The Oakland A's added another outfielder to their Triple-A mix on Thursday when they acquired Kent Matthes from the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies exposed Matthes to waivers earlier this week. The A's immediately optioned Matthes to Triple-A. To make room for the outfielder on their 40-man roster, the A's moved right-hander Jarrod Parker to the 60-day disabled list. Parker will miss the 2014 season with an elbow injury that will require Tommy John surgery.
Matthes joins the A's after five seasons in the Rockies' chain. Selected in the fourth round of the 2009 draft out of Alabama, Matthes was a big run-producer for the Rockies for most of his time in their organization. Matthes was added to the Rockies' 40-man roster this past November. He has yet to make his major-league debut.
Matthes began his professional career in the pitcher-friendly Northwest League. He made a good first impression, posting an 820 OPS during his pro debut. The 2010 season was mostly a wash for Matthes, however, as he appeared in only 21 games. He hit .185 in 81 at-bats before being shut-down with knee problems. He would have surgery on his patella.
In 2011, Matthes dominated the California League with the Modesto Nuts. He earned the league's MVP award despite playing in only 93 games. He posted a .334/.378/.642 line with 23 homers and 95 RBI. He also collected 39 doubles. Unfortunately for Matthes and the Nuts, his season was cut short by a hand injury.
Matthes took a step back in 2012, however. With Double-A Tulsa, he struggled in the Texas League, posting a .214/.273/.432 line. He still hit for good power (17 homeruns in 336 at-bats), but he struggled to get on-base. Oddly enough, Matthes posted the exact same K:BB (80:22) in almost the same number of at-bats in 2011 and 2012. The hits just didn't fall in for Matthes in 2012.
His fortune changed last season. Returning to the Texas League, Matthes found greater success. He posted a .270/.335/.484 line in 68 games before earning a promotion to Triple-A. With Colorado Springs, Matthes posted solid numbers (.297/.333/.531). Between the two leagues, Matthes had a .281/.334/.503 line with 20 homers, 63 RBI and 17 stolen bases. He played a career-high 115 games.
Matthes was a senior when he was selected by the Rockies in 2009, so he has been old for his level for much of his career. Bad luck with injuries has also held him back, but he has the potential to provide a solid right-handed power bat to a major league team. Despite being 6'2'', 215, Matthes moves well and he has above-average arm strength. He is a solid defensive corner outfielder and he can play first base, as well. Matthes is an aggressive hitter who doesn't walk much, but he also doesn't strike out a ton for a power hitter. Matthes has good speed, and now that he is a few years removed from his knee surgery, he has become more of a threat on the bases.
The addition of Matthes is likely to enhance the A's outfield depth in advance of the final week of spring training, when they are likely to trade outfielder Michael Taylor, who is out of options. Matthes brings some of the same skills to the A's as Taylor and they are only a year apart in age.
Before the addition of Matthes, the A's had Conner Crumbliss, Jake Goebbert, D'Arby Myers, Chad Oberacker, Shane Peterson and Josh Whitaker listed as outfielders on their Sacramento spring roster. Billy Burns remains in the A's big league camp, but he isn't expected to make Oakland's Opening Day roster. Before the start of spring, Burns was likely to be assigned to Double-A Midland. He has played well enough that he might start the season in Triple-A, however.
The other non-roster outfielder still in A's big league camp is Sam Fuld. Fuld is a strong bet to make the A's Opening Day roster if Craig Gentry begins the year on the disabled list. If Fuld doesn't make the A's roster, he has an opt-out for his contract, so the A's can't be certain they will have him as depth if they assign him to Triple-A.