Name: Matt Buschmann
Drafted: 15th round, 2006 (San Diego)
H/W: 6'3'', 195
Matt Buschmann has eight seasons of professional baseball under his belt, but if he makes the major league roster with the Oakland A's this season, it will be his first trip to the ‘Show'.
Buschmann began his pro career in 2006 with the San Diego Padres after a four-year career pitching for Vanderbilt. He was selected by the Padres when current A's Special Assistant to the General Manager Grady Fuson was the Padres' VP of Scouting and Player Development.
The Padres were aggressive with Buschmann early in his pro career. The right-hander came to professional baseball with a polished repertoire and a history of pitching in big games during SEC play. Buschmann made his pro debut in the short-season Northwest League, but after 15 appearances for Eugene, he made the jump to High-A Lake Elsinore of the California League. Buschmann made two starts for the Storm in 2006 and finished his pro debut with a 3.19 ERA and a 68:15 K:BB in 73.1 innings between the two leagues.
Buschmann really opened eyes in 2007. Pitching the entire year for the Storm, Buschmann dominated the hitter-friendly California League. In 149.1 innings, he posted a 2.89 ERA and a 115:26 K:BB. Buschmann allowed just nine homeruns and he posted a 1.48 GO/AO. He continued to make waves in the Padres' system in 2008, when he posted a 2.98 ERA in 148 innings for Double-A San Antonio. The only blemish in an otherwise excellent season for Buschmann was the rise in his walk rate, which went from 1.6 per nine innings in 2007 to 3.5 in 2008.
At the start of the 2009 season, Buschmann appeared on the verge of the big leagues. He began the year with Triple-A Portland and was one of the Padres' top upper-level starting pitching prospects. Things didn't go according to script for Buschmann at the Triple-A level, however. He struggled with his change-up and Buschmann was exposed by Pacific Coast League hitters. He posted a 6.18 ERA and a 53:33 K:BB in 99 innings with Triple-A Portland before he was sent back to Double-A San Antonio.
Once back in Double-A, Buschmann moved into a relief role, making 13 relief appearances and only three starts. He pitched better, although his 4.39 ERA still wasn't up to the standards he set during his previous seasons. Buschmann ditched his change-up while with San Antonio, working instead on developing a split-finger pitch to serve as his off-speed offering.
In 2010, Buschmann returned to San Antonio and to the bullpen role. With the Missions for most of the season, Buschmann pitched well, posting a 3.46 ERA in 67.2 innings. He struck-out 74 and walked 23. He appeared in eight games at the Triple-A level and found similar struggles, however, posting a 9.38 ERA in 24 innings with Portland. He struck-out 20 and walked 20.
The 2011 season looked fairly similar for Buschmann, although he spent more time in the rotation than he did in 2010. With San Antonio, Buschmann had a 3.94 ERA and a 32:19 K:BB in 45.2 innings (seven starts, five relief appearances). At the Triple-A level, Buschmann had a 7.31 ERA and a 60:33 K:BB in 88.2 innings (15 starts, five relief appearances).
That winter, Buschmann received a new opportunity. He was selected in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft by the Washington Nationals. He began the year in extended spring training, but Buschmann's fortunes turned around when he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays. In 2012 and 2013, Buschmann split his time in the Rays' organization between Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham. His 2012 season was spent mostly at Double-A, but the Rays liked what they saw with Buschmann. A minor league free agent, Buschmann re-signed with the Rays and was given an invite to major league spring training.
In 2013, Buschmann put together his best season since 2008. In 11 starts with Montgomery, Buschmann had a 2.69 ERA and a 63:23 K:BB. He then made the jump to Triple-A and found success at that level for the first time in his career. In 97 innings for the Durham Bulls, Buschmann posted a 2.97 ERA and a 104:44 K:BB. All told, his ERA for the 2013 season was 2.86 and he had a 167:67 K:BB in 160.2 innings.
Buschmann was granted minor league free agency at the end of the season and signed with the A's over the winter. He is a non-roster invitee to major league camp.
Coming into pro ball, Buschmann was known as a strike-thrower with a good sinker and an above-average slider. Over the course of his minor league career, his command has wavered at times. However, he made a simple mechanical change early on in his time with the Rays (moving from the third base side of the rubber to the first base side), and since then his command has improved significantly and he has had better success throwing his change-up. The result has given Buschmann the weapons to turn over a Triple-A line-up and has landed him back into a starting role.
Buschmann primarily features three pitches – a sinking fastball that sits in the 90-93 MPH range, a slider that serves as his swing-and-miss pitch, and a change-up that has improved so much over the past year-and-a-half that Buschmann was able to throw it in any count last season.
Although Buschmann did gain some experience as a reliever during his final years in the Padres' chain, the right-hander has primarily been a starter throughout his pro career. He has been very durable and he established a career-high in innings pitched last season with 160.2 innings.
The A's have a lot of starting pitching depth, but Buschmann will serve as solid insurance for the A's in their Triple-A rotation in 2014. He could also be called upon in a long relief role should the need arise.