Results tagged ‘ Oakland Athletics ’
By Jake Seiner
Fresno manager Bob Mariano on Gary Brown’s recent acceptance of his need to make adjustments (Coachable Brown breaks out for Fresno)
“It started in Salt Lake City. Our hitting coach, Russ Morman, was working with him a lot, and Shane Turner, our field coordinator, came in. Gary’s been real reluctant to really make adjustments. Some guys just take some time and are a little stubborn. He really started opening up and asking questions to Shane and us about what he needed to do. We looked at some video of him in San Jose, and he was taller in his setup back then, and that allowed him to stay above the ball in his setup and stay through the zone.
“He’s been asking more questions and been more receptive to some teaching that Russ was trying to get through to him, and Shane Turner was trying to get through to him, and he just started catching on fire. He’s barreling up the ball. He’s had three good games now where he’s really swinging the bat. Tonight, he had probably the best game he’s had all year.
“He was a little wider in his setup and was really rushing out there with his mechanics on the front side and was constantly working underneath the baseball. He had a long swing and he was in and out of the zone real quick. Now, he’s taller, and he’s working high to low, keeping the barrel above his hands. He’s more short to long, staying inside the ball and barreling up. He’s catching fire and putting together some good at-bats, and that’s something we’ve been waiting for for a long time.
“Sometimes, guys might have success for their whole lives, whether it’s in college or a lower level. He had success in San Jose, but as he started moving up — in Triple-A, it’s a whole different animal. Pitchers are throwing to different sides of the plate and they can add and subtract real well.
“Sometimes guys take time to make adjustments and are more open to it. Gary, he was kind of — he wasn’t real receptive earlier. Sometimes failure is your best teacher as a coach. You let guys fail, and they have to take a couple of steps back before they can take steps forward. That’s what was going on, and now, he’s swinging the bat well. It’s a good thing, because we have a lot of games left. We’re only midway through the season.”
San Francisco prospect Gary Brown on battling through his struggles this season (Brown rights the ship with four hits):
“It’s hard because in this game, you can do everything right and fail. Earlier this year, I wasn’t doing much right, but, even when I was doing things right, I was still failing. It’s good to have a night like this.
“It’s definitely been building. I haven’t stopped working since the season started. I just haven’t seen the results. I finally got some balls to fall today. I found a couple holes in the infield, and sometimes, that’s just what it takes.”
Springfield pitching coach Randy Niemann on Cardinals’ prospect Seth Blair pitching in Double-A (Cards’ Blair outduels Drillers’ Oswalt):
“When he started the year, he was probably a level above where he should’ve been in the sense that he didn’t pitch a lot last year. He had a very good Spring Training and we took a chance on taking him up here. He’s had some growing pains, but he’s done a great job of making adjustments to his delivery and basically getting comfortable at this level.
“We knew coming in that he had all the ability to be able to pitch at this level. He just didn’t have the experience. Now, he’s gaining the experience, and he understands himself and his delivery better and he’s making better pitches.
“I think in Spring Training, we realized that not only did he have the ability to be at this level, but he had exhibited the mental capacity to handle it. You knew going in that it wouldn’t be easy. There were some rough spots. With every outing, even if the results weren’t showing up, he was improving and mentally, he was staying strong, and it’s a credit to him that he was able to do that.
“He didn’t let the results overwhelm him. He understands the process and he kept working hard at that. Now, we’re starting to see the results of that work. We’re very pleased and proud of the work he’s put in.
He had a delivery where he actually stepped back and then had a big leg turn, more of a leg swing than a turn. What it was doing was affecting his posture through his delivery. Sometimes, he would maintain it, and sometimes, he would get out of it. It was making him very inconsistent. He calmed that down a little.
“He still goes over his head and makes a turn, but he’s picking that leg up and doing a little side step rather than stepping back and swinging his leg around and getting his posture off line. He worked hard on that. Also, out of the stretch, he had a little higher of a leg kick, so we cut that down. That’s helped improve his command, also. It’s that old saying, ‘Keep it simple.’ By simplifying those things, he’s helped his delivery and his command. The stuff is definitely there — it’s just about being able to keep it in the strike zone.
He’s got an overpowering curveball, but the issue with it — it’s kind of a spike curve, and the issue is commanding it. He’s starting to improve that a lot. We’ve kind of adjusted his grip and gotten him to where he can throw a slower curve and a harder one. He’s ended up with two curveballs, and he’s improved his command with both. With the changeup, again, it’s a plus pitch for him, but he has a tendency to fly open and lower his arm angle. When he’s able to maintain that same angle as his fastball, that’ll affect that pitch.
“Those are the little things guys with experience are able to understand and do. He’s doing it and experiencing it and fixing it with each outing and side session and bullpen he throws. Those are the kinds of things — other than results — those are the things we noticed him improving on and getting better. Now, it’s showing up in games.”
Washington prospect Robbie Ray on the adjustments that have led to his resurgence with Potomac (Ray continues to rebound for Nats):
“It was a mechanical thing. I had kind of tightened up my windup a little. I have a little turn now, and I raised my arm slot. I’m more of a high three-quarters now than a low three-quarters.
“That was actually last season, in the last game of the year last year, Chris Michalak, my pitching coach, we were working on stuff in the ‘pen before my next start. He said, ‘Let’s try this,’ and it felt good. I took it into the offseason, and it seemed to be working, and I stuck with it.
“It’s allowing me to keep my body going straight toward the hitter, toward the plate. Last year, I was flying open and leaving everything arm side. When I get that turn, I stay closed and I’m moving toward the plate, and that allows me to keep the ball in the zone.
“From last year, I thought I could just come out and throw stuff and it’d be good. I didn’t know how to pitch to hitters. This year, I have more knowledge of what to throw in what counts, where as last year, I was trying to blow it by guys. I’m being a little more selective about my pitches.
Oakland prospect Max Muncy on rediscovering success after a hot start and a long slump (Muncy’s three shots lead homer barrage):
“It wasn’t really an adjustment to my swing. It was more to my mental approach. I started off the season really hot, and I think I let that get to my head a little and got away from my approach. My approach is to be a linedrive hitter. The home runs will just come when I get a little underneath the ball and get it into the air.
“I started struggling when I started trying to put the ball in the air instead of sticking to line drives. The last couple weeks, I’ve been trying to get back to that, and I think I’ve done a good job of that. Tonight, I just happened to get underneath it.”
Muncy on what’s gone into him already tripling his homer output from last season:
“I’m getting a little more backspin on the ball. Last year, I had a lot of doubles, and I can honestly say a lot of those were balls with topspin. I’d topspin balls down the right-field line over the first baseman’s head, and even the ones I’d hit into right-center field, I’d be getting some topspin on them. This year, I’m putting more backspin on it.
“It’s just about staying through the ball a little more and not getting to the point of contact and coming out early. I had been doing that my whole life, and that’s really what creates the backspin. I really worked in the offseason to stay on the inside part of the ball and get backspin.”
Fort Myers manager Doug Mientkiewicz on importance of winning in Minor Leagues (Miracle clinch first-half division title):
“I was lucky enough to play with the same group of guys all the way up with Dave Ortiz and A.J. Pierzynski and Torii Hunter and the list goes on — Corey Koskie. We were all together from, ever since we all signed, we played together and won at every level. I think that was a big reason why we turned the franchise around, is we believed in each other.
“We won at every level, and we took our lumps and got our butts kicked every night the first couple years in the big leagues, but that group understood about taking those lumps, and we thought once we got established, things wouldn’t be any different. With the guys we already had out there, the Eddie Guardados and the LaTroy Hawkins and Brad Radkes — our group believed we could win.
“That’s something the Twins always believed in in the development stage. It’s not about developing individual talents. It’s about developing winning players. Winning players find a way to stick around in the big leagues.”
By Ashley Marshall
It includes nine batters — eight position players and one DH — assembled into a batting order. Like real-life lineups, mine includes players with high on-base percentages and good speed at the top of the order, the most productive hitters in the heart of the lineup and a mixture of power, discipline and speed in the lower third.
1. Micah Johnson, 2B
2. Anthony Aliotti, 1B
3. Ryan Mount, 3B
4. Matt McBride, RF
5. Josh Phegley, C
6. Jordan Lennerton, DH
7. Corey Dickerson, LF
8. Joe Sclafani, SS
9. Rico Noel, CF
• Micah Johnson (Kannapolis Intimidators, White Sox) does everything you want a leadoff hitter to do. He hits for average and draws walks, and when he gets on base he runs. A lot. No Minor Leaguer at any level or any position stole more bases than Johnson in May (27). Part of the reason that he had so many chances to victimize battery mates was a .446 OBP, crafted via a .357 average and 17 walks in 28 games for Kannapolis.
• Anthony Aliotti (Midland RockHounds, Athletics) had a huge month for Midland, batting an even .400 in 29 contests. He flashed some power (six homers and 10 doubles), gave the RockHounds some production (24 RBIs) and showed patience at the plate (22 walks). His 72 total bases ranked third in the Minors in May, while his 18 extra-base hits fell two shy of the lead league.
• Arguably the hottest hitter in the Minors last month, Ryan Mount (Rancho Cucamonga, Dodgers) has been crushing the Cal League. He hit a Minors-best .460 in 23 games for Rancho Cucamonga and had a .500 OBP. He had a career-high 15-game hit streak from May 3 to May 19 and he recorded 14 multi-hit games in total, including a 5-for5 outing in Lake Elsinore. With five homers and 16 extra-base hits, only Norfolk first baseman Travis Ishikawa and Rochester outfielder Chris Colabello had a better OPS than Mount’s 1.289.
• Matt McBride (Colorado Springs, Rockies) tied for the Minors lead with 11 homers in May and he ranked first with 31 RBIs in 25 games. He saw time as a right fielder, a catcher and a DH, but his versatility was matched only by his output. He went deep in three straight games against Iowa and Omaha, and he had a pair of two-homer games — one a six-RBI game, the other a five-RBI game. Making his tally even more impressive is that he struck out just nine times over that span.
• Josh Phegley (Charlotte, White Sox) hit .356 with seven homers, 10 doubles and 19 RBIs in just 22 games in May. No full-time catcher had more total bases (65) than Phegley, who raised his average 62 point from April and more than doubled the number of extra-base hits (18) from the previous month (eight).
• Jordan Lennerton (Toledo, Tigers) was one of the few players who had a slugging percentage over .600 and an OPS over 1.100 for the month of May. The secret to those numbers? He hit .387, smacked seven homers and drew 21 walks. His average ranked eighth in the Minors in May, while his 43 hits were two short of the lead across all levels.
• While Cameron Flynn led the Minors with a .551 on-base percentage in May, Corey Dickerson (Colorado Springs, Rockies) led the Minors with 82 total bases. He hit for power (five homers, eight doubles) and he showcased elite speed (seven triples). Add a .375 batting average, 18 RBIs and the ability to swipe the occasional base, and you can see why he’s a perfect choice for that No. 7 spot. Only his discipline (seven walks in 127 plate appearances) stop him being a leadoff-type hitter, but his power and production stop him from slipping any lower.
• Joe Sclafani (Lancaster, Astros) put together a nice month that saw him bat .357 with a .488 OBP. He’s not a guy that will hit for power (just eight extra-base hits in 26 games), but at this spot in the lineup it’s more about reaching base and setting the table for the guys at the top. He walked more than he struck out (23:15), he stole eight bases in 10 tries and he scored 24 runs. His on-base percentage ranked 10th in the Minors this month.
• Rico Noel (San Antonio, Padres) would serve as a great secondary leadoff hitter because of his speed. He hit .326 and drew 16 free passes, giving him a terrific .436 on-base percentage. Once on base, he stole 17 bags in 22 attempts in 28 games for San Antonio. With guys like Mount and McBride providing the power in this fantasy All-MiLB team, having the balance of a fleet-footed center fielder like Noel in the No. 9 spot is a blessing most teams would love to have.
With the 2013 MLB Draft starting Thursday, we thought we’d take the next few days to run down how some of the more intriguing picks out of the top rounds from the last few Drafts have fared. On Monday, we looked at 2009. On Tuesday, we looked at 2010.
Today, we turn our attention to 2011.
The 2011 Draft had some noteworthy storylines, ranging from two UCLA Bruins being selected in the first three picks to two Oklahoma pitchers being taken in the top seven. The Rays punched up their farm system with a league-high 10 picks in the first and sandwich rounds, starting with Taylor Guerrieri at No. 24 and finishing with James Harris at 60. But with only one full-time Major Leaguer among its ranks thus far, the book on the Class of 2011 still largely remains to be written.
- Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh (2013: Triple-A Indianapolis) – The 6-foot-4 right-hander has shot up the Pirates’ ladder and should be expected to make his Major League debut within the next few months before taking a more permanent role in the rotation next season.
- Danny Hultzen, Seattle (2013: Triple-A Tacoma) – The southpaw got Mariners fans excited by going 3-1 with a 2.78 ERA through his first four starts in the hitter-happy PCL this season. But he’s been shut down ever since with a rotator cuff strain and tendinitis.
- Trevor Bauer, Arizona (2013: Triple-A Columbus, MLB Indians) – Bauer was shipped to the Indians system as part of the deals that sent Shin-Soo Choo to Cincinnati and Didi Gregorius to Arizona last offseason. He’s played the role of spot starter at the Major League level this season, going 1-2 with a 2.76 ERA in three starts for the Tribe but hasn’t shown enough consistent command (11-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 16 1/3 innings) to earn a more permanent spot.
- Dylan Bundy, Baltimore (2013: injured) – MLB.com’s No. 2 prospect has yet to take the field due to elbow stiffness but has been cleared to begin throwing again. He will not undergo surgery.
- Bubba Starling, Kansas City (2013: Class A Lexington) – The Royals were slow to bring the center fielder along by not allowing him to make his full-season debut until this year. He’s struggled at the plate so far, batting .206 with a .649 OPS in 49 games for Lexington.
- Anthony Rendon, Washington (2013: Double-A Harrisburg, Triple-A Syracuse, MLB Nationals) – Rendon, who turns 23 on Thursday, tore up the Eastern League (.319/.461/.603) and even earned a promotion to The Show when Ryan Zimmerman hit the DL. He made a short stop in Syracuse but is back in the big leagues — this time as a second baseman — due to Danny Espinosa’s recent injury.
- Archie Bradley, Arizona (2013: Class A Advanced Visalia, Double-A Mobile) – At 7-1 with a 1.18 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 12 starts between two levels, the 20-year-old right-hander has made a case to claim the best statistical season by a pitcher in the Minors thus far.
- Francisco Lindor, Cleveland (2013: Class A Advanced Carolina) – The reviews on the 19-year-old’s defense have always been high, but he looks like he’s taking the next step forward at the dish (.306/.375/.427) so far with the Mudcats.
- Javier Baez, Chicago (2013: Class A Advanced Daytona) – The Puerto Rico native has a lot of pop in his bat for a shortstop, although that’s not necessarily where he’ll stick given Starlin Castro’s place there for the Cubs. Through 51 games at Daytona, 33 of his 59 hits have gone for extra bases. He’s walked, though, just 23 times in 577 career plate appearances.
- Cory Spangenberg, San Diego (2013: Class A Advaned Lake Elsinore) – Spangenberg finds himself back in the Cal League after a concussion and hitting woes kept him from having a solid first full season. He’s improved in his second trip with the Storm however — his OPS is nearly 150 points higher — and his speed continues to be his calling card.
- George Springer, Houston (2013: Double-A Corpus Christi) – The University of Connecticut product could be the game’s next big thing, given his start to 2013. His 17 homers in the Texas League lead all Minor Leaguers, a hopeful sign for any Astros fan desperately looking for one.
- Taylor Jungmann, Milwaukee (2013: Double-A Huntsville) – Jungmann has yet to take off and, with a 4.78 ERA in 10 starts with the Stars, will need more seasoning before he or the Brewers can even entertain any thoughts about a promotion.
- Brandon Nimmo, New York Mets (2013: Class A Savannah) – The Mets have taken a similar approach to the Royals with their 2011 first-rounder, allowing Nimmo to finally make his full-season debut this season. He missed nearly a month in May, however, with a hand contusion and a back issue.
- Jose Fernandez, Miami (2013: MLB Marlins) – The first member of the Class of 2011 to become a full-time Major Leaguer, Fernandez has been one of the few bright spots for the Fish this season and remains a candidate for NL Rookie of the Year, despite having never previously pitching higher than Class A Advanced.
- Jed Bradley, Milwaukee (2013: Class A Advanced Brevard County)
- Chris Reed, LA Dodgers (2013: Double-A Chattanooga)
- C.J. Cron, LA Angels (2013: Double-A Arkansas)
- Sonny Gray, Oakland (2013: Triple-A Sacramento) – The A’s only pick in the first or supplemental rounds, Gray was merely OK (4.14 ERA, 1.39 WHIP) in his first full season in the Texas League a year ago, but the right-hander is trending up once more after a solid start (2.40 ERA, 1.26 WHIP in 10 appearances) with the River Cats.
- Matt Barnes, Boston (2013: Double-A Portland)
- Tyler Anderson, Colorado (2013: Class A Advanced Modesto)
- Tyler Beede, Toronto (2013: did not sign, Vanderbilt) – Beede was the highest selected player who elected not to sign in 2011. The Auburn, Mass., native instead chose to play at Vanderbilt, where he went 14-0 with a 2.20 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 98 1/3 innings and was named a Golden Spikes Award finalist Tuesday. He will be draft eligible next season.
- Kolten Wong, St. Louis (2013: Triple-A Memphis) – The University of Hawaii product forms just one part of a very strong Cardinals system and has performed admirably at each step up the ladder. He’s already garnered a handful of honors — Texas League All-Star, Futures Game selection, AFL Rising Star — and should join Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez in making his Major League debut by this September at the latest.
- Alex Meyer, Washington (2013: Double-A New Britain) – Meyer moved to the Twins organization last offseason in the trade that sent Denard Span to the Nationals. He’d be the top prospect in the system if not for stellar sluggers Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton. As it stands, the 6-foot-9 titan is MLB.com’s No.38 prospect and remains part of a promising future for those in Minnesota.
- Taylor Guerrieri, Tampa Bay (2013: Class A Bowling Green)
- Joe Ross, San Diego (2013: Class A Fort Wayne)
- Blake Swihart, Boston (2013: Class A Advanced Salem)
- Robert Stephenson, Cincinnati (2013: Class A Dayton) – The Reds chose to bring the right-hander along slowly, not allowing him to make his full-season debut until this year in the Midwest League. He did not perform well out of the gate, going 0-3 with a 5.48 ERA in five April starts but has since shown flashes of dominance. He was 5-0 with a 1.96 ERA in May for the Dragons.
- Sean Gilmartin, Atlanta (2013: Triple-A Gwinnett) – The left-hander advanced to Triple-A in his first full season and finds himself back there once again, where he’s been mostly solid. At 23, it’s still early in his professional development, and plenty of time remains for him to pitch his way into the already logjammed Atlanta rotation.
- Joe Panik, San Francisco (2013: Double-A Richmond) – Panik has shown an ability to hit for average and reach base at every level, and that’s continued in the Eastern League where he’s batting .286 with a .375 OBP.
- Levi Michael, Minnesota (2013: Class A Advanced Fort Myers)
- Mikie Mahtook, Tampa Bay (2013: Double-A Montgomery) – The tools are there for the Rays’ No. 11 prospect, even if the results necessarily haven’t been quite yet. The LSU product is batting just .240 for the Biscuits this season, but he’s shown some pop as well as speed. Of his 53 hits thus far, 24 have gone for extra bases, including seven triples.
- Jake Hager, Tampa Bay (2013: Class A Advanced Charlotte)
- Kevin Matthews, Texas (2013: injured) – The left-hander has yet to pitch in 2013 due to an impingement in his left shoulder.
- Brian Goodwin, Washington (2013: Double-A Harrisburg)
- Jacob Anderson, Toronto (2013: Unassigned in Blue Jays Org) – The 20-year-old outfielder couldn’t muster anything in the way of results (.194/.271/.304, 72 strikeouts in 191 at-bats) with Rookie-level Bluefield last year. As such, the Jays held him back from making his full-season debut this year and will look for him to grow in the short season once more before a trip to Lansing is considered.
- Henry Owens, Boston (2013: Class A Advanced Salem) – Owens, a lanky left-hander, showed some promising signs at Class A Greenville last year especially in the strikeout department, where he collected 130 strikeouts in 101 2/3 innings. He seems to have taken another step forward in 2013, where he is 3-2 with a 3.53 ERA and 62 K’s in 51 frames. The southpaw could be in Double-A before his 21st birthday in July.
- Zach Cone, Texas (2013: Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach)
- Brandon Martin, Tampa Bay (2013: Class A Bowling Green)
- Larry Greene, Philadelphia (2013: Class A Lakewood)
- Jackie Bradley Jr., Boston (2013: Triple-A Pawtucket, MLB Red Sox) – A breakout spring led to calls from Red Sox Nation to have Bradley on the team’s Opening Day roster, and the outfielder indeed found himself in the lineup in Game 1, only to be optioned back down in mid-April after struggles and inconsistent playing time necessitated the move. After a successful turn with the PawSox, he’s back up with the big club now due to Shane Victorino’s trip to the DL, and the former South Carolina star hit his first Major League home run Tuesday night.
- Tyler Goeddel, Tampa Bay (2013: Class A Bowling Green)
- Jeff Ames, Tampa Bay (2013: Class A Bowling Green)
- Andrew Chafin, Arizona (2013: Class A Advanced Visalia, Double-A Mobile)
- Michael Fulmer, New York Mets (2013: DNP) – Like fellow Oklahoman Bundy, Fulmer has yet to take the mound this season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee in March.
- Trevor Story, Colorado (2013: Class A Advanced Modesto)
- Joseph Musgrove, Toronto (2013: Unassigned in Astros Org) – The 6-foot-5 right-hander was traded to the Astros as part of a 10-player deal last July. He’s pitched in only 41 2/3 innings in the pros since being taken in 2011 and hasn’t made his official Astros organization debut yet, although that will come when short-season leagues start soon.
- Keenyn Walker, Chicago White Sox (2013: Double-A Birmingham)
- Michael Kelly, San Diego (2013: Class A Fort Wayne)
- Kyle Crick, San Francisco (2013: Class A Advanced San Jose) – Crick’s stellar 2012 campaign in Augusta vaulted him to the top of the Giants’ prospect list entering 2013. Three starts into this season, however, he developed an oblique injury and has been sidelined ever since. He’ll bring a plus fastball and solid slider to the California League when he does return.
- Travis Harrison, Minnesota (2013: Class A Cedar Rapids)
- Dante Bichette Jr., New York Yankees (2013: Class A Charleston) – The name alone garnered some attention in 2011, and an MVP season in the Gulf Coast League only added to that. But Bichette hasn’t been able to put it together at the Class A level, which he is repeating this season. Even so, he’s posted just a .623 OPS through 53 games with the RiverDogs — a number that is 30 points lower than the one he put up in 2012.
- Blake Snell, Tampa Bay (2013: Class A Bowling Green)
- Dwight Smith Jr., Toronto (2013: Class A Lansing)
- Brett Austin, San Diego (2013: did not sign, NC State) – The Padres couldn’t lure the Charlotte native away from a scholarship at NC State. The catcher/outfielder just helped lead the Wolf Pack to the Super Regionals, where it will take on Rice.
- Hudson Boyd, Minnesota (2013: Class A Cedar Rapids)
- Kes Carter, Tampa Bay (2013: Class A Advanced Charlotte)
- Kevin Comer, Toronto (2013: DNP, Unassigned in Astros Org) – Like Musgrove, Comer was part of the Blue Jays movement to take young high school arms that would be projects but could be big-time prospects if everything ironed out. Also like Musgrove, Comer was sent to the Astros and has yet to make his debut with the organization.
- Jace Peterson, San Diego (2013: Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore)
- Grayson Garvin, Tampa Bay (2013: injured)
- James Harris, Tampa Bay (2013: Unassigned in Rays Org)
By Jake Seiner
Interviewing for game stories can be a fun process. The thousands of players and coaches spread across the Minor Leagues supply a never-ending chain of unique perspectives on the national pastime. The game story isn’t always the best place for block quotes and expanded thoughts, so once a week, I’m hoping to come here with a look back at some of the more interesting conversations I stumble upon with Minor League players and coaches. Here’s a look back at some quotes from the past week that I hope you’ll find of interest.
Blogger’s note: Since I was out of the office last week and didn’t get a chance to post, you get a bonus two weeks’ worth of quotes this week.
South Bend’s Brandon Sinnery on his path to the Minor Leagues through Independent Ball (Hawks’ Sinnery dominates again):
“I graduated from Michigan, and I thought I’d go late in the draft. I knew I was a senior who has some nice numbers in college. I didn’t talk to that many teams coming out of of college, but the people I did talk to said they thought they’d take me late. That didn’t happen. I waited around for about two weeks, a week and a half, to see if a free agent opportunity would come up, but it didn’t so I went to play Independent ball.
“I went to an independent league tryout run by Nick Belmonte. He runs a lot of indy tryouts across the country, gets a lot of guys jobs out of college who weren’t drafted and guys who get released from affiliated ball — he gets them placed on Indy teams. I went to the tryout with him in Detroit, and he put me on a Frontier League team [the London Rippers in Ontario, Canada].
“At first, I was a little hesitant to go up there. I wasn’t sure going to Canada was going to help me. Scouts don’t really go there to watch people play. It turns out, it was a blessing in disguise because that team folded, and I got traded. Belmonte called me and got me hooked up with [the Lincoln Saltdogs]. That was a way better setup. The American Association is a great league with great competition.
“I was already signed with an indy team, back with Lincoln for this season. Belmonte called me about a camp he was running in Florida, a showcase tryout camp for players who didn’t have jobs or had indy jobs and wanted to go to affiliated ball. He called me and told me it was a great opportunity with lots of scouts there, and that I should come ready to go. I went to that, and that’s where the D-backs saw me. After I threw, they invited me to D-backs tryouts at their Spring Training complex. I flew there for a tryout, and after that, they signed me.”
Seattle’s South African pitching prospect Dylan Unsworth on his unique background (LumberKings’ Unsworth strong again):
“I was invited to an academy in Italy with the 50 best players from around Europe. I was fortunate to get selected to go there. I pitched there and did pretty good. The scouts there, they can offer you up a contract. That didn’t happen straight away. There was one scout that spoke to me there, and then I went to Barcelona with the South African team at 16, made my debut for the national team. He flew from Italy to watch me, and I had no idea. When I got back from the World Cup, he was waiting for me at the airport to talk to me. It’s a pretty amazing story. That’s when the contract was signed, and I came over and pitched in the Arizona League. It’s always been my dream to play pro baseball. I just have to keep at it and work my way up to the top.
“Coming from home, we played maybe every Saturday and had training twice a week. Here, I was training every day, playing every day and throwing every five days. Staying in a routine and staying healthy every day has been the key point for me. I came over here, and it was just a matter of taking everything in that the coaches gave me every day and doing what I feel will work for me.”
Lexington pitching coach Jerry Nyman on Bryan Brickhouse (Brickhouse discovers breaker, Ks nine):
“He always wanted to bury his curveball. He always wanted to strike out people with his first pitch curve. We talked to him about just throwing it for a strike, then throwing the hammer behind it. He did that tonight and it was really good. With his changeup, we altered his grip a little bit. He has a lot of bottom to it now, and he’s not throwing it quite as hard. The rudimentary elements of being a good pitcher, we’re working on that, and again, most of that stuff he’s figured out himself.”
Brickhouse on his improved fastball and mentality:
“My four-seam command is a big thing. I have a lot better feel with my fastball, and that’s something I worked hard on in the offseason trying to really get that fastball command. The biggest thing is in my mentality. Last year, I was worried about giving up hits early in the counts, nibbling early in the count. I fell behind 2-0 a lot. This year, I’ve attacked hitters early and I’m trying to get contact early in the count then work my way out as I get ahead. I can control the game a lot better that way. I can pitch deeper into games and have more success.”
Brickhouse on his relationship with high school teammate and Pirates prospect Jameson Taillon:
“I work out with Jamo in the offseason, and two offseasons ago, I worked out with [Kyle] Drabek, too, but he was rehabbing this year. I probably talk to Jamo about once a week. We’ll talk about our outings and discuss what’s working for us and not working for us.
“We’ll talk about setting up hitters and I guess we’re kind of each other’s mentors sometimes. It’s good. We’ve been close friends since we were 10 or 11, so he’s always a guy who I can look to for advice or talk to about good outings or bad.”
Phillies prospect Jesse Biddle on correcting his history as a notoriously slow starter (Biddle brilliant yet again for Reading):
“I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. The biggest one is being a year older, having another year of Spring Training and having another offseason to figure out where I need to be to not come out of the gate slow like I have in the last few years. My coaches, I think, are a little more aware that I’ve had bad Aprils in the past, and they’ve really been on top of me, making sure that I’m changing it up a little bit.
“I’m pitching a little differently, a little more aggressively, but it’s also a matter of me finding my mechanics earlier in the season. Part of it is just luck. Sometimes you don’t do anything different but you just feel a little better. It’s all about preparation, and I think I prepared better this year than in the past. Hopefully, next year I can continue to do that. It’s all about how you treat the offseason.”
Kane County pitching coach Ron Villone on Cubs prospect Pierce Johnson (Cougars’ Johnson warming to the task):
“It’s a learning process, but he has a good fastball. The confidence I’m seeing is there. At some point, his changeup has to improve. You can be a two-pitch pitcher for a while, but as you move up the ladder, better hitters are going to see a whole lot more of what a guy offers. Having three pitches in your arsenal is an improvement.
“You can see the improvement in his changeup. His arm speed is more consistent. He’s a smart, young man, and he’s ready to learn. He’s going out there and trying a few new things, but he’s also not getting away from his strengths.
“He’s smart, but he’s also applying himself to become a student of the game and learn more. When people listen and apply, it’s a nice thing to see. He’s a student and he’s becoming a better student of the game, listening and all the hard work he puts into the game. Pitching once every five games or so, it can be difficult to get on a roll and find the right way to get it done and go out and execute. Being a student makes that transition easier.”
Oakland prospect Daniel Robertson on ups and downs of his first pro experience (Robertson shines in Class A debut):
“It was awesome. I got out and signed early and went to Arizona, and definitely it was something new and a bit different, but I thought I was prepared for it. I was just trying to learn as much as I can. I had some success there and got promoted to Vermont in Short Season league and I think I learned a lot about myself there. It made me a better player today. I didn’t have as much success as I would’ve liked to, but it gave me an idea of what kind of player I was and what I needed to work on to be a better player in the end.
“Sometimes, I felt like I was putting too much pressure on myself up there, trying to do too much. I figured out that I need to stay within what I know how to do and go from there. It was a good learning experience.”
Winston-Salem’s Chris Bassitt on wanting to be a relief pitcher long term (Bassitt starts to build future as reliever):
“It’s not about rising faster or anything. It’s something I’m more comfortable doing. I’ve done it my whole life. My mentality is as a relief pitcher. I’ve been able to change my mentality of going out there and blowing it out in one inning. Now I’m pacing through hopefully six, seven, eight innings. My mentality the whole year is just to try to get early outs. Once I get two strikes on a hitter, I do still kick it into relief mode, though.
“I’ve had numerous meetings with coaches, and they’ve all said that, no matter what, starting right now will help in the future. I’m able to develop my pitches faster, and throw more innings, obviously. The more innings you throw, the more pitches you get to throw. Plus, starting now I’ve developed my slider and curve and change and improved my fastball command. I’m getting better so far, so it’s working out. Whatever they want me to do, I’ll do it. If they want me to start, I will. If they want me to relieve, I will.”
By Jake Seiner
When catcher Stephen Vogt hit a home run and two doubles in Sacramento’s 8-4 win over Las Vegas Sunday, he managed to put an encouraging end to a chaotic 48 hours.
Vogt, drafted by the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 12th round of the 2007 draft, had spent his entire professional career with the same organization until Friday, when the Rays traded him to Oakland for a player to be named or cash considerations.
“The last 48 hours have been crazy,” Vogt said after yesterday’s win. “From getting the call and having to leave Durham with my wife and baby, the craziness with the travel and meeting new guys and the people in a new organization, it’s definitely a different experience than I’ve ever had.”
Vogt’s wife, Alyssa, and 1-year-old daughter, Payton, travel with him during the season. The family resides in Tumwater, Wash., in the offseason, but was in Durham, N.C., with Vogt when he got the call, meaning Vogt’s journey west involved a lot more than packing a bag and catching the next available flight.
The 28-year-old had gotten good at moving quickly between levels. In 2011, he packed up and moved to Triple-A Durham in about eight hours without issue. In 2012, he made the move from Durham to the Majors three times. But those moves were all within the same organization, and could at least be somewhat anticipated – heading back to Durham from Tampa Bay is a little different than relocating to a new city across the country.
“Moving up and down, you can get used to that because things are still kind of the same,” Vogt said. “Leaving my apartment in Durham and trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces and trying to figure out what to do with my car – it’s not like I’m just moving down the road, even. It’s 3,000 miles away.”
Vogt arrived in Sacramento in time to watch the River Cats’ Saturday night game from the dugout. Knowing he’d be catching Sunday, Vogt sat down with his expected batterymate, Sonny Gray. The catcher hardly knew a thing about Oakland’s No. 6 prospect.
The right-handed pitcher ended up throwing six scoreless innings with Vogt behind the dish.
“I didn’t even meet him until about 7 p.m. (Saturday) night,” Gray said. “He does a great job catching. I enjoyed throwing to him. We had a little meeting (Saturday) night, and I told him how I like to pitch and he talk about how he likes to call a game and it worked out really well.”
“(Gray) is a great young guy with a great arm,” Vogt said. “It took me a couple innings to see exactly how his ball was moving and stuff like that, but he absolutely pitched well (Sunday), and I can’t say enough about how well he threw. It was easy for me with how good his stuff was.”
Vogt is battling to get back to the Majors after playing 18 games with Tampa last season. The catcher was a favorite in the clubhouse, but was the odd-man out when the Rays’ found themselves in a 40-man roster bind.
In Oakland, he hopes to finally break through to the big leagues to stay. More game’s like Sunday’s can only help his cause.
“Obviously, going out (Sunday), I wanted to show them what I can do,” he said. “I was fortunate to get some good pitches to hit and catch a pretty good pitcher and do well defensively. It felt good to make a good first impression.”
Twitter is one weird monster. It’s so gigantic and, at times, completely scary (in the way it reflects humanity). But it can also help in ways, both huge and small, and in very little time.
An example: The exchange below, which including colleague @BensBiz introducing me (@AndrewMiLB) to reader @spage13, comprises 10 Tweets between five users over an eight-hour period and it answers one question useful for prospects hounds: Where will Addison Russell (bio, sats here), the No. 1 prospect in the A’s system, begin his first full pro season this spring?
Together, we found the answer.
Prospect Flashback: Athletics’ Opening Day Starter Brett Anderson in Silver Hawks, Ports, RockHounds and River Cats Unis
Here is a gallery of Anderson in every uni he wore aside from Class A Advanced Visalia’s. Click on any picture to begin the slideshow. For all past editions of Prospect Flashback, head here.
PHOENIX — A’s manager Bob Melvin came with news Thursday morning, and he didn’t waste any time delivering it.
“Let’s go ahead and say Brett Anderson is our Opening Day starter,” Melvin said, smiling.
The news isn’t so much surprising as it is rewarding for the 25-year-old Anderson, who is entering his fifth season with the A’s. He’ll face the visiting Mariners at the Oakland Coliseum come April 1.
Thrust into a playoff run upon his August return from Tommy John rehab last year, the southpaw responded beautifully, winning his first four starts while posting a miniscule 0.69 ERA while walking just three in 26 innings.
Anderson lost his next two starts and suffered an ill-timed oblique strain, before making a seemingly miraculous comeback in short time to pitch Game 3 of the American League Division Series. He allowed two hits in six scoreless innings in Oakland’s 2-0 win over the Tigers, saving the team from elimination.
“Based on the guys that we have and how successfully he came back for us last year, we really feel like he’s the man to lead the staff,” Melvin said. “He worked hard to get back and put himself in a position to compete with us at a time of the season where there’s no easing into things. You got to be good right away, and he was. Then he gets hurt and we think he’s done, and he works just as hard to get back and pitch in a playoff game.”
To continue reading MLB.com’s story, head here.
It has been a long, strange trip through the Minor Leagues for A’s fourth-ranked — and baseball’s 98th-ranked — prospect Grant Green. In the four years since Oakland made him the 13th overall pick in the 2009 Draft, Green has moved from shortstop to center field to left field to third base and landed, finally, at second base. Oh, and he’s played in the Arizona Fall League three times. (The AFL, mind you, is supposed to be a finishing school for the game’s top prospects.) Now 25, the now-versatile infielder may have played his last game in the Minors, having acquitted himself well with the bat at the Class A Advanced, Double-A and Triple-A levels. This spring, he will battle for a utility man spot on the defending American League West champion squad. If he is in fact moving onto the Majors for the first time and for good, here’s a gallery to remember him by. Click on any photo to begin the slideshow.
Last Saturday, I wrote this blog post, soliciting prospects-related questions from you. I’m writing this post here and now to fulfill my end of the bargain and answer those questions as best as I can. Before we get to the Qs and As, I would like to thank you for participating — or, for just reading along — and also encourage you to use the comment section below in the future. As I wrote in this post (the first in this blog’s now 77-day history), this platform is for you. So if you want to see more chats like this one (or an actual-live chat in which we are conversing real-time) or have other ideas, please let me know. Without further adieu…
Andrew: Ryan, Starling (now the Royals’ No. 1 prospect) has a higher overall ceiling than Arcia (the Twins’ seventh-ranked farmhand), but it’s not quite that simple. For one, we have larger sample sizes of Arcia — he has played parts of five seasons in the Minors versus Starling who finally completed his first Short-Season in 2012. Therefore, we know a lot more about Arcia. He has, for example, proven he can hit Double-A pitching. Starling hasn’t. That should explain why Starling has greater potential but Arcia has a greater chance at realizing his. And that’s as a hitter. As a defender, there’s less debate: Arcia will top out as an average corner outfielder while Starling is already an outstanding center fielder. If you’re asking me which player I would in my organization, I’d take Starling if only because his talent is too great to pass up.
Andrew: Interesting question, Charlie. If you followed the Drillers in 2012, you already know that Arenado was solid but not spectacular in the way that his ’11 season in the Minors and Arizona Fall League suggested he might be. Dickerson, meanwhile, continued his quick ascension in the Rockies’ system. With that said, my educated guess would be that Arenado has the better season in ’13. His ability to make contact at all costs, plus his cerebral approach at the plate will give him a better shot against the advanced pitching he will face at Triple-A. I know less of the approach used by Dickerson, who will also play for the Pacific Coast League’s Colorado Springs Sky Sox for the first time next spring, but it’s obvious that he is more prone to striking out. Both are well equipped to produce, but my money is on Arenado. I would not be at all surprised to see him jump back into the conversation of best Minor League hitter.
Andrew: This is actually a very easy choice for me, Pierre. I firmly believe Smyly is and will continue to be the best of the quartet you mention. As long as he can stay healthy, Smyly is the one of the four that, in my mind, can be a No. 2 starter in a good Major League rotation. When pitching their best, the other three, are no more than No. 3s. I have seen (and written about) Griffin and Straily the most of these hurlers and that helps inform my opinion here: Griffin will be challenged to repeat his 2012 results (2.82 ERA in the Minors, 3.06 in the Majors) given his lack of a truly plus offering; he will always need to be mixing his pitches well to stay a mental step ahead of hitters. And Straily led the Minors in strikeouts but then found out that fanning Major Leaguers is a different task altogether. He has an excellent slider and a strong changeup, but he consistently leaves his fastball up in the zone, which is hard to get away with in the Majors. I know less of Chen but simply based on age, past numbers and future projections, Smyly comes out well ahead.
Anonymous: How do you evaluate the most recent trades: Myers and Odorizzi to Tampa Bay and Bauer to Cleveland?
Andrew: Well, this question would fall under this blog’s While You and I Were Out category. I was not scheduled to work the last four days and here is what I (and perhaps you, missed):
Our story Sunday: Royals send top prospects to Rays
My take: I understand why Kansas City felt it had to acquire starting pitching, but I completely disagree with how they went about it, yielding three top prospects (and a solid fourth) whom Tampa can control contractually for six years. I’m also on record as a strong believer in the bat of outfielder Wil Myers, who is the best player going to the Rays. Jake Odorizzi will be better than Wade Davis, too. And it seemed like the Royals just threw Mike Mongtomery into the deal. I’m not a believer in Montgomery, but he has the best pure stuff of any pitcher in the trade and is yet another example of KC underselling on the value of its own farmhands.
Our story Tuesday: Bauer sent to Tribe in three-team deal
My take: This deal didn’t involve as many elite-level prospects and wasn’t as lopsided, but it also leaves me wondering about one team’s decision. No matter how highly the D-backs rated Didi Gregorius, the shortstop prospect they’re getting from the Reds, and how much they have soured on pitcher Trevor Bauer, the pitching prospect they’re sending to the Indians, this trade makes little to no sense. It boils down to trading baseball’s No. 5 prospect (Bauer) for the No. 5 prospect in Cincinnati’s system (Gregorius). I realize Arizona was shortstop-starved, but will Gregorius hit that much more than in-house option Cliff Pennington, who is also a very good defender? I’m not so sure.
If Arizona was set on 1) getting a shortstop, 2) unloading Bauer and 3) involving three clubs, I would have explored this one a week or so ago:
D-backs get: Mike Olt (3B from TEX), Luis Sardinas (SS from TEX), Wil Myers (OF from KC), Christian Colon (SS from KC), Mike Montgomery (SP from KC)
Royals get: Trevor Bauer (SP from ARI), Martin Perez (SP from TEX)
Rangers get: Justin Upton (OF from ARI)
What do you think?
Let’s keep this all very simple and put it in bullet-form. According to a report Friday from the venerable Jeff Passan:
- the Royals are willing to trade their top prospect — and, perhaps, baseball’s top prospect — Wil Myers
- the Royals will seek young, front-line starting pitching in any deal for Myers
- the Royals have discussed such a swap with the Rays, the D-backs, the A’s and the Mariners
As much as it might seem a surprise for a down-and-out, on-its-way-back team to be “dangling” or “shopping” such an impactful slugger with zero Major League service time, this news should not, in fact, come as a surprise. Let’s stay simple and explain why:
- the Royals appear set with their outfield to begin 2013 — and unwilling to make room for Myers (he could force the issue with a big Spring Training)
- the Royals appear set with an offensive nucleus of young sluggers (which includes the names Butler, Gordon, Moustakas, Hosmer, Perez — not Myers)
- the Royals do not appear set with their starting rotation (in no small part because prospects Mike Montgomery, John Lamb and Chris Dwyer have stalled in the Minors)
Which brings us to the Rays, the D-backs, the A’s and the Mariners. What Passan doesn’t tell us, I will. What he doesn’t tell us, of course, is which pitching prospects Kansas City might be targeting from each of these four potential trading partners. Let’s take them one at a time:
- Major League rotation: James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Alex Cobb/Jeff Niemman
- Expendable prospects: Chris Archer (AAA), Alex Torres (AAA), Alex Colome (AAA), Enny Romero (High-A), Felipe Rivero (A), Taylor Guerrieri and Blake Snell (Low-A)
- The proposal for Myers: Chris Archer and Taylor Guerrieri for Myers
- Why it Wil/won’t work: The Rays will be loathe to part with two elite hurlers and may insist on an Archer-and-anybody-but-Guerrieri package, but including their 2011 first-round draftee probably puts them ahead in the race to land Myers. And Tampa Bay might overpay (in its mind) to get a can’t-miss slugger that it can control contractually for the next six years. … Don’t discount Romero or Rivero, who like Guerrieri are far away from the Majors, but have very live arms.
- Major League rotation: Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill, Daniel Hudson, Wade Miley, Pat Corbin/Tyler Skaggs
- Expendable prospects: Trevor Bauer (AAA), David Holmberg (AA), Anthony Meo (High-A), Archie Bradley (A)
- The proposal for Myers: Trevor Bauer, David Holmberg and Anthony Meo for Myers and SS/2B prospect Christian Colon
- Why it Wil/won’t work: We’ve seen national reports that — before they were shot down — depicted the D-backs making and taking calls on Trevor Bauer. So this could be the trade makes the most sense: Arizona trades a pitcher it undervalues to Kansas City for a slugger it undervalues. Has there ever been a prospects-only deal that could also be a change-of-scenery-needed swap for both players? … I expanded my proposal above to include two more Arizona hurlers because we know that the D-backs are starving for a shortstop and that the Royals’ Colon, while not a plus defender at the position, can hit enough to play there. (And Colon is obviously blocked in K.C. by Alcides Escobar.)
- Major League rotation: Brett Anderson, Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin, Bartolo Colon/Brandon McCarthy (free agent)
- Expendable prospects: Dan Straily (AAA), Brad Peacock (AAA), Sonny Gray (AA), A.J. Cole (High-A)
- The proposal for Myers: Dan Straily and Brad Peacock for Myers
- Why it Wil/won’t work: What do Billy Beane and Co. in Oakland have going for them? They may be the lone club of the four that can offer Dayton Moore two Major League-ready, top-of-the-rotation pitchers. The Royals could insist on the more-proven A.J. Griffin or the higher-ceiling Cole, but it’s hard to imagine them not being at least instrigued by a Straily-Peacock combo. … One flaw in this proposal is really two: Peacock, for all of his stuff, had a 6.01ERA at Triple-A this year, and it would behoove GM Moore to wonder if he is too much like another exiled Athletic right-hander: Vin Mazzaro.
- Major League rotation: Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas, Hisashi Iwakuma, Blake Beavan, Erasmo Ramirez
- Expendable prospects: Danny Hultzen (AAA), Taijuan Walker (AA), James Paxton (AA), Brandon Maurer (AA), Jordon Shipers (A)
- The proposal for Myers: Danny Hultzen and Jordan Shipers for Myers
- Why it Wil/won’t work: Of the four, this deal has the most obstacles to getting done. The Mariners will offer Danny Hultzen, the Royals will want Taijuan Walker, and the Mariners will not want to counter with the logical next best thing: Hultzen AND James Paxton. And I don’t blame them. The M’s MLB rotation is thin, and all three members of the Hultzen-Walker-Paxton trio will probably be needed in Seattle by 2014. Pulling off this transaction would be as gutsy as that Michael Pineda-for-Jesus Montero memory of last offseason.