Saturday, March 15, 2014

Midland Roster Projection

Likely the messiest of the four full season affiliates for the Athletics, the projected Rockhounds have an excessive surplus amongst their roster probables prior to roster alignment in the latter portion of March. Numerous individuals ought to return to the badlands of west Texas, including Drew Granier, Conner Crumbliss, Miles Head, and Max Muncy who shall once more attempt to construct campaigns worthy of promotion towards Sacramento. Meanwhile, the Athletics unanimous organizational gem, Addison Russell, is poised to steer the Rockdoggies lineup while attempting to make his Texas League tenure brief without succumbing to the dreaded transition that countless premier A's talent has during the trek from Stockton to Midland. Raul Alcantara, Oakland's #1 overall pitching asset, additionally figures to feature within Texas while Michael Ynoa initially is retained in California to tweak before a presumed bump at some instance during the campaign. Midland's overflowing bullpen contingent also signifies the depth upon the squad, as Midland shall spar with fellow AA affiliates in an attempt not to rest within the cellar of the divisional standings as they unfortunately did the season before, finishing as the worst cumulative ballclub in the organization according to win/loss record. But with an intriguing cast and undeniable potentiality present after receiving a swift infusion from the Ports, the Rockhounds seem prepared to rumble with the opposing seven ballclubs in what could possibly translate towards a Texas League postseason berth. 

SS Addison Russell
2B/SS Tyler Ladendorf
INF Darwin Perez
SS Dusty Coleman
1B Max Muncy
3B/1B Miles Head
3B Jefry Marte
C Beau Taylor
C Ryan Ortiz
OF Conner Crumbliss
OF D'Arby Myers
OF Josh Whitaker
OF Rashun Dixon

RHP Raul Alcantara
RHP Drew Granier
RHP Murphy Smith
RHP Ryan Dull
RHP Blake Hassebrock
RHP Tucker Healy
RHP Ryan Doolittle
LHP Trey Barham
LHP Jeff Urlaub
RHP Tanner Peters
RHP Seth Frankoff
RHP Sean Murphy

Other eligibles: 

3B/1B BA Vollmuth
C Ryan Lipkin
C Bruce Maxwell
OF Billy Burns
OF Chad Oberacker
OF Myrio Richard
RHP Manaurys Correa
RHP Josh Bowman
RHP Nate Long
RHP Jonathan Joseph
RHP Zach Neal
RHP Chris Jensen
LHP Omar Duran
RHP Brett Hunter
LHP Frank Gailey
RHP TJ Walz 
RHP Jesus Castillo 

Nothing more can be stated regarding Addison Russell other than what we already know: He is the best prospect in Oakland's system and a top 10 farmhand in baseball. His outstanding and drool worthy conclusion to his Stockton stint have him readied for a phenomenal breakthroughot try with Midland during this campaign, expected to possess the capability to surge to the cusp of major league consideration by September if he doesn't undergo any noticeable roadbumps and most certainly shall cast himself into the eligible shortstop assets to usurp the proposed departure of Jed Lowrie to free agency. While the Texas League had stunted numerous Athletics farmhands prior, Addison more than any other demonstrates the prowess to burst past the Rockhounds and onwards to Sacramento, hopefully for a more so consistent outing than his three game attempt with the River kittens as they prepared for a possible and ultimately futile rush for a postseason berth, going 1-13 with nine strikeouts after hitting .312/.455/.596 through his final 143 Stockton plate appearances after returning from a thumb injury that cost him 10 days in July. Addison was recently dismissed from the major league camp prematurely following his hamstring troubles, disbanding any hope of a miraculous and unlikely Sacramento assignment to commence 2014. 

Addison's middle infield entourage includes the overtly versatile Darwin Perez, another NRI that was sanctioned out to Papago alongside Addison just recently. His capability to man multiple posts prompted Bob Melvin to state that the 160 pound predominant second base Venezuelan could don catching gear if required, however extraordinarily unlikely. Still, a complement to the Magallanes regular as his versatile stylization ought to place him in consideration for momentary ascents to Sacramento should injury require him. I wrote a bit about Perez this offseason and his role upon Rockhounds following his MiLB re-sign this offseason:

"Quite possibly the most anonymous individual to be present at Phoenix Municipal in a couple weeks, Perez had spent the previous seven seasons housed within Anaheim's system prior to Oakland latching onto him while signing another MiLB FA, Justin Thomas, in the winter of 2012-2013. Most notably, Perez batted behind the fabled Mike Trout in 2011 while in Arkansas and hit .312/.405/.404 before he ascended to Salt Lake while batting .199/.325/.262 after his departure [Splits according to Baseball America] in what would be the first of now three consecutive Texas League exclusive campaigns for the Maracay native. The latter portion unfortunately has been far more indicative of Perez' tenure within the minors, as he has struggled to correlate defensive and offensive success and often tends to languish in difficult stretches, which further exacerbates his noticeable lack of power production and nearly zero blatantly plus attributes. Upon glancing, Perez seems like a rather mundane AA middle infield bat, but the A's still believe Perez can salvage his career and construct a solid 2014, possibly even appearing in his first AAA contest since 2010. The route shall have to go through his aforementioned versatility, possibly replacing a need the A's require that he could conform to. So while Perez may be most comfortable at 2B due to some throwing difficulty in the 5.5 hole, he may be required to explore a foreign post to get to the major league pleateu in 2014, something that has been noted that he is capable of.

During his previous 2013 Rockhounds attempt, he slashed out to a paltry .237/.326/.333 mark with a 10.8% BB%, 22.3% K%, and a .097 ISO along with a subpar 90 wRC+ (Darwin hasn't had a triple digit wRC+ since 2009) and once more proved the Texas League may be too great of a hurdle for the switch hitter. Athletics prospects have traditionally struggled at AA though, so Perez could strive to a greater rate should be receive an extended AAA sample. However, with another free agent utility asset acquired in Jose Martinez and other middle infielders clogging his path between Addison Russell and Tyler Landendorf, things shall be difficult for Perez to avoid his fourth consecutive AA sequence. Additionally with Midland, he did prove himself to be a valuable basestealing piece, going 19-23 and owning a career 111-151 mark to complement his defensive exploits at SS (67 games), 2B (43 games), 3B (1 game) and LF (1 game). Oddly enough, Perez did have a remarkable home/away split as well, hitting .317/.391/.455 at CitiBank Ballpark (~210 PAs) as opposed to .162/.267/.221 outside of Midland (~230 PAs), so it might be a matter of comfort for the 24 year old who could grapple with probable position experimentation this season. If anything, it's an intriguing organizational chip for the A's to toy with as 2014 progresses, and if Perez can finally demomstrate the outstanding plate discipline he traditionally does with every offseason in Venezuela, they'll find a way to bump him upward to a higher caliber of competition."

Tyler Ladendorf and Dusty Coleman complete the Midland configuration as two individuals who consistently participated within the Rockhound lineup through 2013. Ladendorf specifically, the chip acquired in the Orlando Cabrera swap and a former second round draftee, shall enter his inevitable final campaign amongst the A's organization as he shall navigate MiLB free agency prior to the 2015 season. Ladendorf had somewhat of a breakthrough, or at least comparatively towards his entire minor league tenure, during the previous campaign as the 6'0", 210 pound Texan hit .263/.340/.398 with a .135 ISO, 109 wRC+ and a .331 wOBA between his 302 plate appearances while housed within Midland, additionally skidding to Sacramento briefly for a 32 PA sample size in his Rivercats debut, going 3-28 with a 4:3 BB/K. While not having done anything of considerable note while under contact with the A's organization, Ladendorf flashed value at instances with a .338/.392/.544 May to feature as one of Oakland's most outstanding MiLB contributors during the month and has a blatant split favoring his production against southpaws. The righty has obliterated lefties over his AA tenure with Midland, now entering his fourth consecutive season affiliated with the Rockhounds, hitting .301/.372/.479 with a 41:38 BB/K between a cumulative 379 plate appearances against them since 2011. Without any notable Sacramento sample size however, and with Addison Russell set to leapfrog him due to his status within the organization, Ladendorg seems destined for a promotion only during the initial portion of 2014, before Russell would be prepared to rise to the Pacific Coast League. Dusty Coleman, another Sacramento transplant who spent the majority of his 2013 attempt in Texas, after constructing a similar slash to Ladendorf of .260/.344/.390 with a 3-21 (5 K) Sacramento résumé to conclude the season. The strikeout intensive Coleman possesses a far more loopy swing than Ladendorf, as a shortstop challenged for organizational strikeout honors with a cumulative 160 tallied (28.0% K%) as he is currently recognized as one of Oakland's most swing-and-miss farmhands. He'll find it difficult to contend with Ladendorf and Addison during 2014, with minimal clearance in an overflowing Rivercats infield already assembled (Carrithers, Elmore, Nakajima, Martinez). 

The corner infield shall be inhabited by Jefry Marte, Miles Head and Max Muncy, a trio of Oakland top 25 farmhands present to tackle the Texas League once more. 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. 

Max Muncy arrived after one of the standout campaigns to dissect from the 2013 performances after a brilliant Stockton rampage corresponded by a more modest Texas League deflation before the Baylor alumni settled into an AZFL assignment. Through his initial 197 plate appearances for the Rockhounds, Muncy struggled to assimilate to the challenging repetiores present in the southwest:

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

Despite that, his regression offensive was somewhat minimal and his defensive contributions ought to supplant any struggles as well. The outstanding discipline oriented Texan once more is poised for a remarkable romp through the organization, destined to possibly present a conundrum for management should he dominate as Luke Montz, Nate Freiman and Anthony Aliotti are already expected to commence and participate for Sacramento at first base throughout the entire 2014 calendar year. More concerning however is that of Miles Head, whose approach that salvaged his value in Stockton has since been exploited to freightening extents amongst Texas Leaguers. Viewing a statistical split for Head's production between his affiliates while housed in Oakland is most certainly unsettling, as the once considered phenom has plummeted drastically: 

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

After having his campaign previously be aruptly halted by his shoulder surgery, a recuperated Head shall have to demonstrate his worth in his first genuine lengthy Midland sample size throughout the 2014 season while contending with Jefry Matre for playing distribution and opportunities. Previously Rule 5 eligible, no suitors snatched Miles as he now shall be forcibly made to audition once more for the Athletics, as his 2014 shall likely determine his major league prospects. 

Midland's outfield resembles the 2013 cast with the exception of Rashun Dixon, who while mediocre throughout his California League attempts may be transported to Texas before his MiLB free agency this offseason and his long tenured duration with the Athletics closes. The outstanding athletic corner outfielder and Mississippi native was recruited extensively by SEC institutions such as Mississippi State and LSU for his wide receiver capabilities, but opted rather to disband his collegiate aspirations to attempt his ascent to Oakland following his 10th round selection in the 2008 Draft. Unfortunately, Rashun has found it exteaordinarily difficult to materialize as he has yet to be assigned to Midland and has ironically been stifled offensively within the California League. Following a sophomore attempt within Stockton during the 2012 attempt, he would be consequently demoted alongside AJ Cole to Burlington after paltry .206/.278/.343 attempt and would be retained in Iowa for the remainder of the season before an initial assignment with Beloit during the previous season following a bout in extended spring grappling with an oblique issue. The 11 game stint within the Midwest League seemed to rejuvenate the then 22 year old as he went 10-36 with 4 HR and a 9:8 BB/K in what convinced the organization to restore his California League path with an assignment to the Ports once more. However, after retaining his discipline oriented approach through the initial month by hitting .247/.402/.492, Rashun wound up regressing significantly once more with a cumulative .207/.339/.400 slash, 98 wRC+, 33.3% K%, and .334 wOBA to stall his progress within the A's plans again. He did increase his walk percentages and power rates however (13.8% BB%, .193 ISO), something in which Rashun had not demonstrated through his initial two attempts. As 2014 approaches, Rashun's finale could very well be held amongst Texas League counterparts, as his performance shall determine his prospects for MiLB re-sign eligibility this offseason. Accompanying Rashun are Josh Whitaker, Conner Crumbliss and D'Arby Myers as a trio of Rockhounds regulars. Crumbliss, one of the most disciplined contributors within the Athletics system, has been absurd versus righties over the previous few campaigns, amassing a mindblogging 21.6% BB% over the previous three campaigns (1151 PAs) while D'Arby Myers was famed for his 33 consecutive contests with a hit that was snapped just prior to September and a feverish approach against lefties, hitting .400/.448/.552 against southpaws during 2013: 

"Crumbliss, the 5'8", 175 pound Emporia State alumni and Kansas native, has wielded perhaps the absolute most elite plate discipline throughout the Athletics organization, now having recently ascended to the cusp of Sacramento following a brief stint within California during the 2013 campaign. Over the previous three seasonal attempts between Stockton, Midland, and Sacramento, Crumbliss has accumulated a 249:182 BB/K against right handed pitching in 1151 cumulative PAs for an absurd 21.6% BB% and a .257/.441/.422 slash as opposed to his 44:75 BB/K plate discipline mark through a corresponding 403 PAs with a .290/.346/.370 line produced against southpaws. The diminutive basestealing and leadoff threat shall once more attempt within the confines of Midland prior to MiLB free agency at the conclusion of the 2015 season, as Oakland shall once more trot out the peculiar left handed bat for another Texas League audition. His remarkable nack for patience and on-base oriented approach shall pay dividends for Crumbliss who will be made to contend with D'Arby Myers for Rivercats replacement duties... 

A extremist diversion from the overtly patient and meticulous Crumbliss, D'Arby has one of the most swing happy, aggressive philosophies within the organization, completely reliant upon his BABIP fluctuation to propel his campaign offensively. Myers received notoriety for his much publicized 33 consecutive contests with a base hit for the Rockhounds to conclude his debut a Athletics season and consequently result in an instantaneous resigning and assignment to the instructional league for Oakland, in a performance that vaulted him to the status of Texas League folk hero and AA sensation. Myers even more so feasted off of lefties, as the righty went .400/.448/.522 against southpaws through Midland and drew as many walks (8) against them in his significantly not minuscule sample size of 126 plate appearances as he did versus right handed arms in a contrasting 396 PAs (8:11 BB/K vs. LHP, 8:59 BB/K vs. RHP). While his lackluster 3.1% BB%, .103 ISO, and 99 wRC+ may keep him from surfacing as a legitimate major league option for the Athletics, a shift to a platoon exclusive chip and defensive replacement could be plausible should Myers continue to mash lefties throughout his upcoming 2014 stint as an Athletic." 

Josh Whitaker, the Georgian corner outfielder to has made a nearly undected and stealthy ascent following his selection from Kennesaw State, has now been plopped in Midland after a Stockton promotion and unfortunately somewhat lackluster transition to Texas (.240/.304/.424 in 138 Midland PAs). Still, after two consecutive campaigns anchoring a Ports lineup and a historic 2011 stint with Burlington, Whitaker wields a legitimate .278/.350/.478 slash between 1458 career professional plate appearances. He'll attempt to translate his previous dominance to Midland as the underrated chip approaches his 5th season with the Athletics. 

The catching tandem is manned by Beau Taylor and Ryan Ortiz, as Taylor shall try for his third consecutive Texas League journey after a deplorable 2013 and Ortiz will take refuge in Midland as Oakland's resident backstop plug, having shifted constantly between Stockton and Sacramento as an immediate catching replacement. Taylor has struggled vehemently following a remarkable .328/.412/.446 attempt with a 28:29 BB/K upon debuting in Stockton en route to rapidly becoming the second 2011 draftee to attend Midland behind Sonny Gray. However, following a lackluster performance to conclude his 2012, Taylor wound up going .191/.282/.266 through the previous stint in 2013 with a 59 wRC+, .258 wOBA and a 23.2% K% through 306 plate appearances in what now similarly tosses him into Miles Head's company as members of the Oakland Athletics organizational limbo. 2014 shall be the campaign in which his projection is ultimately decided upon. Ortiz, the Oregon State alumni, had one of the more intriguing splits in the system last season, hitting .202/.330/.371 with a 90 wRC+, .321 wOBA and a 29.2% K% in Stockton while fared somewhat more decently against superior arsenals within Sacramento by going .270/.336/.426 with a 101 wRC+, .342 wRC+ and diminished 18.6% K%. Possibly bouncing throughout affiliates once more, Ortiz shall service as Oakland reliable catching injury replacement. 

Midland's pitching staff is the most convoluted throughout the organization, with nearly 20 eligible individuals attempting to cram onto the pitching staff present within the Texas League. With the announcement of AJ Griffin's absence and Jarrod Parker with a probable of missed opportunities, Zach Neal is poised to usurp a Sacramento rotation berth and thus result in a Murphy Smith-Raul Alcantara-Drew Granier-Tanner Peters-Sean Murphy rotation while Manaurys Correa and Josh Bowman plead for a position of their own. Granier, following a lackluster transition as he reached a pitch limitation and forced to practically utilize fastballs exclusively versus AA offenses, promises to rebound during the 2014 campaign while Tanner Peters shall flash his outstanding pitch placement and changeup precision to the Midland fanbase. Raul Alcantara, having turned 21 on December 4th, arrives as Oakland's pitching jewel while Sean Murphy complements Granier as the most fearsome strikeout arms upon the ballclub. Murphy Smith, the long tenured Rockhound, shall contend with Neal for Rivercat replacement duties. The bullpen is comprised of frontliners such as Ryan Dull, Tucker Healy, Blake Hassebrock, and Seth Frankoff while Jeff Urlaub and Trey Barham represent the southpaws upon the squad. Joining Barham, Ryan Doolittle, sibling of Sean Doolittle, shall perform for his final Oakland season prior to free agency. Omar Duran, TJ Walz, Frank Gailey, Brett Hunter, Jonathan Joseph, Chris Jensen, Jesus Castillo and Nate Long also are consequently displaced by the ridiculous surplus, and the Athletics could likely field another AA affiliate with their current situation. 

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