Oakland A's MLN: Who's Hot?

The minor league season is roughly two weeks in. We take stock of who is off to strong starts within the Oakland A's system.

Stats good through Tuesday, April 16. Only players currently in the minor leagues qualify for this list.

Sacramento River Cats

The River Cats have erased a slow start with six straight wins and now have a winning record at 7-6. Several River Cats' players are off to hot starts, especially at the plate.

Stephen Vogt (.543/.579/1.086 in 8 games): There may be no hotter hitter in all of baseball right now than Vogt. The catcher has pounded the baseball since being traded to the A's early in the season from Tampa Bay. He has nine extra-base hits in 35 at-bats (four homers, three doubles and two triples) and 13 RBI. Vogt has commanded the strike-zone, whiffing only twice in the early season. The offense-starved Rays probably wish they could have that trade back right about now.

Jemile Weeks (.377/.468/.415 in 12 games): Weeks hot a strong – if abbreviated by injury – spring at the plate and that has carried over into April with Sacramento. The switch-hitter has scored 15 runs in 12 games from the top of the Sacramento batting order and he has a team-leading four stolen bases in four chances. Weeks has also walked six times and leads the team with 20 hits. The former A's starting second baseman has been seeing time at shortstop of late, and that extra versatility combined with his hot start could land Weeks back in the big leagues in the near future.

Michael Choice (.288/.406/.577 in 13 games): Any concerns that Choice's season-ending broken hand injury from last season would carry-over into the 2013 campaign were quieted when he had a strong spring. Choice, normally a slow starter, has been impressive in the early-going for Sacramento, especially over the past week. He is tied with Vogt for the team-lead in homers with four and he has a team-best 16 RBI. Choice has also walked nine times in 13 games. Given how well he usually hits in the second-half, Choice could be in for his best professional campaign to date.

Conner Crumbliss (.214/.353/.536 in eight games): It may seem unusual to see a player hitting .214 on a ‘hot list,' but Crumbliss has made the most of his limited opportunities thus far this year. Crumbliss has already collected four extra-base hits in 28 at-bats, including two homers. His power numbers have been on the up-swing over the past two seasons, so these early season results may not be a mirage. Crumbliss' streak of leading the A's organization in walks could be in danger if he isn't playing everyday, but he still figures to be among the organization's leaders even with the limited playing time. He has walked six times this season.

Luke Montz (.240/.367/.480 in seven games): The River Cats have received plenty of production from the catcher position in the early going this season. Montz has split time there with Vogt and has also seen time at first and DH. He has four extra-base hits in 25 at-bats and has walked five times.

Daric Barton (.308/.413/.410 in 10 games): Not much homerun power yet from the former A's top prospect, but Barton is quietly doing Barton-like things at the plate for Sacramento. He has walked more than he has struck-out (seven to five) and Barton has four doubles.

Dan Straily (1.42 ERA/ 16:1 K:BB in 12.2 IP): Straily has quickly put his uneven performance in spring training behind him. After an impressive start for the A's during the season's first week, Straily has continued to dominate in two Triple-A starts since his demotion to Sacramento. His command has been solid, with only one walk over his two outings, and he has continued to rack up Ks at an impressive rate. With Jarrod Parker struggling at the big league level, Straily could return to Oakland sooner rather than later.

Jesse Chavez (2.45 ERA/ 19:4 K:BB in 18.1 IP): Many were surprised the A's carried Chavez on their 40-man roster all off-season and through the early-going this year, but the Oakland front office likes Chavez's raw stuff, and he has been impressive in three starts for Sacramento this season. Command has often been an issue for Chavez during his career, but he has walked only four and has allowed just one homerun in his first three starts.

Sonny Gray (2.45 ERA/ 9:6 K:BB ratio in 11 IP): The walk total is higher than one would like to see, but Gray has been solid in his first two starts this season. He has allowed just nine hits in 11 innings and has a 60% groundball rate.

Dan Otero (0.00 ERA/ 5:1 K:BB in 7.2 IP): The former Giants' reliever has been a stalwart in the back-end of the River Cats' bullpen so far this season. He has allowed just five base-runners and has nailed down two saves, tying him with Mike Ekstrom for the team-lead. Given the A's propensity for finding relief pitching on the waiver wire and minor league free agent market, Otero is one to keep an eye on.

Justin Thomas (4.32 ERA/ 12:4 K:BB in 8.1 IP): Thomas' ERA is a bit inflated, but the lefty has an outstanding K-rate and he has been a bit unlucky on balls hit into play thus far (.435 BABIP). Thomas has experience as both a starter and a reliever and could be an option for the A's as a longman should the need arise during the season.

Midland Rockhounds

The veteran RockHounds' squad is off to a solid start to the season with a 7-5 record heading into their off-day on Wednesday. They sit just a game back of the division-leader Frisco.

Anthony Aliotti (.378/.509/.556 in 12 games): Aliotti has been one of the hottest hitters in the Texas League since the start of the season. He has six extra-base hits and 12 walks. His 17 hits and 12 walks are tops on the RockHounds in both categories. The A's don't have an opening for Aliotti at first in Sacramento with Barton there, but if that changes, he should get his crack at Triple-A this season.

Dusty Coleman (.326/.426/.413 in 12 games): With his combination of power, speed and defensive ability, Coleman has flashed big league potential throughout his minor league career. Injuries and a poor BB:K rate have conspired to keep him from zooming up the A's minor league ladder. That could be changing this season if Coleman can maintain his hot start. Coleman has walked eight times already in 46 at-bats and is second on the team in OBP behind Aliotti. Coleman has also been good on the base-paths, with four stolen bases in four chances.

Chad Oberacker (.302/.367/.472 in 12 games): Oberacker doesn't receive much attention outside of the A's organization, but internally, the A's player development staff love his overall game. Oberacker is a tough at-bat at the top of the line-up and he can do a little bit of everything at the plate and in the field. The jump to Double-A hasn't fazed him yet, as he has seven extra-base hits in 53 at-bats and a decent 5:9 BB:K. Oberacker also has been successful in his first four stolen base attempts and he leads the team in RBI with 10 despite batting lead-off.

Zach Neal: (2.03 ERA/ 12:2 K:BB in 13.1 IP): Neal, acquired by the A's late in spring training, is off to a strong start with his new organization. The former Marlins' prospect has commanded the bottom half of the strike-zone in his first three starts. Neal has a 60.5% groundball rate thus far this season and a 1.35 BB/9.

Carlos Hernandez (2.61 ERA/ 6:3 K:BB in 10.1 IP): Hernandez has bounced around between the rotation and the bullpen and the RockHounds and River Cats the past two seasons. Back in the rotation with Midland, Hernandez has been steady in his first two outings. He has used his defense, worked quickly and has yet to allow a homer. Like Aliotti, Hernandez is likely to get another look in Triple-A if the A's have an opening in the pitching staff there this year.

Paul Smyth (2.70 ERA/ 12:0 K:BB in 10 IP): It has been a tough couple of years for Smyth at the Double-A level. He hasn't pitched badly, but he hasn't pitched well enough to earn a promotion to Triple-A. Smyth appears back to his pre-Double-A form in the early going this season. His command has been impeccable and the sidearmer has a FIP of 0.80.

Kyler Newby (2.70 ERA/ 5:1 K:BB in 6.2 IP): The veteran Newby is helping to keep the back-end of the RockHounds' bullpen locked down with a strong start to his season. His 3.6% BB% is a significant improvement over what he has put up over the past two seasons.

Jeff Urlaub (2.84 ERA/ 5:0 K:BB in 6.1 IP): The left-hander doesn't blow anyone away, but he continues to find success by being aggressive in the strike-zone. Urlaub has the best K:BB ratio of any A's farmhand since he joined the organization and that trend is continuing into this season. All of the runs Urlaub has allowed this season came in one outing; he has an even 1.00 WHIP in his other three outings, spanning five innings.

Stockton Ports

Max Muncy (.333/.459/.688 in 13 games): Only Vogt can claim to be a hotter hitter than Muncy has been in the early going. The Ports' first baseman has already eclipsed his homer total from last season with five and he ahs 11 walks in 13 games. Muncy's power increase has not resulted in a big surge in strike-outs either; he has just eight thus far.

Antonio Lamas (.333/.394/.567 in seven games): His season got off to a delayed start, as the A's had to wait for the Commissioner's Office to give the final okay on Lamas' contract. The former Mexican League star has been hot since joining the Ports from extended. He has homered twice in 30 at-bats and has scored six times while driving in seven in seven games.

Ryan Delgado (.353/.421/.765 in five games): Delgado has shared time with Ryan Ortiz behind the plate and Delgado has taken advantage of opportunities when he ahs been presented them. He has homered twice in 17 at-bats and also has added a double.

Wade Kirkland (.257/.316/.486 in 10 games): With Addison Russell missing time with a back injury, Kirkland has seen the majority of the playing time at short for Stockton in the early going. He will move around the infield now that Russell is healthy. Kirkland has shown some pop in the first part of the season, connecting on two homers and two doubles in 35 at-bats.

Sean Murphy (2.89 ERA/ 19:4 K:BB in 18.2 IP): Murphy, who is prone to allowing homeruns, has given up four longballs in the early going, but he hasn't had those homers hurt him much because he has kept his walk total low. The tall right-hander had a strong first half last season and he will be looking to put together two strong halves in 2013.

Drew Granier (3.60 ERA/ 16:8 K:BB in 15 IP): The BB total is too high, but Granier has otherwise been very effective as he has made the jump to High-A. He exceeded all expectations with his performance for Burlington last season and will look to do the same for the Ports in 2013.

Jake Brown (1.93 ERA/ 12:0 K:BB in 9.1 IP): After moving back-and-forth between the bullpen and the rotation the past few years, Brown appears to have found a home in the Ports' bullpen. His command has been stellar and he has kept hitters off-balance with his array of off-speed pitches. The lefty could make the jump to Double-A at some point this year.

Jonathan Joseph (1.29 ERA/ 10:0 K:BB in 7 IP): He hasn't received a ton of work yet, but Joseph has been dominant when called upon. The Dominican right-hander has allowed just three hits and a run and he has picked up a save.

Beloit Snappers

The Snappers have one of the youngest rosters in the Midwest League, and poor weather isn't making it easy for anyone to get into a groove. Beloit was rained out again on Wednesday and they have already played two double-headers. They are still hanging in there in the middle of the pack in the Western Division with a 5-7 record, however.

Ryan Mathews (.286/.344/.643 in 10 games) Mathews has been the Snappers' best power hitter in the early going with three homers and a double in 28 at-bats. He is tied for the team-lead in RBI with eight despite not being in the starting line-up every game.

Renato Nunez (.282/.349/.513 in 11 games) There will be plenty of growing pains for the 19-year-old this season, but Nunez has swung the bat well in the early going. He has five extra-base hits (two homers and three doubles) in 39 at-bats and has maintained a decent 4:9 BB:K.

Bruce Maxwell (.317/.378/.463 in 11 games) Maxwell has been a steady producer all season for Beloit, hitting in the middle of their line-up. The backstop has hit his first pro homerun and has added three doubles in 41 at-bats. He has been a strong contact hitter, walking four times and striking out five times this season.

Brett Vertigan (.314/.350/.400 in 10 games) Vertigan has held down centerfield for the Snappers while providing a steady bat near the top of the line-up. The weather hasn't allowed Vertigan to use his legs much yet (one stolen base in one attempt), but he has hit for average and has a double and a triple in the early going.

Dakota Bacus (2.40 ERA/ 21:4 K:BB in 15 IP): Bacus may not be long for the Midwest League with the rate that he has been dominating Midwest League hitters. The Indiana State alum has been a tandem starter with Michael Ynoa this season, but he has still averaged five innings a "relief" appearance. Bacus not only generates swings-and-misses, he also keeps the ball on the ground. His groundball percentage thus far this season is 67.6% and his FIP is 1.20.

Raul Alcantara (3.94 ERA/ 8:2 K:BB in 16 IP): Opening night was a disaster for Alcantara, who allowed five earned runs in 3.2 innings pitched. Since then Alcantara has turned in two solid starts for the Snappers. Over his last two outings, Alcantara has allowed just two runs and eight hits in 12.1 innings. He has struck-out eight while walking one.

Tucker Healy (1.59 ERA/ 7:0 K:BB in 5.2 IP): With the tandem starter set-up for Beloit this season, relievers will be pressed to get regular work. Healy has pitched well when given the opportunity thus far. In two outings, he has allowed just three base-runners in 5.2 innings.

Michael Ynoa (1.13 ERA/ 7:5 K:BB in 8 IP): Ynoa is being limited to three innings a start as the A's try to keep him healthy for an entire season. Ynoa was solid, but unspectacular in his first two outings, but he turned it on in his third start. On Tuesday, Ynoa struck-out five and walked one and he allowed just two hits in three innings, perhaps his best outing of his pro career.

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