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Down on the farm: River Cats changing rotation

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

All the A's recent moves have probably impacted the River Cats rotation more than any other area of the A's system - and the changes may not be done yet. LHPs Tommy Milone and Drew Pomeranz could be considered potential trade chips and LHP Brad Mills is still in DFA limbo, while RHP Josh Lindblom is laid up on the DL. One thing's for certain, things should be settling down after July 31st! In the meantime, you can keep tabs on all the A's top prospects and minor league teams on my Athletics Farm site and get lots more details on all the latest down on the farm right here on Athletics Nation...


With the departure of RHP Dan Straily in the deal with the Cubs and RHP Josh Lindblom expected to miss at least a month after taking a liner off his ankle, the River Cats rotation was starting to look a little short-handed. But LHP Tommy Milone made his first start for Sacramento this week and allowed just 1 run, while the A's also optioned LHP Drew Pomeranz to the River Cats on Sunday after he allowed just 1 run in his so-called rehab start on Saturday. Milone and Pomeranz are both still considered potential trade chips and LHP Brad Mills could become a starting candidate for the Cats should he clear waivers, but right now the River Cats rotation heading into the All-Star break consists of Milone, Pomeranz, Arnold Leon, Matt Buschmann and Zach Neal. Leon struck out 13 in one 6 inning start this week. He allowed just 3 hits but, unfortunately, 2 of them were home runs, and he ended up taking the loss. In the bullpen, RHP Autin House has tossed 7 scoreless innings since his promotion from Stockton, and RHP Paul Smyth was named as a late All-Star selection. Outfielder Nick Buss returned to the River Cats after clearing waivers and outfielder Kenny Wilson joined the roster after being claimed off waivers from Toronto. And with the A's recall of shortstop Andy Parrino, infielder Colin Walsh was reassigned to Sacramento from Stockton.


The RockHounds snapped a 9-game winning streak on Sunday. Third baseman Jefry Marte had been one of the key drivers of the Hounds' hot streak, going 12 for 22 over his last 5 games while driving in the winning run in a walk-off in two consecutive games, and outfielder D'Arby Myers, who recently returned from the disabled list, has hit .300 over his last 5 games. First baseman Max Muncy is the team's best remaining hitter with a .379 on-base percentage, and outfielder Billy Burns has now notched a league-leading 44 stolen bases in 47 attempts. Outfielder Jeremy Barfield, who decided to scrap his experiment with pitching, returned to the RockHounds outfield this week, going 3 for 8 with 4 walks in his first 4 games back in action. And with Barfield's return, outfielder Chad Oberacker was reassigned to Stockton.


The big news out of Stockton this week was the 50-game suspension handed out to outfielder Herschel "Boog" Powell after he tested positive for a banned amphetamine. Powell had been named the Midwest League All-Star Game MVP, had the best batting average and on-base percentage of any regular player in the A's minor league system this year and had been hitting well after replacing the recently departed Billy McKinney in center field for Stockton. With McKinney gone and Powell suspended, Beloit's best hitter, outfielder Jaycob Brugman, got a promotion to the Ports. Stockton's outfield also added Chad Oberacker when he was reassigned from Midland after Jeremy Barfield's return to the RockHounds. And it's also been rumored that A's outfielder Josh Reddick will be doing a rehab stint with Stockton this week. With RHP Tim Atherton landing on the disabled list with a quad strain, RHP Josh Bowman returned to the rotation, and RHP Rodolfo Fernandez joined the roster after being acquired from Milwaukee. The Ports pulled off a rare triple play on Thursday - third baseman Ryon Healy to second baseman Colin Walsh to first baseman Matt Olson. Meanwhile, Renato Nunez had a huge week at the plate for the Ports, slugging not one, but two grand slams over the course of just four days.


Beloit's best hitter, outfielder Jaycob Brugman, got a promotion to the Ports after Herschel Powell's suspension, but outfielder Justin Higley and this year's 7th-round draft pick, infielder Branden Cogswell, both joined the Snappers this week. The team's top starter, RHP Kyle Finnegan, landed on the disabled list, but Vermont's best starter, Joe Michaud, replaced him on the roster and allowed just 1 run over 4 1/3 innings in his first appearance for the Snappers. RHP Bobby Wahl has been pitching well since joining Beloit's bullpen, and he's allowed just 2 runs over 13 innings while striking out 18 in his last 9 appearances for the Snappers. 11th-round draft pick Joel Seddon has tossed 8 2/3 scoreless innings, while 22nd-rounder Brendan McCurry has walked none and struck out 10 in his first 6 2/3 innings for the Snappers. Meanwhile, 1st-round draft pick Matt Chapman has been heating up lately and is hitting .400 with a double, triple and home run over his last 4 games.


Vermont lost it's top hitter and top pitcher when outfielder Justin Higley and RHP Joe Michaud were both promoted to Beloit. But 4th-round draft pick Jordan Schwartz joined the team this week and allowed 4 runs, 3 earned, in his first 3 1/3 innings. Meanwhile, 2nd-rounder Daniel Gossett has allowed 4 runs and struck out 4 in his first 8 innings, while 9th-rounder Mike Fagan has allowed 2 runs and struck out 7 in his first 6 frames, and 10th-rounder Corey Miller has allowed 2 runs and struck out 5 over his first 9. With Michaud's promotion, the team's top starters have been last year's 10th-rounder Jerad Grundy along with RHP A.J. Burke, both of whom were boasting ERAs under 3.00. And with Higley's departure, the team's top hitters have been 13th-rounder Max Kuhn along with second baseman Joe Bennie and shortstop Yairo Munoz.


The A's 3rd-round draft pick this year, RHP Brett Graves, made his debut on Sunday, walking 1 and striking out 1 in a scoreless 1st inning in Arizona. 8th-rounder Branden Kelliher has allowed 3 earned runs and struck out 12 in his first 9 1/3 innings, while 12th-rounder Tyler Willman joined the team and allowed 3 runs and struck out 4 in his first 4 frames, and 29th-rounder Cody Stull has allowed just 1 run and struck out 19 in his first 11 innings on the mound. But last year's 2nd-round pick Dillon Overton, who's returning from Tommy John surgery, has been the big story on the hill, allowing just 2 runs while walking 1 and striking out 20 in his first 12 innings back in action. Meanwhile, this year's 15th-rounder, 2B-3B Trent Gilbert out of Arizona, has been heating up and now has a .327/.377/.449 slash line. But the team's top hitter has been Korean catcher Seongmin Kim (.441/.537/.824), while the team's oldest player, 32-year-old catcher Dusty Brown, who's been working his way back from an injury, hit his 2nd home run this week and could be ready for a reassignment somewhere in the A's system soon.

You can check out my blog - Athletics Farm - for updates on the A's minor league teams and all the top prospects down on the farm.