Gray will be one of seven A's in the AFL.
The Arizona Fall League is the premier prospect showcase and is held annually in the Phoenix-area. In past years, the A's have sent prospects such as Travis Buck and Huston Street to the league. This year, the A's have tapped seven players to represent the organization in Arizona this fall.
The Arizona Fall League announced its rosters on Monday and seven members of the Oakland A's organization were included on the roster of the Phoenix Desert Dogs. Those players are Jerry Blevins, Jeff Gray, Jay Marshall, James Simmons, Anthony Recker, Jeff Baisley and Cliff Pennington.
The A's farmhands are once again going to be on the roster of the Phoenix Desert Dogs, who play their home games at the A's spring training stadium: Phoenix Muni. The team will be managed by Chicago White Sox minor league manager Rafael Santana and will include members of the A's, Orioles, Twins, White Sox and Pirates organizations.
Here is a brief breakdown of the members of the A's organization heading to Phoenix:
Blevins was acquired by the A's from the Chicago Cubs organization for Jason Kendall in July. The left-handed reliever was assigned to Double-A Midland after the trade. He has a 4.00 ERA in 18 innings for the Rockhounds, but he has an impressive 24:5 K:BB ratio. On the season, Blevins is 3-5 with a 1.77 ERA with 10 saves and 93 strikeouts in 71 innings. He began the year in High-A in the Cubs chain, but was moved up to Double-A after only a few weeks. The 6'6'' Tennessee native will turn 24 in early September.
Possessing one of the best fastballs of any A's minor leaguer, Jeff Gray has acted as the closer for the Sacramento River Cats for much of the second half of the season. Gray began the year in Double-A Midland, where he had two wins, three saves and a 0.00 ERA in 12.1 innings. He has a 2-3 record and a 4.29 ERA in 50.1 innings for the River Cats. He also has a team-high 11 saves and 41 strikeouts in 50.1 innings. Gray has made a quick climb through the A's system over the past two seasons. He began last year in Kane County and finished in Stockton and has moved two levels this year for the second straight campaign. Gray will turn 26 in November.
Marshall will come to the Arizona Fall League with a full season of major league ball under his belt. The side-arming lefty was a Rule 5 pick by the A's this off-season and has kept his spot in the A's bullpen all year. He has appeared in 39.2 innings this season for the A's, compiling a 1-2 record and a 6.81 ERA. He was used sparingly in late-July, early-August and the A's will likely keep his innings low through the rest of the year so he has enough left in the tank to pitch in the AFL. Marshall is the only A's AFL representative to be currently on the team's 40-man roster.
Simmons will be one of the youngest pitchers in the AFL, as he won't turn 21 until late September. Simmons is used to being one of the younger players on a pro team, as he is currently the youngest member of the Midland Rockhounds' roster. The A's top pick in the 2007 draft was sent immediately to Double-A after signing. He got off to a fast start for Midland out of the bullpen, but has struggled over his last 10 appearances, three of which were starts. Simmons has a 5.26 ERA in 25.2 innings for Midland and a 3:1 K:BB ratio. His plus-fastball command should allow him to compete with the more experienced players in the AFL.
Like Gray, Recker moved two levels this season. He started the year in High-A Stockton, where he posted a 1010 OPS and hit 13 homers in 207 at-bats for the Ports. After representing Stockton in the California League/Carolina League All-Star game, Recker was promoted to Double-A Midland. He has struggled offensively for the Rockhounds, batting only .205 with one homer in 185 at-bats. He'll have a chance to redeem himself against the top-flight competition in the AFL. Recker was a 2005 draft pick by the A's and will be turning 24 this week.
After spending the entire 2006 season in the Midwest League with Kane County, Baisley was jumped two levels to Double-A Midland in 2007. He was solid during the first half of the season for the Rockhounds, posting a .288 average and an 823 OPS. A knee injury cost him time in late-June and July and he hasn't posted the same level of numbers in July and August (536 OPS since the All-Star break). Baisley hit 22 homers last season for Kane County and has hit 10 this season for Midland. The smooth-fielding third baseman will turn 25 in December.
The 2006 season was a lost campaign for Pennington, who appeared in only 55 games and struggled for most of them. However, after getting healthy in the off-season, Pennington has looked more like the player that the A's thought they were getting when they selected him with their first pick of the 2005 draft. He began the year in High-A Stockton and after a very slow first two weeks, recovered to hit .255 with nine stolen bases and a 747 OPS in 68 games. He was promoted to Midland during the All-Star break and he has hit .262 with a .352 OBP and eight stolen bases for the Rockhounds. Pennington hasn't hit for much power in Double-A, but he has seen a lot of pitches and has walked more than he has struck out (34:32 BB:K). He has also played an above-average shortstop all season. Pennington turned 23 in June.