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.