Tag Archive for Miles Head

Thursday, July 3rd: Chris Jensen, Billy Burns and Addison Russell Help Hounds Snap Losing Streak while Cats Fall Despite Zach Neal’s Best Efforts

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Pitcher Chris Jensen (6 IP / 4 H / 0 ER / 2 BB / 5 K / Win)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Pitcher Chris Jensen (6 IP / 4 H / 0 ER / 2 BB / 5 K / Win)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Midland RockHounds  3

NW Arkansas Naturals    1

WP – Jensen 5-7 / 3.80

Farmhand Of The Game:

Pitcher Chris Jensen

(6 IP / 4 H / 0 ER / 2 BB / 5 K / Win)

The RockHounds put together some strong pitching, hitting and defensive performances to snap the team’s 6-game losing streak on Thursday night. Starter Chris Jensen set the tone by turning in a strong outing, allowing just 4 hits while striking out 5 over 6 shutout innings to earn his 5th win, while RHP Ryan Dull got the final four outs for his 1st save. Center fielder Billy Burns had 3 hits, swiped a pair of bases, scored 3 times and made a couple of diving catches in the outfield, while shortstop Addison Russell doubled in a run and walked 3 times, and designated hitter Kent Matthes went 0 for 4 in his return from the disabled list. Burns now has a league-leading 42 stolen bases, while Russell is now 7 for 16 over his last 5 games. Meanwhile, Midland infielder Miles Head was reassigned to the AZL A’s to make room for Matthes on the RockHounds roster.

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

Wednesday, June 11th: Atherton & Jensen Pitch Ports & Hounds to Victory while Cats & Snappers Fall and Vermont Roster Released

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Stockton Ports Pitcher Tim Atherton (6 1/3 IP / 4 H / 1 ER / 2 BB / 5 K)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Stockton Ports Pitcher Tim Atherton (6 1/3 IP / 4 H / 1 ER / 2 BB / 5 K)

 

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE  (High-A)

Stockton Ports   3

San Jose Giants   1

WP – Hall 4-0 / 3.19

Farmhand Of The Game:

Pitcher Tim Atherton

(6 1/3 IP / 4 H / 1 ER / 2 BB / 5 K)

RHP Tim Atherton turned in a strong start for Stockton on Wednesday, allowing just 1 run on 4 hits while striking out 5 over 6 1/3 innings of work. Atherton left the game in the 7th inning with Stockton down 1-0, but the Ports came back to put 3 runs on the board the following inning to hand the win to RHP Kris Hall, who tossed 1 2/3 scoreless innings in relief. RHP Austin House got the final 3 outs for his 8th save. Outfielder Billy McKinney singled, doubled and scored a run, while outfielder Bobby Crocker and third baseman Daniel Robertson both singled and scored, and shortstop Addison Russell went 0 for 2 with a walk in his third game back for Stockton.

Click here for more on Sacramento, Midland & Beloit…

Monday, May 26th: Vogt’s Big Bat Leads Cats to Victory while Snappers Win and Hounds & Ports Come Up Short

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Sacramento River Cats Catcher Stephen Vogt (Home Run / Double / 3 RBIs)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Sacramento River Cats Catcher Stephen Vogt (Home Run / Double / 3 RBIs)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Sacramento River Cats  9

Las Vegas 51s                   5

WP – Buschmann 3-0 / 4.73

HR – Vogt (2)

Farmhand Of The Game:

Catcher Stephen Vogt

(Home Run / Double / 3 RBIs)

Catcher Stephen Vogt continued his hot-hitting for the River Cats on Monday, collecting 3 hits, including a double and a 3-run homer. And over his last 9 games, the Cats backstop is hitting .462 with 3 doubles, 2 triples, 2 home runs and 11 RBIs. First baseman Nate Freiman and second baseman Tyler Ladendorf collected 2 hits apiece, while shortstop Andy Parrino and outfielder Shane Peterson each drove in a pair of runs for the River Cats. Things got off to a rocky start for RHP Matt Buschmann and he ended up allowing 3 runs on 4 hits and 5 walks over 5 2/3 innings but he still walked away with his 3rd win for Sacramento.

Click here for more on Midland, Stockton & Beloit…

Sunday, May 18th: Matthes’ Slam Helps Hounds Win while Walden Pitches Cats to Victory and Ports & Snappers Fall

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Outfielder Kent Matthes (Grand Slam)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Outfielder Kent Matthes (Grand Slam)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Midland RockHounds  8

Corpus Christi Hooks      2

WP – Doolittle 2-2 / 4.97

HR – Head (5), Matthes (4)

Farmhand Of The Game:

Outfielder Kent Matthes

(Grand Slam)

Though Midland trailed for much of the game, the Rockhounds turned things around with a big 7-run 8th inning, highlighted by outfielder Kent Matthes’ towering grand slam over the left field wall. It was Matthes’ third home run in as many games. Third baseman Miles Head hit his 5th round-tripper later in the same inning, while outfielder Chad Oberacker singled, doubled and drove in a run for the RockHounds. Starter Nate Long turned in another solid outing on Sunday, allowing 2 runs and striking out 5 over 6 innings of work, while RHP Ryan Doolittle struck out 4 in 2 scoreless innings of relief to earn his 2nd win for the Hounds.

Click here for more on Sacramento, Stockton & Beloit…

Friday, May 16th: Cats, Hounds & Ports All Win while Snappers Sweep a Pair on Friday

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Beloit Snappers Pitcher Kyle Finnegan (7 IP / 4 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 5 K / Win)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Beloit Snappers Pitcher Kyle Finnegan (7 IP / 4 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 5 K / Win)

 

MIDWEST LEAGUE  (Class-A)

GAME #1

Beloit Snappers        1

Clinton LumberKings  0

WP – Finnegan 3-1 / 2.17

HR – Marincov (4)

Farmhand Of The Game:

Pitcher Kyle Finnegan

(7 IP / 4 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 5 K / Win)

RHP Kyle Finnegan turned in his most impressive start of the season for the Snappers, allowing just 4 hits while striking out 5 over 7 scoreless innings to earn the win in the first game of Friday’s doubleheader. Beloit’s batters managed just 6 hits in the game. 3 came courtesy of second baseman Luis Baez, but the big blow came off the bat of outfielder Tyler Marincov, whose 4th home run in the top of the 6th inning provided all the runs the Snappers would need. In other news, LHP Chris Lamb was promoted to Stockton and has been replaced in the Beloit bullpen by RHP Blake McMullen, who joined the team from extended spring training.

Click here for more on Sacramento, Midland, Stockton & Beloit…

Tuesday, May 6th: Despite Impressive Performances from Whitaker, Herrera & Ynoa, Every Team in A’s Organization Goes Down to Defeat on Tuesday

 

A’s Farmhand Of The Day

Midland RockHounds Outfielder Josh Whitaker (2 Home Runs)

 Midland RockHounds Outfielder        Josh Whitaker (2 Home Runs)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Midland RockHounds  7

Frisco RoughRiders     12

LP – Haviland 1-2 / 3.60

HR – Whitaker 2 (5), Head (3), Oberacker (2), Aliotti (2)

Farmhand Of The Game:

Outfielder Josh Whitaker

(2 Home Runs)

In his third game back after returning from the disabled list, outfielder Josh Whitaker had a big day for Midland, hitting his 4th home run in the 4th inning and belting his 5th homer in the 8th. Designated hitter Miles Head ripped his 3rd round-tripper, while first baseman Anthony Aliotti and outfielder Chad Oberacker each slugged their 2nd. But that still wouldn’t be enough for the RockHounds on Tuesday. Starter Shawn Haviland had a rare rough outing for the RockHounds, allowing 6 runs on 8 hits in the bottom of the 1st inning before exiting the game after getting just 2 outs. LHP Jeff Urlaub surrendered 3 runs in 2 1/3 innings, while RHP Blake Hassebrock gave up 1 run in 3 innings of work, and RHP Ryan Dull allowed a pair of runs in 2 innings of relief for the RockHounds. Outfielder Billy Burns returned to the starting lineup for the first time since developing a sore oblique 12 days earlier and went 0 for 5 with a stolen base. In other news, outfielder Kent Matthes was assigned to Midland after posting a .208/.279/.287 slash line in 26 games with Sacramento.

Click here for more on Sacramento, Stockton & Beloit…

Wednesday, April 30th: Covey Pitches Snappers to Victory while Hounds & Ports Win and Cats Get Blanked

 

A’s Farmhand Of The Day

Beloit Snappers Pitcher Dylan Covey (7 IP / 3 H / 1 ER / 1 BB / 5 K / Win)

 Beloit Snappers Pitcher Dylan Covey      (7 IP / 3 H / 1 ER / 1 BB / 5 K / Win)

 

MIDWEST LEAGUE  (Class-A)

Peoria Chiefs         1

Beloit Snappers  3

WP – Covey 1-2 / 5.19

HR – Marincov (2)

Farmhand Of The Game:

Pitcher Dylan Covey

(7 IP / 3 H / 1 ER / 1 BB / 5 K / Win)

RHP Dylan Covey, the A’s 4th-round pick in last year’s draft, had his first solid start this season for the Snappers on Wednesday, allowing 1 run on just 3 hits over 7 innings to earn his 1st win, while RHP Sam Bragg tossed 2 scoreless innings in relief to pick up his 1st save. Outfielder Tyler Marincov homered, doubled and drove in a pair of runs, while outfielder Herschel Powell and third baseman B.A. Vollmuth both doubled, walked and stole a base for the Snappers. In other news, RHP Bobby Wahl, last year’s 5th-round pick for the A’s, is scheduled to throw a simulated game on Friday in his return from an oblique strain that has sidelined him for the past two weeks.

Click here for more on Sacramento, Midland & Stockton…

Exclusive: A’s Super Scout Grady Fuson Talks Top Prospects with A’s Farm

gfDSC01787-1[2c]One of the most popular pieces we’ve featured here on A’s Farm over the past year or so was our profile of A’s super scout (and Moneyball bad guy) Grady Fuson. He was the A’s scouting director from 1995 until 2001, when he left the A’s to become the assistant general manager of the Texas Rangers. Fuson returned to the A’s about three and a half years ago and currently serves as a special assistant to general manager Billy Beane.

Prior to the amateur draft in early-June, Fuson’s duties primarily consist of scouting amateur prospects in preparation for the draft. But once the draft is complete, he begins a tour around the A’s minor league system, checking in on teams from Sacramento and Stockton to Midland and Beloit.

We were fortunate enough to catch up with Fuson in Stockton during the last week of June, before second baseman Grant Green’s recent promotion to the A’s. We took the opportunity to pick the brain of one of baseball’s top talent evaluators and get the lowdown on some of the A’s top hitting and pitching prospects, as well as some of the fresh new talent that’s just entered the system via this year’s draft. But we started out by taking a look at some of the prospects at the top of the system at Sacramento…

 

AF:  Let’s start off with Sonny Gray, who’s obviously been having a great year at Sacramento. I know there were a few things that you guys were working on with him, but it really seems like he’s gotten over the hump at this point.

GF:  Well you know, the credit goes to him. He’s not doing everything the way we wanted it done – there’s been variations to it. But that’s the deal with players – there’s give and take – and we don’t want to put players in positions where they’re doing things that are completely uncomfortable. So it’s trial and error. But he has been much more efficient. He’s using his changeup better – he’s still got a ways to go. But the consistency of his starts has been tremendous. With the exception of maybe one early in the year, he hasn’t had a bad start. I’m proud of him. He’s put himself on the map. When you look at our depth, there’s not too many years that go by that you don’t have to dip down there to grab a starter or two, and he’s put himself in a position to at some point be considered, or at least get his first taste of it.

AF:  Well at this point, he certainly appears to be first in line based on what he’s done this year. Is there any one single thing that you’d pinpoint as the key to his success this season?

sgsonnygray_large1bGF:  Yeah, effort. I think he is starting to understand pace and rhythm and tempo, to control the effort level of his delivery. And he’s understanding this thing about how to disrupt timing, instead of being hard with everything.

AF:  So it’s really about varying his effort.

GF:  Yeah. If you go back to all the good things about him when we drafted him, besides his stuff, this guy’s always been a bulldog, he’s always been a competitor. Do not count this guy out – you know, he’ll come back and find a way to kick your ass if you count him out. And all those things are such a big part of it, his character and mentality on the mound.

AF:  Another guy at Sacramento who seems to be on a similar trajectory is outfielder Michael Choice. He also seems to have turned a corner this year. So how do you see his development at this point?

GF:  I don’t know what clicked over the winter, but something really clicked and he came into camp a little bit of a changed man in his whole approach. He’s slowed some things down like we’ve been asking him to do and has bought into a couple of other things. I think he’s developing a whole awareness of how guys pitch him and what they try to do. This is his third full year now, and I think it’s just maturity. But I’m proud of him. He hasn’t made people walk him off of center field yet. And the only reason we’re playing him in left more right now is if there is a time that he has to go up, with Crisp, with Young, with Cespedes, he probably wouldn’t play center over those guys. So he needs to learn a little bit about some corners, because the ball comes off differently.

AF:  Is there any one thing that’s been the key for him?

GF:  Maturity. He’s growing up. He’s maturing into that major league mentality you’re waiting to see. You know, most of these guys are kids. And sometimes, as frustrated as we get, you’ve got to remind yourself, “God, he’s just a kid!” But you can tell when they start to speak smart – you can tell by the things they’re saying back to you. That’s when the maturity thing kicks in and they start to give you the right answers – and bingo! But everything else with Michael is the same. He’s healthy, he’s playing every day, he’s having good at-bats, he’s staying consistent.

mcmichaelchoiceoaklandathleticsphotodaynwngr_fbjvxl3bAF:  Is there anything else that you’d like to see him working on at this point that he needs to do to make himself a complete player?

GF:  Long term, to stay in center so that we don’t need a center fielder better than him for a long time, I think he’s going to have to be a guy who diligently works on his reads and his routes because he’s going to have to do it with a lot of instinctual things. He’s always had a weakness closing in on the wall. He’s gotten better – he’s working at it. So I think he’s the kind of guy who’s eventually going to have to do certain drills that are going to keep all that really sharp.

AF:  What about another outfielder in Sacramento who everyone was so excited about in spring training, Shane Peterson? He started out well but it looks like he’s been struggling a bit lately.

GF:  I don’t know that he’s struggling. He’s just not putting up crazy numbers. He’s doing what he does. He had such a tremendous spring, and almost made the damn club. I just think he’s in that mode where it’s not coming out big every night. But the way he goes about playing the game, there’s no issues there.

AF:  So you think the impression he made in the spring still lingers with the A’s front office.

GF:  Oh, without a doubt.

AF:  Now what about Grant Green? Where do you see him with his hitting and with his development at second base at this point?

GF:  At second base, he’s still learning the nuances. This is actually his first full year of playing one spot, and there are a lot of little nuances, so he’s still learning that. His errors have been a combination of a lot of different things, maybe some throws on pivots and things. But as far as what he’s doing at the plate, it’s what he does. He hits .300, he’s starting come up a little bit now with the homers, and as he’s seeing it better his walks are going up. He’s right where he needs to be.

Oakland Athletics Photo DayAF:  Do you see his future more likely as a second baseman or as more of a multi-purpose type of guy?

GF:  It just depends on when he goes up and what the need is. But the great thing about him is he can go up and, if Bob Melvin had to use him in three or four different spots, he can do that. But I do think that second base is the one spot that, since the time we started it, he’s gotten a lot better. Center wasn’t that good a look, we questioned whether he was going to be a true everyday shortstop – the growth there just kind of fizzled. But second base, he’s gotten better at it every step of the way.

AF:  So you really feel that you’ve seen more discernible progress at second base than any other spot you’ve had him at so far.

GF:  Yes.

AF:  Another infielder at Sacramento is Hiro Nakajima. He’s been bouncing all over the place lately – short, second, third…

GF:  Well, they had to make him more versatile. He had the rough spring. He got hurt. We open up the year and Donaldson’s killing it and Lowrie’s playing great. You know, he’s in a tough spot right now. So if he’s going to come up, he’s got to learn all three spots. And he has not spent a lot of time at second or third in his whole career. The good thing is he’s obviously playing better and doing things better than what we saw in spring training.

AF:  Well, the other piece of the infield puzzle in Sacramento is Jemile Weeks, who’s been playing a little shortstop this year…

GF:  He’s played a great shortstop – he’s played very well.

AF:  So if he remains in the A’s system in the future, would you see him having to take on more of a utility role, perhaps?

GF:  Yeah, possibly, unless he gets a chance to go in there and do something in a spot and play every day and regain something. You know, this is what having depth is all about. I mean, Billy’s sitting back there right now with a ton of chips. We’ve got guys to bring up if somebody goes down who we feel pretty good about, and he’s got some players he can discuss with people if the need arises.

AF:  Now in Stockton, the A’s top draft pick last year, 19-year-old Addison Russell, got off a rough start, but he’s been picking it up over the past month or so. So where do you see his development’s at at this point?

arDSC02744dGF:  He’s way on target. What he went through was everything we somewhat predicted coming out of camp. You’ve got to remember, there’s not too many 19-year-olds in the California League. You know, you go to a level where there’s more guys who throw breaking balls for strikes, there’s more guys who have little cutters, little two-seamers – things he’s never really seen. It’s different. But you’re hoping that he grows and he learns and, by the second half, things start to turn and he has a quality second half. And his attitude’s great, he’s working at it, he’s not getting fatigued. He’s smart enough to start to understand where he’s getting exposed and how we’re going to fix it. So to me, his development is right on target.

AF:  So you think it’s pretty much been the natural progression of events – it took him a little while to get used to things, and now he’s gotten used to it…

GF:  You know, we could have done it the other way. We could have kicked him off at Beloit and let him somewhat dominate again. But he wouldn’t have gotten as much out of it as he’s getting out of this learning experience.

AF:  The bigger challenge. Well, he is still the youngest guy in the league. How has he looked to you in the field?

GF:  Super. Look, he’s got 9-10 errors for a high school kid playing on these fields in the Cal League. You know, I’ve been around a lot of shortstops we developed who came through here who’d have 30 at this time. Tejada, Batista, those guys made 40-50 errors in this league. And he’s got 9-10 tops. I think he’s doing pretty good.

AF:  Another guy who’s had a really good year in Stockton is first baseman Max Muncy. I remember talking to you about him in the spring and you said you guys were working on developing his power a bit more. So, with 20 home runs under his belt now, it looks like that’s worked out pretty well.

mm165457_10151385210931662_1498946120_n4GF:  When we took him, a lot of people questioned how much power’s in there. He only hit 6-7 home runs at Baylor. But you watch him in BP in college prior to the draft and you can tell there’s power in there – he just didn’t know how to get to it yet. Last summer, we just kind of let him go play. But then in instructional league, we got started with getting him to feel what it’s like to get some pitches middle-in and how that works to get the head out. We had the same story when we talked about Grant Green a year or so ago, and look what he’s doing now. But the great thing is he’s got great balance, he’s got good rhythm in his swing, and he’s got a tremendous eye, so he sees the baseball well. He swings at strikes and he takes balls – and that makes hitting so much easier. But from a power standpoint, I think he’s growing on everybody.

AF:  Yeah, I would imagine you couldn’t be happier with the progress he’s made at this point. A guy who’s had a rougher time of it this year at Stockton though is 2011’s 3rd-round draft pick, third baseman B.A. Vollmuth. So what’s the source of the problem with him?

GF:  It’s funny you bring him up, I was just talking to him the other day. He’s just not adjusting well in the strike zone. And I think he’s trying to be too big of a master. He’s trying to hit outer-half pitches the other way and pitches in the middle up the middle – he’s just trying to do too much that he’s not really capable of doing yet. So we talked about staying with his strength. Just look middle/middle-in and if they throw you away, just spit on it and let it go. But look middle/middle-in, and when you get them, hammer them. And just avoid the outer half of the strike zone right now until you get two strikes. But quit trying to be a master all over the strike zone right now. So we’ll see – he’s had a rough go of it.

AF:  Now in terms of pitchers, what about right-hander Raul Alcantara? He recently came up to Stockton and I know you had a chance to see his first start.

raAlcantara_480_copy_ny1gttbt_waw91fkd2GF:  Yeah, good first one. He didn’t try to do anything different. He commanded his fastball well, both sides of the plate. He’s got a good changeup, and his breaking ball’s starting to show some promise. The breaking ball was always the iffy pitch. His slurve is now turning into somewhat of a legit curveball, and he’s getting some depth to it so he’s getting some swings and misses. And he’s got tempo, he’s got clean moves in his delivery. He’s still young, he’s only 20. He’s doing really good. A good second half here and you never know where it puts him for next year.

AF:  Yeah, he could be a fast riser. Another guy who’s been doing a pretty good job at Stockton is Tanner Peters. What’s your take on him at this point?

GF:  He’s doing good. We’ve been playing with the breaking ball for a couple of years. He’s always had a good changeup. His velocity is starting to hold. He’s a guy who maybe touches 91-92 mph but pitches at 87-88 mph, but now he’s pitching at 90 mph. We’ve talked about him using his sinker more instead of the four-seamer. He’s got a tendency with his delivery style to have a lot of misses, and misses in bad places, with his four-seamer. So we’ve been talking to him a lot about throwing his sinkers more, which will make him be more efficient, because he can get up with his pitch counts too real easy. But he’s had a very good first half, and we expect it to keep going.

AF:  Well, it seems like, as a young pitcher, if you can just keep it together and make it through the Cal League without too much damage, you ought to be all right!

GF:  Every ballpark here is a unique experience. You know, you go to High Desert and Lancaster and it’s like a pinball game.

AF:  Well the guy who really started out great in Stockton this year and moved up to Midland is Drew Granier. He was dominant last season in the Midwest League and had a great first half in the Cal League this year. Now I know he wasn’t a high draft pick or a top prospect to start out, but what do you think about what he’s doing right now?

dgzKKWrSRN3GF: Well, he’s been great. It’s hard to pick out negatives when your numbers look the way his do. But there are still some things we’re trying to get from him that he’s fighting a little bit. He’s not as efficient as he needs to be – he gets a little scattered. He’s not using his changeup to the level we need him to use it. But when you win a bunch of games last year and then you come in and win another half a dozen here, it’s kind of hard for him to go, “Okay, let me do it your way.” But the good thing was in his first start in Double-A, if I remember right, he threw 99 pitches and 66 strikes. That’s as efficient a game chart as I’ve seen this year from him, and he also threw 12% changeups, and it’s usually about 6%. But let me tell you, this guy grinds, this guy competes. His breaking ball is getting sharper – guys do not see it, they don’t get good swings. That’s why his strikeouts are so high. When you look at guys in this league who have high strikeout rates, it’s usually a college guy like him who’s getting it done with his breaking ball. But the next level is when all the other stuff starts to come into play. So I’m glad we’ve challenged him. He deserved being moved up. And hopefully he runs with everything we’ve been trying to pound into him.

AF:  So he could be a guy who, with the right approach, could really come from the back of the pack to the top of the pack.

GF:  Without a doubt. You get this guy between the white lines and he’s something. He fights you out there.

AF:  Does anybody else on Midland’s pitching staff jump out at you right now?

GF:  You know, Murphy Smith made a nice adjustment. (Minor league pitching coordinator) Scott Emerson picked up on something in spring training and got him closing up a little bit more on his load and it has helped him keep that fastball in the strike zone more, and that’s really what’s helped him a ton. And Sean Murphy continues to compete. We talked about him last year, and I thought he was one of the most improved pitchers in the system a year ago, and he continues to do what he’s doing.

AF:  A guy who’s been having a great season at Midland is first baseman Anthony Aliotti. He’s been leading all A’s minor leaguers in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage all year. I know he hasn’t been considered a top prospect, but is there anything more that he can do to put himself on the map?

GF:  No, he’s just waiting for an opportunity to get to the next level – in fact, a couple of guys are. It just depends on what’s going on at Sacramento to get these guys moving.

AF:  So people do see and appreciate what he’s been doing at Midland this year?

GF:  Without a doubt.

AF:  Now I wanted to ask you about a guy who was blowing everybody’s mind with his hitting in the first half of last year but who’s really struggled this season. Do you have any insight into what’s been going on with Miles Head this year?

mhhi-res-7054392_display_imageGF:  Well, he’s just had a bad 2013. He showed up to camp extremely heavy. And we got him started doing something about it. And then, for whatever reason, he was swinging at air down there in Midland for a while before he got hurt. He’s just been hurt – his shoulder’s barking again, and we had to sit him again. So he’s just had a bad 2013.

AF:  So I guess the first thing that needs to happen is that he needs to get healthy…

GF:  He needs to get healthy, and in shape. And then we can get his mind right and get this thing going.

AF:  Now what about all the young guys at Beloit? That team’s really been having a great season this year.

GF:  Yeah, it’s great. They’re having a blast. Ryan Christenson is a hall-of-fame first-year manager. He’s doing a great job. He’s picked up on so many important things. He’s been a great leader for those kids. Just go around the lineup – Maxwell, Olson, Bostick, Robertson, Nunez – they’re all on target. They’re all playing super.

AF:  I was going to ask you about the decision to hire Ryan Christenson as the manager at Beloit with all those top prospects there. He’s a former A’s outfielder, but he really didn’t have any previous managing experience.

GF:  We were going to hire him just to be the hitting coach, but we had some things happen that kind of forced our hand a little bit. But as we sit here now, there’s not a person in the organization who isn’t just pleased as hell that he’s stepped up and done the job he’s done.

AF:  Now what about the job that former top prospect Michael Ynoa has done in Beloit this year?

GF:  He’s going 5 innings now routinely, throwing 75-85 pitches, and throwing hard. And the breaking ball’s really getting good. The breaking ball’s now getting a little bit closer to the projection breaking ball that they all thought he might have. I don’t know what his velocity is every night, but I know he’s been up to 97 mph numerous times and pitching 92-95 mph – so you can’t throw it a whole lot harder than that. And he’s healthy – he hasn’t missed a start.

AF:  Taking a look at the draft for a minute, what about the A’s top draft pick this year, center fielder Billy McKinney? What did you see when you were scouting him?

bmc320xGF:  I just thought he was one of those special hitters – very instinctual, great swing, balance, aggressiveness, knows the strike zone for an 18-year-old kid. He’s not raw, he runs, he throws, he’s got all the equipment. There’s going to be some power. And where we were in the draft, if this kind of guy got to us in this draft, I’m in!

AF:  So did you fall in love with him the first time you scouted him in high school?

GF:  Yeah, but he walked five times. They walked him five times, all intentional. I had to come back four days later.

AF:  Well at least you knew they were giving him plenty of respect anyway! So did you get a chance to see much of the second hitter the A’s took this year, infielder Chad Pinder?

GF:  Yeah, Pinder’s a slender 6’2” who’s got room to grow. He’s got good feet, he throws, he’s a good defender. He ended up playing a lot of shortstop in college this year, but I think down the road he’s probably a third baseman. There’s a chance for some power in there. There’s some things that have to get cleaned up in his approach a bit, but I think he’s a solid pick for where he got him.

AF: Was there anybody else in this year’s draft class who really jumped out at you?

GF:  Yeah, Chris Kohler, the high school lefty we got in the compensation round. I liked him a lot and thought he was a great pick where we got him. He’s a 90 mph guy with a good curveball. He’s got fair location now for an 18-year-old. He’s a real baseball guy.

AF:  Well, going back to the big league club, with people talking about all the guys down at Sacramento – Grant Green, Jemile Weeks, Hiro Nakajima – do you feel that the A’s have the best defensive middle infielders in the organization up in Oakland on the A’s roster right now?

GF:  The most consistent, yes. You know, Sogie’s dynamite. Rosie’s a very good shortstop. Lowrie is playing solid, but the difference is what he’s bringing to us offensively, which we haven’t had out of that position in a while. And that’s the reason we’re winning – we’re winning because we’re a much more offensive club than we have been. We’re on base more, we walk more, and we homer – and our defense is still really, really good. You know, people forget, we’ve got a nice club right now. It’s hard to pick a hole on that club.

AF:  Well, that’s always good to hear. Thanks a lot!

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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!

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Saturday, June 15th: All Four Affiliates Win As Bostick Has Big Night for Beloit

A’s Farmhand Of The Day

Beloit Snappers Second Baseman Chris Bostick (2 Home Runs / 4 RBIs)

Beloit Snappers 2B Chris Bostick    (2 Home Runs / 4 RBIs)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Tacoma Rainiers               1

Sacramento River Cats  6

WP – Banwart 4-2 / 4.18

HR – Vogt (9)

tba9hCF.St.4

 

Farmhand Of The Game:

Pitcher Travis Banwart

(7 1/3 IP / 5 H / 1 ER / 3 BB / 7 K / Win)

 

Starter Travis Banwart turned in an impressive outing on Saturday, allowing just 1 run on 5 hits and striking out 7 to earn his 4th win. Designated hitter Stephen Vogt clubbed his 9th home run, while third baseman Scott Moore collected 3 hits, including 2 doubles, and drove in a pair of runs, and first baseman Daric Barton and outfielder Michael Choice both doubled and drove in a run for the River Cats.

Click here for more on Midland, Stockton & Beloit…