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Monday Midnight Minors Musings: Wrapping up the minor league season - edition

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Well, it seems like my duties of monitoring the minors have officially been usurped by user asyouwish33 who has been publishing daily updates of the minor league teams using some fancy-pantsy box score widgets. He/she obviously has better tech skills than I do and has more time on his/her hands to issue a new report nearly every day, so for daily updates and more eye-friendly info, please refer to his/her reports in  the "recommended diaries" area.

But if you just can't get enough of my unique prospect analysis, I'll continue to do my humble little report for the duration of the minor league season (mercifully, only one more week!) So here goes...

News

1. Uber-pitching prospects Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson will return to the States with bronze medals after USA baseball defeated Japan 8-4 in the bronze medal game on Friday. Both 20-year old hurlers performed admirably for the US team. Cahill, who I saw pitch in one tape-delayed game, looked a lot like Brandon Webb, with his nasty sinker being off-set by a nice, sharp breaking ball, with everything down in the strikezone. He finished the tournament with a 2.25 ERA over 8 innings, with 5 K's, 5 walks and 6 hits allowed. Anderson started the bronze medal game and went a solid 7 innings, striking out 6, walking 3 and allowing 4 runs. Anderson finished the tournament with a 4.97 ERA but with a 10-3 K-BB mark in 12 innings.You would think both of their seasons are now officially over.

2. The A's announced that they have extended their development contract with Low-A Kane County through the 2010 season. The young pitchers will be happy with that decision, but the hitters will not be!

3. Henry Rodriguez was re-promoted back up to Double-A last week, this time as a reliever. He pitched 1 inning of scoreless ball back on the 21st, but then surrendered 1 run in 1 IP with 4 walks and no strikeouts last night in the Hound's loss to rival Frisco. I've never been really that high on H-Rod to begin with (poor control and lack of well-rounded pitching repertoire was destined to be exposed by advanced hitters) and his curious problems pitching in the Texas League have exacerbated that skepticism. I guess it's too late to trade him in while his perceived upside was through the roof?

4. With a 7-4 victory over Fresno Saturday night, the RiverCats clinched their 2nd straight PCL South Division championship. They will now go on to defend their PCL leaguewide championship and their unofficial Triple-A championship in the PCL playoffs beginning September 3rd.

Affiliate Updates

Sacramento RiverCats: 79-55, 1st Place PCL South!

LHP Brad Kilby - 7-2, 3.24 ERA, 64-22 K-BB, 1.07 WHiP, 66.2 IP

With both Ziggy and Blevins getting promoted to the big club, Kilby has been assuming a gradually more and more important role in the RiverCat bullpen and has been doing well. Norcal-native Brad has steadily moved up level-by-level through the system since being drafted in the 29th round in 2005. The rubber-armed, burly lefty has averaged over 65 innings pitched in each professional season, has a career K/9 of better than 10.0 and has been consistently and equally effective against both righties and lefties. Brad doesn't have the elite command of Blevins and his funky delivery may signal that is success is somewhat flukey, but he's been a consistent performer for years now and at the very least could be the Ron Flores of the coming run: a guy that shuttles between AAA and the big club during injury emergencies and provides average innings in a variety of bullpen roles. There's definitely value in that type of pitcher, especially a durable and cheap one.

3B Jeff Baisley - .287/.368/.478, 9 homers, 22 doubles, 41 RBIs, 30-37 K-BB

It seems like a foregone conclusion that Baisley, now healthy, will get a September callup to the big club after the PCL playoffs end. He's got a little pop in his righty bat and plays a position that seems free-for-the-taking at the big league level. Reports about his 3rd base defense vary. Some people call it "adequate", some say it's "good" and some have said "excellent". We'll split the difference and say that he's a pretty good defender. A guy that can limit the strikeouts like Jeff can and can also hit for some power and man the hot corner would be a vast improvement over Hannahan. Not sure if Jeff can put it all together at the big league level before the end of the season, but if we're giving Meyer a shot, we mind as well give Jeff a chance as well.

Midland Rockhounds - 37-25, 2nd place Texas League South, 2 games behind Frisco

With exactly one-week to go in the season, the Rockhounds are engaged in a dogfight with Frisco (Rangers affiliate) for the Texas League south division title and a playoff spot. Pitching has carried the Hounds so far, especially relief pitching, but some surprise offensive performers have helped the Rockhounds' cause in recent weeks. With the team lacking true, healthy outfielders the organization demoted Richie Robnett from the RiverCats to Midland and Richie's performance has been inspiring, as he's hit .394 with a homer, 5 doubles, 5 RBIs and a 10 walks in his last 10 games. The toolsy, raw-ability Robnett might not have had the type of AAA season that will protect his 40-man roster spot this winter, but his contribution to the Midland playoff surge is a nice positive to take from the year.

Andrew Bailey continues to excel in a bullpen role as his season ERA has now dropped below the 5.00 mark after getting to nearly 7.00 accumulated early in the year as a starter. While Carignan might be getting all the saves with his gaudy K/9 mark and Lansford and H-Rod might be new kids in town getting all the recent attention, Bailey has quietly improved his all-around game recently and has posted the best all-around numbers in recent weeks. Over the past 11 games, Bailey is 4-0 with an ERA that is less than 2.00 along with a 21-5 K-BB mark in 21 innings. Bailey's always had good K-numbers, but with his added command of late, he's arguably more effective than his other late-inning Midland cohorts.

Stockton Ports: 29-33, 3rd Place Cal League North, 8 games back

Stockton is not going to the Cal League playoffs. The team as a whole has been much too streaky this season and with big-time performers like Sean Doolittle and Adrian Cardenas promoted to Midland, the team has not been able to find traction in the 2nd half. The team has lost 5 out of its 6 games to fall out of contention.

Chief among the streaky culprits and REALLY struggling as of late is Chris Carter (last night's 3 double game game notwithstanding). Carter had previously gone a Frank Thomas-like 2-for-37 over his past 10 games with 18 strikeouts and only 5 walks over that time! Of course, those two hits over that span were homeruns and Carter still has a fighting chance to hit 40 bombs this season, but it's clear that with his inconsistency, he's still a work-in-progress.

Kane County Cougars: 30-32, 5th Place, MWL Western Division, 8.5 Games Back

The Cougars, like the Ports, are likely not headed to the playoffs and thus will conclude their season in one week. The team has struggled all season to score runs in the pitcher-friendly Midwest League and without the benefit of premium hitting prospects (with the exception of Corey Brown). The pitching has been solid all-season however.

Scott Hodsdon (5-8, 3.08 ERA) and Carlos Hernandez (5-0, 2.43 ERA) have particularly performed well for the Cougar rotation recently, largely without knock-out stuff. Both pitchers have strong control number (81-23 K-BB for Hodsdon, 28-7 for Hernandez).  Hernandez has the better K/9, better groundball rate, ERA and allows less hits and is therefore the better prospect, however Hodsdon is holding his own in his first full professional season. Both pitchers will likely start next season in Stockton's rotation.

Joining them in Stockton should be 2008 2nd round pick RHP Tyson Ross, provided he can work out some mechanical flaws during the Fall Instructional League. Ross, even though his ERA is inflated at 5.02 and missed some time with a shoulder strain, showed plenty of promise in Kane County with 14 K's in 14 innings, while only allowing 11 hits and 5 walks in that timeframe (1.12 WHiP). Ross and Brett Hunter together combine to form a nice, local/West Coast collegiate pair of arms that are risk/reward types. I really liked both of the picks in this year's draft and look forward to what both will do next season with close to optimal health.

Vancouver Canadians: 27-38, tied for 3rd Place in NorWest League West Division, 8.5 games back

The Canadians are roughly as far back in their division as the Cougars are in theirs and will likewise not be making the trip to the post-season. However, they will be doing so with the reverse type of team: the Canadians, as a short-season club, have benefited from several hot bats in the lineup but have suffered from a pitching staff that is built more for short-stint evaluation rather than long-term, extended performance. All the young, promising arms have been protected while the unrefined hurlers have been given leeway to pitch an inning or two just to get some work in. Such is the curse of the short-season low-low A affiliate...

Even so, two of the organization's young offensive studs have established themselves in the short season league thus far. The two guys I am talking about are SS Jason Christian and OF Jeremy Barfield. The two have strikingly similar stat lines so far: 213 at-bats for Christian, 217 at-bats for Barfield. 27 runs-scored for Christian, 25 runs-scored for Barfield. 62 hits for Christian, 62 hits for Barfield. 16 doubles for Christian, 16 doubles for Barfield. That's kind of eery! Additionally, the two are separated by only 5 points of average (.286 Barfield to .291 Christian). The two diverge widely on OPS (Christian's .836 mark vs. Barfield's .748), but that is explained by Christian's drawing 19 more walks than Jeremy is the same amount of at-bats. Simply put, we can only hope these two continue their statistical dueling through the minor leagues, since both are performing well and proving that picking them in the top-10 rounds were well justified!

A's Prospects in the News

1. James Simmons was mentioned in this week's in BA's Hot List. The blurb mentions that despite Simmons' lack of a true plus-out-pitch, he commands all four of his pitches for strikes and keeps the damage against him tolerable by limiting walks and homeruns.  Chris Carter was of course mentioned in the "Not-So-Hot" part of the sheet even before he finished up his atrocious week.

2. In the BA Hot Sheet Chat Ben Badler mentions that the A's system could possibly be ranked as the best system in the game by the end of the season. Badler also extrapolates on James Simmons, indicating that he's a safe bet to be a #3 starter type, without a big-time out-pitch but with a good enough changeup to be effective against all types of hitters. Matt Eddy chimes in at the bottom of chat answering a fan's question of who's the better prospect between the Mariners Michael Saunders and the A's Aaron Cunningham. Eddy chose Saunders, largely due to his better overall tools, but still mentioned that Cunningham was "solid in all facets".

3. BA also listed the results of their manager's polls for best tools in the minors. The A's had many representatives on the various lists. Gio G got mentioned as having the best breaking ball in the PCL. Vince Mazzaro was listed as being the best overall pitching prospect in the Texas League as well as having the best overall control. Sean Doolittle was honored as being the best overall batting prospect in the Cal League, as well as the best defensive 1st baseman. Chris Carter was mentioned as having the best power in the League, H-Rod was mentioned as having the best fastball, while Trevor Cahill was anointed the best overall pitching prospect in the league (obviously, the polls were completed before the 2nd half of the season).

4. Buster Olney recently mentioned in his ESPN Insider Blog that the A's had a chance to pick up Jason Bay before the trade deadline for "a package that included pitcher Vin Mazzaro." Sure it would have been nice to pick up Bay, but he wouldn't have singularly made the A's contenders this year (even with Harden and Blanton) or even necessarily next season. It makes you wonder, a) what other pieces were the Pirates asking for in return for Bay and b) will Beane aggressively shop some of the pitching prospects (like Mazzaro) in return for an established hitter during this off-season?