A's prospects show off wares in front of Kotsay, Forst

October 24th, 2023

MESA, Ariz. -- A pair of new faces were on hand during Mesa Solar Sox batting practice Monday afternoon, greeting members of the A’s Fall League roster: manager Mark Kotsay and general manager David Forst.

Brett Harris (Oakland's No. 10 prospect) and Lazaro Armenteros jumped at the opportunity to show out in front of the A’s brass, combining for five hits, three RBIs and three runs scored during Mesa’s 10-8 comeback victory over Salt River at Sloan Park.

“Games prior, I was a little shaky,” Armenteros said via interpreter Annalee Ramirez, the Fall League’s media communications coordinator. “But today, I was able to make adjustments and [make good] contact.”

Harris, a 2022 MiLB Organization All-Star, has long drawn notice within the system as being a top-tier defender, particularly at the hot corner. He put that acumen on display in the fifth inning, climbing the ladder to steal extra bases from Ivan Melendez (AZ No. 8) and potentially keep a run off the board.

The Fall League boasts a reputation as baseball’s finishing school, but it also offers prospects on the precipice of beginning their big league journey a chance to further tinker with their game. In Harris’ case, he has snagged a mitt from Solar Sox teammate Billy Cook (BAL No. 27) and made three starts at first base, a position he hadn’t appeared at since 2019, his freshman season at Gonzaga.

“It's like riding a bike, man,” Harris said. “It's somewhere in the infield -- it's the same thing, just a different glove. A mega-mitt, I call it.”

Both Harris and Armenteros had gotten off to trying starts offensively in the Fall League. Players aren’t often afforded everyday at-bats like they are in-season and the variety of hurlers consistently pumping velocity can make it difficult to establish a rhythm. Armenteros conceded that the pitchers in the desert “are really good.”

A’s fans in search of a direct correlation between AFL participants impacting the big league club in short order need look no further than the 2022 Solar Sox, which featured right-handed flamethrower Mason Miller, second baseman Zack Gelof and outfielder Lawrence Butler, all three of whom debuted in the Majors this season and hit the ground running.

The 2023 regular season was a trying one for the A’s. But it also served as the impetus for ushering in the “New Oakland” wave that has begun to bear its fruits. Harris -- who posted a .383 OBP and finished the year with Triple-A Las Vegas -- and Armenteros -- who posted an .844 OPS at Double-A and combined for 20 homers this year -- are looking to make an impression heading into the spring, where Kotsay and Forst will again be in attendance, albeit with an elevated level of rapt attention.

“It's really cool for them to come out here and show support for us,” Harris said. “We obviously don't get to play in front of them very often."

“And the pitchers, I mean, all of these guys had a pretty good day, so that makes it a little bit better too.”

The 2021 seventh-round pick was speaking of Mesa's distinctly green and gold flavor on Monday, with right-hander Royber Salinas (OAK No. 24) drawing the start on the mound with Yunior Tur, Stevie Emanuels and Jack Perkins (OAK No. 19) following in relief.

While the first three balls (homer, flyout, double) in play against Salinas were hard hit, he settled in and utilized his four-pitch mix to rack up six strikeouts over 3 1/3 innings. His fastball touched 97 mph and he often sprinkled in both breaking ball offerings. His final line -- six hits, five runs -- was largely a byproduct of five Salt River stolen bases in the fourth.

"Salinas reminds me of Wily Peralta visually and with his stuff,” A’s assistant GM and director of player personnel Billy Owens told MLB.com last week. “Crisp hook and swing-and-miss slider. High energy and aggressive on the hill.”

Tur and Emanuels -- both equipped with mid-90s heaters -- combined for eight outs of scoreless relief, before Perkins came on to shut the door by striking out the side in the ninth (the first two on curveballs and the last K on a cutter).