Monday Morning Minors Musings: Post-Season Edition

(I apologize for not being able to produce a MMMM report last week - I was being kept abnormally busy and was working abnormally long hours due to Hurricane Gustav and will probably be doing the same thing next weekend for Hurricane Ike, but no matter...let's get rollin')

News and Notes

1. The RiverCats wrapped up their 3 games to 1, 1st round series win over the Salt Lake Bees (Angels' affiliate) on Saturday with an 8-3 win. The Cats, after dropping the first game of the series on Wednesday, responded by taking the next three games and scoring 39 total runs on 16-homers in the 4-game set. Chris Denorfia, Brooks Conrad, Donnie Murhpy and Jeff Baisley all hit more than one homer in the series, while Travis Buck, Cargon and Justin Knoedler hit one apiece. Vince Mazzaro, still going strong in his very impressive break-out season, pitched well for the Cats in the clincher, throwing 7 innings of 5-hit, 2-run ball with 6 K's and 4 walks.

The Cats will look to repeat as PCL champions in the league championship series which begin on Tuesday.

2. The Stockton Ports defeated the Modesto Nuts (Rockies' affiliate) 2 games to 1 in the first round of the California League playoffs. The Ports got into a bit of a trouble after giving up a late lead in the 1st game of their league semi-final series against the San Jose Giants (SF affiliate). Up 3-1 going into the 8th, Stockton reliever Pat Currin coughed up a 4-spot in the inning and the Giants helf on for a 5-3 win.

The Ports came back in a big way last night though, as they clawed back from an early 3-0 deficit to post rallies in the 4th, 7th and 9th innings and squeak out a 7-6 victory to even the series. Josh Donaldson (Harden trade) homered for the 2nd straight game. 2008 2nd round draft pick Tyson Ross made his High-A debut for the Ports as the starter in the game. Tyson allowed 3 unearned runs in 5 innings after his throwing error in the 3rd opened up the initial San Jose rally, but besides that he didn't seem intimidated by the slightly more advanced hitting, as he struck out 5 and only walked 1 in the effort.

3. The Kane County Cougars were bounced from the playoffs in quick fashion after getting swept in their best of the three, 1st-round series against the Burlington Bees (Royals' affiliate). Ironically, Scott Hodsdon and Chad Kerfoot (two of the more consistently good pitchers on the Cougar staff all season) were the two losing pitchers of record in both games. But, in a best of 3 series, there is little room for error, as the big club learned painfully for four straight years from 2000-2003.

(no other A's affiliates made the post-season)

Winter Baseball Assignments

- The A's will be sending LHP Josh Outman, RHP Andrew Bailey, RHP Jared Lansford, RHP Andrew Carignan, INF Adrian Cardenas, Catcher Josh Donaldson and 1B Sean Doolittle as the organization's contingent to the Arizona Fall League, as members of the Phoenix Desert Dogs. The league kicks off play on Tuesday, October 7th and runs through November 22nd.

Typically, teams send their best prospects that are closest to the majors down to the desert to compete against other top prospects. With so much talent bunched in one league, the AFL is a hot-bed of scouting activity and many clubs send players down there in order to showcase them to other clubs in preparation for winter trade talks.

The A's contingent at the AFL reflects the organization's pitching-heavy emphasis. All four pitchers the A's have sent to the league are hard-throwers that could generate trade interest as potential late-inning relievers that could be ready for the majors within a season or season and a half. (Josh Outman, even as he's being used as a reliever in Oakland right now, could be stretched out as a starter during the AFL to see if he could possibly compete for a rotation spot this Spring).

The three position players headed to the desert are intriguing prospects for the A's organization. They will likely be even more intriguing while playing at the AFL since all three will be primarily playing positions they are not used to: Donaldson, normally a catcher, is listed as an infielder on the Desert Dog roster. It's speculated that he could see some time at 3rd base since he played there in college for a spell and maybe some time at 1st. Doolittle is listed as an outfielder, and even though he played some outfield at both Stockton & Midland, he's a strong defensive 1st baseman, so the new assignment is a little weird. Cardenas will likely continue to get reps in at short to see if he can possibly stick there.

- The Stockton Ports will graduate three players to the Hawaii Winter Baseball league, which will begin late this month and will last through late November. Sluggers 1B/3B/DH Chris Carter and OF Corey Brown will head out to the islands and Stockton closer Sam Demel will join them out there. The HWBL just started back up in 2006 after a preliminary stint from 1993 to 1997. The league is unique in that players from Major League Baseball play alongside and against players from the Japanese professional leagues and against independent league players.

Prospects in the Hawaiian League are typically a little further away from the major leagues than their AFL counterparts and might be sent to the league to work on very specific parts of their games. Carter and Brown will likely head out there looking to make more consistent contact while Demel might be looking to refine his control against lefties and be more consistently dominant.


With several A's affiliates now completely finished for the year, I thought I'd take this section of the report to highlight who I think team MVPs are.

AA Midland Rockhounds

Run Prevention MVP: RHP Vince Mazzaro - 12-3, 1.90 ERA, 104-36 K-BB, 137 IP

No real surprise here. Mazzaro had a completely unpredicted breakout season to lead the Midland pitching staff for much of the season. His efforts eventually got him awarded the Texas League Pitcher of the Year honor. He scuffled a bit when he first got bumped up to AAA, but he pitched well in in has last start in a pressure atmosphere. Still just 21 and pitching deep into the season, Mazzaro has rocketed up the prospect charts. He was apparently discussed in deadline trade talks for Jason Bay, so other organizations have certainly taken notice of his emergence. As a very young, durable, near major-league ready starter with above-average potential, Vince is certainly one of the organization's top trading chips as Beane looks to grab a bat or two this off-season.

Run Scoring MVP: OF Aaron Cunningham - .317/.386/.507, 12 homers, 52 RBIs

Cunningham missed the first few weeks of the season with a broken wrist he sustained in Spring Training, but once he got back and in the groove, he fueled the Rockhounds offense. He hit all over the top of the Midland order, proving to be a spark plug in the leadoff or 2nd spots in the order and a consistent run producer in the heart of the order. He also played solid defense in both center and left fields. He tore up AAA in his brief callup and is likely now in the big leagues for good. Aaron's never been thought of as a potential superstar, but he's been a well above-average, consistent player both at the plate and in the field throughout his minor league career and he should be able to develop into a solid regular for the A's for the next 5 years or so.

Low-A Kane County

Run Prevention MVP: RHP Craig Italiano - 7-0, 1.16 ERA, 79-35 K-BB, 70 IP

Italiano was literally unbeatable in 14 starts for the Cougars early in the season. He was undoubtedly aided by the pitching-friendly confines of the Midwest League, but his stats were striking. He got roughed up in his late season callup to Stockton and he had command/efficieny issues all season (since he wasn't lasting deep into games even when dominating at Kane County) but overall it was a thoroughly successful season for the oft-injured Italiano. The guy's got one of the most live arms in the entire system and should be part of a talented Stockton rotation next season.

Run Scoring MVP: OF Corey Brown - .270/.359/.483, 14 homers, 49 RBIs, 12 steals

In a pitching-oriented league, Brown WAS the Cougar offense early in the year. He did a little of everything for the Cougars...hit for power, got on base, stole bases and evened up his average a little bit to boot. He's really taken off in Stockton recently after his late-season promotion, however that breakout has come at the expense of his plate discipline, which made a truly all-around offensive weapon for the Cougars early in the year. He also played solid center field defense in support of the strong Kane County pitching staff and has continued to do so with Stockton. Corey's 23, so his stay in the Cal League could be a quick one as the organization might look to start him in the Texas League next season.

Short-season Season Vancouver Canadians

Run Prevention MVP: RHP Shawn Haviland - 2-3, 3.48 ERA, 61-18 K-BB, 54 IP

Haviland, a 2008 draftee and Harvard alum, provided valuable innings as a swingman for the Canadians. He split his time with the Canadians exactly between starting and relieving: 9 games started, 9 games out of the bullpen. Shawn showed good control and good strikeout stuff in both roles. Shawn will be 23 going into next season and will likely begin the year at Kane County, so he's not a really high-upside type of arm, but he showed enough stuff to be moved up next season and show that he was a nice choice for the A's way back in the 33rd round of the draft.

Run Scoring MVP: SS/2B Jason Christian - .291/.404/.432, 4 homers, 24 RBIs, 13 steals

Christian, a 4th round pick out of Michigan in this year's draft, seemed to do it all for the Canadians and like Corey Brown in Kane County, proved to be the entire Vancouver offense early in the season. Batting in the top of lineup most games, Christian got on-base at an outstanding clip, stole some bases and even showed some power. He faded a bit after his first few weeks in Vancouver, but he obviously showed enough promise to the A's brass that he was promoted to Kane County for the stretch drive and performed well for the Cougars through their playoff run. Christian can do a little bit of everything offensively, but although he was touted as someone that could stick at short long-term, he committed 18 errors in 62 games at the position in Vancouver and spent the majority of his time in Kane County st 2nd. It would be nice to see someone with Jason's skill set stick at short long-term, and he should see some reps at the position next season at Kane County and/or Stockton.

AZL Athletics

Run Prevention MVP: RHP Ryan Doolittle - 2-3, 4.44 ERA, 36-10 K-BB, 1.29 WHiP, 46.2 IP

Sure, the ERA was a little high for Sean's little brother, but overall Doolittle had a successful professional debut after being selected in the 26th round of this year's draft out of an NJ community college. A few very short, very poor outings skewed his numbers, but you can see that he has good control, doesn't allow a lot of basreunners and he has a nice 1.5 to 1 groundball-flyball ratio. That groundball tendency should help him as he moves up through the system as it seems like he's more of a pitch-to-contact type hurler and less of a strikeout guy. Ryan, like fellow 2008 draftee Shawn Haviland, spent equal time in the starting rotation and bullpen for the AZL team, and since he was stretched out successfully during the end of the season, he should be a candidate to start next season in the Vancouver or Kane County rotation(s).

Run Producing MVP: SS Nino Leyja - .312/.384/.448, 1 homer, 25 RBIs, 10 stolen bases

I know it was only 165 at-bats, but Leyja might be the organization's great white hope of producing an impact shortstop within the next few years. Nino, picked in the 15th round of this year's draft out of a Houston-area high school, produced almost immediately after making his pro debut. For a guy that played the entire season as a 17-year old, his offensive numbers were outstanding. He controlled the strikezone (19-31 BB-K), hit for gap power, got on base and stole some bases without getting caught very often. He committed 14 errors in just 40 games at short, but here again, the kid is 17 and he has plenty of time over the next few seasons to improve his footwoork and defense in an effort to stay at shortstop and keep his plus-bat at a premium position. I'd love to see the kid debut next season at a full-season affiliate (Kane County) and see what he can do.

Next week: Season wrap-ups for the RiverCats and the Ports and Top prospect lists!

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