OAKLAND -- Lefty A.J. Puk didn't disappoint in his first full professional season, and the pitcher's development on and off the mound continued into the offseason, as he represented Oakland at Major League Baseball's Rookie Career Development Program this month.
Puk was one of 20 prospects from MLB Pipeline's Top 100 list to participate in the annual event, which includes seminars designed to help future big league players with off-field issues such as media training and finances. Three other A's prospects were also in attendance: Jorge Mateo, Lou Trivino and Kyle Finnegan.
Puk, the A's first-round pick in the 2016 Draft, split his time between Class A Advanced Stockton and Double-A Midland in 2017, going 6-10 with a 4.03 ERA en route to being named A's pitching prospect of the year by MLB Pipeline. He posted a 3.69 ERA in 14 games (11 starts) for Stockton before earning a midseason promotion and recording a 4.36 ERA with Midland.
The left-hander averaged more than 13 strikeouts per nine innings and yielded just three home runs in 125 innings of work.
"It was a good year, just learning my routine and what works for me, and working on developing all my pitches," Puk said. "I started throwing a curveball again, and toward the end of the year, everything started to come together again mechanically. I felt good. Overall, just working on being consistent every start."
The 6-foot-7 Puk began relearning the curveball early last year, expanding a repertoire that also includes a fireball fastball, slider, cutter and changeup.
"My changeup, I'd say, last year was probably my second pitch," Puk said. "I enjoyed throwing that more than my slider. I could throw it in any count I wanted and have control of it. The curveball is coming along. Beginning of the year, it was a little inconsistent, then toward the end, it was getting there. I was able to throw it for strikes when I needed, change speeds."
Puk, who will be back in big league camp for a second consecutive year, will continue work to sharpen his command and secondary offerings. There's no questioning his top-of-the-rotation ceiling, and Puk projects to be big league-ready by 2019.