Archive for the ‘ Minor League Teams ’ Category

A’s Top Prospects Talk About Life In The AFL

DSC02957bxThe Arizona Fall League just wrapped up its 31-game schedule this past week. As some of you probably already know, there are six teams in the AFL with each team comprised of prospects from five different organizations. Organizations typically use the AFL as an opportunity to get their top prospects a little more live game action to hopefully help advance their development.

The A’s prospects logged one extra game this year as their team, the Mesa Solar Sox, lost the AFL championship game on Saturday after having clinched the AFL East title on Thursday.

A’s Farm had the chance to visit the team earlier in the final week of the AFL season and talked with most of the A’s prospects there. The language barrier prevented us from talking to LHP Omar Duran, and catcher David Freitas’s early departure from the desert due to his impending nuptials kept us from catching up with him. But fortunately, the rest were all game for our enquiries…

 

ADDISON RUSSELL

At age 19, shortstop Russell started the year as the youngest player in the California League, and the former 1st-round draft pick turned in a solid season both at the plate in the field for Stockton. The A’s top prospect is expected to start 2014 at Midland.

DSC02922bxAF:  The AFL is a unique kind of league with all these mixed teams. So how has the experience of playing out here with all these different guys been for you?

AR:  Pretty good. It’s a mix of a lot of people from different organizations. We’re all just kind of meshing together and we’re all getting along. And we’re all just here to play baseball and get better.

AF:  Well, you’ve got a few guys here you played with in Stockton, guys like Max Muncy, Seth Frankoff, Ryan Dull. So it must be nice to have a few familiar faces around anyway.

AR:  Oh yeah, for sure. When you first get here, it breaks that kind of tension. You can talk to them and see what they’ve been up to and see how they’ve been doing. It’s a good thing to see those familiar faces.

AF:  What’s your impression of the talent level here in the AFL?

AR:  You know, it’s the best young talent. They’re all top prospects from their teams. They’re first-round guys, and I expect them to play the way that they’ve been playing to get to this point. So they’ve been doing something right, and I’m fortunate enough to be among them.

AF:  Well, you’re still just 19. So do you feel it steps up your game to be playing with guys who might be a little older or a little more advanced?

AR:  Oh yeah, for sure. The young guys always want to prove themselves and show what they can do on the baseball field. And that’s how I feel. The guys kind of get a sense of how I go about my business, and hopefully I think I’m liked in the clubhouse. And everyone’s been cool.

AF:  You’ve been coming on strong at the end of the AFL season, kind of like you did at Stockton this year. Are there any particular adjustments you’ve made?

DSC02964dxAR:  Just staying patient and looking for my pitch.

AF:  And what’s your pitch?

AR:  Nine times out of ten everyone wants to hit a fastball. I’m just trying to see the fastball early and just know where’s it’s going to be pitched, and then just adjust to the off-speed stuff. So I’m just looking out for the fastball.

AF:  Is there any particular part of the plate where you usually prefer to be looking for a pitch?

AR:  No, not really. I kind of stay over the center of the plate. I work three-quarters of the way in and three-quarters of the way out. So if he throws me an inside pitch, I’m ready for it, and if he throws me an outside pitch, I’m ready for it.

AF:  So what about your play out in the field? I think you only made a handful of errors in the second half this year. Is there anything you’ve been working on out there?

AR:  I’m just trying to go about my business the right way. It’s just staying in the game. You just have to stay in the game and be on your toes and just be ready.

AF:  Was there anything you learned or were there any adjustments you made in the field as the season went on?

AR:  I just try to play pitch by pitch. You know, if the catcher’s setting up outside to a right-handed hitter, I might shade up the middle just a little bit. Just trying to see what kind of pitch the pitcher’s going to throw so I can kind of get a good idea where he might hit it. If he throws a right-hander a curveball, I’m trying to shade into the six hole a little bit. So just trying to stay ready and stay in the game.

AF:  When the season’s over, what are you going to do when you finally get a little time off?

AR:  I’m probably just going to sleep, see some family and get back to training.

AF:  So where are you planning on spending the off-season?

AR:  Back in my hometown in Florida.

AF:  Well, I’m sure they’ll be glad to see you!

2013: 17 HR / 61 BB / 125 K / .269 AVG / .369 OBP / .495 SLG / .865 OPS

AFL: 1 HR / 10 BB / 15 K / .282 AVG / .361 OBP / .435 SLG / .796 OPS

 

MAX MUNCY

First baseman Muncy led all A’s minor leaguers in home runs with 25 in 2013, 21 of them coming when he got off to a blazing start in the California League before being promoted to Midland in July.

DSC02925bxAF:  Well, you got off to a great start in Stockton this year. Then you went up to Midland and it was a little more of a challenge there. So what were the biggest differences for you when it came to facing those pitchers and hitting in those parks?

MM:  The difference for me was pitchers were a lot more confident in their stuff. They weren’t afraid to throw whatever they wanted whenever they wanted. And I can honestly say the back-foot slider was the biggest difference to me. In the Cal League, there were a lot of high-powered arms that we saw. They had sharp curveballs, but none of them would try and back-foot it. I get to the Texas League, and I’m automatically seeing two back-foot pitches each at-bat. I’ve never really seen that, so it took quite a while to get used to that. My strikeout numbers went up quite a bit at first and then I started making the adjustments towards the end. And I really enjoyed the challenge because that was really the first time I’ve ever really failed. And I’m glad I went through it then, so now I know how to deal with it going into this next year. Well, hopefully I won’t be dealing with it – but playing the sport of baseball, it’s impossible not to.

AF:  Well, even the best hitters fail two out of three times! So what were the specific adjustments you actually had to make to deal with that?

MM:  Just setting my sights differently. You know, seeing that pitch down and in and trying to lay off that. When I was hitting all those home runs in the Cal League, if I saw a pitch down and in, I got ready to turn on it and try and lift it in the air. I started trying to do that in the Texas League, but instead of being a fastball, it was a curveball or a slider and it disappeared off the table. So just laying off certain pitches and having a better approach at the plate and attacking the better pitches over the plate. Also one of the bigger adjustments was trying to pick up on patterns that the pitchers were doing, certain things they would do – trying to speed you up and then slow you down with a different pitch, just little things like that.

AF:  So assuming you start next season back at Midland, do you feel you’ve learned the lessons you needed to in order to get off to a good start next year?

DSC02951cxMM:  Yeah, I really feel and believe that I can go back in there and have a strong start just like I did this year. Obviously, the home run numbers probably aren’t going to be there. That entire league is a tough league to hit in. Everywhere you go, the wind blows in 30-40 mph. And on top of it blowing in, the field in Midland and a lot of the fields, they’re big dimensions, so it’s tough to get the ball out. But hopefully at the beginning of the season, the wind’s not quite blowing in yet, so hopefully I can take advantage of that. But that was also one of the big adjustments for me was getting back to my line drive swing and not hitting the ball in the air as much. And once I started doing that, I actually ended up hitting a couple of home runs and my average started climbing up and I was going back to what I was used to doing.

AF:  It’s often such a big adjustment for hitters going from the California League to the Texas League because the parks and the conditions are just so different.

MM:  Everyone had always told me it was different hitting in the Texas League because the wind blows in. But I went there and I was kind of in shock at how different it really was. One of my first couple of games there, I hit a ball to right field that probably would have been about 100 feet out of Stockton and the right fielder was almost coming in on it. The ball got up in the wind and just died.

AF:  We’re not in Stockton anymore!

MM:  No.

AF:  And the park in Midland often has some of the lowest home run totals in the whole league. Michael Choice had a hard time there. Grant Green had a hard time there. All these guys have big years at Stockton then go there and have a tough time hitting it out.

MM:  Yeah, it was really tough. I think I even got a couple of triples there. You hit the ball in the gap and it goes for days out there. You can just run all around the bases.

AF:  I notice they’ve had you playing a little third base out here. So what’s that all about? Was that part of the plan or was it just out of circumstance?

MM:  I don’t know what the plan is to be honest. Our first couple of days out here, we were having practice and (manager) Bill Richardson was having a meeting with us and he comes to me and goes, “You play first and third, right?” But after I got over the actual shock of that, I was like, “Yeah, I used to play third all the time before I got to college, so I’m used to it.” I’ve gotten a couple of games there and it’s been a lot of fun for me. It’s always fun to play a different position. I haven’t been told if that’s a plan for me in the long run, but it’s good to keep my versatility up. It makes it easier to move up.

2013: 25 HR / 88 BB / 102 K / .273 AVG / .381 OBP / .476 SLG / .857 OPS

AFL: 0 HR / 10 BB / 10 K / .224 AVG / .350 OBP / .265 SLG / .615 OPS

 

RYAN DULL

RHP Dull pitched well enough to sail through three levels of the A’s system in 2013, starting the season in the Midwest League before moving up to the California League and finally finishing the season in the Texas League.

DSC02918bxAF:  Well, you started the season in the Midwest League and now you find yourself out here in the Arizona Fall League. Looking at the guys you were facing to start the year compared to the guys you’re facing here in the AFL, what kind of differences do you see?

RD:  You definitely see a lot more polished approaches in the hitters here. They hit the pitch that they want. You don’t really see them swing at many pitches out of the zone, as compared to earlier in the year – there were a lot more free swingers.

AF:  You were dominant in the Midwest League early in the year and you did really well in the California League where a lot of pitchers often have trouble. And then came the jump to Double-A – was that the biggest leap you felt in the course of the season?

RD:  I did, I definitely felt that. We changed some sequences on how to attack hitters and be a little more conscious of actually pitching inside a lot more than I did. Working on changing sequences from hitter to hitter so everybody doesn’t see the same sequence every time. And we tried to work on bringing that approach out here as well.

AF:  So are there any particular pitches you’re working on at all or do you pretty much feel you’ve got your repertoire down at this point?

RD:  I think I have it down now. It’s just making sure it’s all consistent and I can be able to put it where I want to instead of just relying on one pitch to get all the outs.

AF:  Do you still have certain pitches that you feel most comfortable going to in a tough spot?

RD:  I feel like recently I could use any three that I want to at any time, which makes it a little easier to pitch because whatever the catcher throws down, you have the confidence to throw that.

AF:  So you feel pretty confident in all your pitches at this point.

RD:  I do.

AF:  Well that is a help! So when you got to the Texas League late in the year, what were you finding different about the hitters there from the hitters you’d faced at the lower levels?

RD:  They can hit your good pitches well. Even if you think it’s a good pitch, they still might hit it hard. And they definitely know how to hit the mistakes a lot better. And I really had to learn how to mix it up even more. They can swing at really good pitches or pitches out of the zone and they’ll still find a way to get a hit. They know how to hit the bad pitches and still get hits out of it somehow.

AF:  How would you compare the general level of play out here in the AFL to what you experienced in the Texas League?

RD:  I would say it’s a step up, because you’re playing with the best in the minor leagues right now. And it’s guys you’re going to be playing against for years to come.

AF: So what’s the key thing that you’ve been focused on during your time here in the AFL?

RD:  Just trying to keep my game plan the same. I feel like at the beginning of this fall league, I just wasn’t the same. I wasn’t sticking to the game plan that I used all season. But then, as of late, we’ve been going back to my game plan of just continuing to stay aggressive and using hitters’ aggressiveness to my advantage so I can try to get them out as quick as possible.

2013: 60 IP / 44 H / 16 ER / 9 BB / 78 K / 2.40 ERA / 0.88 WHIP

AFL: 11 IP / 11 H / 6 ER / 4 BB / 9 K / 4.91 ERA / 1.36 WHIP

 

SETH FRANKOFF

RHP Frankoff was the most reliable arm out of Stockton’s bullpen in 2013 and finished the year with the best ERA and WHIP of any pitcher on the team who threw more than 70 innings.

DSC02927bxAF:  So when you found out you were going to be given the chance to play in the AFL this year, how did you feel about it?

SF:  It was a goal that I’d had. So it was nice to get a little bit of recognition. It’s a great honor to be invited here. It means that the organization sees something in you. So obviously this was something that made me feel good about the kind of year I had.

AF:  You spent all year in the California League. So how does the talent level out here in the AFL compare?

SF:  Well, it’s kind of a who’s who of prospects. So you’ve heard a lot of the names before. There are some very talented individuals in this league – and some guys who’ve gotten paid a lot of money.

AF:  Some guys who’ve got some pretty nice cars, right?

SF:  Absolutely, the parking lot’s always interesting to see!

AF:  So what about pitching here? You’ve been doing well out here, but are there any particular adjustments you’ve had to make?

SF:  Just trying to buy into the philosophy that the A’s have preached to us. You hear it so many times, but really it’s true – just getting ahead, strike one, strike two, putting guys away in less than three pitches, and really working the fastball command is paramount. Stay out of the middle of the plate, stay down in the zone, and just try to continue what I was working on this season and continue to improve every time I get out there.

AF:  So when you came out here, did the A’s tell you they wanted you to work on anything in particular?

SF:  One thing that (minor league pitching coach) John Wasdin who’s here with us has conveyed to me that they want to see is really working the fastball down and away to right-handers and then throwing my curveball for more strikes. I think I’ve shown that I can throw my cutter and my changeup in most every count, but they really want me to get the strike percentages up with my fastball and curveball. So that’s a couple of things I’ve been working on.

AF:  The cut fastball’s what you’ve always relied on, right?

SF:  It’s been my bread and butter a little bit. But you have to be able to adapt. Scouting reports get out, so you have to be able to show guys other things to be successful.

AF:  Well, that’s what happens. As you move up, there’s always something new they need you to work on to get to that next level. And even if you might not be comfortable with it, you’ve got to get comfortable with it if you want to move on.

SF:  Absolutely. This is a game you always have to try to improve at. The day you think you have it all figured out is the day the game will pass you by. So that’s kind of what I try to live by.

AF:  Things obviously went well for you this year in the California League. Was there anything you felt you really learned there?

5def91afafe2db66b97fcd415781568b4xSF:  I think that I threw a lot more strikes. I’m not a big statistical guy, but I want to keep my walks down obviously. So I think that getting ahead in the count and not giving guys free passes helped me out tremendously. I think that just pitching with confidence is a big thing. You have to have conviction in every pitch you throw and know that you have the ability to be successful in what you’re doing out there.

AF:  Well, obviously your command this year at Stockton was very good just looking at the numbers. Was that just the result of confidence or a commitment to throwing more strikes or what?

SF:  Well, I’m very fortunate to live in the same basic area as our (minor league) pitching coordinator Scott Emerson. So I was able to work with him a couple of times in the off-season and he kind of cleaned up a couple of things with my delivery, really working direction-wise, getting on a straight line to the plate. And that really helped me out going into spring training.

AF:  The California League is such a tough league for so many pitchers, but you did very well there. I’m sure you saw plenty of balls sailing out of those parks…

SF:  It’s not very forgiving!

AF:  So is there anything you felt you were doing differently that allowed you to succeed there?

SF:  I put a premium on groundball outs. My goal every time I go out there is to not let a ball get out of the infield. So if you’re staying down in the zone, you’re going to get those groundball outs. So that’s what I try to do is work down in the zone, try to get downward plane on the baseball and make guys, if they are going to put it in play, hit it weakly and hit in on the ground, because you aren’t going to get hurt very often when they put it on the ground.

AF:  Yeah, your odds are definitely much better if no one’s having to look up! So I guess you’re finally about to get to enjoy a little off-season time. Are you looking forward to getting back to North Carolina for a while?

SF:  Absolutely, it’s been a joy to be out here. But it’ll certainly be nice to get back home and see my family and get to do a little fishing and some golfing and stuff like that. I plan on taking a couple of weeks off as soon as I get home and eat quite a bit for Thanksgiving. But then when December 1st comes around, I’ll start getting back after it in the weight room.

2013: 74 1/3 IP / 57 H / 23 ER / 23 BB / 93 K / 2.78 ERA / 1.08 WHIP

AFL: 12 1/3 IP / 8 H / 2 ER / 3 BB / 15 K / 1.46 ERA / 0.89 WHIP

 

JEFF URLAUB

LHP Urlaub spent all of the 2013 season as a key lefty out of the bullpen for Midland.

DSC02916bxAF:  So how’s this whole AFL experience been for you?

JU:  It’s been a blast. This has been the best experience ever. The guys, when we came together in early October, we meshed so well. And 90% of these guys are the future of major league baseball, so it’s been a blast to get to know a lot of guys from different organizations. They’re so good that it makes it so much more fun to play.

AF:  You’re from out here in Phoenix, right?

JU:  Yeah, born and raised out here. Growing up out here, I’ve seen so many Fall League games. I was a bat boy for a team when I was in high school. So the transition for me was a lot easier, because I get to go see my family every night. I get to see my friends, everybody gets to come out and see me play and it makes it a lot easier for me.

AF:  You spent all year in the Texas League this season. So how would you compare the level of competition out here?

JU:  The competition is better. Don’t get me wrong, no matter what, when you get to Double-A, it’s a different game. And I learned a lot my first year in Double-A this year, which I felt helped me transition into the Fall League as far as preparation and caliber of play. It’s tough. This league is everything that everybody says it is.

AF:  I’ve always thought of the AFL as sort of comparable to a Double-A All-Star league.

JU:  Absolutely. I’d say Double-A, Triple-A all-star guys – and that might even be an understatement. I can say a lot of the guys on our team could play in the big leagues for somebody right now.

DSC02965bxAF:  You got off to a really good start out here, so you were obviously up to the challenge and must have been feeling pretty confident.

JU:  I was. I came in confident. But I didn’t want to come in over-confident, because the game of baseball’s very humbling. But I got off to a great start. I pitched well the entire month of October. I’ve hit a little speed bump now towards the end. But I don’t think I’ve done anything different as far as the Midland season to now.

AF:  What were the key lessons you learned in Double-A this year at Midland?

JU:  Mainly, it was believing in myself and believing that I belonged there. Only spending half a year in High-A last year and being able to be successful there, I went into spring training with the goal to make it to Double-A at least at some point this year. A lot of it was mental. You’ve got to study hitters a lot more. You’ve got to look at more scouting reports. It was tough, but you learn a lot as you go through. You hit a bunch of little speed bumps here and there. And it’s how you get past those and get back on track.

AF:  What was the difference in the hitters you were facing in Double-A as opposed to the hitters you were facing in High-A?

JU:  They’re a lot smarter. They make a lot more adjustments quicker. You can have success pitching a guy how you want to pitch him with your strengths one time. But then if you face him a day or two later, everybody’s got the scouting report on you. You don’t want to over-think the situation, you still have to pitch to your strengths, but then sometimes you might have to alter it a little bit. Guys at the Double-A level make a lot better adjustments a lot faster. Some even make adjustments mid-at-bat. But all these guys can hit – that’s why they’re there.

2013: 46 2/3 IP / 49 H / 20 ER / 13 BB / 40 K / 3.86 ERA / 1.33 WHIP

AFL: 13 IP / 14 H / 4 ER / 3 BB / 16 K / 2.77 ERA / 1.31 WHIP

 

BRUCE MAXWELL

Maxwell started the year as the backstop for Beloit before being promoted to Stockton. He was the new kid on the block in the AFL, taking the place of catcher David Freitas who took an early exit to get married. Maxwell made it into just one game before the end of the AFL season.

DSC02921bxAF:  You spent the first part of the season in the Midwest League and then you made it up to the California League. What was the difference in those leagues from your perspective?

BM:  The difference is, in the Cal League, pitchers had a better understanding of what they were trying to do. When we were in the Midwest League, we still had a lot guys who were ironing some things out. And when I got up to the Cal League, a lot of pitchers already had an idea of what they wanted to do. They had pretty good control for the most part. There were more plans, there was more execution, there were more goals, instead of just going out there and just trying to get people out with whatever. The scouting report’s more in-depth, and our guys actually worked with us catchers very well.

AF:  I know you haven’t actually been catching for all that long. So how do you feel your catching game’s been coming along?

BM:  I think I’ve made big strides thanks to our coordinators and all the catching coaches I’ve had here in the A’s organization. But it’s just going to continue to get better. When I first got here, just the speed of the game overwhelmed me. And now it’s just ironing out the little things, because my receiving, my blocking, my game-calling’s gotten a lot better.

AF:  How do you feel about working with the pitchers, getting the scouting reports, working on a game plan? Do you enjoy that aspect of the game?

BM:  Oh yeah, I love it. When stuff doesn’t get executed, of course, the fingers get pointed at us first, but at the same time, I love the responsibility. When it does work, you and the pitcher have a camaraderie that can’t be matched in any other sport.

AF:  Are there any particular pitchers you worked with this season who really impressed you with their approach?

BM:  On the whole, Tanner Peters. He was real calm. He never really got worked up over anything. And he just really focused on executing his pitches and his game plan. Every time we’d go over a scouting report, it’d be like, “I got this guy with this, this guy with that. Let’s keep it up till they make an adjustment.” He was on his game all the time, and it showed in his productivity. So it was good to work with him.

AF:  Now what about hitting in the California League? Were there any particular adjustments for you this year?

BM:  Not even just in the Cal League, I’ve been making adjustments this year hitting-wise in general. Basically, I was just trying to go out there and just stick to my game plan. Middle-of-the-field is my strong suit. I’m not a very pull-oriented hitter. I’m working on some things. But for the most part, I’m just trying to barrel as many baseballs as possible.

AF:  So going forward, what are you primarily going to be focused on in terms of your hitting?

BM:  Having an approach and executing that approach. I mean, you’re not always going to get a hit – we do play a game of failure. Just kind of accepting the fact that just because I might be on time or I know what’s coming doesn’t mean it’s always going to work out the way I want. And at the same time, just consistency. Just like behind the plate, my consistent game-calling and attentiveness, I need the same thing at the plate. My biggest goal this year was to make sure I had the biggest progress with my catching in my first full season. I wasn’t really worried about my hitting, and I hit well. So now it’s kind of like I need to put a little more focus into the little things in my hitting and catching just to make things that much better.

2013: 7 HR / 43 BB / 63 K / .275 AVG / .348 OBP / .390 SLG / .739 OPS

AFL: 4 AB / 0 HR / 0 BB / 1 K / .000 AVG / .000 OBP / .000 SLG / .000 OPS

*     *     *

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 updates e-mailed to you free by signing up here.

Preview: Top Prospects Russell & Muncy Lead A’s Arizona Fall League Squad

AFLWhile the fall is an important time for A’s players and fans alike when it comes to post-season play, it’s also an important time for some of the minor leagues’ top prospects. And as the A’s begin Game #4 of their American League playoff series against Detroit on Tuesday, some of the team’s top prospects will begin play in the Arizona Fall League.

The league has been going strong for the past couple of decades 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 will be playing for the Mesa Solar Sox this year, where they’ll be joined by prospects from the Cubs, Nationals, Tigers and Angels.

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.

The A’s AFL pitching contingent this year will be comprised of minor league relievers like right-handers Ryan Dull and Seth Frankoff and left-handers Jeff Urlaub and Omar Duran, while some of the team’s top hitting prospects will be seeing some action in Arizona, including shortstop Addison Russell, first baseman Max Muncy and catcher David Freitas.

 

A’s Prospects in the AFL in 2013

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Addison Russell – Shortstop – Age: 19

Stockton Ports / Sacramento River Cats

17 HR / .269 AVG / .369 OBP / .495 SLG / .865 OPS

 

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Max Muncy – First Baseman – Age: 23

Stockton Ports / Midland RockHounds

25 HR / .273 AVG / .381 OBP / .476 SLG / .857 OPS

 

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David Freitas – Catcher – Age: 24

Midland RockHounds / Sacramento River Cats

10 HR / .231 AVG / .306 OBP / .368 SLG / .674 OPS

 

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Ryan Dull – RHP – Age: 24

Beloit Snappers / Stockton Ports / Midland RockHounds

60 IP / 44 H / 16 ER / 9 BB / 78 K / 2.40 ERA / 0.88 WHIP / 19 SV

 

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Seth Frankoff – RHP – Age: 25

Stockton Ports

74 1/3 IP / 57 H / 23 ER / 23 BB / 93 K / 2.78 ERA / 1.08 WHIP / 4 SV

 

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Jeff Urlaub – LHP – Age: 26

Midland RockHounds

46 2/3 IP / 49 H / 20 ER / 13 BB / 40 K / 3.86 ERA / 1.33 WHIP / 1 SV

 

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Omar Duran – LHP – Age: 23

Stockton Ports / Vermont Lake Monsters

58 1/3 IP / 39 H / 27 ER / 43 BB / 91 K / 4.17 ERA / 1.41 WHIP / 3 SV

 

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 updates e-mailed to you free by signing up here.

A’s Instructional League Roster

Billy McKinney

Billy McKinney

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

–PITCHERS—

Dylan Covey

Dylan Covey

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)

Michael Ynoa

Michael Ynoa

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)

 

Bruce Maxwell

Bruce Maxwell

–CATCHERS—

Iolana Akau  (AZL)

Bruce Maxwell  (Sto)

Josh Miller  (Ver)

Andy Paz  (AZL)

Kyle Wheeler  (AZL)

 

–INFIELDERS—

Chris Bostick  (Bel)

Daniel Robertson

Daniel Robertson

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

B.J. Boyd

–OUTFIELDERS—

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)

 

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 updates e-mailed to you free by signing up here.

Catching Up With: The Sacramento River Cats

srDSC02040BThe 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…

 

MICHAEL CHOICE

mcmichaelchoiceoaklandathleticsphotodaynwngr_fbjvxl3bThe 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?

mc7111730cMC:  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.”

 

GRANT GREEN

Oakland Athletics Photo DayThe 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?

ggUSATSI_7112088_160320754_lowres-1024x682bGG:  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.

 

SONNY GRAY 

sghi-res-162663960_display_image2The 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?

sgsonnygray_large1bSG:  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

rrRick+Rodriguez+Oakland+Athletics+Photo+Day+ou52Cdqaojrl4Rick 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?

sg389140_10151492122053224_169388681_n2RR:  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.

*     *     *

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

Catching Up With: The Stockton Ports

spDSC02021BThere’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…


ADDISON RUSSELL

arDSC02744dFrom 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?

arfPCk2bFI5AR:  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!

 

MAX MUNCY

mm165457_10151385210931662_1498946120_n4Besides 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!”

mmmuncy480_60w34d44_lft31oaw2MM:  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!

MM:  Yeah.

 

WEBSTER GARRISON

wgWebby_480_c883nwvr_ieksll7d3The 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.

wg600404_10150928221176662_549587495_n3WG:  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!

*     *     *

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

Preview: Rising Star Addison Russell Ready to Shine for Stockton in 2013

Top draft pick Addison Russell is set to star for Stockton!

Top draft pick Addison Russell is set to star for Stockton!

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…

 

arhi-res-162044917_display_imageADDISON RUSSELL

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.

 

mm628x471bMAX MUNCY

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–

–HITTERS–

Ryan Ortiz C

Ryan Delgado C

Max Muncy 1B

Antonio Lamas 2B

Addison Russell SS

B.A. Vollmuth 3B

Tony Thompson 3B-1B

Wade Kirkland 2B-SS

Myrio Richard OF

Josh Whitaker OF

Dusty Robinson OF

Bobby Crocker OF

–PITCHERS–

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

 

 

Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm to keep up with all the news down on the farm!

Preview: Top Prospect Miles Head Set To Be Main Attraction at Midland in 2013

Miles Head is ready to make his mark at Midland!

Miles Head is ready to make his mark at Midland!

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…

 

mh6_9_miles_head_FKR4MILES HEAD

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.

 

jmJefry-Marte-51cJEFRY MARTE

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.

 

cooberacker4CHAD OBERACKER

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.

 

al628x471bARNOLD LEON

Right-Handed Pitcher

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–

–HITTERS–

Ryan Lipkin C

Nick Rickles C

Anthony Aliotti 1B-DH

Tommy Mendonca 3B-DH

Miles Head 3B-1B

Jefry Marte 3B-1B

Dusty Coleman SS

Darwin Perez 2B-SS

Tyler Ladendorf 2B-SS-OF

Jeremy Barfield OF

Chad Oberacker OF

D’Arby Myers OF

–STARTING PITCHERS–

Murphy Smith RHP

Josh Bowman RHP

Zach Neal RHP

Carlos Hernandez LHP

Arnold Leon RHP

–RIGHT-HANDED RELIEVERS–

Carlos Fisher RHP

Sergio Perez RHP

Kyler Newby RHP

Darren Byrd RHP

Paul Smyth RHP

Josh Stinson RHP

–LEFT-HANDED RELIEVERS—

Jeff Urlaub LHP

Frank Gailey LHP

 

 

Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm to keep up with all the news down on the farm!

Preview: #1 Picks Green, Gray and Choice Good To Go for River Cats in 2013

Michael Choice is ready to show the River Cats what he can do!

Michael Choice is ready to show the River Cats what he can do!

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…

 

mcmichaelchoiceoaklandathleticsphotodaynwngr_fbjvxl3MICHAEL CHOICE

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.

 

sgsonnygray_large1SONNY GRAY

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.

 

Oakland Athletics Photo DayGRANT GREEN

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.

 

sphi-res-7054450_display_imageSHANE PETERSON

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.

 

apAndy+Parrino+San+Diego+Padres+Photo+Day+r2YPnsacmu2lANDY PARRINO

Switch-Hitting Infielder

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.

 

dfhi-res-7054388_display_imageDAVID FREITAS

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–

–HITTERS–

Luke Montz C

David Freitas C

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

Michael Choice OF

Michael Taylor OF

–STARTING PITCHERS–

Sonny Gray RHP

Andrew Werner LHP

Jesse Chavez RHP

Bruce Billings RHP

Justin Thomas LHP

–RIGHT-HANDED RELIEVERS–

James Simmons RHP

Mike Ekstrom RHP

Dan Otero RHP

Brian Gordon RHP

Nate Long RHP

Travis Banwart RHP

–LEFT-HANDED RELIEVERS–

Hideki Okajima LHP

Jordan Norberto LHP

Pedro Figueroa LHP

 

 

Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm to keep up with all the news down on the farm!

Preview: Olson, Nunez, Bostick, Ynoa Big Names for Beloit in 2013

Michael Ynoa continues his road to recovery in Beloit

Michael Ynoa continues his road to recovery in Beloit

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…

 

mo15095_4110106706138_1463379083_n4MATT OLSON

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.

 

rnnc3bac3b1ez-renato3RENATO NUNEZ

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.

 

cbDSC02502xxbCHRIS BOSTICK

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.

 

Michael YnoaMICHAEL YNOA

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–

–HITTERS–

Bruce Maxwell C

Phil Pohl C

Matt Olson 1B

Renato Nunez 3B

Chris Bostick 2B

Wilfredo Solano SS

Sam Roberts 2B-SS

Jacob Tanis 1B-3B

John Wooten OF

Brett Vertigan OF

Ryan Mathews OF

Aaron Shipman OF

–STARTING PITCHERS–

Michael Ynoa RHP

Raul Alcantara RHP

Tyler Vail RHP

Chris Lamb LHP

Vince Voiro RHP

–RELIEF PITCHERS–

Seth Streich RHP

Kris Hall RHP

Dakota Bacus RHP

Stuart Pudenz RHP

Austin House RHP

Derek DeYoung RHP

Tucker Healy RHP

Ryan Dull RHP

 

 

Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm to keep up with all the news down on the farm!

A’s Arizona Fall League Wrap-Up

 

A’s AFL 2012 MVP

RHP James Simmons

 

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

 

Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm to keep up with all the news down on the farm!

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