After making the playoffs in their first season as an Oakland A's affiliate in 2011, the Vermont Lake Monsters struggled to a last-place finish in 2012. The Lake Monsters posted a 33-43 overall record and really struggled on the road, where they were an anemic 10-28.
Not surprisingly given their record, the Lake Monsters finished in the bottom third of the league in team OPS with a 642 mark. They were second-to-last in homeruns with only 21 and posted a .324 OBP. The Lake Monsters finished in the middle of the pack in walks with 234 and in strike-outs with 569. They weren't efficient base-stealers either, swiping 45 in 76 chances.
On the mound, the Lake Monsters fared better, however. Vermont was in the middle of the league with a team ERA of 3.65. Lake Monsters' pitchers led the league with 674 strike-outs in 660.2 innings pitched. They were in the upper-half of the league in walks, however, with 270. Homeruns hurt the Vermont staff, as they finished with 40 allowed, third-most in the league. The Lake Monsters combined to throw four shut-outs, including one that was a combined, nine-inning no-hitter.
Lake Monsters' Batters
Note: Players with more than 100 at-bats were considered for this article.
The Lake Monsters' line-up received a boost from the A's three first-round picks late in the season (more on them later), but among the hitters who were with the team for the majority of the year, John Wooten was the leader of the pack. The outfielder from East Carolina posted a .286/.326/.401 line while leading the team in homers (four) and RBIs (38). Wooten's performance earned him a late-season promotion to Low-A Burlington, and he is likely to start next season at the Low-A level, as well.
Amongst the hitters with at least 100 at-bats, only Brett Vertigan joined Wooten in the above-700 OPS club. Vertigan, the A's 10th-round pick this year, was the Lake Monsters' regular centerfielder. The UCSB alum tied Chris Bostick for the team lead in stolen bases with 12 (in 17 chances) and Vertigan was third on the team in walks with 24. His .338 OBP was the highest amongst the Lake Monsters' hitters with more than 100 at-bats.
Middle infielder Chris Bostick led the team with 279 at-bats and he spent parts of the season as the Lake Monsters' lead-off hitter. Bostick had an up-and-down season with Vermont. He played well enough in the first half to be tabbed for the NY-Penn League All-Star game but finished the year with a pedestrian .251/.325/.369 line. The right-handed hitting Bostick posted an 855 OPS against left-handed pitching, but had a 639 OPS versus right-handers. He hit much better on the road (795 OPS) than he did in the Lake Monsters' home park (565 OPS). Bostick's best month came in July, when he hit .290 with an 816 OPS. The A's are still very high on the New York native and he is expected to challenge for a spot on the A's Low-A squad next spring.
A's 2012 second-round pick Bruce Maxwell also saw a lot of playing time for Vermont this season. The catcher from Alabama-Birmingham hit .254/.329/.316 in 61 games. Maxwell saw a lot of pitches and walked 26 times while striking out 35 times in 228 at-bats. Maxwell was fourth on the team in doubles with 14, but didn't hit a homerun or a triple. As he continues to make the adjustments from college to the pros, Maxwell should see a steep spike in his power numbers. He showed a lot of power in batting practice and during his brief time in the more hitter-friendly Arizona Rookie League.
Corner infielder Jacob Tanis returned to the Lake Monsters for a second season after a wrist injury limited him early in the year. Tanis, the A's 2011 13th-round pick, got off to a good start, slumped in July and then picked it up again in August. He finished with a .261/.333/.336 line, an improvement over his 2011 line of .221/.314/.279. Tanis split his time defensively between third base and first base.
After an outstanding run during extended spring training, Wilfredo Solano debuted on the Lake Monsters' Opening Day roster, marking the first time he played for a non-complex A's affiliate. The 19-year-old Venezuelan shortstop struggled during regular season play, however, posting a meager 549 OPS and a 34:10 K:BB ratio in 189 at-bats. The A's have seen Solano hit for power and display patience in extended spring training and Instructional League environments, but he has yet to be able to translate those performances into regular season success. Solano won't turn 20 until January, however, so he has time to grow into his talent. Despite the poor numbers with Vermont, he may get a chance in a full-season league next year.
Cal alum Austin Booker earned a spot in the NY-Penn League All-Star game after posting a .292 average and a 732 OPS during the first half of the season. The utilityman struggled at the plate after the break and finished with a 637 OPS. Booker did finish second amongst Lake Monsters' regulars with a .337 OBP and he walked 21 times in 50 games.
First baseman Miguel Marte posted the ugliest K:BB ratio of any Vermont hitter. The 23-year-old Dominican struck-out 57 times and walked only five times in 148 at-bats. He did homer three times. Marte has struggled with plate discipline throughout his professional career, limiting the impact of his powerful bat. He will need to improve his approach considerably if he is going to advance to a full-season league.
The 2012 season was one Chad Lewis would like to forget. The corner infielder and A's 2010 fourth-round pick began the year on the full-season Low-A Burlington Bees roster, only to be sent back to extended spring training after appearing in eight games for the Bees. Lewis was on the Vermont Opening Day roster and he was an everyday player for the first two months of the season. After batting only .231/.291/.291 in 134 at-bats, however, Lewis was sent back to Arizona, where he finished the year with the A's Rookie League club. Like Solano, Lewis has shown considerable potential in instructional and spring training environments but has yet to translate that potential into regular season results. Lewis won't turn 21 until December and the A's are far from giving up on the Southern California native. A strong spring could still put him back in contention for a spot on a full-season roster next year.
Outfielder Kelvin Rojas had a breakthrough 2011 campaign when he led the AZL in batting with a .379 average and he posted a 984 OPS. The NY-Penn League was not as kind to the 23-year-old Dominican. He posted a 503 OPS and struck-out 30 times while walking only three times in 113 at-bats. Like Marte, Rojas will need to shore up those K:BB numbers before he gets a crack at a full-season league.
Although they were only with the team a short time, the A's top three picks in the 2012 draft had an impact on the Lake Monsters' line-up. Top pick Addison Russell was arguably the Lake Monsters' best hitter in 2012, although he had only 53 at-bats in 13 games played for Vermont. Russell posted a .340/.386/.509 line during his short stay with the Lake Monsters. He also impressed with the glove at shortstop. Russell played for three teams during his professional debut season, posting a combined .369/.432/.594 line in 217 at-bats. The 18-year-old will enter the 2013 season as one of the A's top prospects (if not the top A's prospect).
The A's second overall pick in 2012, Daniel Robertson, spent half of his professional debut season with the Lake Monsters, accumulating 94 at-bats. Although his slashline with Vermont was a paltry .181/.238/.234, Robertson earned praise from A's coaches for his approach while with the Lake Monsters and many thought he swung the bat significantly better than his numbers illustrated. The infielder had a .297/.405/.554 line with the AZL A's before being promoted to Vermont.
Matt Olson, the A's third overall pick in 2012, appeared in just four games at the tail-end of the Vermont season. The first baseman made a strong impression in a short time, collecting three hits (including a homer) in 11 at-bats. He also walked three times. Olson starred for the division-winning AZL A's club, hitting eight homeruns in 177 at-bats for the AZL A's.
Lake Monsters' Pitchers
Note: Pitchers with more than 20 innings were considered for this article
Avila led the staff with 66 innings pitched, as the native of Mexico made 12 starts and three relief appearances. The right-hander was steady in his first season above the Rookie ball level. He posted an excellent 60:16 K:BB ratio and a solid 3.82 ERA. Avila was a groundball pitcher much of the time, but when he missed, he tended to miss in bad spots. He allowed seven homeruns and a .261 opponents batting average. When he is on, Avila can be difficult for young hitters to handle, as he mixes his pitches well and is always around the strike-zone, but he doesn't have the stuff to get away with missing in the middle of the plate. It was a positive season for Avila, however, and he is a strong candidate to move up to Low-A next year.
Powers and Menna both returned to Vermont after pitching for the Lake Monsters in 2011. Powers began the year with Low-A Burlington but was sent back to Vermont at the start of the NY-Penn League season after struggling with his command in 44.2 innings (26 walks and 10 homers allowed) with the Bees. Powers' command improved with Vermont (28 walks and seven homers allowed in 63.2 innings), but he still has work to do in that area. The southpaw has good life to his fastball and will continue to be a project for Gil Patterson and his staff going into next year.
Menna is another live-armed hurler who hasn't yet learned to command all of his pitches consistently. The right-hander induced a lot of groundballs for Vermont, but his walks hurt him, as he allowed 27 in 62.2 innings pitched. Menna saved his best game for his last start of the season when he pitched the first seven innings of a combined no-hitter. The New Jersey native can reach the mid-90s with his fastball and could have a longterm future as a reliever.
Tyler Vail was also a returning member of the Vermont staff. The right-hander missed the first half of the season as he rehabbed a shoulder injury at extended spring training. Once he was healthy, Vail made three appearances for the AZL A's before joining the Lake Monsters' staff. The 20-year-old showed marked improvement in his second season with the Lake Monsters. In 55.2 innings for Vermont, he struck-out 55 and walked 21. In 2011, Vail struck-out 22 and walked 25 in 38.2 innings for the Lake Monsters. Vail also allowed only two homeruns this season as opposed to four for Vermont in 2011. The A's were very high on Vail even after his struggles in 2011 and given what he showed with Vermont in 2012, he should be on-track for full-season ball in 2013. He will be 21 throughout the 2013 season.
Despite pitching mostly in relief, Deyvi Jimenez, Seth Streich, Stuart Pudenz and Drew Granier all managed to toss at least 30 innings. Jimenez had a 5.79 ERA but he pitched better than that ERA would indicate. The right-hander struck-out more than a batter an inning (38 in 37.1 innings) while maintaining a better than 2.5:1 K:BB ratio. A flyball pitcher, Jimenez was still only touched for three homers.
Streich and Pudenz both put up eye-popping numbers in their professional debuts. Streich struck-out 42 in 34.2 innings while limiting opposing batters to a .206 average. He allowed only one homerun. He walked 17. Streich made four starts and 11 relief appearances this year but he is likely to move into a more regular starting role in 2013.
In 31.1 innings, Pudenz posted a 2.59 ERA to go along with a 37:9 K:BB ratio and a .168 opponents batting average. He allowed only one homerun despite being a flyball pitcher.
Gagnier joined the A's organization last season after being released by the Detroit Tigers. The Oregon alum struggled badly with his command while with the Tigers. Although he still had issues at times finding the strike-zone in 2012, Gagnier's command was much improved. He posted a 27:16 K:BB ratio in 30 innings with Vermont after walking 10 and striking out only four in 8.1 innings at the same level with Detroit last year. Gagnier, a groundball pitcher, didn't allow a homerun with Vermont this season. He earned a late-season cameo with the High-A Stockton Ports.
Tucker Healy just barely missed being part of the 30-innings-or-more club, but he still managed to lead all Lake Monsters' relievers in strike-outs. The right-hander out of Ithaca College struck-out 45 in only 29.1 innings pitched spread out over 22 appearances. He saved three games and posted a 3.07 ERA. Healy didn't allow a homer in his pro debut season and maintained a better than 3:1 K:BB ratio (45:13).
Kris Hall, the A's eighth-round pick this season, had his year cut short by arm soreness. Before he stopped pitching, however, Hall put together a solid pro debut. The hard-throwing righty allowed only three earned runs in 27.1 innings pitched. He struck-out 24 and walked 14, but didn't allow a homerun and limited opposing batters to a .177 average. Hall isn't participating in the A's Instructional League because of his health, but assuming he is back to full strength next spring, he should be in the rotation for one of the A's full-season A-ball teams.
Nate Eppley, Austin House, Ryan Dull and Logan Chitwood also were mainstays in a strong Vermont bullpen. Eppley spent the first two months of the NY-Penn League season with Vermont before earning a promotion to Low-A. The sidearmer was, not surprisingly, a groundball-inducing machine with the Lake Monsters. He also struck-out 24 in 27.1 innings and allowed only 16 hits.
House led the team with five saves and also earned a late-season promotion to Low-A. The A's 2012 14th-round pick struck-out 33 and walked only 10 in 25.2 innings. Opponents hit only .149 against him and he didn't allow a homerun. House has collegiate experience as both a starter and a reliever, so it will be interesting to see what way the A's choose to develop him next season.
Dull shared closing duties with House for much of the final month of the season. The UNC-Asheville alum saved four games, including the Lake Monsters' combined no-hitter. He posted a 34:6 K:BB ratio in 25.1 innings and had a 2.84 ERA. It was an impressive showing for the 32nd-round pick, who began his pro debut season with the AZL A's before moving up to the NY-Penn League.
Chitwood, like Eppley, split his season between Burlington, Vermont and Burlington, Iowa. Chitwood, who was also on the Lake Monsters' 2011 staff, posted a 2.16 ERA and a 20:10 K:BB ratio in 25 innings before earning the promotion to Low-A. It was Chitwood's first opportunity above the short-season level since turning pro in 2010.
A pair of high-profile pitchers from the Dominican Republic checked in right at the 20-inning mark: Michael Ynoa and Omar Duran. Ynoa, the much-celebrated international signing by the A's in 2008, made his debut above the Rookie ball level with Vermont. Ynoa was working his way back from Tommy John surgery, which caused him to miss all of the 2011 season. His command was erratic, at best, but Ynoa flashed plus stuff at times and was clocked in the low-90s with his fastball. He finished his stint with the Lake Monsters with a 6.97 ERA and a 19:16 K:BB ratio in 20.2 innings.
Duran was dominant in his stint with Vermont. The oft-injured left-hander got an opportunity at the Low-A level but was sent back to Vermont after allowing four walks and three runs in 3.2 innings with the Bees. With the Lake Monsters, Duran struck-out more than two batters an inning (42 in 20.1 innings) and allowed only four hits and one earned run. Command was still an issue at times for Duran (20 walks), but his stuff overwhelmed NY-Penn League hitters. The A's have been looking for Duran to make a breakthrough at the higher levels for several years now. Health-permitting, he is likely to get another chance in Low-A at the start of 2013. If he can ever figure out his command issues and stay healthy, Duran could move quickly up the A's system as a reliever.
Of the pitchers who accumulated fewer than 20 innings, the most notable performance came from Nolan Sanburn, who was the first pitcher selected by the A's in 2012. The Arkansas alum signed right before the deadline in mid-July. He made seven starts, but they were all of the three-innings-or-less variety, as the A's looked to limit his workload after he pitched with Arkansas into the College World Series. Sanburn allowed 23 hits in 18.2 innings, but he struck-out 19 and walked six. The diminutive-but-hard-throwing right-hander will be a starter to watch next season.