Monday, March 31, 2014

Joe Blanton arrives in Sacramento (Q&A)

Announced on Monday, the Athletics have successfully snagged Joe Blanton from the free agent scrap heap as the infamous starter shall return to his former organization after a disastrous 2013 with Anaheim. Still guarenteed $8.5M thoughout this campaign by the SoCal club, Blanton shall contend with fellow non-roster assets such as Sean Murphy, Matt Buschmann and Phil Humber for playing opportunities within Oakland and reacclimates to the minors for the first instance since 2011 with but a mere cumulative 11 MiLB frames over the previous decade. The rotation staple upon the 2006 ALCS ballclub, throwing 194 2/3 IP within the regular season just four years following his 2002 first round selection by Oakland, Blanton manned a sensational encore with a career 2007 crusade by amassing a 5.5 fWAR and 3.50 FIP with a minuscule 4.2% BB% in a remarkable 230 inning sample size before his Athletics tenure abruptly concluded as he was dealt to Philadelphia for Adrian Cardenas, Josh Outman and Matt Spencer. After a lackluster national league initiation, Blanton found the shift from the spacious Coliseum to Philly difficult to swallow as his HR/FB skyrocketed and in response and his performance suffered. After numerous campaigns with the Phillies through 2008-2012, accumulating a 7.4 fWAR prior to his secondary deal, the hefty righty was once again swapped as he was plopped in Los Angeles in exchange for a PTBNL. The following offseason would find Blanton as a free agent, utimately settling with Anaheim for a surprising two year/$15M contact that figured to see the Kentucky alumni entrenched within the AL West starting cast for the upcoming couple supposed contending Anaheim seasons. Alas, with yet another implosion from Anaheim, Blanton unfortunately regressed significantly with a putrid -0.4 fWAR and 5.12 FIP in his 132 2/3 IP attempt along with a grotesque 19.1% HR/FB ratio which contributed to his premature spring release just prior to this impending campaign. Now, as Oakland has plundered him from the annual spring outcasts, Blanton shall don a Rivercats uniform for the first instance since 2004 in a performance that led towards his corresponding major league debut that same September. Oakland's former perennial top 10 organizational farmhand now is packaged to Sacramento a decade later at one of the lowliest stages of his career, hoping for a another rise to prominence with the organization that developed an established him as a professional baseball player. 

On his release...

"I think it was Monday or something like that, the Angels told me I was released" said Blanton in the Rivercats clubhouse. "After that, teams starting contacting and I took a day or two to weigh my options and then I decided to come back to Oakland. It was, maybe, two days ago that I was gonna come back up here, and I was already up here in the area. So I was able to stay up here and come in today"

On his return to Sacramento...

"You don't feel like you're completely starting over, but there's definitely a lot of familiarity. I mean, you look at [Rick Rodriguez], and he was the pitching coach here 10 years ago too. You go through all those things, and it just makes everything a little but easier. It makes it a really easy transition"

On his weight and physical shape...

"I was about 255 in Oakland, now I'm down to 210-ish... Certain things I'm not doing as much of anymore, so all that 'baby fat' kind of disappears. In 2011, I had that elbow injury, and it was the first time I had ever been injuried in my career. So after that, I started taking workouts a little bit more seriously and it was just a progression from there. You start working out and you realize your diet needs to change. You hit a certain age and you just can't eat the same way you used to. It wasn't one of those things were you come into camp 30 pounds lighter than you were, it was a really slow progression. It was like a 10 pounds a year thing for four years... I feel great though, I'm definitely in the best shape I've ever been in. That's key, and being 33 makes it a definite positive. It's just about going out there and repeating mechanics and doing the things on the mound you need to do to get better every day."

On his simulated game in Sacramento...

"It was good. I mean, a simulated game is a simulated game. It kind of felt like practice and the adrenaline wasn't totally there, plus you're facing your own hitters which is always different. My pitch count has been up the past couple starts to 85-90, so it was more about getting back out there after a week and keeping the reps up. Between just getting a feel for the catcher and some pointers here and there, so it was really a combination of things, but it was good" 

Blanton is set to debut upon Sacramento's trek to Salt Lake during this upcoming weekend against the AAA affiliate of his most recent organization. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

2014 Oakland MiLB rosters

Here are the definitive and finalized 2014 Oakland Athletics MiLB rosters. Enjoy! 


RHP Jose Flores
RHP Sean Murphy
LHP Eric Berger
LHP Joe Savery
RHP Arnold Leon
RHP Josh Lindblom
RHP Phil Humber
RHP Deryk Hooker
RHP Joe Blanton
RHP Matt Buschmann
RHP Jeremy McBryde
RHP Paul Smyth
RHP Fernando Nieve
(RHP Fernando Rodriguez) MLB REHAB
C Stephen Vogt
C Ryan Ortiz
1B Nate Freiman
1B Anthony Aliotti
UTIL Jose Martinez
SS/3B Hiroyuki Nakajima
UTIL Alden Carrithers
2B/SS Jake Elmore
OF Conner Crumbliss
OF Kent Matthes
OF Shane Peterson
OF Jake Goebbert


RHP Raul Alcantara
LHP Andrew Werner 
RHP Murphy Smith
LHP Jeff Urlaub
RHP Chris Jensen
RHP Tanner Peters
RHP Drew Granier
RHP Nate Long
RHP Zach Neal
RHP Seth Frankoff
LHP Frank Gailey
RHP Blake Hassebrock
RHP Ryan Dull
RHP Jesus Castillo
3B/1B Miles Head
1B Max Muncy
3B Jefry Marte
C Ryan Lipkin
C Beau Taylor
SS Addison Russell
SS/2B Dusty Coleman
2B/SS Tyler Ladendorf
OF D'Arby Myers
OF Chad Oberacker
OF Josh Whitaker
OF Billy Burns


RHP Michael Ynoa
RHP Jonathan Joseph
RHP Tucker Healy
RHP Shawn Haviland
RHP Kris Hall
RHP Manaurys Corrra
RHP Josh Bowman
RHP Tim Atherton
RHP Austin House
LHP Omar Duran
RHP Nolan Sanburn
LHP Jeremy Barfield
RHP Ryan Doolittle
OF Billy McKinney
OF Aaron Shipman
OF Bobby Crocker
OF Dusty Robinson
SS/2B Chad Pinder
3B/1B Ryon Healy
3B Renato Nuñez
1B Matt Olson
SS Daniel Robertson
UTIL Wade Kirkland
C Bruce Maxwell 
C Ryan Gorton


RHP Dylan Covey
RHP Ronald Herrera
RHP Bobby Wahl
RHP Andres Avila
RHP Kyle Finnegan
LHP Chris Lamb
RHP Sam Bragg
RHP Trevor Bayless
RHP Lee Sosa
LHP Matt Stalcup
LHP Brent Powers
RHP Stuart Pudenz
OF Boogie Powell
OF Bijon Boyd
OF Ryan Mathews
OF Jaycob Brugman
OF Tyler Marincov
C Phil Pohl 
C Andy Paz
1B Ryan Huck
2B Melvin Mercedes
3B BA Vollmuth
1B Michael Soto
SS/2B Chih Fang-Pan
UTIL Sam Roberts

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Roster Madness: Billy McKinney headed to Stockton

The Athletics' first round acquisition from the previous draft and 24th overall draftee plucked from the 2013 crop, Billy McKinney, shall bypass the Midwest League entirely and debut in Stockton with the Ports as a 19 year old. Disclosed by David Forst this offseason, McKinney desired to "follow Addison's path" by commencing in California, and shall be granted with his wish as a usually stingy organization hurries the former TCU commit onward to central California after a dominant AZL and Vermont tenure upon his professional debut. After 206 PAs amongst AZL competitors, momentarily stunted by an ankle issue, McKinney compiled a .320/.383/.414 slash with a 17:29 BB/K before being escorted to Vermont where he went 12-34 with 4 XBH (1 HR) and produced a 3:4 BB/K as McKinney now officially shall transition onward to the California League with zero Low A experience, but proved himself with a 5-13 record against MLB arsenals in Oakland's major league spring training contests this March. McKinney, the lefty whom received significant praise for his offensive discipline and intangibles at the plate, services as Stockton's premier farmhand in conjunction with Michael Ynoa after Addison Russell's sensational 2013 with the Ports. 

Additionally, Jeremy Barfield, Kris Hall, Ryan Gorton, Daniel Robertson have officially been placed in Stockton while Lee Sosa, Phil Pohl, Andy Paz, Sam Bragg, BJ Boyd and Boogie Powell are headed to Beloit as numerous other assignments shall be announced within the coming hours. Most surprisingly, Ryan Gorton, the Oregon State 30th rounder from 2012, is headed to California over Phil Pohl, who spent is entire summer in California after only 12 plate appearances for the Snappers in his first full minor league campaign out of Clemson. Gorton, who participated in his initial Vermont debut after being sidelined due to meniscus issues, shall join McKinney in skipping out on Wisconsin in a perculiar alignment as the only member of the Ports' 2013 roster to be slotted upon the OD without any prior Midwest League experience was Andres Avila. Andy Paz, after three consecutive campaigns within the DSL and AZL, shall ascend to Beloit without another short season stint for him to undergo. The Cuban native and adopted French son features as one of the Athletics' most discipline oriented international assets in a somewhat surprising configuration to contrast with Nick Rickles and Josh Miller's extended assignments.


Chad Pinder shall join Gorton and McKinney as Lake Monsters to bypass Wisconsin entirely despite a lackluster NYPL debut offensively for the primary defensive specialist. The supplemental second rounder from Virginia Tech during the previous draft proceedings was reported to have excelled throughout the MiLB competition present in Pheonix this spring and thus receives priority over Chih-Fang Pan and Antonio Lamas. Most intriguingly about this assignment for Pinder, the collegiate third baseman and shortstop within his welcoming few professional contests to contrast with Ryon Healy, is that this may signify Pinder's relocation to second base throughout 2014 for the Ports. Additionally, Aaron Shipman shall arrive within Banner Island and thus results with Ryan Mathews' retainment within Beloit, a disappointing initial outcome for the thunderous former 5th year NCST senior. Bruce Maxwell shall be posted within Stockton once more, as expected, while Brent Powers shall adapt towards a bullpen role for the Snappers. Seth Frankoff, Raul Alcantara, and Tanner Peters have been declared as boarding for Texas as well. For Stockton, they already have a guaranteed four of their premier five positional farmhands (Renato, D-Rob, Olson and McKinney) set to participate there for this campaign while Pinder, Shipman and Maxwell make it seven of their top 20 overall. Barfield, Ynoa and the anticipated assignment of Nolan Sanburn additionally have officially made the Ports the affiliate to watch for the Athletics. More roster configurations from Wisconsin and Stockton along with Midland and Sacramento shall continue to be announced throughout the upcoming 24 hours. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Oakland inks Eric Berger

Announced by Athletics Farm, Oakland has rather opted to ink another MiLB reliever from the free agency fray as Eric Berger shall evidently be ushered into Sacramento following his acquisition on Friday. The 6'2", 205 pound lefty was a former Athletics draftee, being plucked in the 9th round of the 2007 Draft proceedings, before deciding to undergo a senior campaign at the University of Arizona and therefore entering Cleveland's organization after a secondary selection during the corresponding summer in 2008. Wielding a 90-93 MPH fastball with a plus curveball and accompanying changeup and slider, Berger's diverse repetiore has assisted him to remarkably plus strikeout percentages throughout his minor league tenure up through his recent stint with Oklahoma City after being dealt to Houston in the Chris Wallace swap, despite contrasting that with lackluster precision and mediocre command that has translated to inconsistent production for the AAA southpaw. Seemingly, it'll be an entire 2014 campaign in a Rivercats uniform for Berger unless a subpar performance prompts a release or demotion to Midland as the Sacramento pitching situation now becomes quite murky alongside the Rockhounds, as a series of releases to follow Brett Hunter and Trey Barham's seem innevitable within the next few days. 

Commencing with the NYPL with Mahoning Valley and receiving a swift promotion to Lake County, Berger was a steady contributor through 10 appearances and nine outings within the rotation with a cumulative 38 1/3 IP with a 45:11 K/BB with a mere two dingers allowing in a performance that slotted the North Carolinian in Kinston before a stint in Akron during his second professional campaign. Starting exclusively until his 2011 attempt, Berger whipped past Carolina League opposition with a 3.14 FIP between 110 1/3 IP and 21 appearances before a successful Akron attempt through an additional six starts (33 2/3 IP, 33:16 K/BB, 1 HR). 2010 was Berger first significant roadbump after permitting 72 walks compared to his 90 punchouts through a cumulative 112 frames in the Eastern League and within the International League upon his AAA debut, computing to a grotesque 14.1% BB%. Following his blatantly inconsistent performance, Berger would be permanently relocated to the bullpen and relieving duties in what initially boded well for the lefty after a career stint within Akron in which he produced a career high 29.1% K% (67 strikeouts in 57 IP) with a resulting 2.57 FIP to once more have him acquire another Columbus opportunity. However, Berger wouldn't be able to sufficiently leap over the AA hurdle as he would commence in Akron for the fourth consecutive season prior to his 2013 package to Houston and Oklahoma City where he would accumulate a mediocre 4.11 FIP through 70 2/3 IP while featuring as a LOOGY for the PCL affiliate. It'll be a reprised role through the 2014 campaign with his newly adopted organization, coinciding with Joe Savery and Drew Pomeranz following Ryan Cook's reentry as the primary southpaws upon the Sacramento ballclub. This offseason, Berger partook in the VWL schedule with the Bravos de Margarita alongside Paul Smyth and Fernando Nieve, amassing a team leading 56 1/3 IP (12 appearances, 11 starts) with a 30:27 K/BB and three HRs allowed. 

Miscellaneous Oakland updates

Recently declared by assistant GM, David Forst, Michael Ynoa shall commence within the Stockton bullpen as opposed to a rotation setting to more rapidly progress him through the system as his second of three options has just recently been expended. Set to be out of options prior to the 2016 campaign for the Athletics, Ynoa shall have to participate in Midland for certain at the minimum during this 2014 attempt to assure him for guarenteed Sacramento innings during the following season. For Ynoa, after his first legitimate major league with instruction from Oakland coaches following a bout of chicken pox that squandered his previous March, optimism is surging after the 6'7" behemoth rampaged through the Midwest League en route to Stockton. And while unfortunately stunted by the California League upon his initial debut, Ynoa flashed dominance after returning from a nagging shoulder issue, recording a save in relief (His only bullpen outing of the season) and a two frame start where he went 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K to conclude an inconsistent 2013 Ports tenure. One could assume Ynoa's erratic command ought to service most adequately within a relief situation, but the lanky Domincan phenom still figures to be maximized as a starter upon arriving within the Bay Area with his lengthy and frustrating franchise record $4.25M investment as a 16 year old and injury riddled trek towards the United States promising to have the organization provide him with another rotation opportunity at some instance. However, for this approaching campaign, it'll be bullpen exclusive duties for Ynoa, who could even ascend to Sacramento should he be rightfully exquisite out of relief. Throwing a smooth 97-98 MPH fastball and plus curveball, Ynoa is still a freightening arm for the minor league curators to utilize and still is retained as one of Oakland's most phenomenal farmhands. 

Returning to preseason contests today is Nick Punto, the major league veteran and utility specialist whom Oakland acquired this offseason for the 2014 campaign with an additional 2015 vesting option, following a hamstring tweak in Phoenix. While not in any immediate danger, his absence would've likely permitted Stephen Vogt onto the roster momentarily as a positional replacement as opposed to Jake Elmore, with Alberto Callaspo already servicing as a backup switch hitting middle infielder. Punto, after his recent crusade with Los Angeles, is quite notable for his gritty performances with head first 1B slides and bunt singles galore and ought to be utilized as a second base asset versus lefties and a fitting injury replacement. Primarily receiving acclaim for his defensive exploits, Punto amassed a cumulative 7.6 UZR between SS, 2B and 3B throughout the 2013 stint with 10 DRS and a 1.5 dWAR produced. Accumulating a 1.8 fWAR and bWAR, Punto compiled a .255/.328/.327 slash with a 9.9% BB%/20.0% K% split, .071 ISO, and somewhat mediocre 90 wRC+ in a less than desirable offensive performance, despite faring more successfully versus southpaws (.293 BABIP against RHP, .375 against LHP) during the previous season. After an admirable spring outing with Oakland, he'll promise to serve as the A's most elderly representative throughout this calendar year, hopefully inheriting some of his success as Los Angeles' good luck charm.

Recently claimed by Texas, Chris Gimenez now exits the organization and shall take refuge in Arlington. A plate discipline oriented Gilroy native, Gimenez was poised to be transported to Sacramento after being out of options following his acquisition this winter in correspodance to Pedro Figueroa's release. However, Gimenez now heads east from his native California to compete versus competition in what is likely to be a shuttle between Arlington and Round Rock. Ryan Ortiz now shall likely service as Stephen Vogt's initial Sacramento replacement now, after Luke Montz has been restricted from his backstop duties due to shoulder surgery:

"Chris Gimenez, the offseason acquisition from Tampa Bay to complement Vogt as another outcast Durham Bull, arrives as a Gilroy native and another discipline oriented backstop. Rather than Vogt however, Gimenez' speciality is his defensive expertise as his mediocre production shall not approach Vogt's outstanding and thunderous offensive intangibles, making Gimenez the prototypical reserve backstop. Hitting .225/.352/.309 between his 379 PAs within Durham and Tampa, Gimenez would produce a cumulative 58:64 BB/K (15.2% BB%, 16.8% K%) while corresponding that with a subpar .081 ISO and 93 wRC+. Gimenez additionally thrived off a platoon role, while generating a 27:16 BB/K output in his 127 plate appearances against southpaws. While out of options and extremely unlikely to make the ballclub, Gimenez is unlikely to be claimed off waivers. With Taylor and Gimenez expected to be disposed of entering the 2014 campaign and Sam Fuld promising to snatch one of their spots, Oakland ought to enter the season with a roster vacancy that will be available for the first non-roster asset that addresses a requirement"


Announced by the man himself, Trey Barham, the Virginian and southpaw bullpen fixture for Stockton and Midland over the previous few campaigns, has been released from the organization. Barham, similarly to Brett Hunter, was entering his 7th and innevatibly final stint under Athletics ownership just as Ryan Doolittle and Jeremy Barfield shall. For Barham, the offspeed specialist and TJS recipient, he'll be made to navigate for another ballclub as he succumbs to the Rockhound bullpen logjam erected by the numerous MiLB free agent and trade acquisitions this offseason such as Jeremy McBryde, Deryk Hooker, Manaurys Correa, Chris Jensen, Jose Flores, Matt Buschmann and Phil Humber. I wrote about Barham as a feature within Midland's bullpen preview earlier this month:

"The Athletics' consistent Virginian southpaw, Barham has remained a stealthy contributor throughout his Athletics tenure and professional ascent, similarly to fellow lefty, Jeff Urlaub. The previously anonymous 265h round acquisition from VMI, Barham has featured predominantly as a reliever exclusively between his 198 career appearances, with only a mere 15 outings within the rotation accumulated and seven of those occurring whilst partaking in his rehabilitation stint within the AZL during the 2013 campaign. The hulking 6'0", 210 pound asset was forcibly made to attend Papago due to having undergone TJS during the offseason and squandering an opportunity for a more successful attempt at Sacramento after a 9 2/3 IP, 18 H, 15 R (2 HR), 8 BB (2 IBB), 6 K try following his 2012 Rivercats debut. He would trek through the rookie league facility and Banner Island until now what is expected to be another reacclimation to Midland and Sacramento in his final season under Oakland ownership prior to free agency. Despite statistics that aren't necessarily eyecatching, Barham's unwavering composure and consistency have vaulted him upwards towards the upper reaches of the Athletics MiLB bullpen candidacy and squarely place him within the top tier of left handed arms within the system. 

His stint with Oakland began through Vancouver and ran past Kane County between the 2009 season to amass 105 2/3 IP within 48 appearances with a 77:28 K/BB and two dingers permitted for a FIP south of 3.00 despite his mediocre strikeout percentages. Once again, Barham burst upward to Stockton, where the lefty starred as one the Ports most reliable relieving cogs through 68 1/3 IP and 59 cumulative outings with a 19.4% K%, 6.6% BB%, 3.48 FIP and a 2.32 GB/FB to propel him past another affiliate to Midland. Unfortunately, his 2011 campaign with the Rockhounds was his first genuine lackluster year with a 10.4% BB% and a career worst 4.22 FIP which convinced Oakland to retain him within Texas for another attempt. Barham adjusted instanteously however, marching through to Sacramento where he was stymied significantly before his corresponding 2012 was halted to his elbow ailment. Now, Norfolk native shall emerge within Oakland's premier affiliates once more to attempt for the last instance to reach the majors with the Athletics. The 28 year old possesses two and four seam fastball variations in a 89-92 MPH range with additional secondary array of a changeup, slider and curveball in which utilizes for his absurd groundball percentages and now shall have to grapple with an treacherous path to don the A's insignia. In all likelihood, Barham will have to latch onto another organization for the 2015 campaign should he wish to progress and rise to his major league aspirations"

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Final Spring Update

Oakland is preparing to package their farmhands out to full season affiliates and take refuge in the Coliseum once more in an attempt to snatch their third consecutive AL West championship crown come October, as the spring proceedings are set to conclude and the March 31st MLB opening day draws closer for the Athletics. The A's 25 man roster is essentially completed with Ryan Cook and Craig Gentry now currently upon the disabled list and ineligible for Oakland services until April 5th. Joe Savery and Sam Fuld are expected to usurp their positions while the Gray-Kazmir-Chavez-Straily-Tomaso rotation and Doolittle-Johnson-Scribner-Gregerson-Abad-Otero-Savery bullpen is concretely established for Oakland, complementing the remaining positional representatives of Cespedes, Donaldson, Punto, Sogard, Reddick, Crisp, Fuld, Barton, Moss, Callaspo, Jaso and Norris as the practically finalized OD roster contingent. Stephen Vogt and Drew Pomeranz are predictably headed to Sacramento (unless injury should arise within the upcoming few days) despite their admittedly admirable performances in Arizona. Meanwhile, for the array of prospects housed within the Papago facility, their assignments seem to be coming more into focus despite a litany of extended assignments and releases yet to be distributed throughout the camp. But, for individuals such as Bobby Wahl, who is currently in Beloit's bunch, and Ryan Doolittle, in Stockton once again at the moment instead of Midland, it seems to be an indication of their probable destinations as the organization shall seemingly take a more cautious route with Wahl and Doolittle may be receiving a release notice prior to April. Still, there is significant jostling and roster skirmishes that shall ensue with 8-9 (35 players remaining in the MLB contention, Gimenez and Taylor unlikely to stay within the organization) additional options prompting roster tremors to ripple throughout Phoenix and undoubtedly bump some unfortunate names out of the Oakland Athletics organization. Below are some spring standouts, despite these statistics having absolutely zero (And I can't emphasize enough that these have *NO* relation to regular season production) correlation to their probable output, that have been amassed by prominent Oakland contenders this spring. Thankfully, in just approximately six days, actual baseball will be back for all to enjoy. 

Michael Taylor: .288/.364/.559, 17-59, 24 games, 6:15 BB/K, 3 HR, 1 3B, 5 2B

Derek Norris: .400/.447/.771, 14-35, 12 games, 3:2 BB/K, 4 HR, 3 2B

Jake Elmore: .319/.407/.362, 15-47, 22 games, 7:8 BB/K, 2 2B

Brandon Moss: .389/.488/.694, 14-36, 13 games, 6:9 BB/K, 3 HR, 2 2B

Stephen Vogt: .357/.413/.667, 15-42, 17 games, 4:4 BB/K, 3 HR, 1 3B, 4 2B

Billy Burns: .313/.387/.358, 21-67, 23 games, 8:15 BB/K, 1 3B, 1 2B, 10 SB (13 attempts) 

Sam Fuld: .283/.367/.472, 15-53, 19 games, 7:4 BB/K, 1 HR, 3 3B, 1 2B

Nick Punto: .357/.426/.405, 15-42, 16 games, 5:6 BB/K, 2 2B

Billy McKinney: 5-13, 1 2B, 1 BB, 3 K

Drew Pomeranz: 11 IP, 12 H, 4 R (2 HR), 2 BB, 18 K

Jesse Chavez: 23 IP, 21 H, 7 R (4 HR), 5 BB, 20 K

Joe Savery: 8 2/3 IP, 12 H, 2 ER, 7 BB, 12 K (LOB% for days) 

Arnold Leon: 12 2/3 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 11 K

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Nick Rickles prepares for the Ports (Q&A)

Set to form a tandem with Bruce Maxwell for the second consecutive campaign, Nick Rickles seems poised to finally ascend past the Midwest League after his two season confinement within Burlington and Beloit, as the 24 year old defensive specialist is considered one of the Athletics most underrated catching prospects entering his fourth MiLB attempt out of Stetson. The sturdy 6'3", 220 pound Floridean stands at a height traditionally unseen in backstops, but Rickles isn't frail physically, having filled quite nicely into large frame. Defensively exquisite, Rickles has thrown out 43% of potential basestealers throughout his minor league career, having only permitted three passed balls between 74 contests behind the plate during his most recent 2013 Snapper stint as well; demonstrating that his performance while orchestrating contests has propelled him through the Midwest League thus far. Offensively, Rickles' discipline admittedly requires some tweaking, as his career .254/.294/.378 slash between his 869 PAs is less than desirable with a mere 43 cumulative walks drawn (4.9% BB%). Regardless, Rickles' transition towards the California League ought to bode well for the Fort Lauderdale resident, as his July breakthrough during the previous campaign illustrates the potentiality he possesses and very well could flash for the Ports. 

Initially having been assigned to the AZL, Rickles contributed within the Papago facility upon his professional debut, going 7-23 with a pair of doubles and triples to coincide with four strikeouts and three walks to immediately be flown to Vermont to conclude his debut Athletics entry. With the Lake Monsters, Rickles kept his feverish pace in tact as he compiled a .310/.364/.441 line with a 12:24 BB/K, .131 ISO and corresponding 131 wRC+ within his brief 166 PA stay to definitively carve himself out a Burlington roster post for the 2012 season. However, Rickles found it difficult to acclimate to full season repetiores throughout his Iowa debut, floundering through the campaign offensively as his BABIP was completely stagnant (.260) within his 372 plate appearance sample size in what would produce a paltry 63 wRC+, 17:73 BB/K and a .220/.257/.328 slash as his Stockton aspirations were temporarily thwarted and was consequently reassigned to Oakland's MWL affiliate, now housed in Wisconsin, to service as the reserve asset to Bruce Maxwell. Prior to the 2013 campaign, Rickles would participate upon the Israeli WBC squad alongside Jeff Urlaub, former Stockton rotation member, Max Perlman, and Nate Freiman. While Freiman obliterated the Spanish and South African competition in a 5-12, 2 BB, 4 HR (.417/.500/1.417) three game stint, Rickles serviced as the backup within his first World Baseball Classic appearance, unfortunately only appearing in one contest against Spain as a defensive replacement in what would ultimately result in Israel's elimination. After a brief stint as a momentary cog in Midland as an injury replacement, even going 2-4 in his AA debut, Rickles would settle into the Midwest once more and would be presented with a similar conundrum to his Israel ballclub; seeing as though Rickles was slotted behind Maxwell upon the Snappers depth chart, and only would go 27-149 while appearing in 41 contests prior to July with 8 XBH (.181/.210/.295) as Maxwell would then be promptly packaged to Cailfornia following the All-Star festivities. Now having acquired significant and prolonged opportunities as a starter for the first instance during his campaign, Rickles burst through offensively en route to the most impressive single month within the Athletics system for July, arguably even the most phenomenal thoughout the entire cumulative 2013 season as the revitalized farmhand constructed a .400/.416/.624 line (34-85, 6 2Bs, 2 3Bs, 3 HRs) with 10 of his 22 contests logged in which Rickles recorded multiple base hits, including a 5-5 (2B/HR) outing July 27th versus Quad Cities. He would receive Topps MWL player of the month honors for his exploits and conclude his campaign in optimistic spirits after having finally deciphered Midwest League arsenals as the extraordinarily favorable dimensions of Banner Island Ballpark beckon for the improved 2011 draftee. While it has been announced Rickles will begin in extended camp, he ought to be immediately slotted in Stockton upon his return, similarly to Beau Taylor in 2012. I spoke with Rickles as March dwindles down and the MiLB slate draws closer to opening day: 

CK: How has the offseason been going for you, Nick? How's everything been down in Arizona thus far?

NR: This offseason was awesome.  I was lucky enough to be invited to go to the Dominican Republic for a three week workout. It was a great experience met a bunch of new people and actually learned some Spanish along the way. Everything in Arizona is going great, just working hard to achieve my goals everyday and I'm very excited to see what this year has to bring!

CK: What was that entire Dominican experience like for you? 

NR: It was a little bit of a culture shock. You don't realize how good you have it in the states until you go somewhere like that. It makes you appreciate what you have and not take a day for granted. Meeting the guys down there was awesome too, they taught me Spanish and I taught them some English.  Some of the guys I met there came over to Spring training this year so it was more welcoming for them as well. I would definitely like to do it again.

CK: Last season was your second consecutive year in the Midwest League after a pitstop in Midland for a couple games. What was the whole experience like with the Snappers and making another postseason appearance after 2012 with Burlington? 

NR: The Snappers team was honestly one of the most amazing teams I've ever played for. It was an honor being able to play with those guys. We had an amazing year with some amazing memories that all of us will cherish forever. Our coaches put us in a great position to win everyday and we represented the A's with class and a winning mentality.  I have to give a shout out to the "Janesville Jets" 

CK: Most memorably about your time in 2013, you had an awesome July in your first month after Maxwell left for Stockton where you wound up being named the Topps POTM in the MWL. How were able to be so successful offensively and maintain that through the entire month? 

NR: During this time the hitting coach, Casey Myers, and I developed a hitting routine that I went through on a daily basis and I think that led to my success.  They say hard work pays off so when I put in the work and got the results I got my confidence at the plate back and my performance showed.

CK: Is there anything specifically you're focusing upon this spring about your offensive performance as this season approaches?

NR: We are focusing more on recognition. Seeing the ball early and making a confident, aggressive move to the ball. I'm working on having a better approach and sticking to it. I want to get my walk numbers up a little this year so staying focused on my pitch and sticking to my zone will be a huge part of my success. 

CK: You're considered one of the better catchers in the organization for your defensive abilities behind the plate. Even with the praise you've received thus far, is there anything specific facet of your defense you're going to be emphasizing entering 2014? For instance, your blocking, receiving, throwing, framing, etc. 

NR: No matter how successful you are there is always room for improvement.  We work during spring on all of those for mentioned skills and I will continue to better myself through out the season. I always want to get better.

CK: You had the opportunity to catch some of Oakland's premier pitching prospects throughout your 2013 stay in Wisconsin between Michael Ynoa, Raul Alcantara, Dylan Covey, Kyle Finnegan, Nolan Sanburn and Seth Streich. What did each of those guys look like to you? 

NR: All of those guys had an amazing season. It's awesome having that pitcher-catcher relationship with each of them and help develop their skills together. We all learned from eachother and had an amazing time working together.  I have to say Raul [Alcantara] having the 10 game win streak was amazing to be a part of and had alot to do with his promotion. I'm looking forward to seeing where everyone gets placed and how well they do this year. Those guys all have bright futures ahead. 

CK: Is there a guy, or a couple guys, on that 2013 Beloit staff who weren't necessarily statistically successful but you really believe in their stuff/potential?

NR: Most of the guys we had in Beloit had great statistics and that showed in us winning our first half. But a guy that sticks out to be is Tyler Vail.  He is working on some new stuff this year and building on what he did last year and he looks impressive. Seth Streich is another guy I can't wait to see pitch this year. His velocity and accuracy has improved as well as the commitment. Both of them work extremely hard.

CK: You seem to have a good opportunity to make your California League debut with Stockton this season. Anything in particular you're expecting about the Cal League? 

NR: All I keep hearing is its a hitters league so I would be very excited to hit there. On the other hand catching can be frustrating when u have to call a game in an atmosphere like that. So I'll have to learn as we go, hopefully quickly, once we get there.

CK: Lastly, what are your goals as entering your third full MiLB season? What do you hope to reflect upon once September rolls around? 

NR: I just want to be more consistent this year hitting. Not necessarily statistically, but the consistency of having good at bats day in and day out. Plus continuing to improve my catching skills and have a playoff bound team. I want to have a chance to bring a ring home at the end of this year.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Oakland scoops up Matthes

The Athletics have acquired Colorado outfielder, Kent Matthes, off waivers from the Rockies and have sent Jarrod Parker to the 60 day disabled list in correspondence to his impending Tommy John surgery. Matthes' acquisition signifies that Michael Taylor's days as an Athletic are closing, as he has since been optioned to Sacramento and shall occupy a roster position alongside Shane Peterson, Jake Goebbert, and one of Billy Burns, D'Arby Myers and Conner Crumbliss while Sam Fuld is presumed to momentarily usurp Craig Gentry's opening day post; Michael Taylor unfortunately has no roster spot at the moment thanks to this, and thus seems to indicate Oakland shall experiment with swapping the Stanford alumni or seem relatively confident some organization shall opt to claim him off waivers due to his sensationally productive spring. Kent Matthes, a 27 year old Alabama draftee within the 2009 4th round, has continuously been hailed as one of Colorado's most exquisite power producers within their system en route to being considered a top 10 organizational prospect following his California League trek through the 2011 campaign after hitting 39 doubles and 23 dingers in 400 plate appearances for Modesto to finish with a .334/.378/.672 slash and a league leading .307 ISO. He would witness his output predictably diminish within the Texas League, as his BABIP significantly dwindled after the swing first and discipline deficient Matthes struggled to acclimate to AA arsenals even more so, yet still manned a solid AZFL attempt representing Colorado in October in the offseason. Finally, during this previous campaign, Matthes broke through to AAA following a successful Tulsa crusade and concluded with a .281/.334/.503 slash between 470 PAs with a mediocre 6.3% BB% and a corresponding 22.5% K% while launching an eyepopping 20 dingers. Now stationed in Sacramento and having been adopted onto another organization's 40 man roster, Matthes and his platoon split against lefties of .350/.417/.650 slash ought to propel him into the conversation for opportunities to gain entry onto the major league ballclub throughout the campaign as one of the most imposing bats within the Oakland system. 

Additionally, Brett Hunter has been released from the organization and Derek DeYoung shall undergo TJS and thus be absent througout the 2014 season. Hunter, a 7th rounder during the 2008 Draft proceedings from Pepperdine, flashed dominance during the previous stint after multiple campaigns floundering through the affiliated organizational ladder with blatant inconsistency through his climb, after constructing a 32.1% K% prior to his final attempt before MiLB free agency. However, for the potential heavy specialist, he is sacrificed prematurely to elevate Midland's bullpen conundrum as he now seeks out another squad to preform on. DeYoung, a 2012 18th rounder from the Junior Collegiate powerhouse of Oakley, utilized his 93-95 MPH fastball and plus curveball for a consistent trek through Beloit with an admirable groundball percentage to place himself in preliminary conversation for Stockton's 2014 rotation. Unfortunately, DeYoung now shall recuperate alongside Jarrod after he was poised to star as one of the Athletics most underrated arms as this 2014 approached. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Top 32 International Oakland Athletics prospects: #16-1

Continuing through this installment, here are the 16 premier assets housed upon Oakland's farm acquired from outside the United States: 

#16: Yairo Muñoz (SS)

Oakland's $280,000 middle infield investment, Muñoz, similarly to Fang Pan, garnered attention upon his entry into the organization after the previous participant and alumni of the Under Armour showcase in Chicago which left scouts drooling over his defensive capabilities and arm strength, one listing him specifically as the second best arm amongst all of the attendees only behind Byron Buxton. Predominantly a line drive, contact heavy, defensive specialist, Muñoz additionally boasts plus speed and projected baserunning instructs that ought to service him well as he ascends through to Vermont following his AZL debut during this most recent campaign. While only accumulating 77 plate appearances, Muñoz flashed his defensive excellence and produced a 7:11 BB/K that equates to a cumulative .215/.292/.326 slash between his 186 PAs with a 17:34 BB/K and five stolen bases. It's a sample that shall have to be extensively developed for a consensus to be achieved, but Oakland already has outstanding confidence in the 19 year old after his placement upon the preliminary Stockton spring roster and an upcoming assignment to Vermont looming. As a 20 year old asset approaching the 2015 campaign, Muñoz figures to compete for Beloit as his stock is soaring at sneakily rapid pace. 

#15: Jean Carlo Rodriguez (2B)

The Pamaminian middle infield sensation, Rodriguez was a revelation amongst his Dominican adversaries during the 2013 stint, with the debut promising to plop the 18 year old in Phoenix come June. Inking for a mere $7,500, Jean Carlo is one the more noticeable coups the A's have ever staged. 

"One of the breakout participants within the DSL during the previous campaign, JC Rodriguez shall undoubtedly debut in the AZL alongside Lopez in what is expected to be an exhilarating Arizona middle infield. The Panamanian, Rodriguez was inked alongside Miguel Mercedes in February of 2013 for just over $7,500 following the national tournament that drew Oakland's Panamanian scout, Juan Mosquera, to the youngster. He would be flown to the Dominican and began upon his first DSL stint as a 17 year old, obliterating the Caribbean competition through 254 PAs with a 7.5% BB%, 7.9% K%, .302/.373/.378 slash, 128 wRC+ and a .327 BABIP in one of the more successful debuts of any A's international free agent in recent memory. JC also demonstrated his versatility, logging 20 contests apiece at 2B and 3B to coincide with eight games at SS and an additional five bouts in LF that wowed the coaching contingent present in the DR and brought Rodriguez a DSL ASG berth. Entering 2014, the 18 year old prodigy is one of the most heavily anticipated short season arrivals this season and further validates the A's now teeming pipeline through Panama. 

Jean Carlo has exceptional strike zone recognition and contact percentages as as what would be the equivalent of a high school senior, after having exhibited phenomenal improvement over the previous calendar year and a relentless work ethic that bodes extremely well for Oakland's investment in Rodriguez. Boasting eerily similar dimensions to Lopez (5'11", 175 pounds) and merely average arm strength, his route seems more justly suited for 2B, but at this stage of his development it would be foolish to make a definitive consensus on the Central American middle infielder. He and Lopez shall receive their plate appearances somehow out in Papago"

#14: Jose Torres (LHP)

The southpaw and Venezulan native, Torres seems poised for a Beloit debut should he remain physically in tact, as his sensational repetiore and projectability have him slotted as one of the A's more underrated arms within the system. Preparing for his Snappers debut, the 20 year old shall tackle full season opposition for the first instance in his career en route to a campaign through the system

"The crowning international LHP prospect within the A's midst, Torres has often been forgotten after just recently partaking in his first attempt at Vermont during an injury riddled 2013. But for the 6'2", 180 pound Venezuelan who signed alongside fellow countrymen Renato Nuñez and Anderson Mata on July 2nd of 2010, Torres seems poised for a breakout campaign in Wisconsin should he be physically intact. The developing 20 year old continues to increase notches upon his velocity, now currently sitting at 87-90 MPH, accompanied by a plus curveball and an inconsistent but effective changeup, and has received acclaim from the organization for his projectability upon the mound. With Anderson Mata, another Venezuelan lefty, having fallen and being proven unable to make a trek to the US thus far, Torres now stands unchallenged as the premier Caribbean lefty for the Athletics, with Omar Duran falling slightly behind the Caracas native.

Torres has had sporadic opportunities within the Athletics system thus far, only accumulating 141 IP through his three MiLB campaigns after commencing in the Dominican academy as a 17 year old in 2011. Cumulatively, between his DSL attempts, 2012 AZL debut as an 18 year old, and his previous Vermont stint, Torres owns a less than desirable 102:68 K/BB as he has demonstrated a difficulty with precision throughout his first few professional outings. However, the lanky youngster consistently has been forgiven with a stellar 1.75 career GB/FB ratio between his 38 appearances (30 starts) and allowed a mere 5 HRs allowed while housed within the short season affiliates. The statistics ought not to be as revered with JT at this stage, with his offerings still being meticulously developed since 2010 and his mechanics having gone through countless alterations through organizational experimentation. Once Torres matures entirely, has his fate decided upon definitively for a pitching delivery, and has his velocity balloon to its absolute potential, you're looking at a menacing prospect for the A's"

#13: Jesus Zambrano (RHP/Pictured above)

The youngest player under contract throughout the entire organization during 2013, Zambrano's performance as a 16 year old (8/24/1996) made him eligible for a surprise instructional league assignment and now assuredly AZL debut this summer. 17 years of age throughout the approaching season, Zambrano will be the most youthful stateside asset for the Athletics by a lengthy margin. His projectable athleticism supplanting his physical limitations, Zambrano shall contend in Arizona and possibly even receive a surprise assignment to Vermont around his 18th birthday, as he's essentially the closest thing to Julio Arias the A's have in their possession. 

Similarly to Herrera, Zambrano was a low budget signee that raised eyebrows in the Dominican last summer as the absolute youngest player in the organization (Born 8/24/1996) as a 16 year old for practically the entire campaign. The performance was additionally enough to have him trotted out to the states as a instructional league participant this past September and now has him being considered as a 17 year old on the 2014 AZL roster, picking up where Edwin Diaz and Iolana Akau left off. Signing on his 16th birthday in 2012 for a $150,000 sum, Zambrano was one of the youngest of the Latin class of that year and hopes to capitalize upon his impressive maturity come June.

Through his 14 outings within the DSL during his debut, he breezed past 61 1/3 IP while permitting a mere 12 BBs and 4 HRs while striking out 48 and composing a consistent GB/FB ratio. He had stretches where he would struggle mightily with hard hit contact, but to reiterate, as the youngest player in the organization at only 16 years old, it was a sensational start to his professional career. In regards to the scouting report, Zambrano has flaky fastball velocity at the moment, inconsistently breaking the 90 MPH threshold, but has two legitimate secondary offerings in his curveball and changeup that have impressed. With an advanced repertoire for a 17 year old, plus athleticism, and eerily similar dimensions (5'11", 170 pounds), the comparisons are already flying about Zambrano as 2014's Ronald Herrera in Arizona, which isn't too outlandish to presume as Zambrano has the intangibles for a consistent AZL attempt.

"I see him as Ronald Herrera's clone" said fellow A's instructional league participant, Dominique Vattuone.

"I actually saw him a lot, in the beginning we were throwing partners. Based on that and the interactions we had throughout the facilities in lifting, eating, running, etc; he's a good guy, just young. I feel like in instructs he was able to see the rest of what the A's have to offer by coming to the month long workouts. I know at each affiliate things and operations are different, but being able to come and experience it first hand he is able to go back after learning and accelerate from there... He's a small guy that has the tools to be successful and move forward in this game through experience and maturing as a pitcher"

#12: Omar Duran (LHP)

Boasting 97-98 MPH velocity when refreshed, Duran overpowering and freightening fastball has completely negated lefties over his tenure while his painfully inconsistent command and occasional collapse out of the stretch have evened any potential to be an elite farmhand for the Athletics. Regardless, his enticing repetiore and strikeout production have the recent AZFL attendant preparing for a Rockhounds berth come 2014 

"One of the most outstanding strikeout assets upon the farm, Duran has been as erratic as he has been effective throughout his professional stint with the Athletics. The aging Duran and recent Rule 5 eligible reliever had his first legitimately extensive sample size achieved with Stockton after practically vaulting over the Midwest League entirety after just three appearances and 3 2/3 innings with mediocre results. Versus the California League, he once more struggled out of the stretch with his delivery occasionally disintegrating, a similar issue with with fellow Dominican Ports buddy, Jon Joseph. Regardless, he excelled for the most part through 33 appearances and 53 frames with the second highest K% (35.3%) in the organization behind Tucker Healy, another former Stockton bullpen member who should shift towards Midland as well to accompany Duran. His 84 cumulative strikeouts contrasted with his 41 walks distributed (17.5% BB%) and demonstrated his absurd inconsistency, often unnecessarily being thrown into high leverage situations. That, compounded by his plus groundball rate (1.67 GB/FB through Stockton, with a lifetime 1.87 rate) wound up inflicting significant damage upon his traditional statistics throughout his campaign, unfortunately. However, Duran's 3.43 FIP was for more indicative of his potential brought to the Athletics as he additionally had permitted zero career dingers upon the mound prior to 2013, where he surrendered a respectable four in the ruthless confines of Banner Island. 

The 24 year old received an AZFL berth, where he noticeably struggled through 9 2/3 IP with an amassed 9 H, 6 R (1 HR), 7 BB, 6 K (2 WP) line before he would succumb to injury. Though it shouldn't jeopardize his 2014 attempt, it showcased Duran's fatigue after his first extensive campaign in a full season affiliate. The pronounced 6'3", 210 pound lefty failed to acquire a 40 man position following his lackluster outing in the AZL, and therefore didn't follow Pedro Figueroa's path as another Dominican southpaw to snag a roster post before ever having pitched past Stockton. Still, Midland seems likely for Duran to showcase his capabilities and convince the Athletics to extend him into 2015 following his MiLB free agency come September. Utilizing his devastating 96-98 MPH fastball (93-95 if used for multiple frames) and a filthy curve to stall opponents with an arsenal that completely frazzles batters. Albeit in a minuscule 81 plate appearances, lefties only hit .123/.298/.138 off Duran and he features to be project as a LOOGY who could probably fare somewhat decently in a purely LHB exclusive role versus major league competition at the moment. His next task will be having to solve the advanced opposition of the Texas League with the Rockhounds however, and will continue to be one of the most peculiar relievers currently under an Athletics contract"

#11: Gregory Paulino (RHP)

The 6'3", 180 pound Dominican ace, Paulino features a sensational changeup that Athletics personnel have proclaimed as a major league caliber offering... Possessing a MLB change as a 20 year old is freightening enough, but Paulino now seemingly guaranteed placement in the 2014 Snappers rotation has the youngster primed for a breakthrough campaign amongst Midwest League foes following a 29 IP, 22:8 K:BB, 3.61 FIP debut with Vermont despite an extensive absence with injury. The Lake Monsters opening day starter, he owns a career 2.15 GB/FB through 159 1/3 IP, Paulino resembles Oakland prized Dominican arm, Raul Alcantara, even though Paulino is only four months younger. 

"Paulino, representing the Dominican Republic, is a prized asset for the Athletics, with a unbelievably mature changeup that he's utilized while accompanied with a 91-93 FB to knock his way through the Santo Domingo and Phoenix acadmies, and even received an incredibly rare and unforeseen promotion to the AZL from the DR in his debut season. After logging a relatively consistent 60 IP for the AZLers to conclude 2012, Paulino was escorted to Vermont to commence with the Lake Monsters and was awarded with opening day duties against Tri-Cities. Unfortunately, Paulino only managed 29 IP following 6 1/2 weeks of being absent thanks to a debilitating injury that practically made him non-operational for the rest of the year. Still, he took advantage of his opportunities and manufactured a decent statistical result versus the NYPL batters in what should prove enough to slingshot him to Wisconsin for a full season attempt. While Paulino's output may not dazzle onlookers at this stage, a 20 year old Dominican arm with a 6'3", 180 pound dimension and a changeup which A's personnel has described as "MLB ready" is enough to make him an absolute must know prospect for Athletics fans"

#10: Edwin Diaz (INF)

Oakland's second consecutive Puerto Rican draftee as a 15th rounder following Robert Martinez' 19th round pickup the year prior, Diaz was reeled in for $100,000 and was the second most youthful draftee behind Iolana Akau. Entering 2014, Diaz figures to contend in Vermont at some instance as he is currently slotted on the Snappers spring roster 

"The 15th rounder and second ever draftee for the A's from Puerto Rico (Robert Martinez/19th round/2012), Diaz arrived following a $100,000 signing bonus and features the son of the former 1993 Texas second rounder by the same name. Hailing from Vega Alta and Martine HS (The institution that produced the Molina brothers), the 17 year old Diaz instantly becomes a must know prospect for A's fans as his remarkable defense and solid hitting mechanics provide Oakland with a lucrative rookie leaguer to develop as he transitions onward to Vermont. 

The 6'2, 180 pound beanpole began alongside fellow 17 year old, Iolana Akau, during this previous AZL stint with a .239/.276/.359 slash in just shy of 100 PAs with a 22-92 performance (6 doubles, one triple, one HR) and a 5:25 BB/K. Not a half bad professional debut aside from the lackluster discipline, which will be assuredly emphasized in the upcoming seasons for Diaz. He additionally was granted entry onto the Leones De Ponce in the Puerto Rican winter league this offseason, however was never officially activated to participate with the Leones. As 2014 approaches, it'll likely be a secondary AZL assignment with a probable Vermont promotion to conclude the short season campaign for the blooming Eddie"

#9: Vicmal De La Cruz (OF)

Oakland's accompanying piece signed alongside Renato Nuñez during the 2010 period for $800,000, VDLC has yet to acclimate towards domestic arsenals following a snafu with his vision and two consecutive campaigns of inept performance within Arizona as a result. Regardless, his potential is still present, but it'll require a Vermont assignment for Vicmal to definitively demonstrated whether or not he retains any hope of progressing through the Athletics system.

VDLC has been one of the most disappointing Athletics prospects over the previous two seasons in encores of a showstopping debut in 2011 in which the Dominican hit .318/.438/.453 in 235 AZL PAs with an outstanding 37:27 BB/K and resulted in him as a consensus top 15 prospect prior to the 2012 season. Unfortunately, this performance was enough to convince the organization to promote the youngster to the AZL and he would attempt the Arizona gauntlet, unfortunately however with drastically worse results, amassing 43 strikeouts (29.1% K%) in what was a horrendous discipline regression. However, it was said this was attributable to him requiring corrective lenses, which gave A's fans some optimism that the $800,000 investment still had the capability to regain his 2011 form. Yet, Vicmal had an even *worse* 2013, where his discipline once more was stagnant and for his first campaign as a professional saw his power statistics bottom out, something that at least made his 2012 somewhat passable. It's curious as to why Oakland never immediately transitioned VDLC to the northeast following his initial 2011, but evidently there was some mechanical tweak they wished to perform that has since made Vicmal inept.

A prime athlete and July 2nd prospect in 2010 inked alongside Renato Nuñez, Vicmal was seen as high as #6 on scouting listings of the A's prospects entering 2012, and has since been completely absent from the thoughts of A's fans. It's been an incredibly frustrating couple of attempts for De La Cruz, who finally hopes to receive some sort of opportunity outside of Arizona despite the lackluster production as of recently. As Mike Ynoa has proven though, Vicmal being signed at the age of 16 still reinforces his potential, as the recently turned 20 year old has proven he can dominate in a baseball format beforehand. This is likely the final season for Vicmal to demonstrate improvement though, or else trade possibilities shall be explored for the international piece who was the most expensive investment for the A's for a duration of three years until this recent signing of Jesus Lopez last July for a $950,000 sum" 

#8: Jefry Marte (3B) 

The chip acquired for placement of Hiroyuki Nakajima upon the 40 man roster, Marte's injury riddled Midland crusade as a 21 year old corner infielder following a non-roster invitation during the spring was a disappointment despite his tremendous August that salvaged value for the Dominican entering this impending 2014 stint. Competing with Sacramento prior to roster cuts, he'll be in contention for a Rivercats post throughout the year while being housed in Texas. 

"Marte, the Rule 5 eligible Dominican third baseman who was acquired for Collin Cowgill prior to 2013, unfortunately was not bestowed with a consecutive non-roster invitation this spring, but is currently slotted upon Sacramento's preliminary roster before he shall undoubtedly be shuttled to Texas. A former Mets #1 overall international prospect, Marte has found it difficult to materialize as he has gradually risen through towards the AA caliber of competition, never having replicated his sensational GCL debut campaign as a teenager. However, he demonstrated some promise for the Athletics during his organizational debut for the Rockhounds, hitting .278/.348/.370 with a 107 wRC+ in an accumulated 278 plate appearances as the farmhand struggled mightily once more to achieve his supposed power projection assigned to him half a decade prior and was significantly suppressed by the unforgiving Texas plains. Additionally, Marte meandered through numerous hindrances, compromised the majority of his campaign as he was absent from Midland from May 5th until July 7th, appearing within a minuscule AZL rehabilitation stint inbetween. However, in Marte's concluding effort within August, his only month in which he amassed more than 100 PAs, he hit .374/.406/.538 as his newly adopted line drive extensive approach and philosophy resulted in a BABIP surge for the La Romana native. Similarly to Ladendorf, Marte additionally has an extraordinarily beneficial LHP split (.328/.378/.463) that ought to assist with his projection onward for Oakland. A grobbling fanbase may criticize Marte's inevitable lack of power production as he'll never fully encompass the dependent dinger phenom he has slated to morph into, but the mechanically sound and precise international asset presents a remarkable approach and contact heavy production, which should result in a momentary Sacramento assignment at some instance during the 2014 campaign. Still 22 years old until June 21st, Marte is incredibly youthful for Texas League purposes" 

#7: Carlos Hiciano (CF/SS/3B)

A sterling testament to athleticism within the Athletics system, Hiciano's $750,000 contract inked alongside Lopez this previous July has him as one of the Athletics most enticing potential riddled farmhands after a phenomenal showcase in the DPL prior to the signing period. Alongside fellow DPL alumni such as Barrera and Muñoz, Hiciano was given 70 speed and 60 arm tools by Baseball America, among the highest througout the eligible prospects vying for seven figure contracts over the previous summer, and now ranking as the second most speedy Athletics prospect behind Billy Burns at the moment. The 6'2", 175 pound shortstop has been speculated to shift to center field as he continues to physically develop while other pundits slot him at third base seeing as though stature is more indicative of a third baseman and his infield comfort and experience could make for a more smooth transition. The defensive intangibles shall be prevalent regardless of projected assignment however, as the 17 year old (10/29/1996) possesses the capability to perform at any premium positional post. The hitting mechanics are the most questionable at this instant, likely fielding 50-55 marks projected forward, but have occasionally dissolved amongst competition with his mechanics sometimes becoming loopy and easily exploited. Still, his frame and recent success within Florida and the conclusion of the DPL circuit convinced the Athletics to opt for the impressive specimen, now other potential prominent outfielder to try out following Vicmal's struggles as of recently. He'll debut within the DSL and remain throughout the 2014 campaign, with the upside to become a consensus top 15 Oakland prospect by 2015. 

#6: Jesus Lopez (2B/SS)

Lopez was the most widely heralded July 2nd eligible prospect last summer outside of the Dominican Republic or Venezuela and the A's lassoed the 16 year old Alberto Callaspo impressionist for $950,000 in the third largest amateur international free agent contract distributed all time in franchise history. Notable for his presence at the plate after just having commenced the transition to switch hitting in 2012, Lopez shall likely commence in Arizona after an instructional league assignment the previous September and participating upon Beloit's roster this spring

"This is your newly acquired international phenom, A's fans. The Nicaraguan shortstop inked for a $950,000 sum, the most Oakland has spent on an amateur international free agent since Renato Nuñez for $2.2M in 2010, this past July 2nd as the A's nabbed him from Houston's clutches and coincided his signing with Carlos Hiciano and Yhoelnys Gonzalez immediately afterwards. The 5'10", 170 pound 16 year old (Born10/5/1996. Yes, you are old) received similar acclaim to Renato as being one the best hitters within his class, with a compact and consistent swing that vaulted him up scouting reports and landed him as the #14 overall prospect on Baseball America's 2013 July 2nd prospect list. With stellar offsensive instincts, Lopez figures to develop for more line drive/gap capabilities whereas Renato initially had the characteristics for greater power production. The switch hitter receives greater recognition for his left handed approach than the righty stance at this point, but obviously can be tweaked as he progresses with the organization. The downsides for Lopez are a lack of athleticism, with subpar speed and mediocre arm strength which some hypothesize shall shift the youngster to 2B as opposed to shortstop. And indeed, Lopez was granted with a greater workload at second while making his stateside debut in Fall Instructs for the A's this previous October, and ought to be a more desirable destination for him to develop once June and the AZL campaign rolls along"

#5: Arnold Leon (RHP)

Now a relevant competitor for a rotation berth following casualties of Jarrod Parker and AJ Griffin, Leon's extensive repetiore and outstanding command shall likely permit the Mexican prodigy onward to log his Oakland debut at some instance throughout the 2014 season. With awe inspring control (3.8% BB% in 144 IP between Midland and Sacramento in 2013), the former TJS recipient in gradually inching his way upward upon an absurdly competitive rotation depth chart

"Despite the uptick in notoriety following the pitch he threw which incited the Mexico/Canada WBC brawl last March, most forget that Leon remains a premier prospect within Oakland's system and a 40 man roster member that'll commence in the MLB camp at Phoenix Municipal in the coming weeks. While the organization has constantly vacillated in regards to a starting or relieving route for Leon to partake in over recent years, he primarily was in the Rockhound and Ricercat rotations last season between 25 appearances (24 starts) compared to a 44 appearance, bullpen exclusive attempt between Stockton, Midland and Sacramento in 2012. The previous two campaigns came after TJS in which Leon opted for in 2010, and caused him to be absent for the majority of 2011. The stocky 6'1", 205 Mexican native has drawn comparisons to Jesse Chavez for a probable projectable role that he'll likely encompass should be arrive in Oakland, as a long relief/spot start specialist. Still, Leon could thrive in a late inning bullpen post thanks to a diverse repertoire and a velocity increase to 95-96 MPH from a pedestrian 92-94 MPH in a bullpen position comparatively to when starting for multiple innings. Regardless, Leon has proven himself an intriguing asset for the A's to utilize in 2014, and dependent upon performance amongst a ridiculously competitive Sacramento staff, could debut in Oakland if injury requires a replacement. 

Leon began in Midland the season prior and grappled with Texas League foes for 72 2/3 IP (13 starts), with a 15.3% K%, 3.5% BB% and a 1.11 HR/9, exhibiting precision and phenomenal recognition of the strike zone. Despite the mediocre strikeout percentages, something that in 2012 (74 K in 66 2/3 IP) was an above average trait thanks to his conserved arm in his bullpen role, Leon demonstrated his reliable groundball rate and tallied up enough appearances to convince Oakland to slot him in Sacramento. In a nearly identical sample size to conclude his 2013 (71 1/3 IP), Leon accumulated a 16.3% K%, 4.3% BB%, 0.50 HR/9 and a plus 3.23 FIP in a performance slightly better than his AA attempt as Arnold finished with a career high 144 IP, nearly double that of his previous mark of 74 1/3 frames in 2009.

The 25 year old Culiacan native hinges upon his aforementioned precise fastball placement alongside an exceptional changeup, revised curveball, tertiary slider and a cut fastball that have propelled him to the edge of a major league berth. Whether the A's decide upon a bullpen position or to consider him for a permanent rotation role when he ascends to Oakland is unknown at the moment, but it seems as though shall be granted entry into the Rivercats rotation come April"

#4: Ronald Herrera (RHP)

Alongside Alcantara, the 18 year old Herrera, following his $20,000 signing in 2012, has burst forth to relevance and become a consensus top 25 Athletics prospect with a sound delievery and precise pitch placement that made him one of the most feared AZL arms throughout the league prior to his promotion to Vermont for a brief two outing tenure. Now competing for a Snappers post, Herrera's remarkable breakthrough makes him one of Oakland's most sought after farmhands, not turning 19 until May 3rd. 

"Featuring as one the breakout performers throughout the entirety of the organization in 2013, Herrera shot out of obscurity and onto the A's radar with his phenomenal stateside debut in the AZL that produced a two start stint with Vermont to conclude his campaign and now places him squarely in consideration for a coveted Beloit rotation position entering 2014. Only but a diminutive 5'10", 170 pounds, Herrera initially inked for a modest sum in 2012 and was flown from his Venezuelan home to the Santo Domingo academy to contribute to the DSL squad as a 17 year old and fared well between 58 1/3 IP, constructing a 44:20 K/BB and permitting a lone dinger in a season that caught the attention of the A's and convinced them to ship Herrera out to the instructional league. The 18 year old wound up remaining domestically in what would be a AZL berth that saw him mixed into the Papago rookie league rotation, and inbetween his 14 appearances (9 starts), Herrera would bomb past collegiate draftees and advanced international batters en route to one of the most dominant stretches of any AZL/GCL pitching prospect in 2013. This was enough to convince the A's to push Ronnie even further to Vermont to make a two appearance debut with the Lake Monsters. Overall, he would battle through 78 1/3 IP with 66 strikeouts recorded, 13 walks allowed, and three dingers surrendered during his year that now has the organization considering stitching his name onto a Snappers uniform this May.

Born on 5/3/1995, Herrera is the second youngest player within the organization currently housed within the states (Chris Kohler born 5/4/1995) and would be 18 for the first month of the MWL schedule, a full five months younger than when Alcantara began in Burlington as a 19 year old in 2012. Similarly to Alcantara, Herrera has received acclaim for his precision and possesses a pinpoint changeup, mature curveball and a fastball that can graze 95 MPH despite pitching consistently at 88-92, accompanied by a tendency to keep the ball towards the lower portions of the strike zone that has resulted in plus groundball rates. The Maracay native wowed during this previous September in the instructional league and has the A's minor league coordinators raving about his potential, so no matter how skeptical you are, Herrera is an absolute must know prospect for Oakland fans. And he, alongside Gregory Paulino, is in all likelihood the next Alcantara/Ynoa down on the farm. Should he not be granted with a shuttle to Wisconsin, he'll commence in Vermont and undoubtedly receive some sporadic Beloit attempts after his 19th birthday in August.

Unfortunately, his height and physical stature places a ceiling upon any velocity increases, but with a mid-90's fastball already in his possession and remarkable control with his secondaries, Herrera ought to be fine with what he already has, which as a 18 year old who had practically zero notoriety around his name at the time of his signing is more than what a lot of 21-22 year old college draftees have"

#3: Renato Nuñez (3B)

The offensive gem upon the list, Renato's $2.2M bonus was the 4th largest ever distributed to an amateur in Athletics history, and second most taxing amongst positional prospects behind Addison Russell. The Venezulan sensation hacked his way through Wisconsin despite noticeable regression following April, becoming overwhelmed by advanced arsenals and succumbing to his lackluster defensive performance. Still, it seems as though Renato is comfortably poised for Stockton for a debut with the Ports, promising to demonstrate his might within the exploitable California League. His mechanics shall undoubtedly have to be revised, but the nearly 20 year old still presents an enormous amount of potential for Oakland following an instructional league and mini camp assignment, set to compete with Alcantara for Oakland's Futures Game representative this summer. 

"He debuted in Oakland's Papago facility with the AZLers and floundered through a pitiful 2011 initiation, struggling to manufacture any sort of passable production after 207 PAs. But as it is for Latin youngsters, there usually is a huge learning curve to master, and Renato seemed to master it instantly as he  made tremendous progress transitioning into his sophomore season, most noticeably sharpening his discipline (2.9% BB% in 2011/9.1% in 2012) and finishing with a .325/.403/.550 slash which earned the third baseman a jump to Beloit to kick off 2013, bypassing Vermont entirely. 

Renato initially began with an incredible power surge, establishing himself as one of the premier teenage full season slugging chips alongside Byron Buxton and Joey Gallo with a .310/.380/.592 result after his first Midwest League month. Afterwards however, the 19 year old tapered off drastically, regressing to shades of his 2011 self with large sequences of looking completely unprepared for caliber of pitching he was facing which would eventually be broken up by a dinger or two, only to continue once again. Through a lengthy 545 PAs, Nuñez finished with a dissapointing .258/.301/.423 line with a .165 ISO and a .330 wOBA. Plus, he regressed defensively as well, quite possibly featuring himself as the most inadequate defensive infielder amongst A's prospects during 2013 and earning the 'Yordy Cabrera Award'"

#2: Michael Ynoa (RHP) 

Oakland's $4.25M investment is now headed for a secondary attempt at Stockton following a lackluster fit of regression in an encore of a brilliant Beloit breakthrough for the 6'7", 210 pound right hander. With his second option having just been recently expended and his first legitimate MLB camp logged, Oakland shall assuredly push Ynoa through to Midland by July and onward to Sacramento in 2015, as unless injury occurs, he'll be out of options prior to the 2016 campaign. With one of the best fastballs in the organization and still thriving youth comparatively to his fellow counterparts, Ynoa is a top 5 Oakland prospect and still has the capability to easily materialize into a major league phenom.

"Ynoa has long been the organizational enigma after inking for $4.5M as a 16 year out of the Dominican Republic in 2008, the largest signing bonus in Athletics history and the second largest sum provided to an amateur Latin free agent of all time, as he has dealt with a litany of various injuries and hindrances that have stunted his development and prevented him from amassing professional experience. Finally, in 2012 Ynoa arrived in the United States and was able to accumulate a decent amount of frames after a brief nine AZL innings in 2010 before surgery. Ynoa, despite the less than desirable results of 3 HR and a 25:25 K/BB in 30 2/3 IP between Arizona and Vermont, still and most importantly was able to pitch in a competitive format and get through innings. As the offseason began, Oakland felt as though their investment into Ynoa was too monumental to risk as they placed him upon the 40 man roster to prevent any probable Rule 5 possibility of a team smuggling the righty away from the A's. With that, Ynoa was granted the opportunity to attend the major league spring training facility in Phoenix and gain valuable expertise with significantly more advanced arms. Unfortunately, a bout of chicken pox prevented Ynoa from arriving prior to being optioned, and thus was regulated to the minor league camp before his assignment. Once again, Ynoa suffered another preseason setback and whatever shread of optimism was still held by A's fans about him dwindled even further before his first career full season opportunity with the Snappers in Wisconsin. 

The lanky 6'7" 21 year old defied expectations though, as he not only strung together his first ever stretch of prolonged starts, but actually was consistent as well, establishing himself as one of the premier pieces within the Midwest league between his 15 outings. Ynoa went 54 2/3 IP with a 3.53 FIP, 21.0% K%, 7.9% BB% and only three dingers allowed for Beloit before being permitted to rise to High A Stockton. The Cal League proved to be a more difficult hurdle for him however, regressing towards the 2012 model of Ynoa with mediocre 20:17 K/BB in his 21 IP and was trashed with a 56.1% LOB% as baserunners often plated following reaching and Ynoa's mechanics dissolved when attempting to pitch out of the stretch. Despite that, Ynoa represented the A's in the Futures Game in New York alongside Addison Russell and received national acclaim after his televised inning against elite competition. And he finally was able to successfully was able to navigate through a significant amount of innings and made it through a season practically undetered (He did miss 4 weeks in August with a shoulder injury though)

Ynoa has an absurd amount of upside, with a fastball ranging from 91-97 MPH that is incredibly effective when placed where it's intended. Additionally, Ynoa's most polished secondaries include a devestating curveball that often misses lumber and a developing changeup which will be sharpened as he progresses into AA Midland. The biggest issue is his consistency, as his mechanics and sequencing while he delivers his pitches can deteriorate randomly which will obviously need to be corrected. If he can harness his potential, Ynoa could still morph into the perennial phenom that the organization had hoped to acquire when they signed him as a pimply 16 year old out of Latin America. Despite that roadblock in Stockton, the A's could opt to rush him to Texas with Rockhounds as he commences his second option year. If he is retained in the 209, he'll likely ascend to Midland by June"

#1: Raul Alcantara (RHP)

Alcantara is the pinnacle of international excellence in the Athletics system, as the 21 year old shall frontline a tantalizing Rockhounds rotation following a successful sophomore stint in the Midwest League and equally as impressive campaign through Stockton, showcasing the best changeup in the organization and a plus fastball that coincided with mindboggling precision. The #1 overall pitching prospect the A's is primed to attempt a Sacramento climb should he dispatch AA offenses and could become a major league option for Oakland by opening day of 2015. With 40 man exemption and a MLB spring now assisting Alcantara towards stardom, the Dominican chip and Bailey trade piece seems readied to become the next international pitching sensation for Oakland. 

"Alcantara originally inked with Boston for $500,000 out of the Dominican as a 16 year old and progressed through their minor league ladder before being shipped with Josh Reddick and Miles Head to Oakland. After a disappointing campaign in 2012 with Burlington, struggling mightily with control, Allie completely turned around in 2013 with the Snappers and the Ports as he developed into one of the premier arms in the organization. He became one of the most precision precise pitchers for the Athletics this past season, stifling his Midwest league counterparts before receiving a midseason bump to central California. With the Ports, his production saw a slight dip (71 1/3 IP, 3 HR, 7 BB, 58 K with Beloit/79 IP, 8 HR, 17 BB, 66 K in Stockton) and the dingers permited increased, but that is expected with 20 year olds making their first adjustments within the Cal League. 

Alcantara features a lively fastball with an accompanying changeup as his primary secondary offering. He also possesses ideal pitching dimensions at 6'3", 180 pounds, as he figures to continue to be stretched out through Midland and Sacramento, however he could likely adapt to a bullpen role. As now easily the youngest 40 man member for Oakland, not turning 21 for another two weeks, Alcantara seems primed for another additional breakout campaign in 2014, entering as a consensus top 5 and for most a top three organizational prospect."