A quartet of Oakland A's prospects made their winter debuts this past week in the Dominican Republic. First baseman Daric Barton and outfielders Jason Perry and Jose Pineda suited up for the first time with Azucareros del Este of the Dominican Winter League.
Barton came into the 2006 season as the A's top prospect, but he missed most of the season with injuries. The 21-year old broke his elbow in a collision at first base in mid-May, an injury which cost him the next two and a half months. He attempted a comeback with the A's Rookie League team in late August, but a pulled hamstring put Barton on the shelf for the rest of the year. He had a good month of April and a poor month of May with AAA-Sacramento before being shelved with the broken elbow. He missed a lot of development time at first base by being injured, but his time in the DWL should help him make-up for some of that lost time. Through Sunday, Barton had appeared in two games for Azucareros, collecting three singles in eight at-bats. All three of those hits came in his second appearance, when he went 3-4 with two RBIs.
Perry, who was a teammate of Barton's in AA-Midland last season and AAA-Sacramento this year, is coming off of an up-and-down season. He hit .402 in 28 games for AA-Midland this season before struggling to a .252 average in 90 games for AAA-Sacramento. Through Sunday evening, Perry had appeared in three games for Azucareros, collecting two singles in 10 at-bats. The aggressive left-handed hitter had struck out four times and had yet to draw a walk.
Pineda was a six-year minor league free agent this off-season, but the A's re-signed the 24-year old outfielder. Pineda has never played higher than low-A Kane County, and he has spent the last two seasons as a starter for the Cougars. A native of the Dominican Republic, Pineda hit 15 homers and stole 21 bases last season for Kane County. He has had one at-bat for Azucareros through Sunday and he struck out.
A fourth A's prospect has re-emerged this winter after a long stretch on the DL. Santiago Casilla, who missed the final two and a half months of the season with shoulder soreness, is pitching again for the Escogido Leones, a team he starred for last winter. Casilla, who pitched under the name Jairo Garcia last winter, has made only one appearance for Escogido through Monday and it didn't go particularly well. The hard-throwing right-hander allowed a hit and a walk and was charged with a run without recording an out, giving him the ignominious distinction of carrying an infinite ERA number at the moment.
Puerto Rican Winter League Round-Up: Play Underway
The Puerto Rican Winter League is just underway. A's utilityman Hiram Bocachica is on the roster for his hometown Leones de Ponce and he is expected to be a big part of the Leones offense this season after missing last winter with a broken wrist. Through November 9, Bocachica had yet to appear in a game for Ponce, but he should see plenty of playing time this off-season. The former first round pick of the Montreal Expos was on the A's roster for all of September and during the playoffs. He had three hits in 13 at-bats for the A's after hitting .323 with 19 homers in only 77 games for AAA-Sacramento this season. He has been a September call-up for Oakland in each of the past two seasons.
A's relief prospect Jose Corchado is pitching in his native Puerto Rico this winter. The 22-year old right-hander spent most of the 2006 season with the A's Rookie League team, going 2-2 with 29 strikeouts in 16.1 innings. Corchado has only thrown 62 innings in 2005 and 2006 after throwing in 60 innings in 2004 for Kane County. Through November 9, he had not allowed a run in 2.2 innings of work, striking out four and walking two.
Venezuelan Winter League: Scutaro Debuts, Petit Struggling
Last year's Caribbean World Series hero Marco Scutaro made his debut with his hometown Leones de Caracas recently. The A's back-up infielder has been a star in Venezuela for some time and he is proving his worth to the Leones once again in the early going. Scutaro has appeared in six games for the Leones, and he has gone 11-26 with three walks for a 945 OPS. Scutaro started the season a little later this year after playing with the A's into mid-October.
Scutaro's teammate and A's farmhand Gregorio Petit is struggling after a hot start at the plate for the Leones. The middle infielder has seen his average drop from .352 to .291 and he has struck out 11 times against only one walk. Petit is second on the team with two homeruns.
Sacramento centerfielder Charles Thomas has picked up the pace in Venezuela after a slow start to his winter season. The left-handed hitter is batting .281 with five walks and three doubles in nine games for the Tiburones. He has driven-in four and scored four runs.
AFL Update: Robnett Sizzling
Richie Robnett may have only joined the Arizona Fall League this past week, but he is making a big impact on the Phoenix Desert Dogs already. The left-handed hitter has six hits and three walks in four games for Phoenix. He is batting .429 with a homerun, two triples, two doubles and five RBI. He drove home the game-winning run for Phoenix on Friday and has had at least one extra-base hit in every game in which he has played thus far for the Desert Dogs.
The rest of the A's hitters on the Phoenix roster continue to be quiet at the plate. Landon Powell went 0-3 with three strikeouts on Monday and his average dropped to .200. Powell has struggled to get hits this fall, although he has shown a good eye at the plate. He walked twice on Monday and has seven walks in his last four games. Kevin Melillo had a double and a walk on Saturday for Phoenix, but he is still hitting only .210 on the season. He has only four extra-base hits in 20 games.
Connor Robertson continued his stretch of good pitching on Saturday, tossing a scoreless inning for Phoenix. The right-handed reliever has now strung together four scoreless outings and he has struck out 12 in only 9.2 innings. Marcus McBeth had a rough outing on Friday after five straight scoreless outings. McBeth allowed two runs in one inning of work on Friday, walking two and striking out only one. It was his first blown save of the AFL season and the two walks brought his AFL total to three. He has struck out 11 in 10 innings.
Jared Burton recovered from a rough outing on Thursday to toss a scoreless 1.1 innings in the Desert Dogs' 11-inning tie on Monday. Burton allowed a run on three walks and a hit on Thursday after going six straight innings without allowing a run. After Monday's solid outing, Burton's ERA fell to 3.97. He is allowing only a .230 batting average against this fall. Mike Mitchell lowered his AFL ERA to 2.89 with a scoreless inning on Saturday for Phoenix. He has struck out nine in 9.1 innings this fall.
Roney Signs With Toronto
Former A's and River Cats reliever Matt Roney was signed to a major league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday. The right-hander was a AAA All-Star this season for Sacramento. He appeared in 47 games for the River Cats, posting a 2.97 ERA in 58 innings. Roney struck out 65 and walked only 19 for Sacramento. He made three appearances with Oakland, allowing two runs in four innings of work. Roney was removed from the A's 40-man roster in September and he cleared waivers, making him a free agent. He was added to the Toronto 40-man roster on Monday.
Volpe Named Cal League Exec of the Year; Ledford Takes Home Baseball America Honor
The California League named Stockton Ports owner Tom Volpe as their Cal-League Executive of the Year for 2006. Volpe takes home the honor for the first time. He has owned a California League team for six seasons (Stockton and Visalia). The Ports, who opened a new stadium in 2005, have broken team sales and attendance records since opening Banner Island Ballpark.
Sacramento River Cats President, General Manager & COO Alan Ledford was honored with the 2006 Minor League Baseball Executive of the Year award given annually by Baseball America. The award is given to the executive who uses creative and innovative means to create a successful business model. Ledford's has been with the River Cats since 2002. Ledford previously spent 15 years with the Oakland A's, at one point holding the title of Vice President of Business Operations.