Oakland A's Minor League Pitcher of the Month: May
Sonny Gray, Sacramento
Stats: 1.94 ERA, 46:10 K:BB in 41.2 IP, 1 HR allowed, .232 BAA, 1.91 GO/AO.
It was a good month for pitching in the Oakland A's system, and we started with a list of 14 viable candidates for this award before whittling down the list. Gray was the best-of-the-best, as the A's 2011 first-round pick moved ever closer to reaching the major leagues.
Gray's 2013 season has been markedly better than his 2012 campaign with Double-A Midland. Last season, Gray struggled with his command, walking 57 in 148 innings. He also had trouble missing bats, striking out just 97.
This year, Gray has improved his command. In April, he walked 10 in 22 innings, but in May, Gray walked 10 in 41.2 innings pitched. Gray has also started missing bats at a rate indicative of the quality of his stuff. He struck-out more than a batter an inning this month for the first time in his pro career.
One thing that has remained consistent for Gray throughout his minor league career has been his ability to induce groundballs at a high rate. His groundball rate was better than 50% last season with Midland and it has remained above the 50% mark this season. Gray has allowed just one homerun thus far this year, despite pitching in the often hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
Bruce Billings, Sacramento: 5-1, 2.80 ERA, 39:11 K:BB in 35 IP, .208 BAA
Billings has teamed with Gray to give the River Cats a dynamic right-handed one-two punch at the top of their rotation. After posting an ERA above 9.00 in April, Billings has completely turned his season around with a strong May. He struck-out more than a batter an inning, improved his command significantly and proved tough to hit. Billings hasn't received a shot in the big leagues since late 2011 but he has big league stuff and it seems only a matter of time before he gets back to the Show.
Drew Granier, Stockton: 2.03 ERA, 45:17 K:BB in 40 IP, 1 HR, 1.26 GO/AO, .215 BAA
Granier has drawn comparisons with current A's starter and last year's minor league pitcher of the year Dan Straily. Granier leads the Cal League in strike-outs and ERA. His command has occasionally wavered, but that is nit-picking what has been a standout season to date.
Raul Alcantara, Beloit: 2.75 ERA, 1 CGSO, 28:2 K:BB in 36 IP, 1 HR allowed
Alcantara's first season in the A's organization was a disappointment, but he has more than righted the ship this season. The 20-year-old looks poised for a promotion to High-A after another outstanding month. Alcantara's command has been impeccable (he has walked six all season in 64.1 innings), and he has started to miss bats on a regular basis. Over his last three starts in May, Alcantara struck-out 20 in 19 innings.
Ryan Dull, Beloit: 0.00 ERA, 6 SV, 17:2 K:BB in 10.2 IP, .143 BAA
Dull has put up some ridiculous numbers since turning pro last season. The right-hander struck-out 47 in 31.2 innings last season and he has 31 in 21.2 innings this year. Dull has been nearly flawless as the Snappers' closer this season and he allowed no runs (earned or unearned) for the entire month of May.
Jose Macias, Stockton: 0.95 ERA, 20:2 K:BB in 19 IP, 0 HR, .156 BAA
Macias shook off a rough month of April to post outstanding numbers in May for the Ports. The right-hander allowed just 12 base-runners in 19 innings and didn't allow a homerun. Macias saved three games in May and has become one of the Ports go-to relievers late in games.
Danny Otero, Sacramento: 0.87 ERA, 6 SV, 5 H, 0 BB, 9 K in 10.1 IP
Otero has been Mr. Automatic for Sacramento all season. He has 13 saves already this year and has been dominant in the late-innings for the River Cats. In May, Otero allowed hardly any base-runners in saving six games. He has positioned himself for strong consideration should the A's need a reliever in the coming weeks.
Kyler Newby, Midland: 0.68 ERA, 12:4 K:BB in 13.1 IP, .229 BAA; Arnold Leon, Midland: 2.64 ERA, 25:8 K:BB in 30.2 IP; Tanner Peters, Stockton: 2.56 ERA, 37:9 K:BB in 38.2 IP, .213 BAA; Tucker Healy, Beloit: 0.00 ERA, 18:4 K:BB in 11 IP, 1.80 GO/AO; Derek DeYoung, Beloit: 1.73 ERA, 21:9 K:BB in 26 IP, 3-0 with 2 SV, .227 BAA; Vince Voiro, Beloit: 1.32 ERA, 3-0, 2 SV, 27:9 K:BB in 27.1 IP, 0 HR, .189 BAA; Murphy Smith, Midland: 2.70 ERA, 10 BB in 30 IP, 1.17 GO/AO.