Monday's Minute to Midnight Minor League Mojo Manuscript

Why the manic title?

 

Because sometimes I just can’t contain my inner goofball.

 

Never mind that the Oakland A’s are 12-8 and tied for 1st place in the AL West, 2008 has been declared a rebuilding year and that means the most important information YOU need to know concerns the goings on in the farm system. So thank your lucky stars you’ve got one of the most insightful minor league mavens anywhere writing on AN!

 

Unfortunately, Taj Adib isn’t up until next week so for now you’re going to have to settle for lovable, furry me. I thought Taj’s article last week was brilliant; it was so good in fact that I seriously considered stealing his format and using it for all my future minor league writings. I decided that was more then a little lazy on my part so I’ll reserve that option for future use. I feel like dallying in a little speculation to compliment the analysis.

 

AAA

 

The guy everyone wants to talk about is Carlos Gonzalez, so let’s get him out of the way so we can focus on other people.

 

Carlos Gonzalez: 16 G  64 AB  3 Dbl  3 HR  7 BB/12 K  375/437/563

 

CarGon is flat out destroying AAA pitching and I don’t want to see him in Oakland until at least mid-May. Gonzalez is on fire, there is no way a rational baseball fan could look at his numbers over the last three weeks and honestly say otherwise. Being on a hot streak does not mean he’s ready for the big leagues. I want to see what happens when the pitchers in the PCL get a book on CarGon, I want to see what kind of adjustments they make when they face him a second or third time around. I want him to be a marked man in Sacramento; Gonzalez needs to be the guy the other team’s manager says “We will not let him beat us tonight” and then he needs to figure out what to do so he can beat them regardless of their precautions.

 

Because that’s the kind of hitter we want Carlos Gonzalez to be when he gets to Oakland. When the A’s do call him up he needs to be ready to stay up, I don’t think bouncing him back and forth along the I-80 corridor is the way to help him develop.

 

The other River Cat people like to dream about is Gio Gonzalez. Let me make this simple… he’s not ready.

 

Gio Gonzalez: 3 GS  2.08 ERA  13.0 IP  8 H  0 HR  7 BB/13 K  1.23 GO/AO

 

For those who haven’t read one of my minor league write-ups before, GO/AO means ground ball outs vs. fly ball outs. Typically when a pitcher can limit the number of fly balls he allows he can limit the number of homeruns he allows. Back to Gonzalez.

 

Sacramento has had him on a pitch count thus far, although he might be allowed to push 100 pitches his next time out. Let me show you his line from his previous two starts.

 

April 12th: 5 IP  3 H  1 ER  2 BB/6 K  6 GO/3 AO

April 17th: 5 IP  3 H  1 ER  3 BB/4 K  6 GO/5 AO

 

Fairly similar stats, only the April 12 start took 75 pitches while the April 17 start took 91 pitches. Gonzalez’s K an inning average and 2.08 ERA certainly look impressive but he needs to keep building up his stamina and he needs to work on being more efficient with his pitches. That’s a lot to ask of a 22 year old pitcher, it’s best to ask him for that in a more forgiving environment like AAA. Besides, he’s not on the 40 man roster.

 

The Gonzalez non-brothers get the most attention, but I’m also interested in the members of the A’s 40 man roster who currently reside in Sacramento. Those are CarGon, Jerry Blevins, Dallas Braden, Jeff Gray, Dan Meyer, Landon Powell, Kevin Melillo, Gregorio Petit, Richie Robnett and Jeff Fiorentino. Robnett and Fiorentino are on the DL and that pretty much wraps up their portion of the article!

 

Dallas Braden: 4 G/3 GS  2.50 ERA  18.0 IP  22 H  1 HR  6 BB/17 K  2.33 GO/AO

 

Braden got hammered on the 19th to the tune of 13 hits and 7 runs/4 earned in 5.2 IP. He’s probably next in line should another member of the Oakland rotation fall but I still think that ultimately he’s destined for the bullpen.

 

Dan Meyer: 2 GS  5.00 ERA  9.0 IP  4 H  0 HR  5 BB/5 K  1.63 GO/AO

 

Meyer started the year in extended ST while recovering from appendicitis. Not long after I say he’s toast during a conversation on AN he goes out and pitches 6 ho-hit innings for the River Cats. I still don’t see where he’s going to get an opportunity to strut his stuff in Oakland but I think for now I’ll keep my culinary commentary to myself.

 

Jerry Blevins: 5 G  6.00 ERA  6.0 IP  10 H  1 HR  1 BB/7 K  3.67 GO/AO

 

Blevins gave up 7 hits and 4 earned runs in his first two appearances. Since then he’s pitched 5 innings and only allowed 3 hits and a walk while striking out 4.

 

Landon Powell had been a slow starter the previous two seasons and 2008 has followed the same pattern. Powell is currently hitting (if you could call it that) 154/324/308 in 26 at bats while platooning with Justin Knoedler behind the plate. Expect Powell to get more playing time as his surgically repaired (again) knee gets stronger. Petit is sporting a .290 batting average but his .310 OBP and .362 Slugging doesn’t bode well for the future. Jeff Gray has been steady with a 3.86 ERA and 8 K’s in 9.1 IP. Kevin Melillo, like Dan Meyer, started the year in extended ST while recovering from off-season wrist surgery but has since returned to Sac’s line-up and is hitless in 8 at bats.

 

Looking at the non-40 man crew Todd Linden is making a strong argument that at the very least he should have been allowed to go to Japan by hitting 351/471/614 with 6 doubles, 3 home runs and 12 walks/17 strike outs in 57 at bats. Internet superstar Brad Ziegler hasn’t given up an earned run in 7.0 IP while Brad Kilby and Ryan Wing have been almost as effective when coming out of the River Cat’s bullpen. Between these three and Jeff Gray I think the A’s can find at least 1 cheap and effective bullpen arm to replace Foulke and/or Embree come July. Yes, I’m already thinking about trade scenarios. Why? Well, my wife thinks it has something to do with me having a God complex. I think she shouldn’t interrupt her daily supplication to my shrine just to make a smart-ass comment.

 

AA

 

Most of Midland’s talent can be found in the pitching staff. Uber-prospect Henry Rodriguez made his AA debut tonight and struggled through 4 innings and 89 pitches, allowing 5 hits and 6 walks while striking out 2. He did manage to limit the damage by only giving up 2 earned runs.

 

Ryan Webb: 3 G/2 GS  0.51 ERA  17.2 IP  12 H  0 HR  7 BB/9 K  1.71 GO/AO

 

Early scouting reports have Webb’s fastball in the 94-95 MPH range, a sizable bump from the 89-91 heat he was throwing last year. He just turned 22, and at 6’6” 205 lbs he’s certainly got the frame for this increase to be legit. That said, his peripheral numbers don’t support a 0.51 ERA.

 

Andrew Bailey: 3 GS  3.86 ERA  14.0 IP  11 H  7 BB/11 K  1.64 GO/AO

 

Bailey’s 1st start for Midland was excellent, giving up an unearned run over 6 IP while giving up 2 hits, 2 walks and striking out 7. But in his last two starts he’s allowed 8 runs/6 earned over 8 IP while walking 5 and striking out 4.

 

James Simmons: 3 GS  1.64 ERA  11.0 IP  12 H  2 HR  2 BB/10K  1.09 GO/AO

 

Simmons started on a very strict pitch count due to a minor arm injury during ST, in fact, he didn’t make it past the 3rd inning until his last start on the 18th. He took the loss at San Antonio but he threw 81 pitches and went 5 innings, giving up 4 hits and a walk while allowing 1 earned run and striking out 4. Even better, he managed 7 GO to 4 AO.

 

Probably the best pitching performances have come from relief pitchers Jay Marshall and Pat Currin.

 

Marshall: 7 G  1.42 ERA  12.2 IP  11 H  0 HR  0 BB/9 K  3.29 GO/AO

Currin: 3 G  0.00 ERA  6.2 IP  1 H  0 HR  1 BB/6 K  2.75 GO/AO

 

Currin, an early season call-up from Stockton, has allowed a combined 2 earned runs over 12.2 IP while striking out 14. I see the potential for some early upward movement from one of these guys, probably Marshall since he’s 25 and has a year in the Show. Sac’s Troy Cate hasn’t exactly dominated thus far and if he doesn’t turn it around while these guys keep putting up goose eggs he might be packing his bags.

 

When it comes to the hitters, the guys who show up in the preseason prospect books are all doing poorly. Cliff Pennington has 407 OBP thanks to 17 walks in 64 AB but he’s hitting… and I use that term loosely… .250 with a .281 Slugging. Lefties are holding him to a .450 OPS and that is a 15 at bat trend that has carried over from last year. Anthony Recker is hitting .220 with 22 K’s in 50 at bats. I know I have a bit of a rep as a strike out Nazi but you cannot strike out 44% of the time in the minors and expect to become a big league hitter! Justin Sellers is splitting time at 2B and SS with Pennington and unfortunately  seems to be taking batting tips from Moneypenny as well. Sellers is currently sporting a 208/310/229 line.

 

More then a few folks have noticed 23 year old Jesus Guzman’s early season hotness. Hard not to considering he’s hitting 394/413/577. Don’t get too hopeful, this is his third season in AA, he’s walked 3 times vs. 16 strike outs and has gone 3-24 in the past week.

 

Keep an eye on OFer Adam Klein. A 48th round pick in 2007, the A’s bumped him from Rookie league ball last year to AA because he’s 24 years old. I mention him because he draws walks, has some speed and if he doesn’t produce right away he’s destined to disappear very quickly.

 

High-A

 

The tasty goodness that was once the Stockton rotation has already started to sour. Henry Rodriguez, as previously mentioned, has been promoted to Midland while Fautino De Los Santos has struggled.

 

DLS: 4 GS  7.00 ERA  18.0 IP  22 H  3 HR  10 BB/22 K  1.29 GO/AO

 

His first 2 starts were good but his last two were shaky and horrendous, respectively. I know it’s early and the Cal League can be tough on pitchers but I’ve seen a scouting report that clocked his fastball in the high-80’s to low-90’s. DLS was consistently hitting 96-97 last year so this drop-off is worrisome. Maybe the cool April weather has slowed down the Dominican native and his fastball will warm up with the weather, that’s not an unheard of phenomenon. At this point, it’s just something to keep an eye on.

 

Brett Anderson: 4 GS  2.66 ERA  20.1 IP  17 H  0 HR  5 BB/23 K  1.64 GO/AO

 

So Mr. Anderson had a bad day on April 15th and it had nothing to do with the IRS. San Jose creamed him to the tune of 9 hits and 6 earned runs in 2.1 IP. What happened? Going through the game log, Anderson gave up 5 groundball hits including 2 that never left the infield and 1 that went into Left Field for a triple. I’m not exactly sure how a groundball to LF ends up a triple unless there’s a funky carom or a defensive miscue involved, either way Mr. Anderson (and yes, I am hearing Agent Smith’s voice every time I say Mr. Anderson) was a little unlucky on the 15th. Let me further assuage your fears, in his other 3 GS Brett put together the following line:

 

18.0 IP  0 R  8 H  4 BB/22 K

 

Mr. Anderson definitely took his green and gold pill on these starts.

 

Trevor Cahill: 3 GS  0.50 ERA  18.0 IP  9 H  0 HR  2 BB/21 K  4 HB  2.11 GO/AO

 

I mentioned the 4 HB because it indicates one of two things: either Cahill loves to pitch inside or he’d rather plunk a guy then walk him. Both traits work for me! I mentioned earlier that Ryan Webb’s peripheral’s didn’t support his 0.51 ERA, this is the line you’d expect from a pitcher with a 0.50 ERA! This is dominance.

 

It appears that the Ports are using a split starter sequence to fill the 4th and 5th rotation slots as Jason Fernandez and Jared Lansford split a game between them on the 17th while Graham Godfrey and  Jason Glushon did the same on the 19th. Two games do not a trend make so we’ll see how this plays out. 2007 5th round pick Andrew Carignan has racked up 4 Saves and 13 K’s in 8 IP as the Ports’ closer.

 

So why did Henry Rodriguez get the call to Midland ahead of Anderson or Cahill? Part of it has to do with Rodriguez being a year old at 21 but more importantly Rodriguez is already on the 40 man roster and I think the A’s are secretly hoping that he’ll be ready for Oakland before the end of 2008. Again, this is just a guess on my part but if Rodriguez is kicking AA ass come July he’d be poised for a shot at Oakland’s rotation if a spot opens up do to a trade of a certain Cupcake. Just thinking out-loud here. At the very least he’d get bumped to AAA and then be first in line come 2009.

 

I’ve actually got good news on the offensive side of the ledger!

 

Sean Doolittle: 18 G  69 AB  5 Dbl  1 Tpl  6 HR  9 BB/20 K  319/388/681

 

When Doolittle got drafted last year the big question was how much power would he have. The A’s worked with him in camp to better incorporate his lower half into his swing and the early returns are promising. Doolittle has been splitting time between 1B and DH (sharing with Chris Carter) and has seen a couple spot starts in the outfield. I don’t know if the A’s are seriously trying with the idea of converting him to the OF full time but I do know he hasn’t spiked himself in his early attempts.

 

Chris Carter: 17 G  62 AB  1 Dbl  2 Tpl  5 HR  10 BB/18 K  226/342/548

 

The overall numbers don’t look too hot but over his last 5 games Carter has gone 9-17 with a double, 5 HR and 6 walks while striking out twice. I’d say his numbers will be trending upwards very soon.

 

Matt Sulentic: 15 G  47 AB  3 Dbl  1 Tpl  1 HR  11 BB/14 K  319/441/489

 

Sulentic had a rough 2007 so a good start was important. Still just 20 years old, the A’s can afford to let Sulentic get comfortable in Stockton and thrive.

 

Jermaine Mitchell: 15 G  51 AB  4 Dbl  1 HR  7 BB/21 K  294/390/431

 

Another nice start but I look at the strike outs and I wonder how long it will last. Ryan Howard strikes out a lot but he helps justifies it by hitting 40+ HR a year. Not even Howard strikes out 40% of the time. So I’m going to take a stand on this, forget all the other numbers, just keep an eye on the strike out rate. It’s got to come down or Mitchell will bust.

 

Low-A

 

Back to the normal way of things, where the talent can be found in the pitching staff and not so much in the line-up. Corey Brown is the only Cougar hitter of note at this time.

 

Brown: 16 G  66 AB  4 Dbl  1 Tpl  5 HR  10 BB/21 K  333/421/652

 

Brown has certainly delivered over the last 10 games, going 15-41 with 3 doubles, a triple and 4 HR while carrying an 8 BB/10 K ratio. That comes out to a line of 366/469/780. He’s had a good couple weeks but if he continues to show this kind of pop and plate discipline he’ll get a quick promotion.

 

The Cougars have 4 pitchers that want your love and devotion. Actually, closer Scott Moore is insistent on leaving Kane County as he’s posted 3 Saves while striking out 11 in 6.1 IP. Moore spent all last year with the Cougars and he’s requesting a change o’ scenery. Scott Mitchinson, a AAA Rule 5 pick last December is 23 years old and will probably get a crack at Stockton when one of Cahill or Anderson gets promoted. Travis Banwart (4th round, 2007) has put up a solid line so far:

 

Banwart: 3 GS  3.38 ERA  16.0 IP  19 H  3 BB/15 K  1.46 GO/AO

 

I expect him to anchor the Cougar’s rotation until at least mid-season. The A’s have so many arms ahead of him that his lack of a plus pitch is going to keep him on the back-burner for now.

 

Craig Italiano: 3 GS  1.93 ERA  14.0 IP  10 H  1 HR  4 BB/24 K

 

Italiano only lasted 4.1 IP in his last start but that was only because he had reached his pitch count while striking out 10. In his last 10 IP Italiano has struck out 19 while walking 2 and yielding 5 hits. Craig needs to log innings after missing most of the last two seasons do to various injuries and I imagine the A’s plan on keeping him in Kane County for the duration of 2008. Then again, if he keeps striking out 2 guys an inning he may force a promotion!

 

I brought up the 40 man roster for a reason but I seem to have run a tad long. Maybe I’ll save that bit for another post. Hope you enjoyed this, if not, keep your opinions to yourself. Taj is up next week so I bid you adieu.

 

I need a theme song for my close.

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