It took awhile, but the Stockton Ports are hitting their stride as a team just in time for the start of the second half of the California League season. The Ports entered the All-Star break on Monday riding a nine-game winning streak and 38-32 record. They finished the first half of the season in second place in the Cal League’s Northern Division, four games back of the first-half division winner Visalia Rawhide.
With their 38 wins, the Ports are in a solid position to compete for at least a wild card spot during the second half of the season. They hold the third-best record in the California League and are five wins better than the third-place Cal League Northern team (the Modesto Nuts).
Not surprisingly, Stockton has been one of the better teams in the Cal League statistically this season. The Ports have a team OPS of 736, good for third-best in the league. Their .333 team on-base percentage is third-best in the league and they are second in the league in walks. The Ports are fourth in the league in homers, third in triples and third in runs scored.
On the pitching-side of the ledger, the Ports are fourth in the league with a 3.93 team ERA. The Stockton bullpen has recorded 21 saves (second-best in the league) and the Ports have allowed the fewest hits in the league. The Ports have allowed the third-most homeruns in the league, but they are tied for the second-fewest walks given up and the second-lowest WHIP.
The Ports will have to wait until Thursday to try to extend their winning streak to 10 games. The Cal League/Carolina League All-Star Game is on Tuesday, with right-hander Dylan Covey set to represent the Ports. Covey is currently fourth in the league in ERA with a 3.16 mark.
Comings and Goings
It was a busy month of transactions for the Ports. On June 6, the Ports placed RHP Trevor Bayless on the DL and activated RHP Ben Bracewell. Bayless would spent just nine days on the disabled list, coming off on June 15. The Ports also sent OF Justin Higley to Low-A Beloit on June 6, welcoming back OF J.P. Sportman from the DL. Sportman’s stay on the active roster was a brief one, however, as he landed back on the DL on June 15.
On June 8, RHP Raul Alcantara joined the Ports’ roster from extended spring training. Although not officially a rehab assignment, Alcantara is back with the Ports on a controlled pitching schedule as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery. He went 2.1 innings in each of his first two starts with Stockton and then went 3.1 innings in his latest outing. The 22-year-old Alcantara is one of the A’s top pitching prospects. He spent the second half of the 2013 season with the Ports and was with Double-A Midland in 2014 when he injured his elbow.
The Ports had two A’s players rehab with them in June: RHP A.J. Griffin and RHP Edward Mujica. With the A’s Triple-A affiliate moving to Nashville, Oakland has used Stockton as a frequent home for its rehabbing big leaguers this season.
On June 22, the Ports sent LHP Omar Duran from Stockton to Midland. Duran threw 13.2 innings with the Ports after signing with the A’s as a minor league free agent in May. He had a 5.27 ERA, but he struck-out 20 while walking 10. Duran allowed seven runs over two outings on May 27 and 30th, but he allowed just one run in his other 10.2 innings of work. Duran, who was originally as A’s farmhand before signing with the Detroit Tigers last off-season, split the 2014 season between Stockton and Midland. No corresponding roster move was announced for Stockton since they are on break. Duran replaces Bobby Wahl on the Midland roster. Wahl hasn’t pitched since June 12.
Vertigan is currently leading the Cal League in batting with a .337 average. He also has a .400 OBP and a .500 SLG. Vertigan is winning the “Jermaine Mitchell Award” thus far this year as the player who fills up the most spots in the stat sheet. Vertigan is on pace to record double-digits in doubles and triples and he already has 19 stolen bases this year. Vertigan has also scored 55 runs in 68 games and he has walked 41 times against 43 strike-outs. His combined OPS between Stockton and Beloit is 851. Vertigan has also put together a Mitchell-like performance defensively, as he has already thrown out six bases-runners from centerfield and sports a 1.000 fielding percentage with Stockton and a .994 fielding percentage overall.
Mercedes hasn’t always had a spot in the everyday line-up because he is stuck behind Franklin Barreto and Branden Cogswell on the depth chart, but when he has played, he has made a difference. In 22 games with Stockton, Mercedes has a .351/.429/.432 line. He hasn’t homered yet, but he has four doubles and a triple. Mercedes has walked (10) more than he has struck-out (9) and he is five-for-six in stolen base attempts.
Speaking of Barreto, the A’s second-ranked prospect is hitting his stride after a very slow start. He goes into the break hitting .385 over his last 10 games and .299 with a .493 SLG during the month of June. This is the second strong month for Barreto after a dismal April that saw him hit .171 with a 448 OPS. Barreto batted .326 with a 908 OPS in May. The 19-year-old shortstop has hit batting line up to .271/.310/.432 with six homers on the year. Defense has still been a struggle for Barreto, however, as he has committed 25 errors at shortstop.
Third baseman Matt Chapman, the A’s top pick in 2014, leads the team in homeruns with 11 despite missing the first six weeks of the season with a knee injury. Chapman homered in three straight games going into the All-Star break and he has six homeruns in 20 games thus far in June. His SLG for the month is .582. Chapman still needs to bring his K:BB numbers a little closer together (43:18), but the power has been impressive in his first full professional season.
Outfielder B.J. Boyd has put together a nice month of June thus far. The Palo Alto native is hitting .284/.377/.433 in 20 games this month. His plate discipline has improved considerably and he has more walks (10) than strike-outs (9).
Speaking of walks, first baseman John Nogowski hasn’t hit for much power in June, but he has 12 walks against only eight strike-outs in 16 games. His OBP for the month is .411 and it is .355 for the year.
Ports’ All-Star Dylan Covey has been consistently good all season and that has carried over into June. In four starts, Covey has a 2.42 ERA and a 21:4 K:BB in 22.1 innings. His WHIP for the month thus far is 1.07 and he has allowed just one homerun. Covey is a candidate to move up to Double-A during the second half of the year.
Quietly, RHP Joel Seddon has been a steady force behind Covey in the Ports’ rotation. He began the year in the bullpen, but Seddon now has 10 starts under his belt. His ERA as a starter is 4.36, but he has a 42:10 K:BB in 53.2 innings. His overall ERA for the year is 3.90 in 67 innings. In June, Seddon has a 2.35 ERA and a 16:5 K:BB in 23 innings. He has yet to allow a homer this month.
Closer Brendan McCurry has put together an outstanding first full season thus far for the Ports. In 32.2 innings, McCurry has a 2.76 ERA and 12 saves in 13 chances. He has 38 strike-outs against nine walks and has allowed only three homeruns. His GO/AO is 1.10 for the year. In June, he has allowed just one run in 8.2 innings.
RHP Corey Walter leads all Ports’ relievers with a 1.86 ERA on the season. In June, the West Virginia alum has allowed just two hits in eight scoreless innings. He has struck-out 10 and walked one over that span.
Since coming off of the disabled list early in the month, RHP Ben Bracewell has pitched effectively out of the bullpen for Stockton. The Mississippi State alum has allowed just two runs in 9.2 innings. He has struck-out 13 and walked one this month.