Thursday, July 27th: Altamirano Leads Snappers to Shutout Win while Murphy Homers in 2nd Straight Game for Hounds

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Beloit Snappers Pitcher Xavier Altamirano (7 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 4 K / Win)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Beloit Snappers Pitcher Xavier Altamirano (7 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 4 K / Win)

 

MIDWEST LEAGUE  (Class-A)

Beloit Snappers          8

Kane County Cougars  0

WP – Altamirano 7-2 / 2.81

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Xavier Altamirano

(7 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 4 K / Win)

RHP Xavier Altamirano turned in his third straight quality start, allowing just 2 hits over 7 shutout innings to earn his 7th win as the Snappers won for the fifth time in their last six games on Thursday. RHPs Joseph Camacho and John Gorman each contributed 1 scoreless inning in relief to complete the 3-hit shutout. Shortstop Eric Marinez singled, doubled and drove in a run, while third baseman Trace Loehr tripled in 2 runs, and designated hitter Miguel Mercedes singled twice and drove in a pair for the Snappers.

Click here for more on Nashville, Midland, Stockton, Vermont & AZL A’s…

Mondou & Bailey on Making the Big Move from Beloit to Stockton

by Bill Moriarity / A’s Farm Editor

spRoFg4u4YThere’s been a mighty big turnover on Stockton’s roster since the start of the season.

And just since June, infielders Nate Mondou and Edwin Diaz, outfielder Luis Barrera and pitchers Brandon Bailey, Brendan Butler, Dalton Sawyer, Norge Ruiz and Miguel Romero have all joined Stockton from Beloit for the second half.

Late last week in Stockton, we took the opportunity to talk to a pair of those players, second baseman Nate Mondou and right-hander Brandon Bailey, who also happen to be roommates, to see how the duo was adjusting to life in the California League…

 

NATE MONDOU

nm670148bThe lefty-swinging second baseman was the A’s 13th-round draft pick last year out of Wake Forest. Mondou spent the first few months of the 2017 season hitting near the top of the order for the Snappers, and his .296 batting average and .371 on-base percentage both led Beloit batters when he was promoted to the Ports. Since joining Stockton late last month, the 22-year-old has posted a .279/.352/.441 slash line over his first 28 games for the Ports. In a recent interview with Stockton manager Rick Magnante, the skipper said about Mondou: “His ability to swing the bat has been impressive. I think he’s a sleeper. I think you could see Nate in the big leagues.”

AF:  You started out the season in Beloit. And I know sometimes those first couple of rainy, chilly months in the Midwest League can be rough for hitters, so how did you handle hitting in the conditions there?

NM:  Definitely, it was freezing cold when we got there. It rained quite a bit. But in those type of situations, you’ve just got to stick with the process and try to simplify everything, because the outside conditions kind of made it tough. But overall, it was a good experience and I was able to learn a lot. It’s always good to learn how to play in those conditions before coming up to higher levels. So, overall it was good, but it was kind of tough at first like you said. Not being able to feel your hands at the plate is kind of rough.

AF:  Yeah, when your hands are on the verge of frostbite, it’s probably a little hard to hit.

NM:  Exactly!

AF:  You got off to a good start there though, and you had a nice hitting streak going there for a while, so you obviously managed to deal with it. But coming here to the California League in the second half has got to be a great development for you.

NM:  Definitely, very glad to be here. It’s definitely more of a hitters’ league. It’s a little bit of an adjustment just being able to hit the ball in the air a little bit more. In Beloit, it didn’t quite fly as well as it does here. So, I’m just kind of making little adjustments here and there to fit the ballpark and fit the league and everything. But I’m very glad to be here. It’s nice to have nice, dry, warm weather every day.

AF:  Where’d you grow up?

NM:  I grew up just about an hour south of Seattle, Washington…so it’s nice to be back on the west coast too.

AF:  Do you find any differences with the pitchers you’re facing here in the California League compared to what you were used to seeing in the Midwest League?

NM:  Yeah, it’s definitely another level up. There’s a little more consistency in the quality of pitching, and that carries over for both the starters and the bullpen guys. We definitely saw some very good arms up there in the Midwest League, but down here, it’s day in and day out, and every guy coming out of the ‘pen too.

AF:  What kind of adjustments have you had to make since you’ve been here in Stockton?

Nate Mondou (photo by Meghan Camino)

Nate Mondou
(photo by Meghan Camino)

NM:  Yeah, I think earlier in the year I didn’t really use the pull side of the field as much. I was kind of really, really focused on driving the ball the other way. And I think coming here, I’ve seen a lot more fastballs in, a lot more pitches inside, so I’ve kind of tried to open up the field, kind of going left-center/right-center rather than just kind of left of center field. So, that’s been the biggest thing for me, being able to open up that right side of the field.

AF:  What do you feel are the biggest strengths of your game? What are you really confident that you’re bringing to the table for a team?

NM:  I think the biggest thing is a quality at-bat. I’m going to try to grind out an at-bat no matter how tough the situation is and try not to take any at-bat for granted. Definitely working deep in counts, and once I get to two strikes, hopefully grinding a long at-bat out. I think that’s probably one of the biggest things for me, not taking anything for granted, not letting one at-bat slip through my fingers. So, quality at-bats – that’s probably one of the biggest things for me.

AF:  Now you’re a smaller guy, so people probably weren’t looking at you as being a big, powerful prospect coming out of school. So, have you had to play the game with that sort of underdog mentality, feeling like you had to prove to people what you were really capable of doing on the field?

NM:  Yeah, definitely. There’s always that height thing that’s always been mentioned at every level I’ve played at. So, it’s kind of nice to show people that doesn’t really matter and that you can work past it no matter what. I came out of college hitting a bunch of home runs and kind of had to change my approach once I got here to more of a table-setter type. So, I’m trying to hit more line drives, and I think that’s helped me succeed so far, especially with the average. The power numbers aren’t where they were in college, but I think I’m slowly working to kind of find the best of both worlds between the contact and the power.

AF:  Well, if you spend enough time in the California League, you might just become a power hitter again!

NM:  Exactly!

AF:  On the personal side, since you had to move here in the middle of the season, where are you staying at, who are you living with, and what’s life like off the field here in Stockton?

NM:  Yeah, it was kind of a whirlwind couple of days coming from Wisconsin out here and trying to figure out who I’m living with. But I’m living with Eli White and Brandon Bailey right now in an apartment. It’s a little bit more expensive than out there in Wisconsin, but it’s a nice setup and we’ve got a nice little spot and they’re a couple of good guys to live with, so I’m happy.

AF:  And you’ve got sunshine every day!

NM:  Exactly, no thunderstorms!

AF:  Well, you’ve got a little over a month of the minor league season left here now in Stockton. So, what are you really focused on this final month or so of the season here?

NM:  I think consistency is the biggest thing for me, just trying not to have a roller-coaster type of season. Of course, there’s always going to be ups and downs, but trying to keep it as close to the main line as possible. So, I think just finishing strong. I’ve had multiple coaches tell me so far this year, “It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish.” And that’s what people really care about. So, I had a good strong start, but I’m definitely focused on continuing that consistency throughout the year and finishing strong.

 

BRANDON BAILEY

bb669064bThe A’s made Bailey their 6th-round pick in last year’s draft after he struck out 125 batters in 100 1/3 innings while posting a 2.42 ERA in his junior year at Gonzaga. He spent most of last season playing for Vermont, the A’s Class-A affiliate in the short-season New York-Penn League, where he put up a solid 3.08 ERA in 10 appearances for the Lake Monsters. But Bailey was even more impressive for Beloit in the first half of this season, posting a 2.68 ERA while notching 73 strikeouts over 57 innings of work for the Snappers. Since being promoted to the Ports earlier this month, the 22-year-old has struck out 27 in 19 1/3 innings while compiling a 6.05 ERA for Stockton. We’ve periodically featured blog posts by Bailey about his experiences in the A’s minor league system, which you can find here.

AF:  You got called up here to Stockton from Beloit about a month ago. So, how has it been for you adjusting to a whole new league here this past month?

BB:  It’s been exciting, just for the mere fact that I’m back on the west coast. Being a West Coast Conference guy in college, this is where we had our conference tournament, and I’m real familiar with the park. So, it wasn’t like a complete shock. I was really familiar with the park and how it plays. I was just really excited to move up a level. It’s a long season, and you’re just trying to climb the ladder. And at the end of the day, I just couldn’t be happier to be back on the west coast.

AF:  So, remind me where you were born and where you went to school.

BB:  I was born in Westminster, Colorado and lived in the Denver metro area my whole life. My parents still live there today. I reside in Broomfield, Colorado. That’s kind of my hometown – about 20 minutes north of Denver and 15 minutes east of Boulder. And when college came, I moved to Spokane, Washington, where Gonzaga University is. And that’s kind of where I’m living currently in the offseason, just because I’m trying to finish up my degree. I hope and plan to go back this fall to knock out that last semester that I have and be done, and then from there, just go back to spring training and do it all over again.

AF:  What are you majoring in?

BB:  Sports management with a minor in public relations.

AF:  Well, that might come in handy!

BB:  Yeah, definitely useful. I love being around sports, and it’s something that I would like to pursue after the playing career is over, whether that be working in professional baseball or I’ve always had a really big passion for Nike and all the products that they release, especially the N7 brand that they have going. My dream would be to work for Nike when it’s all said and done.

AF:  You got off to a really good start to the season in Beloit. So, is there anything you’ve found that’s particularly different here in the California League?

BB:  I think the biggest adjustment is that you can’t kind of give in in those hitter advantage counts. Sometimes in the Midwest League, the parks play big and you know if you get behind that you can challenge a little bit up. They might know your 2-0 fastball is coming, but the park plays big enough that you’re not going to get hurt. And so far, in the majority of these parks, if they’re bigger, the wind blows out really hard, and if they’re smaller, it blows out even more! So, you’ve just got to be really particular with all your pitches. And I think the emphasis for me, the biggest adjustment, is really emphasizing getting ahead in the count, putting the hitter in a position where they’re unfamiliar with what’s coming, where they’re kind of on their heels and they can’t be as aggressive as they might be in the 1-0 or 2-0 counts.

AF:  Yeah, with these parks in the Cal League, if you get behind, you can’t afford to groove one in there!

BB:  Yep, but I like that challenge a little bit too, because it makes me focus just that much more on trying to be that much more conscious and particular with my pitches, and I feel like that’s actually helping me get better. And I’ve heard that at Midland, the strike zone gets a little bit smaller. So, I’m just focusing on really hitting spots. And I think that’s good for me, because in college, I knew that I could just challenge you up with a fastball and the exact location didn’t really matter – I knew that I was probably going to win that battle. But here in pro ball, it’s not exactly the same.

AF:  Well, the strike zone might be smaller in the Texas League, but the good news is the parks are bigger – and the wind isn’t usually blowing out!

Brandon Bailey (photo by Meghan Camino)

Brandon Bailey
(photo by Meghan Camino)

BB:  There you go!

AF:  Tell me a little bit about your repertoire and what you’re working with.

BB:  I throw five pitches. It was four, but four days ago I learned a new pitch, so now it’s five. I throw a four-seam fastball which has a really high spin rate, so it’s got good ride and carry through the zone. I guess to the hitter, they perceive it as the ball kind of rising almost. Oakland’s really been encouraging me to throw the ball up in the zone, which, going into professional baseball, you’re taught your whole life to keep the ball down. But here, they want me to throw up with my fastball, so that’s really kind of a bit of a change for me, but it’s kind of nice at the same time, because I do like throwing up in the zone with that fastball. So, I throw a four-seam fastball, a four-seam changeup which spins the same way as the fastball – it just has an arm-side drop and run to it. And then, I throw a slider, which is now a true slider. In college, it was kind of more of a slurve, but I’ve tightened it up and I’ve been throwing it a lot harder lately, which is nice. And then this offseason, I added a spiked curve, just because I wanted to have a get-me-over breaking ball that looked a little bit different to the hitter, so that way they wouldn’t be able to sit on something hard early in the count, whether that be the fastball or the slider. And then, I just added a cutter four days ago, which is really exciting because, like I said before, my four-seam fastball’s pretty straight and true – it has good carry, but not a lot of movement to either side. And this cutter has been moving glove side with late action to it, so it’s just a nice extra tool that I can have in my repertoire just to keep the hitters honest.

AF:  Well, that’s a couple more pitches than most guys have at this level!

BB:  Yeah, so the biggest thing for me is the fastball/change has always been my bread and butter, so now it’s just trying to get those breaking pitches, along with the cutter, up to speed and hopefully get them to be big league average or a tick better than that.

AF:  So, have you used the cutter in a game yet?

BB:  Yeah, I did in a game versus the Quakes. I threw three – one was really good, one was straight as an arrow and one went in the dirt. So, I went one for three, but I’ll take it for only having thrown it for like two days in advance.

AF:  On the personal side of things, you had to make a move here in the middle of the season from Wisconsin to California. So, where are you staying at and who are you living with now?

BB:  I think the person who was most excited for me to move out here was my girlfriend, because she’s actually from Sacramento. So, when I told her, she was pumped. But I currently reside in an apartment complex about fifteen minutes north of the stadium. I’m living with Nate Mondou and Eli White in a two-bedroom apartment. It’s the typical minor league apartment. We’ve got the cardboard box as the TV stand. We’re all living on air mattresses. But at the end of the day, it’s still a lot of fun. They’re great guys to live with. I was able to room with Eli White in Vermont to start everything off last summer, so me and him are really good buds. And then with Mondou being in Beloit, we obviously knew each other. So, it’s been a good fit. It’s been a little bit of an adjustment going from a host family in Beloit to apartment living, but I kind of enjoy it. It’s a lot of fun.

AF:  Well, probably most of your time is spent out here at the park anyway.

BB:  Exactly! All you’ve got to do is wake up, make breakfast and then go to the park and you’re here basically the majority of your day anyway.

AF:  Well, we’re heading into the final month or so of the minor league season now. So, what are you thinking about and what are you trying to accomplish in the last month or so here?

BB:  I think it’s just to finish strong. At the start of the year, there can be some bumps in the road – everyone has their ups and downs. But I remember in spring training, [minor league pitching coordinator] Gil Patterson and [farm director] Keith Lieppman and [special assistant] Grady Fuson and all these guys saying, “It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish.” And they re-emphasize that when the first teams come out, because some guys aren’t exactly thrilled with where they’re starting. So, my goal is just to try to continue to work on my craft and really get a feel for these new pitches – the curveball and the cutter that I’m adding. And just try to finish strong here in Stockton and hopefully end on a high note and go into the offseason with some good goals to try and achieve, and then come back and hopefully fight like hell to make the Midland roster. I think, at the end of the day, it’s just trying to see progress with each day that you come to the field and when you leave the park, you can say, “I got better today.” So, the goal each day is to try to get a little bit better than you were the day before.

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Wednesday, July 26th: Meisner & Sportman Help Hounds Win 6th Straight while Hahn Earns 1st Win for Sounds

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Pitcher Casey Meisner (6 IP / 5 H / 2 ER / 1 BB / 1 K / Win)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds RHP Casey Meisner (6 IP / 5 H / 2 ER / 1 BB / 1 K / Win)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Frisco RoughRiders        3

Midland RockHounds  11

WP – Meisner 2-3 / 6.59

HR – Sportman (8), Ramirez (3), Murphy (1)

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Casey Meisner

(6 IP / 5 H / 2 ER / 1 BB / 1 K / Win)

RHP Casey Meisner turned in one of his best starts for the RockHounds since joining the team late last month. The 22-year-old allowed 2 runs over 6 innings of work to earn his 2nd win for Midland and help the Hounds secure their sixth straight win on Wednesday. Right fielder J.P. Sportman, who left Tuesday’s game after being hit in the hand with a pitch, had a big night at the plate, collecting 3 hits, including a home run, while driving in a pair. Catcher Sean Murphy and left fielder Tyler Ramirez both homered, while third baseman Jordan Tarsovich had 3 hits, and first baseman Viosergy Rosa doubled, walked and drove in 3 runs for the RockHounds.

Click here for more on Nashville, Stockton, Beloit & AZL A’s…

Tuesday, July 25th: Cotton & Canha Combine to Help Sounds Win while Fillmyer & Duno Pitch Hounds & Ports to Victory

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Jharel Cotton (6 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 9 K / Win)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Jharel Cotton (6 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 9 K / Win)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Las Vegas 51s          4

Nashville Sounds  10

WP – Cotton 3-0 / 2.95

HR – Nunez (26), Olson (20), Canha 2 (11)

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Jharel Cotton

(6 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 9 K / Win)

RHP Jharel Cotton made an impressive rehab start for the Sounds on Tuesday, allowing just 2 hits and striking out 9 over 6 shutout innings to notch his 3rd win of the season for Nashville. After making a pair of rehab appearances for Stockton, RHP Bobby Wahl made his first rehab appearance for the Sounds on Tuesday and gave up 1 run in 2/3 of an inning of relief. Right fielder Mark Canha had a huge night at the plate, collecting 5 hits, including a pair of home runs, while driving in 4 runs. First baseman Matt Olson belted his 20th home run, a 2-run blast, while left fielder Renato Nunez, slugged his league-leading 26th home run, a solo shot, and shortstop Franklin Barreto had 3 hits and drove in a run for Nashville. Meanwhile, A’s RHP Chris Bassitt was activated from the disabled list and assigned to the Sounds on Tuesday.

Click here for more on Midland, Stockton, Vermont & AZL A’s…

Snappy Thoughts: Beloit’s 5-Game Home Stand vs. West Michigan & South Bend (7/19-24)

by Ryan Christoffersen / A’s Farm Beloit Correspondent

bsThe Beloit Snappers split a rain-shortened two-game series against the West Michigan Whitecaps, Detroit’s Midwest League affiliate, last week at Pohlman Field in Beloit. The Snappers then went on to sweep the South Bend Cubs, Chicago’s Class-A affiliate, in a three-game set that concluded on Monday.

The Whitecaps entered the series with the best record in all of minor league baseball. A sparkling 2.64 ERA and 19 shutouts are far and away the best from any team this season in the Midwest League. In terms of top prospects, the standout is outfielder Derek Hill, who ranks as the #8 prospect in the Tigers organization according to MLB Pipeline. A 1st-round pick in 2014, Hill spent most of the season on the disabled list before returning to action late last month.

South Bend has been a solid team, staying above .500 during most of the season. The Cubs recently lost their top prospect, RHP Dylan Cease, to the White Sox organization in the Jose Quintana trade. But they do have an athletic, high-upside outfielder in D.J. Wilson, who ranks as the #6 prospect in the Cubs organization according to MiLB Pipeline.

 

Game #1:  West Michigan 6 – Beloit 3

Heath Bowers

Heath Bowers

*After three rather uneventful innings on Wednesday, things started to get a little crazy in Beloit. As the skies grew darker, a tornado siren suddenly went off while the Snappers were warming up, which halted the game. The contest would not resume until the next day as a major thunderstorm with tornado potential rolled through south-central Wisconsin. A lightning bolt actually struck one of the left field light poles, which knocked out a number of lights as well as the scoreboard, and Pohlman Field had to go without a scoreboard the next day.

*When the game resumed in the top of the 4th inning on Thursday, RHP Mitchell Jordan took the hill for the Snappers. It was clearly not his day, as he gave up 6 earned runs while getting just two outs in the top of the 4th inning. Jordan, the A’s 10th-round pick in 2016, has struggled to miss bats this season, giving up a lot of hard contact.

*RHP Heath Bowers righted the ship for Beloit, throwing 3 ⅓ scoreless innings in relief. What was most encouraging to see from Bowers is how he attacked the strike zone, throwing 33 of his 47 pitches for strikes. As good as his 1.96 ERA in 55 innings might look, the 30 walks he has given up show that he has constantly been walking a tightrope. If Bowers is going to succeed going forward, he’ll need to start issuing fewer free passes.

 

Game #2:  Beloit 2 – West Michigan 0

Matt Milburn

Matt Milburn

*In this 7-inning game, a safety squeeze bunt from shortstop Jesus Lopez and an RBI double from first baseman Miguel Mercedes accounted for all the Snappers’ scoring.

*RHP Matt Milburn, a 29th-round pick by the A’s in 2016, pitched 5 ⅔ scoreless innings to earn his 6th win for the Snappers. While Milburn is sporting a respectable 3.92 ERA, his peripherals suggest that he has been much better than that. His FIP sits at 2.90 and his xFIP at 3.12. Meanwhile, his K/9 is a solid 9.34 and he has a very good swinging strike rate of 13.1%.

*RHP Sam Sheehan, the A’s 31st-round pick last year, shut the door on the Whitecaps. He allowed just 1 hit and struck out 2 in 1 ⅓ scoreless innings to earn his 4th save. Sheehan now has superb 1.57 ERA in 28 ⅔ innings this season for the Snappers.

 

Game #3:  Beloit 6 – South Bend 3

Collin Theroux

Collin Theroux

*RHP Xavier Altamirano had a quality start in his second straight outing, putting up a pitching line of 6 IP/4 H/2 ER/1 BB/6 K.

*Center fielder and leadoff hitter Mike Martin went 3 for 4 while scoring a pair of runs for the Snappers.

*First baseman Kyle Nowlin, Oakland’s 21st-round pick in 2016, went 2 for 3 with a walk and 2 RBIs for Beloit.

*Catcher Collin Theroux, the 32nd-round pick by the A’s last year, threw out both runners who tried to steal. For the season, he has thrown out nearly 48% of attempted steals, which is an impressive number for any catcher. The 23-year-old possesses a cannon of a throwing arm and is not afraid to show it off. It’s definitely something that opposing teams need to be wary of coming into a series.

 

Game #4:  Beloit 6 – South Bend 0

Seth Martinez

Seth Martinez

*Beloit batters hit 3 home runs off of Cubs starter LHP Manuel Rondon. Third baseman Trace Loehr hit his 3rd home run in the 1st inning, designated hitter Kyle Nowlin clubbed his 8th, also in the 1st, and second baseman J.C Rodriguez slugged his 2nd home run on the season in the 4th.

*Loehr went 2 for 4 to continue his hot hitting in the second half. By the end of the series with South Bend, Loehr was batting .340 with a .553 slugging percentage in 26 games in the second half.

*Nowlin reached base in all 4 plate appearances, continuing his own second-half hot streak. By the end of the South Bend series, Nowlin was slashing .326/.426/.500 in the second half.

*Despite having to warm up multiple times due to rainy conditions, LHP Zack Erwin threw 4 scoreless innings of 2-hit ball.

*RHP Seth Martinez was spectacular in relief of Erwin. Working at a brisk pace, the A’s 17th-round pick in 2016 did not allow a baserunner over 5 perfect innings while striking out 3. Martinez’s successful outing can be attributed to his solid fastball command and a sweeping slider, which helped him induce a lot of weak contact.

 

Game #5:  Beloit 7 – South Bend 6

J.C. Rodriguez

J.C. Rodriguez

*The Snappers pitchers with the three worst ERAs on the current staff combined to help Beloit win the final game of the set on Monday and sweep the series from South Bend. LHP Kyle Twomey (5.93 ERA), RHP Mitchell Jordan (6.04 ERA) and RHP Jesus Zambrano (5.36 ERA) weren’t particularly sharp, allowing a lot of hard contact and scattering 16 hits while allowing 6 runs, 5 earned. But they buckled down to get out of some sticky situations, and some impressive defensive plays behind them helped to bail them out as well.

*Beloit threw out three South Bend runners at home plate in the game. A great throw by left fielder J.C. Rodriguez to the plate got the first runner, while a tremendous relay from center fielder JaVon Shelby to shortstop Trace Loehr to catcher Collin Theroux nailed the second, and second baseman Josh Vidales made a magnificent bare-handed pick up and then fired home a bullet to nab the third runner.

*With the score tied at 6-6 and one out in the bottom of the 9th inning, up stepped left fielder J.C. Rodriguez. Full name: Jean Carlo Rodriguez. Extra innings were looming over what was already a long and wacky game. But on a 1-1 pitch, Rodriguez smacked his third home run of the year, a line drive over the left field wall, to cap off a wild win and complete the sweep.

 

kn665065

 

A’s Prospect of the Home Stand:

First Baseman Kyle Nowlin

(7 for 13 / Home Run / 3 Walks / 3 RBIs)

 

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Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm. You can also get our exclusive A’s minor league newsletter e-mailed to you free by signing up here.

Stockton Center Fielder Skye Bolt Loving Life in the California League

by Bill Moriarity / A’s Farm Editor

sb621450bThe A’s made Skye Bolt their 4th-round selection in the 2015 draft after the Georgia native put up a .259/.383/.449 slash line in his junior season at the University of North Carolina. The center fielder was viewed as a toolsy prospect who possessed speed, a strong arm, a solid glove, good bat speed and some raw power potential. After spending 2015 with short-season Vermont and 2016 in Beloit, Bolt is now spending the 2017 season with Stockton in the California League.

After Monday’s contest, Bolt was sporting a .239/.338/.439 slash line for the Ports. He leads the team with 9 stolen bases and is tied for the team lead in walks with 42. The 23-year-old has significantly increased his power numbers this year and has already hit a career-high 10 home runs in 81 games this season. Last week, after batting practice in Stockton, we took the opportunity to talk with Bolt about his first season in the California League…

 

AF:  So, how do you feel your first season in the California League has been going for you so far?

SB:  Yeah, it’s been a great year thus far. The Cal League’s been very receptive. I enjoy the home ballpark. That’s obviously a blessing and a nice place to play day in and day out. Everybody here’s been real receptive. It’s a well-oiled machine. It’s been great thus far – good first half of the season, good start to the second half. Every day’s getting better than the day before it, and that’s the name of the game. For me, it’s been a great season as far as improving things I wanted to improve. And I’m going to keep putting the right foot in front of the left and repeat as we go into this last quarter of the season.

AF:  How is it hitting here in the California League as opposed to hitting in the Midwest League in Beloit? I know they’re very different environments.

SB:  Yeah, definitely! That first month and a half to two months out in Beloit is unfriendly to say the least. But the Cal League’s been great. You’re forewarned to not fall into a trap, especially here in Stockton with the short porch in right. And for me personally, it’s been beneficial for me – not in the sense of hitting the long ball and utilizing it, but keeping my approach away from trying to do damage to that side of the field. The Cal League is obviously great as far as other ballparks. There’s eight teams, so you get to see everybody. You start to build that understanding and familiarity with different pitchers – or the same pitchers. And that’s what you’re going to see as you go up the ladder. I know in Midland, our Double-A club, it’s a small league as well. But as you go up the ladder, you’re going to see guys over and over again. So, it’s a learning experience, just like everything else. But I’ve really, really enjoyed playing here.

AF:  I would think so. Those first couple of months of the season in the Midwest League, when it’s raining every other day, it must make it a little tough to get into a groove.

SB:  Absolutely! There’s no rainouts here. You’re going to play every day. The game on the schedule is going to be played one way or another. And that’s great!

Skye Bolt (photo by Meghan Camino)

Skye Bolt
(photo by Meghan Camino)

AF:  Have the pitchers here in the California League been approaching you any differently than what you’ve been used to seeing in the past?

SB:  Yeah, again back to seeing the same guys over and over again, you start to build a log. A lot of us guys keep track of what certain pitchers are trying to do to us. And that’s something that we visit quite often as we see them what seems like every two weeks. But I feel like guys are more in the zone. They’ve got more of an aggressive, attack-the-zone mentality, which for me as a hitter, I love. I enjoy a pitcher who’s going to attack the zone and going to come right at you. And that’s, for the most part, what we’ve gotten here in the Cal League – more refined arms working to attack the zone as they’re trying to go up the ladder as well.

AF:  Well, at least you’re more likely to see more pitches you can get the bat on anyway.

SB:  And that’s exactly it! You ask any hitter and they’ll tell you they’d much prefer that kind of guy.

AF:  What kind of adjustments have you had to make this season, and what have you really been trying to work on this year as a hitter?

SB:  For me personally, it’s been the duality of being a switch hitter and getting the reps on both sides and working with [hitting coach] Tommy [Everidge] on what I need day in and day out to maintain both sides of the dish, which to this point, I think I’ve done. And for me, the adjustment has been not missing my pitch. Reflecting back on the past two seasons, it’s just been a lot of misses. Did the pitcher get you out or did you get yourself out? You ask any hitter, and 70% of the time they’re going to say, I got myself out. And that’s the tough part of the game. But 70% of the time, it’s on us to get the pitch that you’re looking for and do with it what you’re supposed to. And most of the time with hitters, it’s “I missed my pitch” – it wasn’t the strike-three call. So, this season, it’s been not missing my pitch, being prepared each and every pitch, getting myself in a good hitting position, especially from the left side of the plate, to attack my pitch and do what I want with it. And thus far in the season, I’ve done a better job of that and I’ve started to do more damage with some extra bases.

AF:  I know the minor league season can be a bit of a grind, and we’re getting into the dog days here towards the end.

SB:  Yep.

AF:  So, this last month or so here, what are you really focused on and what are you trying to accomplish as we head into the home stretch of the season?

SB:  In the home stretch of the season, you want to be as aggressive as you can be. You don’t want to leave a season saying, “I wish I would have been a little more aggressive.” But being aggressive gives you more opportunities, and that’s something that I’ve aimed to do progressively over the past few seasons – be aggressive and let my tools play, and be the athlete that I know I can be and that I have to be in order to continue to go where I want to go in this game. And I can’t stress enough, I don’t think any position player wants to leave the season having this conversation with you or others saying, “I wish I was a little more aggressive.” Let it all out, attack your pitches, attack bases, take extra bases on the base paths – that’s my goal for this last quarter. So, this home stretch of the season, it’s just be aggressive, play my game and let the cards fall where they may.

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Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm. You can also get our exclusive A’s minor league newsletter e-mailed to you free by signing up here.

Monday, July 24th: Holmes Impresses in Hounds’ Victory while Rodriguez Helps Snappers Win in a Walk-Off

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Pitcher Grant Holmes (7 IP / 3 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 5 K / Win)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds RHP Grant Holmes (7 IP / 3 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 5 K / Win)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Frisco RoughRiders        1

Midland RockHounds  13

WP – Holmes 7-10 / 4.54

HR – Sportman (7)

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Grant Holmes

(7 IP / 3 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 5 K / Win)

RHP Grant Holmes turned in one of his best starts of the season to help Midland win its fourth straight on Monday. The 21-year-old allowed just 3 hits over 7 scoreless innings to earn his 7th win, and Holmes has now surrendered a total of just 3 runs over his last 3 starts for the RockHounds. Right fielder J.P. Sportman singled in a run in the 7th inning and slugged a grand slam in the 8th, while center fielder B.J. Boyd had 3 hits, including a triple, and drove in 3, and designated hitter Jermaine Curtis singled twice, doubled, walked and drove in a run for the RockHounds.

Click here for more on Nashville, Stockton, Beloit, Vermont & AZL A’s…

Stockton Skipper Rick Magnante Talks about the Ports’ Newest Prospects

by Bill Moriarity / A’s Farm Editor

rmMGR_Magnante_dervlq1cStockton manager Rick Magnante originally began his professional baseball career as a 13th-round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians out of the University of Santa Barbara back in 1969.

He first joined the A’s organization in 1995 as an area scout covering southern California, where he was the signing scout for players like Barry Zito. He also began managing short-season teams for the A’s in 2006 after his duties prepping for each year’s draft were through.

After spending five seasons in Vancouver and three seasons in Vermont, Magnante gave up his scouting duties and began managing full-time. He spent the 2014 season in Beloit and is now in his third season with Stockton. We took the opportunity to talk with the Stockton skipper late last week to get his first-hand take on some of the prospects who’ve recently joined the Ports…

 

AF:  You’ve had a lot of turnover on your roster here at Stockton this year. So, let’s talk about some of the new guys who’ve recently joined your squad here in the second half. Let’s start out with 22-year-old second baseman Nate Mondou, who arrived from Beloit at the end of June. He’s not a very big guy, but he seems to be doing a pretty good job of putting the bat on the ball.

RM:  He’s your typical grinder, blue-collar player who has to maximize his skill set to be that over-achieving, instinctual, anticipatory kind of player – and he is that. And his ability to swing the bat has been impressive. I think he’s a sleeper. I think you could see Nate in the big leagues. I’ll go out on a limb right now and say that may happen someday, because he can play the game. And the other thing you have to take into consideration is that this is his first full season. He had a real good first half there in Beloit. He came up here and he’s hot as a firecracker – he’s slowed down a little bit as of late, but that’s going to happen. And if he can just finish with some kind of consistency at the plate after his first full season, I think that’s quite an accomplishment for him.

AF:  He sounds like the kind of guy you could really see hustling his way to the big leagues.

RM:  Yeah. I asked him, “Were the Boston Red Sox ever interested in you?” I said, “To me, you’re Marty Barrett, you’re Jerry Remy, you’re Dustin Pedroia. You’re all those under-sized middle infielders who can really play the game and give 110% every time.” So, that’s what I liken him to.

Rick Magnante (photo by Meghan Camino)

Rick Magnante
(photo by Meghan Camino)

AF:  I was thinking about David Eckstein.

RM:  Absolutely, that’s a good comparison.

AF:  21-year-old outfielder Luis Barrera came up here from Beloit in the middle of July. He got off to a pretty good start here and has already hit a couple of home runs for you. He seems to have a lot of tools to work with.

RM:  He’s a combination of tools with an emerging skill set and a baseball IQ that still needs to advance some. But he’s wiry strong, fast, defends, throws, chance to hit, and has youth on his side. So, certainly he’s a chance prospect for me.

AF:  The other guy who came up from Beloit at the same time as Barrera is 21-year-old infielder Edwin Diaz. He’s still very young, but he’s also got some tools.

RM:  Originally drafted as a shortstop, he’s gotten bigger, filled out and slowed down a little bit, so he’s moved over to the corner. He’s gifted with the glove and has a gifted arm. He’s made some sensational plays in the short time that he’s been here to allow us to stay in ballgames and eliminate rallies and not give extra outs away. He needs to work on the bat. The hitting is his Achilles heel right now. There’s strength there, there’s leverage, there’s raw power. But the ability to make consistent contact, to take advantage of pitches in the zone that he should hit, those areas are the areas that he needs to improve on.

AF:  22-year-old infielder Sheldon Neuse just recently came here from the Nationals’ system. Have you been able to form much of an impression of him yet?

RM:  We had a nice talk in the office yesterday, just a little orientation. I gave him a little history about the A’s, our direction, our philosophy. I got some information from him, a little bio, where he comes from, his family, etc. Anytime anybody comes over to a new organization, you’ve just got to give them a pass for six to ten games and let them just get their feet on the ground. But his numbers speak for themselves. He was a 2nd-round draft pick by the Nationals, and we know they scout well. And it looks like we’re going to give him an opportunity to play some shortstop and some third base and see how that goes. But we had him out here for some early work in batting practice today, and there is raw power to all fields. But early on, you can see it’s a good body – there’s strength, there’s power. He closed all three years at Oklahoma as well as playing short and third. I don’t know if it’s Chapman-like, but there’s arm strength there.

AF:  23-year-old Cuban pitcher Norge Ruiz is an intriguing pitching prospect that people are very interested in. He’s made four starts here in Stockton now, so what have you been able to see out of him so far?

Rick Magnante (photo by Meghan Camino)

Rick Magnante
(photo by Meghan Camino)

RM:  Well, he’s extremely competitive – extremely competitive. He raises the bar very high in terms of his expectations, which is good, but it sometimes can be unrealistic and unattainable. So, I tried to bring that down a little bit and create some kind of measured reality for what we expect here. But you’re dealing with a different culture…with those guys, you really have to give them the opportunity to just settle in and get comfortable. They want to impress early. He’s got a large mix of pitches – from the fastball to the curveball to the slider to the splitter to the change. So, we’re going to let him throw his stuff and see how he does. And I’m sure we’ll start to abridge his arsenal and try to get him something that works more like a traditional three-pitch/four-pitch mix and see how it all works out. But he’s had his moments where he’s been impressive. He mixes it up, he changes speeds and he attacks hitters. And he’s going to have to learn also that this is professional baseball in America. It’s not international baseball. This is a little bit more challenging over here. And he’s going to have to do what he needs to do to make the necessary adjustments. So far, he’s competed out here, and he’s mixed in well with his teammates – so good for Norge!

AF:  As we all know, the minor league season can be a bit of a grind. And with a month or so left in the minor league season, we’re probably starting to hit that grind point right about now. So, at this point, what are you thinking about, and what messages are you conveying to the young players here on your squad?

RM:  Well, you know, we had a successful first half. I was very pleased with the fact that, with four games left to play in the first half, we were one out, and had a chance to get ourselves an early first-half spot in the playoffs. It did not come to fruition. But as far as the work ethic, the energy, the commitment, the fellowship, the camaraderie that we’ve seen here early on, I’m very pleased with the makeup of the ballclub. At the halfway point, when I sat down and spoke with the players, I simply said that now is the second half, this is when adjustments need to be made, not only in terms of what you need to do to get better, but also what the other teams are going to do to offset the success you’ve had against them. And also, I just said that I thought there was tremendous parity in the California League, and there was no one or two teams that I felt this year were clearly, talent-wise, better than the rest. So, our future, our destiny here this second half is going to be a function of how well we play the game and how few mistakes we make…with a new crew, with a whole different group of guys – outside of maybe Eli White and maybe Pimentel and Bolt and Brown and Siddall and Mikey White; the pitching has completely changed; we have two new catchers [Argenis Raga and Santiago Chavez]; we have a new third baseman [Edwin Diaz]; we have a newly-acquired infielder with Sheldon Neuse. So, it’s a different crew, but you expect that. That comes with the territory in the minor leagues – we, as a staff, understand that. So, we just continue to come out and work hard every day, send out a positive message and make sure that the guys give us their best effort. And to date, they have.

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Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm. You can also get our exclusive A’s minor league newsletter e-mailed to you free by signing up here.

Sunday, July 23rd: Schrock’s Big Bat Helps Hounds Sweep Twinbill while Ports Win in a Walk-Off

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Second Baseman Max Schrock (5 for 7 / Home Run / Double / 2 Walks / 5 RBIs)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Second Baseman Max Schrock (5 for 7 / HR / Double / 2 Walks / 5 RBIs)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

GAME #1

Corpus Christi Hooks       2

Midland RockHounds  12

WP – Hurlbutt 3-1 / 2.20

HR – Schrock (6)

Prospect Of The Game:

Second Baseman Max Schrock

(4 for 4 / Home Run / Double / 3 RBIs)

Second baseman Max Schrock had a big game in the first of Midland’s two matches on Sunday. The 22-year-old had 4 hits, including a home run and a double, and drove in 3 runs, and he went 5 for 7 with a pair of walks and 5 RBIs overall in the doubleheader. Catcher Andy Paz had 2 hits, including a double, and drove in a pair, while shortstop Richie Martin singled, doubled and drove in a run for the RockHounds. RHP Dustin Hurlbutt delivered his second straight quality start, allowing 2 runs on just 3 hits over 6 innings of work to earn his 3rd win for Midland.

Click here for more on Nashville, Midland, Stockton, Beloit & Vermont…

Saturday, July 22nd: Altamirano Pitches Snappers to Victory while Ports Can’t Prevail in Extras

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Beloit Snappers Pitcher Xavier Altamirano (6 IP / 4 H / 2 ER / 1 BB / 6 K / Win)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Beloit Snappers Pitcher Xavier Altamirano (6 IP / 4 H / 2 ER / 1 BB / 6 K / Win)

 

MIDWEST LEAGUE  (Class-A)

South Bend Cubs  3

Beloit Snappers   6

WP – Altamirano 6-2 / 3.06

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Xavier Altamirano

(6 IP / 4 H / 2 ER / 1 BB / 6 K / Win)

RHP Xavier Altamirano turned in his second straight quality start for the Snappers on Saturday. The 23-year-old allowed 3 runs, just 2 earned, while striking out 6 over 6 innings of work to earn his 6th win for the Snappers. RHP John Gorman tossed 2 scoreless innings in relief, and RHP Yordys Alejo got the final three outs in the 9th to notch his 3rd save. Center fielder Mike Martin collected 3 hits, including a double, stole a base and scored twice, while first baseman Kyle Nowlin had 2 hits and a walk and drove in a pair, and left fielder Luke Persico singled twice and drove in a run for the Snappers.

Click here for more on Nashville, Midland, Stockton, Vermont & AZL A’s…

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