The unofficial first half of the Pacific Coast League schedule is in the books. Or if you prefer, 91 of 144 games for the Sounds. The math of the “first half” doesn’t quite make sense but that’s not why we’re here.
After an up and down first three month of the season, Nashville is 49-42 and on top of the American Southern Division with a three-game lead over Memphis and Round Rock.
The squad opens play after the All-Star break tonight in El Paso against the Pacific Southern leading Chihuahuas.
A few interesting nuggets to take in as play resumes:
Leading the Pack at the Break: Since 1998 when the Sounds joined the PCL, they’ve led their division seven different times at the All-Star break. They went to the playoffs four of those years (2003, 2005, 2006 and 2007). The last two times they had a division lead at the break (2009 and 2014) they failed to make the PCL Playoffs.
Something Has to Give: Entering the four-game series against El Paso, the Sounds have the second-best road record (25-14) in the PCL behind Oklahoma City. On the other hand, the Chihuahuas have the second-best home record (28-16) in the PCL behind only Tacoma.
American Southern Race: The American Southern Division race is the tighest of all PCL divisions as the four teams are separated by just 4.5 games. The Sounds will play division opponents 17 times over the next 54 days in the regular season (New Orleans – 8, Memphis – 5, Round Rock – 4).
Pattern in the Pacific: Of the 16 games the Sounds have played against the Pacific Conference, they’ve won 15. From May 14-30, they swept Fresno, took three of four from Sacramento, then completed back-to-back sweeps of Las Vegas and Salt Lake.
Fifty-Plus in First: The Sounds have occupied first place in the American Southern Division for a total of 52 days during the 2016 season. They have been in the top spot since the night of May 24 when they won 10-4 in Las Vegas.
In lieu of the Sounds’ first homestand, we want your input on who stood out the most. We’ve listed four players who played well during the first homestand. Now it’s you, the fans, who get to pick the Sounds Player of the Homestand.
Jesse Hahn-The right-hander started twice for the Sounds during the opening homestand and dominated in both starts. The Norwich, Connecticut native did not allow any runs over 12 innings and is tied for fifth in the PCL with a .154 batting average against. The former Virginia Tech Hokie has surrendered only six hits on the season while striking out a team-high 11 batters.
Bruce Maxwell– Maxwell led the team with a .333 average (5-for-15) after the first homestand. Although he played in five of the eight games, the catcher was second on the team with 4 RBI, including at least one RBI in three straight games from April 9-12.
Tucker Healy – The right-hander has dominated out of the Sounds’ bullpen. In three games over the first homestand, Healy worked four total innings, allowed only 1 hit, and struck out six.
Sean Manaea– The left-hander was brilliant in his Triple-A debut with the Sounds on April 11. The A’s top pitching prospect recorded his first win of the season in 5 1/3 innings as he allowed just one run on four hits. He struck out six Sky Sox in the process.
Take a moment and help us determine who the Sounds Player of the Homestand is.
The Nashville Sounds are off and running with the 2016 season.
After a 45 minute rain delay, Opening Night finally started. Before the game, NBC’s “The Voice” contestant Evan McKeel sang the national anthem. During his performance, the Sounds honored more than 100 soldiers from Fort Campbell’s 101st Airborne Division as they unfurled the American flag across the entire outfield of First Tennessee Park.
During the game, the Sounds unveiled a surprise in-game tradition in the middle of the fifth inning with the inaugural Country Music Legends race that features George Jones, Johnny Cash and Reba McEntire. The race will take place at all 72 home games at First Tennessee Park.
In the second game of the four game series, the Sounds took an early 1-0 lead after doubles from Joey Wendle and Matt Olson in the bottom of the first inning, and remained in front until the top of the 9th. That’s when Sounds reliever Angel Castro gave up a solo home run to Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal to tie the game at 1-1.
Sounds starter, Jesse Hahn, was dealing as he limited Oklahoma City to just two hits and struck out five Dodgers over six scoreless innings before handing it over to Patrick Schuster and the rest of the Nashville bullpen.
Reliever Daniel Coulombe made quick work of the Dodgers in the 10th when the southpaw struck out the side. Nashville native and Montgomery Bell Academy graduate, Andrew Triggs, worked around a two-out walk in the 11th to give the Sounds a chance to win it.
Sounds’ third baseman Max Muncy started the inning with a single to put the winning run on base. Renato Nunez followed with a line drive to right-center, as the ball caromed off the wall and allowed Muncy to score from first to give the Sounds a walk-off win.
The Sounds (1-1) will send lefty Dillon Overton to the mound tonight to face off against veteran right-hander Same LeCure and the Dodgers (1-1). Game time is set for 6:35 p.m.
We’re now less than one week until Opening Day at First Tennessee Park on April 7 when the Sounds open their season against the Oklahoma City Dodgers!
While the infield will be made up of top prospects, the outfielders and backstops should bring experience to this year’s team.
For the outfielders, Sounds fans could see the likes of veterans Jake Smolinski, Andrew Lambo and Matt McBride who have all spent time in the big leagues. At some point, joining them in the outfield will be the young gun, Jaycob Brugman.
Smolinski, 27, has the most big league experience of the four, playing in 100 major league games with a career .246 average and 9 home runs. He spent most of the 2015 season with Oakland, however was more productive in Nashville. With the Sounds, he batted .349 with 5 home runs in 25 games. The veteran has bounced around, as the A’s are his fourth organization in 10 seasons. Smolinski was selected by the Washington Nationals out of Boylan Catholic High School in Rockford, Illinois in the 2nd round (70th overall) of the 2007 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Lambo, 27, enters his first season with the A’s organization after being claimed off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates on November 6. He spent most of the 2015 season on the disabled list with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, appearing in only 20 games with the Pirates. In 2014, with the Pirates Triple-A affiliate, the Indianapolis Indians, Lambo hit .328 with 11 home runs in 61 games.
McBride, 30, is the savvy veteran. He spent most of the 2015 season with the Albuquerque Isotopes, the Triple-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies. With the ‘Topes, he hit .328 with 12 home runs in 78 games. McBride was signed to a minor-league free agent contract on December 29 by the A’s, and will see time as a catcher.
Brugman, 24, enters his fourth season with the A’s organization, with a chance to be on the 2016 Opening Day roster for the Sounds. Last year, the former BYU standout hit .260 with 27 doubles and 63 RBI in 132 games with Double-A Midland. He’s rated as the A’s 21st best prospect by MLB Pipeline.
Four guys are in the catcher conversation heading into the season. Bruce Maxwell, the aforementioned McBride, Bryan Anderson and Carson Blair could see time behind the plate in Nashville.
Maxwell, 25, spent the 2015 season with Midland where he hit .243 with 48 RBI and 16 doubles in 96 games. As Susan Slusser of The San Francisco Chronicle points out, the youngster has impressed many in A’s spring training.
Anderson, 29, enters his third season with the A’s organization, with 2016 marking his 12th professional season. He spent the majority of last season in Nashville splitting time behind the plate with Blair and Luke Carlin.
Blair, 26, enters his 9th season, and 2nd with the A’s. He split 2015 between Midland, Nashville and Oakland. He played in 88 games between Midland and Nashville before being called up by Oakland in September.
Boasting a wealth of experience, the 2016 Sounds’ outfielders and catchers could be leaders in the clubhouse to guide the young infielders.
We’re just one week away from Opening Day on April 7 when the Sounds take on the Oklahoma City Dodgers. Today we take a look at a very talented group of young prospects who could man the infield for Nashville beginning next Thursday.
A lot of similar and some new faces will make their way to Nashville this season. The familiar faces include 2015 “Fan Favorite” Joey Wendle, Rangel Ravelo, Max Muncy, and Tyler Ladendorf. Along with this experienced group of players, the Sounds will see members of last year’s Texas League Champions in Chad Pinder, Renato Nunez, Matt Olson, and Ryon Healy. Also, Josh Rodriguez who was signed to a minor-league free agent contract on November 25, is a guy Sounds fans could potentially see at some point.
Wendle, 25, enters his fourth season and his second in the A’s organization. Sounds broadcaster Jeff Hem caught up with Sounds Manager Steve Scarsone at spring training and the skipper called him a “Gamer” and loves what he brings to the table. In 2015, he led the Pacific Coast League with 167 hits, and also had 42 doubles. The doubles mark broke a Sounds single-season record for most in a season, a mark previously held by Chris Truby (41) in 2004. Wendle was also named to the All-PCL Team, the first Sounds position player to claim that honor since Taylor Green in 2011.
Muncy, 25, was selected by the A’s in the 5th round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. In 2015 he split time between Oakland and Nashville, and hit .252 between the two levels.
Ravelo, 23, is now in his second year with the A’s organization after spending the first five seasons of his career with the White Sox. In 2015, Ravelo was injured for most of the season, but looks to return better than ever. Primarily a first baseman, Ravelo will spell Olson at times, and also serve as a designated hitter. While he has time at third base, he hasn’t played the position since 2012.
Like Ravelo, Ladendorf battled injuries in 2015. The 28-year-old played in just 29 games between Oakland and Nashville. Scarsone will be able to use him all over the diamond, including all outfield spots.
Three top prospects in the A’s organization look to be cornerstones to the team’s success early this season. Olson, Pinder and Nunez are ranked among the A’s best according to Baseball America and MLB Pipeline. A’s GM David Forst beamed with excitement when talking about the prospects with Hem in Mesa.
Olson, 22, was a key member of Midland’s Championship run last year. The first baseman appeared in 133 games and hit .249 with 17 home runs and 75 RBI. He is ranked as the A’s #6 prospect by Baseball America and #3 by MLB Pipeline.
Pinder, 24, enters his fourth season with Oakland and is regarded as another top prospect. Baseball America lists him 7th and MLB Pipeline has him 8th. Last year with Midland, Pinder was named the 2015 Texas League Player of the year when he finished with a .317 batting average, 86 RBI, 32 doubles and 15 homers.
Nunez, 22, hit .278 with 18 home runs in only 93 games with the RockHounds last year. The 18 homers lead the team and finished tied for second in the Texas League. Nunez is listed the A’s 4th best prospect by Baseball America, and 5th by MLB Pipeline.
Healy, 24, spent all of 2015 with Midland and played in 124 games with a .302 average and 10 home runs. Healy’s 153 hits was the most for Midland and second most in the Texas League. He is ranked as the A’s 17th best prospect by MLB Pipeline, and 22nd by Baseball America.
Rodriguez, 31, played his 2015 season in the Mets organization. He spent most of the year with Binghamton, the Mets Double-A affiliate, where he hit .282 in 115 games with 19 home runs. The A’s signed Rodriguez to a minor-league free agent contract on November 25.
And we haven’t even started with the organizations top prospect, Franklin Barreto. At the ripe age of 20, Barreto is ranked as the A’s top prospect by both MLB Pipeline and Baseball America. He is 35th in Baseball America’s Top 100 list of all prospects in baseball.
Another name Sounds fans might see at some point this year is Matt Chapman who has absolutely lit up the Cactus League this spring. Chapman is rated as the A’s 3rd best prospect by Baseball America, and 6th overall by MLB Pipeline and clubbed his 5th home run of spring yesterday.
With a core group of returning players, members of a championship team in Midland, and a mix of some of the A’s top prospects, the Sounds infield could be a major strength in 2016.
As Spring Training draws to a close and the regular season nears, we take a look at what Nashville’s bullpen might look like.
During the offseason the A’s made moves to strengthen their bullpen by adding Ryan Madson, Liam Hendriks and former Nashville Sound, John Axford. The trio will join closer Sean Doolittle who continues in the role after he sat out most of spring training with a strained triceps.
A list of potential names to see in Music City this season in the ‘pen include Nashville native Andrew Triggs, Kris Hall, Angel Castro, Daniel Coulombe, Ryan Doolittle, Aaron Kurcz, Patrick Schuster, Taylor Thompson and J.B. Wendelken, among others.
Triggs, 27, returns home after spending time in the Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles organizations. The right-hander graduated from Nashville’s Montgomery Bell High School in 2007. He was claimed off waivers from the Baltimore on March 13 and figures to be in line for a late inning role. In Double-A last year, Triggs went 0-2 with a 1.03 in 43 games. He recorded 70 strikeouts and was a perfect 17 for 17 in save situations.
Because of the offseason acquisitions Oakland made, many players who went to spring training with aspirations to be on the Opening Day roster will trickle down to Nashville and Double-A Midland.
Kurcz, 25, is another guy to watch for in 2016 entering his second season with the Sounds. He ranks as the 30th best prospect in the A’s organization according to MLB Pipeline. After being traded from the Atlanta Braves to the A’s on July 6, 2015, Kurcz went 2-1 with the Sounds with a 4.15 ERA in 18 games.
Doolittle, 28, is the younger brother of A’s closer Sean Doolittle. He spent the 2015 season with the RockHounds and went 4-3 with a 3.32 ERA.
The Sounds could have two veteran pitchers in the bullpen in Castro and Thompson who have both spent time in the big leagues. Castro, 33, spent time in Oakland, but the majority of his season with Nashville where he pitched in 38 games and had a team-high eight saves.
Thompson, 28, was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 44th round in the 2009 MLB draft out of Auburn University. He enters his second season with the A’s organization and pitched primarily with the Sounds last year when he wasn’t battling a right shoulder strain.
Hall, 24, spent most of the 2015 season with Midland, sporting a 5-0 mark with a 2.50 ERA in 38 games.
Wendelken, 22, was acquired via trade from the White Sox for Brett Lawrie on December 9. Last year, Wendelken split last season between Chicago’s Double-A and Triple-A affiliates. The right-hander went 6-2 with a 3.20 ERA in 39 games. In 59 innings, he racked up 69 strikeouts.
Coulombe, 26, was another trade acquisition for the A’s last year. Before joining the organization, he spent most of the ‘15 season with the Oklahoma City Dodgers where he went 3-1 with a 3.27 ERA. After the trade, he pitched in nine games with the A’s, posting a 3.52 ERA.
With a group of talented veterans and several hard-throwing prospects, the Sounds bullpen could be a big factor in securing late leads.
The countdown to Opening Day at First Tennessee Park sits at 22 days. Just over three weeks until the Sounds open the 2016 campaign against the Oklahoma City Dodgers on Thursday, April 7.
Spring training is near the halfway point and rosters are starting to form. Players are being optioned to a minor league affiliate or sent to minor league camp. As of today, minor league spring training games are underway.
The A’s starting rotation is led by one of the best in the business – former Vanderbilt Baseball star and current MLB All-Star, Sonny Gray. At just 26 years old, Gray figures to be at the top of Oakland’s rotation for the next decade.
Following Gray is where the water starts to get murky. Rich Hill, Jesse Hahn, Chris Bassitt and Kendall Graveman are fair bets to be the 2-5 starters. Whether it’s prior injuries or a rocky spring, question marks are present. The unknown trickles down to leave Nashville’s projected rotation up in arms (pun intended).
As Joe Stiglich from CSN Bay Area notes, the A’s pitching depth is a question mark.
It’s not inconceivable to think Sean Manaea will break camp with the A’s. However, the odds are favorable to see Manaea start the season with the Sounds.
Other names Sounds fans will likely see include: Eric Surkamp, Zach Neal, Dillon Overton (pictured), Chris Jensen, Chris Smith, Raul Alcantara and Henderson Alvarez.
If you want to hone in even further, Alvarez is still working his way back from shoulder surgery and isn’t expected to join the A’s until May. Alcantara was just optioned to Double-A Midland.
Thus leaving six pitchers, including Manaea. Smith, 34, and Surkamp, 28, have the most experience with just under 100 major league appearances between them. Both have been starters and both have appeared in relief roles.
Neal (pictured), 27, spent most of last season with Nashville. He went 7-10 with a 4.18 ERA in 21 games, including 20 starts.
Overton, 24, is a 2013 2nd round pick of the A’s who continues to regain form after Tommy John surgery in July of 2013. The southpaw took a big step forward last year when he made 13 starts with Midland. Although he was just reassigned to minor league camp, Overton impressed those in big league camp while he was there.
Jensen, 25, was drafted by the Rockies in the 6th round in 2011. He was dealt to the A’s as part of the Brett Anderson trade in December of 2013. The right-hander has compiled a 21-18 record the last two years in Midland and figures to be ready for the jump.
There’s a good chance Sounds fans will see all six in Nashville on April 7.
Spring training is in full swing in Mesa, AZ, the A’s played their first simulated game today, and the Cactus League opener for Oakland is on the horizon.
Of course, camp is busy for every team this time of year, but it’s even busier for Oakland. The A’s recently acquired utility man Chris Coghlan from the Chicago Cubs for right-hander Aaron Brooks who figured to be part of Nashville’s rotation.
So what does that mean for the Sounds? It means something, but at this point in spring it’s too early to see the trickle-down effect. Not only will the rotation be different, but Coghlan in Oakland might push another position player down to Nashville when the season starts.
If that player is Max Muncy, you can figure to see him all over the diamond, writes MLB.com’s Jane Lee.
In other news over the weekend, Oakland’s prospects continue to impress. Check out what Bob Melvin had to say about the guys that are in camp here.
Sounds fans can expect to see a handful of prospects when the season starts. Matt Olson (pictured), Renato Nunez, Chad Pinder, Rangel Ravelo and Matt Chapman are names to keep an eye on as the season draws closer.
And as Melvin points out, even the young guys in camp are getting the opportunity to show what they can do.
If you’re not familiar with how narrowing the roster goes, here’s a quick rundown. As spring training goes on, Oakland will begin making decisions to the roster in order to get to the magic number of 25. Some players currently in big league camp will be assigned to minor league camp. Barring trades, free agents and other transactions, those moves give a strong indication as to where guys will start their season.
Eric Surkamp, who is a strong candidate to start the season in Nashville, will start Oakland’s Cactus League opener on Thursday. Here’s a look at today’s simulated game lineups from Jane Lee.
Lineups for today’s simulated game: pic.twitter.com/UamtDBc33O
— Jane Lee (@JaneMLB) February 29, 2016
For Sounds fans, Jane is a great twitter follow to keep up on all things A’s, as well as Joe Stiglich from Comcast SportsNet California, and Susan Slusser who is the San Francisco Chronicle’s A’s beat writer.
Until next time, enjoy the baseball!
Spring Training has arrived and baseball in Nashville is right around the corner. 43 days until first pitch at First Tennessee Park when the Sounds host the Oklahoma City Dodgers on April 7.
Over those 43 days we’re going to get you familiar with who and what you can expect to see in Nashville this season.
In Mesa, A’s pitchers and catchers reported on Sunday, position players report tomorrow, and the first full squad workout is Friday. The team’s first exhibition game is on Thursday, March 3 against Los Angeles (AL).
The early buzz in A’s camp surrounds top prospect Sean Manaea (and his hair). The left-handed pitcher is catching the eye of many in the early stages of spring, and it’s expected. Manaea was the key piece in last year’s deadline deal that sent Ben Zobrist to Kansas City.
The 6-foot-5-inch, 235-pounder was drafted by the Royals as the 34th overall pick in the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft out of Indiana State University. At just 24 years old, Manaea projects as a top-of-the-rotation starter.
A’s Manager Bob Melvin said this to Joe Stiglich of CSN Bay Area when talking about Manaea.
John Hickey from the San Jose Mercury News also featured Manaea over the weekend in this piece.
As you see, most signs point to the lefty starting the season in Nashville. However, there’s still an outside chance he cracks the Opening Day roster with Oakland. A lot will depend on how things shake out in spring with a few guys coming off of injury.
After Sonny Gray and Rich Hill, the rotation is heavy with names but inconsistent with specified roles. Kendall Graveman, Jesse Hahn, Chris Bassitt and Jarrod Parker are coming off injuries and will be brought along slowly.
Sounds fans may remember when Parker fractured his right elbow at First Tennessee Park. Stiglich detailed Parker’s rehab process and what the future might hold for him here.
Uncertainty also presents opportunity. What happens in spring training over the next six weeks will have a large impact on who is in Nashville come April 7.
The old expression goes ‘time will tell’.
Now with one season’s worth of data under our belts at First Tennessee Park and the introduction of MiLB pitch clocks, let the ‘telling’ begin!
First, context: Before the 2015 season began, Triple-A and Double-A teams were required to install clocks that counted down from 20 seconds in-between pitches (in certain circumstances). The clocks also ticked off two minutes and 25 seconds between innings to expedite the change of sides. These additions were put in place to quicken the pace of play.
Results: According to research by our good friend and pro blogger Mike Curto of the Tacoma Rainiers, Pacific Coast League games dropped from an average of 2:58 in 2014 to 2:45 in 2015 for an average of 13 minutes quicker. Similar results were noticed in the other Triple-A and Double-A leagues, which finished with an average of 12 minutes quicker in 2015 compared to 2014.
And while the Sounds did not see the 14-minute average difference in game times that Curto saw in Tacoma (possibly because of Nashville’s switch to an American League affiliate this year, meaning use of the DH in all game instead of just some of them), the numbers did go with the trend.
Under the new rules, only 30 of the Sounds’ 9-inning games were clocked at over three hours in 2015, which is a total of 20 fewer games than 2014.
2014 (old rules)
- 3:00 – 3:15: 27 games
- 3:16 – 3:30: 17 games
- 3:31 – 3:45: 4 games
- 3:46 – 4:00: 2 games
- 4:01 – longer: 0 games
2015 (new pace of play rules)
- 3:00 – 3:15: 21 games
- 3:16 – 3:30: 7 games
- 3:31 – longer: 2 games (both were 3:47)
So there you have it, the numbers tell us that the pitch clocks worked.