A long look at the A's (AA) affiliate, the Midland RockHounds

The Midland RockHounds are leading all of the AA leagues (Texas, Southern, Eastern) in team OPS. I thought I would take a deeper look into the Rockhounds and their roster. There is about one more month before the AA playoffs and I wanted to see where the season has been. I also wanted to see who the players are, with a few that have been, or probably will be, on the AA team.  First the overall team.


About the team-

Midland plays in the 8 team Texas League. Midland's average player age is  24.3 years which is about the 11 youngest team in AA (info here). For reference the A's,  (AAA) Sacramento team average age is 25.5, 2nd youngest of the AAA teams.  Good article on here: The Hardball Times.  AA teams are mostly  built around prospects and most of the A's best ones are there.

The parent organizations of other teams in the Texas League are:  The Colorado Rockies, St.Louis Cardinals, S.D. Padres, Houston Astros, K.C. Royals,  L.A. Angles, and the Texas Rangers. Three of them have been very recent trading partners, one a multiple past trading partner (KC), and two unlikely trading partners (AL West).  If the teams are more comfortable trading with each other because they see the other teams best prospects more often, watch out for an Astros trade.

Midland leads the Texas League with a 63-51 record. That may be because the Midland offense has been truly spectacular this year. I'm going to use OPS for a standard evaluation the rest of this post. I'm not going to try and equalize parks or do anything fancy otherwise. Everyone can quickly figure out a players OPS without much problem and it's good enough for this analysis.

The AA team easily leads the Texas league in team OPS at 811. They also leads all AA teams in all leagues. The Tigers AA affiliate leads the Eastern League at 775, the White Sox affiliate leads the Southern League at 769, and 2nd place in the Texas League is the 747 Royals affiliate.

Furthermore, the 811 team OPS is the most prolific AA team OPS in any AA league in at least over the last 5 years. This is as far as I went back with the best I found in the last 5 years being 794. Which also happened to be the 2005 Midland team with Andre Ethier.  That's kind of impressive. Midland has Three of the top 10 OPS guys in the Texas League in #1 (Carter), Cardenas and Donaldson. And yes, Carter leads all of the AA league's in player OPS.

The pitchers have not been near as impressive as the hitters. The team ERA is 2nd to last in the Texas League at 4.75.   A 4.16 ERA in 2006 with Brad Ziegler was the best the team has done in the last 5 years. You can say Midland is a hitters park for sure and the Texas League a hitters league maybe. Someone else is going to have to tell us by how much. Also with the A's graduating 4 pitchers (Bailey, Cahill, Anderson and Outman) from the AA club last year the cupboard may be a little bare.

Now the player info: a few are not on the AA roster but have been included to provide some perspective.

Top prospects for the A's AA team:   hitters;


Chris Carter 1B-22 yrs- 38D, 21HR, 336/433/574.      1006 OPS. He leads the Texas League in just about every important stat.  BA-336, HR-21, Hits-148, D-38, OBP-433, extra base hits-61, runs-101. 15th round pick in 2007. part of the trade for Dan Haren via Carlos Quentin and the White Sox.  He was the #10 prospect for the Sox in 2007(BA). Has 3 other 900+ OPS seasons.

Carter's OPS is +183 points above the AA team OPS average of  811. remember that number +183.

Grant Desme (2nd round, 2007, 23 yrs)  is probably the only other hitter doing better in the A's organization than Carter,  hitting 1039 OPS for A+ Stockton, but more significantly hitting +309 above the A+ team OPS of 730.  Just to see, ML OPS leader Albert Pujols, has a 1129 OPS or +386 better than the Cardinals team OPS. On to the rest of the guys-

Adrian Cardenas-2B-22 yrs- recently  promoted to AAA. Part of the Joe Blanton trade in 2008. Was the Philly's #2 prospect (BA) last year. And was a #1 pick in 2006. 838 OPS in AA.

Jemile Weeks-2b-22 yrs- A's 1st round pick (12th)  in the 2008 draft. 853 OPS in A+. Put up two 1000+ OPS years in college. recently promoted to AA.

Josh Donaldson-C-24 yrs- Cubs first round pick in 2007. Part of the Rich Harden trade. Has a few 950+ stops in the lower minors. currently 811 OPS.

Cory Brown- CF- 24yrs- 1st round sand pick Oakland (#59) 2007. 1229 OPS his last year of college. his lowest OPS in four low A stops has been 842 with a current 910.

Tommy Everidge-1st-27 yrs.  played his first 55 games at AA this year with a 869 OPS. 10th round 2004. Has had a solid start to his ML career and does not look over-matched like so many other hitters that have come up to the A's the last few years.  His 759 OPS is good for third on the current  ML A's  team, SSS and all.

Mathew Spenser- LF-23 yrs- 3rd rd pick in 2007. Part of the Joe Blanton trade. 853 OPS.  911 OPS last year in A+.

Brett Wallace-3B-23yrs-first round (#13 overall) in 2008. Part of the Matt Holliday trade. #1 ranked prospect for St.L in 2009. played his first 32 games in StL AA team this year with a 841 OPS. Currently has an 760 OPS in 78 AAA games.  The A's were happy to get a #1 prospect 3rd baseman, and I think the Cardinals have been happy with that trade for now with Holliday's 1303 OPS in 16 games.

5 out of those 9 didn't get drafted by Oakland which really shows you the work done the last 1 1/2 years re-stocking the system . And if you notice the A's are only missing a SS.  The A's tried to rectify this by drafting and trading for:

Grant Green-SS-21yr-13th pick in the 1st round 2009. Green put up a OBP heavy OPS of 1000+ his last few years of college. Green could be playing for AA now. If he had signed right away (he has not signed yet) he could have been put in A+ and then been promoted by now or soon if he hit well. This dose not happen often but  Wallace did it.  The A's then hedged their bets by trading for a hi-upside SS in:

Tyler Ladendorf, SS, 21 yrs.  2nd round 2008, from the Twins in the Orlando Cabrera deal. He put up a fat OPS his last year in college and went 65/65 in SB his freshman year. OPS of 728 in the 87 low A games he has had to start his career and he would need an extended hot streak to make the jump to A+ with AA being a possibility later in 2010.


There you have it.  The A's seems to have decided to target the hi-picks in trades and have done (for what we know at this time) at least a good job in the last few drafts with not picking busts.  They are young, all being around 23 years of age.   This group has helped produced a prolific team OPS which has to be a good sign the A's are on the right track. The team seems to be balanced with good to great offensive prospects (counting the guy's that have been promoted out this year) at every hitting position besides SS.  

Four/Five AA players are playing with the A's with some success right now from last years AA team so it is entirely possible that four/five more will be playing with the 2010 A's with some success this time next year . I may do a future AA pitcher report but that list won't be near as impressive. Someone else will have to do a  perspective of the defense of these hitters mentioned.

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