Stats: 1-0, 2.57 ERA, 13 SV, 10:0 K:BB in 14 IP
Bullpen roles are not nearly as defined in the minor leagues as they are in the big leagues. Consequently, rarely do you see big save totals from any one pitcher in the minors. This year, Sacramento River Cats manager Steve Scarsone had a number of seasoned veterans to turn to in the later innings. In the beginning of the year, several pitchers received opportunities in the ninth inning, but down-the-stretch, there was only one name Scarsone would call: Brian Gordon.
Gordon would finish the year with a Sacramento-record 23 saves, besting the previous mark held by former A's and current Giants reliever Santiago Casilla. Gordon was especially relied on in August, when the River Cats made a push to the post-season. Sacramento would fall just short of a division title, but Gordon did his part. He converted 13 saves during the month and then another on the season's final day on September 2nd.
Gordon's ERA with Sacramento was 3.57, thanks mostly to a poor month of April, but he pitched much better than that number would indicate. For the year, Gordon struck-out 66 and walked only nine in 63 innings. He allowed just four homeruns. Starting on May 1, he walked just four batters and allowed just two homeruns in 48.1 innings.
Gordon didn't receive a September call-up from Oakland, but if the 35-year-old is looking to extend his professional career another season, he should get plenty of interest this off-season as a minor league free agent.
Sean Murphy, Midland (2-2, 1.78 ERA, 24:10 K:BB, .230 BAA in 30.1 IP)
Murphy had a strong first season at the Double-A level and he finished off that campaign on an up-note. The right-hander showed no signs of fatigue late in the season, averaging better than six innings a start for the final month of the year. He finished the season with a 4.08 ERA and a 121:50 K:BB in 136.2 innings for Midland and a 3.94 ERA and a 140:54 K:BB overall for Midland and Stockton.
Travis Banwart, Sacramento (3-0, 3.38 ERA, 24:11 K:BB in 29.1 IP)
Banwart had an up-and-down season with Sacramento, but he had a strong month of August, as he helped the River Cats push for the post-season. The right-hander did allow five homeruns in August, but he was otherwise very effective. For the year, he finished 10-5 with a 4.80 ERA and a 125:54 K:BB in 131 innings. He is eligible to file for minor league free agency this off-season.
Arnold Leon, Sacramento (3-1, 2.95 ERA, 26:6 K:BB in 36.2 IP)
Leon's first full season as a starting pitcher came to a successful conclusion with a strong month of August. The Tommy John survivor tossed a career-high 144 innings, but he remained effective through the final dog days of the season. Leon showed excellent command all season, and he was particularly good in August, posting a 1.47 BB/9. For the year between Sacramento and Midland, Leon had a 4.13 ERA and a 97:24 K:BB in 144 innings.
Tanner Peters, Stockton (2-2, 4.36 ERA, 41:4 K:BB in 33 IP)
The ERA was a bit high, but Peters otherwise had an August to remember. He took a perfect game into the ninth inning in one outing and had two separate outings with more than 10 strike-outs. Peters' better than 10:1 K:BB for the month is mind-boggling, especially for a starting pitcher during the final month of the season. Peters can be prone to the longball, but his 159:27 K:BB in 165.2 innings this season makes him well worth watching next year.
Nolan Sanburn, Beloit (1-0, 0.56 ERA, 14:2 K:BB in 16 IP)
It was a disappointing start to the season for Sanburn, who came into the year as one of the A's top pitching prospects, only to be sidelined for the entire first half with a shoulder strain. Sanburn avoided surgery and returned to the mound during the second half of the year. The A's were cautious with him, keeping the right-hander in the bullpen to limit his innings. Sanburn got better as the second half progressed, and he had his best month in August. The Arkansas alum allowed just nine hits in 16 innings, while also walking only two. He didn't allow a homerun. For the year, he finished with a 1.50 ERA and a 26:10 K:BB in 30 innings for the AZL A's and Beloit.
Ronald Herrera, AZL A's/Vermont (3-1, 2.45 ERA, 23:7 K:BB, 2 HR in 33 IP)
The 18-year-old Herrera had a strong first season pitching in the United States. The native of Venezuela posted a 58:11 K:BB in 70.2 innings in the Arizona Rookie League before earning a late-season promotion to short-season Vermont. Although he won't turn 19 until the start of May next year, Herrera will have a shot at being on a full-season roster if he pitches well next spring.
Chris Kohler, AZL A's (0-1, 1.50 ERA, 18:3 K:BB, 0 HR in 12 IP)
Kohler was the A's third-round pick this season, and he showed why the team was so high on him with an impressive professional debut in the Arizona Rookie League. Although he was kept on a strict pitch- and innings-limit, Kohler still threw enough to open a lot of eyes. He was particularly good in August, when he allowed just 14 base-runners in 12 innings. In addition to striking out 32 in 22.2 overall innings this season, Kohler did an excellent job of keeping the ball on the ground. He didn't allow a homerun and he had a better than 50% groundball rate.
Others In Consideration
Brent Powers, Vermont (1-2, 3.41 ERA, 23:6 K:BB, 1 HR in 29 IP), Drew Carpenter, Midland (1-1, 3.10 ERA, 12:3 K:BB in 20.1 IP), Junior Mendez, Vermont (0-0, 0.54 ERA, 17:8 K:BB, 10 H in 16.2 IP), Dominique Vattuone, Vermont (1-0, 2.45 ERA, 12:2 K:BB, 0 HR in 11 IP), Jonathan Joseph, Stockton (0-0, 2.03 ERA, 14:4 K:BB in 13.1 IP), Kayvon Bahramzadeh, Vermont (1-0, 0.75 ERA, 3 H, 7:3 K:BB in 12 IP)