood and the velocity he was able to get from the sidearm motion this season. What are your thoughts on him?

GP: Hes great. Its firm from down there. He can spring that Frisbee slider like Brad Ziegler. Hes right in that category. He got better with the change-up and he started to elevate some fastballs in to lefties and up and away to righties. Most of the time, if someone is throwing from down there, they are always down. During Instructs, he challenged himself to get better and elevate and he did a better job of that. 

OC: How did some of the young pitchers that were brought over from the Dominican Academy look during Instructs? 

GP: Argenis Blanco was here this summer, but he is going to be very good. Another kid, Abdiel Mendoza, hes going to be awesome. He is going to be awesome. I would not dare throw out a name out like Pedro Martinez, but he is awfully, awfully good.

OC: Mendoza has some room to grow, right?

GP: Yeah. I told him to go home and just eat pasta. [laughs]

OC: Are you going over to the Dominican Instructs?

GP: Yes. In a week. 

OC: Will those guys throw again in that Instructs?

GP: No. Im hoping that those two guys are here for regular spring training. Im not sure if either of them will have a chance to make Beloit out of camp, but theyll certainly be here for Extended. And Ill tell you what, if we would need someone [in full-season ball]? I wouldnt mind turning to either one of them. They are both tremendous.


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