Oakland A's Mid-Season Q&A: Scott Emerson, P2

Is Michael Ynoa beginning to tire?

In part two of our three-part interview with Oakland A's minor league pitching coordinator Scott Emerson, we focus on the pitching staffs of the A's two A-ball clubs. Learn more about the progress of Austin House, Seth Streich, Michael Ynoa, Raul Alcantara, Dakota Bacus, Seth Frankoff, Ryan Dull, Tucker Healy, Tanner Peters and more...

Click here to read part one of this interview.


OaklandClubhouse: Austin House was moved from the Beloit Snappers' rotation to the back-end of their bullpen a few weeks ago. We spoke earlier in the year about his plus change-up. What kind of reliever do you think he can be?

Scott Emerson: You'd like to think the Ryan Cook-type role. Come in in the seventh or eighth with the lead and get some guys out. The plan with House early was to develop a breaking ball because he didn't have much of one. When you are going one or two innings in an outing, there might be times when you might not even throw one or you'll throw one or two. Early in the year, we had him in the piggy-back [starter] situation, forced him to throw eight, 10, 12 breaking balls a night and now he trusts his breaking ball. He's got something to wipe out a right-handed hitter that's breaking.

You put him back in the bullpen and he's got a good change-up and now he's got a much better breaking ball to get right-handers out. That was our thought process in starting him and he's done a great job all season.

OC: Seth Streich has been pitching well for the past two months after struggling the first few weeks of the season. What was the key for him to get turned around?

SE: He's getting over his front side better. [Beloit pitching coach] John Wasdin has done a great job with Seth's breaking ball. He didn't really have much of a breaking ball coming in. He had a good fastball-change-up mix coming in. He has a good sinking fastball, but like we said with House, you have to develop a good breaking ball too. You just can't go to the big leagues as a starter, more than likely, with just the two pitches.

The breaking ball is coming and it's constantly getting better and better. That's upped his game. In every outing, he seems to be getting more confidence with that curveball and he's able to repeat it well. It just adds an extra dimension to his game and has made him a lot better.

OC: Since the piggy-back starter situation has ended, it seems like Dakota Bacus has been able to get deeper into games. Do you feel like he has been able to get hitters to swing early in counts to get outs?

SE: He was one of those guys that we've had to get to throw more fastballs. In the Rookie League last year in Arizona, he was used more as a closer because of his innings and monitoring his innings. He threw a ton of breaking balls and got a lot of strike-outs. Now we need him to understand the importance of commanding his fastball. Now he's gone out there and has given us 63-64% usage with his fastball. Anytime you can command your fastball, you are going to go deeper into games. He's done an excellent job of buying into the fact that he needs to use his fastball and his change-up so that he can flip line-ups and get deeper into ballgames. He's done a great job.

OC: Last time we spoke, we talked about how you were working with Raul Alcantara on working for more strike-outs. It seems like over the past few months, his strike-out-to-innings pitched ratio has improved a lot and he has a decent ratio since moving to the Cal League. What change has he made to get more swings-and-misses?

SE: Raul, I can't say enough about him. He's done a great job all season. Both Wasdin and [Stockton pitching coach] Jimmy Escalante have cleaned up his line to the plate. Earlier in the year, he was a little bit across his body and even some last season where he couldn't get that ball to the glove side.

Now he's getting that ball to the glove side better and now that he can get the ball to the glove side better, the breaking ball is a lot better. He's got a good pitch mix and he knows what he is doing out there. He uses his fastball to both sides of the plate. It's just made him a lot better to have cleaned up his line. He has the ability to throw to his glove side.

OC: Michael Ynoa has had a rough couple of weeks after pitching well pretty much all season. Do you think it is a matter of a mechanical change for him or do you think he is starting to tire after reaching an innings total he has never really reached before?

SE: We all know this is the most innings that he has thrown in his professional career. There is some monitoring going on right now about whether we believe he is getting tired or not. The velocity is still there. Generally you start to find out guys are tired when their command suffers. His command is starting to suffer a little bit, but to Michael's credit, he hasn't pitched this much in his career.

I'm sure when August rolls around, we will re-evaluate a little bit and see if we really need to start monitoring his innings and cut that back a little bit.

OC: Tanner Peters is leading the Stockton staff in innings pitched. He's generally pitched well with outstanding command, but he seems to get bit by that big inning and he has given up a lot of homeruns. What is he working on this season? What have you thought of his season thus far?

SE: I think he has progressed really well. We just added a slider about three weeks ago and that gave him a short, quick breaking ball. It's always tough. In my opinion, the Cal League and the Texas League are the two toughest leagues to pitch in because you are constantly facing the same teams over and over again. You can't disguise your pitches. The hitters know what you have. You know what the hitters can do. Now it is just a matter of executing those pitches. By him adding the slider, I think that will help him out in the long run so that he can have a slow breaking ball and something that's quick.

Overall, he's done a great job. He goes out there and competes. [Tuesday] night's game report was that he pitched much better than his line-score. Every night he is going out there and competing for us. That's all we can ask from him.

OC: The Ports' bullpen has been really outstanding all year. Recently, Seth Frankoff, Tucker Healy and Ryan Dull have led the charge in throwing up good outings night-after-night. What kind of comps would you give them?

SE: All three of those guys have the ability to throw soft behind in the count. They can pitch backwards. They've got movement on their fastballs. The comparison for those guys would be the guys who pitch the seventh-eighth-ninth in the big leagues. They don't possess the wipe-out velocity. You don't see 95 from any of them. Healy may touch 95 on occasion.

But what you do see is a lot of strikes and you see the ability to go soft behind in the count. I really think that is important for a pitcher to be able to throw something other than a fastball in a fastball count. When those guys do that, they keep the hitters honest. They have all done a great job of keeping the hitters off-balance and not knowing what is coming.

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