Oakland A's MLN: Concern Over Choice?

In this edition of our Oakland A's Minor League Notebook, we examine the early season struggles of top A's prospect Michael Choice and review the action around the Oakland system on Saturday night.

Is Choice's Slow Start A Cause For Concern?

Despite homering on Friday and collecting three hits on Saturday, top Oakland A's prospect Michael Choice is still sporting an uncharacteristically low OPS of 711 for the Double-A Midland Rockhounds. Choice's batting average is respectable (.273), but his slugging percentage is actually lower than his on-base percentage. Choice's homer on Friday was only his second of the season. His slugging numbers are surprising for a player who has slugged better than .540 each of his first two professional seasons.The A's coaching staff isn't concerned about Choice's slow start with the Rockhounds, however.

"No I am not worried. There is a transition period for most all players from level to level and players have to endure the learning process all over again each year and that includes Choice," Oakland A's minor league hitting coordinator Todd Steverson said.

Slow starts are not a new thing for Choice as a professional. It took Choice until June before he hit his stride with the High-A Stockton Ports last season, but he still managed to lead the California League in homeruns with 30 by the end of the season.

In his most recent blog entry for OaklandClubhouse, Choice's Midland teammate Jeremy Barfield discussed the powerful winds that are prevalent in the Texas League and a hitter's worst nightmare. Steverson pointed to those winds as a factor in Choice's struggles in the early part of the season, particularly in the power department.

"There are some adjustments he is making to enhance the skills he already possesses," Steverson said.

"Michael has the ability to drive balls go the opposite field well and unfortunately the wind blows from right to left in most fields in the league. He is sticking to a good approach of using the whole field and becoming a complete hitter rather than just playing to the elements and executing an approach that will not help him down the road. He is a great athlete and he should be fine."

Other News And Notes

- It was a busy day of transactions within the A's organization. At the major league level, the A's placed star rookie outfielder Yoenis Cespedes on the disabled list with a strained left hand. The A's initially indicated that recently demoted outfielder Michael Taylor would replace Cespedes on the A's roster, but they later announced that it would be catcher/third baseman Josh Donaldson who would get the call. Under MLB's transaction rules, Cespedes would have to have his DL stint begin retroactively on Friday if Taylor was the player the A's recalled. With Donaldson as that player, Cespedes' DL stint will be started retroactively on Monday.

Donaldson hit only .094 in nine games with the A's earlier this season, but he returns to the A's swinging a red-hot bat. In 13 games with Triple-A Sacramento, Donaldson hit .447 with five homers, five walks and a 1339 OPS. Donaldson played third base when he was with the A's earlier this season, but Brandon Inge has taken a firm hold on the A's third base spot for now. Donaldson will provide the A's with defensive insurance behind the plate and at first base, both positions where the A's currently have players ailing (Kurt Suzuki (bruised hand) and Kila Ka'aihue (sore hamstring)).

- Replacing Donaldson on the River Cats' roster is catcher Joel Galarraga, who was activated from the disabled list. Galarraga last appeared in a game for the River Cats on April 8.

- Grant Green's bases-loaded single gave the River Cats a walk-off 4-3 win over the Iowa Cubs on Saturday. The hit was Green's third on the night. The win moved the River Cats' record to 25-12 on the season. Taylor returned to the River Cats' starting line-up on Saturday and went 1-3 with a walk. Derek Norris had a hit, two walks and two RBIs. Graham Godfrey allowed three runs in six innings. Erick Threets and Evan Scribner combined to toss three innings of scoreless relief. Scribner earned the win, his first of the year.

- The Rockhounds dropped an 8-5 decision to the San Antonio Missions on Saturday, despite out-hitting the Missions by a 13-6 margin. Choice and Barfield each collected three hits. Two of Barfield's hits were doubles. Tyler Ladendorf and Michael Spina each added two hits and Conner Crumbliss (4) and Dusty Coleman (3) both homered. Gary Daley, Jr. was hung with the loss after allowing six runs (five earned) in three innings. He walked five and struck-out only one.

- The Stockton Ports' losing streak reached 13 on Saturday night with a 13-2 drubbing at the hands of the Modesto Nuts. Ports starter A.J. Cole's struggles continued on Saturday. He allowed seven runs on 10 hits in only four-plus innings. Cole allowed two homeruns and saw his ERA climb to 7.15 for the season. The highly regarded right-hander has allowed five runs or more in three of his last four starts.

- The Burlington Bees found themselves on the short end of a pitcher's duel on Saturday night, losing to the Peoria Chiefs by a score of 2-1. Starter Raul Alcantara danced in and out of trouble throughout his 4.1 inning outing. He walked seven and allowed three hits but was charged with only two runs and none were earned. Seth Frankoff took over for Alcantara in the fifth and tossed 3.2 scoreless innings in relief. He didn't walk a batter and allowed only three hits. The Bees managed only three hits in the game and their only run was unearned.

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