Well, last week was a big improvement over the previous week down on the farm, with the RockHounds snapping their 6-game losing streak and the Ports finally ending their epic 16-game skid. On top of that, first baseman Chris Carter blasted 4 homers for the River Cats, right-hander Daniel Straily struck out 15 in an impressive outing for Midland, and outfielder Dusty Robinson made a great first impression at Stockton, slamming 2 home runs in his first three games after his promotion from Burlington. And to top it all off, I had the chance to talk with A’s assistant general manager David Forst last week to get his read on a number of the A’s top prospects. You can find the complete interview on my Farm blog, and you can find a selection of choice quotes on Derek Norris, , , , Miles Head, A.J. Cole and more right here on Athletics Nation after the jump…
SACRAMENTO RIVER CATS
(Triple-A Pacific Coast League)
Record This Week: 4-2
Record This Season: 29-15
The River Cats went 4-2 again last week, maintaining the second best record in the Pacific Coast League. Their winning ways were propelled by an offense that averaged almost 8 runs per game for the week. The team’s lineup has been led all season by outfielders Brandon Moss and Michael Taylor, with Taylor leading all regulars in batting average and on-base percentage and Moss leading all regulars in slugging percentage and tied for the team home run lead with first baseman Chris Carter. Carter started out the week in a bit of a funk, then hit 4 home runs in 2 games late in the week to tie Moss for the team lead. With shortstop Adam Rosales getting recalled by the A’s, Brandon Hicks took over the everyday duties at shortstop for Sacramento and has been one of the team’s best hitters over the past week. Right-hander Andrew Carignan also returned to the River Cats and has been the team’s best bet out of the bullpen this season, striking out 19 and walking just 1 in 12 1/3 innings. A.J. Griffin, who was Midland’s most reliable starting pitcher, has been shaky in his first 2 starts for Sacramento, giving up 9 runs in 11 innings. Right-hander Brad Peacock also had a rocky outing last week, allowing 5 runs over 6 innings and boosting his ERA to 4.17. Designated hitter Manny Ramirez made his debut with the River Cats in Albuquerque on Saturday night, going 0 for 4 with 3 strikeouts. Let’s hope that’s not Manny being Manny!
Forst on Brad Peacock:
"He’ll put together two good starts in a row then hit a little bit of a speed bump. But overall, his numbers are good…so for us, watching Brad every time out, you want to see a guy put together four, five, six good starts in a row before you feel pretty good about having him here. And I imagine that time is probably not that far off."
Forst on Derek Norris:
"He got raves from the coaching staff from day one on how he handled pitchers and his receiving skills. He’s always been one of the best guys in the minor leagues as far as throwing out baserunners, but we couldn’t be happier with his progress on both sides of the ball…if we were in an emergency situation, I think we could feel comfortable with Derek catching everyday up here, which is a good feeling. But it’s also nice to have the luxury of having two guys up here with experience and knowing that you can have him spend time in Triple-A and not lose anything."
Outfielder Michael Taylor (21 R / 2 HR / 20 RBI / 17 BB / 20 K / .336 AVG / .415 OBP / .516 SLG / .932 OPS)
Outfielder Brandon Moss (23 R / 8 HR / 21 RBI / 14 BB / 23 K / .306 AVG / .376 OBP / .551 SLG / .927 OPS)
Catcher Derek Norris (20 R / 4 HR / 21 RBI / 9 BB / 21 K / .293 AVG / .333 OBP / .500 SLG / .833 OPS)
Pitcher Graham Godfrey (29 2/3 IP / 28 H / 4 ER / 5 BB / 22 K / 1.21 ERA / 1.11 WHIP)
Pitcher Bruce Billings (34 1/3 IP / 26 H / 9 ER / 9 BB / 30 K / 2.36 ERA / 1.02 WHIP)
Pitcher Brad Peacock (45 1/3 IP / 43 H / 21 ER / 16 BB / 43 K / 4.17 ERA / 1.30 WHIP)
Pitcher Andrew Carignan (12 1/3 IP / 6 H / 2 ER / 1 BB / 19 K / 1.46 ERA / 0.57 WHIP)
(Double-A Texas League)
Record This Week: 5-2
Record This Season: 23-20
After going winless in the previous week, Midland turned things around to go 5-2 last week. The team’s starting pitchers kept the RockHounds in almost every game over the past week. With A.J. Griffin called up to Sacramento, right-hander Daniel Straily picked up the slack by striking out 15 in Friday’s game, and he currently leads all A’s minor leaguers in strikeouts with 69 in 52 1/3 innings. Sean Murphy’s also been looking sharp since being given a regular role in the rotation. He tossed 7 1/3 innings while giving up just 1 run in his start last Wednesday, and batters are hitting just .196 against him on the season. Sonny Gray threw 3 scoreless innings on Saturday before leaving the game after being hit on the hand by a comebacker. Left-hander Sean Doolittle has continued to look dominant since his promotion from Stockton, and he’s now struck out 17 while giving up just 2 hits over 10 innings at Midland. The RockHounds’ offense has been a little spotty, but leadoff hitter Conner Crumbliss has been a real sparkplug for the team of late, leading the team in runs and stolen bases, and his on-base percentage of .425 is second only to teammate Shane Peterson’s among all A’s minor leaguers. Top prospect Michael Choice has now hit 3 homers in 159 at bats at Midland.
Forst on Michael Choice:
"I don’t totally know what to make of the power numbers right now, other than to say that we’re not at all concerned about him. I think one thing you know for sure with Michael is that he’s going to hit for power. So I would imagine that we’re going to see a spurt here at some point where he puts together 5 or 6 home runs in a week and brings those numbers right back up. The nice thing is he’s maintained the average…he’s walking, his on-base has been right around .350 all year, and he’s out there everyday and healthy. So I think there are a lot of good indicators when it comes to Michael, and we have no doubt the power numbers will catch up."
Forst on Sonny Gray:
"When you look and his ERA’s in the mid-fours and he’s not quite striking out a batter an inning, we obviously all had high expectations. But again, in Sonny’s first year out, he’s holding his own in Double-A and his stuff has been very good every time out…and I think it’s just a matter of time before Sonny figures it out and his command gets better and he starts putting up some dominating starts at that level."
Forst on Sean Doolittle:
"He’s touching 95-97 mph just about every time out. Obviously with a guy like that…it’s just a matter of working on his changeup and breaking ball. And that’s something we’ve stressed with Sean – not to just throw fastballs by guys but make sure he’s working on that other stuff. But as long as he continues to have success like that, then he’s going to move up the chain."
Outfielder Shane Peterson (25 R / 2 HR / 23 RBI / 36 BB / 39 K / .281 AVG / .449 OBP / .453 SLG / .902 OPS)
Outfielder Conner Crumbliss (31 R / 4 HR / 18 RBI / 32 BB / 24 K / .297 AVG / .425 OBP / .455 SLG / .881 OPS)
Outfielder Jeremy Barfield (30 R / 4 HR / 26 RBI / 10 BB / 20 K / .317 AVG / .359 OBP / .489 SLG / .849 OPS)
First Baseman Anthony Aliotti (18 R / 2 HR / 17 RBI / 13 BB / 37 K / .324 AVG / .397 OBP / .414 SLG / .811 OPS)
Pitcher Murphy Smith (42 1/3 IP / 30 H / 13 ER / 15 BB / 31 K / 2.76 ERA / 1.06 WHIP)
Pitcher Daniel Straily (52 1/3 IP / 45 H / 23 ER / 17 BB / 69 K / 3.96 ERA / 1.18 WHIP)
Pitcher Sean Doolittle (10 IP / 2 H / 1 ER / 4 BB / 17 K / 0.90 ERA / 0.60 WHIP)
(Advanced-A California League)
Record This Week: 2-6
Record This Season: 13-30
After running their losing streak to a truly epic 16 games, the Ports finally snapped their skid then proceeded to win 2 straight. And Stockton is probably one of few teams for which a 2-6 week really is good news! The Ports stand to benefit from the promotion of Burlington’s top slugger, outfielder Dusty Robinson, who currently leads all A’s minor leaguers in home runs with 11. And in his first 3 games with Stockton, Robinson has already homered twice. Infielder Miles Head continues to dominate California League pitchers, and he’s now carrying a healthy slash line of .363/.413/.650. First baseman A.J. Kirby-Jones snapped out of his recent funk and hit 3 homers, drove in 7 runs and raised his batting average to .297 last week. Since joining the Ports, shortstop Yordy Cabrera is 3 for 19 with no extra base hits. And starter A.J. Cole continued his struggles last week, notching his 7th loss and raising his ERA to 7.82.
Forst on A.J. Cole
"He obviously hasn’t performed how anyone would hope…and I’ve spent some time talking with (minor league pitching coordinator) Gil Patterson and (director of player development) Keith Lieppman over the last couple weeks about A.J. to make sure we get a good read on what’s going on. His fastball tops out at 95 mph almost every time out. Gil saw him pitch just the other day and said his secondary pitches were good. Just for whatever reason right now, he’s getting hit, and it’s pretty consistently every time out. We have actually spent some time talking about the best thing for A.J. – whether that’s heading back to the Midwest League or getting some time off from the rotation, something just to make sure he gets some success under his belt."
Forst on Miles Head:
"He just turned 21 a week ago. To come into his first exposure at High-A and put up those kind of numbers has been outstanding. He’s been the best guy on that Stockton team to date and one of our most consistent hitters in all the minor leagues. Miles has done a great job…our history in terms of moving guys up from the California League to Double-A has been to make them do it for at least a full half-season and then see where they are because it is a huge jump."
Forst on Dusty Robinson:
"His slugging numbers have been good from day one. He’s a guy we really did like out of the draft last year…and Dusty’s put up excellent numbers in what is typically a tough hitting environment…but he has been their most consistent offensive performer."
Infielder Miles Head (31 R / 8 HR / 30 RBI / 13 BB / 34 K / .363 AVG / .413 OBP / .650 SLG / 1.062 OPS)
First Baseman A.J. Kirby-Jones (18 R / 8 HR / 25 RBI / 26 BB / 44 K / .297 AVG / .410 OBP / .514 SLG / .924 OPS)
Outfielder Josh Whitaker (20 R / 3 HR / 13 RBI / 17 BB / 52 K / .241 AVG / .325 OBP / .359 SLG / .684 OPS)
Pitcher T.J. Walz (47 2/3 IP / 50 H / 20 ER / 10 BB / 49 K / 3.78 ERA / 1.26 WHIP)
Pitcher Blake Treinen (50 IP / 52 H / 23 ER / 10 BB / 40 K / 4.14 ERA / 1.24 WHIP)
(Class-A Midwest League)
Record This Week: 3-4
Record This Season: 20-23
With a shaky offense, Burlington’s pitching staff has really been carrying the load for the Bees for most of the season. The rotation has been led by right-handers Drew Granier and Sean Murphy, both of whom boast ERAs below 2.00 more than 6 weeks into the season. The dynamic duo has also managed to strike out 105 batters in 102 innings. With the team’s only true consistent offensive force, outfielder Dusty Robinson, promoted to Stockton, the Bees are going to need someone in their lineup to really step up his game. Shortstop Sean Jamieson has provided a bit of a spark of late and is now leading the team in walks and on-base percentage and is leading all A’s minor leaguers in stolen bases with 13.
Forst on Drew Granier & Sean Murphy:
"They’ve definitely opened up some eyes with their performance there and are in the conversation to move up at some point. Both guys have done well. Burlington’s right around .500, with not a lot of offensive performance to date. So it’s clearly been the pitching staff’s that’s carried them, and those guys have been as good as anyone."
Forst on Raul Alcantara:
"Raul will pitch all year at 19, so age is very much on his side…he really is very much in the development stage, working on both his secondary pitches and fastball command – the basic fundamentals you need a young pitcher to work on. And while he’s there, he’s holding his own, which is what you sort of hope for out of a 19-year-old."
Shortstop Sean Jamieson (25 R / 2 HR / 14 RBI / 20 BB / 28 K / .264 AVG / .370 OBP / .396 SLG / .766 OPS)
Third baseman B.A. Vollmuth (22 R / 4 HR / 28 RBI / 16 BB / 48 K / .261 AVG / .330 OBP / .406 SLG / .736 OPS)
Outfielder Royce Consigli (16 R / 4 HR / 16 RBI / 15 BB / 20 K / .233 AVG / .316 OBP / .417 SLG / .733 OPS)
Pitcher Drew Granier (51 2/3 IP / 43 H / 10 ER / 17 BB / 53 K / 1.74 ERA / 1.16 WHIP)
Pitcher Sean Murphy (50 1/3 IP / 35 H / 11 ER / 17 BB / 52 K / 1.97 ERA / 1.03 WHIP)
You can check out my blog - Athletics Farm - for the complete interview with A's assistant GM David Forst and for daily updates on the A’s minor league teams and all the top prospects down on the farm.