2011 Year In Review: Stockton Hitters

Our "2011 Year In Review" series continues with a look at the hitters on the Oakland A's High-A affiliate.

Stockton Ports Offense At A Glance
Team BA:
.261 (last out of 10 teams)
Runs Scored: 739 (last)
Team OPS: 755 (last)
Team Stolen Bases: 109 (seventh out of 10 teams)
Team Slugging Percentage: .411 (last)

Note: this article covers all hitters who had at least 95 at-bats for the Ports this season.

The nature of the California League is such that even though the Ports' overall offensive numbers weren't terrible on their face, they paled in comparison to the rest of the hard-hitting California League. Nonetheless, the Ports got enough offense to make the league finals.

The Stockton roster was remarkably stable in 2011, especially on the position player side of the roster. The Ports had seven players with more than 400 at-bats and three more with more than 300. Six players would reach double-digits in homeruns and six players had more than 50 RBIs.

No player contributed more to the Stockton line-up than centerfielder Michael Choice. The A's first-round pick from the previous year, Choice had a stellar first full professional season after a strong showing with short-season Vancouver in 2010. In 2011, Choice led the California League in homeruns with 30 and he also hit .285 with a 918 OPS. He finished among the top-10 in the league in homeruns, OPS and SLG. His overall numbers would likely have been much better, but he suffered an injured quad on July 24 and missed two weeks and played at less than 100 percent for several weeks after that. Choice was healthy by playoff time and it showed. He hit three homeruns and drove-in 11 in 11 games while posting a .426 average and a 1183 OPS. Strike-outs were an issue for Choice, but his overall production minimized that weakness and he improved his contact rate as the season progressed. Choice is currently playing well in the Arizona Fall League and will enter next season as the A's top position player prospect.

Catcher Ryan Ortiz, who is also participating in the Arizona Fall League, was only with the Ports for a little more than a month, but he made a big impact. In 28 games, he hit .340 with four homers and a 970 OPS. He walked 21 times against 22 strike-outs and had a .455 OBP. Ortiz began the year at the A's extended spring training camp rehabbing a right shoulder injury, but joined the Ports when Max Stassi, who was expected on Opening Day to be the Ports' everyday catcher, was shutdown for the season for surgery on his right shoulder. Ortiz was promoted to Double-A Midland after only those 28 games and spent the rest of the season with the Rockhounds. His throwing was never 100 percent during the season, but his arm strength has continued to improve as the year has gone on and the hope is that he will be 100 percent from a throwing perspective next season.

Stassi was expected to be one of the Ports' top position players at the start of the year, but his shoulder injury never allowed him to get on-track at the plate. At the beginning of the year, Stassi was the Ports' everyday DH as he attempted to rehab his right shoulder before and after games. After a little more than a month, it was clear that rehab wasn't going to fix the issue and the A's and Stassi opted for surgery. The surgery cost him the rest of the season, but he was able to participate in the A's fall Instructional League camp and he is expected to be ready for spring training. As a hitter, Stassi never got on-track with the Ports, perhaps due to that shoulder issue. He hit .231 with a 662 OPS in 121 at-bats. On the plus side, his BB:K ratio was a solid 16:22, a big improvement over his 45:141 ratio in 2010. Stassi is likely to return to Stockton next season and he should spend most, if not all, of the year with the Ports. He will only be 21 next year despite the lost 2011 season.

No other Ports' regular besides Choice and Ortiz would post an OPS above 800 this season. Two Ports' hitters would reach base at a better than .390 clip, however: Conner Crumbliss and Anthony Aliotti. Crumbliss finished the year leading the California League in walks with 96. He also posted a line of .268/.404/.378. While those numbers may not jump off of the page, they are impressive when one considers that he hit only .136 with a 473 OPS in April. Crumbliss improved dramatically after that slow start and was one of Stockton's top performers down the stretch. In August, he hit .333/.459/.556 in 29 games and his overall post-All Star break line was .290/.411/.463. He stole 24 bases in 31 chances in 2011 – matching his 2010 total – and set a career-high in homeruns with seven. Crumbliss is a valuable player both for his ability to reach base and his ability to play both the infield and the outfield. He is a virtual lock to move up to Double-A next season.

Aliotti also had an impressive season. The first-baseman posted a .392 OBP, second-best on the team to Crumbliss. His overall line was .276/.392/.396. Like Crumbliss, he improved during the second half of the season, posting an 802 OPS after the break and a 772 OPS before the break. Although Aliotti has yet to put up the power numbers one would like to see from a first-baseman, he did establish career-highs in homeruns (11) and slugging percentage. Aliotti had an 843 OPS versus right-handers, but really struggled against southpaws (568 OPS and a .198 BA). He is arguably the top defensive first-baseman in the A's system now that Sean Doolittle is a pitcher. Aliotti will need to continue to improve those power numbers and hit better versus left-handers to have a chance to play regularly in the major leagues, but his ability to get on-base and his skills on defense make him an intriguing player.

Outfielder Myrio Richard led the team in batting amongst players with more than 300 at-bats. The right-handed hitter batted .292 with a 782 OPS in 432 at-bats. He overcame an early-season oblique strain that cost him the first few weeks of the season and limited his ability at the plate for awhile after that. He hit .302 with an 819 OPS after the break. Richard's numbers were improved across the board over the numbers he posted in Low-A with Kane County in 2010. He upped his average by 11 points, his OBP by four points and his SLG by 35 points. Richard established career-highs in homeruns (8), doubles (29), walks (43) and stolen bases (27). He has above-average speed and a solid understanding of the strike-zone and he doesn't strike-out a lot (69 strike-outs in 432 at-bats), all excellent skills for a top-of-the-order hitter. Richard has some pop, as well, and if his power continues to develop along with the rest of his game, he could open some eyes at Double-A next season.

Infielder Michael Gilmartin was the Ports sole representative on the mid-season Cal League All-Star team. The A's 2009 27th-round pick got off to a good start to his season, batting .280 with a 791 OPS before the break. His numbers dipped some after the break (.252 BA/761 OPS), but overall it was promising year for Gilmartin, who improved his OPS nearly 80 points over his 2010 mark. He showed impressive power for a middle infielder, hitting a career-high 14 homeruns and posting a .437 SLG. He also had nine triples and 25 doubles. He was one of the Ports' most consistent players. He posted an OPS of 814 or higher in May, June and August and had only one poor month (July, when he had a 682 OPS). Like Aliotti, the left-handed hitting Gilmartin hit right-handed pitching hard (865 OPS) but struggled against lefties (486 OPS). Improving versus southpaws and cutting down on his strike-outs (124 in 492 at-bats) would go along way to bringing Gilmartin to that next level as a prospect. He should get an opportunity in Double-A next season.

Outfielder Rashun Dixon had an up-and-down year in his first season in the California League. The former two-sport star in high school posted a 749 OPS before the All-Star break, but struggled down-the-stretch for Stockton, putting up a 650 OPS after the break. He finished the year on a bit of a hot streak, however, and hit well in the post-season. Dixon was one of the youngest players on the Ports' roster and he didn't turn 21 until the final week of the regular season. He is an outstanding athlete with excellent tools across the board, but he has yet to put them together for a full season. Dixon hit well during the A's fall Instructional League. He could probably use another year in the Cal League, but the A's have never been shy about challenging Dixon at higher levels. How he plays this spring will likely determine whether he starts the 2012 season in Stockton or Midland.

After missing all of the 2010 season recovering from a broken wrist, shortstop Dusty Coleman was a durable everyday presence in the Stockton Ports' line-up. He played in 120 games for Stockton, amassing 462 at-bats. He also appeared in 10 games for Triple-A Sacramento. Coleman was arguably the Ports' top defensive infielder in 2011, making numerous spectacular plays and showing off a strong throwing arm. Offensively, he did some things very well and struggled in other areas. Coleman hit 15 homeruns for Stockton and posted a .413 SLG. He also stole 21 bases in 25 chances. But his command of the strike-zone was suspect all season. He struck-out a team-high 171 times against only 46 walks. Those contact problems have continued for Coleman into the Arizona Fall League, where he has struck-out in nearly half of his at-bats. He is a talented player, but for him to find sustained success at Double-A and beyond, he will need to cut his strike-out totals dramatically.

Another player who hit for power but struggled with the other aspects of his offensive game was outfielder Mitchell LeVier. LeVier missed the majority of the 2009 and 2010 seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but he appeared in 99 games in 2011 for the Ports. He tied Coleman for the team's second-most homeruns with 15, but the rest of his numbers were poor. He hit only .218 and struck-out 102 times against only 22 walks. His off-season began on a sour note, as well, when he was suspended for 50 games for a second violation of MLB's policy against drugs of abuse. He will serve that suspension next season.

At the start of spring training, the A's had forecasted Max Stassi and Ryan Ortiz as the regular catchers for the Ports in 2011. However, with Stassi's injury ending his season early and Ortiz's hot bat forcing a promotion to Double-A, it was Ryan Lipkin who wound-up receiving the most playing time behind the plate for Stockton. Lipkin hit around .255 for much of the season, but had one month in which he hit .359 (June) and one month in which he hit .192 (July). He finished the year with a .248/.288/.376 line. Lipkin was solid defensively and he hit left-handers fairly well (.263/.306/.425). This was only his first full professional season, so he has time to continue improve offensively. Lipkin will likely return to Stockton for the start of the 2012 campaign, although the A's catching situation could get crowded in the lower levels with Ortiz slated to get most of the at-bats in Double-A, Stassi in High-A and 2011 draft picks Nick Rickles and Beau Taylor needing at-bats either in High-A or Low-A.

For much of the season, Leonardo Gil was the Ports' everyday third baseman. He joined Stockton after hitting a career-high 13 homeruns for Kane County in 2010. Gil managed only six homeruns for Stockton, but improved his average from .252 to .256 and his OBP from .296 to .313. Both of those numbers will need to improve for Gil to continue to move up the A's system. He could return to Stockton in 2012.

Infielder Jason Christian and catcher Petey Paramore split their 2011 seasons between Stockton and Midland. Christian appeared in 40 games for the Ports and hit .259/.308/.364 for Stockton. He hit better in 36 games for the Rockhounds, posting a .273/.324/.375 line. Shoulder injuries have impacted Christian's once-promising career path. He is a versatile player with the glove and can work a walk and steal a base, making him a useful player on any roster. He finished the year on a hot streak for Midland and could see more playing time with the Rockhounds in 2012.

Catcher Petey Paramore began the year as the Rockhounds' starting catcher, but he lost his hold on that position when he hit .192 in 45 games. He returned to Stockton for the final two months of the season and hit .235 with seven homers in 119 at-bats. Paramore, a third-round pick of the A's in 2008, has yet to live up to his draft-billing, at least offensively. Defensively, he is a solid receiver, but he will need to show improvement at the plate to get another chance in Double-A.

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