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Top 10 A’s Prospects of the Week (6/4-10)

by Josh Moore / A’s Farm Contributor

A brief look at some of the top performers in the A’s minor league system over the past week…

gh6565501) RHP Grant Holmes (Midland – AA)

(14 IP/9 H/2 ER/1 BB/17 K/1.29 ERA/0.71 WHIP)

Coming in to the week, Holmes had allowed 43 base runners and 18 earned runs in his previous 25 1/3 innings. The right-hander turned it around in a big way with two gems this week, including Saturday’s 8-inning, 2-hit, 8-strikeout performance where he held the opposition hitless until the 7th inning.

 

rn6005242) 3B-OF Renato Nunez (Nashville – AAA)

(25 AB/2 HR/4 BB/7 K/.400 AVG/.483 OBP/.800 SLG)

Nunez is the last remaining member of Stockton’s 2014 infield not currently playing in the big leagues. But with the tear he’s on now, it might not be long before he joins Chad Pinder, Matt Olson and Ryon Healy in Oakland. Nunez has hit 5 home runs and 5 doubles over his last 12 games for the Sounds.

 

mm4737243) C-OF Matt McBride (Nashville – AAA)

(22 AB/3 HR/2 BB/4 K/.318 AVG/.375 OBP/.773 SLG)

The 2nd-round draft pick of the Indians back in 2006, McBride had hit 1 home run all season for Nashville before belting 3 in 3 straight games to start the week off with a bang for the Sounds.

 

mc6563054) 3B Matt Chapman (Sounds – AAA)

(28 AB/3 HR/2 BB/11 K/.286 AVG/.333 OBP/.643 SLG)

Chapman has the organization’s longest current hitting streak at 10 games and has hit safely in 13 of his last 14 games, while also hitting 5 home runs over his last 9 games for the Sounds.

 

pb6211125) RHP Paul Blackburn (Nashville – AAA)

(13 IP/5 H/1 ER/4 BB/9 K/0.69 ERA/0.69 WHIP)

The 1st-round supplemental draft pick for the Cubs in 2012, Blackburn has allowed 1 earned run or less in 4 of his last 5 starts since May 19. And last week, opposing hitters had a .114/.188/.182 slash line against the right-hander.

 

ew6422016) SS Eli White (Stockton – A+)

(20 AB/0 HR/1 BB/5 K/.400 AVG/.429 OBP/.500 SLG)

White came into the week on a 2-for-19 skid, but then managed to put together 3 multi-hit games in a row for the Ports. And Stockton skipper Rick Magnante told us last month that White is a guy who has the potential to really surprise people.

 

ed6415217) SS-3B Edwin Diaz (Beloit – A)

(20 AB/1 HR/3 BB/3 K/.300 AVG/.391 OBP/.550 SLG)

NOT the Seattle Mariners reliever, the 21-year-old Puerto Rico native has compiled a total of 7 multi-hit performances in his last 14 games for Beloit, and he belted a big 3-run blast in the first inning for the Snappers on Saturday.

 

em6427148) SS-3B Eric Marinez (Beloit – A)

(18 AB/0 HR/0 BB/4 K/.444 AVG/.444 OBP/.444 SLG)

Marinez started the week strong, slapping 8 singles in his first 11 at-bats. He might have placed even higher on the list if he hadn’t gone 0 for 7 in Thursday’s and Friday’s games. Since May 1, though, he’s put up a .317/.398/.404 slash line for the Snappers.

 

bs6157029) OF Brett Siddall (Stockton – A+)

(18 AB/1 HR/1 BB/4 K/.333 AVG/.368 OBP/.556 SLG) 924/1292/2216

Before Saturday’s 0-for-3 performance versus Modesto, Siddall had a 9-game hitting streak for Stockton, with 3 consecutive multi-hit games and a total of 5 extra-base hits over that span.

 

js60708010) RHP Joel Seddon (Midland – AA)

(10 IP/8 H/1 ER/2 BB/4 K/0.90 ERA/1.00 WHIP)

After making a 4-inning spot start for Nashville on May 30, the former 11th-round selection out of South Carolina returned to the RockHounds and picked up a 3-inning save before turning in a 7-inning, 1-run start to earn his 3rd win of the season last week.

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

Sonny Gray Back on Track in Impressive Rehab Start for Stockton

by Josh Moore / A’s Farm Stockton Correspondent

Saturday night with Sonny Gray in Stockton. Photo: Meghan Camino (https://meghanlaurelphotography.pixieset.com)

Saturday night with Sonny Gray in Stockton. Photo: Meghan Camino

It should come as no surprise that Sonny Gray’s first official minor league rehab start on Saturday attracted a lot of curious and concerned onlookers in Stockton. Among those in attendance at the nearly sold-out Banner Island Ballpark were A’s pitching coach Curt Young, bullpen coach Scott Emerson and hitting coach Darren Bush.

Five days before Saturday night’s appearance in Stockton, Gray made a decidedly more low-key return to the mound when he threw 3 innings in an extended spring training game in Arizona on Monday, which we detailed here. Prior to that, he’d been sidelined due to a lat strain suffered in a March 7th spring training appearance that saw him surrender 5 hits, 4 walks and 7 earned runs in just 2 innings of work.

On Saturday night in Stockton though, Gray looked incredibly sharp. He was originally scheduled for 4 innings or 65 pitches, whichever came first. Gray was so economical in his pitch count, however, that he was sent back out to complete a 5th inning of work. In all, he tallied 47 pitches – 34 of them strikes – while striking out 6 San Jose batters, walking none and allowing just 1 hit over 5 scoreless innings.

His form was fantastic and Gray looked extremely comfortable on the mound throughout the entire outing. Although Banner Island Ballpark’s speed gun can’t always be counted on, some scouts showed readings of 92-94 mph on his fastball, with it occasionally topping out as high as 95. Gray’s command was even more impressive though, as he found himself behind in counts just three times in the game – once with a 2-1 count and the other two times with 1-0 counts.

After striking out the side in the 2nd inning and tallying 4 strikeouts to San Jose’s first 6 batters, Gray faltered with location a bit in the 3rd frame. A fastball that caught too much of the plate was ripped to left field for a leadoff single by right fielder Christoph Bono. Although the first-base umpire later called Bono safe on a pickoff throw by Gray, his throw to first was on line and it appeared that he had picked off Bono. Later in the inning, another fastball caught too much of the plate and was lined to center field and would have landed for a single if not for an incredible catch by a diving Skye Bolt.

Gray went on to easily retire the side in order in both the 4th and 5th, barely breaking a sweat in either frame, and was eventually credited with the win after Stockton completed the 7-0 victory. A’s manager Bob Melvin announced on Sunday that Gray’s next appearance will be a 75-pitch outing for Nashville on Thursday. Following that, it’s yet to be decided whether he’ll need to make one more rehab start or if he’ll return to the Oakland rotation for his next outing. But if Saturday night’s performance was any indication, Sonny certainly appears confident and ready to go.

(Photo courtesy of Meghan Camino)

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

Sonny Gray Returns to the Mound in Arizona

by Joseph Hartsock / A’s Farm Arizona Correspondent

sghi-res-162663960_display_image2Today, I had the opportunity to watch Sonny Gray pitch in an extended spring training game against the Angels at the A’s minor league complex at Fitch Park in Mesa, Arizona. The 27-year-old Gray suffered a lat stain during spring training and, after being shut down, is now making progress in trying to get back to Oakland. Today, Gray was limited to three innings and about 15 pitches per inning, giving the A’s the ability to closely control and monitor his rehab. Gray had a rough first inning but seemed to calm down in the following two innings, and I believe it ended up being a great outing for a rehab start.

In the first inning, Gray was rocked for a home run by the Angels’ leadoff batter. The left-handed hitter seemed to be seeing the ball well out of Gray’s hand and was able to take the count full with a loud foul ball down the right-field line before hitting his solo shot to right-center field. The second batter saw seven pitches in his at-bat, mostly fastballs. This batter was overmatched by Gray and fouled off a few before ultimately striking out. Gray looked a little rough in the first inning. Sonny didn’t locate his fastball well, missing both high and low on some of his pitches. And because the A’s coaching staff was controlling his outing, they called the inning after facing only two batters.

The second inning went much more smoothly for Gray. He placed the ball well and mixed his pitches better, utilizing his fastball, changeup, slider and curve. In the inning, he didn’t allow a baserunner, struck out the first batter on three pitches and had the other two ground out to the infield. Even without a runner on base, Gray pitched from the stretch while facing the final batter of the inning and continued to maintain his smooth inning.

In Sonny’s third and final inning, he showed some of his athleticism when he came off the mound during a close play at first, calming some of my worries about his injury. The first batter Gray faced chopped a ball toward the second baseman. It wasn’t hit very hard and, with the second baseman playing back, Gray had to come off the mound make the play to his left. And with the first baseman rushing in, Gray had to race to first for the out. The next batter pushed a good breaking pitch to shallow right field to get on base. With a speedy runner now on first, Gray attempted to pick off the runner three times and nearly had the runner twice. I believe one was a bad call and the runner should have been called out. Gray walked his final batter of the day, and this was the same leadoff hitter who took him deep to start the game.

After the first inning, Gray looked great, mixing his pitches and over-matching most of the hitters. Besides the leadoff batter in the first inning, there were no solid hits off Gray, and he seemed to be calm and confident on the mound. Although the competition was nothing compared to big league hitters, it was a great step forward in his rehab.

After his outing, I was able to speak to Gray before he returned to the clubhouse. I asked him how he felt, and he said, “I feel great. It’s been eight months since I pitched in a game, so it felt great to be back out there.” He went on to talk about calming down in the second inning and continued to say how great it felt to be pitching in a game, while flashing a big smile on his face. Gray also told me that he would be heading to Stockton to pitch this Saturday and, if all goes well, he could be back with the big-league club in 11 days.

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

A’s Minor Leaguers Star in Tabitha Soren’s ‘Fantasy Life’

Tabitha Soren

Tabitha Soren

As soon as the players from the A’s 2002 draft class entered the system to begin their professional baseball careers, former MTV journalist Tabitha Soren began photographing them and documenting their journeys. Of course, this was the draft class that was documented in the well-known tome “Moneyball.”

Many A’s fans will recall that the first two picks from that draft, Nick Swisher and Joe Blanton, made it to the big leagues within the next two years. But it’s those players who never made it to the majors – like Ben Fritz and Steve Stanley – and those who got just the briefest cups of coffee – like Jeremy Brown and Mark Kiger – who form the real backbone of Soren’s new book, “Fantasy Life: Baseball and the American Dream.”

Filled with Soren’s photos of players from the 2002 class both during and after their baseball careers, the book also includes childhood photos as well as compelling essays by the players themselves reflecting on their own diverse journeys. Some of those journeys led to World Series championships and multi-million-dollar contracts, and some of those journeys led to work in the coal mines and homelessness.

What all the players profiled in “Fantasy Life” have in common is the fact that they were all chasing a childhood dream – a few of them caught it, but most of them were forced to have to surrender it. Referring to these ballplayers in a recent book talk, Soren said, “You’re not a child even though you’re playing a child’s game.” And this book makes clear the journey from wide-eyed children to clear-eyed men that each of these dreamers had to make.

Soren has also spent time photographing a much more recent crop of A’s prospects, primarily those playing with the Stockton Ports. Some of those photos, as well as some photos of the players from the 2002 draft class who are featured in the book, are included below. “Fantasy Life: Baseball and the American Dream” will be released by Aperture on April 1 and is available to order online now. All photos below by Tabitha Soren…

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Before & After: Nick Swisher (above) and Mark Kiger (below)

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A’s prospect Matt Olson (above) / Olson with fellow prospect and frequent roommate Chad Pinder (below)

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

A Swingin’ A’s Music Video To Start The Season Off Right!

Last week, we brought you a great little ditty from The Baseball Project called “They Are The Oakland A’s.” And this week, we’ve decided to take it to another level by putting together our own video for the song filled with highlights from the team’s last two seasons and more. So be sure to check it out and get yourself in the green and gold groove for the season!

Our favorite line has to be, “Young and hungry, small payroll, but Billy Beane loves rock & roll.” And we can confirm that the A’s rock-and-roll-loving GM has heard the song and does approve! If you’re interested, you can find out more about the band – which features members of R.E.M., the Dream Syndicate and Young Fresh Fellows – and their new album, 3rd, at their website here.

 

 

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.

The Baseball Project releases new anthem for A’s fans, “They Are The Oakland A’s”

The Baseball Project – featuring members of R.E.M., The Dream Syndicate and Young Fresh Fellows – is releasing their third album, titled 3rd, next Tuesday, March 25th. All the songs are about baseball, but only one of them is about the Oakland A’s. We’ve got it right here, and I can confirm that rock-and-roll-loving A’s general manager Billy Beane – who’s referenced in the song – has heard it and loves it. So with that stamp of approval, give it a spin and get your Bay Area baseball groove on, A’s fans! You can check out the band’s website here for more…

 

 

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.

Moneyball Grabs 6 Oscar Nominations Including Best Picture and Best Actor

It was announced today that Moneyball has received 6 Academy Award nominations, including nods for best picture, best adapted screenplay, best actor for Brad Pitt‘s portrayal of Billy Beane and best supporting actor for Jonah Hill‘s portrayal of Paul DePodesta (aka Peter Brand).
Not only has the film grossed over $100 million worldwide, but it’s received the most nominations of any baseball-themed film since The Pride of the Yankees garnered 11 in 1943 (yes we’re still trying to catch the Yankees!) – easily out-distancing the Oscar nods for other baseball-themed films like The Natural, Field Of Dreams and Bull Durham.
This year’s Academy Awards will be handed out February 26 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood – just a few blocks from the home-base of this humble blog. You can read my original review of the Moneyball book for ChinMusic! from 2003 here – ChinMusic!-Moneyball
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