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Monday Morning Minors

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Ah the first MMM. The minor leagues got underway a week and a half ago, so we don't have a ton of data to look at. For this first edition I will throw out a few things to look for this season, players to watch, etc. I know there are a lot of AN regulars who are both knowledgeable and opinionated on this general subject, so I hope they will speak up. It isn't easy to get reliable news on a lot of these guys, so if you know something I don't, put it in the comments or e-mail me at Brian_Durack@hotmail.com.

Something interesting to watch is the performance of Shane Komine (RHP, 26 years old, 2002 draftee). After missing more than half of 2005 with elbow issues, Komine shined in his few games at the end of the season. He had a 3.16 ERA with 33 Ks in 31 1/3 innings at AA, and posted a 1.14 ERA in 23 2/3 innings in the glorified batting practice that is the Arizona Fall League. You can't overlook his age, but if he can put things together this season, the A's may be able to get some service out of him down the road. It's early, so we can't read too much into his 2 starts this season (mixed results, 3.97 ERA, but 3 Ks in 11 1/3), but he will be very interesting to follow this year.

Since Landon Powell (24th overall, 2004) missed all of last season, Kurt Suzuki (67th overall, 2004) defaulted to the "top catching prospect". Not that Powell is done or anything, but Suzuki has proven himself worthy. As of Sunday morning, Suzuki had the second highest OBP in all of the minor leagues (.556), and the best average among all catchers in the Texas League (.407). Even though he is young, still just 22, he isn't really expected to develop much power. There are worse things than a catcher with good OBP though. Just ask Jason Kendall (cough).

A quick little update on the high school pitchers drafted in 2005. Craig Italiano (53rd overall) starts in Kane County, and already has 14 Ks in 8 IP (2 starts). Jared Lansford (69th overall) has a sore shoulder and is staying in extended spring training, but should join Kane County before too long. Vincent Mazzaro (101st overall) is also in the Kane County starting rotation. Scott Deal (161st overall) and Kevin Bunch (221st overall) haven't shown up yet, but they aren't injured and are likely in extended spring training. They will land on a roster once the short-seasons starts, or perhaps in Kane County before then.

Jason Windsor (97th overall 2004) had the best pitching performance of the week. Pitching for Midland on the 14th he struck out 7 batters over 6 shutout innings, allowing just 1 hit. In Stockton last season, in the 10 games before he was promoted to AA, he posted a 64:8 K:BB in 55 1/3 innings. Windsor is 23 coming into the season, and is a good candidate to end up in Sacramento before too long.

Speaking of Midland, check out the box score for yesterday's game against Corpus Christi here. Kevin Melillo had 6 hits (his average jumped from .343 to .429) and Jason Perry hit for the cycle. Four players had at least 3 RBI, seven had an extra-base hit, and they scored at least 1 run in all 8 innings they batted in. Corpus put up a 5-spot in the ninth inning, but still lost by double-digits. I think the most amazing thing was that a game, in which 30 runs were scored and 41 hits were mashed out, lasted just over 3 hours.

I don't want to mention the obvious, but in case you didn't know, Daric Barton is good. The 19 year-old catcher turned first baseman is widely considered the best hitting prospect in the system. After ripping through the lower minors last year, he is with Sacramento in 2006, and sporting a .357 average with 7 walks in 8 games. He hit his first home run Sunday and drove in 4 runs.

That brings us to the discussion question for the week: With Daric Barton quickly building steam, will Dan Johnson be traded at some point? It doesn't make a lot of sense to keep Johnson, Swisher, Big Frankie and Barton on the 25-man, so what will give?