Saturday, March 15, 2014

Platoons Ahoy: Noticeable MiLB splits in the A's system

Notorious for their blatant platoon utilization, the Athletics have established a potent formula for success based upon their distribution of plate appearances and opportunities dependent on specific matchups for their ballclub and have relied on this philosophy during their two consecutive AL West championship campaigns. Most notably, Nate Freiman and Chris Carter contrasted alongside Brandon Moss at first base to feature as an overpowering combination for pitching staffs to grapple with while John Jaso and Derek Norris constructed a hearty and formidable pair at the catching position thanks to their favorable offensive résumés versus lefties and righties. Now, acquisitions of such individuals as Craig Gentry, Fernando Abad, Sam Fuld, and Luke Gregerson, the Athletics have an extensive platoon selection with their repetiore having been bolstered by the lengthy offseason. Abad and Gergerson embody LOOGY roles for the A's, serving as assets to tackle especially pesky lefties in a division that inherited Fielder, Cano and Choo this winter, thus signifying the undoubtedly pivotal roles these two bring in replacement of the since departed Jerry Blevins. Sam Fuld's historic reverse splits, similarly to Barton, additionally impact the club while Craig Gentry features as one of the most troublesome offensive contributors against lefties in baseball. Evan Scribner, Eric Sogard, and Alberto Callaspo (Despite being a switch hitter) also are affected by their respective handedness in regards to their utilization, as the Athletics will capitalize on these matchups throughout the season, something that is now a normality throughout the landscape of baseball. Within the minor league system, Oakland is in possession of some intriguing pieces likely to project as platoon components as well, with numerous relieving chips favoring one variations over another and positional farmhands having dominated certain matchups while floundering in others presented to them. These are the the prospects dwelling throughout the Athletics ranks who shall blend flawlessly into the A's forecasted platoon scheme as they progress upward through the organization:

Tucker Healy and Ryan Dull (Best ROOGYs): 

Dull and Healy, while not overpowering in velocity, Tucker occasionally scraping 95 MPH and Dull sitting 90-92, have become the most sensational righty exclusive bullpen tandem arguably in minor league baseball. The duo have obliterated right handed opposition as they approach the 2014 campaign, and lefties as well for that matter, but the pair nulified righties to a frightening extent between them, as batters amassed a 99:3 K/BB in 245 PAs versus them (40.4% K%, 1.2% BB%) with a cumulative .172/.183/.277 slash versus the two who starred within Beloit and Stockton's bullpens prior to Healy succumbing to a season ending injury and Dull being elevated to Midland. Healy, throwing with a sidearm variation, and Dull, the changeup/slider specialist readying himself for an encore following an AZFL experience, once more shall predictably demolish offenses as relieving assets, likely to blot to Oakland should their performances translate when pitted against the upper echelon competition of AA/AAA. 

Conner Crumbliss (Best LH outfielder):

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. 

D'Arby Myers (Best RH outfielder):

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. 

Omar Duran (Best LOOGY): 

The slinging southpaw Dominican, Duran was sensational against like-handed opposition between his 2013 campaign, utilizing his buckling 95-98 MPH velocity to cripple lefties while housed in Stockton and Vermont. I profiled the 6'3", 210 pound bullpen specialist in the Midland 2014 reliever preview: 

"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."

Other notables:

Lee Sosa (RHP)- a Bronx native hailing from Binghamton Univeristy, similarly to a fellow organizational teammate in Murphy Smith, Sosa is essentially the right handed interpretation of Omar Duran with mid-90's velocity and a plus curveball as his primary secondary offering. Additionally, his erratic command and inconsistency thus far as a professional is very much reminiscent of the afforementioned Dominican lefty as he most recently floundered between a 14 appearance, 5 start attempt (44 IP) with Vermont and amassed a subpar 5.11 FIP with a 30:33 cumulative K/BB. Regardless, righties still hit a meager .169/.313/.258 versus Sosa in a promising attempt that could transition him towards Wisconsin for the impending 2014 season. Sosa, who also has thrown a whopping 10 wild pitches in a 68 2/3 inning professional résumé, may be retained to challenge short season competition once more. 

Matt Stalcup (LHP)- The windmilling lefty and Kansan plucked out of Pittsburgh State in the 9th round, Stalcup was consistent through his smooth Lake Monster tenure in a performance that could witness him ascend to Beloit. I wrote about the fifth year senior draftee in the A's pitching outliers preview

"The 9th round asset inked by the A's as the 2013 Draft commenced, Stalcup become the second consecutive 5th year collegiate senior sign within a draft proceeding for Oakland as they selected Ryan Mathews in the 27th round the season prior. The native Kansan and Pittsburgh St alumni, Stalcup featured as one of the most prominent Division II strikeout arms throughout his upperclassman tenure, between 148 1/3 IP (28 appearances/24 starts), 71 BB, 187 K, and a mere 9 HR allowed in a performance that enticed Oakland to him as their third LHP plucked during the draft behind Dillon Overton and Chris Kohler. Including setting the single game punchout record for the Gorillas with 15 retired in an eight inning outing, Stalcup signified the A's recent fondness of D2 phenoms after selecting Lou Trivino and Junior Mendez as well between the next seven rounds, with Oakland demonstraing they were not phased by the caliber of competition Stalcup faced or his age (Born 7/6/1990, second most elderly 2013 draftee behind Ben McQuown). Regardless, even more intriguing than his statistical output, Stalcup possesses a windmill delievery, nostalgic of the Warren Spawn era with some of the most unique mechanics in the Oakland system that provide unparalleled deception towards his 89-93 MPH fastball and refined breaking ball. It was a package that the Athletics drooled over and convinced them to transport the lefty to Vermont after placing his signature upon a contract, which unfortunately with his college eligibility having concluded only granted him with $7,500. 

Stalcup struggled mightily with control upon his production, striking out a measly 19 through 28 2/3 IP to contrast with 15 walks distributed that dissappointed for those expecting his collegiate percentages to flawlessly transfer towards the NYPL. Still, opposition only mustered a .256 BABIP versus the puzzling left hander and only four XBH were smacked off of him out of 22 cumulative hits permitted (All doubles). Coinciding with this, Stalcup amassed a remarkable 2.56 GB/FB ratio and demomstrated that his delievery frazzled short season bats while inducing significant groundball and weakly hit contact. Against lefties, Stalcup was even more dominant with southpaws hitting .205/.294/.205 through 51 PAs in a performance that could have him to utilized in a long relief capacity versus lefty intensive lineups as he nears the majors and his projection becomes more defined. At the instant, Stalcup shall likely vacillate between starting and relieving roles throughout his impending 2014 with the Snappers, with a long relief position seeming to be the most logical MLB projection. Should he perform admirably against Midwest League competition, Stalcup could easily rise to Stockton and serve as a frighteningly underrated asset for the A's." 

Chad Oberacker (OF): As opposed to a positive split, Oberacker, the Tennessee native and now Midland Rockhound, possesses a negative trend against fellow left-handers, hitting 11-84 with 3 BBs, 27 K's, and 3 doubles in a .131/.196/.167 attempt outside of righties. Knowledgeable of this, the Rockhounds staff prevented Oberacker from excessive opportunities against lefties with a mere 93 plate appearances attempted by the former 25th round acquisition within the 2011 Draft proceedings. Having rapidly risen to a Texas League assignment to commence his second full MiLB campaign, Oberacker still has until 2017 until MiLB free agency has numerous opportunities to attempt to ascend to Oakland. However, he shall have to do so in a platoon format with his anemic résumé against lefties preventing him from any cumulative dominance. 

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