Oakland A’s Top 5 Early Spring Training Stories To Follow So Far!

Spring training is here! Oakland A’s pitchers and catchers have reported, and position players are filing in before Saturday’s report date. You already know the big stories, like Sonny trying to regain his old form and the rookies auditioning. But here are some early new developments in lower-profile areas. 

 

1. Jesse Hahn comeback bid

Throughout the winter, we’ve talked a lot about Jharel Cotton and Andrew Triggs as top candidates for the last two spots in the rotation. Meanwhile, Jesse Hahn has been something of a forgotten man after his Sonny-esque off-year in 2016. However, the first word out of camp is that Hahn might just be a factor again.

2. Josh Phegley healthy

We know that Stephen Vogt is the A’s primary catcher. However, his right-handed platoon mate, Josh Phegley, played only 26 games last year due to a knee injury and other complications. With top prospect Bruce Maxwell emerging at the end of the season, we spent the winter unclear on how the catching situation might shake out.

Well, wonder no more. Phegley is healthy, being deemed “full strength” and “not considered to be limited in any way” by the inside reporters. Click these for specifics on Phegley and what he’s changed this spring:

3. Closer by committee?

The A’s have four arms in their bullpen with closing experience (Madson, Casilla, Doolitte, Axford), and that doesn’t include arguably their three best relievers (Dull, Hendriks, Coulombe). So who will close?

Answer: Maybe all of the above!

More on the potential closer by committee:

4. A.J. Puk’s curve

One of the exciting new names in MLB camp is last summer’s 1st-round draft pick, A.J. Puk, who went No. 6 overall in the whole draft. His strength is his upper-90s fastball, which he complements with a slider and a change, but early reports say he has added a curveball to the mix.

More on Puk:

5. Raul Alcantara vying for rotation or bullpen

This one is more of a confirmation of something we’ve been assuming all winter here on AN. Alcantara, acquired years ago from the Red Sox in the deal that brought Josh Reddick to Oakland, finally reached the bigs last year but got shelled in his brief audition.

However, he’s still a good pitching prospect, and since he’s out of minor league options he likely has a leg up on making the team because otherwise he’ll surely be lost on waivers. In such a situation, you assume a pitcher is vying for any available spot, rotation or bullpen, just to keep him in the organization. That appears to be the case.

More on Alcantara and the back of the rotation:

Of course, none of this means that Alcantara has a roster spot sealed up, but he’d probably have to be pretty bad this spring for the A’s to just let him go. A last-minute trade is also always a possibility.

While we’re on the rotation, here’s one more piece of the puzzle:

Bonus: Mark Canha?

From that last Jane Lee link in the Alcantara section:

“Joyce, who will likely be sharing right-field duties with Mark Canha, … “

Well now that’s interesting.

By Alex Hall