Now Media Relations director for the Fresno Grizzlies, Noah Frank was with the Chicago Cubs in 2008, then in the Texas League (with the San Antonio Missions) in 2009. As a result, Noah had a chance to become familiar with Jake Fox, Aaron Miles, Bobby Cassevah, and Beau Vaughan, recent A's acquisitions through trade and the Rule 5 drafts. Here is Noah's "up close" analysis of these newest additions to the A's puzzle...
Greetings, AN. I am a long-time A's fan, raised in the East Bay, and have been working in professional baseball the last several years. I know Nico from my time in Berkeley, and when I saw the recent flurry of player movement involving players that I have recently seen first-hand, I thought I might be able to contribute some insight and shed some light on the newest members of the Green and Gold.
Specifically, I worked for the Cubs in '08 and was in charge of compiling the Minor League Report, so I got a heavy dose of Jake Fox that year. In '09 I worked as a Media Director in the Texas League and saw both Bobby Cassevah and Beau Vaughan up close. I also got to hear what all the Big League scouts thought of them in the press box, so I feel like I have a pretty good handle on what they have to offer.
In 2008 Fox, after a slow start in Iowa and a demotion back to AA-Tennessee, came on strong and tore up the Southern League at ages 25/26. He really turned it on late, going .324/.383/.676 with 9 HR in July and .362/.465/.695 with 10 HR in August. While admittedly old for AA ball at that point, it seemed like he might have finally found his groove after under-achieving throughout his minor league career. Sure enough, he came out red hot in '09 with Iowa, going .409/.495/.841 with 17 bombs in just 45 games, earning his promotion to the bigs.
A classic late bloomer, my discussions with our baseball ops guys of which older Cubs' prospect would still have a productive career was always between Fox and Micah Hoffpauir. While I loved Hoffpauir (and still do), they always seemed to have a soft spot for Fox. While the power has always been there for Jake, the plate discipline has finally come along for the ride the last couple years. Fox's highest year-long OBP had been .357 in the Florida State League in '05 before his turnaround in '08 and '09.
Fox also offers the A's another interesting piece -- he is a right-handed power hitter who has consistently performed better against right-handed pitching, both for average and power, throughout his career. His ability to be at least serviceable defensively in the corner outfields as well as the corner infields should allow the A's to move him around and shape the rest of their lineups according to specific pitching matchups. All in all, I like the pick-up, although I'm unimpressed with Aaron Miles in almost every way, and wish the A's could have gotten a better second piece.
As for Cassevah and Vaughan, I saw them both a couple times last year in the Texas League. Cassevah was really impressive for much of the year, and was on quite a roll when he came to San Antonio as the proud owner of a 12.2 inning scoreless streak. However, he did not retire any of the six batters he faced that night, giving up four hits and walking two, watching all six runs score.
That led to a poor finish for Cassevah, as his control seemed to get away from him late in the year. It put a damper on what was, overall, a very nice year out of the 'pen. Prior to that game in SA, he carried a 2.11 ERA and a .216 BAA with better than a 3.8:1 GO/AO rate. The biggest question mark for the now 24-year-old will be his BB:K rate. If he can keep the walks down, he is a good enough control/ground ball pitcher to be effective in middle relief.
Vaughan bounced back-and-forth between Double-A and Triple-A, looking far more impressive in Frisco than he did in Oklahoma City. While he wasn't bad at the higher level, he was even more dominant than his basic numbers showed in the Texas League. In 18 appearances he was 3-0 with eight saves and a 2.35 ERA, limiting opponents to just a .198 BAA. He allowed only a single homerun and walked just three while fanning 20 over that span with a good mix of pitches.
While he's a pretty big guy (6'4" 230 when drafted, and he's added weight since), and he's certainly an old prospect at 28, Vaughan could be a nice piece of the bullpen puzzle for the A's. In addition, he brings a Swisher-esque personality that Oakland has been lacking since, well, the departure of Swisher. It will be nice to get a little more color back in the clubhouse.
I hope that gives you a little better feel of what to expect from the newest Oakland A's.
P.S. After watching Midland dominate the TL this year (with and without Chris Carter), once all the hitting joins the young pitching I think it may be the A's year in 2011.