A total of 44 players reported to the A’s fall Instructional League camp in Phoenix this week. Many of the A’s top prospects will spend the next month training, conditioning, participating in drills and playing other teams’ Instructional League clubs in Arizona.
The A’s top pick from this year’s draft – outfielder Bill McKinney – along with two of the A’s top three picks from the 2012 draft – shortstop Daniel Robertson and first baseman Matt Olson – will all be participating. Meanwhile, the A’s top pick from 2012 – shortstop Addison Russell – will begin his off-season work in the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League later next month.
Below you’ll find the A’s complete fall Instructional League roster along with the team each player finished the 2013 season with listed next to their name…
A’s Instructional League Roster
Jeremy Barfield (Sac)
Sam Bragg (Bel)
Dylan Covey (Bel)
Dustin Driver (AZL)
Kyle Finnegan (Bel)
Kris Hall (Bel)
Ronald Herrera (Ver)
Austin House (Bel)
Chris Kohler (AZL)
Joe Michaud (Ver)
Junior Mendez (Ver)
Carlos Navas (AZL)
Nolan Sanburn (Bel)
Lee Sosa (Ver)
Lou Trivino (Ver)
Dominique Vattuone (Ver)
Tyler Vail (Bel)
Victor Veliz (DSL)
Bobby Wahl (Ver)
Michael Ynoa (Sto)
Jesus Zambrano (DSL)
Iolana Akau (AZL)
Bruce Maxwell (Sto)
Josh Miller (Ver)
Andy Paz (AZL)
Kyle Wheeler (AZL)
Chris Bostick (Bel)
Edwin Diaz (AZL)
Ryon Healy (Ver)
Ryan Huck (Ver)
Jesus Lopez (DNP)
Yairo Munoz (AZL)
Renato Nunez (Bel)
Matt Olson (Bel)
Chad Pinder (Ver)
Daniel Robertson (Bel)
B.J. Boyd (Ver)
Jaycob Brugman (Ver)
Shawn Duinkerk (AZL)
Justin Higley (AZL)
Tyler Marincov (Ver)
Billy McKinney (Ver)
D’Arby Myers (Mid)
Aaron Shipman (Bel)
The Sacramento River Cats boast three Pacific Coast League All-Stars this season – outfielder Michael Choice, second baseman Grant Green and pitcher Sonny Gray. All are former 1st-round draft picks and all could soon be seeing time in Oakland, so you forward-looking A’s fans ought to get acquainted with them while you can. We took the opportunity to talk with all three of them, along with River Cats pitching coach Rick Rodriguez, while in Sacramento last week to see how things are shaping up for some of the A’s top prospects…
The A’s top pick in 2010, Choice struggled a bit last year with Midland. But he had a great spring and seems to have turned the corner this year in Sacramento. With Chris Young not likely to be retained by the A’s next season, Choice could be in line to see time in the A’s outfield next year…
AF: You’ve been having a good year here in Sacramento, and you had a really good spring too. Did you have a little extra confidence, because it seems like you just came out the chute raring to go this year?
MC: Just going back to the off-season, I spent a lot of time working in the off-season and getting myself ready for spring training. And all the hard work just paid off.
AF: Was there anything you did different this off-season as opposed to the past?
MC: Not too different. I had a little more time to get things going. The off-season before I went to the [Arizona] Fall League, the season before that there was instructs (instructional league). So there was a lot more time to kind of rest and get yourself into more of a routine that you’d like to get into. So basically I had a lot of time to get in the cage, especially in the winter when it’s cold.
AF: So how did everyone treat you when you were in the big league camp this spring?
MC: Yeah, everybody’s cool up there. For the most part, the A’s clubhouse is pretty young. There’s not too many older guys up there, so everybody’s real receptive to each other.
AF: Was there anyone in particular who took you under their wing or took the time to show you the ropes a bit?
MC: Not anybody in particular. But I spent a lot more time with most of the outfielders in camp. Coco, C.Y., Reddick, Seth Smith – those guys are the ones I talked to the most up there.
AF: Well, after the spring you had, you must have had a lot of confidence and been pretty eager to get things going.
MC: Yeah, definitely. You’re always ready to get the season started because spring training gets long, especially once you go down to minor league camp. It’s the same thing everyday, and you’re just ready for some real games where it matters.
AF: So what would you say has been the key to the success you’ve been having this year?
MC: Just the experience of the game. The more games you play in, the more experience you get, the more you see guys, you just get into a routine of how to get better.
AF: It seems like you’ve been taking a lot of walks and getting on base a lot this year. Is there anything different in your approach at the plate, or is there anything different in what you’re looking for or what you’re trying to do at the plate?
MC: Not so much, just kind of basically picking up where I left off at the end of last year at Midland – just really trying to swing at good pitches, pitches I can handle that are more up in the zone and trying to leave the ones down alone.
AF: And what about your basic swing and your mechanics, how much are you still tweaking that, or are things pretty much settled in now?
MC: I mean, with hitting, you’re always tweaking something, but most of the time, it’s more mental than physical. At this point, I work on the physical stuff before the game, but once the game starts, it’s all mental and you’re more worried about what the pitcher has and how you’re going to be successful against him.
AF: Now they’ve been having you spend a little time in left field and right field this year. So how is it different for you playing the corner positions rather than center field?
MC: Corners are a little bit faster. You’ve got to read angles. Knowing the hitter’s important – which guys like to pull, which guys like to hit the ball opposite field. But it’s been going good so far, just getting my reps in during BP and making sure I can get good reads in the game.
AF: So is there anything in particular that you’re currently focused on working on either in the field or at the plate, or is it now just a matter of going out everyday and trying to follow through on the approach that you’ve developed at this point?
MC: You pretty much just hit the nail on the head right there. You know, everything I’ve done in preparation before the game, I just want that to play in the game.
AF: When you left the big league camp in spring training, did Bob Melvin or anybody pat you on the back or let you know they appreciated what they saw from you in camp this year?
MC: Yeah, you have those sit-down meetings before you get sent out, and they basically just said, “Keep working hard and knock the door down.”
The A’s top pick in 2009, Green has been a man without a home in the field. He started out as a shortstop, then switched to the outfield, and even saw a little time at third base. But he finally seems to be settling in at second base this season. And with the middle infield the murkiest part of the A’s major league roster, many A’s fans are already clamoring for Green to get his shot…
AF: You’ve been having a good year here, and things have been going well for you at the plate. So are there any particular adjustments you’ve made this season?
GG: Nothing different really, just the same stuff we were working on last year.
AF: And what was the key stuff you were working on last year?
GG: Just better plate discipline, better balance – that’s something we worked really hard on last year. I kind of had a good season and wanted to keep it going this year.
AF: So are you waiting more for your pitch now?
GG: Yeah, definitely not trying to get that pitcher’s pitch early and just waiting on mine.
AF: It seems like you’ve been hitting an awful lot of doubles this year. Is that just due to waiting for the right pitch a little more?
GG: Yeah, I’ve had a little bit more success hitting balls in the gap this year. I’ve always been the type of guy who’s had quite a few doubles. I think last year was the lowest amount of doubles I’ve had in a season. But it’s definitely just been a matter of getting my pitch and doing something with it.
AF: Were you feeling pretty confident to start the year?
GG: Yeah, then I hit a little valley here and there. I went on a couple of stretches that weren’t the best.
AF: Well, it seems like you’re in one of your best stretches of the year right now. Are you just seeing the ball really well right now?
GG: Yeah, I’m definitely just seeing the ball well. I’ve had a couple of at-bats where the ball’s fallen for me, and that kind of happens when you’re going well. So it’s been a combination of both.
AF: Well, you’ve also been hitting them over the wall and in the gaps lately too, so that’s not just luck. (He would hit two home runs in the game later that night). But what about in the field? You’ve been playing second base for most of the season, and it’s a rarity for you to be at one spot most of the season. How do you feel about second base and how are things developing for you over there?
GG: I’m feeling good. I’m definitely feeling a lot more comfortable than I was at the beginning of the year. It’s almost becoming second nature now. So that’s definitely a good feeling – being able to worry about one position only. I’m still just doing the usual, just working on little stuff here and there – whether it’s turning two around the bag, because it’s just a different look from what I’m used to, or different feeds to second base. Those are really the main two things that we work on.
AF: You’ve obviously spent plenty of time playing shortstop, so how does second base compare to shortstop for you? What’s different for you over there?
GG: Definitely, the view off the bat is much different. But other than that, the only other thing I really see that’s different is the turns. Coming from short, you’re able to kind of read the play because everything’s in front of you – you see the ball, see the runner. When you’re at second base, it’s more of a reaction thing, more of a feel, that you know on certain balls you’ve got to get rid of it quick and on other balls you’ve got a little bit more time and you can stay in there.
AF: And are you feeling more confident every day you’re out there at second?
GG: Oh yeah, much more confident. Like you said, it’s a rarity that I’ve been able to stay at one position most of the year. So it’s definitely nice to be able to know when you come to the yard that not only are you going to be playing but the odds are you’re going to be at one position and you’re going to be able to work on that one position during BP.
AF: So do you pay much attention to what’s going on with the big league club in Oakland and how they’re doing and how guys up there are playing?
GG: Not really, other than the guys I’ve come to know through the system who’ve gotten called up. Other than that, it’s not the thing on my mind. I’m a River Cat right now, and that’s what I am. So until that call-up comes, I’m going to be here in Sacramento being a River Cat.
AF: So do you live with any teammates here in Sacramento during the season?
GG: I’ve got an apartment just for the season with a couple of guys here – Ryan Ortiz and Paul Smyth have lived with me throughout the year.
AF: And finally, after long avoiding Twitter, there now seems to be a Twitter account for you (@GreenieLocks8). Now was that created by Sonny Gray and Bruce Billings, or does that actually belong to you?
GG: (Laughs) No, it is not mine. It’s something they have fun with. They definitely asked me if they could do it, and I said yes. It’s all fun. I’m not on the Twitter game, but more than likely, I’ll probably take it over at some point.
AF: So you were somewhat complicit in this thing anyway.
GG: Yeah, I told them as long as they didn’t get me in trouble, it was okay.
The A’s top pick in 2011, Gray had a lot to learn last year in his first full season at Midland. But he seems to have gotten over the hump this year at Sacramento and is clearly the A’s top pitching prospect, poised to pounce as soon as an opportunity pops up on the big league pitching staff. We had the chance to see his last start in Sacramento, where he allowed 4 runs in the 2nd inning but righted the ship and otherwise pitched flawlessly over 7 innings of work and walked away with a no-decision in a game the River Cats won. We talked to him in the Cats’ clubhouse after the game, along with Oakland Clubhouse’s Chris Biderman. Below are some selections from that post-game question-and-answer session…
Q: I know you’ve been working on your changeup for quite a while. So where do you feel you’re at with the changeup right now?
SG: I think it’s good. I think I threw 7 pitches in the 5th or 6th inning tonight, and I think I threw 5 changeups and got some early contact. So I’m very confident – I’ll throw it whenever, to righties or lefties. Tonight it got me out of the 2nd inning with the double play, and I got a lot of swings and groundballs and soft contact with it.
Q: Do you feel a lot more confident throwing it this year than you would have at any point last year?
SG: Oh, at any point in my whole career, in my whole life. It’s just something that finally got in my mind that it helps me and it makes me that much better of a pitcher.
Q: How do you feel about your overall command?
SG: I think it’s better than it’s been. It’s obviously something that you’re always going to work on. You’re always going to try to get better at that. But even tonight – I missed up in the zone a little bit in the 2nd inning and got hit – but other than that, it was a walk on a close pitch here, a walk on a close pitch there.
Q: If you had that kind of 2nd inning in a start last year, you might not have been able to recover. How much different of a pitcher are you now than you were at this time last year?
SG: I’ve felt really comfortable on the mound this whole year. I had a little bump in the road in the 2nd inning, and last year I might not have been able to make the adjustment and tone it down a little bit and start throwing changeups and curveballs for strikes and making my fastball look a little better. You know, it’s kind of frustrating to give up 4 runs in the 2nd inning feeling as good as I felt tonight, but it’s also kind of rewarding to be able to still get 7 innings after throwing almost 40 pitches in 1 inning.
Q: You took over the PCL lead in strikeouts tonight. Is that something you’re able to take some pride in?
SG: I think strikeouts are never a bad thing because you can kind of shut down an inning. But I think I am striking more guys out this year than last year.
Q: Is that because of the refinement of your secondary pitches?
SG: I think so. I think I’m getting a lot of swings on my breaking ball, and that’s probably because my fastball’s a little bit better this year and I’m throwing my breaking ball noticeably better this year than I did last year. I don’t know if it’s the weather here that allows you to do that. In Midland, it’s a little bit tough, but I have noticed that my breaking pitches have been better.
Q: Was it kind of cool to face a guy like Eric Chavez who’s been in the big leagues for as long as he has, or was that even on your mind at all?
SG: No, it wasn’t on my mind really. I didn’t really know.
Q: Is there anything in particular you’re focused on working on right now now that you’re feeling confident in the changeup a little more?
SG: The only thing I’m doing every time out is just trying to make pitches and get as many outs as possible. There’s not one thing that I would say I’m getting lectured on. It’s just trying to get outs every time you get out there.
Q: So at this point, it’s just a matter of executing the game plan and doing everything you know you need to do.
SG: Yeah, right.
Rick Rodriguez is the long-time River Cats pitching coach, though he also served a brief stint as the A’s bullpen coach last season. He’s had a hand in developing many of the A’s most talented young pitchers, and is now entrusted with guiding Sonny Gray’s glide path to the majors…
AF: So I wanted to talk to you primarily about Sonny Gray. Obviously he’s had a really good season and he kind of looks like he’s gotten over the hump. So, as his pitching coach here this year, can you define from your perspective what he’s been doing right this season?
RR: Yeah, this is really the first year I’ve ever worked with him. I remember him from spring training last year. And just going by the little bit I saw last year compared to this year, it’s like night and day. His command of his fastball has gotten a lot better. His changeup has gotten a lot better. He’s getting more confidence in it – he can throw it pretty much anytime now. His curveball has always been nasty. And he’s learning how to pitch. He’s learning that you just can’t pump fastballs in there all the time. So he’s using that changeup. He’s learning to pitch back and forth and learning how to use that changeup when he’s behind in the count.
AF: It certainly seems like his outings have been a lot more efficient. He’s throwing far fewer pitches, he’s not walking a lot of guys. So what’s the source of that newfound efficiency?
RR: I think it’s just more confidence. Coming into this level, he’s seeing that he can compete and dominate this league. And hopefully for however long he’s here, he can continue to do that and then when he goes to the big leagues he’ll have all the confidence in the world.
AF: Now what about his third pitch – the changeup? I know that’s something the organization’s been working on with him for a while now. So how’s that been developing?
RR: Yeah, I give him credit. He’s working hard in the bullpen on it. That’s part of his routine – he works it in. He knows you do X amount of fastballs here, okay now we’re going to do the changeup. He’s limiting the use of his breaking ball in his side work – he’s working primarily fastball/changeup. And I think that’s translated into the success he’s having right now.
AF: And I’m assuming that his command has improved as well, that he’s putting pitches where he wants to more frequently.
RR: Yeah, more frequently – there’s always room for improvement. And every once in a while, just like anybody else, all of a sudden the fastball command gets off track and then gets back on track. But his command has gotten a lot better.
AF: Is there any one particular thing that you’re trying to work on with him right now?
RR: You know, I keep talking to him – we preach first-pitch strikes. So we’re always working on first-pitch strikes. But in addition to that, once you get 0-1, hey let’s get 0-2. Instead of throwing a ball, let’s go 0-2 and start really putting those guys in a defensive mode. And I think he’s starting to understand that – he’s trying. It’s a learning process, and he’s still very young, so he’s still learning how to do all that.
AF: So you’d really like to make him even more aggressive right off the bat.
RR: Yeah, he’s got all the talent in the world. And like I said, he’s very young and he’s still working on some things, but he’s going to be a good one.
AF: Well, at this point, he’s the next prospect in line if anything should happen. So what do you think he still needs to do to be in a position to be a successful major league pitcher?
RR: His mound presence is very good. His emotional presence is very good in the dugout. I think that’s a big plus for him – I think he’s learned that. The one thing I think he probably needs to do is the execution of his pitches probably needs to be a little bit more consistent – meaning if the catcher’s going fastball down and away to a right-handed hitter, I want him to hit that fastball down and away or miss down and away, not for it to come back over the plate. And just like with anybody else, you get in little ruts and sometimes the ball does come back over. And with Sonny, he’s learning, if that ball does come back over, what to do to get it where he wants it. And I think if he can improve on that, he’s going to be tough.
AF: Is there anyone else on your staff here you’ve seen show a lot of improvement this year?
RR: Well, I had Scribner when I was the bullpen coach in Oakland last year. But down here, his control has gotten so much better. His curveball has gotten to the point where he can throw it pretty much at any time wherever he wants. And he’s doing very well both against left-handed hitters and right-handed hitters. Brian Gordon has come on very, very strong. He’s learned to command the strike zone with all his pitches. He tightened up his slider, which I think helped. Pedro Figueroa worked on some mechanical things and now his fastball command has gotten much better. His slider’s gotten a little bit sharper. So guys are still working, trying to get better, trying to iron out some stuff. But those three guys have come in and improved tremendously.
AF: So you think Scribner is a dramatically improved pitcher from what you saw of him in Oakland last year?
RR: Yeah, from what I saw of him in Oakland and from what I see now. Again, it’s about executing. But if he can just keep executing in Oakland the way he is here, he’s going to be fine.
Find out more about the A’s top prospects. Get the inside scoop on Choice, Green and Gray from their manager, Sacramento River Cats skipper Steve Scarsone, here.
* * *
There’s no question that two of the A’s top hitting prospects can currently be found in the clubhouse of the California League Stockton Ports. The A’s 8th overall draft pick in last year’s draft, first baseman Max Muncy, currently leads all A’s minor leaguers in home runs and RBIs. And the A’s top pick last year, 19-year-old Addison Russell, is second on his team in runs, walks, doubles, total bases and stolen bases and currently leads the team in triples. We took the opportunity to talk with both of them while in Stockton last week, along with their manager, Webster Garrison, to get some perspective on how things have been shaping up for some of the A’s top prospects this season in Stockton…
From day one, the A’s have been aggressive in promoting their top draft pick from last year, shortstop Addison Russell. And this year, the team chose to start him at Stockton in the High-A California League, where he had the distinction of being the youngest player in the league. The 19-year-old struggled early on, but he’s turned things around and has really been coming on strong of late…
AF: At 19, you’re the youngest player in the California League this year. So does anybody give you a hard time about being so young?
AR: Not really, I’m usually just treated as another guy here.
AF: You started the season out kind of slow, but the last month or so, you really seem to be putting it together. So what accounted for the early struggles, and what’s accounted for the turnaround?
AR: I think I’m just more relaxed now. I’m seeing more pitches. I’m seeing more time on the field. I’m just more relaxed, and I think I perform at my best whenever I feel that way.
AF: Was there a lot for you to get used to when you first came to the California League?
AR: Yeah, me being a young guy, I kind of had to soak everything in. And there was just a lot of stuff that I wasn’t used to, so I had to make a few adjustments, and I did.
AF: Besides just getting more relaxed and more comfortable at the plate, what were some of the adjustments you had to make?
AR: It’s really just recognizing the pitch. Before this league, I never really saw a cutter or a two-seam [fastball], and I’m seeing those pitches really well now. That was just a little adjustment that I had to make.
AF: What about in the field, are there any differences for you at this level?
AR: Yeah, it’s a little bit of a faster-paced level. The guys that hit are a little bit quicker to first base and second base, and I have to get rid of the ball a little bit faster, so I had to make that adjustment. But overall, I’m just working on my whole game.
AF: Do you feel you have to try to come in on the ball a little faster now?
AR: I still try to stay in that relaxed state, but just get the ball out a little bit quicker.
AF: You got to spend a little time in the big league camp this spring. So what did you take away from that experience?
AR: I really just tried to get to know the guys and see how they practice, their approaches, their work ethic, just what they do everyday to get prepared for the game. And I try to really put that into my routine and my preparation for the game.
AF: Well, I guess you got a good sense of how the major leaguers do it anyway. So was everybody cool to you there?
AR: Yeah, they were all nice and friendly. They came up and talked to me for a little bit and introduced themselves and I introduced myself to them. It was just a good experience.
AF: So have you kept in touch with your boys in Beloit – Daniel Robertson and Matt Olson?
AR: Yeah, we text and we snapchat and all that stuff every now and then. It’s always good to hear they’re doing good, and it’s always good to hear from them.
AF: Well, you’re from Florida, so how is it for you living out here in California?
AR: It’s a little different than back home. There’s a lot of one-way streets – I’m not used to that.
AF: Have you turned the wrong way yet?
AR: A few times. But other than that, it’s not too bad. We’re staying in a good part of town. There’s some good people there. I’m familiarizing myself with the area, and it’s a nice place.
AF: Do you share a place with some of your teammates?
AR: Yeah, I’m with a few teammates in an apartment – Dusty Robinson, Tanner Peters and Rashun Dixon.
AF: Has your family been out to visit you and see you play at all?
AR: My dad came out here at the beginning of last month and it was just awesome that he kind of got to experience what I’ve been living for the past few months. He enjoyed being out here and seeing his son play. And I’m hoping the other side of my family – my mom, my sisters and my brother – can come out here. I think they would enjoy it.
AF: Well you know, Sacramento’s right up the road – the Triple-A affiliate. Have you had a chance to get up there yet?
AR: Yeah, I’ve been up there to play a pre-season game with the Ports. And it was a pretty nice spot – it was really, really nice.
AF: Well, you never know, it might be home before long!
Besides Addison Russell, the only other member of last year’s draft class for the A’s to start the season as high as Stockton this year is first baseman Max Muncy. The 22-year-old came roaring out of the gate this season and currently leads all A’s minor leaguers with 20 home runs, which is a bit of a pleasant surprise, since he totaled just 4 last year…
AF: Obviously, you’ve been having a good year here in Stockton. So what’s been the key to your success this season?
MM: I feel like I’ve been swinging the same way I’ve swung my whole life. The only difference is there’s been a few more home runs…
AF: Just a few?
MM: (Laughs) Just a few…Yeah, I’ve never put up home run numbers like this. A lot of people say it’s because of the ballpark, it’s because of the league we’re in – maybe a couple of them, but for the most part, I think the big difference is I spent a lot of the off-season working on back-spinning balls. If anyone saw me play last year, they’d notice I had a ton of doubles, but all of them were top-spin balls right down the line. Even the ones I was hitting in the gaps weren’t back-spun, they were spinning sideways, top-spin – they didn’t have back-spin, so they weren’t carrying as much. To me, that’s the big difference. If you hit line drives with back-spin, they tend to carry a little bit more than everything else, so I feel like that’s been the big difference when it comes to my home run numbers.
AF: So you started working on that at home this off-season?
MM: Well, I’ve always had a big problem with top-spin. A lot of lefties have that problem. There’s not many lefties that back-spin all the time. So that’s something I’ve been working on for a while. And this off-season, I really tried to focus on that. I just worked on getting a more downward plane to the ball, staying inside of it a little bit and not coming out early on my swing. And I feel like that’s been a huge difference for me.
AF: I know I was talking with some coaches in spring training who were talking about developing your power potential more. So I don’t know if people have always thought that you had greater power potential than you’ve shown in the past.
MM: Yeah, that’s what a lot of people have thought. You know, I’ve never put up huge home run numbers. In college, I always had a couple, but I wasn’t hitting 15-16 home runs in college like some guys were. So I think they saw it, and I knew I had it. But I’ve been a line drive hitter my whole life, and I still feel like I’m a little bit of a line drive hitter. The only difference is I’m hitting line drives with back-spin that are going a little bit more up in the air because they’ve got that back-spin and they carry.
AF: What’s the most home runs you’ve ever had in a season before?
MM: Probably back in high school. I don’t know what my numbers were in high school. But as far as I can remember, I had 11-12 as a freshman in college.
AF: So when the season started out and everything started going so well for you right off the bat, you must have been thinking, “Gee, this is working out even better than I planned!”
MM: It was a pretty unreal experience for me. I was getting very good contact on a lot of the balls I was hitting. I was putting them in the air, and I wasn’t popping them up – I was hitting them really well. It’s hard to explain, because I’ve never had a start like that before. I’ve never just hit home run after home run, and to do that was pretty amazing. I had friends calling me from school back home saying, “Hey, mix in an infield single every now and then – those are pretty cool too.” It was a lot of fun, and I think I let that get to my head a little bit…
AF: I was going to ask you about that little dip you had in May…
MM: I really think I let it get to my head a little bit. I saw the home runs and I was thinking, “Hey, maybe I can hit more if I start lifting more.” And I was hitting a lot of pop-ups, I wasn’t getting very good contact. I think my strikeout numbers went up. And that’s something I hate doing too – I hate striking out. In the game yesterday, I had a home run but I struck out twice, and I think I was more upset about the strikeouts than I was happy about the home run. That’s another thing I’ve always taken a lot of pride in is walking more than I’ve struck out.
AF: Well, that’ll serve you well in this organization! So you think you started getting a little too homer-happy after the hot start and got a little out of your game?
MM: Yeah, I definitely think I got out of my game. I was trying to lift the ball too much. We went to a couple places like Lancaster, where the wind was just howling out to right field, and I saw that and automatically I’m thinking, “Oh, I’m getting a couple of home runs.” It got to my head, and I wasn’t hitting very many balls. So I had to come back down to earth a little bit and realize that’s not going to happen all the time. I’ve just got to go back to hitting my line drives, and that’s when the home runs started coming again.
AF: Well, stick with what works! Now I remember hearing good things about your defense going back to when you were first drafted. So is there anything different about playing in the field at this level?
MM: I’ve always taken pride in my defense at first base. I’ve always felt like I’m a little bit of an above average defender at first base because I was never a first baseman. When I went to college, I was recruited there as a second baseman/third baseman. So I’ve always had decent feet and good hands, and I feel like taking that to first base is a huge advantage for me. I know I can get around balls and what I need to do. I can get reads on short hops. That’s just something I’ve always taken a lot of pride in. I’ve always loved being a good defender. To me, it’s a good feeling when I’m able to make the other infielders feel comfortable throwing the ball across the field to me. I’ve been there before. Like I said, I wasn’t always a first baseman. I’ve had first baseman before where you weren’t sure if they were going to catch it or they were going to miss it. So I take a lot of pride in that.
AF: I never realized you’d played second and third before. So you’ve really got much more of that infielder’s mentality.
MM: Yeah, I’d never played first base until I got to college. And the only reason they put me there is that’s where the open spot was on the team, and they just wanted my bat in the lineup. I got there my first year, and I just ended up staying there until now. And as far as I know, the A’s have told me that’s where I’m staying. I’m always going to mess around at those other positions just in case – I think that’d be a fun opportunity.
AF: Well, I guess the way the season’s started for you has given you a lot of confidence anyway, which always helps, right?
MM: Yeah, it definitely helps. It’s been a really fun year so far, and I’m really looking forward to the second half. Hopefully I can stay a little bit more consistent, and not have a month that kind of drops off a little bit.
AF: Well, no matter what, as long as you keep taking those walks and getting on base, you’ll get through it!
The Ports are managed by Webster Garrison. The affable former infielder is in his third season as Stockton’s skipper and has plenty to say about the team’s top prospects…
AF: I wanted to start out by asking you about shortstop Addison Russell. He started out a little shaky this year. But what have you seen from him in the three months that he’s been here so far?
WG: The kid’s a hard worker. But he’s not putting as much pressure on himself as he was earlier in the season. There were a lot of expectations on him, and he was just trying so hard to get it done, then he started getting a little frustrated as well. Now he’s got it going a little bit. We moved him in the lineup from first to second just to take a little pressure off him where he’s not the first guy up every night. And he’s just settling in and having fun. He’s a good guy – the guys enjoy his company out here. And he’s just started to get comfortable out there and play extremely well as of late.
AF: So you think it’s just been a matter of him relaxing and getting comfortable with things?
WG: Yeah, taking the pressure off himself and just relaxing and playing baseball.
AF: What specific adjustments has he had to make?
WG: Well, hitting-wise, which is what he was struggling with the most, he has to be able to use the whole field. Instead of just trying to crank every ball out of the ballpark, now he’s starting to use the whole field. He’s waiting back better. He’s not as jumpy. He’s not as anxious. He’s just relaxing and letting the ball come to him and hitting it where it’s pitched compared to trying to go get it. And he’s getting to know these pitchers a lot better. Basically, he didn’t know any of these pitchers. Now that we’ve been through a couple of teams a few times, he knows what they’ve got and he knows how they’re trying to attack him and he’s made a good adjustment and he’s having fun.
AF: So do you think he’s a fast learner?
WG: Yeah, he’s definitely a fast learner for a 19-year-old kid. Most 19-year-old kids would probably still be in struggle mode right now. But he’s turning a corner and it’s good to see, and he’s a mature kid for his age.
AF: Well, having a fast learning curve sure makes your life a lot easier!
WG: It makes my life a lot easier, and I definitely feel a lot better right now!
AF: Now what about defense, how’s his learning curve been in the field?
WG: He’s got all the actions. He’s got the arm. He’s preparing himself. He’s coming in, getting the notes, getting to know the hitters. He’s positioning himself well. I don’t have to watch him as much as I used to because I know he’s got a good idea what he’s doing out there. He’s got good hands and a strong arm and has definitely got the actions. He’s got a lot of range out there.
AF: Another guy who’s been a standout this year is first baseman Max Muncy, who came in and hit from day one with surprising power. So I’m curious to get your take on what he’s been doing here this year.
WG: Yeah, since day one, he’s been swinging a real good bat, and it all started in spring training. He came into spring training swinging a good bat, so he’s just kept it going all season. He’s got a real good idea of hitting. The kid knows what he wants to do. And when he’s getting his pitch, he’s not missing it much. He was the only lefty in our lineup in the first half, so on certain occasions they really wouldn’t pitch to him, and he made the adjustment and takes his walks if he has to. And if they challenge him, he’s ready. He’s using the whole park as well, but his strong side’s his pull side. So when he gets that pitch in, he’s ready for it. And he’s laying off away until he gets two strikes, and he can definitely go that way as well. He’s a good-looking young hitter.
AF: What would you say is his single greatest strength as a hitter?
WG: I would say his swing – where he hits the ball. He goes through the ball and bottom-halfs it. He knows he’s not one of the best runners, so he’s trying to stay off the ground and he’s working hard on creating that back-spin where he’s in the air mostly. And it’s paid big dividends for him compared to pounding balls on the ground. He’s got that back-spin bottom-half where that ball’s getting up in the air, and it’s a good idea to be hitting like that here and in the California League period.
AF: I wanted to ask you about a couple of pitchers. Raul Alcantara recently joined your club. So what do you think of what you’ve seen from him so far?
WG: I saw him in spring training as well. Yesterday he was good. He went after hitters. He attacked hitters with all his pitches and got some easy outs and did a good job overall. He only had one walk, and that was late in his outing, which is a big key. If you’re throwing strikes, you’re definitely going to have some success.
AF: What about another guy who was here but was recently promoted to Midland, Drew Granier. What did you see from him?
WG: This kid’s a fierce competitor. He expects the best when he goes out there. And he’s got the pitches. He’s working on his changeup still, but his fastball’s moving, his breaking ball’s moving, and he’s got a great idea of pitching. He’s a little older kid than Alcantara – he’s a college kid – but he’s got a real good idea of pitching, and he’s aggressive – he goes after guys.
AF: One last question that you may or may not have an answer to. There’s a guy who was blowing everybody’s mind here last year – Miles Head. I’m sure you remember him. Even though I know you haven’t seen him this year in the Texas League, do you have any idea what might be the problem with him this season?
WG: He’s got a lot of injuries this year. It’s a slow start for him. He’s been on the DL twice this year. I heard he’s hit some balls well, just right at guys. I know Miles is going to turn it on sooner or later. It’s just a tough deal because I know he’s kind of injured and is off to a slow start. But as soon as he gets it together, I know the kid’s going to hit. It’s a beautiful thing watching him hit!
AF: I’m sure you enjoyed it!
* * *
All four of the A’s full-season affiliates are set to open their seasons on Thursday, April 4th. Sacramento and Stockton will be opening their seasons at home, while Midland and Beloit will have their season openers on the road.
In Sacramento’s game, left-hander Andrew Werner will be going for the River Cats against former 1st-round draft pick Zack Wheeler for Las Vegas. And familiar names like Jemile Weeks, Grant Green, Michael Choice, Michael Taylor and Shane Peterson are all likely to be in the lineup for the River Cats.
You can listen to broadcasts of all the games online free of charge via MiLB Gameday Audio at http://www.milb.com/milb/multimedia/audio.jsp. Broadcasts are also available on your iPad or iPhone via the MiLB.com app.
For those of you planning to tune into the games on Thursday, I’m going to experiment with having a Minor League Game Thread on the site where everyone is encouraged to comment on all the minor league game action throughout the evening – and I’ll be there commenting as well.
The starting times for all the games are listed below. I’ve included both the local time for each game as well as the Pacific time, since I know many of our followers are on the west coast.
Best of luck to all the A’s affiliates and minor league players on Thursday!
Thursday’s Opening Games – April 4th, 2013:
Las Vegas @ Sacramento – 7:05pm PT
Midland @ NW Arkansas – 4:00pm PT / 6:00pm CT
Bakersfield @ Stockton – 7:05pm PT
Beloit @ Cedar Rapids – 4:35pm PT / 6:35pm CT
Las Vegas 51s at Sacramento River Cats
7:05pm PT at Raley Field
Andrew Werner vs. Zack Wheeler
The opening day roster for the Stockton Ports, the A’s Class-A affiliate in the California League, was announced this week. And the Ports’ lineup will be led by the A’s top draft pick from last year, rising star Addison Russell.
The A’s top shortstop prospect will be joined in the Ports’ infield by first baseman Max Muncy, second baseman Antonio Lamas and third baseman B.A. Vollmuth, along with backups Tony Thompson and Wade Kirkland. Returning outfielders Myrio Richard, Josh Whitaker and Dusty Robinson will be joined by newcomer Bobby Crocker, and Ryan Ortiz and Ryan Delgado will be behind the plate.
The Ports’ pitching staff will be comprised of Sean Murphy, Jacob Brown, Drew Granier, Blake Hassebrock, Seth Frankoff, Andres Avila, Tanner Peters, Jose Macias, Jonathan Joseph, T.J. Walz, Pedro Vidal, David Mota and Omar Duran.
You’ll find the Stockton Ports’ complete roster, along with profiles of some of the team’s top players, below…
Right-Handed Hitting Shortstop
Age On Opening Day: 19
Drafted 2012 – 1st Round
The A’s top pick in last year’s draft was not only the star of the A’s 2012 draft class but was also the star of the team’s entire minor league system. And it didn’t take long for Russell to quickly become a favorite amongst A’s fans who have their eyes on the future. The Florida native earned the attention by tearing through three levels of minor league ball at the age of 18, and he’ll be starting the year in the California League at the age of 19. In 217 at-bats in the Arizona League, the NY-Penn League and the Midwest League in 2012, Russell had 10 doubles, 9 triples, 7 home runs and 16 stolen bases with an impressive .369/.432/.594 slash line. He didn’t disappoint in the field either, showing nice range and a good arm. The bottom line is that Russell is very young, very talented and very hard-working, and there’s no reason that he shouldn’t continue to rise as quickly as his performance demands.
Left-Handed Hitting First Baseman
Age On Opening Day: 22
Drafted 2012 – 5th Round
Another promising catch from last year’s draft, Muncy skipped two levels of the A’s minor league system and started the year higher than any other member of the A’s draft class at Class-A Burlington in the Midwest League. And he held his own there, posting a .275/.383/.432 slash line in 64 games. The left-handed hitter also seemed to be developing a little more power this spring in Arizona. And Muncy will be joining Russell, as the two fastest-rising members of last year’s draft class, in Stockton’s infield this season.
–STOCKTON PORTS 2013 ROSTER–
Max Muncy 1B
Tony Thompson 3B-1B
Wade Kirkland 2B-SS
Sean Murphy RHP
Jacob Brown LHP
Drew Granier RHP
Blake Hassebrock RHP
Seth Frankoff RHP
Andres Avila RHP
Tanner Peters RHP
Jose Macias RHP
Jonathan Joseph RHP
T.J. Walz RHP
Pedro Vidal RHP
David Mota RHP
Omar Duran LHP
The opening day roster for the Midland RockHounds, the A’s Double-A affiliate in the Texas League, was announced this week. The RockHounds’ lineup will be led by one of the A’s top hitting prospects, third baseman Miles Head, who led all A’s minor leaguers in hits, RBIs, batting average and slugging percentage last season.
Along with Head, the RockHounds’ infield will also include Jefry Marte, Tommy Mendonca, Anthony Aliotti, Dusty Coleman, Darwin Perez and Tyler Ladendorf. Jeremy Barfield, Chad Oberacker and D’Arby Myers will man the outfield, while Ryan Lipkin and Nick Rickles will be behind the plate.
The RockHounds’ starting rotation will likely include Murphy Smith, Josh Bowman, Josh Stinson, Zach Neal, Carlos Hernandez and Arnold Leon as soon as he’s been stretched out enough to start. Left-handers Jeff Urlaub and Frank Gailey will join right-handers Carlos Fisher, Sergio Perez, Kyler Newby, Darren Byrd and Paul Smyth in the RockHounds’ bullpen.
You’ll find the Midland RockHounds’ complete roster, along with profiles of some of the team’s top players, below…
Right-Handed Hitting Third Baseman
Age On Opening Day: 21
Drafted 2009 – 26th Round
Head was acquired, along with Josh Reddick and minor league pitcher Raul Alcantara, from Boston last year in the deal that sent Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney to the Red Sox. The big third baseman had an unbelievable first half at High-A Stockton, bashing 23 doubles and 18 home runs in just 267 at-bats while posting a truly impressive slash line of .382/.433/.715. The Georgia native spent the second half at Double-A Midland, where he put up a much more mortal .272/.338/.404 slash line in 234 at-bats. Head will get the chance to master the Texas League again in 2013. He played all but a handful of games at third base last year, and the team hopes that Head will stick at third, but he’ll probably spend just as much time at first base this season.
Right-Handed Hitting Third Baseman
Age On Opening Day: 21
Undrafted – Signed as International Free Agent
The A’s acquired Marte this off-season from the Mets in the Collin Cowgill trade. The third baseman had a .251/.322/.366 slash line last season at Binghamton in the Double-A Eastern League. Those numbers might not seem overly impressive, but it’s important to remember that he started the year as just a 20-year-old playing full-time at Double-A. And Marte looked good this spring, hitting .400 with a pair of doubles in a brief look with the A’s. Along with Miles Head, he’ll be splitting time between third base and first base at Midland this year and hoping to make his mark in his second year at Double-A.
Left-Handed Hitting Outfielder
Age On Opening Day: 24
Drafted 2011 – 25th Round
Oberacker was a bit of a sleeper in the A’s system who’s now on the rise. He was drafted in the 25th round in 2011, but he’s quickly moved up the ladder and was the only one of Stockton’s regular outfielders from last season to earn a promotion to Midland to start the year. There might not be any one aspect of Oberacker’s game that really stands out, but he seems to do everything just well enough to succeed. He hits for a decent average, has a little pop in his bat, has good speed and can play center field. He’ll start the season flanked by Jeremy Barfield and D’Arby Myers in the RockHounds’ outfield and will rise as far as his talent will take him.
Age On Opening Day: 24
Undrafted – Signed as International Free Agent
Leon is probably best known for his role in helping to precipitate the brawl between the Mexican national and Canadian national teams at this year’s WBC tournament. Besides that dubious distinction, Leon is a talented Mexican hurler whom the A’s signed as an international free agent back in 2008. Unfortunately, serious arm injuries caused him to miss most of the 2010 and 2011 seasons. But he came back strong, pitching out of the bullpen, in 2012. The A’s plan to stretch him out and see if he can get back on track as a starter this year at Midland.
–MIDLAND ROCKHOUNDS 2013 ROSTER–
Anthony Aliotti 1B-DH
Tommy Mendonca 3B-DH
Miles Head 3B-1B
Jefry Marte 3B-1B
Darwin Perez 2B-SS
Tyler Ladendorf 2B-SS-OF
D’Arby Myers OF
Murphy Smith RHP
Josh Bowman RHP
Zach Neal RHP
Carlos Hernandez LHP
Arnold Leon RHP
Carlos Fisher RHP
Sergio Perez RHP
Kyler Newby RHP
Darren Byrd RHP
Paul Smyth RHP
Josh Stinson RHP
Jeff Urlaub LHP
Frank Gailey LHP
The opening day roster for the Sacramento River Cats, the A’s Triple-A affiliate in the Pacific Coast League, was announced on Monday. And the team will include a remarkable five 1st-round draft picks – Sonny Gray, Michael Choice, Grant Green, Jemile Weeks and James Simmons.
Along with Weeks and Green, the River Cats’ infield will also include Andy Parrino, Scott Moore and Josh Horton. Michael Choice, Michael Taylor, Conner Crumbliss and Shane Peterson will man the outfield, with Peterson possibly seeing some time at first base as well, while Luke Montz and David Freitas will be behind the plate.
The River Cats’ starting rotation will include Sonny Gray, Andrew Werner, Jesse Chavez, Bruce Billings and Justin Thomas. Left-handers Hideki Okajima, Jordan Norberto and Pedro Figueroa will join right-handers James Simmons, Mike Ekstrom, Dan Otero, Brian Gordon, Nate Long and Travis Banwart in the River Cats’ bullpen.
You’ll find the Sacramento River Cats’ complete roster, along with profiles of some of the team’s top players, below…
Right-Handed Hitting Outfielder
Age On Opening Day: 23
Drafted 2010 – 1st Round
Big things were expected last year from the A’s 2010 1st-round draft pick after Choice hit 30 home runs at High-A Stockton in 2011. But the right-handed slugger got off to a slow start in the first half at Double-A Midland, showing very little of the power that had garnered him so much attention in the first place. Then just when it looked like he might have been starting to come around, Choice suffered a broken hand when he was hit by a pitch, and that was the end of the outfielder’s season. He finished with 10 home runs and a .287/.356/.423 slash line in 359 at-bats. The A’s still have high hopes for Choice though. And he’ll be playing center field for Sacramento in 2013, so he should have the chance to show everyone just what he’s capable of doing at Triple-A.
Right-Handed Starting Pitcher
Age On Opening Day: 23
Drafted 2011 – 1st Round
Just like Michael Choice, Gray was a former A’s 1st-round draft pick whom the team was expecting big things from at Double-A Midland in 2012. And just like Choice, Gray got off to a bit of a shaky start. But the right-hander looked better as the season wore on and he seemed to gain greater command of his stuff. Gray finished up at Midland with a 4.14 ERA in 26 starts before getting one final start at Sacramento, where he’ll begin the season as one of the A’s top pitching prospects.
Right-Handed Hitting Infielder
Age On Opening Day: 25
Drafted 2009 – 1st Round
Another former 1st-round draft pick who’ll be at Sacramento this year, Green was originally selected by the A’s in 2009 as a shortstop but has since been tried at almost every other position on the diamond. Last year, Green started off playing center field before moving over to left. But he spent most of the second half bouncing around the infield, with 19 games at shortstop, 19 games at second base and 11 games at third base. The organization hadn’t felt totally comfortable with Green at any position in the field but now feels he may have finally found a home at second base. Unfortunately, Jemile Weeks will be manning that position for the River Cats, so Green could end up seeing a great deal of time at third base this season. The southern California native had a bounce-back year at the plate in 2013 after seeing his numbers drop off a bit at Double-A Midland in 2011. Green finished 2012 with 15 home runs and a slash line of .296/.338/.458 in 524 at-bats at Sacramento. And he’ll be starting the year with the River Cats again, waiting for an opening to finally find his way on to the big league roster.
Left-Handed Hitting Outfielder
Age On Opening Day: 25
Drafted 2008 – 2nd Round
At 25, Peterson has yet to see time in the majors. But he was a 2nd-round draft pick for the Cardinals in 2008 before coming over to the A’s in the Matt Holliday deal. After posting an impressive .460 OBP last season between Sacramento and Midland, he definitely opened some eyes this spring by batting .408 in 49 at-bats while bashing 7 doubles. He should see plenty of time in the Sacramento outfield, along with Michael Choice and Michael Taylor. But Peterson can also play first base, and he’ll undoubtedly see some time there as well, which could help offer him another route to the big leagues.
Age On Opening Day: 27
Drafted 2007 – 26th Round
Parrino came to the A’s this off-season along with LHP Andrew Werner in the Tyson Ross trade. He’s likely to start the season at shortstop for Sacramento, though he’s also played both second and third base and the A’s gave him some time in the outfield this spring as well. Parrino put himself on the map with his consistent hitting this spring, going 14-for-38 and hitting .368 with 6 doubles and a home run. And if the shortstop spot proves troublesome for the A’s this season, Parrino could end up earning a shot.
Right-Handed Hitting Catcher
Age On Opening Day: 24
Drafted 2010 – 15th Round
No one seemed to pay too much attention to Freitas when he came over from the Nationals last summer in the Kurt Suzuki deal. But they’re certainly noticing him now after he went 8-for-18 this spring, hitting .444 with a home run, a double and just 2 strikeouts. The northern California native has never played above Double-A. But at this point, with the departure of Max Stassi, Freitas appears to be the most promising young catcher in the A’s minor league system.
–SACRAMENTO RIVER CATS 2013 ROSTER–
Jemile Weeks 2B
Andy Parrino SS
Grant Green 2B-3B
Josh Horton 3B-SS-2B
Scott Moore 1B-3B-DH
Shane Peterson OF-1B
Conner Crumbliss OF-2B
Sonny Gray RHP
Andrew Werner LHP
Jesse Chavez RHP
Bruce Billings RHP
Justin Thomas LHP
James Simmons RHP
Mike Ekstrom RHP
Dan Otero RHP
Brian Gordon RHP
Nate Long RHP
Travis Banwart RHP
Hideki Okajima LHP
Jordan Norberto LHP
Pedro Figueroa LHP
The opening day roster for the Beloit Snappers, the A’s new Class-A affiliate in the Midwest League, was announced on Saturday. And it looks like the team will be loaded with young talent.
The A’s have been fairly aggressive in pushing last year’s promising young draft class up the ladder. And 9 of the A’s top 20 picks from last year’s draft will open the season on the Snappers’ roster, including a pair of 19-year-old infielders – first baseman Matt Olson and third baseman Renato Nunez.
Joining them in the Snappers’ infield will be another top prospect, second baseman Chris Bostick. The Snappers’ starting rotation will be led by once-promising pitching phenom Michael Ynoa, who finally appears to be healthy and is eager to reclaim his status as one of the team’s top prospects.
You’ll find the Beloit Snappers’ complete roster, along with profiles of some of the team’s top players, below…
Left-Handed Hitting First Baseman
Age On Opening Day: 19
Drafted 2012 – 1st Round
Olson was the A’s third overall draft pick last year, selected right behind infielders Addison Russell and Daniel Robertson. The Georgia native is a big 6’4” power-hitting first baseman who just celebrated his 19th birthday a few days ago. Olson posted a .282/.352/.521 slash line last year in his pro debut, clubbing 16 doubles and 9 home runs in just 188 at-bats, and he’ll now be bringing his big bat to Beloit.
Right-Handed Hitting Third Baseman
Age On Opening Day: 19
Undrafted – Signed as International Free Agent
The hot-hitting third baseman will be celebrating his 19th birthday on opening day for Beloit. The A’s invested heavily in Nunez when the team reportedly gave the young Venezuelan slugger $2.2 million to sign back in 2010. And there’s no question that Nunez seems to have a pretty special bat. Last year in rookie ball, he put up a .325/.403/.550 slash line with 18 doubles in 160 at-bats. In the field though, Nunez made 7 errors in just 30 games at third base, botching 1 in every 10 chances at the hot corner. But the A’s have shown that he’ll move up the chain as fast as his bat can carry him.
Right-Handed Hitting Second Baseman
Age On Opening Day: 20
Drafted 2011 – 44th Round
Bostick was hardly high on anyone’s radar when he was drafted in the 44th-round in 2011, but lots of folks seem to think he does a lot of things the right way – and baseball people like that. Bostick spent most of last season playing second base at Class-A Vermont but also spent a little time at shortstop. His .251/.325/.369 slash line wasn’t remarkable, but he was still just 19 last season. And if Bostick keeps playing the game the right way, he’ll continue to be given the chance to see just how far his talents will take him.
Right-Handed Starting Pitcher
Age On Opening Day: 21
Undrafted – Signed as International Free Agent
The A’s originally made a big splash in the international free agent market by signing the 16-year-old Dominican bonus baby to a contract worth over $4 million. But injuries and Tommy John surgery have limited the 6’7” right-hander to just under 40 innings over the past 3 seasons. He finally appears to be healthy though and was throwing well, lighting up radar guns and bringing smiles to the faces of A’s scouts in minor league camp this year. And now Ynoa is poised to continue his road to recovery in Beloit this season.
–BELOIT SNAPPERS 2013 ROSTER–
Matt Olson 1B
Renato Nunez 3B
Sam Roberts 2B-SS
Jacob Tanis 1B-3B
John Wooten OF
Ryan Mathews OF
Michael Ynoa RHP
Raul Alcantara RHP
Tyler Vail RHP
Chris Lamb LHP
Vince Voiro RHP
Seth Streich RHP
Kris Hall RHP
Dakota Bacus RHP
Stuart Pudenz RHP
Austin House RHP
Derek DeYoung RHP
Tucker Healy RHP
Ryan Dull RHP
A’s AFL 2012 MVP
The Arizona Fall League just wrapped up its 32-game season this week. As some of you probably already know, organizations typically use the AFL as an opportunity to get some of their top prospects a little more live game action to hopefully help advance their development. And the AFL can provide an important opportunity for some prospects to make their mark and put themselves on the map. This year, the A’s sent some of their top young hitting prospects to play for the Phoenix Desert Dogs, along with a few of their older hurlers who weren’t necessarily considered the organization’s top pitching prospects at this stage of the game.
One player who really put himself on the map with his strong AFL performance this year was the A’s 1st-round draft pick from way back in 2007, right-handed pitcher James Simmons. The 26-year-old was nearly unhittable in the AFL this fall, allowing just 2 hits in 11 1/3 innings of relief. Simmons, who missed all of 2010 due to injuries, was primarily used a starter through 2011 but was shifted to full-time bullpen duty in 2012. His impressive performance in the AFL, along with a strong 2012 season at Midland and Sacramento (2.98 ERA / 1.18 WHIP), should at least put him into consideration for a spot in the major league bullpen at some point in 2013 should another right-handed arm be required somewhere along the line.
Another A’s prospect who performed well in the AFL was 2009’s 1st-round draft pick, Grant Green, who played exclusively at second base in the AFL this year. But the best thing that Green did to endear himself was to more than double his usual walk rate, resulting in a .364 OBP. On the other side of the coin, the right-handed hitter struck out once every 3 ½ at-bats. But Green did manage to get on base consistently, and hit a couple of homers to boot, which can only help him in his quest to snag one of the few available spots on the A’s roster in 2013, possibly as the starting second baseman but more likely as a backup infielder and versatile utility man.
Former 4th-round pick, catcher Max Stassi, did his usual solid job behind the plate, while doing a respectable job at the plate (.271 BA / .710 OPS). The numbers that have always generated the greatest cause for concern when it comes to the 21-year-old backstop though are his strikeout-to-walk ratios. In 48 at-bats in the AFL this year, he had a 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. And in 314 at-bats with Stockton in 2012, he had a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
The A’s top minor league hitter in 2012, third baseman Miles Head, injured his shoulder in his first game in Arizona and never reappeared in the AFL. He was replaced on the roster by shortstop Yordy Cabrera (remember him?), who ended the AFL season with a .286/.308/.349 slash line after being traded to the Marlins in the Chris Young deal.
None of the three other pitchers, besides Simmons, whom the A’s sent to Arizona did much to particularly distinguish themselves in the AFL this year. 27-year-old Shawn Haviland was sidelined due to injury after 3 appearances, while right-handers Gary Daley and Brett Hunter continued to struggle with control issues, walking a total of 22 batters in a combined 21 2/3 innings.
You can check out all the A’s prospects’ final AFL numbers for yourself below…
Grant Green (2B)
66 AB / 8 R / 2 HR / 11 RBI / 10 BB / 19 K / .273 AVG / .364 OBP / .424 SLG / .788 OPS
Max Stassi (C)
48 AB / 4 R / 1 HR / 11 RBI / 3 BB / 12 K / .271 AVG / .314 OBP / .396 SLG / .710 OPS
Miles Head (3B)
3 AB / 0 R / 0 HR / 0 RBI / 0 BB / 2 K / .000 AVG / .000 OBP / .000 SLG / .000 OPS
Gary Daley (RHP)
12 IP / 16 H / 9 ER / 12 BB / 8 K / 6.75 ERA / 2.33 WHIP
James Simmons (RHP)
11 1/3 IP / 2 H / 2 ER / 3 BB / 8 K / 1.59 ERA / 0.44 WHIP
Brett Hunter (RHP)
9 2/3 IP / 9 H / 5 ER / 10 BB / 11 K / 4.66 ERA / 1.97 WHIP
Shawn Haviland (RHP)
8 2/3 IP / 10 H / 5 ER / 3 BB / 8 K / 5.19 ERA / 1.50 WHIP
Fall isn’t just time for post-season play, it can also be an important time for some of the minor leagues’ top prospects. And as the A’s begin Game #3 of their American League playoff series against Detroit at the Coliseum on Tuesday, some of the team’s top prospects will begin play in the Arizona Fall League.
The league has been going strong for 20 years now, and its schedule runs for about 6 weeks from early-October through mid-November. There are 6 teams in the AFL, with each team comprised of prospects from 5 different organizations. A’s prospects play for the Phoenix Desert Dogs, where this year they’ll be joined by prospects from the Rays, Braves, Brewers and Marlins.
The attendance at AFL games typically tops out at around 200 or so, with the crowds comprised of a healthy dose of scouts, agents, and various professional baseball personnel. Most organizations use the AFL as an opportunity to get some of their top prospects a little more live game action to hopefully help advance their development.
This year, it looks like the A’s are definitely doing that with some of their top hitting prospects while giving their top pitching prospects a little time off. Many of you will certainly recognize the names of top minor league position players like Grant Green, Miles Head and Max Stassi, but don’t expect to be seeing the likes of top pitching prospects Brad Peacock, Sonny Gray or A.J. Cole in Arizona this time around…
A’s Prospects in the AFL in 2012
Drafted 2009 – 1st Round
15 HR / .296 AVG / .338 OBP / .458 SLG / .796 OPS
It will be interesting to see where the A’s #1 draft pick from 2009 ends up playing for the Desert Dogs. At Sacramento in 2012, the former USC shortstop made starts in left field, center field, second base, third base and short. After slumping a bit at the plate for Midland in 2011, Green’s offensive numbers rebounded this season at Sacramento. And a strong performance in the AFL could bolster his chances of landing a utility role with the major league club next year.
Drafted 2009 – 26th Round
23 HR / .333 AVG / .391 OBP / .577 SLG / .968 OPS
Acquired along with Josh Reddick and Raul Alcantara from the Red Sox in the Andrew Bailey/Ryan Sweeney deal, Head turned out to be the best hitter in the A’s minor league system in 2012. The majority of his starts came at third base, though he did get a handful of starts at first base as well. The 21-year-old right-handed slugger will continue trying to make his mark with the bat in the AFL while also working on refining his skills in the field.
Drafted 2009 – 4th Round
15 HR / .268 AVG / .331 OBP / .468 SLG / .799 OPS
The former 4th-round draft pick had his most productive season in the system with Stockton in 2012, and his defensive skills behind the plate are considered solid. Once viewed as the A’s catcher of the near-future, injuries have slowed Stassi’s progress a bit, and the team is eager to see him get some extra at-bats in the AFL before giving him a chance to see what he can do at Double-A Midland next year.
Drafted 2006 – 3rd Round
118 IP / 130 H / 67 ER / 71 BB / 79 K / 5.11 ERA / 1.70 WHIP
At age 26, Daley has been bouncing around the minor leagues for 7 seasons now. He struggled in 2012 at Midland and has a career ERA of 5.91 in 605 minor league innings. Lack of control has been the main issue with Daley, as he has averaged 5.7 walks per 9 innings over his extensive minor league career.
Drafted 2008 – 33rd Round
120 IP / 124 H / 64 ER / 47 BB / 104 K / 4.80 ERA / 1.43 WHIP
The 33rd-round draft pick was never considered a top prospect but put himself on the map with a strong 2010 season at Stockton. He struggled mightily at Midland in 2011 though, posting an ERA of 7.08 in 27 starts. The right-hander settled down a bit in his second season at Double-A, but Haviland needs to make a strong impression in the AFL if he really wants to put himself back in the mix again.
Drafted 2007 – 1st Round
63 1/3 IP / 53 H / 21 ER / 22 BB / 50 K / 2.98 ERA / 1.18 WHIP
The former 1st-round draft pick has struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness since being drafted in 2007, but he may have re-invented himself this season as a dependable reliever. In 2012 with Midland and Sacramento, the right-hander struck out 7.1 batters per 9 innings, and a strong season in the AFL could help to bolster Simmons’ chances of landing a spot in the A’s bullpen next season.
Drafted 2008 – 7th Round
56 IP / 53 H / 28 ER / 31 BB / 60 K / 4.50 ERA / 1.50 WHIP
Hunter has yet to truly impress since being drafted in 2008. The only thing that really stands out about the right-hander is his career strikeout rate of 10.1 batters per 9 innings over 193 minor league innings Unfortunately, he also has a career walk rate of 6.7 per 9 innings and a 4.99 career ERA. But if Hunter can just learn to harness his stuff in the AFL, he could see his stock start to rise.