The Oakland A’s are rebuilding their bullpen from scratch in 2022, with only one healthy arm returning from last summer, and now a few of the new names have been decided.
Right-handers Zach Jackson, Dany Jimenez, and Jacob Lemoine were informed Sunday that they’ve made the team and will be on the Opening Day roster, report Matt Kawahara and Scott Ostler of the S.F. Chronicle. All of them will also need to be added to the 40-man roster before then.
None of the three has ever pitched for Oakland before, though Jackson spent last year in their minor league system, and Jimenez auditioned for the club last spring. Only Jimenez has ever pitched in the majors, making two appearances for the Giants in 2020. Here’s a closer look at each of them.
Jackson arrived last offseason in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft, and immediately made his presence known on the A’s farm. He dominated Double-A, striking out over half the batters he faced, and then kept piling up Ks in Triple-A, and he might have been called up to MLB if not for a late hip injury. Now the 27-year-old will finally get his chance, bringing a fastball that can get up to 97 mph and a hammer curveball; click here for a full scouting report from Kawahara.
Jackson, 2021 AA: 0.55 ERA, 16⅓ ip, 34 Ks, 7 BB, 0 HR, 0.79 FIP
Jackson, 2021 AAA: 5.40 ERA, 11⅔ ip, 13 Ks, 6 BB, 1 HR, 4.36 FIP
Jimenez also came over last winter in the Rule 5 draft, in the MLB portion, but he was returned to his original club before spring training ended. Back in Toronto’s system for 2021, he wiped out the opposition in Triple-A, leading all AAA-East pitchers (min. 40 innings) with a 39% strikeout rate and 14.7 K/9 rate. Oakland snagged him again this winter on a minor league contract, and this time he made the team, with an arsenal that includes a fastball up to 98 mph and a highly regarded slider.
Jimenez, 2021 AAA: 2.22 ERA, 44⅔ ip, 73 Ks, 25 BB, 5 HR, 29 hits, 3.23 FIP
Lemoine is the newest name for A’s fans, having spent his whole career so far in the Rangers system as a former 4th-round draft pick. Last summer he got impressive results in Triple-A, avoiding loud contact to make up for a low strikeout rate and high walk rate. Oakland signed him to a minor league deal in January, and this spring the 28-year-old showed a fastball with some zip while missing bats with his breaking ball.
Lemoine, 2021 AAA: 2.86 ERA, 56⅔ ip, 43 Ks, 29 BB, 5 HR, 5.20 FIP
With that trio on board, the A’s bullpen now has four members settled, and maybe five. The one returner is Lou Trivino, the presumptive closer, as fellow incumbent Deolis Guerra will begin the season on the injured list. New prospect acquisition Adam Oller will make the team and was going to be in the bullpen, but now a rotation spot suddenly opened up and he could be a candidate to fill it.
Add it up, and here’s the pen so far:
Oller? (unless he’s starting)
Opening Day prediction
But wait! We might be able to figure out the rest just based on who’s left in camp.
With rosters expanded to 28 players for April, there could be a ninth spot in the bullpen, and there are exactly 14 healthy pitchers remaining — five for the rotation, and nine for the bullpen. If we assume the fifth starter spot will go to either Oller or A.J. Puk, and that the other one becomes a reliever, then the Opening Day pen would look like this barring any further signings or unexpected in-house transactions:
RHP Lou Trivino (closer)
RHP Domingo Acevedo
RHP Justin Grimm
RHP Zach Jackson
RHP Dany Jimenez
RHP Jacob Lemoine
LHP Sam Moll
LHP Kirby Snead
RHP Adam Oller or LHP A.J. Puk
We’ll get to those other four names when they become official, but for now: Acevedo and Moll both briefly appeared for Oakland last season, Grimm has substantial MLB experience, and Snead was acquired in the Chapman trade.
Of all the parts of a rebuilding season, this is the one I mind the least. I prefer building cheap bullpens anyway, because reliever success is such a random phenomenon that spending money might not get you better results, and also because the A’s have incredible success at finding relief gems off the scrap heap. Even if this is an especially random and inexperienced list.
Whether any of this group of castoffs pans out remains to be seen, but there are lotto tickets to appreciate. Jackson and Jimenez are coming off daunting performances in the minors, and if Jimenez is joined by Acevedo and Grimm then they’ll have three of the top strikeout artists from Triple-A last year, before considering the thought of Puk finding a groove as a multi-inning fireballer.
Stay tuned to find out who else makes it, and whether anybody steps up as a keeper, and what other arms will get a try as the season wears on. But for now, congrats to Jackson, Jimenez, and Lemoine!