A's payoff from Jeff Samardzija deal shows promise

MESA, Ariz. -- Seeing actual dividends from the Oakland Athletics' offseason trade that sent righty Jeff Samardzija to the Chicago White Sox will have to wait until the regular season, but in Saturday's game against the Los Angeles Angels, three of the prospects picked up in the deal provided reasons for A's fans to feel good about their side of it. Righty Chris Bassitt spun two shutout innings in his spring debut, catcher Josh Phegley showed off his strong arm behind the plate and shortstop Marcus Semien was the pivot on a pair of double plays.

All three players should get every opportunity to go north with the team, Semien as the starting shortstop and Phegley as Stephen Vogt's backup backstop. And Bassitt? Well, that depends on what role he earns as the A's sift through a stack of rotation options, but he clearly wants to make a big impression quickly.

"It was nerve-racking, exciting, whatever you want to call it. You want to put your best foot forward. No one really knows you yet, so it's like, 'oh, sure, he can throw bullpens.' The nerves and everything were there," Bassitt said. "I'm really making a conscious effort this year, having been preached to about it for a long time: 'Just don’t beat yourself. No walks.' I don't really care about the score; if I don't walk anyone, I like the odds."

The 6-foot-5 Bassitt is still working on improving his secondary stuff (a curveball and changeup), but he relies on a sinker and four-seam fastball he ran up to 96 mph in his five starts for the White Sox last season.

"He was down in the zone, balls moving all over the place. Maybe even got squeezed on a couple of pitches down there, too," A's manager Bob Melvin judged. "He mixed in his breaking ball enough to keep you off balance, but he's got the type of sinker that, because of his height, if it's down in the zone, it's hard to get in the air, period."

"The fastball was there; everything else was not. We'll work on that," Bassitt said with a laugh. "If the fastball is not there, you're going to know it pretty quick. I live and die with my two-seam, and everything else comes after that."

"That's going to be the case early in the spring. that’s what you're trying to establish. For him, it's fastball and sinker; it's got a lot of movement to it," Melvin observed about Bassitt's fastball command.

BassitT's quick pace also got Melvin's approval, as the skipper noted, "For sinkerballers, that's the right thing to do. You keep your infielders on their toes, you're trying to get them to put the ball in play, and to work quick really helps your infielders make plays for you."

When Phegley threw out Efren Navarro in the second inning, the other half of the starting battery had his own big moment, drawing praise from both Bassitt and Melvin.

"I love Phegley. I know what Josh Phegley brings to the table," Bassitt said. "It's very nice sitting there as a pitcher and saying that, 'alright, I don't have to be super-fast to the plate. This guy has a cannon.' I'm very, very happy having him as a catcher, to say the least. He caught me in the majors, the minors, we came up together [with the White Sox]. We're very well acquainted, we know what works for me, what doesn't, back and forth."

Bassitt observed that the A's other pitchers will learn that "he's one of the best defensive catchers I've ever played with. He works on his craft very, very hard, and he’s been gifted with a very, very good arm." And framing pitches? "He's very good. He's good at everything."

So when Navarro challenged Phegley and was promptly gunned down? "I was expecting it, honestly. If he didn't throw it out, I'd have been mad at him," Bassitt said with a laugh.

Melvin, a great defensive catcher in his day, was more precise in his evaluation and what's going to potentially make Phegley even better still.

"[Catching coach] Marcus [Jensen] has really done some work with him to free up his hands," Melvin said. "We thought that the catching portion of it was a little bit of a concern, but Marcus has done a good job with him, freeing up his hands. He looked really smooth, and on top of that, he throws the ball good. He'll see at-bats, especially against left-handed pitching."

As for Semien, the shortstop showed good range in game, coming to the bag as the pivot on a pair of double plays. But he also made a wild throw to first base on Daniel Robertson's grounder for his first error of the spring. Melvin accentuated the positive, noting Semien's range on the duo of deuces.

"We've seen a guy who can definitely do that," Melvin said. "The range factor is there. I was trying to hit him ground balls today. He wanted me to hit them to his left, up the middle, where he couldn't go get them. I couldn't hit them far enough to his left so that he couldn't get them. He’s got a ton of range."

The throwing error reflects the biggest rap on Semien's defense and why he might not stick at shortstop -- instead moving to second, third or becoming a utilityman whose bat guarantees him playing time. While he was coming up through the White Sox organization, some scouts and analysts took for granted that he didn't have the range for short, but clearly, Melvin and the A's don’t agree. Having already enjoyed success while using a not-very-rangy Jed Lowrie at shortstop and seeing Japanese import Hiroyuki Nakajima flop in a stateside opportunity, they're clearly enamored with Semien's range and less worried about the arm for the time being.

Rock the Vogt: Melvin also announced that Vogt will get his first spring training action when he catches in Monday's game. Vogt has been recovering from offseason foot surgery, with the expectation that he would be ready to be the starting catcher on Opening Day.

Christina Kahrl writes about MLB for ESPN. You can follow her on Twitter.