Tag Archive for Yordy Cabrera

A’s Major & Minor League Off-Season Transactions – Dec. 18 Update: A’s Find A Hiro To Play SS

Hiro

Hiro: Better than Godzilla?

Well, the biggest story to break for A’s fans in the weeks before the holidays was the news that A’s free agent shortstop Stephen Drew had agreed to a $9.5 million/1-year deal with the Red Sox, followed quickly by the news that Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima had agreed to a $6.5 million/2-year deal (plus incentives and a $5.5 million 1-year option) with the A’s. The 30-year-old right-handed hitter has a career .310/.381/.474 slash line plus 104 home runs and 97 stolen bases over the last 6 seasons in Japan. His signing seems to settle the A’s starting shortstop question and makes arbitration-eligible Adam Rosales the likely backup at the position.

A’s free agent pitcher Brandon McCarthy also decided to leave the team for a $15.5 million/2-year deal with Arizona. It doesn’t look like the A’s are planning on signing a major league pitcher to replace McCarthy, but will instead count on a full season of availability from major-league ready RHP Dan Straily to make up for McCarthy’s loss.

On the minor league front, since our last update, the A’s traded RHP Graham Godfrey to the Red Sox as the player to be named in the deal to acquire RHP Sandy Rosario, who was later designated for assignment by the A’s and re-claimed by the Red Sox who then designated him for assignment again. So the A’s basically gave Godfrey to the Red Sox for the privilege of having Rosario on the roster for a few days. Minor league outfielder Jermaine Mitchell, who cleared waivers and elected free agency, ended up signing a minor league deal with the Phillies.

The most significant minor league addition the A’s made since our last update was the acquisition of 27-year-old minor league free agent catcher/first baseman Steven Hill, who’s played in 10 major league games for the Cardinals and spent most of last season at Triple-A Memphis, where he had a .266/.326/.488 slash line. The right-handed hitter figures to share the catching duties at Sacramento in 2013 with fellow minor league free agent signee Luke Montz.

You’ll find all new transactions since our last update noted below with italics and an asterisk. Any players who’ve recently been taking up space on the 40-man roster are listed below under Major League transactions, while all other players are listed under Minor League transactions. For all the minor league players, I’ve listed their primary positions as well as the level they spent the most time at in 2012. Just click on any player’s name to see their Baseball-Reference stats page…

 

MAJOR LEAGUE CHANGES

-Jonny Gomes OF / +Chris Young OF

-Pennington/Drew SS / +Hiroyuki Nakajima SS *

-Brandon Hicks IF / +Andy Parrino IF

-Brandon McCarthy RHP / +NONE *

-Jim Miller RHP / +Chris Resop RHP

-Tyson Ross RHP / +Andrew Werner LHP

 

Hiroyuki Nakajima

Hiroyuki Nakajima

+ MAJOR LEAGUE ADDITIONS

Chris Young OF (traded from AZ)

Hiroyuki Nakajima SS (signed from Japan) *

Andy Parrino IF (traded from SD)

Chris Resop RHP (traded from PITT)

Andrew Werner LHP (traded from SD)

 

- MAJOR LEAGUE SUBTRACTIONS

Jonny Gomes OF (FA signed with BOS)

Stephen Drew SS (FA signed with BOS) *

Cliff Pennington SS (traded to AZ)

Brandon Hicks IF (traded to NYM)

Brandon McCarthy RHP (FA signed with AZ) *

Jim Miller RHP (claimed by NYY)

Tyson Ross RHP (traded to SD)

 

Steven Hill

Steven Hill

+ MINOR LEAGUE ADDITIONS

Scott Moore 3B-1B AAA (minor league FA)

Luke Montz C-1B AAA (minor league FA)

Steven Hill C-1B AAA (minor league Rule 5 draftee) *

Tom Mendonca 3B AA (minor league rule 5 draftee) *

Darwin Perez SS-2B AA (minor league FA)

D’Arby Myers OF AA (minor league FA) *

Garrett Olson LHP AAA (minor league FA)

Justin Thomas LHP AAA (minor league FA)

Mike Ekstrom RHP AAA (minor league FA)

Kyler Newby RHP AA (minor league FA)

Yeiper Castillo RHP A (minor league FA) *

 

Jermaine Mitchell

Jermaine Mitchell

- MINOR LEAGUE SUBTRACTIONS

Kila Ka’aihue 1B AAA (minor league FA signed with AZ)

Jermaine Mitchell OF AAA (minor league FA signed with PHI) *

Blake Lalli C AAA (minor league FA signed with MIL)

Jason Jaramillo C AAA (minor league FA)

Wes Timmons IF AAA (minor league FA)

Matt Rizzotti 1B AA (minor league FA)

Leonardo Gil 3B AA (minor league FA)

A.J. Kirby-Jones 1B A (traded to SD)

Yordy Cabrera SS A (traded to MIA)

Michael Gilmartin SS-2B A (minor league Rule 5 draftee by CIN) *

Eliezer Mesa OF A (minor league Rule 5 draftee by DET) *

Graham Godfrey RHP AAA (traded to BOS) *

Rich Thompson RHP AAA (minor league FA signed with TOR) *

Jeremy Accardo RHP AAA (minor league FA)

Merkin Valdez RHP AAA (minor league FA)

Justin Souza RHP AAA (minor league FA)

Fabio Castro LHP AA (minor league FA)

Beau Jones LHP AA (minor league FA)

Matt McSwain RHP AA (minor league FA)

Jonathan Ortiz RHP AA (minor league FA)

Jose Guzman RHP AA (minor league FA)

Zach Thornton RHP A (traded to PITT)

 

Adam Rosales

Adam Rosales

RETURNING FREE AGENTS/ARB ELIGIBLES/OPTIONS

Daric Barton 1B (Arb Eligible Re-Signed)

Adam Rosales IF (Arb Eligible Re-Signed)

Pat Neshek RHP (Arb Eligible Re-Signed)

Bartolo Colon RHP (Free Agent Re-Signed)

Grant Balfour RHP (Option Renewed)

 

RETURNING ARB ELIGIBLES

Seth Smith OF (Arb Eligible)

Brandon Moss 1B (Arb Eligible)

George Kottaras C (Arb Eligible)

Jerry Blevins LHP (Arb Eligible)

Chris Resop RHP (Arb Eligible)

 

UNSIGNED MLB FREE AGENTS

Brandon Inge 3B (MLB Free Agent)

Dallas Braden LHP (MLB Free Agent)

Joey Devine RHP (MLB Free Agent)

 

COMING & GOING

Sandy Rosario RHP (traded from BOS – designated for assignment)

 

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 Major & Minor League Off-Season Transactions – Dec. 1 Update

Jonny Gomes - All dressed up, with somewhere to go

Jonny Gomes: All dressed up, with somewhere to go.

With a flurry of activity on Friday just ahead of Major League Baseball’s non-tender deadline and with the Winter Meetings starting on Monday in Nashville, it seems like a good time to recap all the A’s major and minor league transactions from the end of the season through the non-tender deadline of November 30th. The most significant changes to affect the major league roster so far this off-season have been Jonny Gomes signing with Boston, the Chris Young/Cliff Pennington trade with Arizona, as well as the Tyson Ross trade with San Diego. These deals, along with a few other minor moves, have basically resulted in Chris Young replacing Jonny Gomes in the lineup and Chris Resop replacing Jim Miller in the bullpen, with Andy Parrino replacing Brandon Hicks and Andrew Werner replacing Tyson Ross as guys who’ll probably end up spending most of their time at Sacramento while filling in in Oakland as needed.

The biggest remaining question mark for the A’s is who will replace Cliff Pennington and Stephen Drew as the team’s starting shortstop in 2013. The two combined to start 129 games at shortstop for the A’s in 2012. Right now, with Pennington having been traded to Arizona and Drew a free agent, the position’s a bit of a black hole. But the assumption is that the A’s will either make a deal for a shortstop (possibly at the Winter Meetings), sign one on the free agent market (Marco Scutaro, Ronny Cedeno, Cesar Izturis, Jason Bartlett, Alex Gonzalez), or possibly even re-sign Drew if the market for him doesn’t end up getting too hot.

Of course, the team has already picked up closer Grant Balfour’s option, re-signed free agent right-hander Bartolo Colon, and re-signed arbitration eligible players Pat Neshek, Adam Rosales and Daric Barton. For those about to panic, don’t worry, Barton’s contract is not guaranteed, so he can be cut anytime and the A’s won’t owe him another dime. As of Friday night, there was no official word as to whether or not the team had offered contracts to their five remaining arbitration eligible players – outfielder Seth Smith, first baseman Brandon Moss, catcher George Kottaras, left-hander Jerry Blevins and recently-acquired right-hander Chris Resop – but the assumption is that no news is good news and the fact that we didn’t hear anything probably means that the A’s made offers to all these players and thus will retain the rights to them all.

Brandon McCarthy - To leave or not to leave, that is the question

Brandon McCarthy: To leave or not to leave, that is the question.

Of the team’s five remaining major league free agents, two – third baseman Brandon Inge and right-hander Joey Devine – can be expected to move on, while the jury is still out on the remaining three. As mentioned, shortstop Stephen Drew could return if he doesn’t find too many other tempting offers out there. There seems to be some mutual interest in a return engagement for Brandon McCarthy, but other teams are said to be sniffing around the right-hander as well. Oft-injured left-hander Dallas Braden is also on the market, and it’s possible that the northern California boy could sign an incentive-laden deal to stick around the old neighborhood.

As for the A’s minor league transactions, the most significant loss has probably been the signing of minor league free agent first baseman Kila Ka’aihue by Arizona. The most significant minor league addition by the A’s so far has probably been the signing of third baseman/first baseman Scott Moore who signed a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training. The left-handed hitter made it into 72 games with the Astros in 2012, playing mainly at third base and first base, but he also got in some time at second base and in the outfield. The A’s are likely to make many more minor league signings as the off-season unfolds, though re-signing any of their own remaining minor league free agents is probably unlikely.

Any players who’ve recently been taking up space on the 40-man roster are listed below under Major League transactions, while all other players are listed under Minor League transactions. For all the minor league players, I’ve listed their primary positions as well as the level they spent the most time at in 2012. Just click on any player’s name to see their Baseball-Reference stats page…

 

Cliff Pennington

Cliff Pennington

MAJOR LEAGUE CHANGES

-Jonny Gomes OF / +Chris Young OF

-Cliff Pennington SS / +TBD SS

-Brandon Hicks IF / +Andy Parrino IF

-Jim Miller RHP / +Chris Resop RHP

-Tyson Ross RHP / +Andrew Werner LHP

 

Chris Young

Chris Young

+ MAJOR LEAGUE ADDITIONS

Chris Young OF (traded from AZ)

Andy Parrino IF (traded from SD)

Chris Resop RHP (traded from PITT)

Andrew Werner LHP (traded from SD)

 

- MAJOR LEAGUE SUBTRACTIONS

Jonny Gomes

Jonny Gomes

Jonny Gomes OF (FA signed with BOS)

Cliff Pennington SS (traded to AZ)

Brandon Hicks IF (traded to NYM)

Jim Miller RHP (claimed by NYY)

Tyson Ross RHP (traded to SD)

 

+ MINOR LEAGUE ADDITIONS

Scott Moore

Scott Moore

Scott Moore 3B-1B AAA (minor league FA)

Luke Montz C-1B AAA (minor league FA)

Darwin Perez SS-2B AA (minor league FA)

Garrett Olson LHP AAA (minor league FA)

Justin Thomas LHP AAA (minor league FA)

Mike Ekstrom RHP AAA (minor league FA)

Kyler Newby RHP AA (minor league FA)

 

- MINOR LEAGUE SUBTRACTIONS

Kila Ka'aihue

Kila Ka’aihue

Kila Ka’aihue 1B AAA (minor league FA signed with AZ)

Jermaine Mitchell OF AAA (minor league FA)

Wes Timmons IF AAA (minor league FA)

Jason Jaramillo C AAA (minor league FA)

Blake Lalli C AAA (minor league FA signed with MIL)

Matt Rizzotti 1B AA (minor league FA)

Leonardo Gil 3B AA (minor league FA)

A.J. Kirby-Jones 1B A (traded to SD)

Yordy Cabrera SS A (traded to MIA)

Yordy Cabrera

Yordy Cabrera

Jeremy Accardo RHP AAA (minor league FA)

Rich Thompson RHP AAA (minor league FA)

Merkin Valdez RHP AAA (minor league FA)

Justin Souza RHP AAA (minor league FA)

Fabio Castro LHP AA (minor league FA)

Beau Jones LHP AA (minor league FA)

Matt McSwain RHP AA (minor league FA)

Jonathan Ortiz RHP AA (minor league FA)

Jose Guzman RHP AA (minor league FA)

Zach Thornton RHP A (traded to PITT)

Grant Balfour

Grant Balfour

 

RETURNING FREE AGENTS/ARB ELIGIBLES/OPTIONS

Daric Barton 1B (Arb Eligible Re-Signed)

Adam Rosales IF (Arb Eligible Re-Signed)

Pat Neshek RHP (Arb Eligible Re-Signed)

Bartolo Colon RHP (Free Agent Re-Signed)

Grant Balfour RHP (Option Renewed)

 

Seth Smith

Seth Smith

LIKELY RETURNING ARB ELIGIBLES

Seth Smith OF (Arb Eligible)

Brandon Moss 1B (Arb Eligible)

George Kottaras C (Arb Eligible)

Jerry Blevins LHP (Arb Eligible)

Chris Resop RHP (Arb Eligible)

 

UNSIGNED MLB FREE AGENTS

Stephen Drew

Stephen Drew

Stephen Drew SS (MLB Free Agent)

Brandon Inge 3B (MLB Free Agent)

Brandon McCarthy RHP (MLB Free Agent)

Dallas Braden LHP (MLB Free Agent)

Joey Devine RHP (MLB Free Agent)

 

COMING & GOING

Sandy Rosario RHP (traded from BOS – designated for assignment)

 

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

A’s Arizona Fall League Wrap-Up

 

A’s AFL 2012 MVP

RHP James Simmons

 

The Arizona Fall League just wrapped up its 32-game season this week. As some of you probably already know, organizations typically use the AFL as an opportunity to get some of their top prospects a little more live game action to hopefully help advance their development. And the AFL can provide an important opportunity for some prospects to make their mark and put themselves on the map. This year, the A’s sent some of their top young hitting prospects to play for the Phoenix Desert Dogs, along with a few of their older hurlers who weren’t necessarily considered the organization’s top pitching prospects at this stage of the game.

One player who really put himself on the map with his strong AFL performance this year was the A’s 1st-round draft pick from way back in 2007, right-handed pitcher James Simmons. The 26-year-old was nearly unhittable in the AFL this fall, allowing just 2 hits in 11 1/3 innings of relief. Simmons, who missed all of 2010 due to injuries, was primarily used a starter through 2011 but was shifted to full-time bullpen duty in 2012. His impressive performance in the AFL, along with a strong 2012 season at Midland and Sacramento (2.98 ERA / 1.18 WHIP), should at least put him into consideration for a spot in the major league bullpen at some point in 2013 should another right-handed arm be required somewhere along the line.

Another A’s prospect who performed well in the AFL was 2009’s 1st-round draft pick, Grant Green, who played exclusively at second base in the AFL this year. But the best thing that Green did to endear himself was to more than double his usual walk rate, resulting in a .364 OBP. On the other side of the coin, the right-handed hitter struck out once every 3 ½ at-bats. But Green did manage to get on base consistently, and hit a couple of homers to boot, which can only help him in his quest to snag one of the few available spots on the A’s roster in 2013, possibly as the starting second baseman but more likely as a backup infielder and versatile utility man.

Former 4th-round pick, catcher Max Stassi, did his usual solid job behind the plate, while doing a respectable job at the plate (.271 BA / .710 OPS). The numbers that have always generated the greatest cause for concern when it comes to the 21-year-old backstop though are his strikeout-to-walk ratios. In 48 at-bats in the AFL this year, he had a 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. And in 314 at-bats with Stockton in 2012, he had a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

The A’s top minor league hitter in 2012, third baseman Miles Head, injured his shoulder in his first game in Arizona and never reappeared in the AFL. He was replaced on the roster by shortstop Yordy Cabrera (remember him?), who ended the AFL season with a .286/.308/.349 slash line after being traded to the Marlins in the Chris Young deal.

None of the three other pitchers, besides Simmons, whom the A’s sent to Arizona did much to particularly distinguish themselves in the AFL this year. 27-year-old Shawn Haviland was sidelined due to injury after 3 appearances, while right-handers Gary Daley and Brett Hunter continued to struggle with control issues, walking a total of 22 batters in a combined 21 2/3 innings.

You can check out all the A’s prospects’ final AFL numbers for yourself below…

 

Grant Green (2B)

66 AB / 8 R / 2 HR / 11 RBI / 10 BB / 19 K / .273 AVG / .364 OBP / .424 SLG / .788 OPS

Max Stassi (C)

48 AB / 4 R / 1 HR / 11 RBI / 3 BB / 12 K / .271 AVG / .314 OBP / .396 SLG / .710 OPS

Miles Head (3B)

3 AB / 0 R / 0 HR / 0 RBI / 0 BB / 2 K / .000 AVG / .000 OBP / .000 SLG / .000 OPS

Gary Daley (RHP)

12 IP / 16 H / 9 ER / 12 BB / 8 K / 6.75 ERA / 2.33 WHIP

James Simmons (RHP)

11 1/3 IP / 2 H / 2 ER / 3 BB / 8 K / 1.59 ERA / 0.44 WHIP

Brett Hunter (RHP)

9 2/3 IP / 9 H / 5 ER / 10 BB / 11 K / 4.66 ERA / 1.97 WHIP

Shawn Haviland (RHP)

8 2/3 IP / 10 H / 5 ER / 3 BB / 8 K / 5.19 ERA / 1.50 WHIP

 

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

A’s In The AFL – October 15-20 Update

 

A’s AFL Farmhand Of The Week

Former A’s infield prospect Yordy Cabrera

 

A’s Prospect AFL Highlights

(October 15-20)

Monday, October 15th:

RHP Shawn Haviland allowed 1 earned run over 4 innings, relievers Brett Hunter and James Simmons each tossed a scoreless inning, and second baseman Grant Green went 0-for-3 in the Phoenix Desert Dogs’ 4-2 loss in extra innings on Monday.

Tuesday, October 16th:

Infielder Yordy Cabrera homered and catcher Max Stassi had 2 hits in the Phoenix Desert Dogs’ 3-3 tie on Tuesday.

Wednesday, October 17th:

Second baseman Grant Green had a single, 2 walks and an RBI in the Phoenix Desert Dogs’ 7-3 loss on Wednesday.

Thursday, October 18th:

RHPs Gary Daley, James Simmons and Brett Hunter each tossed a scoreless inning, while catcher Max Stassi went 0-for-4 with 2 strikeouts and Grant Green went 1-for-5 with 3 strikeouts as the DH in the Phoenix Desert Dogs’ 2-2 tie on Thursday.

Friday, October 19th:

Infielder Yordy Cabrera had 2 hits, including a double, and drove in 3 runs in the Phoenix Desert Dogs’ 10-6 win on Friday. This was Cabrera’s last game with the A’s organization. He was dealt to the Marlins the next day in a 3-team trade that brought Diamondbacks’ outfielder Chris Young to the A’s.

Saturday, October 20th:

Catcher Max Stassi had 2 hits, including a double, and drove in a run, while starter Shawn Haviland allowed 4 runs in just 1 2/3 innings and RHPs James Simmons and Gary Daley each tossed a scoreless inning with Daley picking up the win in the Phoenix Desert Dogs’ 12-11 victory on Saturday.

 

A’s Prospect AFL Stats

(October 9-20)

Grant Green (2B)

23 AB / 3 R / 0 HR / 4 RBI / 4 BB / 6 K / .261 AVG / .370 OBP / .304 SLG / .675 OPS

Max Stassi (C)

20 AB / 4 R / 1 HR / 5 RBI / 2 BB / 6 K / .350 AVG / .409 OBP / .600 SLG / 1.009 OPS

Yordy Cabrera (IF)

9 AB / 2 R / 1 HR / 5 RBI / 0 BB / 1 K / .333 AVG / .333 OBP / .778 SLG / 1.111 OPS

Miles Head (3B)

3 AB / 0 R / 0 HR / 0 RBI / 0 BB / 2 K / .000 AVG / .000 OBP / .000 SLG / .000 OPS

Shawn Haviland (RHP)

8 2/3 IP / 10 H / 5 ER / 3 BB / 8 K / 5.19 ERA / 1.50 WHIP

Gary Daley (RHP)

5 IP / 5 H / 1 ER / 4 BB / 7 K / 1.80 ERA / 1.80 WHIP

James Simmons (RHP)

4 2/3 IP / 0 H / 1 ER / 2 BB / 3 K / 1.93 ERA / 0.43 WHIP

Brett Hunter (RHP)

3 IP / 1 H / 0 ER / 2 BB / 2 K / 0.00 ERA / 1.00 WHIP

 

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

Tuesday, August 14th: Cats and Ports Fall as Boyd Has Big Night in Arizona

 

A’s Farmhand Of The Day

Arizona League A’s outfielder B.J. Boyd (3 for 6 / Triple / 4 RBIs / Stolen Base)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE (TRIPLE-A)

Sacramento River Cats  1

New Orlean Zephyrs       2

(LP – Banwart 8-4 / 3.83)

 

Farmhand Of The Game:

Catcher Anthony Recker

(Double / RBI)

 

 

Worth Noting: Starter Travis Banwart had a solid outing, allowing just 1 run over 4 innings, but the right-hander still ended up taking the loss on Tuesday. Catcher Anthony Recker walked twice and doubled in the River Cats’ only run of the game.

 

TEXAS LEAGUE (DOUBLE-A)

Midland RockHounds

OFF-DAY

 

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE (HIGH-A)

Stockton Ports                      8

Rancho Cucamonga Quakes  9

(LP – Urlaub 1-2 / 4.05)

 

Farmhand Of The Game:

Shortstop Yordy Cabrera

(Home Run / 3 RBIs)

 

 

Worth Noting: Shortstop Yordy Cabrera hit his 2nd home run, a three-run shot, in the 2nd inning to give the Ports the lead. Unfortunately, he also made 2 errors in the game. Outfielder Mitch LeVier collected 4 hits, including 2 doubles, while driving in a run and scoring twice. Starter Nate Long had a rocky outing, allowing 5 runs, 4 earned, over 5 innings of work, but left-hander Jeff Urlaub ended up taking the loss after giving up 2 runs in the 7th inning.

 

MIDWEST LEAGUE (CLASS-A)

Burlington Bees

OFF-DAY

 

NEW YORK-PENN LEAGUE (CLASS-A SHORT-SEASON)

Vermont Lake Monsters

OFF-DAY

 

ARIZONA LEAGUE (ROOKIE SHORT-SEASON)

AZL Athletics  13

AZL Padres       4

(WP – Cruzado 2-1 / 6.85)

 

Farmhand Of The Game:

Outfielder B.J. Boyd

(3 for 6 / Triple / 4 RBIs / Stolen Base)

 

 

Worth Noting: This year’s 4th-round draft pick B.J. Boyd had a big night on Tuesday, collecting 3 hits, including a triple, while driving in 4 runs and swiping his team-leading 14th stolen base. Outfielder Vicmal De La Cruz and catcher Phil Pohl both tripled and drove in a run for the A’s. Starter Kayvon Bahramzadeh had one of his better outings, allowing just 1 run while striking out 5 over 3 innings of work, but right-hander Fernando Cruzado picked up the win with 2 scoreless innings in relief.

 

Wednesday’s Games:

Sacramento @ New Orleans – 5:00pm PT

NW Arkansas @ Midland – 6:30pm CT

Stockton @ Rancho Cucamonga – 7:05pm PT

Burlington @ Peoria – 7:00pm CT

Staten Island @ Vermont – 7:05pm ET

AZL Rangers @ AZL Athletics – 7:00pm PT

 

 

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!

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

Grady Fuson: on the clock in Stockton

One of the most popular pieces we’ve featured here on A’s Farm over the past few months was our profile of A’s super scout (and Moneyball bad guy) Grady Fuson. He was the A’s scouting director from 1995 until 2001, when he left the A’s to become the assistant general manager of the Texas Rangers. Fuson returned to the A’s about two and a half years ago and currently serves as the special assistant to the general manager.

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

We were fortunate enough to catch up with Fuson in Stockton about a week before the All-Star break, after he’d just visited Sacramento and had spent the better part of a week with Stockton as well. We took the opportunity to pick the brain of one of baseball’s top talent evaluators and get the lowdown on some of the A’s top hitting and pitching prospects, as well as some of the fresh new talent that’s just entered the system via this year’s draft. But we started out by taking a look at some of the guys at the top of the system at Sacramento…

 

AF:  I know you’ve been out checking in on some of the minor league teams, and I guess your first stop was in Sacramento. I know Grant Green has been moving all over the field and playing a lot of different positions there lately – left, center, short, third, even second. So what’s the current situation with him?

GF:  Well, everybody’s asked me a little bit about why is he here, why is he there. We’re just trying to increase his versatility. A lot of kids, when they break in the big leagues, if you’re not a bona-fide position guy, it’s hard to break in and get at-bats if you don’t have that versatility. Obviously, we moved him out to center and we know what that looks like now – we know he can play it a little to some degree. We’ve got a little bit of a third base issue still with Sizemore going down early. So now we’re giving him some more time at third, and he’s still playing a little short. And when that time comes when he’s needed in the big leagues, when the powers that be want to give him a little look, at least Bob Melvin’s got a little versatility to where he can play him, and then we’ll see where the bat settles in in the big leagues.

AF:  And how do you feel about his bat at this point?

GF:  Well, I still feel strong that he’s hitter-ish. He’s going to be a hitter. How much power will really come out up there? I think he’s going to be one of those guys where ballparks could play a role. If he plays in a place like Texas, he could probably hit some. If he plays in a place like Petco Park, he’s probably not going to hit too many. But we’ve been working with him for a year and a half now about trying to make some adjustments on pitches middle to middle-in – just trying to change bat head positions so that he can pull more of those balls. He’s been shooting those balls up the middle. If he’s ever going to hit the ball out, those are the pitches he’s got to get the head out and get it over the shorter parts of the ballpark. And he’s made that adjustment.

AF:  So the greater his versatility, the more opportunity there’s going to be for him to get to the big leagues and then, once he’s there’s, the more opportunity there’ll be for him to stay there.

GF:  Exactly.

AF:  Anybody else stand out in Sacramento?

GF:  Everybody else there was about as expected. Michael Taylor is still very improved with his aggressiveness. He’s just not getting the ball out much on the pull side of the field, but he’s squaring it up and hitting it hard a lot. A.J. Griffin – you know he’s dealing again tonight (in Oakland). Griffin’s always good for me. I’m glad he got this opportunity. He’s making the most of it right now.

AF:  Give me your take on Griffin.

GF:  I’ve always been a Griffin guy. I saw him in college. I thought I helped us get him in the draft a little bit. But he’s big, he’s physical. It’s not an overpowering fastball, but I just always liked his ability to get down and away with his fastball, which to me is golden for a pitcher – a guy that can just locate his 4–seam fastball down and away. He’s got a good changeup. He’s got a good breaking ball. We’ve added a little cutter to his game that’s helped. He’s always been aggressive. He throws it down, and he’s a strike-thrower. He’s a competitor.

AF:  What about another pitcher who’s been looking great since he got to Sacramento, Dan Straily?

GF:  Straily’s awesome. He’s been great. I’m proud of that kid.

AF:  What’s been the key to his success this year?

GF:  I just think better command. But if you go back and look at his numbers, I think he was one or two in the California League last year in strikeouts. And he’s come a long way with his changeup. He’s always had a good breaking ball. He throws hard. He’s a 90-94 mph guy. He’s got a good arm. He’s been great.

AF:  One guy at Sacramento who’s been struggling a bit is Brad Peacock. What’s up with him?

GF:  Brad’s just having a hard time backing up quality pitches in the strike zone – executing. It has nothing to do with his stuff. He’s still throwing 90-94 mph. He’s got a good bite to his breaking ball when it’s right. But he’s just been scattered. (Minor league pitching coordinator) Gil Patterson was in there with him and we did some side work. We thought maybe he’s got a little bit of an uphill move that’s kind of wreaking havoc with him trying to get down the mound a little bit. He’s leaving a lot of fastballs up and elevated. And the biggest thing is just his pitch count is not getting him very deep in the game right now.

AF:  It seemed like he started out the season pretty well.

GF:  Yeah, his first few starts were pretty solid. He’s just in a rut right now, but he’s young and he’s got good enough stuff. He’ll come out of it.

AF:  Well, you’ve been here with the Stockton team for a while now. Can you tell me a little bit about the pitching staff here at Stockton?

GF:  The pitching’s been impressive. Blake Treinen, as good as his stuff is, I’m a little disappointed that his performance numbers aren’t a little better. Something’s missing – I’m not smart enough to tell you what it is, but something’s not right. Jake Brown, even though he’s a little bit of a soft-tossing left-hander, he knows how to pitch. He stays away from guys. He knows when to come in. He’s got a real good changeup.

AF:  What about Sean Murphy? He’s been looking really good both at Burlington and here at Stockton this year.

GF:  He’s by far one of the most improved young pitchers we’ve got in the system. I patted him on the ass after the game and told him, “Do you know how much better you are than you were a year ago?” He’s really cleaned his whole mental game up. He’s just taking things more seriously. He’s gotten focused. He’s pounding his down-and-away fastball. He’s always had a good changeup. He’s getting his breaking ball over in the strike zone.

AF:  Well, he’s had a big change from last year. Batters were hitting over .300 against him last season, and this season they’ve been hitting around .200 against him – that’s a big difference!

GF:  You know, he’s growing up. He’s turning into a pro. I mean, this kid a year ago was from a dinky little school. I remember talking to him last year in Burlington, and he goes “I’ve never been coached.” And he was like a little kid, an amateur. And this year, this guy’s turning into a man. I could see it coming in spring training too. He started to get super serious about his sides. He got his body in great shape. He’s doing good.

AF:  When I talked to him earlier about what accounted for his success this year, he seemed to say it was primarily just about focus and commitment.

GF:  It’s nice to see, because that’s what you’re looking for. Hey, this guy wants it, and this guy doesn’t. Some of them don’t know how to want it. But that’s our job to just keep pounding it into them.

AF:  Have you had a chance to see much of left-hander Ian Krol yet?

GF:  I’m actually going to miss him – they set him back a day. But I’ve been with him on two of his sides. You know, it’s all about his finish – just staying on line and being directed. He wants to cut his finish off and spin out, and he loses his line of command. And when you do those things, there’s usually not a lot of good things that are going to happen. The two sides I’ve been here, we’ve been working with him a lot on that.

AF:  What about Blake Hassebrock who was great at Burlington last year but has been struggling a bit since coming back off the disabled list here?

GF:  I don’t think he’s going any more than three innings tonight. He’s definitely a prospect. He’s big, he’s physical. He throws it downhill and he throws it hard. It’s all the secondary things. We’re trying to get him to use the cutter a little bit more than the slider, because his slider’s never been a great slider.

AF:  T.J. Walz got off to a good start here, but then he was moved out of the rotation and into the bullpen. What was behind that?

GF:  It’s not that we’re walking away from him as a starter forever. He’s just had this history that he told us about – when he starts a lot, his arm starts barking. And for some reason, his arm never barks when he throws out of the pen. He’s a guy who we had to watch his innings this year anyway because of his college pitch count and things like that. But he’s still throwing good.

AF:  Another guy who started the year here at Stockton was A.J. Cole. He really struggled here, but he’s been pitching great since he was sent down to Burlington. I guess you really haven’t had a chance to see him since the spring though, right?

GF:  No, I’ve seen a lot of him on video though. When he was going through these issues when he was here, I happened to be in Arizona one day, where me and (director of player development) Keith Lieppman got all the video we could get and we got on the phone with Gil Patterson. Gil had video and we were breaking things apart a little bit. He was dong some things that were different than when he was with Washington. And so Gil got on those and came in here and tried to settle some things down and get things back to where they needed to be. I don’t know if it’s the change to a different league, but it shouldn’t be that big a discrepancy. It was more location and sequences – it wasn’t stuff. The guys who saw him pitch here said it was 93-95 mph. The one thing that we were looking at was to see if his arm was on time with his foot stride. We looked at the timing and his arm was late and just missing.

AF:  Well, sending him to Burlington certainly seemed to be the answer.

GF:  Sometimes that in itself is the answer – a little wake-up call.

AF:  I know you probably haven’t seen him since the spring, but what’s your take on Sonny Gray?

GF:  I think he’s just struggling with his overall command. He’s working on it. I think he’s starting to understand what few concerns we had about him – those are the things that come and go.

AF:  The last I heard, the big thing he was working on was the changeup.

GF:  The changeup, and his direction and the way he lands – helping him stay on line to help him with his command. Those are the two big things.

AF:  Is there anyone on the offensive side of things who’s been opening your eyes since you’ve been here in Stockton?

GF:  Yeah, number one, it’s really good to see Max Stassi on the field everyday. And when he’s on the field everyday, you can see what he’s got a chance to do. He’s a really polished receiver. His arm’s working and feeling great right now. He’s throwing well. He’s hitting balls to all fields. He’s working on his pitch selection. He’s a nice-looking player. This is B.A. Vollmuth’s first time here. He’s still getting used to it a little bit, but doing about what’s expected from him – squaring a lot of balls up, playing solid at third. Yordy Cabrera’s a young kid – you know, things come and go with Yordy. Last night, he swings at a first pitch slider that’s five feet out of the strike zone, and you’re kind of going, “Oh my God!” And then two at-bats in a row were solid – he squared one up to the biggest part of the ballpark and thought he got his first homer. In San Jose (earlier in the week), his footwork was better. Last night, he sat back on groundballs and groundballs ate him up. That comes and goes with young kids. But the reality is that night after night, even though his numbers don’t look like it, I think he’s holding his own.

AF:  Speaking of some of these very young prospects, what’s up with Aaron Shipman at Burlington?

GF:  I’m heading there. I haven’t seen Shipman since I left spring training. Obviously he’s having a rough go just with contact. He’s down in the low .200s again. At one time, he got it up in the .250s. He’s back to doing some swinging and missing. But we’ll see.

AF:  What about another guy here at Stockton who came up from Burlington earlier in the year and has been playing well, and that’s outfielder Dusty Robinson?

GF:  Dusty’s a guy who plays the game with his hair on fire. He’s got some good skills. Dusty can throw, Dusty can run, and Dusty can flat square up a ball at times that makes your jaw drop at how hard he can hit it. It’s a non-stop work in progress about how he handles pitches on the outer half. Sometimes he looks good, and sometimes he looks like he’s never seen one. But he’s doing good. He’s second in our whole organization in homers.

AF:  I know you haven’t seen Michael Choice at Midland yet, but is there anything you can offer on his situation this year?

GF:  I think he’s still fighting his day-to-day approach – it comes and goes. There’s no regression in his tools and his ability. He’s got a very unique set up and approach, and when he’s not on time, there’s issues depending on how a guy can pitch him. You know, that’s the biggest jump you make in this game, besides the big leagues. Getting out of all the A-ball stuff – whether it’s rookie ball, High-A, Low-A – Double-A is where the true pro game really starts. The athletes who can’t hit, they’re still in A-ball. The pitchers who throw hard but can’t throw it over or don’t have some type of off-speed, they’re still in A-ball. So what you’ve got at Double-A is you’ve got the first collection of some ability with understanding performance. And so there’s more pitchers up there who know how to change speeds, really locate more.

AF:  Guys who know how to fool you and know how to exploit your weaknesses…

GF:  Exactly. And the pitching in Triple-A – there’s so many veteran AAAA-type guys. They’re usually older, they’re not as crisp as they used to be, so they pitch ass backwards at AAA – cutter, cutter, cutter, backdoor breaking ball. There’s not a lot of velocity, a lot of hard fastballs, coming at you night after night, unless you’ve got some young kid on their way up. Everybody else is some 30-year-old guy – they trick you. So that becomes a lesson on hitting off-speed. Then when kids first go to the big leagues, they forget how to hit a fastball.

AF:  Speaking of guys who are trying to make that transition to Double-A, have you had a chance to see Miles Head at any point?

GF:  Yeah, in spring training. But you know, what a half! I don’t know that I’ve seen a guy have that kind of half. And if you talk to these guys here (in Stockton), they’ve never been around a guy that hot. They just said nobody could get him out. There were never more than two or three at-bats that went by without him crushing one. You know, another guy I’ve always liked since the day we signed him is Chad Oberacker. He’s got the simplest approach of anybody here. And he just squares it up every at bat. He’s playing a very good center field. He’s a plus runner. He’s a nice-looking kid.

AF:  He’s even hit a few homers this year. I don’t think he’d shown much power before.

GF:  He’s got 6 this year, but one of them was an inside-the-parker.

AF:  What about Josh Whitaker who hit three home runs in a game here one night?

GF:  He’s been playing great. His body’s in great shape. You can see more life out of his body every year. He’s getting tighter and stronger. This kid’s putting himself on the map. He runs, he throws, he’s a better defender, and he’s a threat to hit it out.

AF:  Well, he had a good year at Burlington last year, but I guess the thing with him is there’s always a lot of strikeouts.

GF:  That’s the one thing we tried to set our eye on in the draft. We put more of an emphasis on making that hitting skill a little purer than we’ve had in the past – making that the number one thing, because as an organization the last couple of years, we have had a lot of swing-and-missers. We had 7 guys in Stockton who struck out 100 times last year – Aliotti, Gilmartin, Coleman, Gil, Dixon, Choice and LeVier.

AF:  Well I know when I talked to scouting director Eric Kubota after the draft, it seemed like he kept saying about everyone you drafted, “We really like the way this guy handles the bat.”

GF:  Well, that was a little bit of the change in direction you could see in the draft. Getting high school versus college wasn’t by design, but getting hitters, hitters first, was.

AF:  Was there anyone in this year’s draft you scouted who you were particularly high on?

GF:  Yeah, all of them! The only guy I didn’t see up high was Matt Olson, but Addison Russell, Daniel Robertson, all those guys.

AF:  Was there anybody you were maybe a little higher on than other people?

GF:  Yeah, maybe Robertson. I don’t know if I was higher, but higher than a couple. We took him where I’d like to take him. I love B.J. Boyd, the Bay Area kid. This guy’s crude – he may run to the wrong dugout – but let me tell you, he’s got some kind of life in his hands, some kind of life in his legs. He’s electric.

AF:  So, I guess it’s just going to be a matter of refining him then.

GF:  Oh yeah, it’s going to be fun – but what a project! This is what young Carl Crawfords look like when they’re 18!

AF:  Well, that’s always a good thing to hear! Thanks a lot for taking the time to clue us in!

 

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!

Catching Up With: The Stockton Ports

 

Banner Island Ballpark – Home of the Stockton Ports

When the season began, top pitching prospects like A.J. Cole, Ian Krol and Blake Hassebrock were expected to make the Class-A Stockton Ports’ starting staff the real highlight of the team. But Hassebrock ended up spending much of the first half on the disabled list, Krol has struggled for most of the season, and Cole got off to such a rough start that he was eventually sent down to Burlington.

The focal point of the team turned out to be young third baseman Miles Head who quickly proved himself to be the best hitting prospect in the organization, but almost as quickly found himself promoted to Midland. With Head now gone, the Ports’ offensive load has been turned over to young hitters like catcher Max Stassi, third baseman B.A. Vollmuth, first baseman A.J. Kirby-Jones, shortstop Yorda Cabrera, and outfielders Dusty Robinson and Josh Whitaker. And when we visited Stockton about a week before the All-Star break, we took the opportunity to talk with manager Webster Garrison about some of his hitting prospects.

We also had the chance to talk to the player who now appears to be the Ports’ top pitching prospect, right-hander Sean Murphy. The 23-year-old got off to a red-hot start at Burlington, posting a 1.97 ERA in 8 starts, and he’s continued to look impressive at Stockton. Murphy has the third most strikeouts of all starting pitchers currently in the A’s minor league system with 105 in 110 1/3 innings, and hitters are batting only .222 against him on the season. He’s had a couple of rough starts recently, but Murphy has clearly put himself on the map with his strong performance this season.

So be sure to check out our chat with Ports’ pitcher Sean Murphy followed by our conversation with Stockton manager Webster Garrison and get the inside scoop on the 2012 Stockton Ports…

 

Stockton Ports

Pitcher

SEAN MURPHY

AF:  You’ve been having a great year at Burlington and here at Stockton. Last season, guys were hitting over .300 against you, and most of this year, guys have been hitting around .200 against you. So what’s changed?

SM:  I would say just actually getting ahead of batters, and just staying consistent and trusting my off-speed stuff – throwing it for strikes when I need to throw it for strikes, and then going out of the zone when I need to go out of the zone. That’s the biggest key from last year to this year – just throwing every pitch with a purpose.

AF:  What made that change happen? Did somebody tell you something, did a light suddenly go off, or did it just creep up on you?

SM:  I would say (Burlington pitching coach) John Wasdin helped me out a lot with the mental side of the game – really just focusing in on throwing every pitch with a purpose, not just throwing pitches to throw them – having a your mind set on what you’re going to do with this pitch and what you want the hitter to do with it, rather than just go out there and see the sign for the curveball and just throw it – he wants it away and you throw it away, rather than splitting the plate. So I think that’s the biggest difference – just being committed and having a purpose.

AF:  You got off to a great start this year at Burlington, and then you came up here to the California League, which is considered much more of a hitters’ league. So have you had to do anything different here or had to make any adjustments?

SM:  Because the wind blows out in most places here, the biggest key is keeping the ball down in the zone. If you keep the ball down and really get ahead of batters, you can start playing with them and get them out.

AF:  You’ve been second or third behind Dan Straily in the entire A’s system in strikeouts for most of the year. So what’s been your big out pitch?

SM:  Against lefties, I’d have to say the changeup – just the deception of the changeup. Really getting ahead with the fastball, locating it, which sets up the changeup, and working the changeup off the same plane against lefties. Against righties, everything – it’s all come together for me – but I’d have to say my slider late in the count. Just going off the plate and staying down with it gets a lot of swings and misses. And then freezing people going in with the curveball – that’s a big key.

AF:  Tell me a little more about your repertoire.

SM:  My fastball – I like to get ahead with my fastball. I could get ahead with off-speed too – its just throwing it for strikes is what’s key. My #2 would be my changeup – that’s my go-to pitch. If I’m facing the cleanup hitter with runners in scoring position and a 3-2 count, I’m going to go with my changeup most of the time. And then my curveball has been a big key for me this year – actually throwing it in the zone. Then my slider late in the count. I would have to rank my pitches fastball, changeup, slider, then curve.

AF:  Well congratulations – whatever, you’re doing, it all seems to be coming together for you this year!

SM:  Yes, sir!

 

Stockton Ports

Manager

WEBSTER GARRISON

AF:  I know you played in the A’s minor league system back in the ‘90s. I remember you playing in Double-A, but they weren’t in Midland at that point, they were somewhere else, right?

WG:  When I was playing, they were in Huntsville.

AF:  Right, in the Southern League. And then you were at Tacoma in the PCL too, right?

WG:  Yep, Tacoma.

AF:  I guess you’ve seen all the stops.

WG:  A lot of them!

AF:  Well, I wanted to get your impressions of some guys on the team here in Stockton. Let’s start off with outfielder Dusty Robinson, who came up here from Burlington about a month and a half into the season. He’s obviously a big power hitter, and he’s from right here in the Central Valley. So what’s your impression been of him so far?

WG:  He works hard. Like you said, he’s got the big swing. He’s definitely a home run hitter. We’re just working on him staying on the ball, trying to use the whole field. He’s a good defensive player. He’s got a good arm and he runs well. He’s a good-looking young prospect coming up. He just has to work on that pitch away. Coming inside, he’s ready for that all the time. And he’s definitely a power hitter.

AF:  So the main thing he’s got to work on at this point is that away pitch?

WG:  Yeah, and he’s working on it. He’s not the only one – there’s a lot of guys in the minor leagues who have to work on that pitch. But that’s definitely one of the pitches he’s got to work on staying on, because he’s a big power guy. He likes to get it going, and once he gets it going, that bat’s coming through the zone and he’s looking to go to left field. And so he’s working on staying to right-center in batting practice.

AF:  You said he’s looking good in the outfield. So does he have skills in the outfield? He’s not just a power-hitting DH type?

WG:  Oh, he’s definitely not just a DH type. He can definitely play the outfield. He runs balls down. He throws well. He’s diving and hustling, and he runs well. So he’s not just a DH by a long shot. He can play the outfield.

AF:  He’s got about 10 stolen bases so far this year, so it does seem like he’s got a little speed.

WG:  Yeah, he’s got some speed. He can steal a base. He runs well. He’s a well put-together guy. He’s not a big tall large guy, but he’s well put-together for his size, and he does a little bit of everything. He can hit the ball out of the park, he runs well, he throws well, and he’s a good defensive outfielder.

AF:  Right-hander Sean Murphy started out the year in Burlington too and looked really good there. He came up here in May. So how’s he looking to your eyes?

WG:  He’s looking real good! He’s a competitor. He goes out there when he pitches and he locates well and he changes speeds well, and he’s competing. He’s out there and he’s got a game plan. He knows what he wants to do with the ball, and he puts it in spots and lets the defense play for him. He makes big pitches when he gets guys on, and he gives us a great opportunity to win when he’s out there. I like what I see out of that kid.

AF:  He told me that he’s been throwing with a lot of confidence and a lot of purpose. Is that what you see?

WG:  Exactly, that’s definitely what I see. He’s focused, he’s prepared, and he goes out there and he executes his pitches and it’s working well for him right now.

AF:  Another guy who just came up from Burlingtonis third baseman B.A. Vollmuth. What do you think about what you’ve seen of him thus far?

WG:  I saw a lot of him in spring training. He’s a good young player as well. He’s a good defensive guy for third base – good arm. He’s going to hit as well. He had abig springtraining for us. So were looking for some good things out of him. He’s more of a contact guy. He can use the whole field, and he can drive the ball out of the ballpark. So we’re looking for him to step in there and play well. I think he was playing pretty good in Burlington from the reports I was getting – no big numbers, but putting the ball in play hard a lot. So that’s what I’m looking forward to from him while he’s here.

AF:  He came up here when you lost your other third baseman Miles Head, who I’m sure you were happy to pencil into the lineup every night. He’s obviously up at Midland now, but tell me about your impressions of him when he was here.

WG:  He’s just one of those ballplayers who’s amazing. That’s all you can say is “amazing.” His approach to hitting is amazing. He puts the ball in play. He puts it in play hard. He hits the ball to all fields. There’s no certain way to pitch him. He hit just about every pitch and he hit it hard. He used the whole field. He plays hard, works hard. He’s a good kid all the way around. I was just happy to have him here as a ballplayer. I knew he wouldn’t be here long. But to lead the league in hitting and have 18 home runs and almost 60 RBIs for half a season, that’s just outstanding – very impressive.

AF:  And he just turned 21 while was here too, right?

WG:  He just turned 21. He’s an impressive-looking young hitter. I don’t know exactly how he’s doing in Midland right now, but he’s definitely going to be making waves later on in this game.

AF:  Obviously he’s got a lot of skills, but is there any one thing that’s been central to his success?

WG:  I think his best tool to hitting is he’s just up there hitting. He’s not up there thinking I’ve got to go the other way or I’ve got to stay inside the ball – where my arm is, where my foot is, where my head is. He’s just going up there ready to hit.

AF:  So he’s keeping it simple.

WG:  Yeah, he’s keeping it plain and simple. That’s his approach and it works well for him. He goes up there swinging. He’s not up there looking to walk – but if you walk him, he’ll take it. But he’s looking to do damage while he’s up there. He’s not just up there swinging, he’s looking to do damage.

AF:  Is there any weakness in his game? Is there anything he really needs to work on as he moves up the ladder?

WG:  He could work on his defense a little bit more – just getting jumps. He was basically a first baseman and we moved him over to third base this year. So he’s working hard at it. He’s going to get better, but he’s better than what we thought he was going to be. He’s a ballplayer – he can catch the ball, he can throw the ball. He was already an infielder, so he can definitely catch the ball. He’s just got to work on getting jumps and angles and reads and when to throw it and when not to throw it – just third baseman stuff he hasn’t done in a long time.

AF:  So you think he’s got the essentials that he could make it work at third with time?

WG:  Oh yeah, definitely. He’s only 21 years old. He just turned 21. Once he gets a couple of years under his belt at third base, he’ll definitely be okay.

AF:  How would you compare him to a guy who was a staple here for you at Stockton last year, Michael Choice? Is there any way you could compare the two?

WG:  I’d say Mike’s just a raw power guy. He’s going to hit it farther than Miles Head. He’s just one of those strong guys. When he gets a hold of it, it’s gone and it’s gone by a lot. Miles Head is just a little more of a consistent hitter using the whole field – the ball’s in play more and he’s just getting more hits. Mike’s got the big swing where he’s hitting home runs and extra base hits. He had an outstanding second half last year and made some great adjustments. But with Miles Head, the ball’s just in play more and it’s in play a lot more hard. He can just hit the ball out of the park anywhere, and there’s just a little more consistent hard contact.

AF:  Catcher Max Stassi was hurt for a while, but he’s been back playing a little more regularly for a while now and showing a little pop. What’s your take on him?

WG:  Like you said, he’s been back in the lineup. He got injured earlier in the year, and now he’s getting real comfortable again. He’s started catching a lot. And his bat’s always been a plus in my eyes, because he definitely can hit the ball, and he can drive it out of all parts of the park as well. And now he’s starting to see a lot of pitches and he’s getting more and more comfortable. He’s a staple right in the middle of our lineup right now and we’re going to continue to look for big things out of him.

AF:  Another guy people have been looking for big things from is shortstop Yordy Cabrera, but he’s been struggling a bit at the plate here. What’s your take on him?

WG:  Young, raw talent – and it shows at times. He’s a young raw kid, but he’s got a lot of potential. He’s got moves in the field – good hands, strong arm. He’s definitely got some pop in his bat. He’s just got to get a little more consistent in his approach and putting the ball in play where he can have some better results.  He’s a young kid who’s up there swinging, trying hard – so hard at times that it doesn’t work out for him. But he works so hard. If he just settles down and just tries to do the little things well, I think he’ll be okay.

AF:  Well, I guess trying too hard is better than not trying hard enough anyway.

WG:  True.

AF:  Well, thanks a lot, Webster.

 

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!

Monday, July 2nd: Cabrera & Dixon Deliver Walk-Off Wins for Ports & Bees as Cats & Hounds Fall

A’s Farmhand Of The Day

Stockton Ports shortstop Yordy Cabrera    (3 for 5 / Triple / Walk-Off RBI)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE (TRIPLE-A)

Colorado Springs Sky Sox  5

Sacramento River Cats    3

(LP – Billings 4-3 / 3.72)

 

Farmhand Of The Game:

Pitcher Fautino De Los Santos

(2 IP / 0 ER / 4 K)

 

 

Worth Noting: Starter Bruce Billings allowed 5 runs in 5 innings of work to take the loss. Right-hander Fautino De Los Santos came on to toss 2 scoreless innings to give the River Cats a chance to climb back into it. Third baseman Stephen Parker drove in first baseman Kila Ka’aihue in the 7th inning and again in the 9th. Sacramento added another run in the 9th when outfielder Jermaine Mitchell drove in outfielder Shane Peterson, who was making his first appearance with the River Cats since his promotion from Midland.

 

TEXAS LEAGUE (DOUBLE-A)

Midland RockHounds  5

Springfield Cardinals    7

(LP – Gray 2-7 / 5.11)

 

Farmhand Of The Game:

First Baseman Anthony Aliotti

(Home Run / 2 RBIs)

 

 

Worth Noting: First baseman Anthony Aliotti homered and drove in 2 runs, and infielder Josh Horton contributed 3 hits, including a double. Starter Sonny Gray had another rough outing, allowing 6 runs on 9 hits over 5 innings to take his 7th loss.

 

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE (HIGH-A)

San Jose Giants  6

Stockton Ports   7

(WP – Thornton 4-0 / 5.17)

 

Farmhand Of The Game:

Shortstop Yordy Cabrera

(3 for 5 / Triple / Walk-Off RBI)

 

 

Worth Noting: Shortstop Yordy Cabrera drove in the game-winning run for the Ports in the bottom of the 9th inning on Monday night. Catcher Beau Taylor collected 4 hits, including a double, and outfielder Dusty Robinson and third baseman B.A. Vollmuth contributed 3 hits apiece. Starter Sean Murphy had one of his shakier outings for Stockton, allowing 5 runs on 8 hits in 5 innings of work. Right-hander Zack Thronton picked up the win, despite giving up the tying-run to San Jose in the top of the 9th.

 

MIDWEST LEAGUE (CLASS-A)

Clinton LumberKings  8

Burlington Bees       10

(WP – Macias 3-5 / 5.10)

 

Farmhand Of The Game:

Outfielder Rashun Dixon

(Walk-Off Home Run / 2 RBIs)

 

 

Worth Noting: Outfielder Rashun Dixon hit a 2-run walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th inning to clinch the victory for the Bees on Monday night. Third baseman Wade Kirkland hit a 2-run homer in the 6th inning, and shortstop Sean Jamieson hit a 2-run shot in the 7th. Starter Max Perlman allowed 5 runs over 7 innings, and right-hander Jose Macias picked up the win in relief, despite allowing 2 runs in the 9th to tie the game.

 

NEW YORK-PENN LEAGUE (CLASS-A SHORT-SEASON)

GAME #1

Vermont Lake Monsters  0

Connecticut Tigers            8

(LP – Menna 0-2 / 6.00)

 

Farmhand Of The Game:

Outfielder John Wooten

(1 for 3)

 

 

Worth Noting: Vermont managed just 3 hits in the first game of Monday’s doubleheader against Connecticut. Starter J.C. Menna allowed 6 runs, 5 earned, on 9 hits over 4 innings to take the loss.

 

GAME #2

Vermont Lake Monsters  6

Connecticut Tigers            9

(LP – Streich 0-1 / 13.50)

 

Farmhand Of The Game:

Second Baseman Chris Bostick

(3 for 4 / Triple / 3 RBIs)

 

 

Worth Noting: Second baseman Chris Bostick had 3 hits, including a triple, and drove in 3 runs, and first baseman Jacob Tanis had 2 hits and drove in a run inVermont’s second loss of the day.

 

ARIZONA LEAGUE (ROOKIE SHORT-SEASON)

AZL Padres      2

AZL Athletics  5

(WP – Johnson 1-0 / 0.00)

Farmhand Of The Game:

First Baseman Michael Soto

(2 for 4 / Home Run / 2 RBIs)

Worth Noting: First baseman Michael Soto drove in the go-ahead run with a 2-run homer in the 7th inning. Shortstop Addison Russell collected 2 hits, including a triple, drove in a run and stole 2 bases.

 

Tuesday’s Games:

Colorado Springs @ Sacramento – 6:35pm PT

(TBD vs. Peacock)

Midland @ Springfield – 7:05pm CT

(Hernandez vs. Martinez)

San Jose @ Stockton – 7:05pm PT

(Rosin vs. Brown)

Clinton @ Burlington – 6:30pm CT

(TBD vs. TBD)

Vermont @ Connecticut – 7:05pm ET

(Jimenez vs. Briceno)

 

 

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!

Exclusive: A’s Super Scout (and Moneyball Bad Guy) Grady Fuson Gives the Lowdown on Life in Baseball and A’s Prospects to Watch

Grady Fuson: Keeping his eye on the ball!

Grady Fuson is one of the baseball world’s most respected talent evaluators. He’s spent the past 30 years in pro ball, scouting talent at every level. As the A’s scouting director from 1995-2001, Fuson was responsible for drafting the A’s big three of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito over three consecutive years (1997-1999), and then drafted Rich Harden the following year (2000). Prior to that, as the A’s national cross-checker, he was involved in the drafting of Jason Giambi and Ben Grieve, as well as the signing of Miguel Tejada. Many of these players formed the core of some very successful A’s teams, and some went on to contribute to other winning teams as well.

In his final draft as the A’s scouting director, Fuson drafted high school pitcher Jeremy Bonderman in the first round, causing a certain degree of controversy which was touched upon in the best-selling book, Moneyball. While well known and well respected within the baseball fraternity, Grady Fuson probably became best known to the general public when he was portrayed in the film version of Moneyball as the obstinate scout fired by general manager Billy Beane (as played by Brad Pitt) after a dramatic and heated confrontation.

What your average filmgoer doesn’t know is that there was no such firing. Fuson actually left the organization for another opportunity with the Texas Rangers. And he has been back working with the A’s as a special assistant to general manager Billy Beane for the past two years now. It turns out that, sometimes, real-life really is more interesting than fiction. And wanting to get a real-life look at a life in baseball, we took the opportunity to talk with Fuson about his journey in baseball as well as to get his take on some of the A’s most intriguing prospects.

Grady Fuson: Rockin' the green & gold in Medford

After coaching baseball at the University of Puget Sound and the University of Washington in the late-‘70s and early-‘80s, Grady Fuson got his first opportunity to join the scouting fraternity in 1982 when an old friend (and likely drinking buddy) of Billy Martin’s who had been scouting the northwest area for the A’s retired, and the team asked Fuson if he’d like to take over the territory. He thought the opportunity sounded intriguing and signed on, agreeing to work as an area scout in the northwest. During the spring, he’d keep tabs on all the promising young amateur prospects throughout the region. And during the summer, he’d coach short-season rookie clubs for the organization in such exotic locales as Medford and Idaho Falls.

By 1985, he was given responsibility for the northern California area as well and relocated to the Bay Area for the first time. In 1991, after nearly ten years of beating the bushes for prospects, the team made him their national cross-checker, basically the right-hand man to the scouting director. The position involved personally checking on all the top prospects recommended by the team’s area scouts and getting some perspective on all of them so that the organization could accurately gauge how they all stacked up.

After a few years in that position, a period which included the drafting of future MVP Jason Giambi and future Rookie of the Year Ben Grieve as well as the signing of future MVP Miguel Tejada, Fuson was promoted to the position of scouting director by A’s general manager Sandy Alderson. And thus began what he calls “one of the proudest times of my life” – a time during which the A’s drafted future Cy Young winner Barry Zito as well as future All-Stars Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Rich Harden and Eric Chavez.

Todd Helton: Where have you been all our lives?

But his first draft as the A’s new scouting director involved a very difficult decision – the decision whether or not to draft the promising Cuban exile pitcher, Ariel Prieto (who’s now back with the A’s acting as the interpreter for new Cuban prospect Yoenis Cespedes).

Todd Helton was my guy the whole time. This guy Ariel Prieto comes out of nowhere in the last month. So I fly in to see him and, boy, he’s really good. So I say, ‘Sandy, there’s a guy here who’s much different than the rest of these amateurs. He’s older, he’s more polished. This guy might be big league ready real fast.’ So we had many pow-wows about which way to go – Helton, Prieto, Helton, Prieto, Helton, Prieto. And when it all came down to it, he wanted to go that way, and that’s the way we went.”

Needless to say, Ariel Prieto didn’t exactly set the world on fire, and Todd Helton is still playing today. The previous year had seen the A’s draft a sweet-swinging slugger out of Texas in the first round – a strapping young lad by the name of Ben Grieve. The outfielder would go on to win the Rookie of the Year award in 1998, also winning the hearts of A’s fans in the process. But somewhere along the line, his progress seemed to hit a wall, he was traded away by the A’s and, by the time he was 29, he was out of the game altogether. And ever since, A’s fans have been left asking, “What went wrong with Ben Grieve?”

Ben Grieve: We hardly knew ya...

“The passion for the game just left him completely. Something was just missing. But this guy was just born to hit. But what happened? It’s a mind-boggler. He just lost his passion, his energy, his work ethic – to get bigger, to get stronger, to get better. He just took it all for granted. And his body started to slow up at a young age, and things just stopped firing. It’s a very unique story. Still, to this day, his was one of the best swings I’ve ever scouted.”

But after that, the A’s used their top picks wisely, having perhaps as much success in the draft as any team in the game and, in the process, forming the foundation of the winning A’s teams to come.

“One of the things I’ll always be proudest of is, in my years as scouting director, we nailed it on number ones – Chavez in ‘96, Mulder in ‘98, Zito in ‘99, even my last year in ’01 with Bonderman and Crosby. Collectively speaking, we drafted well.”

Grady's Kids: Hudson, Zito & Mulder

During that time, current A’s GM Billy Beane moved up from his position as assistant general manager to take over for long-time general manager Sandy Alderson in a transition that Fuson called “seamless.” The two worked together as general manager and scouting director for four years, acquiring players like Mark Mulder, Barry Zito and Rich Harden during that time. There were clearly some differences of opinion on the drafting of a high school pitcher – Jeremy Bonderman – in the first round of the draft in 2001 (more on that later). But it wasn’t philosophical differences – or any sort of dramatic confrontation – that caused Fuson to part ways with the A’s. It was simply an offer too good to refuse from the rival Texas Rangers following the 2001 season.

“The Rangers called Billy and asked for permission to interview me for GM after Doug Melvin was let go. They invited three guys to come back for a second interview – Dave Dombrowski, John Hart and myself. Tom Hicks ended up choosing John Hart, but he wanted me to come in too. They throw in this assistant GM thing. And they want John Hart as the GM for three years. They want me to come in and overhaul and redo scouting and player development and oversee all that.”

But the A’s front office wasn’t too thrilled with the fact that they had allowed the Rangers to interview Fuson for one position but now he was being offered another.

Grady Fuson: Lone Star King

“Billy made it very, very hard for me to say ‘yes.’ We talked a lot that night before I decided, and he offered me a great deal to stay. His loyalty and belief in me really came out at a different level. But after being with Oakland for twenty years, the opportunity to go somewhere new, oversee player development and scouting and take that next step, was an opportunity in my life that I thought I had to take.”

It wasn’t that easy though. Always looking for an opportunity to improve themselves, the A’s insisted on being compensated for the loss of Fuson. They hoped to wrangle a player like Hank Blalock out of the Rangers but, in the end, settled for a financial compensation package determined by the commissioner. Fuson was reluctant to disclose the level of compensation the A’s received in return for losing his services but did admit, “You could sign a real good player with it.”

Implicit in Fuson’s deal with the Rangers was the understanding that he would be viewed as a sort of GM-in-waiting when the time came for John Hart to step aside. And that time seemed to come in the summer of 2004 when, despite upping the payroll by $40 million to a whopping $110 million, the Rangers were still struggling to win and the pressure on the team to do something was mounting. It was at this time, shortly before the All-Star break, that Fuson claims Rangers owner Tom Hicks came to him and said it was time to make a change.

Tom Hicks: Indian giver?

“He said, ‘I’ve talked to John. At the end of the year, he’s going to step aside. You’re stepping in.’ We agreed on a contract. We agreed on a lot of things. We weren’t going to announce it till after the All-Star break. But during the All-Star break, whether it was John, whether it was Buck Showalter, whether it was some other people, they got Tom to change his mind. And the way they did it really bothered me from a moral and ethical standpoint. And so I said, ‘Well, if John’s going to continue to go forward, then I want to step out.’ So I resigned.”

Fuson says A’s GM Billy Beane was one of the first people to call and offered the opportunity to talk about returning to the A’s. But Fuson ultimately accepted an offer from Padres general manager Kevin Towers to return to his hometown of San Diego. Before long, Fuson’s former boss Sandy Alderson joined the Padres front office, followed shortly thereafter by former A’s assistant GM Paul DePodesta – forming something of an A’s brain trust reunion in San Diego.

Grady Fuson: Good morning San Diego!

But after a few years with the Padres, Jeff Moorad took control of the team and hired new general manager Jed Hoyer. The new GM wanted to bring in his own people and decided to let Fuson go. But after being asked to take his leave, it didn’t take long for another job offer to come. He got a call from Billy Beane that night. And before long, he was back on board as a special assistant to the general manager of the Oakland A’s.

“It’s been great. I’m doing exactly what I want to do. I’m in big league camp. I’m watching all the games, helping evaluate, giving them my opinions on everything. Once the big league club gets set, then my focus is in the minor league camp. Once we break camp, then it’s all amateur draft – all of April, May and part of June – I’m cross-checking. And then in the summer, I hit all of our clubs once or twice, and Oakland. I’ll go in there and sit there for four or five days and get my eyes on the big league club and see what’s going on there. And at the deadline, if he’s got some trades and wants me out seeing some guys prior to some trades before the deadline, then I’ll do that.”

But what about all that Moneyball drama? All those debates over scouts vs. stats? The dinosaurs vs. the young turks? All those heated confrontations? Fuson claims there were no great philosophical debates, only differences of opinions over players. He says he certainly wasn’t anti-statistics and that those fault lines were over-dramatized by the book and the film.

“When I was a national cross-checker, I raised my hand numerous times and said, ‘Have you looked at these numbers?’ I had always used numbers. Granted, as the years go on, we’ve got so many more ways of getting numbers. It’s called ‘metrics’ now. And metrics lead to saber-math. Now we have formulas. We have it all now. But historically, I always used numbers. If there’s anything that people perceived right or wrong, it’s that me and Billy are very passionate about what we do. And so when we do speak, the conversation is filled with passion. He even told me when he brought me back, ‘Despite what some people think, I always thought we had healthy, energetic baseball conversations.’”

Ken Medlock & Brad Pitt: Just like their real-life counterparts, they don't actually hate each other.

Fuson admits that he was initially caught off guard by some of the characterizations in the book.

“After the book came out, I’d already left, and I was a little stunned by some of the things said in there. And I had my time where me and Billy aired it out a little bit. And he was a very gracious listener when I aired it out. Guys were sticking microphones in my face left and right and I was kind of taking the fifth. But I told Billy, ‘It’s time for me to fire a shot across the bough, man.’ The good thing is most people know none of that really ever happened.”

As for the reported draft room tensions, Fuson says that’s par for the course.

“Was there tension at times in the draft room? Of course, that’s what a draft room is. The draft is so important to so many of us that there is tension. But in baseball, there’s always tension, anxiety and questions asked. Your boss asks you a question and you give your opinion and he disagrees, and how do you get to this common ground? Me, I’ve always respected who my boss is. If you tell me I can’t take that player, that player isn’t going to get taken.”

Jeremy Bonderman: Cherchez la Bonderman!

But surely it can’t feel great to find yourself portrayed as a bad guy on the big screen.

“The great thing about me and Billy is, back then, we used to have a lot of baseball discussions. In some of them we disagreed, and some of them we agreed. But the bottom line is they were always good baseball discussions. How that got twisted into me being a bad guy I think just got overblown in one scenario with the Jeremy Bonderman pick. There was some anxiety over the ownership, with them being caught off guard that we took a high school pitcher – that we hadn’t taken one in ten years. And that thing got kind of ugly. Billy certainly put up a big fight the night before the draft as to why we shouldn’t take him. But I was never told not to take the guy, and that’s who we as a group at the time wanted to take. And that got a little overblown, so all of a sudden I became the resistor – I was never a resistor.”

Fuson concludes by saying, “I’m glad I’m back – especially with where the state of the club is!” Fuson’s passion for player development is obvious as he offers his take on the A’s current crop of promising young prospects. And when it comes to the A’s newest acquisition, Cuban sensation Yoenis Cespedes, Fuson is clearly impressed.

“He’s physical. He’s explosive. There’s no doubt this guy can crush a fastball. So now we’ve got to watch, when guys start changing speeds on him, is he going to be able to hold up? But so far, this is a good sign. I joked with Billy and said, ‘You might have underpaid!’”

Michael Choice

Fans of Double-A Midland will be glad to know that they can look forward to seeing the A’s last two first-round draft picks, power-hitting outfielder Michael Choice and hard-throwing right-hander Sonny Gray, donning Rockhounds uniforms this year. Besides Cespedes, Fuson thinks Choice may be the best pure power hitter in the organization.

“He’s just a very explosive hitter, probably one of the most explosive hitters in the minor leagues right now. This guy has learned a few things and he’s made adjustments. We shoved him right into the California League. We had some expectations and he achieved them. He cut his strikeouts down and shortened up his stride. He’s probably one of the biggest potential power hitters we’ve signed here in a long time. And he’s not just power-oriented. This guy has speed, defensive ability, arm strength – he’s got the package. And it’s just all about us grooming this guy and developing that package.”

Sonny Gray

As for Gray, he thinks the gritty right-hander’s repertoire needs a few refinements but, other than that, he seems to think he’s got what it takes.

“We’re looking at him really developing this changeup that we’ve shoved down his throat since we signed him. And he wants it as bad as we want to give it to him – because everything he throws is hard and snaps. And he’s gotten away in college without really developing this off-speed something to slow hitters down with. We made him throw it almost every other pitch in the instructional league. And he’s digging it – he wants to throw it. He’s a bright kid. And when it comes to all the other attributes, he’s just a tremendous kid – he’s a competitor. His athleticism, his competitiveness, his will to win, those things go a long way.”

Another particularly intriguing prospect is former 2007 first-round draft pick Sean Doolittle, originally drafted as a first baseman but now, due to injuries, trying to make it as a pitcher. He’s likely to start the year working on his repertoire at Single-A. But, so far, he’s been throwing well and, if he continues to do so, he could move his way up through the ranks quickly.

“His transition has been so fast. He just picked up a ball at the end of the summer. And then basically his first official training back on the mound since college was in instructional league. And now he’s got a couple scoreless innings in big league camp. But the transition’s been great. It’s been easy. He’s taken to it real quick. He’s got a couple of very instinctual knacks in his pitching. The breaking ball needs to be developed, but he’s going to be a nice addition.”

And when it comes to assessing the current state of the A’s organization, Fuson’s love of player development shows through: “We are, to some degree, in a rebuild mode. Look, I always want to put a ring on my finger, but I like building – I like getting better!”

 

We asked Grady Fuson to tip us off to three guys in the A’s system that we ought to keep an eye on, and here’s what we got:

-GRADY’S GUYS TO WATCH-

Blake Hassebrock

Blake Hassebrock

Right-handed Starting Pitcher

Age: 22 / Drafted: 8th Round – 2010

Expected To Start 2012 With: Stockton Ports

There’s a lot of upside to him. He’s got power in his arm. He’s got a hard breaking ball. The changeup is a developing pitch for him. He’s got good angles. He’s got good planes. It’s just about him learning the touch and feel part of being a starter. He was fairly dominant at Single-A Burlington last year. He was drafted in the 8th round in 2010. If you get a chance to see him, you’re going to like what you see.

 

Yordy Cabrera

Yordy Cabrera

Right-handed Hitting Shortstop

Age: 21 / Drafted: 2nd Round – 2010

Expected To Start 2012 With: Stockton Ports

He’s a big key to our system. He was an older high school guy when we took him last year in the draft. He was held back when he was younger so that he could have an extra year of learning English. He was born and raised in the Dominican and his family had moved to the States. He’s physical, he’s big, he’s strong, he runs and he throws. It’s all about learning the nuances. He didn’t have the kind of year we expected, or even he expected, last year in Burlington. But he’s going to be given an opportunity to go to the California League at the age of 21 and see what this young man can do. But there’s impact to his whole game.

 

Jermaine Mitchell

Jermaine Mitchell

Left-handed Hitting Outfielder

Age: 27 / Drafted: 5th Round – 2006

Expected To Start 2012 With: Sacramento Rivercats

I think the next step for him determines a lot of what we do in the future here in Oakland. Jermaine was a kid they’d signed years ago who was gifted and had raw tools. It’s taken a long time for these tools to apply themselves to performance. When I first came back here in 2010, Jermaine was almost on the verge of release. But you just can’t release players like this. They’re just too talented. You can’t replace them, so you might as well keep playing them. And things have really turned for this kid. He started to put it together in 2010, and everyone saw what he did last year. He’s a dynamic, gifted athlete who has a chance to do everything in the game. Those type of players are so difficult to acquire – a dynamic speed guy in center, somebody you can trust is going to do something offensively. There’s no doubt that he’s going to make some decisions possible if, in fact, he continues to back up what he’s done at the Triple-A level. He’s that dynamic of an athlete.