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A’s Farm Report: Early Season’s Hottest Hitters

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Dustin Fowler: Hitting up a storm in Vegas
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Now that we’re a whole 11 games into the minor league season, it seems like a good time to see which of the A’s minor league hitters have gotten off to the hottest starts in 2019. Las Vegas’s lineup has been lighting up the scoreboard on a nightly basis, and hitters like Mark Payton, Dustin Fowler, Jorge Mateo and Sean Murphy have been the leaders of the pack there. But some slightly-lesser-known names like Midland’s Luis Barrera and Beloit’s Lester Madden have been making their mark in the early going as well.

And speaking of hitting prospects, I just had the chance to talk with A’s Assistant Director of Player Development Ed Sprague for this season’s first edition of the A’s Farm Podcast. I got his take on some of the team’s top hitting prospects like Austin Beck, Lazaro Armenteros, Jameson Hannah, Jorge Mateo and Sheldon Neuse. And from what he told me, it sounds like he might be expecting the A’s top catching prospect, Sean Murphy, to be on his way to Oakland before too long. And later on in the podcast, pitcher Daulton Jefferies talks to Robert Bermudez about finally returning to the mound from Tommy John surgery for the Stockton Ports this season. If you’re interested, you can check it out here – A’s Farm Podcast

LAS VEGAS AVIATORS (AAA)

OF Mark Payton .455/.526/1.030

OF Dustin Fowler .326/.367/.674

SS Jorge Mateo .395/.435/.605

C Sean Murphy .367/.472/.533

Triple-A Las Vegas’s offense has been on fire to start the season. The Aviators’ lineup has been averaging almost 9 runs per game through their first 11 contests. Left fielder Mark Payton and center fielder Dustin Fowler have been leading the way. Payton, a former Yankees farmhand whom the A’s picked up in the minor league portion of the Rule-5 draft in the offseason, has been the hottest hitter in the A’s system. The 27-year-old leads all A’s minor leaguers with 5 home runs and 9 extra-base hits and also boasts the best batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage in the system. And Fowler is right behind Payton with 4 homers, 7 extra-base hits and a .674 slugging percentage. He has drawn just 2 walks in his first 46 at-bats though. Shortstop Jorge Mateo, who struggled most of last season at Triple-A, has also been hot in the early going. The 23-year-old leads all A’s minor leaguers with 17 hits and 11 runs while also collecting a pair of doubles and a pair of triples, swiping 4 bases, batting .395 and slugging .605 over his first 9 games. Top catching prospect Sean Murphy has looked good as well, batting .367 while boasting an on-base percentage of .472 for Vegas.

MIDLAND ROCKHOUNDS (AA)

OF Luis Barrera .414/.469/.793

OF Dairon Blanco .302/.362/.535

C Jonah Heim .280/.333/.480

Center fielder Luis Barrera has been the brightest star in the RockHounds’ lineup in the early going. The 23-year-old sat out a few games with a sore shoulder, but he’s already collected a pair of homers and a pair of triples over his first 8 games while also boasting the best batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage in Midland. And left fielder Dairon Blanco has looked nearly as good as Barrera. The 25-year-old Cuban import leads the squad in hits, runs and RBIs while notching a pair of home runs and a pair of doubles, batting .302 and slugging .535. He also leads all A’s minor leaguers with 5 stolen bases in his first 10 games – and he’s yet to be caught! Catcher Jonah Heim has looked good in the early going as well, hitting .280 while sporting a slugging percentage of .480 for the RockHounds.

STOCKTON PORTS (A+)

C Jordan Devencenzi .333/.474/.333

OF Austin Beck .250/.286/.475

SS Nick Allen .211/.333/.395

Stockton entered the season with a very young and very talented lineup filled with some of the A’s top hitting prospects. But, so far, the Ports offense has been slow to get started, averaging just 3 runs per game over its first 11 contests. Center fielder Austin Beck has been the best-hitting of the team’s top prospects in the early going, leading the squad with 6 extra-base hits and a .475 slugging percentage. But Beck has struck out 18 times in his first 40 at-bats, while left fielder Lazaro Armenteros has 18 whiffs in his first 34 at-bats. Shortstop Nick Allen has been hitting the ball with more authority so far this season, collecting 4 doubles and a home run over his first 10 games. And catcher Jordan Devencenzi, who spent all of last season at Beloit and has been sharing the catching duties at Stockton this season with JJ Schwarz, has been one of the Ports most reliable hitters when he’s been in the lineup, reaching base 9 times in his first 19 at-bats.

BELOIT SNAPPERS (A)

3B Cobie Vance .357/.525/.429

OF Lester Madden .368/.432/.474

OF Chase Calabuig .289/.426/.421

Third baseman Cobie Vance’s 10 walks (in just 40 plate appearances) lead all A’s minor leaguers, while his .525 on-base percentage is second only to Vegas’s Mark Payton in the A’s system. Vance was the A’s 18th-round pick out of the University of Alabama in last year’s draft. 20-year-old Cuban left fielder Lester Madden has also looked good in the early going and is currently leading the squad in hits, triples, total bases, RBIs, batting average and slugging percentage. Center fielder Chase Calabuig, who was the A’s 27th-round pick in last year’s draft, looked good when he got to spend a little time in Stockton last season, and he’s been looking even better in Beloit this year. The 23-year-old is second to Vance in the A’s system with 9 walks while also boasting a .426 on-base percentage for Beloit.

PITCHING UPDATES

A number of A’s minor league pitchers have already been on the move since the start of the season. Ben Bracewell was reassigned from the RockHounds to the Aviators, while Trey Cochran-Gill was promoted from the Ports to the RockHounds, Peter Bayer and Joel Seddon were assigned to Stockton, Jaimito Lebron was assigned to the Snappers, and Andrew Triggs, Dean Kiekhefer and Will Gilbert have all landed on the injured list. A few other hurlers have been missing in action, and here’s why…Parker Bridwell was released, while Gus Varland underwent knee surgery, Andrew Tomasovich has been dealing with a back injury, Boomer Biegalski and Jean Ruiz are still recovering from injuries, and Kyle Friedrichs, Jake Bray and Cody Stull are healthy but are still at extended spring training in Arizona waiting for an opening on a full-season roster.

Visit Athletics Farm for updates on the A’s minor league teams and all the top prospects down on the farm.