A’s call up Mengden and his mustache for big-league debut

The Oakland Athletics will promote pitching prospect Daniel Mengden on Saturday, sending him straight to the mound for his major-league debut against the Reds in Cincinnati.

Mengden, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound right-hander, was acquired by the A’s as part of a trade that sent lefty starter Scott Kazmir to the Houston Astros in 2015. He began the season as the No. 14 overall prospect in the A’s system, according to Fangraphs.

Drafted by the Astros in the 4th round of the 2014 MLB First Year Player Draft, the Houston native has spent just one full season in professional baseball. He finished the 2015 campaign with a 10-4 win-loss record with a 3.72 ERA over 26 appearances (22 starts) at three different minor-league stops.

The 23-year-old Texan features a low-90’s fastball — though it has climbed to the upper reaches of the mid-90’s at times this season — along with a curveball, a changeup and double-plus Oakland-ish mustache.

Along with the aesthetics of his Rollie Fingers-esque handlebar mustache, Mengden uses deception as a tool in fooling hitters, employing pitching mechanics often found on the dusty 8mm film reels of yesteryear. Much like his whiskers. After taking his hands high over his head Mengden includes a slight hesitation before moving towards the plate.

What follows the 1970s-style windup has been nearly unhittable thus far in 2016.

In four starts with the Double-A Midland RockHounds, Mengden went 2-0 with a 0.78 ERA. He also had more strikeouts (28) than base runners (27).

He was quickly moved up to Triple-A where his performance saw very little fall-off. In seven starts with the Nashville Sounds the former Texas A&M Aggie boasted a 3-1 record and 1.39 ERA. And, again, his strikeout total (39) outweighed his base runners (38), leading to an impressive 0.84 WHIP.

His success has allowed him to push his way past Casey Meisner and Dillon Overton, who were both projected higher.

He will have big shoes to fill, however, as he will be filling the spot previously inhabited by Oakland’s top performing pitcher Rich Hill, who was placed on the 15-day Disabled List with a groin strain.

Considering the struggles that have beset the A’s pitching staff — be it injury or ineffectiveness — there is certainly a possibility that with a few good performances Mengden could secure a permanent position in the major-league rotation.


Kalama Hines is SFBay’s Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.