The Stockton Ports have experienced a small resurgence of late. Following a stretch that included 16 consecutive losses and 20 losses in 21 games, as the Ports managed to compile a 15-11 record to close out the first half. Once the dust of the first half eventually settled, the Ports clocked in at fourth in the California League for SLG% (.420). One player in particular played a large role in helping the Ports reach that slugging percentage: infielder Miles Head.
Head was sent to the Oakland A's from the Boston Red Sox along with Josh Reddick and Raul Alcantara in exchange for two-time All-Star closer Andrew Bailey. Bailey was supposed to bring stability to a Red Sox's bullpen that was dealing with the loss of closer Jonathan Papelbon, who had signed a free agent deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. The trade hasn't worked out well for Boston thus far, as Bailey has been sidelined all year with a thumb injury and the Red Sox have slumped to a disappointing early-season record. The A's, on the other hand, have reaped the rewards of the trade already at the major league level, with Reddick leading the team's offense with 15 homers, while Head and Alcantara establish themselves in the minor leagues.
Alcantara has had an inconsistent season thus far for the Low-A Burlington Bees, but Head has been nothing short of spectacular. While the Cal League tends to distort offensive numbers, Head's dominance cannot be explained away simply because of the league he is playing in, as he leads the Cal League in average by .025 (.382), OBP by .019 (.433), SLG% by .082 (.715), OPS by 129 (1149) and sits at tied for third in doubles (23 and triples (six), and tied for first in homers (18). The hulking 215-pound Georgian also has separated himself from the pack in hits by 10 (102) and total bases by a whopping 41 (191). He also leads the league in extra-base hits (47).
"He's been a big asset offensively," Stockton manager Webster Garrison said just before his team departed for the All-Star break.
"He's coming out hitting every night and he was Topps Player of the Month as well. He's just a big offensive producer in our lineup, leading the league in hitting, OPS and slugging, the only thing is that he just doesn't hit home runs. But he hits the ball to all fields and drives it to all fields, so, he's just a good hitter period. He's real aggressive and he's got his idea of hitting which is good for a young man."
Head, who hit a somewhat modest 11 homers in his initial 56 contests with the Ports, exploded in June, hitting .462/.512/1077 with seven homers in what would be his final 10 games with the Ports. He hit a homerun in what ultimately was his last regular season at-bat in a Stockton uniform. After representing the Ports in the Cal League-Carolina League All-Star game in Winston-Salem earlier this week, Head was promoted to Double-A Midland by the A's. He will be on the active roster for the Rockhounds this evening. Head will now have an opportunity to prove that his numbers were much more than a product of his Cal League environment.
Head's Cal League numbers are even more outstanding when one compares them to some of his other prospect peers. Take Head's strike-out rate, for instance. With the Ports, Head struck out at a 20.6% rate. Compare that rate to Chris Carter's 31.8 K% in 2009, the year Carter hit 39 homeruns for the Ports. Michael Choice, who led the Cal League in homers last year, struck out 28.6% of his trips to the box with the Ports. Carter and Choice would both spend entire seasons with the Ports, allowing them the opportunity to eclipse the 30-homer plateau with Stockton. Head won't have that opportunity, but he was well on-pace to reach that mark had he stayed the entire year, while hitting well above .350.
Do these 67 games with Stockton mean that Miles Head will be a surefire major leaguer? Only time will tell. Head will be faced with a stiff challenge in moving from High-A to Double-A, especially playing in a Texas League that isn't particularly kind on right-handed power hitters. Head had a similar mid-season promotion last year in the Boston chain when he went from the Low-A Sally League to the High-A Carolina League. He experienced a regression in his numbers after making the jump to High-A last year, only to conquer the level with the Ports this year. A similar small stumble could be in the cards for Head this year. Even if he does regress some with Midland, it shouldn't be cause for panic. At 21-years-old, Head is the youngest player on the Rockhounds' current roster by more than a year, so he has plenty of time to continue to develop. Of course, if he continues his torrid pace with the Rockhounds, he may find himself back in California with the Sacramento River Cats, or even the Oakland A's, before too long.