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Zito vs. Hudson Needs To Happen!

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It’s about damn time.

Yesterday morning at approximately 9am, the Oakland Athletics made the call for Barry Zito to reclaim his rightful position in the locker room of the green and gold. At 37-years of age, Zito spent the 2015 season with the Triple-A Nashville Sounds, where he made 22 starts and two relief appearances, earning a respectable 3.46 ERA.

The reason for him not being called up for such an extended period of time was because there was simply no room for him in the rotation or bullpen. With so much young and unproven talent on the Triple-A roster and an opportunity for them to gain experience on the major league level, it was difficult to justify Zito taking a roster spot away from someone who might need it – despite all the fans wanting him in Oakland.

However with Jesse Chavez going down with a rib fracture that will end his season – along with a multitude of other injuries that have plagued the pitching staff – Zito will finally get his shot. Although he is slated to come out of the pen – per Assistant GM David Forst – I believe their could be a chance A’s fans could see the veteran left-hander take the hill one last time as a starter.

In fact, there might even be a chance he could be slotted for September 26th game against the San Francisco Giants, meaning a duel between his former teammate and soon-to-be-retiring Tim Hudson. It would be the perfect send off for the both of them and to put icing on the cake, ‘early 2000’s Big 3 member’ Mark Mulder will be in attendance. “I hope Zito gets to pitch in that game,” said Mulder per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. “That would be neat for him and Huddy. And the atmosphere will be great.”

The only reason that I could imagine Zito not starting that game would be because of the injury trouble he has sustained this season. He didn’t pitch much in August for the Sounds, although did come into relief in the final game and threw one inning, ending the game the only way one could imagine Zito doing it, with a curveball.

ZitoHudsonEven Beane, who was the one who stated multiple times that it didn’t look like Zito would be making his way up to Oakland due to the limited roster space said that he did fancy the idea of a Zito-Hudson matchup. “We originally made the decision not to call Barry up because he hasn’t thrown much in the last month,” he said via John Hickey’s blog Inside the A’s. “Very soon thereafter I heard that Huddy might be making his last start here. I’m not all that nostalgic, but I thought that might be a nice reunion, too.”

The good news is that even if Zito isn’t up for starting the game – due to injuries or other personal reasons – manager Bob Melvin I’m sure would understand the importance of the moment to get Zito into that September 26th game for at least an inning. Either way, this is something that NEEDS to happen and is something that would give A’s fans in 2015 something positive to remember.

In a year that hasn’t seen much of anything go right for the Athletics, allowing the fan base to relive the franchises most memorable years of the millennia by watching Zito climb the hill one last time against Hudson would make for a story book ending to two magnificent careers. For A’s fans, Barry Zito and Tim Hudson are more than names. They are representations of a great period for the franchise and they have an opportunity to ends their careers on the very mound they started on. It is these types of moments that you can’t script that make baseball such a timeless tradition.

Now all that’s left is for it to come to fruition.

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Tonight Looks To Be A Classic Between Old Friends

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While I will admit it’s been difficult lately to find much to get excited about with the Oakland Athletics, I would whole-heartedly suggest tuning into tonight’s matchup against the Houston Astros at 7:05 PM PT. Scott Kazmir is coming back to Oakland and hopefully to a standing ovation, while Sonny Gray will be on the bump for the green and gold. Getting to watch two good friends go after each other on the ball field is one of the all time greatest opportunities for a classic.

There isn’t anybody else you would rather beat more than your friend and the fiery arms on the mound tonight epitomize the true meaning of familiar competition. Having been together on the A’s in 2014 and half of 2015, the two grew close as a teacher and student. Last season was Gray’s first full one in the MLB and Kazmir being there from the beginning took Sonny under his wing – partially because I think he saw a lot of himself in him. They also were responsible – until Samardzija and Lester came – for leading the rotation as they also did the first half of this year.

Yet, since going to Houston, Kazmir has struggled a bit, which is to be expected going from a pitcher-happy O.Co Coliseum to a batter-friendly Minute Maid Park. In August, he had a 1-4 record over five starts with a 3.96 ERA and was only able to go 4.1 innings in his start last week against the Seattle Mariners. His buddy Gray also has had a tough couple of outings, culminating in his worst start of the season against the LA Angels on September 2nd. He gave up a season-high six earned runs through only five innings, getting tagged with his seventh loss of the year.

So with both pitchers having subpar performances recently, it should only intensify tonight’s matchup even more and here’s why. With neither having their best stuff as of late, tonight will be a game they will both look to lock in on and hopefully get each other back on track. While it can be difficult to break out of a rut – as both are looking too – there is no better way to reverse ones poor performance than to have a personal challenge.

Oh, a little trash talk also helps too.

According to Kazmir on MLB.com, “With Sonny up there, he’s already been texting. Once we figured out exactly when he was going to pitch, that’s when the trash talking started.”

However, apparently it’s been going on since the trade as Kazmir told Oliver Macklin, “As soon as I got traded, [there] was trash talking,” he said. “It was, ‘I can’t wait ‘til you get back here.’”

Although neither is sure who really instigated the banter, both have still have some fun with it. “I don’t think you want to pitch on Tuesday,” Kazmir said he told Gray in a text message.

Well tonight is a chance for Gray and Kazmir to try and silence the other and I would recommend watching CSN Bay Area tonight in order to see it. There’s nothing like buddies duking it out, and with two of the best in the league out on the bump, it should be nothing but fun.

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Gallego Firing A Reflection of A’s ‘Path’

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Mike Gallego was doomed. He’d been doomed since May 25th. That was the day the Oakland Athletics brought in former third base coach Ron Washington. It just didn’t feel right with the way the direction was headed all season and no matter when it happened, it seemed his ending was inevitable. No matter whether it was three days ago, three months ago, or even three months from now, he was going to get the boot. The justification was the tipping point. Basically, how would the A’s find a reason to fire him? They did so in the form of critiquing his base running decisions and manager Bob Melvin summed it up when he said, “We are at the top of the league in guys getting thrown out at home and we’ve had a lot of one-run games.” He went on to speak on the matter taking some of the blame off of Gags and putting it on himself in the only way a nice guy like Melvin could.

“But I think too, and this is my fault, it’s been a little uncomfortable as far as the infield dynamic — when you bring a guy in to do some things, and when you have a guy who’s been here a while. I just felt like it was a little bit uncomfortable to the point that this was a direction we were going to go at the end of the season anyway. And we came to that conclusion and therefore we made the decision at this time, as opposed to wait to end of the season.”

What that quote says to me is that his hand was forced by someone else *cough* Billy Beane *cough* and as the manager – technically having to make the final decision – he had to answer for it. Oakland’s General Manager has always had his hand in everything and this matter remains no different. Washington is Beane’s guy. Always has been since he ran the third base box from 1997-2006. Nothing can change that and once Beane brought him on earlier in the year to ‘purely help the defense’ he was bound to end up back there.

I do think this delves a little deeper into to the head honcho though. It shouldn’t be seen as he simply hates Gallego because I don’t think he does, but it does have something to do with Beane’s inability to deviate from ‘the path’ he has set the A’s down upon. When Billy traded for Marcus Semien this offseason, he immediately sent the message that Marcus would be his starting shortstop and no one could change his mind about it. No matter how poorly Semien has performed, he’s always remained the starter. Now while I don’t think that he should be replaced and in my opinion is the best option at the spot, it just proves how hell-bent Beane is on having things look the way he wants them to.

He wanted Semien to be the shortstop so badly that he brought in – essentially – a personal coach in Washington to help him with his defense. With Wash, Marcus has certainly made leaps and bounds and because of his ‘progress,’ this gave Beane the excuse to promote him to his former position of third base coach. All that was needed was an excuse to get Gags out and as Melvin told the press a few days ago, leading the league “in guys getting thrown out at home” was the perfect opportunity.

While Washington may be a better man for the job, Gallego didn’t deserve what he got, no matter the inevitability. Beane has a way he goes about his business and his ‘anyone is expendable’ motto has apparently spilled over to the base coach area – which by the way, I have never heard of in the middle of a season. Whether you think it was fair or not, all A’s fans can do is trust the motto will lead to eventual positive outcomes.

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Being Baltimore Birds’ Punching Bags Ain’t All Bad

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It’s not too often fans gets to witness their team partake in a historical ass kicking, which is precisely what the Oakland Athletics received yesterday in their season-worst 18-2 loss against the Baltimore Orioles. The 26 hits the Green and Gold staff surrendered were the most ever allowed since the team moved to Oakland, as well as the most in A’s franchise history since they gave up 29 back on April 23, 1955. It’s ironic considering that ’55 club went 63-91, which is about the pace this current team is looking to finish. I’m hoping that the 2015 squad won’t be remembered like their 50-year ago predecessors because as one of my friends mentioned last night, “weren’t they the Elephants back then?” Well no, but I could see why they might be a forgettable bunch. Besides that season being the first in Kansas City after moving from Philadelphia, I’d be highly surprised if anyone born after the Korean War years would be able to name any of the players. Vic Power? Gus Zernial? Tom Gorman? Enos Slaughter? Ring any bells? Didn’t think so (and those were their top players!). That flamboyant foursome sounds about as intimidating as “The Crickets,” which was a music group from the 50’s you’ve also probably never heard of.

Anyways, back to the lesson at hand. Sometimes you have to appreciate the suffering ad hardship every team endures from time to time. Now while Oakland this year has seemed to wallow in poor performance more often than fans may care to remember, you have to be able to see past just the outcome of the game. Whether its knowing that the only way is up or even at times finding A’s games comical, fans can still find the light within the beatings like the one Oakland sustained yesterday. Specifically watching the 9-run, 5th inning, I saw the symbolic “rock-bottom” of 2015, but I also found some entertainment value.

Coco+Crisp+Marcus+Semien+Oakland+Athletics+JWkgoUi2HRFlAmongst the flurry of follies and foolishness that took place in one inning at Camden Yards, I found myself still enjoying the game. It was like watching the “Major League” Cleveland Indians at the beginning of their season, where nobody could get an out if they tried. Coco Crisp served the role of “Willie Mays” Hays, colliding with shortstop Marcus Semien out in left field on an easy pop up. Kendall Graveman and Dan Otero co-played the early version of Rick Vaughn, giving up the combined nine runs – along with 10 hits – and failing to really command the strike zone. Even Bob Melvin got in on the “fun” – of course – filling the managerial position of Lou Brown, and giving his ball club a stern talking to after their worst defeat since he took over the reigns in 2012.

Being a punching bag for a day can serve as a lesson, however it’s seemed like this lesson has been delivered over and over throughout the 2015 season. My hope is that the reiterated exercise of losing sparks a fire underneath this young club for the near future because it is easy to see the considerable collection of talent and potential for greatness. “S*** happens,” but its just unfortunate that motto has essentially been the slogan for this 2015 season and especially yesterday afternoon.

All they need to do now is flush it.

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MLB Trade Deadline Awards

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As we begin the week after the Trade Deadline, we now have had a couple of days to sit back and think about the moves that have transpired. It certainly was one of the most (if not the most) hectic trade periods we’ve ever witnessed and so I felt some teams deserved special recognition. Without further ado, here are my MLB Trade Deadline awards:

The “Most Improved/Holy S**** This Had Better Work” Award – Toronto Blue Jays

It’s hard to argue with the Blue Jays transactions, after they acquired arguably the two most marquee players on the market this season. Troy Tulowitzki brings offensive firepower unlike most at a premier position and David Price brings a clear-cut #1 starter-type arm, which the Blue Jays were lacking. Adding Ben Revere was also a great move considering he’s one of the most underrated outfielders – that’s what you get when you play in Philadelphia – and can be a true leadoff bat. However, at 54-52 and currently not even a wild card team (1 game back) it is a huge risk. With Price coming as a ‘rental,’ this season will ultimately be viewed as a travesty should they not even reach the wild card game. It’s the proverbial ‘chips are all in’ situation, where you’re praying for that spade on the river to complete your flush. Because if it doesn’t come, all you got to protect your entire life savings in the pot is a piss poor jack staring at your opponents pair of kings he’s had since the hands were dealt.

The “Michael Keaton Most Underappreciated Performance” Award – Pittsburg Pirates

Actor Michael Keaton throws out the second of the two first pitches he took before the Pittsburgh Pirates home opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers April 10, 2006. The Dodgers beat the Pirates, 8-3. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)Until recent memory, the Pirates – along with Michael Keaton – have been tossed aside and forgotten for the past 15 years. Both had a comeback in 2014, marking their respective reemergence to the figurative stages they so obviously were meant to play on. However, this year with the moves the Bucs made at the deadline, they have a chance to flip the script on the academy and take home the trophy. While these moves may have not seemed quite so impactful – considering the rest of the big names floating around – they in fact managed to strengthen each possible weakness they might have. Aramis Ramirez gives them a bat at a position, which has been unproductive due to injuries, Joakim Soria can be the 8th inning man to closer Mark Melancon, and both J.A. Happ and Michael Morse can provide depth. Probably the most important part is the Pirates didn’t have to try to commit suicide – financially of course – to receive the credit they deserve for their efforts.

The “Any Coen Brothers Movie Anti-Climactic Ending” Award – New York Yankees

Any time you sit down to watch an Ethan and Joel Coen film, you know the story will build suspense before being stripped of it in the most diluted way plausible. Well this trade deadline, all I heard was about the amount of action getting ready to take place in the Bronx, concluding with a measly addition of the 2009 draft bust known as Dustin Ackley – sorry M’s fans. While this anti-climax might seem a little less satisfactory than that of a Coen brother’s feature, there is still a chance for positive reviews from Rotten Tomatoes. The Pinstripes currently hold a strong division lead in the AL East (6 games) and look to be headed for a playoff berth, which is not a bad ending. So while their mid-season acquisition won’t turn too many heads, the 2015 path for the New York Yankees appears to be a lit one. Even with the 4th oldest team in the baseball, maybe this isn’t No Country for Old Men.

Fred-Wilpon1The “LeSean McCoy I’m Cheap as Hell” Award – New York Mets

This award applies more to a team involved in a trade that didn’t occur, but they deserve it nonetheless. The New York Mets let Carlos Gomez fall through according to Milwaukee Brewers beat writer Tom Haudricort and a source of his, in this manner: “The source said the Brewers then were asked to put some money in the trade to cover part of what’s remaining on Gomez’s contract, including a $9 million salary next year. Considering the talent level of Gomez and his reasonable contract, the Brewers understandably declined to put any cash into the deal. It was only then, according to the source, that the Mets came back and said they were calling off the deal because of concerns over Gomez’s medical records.” Now I don’t know about you, but that seems awfully fishy. It was almost like when the former-Eagles running back LeSean McCoy left a 20-cent tip at a restaurant in Philadelphia, “as a statement.” C’mon man. Unless the waiter hawks a loogie in your tomato soup, you have an obligation – as a man that hauls in 10+ million dollars a year – to drop (minimum) a $10 bill on the table and walk out. It’s like saying Mets owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon along with Saul Katz can’t afford to pay a couple million more to get, in my opinion, the best outfielder available in the trade market. Is it too soon to ask if Bernie Madoff was in on the deal?

The “Inglourious Basterds” Award – Los Angeles Dodgers, Miami Marlins, Atlanta Braves

A part from the fact that the Dodgers are involved – so the title would automatically fit – this bundle of meaningless talent headlined by Jim Johnson, certainly hammers it home (he gave a game-tying home run yesterday to no ones surprise). The one scene I’m naturally drawn to when analyzing this trade is the underground pub scene where a massive bloody shootout occurs and everyone dies except one guy, who gets shot moments later so it doesn’t matter anyways. The firefight neither hurt nor benefited either side; it was just a massive waste of life. Now while the MLB version of this obviously doesn’t directly represent a loss of life, it just seems like with 13 bodies moving across the country there would’ve been a bigger impact as a result. Yet, only one guy (Mat Latos) is actually being brought on by a ball club to contribute, and in similar fashion to the final victim of the German standoff, will likely be rendered useless after the season anyways.

The “Green (and Gold) Citizen Recycling” Award – Oakland Athletics

gI_83824_Sims and As Cellphone RecyclingIf you take a look at the Bay Area, you can’t tell what recycles more, GreenCitizen at 1971 Shattuck Avenue or the Oakland Athletics at 7000 Coliseum Way. The only difference is that one organization uses the process of recycling to create useful materials for its business partners with waste, while the other uses up-and-coming talent. I understand we’re all products of our environment and right now two greedy old geezer owners limit the A’s options, but every time they recycle a team it doesn’t make it any easier to swallow. It doesn’t help that the O.Co Coliseum they’ve been so desperately looking to rebuild/replace serves as the metaphorical recycling center – it smells like one too. Hopefully the new material/talent brought in will be able to get them back to a serviceable/competitive level, however it just seems like it will be a matter of time until fans see those young players get shopped the moment they begin to perform above a certain level.

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Prospect Profile: Casey Meisner

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Casey Meisner

Age: 20 Position: Pitcher

Bats: Right Throws: Right

Height: 6’ 7” Weight: 190 lb.

Drafted out of Cypress Hill HS in the 3rd Round of the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft

Casey Meisner, much like the other two prospects the Oakland Athletics traded for from the Houston Astros – Jacob Nottingham and Daniel Mengden – is a piece still a few years away. Coming into the 2015 season, he ranked #15 on MLB.com and #21 on FanGraphs within the New York Met’s farm system. Also, much like Nottingham, if the rankings were redone today, Meisner would likely see a considerable rise (possibly cracking the top 10). Either way he will head to Stockton to join the rest of the talent the A’s have compiled in the last few days. He will likely not be the last, so let’s take a look.

Background

Meisner’s first three seasons in professional baseball have been consistently trending upwards, culminating in his current breakout season. After being eased into starting (pitching) in his first year at the pro level in the short-season Gulf Coast League – fifth on the team with 35 1/3 innings – he performed well in 2014 with the Low Single-A Brooklyn Cyclones. Through 13 starts, he tossed 62 1/3 innings while striking out 67, posting a 3.75 ERA and only surrendering 18 walks. He carries a career 2.6 walks per nine innings (BB/9), which is highly impressive.

This year Meisner really came into his own, starting in the Single-A South Atlantic League and dominating the competition over his 12 starts. Through 76 innings, he registered a 2.13 ERA (fifth in the league) and although his K’s dipped slightly (66), his base on balls total remained low (19). Along with a 7-2 record, he earned himself a call-up to High Single-A ball in the Florida State League, where he’s outperformed expectations as the youngest starter on the staff. Over his six starts, he’s led the St. Lucie Mets with a 2.83 ERA through 35 innings.

The only area of concern has been the amount of contact he’s allowed this season. Batters are hitting .256 against him (very respectable) in High Single-A, up from .212 from Single-A. That combined with a slight BB/9 rise (3.6), Meisner’s Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) has climbed all the way to 4.72 (has steadily risen each season). However, while this statistic offers an interesting measurement of how good a pitcher is “supposed” to be, he combats it by doing one thing very well, leaving runners on base. The league average left on base percentage (LOB%) ranges from 70-72%, but Meisner’s hovers around 80%. It is an undervalued skill that obviously has helped him and hopefully will continue to do so.

Makeup

Coming out of high school, Meisner was sitting 88-92mph with his fastball and is now 90-94, maxing out at 95. He’s also got a curveball and a changeup. According to FanGraphs, his pitches rank as such: Fastball 55/60, Curveball + 45/50, 45/50 Changeup, 40/50 Command. To put that in perspective, these types of numbers were similar to those of LHP Steven Matz – made his MLB debut before the All Star break – who looks to prime to become a quality arm.

His curveball is his only plus-pitch – although I’ve also read it needs some fine-tuning – and the area he has the most room for improvement in will be with his changeup. It currently stands as his least developed pitch. As for his the fastball, it might have a chance to increase in velocity with his young age and frame not having filled out yet. The flipside however with this, “typical super-lanky pitcher” according to FanGraph’s Kiley McDaniel, is “with so much projection it’s hard to say exactly what Meisner’s upside really is.” The reason for the right-handers projection being so difficult is likely due to his size. A super-lanky pitcher – especially with a high ceiling like his – normally comes with command issues, however he breaks that mold. As a result, he doesn’t really fit in any typical category and outliers can difficult to judge.

Projection

Meisner is a guy who’s long-term role is difficult to project, but based on his ability to remain on a upward trending path, I could definitely see a future middle-of-the-rotation guy. The Mets seemed to know what they were doing drafting him in the early rounds and selecting a ‘high-risk high-reward’ pitcher, and so far it’s been more of a reward. He’s still two, maybe three years away from the show, but a name to remember down the road that one day will hopefully contribute to the Green & Gold.

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Prospect Profile: Daniel Mengden

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Daniel Mengden

Age: 22 Position: Pitcher

Bats: Right Throws: Right

Height: 6’ 2” Weight: 190 lb.

Drafted out of Texas A&M University in the 4th Round of the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft

Daniel Mengden was supposed to be the supplementary piece in terms of this trade. Not many will take a second look at this guy – due to Jacob Nottingham – but he does bring a solid set of skills to the table. The primary reason many scouts overlook him is because he doesn’t posses a plus pitch. However, over his first two seasons in professional ball, he has proved he possesses other abilities that can contribute to a winning equation. Sounds like an Oakland Athletic already so here’s a look at him.

Before I say anything, he’s got an Green & Gold mustache if I’ve ever seen one, top notch. Now, coming out of a four-year university (Texas A&M), he has accelerated through rookie ball and now on to the High-A Lancaster JetHawks in the California League. Much like Nottingham, he will move over to the Stockton Ports and have the pressure to perform.

Although he sustained a back injury in 2014 that only allowed him to throw 11.0 innings while in rookie ball and Low-A, he certainly made up for it once moving to the Astros Single-A affiliate, the Quad Cities River Bandits. Through 38.2 innings, Mengden maintained a 1.16 ERA over eight appearances (six starts) with 36 strikeouts and only walking eight. The most impressive part may have been the fact he only surrendered one home run over his eight starts.

Mengden’s performance got himself a midseason call up to the California League, which is where he’s now found his first bitter taste of disappointment. Continuing his role as a starter, he’s tossed 49.2 innings while registering a 5.26 ERA and giving up an astonishing 59 hits. He had an especially tough time adjusting to the hitter-friendly west coast where through the All-Star break – he threw 26.2 innings – of the High-A season, batters hit .330 off him and his ERA ballooned to 6.91. From there, he used a couple appearances out of the bullpen to help regain some confidence and since the break – he’s thrown 23.0 innings – he has actually performed well, posting a 3.91 ERA and hitters are only tagging him at a .258 clip.

Despite his ups and downs, one encouraging part of his game has remained consistent, his walk ratio. Mengden is a guy that attacks the strike zone, no matter how good or bad his stuff on that particular day. His walks per nine innings ratio (BB/9) has fluttered around 2.0 throughout his early professional career, which is a good sign. His strike percentage (strikes/pitches thrown) this season hovers slightly above 60%, which is about average, but has been consistent every time he toes the rubber.

As for his stuff, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo’s take on Mengden via mlbtraderumors.com, is that, “he doesn’t ‘wow’ scouts with pure stuff but features a solid four-pitch mix, with his curve and changeup trailing his fastball and slider.” His draft profile, which was comprised by MLB.com, says this about his four pitch combination: “His best offering is a fastball that usually ranges from 88-94 mph, though it can get straight at times. His slider is a close second, arriving at 82-85 mph and featuring some sharp bite when he stays on top of it. He also throws a downer curveball that isn’t quite as consistent as his slider, and he has the confidence to use his fading changeup in any count. Mengden may not have a true plus pitch, but he could have four average offerings

As for the final report, Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs feels the 22-year old has a contributors role moving forward. “You’re looking at a lower risk, possibly quick-moving back-end starter type.” A scout McDaniel spoke with felt that, “Mengden’s stuff has been more fringy to average this year and he looks like a middle reliever or long man on some days, then like a solid back-end starter on others.”

Taking all of this, I could see Mengden being most effective – in the major leagues – as a reliever. Not necessarily a long-relief, but a guy that because of his ability to throw lots of strikes and rev up the velocity if necessary. I want the most out of him and I just don’t see an inning-eater being the answer because the A’s have a ton of those. I believe if the newest Stockton Port could develop his slider into a plus pitch, we could see make plenty of impact as a late-innings guy at the big league level.