It was an up-and-down season for the 2013 Stockton Ports. With a 69-71 overall record, the Ports finished just short of a wild card berth in the California League playoffs. Although they didn't finish in the post-season, the Ports had a memorable season, highlighted by the continuing emerging stardom of A's top prospect Addison Russell, the All-Star first half of first baseman Max Muncy, a few crazy extra-inning wins and a near perfect game.
The California League is known for offense, and the Ports had a strong season at the plate. Although they finished last in the league in team batting average, the Ports were third-best in runs scored thanks, in large part, to their league-leading 183 homeruns hit. The Ports ranked fourth in the league in walks and fourth in team OPS (753). Stockton hitters struck out a lot, finishing second in the league in that category, and they were mostly station-to-station, finishing third-to-last in stolen bases.
Stockton had three hitters finish the season with exactly 21 homeruns and nine finish in double-digits. Four Ports' players would reach double-digits in stolen bases.
The Ports' pitching staff wasn't quite as effective as it has been in many of the past few seasons, but they still performed well relative to the rest of the league. Stockton's staff posted a 4.55 team ERA, good for third-best in the league. They struck-out the third-most batters in the league, while posting the third-lowest WHIP (1.33). Stockton pitchers also did a good job of minimizing walks, walking the second-fewest in the league.
Where Stockton pitchers struggled was with the longball. Ports' hurlers gave up the third-most homeruns in the league.
Note: Only players with at least 175 at-bats were considered for this article
It is hard for a player to come into a season with more hype than Addison Russell did going into the 2013 season. The A's top pick in 2012 created high expectations with a spectacular pro debut season that saw him perform well-above league-average at three different levels (Rookie ball, short-season and Low-A). After a strong spring, Russell was assigned to High-A Stockton for Opening Day. At 19 years old, he would be one of the youngest players in the Cal League all season.
Things didn't start out all that smoothly for Russell. He injured his back during pre-game warm-ups before the third game of the season and was forced to miss more than a week. The injury lingered a bit and it took him nearly two months to adjust to the Cal League's level of competition. Once he made that adjustment, however, he dominated. Hitting near the Mendoza line with an OPS in the low 700s on June 1, Russell would finish the season with Stockton with a .275/.377/.508 line. He posted OPSs of 989, 1049 and 967 over the final three months of the season.
Russell played excellent defense at shortstop and filled up the statsheet. He finished with double-digits in homeruns (17), doubles (29), triples (10) and stolen bases (21). The only blight on his season with Stockton was his strike-out total (116 in 429 at-bats).
Russell may have been the Ports' best player for the entire season, but Max Muncy was the team's top performer for the first half of the 2013 campaign. A fellow 2012 draft pick, Muncy dominated the Cal League in his three-plus months with the Ports. In 93 games, Muncy posted a .285/.400/.507 line. Despite spending the final seven weeks of the season in Double-A, Muncy still finished the year tied for the Ports' team-lead in homeruns with 21. He drove-in 76 and posted a 64:69 BB:K. Muncy also provided solid glovework at first base.
When Muncy was promoted to Double-A in early July, outfielder Bobby Crocker stepped up as one of the Ports' offensive leaders. Crocker got off to a slow start with the Ports, posting OPSs of 679 and 745 in April and May, respectively. In June and July, Crocker's production would increase dramatically, as he posted OPSs of 921 and 887 before slipping a bit in August (773 OPS). Overall, Crocker would put together a line of .276/.343/.454. Crocker has excellent bat speed, power potential, above-average running speed. For him to take the next step as a hitter, he will need to improve his plate discipline. Crocker walked only 32 times this season and he struck-out 159 times. Thirteen of his 32 walks came in August, but he also saw his strike-outs spike to 44 in 117 at-bats.
Third baseman B.A. Vollmuth is another Port who could make a dramatic leap forward with his production if he is able to refine his approach at the plate. The 2011 third-round pick finished tied for first on the Ports with 21 homers and he drove-in 70 runs in 125 games. However, he hit only .212 with a .301 OBP, thanks in part to a 161:56 K:BB. Vollmuth often found himself in unfavorable counts this season and started to do better when he started being more selective, especially early in the count. Defensively, Vollmuth struggled at third base. He has the raw tools to be a solid third baseman, so the A's will give him more time at the position to improve.
After a solid season with Stockton in 2012, Tony Thompson looked poised for a promotion to Double-A in 2013. A roster back-up kept him in Stockton for a second season, however. He struggled during the first half of the season, but Thompson rebounded with a good second half of the year and finished the season as the Ports' team-leader in RBI with 92. He also hit 18 homeruns and posted a .250/.322/.428 line in 116 games.
Outfielder Dusty Robinson also returned to Stockton for a second season. After hitting 18 homeruns in 94 games with the Ports in 2012, Robinson pounded 21 homers in 123 games for Stockton in 2013. Robinson also contributed on the basepaths, swiping 18 in 22 chances. Like so many members of the Ports' line-up, however, Robinson was hurt by an overly aggressive approach. He struck-out 146 times and walked only 41 times in 458 at-bats.
Outfielders Myrio Richard and Rashun Dixon were also repeat performers in Stockton, both returning for a third season with the Ports. Richard missed nearly half of the 2012 season with injuries, but he finished 2013 with career-highs in games played (111) and at-bats (456). Richard connected on a career-best 11 homeruns and he also swiped 13 bases, although he was caught seven times. Richard's approach seemed to suffer from the power increase, however, as he struck-out a career-high 90 times and managed only 33 walks. In 2011 (his last healthy season), Richard had 43 walks against 69 strike-outs in 432 at-bats.
Dixon began the season on the shelf with an oblique injury he suffered during the final week of spring training. He was sent to Low-A Beloit in early May, but after hitting four homers and walking nine times in 36 at-bats, Dixon was sent up to Stockton, where he had spent parts of the past two seasons. Dixon hit for some power with the Ports, connecting on 12 homers in 285 at-bats. His plate discipline completely escaped him, however, as he struck-out in nearly half of his at-bats (116). He did walk 48 times. Dixon is still just 23 years old and he has a lot of talent, but he hasn't been able to get over the High-A hump the past few seasons. This will be a make-or-break next year for the Mississippi native.
The Ports' leader in at-bats this season was second baseman Antonio Lamas, who made his US debut after being signed out of the Mexican League during the off-season. Lamas deployed an all-or-nothing approach at the plate, which left him with a .255/.304/.381 line in 517 at-bats. He hit 12 homeruns and drove-in 72.
When Russell or Lamas needed a break in the middle infield, the Ports called on Wade Kirkland to take their places in the line-up. Kirkland appeared in 69 games in 2013, and he hit .220/.268/.361 with six homers. Although he wasn't a regular, Kirkland turned in arguably the most memorable game appearance of any Ports' position player this season. On May 21st, Kirkland entered a game in the 16th inning – as a pitcher. He would go on to throw two innings of relief for the Ports, and he hit a walk-off homerun in the bottom of the 17th, his only at-bat of the game.
Although Ryan Ortiz and Ryan Delgado began the season as the Ports' catching tandem, Philip Pohl and Bruce Maxwell would get the bulk of the playing time behind the plate for Stockton. Pohl joined the team in May for what was supposed to be a relatively short amount of time. However, Pohl played his way onto the Ports' roster for good and he would finish with 194 at-bats at the High-A level in his first full professional season. Pohl showed some pop at the plate (nine homers), although his 68:12 K:BB ratio was ugly. Pohl also worked well with the Stockton pitching staff, and he could be in the mix for a look in Double-A next season.
Maxwell, a second-round pick by the A's in 2012, began the year with Low-A Beloit, but he earned a promotion to High-A after an All-Star first-half with the Snappers. Maxwell showed a lot of promise at the plate with Stockton, putting up a .263/.335/.394 line in 175 at-bats. The A's believe Maxwell has the potential to hit for power as he matures, and he started to tap into that power late in the season. He also posted a solid 19:34 BB:K. He will enter the 2014 season as one of the A's top catching prospects.
Note: Only pitchers with at least 19 innings pitched were considered for this article.
A lot of talented pitchers came through Stockton in 2013, but Tanner Peters was unquestionably the team's best pitcher from the beginning to the end of the season. Although his 4.07 ERA wasn't spectacular, the most of the rest of his numbers were. The right-hander won a team-best 12 games and he struck-out 159 and walked only 27 in 165.2 innings. Peters had a 1.17 WHIP and he never walked more than nine batters in any one month. He turned in the most memorable start of the season when he carried a perfect game into the ninth inning on August 9th. Peters lost the perfecto with one out in that inning. He struck-out 14 batters in 8.1 innings that night.
Peters is, in many ways, a shorter (generously listed at 6'0''), skinnier (listed at 155 pounds) version of A.J. Griffin. Like Griffin, Peters doesn't have overwhelming velocity, living in the upper-80s, low-90s, but he has an outstanding big breaking curveball and above-average command. Also like Griffin, Peters tends to be prone to the longball. He gave up 24 homeruns this season. Peters added a slider during the second half of the season and he cut his homer-rate nearly in half. He could be in-line for a big 2014 campaign.
The Ports' staff ace early in the season was right-hander Drew Granier, who earned a promotion to Double-A shortly after pitching in the Cal League-Carolina League All-Star game. At the time he left the Ports, he was near the top of the leaderboard for strike-outs amongst all minor leaguers with 97 in just 83.2 innings. He posted a 3.25 ERA with Stockton and he allowed just five homeruns. Granier's command was iffy at times, however, as evidenced by his 40 walks. Those command issues would plague him during his time with the RockHounds, as well.
Right-hander Josh Bowman was arguably the Ports' best pitcher in 2012. He began the 2013 season with Double-A Midland, but he was never at his best with the RockHounds and was sent back to Stockton in late May after posting an 18:21 K:BB in 39.2 innings. Bowman would miss a little time with injury in June, but he still finished the year with 100.1 innings pitched for Stockton (after 39.2 innings pitched for Midland). With the Ports, Bowman was up-and-down. He posted a 5.56 ERA, although he generally pitched better than that number would indicate. Bowman's K:BB was a respectable 74:23 and he improved his command as the season wore on. He may have been struggling with an injury early in the season and is a good candidate for a rebound season in 2014.
When Granier was promoted to Midland, right-hander Raul Alcantara got the call from Beloit to take his place. Alcantara entered the year as one of the A's top pitching prospects and he didn't disappoint. After an All-Star first-half with the Snappers, Alcantara impressed during his time with the Ports. In 79 innings, he posted a 3.86 ERA and a 66:17 K:BB ratio. The lanky right-hander is still learning to miss bats with his mid-90s fastball and sharp breaking ball, but he has shown an impressive ability to command the strike-zone and he got better at putting away hitters as the season wore on. Oh, and Alcantara is only 20 (he will turn 21 in December), so expect plenty of improvement from him in the coming years. He will be one of the A's top prospects going into the 2014 season.
The bulk of the remaining starts for the Ports came from veterans James Simmons and Shaeffer Hall. Simmons, the A's top pick in 2007, had a frustrating 2013 campaign. He began the spring with the hope that this would be the season that he broke through to the big leagues. After 12 poor relief outings with Sacramento, Simmons was sent back to Stockton, where he would spend the rest of the year. Simmons made 20 starts for the Ports and posted a 5.48 ERA in 113.1 innings. He struck-out 86 and walked 25. Simmons worked with Ports' pitching coach Jimmy Escalante on a number of different changes throughout the season, looking for the form that put him on the verge of the big leagues before a shoulder injury in 2009. Simmons will be a minor league free agent this off-season and may need a change of scenery to revive his career.
Hall came over to the A's as a minor league free agent during the 2013 season after he was cut by the New York Yankees. The left-hander, always a coaches' favorite for his ability to compete with average stuff, made 12 starts and four relief appearances for the Ports. He posted a 6.58 ERA and a 37:12 K:BB in 64.1 innings.
Deyvi Jimenez (nine starts) and Michael Ynoa (six starts) were the only other Ports' pitchers to make more than five starts in 2013. Jimenez began the season in extended spring training, but he joined the Ports' rotation on April 19th. He remained in the rotation until May 25th, when he landed on the DL. That stint cost him only the minimum seven days, and he remained in the rotation until June 16th, when he was sent to short-season Vermont. Jimenez would split the rest of the season between Vermont and Beloit. In nine starts with the Ports, he posted a 6.56 ERA with a 33:15 K:BB in 35.2 innings. Opponents hit .296 against him.
Ynoa made his High-A debut after putting together an All-Star campaign with Beloit during the first half of the season. Ynoa struggled in seven outings with the Ports, however, posting a 7.71 ERA and a 20:17 K:BB in 21 innings. Ynoa was shut down with shoulder soreness after an August 1st start, but he returned to make two short outings during the final week of the season. Ynoa is currently healthy and pitching in the A's Instructional League after throwing a career-high 75.2 innings in 2013. Ynoa's command was inconsistent, but he flashed a mid-90s fastball and a biting slider. The 2014 season will be a big one for Ynoa, who will likely see some of the kid gloves taken off after he completed a mostly healthy 2013 campaign.
Andres Avila began the season in the Stockton rotation, but he was sent to Low-A Beloit after posting a 9.30 over five starts (20.1 innings). Avila would pitch much better for Beloit, although command issues plagued him all season.
The strength of the Ports' pitching staff for most of the season was their bullpen, led by right-hander Seth Frankoff. Frankoff, who will be joining former Ports' teammates Addison Russell, Max Muncy, Ryan Dull and Omar Duran at the Arizona Fall League, led all Stockton relievers with 74.1 innings pitched. Frankoff struck-out 93 and walked only 23 while posting a 2.78 ERA. It was a break-through season for the North Carolina native, who looks to have found a home in the bullpen after beginning his career as a starter.
Right-hander Jonathan Joseph also impressed as a reliever after making the transition to the bullpen last season. Joseph had a 3.50 ERA and a 76:28 K:BB in 64.1 innings this year, his best at the High-A level. He is eligible for minor league free agency this off-season.
Blake Hassebrock made the transition from the rotation to the bullpen during the season, moving to the Stockton bullpen after five early season starts. Hassebrock has a fastball that can touch 97 and a plus breaking ball, but he struggled with consistency in the starting rotation. As a reliever, he pitched much better and he finished his time with the Ports with a 4.28 ERA and a 68:29 K:BB in 61 innings. Hassebrock spent the final five weeks of the season in Double-A, where he had an up-and-down first taste of the Texas League.
Like Hassebrock, Omar Duran is a pitcher whose stuff has always been better than his numbers. Injuries have held Duran back early in his career, but he was healthy in 2013 and he made some progress at the High-A level. The left-hander, whose fastball sits in the mid-90s, had a 4.58 ERA in 53 innings with the Ports. He struck-out an incredible 83 batters and hitters posted a .200 average against him, but he was hurt badly by his 41 walks allowed. It does without saying that if Duran can find a way to throw more strikes, he will become a very intriguing prospect.
Right-hander T.J. Walz returned to Stockton after a solid 2012 campaign that saw him strike-out 112 in 99.2 innings for the Ports. Walz still maintained a solid strike-out rate in 2013 (he struck-out 73 in 61.2 innings), but his walk, hit and homer rates all rose considerably. That led to an uncharacteristically high 6.13 ERA. He is a solid rebound candidate for 2014 given his past success.
Jake Brown was beginning to take on permanent residency status with Stockton when he got the call to Midland in early July. Brown spent most of the 2011 and 2012 seasons with the Ports and was on his way to a full third season with Stockton at the time of the promotion. With the Ports, he posted a 4.21 ERA and a 43:11 K:BB in 57.2 innings. Brown didn't walk a batter through his first 30.1 innings this season, but he struggled considerably after that point in the season. He was released after a few outings with the RockHounds.
Pedro Vidal had a busy 2013 season, spending time in Stockton, Midland and Sacramento. He was a valuable member of the Ports' bullpen while he was in Stockton, posting a 3.57 ERA in 40.1 innings. He struck-out 41 and walked only 11.
Jose Macias looked to be on his way towards a big season with the Ports when an injury ended his season in early June. Up until that point, Macias had a 2.76 ERA and a 28:7 K:BB in 32.2 innings.
David Mota missed two weeks on the DL early in the season and spent time with Vermont and Beloit during the middle part of the season before joining the Ports for good in late July. In 26.1 innings with the Ports, Mota had a 6.49 ERA and a 17:13 K:BB ratio.
Ryan Dull and Tucker Healy joined the Ports' bullpen after the All-Star break, but both made a major impact during their short time with the club. Dull racked up six saves and 31 strike-outs in just 22.2 innings with the Ports. He would spend the final month of the season in Double-A. For the entire 2013 campaign, Dull posted a 78:9 K:BB in 60 innings spread between three levels (Low-A, High-A and Double-A).
Healy missed the final month of the season with a strained muscle in his back, but he was equally impressive during his time with Stockton. In 19.1 innings, Healy posted a 1.86 ERA and he struck-out 31 while walking five. He had a 74:10 K:BB in 48 innings between Stockton and Beloit. Dull and Healy will be relievers to watch in the A's system next year.