In the final part of our interview with Oakland A's Director of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi, we…
A's Invite 19 To Spring Training
The six minor league free agent signings are McBeth, Hernandez, Cedrick Bowers, Matt Wright, Dallas McPherson and Matt Whitney. The A's are also inviting prospects Sam Demel, Tyson Ross, Josh Donaldson, Joel Galarraga, Anthony Recker, Max Stassi, Adrian Cardenas, Grant Green, Brett Wallace, Jemile Weeks, Matt Carson, Grant Desme and Corey Wimberly to camp.
McBeth re-joins the A's after spending most of the 2007-2009 seasons with the Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Red Sox organizations. The University of South Carolina alum was the A's fourth-round pick in 2001. He was drafted as a centerfielder and spent the 2001-2004 seasons in the A's chain attempting to move up as a position player. Although he was routinely named as the top defensive outfielder in the A's system, McBeth never hit well enough to receive serious consideration for a major league role. McBeth always had a very strong right arm, and in 2005, the A's moved him from the outfield to the pitcher's mound.
The transition from position player to pitcher was a successful one. He quickly moved through the system, flashing a mid-90s fastball and an above-average change-up that he developed through work with then-A's minor league pitching coordinator and current bullpen coach Ron Romanick. McBeth saved 31 games for High-A Stockton and Double-A Midland in 2006 (24 of those saves coming with the Rockhounds) and he finished that season with Triple-A Sacramento. He was an AFL Rising Star in 2006.
In early 2007, McBeth was traded by Oakland along with left-hander Ben Jukich to the Cincinnati Reds for Chris Denorfia. Coincidentally, Jukich will also be in a big league camp this spring, having been picked in the major league portion of the recent Rule 5 draft by the St. Louis Cardinals.
McBeth made his major league debut with the Reds in June of 2007 and he appeared in 23 games that season for Cincinnati, posting a 5.95 ERA and going 3-2. He struck-out 17 in 19.2 innings. One of McBeth's losses came against the A's during an inter-league game at the Coliseum. The right-hander would spend the entire 2008 season in the minor leagues. He was claimed off waivers midway through the year by the Boston Red Sox and finished with a 5.40 ERA in 31.2 innings between the Reds and Red Sox Triple-A clubs. This past season, McBeth made 44 appearances for Triple-A Pawtucket in the Boston chain. He posted a 2.69 ERA and struck-out 66 in 67 innings, while holding opposing batters to a .189 average. McBeth was briefly recalled to the Red Sox in July, but he was returned to Triple-A before making an appearance for Boston. He will be 29 for most of the 2010 season.
Hernandez has a much shorter history with the A's. The right-hander was Oakland's Rule 5 selection in 2008 out of the Chicago White Sox chain. He made the A's 25-man roster out of spring training that season and appeared in three games with the A's before being sent back to the White Sox chain when Oakland recalled veteran Kirk Saarloos. Hernandez earned a win for the A's, but allowed six runs and five walks in three innings. He spent the rest of the 2008 season with Double-A Birmingham and he had a 4.66 ERA in 58 innings for the Barons. In 2009, Hernandez had one of his best seasons as a pro, posting a 1.68 ERA and saving 20 games for Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte. He struck-out 70 in 69.2 innings. He is currently pitching in the Venezuelan Winter League and he has a 3.33 ERA in 24.1 innings for the Tiburones de La Guaira.
The A's had tried to keep Hernandez in April 2008 rather than return him to Chicago, but they were unable to work out a trade with the White Sox to keep him. The right-hander isn't over-powering with his fastball (89-91 MPH), but he has a good breaking ball and change-up. He will be 25 at the start of the 2010 season.
Bowers is a long-time minor league veteran who has been in professional baseball for more than 13 seasons. The left-handed reliever was originally a fourth-round draft selection of the Tampa Bay Rays in 1996 and was one of the team's top prospects in the late 1990s. He remained with the Rays through the 2003 season, but never appeared in a major league game. In 2004, he moved to the Japanese Professional League, where he pitched for three seasons before going to Korea and pitching there in 2007. In 2008, he returned to the States and put together a strong season with Triple-A Colorado Springs in the Rockies organization. That earned him his first taste of major league baseball. He allowed 10 runs in 6.2 innings spread over five appearances for the Rockies. Bowers spent the 2009 season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley in the Philadelphia chain. He had a 1.93 ERA and five saves in 60.2 innings. Bowers will be 32 throughout the 2010 season.
Wright is another minor league veteran, having played in 10 minor league seasons for the Atlanta Braves and Kansas City Royals. The right-hander was invited to the Royals' major league camp last season, but was limited throughout camp by a left groin injury that cost him the first month of the minor league season. He made only eight starts (nine appearances) with Triple-A Omaha in 2009, posting a 6.75 ERA. Wright is currently making up for his lost innings in the Dominican Winter League, where he has a 2.05 ERA in 30.2 innings as a starter for the Tigres del Licey. He was a member of Team USA in 2007 during the IBAF World Cup. Wright was originally drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 2000 and spent six seasons in the Atlanta system before signing with Kansas City in 2007. Wright has a reputation for being a strike-thrower and features a high-80s fastball to go along with a curveball and change-up. He will be 28 at the start of the 2010 season.
McPherson's signing was actually disclosed by the A's earlier this off-season, but was officially announced on Monday. The former Los Angeles Angels top prospect will come into camp with a chance to win the A's starting third base job if incumbent Eric Chavez is not healthy. McPherson was the Angels 2001 second-round pick out of The Citadel. He moved quickly through the Angels' system and made his big league debut in 2004, hitting three homers in 16 games. That same season, McPherson hit 40 homers in the minor leagues. He was expected to take over for Troy Glaus as the Angels' third baseman for the long run, but back and hip injuries affected him. He appeared in 61 games for the Angels in 2005, hitting .244 with eight homers and 26 RBIs. In 2006, he appeared in 40 games with the Angels and hit .261 with seven homers and 13 RBIs. He would miss the entire 2007 season with injuries. McPherson was in the Florida Marlins' chain in 2008 and he led all of minor league baseball with 42 homers. He also appeared in 11 games with the Marlins, collecting two hits in 11 at-bats. He was signed by the San Francisco Giants before the 2009 campaign, but missed the year with back problems. McPherson is a career .296 hitter with a 970 OPS in 608 minor league games. He has a 756 OPS in 128 career major league games. He will be 29 at the start of the 2010 season.
Whitney joins the A's from the Washington Nationals chain. The first baseman was the 33rd overall pick in the 2002 draft by the Cleveland Indians. Whitney's career was impacted by a severely broken left leg he suffered in the spring of 2003 when he stepped on a sprinkler head during a pick-up game of basketball with his teammates. That injury cost him the entire 2003 season and part of 2004. He began his career as a third baseman, but moved over to first base in 2007. He hit 32 homers as a 23-year-old for the Indians two A-ball affiliates in 2007, but posted only a 760 OPS for Double-A Akron in 2008 and was let-go as a minor league free agent by the Indians after that season. Whitney spent most of 2009 with Double-A Harrisburg of the Washington organization, where he had a 794 OPS in 101 games. He also appeared in six games with Triple-A Syracuse, his first taste of Triple-A baseball. He will be 26 at the start of the 2010 season.
The rest of the A's non-roster invitee list includes some of the organization's top prospects who are not yet on the team's 40-man roster. Ross, Donaldson, Galarraga, Recker, Cardenas, Weeks, Wimberly and Carson have all participated in the A's spring training camp as non-roster invitees in the past, while Demel, Stassi, Wallace, Desme and Green will be participating as non-roster invitees for the first time. Stassi, the A's fourth-round pick in 2009, will be the youngest player in the A's camp. He will turn 19 during spring training and is one of four non-roster catchers invited to camp (Donaldson, Galarraga and Recker being the other three).
Green and Weeks are the A's last two first round picks, with Green being selected in 2009 and Weeks going first in 2008. Cardenas and Wallace both joined the A's as centerpieces in mid-season trades for veterans. Cardenas was acquired by Oakland in 2008 in the Joe Blanton deal, while Wallace was acquired by the A's in July 2009 in the Matt Holliday trade. Desme will be coming into camp on the heels of winning the Arizona Fall League's Most Valuable Player award. He hit 31 homers and stole 40 bases for the A's two A-ball affiliates in 2009.
Ross and Demel are the only two pitchers among the 13 prospects on this list. Ross, the A's 2008 second-round pick, had a 4.09 ERA in 136.1 innings for High-A Stockton and Double-A Midland and starred for the Rockhounds in the post-season in 2009. Demel recently participated in the Arizona Fall League and he had a 2.19 ERA and 14 saves for Midland and Triple-A Sacramento in 2009.
Being a non-roster invitee to spring training is a good way to make a lasting impression on the A's coaching staff. Last season, Oakland had three non-roster invitees on its Opening Day major league roster: Andrew Bailey (the eventual AL Rookie of the Year), Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill. However, as the season went on, non-roster invitees Matt Carson, Edgar Gonzalez, Kevin Cameron and Vince Mazzaro were all added to the A's roster for varying amounts of time.
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