A.J. Puk, A's top draft pick 2016

Meet A’s 2016 top draft pick A.J. Puk

With the 6th overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft the Athletics select A.J. Puk from the University of Florida

The last time the Oakland Athletics had a draft pick higher than the number six pick they had in the 2016 MLB draft was almost two decades ago, in 1998.

In 1998, with the second pick in the draft, the A’s selected a 6-foot-6, imposing left-hander by the name of Mark Mulder. With the sixth pick of the 2016 draft, the A’s selected a 6-foot-7, even more imposing left-hander by the name of A.J. Puk.

A.J. Puk
A.J. Puk.

While the majority of their similarities end there, that doesn’t mean that they can’t have similarly successful careers with the Athletics.

Mulder went on to become one of the “Big Three” in Oakland along with Tim Hudson and Barry Zito.

The Big Three led the Athletics to four straight playoff appearances (2000-2003) and took turns leading the American League over that span. Hudson won 20 games in 2000, Mulder with 21 in 2001 and Barry Zito won 23 games in 2003.

Mulder attended Michigan State before being drafted by the A’s. He wasn’t a particularly hard thrower, with his fastball topping out at 92 MPH, but he had a full arsenal of pitches. He could get ahead of hitters, had good movement on his fastball and could go to his cutter/slider (86 MPH) that would go inside on right-handers or spin away from left-handers. On top off that, Mulder had a curveball (74), a changeup (82) he’d use to neutralize right-handers and his primary strikeout pitch – a splitter (82-86), which he kept located down in the zone.

Mulder wasn’t a huge collector of strikeouts, but had an excellent walk rate.

Besides having fewer pitches in his repertoire than Mulder, Puk is a strikeout machine who, at times during his college career at the University of Florida, has struggled with control issues.

Still, Puk has a plus-plus fastball that usually sits around 97 MPH but can reach as high as 99, even when he’s pitching deep into games. He throws a sharp slider that sits around 90 MPH and his changeup, while still a work in progress, has the ability to become an above-average pitch.

For more on Puk, his chances in the big leagues, his similarities/differences to Mark Mulder and his estimated time of arrival on a the big league stage you can read the remainder of my column on Today’s Knuckleball by following the link below:

Athletics hope A.J. Puk will follow Mark Mulder blueprint

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