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Monday's Minor League Report

Help is on the way, folks. Eventually. Just allow 6-8 weeks for delivery, not counting week-ends or national holidays. You know, best case scenario.


The farm system is far from barren but the harsh reality is no one’s really shown themselves to be big league ready yet. As I sit and write this, Dana Eveland, erstwhile #3 starting pitcher in the Oakland rotation, just came in to pitch the bottom of the 15th and proceeded to load the bases… and he just gave up the game winning hit. Trevor Cahill has given up 27 hits and 18 walks in 26 IP, numbers that in no way support his 4.50 ERA.


4 players went on the DL in the past week, Brad Ziegler has the flu and Jason Giambi’s hamstrings seem to have the tensile strength of warm string cheese. Recently called up Gio Gonzalez just threw 108 pitches over 5 innings, so he’s pretty much unavailable for the next 3-4 games. Oh, and Bob Geren seems to hate Travis Buck.


Now would be a good time for the 9-13 Oakland A’s to call up some reinforcements. Too bad there are none to give.

Sacramento River Cats  (14-9)


So close, yet so unable to send worthwhile help Oakland’s way. The A’s just placed Eric Chavez, Nomar Garciaparra and Mark Ellis on the 15-day Disabled List and to help fill the gap of these offensive stalwarts the River Cats send Eric Patterson and Jack Hannahan into the fray. Look, I know how important it is to field a good defensive team but at some point you’ve got to score some runs. Last year the A’s scored fewer runs than any team in the AL. Guess what, as of May 3, 2009 the Oakland A’s have scored fewer runs than anyone in the AL. Not to mention that based on overall performance (and not lucky ERA) there are at least two rotation spots that need replacement. Cahill’s 18 walks and 8 strike outs in 26 innings point to him not being ready to face big league hitters and beat them on a consistent basis. What’s worse, the incredibly inexperienced and obviously rushed Cahill is only the A’s second biggest concern in the rotation. Dana Eveland has pitched like crap.


Unfortunately neither Vin Mazzaro nor James Simmons have shown that they’re ready for the next step. With Gio in Oakland, the two pitchers most ready to assist the A’s are Jeff Gray and non-roster Edgar Gonzalez.


Mazzaro: 0-1  3.38 ERA  5 GS  24.0 IP  25 H  1 HR  12/17 BB/K  2.93 GO/AO


Mazzaro still needs to work on consistently hitting his spots. He’s had two starts in which he issued more walks than strike outs (4/3 in both games) and in his last start he was more than just unlucky in giving up 12 hits in 4 innings at Colorado Springs. The good news was that 10 of those hits were on the ground and the 3 doubles were the only extra base hits he allowed. But even when you factor the 3 infield hits he allowed, Mazzaro may have been throwing strikes but they weren’t necessarily quality strikes.


I’m not trying to be harsh here, Mazzaro is still a good looking SP prospect but that’s all he is at this time: a prospect. He’s not ready to help the A’s.


Simmons: 1-0  5.40 ERA 5 G/4 GS  23.1 IP  26 H  2 HR  12/19 BB/K  0.63 GO/AO


Simmons is much the same story, he’s simply not ready to take the next step. The extreme fly ball tendency is worrisome but at this point I’m willing to shake it off as a product of sample size and not a sign that it’s the shape of things to come. Simmons has always had a slight lean towards the fly ball side of making outs but a 0.63 GO/AO foretells of too many gopher balls in his future.


Jerry Blevins sports a not-entirely unattractive 3.72 ERA, but when you look past the façade you realize he’s only had 1 quality outing in his 6 appearances for the River Cats.


4/26 vs. Las Vegas: 3.0 IP  0 H  1 BB  2 K


5 other games: 6.2 IP  8 H  3 BB  4 K, a quick and dirty average of 2 base runners every 1.1 inning.


Thus Jeff Gray is the last 40 man roster pitcher ready to provide some assistance to the A’s.


Gray: 1-1  2 Sv  2.08 ERA  7 G  8.2 IP  4 H  1 HR  3/4 BB/K  1.75 GO/AO


Sean Gallagher got rained out of his last start and the A’s are still in the process of stretching him back out to handle a starting role. He’s fresh enough to get called up to cover in the pen but the pain of ripping that bandage off might be worse than the actual injury. Oakland needs to resist the temptation of messing with a guy they need in the rotation long term.


Offensively, things are muddled in the River Cats’ line-up. Chris Denorfia is struggling with the bat and Sean Doolittle is hammering lefty pitching but right-handed hurlers own the southpaw slugger. He needs more polish. The infield is a total mish-mash. Adrian Cardenas tore up the Texas League to the tune of 372/443/590 to earn his promotion to AAA. Yung Chi Chen got called up to backfill for Eric Patterson. Chen was hitting 324/387/412 for the Rockhounds at the time of his call-up and has gone 5-11 during his stay in Sac. What’s interesting (more like amusing, I suppose) is that the A’s have Cardenas listed as a SS even though he spent most of his time at 2nd base for the Rockhounds. Chen is listed on the depth charts as a 2B but spent most of his AA time at 3rd base. Cliff Pennington is listed as a 3B for Sacramento but has played almost exclusively in the middle infield and his bat seems to be preventing him from ever becoming a big league regular.


So will Oakland insist on Cardenas getting the bulk of the playing time at SS, given the team’s long term need for a quality SS that can hit? This would bump Pennington to 2B and Chen to 3B. However, the A’s also have an immediate need for a 3B and if Cardenas handles AAA pitching like he did AA then he might be ready for a big league call-up by mid-June. But to call up a kid and ask him to play a defensively demanding position like 3B without any previous experience at the spot seems to be courting danger, so wouldn’t it make sense to have Cardenas (the designated SS) play 3B for the River Cats while Chen and Pennington handle middle infield duties?


And in other odds and ends, Aaron Cunningham seems to be progressing well from his shoulder dislocation and is tentatively expected to return to the River Cats’ line-up in mid-May. C Joel Galarraga finally made it to Sacramento and looks to handle the bulk of the catching duties. To the best of my knowledge, Jared Lansford is healthy… he’s just pitching like crap.


Midland Rockhounds AA  (15-8)


Here’s the first thing you need to know about the Rockhounds: they’ve only got 2 guys on the roster who are hitting under .273 and 1 of those guys went 0-2 on Opening Day and hasn’t played since. (Javier Herrera went home to the DL after hurting his wrist.) Their offense has been all kinds of potent and it hasn’t just been re-treads doing the damage. Legit prospects like Chris Carter and Adrian Cardenas have been raking the ball. Corey Brown is back from his minor knee injury and went 1-4 with a 3-run bomb on Sunday.


Carter: 326/402/526  11 D-1 T-2 HR  11/28 BB/K in 95 at bats


The Carter-to-3B experiment seems to have been shelved, as journeyman Tommy Everidge has taken over the starting job at the hot corner. That’s OK, if Carter keeps raking like this (don’t worry, the home runs will come) he’ll provide more than enough offense to fit in as a 1B/DH in the Show. Carter is still prone to some streakiness but if his May numbers look like his April ones than Daric Barton be damned, the A’s will find a spot for him to play in Sacramento.


Cardenas: 372/443/590  10 D-2 T-1 HR  10/13 BB/K in 78 at bats


Cardenas is in Sac now, I just wanted to post his line one more time. You know, it wasn’t too long ago that I was asking where Cardenas’ power had gone… it seems to have come home.


Brown: 333/436/515  3 D-1 HR  5/9 BB/K in 33 at bats


The knee injury interrupted his hot start, here’s hoping that he can pick up where he left off. The strike outs are always going to be there, he needs to make good things happen when he makes contact.


Josh Donaldson: 205/356/342  5 D-1 T-1 HR  17/16 BB/K in 73 at bats


Donaldson is the only Rockhound line-up regular who’s had a rough start to the season, but even he has some positive numbers. He’s flashed some power and more walks than strike outs is always a plus. His defense behind the plate still needs some work and his bat will continue to look sexier as long as he remains a catcher.


Danny Putnam (341/431/648, a team leading 7 HR) and Archie Gilbert (328/449/469, 10 walks to 3 strike outs) have reached a point in their careers where they seem destined to be career minor league journeymen, but right now they’re putting up a convincing argument that at the very least they deserve a AAA paycheck and maybe, just maybe a shot at something more. Corey Wimberly  was on the verge of an AAA call-up (in place of Yung Chi Chen) when he hurt his wrist and ended up on the DL instead.


The Rockhound pitching is another story. Jason Fernandez, Graham Godfrey and Travis Banwart have shown enough in the rotation (and are young enough) to suggest there might be something there. Chris Farley and Kristian Bell have been busy making piñatas look healthy. Midland has seen some excellent bullpen work by Indy league find Michael Benacka and Sam Demel.


Fernandez: 2-3  4.55 ERA  5 GS  27.2 IP  34 H  3 HR  10/16 BB/K  2.22 GO/AO


Godfrey: 2-2  4.56 ERA  5 GS  23.2 IP  24 H  1 HR  10/18 BB/K  0.86 GO/AO


Banwart: 3-0  1.69 ERA  5 GS  26.2 IP  26 H  1 HR  7/14 BB/K  0.94 GO/AO


Banwart’s ERA is pretty-pretty but his component numbers don’t support it staying that low. Still, if he can continue like this for the first half of the season he might make an attractive trade chip come July. Assuming, of course, the A’s are thinking in that direction once July rolls around.


Benacka: 1-0  1 Sv  1.17 ERA  9 G  15.1 IP  9 H  4/19 BB/K  1.45 GO/AO


Demel: 0-0  4 Sv  1.04 ERA  9 G  8.2 IP  4 H  1 HR  3/9 BB/K  3.25 GO/AO


If Sac keeps sending arms to Oakland one of these two will become a River Cat.


That’s it for this week, folks. I might post a diary covering the low minors later in the week.


And thank you for your support.