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Minor League Update: The 2010 Pitch(ing)

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Today we look at the A’s starting pitching depth in the minor leagues. I realize that the Oakland rotation is composed of several young arms (a couple of whom probably still carry fake ID’s just in case) but young SP are worth their weight in gold for any organization. They are the premier currency in the trade market and given how unpredictable pitching can be in general (plus the high rate of injury) an abundance of arms can quickly turn into just enough to get by. In short, for a professional baseball organization, cheap and young pitching is better than sex.

 

With twins.

 

So let’s check out the prospects.

 

Pitching prospects! Not the prospects for…you know. Jeez, get you minds out of the gutter.

 

Projected (by lovable, furry me) 2010 minor league rotations, full season leagues. The number in parenthesis represents the player’s age in 2010.

 

AAA

 

Graham Godfrey (25)

James Simmons (23)

Clayton Mortensen (25)

Travis Banwart (24)

Kyle Middleton (30)

 

Probably the least appealing starting 5 in the A’s system, there’s a decent chance that Justin Souza (who’s been shelled with the RockHounds since coming over in a trade) could take the place of Middleton. I basically made Middleton the 5th guy ‘cause he pitched well enough as a mid-season FA signing that I think he deserves to use pro ball as a means to put food on the table in 2010. Godfrey and Mortensen will be at that magic age where they’ll either prove that they’ve got what it takes to get a shot as a SP or move into the bullpen. Simmons is plenty young to turn things around but the numbers say he pitches up in the zone too much and he doesn’t have the blazing fastball (or the nasty breaking curveball) to get away with that. The man needs a 2-seam fastball, stat! Banwart didn’t exactly overwhelm the Texas League but he finished the year pitching decent and there are younger, more talented arms that I’d like to see in Midland next year. So its sink-or-swim time for Travis next year in Sacramento.

 

AA

 

Tyson Ross (23)

Arnold Leon (21)

Anthony Capra (23)

Ben Hornbeck (22)

Justin Souza (24)

 

Starting with the old guy first, Souza pitched well in the Southern League before becoming a RockHound so let’s not judge the guy solely on his 5 GS in the Texas League. Carlos Hernandez got called back up to Midland for the play-off run but he’s going to need better pixie dust next year to thrive in AA. Still, put him in the running for the 5th spot in Midland’s 2010 rotation. Capra and Hornbeck spent almost all of 2009 in A-ball (Kane County and Stockton) and I don’t see any performance-based reason that they wouldn’t earn tickets to Midland next year. Neither lefty has a blazing fastball, but both have enough zip to go with the ability to change speeds and throw their breaking stuff for strikes. As Mr. Sickels often says, AA is the acid test for control pitchers. Leon and Ross posses the low-90’s heat that appeals to many and a strong 2010 performance would put either one in line for a big league look.

 

High-A

 

Pedro Figueroa (24)

Ken Smalley (22)

Shawn Haviland (24)

Fautino de los Santos (24)

Julio Ramos (22)

 

The return of DLS to full season ball is the highlight of this bunch and A’s fans can only hope his stay in Stockton is short. Figueroa and Haviland need to get a move on or they’ll find themselves shuttled off to the bullpen. Figueroa needs to on the 40 man or the A’s risk losing him in the Rule 5 draft, and if he’s going to be on the 40 man roster he’s going to be under more scrutiny to prove he deserves the roster slot. He’s got arm strength but he needs to show he can pitch, not just throw hard. I expect the A’s to be aggressive with promoting him if he has early success in 2010. Haviland is a smart guy (he graduated from Harvard) who knows how to pitch but does he have the stuff? Smalley needs to tighten up his control and might be better off in the bullpen but I want to see how well he holds up in a non-pitcher friendly park before sending him to the pen. I don’t have a scouting report on Julio Ramos, but he’s got strong numbers, is young and left handed so I’d like to see the A’s challenge him by having him skip Kane County altogether and keep him in Stockton next year.

 

Low-A

 

Murphy Smith (22)

Anvioris Ramirez (22)

Mathieu Leblanc Poirier (23)

Daniel Strailey (21)

Ronny Morla (22)

 

Ramirez put up solid numbers for the Cougars in a late season audition and it looks like that’s where he’ll be starting again in 2010. Morla had strong strike out numbers for Vancouver and looks about ready to try a full season league, the ML’s pitcher friendly parks seem like a good place to do that. Strailey is a 2009 draft pick that made short work of the NW short-season league. Smith is another ’09 draftee who obviously needs a bit more time in Kane County… and that’s not meant as a criticism. Most draftees don’t get sent straight to full season leagues, which is essentially what happened with Murphy. Poirier didn’t hack it in a trial with Stockton this season and I needed a 5th name to put on the list for the Cougars.

 

Summary

 

The system lacks an overwhelming, Ace-like SP prospect (sorry Inoa, you’ve got to actually get into a couple games before I go there) but there is solid depth and enough potential that we could see a couple break-out candidates. Leon, Ramos, Ramirez and Morla represent a rebirth of the Latin American SP prospect in the Oakland organization and hopefully I’ll be able to track down some scouting reports this off-season. The AAA arms will probably produce a back-end SP for the A’s in 2010, although I have a sneaky suspicion that Mortensen is going to end up in the bullpen down the road. I really like the front 4 in my projected Midland rotation.

 

And thank you for your support.