Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Addison Russell and the Texas League transition

Oakland undoubtedly is within possession of their best prospect possibly throughout franchise history in Addison Russell, their shortstop phenom aged 20 years who is expected to debut come 2015 in the Coliseum and hopefully service as the A's perennial positional superstar for years to come. After a sensational conclusion to his Cal League stint after hitting .315/.468/.609 through 139 PAs after recuperating from a thumb injury that cost him 10 consecutive days in the latter portion of July, Russell seems poised for Midland after being overwhelmed by PCL arsenals as a teenager (1-13, 9 K's) in a three game sequence with the Rivercats in September. However, this ought to service as Russell's most daunting task as this 2014 campaign rapidly approaches with the Texas League having had a notorious reputation for neutralizing even the most remarkable Athletics prospects throughout the past half decade. For Addison, who struggled mightily through May and had a mediocre statistical record prior to July while donning a Ports uniform, he shall not be able to afford inconsistency throughout the initial few months in Texas as he most likely shall not be able to salvage his cumulative record as instantaneously as he did in Stockton. Playing within the most power suppressing league amongst A's full season affiliates alongside being forced to confront even more so advanced and groomed repertoires, Russell could be in for a frustrating season with the Rockhounds and may not be able to produce to the extent in which he had thus far through Arizona, Vermont, Burlington and the 209 with historical résumés suggesting the AA promotion is the most grueling within Oakland's farm system. However, Addison does possess the capability to easily breeze past this level of competition seamlessly because, well, he's Addison F*cking Russell and to reiterate, is possibly is the most highly anticipated Oakland prospect of *all time*. So, while these previous Midland alumni may not have had a similar amount of potentiality... or athleticism... or instincts... or upside or radiating aura that Addison provides for the organization, it still is worthy to note the difficulties associated with the Midland ascent that have continuously tormented Oakland hopefuls. 

Michael Choice:

Stockton (2011)- 542 PAs, .285/.376/.542, 30 HR, 131 wRC+, 11.3% BB%, 24.7% K%, .257 ISO, .396 wOBA

Midland (2012)- 402 PAs, .287/.356/.423, 10 HR, 117 wRC+, 8.2% BB%, 21.9% K%, .136 ISO, .347 wOBA

Choice was hindered significantly by the gusty west Texas plains and therefore saw his power statistics drastically decline after anticipation built dramatically about him being the next organizational power phenom and possibly even arriving in Oakland by September 2012. Alas, he only logged a career 12 PAs with the Athletics during September of 2013 after a far more successful encore with Sacramento, as he now is housed within Texas' system. Albeit, he did improve his contact percentages during his Midland attempt, but it took a frantic 11 day frenzy to conclude his 2012 where he hit .500/.557/.818 (22-44, 3 HR, 1 3B, 3 2B, 5 BB, 5 K, 2 HBP) to construct a halfway decent overall statistical record in the midst of a 16 game hitting streak before he suffered a season ending boxer's fracture. Still, Midland was Choice's worst MiLB season by far, proving to be the most difficult shift for the Arlington son that'll likely launch a few dingers off the A's pitching staff this season 

Miles Head:

Stockton (2012)- 293 PAs, .382/.433/.715, 18 HR, 190 wRC+, 7.8% BB%, 18.8% K%, .333 ISO, .483 wOBA

Midland (2012/2013)- 397 PAs, .248/.307/.362, 7 HR, sub 100 wRC+, 7.0% BB%, 29.5% K%, sub .110 ISO, sub .300 wOBA

Miles had a historic romp through Stockton in his Athletics organizational debut, in arguably one of the most dominant Cal League stretches in the league's exsistance. It was expected he would effortlessly take a route towards the majors through Texas after his graduation, but that notion was soon derailed as he flailed versus AA arsenals to conclude 2012 and then experienced another onslaught to commence 2013 before he underwent shoulder surgery that abruptly ended his campaign. He'll attempt to conquer the competition while within the confines of CitiBank Ballpark for the third consecutive stint come 2014, with his fellow trade companion, Raul Alcantara, having now caught up to him. The rotund corner infielder may still undergo experimentation at first base despite currently residing at 3B, but his offensive woes are the means of emphasis at the moment.

Grant Green:

Stockton (2010)- 606 PAs, .318/.363/.520, 20 HR, 125 wRC+, 6.3% BB%, 19.3% K%, .382 wOBA, .203 ISO

Midland (2011)- 587 PAs, .291/.343/.408, 9 HR, 101 wRC+, 6.6% BB%, 20.3% BB%, .336 wOBA, .117 ISO

Green was nipped by a bout of regression prior to featuring within Oakland major league infield discussion, with lowered BABIP rates and an even greater on-base deficiency with his travels to the southwest. Of course, the power rates nosedived as well, but despite these statistical bulletpoints, the A's acknowledged the Texas League's difficulty and bumped Green up towards Sacramento and bestowed him with an AZFL berth as well. Now, with Alberto Callaspo (Frankly, a much better middle infield option) having usurped Green's post in the organization, he is destined to wallow away in Disneyland and Utah throughout this upcoming 2014. Still, as Oakland's top middle infield prospect at the time, the Texas League proved to be the largest hurdle within his MiLB career. 

Jemile Weeks:

Stockton (2009)- 232 PAs, .299/.385/.468, 7 HR, 127 wRC+, 11.2% BB%, 17.2% K%, .342 BABIP, .169 ISO, .382 wOBA

Midland (2010)- 312 PAs, .267/.335/.403, 3 HR, 103 wRC+, 9.0% BB%, 11.9% K%, .293 BABIP, .136 ISO, .336 wOBA

Jemile's power rates obviously can be neglected as that wasn't necessarily his forte and his SwStk% improved dramatically, but the on-base percentages and spray contact decreased and upper echelon repertoires bound Weeks to a mediocre output. Regardless, the organization still slotted him in Sacramento en route to his stellar 2011 debut campaign in Oakland, which could occur with Addison as well should be only manufacture mediocre marks due to his prospect standing within the A's franchise. It was the only affiliate in which Jemile couldn't take advantage of through his ascent though, despite just recently struggling in a disappointing 2013 Sacramento attempt following his sophomore regression. 

Max Muncy:

Stockton (2013)- 428 PAs, .285/.400/.507, 21 HR, 134 wRC+, 15.0% BB%, 15.9% K%, .222 ISO, .390 wOBA

Midland (2013)- 197 PAs, .250/.340/.413, 4 HR, 12.2% BB%, 17.3% K%, .163 ISO, .336 wOBA

Muncy serviced as a 2013 interpretation of Miles Head for Stockton, despite actually possessing some plate discipline instincts that ought to sustain his production throughout the minors in a performance that brought him to the forefront of Oakland A's farm discussions and have since placed him upon some renditions of the Athletics 2014 top 10 prospects. While not putrid in Midland to an extent that Miles Head was, it was a deflating and mediocre attempt after his celebrated Ports tenure. Realistically however, Muncy shall not replicate his dinger flurry that he demonstrated in the Cal League, considering himself as line drive, contact oriented bat who stated to me in an interview that he despises striking out more than anything within the game of baseball. He projects to be more of a Daric Barton prototype, which was evident through his 197 AA plate appearances and brief AZFL stint. He'll attempt Midland once more in 2014, hopefully with more consistency. But another 25 HR campaign or title as organizational home run leader may be a bit outlandish for the former 5th rounder and first 2012 draftee to Midland. 

Beau Taylor:

Stockton (2012)- 226 PAs, .328/.412/.446, 3 HR, 129 wRC+, 12.4% BB%, 12.8% K%, .370 BABIP, .387 wOBA, .118 ISO

Midland (2013)- 303 PAs, .191/.282/.266, 3 HR, 59 wRC+, 10.8% BB%, 23.2% K%, .245 BABIP, .258 wOBA, .075 ISO

One of the most noticeable victims of Midland, Taylor had a brilliant 2012 campaign that rocketed him up prospect rankings and found him considered as one of the most elite catching assets amongst the A+ caste, drawing comparisons to John Jaso for his extraordinary plate discipline and somewhat questionable defense that made him considered to be one the elite catching assets available in Oakland's system. The 2011 5th round draftee arrived with the Athletics after his collegiate stay at UCF and instantly burst upward to become the second draftee from that class to reach Midland (Sonny Gray). However, his discipline gradually eroded and his contact became increasingly more insufficient as he attempted the Texas League through the latter months of 2012 and the previous campaign, now having regressed into a practically anonymous piece within the A's farm. He still possesses the intangibles and capability to surge onward to Sacramento, but he'll have to alter his offensive approach significantly as his 439 career Rockhound plate appearances have been utterly forgettable. 

There are others who consequently have flourished upon having received a AA promotion such as Anthony Aliotti, Chris Carter and Corey Brown, however these perculiar individuals are squarely within the minority of those who venture through to the Rockhounds lair. There are numerous others besides those listed above that have floundered upon ascending to AA, considered the most difficult transition throughout the minors attributable towards the amount of veterans and caliber of competition present. Certain pitches Addison capitalized upon continuously while housed in Stockton shall be far more puzzling to solve, and he'll have to undergo a momentous adjustment phase in all likelihood. But, as demonstrated beforehand, even with mediocre offensive attempt, Addison will still likely persevere and shift to Sacramento due to his post as the unanimous #1 overall prospect in the A's possession. Undoubtedly, he'll showcase his tremendous defensive exploits as well to bolster any promotion he could receive, but the date that'll determine when his plane ticket this summer gets punched shall hinge upon his immediate adjustment period. It won't be a simplistic few months for Russell, serving as his most challenging MiLB assignment thus far, but this is an essential campaign for the future of Oakland's franchise as he will benefit exponentially from Midland's often frustrating surroundings. 

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