Vermont Lake Monsters Offense At A Glance
Team BA: .251 (sixth out of 14 teams)
Runs Scored: 344 (sixth out of 14 teams)
Team OPS: 683 (ninth out of 14 teams)
Team Stolen Bases: 117 (first in the league)
Team Slugging Percentage: .349 (seventh out of 14 teams)
Note: this article covers all hitters who had at least 100 at-bats for the Lake Monsters this season.
After a long affiliation with the Vancouver Canadians of the Northwest League, the Oakland A's began a new partnership at the short-season A level in 2011. Teaming up with the Vermont Lake Monsters of the New York-Penn League, the A's put forth a successful season in their new short-season league, earning a division title and a post-season berth.
The Lake Monsters' offense was in the top half of the league and it was an offense built mostly on speed, as well as a little bit of power. The majority of the Lake Monsters' position players were making their professional debuts in 2011, having been drafted in June. Others were in their second years as pros. Like the Northwest League, where the A's had their previous short-season affiliation, the New York-Penn League is a pitcher-friendly environment, a fact that was reflected in many of the Lake Monsters' team offensive numbers.
Two players who were unaffected by the pitcher-friendly nature of the New York-Penn League were outfielder Bobby Crocker and catcher Nick Rickles. Crocker, the A's third overall pick (fourth round) in the 2011, was the A's highest 2011 draft choice to suit up for the Lake Monsters until second overall pick (third round) B.A. Vollmuth joined the team for the final week of the season. Crocker looked every bit the part of a high draft pick throughout his stint with the Lake Monsters. He batted .322 with an 808 OPS in 32 games with Vermont. Crocker clubbed three homers and stole six bases in seven opportunities. He will make the jump to full-season ball in 2012 and has a chance to skip Low-A and land with the High-A Stockton Ports.
Rickles finished second on the team in OPS with an 806 mark. The backstop hit .310 and posted a .364 OBP in 41 games with Vermont. Despite being a catcher, Rickles showed above-average speed, collecting two triples and stealing five bases in six chances. The A's 2011 14th-round draft pick figures to be the Low-A Burlington Bees' everyday catcher next season.
Middle infielder Zhi Fang Pan led the team with a .336 average. Unfortunately for Vermont, Pan was sidelined for 10 days midway through the season with a hand injury. He also left the team before the end of the New York-Penn League campaign to return to his native Taiwan to tryout for their national team. In the 37 games he was with the team, Pan was a force near the top of the line-up. He has a slashing style of hitting and above-average speed. Injuries have limited him somewhat during his first two years as a pro (he had an elbow issue in 2010), but otherwise the A's couldn't be more pleased with the early development of their first amateur free agent signing out of Taiwan. Pan won't turn 21 until November and should be on-track to make the leap to full-season ball in 2012, barring any additional injuries.
Infielder Michael Fabiaschi stepped into an everyday role when Pan left the team for Taiwan and Fabiaschi did a solid job in Pan's stead. The 2010 draft pick was in his second turn through a short-season league, having played for Vancouver last season. The James Madison alum hit .282 with a .382 OBP in 40 games for Vermont this season and hit better than .290 over the final 23 games of the season. He was especially effective with runners on-base (.362 BA and a 984 OBP) and runners in scoring position (.412 BA and 1075 OPS). Fabiaschi spent time at second and third base. He should get a crack at full-season ball next year.
Outfielder Chad Oberacker made a solid first impression as a pro, batting .293 with a .371 OBP in his rookie campaign. The A's 2011 25th-round pick was solid on the base paths, stealing 13 bases in 15 chances. He also showed a solid understanding of the strike-zone, walking 20 times against 30 strike-outs, and played well defensively. The left-handed hitting Oberacker hit .313 with a 777 OPS versus right-handed pitchers, but struggled versus southpaws (.207/465, respectively).
Outfielder Aaron Shipman was another player who flashed above-average speed and showed a solid understanding of the strike-zone. The A's 2010 third-round pick finished second behind Pan on the Lake Monsters with a .385 OBP. He walked more than he struck out (42 walks against 39 strike-outs). When he got on-base, Shipman flashed the speed that made him a two-sport star in high school, swiping 17 bags in 20 chances. The 19-year-old didn't show much power with Vermont, collecting only nine extra-base hits and no homeruns, but the A's expect the 6'0'', 175 pound Shipman to add a little more gap power as he matures into his body. Shipman made huge overall strides with his game after struggling during spring training and the early part of extended spring training. Unfortunately, he was hit by a pitch on his hand during the final week of the regular season, costing him the Instructional League season. Despite that set-back, the A's should push Shipman to Low-A Burlington next season.
Shortstop Sean Jamieson led the team with 27 stolen bases and finished third in the league in that category. Jamieson, the A's 17th-round pick this season, was also by far the team's best defensive infielder. The Canisius alum became a fixture at shortstop for Vermont and led the league in fielding percentage with a .970 mark. He also drew praise for his approach at the plate. Despite batting only .235, Jamieson posted a .350 OBP thanks to 37 walks in 69 games. By the end of the season, he was the everyday lead-off hitter for Vermont. Jamieson has drawn some early comparisons to Mark Ellis. He will make the jump to full-season ball next year and could see time with High-A Stockton thanks to his advanced defensive skills.
Another 2011 draft pick who made a solid impression is outfielder Dusty Robinson. Despite not joining the team until the final day of June, Robinson, the A's 10th-round pick, led the Lake Monsters in homeruns with seven in 128 at-bats. The former Fresno State Bulldog also finished tied for fourth on the team in RBIs. Robinson got off to a very slow start with the Lake Monsters, but finished the year swinging a hot bat. He has work to do on his plate discipline (eight walks against 34 strike-outs), but he has solid power potential and could be in-line for a 20-homer season with Low-A Burlington in 2012.
Catcher Diomedes Lopez finished second to Robinson in homeruns with six. The Dominican native had only 21 hits in 107 at-bats this season, but six left the yard. Lopez had a more balanced approach at the plate in 2010 with the A's Arizona Rookie League affiliate. Whether he jumps to full-season ball in 2012 will likely be determined by the approach he employs during spring training.
Four players who will also be working on improving their BB:K ratios next season are infielders Chad Lewis and Jacob Tanis and outfielders Jordan Tripp and Xavier Macklin. Lewis and Tanis split time at first and third base this season. Lewis was the A's fourth-round pick last season out of a Southern California high school. At times, he flashed promising power, but overall his numbers were disappointing. In 70 games, he hit .238/.279/.332. Lewis doesn't turn 20 until December, so he still has plenty of time to develop. One area he will need to improve in the most is in the area of plate discipline. He struck-out 72 times and managed only 13 walks. He did homer four times and drove-in a team-high 40 runs, however. Lewis also played well in the post-season.
Tanis was the A's 13th-round pick this season out of Mercer. A senior draft pick, the A's expected a little more polish from Tanis in his first season, but he hit only .221 with a 594 OPS. Fatigue may have caught-up to the corner infielder. He hit only .183 in August after batting .258 in July. Tanis was a power hitter with a solid eye in college, but he managed only one homerun and had a 17:42 BB:K ratio. Despite the poor first season, Tanis could still make the jump to full-season ball with a good showing at the A's fall Instructional League and minor league spring training.
Tripp returned to short-season ball after batting only .186 for the AZL A's and the Vancouver Canadians in 2010. The A's 2010 seventh-round pick got off to a hot start with Vermont, but faded down-the-stretch. He still managed to finish third on the team in homeruns with five and he swiped 11 bases in 13 chances. He walked 23 times in 63 games, but struck-out 76 times. Tripp has as much raw ability as anyone in the A's system, but he is still learning to translate that ability into on-the-field success. He should jump to Low-A Burlington next year.
Macklin also got off to a fast start with Vermont. In his first 10 games with the club, he hit .378 with a 939 OPS. His numbers declined significantly after that, however, and he finished the year with a .230/.287/.289 line in 43 games. Macklin was the A's 12th round pick this season and he posted huge numbers in college at NC State A&T. Given his collegiate track record and his high draft position, Macklin will likely get every opportunity this spring to show that he's ready for full-season ball next year.
Signing just before the August deadline, B.A. Vollmuth was only able to appear in four games with the Lake Monsters. Although he didn't have nearly the at-bats to qualify for this article, his contributions during those four games are worth noting, as Vermont was in a win-or-go-home situation for the final week of the season. Vollmuth, the A's second overall pick and first position player selection this year, collected seven hits in 14 at-bats with Vermont. Five of those seven hits went for extra-bases (four doubles and a triple) and he scored eight runs while driving in six. Vollmuth will enter the 2012 season as one of the A's top third base prospects and depending on how the rest of the system lines up, he could see his first extended time as a professional with High-A Stockton.