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Monday's Minor League Report: The Upwardly Mobile Edition

Today’s theme is to accentuate the positive and look at some prospects that I think will be getting a promotion very soon. Let me make it clear that just because I might not talk about a player in this post doesn’t mean they’ve done anything wrong or bad or to distinguish themselves as “true Athletics”. Need based promotions can tap any player at any time. What I’m talking about tonight are players whose performance lines up with a need in the level above. The guys I’m talking about are players who I believe will be hunting for a new apartment before the month of May concludes.


The only negative to all this is that none of these guys will be apartment hunting in the Bay Area.

Kane County Cougars  (23-14)


The Cougars have more guys with immediate upward potential for a couple of reasons. The first is Kane County received a lot of talented players in their 1st full professional season, including a number of college draftees from the 2008 draft. That gives the A’s farmhands a distinct advantage as they’re typically playing against opponents 2-3 years younger then they are. The second reason is even more basic. The Stockton Ports have a really weak roster, thus creating opportunities for baseball players with more than a pulse going for them.


Shawn Haviland has good, not great numbers in the Cougars’ rotation but as he’s already 23 and a graduate of Harvard University he needs the challenge High-A hitters (not to mention the offense friendly ballparks of the Cal League) offer.


Ben Hornbeck, on the other hand, has dominated the Midwest League. The Cougars used Hornbeck and Hunter as a designated dual SP tandem in the early part of the season, which means that while Hunter “earned” the start on a given day once he hit his pitch limit Hornbeck automatically took over. This is a fairly common practice in the low minors when an organization has set a strict and limited pitch count for a SP as the A’s did for Hunter. So the fact that Hornbeck hasn’t made 7 GS thus far is on the A’s, not his performance. A 32nd round draft pick last year, he features a fastball that (as of last report) tops out at 88 and a “great” change-up. Good command, some groundball tendencies and he’s working on a curveball and a cutter. Basically, he’s a classically trained college lefty who’ll continue to dominate Low-A ball because he’s so much more developed than the opposition. He needs a tougher challenge and the Ports are sufficiently challenged to give him that.


Jamie Richmond might best be known as the other breathing body the A’s acquired from the Braves in the Mark Kotsay trade. A SP in the Braves system, he was a guy with more moxie than stuff. The A’s moved him to the bullpen this season and the early results have been fairly impressive. He’s 23 years old already and Stockton’s pen isn’t the greatest, so a move seems likely.


I don’t think Dusty Coleman is quite ready for a promotion to the Cal League, but if the next player gets called up to AA it just might create a large enough vacuum to force the A’s hand and send Coleman to Cali.


Stockton Ports  (14-23)


The red-headed stepchild of the organization this year (yes, even more unloved than the big league club) Stockton started badly and really hasn’t improved that much. An infusion of talent from the Cougars would be much appreciated as it would replace some deadwood that’s been building up.


The guy who might make Dusty Coleman a Port player (I thought I had a funny little word play there… I don’t) is Michael Richard. Currently hitting 340/484/420 for May, he’s also a 24 year old middle infielder who needs an opportunity to prove himself against his peer group. Midland’s current 2B, 25 year old Michael Affronti, is hitting .194. Ergo, opportunity.


Midland Rockhounds  (20-17)


Midland doesn’t really have anyone who I think is banging down the door to get to Sacramento, but I have a hunch Travis Banwart is going to get the call to replace Gio Gonzalez in the River Cats’ rotation. Banwart has pitched well for the Rockhounds but 20 K’s in 39 IP does not suggest instant success in AAA at this time.


Sacramento River Cats  (21-16)


Sorry folks, no one’s ready just yet. Although I will say that Vin Mazzaro’s last 2 appearances have been relatively promising.