A.J. Puk no longer consensus top 100 prospect in baseball

MESA, AZ - February 27: A.J. Puk #31 of the Oakland Athletics pitches during the game against the Colorado Rookies at Hohokam Stadium on February 27, 2020 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images)
MESA, AZ - February 27: A.J. Puk #31 of the Oakland Athletics pitches during the game against the Colorado Rookies at Hohokam Stadium on February 27, 2020 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images) /
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Over the past four years, A.J. Puk has been a consensus top 100 prospect in the game. The Oakland A’s lefty has tantalized with his high octane fastball and impressive slider, leading to the hope that he can be a future ace. All of the ingredients seem to be there for that to happen.

The problem is that Puk has been able to stay on the mound. He has pitched a total of 36.2 innings since the end of the 2017 campaign, having been waylaid by Tommy John surgery and ongoing shoulder woes. At some point, projectability and potential will no longer be enough.

A.J. Puk falls out of top 100 prospects

In the end, that inability to stay on the mound has done Puk in when it comes to the top 100 lists. For the first time in his professional career, Puk will not be a consensus top 100 prospect, as he just missed the cut for Baseball America.

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The stuff is still there for Puk. He still has that upper 90s fastball and devastating slider that is a perfect strikeout pitch. Puk’s changeup flashes the potential to be just as good as his slider, and has moments where it is truly another plus offering. Even his command, which had lagged behind, showed improvement in 2019.

But those improvements and his pure stuff will only count for so much. At the end of the day, Puk has to remain on the mound in order to tap into his incredible potential. That has been the problem to this point, and may even be a factor in how he is deployed in the future. The A’s still envision him as a starter, but a move to the bullpen could occur if he continues to struggle with injury.

Being removed from Baseball America’s top prospect list does not necessarily mean anything. Puk can still reach his potential as a former top prospect and sixth overall draft pick, developing into the staff ace that the A’s had envisioned. But it comes back to staying on the mound.

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After four consecutive years, A.J. Puk will no longer be a consensus top 100 prospect. His 2021 season could be a make or break year in more ways than one.