The Oakland Athletics have officially selected the contract of No. 2 prospect A.J. Puk from Triple-A Las Vegas. He’s expected to be in Oakland in time for Tuesday night’s series opener against the New York Yankees.
Puk — the No. 6 pick in the 2016 draft — spent the last 18 months recovering from Tommy John Surgery. In 18 appearances over three levels this season, Puk has thrown 25 1/3 innings, striking out 38 and walking 10, allowing 14 earned runs and 21 hits.
Due to innings restrictions placed on Puk after the surgery, he’ll assume a relief role with the A’s, but that won’t last beyond this season.
Though the 6-foot-7 left-hander been getting most of his outs with just a fastball-slider combo, he’s started to mix in his curve. Once he’s comfortable throwing his changeup — the discomfort from the pronation of his arm involved in throwing the pitch prompted him to temporarily scrap it early in his rehab — the plan is for him to continue on his path to being a starter with a four-pitch mix. Before he went down last spring, he had an outside shot at joining the A’s rotation midseason in 2018, and the expectation is that he’ll be in the running for a rotation spot come next February.
Given his youth, it’s not expected that Puk would be thrust into a late-inning role, especially as Lou Trivino and Blake Treinen look to be rounding into form, and Liam Hendriks has emerged as a dependable closer, with 14 saves in 18 opportunities with a 1.54 ERA.
Puk would likely be used in low-pressure middle-inning situations, and gives the A’s another left-handed option outside of Jake Diekman. His high-90s fastball and slider, though, could be enticing to use should Oakland’s back end need a rest as the A’s take aim at the second American League wild card spot, from which they are currently one game out.
In his only full season in the minors in 2017, Puk went 6-10 with a 4.03 ERA, striking out 184 in 125 innings, and walking 48 while allowing a .227 batting average against. He allowed only three home runs.