On Friday, the Oakland A’s promoted Jaycob Brugman from Triple-A and optioned Mark Canha to Nashville.
A 17th-round draft choice out of BYU in 2013, Jaycob Brugman didn’t arrive in professional baseball with a high profile, but it didn’t take him long to grab the attention of the Oakland A’s player development staff.
Brugman, a Phoenix, AZ native, played three seasons at BYU. He was a star as a freshman, posting a 962 OPS, but he dropped on the draft radar after a disappointing sophomore season that saw him post a 745 OPS. Although he hit .317/.412/.609 as a junior for the Cougars, Brugman still remained a Day Three selection and he went to the A’s as the 521st overall pick.
Brugman spent his entire professional debut season with short-season Vermont. Although he didn’t show the same level of plate discipline that he did in college (seven walks in 49 games), Brugman was one of the Lake Monsters’ top hitters that season, batting .261. That fall, he participated in the A’s fall Instructional League and he opened eyes during that camp, impressing then A’s minor league hitting coordinator Todd Steverson. During that camp, Brugman made some adjustments to his hitting mechanics and focused on being more disciplined at the plate and the resulted paid off during his first full professional season.
In 2014, Brugman broke camp with the Low-A Beloit Snappers and he hit .278/.371/.484 with eight homers in 70 games in the Midwest League before being promoted to High-A Stockton for the final six weeks of the season. With Stockton, Brugman put together an impressive power streak. He hit 13 homers in just 50 games with the Ports and nine of those homeruns came over a 10-game stretch. Brugman finished the 2014 season with 21 homeruns and an 860 OPS between the two A’s full-season A-ball squads. He was one of three A’s minor leaguers to cross the 20-homer plateau in 2014.
The following spring, Brugman told me that despite the power jump with Stockton, he still had a strong sense of who he was as a hitter: “I’m a big doubles guy and I’d really like to see myself get more doubles this season. I think that is just where I can help my team the most. I am just trying to keep a level swing this spring and not trying to do too much.”
Brugman missed half of spring training in 2015 with a hamstring strain, but he was healthy enough to break camp with the Double-A Midland RockHounds. He spent the entire season with the RockHounds, helping them earn a Texas League title. Brugman made good on his goal of increasing his doubles totals, collecting 27 doubles – two more than in 2014. He also upped his triples total from six to eight, but his homers fell from 21 to six. He continued to do a good job getting on-base and finished the season with a .260/343/.382 line during the regular season. That post-season, he carried the RockHounds’ offense, hitting .429/.520/1.143 with four homers in six games. He then participated in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .266 with a .329 OBP in 17 games.
A’s Assistant General Manager Billy Owens was impressed with Brugman’s first tour through Double-A despite the drop in numbers.
“I think Jaycob had a really good year,” Owens told me during the 2015 off-season. “The Texas League is tough on left-handed hitters, especially Midland. For him to a .260 and get on-base at a .343 clip and control the ‘zone and play all three outfield positions was impressive.
“Jaycob has a similar skillset to [former Orioles outfielder] Joe Orsulak. He can play all three outfield positions. He can move the ball around at the plate. He has the occasional steam where he can hurt you with an extra-base hit or a homer. [Jaycob has] just a really infectious, positive attitude. He runs the bases well. Not necessarily very fast, but a good base-runner. He has good all-around ability and he has a chance to keep working hard and hopefully ascend to the big leagues.”
Brugman’s steady rise towards the big leagues took a bit of a detour at the start of the 2016 season. Along with Ryon Healy, Brugman was a surprise inclusion on the Midland Opening Day roster in 2016. Also like Healy, Brugman quickly proved he was ready for the challenge of Triple-A. In 38 games, Brugman hit .261/.337/.439 with Midland and he had one of the top hard-hit rates on the team. Brugman earned a promotion to Triple-A Nashville on May 21, 2016 and his impact on the Sounds’ line-up was immediately significant.
“He does a lot for the team,” A’s Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman told me a month after Brugman’s arrival in Nashville. “He’s been a spark. Once he got there, he was the kind of guy that they were looking for to get them going. He’s been a part of that unit that is starting to win some games there.
“He’s a little like our bench coach in the big leagues. He’s Mark Kotsay-like. You’re seeing those kind of abilities with this kid. I think we all feel very strongly about him.”
Brugman would continue to be a spark for Nashville all season and he finished the year with a .295/.357/.438 line in 94 games with the Sounds. He won the Sounds’ team MVP award for his play both at the plate and in centerfield. Although he wasn’t a September call-up, Brugman was rewarded for his 2016 season when he was added to the A’s 40-man roster in November.
Coming into this season, we ranked Brugman as the A’s 18th-best prospect. In his first major league spring training camp, Brugman played well in limited opportunities. He received 16 at-bats in 10 games played and posted a .313/.421/.438 line. Not long after he was sent back to minor league camp, however, Brugman suffered a leg injury that kept him back at Extended Spring Training at the start of the regular season. He joined the Sounds on May 2nd and he collected five hits over his first eight at-bats. Brugman hit .307 in May, but a recent June slump had dropped his overall slashline to .288/.373/.364.
Even when he is struggling, Brugman brings a lot to each at-bat, according to Sounds’ hitting coach Eric Martins.
“He’s a quality at-bat every single time he is up there. He studies, he works on his craft, he’s solid in his approach. He doesn’t stray away from it,” Martins told me last month. “That’s what he does. He gives you a good at-bat every night and he is one of the guys that you want up in a situation you have a chance to tie or win the game because he really relishes those situations.”
When Brugman makes his major-league debut, he will be the sixth member of the A’s 2013 draft class to reach the big leagues. All six made their debuts with the A’s and three others (Ryon Healy, Chad Pinder and Bobby Wahl) are currently on the A’s roster.
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