It may not yet be official, but the Oakland A’s appear set to begin the 2020 campaign with A.J. Puk as a part of their rotation.
During the first incarnation of spring training, the Oakland A’s had hoped that A.J. Puk would be a part of their rotation. However, the oft-injured prospect once again had injury woes during the spring, slowed by shoulder issues which made his availability for the scheduled Opening Day virtually impossible.
Due to the extended layoff, those issues are no longer a concern. Puk is expected to be available for the start of the season and will assume his place in the rotation. Likewise, any innings limits that would have been in place are completely removed, as Puk, along with Jesus Luzardo, will be unleashed upon the Western Division.
It is easy to dream as to what Puk can do as a starter. Armed with a fastball that sits in the upper 90s, a devastating slider, and a solid change, Puk has the type of arsenal that could make him a top of the rotation arm.
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There are concerns. His command can be erratic, although it had improved before his having undergone Tommy John surgery in 2018. There are also the ever-present injury questions, with some wondering if Puk will be able to hold up as a starter. A transition to the bullpen would allow his fastball/slider combo to be even more dangerous.
Based on his performance last season, one can understand why a move to the bullpen could be considered. He allowed just four runs on ten hits and five walks over his 11.1 innings as a reliever, striking out 13 batters in his major league debut. This came on the heels of his 38 strikeouts and ten walks in 25.2 innings during his time in the minors last year.
Yet, Puk was drafted to be the next ace of the A’s rotation. Finally healthy once again, he deserves the chance to ascend to his expected place, to prove that he can be the starter that the A’s envisioned. The shortened season is the perfect chance for Puk to do exactly that.
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The Oakland A’s are putting A.J. Puk in their starting rotation to begin the year. The training wheels are off – it is time to see what he can do as a starter.