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High-A Stockton Ports: Checking in with the raw but promising rotation

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Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The High-A Stockton Ports entered 2016 with the deepest starting rotation in the Oakland A's farm system. Four of the five members made our Community Prospect List Top 30, meaning that just about every day there is a legit prospect on the mound. The whole group:

RHP Casey Meisner (acquired for Tyler Clippard)
LHP Zack Erwin (acquired for Brett Lawrie)
RHP Daniel Gossett (drafted 2014, 2nd round)
RHP Brett Graves (drafted 2014, 3rd round)
RHP Heath Fillmyer (drafted 2014, 5th round)

There's a thing about pitching prospects, though. They will infuriate you. It requires a lot of patience to wait through the inconsistencies, the growing pains, the walks. Oh, the walks. When a pitching prospect has a bad year, you don't know if it was a building block toward something positive or if it was his first step toward washing out of the league, especially if you live halfway across the country and are getting most of your info from box scores. Every great performance leads you to dream about the All-Star he could become (but almost certainly won't, statistically speaking).

Stockton's rotation is no different, with some positives and negatives and a whole lot of footnotes. The most important thing with pitchers is health, as no amount of talent can help you win games from the disabled list, and fortunately the rotation has stayed strong so far. Gossett did miss one start in late April, but he's already back from that and no one else has had any notable issues.

Other than that brief injury (reported by A's Farm as a trapezius issue), Daniel Gossett has surprisingly been the brightest point so far. He ranked below Meisner, Erwin and Fillmyer on our CPL (clocking in 27th), but there could be a good reason for the improvement -- according to Keith Law of ESPN (Insider) back in March, Gossett has added a cutter that seems to be making all the difference. As Law said, "the stuff he showed in three innings (on March 11) does not match the terrible results from last year," and that observation seems to have carried over into the regular season. Gossett completed six frames on 93 pitches  his last time out, so he's back up to a full workload, and he's striking out more than 10 batters per nine innings.

Heath Fillmyer has also been a positive story, in just his third year as a full-time pitcher. The most impressive thing to me is his low walk rate, which is a stark contrast from last year in Single-A Beloit. Of course, that was his first full professional season, and I think it's fair to expect some wildness from such a raw pitcher. Last year he walked 12.6% of the batters he faced (5.1 BB/9), and this year, against tougher competition in a more hitter-friendly environment, he's cut that down to 5.4% of batters (2.1 BB/9). Even better, he's not limiting those walks by simply throwing meatball strikes for opponents to feast on, with only one homer allowed in eight games. He was a speculative add to the CPL, but so far he's making good on it.

It's not all happy news, though. Casey Meisner is struggling, walking 12.7% of his batters (5.2 BB/9); in only three of his eight starts has he recorded more Ks than walks. Of course, he turns 21 years old on Sunday, which makes him notably young for High-A ball. This is just the kind of growing pain I was talking about in the intro, so it's something to notice but not freak out about for now. The same goes for Zack Erwin, who has struggled to consistently work deep into games. But the lefty is not even one calendar year removed from being drafted, so it's important not to rush to judgment. As for Brett Graves, he hasn't been awful but I'm still sticking with my belief that he'll end up in the bullpen as he moves up the system.

This is a promising group and it will be fascinating to watch them develop this year. So far Gossett and Fillmyer are the ones on top, but things can change in an instant in the world of pitching prospects.

Marincov promoted

The Ports lost their best hitter on Tuesday when Tyler Marincov was promoted to Double-A Midland. The move came as a result of Max Muncy's call-up to Oakland, with Ryon Healy moving up from Double-A to Triple-A and Marincov completing the chain reaction. The outfielder's nine homers ranked second in the Cal League at the time of his promotion, with the following batting line:

Marincov, High-A: .259/.343/.517, 134 wRC+, 9 HR, 15 BB, 38 Ks, 5 SB

I hadn't been paying much attention to Marincov yet, because his stats are dampened by a couple other numbers: he's 24 years old, and this is his third full professional season (drafted 2013) and second in Stockton. He's still not a big prospect, but if he keeps hitting dingers in Midland then at least we'll start to notice. The only thing he could do to impress me in Stockton was get promoted to Midland.

Meanwhile, it seems Marincov has been replaced on the roster by outfielder Alex Glenn, originally drafted by Arizona (2012, 12th round). He held his own last year in a couple months of Double-A ball (103 wRC+), but he turns 25 in June so he'll want to hurry up and get back up there if possible.

Season stats

Hitters (thru Wed., 5/18, or 39 games)

James Harris, OF: .300/.355/.400, 1 HR, 7.0% BB, 19.3% Ks, 8 SB, 113 wRC+
Sandber Pimentel, 1B: .220/.333/.390, 4 HR, 12.0% BB, 27.4% Ks, 106 wRC+
Seth Brown, OF: .226/.360/.331, 2 HR, 15.3% BB, 21.3% Ks, 103 wRC+
Lana Akau, C: 10-for-40, 1 2B, 3 BB, 15 Ks, 62 wRC+
Mikey White, SS: .212/.282/.271, 0 HR, 8.4% BB, 22.1% Ks, 59 wRC+

Help us Richie Martin, you're our only hope! Harris has slowed down a bit from his hot start but is still doing some things. Pimentel is sloooowly tapping into some power. Not much else going on here.

We're far enough into the season that I'm switching to BB% and K% instead of raw totals. For baselines, think of 8% for walks and 20% for strikeouts, so Pimentel is quite high on both while Harris is just slightly below the averages for each.

Pitchers (includes Erwin's start today, 5/19)

Heath Fillmyer, RHP: 8 games, 3.80 ERA, 42⅔ ip, 36 Ks, 10 BB, 1 HR
Daniel Gossett, RHP: 7 starts, 3.86 ERA, 32⅔ ip, 39 Ks, 10 BB, 3 HR 
Zack Erwin, LHP: 8 starts, 4.30 ERA, 37⅔ ip, 27 Ks, 16 BB, 2 HR
Casey Meisner, RHP: 8 starts, 4.54 ERA, 39⅔ ip, 28 Ks, 23 BB, 3 HR
Brett Graves, RHP: 8 games, 4.91 ERA, 40⅓ ip, 27 Ks, 19 BB, 4 HR

As for the bullpen, 23-year-old righty Carlos Navas has recorded 28 Ks in 19 innings.

Thursday's games

All four affiliates are in action, with a double-dip in Midland to make up for some rain yesterday.

Triple-A Nashville: 4:35 p.m., Eric Surkamp vs. Sacramento
Double-A Midland #1: LIVE, Joel Seddon vs. Frisco
Double-A Midland #2: Time TBD, Corey Walter vs. Frisco
High-A Stockton: Lost 9-4 vs. San Jose
Single-A Beloit: 4:35 p.m., Kyle Friedrichs vs. Cedar Rapids

Stockton has now lost its last 10 meetings against the San Jose Giants. Erwin was ineffective and recorded twice as many walks (4) as Ks (2). Midland is just underway, still in the 2nd inning. Unfortunately, not a lot of intrigue in the pitching slate.

Link to box scores