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Monday Morning Minors Musings: Is there anyone left to callup? - edition

The News

1. As has been reported a billion other places, the A's finally signed 7th round pick RHP Brett Hunter of my alma-mater Pepperdine for a way above-slot, record-setting-for-a-7th-rounder $1.1 million. I like the signing and I've been advocating it for weeks now, but while Hunter's upside is very high, even Forst admits that, "We're signing him with full knowledge that he's not 100-percent healthy right now." That's a bit concerning coming from an organization where "100-percent healthy" actually means "Chavvy's right-shoulder is detached from the rest of his body" and "Rich Harden will be fine after a few innings pitching out of the bullpen (2007)." But even so, that the A's were willing and able to take the risk on Hunter and nab him for almost a million dollars less than he was initially asking for has to be seen as somewhat of a recruiting coup.

2. Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson each started games in the past week for Team USA in Beijing. Baseball America observed that Cahill, getting the nod against the undefeated and seasoned Cuban team, started off jittery but eventually settled in nicely to pitch 5 innings of 2-run ball, striking out 3 but also issuing 4 free-passes. Anderson started against Canada a day later (Friday) and lasted 5.2 innings, giving up 9 hits and 4 runs (3 earned) with 4 strikeouts and 0 walks. Those aren't very impressive numbers, granted, but you gotta remember these are two 20-year olds who have all but about 50 innings above A-ball combined between them and are pitching the biggest games of their lives so far. I think Team USA, us fans, A's brass and the American nation as a whole are quite proud of our two hurlers so far.

Injury News

1. Former top-3rd base prospect Jeff Baisley recently completed his rehab stint with the A's Rookie League team and has been back with the RiverCats for the past few games. He had been recovering from a foot injury that had sidelined him since late June. If Jeff can show the pop in his bat and the decent 3rd base defense he had before the injury over the next two weeks, there is a chance we could see him up with the big club in September to see if he's got anything to offer this team going forward, as there is still a gaping hole at 3rd base, at least for the rest of this season.

2. It was previously reported that A's 2008 1st round pick Jemile Weeks, who tore a hip flexor a few weeks ago, would rehab the injury for awhile and then make it back to the Kane County Cougars before the end of the season. Well, that hasn't happened yet and the latest comments from Forst - while encouraging in that Jemile won't need surgery - suggest that he won't make it back to the Cougars at all this season and that it will be lucky if he can even come back for the Instructional League in the fall.

3. I guess 2008 2nd round pick Tyson Ross has made it back from Kane County's DL after suffering from a strained shoulder. Kane County's web site lists him as active and Slusser and others have reported that he made an appearance for the team last Wednesday, however I haven't found a box score to confirm that. Even so, others have pointed out that the A's are not planning on altering Tyson's mechanics too much, but are rather working with him to stabilize his release point. Hopefully that will keep him healthy.

4. While Travis Buck has reportedly recovered from his inner-ear infection and has been cleared to play again, he still hasn't played a game for the RiverCats in almost a month. Maybe the team is playing it real safe for once and are just shutting him down indefinitely so that the poor guy can just get his life back together after a thoroughly disastrous season.

Affiliate Updates

Sacramento RiverCats: 73-55, 1st Place, PCL Pacific North Division

- RHP Vince Mazzaro

Vince had his best performance of his short AAA career on Saturday night against a pretty good Tacoma Rainiers (Mariners) club. The 21-year old went 6.2 innings, only allowed 2 runs on 5 hits while striking-out 7 and only issuing 1 walk. That performance improved his overall AAA numbers to 1-3, 5.19 ERA, 15-6 K-BB in 17 innings pitched. What's important to note with Vince is that while the overall numbers aren't impressive, his control is pretty good and he has made adjustments. He's always going to fairly dependent on his defense, and so far poor defense and bad luck has scewed his numbers, as he's giving up a preposterous .440+ BABIP. Those numbers should normalize by the end of the season and his overall numbers should be pretty solid by the end of the season. While Vince's ceiling is probably mid-back rotation starter, I'd think he'll end being pretty valuable as scouts have already noticed that he's very precocious for his age and has already realized that he's at his best when pitching to contact and trusting his defense. I'll take a 21-year old like that (who can stay healthy to boot!) any day of the week...

- OFer Chris Denorfia (remember him?)

The prodigal son returns! After stumbling at the start of the season for the big club and then sitting out most of the summer with a bad-back, Denorfia is back and red-hot for the RiverCats. Chris has collected multiple hits in the past 5 games and has collected at least 1 hit in 9 of the past 10 games. He's been playing a lot of centerfield recently and he's finally getting his OPS up over .700. There was a time when many ANers were mildly excited to have Chris in the fold, and that time may be returning. At best, he'll be a dirt-cheap 4th outfielder that can play all three outfield spots and hit for a pretty-high average. At worst...well, I think we've seen the worst already...a sub .600 OPS AAA player. But still, I'm excited to see what a fully healthy Denorfia can do for the rest of the year and maybe even back with the big club in September!

Midland Rockhounds: 33-22, tied-1st Texas League south division

Just a few quick notes for the Rockhounds, who are playing great baseball by the way and have come on to tie Tulsa for the division lead. Adrian Cardenas, recently promoted from Stockton, has played almost exclusively at shortstop for the Hounds and has done a pretty good job so far, only committing one error in 12 games. I'm not sure if this is some kind of emergency position thing or just an experiment or what (since Sellers is playing 2nd and he's known to be a good defensive shortstop), but if Adrian can prove that he can handle shortstop, then his stock will rise dramatically, as his high-contact, high-average bat would be plus at a premium position.

Andrew Bailey, Andrew Carignan, and Jared Lansford continue to excel in the Rockhound bullpen. They are all striking out tons of batters and keeping runs off the board while limiting hits. However, they are all having mild-to-moderate control issues. They need to cut down those walks and at least get their K-BB's to around 3-to-1 because with a little command, those three could fly up together and produce a nice wave of flame-throwing, dominant bullpen arms for the big club within the next year or two, while making the Foulke's, Embrees, Casillas and Browns a thing of the past!

Stockton Ports: 27-28, 3rd Place Cal League North Division

Yes, H-Rod has been moved to the bullpen for the Ports. Whether this is a permanent move or a temporary one remains to be seen, but seeing as how he's on the 40-man roster and has yet to fully graduate from A-ball, you've got think that the A's brass is going to keep him in relief for the long-haul to get him to the majors as quickly as possible. In 6 relief appearances so far, Henry has given up just 5 hits (but also 5 runs) and has 10 strikeouts against 5 walks in about 8 innings. It's still a mixed bag with the guy with the golden arm.

- DH/1B/3B/RF Chris Carter

Ho-hum, another 5-homer week for the guy that might end up second or third in the entire minor leagues in round-trippers this season. The streaky Carter has been playing all over the field trying to find a defensive home while bopping homers at every stop all along the diamond. He's still striking out a ton, but he's also still close to a .600 slugging percentage on the year and his average is up to a respectable .270. Melissa Lockhard over at recently compared Chris's age-21 season with that of Mark McGwire's and concluded that Chris is having a better year. Holy crap! Not to say that Chris will have a career like McGwire's, let alone be BETTER than him, but the positive comparison is encouraging and hopefully proof that the A's can, eventually, produce a right-handed slugger of their own after looking for one for so long.

- OFer Corey Brown

Corey's picking it up big-time for the Ports since slumping upon his promotion. He's hitting .333 with 5 homers in his past 10 games (including two in the same game last night). The better news: Corey has already slugged 13 homers in only 142 at-bats at Stockton, is now slugging .585 at High-A and is still playing good centerfield defense. On the downside, Corey's strikeout problem has gotten worse at Stockton as he now has a whopping 56 K's against only 9 walks. With 27 homers split between Low and High-A, defensive ability and speed there is plenty still to like about Corey. But he's not winning over any of the doubters with his atrocious plate discipline as of late. He's not particularly young for the California League, so while his power is good, it's not altogether surprising...he needs to really work on making more consistent contact - and repeat the refrain again...

Kane County Cougars: 27-29, 6th place, Midwest League WEst Division

Without Corey Brown and Jemile Weeks, the Cougars offense is without any star power, however, the team pitching continues to be a strength. In the rotation, lefty Carlos Hernandez has proven to be a reliable and effective hurler, currently sitting at 4-0 with a 22-7 K-BB, 1.10 WHiP and a 2.63 ERA in 27 innings pitched. Scott Hodsdon, after taking a few weeks off with a mild injury, has continued to log quality innings for the Cougars in the rotation, with a 3.12 ERA, and 73-22 K-BB in 104 innings pitched while keeping the ball in the park (only 7 homers allowed). Chad Kerfoot continues to be a late-round draftee surprise in the Cougar bullpen, with a 6-1 record, 2.61 ERA, 1.13 WHiP, 4 saves and a sparkling 63-12 K-BB in 62 innings pitched. Those three guys all have little upside and little chance to be impact major leaguers, but with stats like those, they could move steadily through the system and be nice insurance policies at AAA in a couple years or nice trade chips in the off-season.

Vancouver Canadians: 25-34, Last Place, Northwest League West Division

25th round 2008 draft pick Trey Barham had a helluva outing last night for the Cougars, going 6 innings and striking out 6 without allowing a run. The Virginia Military Institute alumni and lefty-starter now has a 3.58 ERA and a 25-8 K-BB in 37 innings pitched. On the offensive side of the ledger, shortstop Jason Christian continues to be a major wearpon for the Vancouver offense with an .826 OPS and 11 steals in 12 chances. However, he's already committed 18 errors in 56 games, making it seem unlikely that he's cut out to be a shortstop for very much longer.

AZL Athletics: 7-10, 7th Place, ARizona Rookie League

As of this writing, the rookie league team was getting spanked by the Rangers team 15-2. That's discouraging, but the AZL team has had a few bright spots so far this young season.Tyreace House and Rashun Dixon continue to flash nice tools across the board for the team, doing a little bit of everything for the lineup. House is future-leadoff material with a great batting-eye, good average and great speed, while Dixon is just an athletic freak that has true superstar potential (5-tool, 17-year old with a nearly .900 OPS while still being considered "raw"...I'd say that overslot signing is looking better everyday). Both guys are still in their formative, rather than performance-based, parts of their careers so expect both to only become relevant to the big league team come Fremont time, but even so, they are both really exciting prospects.

A's Prospects in the News

1. No A's prospects made it on this week's Baseball America Hot Sheet, however in the notes section of the weekly update both Aaron Cunningham and Chris Carter recieved honorable mentions from the BA staff.

2. In the BA Hot Sheet Chat, Matt Eddy tackles two very important questions regarding A's prospects: the first one had to do with Gio G's upside, after a reader expressed concern that Gio's fastball has only been clocked at 89-91 on the stadium gun in his recent outings. Matt concludes that Gio's upside is eventually that of a Number 3 starter, as his changeup is inconsistent and he hasn't shown the consistent ability to throw his off-speed pitches for strikes in fastball counts. Matt also dispels the notion that Aaron Cunningham will be nothing more than a 4th outfielder. He mentions that he won't be a star regular, but that he "does enough things well" that he'll be an asset in the everyday lineup. That's very encouraging!

3. Kevin Goldstein over at BP held a very informative chat session on the 13th. Since he loves talking A's prospects, there was plenty of stuff in there about the A's chain. Among the topics: Goldstein thinks H-Rod will be in the bullpen to stay, Italiano's command is killing him in Stockton, Jemile Weeks needs to work on his defense and Kevins's apparently a very big Rashun Dixon fan.

4. Goldstein also had a blurb about recently-signed minor league free agent Mike Benacka who is pitching for the Ports. Benacka dominated the independent Frontier League and the A's took a chance on him. A scout Kevin talked to mentioned that he pounds the strikezone with "funky, fringe stuff." He could be an interesting story, but I usually don't get too excited about 26-year old relievers putting up only so-so numbers in A-ball.