Jacob Andrew Nottingham
Age: 20, Position: Catcher
Bats: Right, Throws: Right
Height: 6’ 3”, Weight: 227 lb.
Drafted out of Redlands HS in the 6th Round of the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft
“The Sheriff of Nottingham” (everyone needs a nickname) is supposed to be the prize of the trade and for good reason. Still just 20 years of age, he has amazing size for a catcher and contributes heavily with his bat. It’s rare that a player with plus power – which he has demonstrated – also can hit for average. Over his short three-year career in the minors he has grabbed the attention of many and using the raving review he’s received, I have compiled an all-you-need-to-know report about the newest addition to the Oakland Athletics farm system.
Last year playing for the Greeneville Astros of the Appalachian League in rookie ball, he caught the eye of evaluators with his smooth stroke and advanced offensive approach, something not found amongst most catchers. These batting traits he carries are not ones the position he plays tends to develop, its either you have it or you don’t. Nottingham’s got it.
After slashing just .238/.325/.385 in two years of rookie ball, he exploded in 2015. Nottingham absolutely wrecked the Midwest League on the Quad Cities River Bandits (Houston’s Single-A affiliate), slashing .326/.383/.558, while blasting 10 home runs in just 59 games. Easily earning himself a mid-season call up to High-A ball in the California League – known for grooming hitters – he continues to impress. Before being traded, he batted .324 while posting a .974 OPS and while it’s just been 17 games, there’s reason to believe the positive trend is not a fluke.
While playing for the River Bandits, according to FanGraphs.com, “Nottingham produced the third-best isolated-power figure (a .217 ISO, specifically) across all of Class-A.” The crazy part is his ISO number – measuring a hitter’s power and how often a player hits for extra bases – is up nearly 70 points in High-A. Another comforting trend is his strikeout percentage (SO/PA) ratio. Although his on-base percentage (OBP) has never fluttered below .300 (lowest is .307), he did have a problem early on with striking out often. His SO/BB reached its peak in 2014 when it ballooned to 27.0%, but in just a year’s span has lowered all the way down to 18.5%.
The only knock on the kid has been his defense. FanGraph’s Kiley McDaniel who recently asked a scout about Nottigham’s defense ability the scout told him, “Nottingham gets a little too high or low on himself based on offensive results, and there are some mechanical issues to work out behind the plate, but this is normal for a 20 year old.” Whether or not he’s going to become a Gold Glover – he wont – makes no difference. The A’s have shown they have no problem sticking with ‘offense-first’ type catchers the last couple years: Stephen Vogt, Josh Phegley, Derek Norris, John Jaso. McDaniel’s final projection states, “Nottingham could be an above average everyday catcher.”
However, ESPN insider Keith Law feels the newest member of the A’s organization was a steal. In his glowing review, he sees Nottingham as a potential star so long as he can stay behind the plate. Law continues to project the future catcher as someone with a 70-grade raw power – on an 80-point scale – who could eventually develop into a 20 to 25 home run per year guy.
Now that’s a reason for Billy Beane to go after him and he expressed it yesterday during an interview on 95.7 The Game on the Damon Bruce Show. “We think that at this stage in his career, he’s got the potential to hit in the middle of the lineup,” he said. “An offensive player at a position that’s typically defensive is something that’s very hard to find, so we’re excited to have him.”
A’s fans should be excited too.
We all know the feeling of fixing/cleaning/building something that requires long hours of commitment and preparation. Whether it’s pulling pounds of weeds from your backyard, pulling an all-nighter to finish a project due the next morning, or doing pushups day after day hoping to see a difference. No matter how long the rigorous task took, it always seems like someone would just take one look at the finished product and not give it the attention it deserves. Now they may compliment you, even tell you they’re highly impressed, but deep down you can sense they just don’t quite get it. Then after get a few brief moments of glory, poof, it’s gone.
This has been the A’s ‘modus operandi’ (model of operation) for essentially the past 20 years. Unfortunately, whichever player they’ve seemed to develop right in front of our eyes has eventually found success and stardom elsewhere.
This year’s green and gold commodity: Josh Donaldson.
Yesterday, he was announced as the leading vote getter at the 2015 All-Star Game. 14,090,188 different ballots were sent in favor of Donaldson receiving the starting nod at third base, a record number. This display of national affection has truly marked the rise of the once-snubbed catcher who was converted into a corner infielder. In only his third full season in the bigs, it seems like Donaldson is now blooming in the eyes of the media with his image steadily climbing. And it’s well deserved, this was a supposed bust-of-a First Round Pick who fought and clawed his way into the spotlight before taking his play to another level this season. In his first year with the Blue Jays after the blockbuster offseason deal which brought him over, he’s the leader among third basemen with an .879 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage), 62 runs scored and 56 RBI, while co-leading with 19 home runs. He’s also 4th in the AL in WAR (wins above replacement).
It’s something all A’s fans hate bring up: the what-if, why me scenarios. Would Donaldson have been to do this in order to prevent the currently not-so-great A’s season? Especially since this particular trade was so difficult to swallow and honestly made the least sense of the Oakland fire sail.
But we shouldn’t use this as a typical feel-bad situation that has followed the franchise for years. I used to hate seeing former Oakland farmhands such as Nelson Cruz, Andre Ethier, and (the worst of all) Carlos Gonzalez get prematurely traded and flourish as All-Stars with other clubs. However, the fans never really got to see those three players for an extended period of time, making the relationship easier to forget about.
With Donaldson it’s different.
This was a guy whose ascendance came exclusively in the confines of O.Co Coliseum. His stellar defense and majestic swing exponentially improved hand-in-hand, all in front of our eyes. In just the span of one year, he went from being Brandon Inge’s back up to an MVP candidate; the season after solidifying himself as the best third baseman in the game. And then just like that, he was gone.
But it doesn’t mean we can’t still appreciate what he’s doing now. In a season where the A’s haven’t picked up as many W’s as hoped for, Donaldson’s performance this season should be celebrated as a victory, not an ignored as a defeat. While the many memories he makes in Toronto will always constantly remind Oakland fans about the fantastic ones he made in the Bay Area, our reaction should be nostalgic.
We all know it wasn’t his fault he got traded, but seeing him have success isn’t a reason to feel poorly towards our franchise. Instead, focus on appreciating the times we got to see him play every day because those were the days representing the hard work. 158 games, two years in a row, Donaldson gave his all on the left side of the infield. Now he’s gone and you can’t alter history, but don’t let your final memory of him be the one where he changed jerseys.
Because that’s how too many A’s are remembered…
And I think that’s what needs to change.
In what’s seemed like a great last couple of weeks for the currently streaking A’s, Josh Reddick may have dampened it. He also very may well have written himself a ticket to another ball club.
Despite the team going 12-6 over their last 18 games, the Oakland right fielder expressed some frustration in a pregame interview with broadcaster Ray Fosse, concerning his playing time. In a surprisingly aggressive, but honest tone, Reddick hinted at the idea that Billy Beane specifically has been trying to keep him out of the lineup against left-handed pitchers.
When Fosse asked him what aspects of lefties keep him on the bench, he flipped the question and targeted the GM: “I have no idea [what keeps me out of the lineup]. It doesn’t come from anywhere in this clubhouse. Everybody knows what situations our general manager puts up there. I couldn’t tell you what the difference is between me starting against one guy and not starting against another guy. … There’s probably so many numbers they could dig into their computers with and try to find one just to keep me out of the lineup.”
He continued by defending his manager and instead focused on pointing out Billy’s possible ‘control freak’ approach to running the franchise. “I know Bob’s in there fighting for me,” Reddick said. “The other day I was supposed to play against De La Rosa, and Bob texts me at around 1:30 and told me he had been ‘trumped,’ was the word he used. I understood right away. I know it’s not Bob. He’s fighting for me to be in there every night. It still frustrates me beyond belief when I don’t play … I wanna be in there helping my team no matter if a guy’s throwing right-handed, left-handed or center-handed. Whatever you wanna call it, I just want to be in there, be able to compete and help my team win.”
This spawns the question, is Josh Reddick’s gripe valid?
Despite the right fielder hitting .330 in 209 at-bats against right-handers and just .152 in 66 at-bats against left-handers (supporting a statistic-like approach as to if he should be starting or not) it is good to see a player wanting to compete and be in the lineup every single day. Especially since the possible All-Star candidate is hitting .287 with 11 home runs, and his 49 RBI’s rank third among all American League outfielders. However, one could also argue it’s because of Beane’s preferred ‘platoon system’ that Reddick has kept his statistics so high this season. So there are a couple things to keep in mind as to whether or not Billy Beane will use this outburst as an excuse to trade him.
1) His Contract
As many of you know, the biggest reason that Reddick has not been traded so far – like many Athletics that have come and gone before him – is because of the amount of money he makes. He’s currently earning a little over $4 million and is arbitration eligible for next season. This means not only is he under team control, but he’s cheap, two things that Beane likes from his players.
2) His Value
Although Reddick has been putting up solid numbers this season, he is a career .250 hitter who has been healthy for a whole season just once in his six-year career. In the lone season (2012) when he was healthy – he hit 32 HR’s and won a Gold Glove – he only hit .242. Based off the A’s ‘buy low, sell high’ philosophy, it wouldn’t be outrageous to think Reddick could get traded considering his past trends, that all point to this year being a ‘fluke.’
3) His Attitude
Reddick is the definition of a competitor and this was not the first time he has spoken out against management. When Josh Donaldson was traded (another sore subject), Reddick said publicly, “This doesn’t make sense to me. We just traded our best player the last 2 years.” He continued on saying he thought the trade was a sign the A’s were clearly in ‘rebuilding mode.’
The last point I made was really why Reddick’s comments yesterday were so perplexing to me. Winning cures everything and over the past two weeks, Oakland has been doing just that. Although the entirety of the season has been frustrating, the direction as of right now looks positive. Maybe he’s had enough, maybe not. Either way, here’s why I don’t think he will be traded before the trade deadline:
Beane won’t get a great enough return for him. At 28 years old and not having proved he can consistently stay on the field, no team is going to want to give up any impact players/prospects for him.
That plus the fact his production has also been inconsistent, Reddick wont be a hot commodity. If he were, we would have already heard about it. Plus the idea that Oakland’s GM will get rid of him because he spoke out is unrealistic. Billy Beane doesn’t give a damn what anyone thinks about him (player or otherwise), that’s what makes him Billy Beane. The only time he has traded a player for their character flaws was because they were a hindrance to the team, on and off the field. So far in his illustrious green and gold career, Reddick hasn’t done that. I’m sure if you ask around the clubhouse, he’s one of the best teammates bar none. Whatever kind of dispute the two have – if it’s even a big deal – they’ll work it out and by my estimation Josh Reddick won’t be going anywhere.
After this weekend’s tough three-game sweep by the Kansas City Royals, some A’s fans may be thinking that Oakland will not be able to get back into the playoff race because they can’t compete with good teams. Yes, they were a bit exposed by an experienced group with the best record in the American League, taking advantage of every little mistake.
Game One: Ike Davis’ throwing error in the third inning cost Oakland two runs
Game Two: Unable to score with two runners on and no outs in the eighth inning
Game Three: Max Muncy overthrew Stephen Vogt on a play at the plate in the third inning, allowing a run to score and essentially giftwrapping two more.
While the mistakes in Game Two were more collective than the others, all three of these very may well have been the difference between a Green and Gold sweep instead of a Royal Blue one. However, just being a couple of plays away – three days in a row – to defeating the defending American League champions is also a sign that Oakland can hang with the best of them.
However the real problem, as the Athletics approach the end of June, is they just haven’t been able to hang with the worst of them.
Oakland is 5-14 against teams below .500, second worst in the majors. If you discount the recent 3-1 interleague series against the San Diego Padres, it gets even uglier. Here are the A’s head-to-head splits against the Boston Red Sox (35-43), Chicago White Sox (32-42), and Seattle Mariners (34-42):
|TEAM||W||L||RS||RA||WP (According to Baseball-Reference.com)|
These are the games that should make your heart sink, (especially the L’s to a Mariners team who Oakland has outscored) not the close losses to ‘top-tier’ ball clubs. In fact, the Athletics are 29-30 against teams over .500, which is above the MLB average and a better mark than 40-win squads such as the Pittsburg Pirates (13-17) or the Los Angeles Dodgers (8-19).
You may have also noticed that both of these playoff-caliber clubs haven’t played nearly as many games against .500+ teams as the green and gold have. Well, that’s because no one has – the closest team being the New York Yankees (30-26). This means the A’s schedule through the first half of the season was extremely frontloaded and thus, will likely normalize to lesser competition in the second half.
However, in order take advantage in the hopes of a late playoff push, Oakland MUST reverse their poor play against the bottom feeders.
It’s go hard or go home the rest of the way.
Back in 1965, to put it plainly, the Kansas City Athletics sucked. They finished the year with a 59-103 record, dead last in the American League. Then-GM Charlie O. Finley, a man committed to winning at all costs (a quality lost by recent green and gold ownership) was open to anything that would deliver a W. His philosophy led to a variety of ‘lucky charms,’ which for the previous four years had been a group of grazing sheep that stood out beyond the right field fence. According to the Cumberland (MD) Evening Times, Finley had thought, “The sheep would bring me luck. But they ain’t.”
So he brought in a mule.
His name would be Charlie O. and he was donated by the State of Missouri. Governor Warren E. Hearnes said, “I’d consider it an honor and a privilege for Missouri to donate this mule to the A’s.”
Couple of cool side notes:
- The mule was reportedly born in Kansas to parents not of the same species.
- Documentation of his birth was not available.
- He was said to be three years old, while standing a little over 5-feet tall and weighing 1492 pounds.
So it was decided. Charlie O. would become a part of the team. In fact, Finley said on Feb. 8, 1965. “Charlie O. will come out of the A’s dugout on Opening Day, even if it takes the whole ball club to push him out. We will take Charlie O. with us on one trip to each of the nine cities in the American League – somehow.” Finley continued on about his newest addition stating the mule would receive, “a real good blanket with his name in green letters trimmed in white.” Finley, himself, panned to ride the mule on Opening Day out onto the field. Even for a brief period in the 1965 season, some Athletic relief pitchers rode him from the bullpen to the mound.
Finley made sure to take great care of his mule, even to the point where he would never let him get lonely. The Washington Post’s Shirley Povich noted that Finley signed “a cageful of monkeys, a prized bird dog, a hutch of outsided checker rabbits and two peacocks.” It was in stories like this that Charlie O. performed admirably, turning many heads onto his enjoyable self and away from the A’s struggles. Over the Athletics 13-year tenure in Kansas City, they never finished first in the AL.
Oakland’s attraction was welcomed in whichever city he ventured to, with his trip to New York drawing the biggest buzz. Charlie O., ridden by Finley, began the trip welcomed at the Americana Hotel by an eight-piece band. The New York Times accounts indicated that “Charlie O. clopped through the lobby, past startled guests and turned into a restaurant. There he paused at the bar long enough to consume a heaping portion of oats in a silver bowl. In his suite (okay it was a corner of the garage), Charlie O. also found a dresser in which to store his green and gold attire.” Being the focal point of the road trip, reporters just had to have them some of the mule. Ross Newhan of the Independent Press Telegram wrote, “Charlie O. is the hottest thing to hit the (American league) circuit since Mickey Mantle, and he has sounder legs. Charlie’s van is equipped with a stereo unit, but Charles has a one track mind when it comes to music. His selection is always the same: ‘Mule Train.’” Newhan observed that the mule’s ‘hotel room’ consisted of green and gold drapes, a desk featuring Finley’s picture, a TV set, and white-gloved attendants serving oats on silver trays.”
One of the more comical Charlie O. stories involved catcher Doc Edwards, who on occasion, was given the burdensome task of riding the big fella. While the team was on the road in Cleveland, Edwards fell off Charlie O. and was immediately traded to the Yankees. On another road trip in May of 1965, the White Sox GM Ed Short refused to allow Charlie O. inside the White Sox ballpark because he said, “we don’t issue passes to mules.” Finley responded by parading his mule around a leased parking lot across the street from White Sox Park and hired six models to hoist picket signs, accompanied by a six-piece band.
Four years later, the A’s along with their mule moved to Oakland and reversed their fortunes…
Praise Charlie O.
Chass, Murray. “Finley’s Follies Boasts Mule, Pigeons, Pheasants.” The New York Times, April 13, 1965.
Newhan, Ross. “Charlie O . . . A Mule, No Fool”, Independent Press Telegram (Long Beach, CA), May 2, 1965. D-2
Povich, Shirley. “Zoo in KC”, The Washington Post, March 30, 1965.
Jim Van Valkenburg. “Mule Replaces Sheep in Kansas City’s Park.” Cumberland (MD) Evening Times, February 9, 1965, 14.
Swanson, Don. “Kansas City Fans to Get New Kick.” Phoenix (Arizona) Gazette, March 26, 1965, 50.
This is the question circulating around the office of GM Billy Beane and is likely what nearly every call coming to Oakland’s “Gepetto” revolves around. With the former All-Star posting a 2.70 ERA in over 83 innings of work with 79 strikeouts, he is one of the most sought after starting pitchers for contenders this season. A part from Cole Hamels, (whose services have been swirling around trade circles for months now) Kazmir is really the only other solid left-handed starter in the trade market.
Not to say Kazmir is of Cole Hamels star-caliber, or even that he’s been a better pitcher, but as of right now one could make a legitimate argument that Oakland’s lefty is more valuable. The primary reason is because of his upcoming contract situation. Although he is going to become a free agent at the end of this season, he will likely cost less than the $23.5 million that Hamels is currently earning. The argument for why Hamels is a more valuable trade asset is because he’s under control for the next three years with a team option for a fourth, and more importantly, he has little history of injury. So as far as Scott’s future in Oakland, unless there is an overwhelming offer that comes out of left field for the southpaw’s services, I think it would be wise of Billy Beane not to trade Kazmir.
Now I’ve read a couple of articles about the reasons for trading Kazmir and I get it. With his past-injuries and second-half struggles last season, one could be concerned with his production falling off. Here were his 2014 splits:
1st half: 2.38 ERA, 4.0 K/BB, 6+ ip/g (in 19 starts)
2nd half: 5.42 ERA, 2.4 K/BB, 5.2 ip/g (in 13 starts)
However, having now finally pitched a full season since returning to the bigs in 2013, I believe he will be able to his put inconsistent past behind him. From what I’ve read, he specifically used this past offseason to build up his arm strength in order to pitch effectively deep into the summer. If that’s the case, the A’s will be in a situation to maintain a top-tier starting rotation that currently is tied for the best starting pitching ERA in the American League.
Also, Oakland can offer Kazmir a qualifying offer at the end of the year.
A qualifying offer enables teams to become eligible for draft pick compensation if a free agent leaves for free agency. The value of the qualifying offer changes from year to year and is determined by averaging the top 125 player salaries from the previous season. Much like a franchise tag in football, teams only extend these offers to top players. The return if the player rejects the offers, is one compensatory selection at the end of the first round of the MLB draft.
So in the case of Scott Kazmir, I would suggest keeping him through the end of the season so that his free agency situation becomes a win-win for the A’s. Based off of recent trends, the value of the qualifying offer for the 2016 offseason will be a little over $16 million. While this may seem like a ton of money for a frugal (that’s an overly nice way to put it) franchise, Kazmir is currently making $13 million, so it isn’t that much of a pay raise. So if he signs, Oakland gets another year of quality left-handed pitching and if he chooses to decline the offer – to pursue a more lucrative contract – then the A’s will receive, essentially, another 1st Round Pick. Plus, it gives the currently streaking 2015 squad more of an opportunity to compete and hopefully scrap their way into the playoff race.
Either way, the green and gold come out on top.
Home Run Derby After-Effects?
The last time there was a back-to-back Home Run Derby champion was ’98-’99 when Ken Griffey Jr. did it. Now he is joined by Yoenis Cespedes. After beating Todd Frazier to capture his second Home Run Derby championship in as many years, Cespedes will now have to turn his focus to the second half of his third full season in order to keep Oakland at the top of the AL West. Yet, the primary question that surrounds all Home Run Derby participants is: How will it affect a players swing and hence, their second half? Luckily for A’s fans, Cespedes is a second half guy. Over his career, he’s hit .290 after the All-Star Break compared to his .242 average in the first half.
I think the bigger concern is how will Josh Donaldson respond after his first Home Run Derby appearance.
Well, to be honest, I think that Donaldson needs all the help he can get and maybe him hitting some bombs in the Derby will give the guy some confidence. Early in the season, he was a clear-cut candidate for the MVP award, but after June 1st has hit just .174 and his average has dropped all the way to a meager .238. He obviously needs to break out of his prolonged rut and seeing as how he has had a “swing big, miss big” approach (similar to Cespedes) so far this season, I believe he can’t get much worse and the second half will bring positive results to the A’s struggling third baseman.
After Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin went down before the A’s even played one game, it automatically put a massive amount of pressure on the newest members of the starting rotation, especially to fill those innings. Parker threw 197 innings while Griffin broke the 200 innings mark without either missing a start due to injury, something that’s highly overlooked in baseball today. Now its up to newcomers to the rotation Scott Kazmir and Jesse Chavez as well as first-year Sonny Gray, all of whom who have not had to throw as many innings as they are now being asked to. Kazmir threw 158 innings last season for the Cleveland Indians after spending the previous year in independent ball. Chavez pitched 57.1 innings in 2013 for the A’s as a long reliever, while Sonny Gray combined for 185.1 innings in Triple A and the majors, by far his most in a professional season.
Each one of them are on pace this season to approach or pass the 200-inning mark, something only Kazmir previously has done (2007 season). So far, the trio’s combined 28-12 record and 2.77 ERA is a major reason for the A’s first-half success and it will be interesting to see how closely A’s manager Bob Melvin manages their workloads and pitch counts during the second half, particularly because the Angels are so close in the division race.
The Oakland Athletics finished their first half of the 2014 season with the MLB’s best record for the 25th day in a row, and they have sat atop the AL West every day and every night since April 28. Yet, in the back seat of the Oakland wagon are the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who have prevented them from running away with a 3rd consecutive division title. They won 19 of 23 games before the All-Star Break, and now trail the A’s by only 1.5 games to start the second half. While the Seattle Mariners also have put themselves in contention for a playoff berth, the frontrunners to win the AL West are most likely to be the ball clubs from opposite ends of California. They play each other 10 times over August and September and six of those games are at the O.Co Coliseum, providing a small advantage to the A’s. Especially considering each team is second (Oakland) and first (LA) in terms of best home records.
Everyday starting shortstop, Jed Lowrie was a key to the offense in 2013, batting .290 and often hitting third in the order. However, after a good start in April, he hit a combined .187 in May and June with only 13 extra-base hits. So far in July, he’s turned it around a bit, raising his average to a still depressing .239. Although this avg. bump included some weak “bloop” hits, those may be a sign of Lowrie’s first half tough luck starting to fade. His career average of balls in play is .291 while this season has been .267, a significant drop off. With Melvin’s “platoon system” in place over the last few seasons, his offense has typically been deep enough to mask individual struggles, but the A’s need Lowrie (one of the few everyday starters) to regain some of his 2013 form..
Having already adding Samardzija and Hammel, the A’s are probably not finished upgrading their roster before the Trade Deadline on July 31. A middle-infield improvement could be in the works, following a notably disappointing first half from second basemen Nick Punto and Eric Sogard, who hit .213 and .186, respectively. Oakland might also think about dipping into the shortstop market and move Lowrie to second-base, despite the second-baseman trade market being much deeper.