It’s late August. Clearly, the 54-70 Oakland A’s aren’t an October ball club.
Don’t expect this to change anytime soon, given Oakland’s current roster—something A’s management continues to change up, in accordance with their endless, uphill rebuilding process.
The A’s’ acquisition of two new pitchers this past week – Chris Hatcher from the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Sam Moll from the Colorado Rockies – is but another attempt by Oakland to bolster their work-in-progress roster, one in which the bullpen is likely the weakest link. Even so, neither addition seems particularly beneficial to Oakland’s pitching rotation—at least not immediately, in Moll’s case.
First, let’s examine Chris Hatcher. Dealt by the Dodgers to the A’s on Tuesday in exchange for $500,000 in international bonus money, the 32-year-old right-handed pitcher was drafted by the (at the time) Florida Marlins in the fifth round of the 2006 MLB Draft. He made his Major League debut with the Marlins in 2010, though as a catcher. In 2011, he swapped back to pitcher, but posted abysmal numbers: in 10.1 innings pitched, Hatcher recorded an ERA of 6.97. He gave up 14 hits and eight earned runs, two of which were homers.
#Athletics acquire RHP Chris Hatcher from the Los Angeles Dodgers for international bonus slot money.
— Oakland A's 🌳🐘⚾️ (@Athletics) August 15, 2017
After he returned to the mound, Hatcher went winless for four straight seasons—the entirety of his career as a Marlin. In fairness, his appearances were few and far between, but that didn’t stop him from posting a whopping 12.46 ERA in 2012, despite pitching for fewer than nine total innings spread across seven games.
The Marlins traded Hatcher to the Dodgers in December of 2014, where he saw significantly more action. As a Dodger, Hatcher appeared in 112 games, and pitched in 116.1 innings. Hatcher’s 4.64 ERA with the Dodgers was only marginally better than his 4.82 with the Marlins (neither value is anything to write home about), but he actually won some games. Some. In three years with the Dodgers, Hatcher compiled an 8-10 record—again, not great.
Hatcher did display one redeeming quality (sort of) during his tenure with both teams, in that he struck out batters nearly three times more than he walked them: 3.27 K/BB as a Marlin, and 2.85 K/BB as a Dodger. A 3.00 career K/BB doesn’t exactly scream “Clayton Kershaw,” but it’s at least more admirable than that aforementioned 12.46 ERA season.
Thus far, Hatcher has given up three hits, no runs, and no walks with the A’s, but that’s because he’s only pitched for 3.1 innings. This is an August pick up by a team just trying to make it through the lame duck period of yet another disappointing season—Hatcher is essentially just another uniform to put on the mound.
Now, Sam Moll. Acquired from the Rockies in exchange for a player to be named later or cash, the 25-year-old lefty was drafted by the Rockies in the third round of the 2013 MLB Draft. Moll was regarded by many as one of the Rockies’ better prospects, and has spent his career on several Minor League rosters, most recently pitching for the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes.
#Athletics acquire LHP Sam Moll from Colorado for a PTBNL or cash and option him to Nashville; also option RHP Josh Smith to Nashville
— Oakland A's 🌳🐘⚾️ (@Athletics) August 16, 2017
In five seasons in the minors, Moll has accumulated an ERA of 3.42 in 210.2 innings over 147 appearances. He’s given up 198 hits and 94 runs (80 earned), as well as 17 home runs. His 2.87 K/BB is similar to Hatcher’s, and shows his ability to limit walks.
Two of his best seasons in the minors came in 2013 and 2015. Pitching for the Rockies-affiliated Tri-City Dust Devils of Pasco, Washington in 2013, Moll appeared in 10 games, starting six of them. In 30 innings on the mound, Moll posted a 1.80 ERA, giving up just 20 hits and six earned runs—not bad at all, especially for his first year. In 2015, Moll played for the Rock Cats of New Britain, Connecticut, and the Nuts of Modesto, California, both Rockies-affiliated as well. In 68.1 innings over 38 games, Moll recorded a 2.63 ERA and maintained an excellent 4.63 K/BB.
Moll’s numbers definitely paint him as promotion material, but there are two attributes that have perhaps delayed his Major League upgrade. Injuries comprise the first: most notably, Moll pitched just 13 innings in 2014 after a solid performance the year prior. More importantly, however, is his height. At 5’10”, Moll is short for a pitcher, and shorter pitchers generally face greater difficulty controlling the angle of the ball. His height may actually factor into concerns surrounding his proneness to injury, as a shorter wingspan means more physical effort is required on his part to produce powerful, downward releases. More effort means more arm strain, which in turn negatively affects his ability to start.
Perhaps the A’s can make something out of Moll, who is both more promising and significantly younger than Hatcher. (Dodgers fans everywhere are probably glad to be rid of him, given how quickly October is approaching.) Moll, who is currently assigned to the Triple-A, Oakland-affiliated Nashville Sounds, may eventually prove to be a useful bullpen pitcher. The fact that he’s on the Athletics’ 40-man roster may show that Billy Beane and company share this sentiment.
Time will tell, and though not by choice, A’s fans are incredibly patient.
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