The High-A Stockton Ports entered the year with an exciting starting rotation, featuring four members of our preseason Community Prospect List Top 30. Unfortunately, the results have been mixed at best -- Daniel Gossett and Heath Fillmyer have blown away expectations with great performances, but Zack Erwin and No. 9 prospect Casey Meisner have been so bad that they've each been sent to the bullpen to figure things out. With Gossett's dominance earning him a quick promotion to Double-A, that left only Fillmyer as a success story among the remaining starters. However, another arm has emerged to help him shoulder the load: right-hander Kyle Friedrichs.
We've talked about Friedrichs before, but he just keeps getting more and more interesting. He was the Oakland A's 7th-round pick in the 2015 draft, so even though he's already 24 years old he's still in his first full pro season. After breezing through a couple months in Single-A with Beloit, he moved up to Stockton and got torched in his debut outing. Since then, though, he's been incredible:
Friedrichs, last 8 starts: 2.20 ERA, 49 ip, 46 Ks, 4 BB, 3 HR, 45 hits
I still wonder how real that strikeout rate is since he originally profiled as more a groundball pitcher, but even if he doesn't keep that up, the rest of his line is incredible too. My favorite part is that his low ERA isn't just a matter of small-sample BABIP luck, with a .296 mark and around a hit per inning. Rather, he's racking up strikeouts, walking virtually nobody, keeping the ball on the ground (51% GB rate in these games), and limiting the hard contact (only eight extra-base hits).
We've already seen some aggressive promotions in the A's system this year, from Gossett to Daniel Mengden to Friedrichs himself. That leads to the question: How long does he have to keep this up to get the next call up to Double-A? He's already old for his league due to getting a late start out of college, and he's clearly not being challenged very much by his competition. There's space to be claimed in Midland's rotation, too, which currently features a 32-year-old among other unappealing options. Friedrichs seems like a prime candidate to be fast-tracked at this point in time, and you have to wonder if the move could come sooner than later, regardless of what kinds of prospects they might get back in the upcoming July trades.
One final reason to move Friedrichs up is that there are more pitchers in Beloit who are banging on Stockton's door. James Naile is dominating in Single-A -- after getting a brief taste of the upper minors in June, he's made four starts in his return to Beloit and has allowed just four total earned runs while completing at least seven frames each time. And if not him, lefty Evan Manarino has a 2.33 ERA with more than five strikeouts per walk. At least one of those guys needs to be up in Stockton ASAP, and moving Friedrichs up would be one easy way to clear a rotation spot.
The A's have already received an influx of pitching from the farm this year, with Mengden and Sean Manaea graduating and Dillon Overton making his debut. It's time to start preparing the next wave in the upper minors.
Harris at the All-Star Game
I missed this bit of news in the last Stockton update. On June 21, there was an All-Star Game between the California League and the Carolina League. This is where it gets kind of awkward, because there are actually three High-A leagues, with the Florida State League being the third. But everyone knows Florida is the worst state, so I guess they drew the short straw and have to have their own game. (Also, the FSL has 12 teams, compared with 10 in the Cal and 8 in the Carolina, so in this case size presumably matters).
That means the Cal League gets to make an entire All-Star team! Unfortunately the Ports are really bad this year (35-55) and so they only managed one representative: outfielder James Harris.
Harris, the 22-year-old Oakland native, drew the start in RF and batted ninth. His day (link to full Gameday):
- GIDP to end the 3rd
- Single to lead off the 6th, but then caught stealing second base
- Single in the 8th to extend (ultimately fruitless) rally
- Flied out in the 9th for the last out of the game
Overall, he went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles and a caught stealing, as the Cal League fell 6-4. His day had ups and downs, but overall that seems like a positive performance. Congrats James Harris on your All-Star experience!
Hitters (thru 90 games)
At least this group is starting to find its collective power stroke. When we last updated three weeks ago, these six hitters had combined for 19 homers, and now they're at 30 total. Brown is getting hot in July (.934 OPS) and is working on a streak of 10 straight games with at least one walk. White is also quietly heating up (.883 OPS in July), highlighted by a two-homer game last week. On the basepaths, Harris has 17 steals in 23 attempts (74% success, slightly subpar but not bad).
|... Bullpen ...|
Even if you factor in his awful debut game, Friedrichs' overall numbers are still good. Graves left his start early on July 5, but it was just a blister and he returned to take his next turn. In that next game, he threw six shutout innings, allowing only one hit and no walks. It's been a tough year overall for Graves, but that's his second randomly amazing scoreless performance (tossed 8 innings back in May). Fillmyer has hit a brief rough patch but bounced back decently in his last outing (8.10 ERA in last three games).
All five affiliates are in action.
Triple-A Nashville: LIVE, Nick Tepesch vs. El Paso
Double-A Midland: LIVE, Joel Seddon vs. San Antonio
High-A Stockton: 7:10 p.m., Matt Stalcup vs. High Desert
Single-A Beloit: LIVE, Evan Manarino vs. Dayton
Low-A Vermont: LIVE, Brandon Bailey vs. Williamsport
Bailey (6th-round pick) made his Low-A debut and recorded four of his five outs via strikeout. Seddon was excellent again (6 ip, 1 ER, 1 hit, 6 Ks), and he's legitimately on a roll now. Manarino was mediocre but still controlled the zone well (5 Ks, 1 BB).