Oakland A's MLN: Top-Of-The Mound

From the major league club on down, Oakland A's pitchers have fared well through 2012's first few weeks. Here's a look at some starters and relievers who are off to good starts throughout the organization.

Stats good through Saturday, April 21, 2012

Brad Peacock (SP, Sacramento)

Since his struggles with command in spring training cost him a chance to start the year in Oakland's rotation, Peacock has rounded into form early on with Triple-A Sacramento. The hard-throwing right-hander hasn't walked more than two hitters in any of his three starts and boasts an ERA of 1.42 in 19 innings. He said early on he was struggling to find the feel in his signature curveball, but all signs point to progress with his 8.05-strikeout per-nine inning rate and a walk rate that's congruent with some of his best seasons as pro. Hitters are having a tough time squaring up his pitches with a BABIP of .204 and only 11 hits in 19 innings. He's also leaving nearly 71 percent of runners on base.

A key cog in the package the A's received from Washington in the Gio Gonzalez trade, Oakland would probably consider bringing Peacock to the show should the team need another starting arm. On Saturday, the A's announced the demotion of fifth starter Graham Godfrey, but the timing of it doesn't signify a possible promotion for Peacock, but the next pitcher we'll look at…

Jarrod Parker (SP, Sacramento)

Parker started Saturday for Triple-A Sacramento, meaning his next start would be slated for Wednesday, the same day the A's would need a starting arm with the demotion of Godfrey. On Sunday it was announced that Parker would make that Wednesday start in Oakland. With his plus fastball and array of quality pitches, Parker could have the highest ceiling of any starter on Oakland's staff and was a considered a future ace before Tommy John surgery caused him to miss all of 2010.

Like Peacock, Parker missed his chance to open the season with the A's because of his lack of command in spring training. The team wasn't completely surprised given the ability to throw pitches where you want is usually the final step in the recovery from elbow reconstruction surgery. The right-hander acquired in the Trevor Cahill trade hasn't been dominant in any one start like Peacock has, but the A's have liked what they have seen with Parker's 17:4 strikeout to walk ratio in three starts. His other measurables might not jump off the page, but his 3.42 FIP shows he's been effective for the River Cats. Wednesday's start in the big leagues could be first in a pretty successful career for the A's.

Fabio Castro (SP, Sacramento)

The well-traveled southpaw is off to a good start in his first season with the organization. Castro is 1-1 with a 2.40 ERA in his three starts. He's yet to give up more than four hits in any of his three starts and has strikeout rate of nearly eight per nine innings. Castro's walk numbers aren't great, however, leading to a 4.60 FIP that's congruent to his career number of 4.52.

Castro has made 30 appearances in the majors (one start), allowing just 27 hits in 43.2 innings. If he keeps throwing well, he could make a return trip to the big leagues as a long reliever down the road. But he'll have to cut down on his walks, averaging over four per nine innings.

Sonny Gray (SP, Midland)

The A's first-round selection last year turned heads by making an immediate jump to Midland after being drafted, allowing just one earned run and 15 hits in 20 innings. He hasn't been quite as dominant in 2012, but he's off to a very good start for the Rockhounds. Gray has allowed 14 hits in 18 innings while striking out 13. He's walked more hitters than he would like, seven, but he will be given all the time he needs by the organization to refine his command.

The power-armed right-hander has an ERA of 4.50 this year with a considerably lower FIP of 3.64. Gray is a tough at-bat for hitters with a BABIP of .245, signifying that he is pitching with the type of stuff that made him a first-round pick. Gray came into the year as OaklandClubhouse's No. 3 prospect in the system and could be promoted to Sacramento later in the year should he keep throwing well. It's possible Gray could compete for a spot in Oakland's rotation in 2013.

A.J. Griffin (SP, Midland)

The 24-year-old might not have a win in his three starts, but the right-hander has been awfully tough on hitters. Griffin's strikeout to walk ratio of 25:3 is nothing short of dominant while he's allowed only nine hits in 16.2 innings. In his April 10 start, he was pulled after six innings without allowing a hit and striking out eight to keep his early-season workload light.

If Giffin's WHIP of 0.720 and FIP of 0.74 aren't an aberration, Griffin could make his way up to Sacramento where he made one start last season. A good showing there could solidify the 13th-round selection as a steal of a pick for an organization with no shortage of pitching talent. [ed. note: Griffin earned his first win of the season on Sunday, allowing two runs and one walk on seven hits in seven innings.]

Daniel Straily (SP, Midland)

As a whole, the Rockhounds' starting rotation has been throwing very well early on. With his solid start, Straily is a prime example. Straily doesn't have a win to his credit, yet, but has put up very good numbers thus far. The right-hander has 23 strikeouts in 16.1 innings with a 1.65 ERA and just four walks. The 23-year-old had a good year with High-A Stockton, winning 11 games with a 3.87 ERA in the California League.

Gary Daley, Jr. (SP, Midland)

The former third-round selection of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006 is another starter for the Rockhounds off to a good start on this list. Daley has only made a pair of starts, but has thrown well, yielding 10 hits in 12.1 innings while walking four. The 26-year-old is looking to advance through the system and improve on his career 5.75 ERA at the Double-A level. He hasn't struck out many hitters, but holds opponents to just a .238 BAA and leaves nearly 80 percent of base runners on base.

T.J. Walz (SP, Stockton)

After a solid first pro season in relief at Burlington in Low-A last year, Walz, a 2011 draft pick, has struck out hitters at a tremendous clip in his first year as a starter in High-A. In his three starts, he's fanned 21 hitters in 19.1 innings while allowing just 14 hits. Of the 77 hitters he's faced, only three have walked, leading to a strikeout to walk ratio of 7.0 and a WHIP of 0.879. If Walz' transition to a starter continues on this torrid pace, look for the name of the former 15th-round pick to become more prominent over the next couple seasons.

Blake Treinen (SP, Stockton)

The A's seventh-round selection in 2007 is off to a solid start in his first full season as a professional. In the hitter-friendly California League, the righty has allowed less hits than innings pitched without allowing a home run. With a FIP of 2.54 in his three starts, Treinen has been effective and could progress through the system if he stays on track.

Drew Granier (SP, Burlington)

With a complete game already under his belt, Granier has allowed just 10 hits in 16 innings leading to a 0.81 WHIP in three starts. The 6'0", 180-pounder has retired hitters at a good rate, allowing just a .189 average against thus far. He hasn't proven to be overpowering, but still strikes out his share of hitters with 13 to just three walks.

Jim Miller (RP, Sacramento)

Our first reliever on the list has only allowed three base runners in his seven innings of work so far in 2012. The River Cats have had four pitchers close out games with Miller being one of three relievers with multiple saves. The 29-year-old has bounced around in his nine-year career, but could stick with the A's if he keeps shutting down hitters at his current rate. He has yet to walk a hitter and has six strikeouts.

Merkin Valdez (RP, Sacramento)

A former notable prospect in 2004 and 2005, Valdez could be returning to that form with his good start in 2012. Like Miller, Valdez has multiple saves while only allowing three hits in 7.1 innings. The righty has also bounced around the league for nine years with 74 games of major league experience that could prove valuable later in the year for the A's. If not, his 1.23 ERA and 0.682 WHIP could.

Pedro Figueroa (RP, Sacramento)

Figueroa started the year so well for the River Cats, he was promoted to Oakland on Saturday. Before the promotion, he hadn't allowed a run in seven relief innings. His ability to miss bats is a hot commodity for relievers, as he's struck out eight in seven innings while only yielding a pair of hits. The lefty joins an Oakland bullpen that already has three other lefties, meaning it could be tough for him to get innings. But because the A's are likely to add a starter to the roster on Wednesday, one of those lefties could be demoted.

Jonathan Ortiz (RP, Midland)

In his second season with the Rockhounds, Ortiz' two saves leads the team in the season's first two weeks. Hitters have had a hard time squaring up the right-hander, hitting just .143 on balls in play in six innings. He's averaging nine strikeouts per nine innings, without yielding a walk. The only run Ortiz has allowed came on a solo home run – one of the three hits he's allowed so far.

Sean Doolittle (RP, Stockton)

The former first-base prospect is off to a great start in the Ports' bullpen. The hard-throwing southpaw has surrendered just three hits in 8.1 innings with a dominant 17 strikeouts. Doolittle has made a few appearances that have lasted two innings. He could move his way up the ladder pretty quickly if he continues to put up great numbers.

Jose Guzman (RP, Stockton)

The right-hander combined to convert 38 saves over the last two seasons between Burlington and Stockton and finds himself on a similar path in 2012. His numbers have been solid: 8.2 innings pitched, six hits and eight strikeouts leading to a WHIP of 0.92. Should he continue his solid start, he could find himself at Double-A Midland sooner, rather than later.

Zach Thornton (RP, Stockton)

Thornton has yet to allow an earned run in 2012. The Oak Park, Calif. native has struck out seven hitters in five innings, allowing just a .059 average against. So far, he's led the team in saves and could be on his way back to Midland after making one appearance there in 2011. Before his promotion, Thornton was a horse in relief for the Burlington Bees, playing in 40 games with a solid 2.33 FIP. Look for him to get the nod for the Rockhounds again after proving he can be effective in High-A.

Connor Hoehn (RP, Stockton)

The Ports' bullpen features another quality right-hander in Hoehn, who has struck out nine in six innings of work. He's done well in limited his walks, giving him a 0.40 WHIP and 1.50 ERA. The 22-year-old earned seven saves for the Ports in 48.1 innings last year but had a FIP of 4.71. So far in 2012, he's been far more effective with a FIP of just 1.70.

Jeff Urlaub (RP, Burlington)

The 24-year-old featherweight (6'2", 160 pounds) has been outstanding to begin 2012. The lefty has allowed just two hits in seven frames without a walk and seven strikeouts. Hitters are batting just .118 on balls in play and his FIP of 1.63 is awfully encouraging. Urlaub could be a name to look out for from the left side of the rubber going forward.

Ryan Doolittle (RP, Burlington)

Ryan is the second Doolittle to make the list after his older brother, Sean. Yet to give up an earned run, Ryan has only allowed three hits from the 21 hitters he's faced and is without a walk. The former 26th-round selection in 2008 is holding hitters to just a .150 average and has a very good 1.61 WHIP early on. He might be throwing well enough to reunite with his brother in Stockton in the near future.

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