As Opening Day for minor league baseball draws near, organizations around baseball start making difficult decisions with their rosters for the upcoming season. The Oakland A’s made several of those decisions this week, releasing seven veteran pitchers from their minor league camp.
The pitchers released were left-handers Chris Kohler, Evan Manarino and Kyle Crockett, and right-handers Sam Bragg, Corey Walter, Heath Bowers and Brendan Butler.
Kohler was a third-round pick of the A’s out of Los Osos HS in 2013. A talented two-way player in high school, Kohler was developed as a pitcher but he lost the entire 2014 and 2016 seasons to injury. The 23-year-old was given the option to stay on a position player but elected to go in a different direction. Kohler had a 4.04 ERA in 140.1 innings, all at the Rookie and short-season levels.
Manarino was a 25th-round pick of the A’s out of UC-Irvine in 2015. He had a standout 2016 season, when he posted a 1.98 ERA and a 121:28 K:BB in 150 innings for Low-A Beloit and High-A Stockton. In 2017, Manarino got off to a solid start, but he struggled after a promotion to Double-A Midland and never quite recaptured his 2016 form. In 2018, he was limited to 85 innings, all for Stockton. He had a 4.20 ERA in 403.1 innings.
Crockett was a minor league free agent signing this offseason and a non-roster invitee to spring training. He was a fourth-round pick of the Cleveland Indians in 2013 and he has a 3.05 ERA in 194.2 minor league innings and a 3.74 ERA in 74.2 career big league innings.
Bragg was a key member of the 2016 and 2017 Texas League champion Midland RockHounds’ squads. An 18th-round pick in 2013 out of Georgia Perimeter, Bragg was a consistent workhorse throughout his time in the A’s system. He had a 3.43 ERA in 369 career innings and he allowed just 32 home runs.
Walter was also a key member of those 2016 and 2017 Midland title teams. The 28th-round pick in 2014 out of West Virginia began his career in the A’s organization as a reliever but used his power sinker effectively as a starter in 2017. He struggled with injuries last season and had a 6.13 ERA in 79.1 innings.
Bowers was a 24th-round pick in 2015 out of Campbell. He spent the majority of the 2017 and 2018 seasons in the Beloit bullpen and was a midseason All-Star in the Midwest League in 2017.
Butler, a hard-throwing right-hander out of Dowling College, split the 2017 season between Beloit and Stockton before spending all of 2018 in the Stockton bullpen. He has 268 strike-outs in 292.1 career innings.
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