Lefty Luzardo headlines A's All-Stars
Each offseason, MiLB.com goes position by position across each system and honors the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. Click here to locate your favorite club.The American League West was full of storylines going into 2018. The Astros were coming
Each offseason, MiLB.com goes position by position across each system and honors the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. Click here to locate your favorite club.
The American League West was full of storylines going into 2018. The Astros were coming off the first World Series win in franchise history. The Angels made the biggest splash of the offseason by landing two-way phenom
The Athletics were quietly at work beneath the din, and by the end of the season Oakland had won 97 games -- its most since the "Moneyball" campaign of 2002. Perhaps most unnerving for division foes, some of the A's best talent is still on the way. Even with No. 2 prospect
Athletics Organization All-Stars
"He came in with a great defensive skill," A's coordinator of instruction Ed Sprague said. "His arm strength is off the charts. He's got an 80-arm, if not better, if that's possible.
"He got a little bit of a slow start his first year offensively and played well the rest of the way. I think this year coming into Spring Training, he got a chance to really work on some things."
Murphy opened with 65 games in Midland before his second hamate injury. Upon returning, promotions and reassignments in the organization opened a door for the Wright State product's brief Triple-A cameo. Murphy's experience at the Minors' highest level could be a preview of his 2019.
"He gets at times where he feels like he has to pull the ball and elevate it to be valuable, but he doesn't. He just needs to use the whole field," Sprague said. "When he does that, he's a really good hitter. Defense is going to carry him, I think. He's going to be defense-first, not to knock his offensive skills because they have improved so fast.
"I suspect Sean will start the season in Triple-A and go from there."
First baseman --
"He hit 30 home runs in Stockton, went to Midland and learned a new position," Sprague said. "We were a little light at that first base position, so he really worked hard. He'd played it a little bit in the past but not a ton. His power numbers took a little bit of a hit, but we've seen that before. [Major League first baseman]
He batted .283/.342/.454 with 14 homers and 90 RBIs as Midland's primary first baseman, finishing with a .988 fielding percentage.
"It's a huge difference," Sprague said of Brown's development during the year. "I wouldn't call him a plus defender, but he's probably right around average. He works at it. That's the way he attacks everything. He just puts in the work. Every time I was in Midland, he's just taking ground ball after ground ball.
"He'll just continue to work at it. I don't think he'll ever be a Gold Glove-type guy, but he's certainly an average to adequate defender even in his ability to play the outfield, too. That's certainly a plus in today's game, to have the ability to do both of those."
Organization All-Stars by MLB affiliate »
Second baseman --
Third baseman --
"Sometimes you see that, playing a long college season and then having a little bit of a layoff and going into your first pro deal. It's just a little bit different," Sprague explained. "I saw him early and he wasn't great, and then I saw him again in instructional league and he was like a different guy. He's driving balls all around the yard, playing outstanding defense. I think it just took a little bit of time for him to get his feet wet in Vermont and get comfortable with his teammates and everything else."
The 22-year-old batted .287/.376/.421 for the Lake Monsters, posting an .824 OPS in August.
"He got his eyes checked in the offseason and was able to get some contacts to help him see the ball better," Sprague said. "He became a more aggressive hitter and started attacking."
Martin had posted OPS marks of .649 and .643 in his first two full seasons but busted out in 2018 with a .300/.368/.439 line.
"Everything was kind of so easy defensively for him, he didn't have quite that transition at the plate," Sprague said. "This year he wanted to put that aggressive mentality [to use]. He was tired of getting beat by pitchers, overmatched. He went up there and attacked the zone. He's a really strong kid, and when he puts the bat on the ball, it comes off extremely hard.
"This year, he got to show off his athleticism and play a few other positions, too. He played second and third and was really good. We know he can play short, and he's got tremendous versatility because of his athleticism."
"I think he had a little bit of a wakeup call when he first went to Double-A, maybe realized he had to shrink his strike zone a little bit," Sprague said. "He came back down and really worked on some things back [with Stockton] before going back to Midland. I think for him, it's really about pitch recognition, the ability to stay in his zone. He's got quick hands and he's a super-athletic player."
Bolt finished his breakout year by earning a trip to the Arizona Fall League, where he registered an .846 OPS in 19 games.
"He has the ability to hit the ball with a little bit of power. He can drive it the other way, lay down a bunt, use his speed. He's all-around," Sprague said. "He plays good defense. I think the big thing for him will be to cut down that chase a little bit, cut down those strikeouts and up the walks. I think if he can get that little bit of strike zone control ... I think you're going to see all of his numbers continue to go up."
Utility player --
Left-handed starter --
"He's got a maturity level," Sprague said. "He's got poise on the mound but, obviously, he's aggressive in the strike zone with all his pitches. He's got three plus pitches and he's just been impressive from the first time we saw him. The organization loves him not only for his ability, but he's very passionate, involved in the community. We really think this kid's going to be something special."
Luzardo, who didn't turn 21 until Sept. 30, reached Triple-A in August after going 7-3 with a 2.29 ERA and 86 punchouts over 78 2/3 innings in 16 Double-A starts.
"He's got great command with his fastball," Sprague noted. "He'll pitch anywhere 91-94 [mph], but he can touch 97. He can rear back a little bit. He spins the breaking ball really good and he's got a plus changeup. When he's on, he's going to be very difficult to hit, moving in and out of the zone."
The A's were careful with Luzardo, who underwent Tommy John surgery in March 2016 and entered the year with 12 professional appearances under his belt. He'd only worked more than five innings in a pro start once.
"I think we haven't even seen the best of him yet," Sprague said. "He was held back a little bit this year just because of the Tommy John progression, coming off of that. He had limited innings. If he wasn't at that limit with innings, I think you would've seen him in September in Oakland.
"I think this kid's got a chance maybe to break the rotation out of Spring Training. It just depends on how fast they want to push him."
Right-handed starter --
"From a stuff standpoint, you wouldn't think, 'Oh, this guy's got electric, electric stuff,'" Sprague said. "But he has a swing-and-miss ability. Guys just miss his fastball for whatever reason. You stand behind it, it's 90-91, and he gets a lot of swings and misses with that fastball. He's got a good little slider. I don't think he's got the upside stuff maybe that Luzardo has, but he's a gamer. He knows how to pitch."
Relief pitcher --
Tyler Maun is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun.