The Oakland A's dropped their first two spring training games over the weekend, but several A's prospects had positive debuts to their springs.
Third baseman Matt Chapman picked up where he left off last spring, blasting an opposite-field, two-run homerun against the Chicago Cubs in his first at-bat of spring training. He finished the weekend 1-for-4 with two RBI. Chapman, who has the best opposite-field power in the A's system, isn't expected to make the A's roster out of spring training, but he could factor into the A's plans by midseason. The A's 2014 first-round pick is the best defensive infielder in the A's system and one of the organization's top power hitters. He won the Texas League's Player of the Year award last year and hit 36 homeruns between Double-A and Triple-A. Chapman struck-out 173 times last season, however, and will be tasked with trying to make more consistent contact before he reaches the big leagues.
Starting pitching prospects Raul Alcantara, Paul Blackburn and Daniel Gossett put together good debut outings for the A's over the weekend. Alcantara, who is out of options, tossed two scoreless innings in relief against the Cubs on Saturday. The right-hander allowed one hit and struck-out one -- former top A's prospect and teammate Addison Russell. Alcantara has been a starting pitcher throughout his career, but the A's will evaluate him for a spot both in the rotation and as a longman in the bullpen this spring. Alcantara is likely to be claimed off waivers if he doesn't make the A's roster coming out of spring training, so if he pitches well, he is a strong bet to make the club in one capacity or another. Alcantara made his major-league debut last September and had a 3.58 ERA in 135.2 innings between Double-A and Triple-A in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery.
Blackburn, a Brentwood native, made his A's organizational debut with two scoreless innings versus the Angels on Sunday. He walked a batter and didn't allow a hit. Blackburn was acquired over the off-season from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Danny Valencia. Blackburn was a compensation round A pick of the Chicago Cubs in 2012. He is expected to go to Triple-A this season after posting a 3.27 ERA in 143 innings at the Double-A level last year.
Gossett, the A's minor league pitcher of the year in 2016, got a surprise starting nod on Sunday versus the Angels. Kendall Graveman had been slated to start, but the A's moved Graveman's spring debut to Monday to give him an extra day to get ready. Gossett ran with his opportunity, throwing two scoreless innings against the Halos. He walked two, but didn't allow a hit. Gossett pitched at three levels last season (High-A, Double-A and Triple-A) and had a 2.69 ERA and a 151:41 K:BB in 153.2 innings. He was the A's second-round pick in 2014 and could make his major-league debut around the same time as Chapman, who was selected a round ahead of Gossett by the A's that year.
In the bullpen, several A's relief prospects had solid spring debuts over the weekend. Pitching as a member of the A's big league spring training roster for the first time, Tucker Healy threw a scoreless ninth inning versus the Angels. He struck-out two and walked one and didn't allow a hit. Healy struck-out 76 in 52.1 innings for Triple-A Nashville last year and earned a non-roster invitation to spring training. In 206 career minor league innings, Healy has held opposing batters to a .208 average and has struck-out 334.
Hard-throwing right-hander Bobby Wahl struck-out two in a scoreless inning against the Cubs on Saturday. Wahl was added to the A's 40-man roster over the off-season after he posted a 2.65 ERA and struck-out 65 in 54.1 innings pitching at three levels last year. Wahl can reach 101 with his fastball. He was a fifth-round pick of the A's in 2013.
Non-roster invitees Michael Brady and Josh Smith also had good debuts over the weekend. Brady, a Cal alum and an off-season free agent signee, threw a scoreless inning with two strike-outs on Sunday against the Angels. Smith, who came over to the A's on a waiver claim and then cleared waivers with Oakland, retired both batters he faced in relief of Aaron Kurcz on Sunday.
At the plate, shortstop Franklin Barreto and outfielder Jaycob Brugman had strong debuts. Both Barreto and Brugman joined the A's 40-man roster this off-season. Both are longshots to make the A's Opening Day roster, but both could factor into the A's plans by mid-season.
Barreto, the A's top prospect, got the start on Sunday against the Angels and collected two hits in two at-bats. He went 0-for-1 on Saturday and finished the weekend 2-for-3. Barreto was caught stealing on Sunday and base-running will be one of the things he focuses on in Triple-A this year. Barreto turns 21 on Monday.
Brugman, playing in his first big league camp, singled in his spring debut on Sunday. That single drove-in a run to cut the A's deficit from 5-2 to 5-3. Brugman was the Nashville team MVP last season after he hit .295 with a .352 OBP.
Several A's non-roster position players made solid first impressions over the weekend. Catcher Ryan Lavarnway had a double and a run scored on Sunday and he threw out an attempted base-stealer. Lavarnway leaves A's camp on Monday to travel to Seoul as part of Team Israel's World Baseball Classic squad.
Outfielder Alejandro De Aza is off to a strong start in his bid to earn a spot on the A's roster. The major-league veteran signed a minor league deal with the A's, but he is likely to make the A's roster as the team's fourth outfielder if he has a strong spring. De Aza has two hits -- including a triple -- in two official at-bats thus far. He has also been hit by a pitch and has scored a run.