Major League Baseball is almost here. Starting with two games on Thursday July 23 followed by a full slate of baseball on the 24th, including the A’s opener against the Angels, fans’ long wait for America’s National Pastime will finally come to an end.
What has come to be known as Summer Camp (Spring Training 2.0) began at the beginning of the month, with each team setting up shop at their home ballpark for workouts that began approximately three weeks before 2020’s first pitch. An additional group of players that are not on the 40-man roster or taxi squad, made up mostly of top prospects, will report to an alternate site to train during the season.
Even though there will be no baseball at Banner Island Ballpark in 2020 thanks to the cancellation of the Minor League season as announced on June 30, there are still a number of reasons for Ports fans to keep a close eye on the A’s 2020 season. Namely, the several former Ports that help populate the A’s 60-man player pool.
All told, over one-third of the players in the A’s 2020 player pool have donned a Ports uniform on a full-time basis. In other words, that excludes rehab assignments. So let’s have some fun and take a look at the former full-time Ports participating in Summer Camp 2020 with the A’s.
SUMMER CAMP ROSTER:
Franklin Barreto (2015) – In November 2014, Barreto arrived from the Blue Jays as the headliner of the package the A’s received for Josh Donaldson. Although he had never played above short-season ball, Oakland challenged the then 19-year-old Barreto by assigning him to Stockton in 2015. The Venezuelan passed the test with flying colors, collecting 102 hits, including 13 home runs, in 90 games for the Ports before his season came to an end on July 26 when he was played on the disabled list with a wrist contusion.
Skye Bolt (2017-18) – The toolsy switch-hitting outfielder (whose t-shirt is still available in the Dock Shop!) moved up the ladder one rung at a time after the A’s selected him in the 4th round of the 2015 draft out of the University of North Carolina, until he got to the California League. In 2017 as a 23-year-old, Bolt hit .243 with 15 home runs and 66 RBI over 114 games. While those numbers are respectable, it was the 134 strikeouts that likely caused a repeat of the level the next season. Bolt fared much better in 2018, cutting down on his whiffs while getting on base at a .382 clip in 46 games before earning a promotion to the Double-A Midland. A year after starting the season in Stockton for the last time, Bolt reached the sport’s pinnacle, appearing in five games for the A’s in 2019.
Seth Brown (2016-17) – Another outfielder who was asked to repeat the Cal League after an unspectacular debut at the level, Brown broke out in 2017. Coming into the season with a career high eight home runs as a Port the year before, the Lewis-State College product exploded for 30 home runs and a near-club record109 RBI in leading the Ports to 71 wins and a playoff berth. Like Bolt, Brown reached the big leagues in 2019, hitting .293 in 26 games down the stretch and has a good chance make the A’s opening day roster out of Summer Camp.
Matt Chapman (2015) – The 2019 All-Star and two-time Platinum Glover is already one of the best in the game at his position. Perhaps the A’s knew what they had right away, as they challenged their 2014 1st-rounder with an assignment to Stockton for his first full season in 2015. Chapman was quick to prove his evaluators right. After playing in just 54 games above the college level, the former Cal State Fullerton Titan clubbed 47 extra base hits, 23 of which were home runs, in just 80 games as a Port. Chapman will look to follow up on his career-high 36 longballs in 2019 with a trip to his third consecutive postseason.
Daniel Gossett (2016) – The A’s 2nd-round pick in 2014 out of Clemson came to Stockton looking for a bounce-back year after 13 losses and an ERA of 3.73 at Class-A Beloit in his first full season in professional baseball. As it turns out, the typically hitter-friendly California League was just the medicine he needed. The right-hander went 4-1 with a 3.33 ERA across nine starts with the Ports – enough to earn a promotion to Double-A Midland. Gossett, who pitched well in the Arizona Fall League in his first action since Tommy John surgery in August 2018, was added to the A’s 60-man player pool after originally being sent back to Triple-A Las Vegas in Spring Training.
Jonah Heim (2018) – Twice traded as the lone piece in exchange for a Major Leaguer, Heim seems to have found a home with the A’s organization. After failing to hit better than .260 during any season after being drafted in 2013, the switch-hitting catcher found his offensive stride in Stockton, hitting .292 with 91 hits over his games with the Ports before a callup to Double-A Midland. Known for his defensive prowess, Heim has thrust himself into a camp battle with Austin Allen to backup Sean Murphy behind the dish for the A’s in 2020.
Jesus Luzardo (2018-19) – By the time he was healthy, Luzardo wasted no time getting to the Major Leagues. When the A’s acquired the left-hander from the Washington Nationals just before the trade deadline in 2017, he was a 19-year-old coming off of Tommy John surgery. As a 20-year-old, the A’s top prospect started the season as a full-time Port and struck out 25 hitters in 14.2 innings over three starts before a promotion to Double-A Midland. His only other appearance in Stockton came in 2019 when he and A.J. Puk lit up radar guns at Banner Island Ballpark in rehab appearances on their way back from injury. As long as he’s healthy, he’ll anchor the A’s rotation for years to come.
Daniel Mengden (2015) – Mengden began the 2015 season as a Lancaster JetHawk before switching Cal League clubhouses and becoming a Stockton Port as part of the package the A’s received from Houston for Scott Kazmir. Pitching in a home ballpark other than the launching pad known as The Hangar did the trick for the right-hander in 2015. As a Port, Mengden lowered his ERA a full point, from 5.26 as a JetHawk to 4.25, and went 4-2 over eight starts with Stockton. He rose quickly though the Minor League ranks and made his Major League debut in 2016. The Texas A&M product is coming off of injury heading into Summer Camp 2020, and out of options is a good bet to earn a spot on the A’s 30-man roster.
Sean Murphy (2017) – The A’s decided to challenge their 2016 3rd-round pick a year after he was drafted, opting to bypass Class A and send him straight to Stockton for his first full season of professional baseball in 2017. And Murphy was quick to prove them right. Highly regarded because of his outstanding defense behind the plate, Murphy let his bat do the talking in his 45 games at Stockton, hitting .297 with nine home runs before a promotion to Double-A Midland. He showed enough in his 20-game audition in Oakland at the end of 2019 to enter this season as the A’s starting catcher.
Sheldon Neuse (2017) – Acquired by the A’s from Washington as part of the package for Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson, Neuse burst onto the scene in his first assignment with a new organization. Coming to Stockton from Hagerstown of the Class A South Atlantic League, the right-handed hitting infielder tore the cover off the ball in 22 games as a Port, hitting .386 with seven home runs, earning a quick promotion to Double-A Midland. The former Oklahoma Sooner reached the big leagues during the pennant race of 2019 and has a chance to make the club as infield depth out of Summer Camp.
Matt Olson (2014) – Bob Melvin said recently that he believes Olson can be an MVP one day, and you can count me in that camp as well. Even after blasting 36 home runs with 91 RBIs and his first Gold Glove in an injury shortened season (127 games), I still feel as if Olson is somehow underrated on a national scale. Either way, the 2014 season in Stockton was one for the books for the first baseman. His 37 home runs, 97 RBIs, and .947 OPS as a Port are all career highs in professional baseball for Olson. He’ll look to build upon an already stellar young career hitting right in the middle of one of the most powerful lineups in all of baseball.
Chad Pinder (2014) – After being selected in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft out of Virginia Tech, the versatile right handed hitter skipped Class A Beloit and was assigned to Stockton to begin his first full season and it didn’t take long for him to produce at the level. Playing all over the infield, Pinder hit .288 with 13 home runs and 32 doubles in an injury-shortened 94 games with the Ports. Since making his big-league debut in 2016, Pinder has filled a vital role for the A’s playing all over the field while hitting 42 home runs in 343 games.
A.J. Puk (2017) – The 6th-overall pick in 2016, the A’s sent Puk to Stockton to begin his first full season in 2017 and the former Florida Gator showed his potential in his one half-season as a full-time Port. The 6-foot-7 lefty struck out 98 Cal League batters in 61 innings (14.5 K/9) before a midseason promotion to Double-A Midland. It looked as if Puk would make his Major League debut after firing ten scoreless innings to start the Cactus League in 2018, but discomfort in his elbow during a mid-March start revealed that he needed Tommy John surgery that shelved him for the whole season. Puk made three appearances for the Ports in 2019 en route to his big-league debut for the A’s during the pennant race. He’s a major part of the A’s plans moving forward.
Lou Trivino (2015-16) – The hard-throwing right-handed reliever began his career in the bullpen in Stockton. After being drafted as a starter in the 11th round of the 2013 draft out of Division II Slippery Rock, Trivino started in 57 of his first 63 appearances in professional baseball. That all changed after his ninth start in 2015 with the Ports. After pitching to a 5.45 ERA through nine starts with the Ports, the A’s shifted him to the bullpen at the start of June where he excelled with a 2.70 ERA over 23 appearances to end the season. That started his fast track to the big leagues that culminated with a dominant 2018, an up and down 2019, and a certain spot at the back end of the A’s bullpen in 2020.
ALTERNATE TRAINING SITE:
Nick Allen (2019) – The 2019 Ports’ “spark plug” according to manager Webster Garrison, Allen showed he was much more than just a slick-fielding shortstop during his time in Stockton last season. The A’s 2017 3rd-round pick out of Francis Parker High School in San Diego refined his approach at the plate with the Ports and put together his best offensive season as a pro, hitting .292 with 22 doubles and 13 stolen bases in 72 games, a shortened season thanks to a high ankle sprain. If he can carry his 2019 production into 2020 and beyond, Allen will be in the conversation for the title of the A’s top prospect with the graduation of Murphy, Puk, and Luzardo to the big leagues.
Greg Deichmann (2018) – The left-handed hitting outfielder has struggled with injuries during his pro career and has played in just 184 games in three seasons. Deichmann’s lone season in Stockton was no exception. He played in just 47 games in 2018 with the Ports and hit .199 but did flash some power as 20 of his 33 hits that season went for extra bases. Any way you slice it, 2020 and 2021 will be pivotal for the A’s 2017 2nd-round pick out of LSU. He needs to stay on the field and build on a productive Arizona Fall League, where he clubbed a league-leading nine home runs in just 23 games.
Parker Dunshee (2018) – The A’s have really found a sweet spot in the draft in taking polished college pitchers in the mid rounds and watching them fly through their system. A 7th-round pick in 2017 out of Wake Forest, Dunshee fits this bill. The former Deamon Deacon won 28 games in college and picked up right where he left off as a pro, going 20-13 with a 2.94 ERA over three seasons. The right-hander started his first full season in Stockton where he went 6-2 with a 2.70 ERA over 12 appearances, earning a midseason promotion to Double-A Midland. While he dominated Midland with an ERA under two in 18 starts, Dunshee has yet to solve Triple-A where he went 4-5 with a 5.38 ERA to end 2019.
Grant Holmes (2016) – After a deadline deal in 2016 that sent Josh Reddick and Rich Hill to the Dodgers, the former 1st-round pick switched Cal League clubhouses, moving from Rancho Cucamonga to Stockton. The right-hander struggled as a Port, going 3-3 over six appearances with an ERA of 6.91. The 24-year-old has put it together in Double and Triple-A, especially in 2019 when he put together a combined 6-5 record with a 3.23 ERA. He’s part of the impressive pitching depth the A’s have assembled in the upper levels of the minors and could be called upon in 2020 if needed.
Brian Howard (2018) – Howard was drafted one round after Parker Dunshee in 2017, and the two have followed almost an identical career path in professional baseball. The former TCU Horned Frog went 26-5 in his four years in college and also picked up right where he left off in his first full-season assignment at Stockton, going 7-3 with a 2.38 ERA as a Port while allowing just 53 hits in 72 innings pitched before a midseason promotion to Double-A Midland. Howard also struggled in four starts at Triple-A Las Vegas to end 2019 where he sported a 13.81 ERA.
Daulton Jefferies (2017, 2019) – For all the impressive numbers listed above, Jefferies’ command peripherals may command the most attention. In his 99.1 career innings, the 37th overall pick in 2016 has struck out 121 batters while walking only 12. Now he just needs to stay healthy. The Atwater native and former California Golden Bear has logged those 99.1 innings over four professional seasons. He had Tommy John surgery in 2017 after starting the season in Stockton appearing in two games with the Ports. The A’s sent him to Stockton again in 2019 as a 23-year-old to start working his way back from the surgery, and he responded by striking out 21 batters and walking just two in 15 innings before getting the call to Double-A Midland. Assuming he can stay healthy, Jefferies will form part of a big-league rotation sooner rather than later.
James Kaprielian (2019) – Kaprielian shares many qualities with Jeffries. He’s right-handed, a California native (Irvine), Pac-12 product (UCLA), a former first round pick, and has also had trouble staying healthy. In 2017 as a Yankee prospect, Kaprielian underwent Tommy John surgery and was acquired by the A’s later that summer as part of the package Oakland received for Sonny Gray. The right-hander spent all of 2017 and 2018 recovering from Tommy John, and after a lat strain during spring training delayed his 2019 season, the A’s sent him to Stockton where he pitched in games for the first time since 2016. After eleven appearances and 43 strikeouts in 36.1 innings with the Ports, the A’s promoted Kaprielian to Double-A Midland. The 26-year-old completed the season at Triple-A Las Vegas and will be in the big leagues soon if he can stay on the mound.