AZL A's Notebook: A Perfect Start

The Arizona Rookie League A's are off to a very fast start to the 2012 season. Arizona correspondent Kimberly Contreras fills us in on the first eight games for the AZL A's.

How Long Until…? A Recap of the First 10 Days with the AZL Athletics

Arizona A's record as of June 29: 8-0

Winning. That's all many of the players on the 2012 Arizona League A's have experienced in their professional careers; at least those who are 2012 draftees. Winning is great; it's the best. It's THEEE goal of every event, every game: WIN.

However, throughout all classifications of Minor League Baseball, from Triple-A down to short-season and the Rookie league, winning comes in second. To each Major League Baseball organization, the focus of their Player Development System (or "farm") is to identify and develop players/ prospects to contribute and excel at the Major League level. As much as they love winning, no MLB "Suit" (executive) would stall a prospect's promotion so that their Midwest League affiliate could be the champs.

With that understanding, the question, "How long until…?" dominates both the private thoughts and casual conversations shortly after each season begins.

"How long until _XYZ Player_ starts producing like we expect him to?"

"How long until _ABC Player_ is ready to move up to the next level?"

Or, as in the case of many in-the-know Oakland A's fans were asking this week: "How long until we see 18-year-old catching prospect from South Korea Seong-Min Kim and 17-year-old 3B from the Dominican Renato Nunez?" These knowledgeable fans know the significant financial investment made by the organization to secure these two international players. Aruba's Shawn Duinkerk has been in the line-up from Opening Day, and his production value is obvious. There is great excitement to see what Kim and Nunez can contribute. Which is why everyone wants to know, ""How long until we see Kim and Nunez?"

After the A's win at home against the Diamondbacks on Wednesday June 27th, Manager Marcus Jensen was asked how long until Kim and Nunez are in the line-up?

"Both are on track to make their debuts, soon; but no specific date," Jensen said.

Sure enough, "soon" turned out to be Friday, June 29, when both players made their AZL debuts.

The dominance of this undefeated Arizona League A's team is no accident. The roster is full of 2012 draft picks (20 of the 43 drafted), seven of the top 10, including draft picks #1 – 4 (Addison Russell, Daniel Robertson, Matt Olson and Bruce Maxwell, although Maxwell was recently promoted to short-season Vermont). From the first game on Wednesday, June 20th, instead of playing like individuals/ strangers, these young men have played like a team, no matter which combination of players are in the line-up or on the field. Credit must also go to Field Manager Marcus Jensen; Hitting Coach Juan Dilone; and Pitching Coach Jimmy Escalante.

These young men can hit, hit with power, steal bases (and are smart baserunners), and they can play defense, too! They are FUN to watch! They may be a little slow to start, at times, but they come through stronger and better when it counts, in the late innings. There seems to be a different contributor each game, but make no mistake, the arrival of Matt (SuperMatt) Olson certainly contributed to the following numbers:

In the 13-team league, the AZL Athletics offense ranks**:

  • #1 in: AVG (.325), OBP (.408), SLG (.523), OPS (.931) Runs Scored (79), Hits (98), 2B (24), RBIs (62), Total Bases (158)
  • #2 in: SB (17) trailing Giants (18)

(**stats through Friday, June 29th)

The pitching on this rookie league team is very strong, as well, ranking:

  • #1 : WHIP (1.17), Saves (4)
  • #2 : Strike Outs (76), ERA (3.63)
  • SECOND-TO-LAST : Runs allowed (32), Earned Runs (29), & Hits (61)
  • LAST: BBs (23)

The addition of newly signed draft picks will continue, as will the promotion of players to Vermont (NYP League) and Burlington (MIDW League.) But the question that looms for those who are so charged with the excitement from this team – this UNDEFEATED TEAM – is … How long until it all changes and these ballplayers are making their way up the Player Development ladder (as they should)? The answer is: Don't know, just enjoy this team each day that they play.

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