Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Year of Positional Pitching/Pitcher Hitting

One of the most entertaining anomalies throughout baseball, Oakland has had a significant amount of positional craziness between desperation arms and DH calamity that has even produced a permanent shift with that of Sam Roberts. Beloit's organizational middle infield cog and most prominent positional reserve for instances in which positional pitching was required, the former rotation ace at VMI has entirely transitioned forth from the void of non-prospect infield status to an intriguing relieving chip thanks to his continual utilization in blowouts through April for the Snappers. Possessing a 88-90 MPH fastball with sinking action and a decent slider, Roberts has at the very least resurrected his prospects of heading out to Stockton with the aging Virginia native having been extremely doubtful to have ever arrived in California through his lumber and leather. Roberts' control, very likely attributed to an impromptu spring shift with zero prior conditioning beforehand, was completely non-exsistent as the 25 year old produced a less than exceptional 24:19 K/BB through his cumulative 39 2/3 IP. After his initial five appearances while still technically classified as a utility infielder, Roberts went 7 1/3 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 4 K while demonstrating more of an ability to pitch than his statistics would indicate prior to his first official bullpen appearance on June 21st after having 1 1/2 weeks to prepare. Since that point, Roberts went 32 1/3 IP, 31 H, 8 ER (1 HR), 15 BB, 20 K while holding opponents to a brilliant .067 ISO (7 XBH) as he smoothly transitioned towards his permanent post upon the mound while even showcasing better strikeout tendencies to conclude his campaign with a 7:1 K/BB over his final four appearances (7 IP). While there may not be as extreme a study as Roberts throughout the organization, wackiness still ensued with positional novelties occurring incessantly through the summer:

Within the AZL, Jean Carlo Rodriguez partook within his technical domestic debut upon the mound as opposed to within the infield as the natural middle infielder and the 2013 DSL academy MVP was forcibly made to apply himself during an emergency situation. The versitile Venezuelan born and Panaminian native infield asset surged forth within La Victoria to highlight the Dominican ballclub following his organizational debut upon the island. Batting .302/.373/.379 through 222 plate appearances, Rodriguez established himself as a disciplinary oriented farmhand with a 19:20 BB/K while flashing bursts of speed potential with 12 swiped bases through 17 attempts that acquired him a flight towards the United States to undergo his sophomore stint within the midst of the AZL. Unsuspecting his form of debut, Rodriguez was thrust into a blowout academy opening day contest as a pitcher with two outs in the 8th frame and proceeded to induce an inning ending groundout versus the lone batter he faced. Following that, the teenage breakthrough prospect underwent significant regression as he encountered more advanced repetiores and churned out a measly .065 ISO through his limited 115 PAs (3 XBH) while emerging with a lackluster .184/.296/.224 statistical result. Attributable towards more weak hit contact and thus a .209 BABIP, Rodriguez still demonstated strike zone recognition with a 14:13 BB/K as his realistic ceiling resides in that of a defensive oriented piece and line drive bat with some pinch running upside. Rodriguez still has an opportunity to mature and fill out his 5'10"/170 pound physical frame as he progresses; turning 19 this upcoming January. Especially with a positional transition unlikely, Rodriguez shall have to bank upon his developmental ceiling and acquire some semblance of power ability should he attempt to ascend upwards upon prospects lists. If he intends upon rallying his organizational stock, the Caribbean asset shall have to consistently avoid situations as he encountered in June during his AZL debut. 

Aside from Sam Roberts within Wisconsin, Ryan Mathews accompanied his fellow 25 year old Midwest League companion with numerous appearances outside of his predominant corner outfield post for the Snappers. Most notably, Mathews acquired a victory with a perfect two frames during the 16th and 17th innings of a Beloit victory as Phil Pohl crushed a walkoff dinger to claim a seldom seen result for a Turtle ballclub that bucked usual tradition of Oakland Midwest League affiliate excellence. Making a cumulative three outings, Mathews amassed a 4 1/3 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 0 K result indicative of prototypical positional output while inheriting the duties previously embodied through Sam Roberts. Through an offensive lens, Mathews regressed following his snub from a probable Stockton assignment after a consistent debut full season campaign through 2013 as the 6'3"/195 pound Beloit veteran embarked upon a .269/.317/.454 campaign between 350 PAs with 33 XBH (12 HR) alongside an accumulated 23:85 BB/K. The elderly outfield prospect did excel through August with a stretch of three contests with 4 HRs including a near dinger that was erased through a herculean defensive effort as Mathews' flexed his power capability and concluded things with a respectable .185 ISO that could boost him forth towards California to commence the approaching spring. Lacking the prior extensive collegiate pitching experience Sam Roberts had, Mathews shall be exclusively restrained towards offensive duties with occasional pitching appearances sprinkled throughout the remainder of his Oakland stay. 

Utilized sparingly with California, Stockton's lone occurrences of positional panic transpired during their home schedule opening on April 10th as they trudged through an 18 inning (5 1/2 hour) contest and were forcibly made to trot out Wade Kirkland and Dusty Robinson with an extraordinary depleted bullpen cast already having reached their cumulative innings limitation for the night. Wade Kirkland, already boasting tremendous amounts of affiliated pitching appearances including an outing in which he threw the final two frames for Stockton before smacking a walkoff HR during May 2013, orcastrated an 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K effort as Dusty Robinson emerged for his initial pitching appearance with a 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 0 K as Stockton finally secured a victorious result before even more absurd scenario unfolded. Dusty Robinson has since been dismissed from the A's organization while Wade Kirkland has continued to peg away as an exclusive organizational filler with periodical assignments north towards Sacramento while primarily serving as a reserve asset for scheduled Daniel Robertson and Chad Pinder rest. 

Jeremy Barfield acquired an outstanding amount of noteriety as the 2014 campaign began for his positional shift and attempt to difinitively switch towards the mound in an attempt to piggyback on the efforts of Sean Doolittle two seasons prior. Despite amassing promising and extremist quantities of swings-and-misses and therefore strikeouts, Barfield would succumb to outings in which he struggled and labored through while his control was blatantly inconsistent and disintegrated through every other appearance as one would expect for someone partaking in their initial attempt on the mound versus California League bats. With his contract expiring following the conclusion of this season, Barfield opted to cease the organization's experimentation and requested to revert back towards the outfield as he has since been housed within Midland chugging away offensively. However, Barfield has taken part through two technical positional appearances versus Texas League competition and ironically enough dominated with a 1 2/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K, 27 pitches (19 strikes) output. Not comfortable outside of the batter's box though, Barfield likely shall remain as a permanent organizational filler should he latch onto another organization this offseason. Joining Barfield within Midland, Conner Crumbliss made two seperate appearances going 1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 1 K for the Puppy Dogs as the another Midland asset to have been opted for during extra inning contests. 

Within Sacramento, Colin Walsh and Luis Exposito each acquired duties on the hill with Exposito producing a 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 0 K, 22 pitch (7 strike) result while somehow avoiding to permit a run through his lone appearance in Washington while Colin Walsh went 3 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 1 K through two distinct outings. Sacramento also yielded the lone pitcher offensive appearances upon the campaign as the lone represntative during the 2013 romp was Andres Avila in Beloit while partaking in an individual plate appearance. With Nick Buss having been DFA'd and therefore branded ineligible for Sacramento's contest in which he was scheduled for DH duties, Arnold Leon and Paul Smyth were made to awkwardly and uncomfortably navigate through the three plate appearances as each struck out during their attempts as Leon made himself all the more unattractive to any intrigued national league ballclubs that believe him to be able to succeed within a rotation format. 

Discounting Sam Roberts' performance following his transition, Oakland's positional options amassed a cumulative 18 2/3 IP, 18 H, 10 R, 14 BB, 10 K result in a predictable, yet entertaining, output nonetheless. Already having undergone their Barfield commitment and Sam Roberts shift coupled with further intrigue with another permanent transition residing in that of Jesus Rivas, the converted DSL outfielder who debuted amongst Vermont and the AZL on the mound this season, Oakland has still proven themselves open to experimentation should a lively arm correlate with stagnant offensive performance. 

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