Tag Archive for Pedro Figueroa

A’s Eager to Deal Prospects to Win Now!

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Billy Beane’s been a busy boy!

A’s general manager Billy Beane has had a busy week – and it ain’t over yet! On Monday, the team signed free agent left-handed starting pitcher Scott Kazmir to a two-year $22 million deal. And later that same day, the A’s acquired right-handed closer Jim Johnson from Baltimore in return for second baseman Jemile Weeks and a player to be named later.

Then on Tuesday, the team traded two of its top minor league prospects, outfielder Michael Choice and second baseman Chris Bostick, to Texas for outfielder Craig Gentry and right-handed starter Josh Lindblom. The A’s then followed that up just hours later by sending outfielder Seth Smith to San Diego for right-handed reliever Luke Gregerson.

Just the previous week, the team dealt minor league outfielder John Wooten to Washington for left-handed reliever Fernando Abad. And two weeks prior to that, the A’s signed utility infielder Nick Punto as a free agent.

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Craig “Kitten Face” Gentry

The A’s new outfielder, Craig Gentry – who was nicknamed “Kitten Face” in Texas – is a right-handed hitting outfielder who can play all three outfield positions. He brings excellent defense and speed and hits lefties well, so he figures to take Chris Young’s place as a right-handed platoon player and fourth outfielder who could take over full time in center field for the A’s when Coco Crisp becomes a free agent after next season.

In order to acquire Gentry, the A’s gave up their top outfield prospect, who also happened to be the team’s top major-league-ready hitting prospect, former 1st-round draft pick Michael Choice. After hitting .302 at Triple-A Sacramento in 2013, many had hoped that Choice would be given the chance to fill Young’s role on the A’s roster in 2014. But instead, he’ll get the chance to battle for a starting spot in the Rangers’ outfield this season.

Top talent evaluators are divided on Choice’s chances for success as a major league slugger. But the A’s have a history of undervaluing and trading away talented young outfielders who’ve gone on to become successful major league hitters elsewhere. And A’s fans have to hope that Choice doesn’t turn out to be the next Andre Ethier, Nelson Cruz or Carlos Gonzalez in Texas.

With Choice now gone, Shane Peterson and Michael Taylor are now the most major-league-ready outfielders at the upper levels of the A’s minor league system, while 20-year-old B.J. Boyd and 19-year-old Billy McKinney are the team’s top outfield prospects at the lower levels of the system.

The A’s also traded away their top second base prospect, Chris Bostick, in the deal. And it looks increasingly likely that shortstop Daniel Robertson might have to try to make the move to second base to provide a future double play partner for top shortstop prospect Addison Russell. With fellow second baseman Jemile Weeks now gone as well, Sacramento’s 2014 infield could be comprised of Daric Barton or Anthony Aliotti at first base, minor league free agent signee Jose Martinez at second base, Andy Parrino at shortstop, Hiro Nakajima at third base and Dusty Coleman as the utility infielder filling in at second, short and third.

Meanwhile, RHP Josh Lindblom is likely to start the season in Sacramento’s starting rotation, along with River Cats returnees Arnold Leon and Andrew Werner as well as recent minor league free agent signees Phil Humber and Matt Buschmann.

Scott Kazmir - the $22 million dollar man

Scott Kazmir – the $22 million dollar man

At the major league level, new acquisitions Scott Kazmir and Jim Johnson are clearly intended to take the place of free agents Bartolo Colon and Grant Balfour on the A’s pitching staff. With Kazmir guaranteed $11 million this season, Johnson expected to net $10-11 million in arbitration and seven starting pitchers currently on the staff, the A’s second-highest-paid starter, Brett Anderson at $8 million, is expected to be the A’s most appetizing bit of a trade bait to be dangled at next week’s Winter Meetings. And rumors already have the Blue Jays, Twins, Royals, Yankees, Indians and Mariners licking their lips over the left-hander.

Assuming the A’s are able to complete a deal for Anderson, the team’s 2014 rotation would then be comprised of five of the following six starters: Scott Kazmir, Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin, Dan Straily and Sonny Gray. Given the general health of starting pitchers, it wouldn’t be surprising if one out of any group of six starters wasn’t 100% healthy to start the season, so I wouldn’t bother spending too much time worrying about which five of the six will end up making the opening day cut – it’ll surely sort itself out by the end of spring.

As far as the A’s bullpen goes, new closer Jim Johnson, who has saved at least 50 games in each of the last two seasons, and new RHP Luke Gregerson, who has been one of the best setup men in the National League over the past couple of years, are set to join LHPs Sean Doolittle and Jerry Blevins and RHPs Ryan Cook and Jesse Chavez, who is out options and whom the A’s value as a long man and spot starter.

Since the team typically likes to carry seven relievers, there’s room for one more arm in the A’s pen, and RHP Dan Otero is clearly the most deserving candidate for the final spot. But since Fernando Abad, Evan Scribner, Pedro Figueroa and Fernando Rodriguez are all out of options, it’s possible that Otero could start the season being stashed at Sacramento, waiting for someone to hit the DL while one of the others is given a shot.

Over the past week and a half, the A’s farm system has suffered the loss of outfielder Michael Choice, second baseman Jemile Weeks, second baseman Chris Bostick and outfielder John Wooten. And in the last six months, the team lost its 2007 #1 draft pick James Simmons as a minor league free agent and traded away 2008’s #1 pick Jemile Weeks, 2009’s #1 pick Grant Green and 2010’s #1 pick Michael Choice. 2011’s #1 pick Sonny Gray has already made it to the majors, while 2012’s #1 pick Addison Russell should be starting the season at Double-A Midland and 2013’s #1 pick Billy McKinney is expected to start the year at Class-A Beloit.

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Brett Anderson – next up on the trading block?

As previously mentioned, LHP Brett Anderson is the most likely member of the A’s roster to be the next one to find himself on Billy Beane’s trading block, with infielder Alberto Callaspo not far behind. With six other starters on the staff, a long injury history and an $8 million salary attached to his name, Anderson is clearly expendable. And with a salary close to $5 million and no definite spot in the A’s lineup, Callaspo seems to just be taking up roster and salary space at this point.

Outfielders Seth Smith, Chris Young and Michael Choice have all recently departed, with Craig Gentry being the only outfielder the A’s have acquired to take their place. So it certainly seems like there could be room for one more big OF/DH bat to be added to the A’s lineup to help boost the team’s offensive output, possibly as the result of an Anderson deal.

It’s also been reported that the A’s have been inquiring about middle infielders and catchers in trade talks for Anderson. So the team could be looking for a second baseman to take the place of Eric Sogard, or a shortstop who would then enable Jed Lowrie to make the move to second, or possibly a catcher who would allow John Jaso to take over for Seth Smith in the designated hitter role.

The A’s major league roster currently shapes up with Jaso and Norris as the catching platoon, Donaldson, Lowrie, Sogard, Punto, Moss and Freiman serving around the infield, and Cespedes, Crisp, Reddick and Gentry making up the outfield. Since the team typically likes to carry thirteen position players, that leaves one last roster spot open. At this point, it would most likely be filled by Callaspo. But if he ends up being traded, then it would be Barton, unless, of course, the A’s acquire another big bat who would end up pushing Barton back to Sacramento.

With all the current question marks, one thing seems certain – Beane and company aren’t done dealing just yet, and the A’s roster is far from set. There are surely more changes to come. But for the time being, here’s how things are shaping up for the 2014 A’s and River Cats, assuming everyone who’s out of options can clear waivers.

Click here to see the possible 2014 A’s and River Cats rosters…

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.

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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 weekly A’s minor league recap e-mailed to you free by signing up here.

Sunday, June 30th: Streich’s Stellar Outing Leads Snappers to Victory while Cats & Hounds Win and Ports Fall

A’s Farmhand Of The Day

Beloit Snappers Pitcher Seth Streich (6 IP / 4 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 7 K / Win)

 Beloit Snappers Pitcher Seth Streich      (6 IP / 4 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 7 K / Win)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Reno Aces                         3

Sacramento River Cats  5

WP – Figueroa 2-0 / 4.75

HR – Barton (5)

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Farmhand Of The Game:

Pitcher Bruce Billings

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

 

Starter Bruce Billings had a strong outing for Sacramento on Sunday, allowing 2 runs on just 4 hits while striking out 5 over 7 innings of work and left the game with a 1-run lead. LHP Pedro Figueroa gave up the tying run in the top of the 8th inning, but first baseman Daric Barton homered in the bottom of the 8th to give the River Cats the lead and hand Figueroa his 2nd win. RHP Brian Gordon got the final 3 outs for his 5th save, while Jemile Weeks made his second straight start in center field.

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

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!

A’s, River Cats’ & RockHounds’ Roster Projections

Will Hiro have to be a hero in Sacramento?

Will Hiro still be smiling in Sacramento?

We’re now less than a week away from opening day, and Jemile Weeks has been optioned to Sacramento, Adam Rosales has been placed on the disabled list, and Hiro Nakajima has been struggling and is now dealing with a strained hamstring. And thanks to these recent developments, it looks like the A’s opening day roster may now be rounding into shape – and along with it, the Sacramento River Cats’ and Midland RockHounds’ rosters too. Of course, plenty can still change and nothing is etched in stone. There haven’t been any official announcements from the team yet and there probably won’t be until about 24 hours before opening day, but below are our projected opening day rosters for the A’s and their Triple-A and Double-A affiliates based on what we think we know at this point…

 

PROJECTED 2013 OAKLAND A’S ROSTER

Derek Norris

Derek Norris

–CATCHERS–

John Jaso C

Derek Norris C

–INFIELDERS–

Brandon Moss 1B

Nate Freiman 1B

Eric Sogard 2B

Scott Sizemore 2B

Jed Lowrie SS

Josh Donaldson 3B

–OUTFIELDERS–

Yoenis Cespedes OF

Coco Crisp OF

Josh Reddick OF

Chris Young OF

Seth Smith OF

Brett Anderson

Brett Anderson

–STARTING PITCHERS–

Brett Anderson LHP

Jarrod Parker RHP

Tommy Milone LHP

A.J. Griffin RHP

Dan Straily RHP

–RIGHT-HANDED RELIEVERS–

Grant Balfour RHP

Ryan Cook RHP

Pat Neshek RHP

Chris Resop RHP

–LEFT-HANDED RELIEVERS–

Sean Doolittle LHP

Jerry Blevins LHP

Travis Blackley LHP

 

(Bartolo Colon – SUSPENDED)

(Fernando Rodriguez – DL)

(Adam Rosales – DL)

 

PROJECTED 2013 SACRAMENTO RIVER CATS ROSTER

Michael Choice

Michael Choice

–HITTERS–

Luke Montz C

David Freitas C

Hiro Nakajima SS

Jemile Weeks 2B

Andy Parrino SS-3B-OF

Grant Green 2B-3B-OF

Josh Horton 3B-SS-2B

Scott Moore 1B-3B-DH

Shane Peterson OF-1B

Conner Crumbliss OF-2B

Michael Choice OF

Michael Taylor OF

Sonny Gray

Sonny Gray

–STARTING PITCHERS–

Sonny Gray RHP

Andrew Werner LHP

Jesse Chavez RHP

Bruce Billings RHP

Travis Banwart RHP

–RIGHT-HANDED RELIEVERS–

Evan Scribner RHP

Mike Ekstrom RHP

James Simmons RHP

Arnold Leon RHP

–LEFT-HANDED RELIEVERS–

Hideki Okajima LHP

Jordan Norberto LHP

Pedro Figueroa LHP

Justin Thomas LHP

 

PROJECTED 2013 MIDLAND ROCKHOUNDS ROSTER

Miles Head

Miles Head

–HITTERS–

Beau Taylor C

Ryan Ortiz 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

Sean Murphy

Sean Murphy

–STARTING PITCHERS–

Carlos Hernandez LHP

Murphy Smith RHP

Josh Bowman RHP

Sean Murphy RHP

Jacob Brown LHP

–RIGHT-HANDED RELIEVERS–

Brian Gordon RHP

Carlos Fisher RHP

Kyler Newby RHP

Darren Byrd RHP

Paul Smyth RHP

Nate Long RHP

Sergio Perez RHP

–LEFT-HANDED RELIEVERS–

Frank Gailey LHP

 

***UPDATE: In something of a surprise, the A’s have designated LHP Travis Blackley for assignment. This opens a spot in the A’s bullpen for either Evan Scribner, Pedro Figueroa, Mike Ekstrom or Hideki Okajima. Their spot in the River Cats bullpen will be filled by RHP Danny Otero, who was claimed off waivers.

 

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 Swap Spare Parts For Second Shortstop!

Jed Lowrie: From worst to first?

Jed Lowrie: From worst to first?

As we pointed out in our analysis of the John Jaso trade just recently, the A’s are clearly in “WIN NOW” mode. And the team made another “WIN NOW” move on Monday, dealing part-time first baseman Chris Carter, minor league pitcher Brad Peacock and minor league catcher Max Stassi to the Houston Astros for infielder Jed Lowrie and right-handed reliever Fernando Rodriguez.

Lowrie is a 28-year-old former 1st-round draft pick out of Stanford. The switch-hitter hit a career-high 16 home runs in 340 at-bats with the Astros last season. He’s played primarily at shortstop in his 5-year major league career but has also spent time at third, second and first, and his versatility provides the A’s with added depth at every infield position.

Rodriguez is a hard-throwing right-handed reliever who has some control issues but who also managed to strike out an average of 10 batters per 9 innings last year. The 28-year-old has a tendency to give up the long ball and posted an ERA of 5.37 in 70 1/3 innings with the Astros last season. Rodriguez will likely have to battle with Pat Neshek and Chris Resop for a spot on the right side of the A’s bullpen.

To acquire the pair, the A’s parted with three players who’ve all spent far more time in the minors than the majors: Max Stassi, the most highly rated catching prospect in the system who has been praised for his abilities behind the plate but who has also been hampered by injuries and has yet to progress beyond A ball; Brad Peacock, who was slated to be one of the top starters at Sacramento this season but who had his ups and downs last year and ended up posting a 6.01 ERA with the River Cats; and Chris Carter, who was supposed to be the right-handed half of the A’s first base platoon this year. Carter, the only one of the three who was expected to start the year on the major league roster, had formerly been a top prospect but, despite his strong power numbers in the second half last year, his September struggles strengthened the A’s doubts about his potential for long-term success.

Fernando Rodriguez: International Man Of Mystery

Fernando Rodriguez: International Man Of Mystery

About coming to A’s, the Stanford alum Lowrie was quoted as saying, “I’m excited to come to a team that won one of the better divisions in baseball last year. I’m excited to have an opportunity to come back and play baseball in the Bay Area.” He graciously neglected to mention the fact that he’s also undoubtedly excited not to be playing for the Astros, who will likely be bringing up the rear in their new division this year.

With Lowrie’s addition, the A’s infield situation suddenly becomes a bit murkier. Lowrie has played short, second, third and first. Scott Sizemore has played second and third. Hiro Nakajima can play short, and possibly even second. And then there’s also Jemile Weeks, who can play second, and Josh Donaldson, who can play third.

Being a switch-hitter, of course, only increases Lowrie’s versatility. But his left/right splits are somewhat curious. For his career, he has an OPS that’s .154 points better against lefties. But last year, he had an OPS that was .196 points better against righties. Lowrie claims that his previous struggles as a left-handed hitter were primarily related to lingering injuries, and his minor league splits do lend some credence to that claim. But it would be nice to see his splits even out a bit given the fact that he’s likely to be seeing plenty of action against both righties and lefties for the A’s this season.

But how exactly will the A’s use Lowrie this year? Well, they’ve certainly got plenty of options. But in a conference call with reporters, A’s general manager Billy Beane said that he and manager Bob Melvin had discussed their options and that they view Japanese import Hiro Nakajima as their shortstop. Beane also mentioned that he could see Lowrie as a nice right-handed complement to Brandon Moss at first base, much like Chris Carter had been.

Chris Carter: The object of the Astros' affections

Chris Carter: The object of the Astros’ affections

If we take Beane’s comments to heart, that then raises the question of where Lowrie would play against right-handers. The most obvious answer would be at second base, where there’s already a great deal of uncertainty, and where the top two current candidates, Scott Sizemore and Jemile Weeks, have both performed better against lefties than righties in recent times – Sizemore, who seems to be the favored candidate, even more so, which could make him a perfect platoon partner with Lowrie at second base.

Lowrie could also be available to back up both Nakajima at shortstop and Donaldson at third base if either struggles or just needs some time off. Of course, if Nakajima, whose defensive ability at shortstop is still a big question mark, spends much of the spring butchering balls at short, Lowrie could always take over the spot full-time and push Nakajima into duty at second. But wherever he plays, as long as he’s healthy – and that’s been something of an issue in the past – it looks like Lowrie will be in the lineup. So he should end up getting into a lot more games for the A’s than Chris Carter would have this year, which ought to make him a productive addition to the major league roster.

One of the biggest winners in this trade could turn out to be the A’s former first baseman Daric Barton, who now stands a decent chance of making the roster as the only true first baseman on the squad. Moss and Lowrie only have a combined 68 major league games at first base between them, and teams often like to have a little defensive certainty on the roster. Before this trade, Barton’s chances of landing a roster spot rested on something happening to either Moss or Carter – and now something has most definitely happened to Carter. Of course, it’s possible that Barton still doesn’t make the roster, but it’s certainly a whole lot more likely that he does now.

Brad Peacock:

Brad Peacock: Now standing tall for the last-place Astros

On the other side of the coin, one of the biggest losers in this deal could be infielder Adam Rosales. With his guaranteed contract and major league experience, Rosales was the favorite to land the utility infielder role. But now – with Lowrie, Nakajima, Donaldson and either Weeks or Sizemore likely to make the roster – the A’s will have at least two available options at each infield position, making another spare infielder somewhat redundant. Both Weeks and Sizemore could both be losers in this deal too since whoever wins a roster spot will undoubtedly have his at-bats at second base reduced by Lowrie’s arrival. The deal doesn’t do anything to help Eric Sogard’s and Grant Green’s prospects either as it just pushes both of them further down the infield depth chart.

As far as position players on the major league roster go, this deal might just boil down to Lowrie and Barton replacing Carter and Rosales on the A’s 2013 roster. As far as the pitching end of things goes, Beane clearly likes Rodriguez, referring to him as “a real big arm” and saying that he was a key to getting the deal done. But the hard-throwing righty will have to compete for a roster spot with fellow right-handers Pat Neshek and Chris Resop in an already crowded A’s bullpen that’s also likely to include right-handers Grant Balfour and Ryan Cook along with left-handers Sean Doolittle, Jerry Blevins and Travis Blackley – with guys like Jordan Norberto, Pedro Figueroa, Evan Scribner, Arnold Leon and James Simmons waiting in the wings.

Max Stassi: Taking 'the tools of ignorance' to Houston

Max Stassi: Taking the ‘tools of ignorance’ to Houston

Another beneficiary of the deal could be former 1st-round draft pick Sonny Gray, who will no longer have to compete for attention with fellow prospect Brad Peacock at Sacramento this season. If he pitches well at Triple-A this year, the odds of Gray getting the opportunity to see some time in Oakland before the season’s through have just greatly increased with Peacock out of the equation.

Vying for time with Gray in the River Cats rotation this year will be last year’s phenom Dan Straily, new acquisition Andrew Werner, veteran lefty Garrett Olson, and long-time minor leaguers Jesse Chavez, Bruce Billings and Travis Banwart. It’s my guess that Straily will end up in the major league rotation before long, like most 6th starters do, due to injury, and Banwart will start the season in the Sacramento bullpen, leaving the River Cats with a rotation of Gray, Werner, Olson, Chavez and Billings.

But this deal clearly wasn’t about the minor league roster; it was all about the major league roster – increasing the A’s infield depth and versatility and having a solid backup plan in place just in case Nakajima doesn’t pan out at short, Donaldson regresses at third, or nothing else works out at second. It’s clearly a “WIN NOW” move, just like it was with the Jaso deal. Peacock, Cole and Treinen represent a lot of young arms to give up – not to mention Carter and Stassi – in the two deals. But the A’s focus is clearly on winning now while the window of contention is open. And Beane admitted as much in his conference call with reporters, saying “Given where the club finished last year and where we see it having a chance to compete this year, we wanted to do everything we could to help ourselves right now.”

And for the A’s, the future is clearly NOW!

 

 

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Is the A’s Roster Set? And the River Cats Roster Too?

Will Hiro have A's fans smiling too?

Will Hiro have A’s fans smiling too?

On Monday, we unofficially learned that shortstop Stephen Drew had agreed to a deal with the Red Sox and would not be returning to the A’s, and we also unofficially learned that the A’s would be filling the hole at shortstop by signing Japanese import Hiroyuki Nakajima. It was announced on Tuesday, after our last A’s Off-Season Transactions Update, not only that the Nakajima signing was official but also that, to clear room on the roster for their new shortstop, the A’s had traded outfielder Collin Cowgill to the Mets for Double-A third baseman Jefry Marte.

With the A’s new shortstop in the fold, it looks like their work is essentially done for the off-season and that the major league roster, barring any unforeseen (yet inevitable) injuries, is pretty much set. But it also seems that the Triple-A roster at Sacramento may be pretty much set at this point too. This really shows a remarkable level of certainty for an organization that’s typically had any number of question marks remaining at this time of year.

Below you’ll find a complete listing of the anticipated A’s and River Cats opening day rosters, barring any unexpected deals or injuries, as of this point in time almost 3 ½ months before opening day. Any changes should be minor, especially where the major league roster is concerned. I’d expect any changes to most likely come from potential moves involving some of the minor league pitchers or infielders. Following the roster lists below, we’ll go around the horn and discuss where things stand at every position for both the A’s and the River Cats…

 

Brandon Moss

Brandon Moss

2013 OAKLAND A’S

–CATCHERS–

Derek Norris C

George Kottaras C

–INFIELDERS–

Brandon Moss 1B

Chris Carter 1B

Jemile Weeks 2B

Hiroyuki Nakajima SS

Josh Donaldson 3B

Adam Rosales IF 

Yoenis Cespedes

Yoenis Cespedes

–OUTFIELDERS–

Yoenis Cespedes OF

Josh Reddick OF

Coco Crisp OF

Seth Smith OF

Chris Young OF

–STARTING PITCHERS–

Brett Anderson LHP

Jarrod Parker RHP

Tom Milone LHP

A.J. Griffin RHP

Dan Straily RHP

Grant Balfour

Grant Balfour

–RIGHT-HANDED RELIEVERS–

Grant Balfour RHP

Ryan Cook RHP

Pat Neshek RHP

Chris Resop RHP

–LEFT-HANDED RELIEVERS–

Sean Doolittle LHP

Jerry Blevins LHP

Travis Blackley LHP

–SUSPENDED FOR 5 GAMES–

Bartolo Colon

 

2013 SACRAMENTO RIVER CATS

Michael Choice

Michael Choice

–HITTERS–

Luke Montz C

Steven Hill C

Daric Barton IF

Scott Sizemore IF

Andy Parrino IF

Eric Sogard IF

Stephen Parker IF

Scott Moore IF-OF

Grant Green IF-OF

Shane Peterson OF

Michael Choice OF

Michael Taylor OF

–STARTING PITCHERS–

Brad Peacock RHP

Sonny Gray RHP

Andrew Werner LHP

(+2 of the following 4 in the rotation with 1 in the bullpen & 1 traded or released)

Garrett Olson LHP

Jesse Chavez RHP

Bruce Billings RHP

Travis Banwart RHP

James Simmons

James Simmons

–RIGHT-HANDED RELIEVERS–

Evan Scribner RHP

Arnold Leon RHP

James Simmons RHP

Mike Ekstrom RHP

–LEFT-HANDED RELIEVERS–

Jordan Norberto LHP

Pedro Figueroa LHP

Justin Thomas LHP

 

2013 OAKLAND A’S

Derek Norris: Catcher of the future or lumberjack in training?

Derek Norris: Catcher of the future or lumberjack in training?

As far as the 2013 A’s go, catcher and first base are two positions that are pretty clearly set. Right-handed hitter Derek Norris and left-handed hitter George Kottaras will make up the A’s catching tandem. This likely won’t be a strict platoon though, as the A’s view Norris as their catcher of the future. I’d expect Norris to get between 350-400 at-bats, with Kottaras getting somewhere between 200-250 at-bats – of course, performance on the field could have a big effect on playing time behind the plate. The first base platoon of Brandon Moss and Chris Carter will remain in place in 2013. This should be a pretty strict left/right platoon, unless Moss regresses and Carter starts coming on strong, in which case the big right-hander could end up stealing some at-bats from Moss.

Second base may represent the biggest question mark on the A’s roster. Jemile Weeks and Scott Sizemore both stand a decent chance of claiming the starting job, while prospect Grant Green appears to be a long shot. It’s my feeling that, as long as he can show in the spring that he’s ready to put it together, the edge will go to former #1 draft pick Weeks. But if Weeks looks like he hasn’t learned anything, then Sizemore should be ready to step in – though we do have to remember that he is coming back from an injury that sidelined him for a solid year and will be competing at a position that he hasn’t played much over the past two years. Whichever one of these guys doesn’t claim the major league job will probably end up at Sacramento with Green. At this point, my guess is that Weeks opens the season with the A’s, while Sizemore ends up at Sacramento waiting for a chance to come back and take over in the event that Weeks or Donaldson struggles – but that could very easily change based on what happens in the spring.

Your 2013 starting shortstop will be Hiro Nakajima, with Adam Rosales likely serving as his backup – as well as the backup at second at third. If Nakajima proves to be more of a “zero” than a “Hiro,” then Rosales will step in and start getting more at-bats at short. Josh Donaldson will be the starting third baseman unless and until he proves that his second-half surge last season was just a fluke. If that happens, then Sizemore is the most likely candidate to step in at third.

Josh Reddick: The undisputed champion of the "Bernie Lean" dance competition

Josh Reddick: The undisputed champion of the ‘Bernie Lean’ dance competition

In the outfield, the A’s have five players (Cespedes, Reddick, Crisp, Smith and Young) to fill the three outfield spots as well as the designated hitter spot in the lineup. Those four positions should offer up about 2400 at-bats, which would mean there’s close to 500 at-bats to go around for each of them – that’s if they’re all healthy. Of course, they won’t all be healthy. I’d guess that at just about any point in the season, one of them will be dinged up enough to, if not warrant a stint on the DL, at least warrant a little time out of the lineup. So I wouldn’t spend too much time worrying about who plays where and when. I suspect it’ll work itself out one way or another and we’ll end up seeing plenty of all of them in the starting lineup.

As for the starting rotation, it’s important to remember that Bartolo Colon will be suspended for the first five games of the season and the A’s will play the first seven games of the season without a day off. That means that, barring injury, Brett Anderson, Jarrod Parker, Tom Milone, A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily will open the season as the A’s starting five. Of course, there’s a reasonable chance that one of those pitchers could have some nagging injury to start the season. In that case, Colon could be ready to step into the rotation after the first week. If, miracle of miracles, all five starting pitchers are fully healthy and functioning to start the season, then Colon could always kill time in the bullpen until one of them is sidelined with a balky elbow, shoulder, rib cage or back.

The A’s bullpen will be a crowded place though. Aside from Colon, there will be nine or ten legitimate contenders for the seven bullpen spots. On the right-handed side of things, Grant Balfour will be the closer and Ryan Cook will be the primary right-handed set-up man, while Pat Neshek will surely have a spot after signing a guaranteed contract, and Chris Resop is bound to get a spot after the A’s made a concerted effort to acquire him from the Pirates. That would push Evan Scribner to Sacramento.

On the left-handed side of things, Sean Doolittle and Jerry Blevins appear to be assured spots after their consistent performances throughout 2012, and Travis Blackley seems to be locked in as the long-man in the ‘pen. That would push Jordan Norberto and Pedro Figueroa to Sacramento. Of course, the odds that one of those seven relievers starts the season with some kind of injury is fairly high, which would open the door to one of those spots.

 

Daric Barton: Don't worry, A's fans - only in case of emergency!

Daric Barton: Don’t worry, A’s fans – only in case of emergency!

2013 SACRAMENTO RIVER CATS

If we make the preceding assumptions about the major league roster, and take into account the fact that the Triple-A roster rarely includes more than 12 hitters and rarely has any fewer than 13 pitchers, then the River Cats roster starts to fall pretty clearly into place.

The A’s acquired two experienced minor league catchers – 29-year-old Luke Montz and 27-year-old Steven Hill – who should share the catching duties at Sacramento this year. Meanwhile, veteran Daric Barton will be standing in at first base, waiting for his chance should anything happen with Moss or Carter.

If Jemile Weeks doesn’t make the roster in Oakland, then he’ll surely be the starting second baseman at Sacramento. But if Scott Sizemore is the one to get sent down, as I suspect, then I’d expect him to get the majority of the starts at second base in Sacramento, preparing himself in case Weeks again struggles. Andy Parrino, who was acquired from San Diego in the Tyson Ross trade, is bound to be Sacramento’s primary starting shortstop this year. I’d expect to see the versatile Eric Sogard getting most of his starts at third base this year, while also picking up a few other starts around the infield. When Sogard’s not starting at third, then fading prospect Stephen Parker is likely to get some starts at the hot corner as well.

Grant Green: Still looking for a home

Grant Green: Still looking for a home

Scott Moore, who has been the A’s most promising minor league free agent signing this off-season, can play third base, as well as first base, second base and the outfield, but will probably end up seeing a lot of at-bats as the designated hitter for the River Cats. Sacramento’s starting outfield should be made up of on-base machine Shane Peterson in left, top prospect Michael Choice in center and former top prospect Michael Taylor in right. That just leaves our old friend Grant Green, whom the organization could make the River Cats’ regular second baseman, but I’m guessing that, when it’s all said and done, they’ll end up utilizing his versatility and giving him starts all over the field – preparing him for his most likely future role with the A’s as a versatile utility man.

There are three pitchers who, as long as they’re healthy, are sure to make Sacramento’s starting rotation – top prospects Brad Peacock and Sonny Gray, along with left-hander Andrew Werner, who was acquired from San Diego in the Tyson Ross deal. The rest of the River Cats’ rotation will be filled out by two of the following four hurlers – right-handers Jesse Chavez, Bruce Billings and Travis Banwart, as well as major league veteran and minor league free agent signee Garrett Olson. Of the two who don’t make the rotation, one will likely end up as the long-man in the River Cats’ bullpen with the other either DL’d, traded or released.

Sacramento’s 2013 bullpen ought to boast an impressive array of arms who could be ready to step in and help at the major league level at a moment’s notice. If all the major league bullpen arms are healthy, then the River Cats’ ‘pen should include names like Evan Scribner, Arnold Leon, James Simmons and minor league free agent signee Mike Ekstrom from the right side and Jordan Norberto, Pedro Figueroa and minor league free agent signee Justin Thomas from the left side.

On the whole, it looks like a River Cats roster that ought to be more than ready to defend its division title and, hopefully, so should the 2013 A’s!

 

*     *     *

 

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Saturday, June 9th: Ross Pitches Cats to Victory as Hounds, Ports and Bees Fall

A’s Farmhand Of The Day

Sacramento River Cats pitcher Tyson Ross (6 IP / 0 ER / 6 K / Win)

 

TRIPLE-A PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE

Sacramento River Cats     10

Colorado Springs Sky Sox  2

(WP – Ross 2-1 / 2.45)

 

Farmhand Of The Game:

Pitcher Tyson Ross

(6 IP / 0 ER / 6 K / Win)

 

 

Worth Noting: Starter Tyson Ross turned in another solid outing for Sacramento, walking just 1 while striking out 6 over 6 scroreless innings to earn his 2nd win. Left-hander Pedro Figueroa allowed his first 2 runs of the season for Sacramento in 2 innings of relief. Catcher Derek Norris hit a 2-run homer in the 2nd inning, outfielder Michael Taylor followed with a 2-run homer in the 3rd, and shortstop Brandon Hicks capped the River Cats’ scoring on the night with a 3-run homer in the 8th.

 

DOUBLE-A TEXAS LEAGUE

Midland RockHounds   5

Corpus Christi Hooks  6

(LP – Ortiz 2-2 / 2.66)

 

Farmhand Of The Game:

Catcher Ryan Lipkin

(Home Run / 2 RBIs)

 

 

Worth Noting: Catcher Ryan Lipkin hit a 2-run homer in the 6th inning to give the RockHounds the lead. Starter Gary Daley allowed 4 runs over 5 innings of work, but right-hander Jonathan Ortiz allowed 2 runs in the 9th inning to record his 3rd blown save and his 2nd loss.

 

ADVANCED-A CALIFORNIA LEAGUE

Stockton Ports    3

San Jose Giants  4

(LP – Brown 2-4 / 3.23)

 

Farmhand Of The Game:

First Baseman A.J. Kirby-Jones

(Home Run / 1 RBI)

 

 

Worth Noting: Starter Jacob Brown allowed 4 runs over 6 innings to run his record to 2-4, and first baseman A.J. Kirby-Jones launched his 12th home run in the loss.

 

CLASS-A MIDWEST LEAGUE

Quad Cities River Bandits  6

Burlington Bees                 3

(LP – Urlaub 4-4 / 3.25)

 

Farmhand Of The Game:

Pitcher Max Perlman

(5 IP / 1 ER / 2 K)

 

 

Worth Noting: Right-hander Max Perlman had an impressive outing in his first start of the season for Burlington, allowing 1 run on just 1 walk and 3 hits over 5 innings of work on Saturday. But the Bees’ bullpen surrendered 5 runs, with left-hander Jeff Urlaub taking the loss. Third baseman B.A. Vollmuth hit a 2-run homer in the 1st inning to putBurlington on the board.

 

Sunday’s Games:

Sacramento @ Colorado Springs – 12:05pm PT

(TBD vs. Scahill)

Midland@ Frisco – 6:00pm CT

(TBD vs. Grimm)

Stockton @ San Jose – 1:00pm PT

(Krol vs. Bradley)

Quad Cities @ Burlington – 2:00pm CT

(Stock vs. Frankoff)

 

 

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!