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Monday Minors Musings: 1.0 (delayed)

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This post was supposed to go up last night (hence the Monday part of the title) but due to an unexplainable technical glitch (me being an idiot) it did not auto-publish at midnight. I know there's been a flurry of minors-related postings over the last 24 hours, but I just thought I'd add my two-cents into the conversation and try to make this a regular Monday-ish posting for all of those out there who may want to know what's going on down on the farm.

Feel free to suggest things you'd like to see in the future regarding the farm teams:

Sacramento River Cats

Record: 5-6, Third Place PCL South Division

First Week Review: The Rivercats' pitching staff has performed just as well as advertised so far in this young season. In 6 of the team's 11 games the pitching staff has held the opposition to 3 runs or less. The starting staff has been particularly sharp so far, as Gio, Los Kirk, Brad Knox and "Diamond" Dallas have all accumulated 2 starts apiece and all sport ERA's under 3.00. Jeff Gray's pitched well in relief in 4 games (3.38 ERA, 3 K's, 1BB) as has AN's own Brad Zeigler, who has yet to allow a run in 4 innings pitched. He's got two strikeouts and hasn't issued a walk yet. Keep it up Brad!

The offense has lagged considerably behind the pitching staff, although that could be changing after tonight's offensive explosion led the Cats to an 11-5 victory over Las Vegas. The Rivercat infielders are not producing anything at the plate and what offense the team can muster has been pretty much concentrated in the bats of CarGon (.885 OPS) with 2 homers, Todd Linden (1.000+ OPS) and Danny Putnam (.934 OPS and 2 homers in only 33 at-bats) who was called up from Midland after Jeff Fiorentino went on the DL with a broken nose sustained in a collision with a first basemen in the 2nd game of the season and will be out "4-6 weeks".

The Hot List: SP Kirk Saarloos, who sports a 2-0 record and a sparkling 2.45 ERA, 1.27 WHiP, 7-1 K-BB ratio and 2.25 grounball/flyball ratio in 11 innings pitched. (which earned him a callup to the big league team yesterday en route to throwing 2 scoreless innings TODAY in Chicago! Congrats Los Kirk!)

The Not List: The RiverCat infield and SP Dan Meyer who got smacked around in his only start of the season a few days ago, only lasting 3 innings and giving up 4 hits, 3 walks and 5 runs.

***Transaction News: Graham Godfrey, one of the pitchers acquired from the Blue Jays for Marco Scutaro, was called up to AAA yesterday  from Stockton in place of the departed Kirk Saarloos. He was called on the 4th inning last night and made his debut, throwing 2 scoreless innings of relief with one strikeout. Depending on how long the injury issues last on the big club, Godfrey might be able to stick with the Cats for a week or so. Good luck Gilbert Godfrey!

Injury News: Grover covered this in his "Minor Minor League Update" but both Richie Robnett and Jeff Fiorentino will be out several weeks with non-major injuries...broken noses and benign stomach tumors and whatnot. Kevin Melillo remains in extended Spring Training rehabbing his wrist injury (will he ever be the same guy who belted 24 homers in 2005?) but is hoping to get back with team this weekend. Shane Komine, who hasn't pitched in what seems like a millennium, also remains in extended Spring Training.

Upcoming: The Cats continue their opening home stand this week, hosting the Tucson Sidewinders (D-Backs affiliate) for the rest of the week.

***Added Bonus: Carlos Gonzalez report courtesy AN's sactownbull:

Went to the Rivercat home opener last night. First time I've ever laid out $90 for minor league tickets but all they had left was two seats right behind home plate. My daughter and I really wanted to check out Carols Gonzalez so we figured what the hell. First off they lost 9-3 but who really gives a damn about the score of a minor league baseball game? We saw what we came to see. Is CarGon the real deal? Yes, very much so. His 2 for 3 night isn't what caught our eye, even though it was impressive seeing him go the other way for both hits . Stories are already flying around town about him being lazy and shows a lack of hustle. One ball in the gap was all it took to see where this is coming from. When the ball came off the bat, the only question we had was if it was in the park or not. Extra bases was the best case scenario. Gonzalez not only got to the ball, but did so in a manner so smooth it looked like he wasn't even running hard. But this cat was MOVING make no mistake. Later there was another shot that did get into the gap, it was a up and over the left fielder (Danny Putnum) maybe 10-15 feet to his left. As the ball came off the wall on the first hop Gonzalez beat Putnum to the wall, as arriving in full "glide" to take it and fire it back into the infield. He throws and swings much the same way as he runs. Smooth really should be this cat's nickname. Things just look so easy to this dude that some people are going to be mistaking it for laziness. There's a lot of talk about making him a right fielder due to his arm strength. I really do think that would be a mistake. The amount of ground he covers makes him extremely valuable in center. But wherever he plays one thing is for sure, it's not going to be in Sacramento for very long.

Midland Rockhounds

Record: 9-2, 1st place Texas League South Division

Week in Review: At the beginning of the season, I wouldn't have thought that the Midland Rockhounds would be the team to beat in the Texas League after a few weeks of competition. But alas, they have proven me wrong. The Hounds have pretty much man-handled the two teams they've faced so far this season (the Arkansas Travelers - Angels affiliate & Springfield Cardinals - St Louis affiliate) by outscoring them 62 - 35 over the first 10 games. The Rock Hounds lead the league in team batting average (.291) and team-ERA (2.48) so they are winning games on both sides of the field.

ROTATION

On the pitching side of things, Vince Mazzaro seems like he has made the transition from Stockton to Midland relatively easily, even as a 21-year old, as he was the team's Opening Night starter and has gone 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in 12 innings. No doubt Vince has pitched well and has a promising arm, but I expect those numbers to rise considerably over the course of the season, as Mazzaro still isn't striking anybody out (only 4 K's so far) and his BABIP-against has been extremely lucky at .250 in his two starts. Don't be surprised if he starts to get hit around a bit as all the balls he puts into play start falling for hits.

James Simmons, the other early-20's righty in the Midland rotation, is still being treated with kid-gloves by the organization, as he was limited to only 3 innings in each of the two games he started, even though he's been pitching well, only allowing 1 run in those 6 innings, while striking out 6 and allowing only one walk. Turn the kid loose, already!

BULLPEN

After a whirlwind calendar year that saw him spend an entire season in the majors before being placed on waivers once, getting claimed by the Red Sox, then getting placed on waivers twice, getting re-claimed by Oakland, then getting placed on waivers a third time before clearing them, Jay Marshall is finally back where his talent dictates he should be: at Double-A. He's responded by pitching well to both lefties and righties, pitching 8 innings, allowing only 1 run and striking out 7 without any walks.

OFFENSE

The Midland offense so far has largely been the doing of one man. Texas League Player of the Week INF Jesus Guzman is caliente, caliente, caliente! He got hot in the first week of the season and hasn't cooled off...at all. Overall, he's sports 1.321 OPS with three homers and a .535 batting average (the highest in the league). He also has a couple stolen bases. Guzman was signed as a minor league free agent this past off-season after spending 2004-2007 in the Mariners' chain. He's always had a promising bat for a middle infielder (.803 career OPS) but his defense has not been stellar. He's currently playing a lot of 3rd & 2nd in Midland and not embarrassing himself, so he'll get every opportunity to stay hot

A key supporting role has been played by Cliff Pennington, who is batting leadoff for the Hounds and sporting a .451 OBP buoyed by an unheard-of 13-6 walk-to-strikeout ratio. How can a guy with that type of strike-zone judgment not manage to bat close to .300 or slug over .400 for his career? I'm still holding out hope that Cliff turns a corner this season...

Organizational soldier Myron Leslie has also provided some key hits and RBI's for the Hounds offense so far (including a game-winning homerun in a come-from-behind victory last week). The Creole-hitting maching Jon Zeringue has also provided a major boost to the Rockhound offense, feasting on left-handed pitching, belting 4 homers and sporting a robust .949 OPS.

Cold as ice: C Anthony Recker's struggles from his AA-callup at the tail end of last season have persisted into 2008, as he's only mustered a meager .548 OPS this season. He's also faced some criticism for some of his blocking work behind the plate, so he's clearly got some work to do.

Injury News: The "Harden of the A's Minor League System" Javier Herrera has still not seen any game action in Midland so far as he remains in extended Spring Training rehabbing a recurring hamstring problem. The clock is ticking, Javy!

Upcoming: After losing last night 3-2 in 10 innings, The Hounds have one more home game against usual punching bags Springfield Cardinals tonight, and an off-day on Wednesday, before heading off to San Antonio to face the Missions (Padres affiliate) for a four game series starting Thursday.

Stockton Ports

Record: 7-5, Second Place California League North Division

Week in Review: After an up and down first week of the season where their offense often failed to reward the stellar efforts of the supremely talented starting staff, the Ports have finally come around to put in some well-rounded efforts, entering Monday night riding a 4-game winning streak. Overall, as was predicted by all the "experts" out there, the Ports have been carried by their starters so far and will probably continue to be for the rest of the reason.

ROTATION

All of the "Big Four" Stockton starters have impressed so far. Fautino de Los Santos leads the bunch as he was the team's Opening Night starter and has started 3 games total, one more than the others. So far, he's gone 1-2, with a 3.94 ERA. Overall, he's shown glimpses of what he can be, with his 20 K's in 16 innings, but he's also shown that he has a lot of work to do. The big knock on Santos before this season was that he was just a "thrower" who used his high-90's heat and slider to overpower unassuming A-ball hitters, and that he'd need to improve his control and learn how to really "pitch" in order to be successful at the higher levels. Well, unfortunately Santos still needs to work on that goal, as his WHiP currently stands at 1.44, which is not where a potential ace of a big league staff wants to be.

Henry Rodriguez dominated during his first two starts with 16 K's and 5 walks over 11 innings, and only allowed 1 earned run, but ran into some trouble tonight. He lasted 6 innings, but gave up 4 runs, even though he struck out 8 without walking anybody. Even though he earned the loss, his ERA after three starts still sits at a very nice 1.59. I'm really hoping that Rodriguez can progress up through the system as a starter, since having someone with his repertoire in the big league rotation would truly be a sight to behold!

Trevor Cahill has one-upped Rodriguez in terms of ERA, as his mark is even lower after two starts, currently standing at 0.75 ERA. Cahill's ball and strike control has been impeccable as he sports a 12-1 K-BB ratio, although he has hit 3 batters, which leads the team. He has only allowed 1 run in his 12 innings and has yielded only 8 hits which ties him with Brett Anderson for the best WHiP on the team, 0.67.

CALLUP ALERT: And speaking of Anderson, he's been simply marvelous so far this season. He's gone 2-0, without allowing a run in 12 innings, striking out 13, only walking 3, only allowing 5 hits and not hitting anybody. Before the season started, there was some debate about whether Anderson should be assigned to Double-A Midland to being 2008, even though he's currently only 20 years old! Well, if he keeps pitching this way, there's no doubt that Anderson will be in Midland before long.

The only blight on the starting staff so far has been Jared Lansford, who turned in the worst starts so far for the Ports, only tallying 8 innings pitched, and giving up 13 hits and 8 runs. The good news for Jared is that his control was solid, as he tallied an 8-1 K-BB ratio. But clearly, Jared is going to be the weakest link of this rotation...which isn't such a dishonor when you look at the talent in front of him.

BULLPEN

Good: Andrew Carignan just continues to roll on from his UNC closer days, as he already has 2 saves and 8 strikeouts in 6 innings of work. Arnold Leon has also made a strong impression out of the bullpen, tossing 5 innings of scoreless ball, striking out 7 and walking only 2.

Bad: Sam Demel's Stockton struggles continue into this season as he currently sports a 6.00+ ERA and a 2.33 WHiP after only 3 innings of work. Seeing as how Demel was taken a round before Carignan in last year's draft, you'd like to see him perform with the same success as his compatriot.

OFFENSE

Good: Sean Doolittle is making a believer out of all those skeptics out there who questioned whether a) he should have been drafted as a pitcher instead of a 1st baseman, and b) whether he'll ever hit for power. Doolittle leads the Ports with a 1.037 OPS and 3 homers and leads the entire California League with 14 RBI's. He's also played one game in the outfield, which could be sign of things to come, as Doolittle might be blocked at the upper levels of the system as a left-handed hitting first baseman. Archie Gilbert, Mr. Cal State - East Bay and Hayward native, has also made an impact on the Ports offense, as he has served as the team's primary leadoff hitter, getting on base at .423 pace and also hitting for some average (.372) and power (.512 SLG) with a homer and 3 doubles.

Bad: After moving into the hitter friendly California League, big things were expected out of BA's #10 A's prospect Chris Carter. So far, Carter's failed to live up to the billing, as he's flailed to the tune of .469 OPS, with only 1 RBI and 5 hits in 38 at-bats. He's also only walked 4 times against 13 strikeouts. Carter's got the ability to hit 25+ homeruns in the Cal League, but he's gotta get hot soon to do that.

Upcoming: The Ports continue their 3-game set against the San Jose Giants (SF Giants affiliate) tonight at 7:05pm in the South Bay., before coming home for a four game set against the RC Quakes (Angels) to conclude the week.

Kane County Cougars

Record: 11-1, First Place Midwest League

Week in Review: For one day (yesterday), the Kane County Cougars were the only undefeated team left in minor league baseball...but that all ended last night as the Cougars lost their first game of the season against the South Bend Skyhawks by a score of 5-4. But while the thought of a completely undefeated season was certainly exciting, this will now take the pressure off the Cougars and allow them just to continue playing great baseball, which is what made them undefeated in the first place.

ROTATION

Craig Italiano is the talk of the town so far in Geneva, IL. After sustaining a nasty skull fracture last season on a line-drive back to the mound that ended his season (and nearly his career) Craig has returned triumphantly to the mound of a professional baseball team. Craig was the Cougars' Opening Night Starter and has lived up to the billing of an ace so far this season, as he's currently 1-0, with a 1.93 ERA in 13.1 innings of work, to go along with a wicked 24-4 K-BB ratio.  Despite last season's setback, Craig's still only 21 years old with a lively, fresh arm that can reach back into the upper-90s. He's got the talent to succeed at the higher levels.

Italiano has been flanked by two command-and-control righties in Travis Banwart and Scott Mitchinson. Both righties have started two games apiece and have pitched well, combining for a 2.50 ERA in 19 innings total, with an aggregate K-BB ratio of 22-5.

BULLPEN

It's been closer-by-committee so far in Kane County as non-prospects Scott Moore and Jose Fragoso have tallied saves for the Cougars and even "Real Wives of Orange County" star and usual-outfielder Shane Keough has logged some work out of the pen (throwing a scoreless 17th inning Sunday night when every other pitcher had been maxed out). Lefty Brendan Dewing and Scott Deal seem to be getting the most innings out of the bullpen and have been pitching well, each having ERA's under 1.50. Lefty Brad Hertzler has also gotten a lot of innings as kind of a "second-starter" coming in for the middle innings and staying out there to set up the late-game relievers. He's got a 0.96 ERA in 9 innings pitched.

OFFENSE

The Good: The third time is the charm so far for Kane County vet Toddric Johnson, who begins 2008 in his 3rd cycle through Low-A ball.  The 5-toolish outfielder leads the Cougars with a .857 OPS, with 3 homers and a .267 average. Greg Dowling has provided most of the punch for the Cougars, leading the team with a 1.062 OPS with 4 doubles and 10 RBI's.

The Bad: The infield, as all the bats have been underwhelming and the infield squad has already committed 7 errors.

Upcoming: The Cougars have one more day game tomorrow at 10am PST against South Bend before hitting the road this weekend to take on the fearsome Lansing Lugnuts!

What the "Experts" Are Saying About A's Prospects

- Alex Eisenberg over at the Hardball Times lists DL-ed Midland outfielder Aaron Cunningham as a "Hitting prospect to watch in 2008"...Eisenberg breaks down Aaron's career stats, lists some things for him to work on and even includes a nifty slow-motion window of Aaron's swing.

- John Perrotto over at Baseball Prospectus lists CarGon as a possible  "Impact Callup" (subscription required) in his weekly "Every Given Sunday" column. Perrotto remarks that CarGon could take over center field at the big-league level sometime soon and provide a 2.9 WARP, which is what exactly, Staturday-nians?

- Baseball America ranks Stockton SP Brett Anderson as #5 on their first-of-the-season "Prospect Hot Sheet". BA mentions that Anderson's stats so far are very impressive for the hitter-friendly California League.