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Rookies Jharel Cotton, Frankie Montas, and Raul Alcantara earn roles in Oakland

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Athletics will rely heavily on young pitching

MLB: Spring Training-Cleveland Indians at Oakland Athletics
Jharel Cotton
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rockies aren’t the only team putting a heavy burden on young pitchers as the 2017 MLB season begins. The Oakland Athletics also look to fresh faces on the mound, bringing a trio of right-handers to the park in April: Jharel Cotton, Frankie Montas, and Raul Alcantara. Let’s take a look.

Before spring training, Cotton ranked third on the Oakland Top 20 prospects list, Montas ranked fifth, and Alcantara 14th.

3) Jharel Cotton, RHP, Grade B/B+: Age 24, 20th round pick by the Dodgers in 2012 from East Carolina University, traded to Athletics in Josh Reddick/Rich Hill deal; posted 4.31 ERA in 136 innings in Pacific Coast League with 155/39 K/BB, just 108 hits; outstanding in the majors with 2.15 ERA in 29 innings, 23/4 K/BB; excellent change-up, can mix in decent cutter and curve; leap forward came when velocity picked up from 89-92 in college to 92-95 over the last year; control was excellent in the majors, too; ready for a full trial; was viewed mainly as a reliever in past seasons but did so well as a starter in ’16 that it looks like he can remain in that role, at least as a number three/four type. ETA 2017.

SPRING RESULTS: Cotton pitched reasonably well this spring, posting a 4.35 ERA in 20.2 innings with a 21/11 K/BB and just 16 hits allowed. The scouting report hasn’t changed: he’s maintained his gains and continues to demonstrate the superb change-up. He will make his first start of the season tomorrow and I view him as a potential Rookie of the Year candidate.

5) Frankie Montas, RHP, Grade B: Age 23, acquired from Dodgers in the Reddick/Hill deal; limited to just 16 innings by rib injury but was excellent in those innings, posting 2.25 ERA with 22/3 K/BB between Double-A and Triple-A; fastball 95-100 MPH with peaks at 101-102; average to plus slider; threw strikes with the hard stuff in ’16 but change-up remains erratic; most observers view him as a reliever at this point, albeit a really good one. ETA 2017.

SPRING RESULTS: Montas was excellent this spring, posting an 0.77 ERA in 11.2 innings with a 13/2 K/BB. There appear to be no lingering effects from last year’s injury problems and he’s throwing strikes with overpowering stuff. Relief will be his role going forward and he could be a dominant closer down the line.

14) Raul Alcantara, RHP, Grade C+: Age 24, posted 3.58 ERA in 136 innings between Double-A and Triple-A with 105/30 K/BB; hit hard in majors with 7.25 ERA in 22 innings due to 31 hits allowed but with good 14/4 K/BB; fastball 90-95, mixes in changeup and slider; both secondaries flash above-average but are erratic; he usually throws strikes however which gives him a chance to surprise; lots of arms coming up behind him so he needs to establish himself now. ETA 2017.

SPRING RESULTS: Alcantara posted a 4.76 ERA in 22.2 innings in spring camp with an 11/8 K/BB and 22 hits allowed. Although the numbers weren’t terrific (the strikeout rate is concerningly low), he impressed the Oakland brass enough to earn the fifth starter’s job. Development of his secondary pitches will be the key to sustained success, or failure. My sense is that Alcantara isn’t quite as ready for the majors as Cotton and Montas, though his long-term upside is promising.