A.J. Puk

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Andrew Jacob Puk

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Biographical Information[edit]

Pitcher A.J. Puk was a first-round selection by the Oakland Athletics with the 6th pick of the 2016 amateur draft, out of the University of Florida. There was no consensus first overall pick heading into the draft, and he was one a number of players whose name was mentioned as a potential target for the Philadelphia Phillies, who held the pick. They settled on high school OF Mickey Moniak, but A.J. still went very high.

He began his professional career with the Vermont Lake Monsters of the New York-Penn League, going 0-4, 3.03 in 10 starts. The A's were looking to limit the length of his outings, which explains why he did not pick up any wins, as he racked up only 32 2/3 innings on the mound. He showed some good stuff though, allowing only 23 hits and 10 walks while striking out 40 opponents. In 2017, he began the season with the Stockton Ports of the California League, where he was 4-5, 3.69 in 14 games, 11 of them starts. He struck out 98 batters in 61 innings, then on June 19th was promoted to the Midland RockHounds of the AA Texas League, confirming he was on a fast lane to the big leagues. He was selected to play in the 2017 Futures Game which took place on July 9th at Marlins Park in Miami, FL. He came in with one out in the 9th to close out a 7-4 lead by the United States, but he was not in sharpest form, giving up a couple of runs and placing the tying run on base before getting the final two outs. In both cases, he was helped by outstanding defensive plays by 1B Ryan McMahon, who leaned over the U.S. dugout to catch a foul ball off the bat of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and made a great catch on an errant throw by 3B Brian Anderson to tag out Mauricio Dubon for the final out. He went 2-5, 4.36 in 13 games for Midland, to finish his first full season at 6-10, 4.03, with 184 strikeouts in just 125 innings. He was named the A's Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

Puk went to spring training in 2018 with an outside chance to make the team, and although he did pitch well in the Cactus League, the A's worked to tamper expectations even though the team's starting rotation was thin following the loss of Jharel Cotton for the season because of Tommy John surgery. However, he made the question moot by going down with an elbow injury himself, also requiring the surgery and putting him on the shelf for a full year. He returned in 2019 and pitched with three different teams, making his way to the AAA Las Vegas Aviators after 9 games. While the results were so-so - 4-1, 2.97 in 18 games - he was back healthy and this prompted the A's to call him up on August 20th. He was used out of the bullpen for the rest of the season, making 10 appearances and going 2-0, 3.18, while pitching 11 1/3 innings and striking out 13 batters. He did not appear in the Wild Card Game which the A's lost to the Tampa Bay Rays.

He then suffered another setback as he was unable to pitch at all during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season after undergoing surgery on his left shoulder. He missed ore time in 2021, this time due to a left biceps strain, making only 12 appearances at the major league level and going 0-3, 6.08. He was thus a but of a forgotten man by the time 2022 rolled around, with the Athletics having begun a re-construction with the trade of the likes of Matt Olson, Matt Chapman and Sean Manaea, and his own days as a top prospect seemingly belonging to a past era. He did put in a full season as a reliever at the major league level, however, with decent numbers, as he finished 4-3, 3.12 in 62 games, with 4 saves. He logged 66 1/3 innings, allowed just 53 hits and struck out 76 batters against 23 walks.

It was thus a surprise, given that he was finally a productive major league pitcher, when the A's decided to trade him on February 11, 2023, sending him to the Miami Marlins. In return came OF J.J. Bleday, who had also been a top draft pick (#4 overall in 2019) and who had just made his major league debut late the previous season.

A very big man, A.J. has an outstanding fastball that tops out close to 100 mph. He also sports a mane of wild blond hair that makes him look more like a biker than a baseball player.

Further reading[edit]

  • Christina De Nicola: "Marlins, A's swap former first-round picks: Lefty Puk heads to Miami; outfielder Bleday joins Oakland", mlb.com, February 11, 2023. [1]
  • Jane Lee: "Prospect Puk reminds A's of Hall of Famer: Melvin believes lanky 6-7 flamethrower has qualities similar to Randy Johnson", mlb.com, February 15, 2018. [2]
  • Jane Lee: "Puk undergoes TJ surgery, will miss '18 season", mlb.com, April 11, 2018. [3]
  • Mike Rosenbaum: "What to expect from A's Puk in The Show", mlb.com, August 20, 2019. [4]

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