It is the hope of newly acquired A’s prospects Jacob Nottingham, Casey Meisner and Daniel Mengden to someday play in O.co Coliseum. But it should be the expectation of A’s fans that once the kids grow and flourish that they’ll be traded, like all those who went before them.
So goes the circle of life with the cash-conscious A’s. As for Nottingham, Meisner and Mengden, they’re happy they figured into major deals for major talent. Now, they’ll work to improve until their day comes to be traded.
“I don’t know too much about it,” Nottingham said. “I just saw the movie ‘Moneyball,’ but if I can get up there and be the best player I can and help the team win, it doesn’t matter, whatever happens. It’s a business.”
The A’s obtained Nottingham, a catcher, and Mengden, a right-hander, from the Houston Astros for Scott Kazmir, Oakland’s second-best starting pitcher. They got Meisner, another right-hander, from the New York Mets for their closer, Tyler Clippard.
Nottingham, 20, was interviewed before Thursday night’s game with his new minor-league club, the Stockton Ports. Then he got a couple of hits in a 10-9 win over Rancho Cucamonga.
One was a liner he zipped to the wall in right for a double. He flashed some speed rounding first and, at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, showed why Arizona recruited him out of Redlands High School to play linebacker.
Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez pressed the case with a couple of phone calls. Nottingham said no thanks, preferring to hit baseballs instead of running backs.
Of the three acquisitions, Nottingham is expected to reach Oakland soonest. Experts like his size and what he does with it. He’s hitting .315 with 15 home runs this season and made the Midwest League All-Star Game with the Quad Cities River Bandits, Houston’s Class-A affiliate.
“This is what a catcher is supposed to look like,” Stockton manager Rick Magnante said. “He’s (Mike) Piazza-esque for me, because Piazza came up and everybody said he can hit, he’s got power, but he can’t catch. The truth of the matter is, he did catch, and he caught for a long time in the big leagues.”
Nottingham looked like a brick wall back there against Rancho Cucamonga. He dropped down on everything and showed soft hands. Magnante, a longtime scout until he moved to the dugout nine years ago, said Nottingham has a good arm but needs to keep working on his overall defense.
“If he can figure that out, you’ve got a pretty nice package with him,” Magnante said.
Meisner, 20, is 6-7 but weighs only 190. Like Nottingham, he was drafted out of high school. He called it an honor to be traded for a two-time All-Star. Now he wants to stay focused, add some bulk and see how he progresses in the game he loves.
“I’ve just got to finish strong and stay healthy, and hopefully it will push me to where I should be,” Meisner said. “They say I need to try and gain weight. This is my first long season, and I’m really feeling how it is. Next year, I can prepare myself better and get stronger and be able to maintain myself the whole way.”
Earlier this year, Meisner took a perfect game into the seventh inning for the Savannah (Ga.) Sand Gnats. Against Rancho Cucamonga, he had the Quakes off balance all night, but they still made contact, and too many of their dinks fell in. Meisner left in the fifth inning.
“I liken him to a big Opie – I think he’s from Andy of Mayberry,” Magnante said of the red-headed Meisner from Cypress Woods, Texas, as opposed to the Ron Howard character from the mythical TV town in North Carolina. “He’s a big, long-limbed kid with leverage, a downhill plane to his fastball, a feel for the change and a breaking ball that’s a work in progress.”
Rather than his size, it’s the handlebar mustache that sticks out on Mengden, 22, although he’s no shrimp at 6-2 and 190 pounds. He’s from Houston and looked forward to pitching in his hometown until he was traded.
Mengden earned a reputation for toughness at Texas A&M when he pitched half a season with a stress fracture in his back.
“I hate being off the field,” Mengden said. “I’m a fighter. I want to play the game. I love it.”
He’s also known for staying in the strike zone. He has walked only one batter in 152/3 innings with the Ports and struck out 19. Walking batters, he said, is unacceptable. He has walked only 28 batters in 115 innings in the minor leagues.
Magnante describes Mengden as a “throwback” with a classic windup, “the little hip turn to show you the back pocket, a mix of four pitches. He’s pounded the strike zone and done a great job. He’s very aggressive and confident out there.”
“So I’m pleased with all of them,” Magnante said. “They’ve mixed in well with the ballclub and become good teammates.”
Once they reach Oakland, Nottingham, Meisner and Mengden will be embraced by some of the best fans in baseball, as were Miguel Tejada, Jason Giambi, Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Donaldson and all the rest.
It will be sad when they have to go, too.