Intro’ing the A’s Fifth of the Phoenix Desert Dogs
Today marks the beginning of the Arizona Fall League schedule. From now until November 17th the Phoenix Desert Dogs will play, as a team with 20% of its members being members of the Oakland A’s organization – the other four-fifths being members of the Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays. The Fall League began play in 1992 and works like this: each MLB club sends seven of their best prospects to the AFL. The games are played in the Spring Training stadiums in Mesa, Peoria, Phoenix, Salt River, Scottsdale and Surprise. In August, the teams hold a position draft to determine the players who will play in the AFL, while most are Double-A and Triple-A players, each organization is allowed to send one player at the Single-A level.
Oakland’s players in the Arizona Fall League are (and I believe one of them is a “taxi squad player” who is only eligible to participate in Wednesday and Saturday games – I am unclear who that is): LHP Anthony Capra, RHP Andrew Carignan, OF Michael Choice, IF Dusty Coleman, OF Grant Green, C Ryan Ortiz, RHP Tyson Ross and RHP Murphy Smith. River Cats hitting coach Todd Steverson will be managing the Desert Dogs this fall.
A’s fans are already familiar first hand with Carignan and Ross both of whom pitched in Oakland this year. Ross who is recovering from an oblique strain that prematurely ended his season, pitched well in his time in Oakland (6.0 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 0.3 HR/9 with a 3.14 FIP and 0.8 WAR) but struggled with Sacramento where he spent most of his post-injury season, throwing up a 7.61 ERA with a 4.92 FIP while struggling mightily with his control (5.4 BB/9). He looks to be in the conversation for a rotation spot and/or swingman role in 2012 or could be trade bait as the A’s look to beef up their offense so his performance in the AFL could be key.
Carignan looks to prove he belongs in the A’s bullpen in 2012. Carignan played in just six games for Oakland posting a 4.45 FIP, in six and a third innings of 7.1 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and 1.4 HR/9 ball. He split 2011 in four different levels with his FIP rising by around a run with each jump (1.84 with High-A Stockton, 2.76 with Double-A Midland, 3.14 with Triple-A Sacramento).
Other Athletics who conceivably could contribute in the near future to the A’s Major League plans include first-round pick in 2009, Grant Green. Green who was moved to center field spent 2011 in Midland posting a .291/.343/.408 slash line with a .330 wOBA and 97 wRC+. The power he had in 2010 all but evaporated as his ISO went from .203 to .117. Green could make the jump however with the A’s outfield situation looking particularly empty at present moment.
Michael Choice, the A’s first overall pick in the 2010 could also soon contribute to the A’s, though I would be surprised if he made the big league club in 2012. The former University of Texas at Arlington player, spent 2011 with Stockton posting a .285/.376/.542 slash line, despite the home happy California League (he had 30 long balls) his wRC+ of 130 demonstrated he was better than most in the circuit. He still has a high K% (24.7%) but has high upside too.
Anthony Capra was drafted by Oakland in 2008 (fourth round) and the southpaw has spent his four seasons in the minors as a starter. He has a career mark of 8.5 K/9, 4.7 BB.9 and 0.7 HR/9 in the minors. He spent most of 2011 with Midland where in 20 starts he posted a pretty dismal 4.43 FIP as he struggled with his control as he has at every step in his MiLB career. It isn’t clear how the 25-year-old-to-start-the-season will fit into the A’s future plans.
Dusty Coleman, a shortstop selected by Oakland in the 2008 draft (28th round), spent most of 2011 in Stockton posting a pedestrian .240/.314/.413 slash line with an underwhelming 88 wRC+ managing 15 home runs in 120 games – decent power from a shortstop but coming in the very hitter-friendly California League. I wouldn’t expect Coleman to make his debut with the A’s in 2012.
Ryan Ortiz, a catcher drafted in 2009 in the sixth round, split 2011 between Stockton and Midland posting a 156 wRC+ with the Ports to accompany his .340/.455/.515 slash line, while his numbers dipped with the Rockhounds to 90 wRC+ and a .237/.357/.303 mark. The on base percentage is enough to go gaga over for Ortiz, not sure where he fits into the A’s long term plans with catcher seemingly being the future landing spot for Max Stassi but it’ll be interesting to see how he does in the AFL and if he can force his way into the conversation – though probably not before 2013.
Finally, Murphy Smith a thirteenth round pick in 2009, spent 2011 as a starter for Stockton posting a 3.94 ERA, 3.56 FIP while posting 6.6 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and 0.7 HR/9, a much better second go round at the High-A level after a 6.56 ERA and 3.80 FIP for a half year prior in 2010. The SUNY-Binghamton alum seems to be more of a finesse pitcher than a pure hard thrower so perhaps he can refine his skills in the AFL this year.
This your A’s baseball for the next two months! I am hoping to maybe get out to Phoenix to catch a game or two, never been to the AFL, but the A’s are sending some interesting prospects there this year. Hopefully for us baseball fans, none decide to ditch baseball and become a priest – which is what 2009 Arizona Fall League MVP and A’s prospect Grant Desme opted to do.