In 2012, the Athletics drafted Herschel Mack Powell III in the 20th round of the MLB draft.
Now, “Boog” Powell has been called up to the big leagues, ready to make his Oakland debut.
It’s been a long and circuitous route for the Mission Viejo native, one that has included stops with the Tampa Bay Rays and Seattle Mariners. But, after being traded one-for-one for All-Star Yonder Alonso on Aug. 6, Powell is back where his professional baseball story began a half-decade ago.
Prior to taking the field in the green and gold for the first time, the 24-year-old said he embraces everything about the move, especially being part of an A’s rebuild:
“This is a better opportunity for me, and I’m just excited. This is where it all started for me so this is like family. I’m just really excited to get it going.”
Friday night marks his first game with the franchise that drafted him, but it will not be his introduction to big league ball. Powell spent 2-1/2 months with Seattle this season, making his major league debut as a pinch-hitter on April 29. After a pitching change by Cleveland, though, Powell, a left-handed swinger, was removed in favor of righty Carlos Ruiz.
Powell saw his first pitch as a big leaguer one day later. That, he said, was part of the experience he welcomed over his 23 games with the Mariners: learning to not be the guy:
“Up with Seattle, I didn’t really play that much. I DH’d some times, and played the field a little bit, but it was mostly just learning — I was really trying to learn how to be that fourth outfielder, how to be that bench guy. … I learned that side of it, I already know how to be a starter, I learned how to come off the bench.”
He had been a starter — the guy — up until breaking into the bigs. In 5-1/2 seasons of minor league ball, Powell slashed .305/.390/.396, averaging three home runs and 15 stolen bases per campaign. The last Athletic to post a slash comparable was Josh Donaldson — though, admittedly, with significantly more power — when the slugger carried Oakland into the postseason with a .301/.384/.499 slash in 2013.
Donaldson-like power is something Powell does not possess, but that isn’t his game. His game is about getting on base, hustling — both in a helmet and a hat — and doing the little things to improve the offense’s chances of scoring. In that, he compared his game to the New York Yankees’ Gold Glove winning All-Star outfielder.
“Brett Gardner. He plays the game with heart, emotion, and he’s always running 100 percent, and that’s what I try to do. I don’t have the power — I don’t have a lot of the things a lot of the big guys have — so I’ve got to provide the small game.”
Manager Bob Melvin got a bit giddy when he hear that comparison:
“If that’s the case then I would love that. … (Gardner is) a pretty aggressive player that plays the game hard, always runs hard. That’s what I’ve heard about (Powell), so I’m hoping that comp is a good one.”
The skipper said aggression is the something that pops off the page of Powell’s scouting report. Like Gardner, he goes after every defensive chance, every extra 90 feet, full-bore.
Aggression is at the top among the reasons for Powell’s call-up just four days after his Oakland acquisition. Though the club was impressed with the overall product, Melvin said that a lack of aggression is something rookie Jaycob Brugman, who was optioned to Triple-A Nashville in the move corresponding with Powell’s, must remedy.
Brugman slashed .266/.346/.343 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 48 games. He went 1-for-3 in stolen base attempts. Melvin said that Brugman is a lock to be back in Oakland before the end of this season, though.
For now and the immediate future, the position formerly belonging to him — the left-handed side of the center field platoon, joining the right-handed Rajai Davis — will belong to Powell, according to Melvin:
“Whenever you acquire a player like that, you want to take a look at him.
“I’m a young guy and I’ve wanted my chance. I think, now, I’m getting my chance. Just got to go out there and be myself and play good.”
Kalama Hines is SFBay’s sports director and Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.