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Monday Morning Minors Musings: When will the rebuilding end? - edition

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There's no question that the big league team is in need of a major infusion of legitimate talent in virtually every area. It would seem that the powers at-be have recognized this and have responded by promoting a flurry of top prospects through the organizational ranks in recent days, perhaps with an eye towards September call-ups.

Promotions

- Vince Mazzaro made his first start for Triple-A Sacramento last Tuesday, going 5.2 innings, allowing 8 hits, 4 runs and 3 walks while tallying 5 strikeouts. It wasn't a dominating performance by any means and he took the loss, but it was a good start for a 21-year old in AAA. The 5 K's in 5 innings is especially encouraging. With a strong end to the season, Vince could position himself well for a rotation spot next Spring or as a prime trade chip as the A's (hopefully) begin serious trade talks to upgrade the offense in the off-season.

- Aaron Cunningham has now been promoted to Triple-A alongside Mazzaro, and has debuted with a bang. In his first 3 games, Aaron is 5-for-10 with a homer, 3 doubles, 2 RBIs, 5 walks and only 1 strikeout. I'll be shocked if Aaron isn't up with the big league club for most of September. He might not be the immediate .900 OPS, 30 homer right-handed bopper we all wish for, but he'd definitely help the offense immediately and has the potential to be a nice player for many years to come.

- Adrian Cardenas has been promoted to Midland from Stockton. He's performed rather well in his first week going 6-for-19 (all singles) with 2 RBIs, 1 walk and 1 strikeout. He's also been playing shortstop recently, which might be an indication that the organization is finally looking beyond the Bobby Crosby era.

- Jared Lansford and Jason Fernandez were both promoted from Stockton to Midland a little over a week ago. Both pitchers have performed relatively well in their new confines. Fernandez has a 2.51 ERA with 13 strikeouts, 8 walks and 10 hits allowed in 3 games (2 starts). Lansford has yet to a allow a run in 6 relief appearances for the Rockhounds. He's got a 10-6 K-BB ratio, 2 saves and a 2.57-to-1 groundout/flyout ratio in 12 innings. Both pitchers have good sinkers, decent control and enough upside to garner some trade interest this winter as well.

- It wasn't really a promotion, but the A's got Dusty Coleman, the Wichita State shortstop that they stole in the 28th round of this year's draft with an overslot 700-grand bonus, onto the field in a hurry. He's already played in 3 games for the AZL A's. Dusty was projected to be a 2nd or 3rd round type talent, and he plays a position of need for the organization, so you've got to be pleased that he's been brought into the fold.

Injury News

- As per David Forst, Travis Buck has been cleared by a neurologist to resume baseball activities after suffering from an ear infection. It would certainly be an unexpected blessing if he were to somehow stay on the field for the next few weeks, get his swing back and rejoin the big club for September callups resembling the player he was at-times for the 2007 A's.

- Also according to Forst, 2008 2nd round pick Tyson Ross has reportedly successfully rehabbed his shoulder injury and could appear in a game for Kane County sometime this week. I hope Ross can be kept healthy enough the rest of the season so that he can be sent to the Instructional Leagues in the off-season, where his delivery can be completely re-worked.

- Jeff Baisley, really the only near major-league ready 3rd base prospect in the A's system, has appeared in two games so far for the AZL Athletics as he rehabs from a stress frcture in his foot. Jeff was on the verge of a major league callup after putting up an .866 OPS for Sacramento when he went down for the count way back on June 16th.

Affiliate Updates

Sacramento River Cats - 70-51, 1st Place, PCL South Division

- Cliff Pennington rode a recent hot streak to push his overall OPS over .800. If Cliff stays hot for the rest of the month, he could end his minor league season with a very odd-type of stat line: .300/.425/.400. I've said all along that Cliff has a very interesting skill set that would suit him well as a reserve infielder on a big league team. I think we'll get to see if that's true beginning around this time next month.

- Blast from the past David Shafer (the guy the A's got from the Reds for Kirk Saarloos several years back) has been working fairly regularly in the RiverCats bullpen. For what it's worth, Shafer has 13 strikeouts in 12 innings and is holding batters to a measly .163 average, however, he's walked 9 guys and given up 2 homeruns to bring his ERA to an unsightly 4.97.

Midland Rockhounds - 28-21, 2nd Place, Texas League South Division

- Josh Outman has strung two quality outings together since first struggling in his new organization. In those two outings, Josh hurled 9 innings, gave up only 1 run on 6 hits while striking out 4 without issuing a walk. Chances are he'll start a few games down the stretch run and hope to end the season on an up-note.

- James Simmons has quietly put together a solid first full professional season. He's currently 7-6 with a 3.54 ERA with a 96-23 K-BB mark in 111 innings pitched. What is the community's opinion of James? He's certainly been overshadowed by Gio, Cahill, Anderson, H-Rod and even Mazzaro but he seems to be handling the Double-A level fairly well and has been as advertised so far: great control, fairly durable innings eater. I'm a little concerned that he tends to get hit pretty hard every couple starts, but after looking at his splits, he doesn't seem to have any glaring weaknesses. I like him well enough and wouldn't mind seeing him at the back-end of a 2010 Oakland Athletics rotation.

Stockton Ports - 22-25, 3rd Place, Cal League North Division

- Top billing obviously goes to Chris Carter. The guy is a monster. He's now homered in 4 straight games and ranks 3rd in the entire minor leagues with 34 round-trippers on the year. He's playing all over the diamond as of late, at 3rd, 1st and right field.  It would certainly be nice to see if Chris could hold down a defensive position at the higher levels, but his calling card is his bat. The strikeouts remain a concern, but it's hard to dispute that the guy can flat out hit. I foresee the A's taking it slow with Carter, letting him finish the year at Stockton, and giving him most of the year next season in Double-A to gauge his development. But come 2010, if he's still producing anything remotely resembling his current season, he'll be a helluva asset to the big league team and the first homegrown right-handed power bat in ages.

- Josh Donaldson has stayed hot for the Ports and he has now surpassed 100 at-bats with his new organization. He hit a triple and a homer in Sunday's game and now has 8 homers on the season with the Ports. He's certainly a very solid catching prospect and is making Beane look like a wise man once again for picking him up while his stock was down.

- Corey Brown has picked it up a bit with the Ports in recent days. His average and OBP leave something to be desired, but he's homered 9 times in just over 100 at-bats for the Ports, has amassed 20 RBIs in 27 games and is slugging well over .500 for the season so far in Stockton. Corey's 9 to 51 BB-K ratio is pretty atrocious and at some time, he's going to need to get that in line to be considered a truly valuable prospect. He just needs a little more contact in his game to be considered a true 5-tool talent.

Kane County Cougars - 26-24, 6th Place Midwest League West

- Toddric Johnson has recovered from injury and has been giving the Cougars some semblance of offense in the past few weeks. The 2006 14th rounder is hitting fairly well in the Midwest League. He's got 10 homers, 14 RBIs and 9 steals to go along with an overall line of .282/.358/.448, which would be pretty good in the Midwest League if he wasn't 23 years old and passing through the league for the 3rd time in the last three years. Toddric was an intriguing raw power/speed prospect when drafted, and it's nice that he's helping the Cougars win some games (which they sorely need) but he's lost a bit of luster after being stalled at one spot for so long.

- MY favorite whipping boy of posts past Anthony Capra has been getting his act together slowly for the Cougars recently. He's now 2-2 with a 4.33 ERA and a 22-12 K-BB in 27 IP. He had a run of two straight quality starts before allowing 3 runs in 5 innings yesterday. Call me incredibly biased, but I'm still not sold on Capra after seeing him melt down that one time against FSU in the NCAA regionals earlier this year. He screams "middle relief lefty at best" to me and I'm still a little sore that the A's spent a 4th round choice on him this year when he probably would have been available in the 6th round.

Vancouver Canadians - 22-31, 4th Place, Northwest League West Division

- I am very proud of OFer Jeremy Barfield. A few weeks back I looked at his stats and thought, "this guy cannot take a walk to save his life." This week I checked his status and realized that he's improved his BB-K rate from about 1-to-18 a few weeks ago to 15-to-27 today. In the meantime, he's cracked 2 homers, gone 15-for-39 over his past 10 games and stolen a base. Jeremy's got nice MLB bloodlines and great size for an aspiring power hitter, and I hope he continues to make me proud as he improves on other aspects of his game in the coming weeks.

- I'm telling you guys, keep your eyes and ears open for info about RHP Ronny Morla. While the guy's traditional stats are uninspiring (1-3, 4.89 ERA) his peripherals look pretty strong to me: 53 K's in 53 IP, 2.79 K-BB rate and a 2.30 ground/air rate. He's also one of the youngest guys on the Vancouver squad and is still filling out his wiry 6'4, 180 body. Ron Romanick mentioned his name over a year ago as someone "who fills up the strikezone with quality strikes" and has great downward movement with all of his pitches. He seems to be struggling against lefties thus far in his first pro season out of the AZL, but once he gets himself acclimated, he'll be one to watch.

AZL A's

- After a couple day recess, the Rookie League A's swung back into action yesterday. My man Nino Leyja had 2 hits in 6 at-bats, but was once again listed as the team's DH in the contest. Some of Nino's luster will rub off if the organization already thinks that he can't stick at a middle infield position, even though he's only 17! Rayshun Dixon (another 17 year old) continues to show why the A's went overslot and stole him away from Mississippi State football as he continues to pound the ball with authority and show a bit more polish than the organization originally gave him credit for (.278 average, 12-39 BB-K). Chris Berroa, another recent 2008 signee, made his second appearance with the AZL team and had 3 hits in 5 at-bats with a walk while playing right field.

A's Prospects in the News

1. The 2008 USA Olympic Team (featuring Cahill and Anderson) had their Sunday exhibition with host China canceled due to rain, but are still on schedule to begin the Olympic tourney against Korea on Wednesday at 3am Pacific Time. Judging from the exhibition results, it seems as though both A's pitchers will start games for the Americans, so if you can, TiVo the games or check out the outlandishly tape-delayed "live"broadcasts to get an idea about what/whom we have to look forward to in the coming years in Oakland! USA! USA!

2. The signing deadline for 2008 draftees is approaching this Friday. I honestly don't believe the A's will sign any of the high school guys left on their draft board (Zac Elgie for instance) but as you've gathered from my past posts, I think there is a good chance they get something done with 7th rounder Brett Hunter from Pepperdine. He wants 2 million to sign, but I think the A's could talk him down to 1-and-a-half.

3. At the BA Hot Sheet Chat this week, Nathan Rode mentions that he thinks that Sean Doolittle will beat out other top 1B prospects like Beau Mills and Freddie Freeman to the majors because he's taken the biggest developmental leap this season and is already in the higher level. He also mentions that Doolittle will have a bigger impact on his major league club than the other two guys.

Probably starting next week I am going to be engaging in an e-mail dialogue with a guy over at lonestarball.com with some kind of comparative organization discussion. I do not know much about the Ranger system, so if anyone has any specific comments or questions about that system, please e-mail me (TajAdib22@yahoo.com) or post them below. Gracias!