2011 Year In Review: Midland Hitters

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

Midland Rockhounds Offense At A Glance
Team BA:
.269 (tied for second out of eight teams)
Runs Scored: 675 (fifth out of eight teams)
Team OPS: 740 (fifth out of eight teams)
Team Stolen Bases: 91 (seventh out of eight teams)
Team Slugging Percentage: .391 (fifth out of eight teams)

Note: this article covers all hitters who had at least 150 at-bats for the Rockhounds this season.

The Midland Rockhounds had an unusual offensive season in 2011. The team finished second in the league in batting average and on-base percentage, but fifth in runs scored and slugging percentage. Five Midland hitters reached double-digits in homeruns, but none had more than 13. The Rockhounds played better during the second half of the season and finished with a 36-34 record in the second half, but the team's overall mark was a disappointing 63-77.

The Rockhounds' second half record would probably have been even better if their best player hadn't been promoted to Triple-A Sacramento just after the All-Star break. Jermaine Mitchell obliterated Texas League pitching during his three months with Midland. In 74 games, Mitchell hit .355 with a .453 OBP and a .589 SLG. He had 15 doubles, 13 triples and 10 homers and he walked 54 times in 304 at-bats. Despite being promoted halfway through the season, Mitchell still earned a spot on the Texas League's post-season All-Star team. He was added to the A's 40-man roster last week. Mitchell had off-season knee surgery, but he is expected to have a chance to compete for a spot in the A's outfield once he is healthy.

Infielder Wes Timmons also made a big impact on the team in a short period of time. Timmons spent much of the 2011 season with Triple-A Sacramento, but he did garner 156 at-bats with Double-A Midland after the A's sent him down to that level for a six-week stint. Timmons is too advanced of a hitter for Double-A and it showed. He hit .365/.402/.500 with six doubles and five homers in 39 games. He also drove-in 28 and stole seven bases in seven opportunities.

Of the players who spent the entire season with the Rockhounds, first baseman Michael Spina put up the best numbers. He posted an 803 OPS with 10 homers and a team-leading 75 RBIs. He also walked 70 times in 129 games and upped his OBP to .380 from the .348 mark he posted with High-A Stockton in 2010. Spina was a bit streaky. He posted OPSs of 1093 and 922 in April and July and OPSs of 764, 605 and 723 in May, June and July, respectively. Although his power numbers were down some from his 2010 campaign, Spina did a much better job of making consistent contact, reaching base and hitting for average. He also improved defensively at first. Spina seems ready for Triple-A, although whether he is promoted may be dependent on who the A's sign to minor league contracts this off-season.

Stephen Parker put up similar numbers to Spina's for the Rockhounds in 2011. Parker wasn't able to match his outstanding 2010 season with Stockton, when he posted a 900 OPS and hit 21 homers. He still put up decent numbers for Midland, however, posting a .286/.373/.413 line. Parker's best months came in April and July, but he really only had one poor month – May, during which he hit only .210 with a 620 OPS. Parker finished the season on an up note, batting .313 with an 840 OPS after the All-Star break. He also collected eight hits in 25 at-bats in a five-game stint with Sacramento at the end of the season. As the A's best third base prospect in the upper levels of the minors, Parker is expected to start next season in Triple-A Sacramento.

Grant Green entered the 2011 season as the top-rated prospect on the Midland roster. Although Green's power numbers were somewhat disappointing, he still impressed coaches and scouts around the league, as he was named to the Texas League's post-season All-Star team and the Topps Double-A All-Star team. Like Parker, Green finished his season strong. Green hit .342 with an 822 OPS in August. It would be the only month of the season during which he had an OPS over 800. Green made a switch from shortstop to centerfield in July and hit better as a centerfielder, posting a .300/.335/.429 line as an outfielder and a .284/.347/.395 line as a shortstop. He continued to hit well as an outfielder during the Arizona Fall League, batting .290 with an 893 OPS in 26 games for the Phoenix Desert Dogs. Green will start next season in Triple-A and he could see time in the A's outfield during the second half of the year.

Despite spending April with Sacramento, utilityman Adam Heether still led the Rockhounds in homeruns with 13. In 101 games, he hit .255/.367/.419. His 62 RBIs were tied with Green for fourth-most on the team. Heether has been playing professionally since 2003 and spent much of the 2008-2010 seasons in Triple-A. He is currently a minor league free agent.

Outfielder/first baseman Shane Peterson began the season on a strong note, batting .278 with an 854 OPS in 14 games. He was then promoted to Triple-A when Chris Carter was sidelined with a thumb injury. Peterson hit well with Sacramento (.293/.377/.479 in 46 games), but he struggled upon his return to Midland. In 45 games after returning, he hit only .254 with a 698 OPS. Peterson has spent most of the past three seasons at the Double-A level and he is ready for a legitimate chance at Triple-A. Whether he gets that opportunity will depend on the A's minor league free agent signings this off-season. Oakland has already signed two minor league veteran outfielders – Jason Pridie and Jeff Fiorentino.

Like Peterson, Matt Sulentic has spent the past three seasons with Midland. Sulentic has been fairly consistent in terms of hitting for average in his three years with the Rockhounds, batting between .288 and .272. However, his power numbers have been poor the past two seasons, as he has had slugging percentages of .336 and .357, respectively. Sulentic did bring back the speed aspect of his game in 2011. After stealing only 11 bases last season, he swiped a team-high 24 bases this year. That was also a career-high total for Sulentic. He also struck-out fewer than 100 times for the first time since 2008, when he only played in 95 games (he appeared in 124 games in 2011). Like Peterson, Sulentic's chances at being promoted to Triple-A next season are tied, in part, to who the A's acquire this off-season.

Jeremy Barfield was one of the Rockhounds' top run producers, finishing second on the team in homers with 11 and third in RBIs with 72. Barfield's overall numbers were disappointing, however, as he saw his batting average drop nearly 20 points and his OBP and SLG drop more than 20 points from his 2010 levels with Stockton. Barfield was the youngest position player on the Rockhounds' roster. He has shown flashes of being the profile corner outfielder that the A's projected he would be when they drafted him, but he has yet to be able to show that kind of power and production on a consistent basis. Defensively, Barfield still has the best throwing arm of any outfielder in the A's system. He will probably start the 2012 season back with Midland, but a strong start could bump him up to Sacramento for the second half of the year.

Tyler Ladendorf never really got his bat going during his first season at the Double-A level. The middle infielder hit only .225 with a 627 OPS in 432 at-bats. He swung the bat well against left-handers (.298/.386/.450), but struggled badly versus right-handers (.193/.272/.262). Ladendorf is one of the most talented defensive players in the A's system, but his bat will need to improve to get a shot at significant playing time in Triple-A. Ladendorf will turn 24 just before the start of the 2012 regular season.

Mitch Canham, Ryan Ortiz and Petey Paramore accumulated the majority of the at-bats as a catcher. All three had their struggles at the plate. The veteran Canham hit only .226 with a 583 OPS in 155 at-bats. He is currently a minor league free agent. Ortiz got off to a fast start with the Rockhounds after being promoted from High-A Stockton, batting .317 with an 887 OPS over his first 63 at-bats. He struggled over the last five weeks of the season, however, and finished his time with the Rockhounds with a .237 average and a 660 OPS. Ortiz got back to his hot hitting ways during the Arizona Fall League, however, batting .310 with a 948 OPS. He figures to be the Midland everyday catcher to start the 2012 season. Petey Paramore began the year as the Midland everyday catcher, but he lost that job after batting .192 with a 585 OPS in 151 at-bats. Paramore was sent back to High-A Stockton in July and spent the rest of the season with the Ports.

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