Vancouver Canadians Pitching At A Glance
Team ERA: 3.27 (2nd best in the league)
Strike-outs/Walks: 613/207 (sixth and least, respectively) Team WHIP: 1.31 (fourth)
Note: this article covers all pitchers who threw at least 10 innings for the Vancouver Canadians this season.
In what turned out to be the A's final season in the Northwest League, Oakland stocked the C's with a strong pitching staff that helped to lead the team to a second-half division title and a playoff appearance. The C's staff was a mix of relative "veterans" repeating the level for a variety of reasons, graduates of the team's Dominican academy and members of the A's 2010 draft class.
The leader of the staff was right-hander Matt Thomson, who was taken in the 12th round of the 2010 draft out of University of San Diego. Thomson didn't finish with enough innings pitched to qualify for the league's ERA title, but if he had, he would have seen his 2.15 ERA earn him the crown. As it was, Thomson, in only 46 innings pitched for Vancouver, managed to finish eighth in the league in strike-outs with 61. The seven pitchers who finished with more strike-outs than Thomson threw 62 innings or more. Thomson, who made one start for High-A Stockton and recorded 10 strike-outs in that outing, also showed remarkable control with only eight walks. He didn't allow a homer and gave up only 35 hits while posting a 0.93 WHIP. Most of the runs and hits Thomson allowed came in two relief appearances at the start of his professional career. In those two outings, he gave up 10 hits, eight runs and two walks in four innings. Over nine starts (42 innings pitched), Thomson allowed only 25 hits, three earned runs and six walks. Thomson's slider and his ability to locate a solid fastball that sat in the 89-92 MPH range have the A's excited about his future.
Because Thomson didn't qualify for the ERA title, Nathan Long was the C's top entry in the ERA rankings. His 3.10 ERA was eighth-best and his eight wins were tied for the most in the Northwest League. A 26th round pick in 2009, Long pitched out of the C's bullpen last season with limited success, posting a 6.69 ERA in 36.1 innings. Long, a college starter, was put back in the rotation by the A's in 2010, with good results. He didn't strike-out a lot of batters (47 in 87 innings), but he showed good command (19 walks) and was especially good down-the-stretch, posting a 2.84 ERA and an 18:2 K:BB ratio in 38 August innings. Long looks ready to make the jump to full-season baseball in 2011.
There was a buzz surrounding Deyvi Jimenez at the start of the season. The 20-year-old right-hander from the Dominican was the youngest pitcher on the staff on Opening Day. Jimenez posted a mediocre 6.49 ERA in 51.1 innings for the AZL A's in 2009, his first season in the US. However, he was a standout performer during extended spring training and the A's felt confident that he was ready for the more advanced Northwest League. Jimenez rewarded the A's confidence by posting the 12th-best ERA in the league at 3.54. He threw a career-high 61 innings and showed excellent command, walking only 13. Unfortunately, Jimenez was shut-down after an August 15th start during which he exited in the fourth inning with elbow soreness. If he is healthy next season, he should make the jump to full-season baseball.
One of the few lefties on the staff, Anvioris Ramirez was also one of the most enigmatic pitchers on the team. The Dominican left-hander has, at times, electric stuff. His fastball sits in the low-90s and he has an off-speed pitch that dips as low as 75 MPH. In 2009, Ramirez managed a 3.29 ERA in 52 innings for Low-A Kane County and the A's actually started him in High-A Stockton in 2010. After bombing in opportunities with the Ports and later Kane County, Ramirez was sent to Vancouver, where he was inconsistent, but managed to post solid numbers. In 63.1 innings for the C's, the southpaw had a 3.41 ERA (11th-best in the league) and a 55:17 K:BB ratio. He allowed six homeruns, but his groundout-to-flyout rate was a solid 1.67. The A's were disappointed in his performance in full-season A-ball this year, but he should get another chance with either Burlington or Stockton in 2011.
Another young pitcher who volleyed between short-season and full-season A-ball was Dominican right-hander Jonathan Joseph. Joseph began the year as Kane County's Opening Day starter, but he was injured early in the year and eventually lost his spot in the Cougars' rotation. He was sent to Vancouver to start the Northwest League season and made eight starts for Vancouver before returning to the Kane County rotation with great success in August. With Vancouver, the hard-throwing Joseph was very effective. In 40.1 innings, he posted a 2.68 ERA and he had a solid 35:14 K:BB. He didn't allow a homerun. The 22-year-old should get a chance with Stockton in 2011.
Once Joseph was promoted to Kane County, Seth Frankoff was called up from the Arizona A's to take a spot in the rotation. Oakland's 27th-round pick this year, Frankoff was effective for the C's, especially at home. In 30 innings over seven starts, Frankoff posted a 3.30 ERA with 31 strike-outs and 13 walks. He had a 1.45 ERA at Nat Bailey Stadium and a 6.35 mark on the road. He didn't allow a homerun with the C's and he allowed one or no runs in five of his seven appearances. Frankoff has been tinkering with his mechanics during the A's Instructional League in an effort to improve his fastball command. He is a strong candidate for Burlington's rotation next season.
It took Kyle Christensen five years to reach full-season baseball thanks to a labrum injury that cost him the entire 2008 season and some of the 2007 and 2009 campaigns. Finally healthy, Christensen has raised his velocity into the mid-90s, but he is still working on refining the rest of his game. The A's 15th-round pick in 2006 lasted only 13 innings with Kane County before returning to extended spring training. He was on the C's Opening Day roster and he split the year between the rotation and the bullpen. Christensen had a 4.32 ERA in 41.2 innings for the C's, but he walked 19 while striking-out only 23. He will be 22 all of next season, so Christensen is still young despite his five years of professional baseball experience, but he will need to distinguish himself next season.
The C's bullpen was a strength in 2010, led by right-hander A.J. Griffin, who was the second of back-to-back USD Toreros taken by the A's in the draft (Thomson was taken in the 12th round). Griffin, who threw 98.2 innings for USD this season, served as the C's closer. He led the Northwest League in saves with 15 and he struck-out 27 in only 21.1 innings pitched. Griffin held opposing batters to a .184 average and he didn't allow a homerun. The 22-year-old split his collegiate years between the starting rotation and the closer's role and he has three solid pitches in his arsenal, so the A's could move him back into the rotation next season. Either way, he should be pitching in full-season ball in 2011.
For much of the year, Jake Brown, Pedro Vidal and Daniel Tenholder served as the bridges between the C's starters and Griffin. Brown, a rare lefty on the C's staff, was dominating in 29.2 innings. He struck-out 31, walked only five and held opposing batters to a .218 clip. Vidal was given another opportunity with Vancouver after allowing 11 runs in 9.2 innings with the C's in 2009 and he took advantage. The 23-year-old Dominican right-hander posted a 2.92 ERA in 37 innings for the C's in 2010. He struck-out 31 and walked only 10 while not allowing a homer, although he did allow opponents to hit .303 against him. Tenholder, who struggled in 2009 with the AZL A's, posted a 1.86 ERA in 38.2 innings with Vancouver in 2010. He struck-out 38 and didn't allow a homer while holding opposing batters to a .188 average. Tenholder finished strong, allowing only two earned runs over his final 30.1 innings.
Ryan Doolittle and Michael Hart pitched so well out of the Vancouver bullpen that they were both rewarded with promotions, Doolittle to Kane County and Hart to Stockton. Both right-handers missed the 2009 season with arm problems. Doolittle was nearly perfect in his 16 innings with the C's, allowing only seven hits and one walk and no earned runs. He struck-out 18 before departing to Kane County, where he allowed more hits, but still posted an impressive K:BB ratio (19:1). Hart allowed only two earned runs in 17 innings for the C's, striking-out 27 while walking only five. He saved six games. The hard-throwing Hart was also effective with Stockton, striking out 12 in 13 innings and posting a 2.77 ERA.
Ryan Quigley's season went the opposite direction, as he started the year with Low-A Kane County and was sent down to Vancouver after struggling with the Cougars. He wasn't much more effective with Vancouver, posting a 7.39 ERA in 35.1 innings. Command has continued to be the biggest bugaboo for Quigley, who walked 16 in 25.1 innings for the AZL A's in 2009. In 2010, he issued 30 walks in 53 innings between Vancouver and Kane County. With the C's, his walk total was 20 in 35.1 innings. Quigley's struggles were particularly pronounced at the end of the season, as he allowed 19 runs over his last 11.1 innings in August and September.
Dan McDaniel joined the A's organization in 2010 after being released by the Chicago Cubs during spring training. The right-hander, who hails from the East Bay and attended Chabot College, had a rough introduction to the A's organization when he allowed five runs in 4.1 innings with Stockton. He struggled early on with Vancouver, as well, allowing 10 runs over his first 12 innings. McDaniel settled down nicely after that, however, allowing two runs over his final 17.2 innings. He struck-out 32 in 29.2 innings overall for Vancouver and held opposing batters to a .208 average. Command was the hard-throwing McDaniel's biggest issue, as he walked 16, although only five of those walks came in his last 17.2 innings.
Zach Thornton, Josh Bowman and Blake Hassebrock all made their professional debuts in 2010. Thornton, a 6'6'' righty from Oregon, tossed 3.1 scoreless innings for the AZL A's before joining Vancouver's staff. In 26.2 relief innings, Thornton had a 4.39 ERA, but his K:BB ratio was a solid 29:8 and his groundout-to-flyout rate was 1.50, so better results should be expected from him in 2011. Bowman is another pitcher who should see his ERA go down in 2011. The hard-throwing right-hander was the A's 10th-round pick in 2010 and he had a 3.74 ERA in 21.2 innings. His K:BB ratio was an excellent 23:5 and he did a good job inducing groundballs. Bowman could move back into the starting rotation – where he pitched in college – next season. Hassebrock was the highest draft pick of the A's on the Vancouver pitching staff and the second pitcher selected by Oakland this season. He is another hard-thrower, having reached 95 MPH with his fastball, but he is still refining his mechanics. Hassebrock was kept in the bullpen with Vancouver. He struck-out 18 in 19.1 innings, but he walked eight and allowed 25 hits. After spending time in Instructs and spring training with A's instructors, Hassebrock should improve next season.