(Editor's note: Each day this week, we will be examining a different A's prospect to assess their big-league potential and determine their possible role with the team.)
A.J. Puk is already drawing comparisons to Randy Johnson.
Now it's not exactly fair to compare a 23-year-old who's never thrown a Major League pitch to a Hall of Famer, but it kind of makes sense. Puk is 6-foot-7, left-handed, and has long flowing hair reminiscent of the Big Unit. And oh yeah, his stuff is pretty good too.
Puk is ranked as the fifth-best left-handed pitching prospect in all of baseball by MLB Pipeline. Although he is coming off Tommy John surgery, he is on track to return sometime next season and make his Major League debut.
He also features a dominant fastball-slider combination, as well as a curveball and changeup to keep hitters honest. He struck out 184 batters in just 125 innings between Class A Stockton and Double-A Midland in 2017. That 13.2 strikeouts-per-nine rate led all of Minor League Baseball.
Puk also performed well in Spring Training last season, before his injury, going 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA in four games, including three starts. He has the natural ability to join the A's rotation and contribute right away.
If Puk is able to fully recover from his TJ surgery, and there's no reason to believe he won't, his upside is through the roof. He certainly has the potential to become a number one starter in the not-too-distant future. Add fellow southpaw Jesús Luzardo into the mix and the A's should have quite a tandem for years to come.