The Oakland Athletics are in the midst of their second straight season of floundering in the second division, on pace for a 70-92 record. Accordingly, they recently saw their struggles translate into a higher draft pick than normal. They capitalized, grabbing massive University of Florida left-handed pitcher A.J. Puk with the sixth overall selection in the 2016 draft; giving them the kind of top-tier prospect that teams can only usually dream about.
Puk, who is listed at 6’7” and 220 pounds, was actually drafted out of high school (Washington High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa); selected in the 35th round in 2013 by the Detroit Tigers. In weighing what would be the best decision for his future, he elected to go to Gainesville and become a Gator. In addition to pitching, he also came to college having been a first-baseman and a football quarterback. However, it quickly became clear that the mound was where he would be best utilized.
The southpaw was dominant in three seasons with Florida. This included posting a 3.21 ERA with 85 strikeouts in 70 innings this year. With a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and touched 99 MPH this year, along with a slider and changeup, he was widely regarded as one of the top draft prospects, even being mentioned as a possible candidate for the first overall pick.
It was reported that the primary reason that Puk slipped to the sixth spot was due to “inconsistency.” Like all young players, the 21-year-old should be forgiven for not being completely polished at this point in his career. Pitchers with his size and starter’s arsenal of pitches don’t come along often, and when they do it’s best to jump on them as quickly as possible and worry about the details later.
Since signing a little earlier this summer, Puk has started his professional career with the short-season Vermont Lake Monsters in the New York-Penn League. Since the Gators played in the postseason he appears to be on a strict pitch count and will likely not truly get fully unleashed until the 2017 season. Even so, he is showing why he is so highly regarded, posting a 2.92 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 12.1 innings thus far.
Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Puk and he answered a series of rapid-fire questions that will help fans get to know the pitching prospect just a little bit better.
Six Questions with A.J. Puk
Who was your favorite team growing up?: The St. Louis Cardinals.
Who was your favorite player growing up?: Albert Pujols.
What is your favorite food?: Crab legs.
What is your favorite movie?: Dodgeball.
How did you first find out you had been drafted by the A’s: I got a text from my agent.
Have you done anything fun to treat yourself after you signed: I have not.
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