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Stockton Ports 2016 season review: Tough year for some top prospects

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Richie Martin waited until the final month of the season to really get going.
Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the Oakland A’s 2016 season is over, it’s time for a look back. There’s a long offseason ahead and plenty of dreary winter days for dreaming on the future, but first we need to digest all that has happened over the last six months. So far, we’ve looked at:

Next up are the High-A Stockton Ports, one of the 10 teams in the California League. The Ports didn’t have as many high-profile prospects as the A’s upper-minors affiliates, and to make matters worse several of the ones they did have suffered through rough seasons.

All told, Stockton finished with a middle-of-the-pack offense and one of the worst pitching staffs in the league, en route to a 60-80 record that tied for last in the division. Here’s a closer look.

Top prospects

Hitters

Name Pos PAs Avg/OBP/SLG HR BB% K% wRC+
Tyler Marincov OF 167 .259/.343/.517 9 9.0% 22.8% 126
James Harris OF 559 .303/.379/.423 7 9.7% 21.1% 120
Sandber Pimentel 1B 485 .237/.342/.436 21 12.4% 29.9% 111
B.J. Boyd OF 458 .288/.346/.395 8 7.4% 16.2% 101
Seth Brown OF 532 .241/.340/.362 8 12.2% 22.3% 94
Mikey White SS 521 .247/.315/.352 6 7.7% 25.0% 83
Richie Martin SS 382 .230/.322/.312 3 9.4% 19.1% 78
Chris Iriart 1B 72 .311/.417/.689 6 12.5% 20.8% 188

Marincov’s hot start earned him a quick promotion up to Double-A, where he continued to play well. However, that left Stockton without its best hitter, and no one fully stepped up to fill that void. There were still positives, though: Harris had a breakout year as a dynamic leadoff guy, stealing 21 bases (30 attempts) and earning a few games in Double-A at the end of the year, and Pimentel hit for some power.

There were three key 2015 draftees in the lineup — Martin, White, and Brown — but all of them were quiet at the plate. On the bright side, Martin (.838 OPS in Aug.) and White (.747 OPS in 2nd half) at least finished the year somewhat strong, and Martin got to play in the Double-A postseason.

Iriart came up for a brief run at the end of the year, and he destroyed the ball. His solid campaign in Beloit was neat, but this performance puts him in my Top 30 list.

A few filler guys had good years too: 2B/OF Joe Bennie (125 wRC+), 3B Jose Brizuela (110), and 1B John Nogowski (108).

Pitchers

Name R/L Games ERA IP K BB HR FIP
Daniel Gossett R 9 3.33 46 53 13 4 3.45
Heath Fillmyer R 18 3.60 95 89 31 4 3.53
James Naile R 8 3.76 40⅔ 46 11 5 3.94
Kyle Friedrichs R 18 4.29 100⅔ 86 10 10 3.65
Brett Graves R 27 4.60 141 86 49 11 4.79
Casey Meisner R 28 4.85 117 100 59 12 5.01
Zack Erwin L 18 6.52 80 58 32 11 5.44
Grant Holmes R 6 6.91 28⅔ 24 10 4 5.01
... Bullpen ...
Cody Stull L 36 1.46 55⅔ 63 11 2 2.62
Kyle Finnegan R 13 3.32 21⅔ 28 12 1 3.39
Carlos Navas R 40 4.08 53 67 22 5 3.88

It didn’t take long for Gossett to move up to Double-A, and Fillmyer joined him there later in the summer. Beyond them, the Ports struggled to find reliable starting pitching.

There were high hopes for Meisner and Erwin, but both of them crashed — the former spent time in the bullpen to work on his mechanics, and the latter ended up moving down to Single-A Beloit and then hitting the DL. Graves also failed to find any consistency, and between the three of them Stockton punted a lot of games just thanks to its rotation.

A bit of help did come from Beloit’s overflowing ranks, though. Friedrichs’ numbers are skewed by a disastrous debut outing — remove that and his ERA is 3.55 in 99 innings. Naile was excellent on his pit stop en route to Double-A, and Evan Manarino came up to post a 1.27 ERA in 28⅓ innings.

The bullpen wasn’t bad, and all three guys listed there earned promotions throughout the year. A few other names of note:

  • Matt Sergey, a 26-year-old (now 27) signed out of the independent leagues, struck out 41 batters in 27 innings.
  • Joey Wagman, a 24-year-old who went to Monte Vista High School in Danville, put up a solid line in long relief: 3.67 ERA, 76 ip, 78 Ks, 21 BB, 4 HR.
  • Two RHP from the 2016 draft showed up for a pair of games each: starter Mitchell Jordan (7 ip, 5 runs) and reliever Nick Highberger (4 scoreless innings).

CPL review

The Ports started the year with seven members of our preseason Community Prospect List Top 30 (not counting Bobby Wahl, who opened on a rehab assignment but quickly moved up). It didn’t go well for several of them.

8. Richie Martin, SS: The team’s 1st-round pick in 2015 missed the first two months after tearing the meniscus in his knee. When he returned he didn’t hit much, though as mentioned before he did salvage things a bit with a strong finish after adjusting his swing. His calling card is his glove, but after a poor year in a hitter’s league he’ll need to show he can do at least something with the bat. The good news is that he’ll still only be 21 next year, so there’s time for him to catch up.

9. Casey Meisner, RHP: It was a lost year for the 21-year-old. Mechanical issues plagued him and were surely contributing factors in his dip in both velocity and control. Many of us had high hopes for the tall righty entering the season, but he’ll have to earn his way back onto the radar next year.

16. Mikey White, SS: Last year’s 2nd-round pick didn’t fare much better than the 1st-rounder. He doesn’t have the defensive pedigree of Martin, though, so a lack of hitting is a bigger deal. Like Meisner, he’s got no shot at the CPL this winter and he’ll have a lot to prove next year.

19. Zack Erwin, LHP: He was just a mess. He allowed at least five runs in eight of his 18 games, and he allowed a ton of hits (12.3 H/9) and homers (1.4 HR/9) along the way. He even allowed a fair amount of walks (3.2 BB/9), which is a dealbreaker for a guy who’s supposed to be a control artist. The whole package earned him a demotion late in the season.

24. Sandber Pimentel, 1B: He had a decent enough year, but nothing to move him up the list. His 21 homers aren’t a lot for the Cal League, and he’s already pretty extreme on the Three True Outcomes. He’s the same age as Chris Iriart, who put up a similar line in Beloit this year, but after Iriart’s explosive Stockton debut it’s safe to wonder which one will be higher on the depth chart next spring.

25. Heath Fillmyer, RHP: This list has been a bummer so far, but it has a happy ending with these final two entries. Fillmyer, a recent convert to pitching, made great progress in his second full pro season. He seems to have refined his powerful raw stuff, as he kept his walk rate low and allowed only four homers in a league known for big power numbers. He stayed strong in Double-A, too, though he did hit the DL at the very end of the year.

27. Daniel Gossett, RHP: Saving the best for last. The 2nd-round pick from 2014 nearly fell off the CPL after a weak showing in Beloit last season, but he at least showed signs of life in the second half that year. The addition of a cutter in 2016 moved his game to another level, though, and a guy who previously pitched to contact instead started piling up strikeouts. He wound up in Triple-A by the end of the year, and he’s firmly in my Top 10 at this point in time.

At least three of these guys will certainly fall off the CPL this winter, while some others like Marincov, Friedrichs, Naile, Manarino, Iriart, and Harris should find themselves in the running in the 20-30 range.

There was a big addition late in the year too, as national Top 100 prospect Grant Holmes came over in the Reddick/Hill trade. Unfortunately, he also got hit hard after his arrival, though he has the excuse of being a 20-year-old in the midst of setting a career-high in innings. He still had a solid year overall.

Conclusion

Not a great year for Stockton. The top prospects mostly hit bumps in the road, and the best pitcher (Gossett) and hitter (Marincov) were promoted by June. Several of the disappointing names were on the younger side, and scuffling in High-A at age 20 or 21 isn’t the end of the world, but you’d still rather see them succeed as soon as possible. The Ports can hang their hats on a couple early success stories and look forward to some exciting new talent next summer (A.J. Puk?), but there was no joy in Mudville in 2016.