Oakland Athletics prospect A.J. Puk took longer than expected to pick up his first professional win. On Saturday, the sixth overall pick from last year’s draft finally snapped the winless streak with a victory for the Single-A Stockton Ports.
The Oakland Athletics organization has been very careful with Puk by limiting his innings. The lack of a victory up to this point was in large part due to this. Puk has not gone more than four innings in any of his starts this season.
Control was a major part of this outing as he threw 49 of his 67 pitches for strikes. The San Jose Giants picked up only one hit against the big lefty prospect after Puk retired the first ten batters he faced.
Puk made ten starts in Low-A Ball last season yet failed to win any. His 0-4 record hardly showed his talent as he still came away with a very favorable 3.03 ERA and a rate of 11 strikeouts per nine.
This year has been quite different. Including his start on Saturday, Puk owns a 1-3 record and a 4.26 ERA. He is still striking batters out at an amazing rate, but not preventing runs from scoring in the hitter friendly California League. The Ports have already experimented with him in the bullpen with three of his seven appearances coming as a relief pitcher. This latest start should keep him in the rotation, and the Athletics appear ready to let him loose and throw more pitches.
Puk is currently ranked as the number 62 prospect by MLB.com. In the Athletics’ organization, he’s their number two guy. His big league projection is very optimistic with MLB.com estimating 2018 as the year the Athletics bring him up to the show.
As big as this first win is, victories on a stat sheet hardly mean a thing in the minor leagues for a starting pitcher. The goal with Puk is to help him develop into a dominant starter without getting hurt along the way. The 6’7 lefty has the makings of becoming the next Randy Johnson or Chris Sale. These expectations are certainly lofty, but not impossible for someone with as much talent as Puk possesses.
A big positive for Puk is that he seems to have a good grasp on his control. Puk is only walking 3.1 per nine during his professional career. This is a number that could certainly improve over time. Thus far, it has been acceptable with how many batters he strikes out along the way.