A.J. Puk Is On A Fast Track To Be Baseball's Next Big Star

A.J. Puk Is On A Fast Track To Be Baseball's Next Big Star

The 22-year-old lefty is already making waves in Oakland.

Nearly two years ago, the A's selected LHP A.J. Puk with the sixth overall pick in the 2016 Draft. And now, 22 year-old Puk is already on the rise in Oakland, as the young lefty dominated the Padres this past weekend, solidifying himself as a key cornerstone for the future of the Athletics organization.

Puk spent last season in High A ball, later moving up to AA after the All-Star Break, and although the fireballer struggles with command from time to time, his four pitch arsenal has been enough for a clean 0.00 ERA through 5.0 IP so far this Spring. His lethal combination of a fastball, changeup, curveball, and now a hard slider is a classic example of a new-wave pitcher’s lineup of pitches. His pitching style is incredibly reminiscent of Mets RHP Noah Syndergaard, and even Astros’ World Series hero Justin Verlander, and if Puk can make the transition from minor to major leagues, his personal pitching style could emulate the two aforementioned starters. So far, if this Spring’s sample size is of any merit, Puk is having no trouble making the transition towards the major leagues.

The aspiring ace has already earned a K/9 of 7.2 through 2 games this Spring, as he's pitched 2.0 innings during his first start, and 3.0 innings during a relief appearance on Saturday. In comparison, only two other Athletics pitchers has thrown more than 5.0 innings thus far, showing exactly how much the A's organization trusts Puk and his bright future. Still, while Puk is currently slated to start the season in Triple-A Nashville, the confidence that the organization has instilled in their young prospect might be a sign that the A’s would be willing to advance him through the system at a faster rate than usual.

His raw talent and incredible promise should be enough to thrust Puk through the A’s system, as the major league club is lacking depth in their rotation, especially with veteran Sonny Gray leaving the organization last summer at the trade deadline to join the New York Yankees. Although Kendall Graveman may currently be the “ace” of a young Athletics team, it’s only a matter of time until Puk takes over as the main event in Oakland. The team could promote Puk to the majors as early as this Summer, according to manager Bob Melvin, as the team could definitely use a “bonafide starter” like him in the rotation. The future of A’s pitching is now, and with Puk already facing off against major league batters, Oakland could be an immediate threat to an AL West division that is already stacked to the brim with talented contenders.

Needless to say, the season is still young, and the A's have a lot of ground to make up if they're going to be contenders as soon as this year. With the foundations in place, execution is the next step for the Athletics. Nonetheless, the future is bright, and Puk is at the center.

Cover Image Credit: Wikicommons

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MLB 2018 Projections As Told By My Grandmother

"I'm just going based on how they're playing right now, and they ain't playing too good."

It is officially the first day of Spring, and what kind of article is best to write about on this day you may ask? A BASEBALL ARTICLE Y'ALL. You're in for a treat because this just isn't any kind of Baseball article, it's an article I asked my 88 year old, die hard MLB fan, grandmother to help me out with. Below are her predictions for the 2018 season rankings, based on the standings right now.

American League:

AL East

1. Orioles

2. Yankees

3. Rays

4. Red Socks

5. Blue Jays

AL Central

1. Indians

2. Twins

3. White Socks

4. Tigers

5. Royals

AL West

1. Astros

2. Angels

3. Athletics

4. Mariners

5. Rangers

National League

NL East

1. Nationals

2. Phillies

3. Braves

4. Mets

5. Marlins

NL Cenrtal

1. Cardinals

2. Brewers

3. Cubs

4. Pirates

5. Reds

NL West

1. Diamondbacks

2. Rockies

3. Giants

4. Padres

5. Dodgers

If you're doing any kind of bracket, bet, or fantasy league.. you're welcome.

Cover Image Credit: Arturo Pardavila III

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What Jason Vargas' Injury Means For Zack Wheeler

Injuries continue to shape the Mets.

Yesterday, the Mets announced that newcomer and rotation hopeful Jason Vargas sustained a non-displaced fracture of the hamate bone in his right hand, his non-throwing hand. Vargas suffered the injury after being struck by a line drive during a Spring Training start on Saturday, effectively sidelining the starter until June, at the earliest.

On Sunday, the club announced that Vargas will undergo surgery to repair the fracture, the recovery of which could take anywhere between three and four months. However, the loss of Vargas might be a blessing in disguise for the Mets, as the team has been trying for years to cultivate starting opportunities for a “perfect rotation” that has been in the works since as early as 2012. Now, the “five aces” of the Mets might finally have the opportunity to make 2018 a dream season.

The lethal combination of Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler has never started five consecutive games for the Mets, as it feels like each and every member of the Mets’ “dream rotation” has had their own moment in the spotlight without another pitcher to compliment them. Matt Harvey was the star of 2012 and 2013, starting an All-Star Game and nearly winning a Cy Young Award. 2014 belonged to Jacob DeGrom as he lit up the National League en route to a Rookie of the Year Award. 2015, however, was the year where both Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz made their Major League debuts, as they carried the Mets to a World Series appearance, with Harvey and DeGrom by their side.

And yet, despite 2 playoff appearances in the past 3 years, Zack Wheeler has been a missing link for the Mets throughout all of it. Although the starter showed signs of triumph during the 2014 season, constant injuries have plagued his career, allowing him to throw only 86.1 innings over the past three years. Wheeler missed all of 2015 and 2016 following Tommy John surgery, and had his 2017 season cut short after sustaining a stress reaction in his right arm.

But now, with Vargas taking a step to the side following an injury, the door has swung wide open for Wheeler, as a chance at redemption could be on the horizon. Although Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman could pose as potential threats to Wheeler’s rotation spot, the Mets organization has had faith in their 5-man “dream rotation” for years now, and with a perfect opportunity in front of them, it would only make sense for the Mets to reap the long-awaited fruits of their labor by giving the fifth and final rotation spot to Zack Wheeler.

Finally, it seems as if this long-structured plan is coming to fruition, and with Jason Vargas out of the picture for the time being, Wheeler has the ultimate chance to reclaim what was once his. For the Mets, the dream of creating a “perfect rotation” could finally come true as soon as next month, with Wheeler rounding things out, just like the organization planned over 6 years ago.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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