To prepare for ’17, A’s need to take long look at prospects

On Wednesday, the Oakland Athletics called up their ninth-ranked prospect, shortstop Chad Pinder. The assumption by many was that he was going to take over immediately at second base for Jed Lowrie, who is on the 60-day disabled list with a foot injury.

Marcus Semien has a stronghold on the team’s shortstop position this (and probably next) year and Pinder can play second. It seemed the logical way to go. The A’s need to look at as many of their MLB ready prospects as possible as this season ends.

There will be decisions that need to be made in the offseason that will affect who plays where next season. Of course, spring training performances will come into play for 2017, but with the A’s far out of postseason contention the smart thing to do would be bring these young players up and get them some experience.

The team needs to see what each prospect is capable of doing when playing against some of the best players in the world, because that is who they may be facing next season, a season in which the Athletics hope to compete.

Ryon Healy, prospects
Ryon Healy.

The oddity here is that Pinder wasn’t immediately put in the lineup, although he was finally put onto the lineup card for Saturday’s game against the Chicago White Sox. Sure, he’s only missed two games since joining the big league squad, but it is a completely different approach by the A’s than they’ve used before this season.

The team called up third baseman Ryon Healy from Double-A Midland in mid-July. Healy was immediately and unconditionally made the Athletics’ everyday third baseman at the expense of veteran Danny Valencia. So why was a mediocre utility infielder like Max Muncy put in the lineup for the last two games instead of Pinder?

With the Athletics currently on the verge of having an entire new crop of young talent hit the major leagues over the next two seasons, one would think it would be prudent to get a very good look at at how each one fares against veteran players.  

There will be logjams at some positions, especially in the infield, once September hits and over the course of the next couple of seasons. In the infield alone it’s likely we will see first basemen Matt Olson and Rangel Ravelo, another second baseman in Joey Wendle and quite possibly third baseman Renato Nunez and shortstop Franklin Barreto.

Both Barreto and Nunez are not estimated to be big-league ready until next year, but that is no reason that they will not get called up next month.

While there’s a spot open right now at second base, there isn’t room for all of them.

Marcus Semien has pretty much locked down the shortstop position for the foreseeable future. Yonder Alonso appears to have done the same thing at first base. He may have started out the year slowly at the plate but his stellar defense and consistently-improving offense may give him the upper-hand in holding on to the first base job.

Jharel Cotton. Getty Images.

That’s five more infielders alone, and there are also pitchers, many of whom we’ve already seen this season like Dylan Overton and Daniel Mengden, and some we haven’t like the newly-acquired Frankie Montas and Jharel Cotton.

Besides Olson, the A’s may also take a look at outfielder Jaycob Brugman. He isn’t expected to debut until next season but the team is looking to put together the best possible team for 2017 and beyond. It doesn’t hurt to take a look at as many MLB-ready, or almost-ready, prospects as possible. There will be logjams everywhere.

All of these logjams are going to have offseason implications. Some prospects may be used in a trades while others will be kept. A few may remain in the minors while others will reach and stay in the big leagues, whether with the A’s or some other team.

It’s already getting crowded on the field for the Athletics; it will be even more so next month, which is why it is somewhat confusing that the team didn’t immediately put Pinder in what was virtually an empty space left by Lowrie, instead continuing to play a utility player at second base. It will be interesting to see if he is in the lineup for the A’s final game of the series in Chicago on Sunday.

The team should be watching Pinder, and all the rest of the MLB-ready prospects, play as much as possible over the rest of the 2016 season to make their offseason moves and spring training decisions a little more clear.

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