Tag: Rick Magnante

A’s 2018 Minor League Staff

 

Nashville Sounds manager Fran Riordan

Nashville Sounds manager
Fran Riordan

NASHVILLE SOUNDS (Triple-A)

Manager: Fran Riordan

Pitching Coach: Rick Rodriguez

Hitting Coach: Eric Martins

Fran Riordan, 42, will manage at the Triple-A level for the first time after leading the Double-A Midland RockHounds to a Texas League title in 2017. It was the fourth consecutive championship for Oakland’s Double-A affiliate. The 2018 season will be Riordan’s fourth in the Athletics organization. Prior to 2017 with Midland, he managed Single-A Beloit in 2015 and 2016 after a 14-year career managing in the independent Frontier and Northern Leagues. Riordan sports a career managerial mark of 869-857 (.503) over 17 seasons dating back to 2000. He takes over the manager role vacated by Ryan Christenson who was hired as the bench coach for Oakland. Rick Rodriguez, 57, returns to Nashville for a third season as pitching coach for the Sounds. He helped lead the Sounds to the 2016 American Southern Division Championship and has helped 14 Sounds pitchers make their Major League debut over the last two years. Prior to Nashville, Rodriguez spent one season serving in the same role with Advanced-A Stockton. He was Triple-A Sacramento’s pitching coach for 12 seasons, including his most recent stint in 2013-14. Rodriguez also served as the A’s bullpen coach from 2011-12 and as the manager of Advanced-A Modesto in 2003. Eric Martins, 46, returns to Nashville for a third season as the Sounds’ hitting coach. He has helped develop hitters such as Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Chad Pinder and Franklin Barreto over the last two seasons. Martins served in the same role with Double-A Midland in 2015. Prior to his one season in Midland, he was a scout for the A’s since 2007. During his time as a scout, Martins was responsible for signing A.J. Griffin, Daniel Robertson and Chapman. Athletic trainer Brad LaRosa and strength and conditioning coach Henry Torres also return to Nashville after being with the Sounds in 2017.

 

Midland RockHounds manager Scott Steinmann

Midland RockHounds manager
Scott Steinmann

MIDLAND ROCKHOUNDS (Double-A)

Manager: Scott Steinmann

Pitching Coach: Steve Connelly

Hitting Coach: Tommy Everidge

Scott Steinmann takes over at Midland after joining the Oakland organization as manager at Single-A Beloit in 2017. Prior to joining the A’s organization, he spent 17 seasons on various coaching staffs in the Seattle Mariners farm system, including nine seasons as a manager. Steve Connelly and Tommy Everidge move from Single-A Stockton to Midland in 2017 to take over as pitching and hitting coaches respectively. Justin Whitehouse returns as athletic trainer and Omar Aguilar joins the club from Beloit as strength and conditioning coach.

 

Stockton Ports manager Rick Magnante

Stockton Ports manager
Rick Magnante

STOCKTON PORTS (High-A)

Manager: Rick Magnante

Pitching Coach: Bryan Corey

Hitting Coach: Brian McArn

Rick Magnante returns as manager at Single-A Stockton for the fourth consecutive season and is in his 22nd season in the A’s organization. Prior to Stockton, Magnante served as the manager of Class-A Beloit in 2014 after spending eight seasons with the A’s short-season teams in Vermont (2011-2013) and Vancouver (2006-2010). Pitching coach Bryan Corey moves up from Short-Season Vermont and hitting coach Brian McArn joins the club from Midland. Shane Zdebiak returns as athletic trainer and Matt Mosiman joins the A’s organization as the Ports strength and conditioning coach.

 

Beloit Snappers manager Webster Garrison

Beloit Snappers manager
Webster Garrison

BELOIT SNAPPERS (Class-A)

Manager: Webster Garrison

Pitching Coach: Don Schulze

Hitting Coach: Juan Dilone

Webster Garrison is the new manager at Beloit after helming the A’s Arizona Rookie League club in 2017. It will be his 20th season as a coach or manager in the A’s farm system. Don Schulze moves from Midland to take over as pitching coach, Juan Dilone returns for his third consecutive season as hitting coach and Brian Thorson returns for his 35th season in the A’s organization as an athletic trainer.

 

Vermont Lake Monsters manager Aaron Nieckula

Vermont Lake Monsters manager
Aaron Nieckula

VERMONT LAKE MONSTERS (Class-A Short-Season)

Manager: Aaron Nieckula

Pitching Coach: Carlos Chavez

Hitting Coach: Lloyd Turner

Aaron Nieckula returns for his fourth season as manager at Vermont and his 12th season managing in the A’s farm system. He also serves as spring training and instructional league coordinator. Carlos Chavez takes over as pitching coach after spending 2017 at Beloit, while hitting coach Lloyd Turner and athletic trainer Toshiaki Nagahara also return to Vermont.

 

AZL A's pitching coach Gabriel Ozuna

AZL A’s pitching coach
Gabriel Ozuna

ARIZONA LEAGUE A’S (Rookie Short-Season)

Manager: Eddie Menchaca

Pitching Coach: Gabriel Ozuna

Hitting Coach: Ruben Escalera

Eddie Menchaca will manage the A’s affiliate in the Arizona Rookie League after spending nine seasons in the Seattle Mariners organization. He compiled a 441-460 record in seven seasons as a manager, most recently at Single-A Bakersfield in 2016. Pitching coach Gabriel Ozuna, hitting coach Ruben Escalera, coach Gabe Ortiz and athletic trainer Chris Lessner all return in 2018. Matt Rutledge takes over as strength and conditioning coach.

 

Traveling instructor  Steve Scarsone

Traveling instructor
Steve Scarsone

Minor League Pitching Coordinator: Gil Patterson

Minor League Hitting Coordinator: Jim Eppard

Minor League Defensive Coordinator: Juan Navarette

Minor League Instruction Coordinator: Ed Sprague

Minor League Traveling Instructor: Steve Scarsone

Minor League Traveling Instructor: Hiram Bocachica

Minor League Field Coordinator: Aaron Nieckula

Minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson, minor league hitting coordinator Jim Eppard, minor league defensive coordinator Juan Navarette, minor league instruction coordinator Ed Sprague, minor league field coordinator Aaron Nieckula and traveling instructor Steve Scarsone all return in their same player development roles. In addition, the A’s have hired Hiram Bocachica as a traveling instructor.

(Information provided by A’s Media Relations, Sounds Media Relations and Ports Media Relations)

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Stockton Skipper Rick Magnante Talks about the Ports’ Newest Prospects

by Bill Moriarity / A’s Farm Editor

rmMGR_Magnante_dervlq1cStockton manager Rick Magnante originally began his professional baseball career as a 13th-round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians out of the University of Santa Barbara back in 1969.

He first joined the A’s organization in 1995 as an area scout covering southern California, where he was the signing scout for players like Barry Zito. He also began managing short-season teams for the A’s in 2006 after his duties prepping for each year’s draft were through.

After spending five seasons in Vancouver and three seasons in Vermont, Magnante gave up his scouting duties and began managing full-time. He spent the 2014 season in Beloit and is now in his third season with Stockton. We took the opportunity to talk with the Stockton skipper late last week to get his first-hand take on some of the prospects who’ve recently joined the Ports…

 

AF:  You’ve had a lot of turnover on your roster here at Stockton this year. So, let’s talk about some of the new guys who’ve recently joined your squad here in the second half. Let’s start out with 22-year-old second baseman Nate Mondou, who arrived from Beloit at the end of June. He’s not a very big guy, but he seems to be doing a pretty good job of putting the bat on the ball.

RM:  He’s your typical grinder, blue-collar player who has to maximize his skill set to be that over-achieving, instinctual, anticipatory kind of player – and he is that. And his ability to swing the bat has been impressive. I think he’s a sleeper. I think you could see Nate in the big leagues. I’ll go out on a limb right now and say that may happen someday, because he can play the game. And the other thing you have to take into consideration is that this is his first full season. He had a real good first half there in Beloit. He came up here and he’s hot as a firecracker – he’s slowed down a little bit as of late, but that’s going to happen. And if he can just finish with some kind of consistency at the plate after his first full season, I think that’s quite an accomplishment for him.

AF:  He sounds like the kind of guy you could really see hustling his way to the big leagues.

RM:  Yeah. I asked him, “Were the Boston Red Sox ever interested in you?” I said, “To me, you’re Marty Barrett, you’re Jerry Remy, you’re Dustin Pedroia. You’re all those under-sized middle infielders who can really play the game and give 110% every time.” So, that’s what I liken him to.

Rick Magnante (photo by Meghan Camino)

Rick Magnante
(photo by Meghan Camino)

AF:  I was thinking about David Eckstein.

RM:  Absolutely, that’s a good comparison.

AF:  21-year-old outfielder Luis Barrera came up here from Beloit in the middle of July. He got off to a pretty good start here and has already hit a couple of home runs for you. He seems to have a lot of tools to work with.

RM:  He’s a combination of tools with an emerging skill set and a baseball IQ that still needs to advance some. But he’s wiry strong, fast, defends, throws, chance to hit, and has youth on his side. So, certainly he’s a chance prospect for me.

AF:  The other guy who came up from Beloit at the same time as Barrera is 21-year-old infielder Edwin Diaz. He’s still very young, but he’s also got some tools.

RM:  Originally drafted as a shortstop, he’s gotten bigger, filled out and slowed down a little bit, so he’s moved over to the corner. He’s gifted with the glove and has a gifted arm. He’s made some sensational plays in the short time that he’s been here to allow us to stay in ballgames and eliminate rallies and not give extra outs away. He needs to work on the bat. The hitting is his Achilles heel right now. There’s strength there, there’s leverage, there’s raw power. But the ability to make consistent contact, to take advantage of pitches in the zone that he should hit, those areas are the areas that he needs to improve on.

AF:  22-year-old infielder Sheldon Neuse just recently came here from the Nationals’ system. Have you been able to form much of an impression of him yet?

RM:  We had a nice talk in the office yesterday, just a little orientation. I gave him a little history about the A’s, our direction, our philosophy. I got some information from him, a little bio, where he comes from, his family, etc. Anytime anybody comes over to a new organization, you’ve just got to give them a pass for six to ten games and let them just get their feet on the ground. But his numbers speak for themselves. He was a 2nd-round draft pick by the Nationals, and we know they scout well. And it looks like we’re going to give him an opportunity to play some shortstop and some third base and see how that goes. But we had him out here for some early work in batting practice today, and there is raw power to all fields. But early on, you can see it’s a good body – there’s strength, there’s power. He closed all three years at Oklahoma as well as playing short and third. I don’t know if it’s Chapman-like, but there’s arm strength there.

AF:  23-year-old Cuban pitcher Norge Ruiz is an intriguing pitching prospect that people are very interested in. He’s made four starts here in Stockton now, so what have you been able to see out of him so far?

Rick Magnante (photo by Meghan Camino)

Rick Magnante
(photo by Meghan Camino)

RM:  Well, he’s extremely competitive – extremely competitive. He raises the bar very high in terms of his expectations, which is good, but it sometimes can be unrealistic and unattainable. So, I tried to bring that down a little bit and create some kind of measured reality for what we expect here. But you’re dealing with a different culture…with those guys, you really have to give them the opportunity to just settle in and get comfortable. They want to impress early. He’s got a large mix of pitches – from the fastball to the curveball to the slider to the splitter to the change. So, we’re going to let him throw his stuff and see how he does. And I’m sure we’ll start to abridge his arsenal and try to get him something that works more like a traditional three-pitch/four-pitch mix and see how it all works out. But he’s had his moments where he’s been impressive. He mixes it up, he changes speeds and he attacks hitters. And he’s going to have to learn also that this is professional baseball in America. It’s not international baseball. This is a little bit more challenging over here. And he’s going to have to do what he needs to do to make the necessary adjustments. So far, he’s competed out here, and he’s mixed in well with his teammates – so good for Norge!

AF:  As we all know, the minor league season can be a bit of a grind. And with a month or so left in the minor league season, we’re probably starting to hit that grind point right about now. So, at this point, what are you thinking about, and what messages are you conveying to the young players here on your squad?

RM:  Well, you know, we had a successful first half. I was very pleased with the fact that, with four games left to play in the first half, we were one out, and had a chance to get ourselves an early first-half spot in the playoffs. It did not come to fruition. But as far as the work ethic, the energy, the commitment, the fellowship, the camaraderie that we’ve seen here early on, I’m very pleased with the makeup of the ballclub. At the halfway point, when I sat down and spoke with the players, I simply said that now is the second half, this is when adjustments need to be made, not only in terms of what you need to do to get better, but also what the other teams are going to do to offset the success you’ve had against them. And also, I just said that I thought there was tremendous parity in the California League, and there was no one or two teams that I felt this year were clearly, talent-wise, better than the rest. So, our future, our destiny here this second half is going to be a function of how well we play the game and how few mistakes we make…with a new crew, with a whole different group of guys – outside of maybe Eli White and maybe Pimentel and Bolt and Brown and Siddall and Mikey White; the pitching has completely changed; we have two new catchers [Argenis Raga and Santiago Chavez]; we have a new third baseman [Edwin Diaz]; we have a newly-acquired infielder with Sheldon Neuse. So, it’s a different crew, but you expect that. That comes with the territory in the minor leagues – we, as a staff, understand that. So, we just continue to come out and work hard every day, send out a positive message and make sure that the guys give us their best effort. And to date, they have.

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A’s Farm Podcast Takes a Look at This Year’s Stockton Ports with Manager Rick Magnante

rmMGR_Magnante_dervlq1cThis week, the A’s Farm Podcast turns its focus to the Stockton Ports, the A’s California League affiliate, when Stockton skipper Rick Magnante joins A’s Farm Editor-in-Chief Bill Moriarity and A’s Farm & A’s Nation contributor Josh Moore to provide the inside scoop on this year’s Ports.

Magnante goes deep on some of the top talent he’s had on this year’s team, including pitchers A.J. Puk and Logan Shore, outfielder Skye Bolt and catcher Sean Murphy, and he also shares a bit about his decades of experience in pro ball as a player drafted in the summer of ’69, as a scout for the A’s in the Moneyball era and now as a minor league manager.

A’s Farm Podcast
with hosts Bill Moriarity & Josh Moore and special guest Stockton Ports manager Rick Magnante

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

Talking Ports Prospects with Stockton Skipper Rick Magnante

by Josh Moore / A’s Farm Stockton Correspondent

rmMGR_Magnante_dervlq1cStockton manager Rick Magnante originally began his professional baseball career as a 13th-round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians out of the University of Santa Barbara back in 1969. He first joined the A’s organization in 1995 as an area scout covering southern California. He also began managing short-season teams for the A’s in 2006 after his duties prepping for each year’s draft were through.

After spending five seasons in Vancouver and three seasons in Vermont, Magnante gave up his scouting duties and began managing full-time. He spent the 2014 season in Beloit and is now in his third season with Stockton.

Just before left-hander A.J. Puk’s impressive performance on Saturday, in which he allowed just one infield single and struck out 9 over 5 scoreless innings, we had the chance to chat with the Stockton skipper about the recent changes to team’s tandem-pitching rotation and well as many of the Ports’ most promising prospects…

 

AF:  First things first, you’re switching up the starting rotation a bit. You’re getting away from the eight-man tandem rotation and are stretching out a few of the guys now. Is that right?

RM:  Well, it’s a little bit of a hybrid now. There will be a couple of guys that piggyback. There will be three guys that get their own start: [A.J.] Puk, [Logan] Shore, and [Evan] Manarino. Those will be the three that will be on their own, and they’ll match up with what’s in the bullpen on that given day.

AF:  Do you have a pitch count for Puk, Shore and Manarino as they get stretched out? What could we expect from an innings standpoint?

RM:  I think we’re going to gradually increase them to where they can get back to 75-85 [pitches], and toward the halfway mark of the season, toward 100 and back on a starter’s number as it relates to what’s expected in the big leagues.

A.J. Puk

A.J. Puk

AF:  Puk’s previous three starts [prior to Saturday] were a little different than his first three. His BABIP was .522, everyone was making good contact against him, and he had three consecutive losses in those appearances. Was he trying something new?

RM:  I don’t necessarily think that he’s trying anything new. I think he’s just understanding that he’s in a professional environment now facing professional hitters. And when he’s making the pitches he’s capable of making, he’s pretty untouchable. But when he doesn’t make those pitches and falls behind or gets deep into counts, these guys – you have to give them credit – they can hit a little bit and it’s what they’ve been doing.

AF:  Back to the tandem-pitching experiment. How do you feel about it?

RM:  I think as far as getting guys more appearances, I get that, but I think we should mirror the model of what’s going on in the big leagues. If the big leagues are going to go to this same format, then I fully understand it. If they’re not, then I’m not sure if the Petri dish experiment is truly working. So, we’ve already amended it.

AF:  Let’s talk about some of the bullpen arms. Between Nolan Blackwood, Carlos Navas, Jared Lyons and Matt Sergey, they’ve managed to allow just 4 runs in their 41 innings of work. Everyone knows some of those names in the rotation, but for those who might not know much about the arms in the pen, tell me about a few of them.

Nolan Blackwood

Nolan Blackwood

RM:  Blackwood can pitch. They [the A’s] like him. He’s a down-under guy and it sinks at 91-92. He’s got the frisbee slider going the other way. He’s hard to pick up with a lot of deception.

AF:  Do you think Brad Ziegler with a slightly better fastball would be a good comparison for Blackwood?

RM:  Probably. This is really my first look at Nolan. I didn’t have him last year. He’s had a few appearances here and, like anybody, he’s probably a little nervous or anxious and maybe sometimes tries to do a little too much. On certain days, there’s one pitch that works. He’s got a sinking fastball at 90-92 – you don’t need to go to the frisbee slider if they’re not swinging at that. And if you don’t have the slider, then you’ve got to go with whatever your best pitch is. So he’s learning.

AF:  I wanted to ask you about Carlos Navas. He pitched very briefly in Triple-A last season, he’s 24 and he pitched extremely well in the Venezuelan Winter League to guys who are bit older than him, and he hasn’t given up a run yet this year here in Stockton. What’s his ceiling?

RM:  There’s no telling. He may move quickly through this organization as the need arises and he’s seasoned. He’s been able to combine a 2-seamer and a 4-seamer, and if he can keep himself on line – that would be his biggest Achilles heal – he doesn’t always work down the slope. He can get left-to-right and that’s when he starts to yank the stuff. This year, his mechanics have been better, he’s been more on line, he’s got two-plane action and he’s got a very good slider. He’s durable, he’s strong, he competes, and he’s got great character, so we all pull for him.

AF:  Casey Meisner has looked much better recently. He hasn’t allowed a run in a couple of his recent appearances. How do you view his development?

RM:  He’s just kind of working through it. You know, he’s a big, tall, rangy guy and sometimes those guys have a more difficult time repeating [their delivery]. It’s confidence as well. In his mind and in the mind of the organization, he probably had a very disappointing season [last year]. He’s a high school draft guy without a lot of experience, but he had a real solid season in the South Atlantic League and in the Florida State League when we traded for him. He came here and stepped right into a role and competed. And then last year was a hiccup for him.

AF:  Although Brett Graves has moved on to Midland, both he and Evan Manarino have done such a great job this year in Stockton. Both pitchers have had their finest strikeout-to-walk ratios of their careers. What are you doing with two guys like that to help them develop?

Evan Manarino

Evan Manarino

RM:  You have two guys who really have a feel to pitch. And they really treat this as an opportunity. They’re students of the game. They assess their performances and they write things down to remind them of what they did right or wrong in their previous outings in terms of how they attacked the hitters. For me, Manarino is Tommy Milone. That’s who he is. He’s unflappable out there. His fastball wouldn’t bust your lip, but he never throws it in the same place twice. It’s the same with the changeup. He mixes his pitches and keeps hitters off balance. He has to be very control-and-command oriented because, the fastball, if it’s not located, is hittable. He’s a pitcher. Graves, on the other hand, he’s got 92-94 in the tank, so he’s got a litmus-test fastball. So with him, it’s commanding the breaking ball and attacking hitters and knowing how to get people out.

AF:  Logan Shore, I believe, at Florida topped out at about 92 mph. Is he getting a little more on his fastball, and how is the development coming along on his slider?

RM:  Yeah, I think his velocity has been somewhere between 91-94 – he’s probably sitting somewhere around 92. I think that’s probably his comfort level. Right now, it’s basically fastball, change and a developing slider. I actually talked to him before we came out today and he’s really working hard to figure out a grip and get comfortable, and he really believes he’s got a slider when he throws it right. It’s a good pitch, but just doesn’t have the consistency yet.

AF:  Offensively, we’ve seen a few guys really hitting well of late – outfielders Skye Bolt and Tyler Ramirez, shortstop Eli White and, despite his slow start, infielder Mikey White has shown some power of late. Is there anyone you’ve been particularly impressed with?

RM:  I think the guy that really had a terrific April and was pushed a little bit in terms of his matriculation through the system has been Eli White. I think he got off to a great start, and I think he’s a guy who has the tools and the skill set and, with some development – maybe a season under his belt – could be a guy that will really surprise.

AF:  Skye Bolt is a guy we’ve all been focused on because of his tools, and he’s currently in the top ten in the California League in on-base percentage. What is he doing differently this season?

RM:  I think he has just made some strides in his basic approach to hitting. He just seems to be more on time, his pitch recognition is better, his path is more consistent. He’s got a lean, sinewy kind of body that doesn’t really say “power,” but when the ball comes off the bat, it can be electric at times. I would kind of liken him a little bit to [Josh] Reddick in terms of that kind of profile or prototype.

AF:  About the injuries to first baseman Sandber Pimentel and catcher Sean Murphy, how long should we expect that they’ll be out?

Sandber Pimentel

Sandber Pimentel

RM:  Pimie…I don’t know. We got him here kind of hoping we could rehab him to begin the year. And we got him back on the field, but then he swung a couple of times and he had to shut it down. It’s a back issue. I’m not an orthopod, so I can’t tell you, but we all thought it’d be better to send him back to Arizona and give him more hands-on treatment to see what happens. Certainly we’d love to have him here because he’s an impact guy for us. If we have him and we have [Chris] Iriart—a lefty/righty combo at first-base and DH—we’ve got some thump and some dangerous guys in the lineup. So, we certainly hope he’ll be fine. With Murph, it’s just a little wrist problem and those are quirky. Those are things that can be hard to work through.

AF:  Catcher Jose Chavez joined the team with Murphy’s absence and hit two home runs in his first six games. Is he someone we can expect to get more and more time while Murphy is out?

RM:  I think so. I think Chavy will get the lion’s share of the catching when Murph’s not capable of playing. And everybody’s always been very complimentary of Chavy’s ability to catch and throw – that’s his forte. It’s the bat that’s always been a little suspect as he has developed through the minor league system. Now he’s getting a little better feel on how to hit. He’s a little stronger. He’s a little more mature. He’s had more experience. So, hopefully we’re starting to see that if this guy has the ability to get to the big leagues, he’ll have a serviceable bat that’ll allow him to play some.

AF:  How much of a defensive drop-off do you see between Murphy and Chavez?

RM:  I would say in the receiving end, probably not too much. I think Murphy is a prodigy. I think he’s advanced and has a baseball IQ that shows that not only can he catch, and he can really throw, but he also has an idea on how to help his pitchers attack hitters and exploit their weaknesses and take advantage of that – and that’s a thinking man’s catcher, and that’s something you can’t really grade out unless you see it every day on the field.

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A’s 2017 Minor League Staff

 

Nashville Sounds manager Ryan Christenson

Nashville Sounds manager Ryan Christenson

NASHVILLE SOUNDS (Triple-A)

Manager: Ryan Christenson

Pitching Coach: Rick Rodriguez

Hitting Coach: Eric Martins

Ryan Christenson was named manager at Triple-A Nashville after guiding Double-A Midland to back-to-back Texas League Championships in 2015-16.  He began his managerial career in the A’s farm system in 2013 and has a 323-236 (.578) record while leading his clubs to postseason appearances in all four of his seasons.  Christenson is currently managing the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League.  Rick Rodriguez (pitching coach), Eric Martins (hitting coach) and Brad LaRosa (athletic trainer) return to the Nashville staff while Henry Torres joins the club as strength and conditioning coach.

 

 

Midland RockHounds manager Fran Riordan

Midland RockHounds manager Fran Riordan

MIDLAND ROCKHOUNDS (Double-A)

Manager: Fran Riordan

Pitching Coach: John Wasdin

Hitting Coach: Brian McArn

Fran Riordan replaces Christensen at the helm of Midland after managing at Single-A Beloit the previous two seasons.  Prior to that, he managed for 14 season in independent leagues.  John Wasdin (pitching coach), Brian McArn (hitting coach) and Justin Whitehouse (athletic trainer) return to Midland and Matt Rutledge joins the staff as strength and conditioning coach. [UPDATE: Pitching coach John Wasdin has joined the Baltimore organization as pitching coordinator, and Beloit pitching coach Don Schulze will now move up to serve as Midland’s pitching coach.]

 

 

Stockton Ports manager Rick Magnante

Stockton Ports manager Rick Magnante

STOCKTON PORTS (High-A)

Manager: Rick Magnante

Pitching Coach: Steve Connelly

Hitting Coach: Tommy Everidge

Rick Magnante returns as manager at Single-A Stockton for the third consecutive season and is in his 21st season in the A’s organization.  Steve Connelly (pitching coach), Tommy Everidge (hitting coach) and Sean Doran (strength and conditioning coach) also return to Stockton.  An athletic trainer to replace Travis Tims will be determined at a later date.

 

 

Beloit Snappers pitching coach Don Schulze

Beloit Snappers pitching coach Don Schulze

BELOIT SNAPPERS (Class-A)

Manager: Scott Steinmann

Pitching Coach: Don Schulze

Hitting Coach: Juan Dilone

Scott Steinmann joins the Oakland organization as manager of the Beloit Snappers in the Midwest League.  Steinmann had spent his entire professional baseball career, which began in 1996 as a player, in the Seattle organization.  His first coaching assignment came in 1999 at Everett of the Northwest League and he spent 17 seasons on various coaching staffs in the Mariners farm system, including nine seasons as a manager.  His most recent assignment was in 2015 at the helm of Single-A Clinton.  Don Schulze (pitching coach), Juan Dilone (hitting coach) and Brian Thorson (athletic trainer) return to Beloit and Omar Aguilar takes over as strength and conditioning coach. [UPDATE: With Midland pitching coach John Wasdin joining the Baltimore organization as pitching coordinator, Beloit pitching coach Don Schulze will now move up to serve as Midland’s pitching coach. And Carlos Chavez has been promoted from Vermont to take over as Beloit’s new pitching coach.]

 

 

Vermont Lake Monsters manager Aaron Nieckula

Vermont Lake Monsters manager Aaron Nieckula

VERMONT LAKE MONSTERS (Class-A Short-Season)

Manager: Aaron Nieckula

Pitching Coach: Carlos Chavez

Hitting Coach: Lloyd Turner

The coaching staff at Short Season Single-A Vermont remains the same with Aaron Nieckula as manager, Carlos Chavez as pitching coach and Lloyd Turner as hitting coach.  Toshi Nagahara returns as athletic trainer and J.D. Howell will be the new strength and conditioning coach. [UPDATE: With Carlos Chavez moving up to serve as Beloit’s pitching coach, Bryan Corey will now take over as Vermont’s new pitching coach.]

 

 

Arizona League A's manager Webster Garrison

Arizona League A’s manager Webster Garrison

ARIZONA LEAGUE A’S (Rookie Short-Season)

Manager: Webster Garrison

Pitching Coach: Gabriel Ozuna

Hitting Coach: Ruben Escalera

The A’s affiliate in the Arizona Rookie League will also have the same staff, including manager Webster Garrison, pitching coach Gabriel Ozuna, hitting coach Ruben Escalera, coach Gabe Ortiz, athletic trainer Chris Lessner and strength and conditioning coach Terence Brannic.

 

 

Traveling instructor Steve Scarsone

Traveling instructor Steve Scarsone

Minor League Instruction Coordinator: Ed Sprague

Minor League Traveling Instructor: Steve Scarsone

Minor League Hitting Coordinator: Jim Eppard

Minor League Pitching Coordinator: Gil Patterson

Minor League Pitching Rehab Coordinator: Craig Lefferts

Minor League Defensive Coordinator: Juan Navarrette

Minor League Field Coordinator: Aaron Nieckula

Ed Sprague was named coordinator of instruction after serving as a consultant for the A’s player development department in 2016.  He hit .247 with 152 home runs and 558 RBI in 1203 games over 11 seasons in the majors, including part of one season with Oakland in 1998.  Following his playing career, the Stockton native was the head coach at the University of the Pacific for 12 seasons from 2004-15.  Steve Scarsone, who has spent the last eight seasons managing in the A’s farm system, was named traveling instructor.  Gil Patterson, Jim Eppard, Juan Navarrette and Craig Lefferts return in their roles as pitching coordinator, hitting coordinator, defensive coordinator and pitching rehab coordinator, respectively. Nate Brooks was named medical coordinator after 12 seasons with the A’s as a minor league athletic trainer and rehab coordinator.  Travis Tims, who begins his 10th season in the Oakland organization, replaces Brooks as rehab coordinator.  A.J. Selliger will take over as strength and conditioning coordinator in his fourth season in A’s system.  Brooks and Selliger replace Jeff Collins and Josh Cuffe, who have joined the Major League staff in Oakland.

(Information provided by A’s Media Relations)

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Talking about Stockton’s Top Prospects with Manager Rick Magnante

rmMGR_Magnante_dervlq1cStockton skipper Rick Magnante originally began his professional baseball career as a 13th-round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians out of the University of Santa Barbara back in 1969. He first joined the A’s organization in 1995 as an area scout covering southern California. He also began managing short-season teams for the A’s in 2006 after his duties prepping for each year’s draft were through.

After spending five seasons in Vancouver and three seasons in Vermont, Magnante gave up his scouting duties and began managing full-time. He spent the 2014 season in Beloit and is now in his second season with Stockton. We took the opportunity to talk with the skipper earlier this week to get his first-hand take on a few of the Ports’ top prospects…

AF:  It seems like the guy who’s really been one of the most consistent hitters for you here in Stockton this season has been Joe Bennie.

RM:  That would be correct.

AF:  He’s been doing a good job of getting on base, and he’s been showing some pop too. So what’s been working for him this year?

jb643218bRM:  Well, I think Joe has the innate ability to hit a baseball and hit it hard. He’s a guy who has a good sense of timing and readiness that allows him to recognize pitches and give quality at-bats regardless of the count. He’s not opposed to getting himself into a two-strike count and battling through that and maybe getting to a full count and working a walk or getting a hit. So I think his recognition skills and his timing, along with a strong powerful swing with leverage, has allowed him to drive baseballs the way he’s done this year. And as you mentioned, his consistency has been very good from day one, but it’s gotten better. His average has picked up as of late, so he’s starting see the results of the hard work that he truly puts in every day. He’s extremely diligent, very passionate, very committed. You know, the attitude is everything. There’s some things you can’t teach. There’s some things you can help players with in terms of all their skill sets. But Joe has a natural feel to hit. And he’s just getting to become what we expect here in Oakland. He’s becoming a professional hitter.

AF:  I know he’s moved around a bit in the field – second base, third base, the outfield. So where do you feel he’s really best-suited to be in the field?

RM:  I think that right now our biggest concern with Joe is finding a place he’ll be serviceable as a defender. So the process is still ongoing. He’s played some third, not this year but previously. He began the year at second base here, and he still continues to play second base. We’re still experimenting a little bit with him in the outfield. So, in terms of what he’s going to be ultimately, I don’t think anybody has the answer to that right now. We haven’t solved that dilemma yet. But the reality is if you hit, you play. So I think Joe’s going to figure that out. And I think wherever we ask him to play, he’s very willing to do that. He’s very open-minded. He’s not reluctant, saying “This is difficult,” or “I don’t feel comfortable here.” He’s looking to say, “How can I be better? What do I need to do?”

AF:  Another guy who’s been pretty consistent for you and has certainly done a great job of getting on base all season is outfielder James Harris. What’s he meant to your team this year and what kind of development have you seen out of him?

jh605266bRM:  He truly has been our most consistent player, because he’s hit from day one for average and hasn’t stopped. He too is getting better as the season progresses. The more repetitions you get, the more at-bats you get, if you’re getting better, you’re going to see results. Everybody goes through some ups and downs, and so has James to some degree, but from day one he’s been selective and aggressive enough in his at-bats to get the pitches he wants to hit. So he’s developed as a hitter very dramatically since his first years in pro ball with Tampa Bay. This is my first real exposure to James. I saw him in spring training and he had a terrific spring. Along with his ability to hit, there is some power there, and I think it will develop more than what you’re seeing here in the California League this year. He’s also athletic, he can run. The area he really needs to improve upon is his defense. He needs to become a better outfielder and a better thrower. But if the bat is a big part of the equation, he’s shown this year that he’s made huge strides at the plate, and I’m pleased to say that he’s having a great year.

AF:  Since he’s been in pro ball for a while, I think people tend to forget that he’s actually still fairly young. He’s still just 22.

RM:  Yeah, he was a high school signing, not unlike B.J. Boyd. They’re both from the same area. He’s gotten a second chance here, and he’s made the most of it. And that speaks to his character and his drive and his focus on what he wants to do and where he wants to go. So it’s been a good year for James.

AF:  Now another guy who’s been a big bat for you here this year is first baseman Sandber Pimentel. He’s obviously got some power, and he’s done a good job of getting on base too. So what have you seen out of him this year in Stockton?

sp622698RM:  Well, he’s young as well. He’s 21 years old. The first thing you see is his physical presence – he looks the part. This is what they’re supposed to look like. I’m sure David Ortiz looked something like this at his age as well. So the comparison is fair from a physical profile. But what I’ve seen from Sandber is the ability to work harder at what he’s doing, to take all facets of the game – his hitting, his fielding, his throwing, his base running – to another level, to get better at being a complete, all-around player. I think what you deal with sometimes with the Latin player is the fact there is no baseball infrastructure in the Dominican. There is no Little League, PONY League, high school, junior college, college baseball. Most everything they do is on a showcase basis – they go, they hit, they throw, they field, they run. The tools are evaluated, but the baseball IQ is not developed. So when you bring a kid like him and you put him in the Cal League where you’re playing with older guys, more advanced guys, more skilled guys, guys with better baseball acumen for lack of a better term, his learning curve is going to be slower. So patience and perseverance are the key words for him. You just have to continue to teach and mentor him. And this year he’s been receptive and we’re starting to see some of the fruits of our labor in the way he’s playing the game on both sides of the line. So we’re pleased with the development from Sandber.

AF:  Two other hitters I wanted to ask you about are last year’s top two draft picks for the A’s – infelders Richie Martin and Mikey White. Both have had some struggles at the plate this season. So what kind of challenges have you seen those guys having to face this year in High-A?

mw608383bRM:  White first because he’s been here all year – his strengths for me are his baseball skills. His ablity to know how to play the game, to be in the right position, to make the throw to the proper base, to advance along the bases correctly – all those things are in place for him. But now it’s a matter of how can we develop the tools? And so the first thing, of course, that we want to do is we want him to become a better hitter. He got off to a slow start this year, and we’ve been working diligently with him on his approach. By that, I mean his ability to get ready to hit in a physical manner so that he’s in a position to recognize pitches, be balanced, be centered, be leveraged, and be strong at contact. And we’re starting to see that now as the season has progressed into the second half. His at-bats are better. If you notice his swings, you’ll see he’s over the baseball, his hands are in a better position, his timing is improved, he’s recognizing better. So we’re very pleased with that, because it’s been a little bit of a tough road for him this first half. But he has not allowed it to affect his attitude, how he approaches the game, his work ethic. He comes out here every day very open-minded and willing to do what we ask him to do. And sometimes you’ve got to take two steps backward before you can take one step forward. We’ve gone through the backward steps, so now we’re looking for the forward steps.

AF:  And what about Richie Martin?

rm621006cRM:  He got kind of sidetracked with the meniscus tear in spring training, and that set him back a little bit, so he didn’t get the full benefit of spring training. And when you go to extended [spring training] after all the teams break down there, it’s not quite the same as spring training – you’re not facing different clubs, you’re not facing better arms. So it took him a little bit of time to get going. What you see with Richie I think is what everybody sees. You see a very athletic, agile, strong, toolsy kind of player in terms of his ability to catch the ball, his ability to run, his ability to throw with an above-average arm – all those things stand out. He too is in a position right now where he’s facing much better competition, and he too is one that we need to try to help get in sync at the plate. And by that, I mean to get his timing in a position where he can recognize pitches, be on time and be in a position to drive baseballs with greater regularity. So the things we’re working on with him are basically his timing, his readiness and his overall approach to hit. So we’re making some strides with him, but it’s an ongoing process. And you believe, as talented and athletic as he is – and, of course, he’s a very dedicated kid, a very competitive kid, and a self-starter – that he’ll figure it out.

AF:  Okay, I wanted to ask you about one pitcher on your staff who came here from Beloit at the end of May – and that’s Kyle Friedrichs. He had a disastrous first start, giving up nine runs in his debut. But ever since then, he’s been about as solid as could be, and he hardly ever walks anyone. So tell me what you’ve been seeing out of Kyle Friedrichs and what’s been working so well for him this season?

kf664851RM:  Well, he’s a smart pitcher. He knows how to attack hitters. It’s not about ego with him. He’s not trying to strike them out, he’s trying to get them out. He’s trying to pitch to contact within the first three pitches and have the hitters put the ball in play and allow his defense to play behind him. What has been surprising has been the humber of strikeouts he’s had. He has a mix of pitches – he he’s got a four-pitch arsenal. He knows how to use his pitches, he can locate, he upsets hitters’ timing and he pitches ahead in the count – all of which is a recipe for success. So, he’s more pitcher than he is power, but it’s working right now for him and he’s really been a welcome addition to our club.

AF:  Which of his pitches are really working for him at this point?

RM:  Well, he locates a fastball and he stays down in the zone. So even when they do touch him, it’s on the ground. That’s important for him. And there’s a little movement. He’s got a slider, he’s got a curveball and he’s got a change. And I would call them all serviceable pitches. He’s got a mix. So he’s the type of guy who might go through the lineup the first time using one or two pitches to get outs. Then in those second or third at-bats, other pitches are introduced and now the hitters have to cover more than one or two pitches, and that’s to his advantage.

AF: It sounds like being able to locate that fastball down in the zone is the key for him.

RM:  Most everything that he throws is down and it’s got downward plane to it, so it’s groundball, groundball, groundball. It’s not overpowering, so the key is command of the pitches.

AF:  Now I know you were a scout before you got into coaching. So did Grady Fuson hire you to be a scout for the A’s when he was the team’s scouting director back in the ‘90s?

RM:  Grady hired me in 1995 to be an area scout in southern California. And I spent five, almost six, years before I even explored the chance to get on the field. And when I went to Italy in 2005 to be part of the MLB international academy there, I met some people on that side and they offered me the opportunity to manage South Africa in the first World Baseball Classic. And we were an organization that welcomed scouts, after the draft, to be a part of the short-season staffs. So I’d mentioned to [farm director] Keith Lieppman on a couple of occasions that would be something I’d like to do if the opportunity presented itself. And after the baseball classic, he asked me if I’d like to manage Vancouver in 2006 and I said, “You don’t have to ask twice.” So I’ve been able to do a few things here with Oakland, and I’m grateful to Grady for bringing me over and I’m grateful to Keith for giving me the opportunity to manage. 2013 was my last year as a scout and now I’m full-time on the field.

AF:  And I guess it sounds like you’re enjoying the chance to be back out on the field.

RM:  At this point in my life, I’m truly blessed. I’ve got a full-time job in baseball, I have a five-month offseason, and I’m enjoying the fruits of my labor at this point in my life. I’m just very grateful for how things have happened here in Oakland.

*          *          *

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A’s 2016 Minor League Staff

 

Nashville Sounds manager Steve Scarsone

Nashville Sounds manager Steve Scarsone

NASHVILLE SOUNDS (Triple-A)

Manager: Steve Scarsone

Pitching Coach: Rick Rodriguez

Hitting Coach: Eric Martins

Steve Scarsone returns to Triple-A Nashville for the second consecutive season after the Sounds finished 66-78 in 2015. This will be his fourth consecutive season as manager of the A’s Triple-A club and he now has a 634-632 record in nine seasons as a minor league manager, including stints in the A’s system with Midland from 2011-12, Stockton in 2010 and Kane County in 2009. Rick Rodriguez will be the pitching coach after holding that role with Single-A Stockton last year. This is his 32nd season in the A’s organization, which includes seven seasons as a player and two years as bullpen coach in Oakland (2011-12). Eric Martins takes over as hitting coach after making his minor league coaching debut as hitting coach at Midland in 2015. Brad LaRosa returns as the athletic trainer and AJ Seeliger was named strength and conditioning coach.

 

Midland RockHounds manager Ryan Christenson

Midland RockHounds manager Ryan Christenson

MIDLAND ROCKHOUNDS (Double-A)

Manager: Ryan Christenson

Pitching Coach: John Wasdin

Hitting Coach: Brian McArn

Ryan Christenson returns to Double-A Midland after guiding the RockHounds to their second consecutive Texas League championship last year. He is now 245-174 in three seasons as a manager and has led his club to the playoffs all three seasons. John Wasdin returns as Christenson’s pitching coach for the fourth consecutive season and Brian McArn moves up from Stockton to take over as hitting coach. This is McArn’s 19th season as hitting coach in the A’s farm system, which includes a stop at Midland in 2004. Justin Whitehouse returns as the athletic trainer and Henry Torres will be the strength and conditioning coach.

 

Stockton Ports manager Rick Magnante

Stockton Ports manager Rick Magnante

STOCKTON PORTS (High-A)

Manager: Rick Magnante

Pitching Coach: Steve Connelly

Hitting Coach: Tommy Everidge

Rick Magnante will manage at Stockton for the second consecutive season following a 74-66 showing in 2015. He is now 531-563 in 13 seasons as a manager in the minors. Steve Connelly is in his first season as the Ports pitching coach after holding that job with Short Season Single-A Vermont in 2014 and Single-A Beloit in 2015. Tommy Everidge joins Stockton as hitting coach after serving in that capacity for Vermont in 2014 and 2015. Travis Tims returns as athletic trainer and Sean Doran takes over as strength and conditioning coach.

 

Beloit Snappers manager Fran Riordan

Beloit Snappers manager Fran Riordan

BELOIT SNAPPERS (Class-A)

Manager: Fran Riordan

Pitching Coach: Don Schulze

Hitting Coach: Juan Dilone

Fran Riordan returns to manage Beloit for the second consecutive season after the Snappers finished 55-84 in 2015. He spent the previous 14 years managing in independent leagues. Don Schulze is in his first season as pitching coach at Beloit after spending last year at Nashville. This is 11th season as pitching coach in the A’s farm system. Juan Dilone will be the hitting coach after spending the previous seven years with the A’s affiliate in the Arizona Rookie League. Brian Thorson returns as athletic trainer and Matt Rutledge will serve as strength and conditioning coach.

 

Vermont Lake Monsters manager Aaron Nieckula

Vermont Lake Monsters manager Aaron Nieckula

VERMONT LAKE MONSTERS (Class-A Short-Season)

Manager: Aaron Nieckula

Pitching Coach: Carlos Chavez

Hitting Coach: Lloyd Turner

In addition to his duties as the A’s minor league field coordinator, Aaron Nieckula will manage the A’s Short Season club at Vermont for the second consecutive season. It is his 11th year as a manager in the A’s farm system and he has a 649-679 record over the previous 10 seasons. Carlos Chavez returns as pitching coach for the second consecutive year and Lloyd Turner takes over as hitting coach after spending the previous two seasons at Beloit. Toshi Nagahara returns as the athletic trainer and Omar Aguilar is the strength and conditioning coach.

 

Arizona League A's manager Webster Garrison

Arizona League A’s manager Webster Garrison

ARIZONA LEAGUE A’S (Rookie Short-Season)

Manager: Webster Garrison

Pitching Coach: TBA

Hitting Coach: Ruben Escalera

Webster Garrison will be the manager of the A’s affiliate in the Arizona Rookie League, his ninth season as manager. He last managed at Stockton in 2013 and has a 534-522 record over his previous eight seasons. This is his 24th season in the A’s organization, which includes 17 years as a minor league manager or coach and seven years as a player. Ruben Escalera will be the hitting coach after managing the club the previous two seasons and Gabe Ortiz will be a coach. Chris Lessner returns as the athletic trainer and Terence Brannic is the strength and conditioning coach.

 

Minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson

Minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson

Minor League Field Coordinator: Aaron Nieckula

Minor League Hitting Coordinator: Jim Eppard

Minor League Pitching Coordinator: Gil Patterson

Minor League Rehab Pitching Coordinator: Craig Lefferts

Minor League Defensive Coordinator: Juan Navarrette

Gil Patterson returns to the A’s organization as minor league pitching coordinator after spending the previous three years in the Yankees organization in a similar role. Patterson was the A’s minor league roving pitching instructor in 1996 and from 2008-12 and also coached in the A’s farm system from 1991-95. Jim Eppard was named minor league hitting coordinator after spending 13 seasons in the Angels organization. He spent the last two years as assistant hitting coordinator after a two-year stint as the Angels major league hitting coach. Juan Navarrete is in his 22nd season with the A’s and will be the minor league defensive coordinator and Craig Lefferts and Aaron Nieckula return for their second consecutive season as minor league rehab pitching coordinator and minor league field coordinator, respectively.

 

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Exclusive: Get the Inside Scoop on Stockton’s Top Prospects from Ports Manager Rick Magnante & Pitching Coach Rick Rodriguez

DSC04178After spending the past nine seasons managing at Vancouver, Vermont and Beloit in the A’s system, Rick Magnante returned to his native California this season to pilot the California League’s Stockton Ports.

Meanwhile, another California native, Rick Rodriguez, who served as the long-time pitching coach for the Sacramento River Cats, remained on the west coast with the Ports when the A’s Triple-A affiliate moved to Nashville this season. We spoke with both of them about some of the team’s top prospects earlier this week in Stockton…

 

RICK MAGNANTE

rm533052d85a25f.imageAF:  I wanted to get your take on a couple of the top hitting prospects you’ve got here at Stockton. You’ve got last year’s 1st-round draft pick for the A’s, third baseman Matt Chapman. I remember when he first got drafted, everyone with the A’s talked to me about his power potential, and now here he is leading the A’s minor league system in home runs with 14 after getting a late start to the season. So what kind of development have you seen with him since he’s been here this year?

RM:  Last year, Matt came to Beloit with me, and he started off like a firecracker offensively, and also with the leather. Then he ran into a couple of injuries and it slowed his progress down. But he showed enough that they sent him to Midland for the playoffs, and he was kind of the catalyst for them winning that first round and did very well there. This spring, he got off to a slow start because he injured himself in the offseason working out, so he got here late. So he’s trying to play a little bit of catch-up. And every day we’re seeing marked improvement with him, not only at the plate, but with his defense. And you’re right when you talk about his tools. There certainly is raw power, there’s physical strength and there’s athleticism. There’s the potential to be a well-above-average defender. And, of course, his arm, on a scale of 2 to 8, is an 8. Then you take the intangibles, the make-up, the work ethic, the commitment, the desire to be a big leaguer, and the ability, at an early age, to deal with adversity, which is very impressive as well. His ability to handle that 0 for 4 with 2 or 3 punch outs and not allow it to affect his defense or his next at-bat or the next day is really a very telling sign of his character and what’s going to allow him to be successful and be that big league frontline player that we hope he’ll be some day.

mcChapman, Matt2AF:  So what’s the key to him maximizing his power potential?

RM:  Well, there are a couple of things. He’s got strength, he’s got leverage and he’s got bat speed. What he’s working on right now is a physical approach that creates some tempo and rhythm and puts him in a better position to maximize his power by getting ready early and seeing the ball longer. He’s got really above-average power to the off field, but to be able to get to that ball on the inner half and pull it to the short field where he can really maximize things. So his physical approach is something he’s working on right now. There’s some rigidity in his set-up. He’s a little bit of a still-bat hitter. We’re trying to get him to get some rhythm, some separation and a little flow to that approach so that he can really get to the ball and get through it. Right now, his physical strength is allowing him to overcome technique that needs to be improved.

AF:  So rather than starting from a static position getting a little more momentum into his swing.

RM:  Right, exactly.

AF:  Another big prospect you’ve got here is 19-year-old shortstop Franklin Barreto, who started off the season a little slow but now really seems to be rounding into shape. So what have you seen in terms of his learning curve over the first half of the season?

fbBarreto, Franklin2RM:  Well, it’s night and day from spring training to today, that’s for sure. First of all, he came into spring training, by his own admission, without doing much in the offseason. So he really wasn’t ready to really get into the flow of things. He had to kind of get in shape, which is not usually the case with most young players today. Secondly, he’s a 19-year-old Venezuelan who comes to a brand new organization knowing no one. So you can imagine that there’s going to be some adjustments, not only on the field, but getting to know the coaches, the staff, his teammates and getting comfortable. So that has taken some time as well. So with not a lot of at-bats in spring training, being in a new organization, and I’m sure in his own mind, trying to please and trying to excel, he probably put some undue pressure on himself. So all those things factored into his slow start. Now that he’s out here everyday, getting his at-bats and getting his work in, we’re starting to see the player Toronto had a year ago at 18 years old in the Northwest League that pretty much took the league by storm – driving in runs, stealing bases, scoring runs, everything. For me, he’s “Furcal-esque.” He’s got that same kind of sturdy, sub-six-foot body, good lower half, athleticism – and he’s only 19 years old. I’m not saying he is Furcal, because I saw Furcal in Lynchburg, and Furcal’s tools are a bit better. But who does he remind you of? That’s the type of player he reminds me of.

AF:  And what’s been the key to his improvement at the plate from the beginning of the season to now?

RM:  At the plate, it’s been timing and recognition for him. There’s a few moving parts in that swing. He’s a leg-lift guy, so that timing has to be more precise. There’s a little bit of bat waggle, there’s some movement – it’s not simple and pure. So anytime you’ve got a lot of moving parts going, it’s hard to coordinate that day to day and at-bat to at-bat. But we’re working on that, and he’s got a better understanding of how to get himself in a better position to recognize pitches and decide whether to take or to swing. In addition to that, he’s working hard on his defense. I guess if there was a knock on him it was that he made a lot of errors last year. And he continues to make errors. But the old adage in baseball is, “If a guy can hit, just give him 1,000 groundballs and the defense will get better.” And we believe it will. Whether he’s a shortstop or second baseman, I couldn’t make that call right now. He’s getting an opportunity to play shortstop, but basically he’s a center-of-the-diamond fielder.

bvVertigan, Brett2AF:  A guy who didn’t necessarily start the season as a top prospect but has been really key to your team here this year is center fielder Brett Vertigan, who’s been having a great season on the field for you. What have you seen out of him so far and what’s the key to what he’s been doing for your team here this year?

RM:  Well, he’s really faced some obstacles in his short career here with Oakland. He was a 10th-round draft pick, and we considered him a smaller version of a Brett Gardner type – a guy who could patrol the outfield and stay in center field, could run, throw, had a contact bat, was able to use the field, could bunt, steal bases, etc. And he had a pretty decent first year with us. And then he went to the Midwest League and he just kind of leveled off performance-wise. And then last year we seemed to have an abundance of outfielders and he found himself in extended spring training and then had to come back and went all the way back to Vermont. This year, when we went to spring training again, the outfield spots were pretty much the same and he found himself in the unenviable position of having to start the season again at Beloit, a league he had already played in two years previously. But I think the key for Brett is he does have tools, he has a skill set. He has aptitude, he’s a good learner and he can make adjustments. And he has grown a little bit this year because of the adversity he’s had to overcome. And when he joined us here, he basically jump-started the offense. He’s really been the catalyst for us putting together a pretty decent last month of June to finish on a winning note here in the first half. He’s a kid who’s worked hard. Now he’s gotten an opportunity and he’s made the most of it. So we just hope that he can continue it and accelerate his career, because there’s no doubt that, if he keeps playing well, he should be looked at as somebody who may advance this year as well.

AF:  I’m sure it’s pretty hard for you to imagine your lineup without him in it at this point – or at least I’m sure you wouldn’t want to!

js656996RM:  Well, it’s interesting because he came here because J.P. Sportman went down. And J.P. Sportman started off very well also. And had he not gotten hurt, Brett might not be here. With both of those guys on this club, we’re a better ballclub. And with only two guys on the bench, we are a little bit limited in our bench players, so it would be nice to have them both.

AF:  So what is the latest on Sportman’s status?

RM:  He just re-injured the hand in the same place again. And we decided it would be in his best interests to send him back to Arizona to rehab where he could get daily care and a little bit more monitoring of his condition. And I think when he gets back and healthy, then possibly he’ll be an Instructional League candidate or maybe even a Fall League candidate.

 

RICK RODRIGUEZ

rrrick_rodriguez_2011_05_24bAF:  So let me ask you about a few of the arms you’ve got here in Stockton. Let’s start with Dylan Covey, who’s been having a good year. He seems to have made some improvements and has been a lot more consistent this season. He might not strike out a lot of guys, but he still gets a lot of outs. What’s made it possible for him to develop a lot more consistency this year?

RR:  I think towards the end of spring, he just started using his fastball and getting more aggressive with it. And he’s been working on his command and sharpening his curveball. He’s got a nice little cutter coming along right now. His changeup is good. For me, it was just getting in a good routine that worked for him. In fact, his last outing was probably his best fastball he’s had, so hopefully the rest of the way he’ll have that fastball.

dc592229AF:  What are his best pitches and what does he need to work on to get to the next level?

RR:  He’s got good command with his fastball. His curveball can be a good pitch at times, but sometimes it can be a little off. His changeup is like a split – I think that’s probably his better off-speed pitch. I think he probably needs more consistency in terms of being down in the strike zone with his fastball. But he’s a pitcher. He knows how to pitch. He can change speeds. He’s learning how take something off of his fastball, so hopefully he’ll start using it out there during the games. He’s been very good, a real pleasure to work with.

AF:  A guy who’s been a bit of a surprise is Joel Seddon, who had been a reliever for much of his college career. You guys have turned him into a starter here this year, and he’s been really impressive lately. So what kind of progress have you seen out of him this year?

jsSeddon, Joel2RR:  A lot of these guys, it’s the first time I’ve ever seen them pitch. And in spring training, I always thought Joel was a starter, but they said, “No, he was a reliever.” And he came here in relief. And, it just so happened, we needed a starter. He fit the bill, and he’s taken off from there. He’s been really good with command of his fastball and all his off-speed pitches. He’s getting us deep into games. He’s a guy, I can just let him go.

AF:  Well, it seems like he’s got awfully good command, which helps make everything a lot easier.

RR:  Yeah, he can rely on his command. That’s his best tool. I told him, “It’s not like you’re throwing 95 mph. You have to hit your spots and change your speeds.” And he’s been doing that.

AF:  I want to ask you about a guy who was here with you for most of the season but has recently moved up to Midland, and that’s Dillon Overton. He’s been coming back from Tommy John surgery. So what have you seen in his development over the first half of the season and where’s he at on his road back?

doOverton, Dillon2RR:  From what I’ve seen, he’s another guy who’s a great command guy. He’s got great movement, he’s got an outstanding changeup and his curveball can be really good at times. But he’s starting to get into that groove now where he can rely on anything and throw any pitch at any time. Coming back from his injury, he’s kind of being limited on his innings pitched for the whole year. But everything is flawless out there. It’s really good to work with someone like that.

AF:  Where was he at in terms of his velocity when he was here?

RR:  I think he was anywhere from like 87-90 mph, maybe 91 mph every once in a while. He’s relying more on his command. But he’s getting there.

raAlcantara, Raul3bAF:  Another guy who’s been coming back from Tommy John surgery is Raul Alcantara. I know he’s just had a few appearances so far, but what have you seen out of him since he’s been back?

RR:  I see an extremely good fastball. His changeup has good late action down. His curveball is almost like a slider. He calls it a curveball, but I think it might be more of a slider – but it’s a good breaking pitch. I think he’s got all the makings of a good major league pitcher. I think it’s just a matter of getting him out there every fifth day, getting him some innings and trying to build up his arm strength.

AF:  The guy out of your bullpen who’s been very consistent for you in the closer role is Brendan McCurry. What’s enabled him to be as consistent as he’s been out of the bullpen for this team?

bm657680RR:  When we first started the year, I really didn’t know where he was going to pitch. I know our skipper liked him a bit as a closer. But he was a guy who was coming in in the middle innings and giving us a couple of innings here and there. And then he kind of evolved into finshing games and now he’s kind of our closer. But we had a talk. He’s got a very good fastball, but I think he was trying to trick too many guys. Now it’s like, “Hey Brendan, throw your fastball, use your fastball. You’ve got a really good fastball.” He’s got a good moving fastball. He drops down and throws that little sidearm curve or slider or whatever you want to call it. And he’s gotten it down now to where, instead of it being flat across the zone, it’s got a little bit of tilt. And now he’s able to get those hitters out a little bit more consistently. And he’s got a plus changeup. I think he’s going to be a good one.

AF:  So it sounds like you’ve really simplified things with him.

RR:  Yeah, I think he’s starting to understand that he doesn’t have to strike out everybody. He can get ahead with his fastball, and if they get groundouts early, that’s even better.

AF:  And he’s got a good number of pitches for a reliever.

RR:  Yeah, he comes at you from different angles. He’s tough. He’s got a great mentality out there. He’s out there going right after the hitters. I like it!

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A’s 2015 Minor League Staff

 

Nashville Sounds manager Steve Scarsone

Nashville Sounds manager Steve Scarsone

NASHVILLE SOUNDS (Triple-A)

Manager Steve Scarsone

Pitching Coach Don Schulze

Hitting Coach Webster Garrison

Steve Scarsone was named manager of the A’s new Triple-A affiliate at Nashville.  This will be his third consecutive season as manager of the A’s Triple-A club as he guided Sacramento to a 79-65 record in each of the previous two seasons.  Scarsone now has a 568-554 record in eight seasons as a minor league manager, including stints in the A’s system with Midland from 2011-12, Stockton in 2010 and Kane County in 2009.  Don Schulze and Webster Garrison earn their first Triple-A assignments in 2015 as pitching coach and hitting coach, respectively.  This will be Schulze’s 10th year as a pitching coach in the A’s system, including the last four at Double-A Midland, and Garrison’s 15th as a coach or manager.  Brad LaRosa returns as the athletic trainer and Terence Brannic was named strength coach.

 

Midland RockHounds manager Ryan Christenson

Midland RockHounds manager Ryan Christenson

MIDLAND ROCKHOUNDS (Double-A)

Manager Ryan Christenson

Pitching Coach John Wasdin

Hitting Coach Eric Martins

Ryan Christenson takes over as manager at Midland after leading Stockton to an 85-55 record and a playoff appearance in 2014.  He made his managerial debut in 2013 at Single-A Beloit after spending six seasons as a player in the Major Leagues, including four with the A’s from 1998-2001.  John Wasdin will be the pitching coach on Christenson’s staff for the third consecutive season and Eric Martins was named hitting coach.  Martins served as a scout for the A’s for the past seven seasons.  Justin Whitehouse returns as the athletic trainer and A.J. Seeliger is the new strength coach.

 

Stockton Ports manager Rick Magnante

Stockton Ports manager Rick Magnante

STOCKTON PORTS (High-A)

Manager Rick Magnante

Pitching Coach Rick Rodriguez

Hitting Coach Brian McArn

Rick Magnante assumes the managerial reins at Stockton, his 13th season as a minor league manager.  He has a 457-497 record in his previous 12 seasons, including 55-84 last season with Beloit.  Rick Rodriguez will be the pitching coach after two seasons in that capacity at Sacramento.  Rodriguez is in his 31st season in the A’s organization, which includes seven seasons as a player and two years as bullpen coach in Oakland (2011-12). Brian McArn returns as hitting coach, his 18th in that role with the A’s and his fourth at Stockton (2011-12, 14).  Travis Tims returns as athletic trainer and Henry Torres takes over as strength coach.

 

Beloit Snappers manager Fran Riordan

Beloit Snappers manager Fran Riordan

BELOIT SNAPPERS (Class-A)

Manager Fran Riordan

Pitching Coach Steve Connelly

Hitting Coach Lloyd Turner

Fran Riordan joins the A’s organization as manager at Beloit after spending 14 years managing in independent leagues.  Riordan spent the last four seasons at the helm of Florence in the Frontier League, guiding the Freedom to a 190-194 record over that stretch.  Steve Connelly, who had his first professional coaching assignment as pitching coach at Vermont last year, takes over those duties at Beloit in 2015.  Lloyd Turner returns for his second consecutive season as hitting coach with the Snappers and Brian Thorson returns as athletic trainer.  JD Howell will serve as strength coach.

 

Vermont Lake Monsters manager Aaron Nieckula

Vermont Lake Monsters manager Aaron Nieckula

VERMONT LAKE MONSTERS (Class-A Short-Season)

Manager Aaron Nieckula

Pitching Coach Carlos Chavez

Hitting Coach Tommy Everidge

In addition to his duties as minor league field coordinator, Aaron Nieckula will manage the A’s short-season club at Vermont, his ninth year as a manager in the A’s farm system.  He has spent the last two seasons at Midland and guided the RockHounds to a 77-63 record and the Texas League Championship in 2014.  Carlos Chavez will be the pitching coach after two seasons with the A’s affiliate in the Arizona Rookie League.  Tommy Everidge returns for his second consecutive season as Vermont’s hitting coach and Toshi Nagahara returns as the athletic trainer.

 

Arizona League A's pitching coach Ariel Prieto

Arizona League A’s pitching coach Ariel Prieto

ARIZONA LEAGUE A’S (Rookie Short-Season)

Manager Ruben Escalera

Pitching Coach Ariel Prieto

Hitting Coach Juan Dilone

Ruben Escalera will manage the A’s affiliate in the Arizona Rookie League for the second consecutive season and ninth season overall.  He previously managed from 2002-08 and spent the five years in between in various roles as an instructor in the A’s system.  Ariel Prieto was named pitching coach after serving as a coach on the Major League staff the previous three seasons.  He previously served as pitching coach with the A’s rookie club from 2009-11 and will also serve as a liaison between the A’s Dominican Republic and United States based operations.  Juan Dilone returns for his seventh season as hitting coach and Gabriel Ortiz is in his second season as coach.  Chris Lessner returns as the athletic trainer.

 

Minor league hitting coordinator Greg Sparks

Minor league hitting coordinator Greg Sparks

Minor League Field Coordinator: Aaron Nieckula

Minor League Hitting Coordinator: Greg Sparks

Minor League Pitching Coordinator: Garvin Alston

Minor League Rehab Pitching Coordinator: Craig Lefferts

Minor League Defensive Coordinator: Juan Navarrette

Aaron Nieckula was named minor league field coordinator and will oversee minor league spring training, extended spring training and instructional league.  Greg Sparks will take over as minor league hitting coordinator after spending three seasons as hitting coach at Triple-A Sacramento.  Sparks is in his 18th season in the A’s organization, which includes eight years as minor league roving hitting instructor from 2004-11.  Garvin Alston was named minor league pitching coordinator after spending the previous six seasons as minor league pitching rehab coordinator.  Craig Lefferts, who spent the previous 12 seasons as a pitching coach in the A’s farm system, replaces Alston as minor league rehab pitching coordinator.  Juan Navarrette is in his 21st season with the A’s and will be the minor league defensive, base running and bunting coordinator.  

 

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

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