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Monday's Minor League Update

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Welcome to the first official Monday Minor League Report! There are some changes of note for 2009, the chief being that my original partner in crime, Taj Adib, is no longer participating on a regular basis. He might slip in a special report or three over the course of the season but Life has other things demanding his time. So I’ll provide you with your weekly minor league fix as best I can, work permitting. For those who don’t know I’m a wildland firefighter for the US Forest Service, my summers tend to get busy and the job often sends me to places that don’t provide high speed internet access… or plumbing, for that matter. I encourage everyone wanting to stay current on the farm system to read asyouwish33’s regular minor league postings, there’s some good info in them and they tend to attract other rabid minor league followers who are quick to provide extra info on the state of the farm system.

 

My writing on the minor league system is still the best, of course.

The minor league season is only a few days old thus far, so I’m not going to give you any numbers in this update. (A ridiculously small sample size and all that.) No, this edition is intended to get everyone up to speed on the organizational depth chart. I figure if you read AN you already know who’s who and what position they play for the A’s; this post is about who’s filling the rosters of the Sacramento River Cats, the Midland Rockhounds, the Stockton Ports and the Kane County Cougars. I’ll also let you know who of note is still in extended spring training and (if I can) how long they’ll stay down there. I’m going to break things down by position and try to give everyone a feel for where the strengths and weaknesses of the organization lay. I’m going to focus on the players starting for their minor league team but I’ll point out any key back-ups along the way.

 

For those of you who are new, here’s a quick rundown of the full season teams in the Oakland system:

 

Sacramento River Cats (AAA)

Midland Rockhounds (AA)

Stockton Ports (High-A or A+)

Kane County Cougars (Low-A or A-)

 

Let’s go around the horn.

 

Catcher

 

AAA: Anthony Recker

   AA: Josh Donaldson

   A+: Matt Smith

    A-: Pete Paramore (eventually)

 

Notes: Paramore has yet to play for the Cougars. It was originally thought he’d start the year on the DL but made the roster after Dante Love got bumped to Stockton to serve as the back-up to Smith. Juan Nunez and Dusty Napoleon are donning the tools of ignorance for KCC. Joel Galarraga is stuck in extended spring training do to visa issues, the A’s hope to have him in Sac soon. Until that works itself out Raul Padron got a bus ticket to leave Stockton and serve as the River Cats’ back-up backstop. Overall, I’d say there are a few guys who could end up as decent trade chips but no one who stands out as a threat to Suzuki’s job.

 

First Base

 

AAA: Daric Barton

   AA: Chris Carter

   A+: Greg Dowling

    A-: Steve Kleen

 

Notes: I realize Barton is only 23 but he’s running out of time to establish himself as the long term answer at 1st base for the A’s. Matter o’ fact, if he starts raking again in AAA I’d strongly suggest the A’s dangle him as trade bait. Sean Doolittle is also on the River Cats’ roster as the starting RF and scouts love his defense at 1st base, so if something should happen to Giambi and Barton is struggling with the bat there’s a very good chance that Doolittle could get the call. Carter offers unlimited power potential but had contact issues last year in High-A, AA will be an important test for him in 2009. Matt Spencer is going to see some time at 1st base while in Stockton but the Ports don’t have a lot of options in the outfield.

 

Second Base

 

AAA: Cliff Pennington

   AA: Adrian Cardenas

   A+: Michael Richard

    A-: Matt Ray

 

Notes: The A’s have shelved the Cardenas-to-SS project, at least for now. Richard is a high OBP/speed demon type who’s a little old to be playing A-ball. Eric Patterson might still dabble at 2nd base for the River Cats, but with Aaron Cunningham out with a dislocated shoulder he’ll spend most of his time in LF or at DH. 2008 1st round pick Jemile Weeks is in extended spring training rehabbing.

 

Third Base

 

AAA: Jeff Baisley/Jack Hannahan

   AA: Yung Chi Chen

   A+: Alex Valdez

    A-: Jason Christian

 

Notes: Corey Wimberly might see some time at 3rd base for Midland in addition to his work in the outfield. The A’s really like Dusty Coleman’s glove at SS, thus bumping Christian to 3rd base. Basically a gaping black hole in the organization that will be uncovered if and when Eric Chavez’s surgically repaired back or shoulders give out.

 

Short Stop

 

AAA: Gregorio Petit

   AA: Josh Horton

   A+: Michael Affronti

    A-: Dusty Coleman

 

Notes: The gaping black hole everyone already knows about. Coleman and even Christian offer some hope in the long term, with Rookie ball sensation Nino Leyja hanging out in extended spring training until the short-season leagues start up in June.

 

Left Field

 

AAA: Aaron Cunningham (DL)

   AA: Archie Gilbert/Dan Putnam

   A+: Matt Spencer/Shane Keough

    A-: Franklin Hernandez

 

Notes: Cunningham separated his right shoulder in a play at the plate. Hernandez was one of the A’s top performers in the AZL last year but Kane County is a big jump for the Dominican signee. He turns 22 next week, so this is a jump he needs to make. Corey Wimberly factors into the LF mix for the Rockhounds.

 

Center Field

 

AAA: Chris Denorfia

   AA: Corey Brown

   A+: Jermaine Mitchell

    A-: David Thomas

 

Notes: Denorfia would make a perfectly acceptable back-up in the Show, but he had an option remaining and Rajai Davis didn’t, so there you go. The enigma that is Corey Brown impressed enough during spring training to earn a promotion to AA. Mitchell has a chance but he needs to make a move now or get lost in the shuffle. Rashun Dixon is in extended spring training at least until the weather warms up in Kane County.

 

Right Field

 

AAA: Sean Doolittle

   AA: Javier Herrera/Dan Putnam

   A+: Todd Johnson

    A-: Grant Desme

 

Notes: Herrera got pulled, probably due to injury, from Midland’s Opening Day game and hasn’t seen the field since. Doolittle is on the fast track and if he hits well early he could earn the call ahead of Denorfia or Barton should the need arise. The simple fact that Desme managed to play in 3 consecutive games is a noteworthy event. Jeremy Barfield is in extended spring training.

 

Designated Hitter

 

Notes: It’s early in the season but so far it appears as if all the minor league teams are rotating people through the DH spot to get everyone at bats.

 

Starting Pitching

 

AAA: Vin Mazzaro, Ryan Webb, James Simmons, Edgar Gonzalez, Gio Gonzalez

   AA: Graham Godfrey, Jason Fernandez, Travis Banwart, Kristian Bell, 5th TBD

   A+: Tyson Ross, Carlos Hernandez, Craig Italiano, Scott Hodsdon, 5th TBD

    A-: Matt Fitts, Shawn Haviland, Pedro Figueroa, Anthony Carpa, 5th TBD

 

Notes: It’s amazing what a couple promotions (Anderson, Cahill) can do to the strength of a minor league system. Mazzaro and Ross might be the only SP prospects who profile as better than a #3 SP in the Show, and there’s a healthy dose of worry that Ross won’t be able to hold up under a SP’s workload. There is no fixed date as to when Ynoa will report to Arizona.

 

Relief Pitching

 

AAA: Jeff Gray (CL) Jared Lansford, Jay Marshall, Chad Reineke

   AA: Sam Demel (CL) Arnold Leon

   A+: Daniel Thomas, Chad Kerfoot, Justin Murray, Justin Friend

    A-: Jose Guzman (CL) Brett Hunter (if he isn’t in the rotation)

 

Notes: Andrew Carignan got banged up during spring training and is still in Arizona getting up to speed. Henry Rodriguez is also in extended spring training as he rehabs from hernia surgery. I think Dan Thomas will close for the Ports, if they ever win a game. The A’s expect him to move fast. Fast starts could earn Demel and/or Leon mid-season promotions to Sac. Lots of teams think Brett Hunter won’t hold up as a starter, we’ll have see how the A’s feel about that in the next few days.

 

Overall Assessment:

 

With Cahill and Anderson in Oakland and Cunningham on the DL, the A’s farm system already looks a lot weaker than it did a month ago. Beane doesn’t appear to have a lot of chips to play in a mid-season effort to add veteran talent, although that could change in the next few months. Still, the line-ups in Stockton and Kane County look anemic and Sacramento has a lot of older players who hardly count as legitimate prospects anymore. The strength of the farm lies in the Rockhounds’ line-up and bullpen and the River Cats’ rotation. Will it be enough to support the Oakland A’s go for it season?

 

It'll have to be.