The Big Club wasn't the only Oakland-affiliated team romping on their Los Angeles/Anaheim counterparts Monday evening. On a gorgeous Southern California night the Single-A Stockton Ports butchered the host Rancho Cucamonga Quakes to the tune of 8-1. AN correspondent and faux minor league expert Taj Adib took in the game and came away impressed with several A's minor leaguers that could be up to the Show within a few seasons. Here's what he saw with his own eyes for once:
I got the short end of the stick and wasn't able to catch any of the games where any of the vaunted threesome of Cahill, de los Santos and Anderson started, so I had to settle for the "weak link" Jason Fernandez. Usually I'd be disappointed, but I kind of enjoyed seeing a lesser name pitch tonight. Fernandez wasn't spectacular, but he got the job done, throwing 7 innings of 1 run ball. He allowed 5 hits, struck-out four and surrendered two walks. Fernandez might be a decent middle reliever in time. He was throwing two kinds of a 89-91mph fastball (two-seamer that seems to come in on the hands of righties and four seemer that seems pretty straight-line down the middle). He's also got a nice, tight slider that he bored into lefties and induced a few weak groundalls. I saw only one 80-mph changeup from Jason and it kind of sailed high and tight on a righty so I assume it's a work-in-progress. Overall, he wasn't blowing anyone away, but he was able to get weakly hit balss when he needed them.
Offensively, the team got contribution's all over the lineup, amassing ten hits and getting RBI's from six different spots in the order. Little Archie Gilbert (below) is everything I thought he'd be (pint-sized but packing a whallop out of the leadoff spot).
One third of the heart of the order produced, as Chris Carter, a true hulk of a human being, went 2-for-4 with an RBI-single and a long double, both of which seemed to be off the end of his bat, but still struck with enormous velocity. (Carter launching his single below).
Josh Horton, batting in the second spot in the order, didn't impress me much either with the bat or in the field. He has a great batting eye as his OBP's from yesteryear and college imply, but he seemed to work a great count and not be able to capitalize on the hittable pitches. He completely missed a batting practice 2-1 fastball down the middle and ended up striking out late in the game. He could be Cliff Pennington redux, without the sterling defense, as he's really too lumbering of a guy to stick at short long-term.
Sean Doolittle, my new favorite A's prospect, also didn't impress much at the plate tonight, but with the way he's been mashing the ball up to this point, I'd chalk his o-fer tonight up to the baseball gods. Even without the bat Sean contributed to the victory though, as his first-base glove was even better than advertised. Early in the game he ranged into foul territory and the early-evening shadows to pull down a nice pop-up and throughout the game he contorted his right arm to sweep-up a variety of low and errant throws in the dirt. Later in the game he snagged a one-hopper heading down the line to his left, popped up from the ground, fired to second for the first out and even got back to the bag to back-up the pitcher for the second out at first. I've never seen a first baseman turn a DP so quickly, and even my baseball novice girlfriend took notice: peaking up from her magazine to say, "ooooh, that was pretty exciting."
Two other guys impressed me with their bats tonite. The first was Stockton-vet utilityman Mike Affronti, playing 2nd base tonight. Affronti had a nice first at-bat where he a got ahead of an off-speed pitch, but still managed to stay back enough to punch it opposite-field down the right-field line for a double. He also used his nice inside-out swing to pop a single into right-center field later in the game.
The other guy that impressed me was baby-faced Matt Sulentic. This guy looks like a freakin' little leaguer. He's about 5'8'' and really not very bulky at all. Even so, he's got a pristine swing, and he seemed to have a better plan at the plate than many guys 2-3 years his senior. In his first bat-bat during the Ports' 4-run 3rd-inning, he lined a perfectly-placed single opposite field through the gap between short and 3rd. Then in the 9th he did the exact opposite, turning on a high-inside fastball and launching it into the right-field forest-y area (Quakes Stadium doesn't have bleachers). I used to be a big doubter of Sulentic, but seeing his swing and his approach kind of changed my opinion of him. If he can add some bulk and stay adequate defensively, he might have a chance to make it the majors as a 4th or 5th OFer.
The Ports' first reliever, Jason Glushon, took over in the 8th and kept runs off the board, but didn't really overpower or impress. He walked a guy and a got a couple of well-struck fly outs. His off-speed stuff seemed flat and his fastball wasn't overpowering in any way. (To make matters worse, it seemed like LA-native Glushon was more interested in getting the Lakers' score than watching the rest of the game he was pitching in, as he walked off the mound, put on his sweatshirt and perused around the bleachers asking if anybody knew the score.)
Arnold Leon pitched mop-up duty for the Ports in the 9th and definitely impressed. All of his stuff was down in the strikezone, with movement. He got two strikeouts in the frame and didn't allow a baserunner. I talked to the Ports' bus driver while Leon was pitching and he said that Arnold's definitely going back to Mexico by the end of May. He went on to say that the purpose of having Leon pitch for the Ports for these first two months of the season was purely logistical: the A's needed to get Leon a workable visa to ensure that he'd be able to stay in the country for good starting next season. So, once his contract with his Mexican league team is concluded, he'll be entirely A's property and will be able to go to stay in USA indefinitely.
- I talked to Sean Doolittle briefly after the game and he said that he'd be open to doing an e-mail interview with me sometime soon, so I hopefully I'll get that done in the next week or so.
- I also talked to an A's scout and a Mariners scout who were taking notes at the game. The A's guy brushed me off entirely, while the Mariners' guy played coy with me. When I asked him if he was there to scout out players for possible trades, he said, "Well sure, but it's also a really good idea to see exactly what your rivals have coming through the pipeline."
- I couldn't believe the value of a minor league game: two box seats, two hot dogs, two bags of chips and two sodas for 18-bucks total. I cannot say this often enough: GO TO AN A'S MINOR LEAGUE GAME if you get the chance...anywhere, even at the visitor's park.
- Ironically, the featured guests at the game were a group of little leaguers donning their Green and Gold Athletics jerseys! That should have been a portent of bad tidings for the hometeam right there!
(The Quakes' energizer bunny-like mascot "Tremor" who showed 10,000 times more life than Cucamonga's bats tonight.)
I'm going to the A's-Angels game tomorrow night, so my dream-like all-A's affiliates in SoCal week continues! If you're there tomorrow, look for the guy with the scary-ass green and gold vinyl mask on...it'll be my drunk friend. Adios!