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Monday's Way Delayed Minor League Report

This edition of the Minor League update is going to focus on the lower minors after last week’s hack spent all his time yakking about the Sacramento and Midland rosters. The baseball gods were not pleased with this display of attention and punished those teams for stealing his heart by cursing them with losing records in the days following the article.


Or something like that.


Anyways, it was a tough week for the A’s affiliates, with only the Kane County Cougars winning more than they lost in the previous 7 games. Sacramento saw their offense stagnate vs. Reno and their pitching implode during a road trip to Vegas in route to a 1-6 week. Midland scored 27 runs in their 2 wins, but gave up 37 runs in their 5 losses. Stockton went 3-4, including winning their first series of the season vs. Rancho Cucamonga. Kane County went 4-3, getting shut-out once but scoring no fewer than 5 runs in every other contest.

AAA  Sacramento River Cats (15-15)


Not a lot of good things to talk about right now.


Yung Chi Chen got called up and put on a hitting display to the tune of 563/632/750 while playing 3B for the River Cats… then proved how much he belongs on the Oakland roster by getting hurt and going on the DL.


Speaking of the disabled list, that’s where you can find Sean Doolittle! He’s got tendonitis in his left knee.


In other news, Adrian Cardenas is struggling to adjust to AAA pitching, Jared Lansford got demoted back to Arizona to work on whatever wasn’t working for him in Sacramento and Dana Eveland got beat up in Las Vegas. Vin Mazzaro struggled a bit in his last start while Simmons got pounded and hasn’t made it past 5 IP in any of his last 3 starts. Daric Barton’s sporting a 557 OPS and Cliff Pennington started in LF yesterday because while Aaron Cunningham is now off the DL he wasn’t ready to play.


AA  Midland Rockhounds (17-13)


I read something interesting last week. It seems that Danny Putnam and Tommy Everidge are back in Midland to help mentor Corey Brown and Chris Carter, plus provide them with protection in the line-up. While that says much about the esteem the A’s have for the character and work ethic of the two minor league vets, it doesn’t say anything good about their chances to become big league players. Brown and Carter continue to hit and (Brown in particular) have managed to tone down their strike out issues from last season.


Jason FernandezTravis Banwart and Graham Godfrey continue to pitch solidly in the Rockhounds rotation but Chris Farley threw his way (‘cause you’d be hard to pressed to call what he did pitching) into the bullpen while Kristian Bell seems determined to head back to Stockton. Sam Demel hasn’t seen much action but he didn’t give up any runs in his 1 appearance.


High-A  Stockton Ports (9-22)


A year ago Stockton was loaded with young talent. Carter anchored the line-up while Cahill and Anderson headed to rotation. Then all those guys graduated and now Stockton is in a rut. First year manager Aaron Nieckula must be wondering what he did wrong in a past life, ‘cause his pitchers don’t pitch very well and he has 2, maybe 3 hitters in the current line-up.


Craig Italiano has pitched well in his last 3 GS, throwing 18.1 IP while allowing 17 Hits, 6 ER, 7 walks and 17 K’s. Sure, not the greatest line ever but its something for the 22 year old to build on. If Craig posts 3-4 more starts of a similar nature there’s a very good chance he earns a promotion to Midland. Simply put, the Rockhounds are playing to win in 2009 and they need another SP. The Ports are a long way from even being able to keep their heads above water. Derrick Gordon and Jon Huntoncontinue to offer solid bullpen support but they’re too old (25 and 26 respectively, with birthdays later in 2009) to be considered legit prospects.


The offense is centered on recently promoted David Thomas and Matt Spencer. Spencer has hit half of the Ports team total 20 HR while Thomas’ 404 OBP is ideal for the lead-off spot. Spencer turned 23 last January and Thomas has his 23rd birthday in July, so it’s likely that the A’s will look to promote either or both players to Midland at some point during the season. Maybe by them someone else (preferably, someone elses) will be ready to score runs for the Ports by then.


Low-A  Kane County Cougars (19-11)


There is no reason to believe that the Cougars could actually win a home game against the Oakland A’s. None whatsoever.




Dusty Coleman continues to pound Midwest League pitching. He’s also committed 9 errors so his defense at SS needs more polishing but the A’s are thrilled with the polish he’s shown thus far. Jason Christian’s bat has cooled off of late but he’s busy learning 3B, so no one in the organization is complaining. In a recent interview to Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman made it clear that the A’s consider Christian’s move to 3B a permanent switch. They think he has the tools to play at the hot corner, he just needs the experience of playing the position in game situations. A recent scouting report in Baseball Prospectus said that Christian needs more practice in handling to quick reaction plays that doth dub 3B as the hot corner. Steve Kleen missed all of last year due to an injury (see, he’s practicing to be an Oakland Athletic!) and is probably going to see a promotion to Stockton soon.


The Midwest League is a great place to pitch, but the performances of Shawn HavilandAnthony Capra and Ben Hornbeck in the rotation, plus Jamie RichmondKenny Smalley and Leonardo Espinal in the bullpen all stand up under scrutiny and could/should earn some of these players a mid-season promotion to Stockton. The A’s still have a bevy of players in Extended ST and will look to send some of them to Kane County once the summer weather settles in. That plus the draft in less than a month means we’re going to see some roster movement in the coming weeks.


Other Notables


Jemile Weeks has recovered from his hip injury, but now he’s suffering from calf and Achilles problems that can probably be traced to the initial hip injury. Last week I said that Tyson Ross went on the DL because of shoulder pain, he’s back and the A’s insist that while his delivery is unorthodox they don’t believe it to be the source of the problem. Brett Hunter, on the other hand, has had his delivery completely re-vamped by the coaching staff. Don’t worry too much about the numbers at this point, he’s basically re-learning how to throw a baseball.


That’s about it. I’m sorry for the lateness of the post but stuff came up.


I’ll try and make it up to AN somehow…