It was a year of parity in the New York-Penn League, where the majority of the teams were grouped within a few wins of 35. The Vermont Lake Monsters finished last in the Stedler Division with a 33-42 record, but only four wins separated them from second place.
The Lake Monsters were much better at home (19-20) than they were on the road (14-22) and they fared best when playing outside of their division. The team was comprised of a mix of 2015 draft picks and players with a year or two of professional experience. At 20.7 years old on average, the Lake Monsters were the fifth-youngest team in the 14-team league.
Despite a hot start at the plate, Vermont finished in the bottom half of the league in team OPS (668), but they did lead the league in homers with 39. They were also fifth in the league in walks (247) and were in the middle of the pack in strike-outs (551). Vermont averaged 4.21 runs per game.
On the mound, the Lake Monsters finished with the second-highest team ERA in the league at 4.15. They did have six shutouts, good for a tie for third-best in the league. Vermont pitchers struck-out 519 (third-least) and walked 237 (sixth-most) in 652 innings pitched. They allowed the fourth-most homers (31), but finished with the fewest hit-by-pitches (32). Defensively, the young Lake Monsters committed the second-most errors in the league (126).
The Lake Monters’ top position player was outfielder Seth Brown (pictured above), who was a mid-season All-Star and he won the team’s annual Tom Racine MVP award. Brown finished 11th in the league in OPS (787). Vermont’s top pitcher was right-hander Bubba Derby, who had an 0.78 ERA in 34.2 innings. He didn’t qualify for the ERA title because he didn’t have the minimum required number of innings, but Derby would have breezed past the league-leader had he qualified (the ERA title winner had a 2.23 ERA).
Only hitters with at least 100 at-bats were considered for this article
Seth Brown was a star for the Lake Monsters from almost day one of the season. The Lewis-Clark State alum joined the team on June 22 and collected his first hit – a triple – that night. He hit .500 in June and then posted a .320/.398/.456 line in July. Brown’s numbers slipped some in August (.271/.325/.402), but he still had a solid month. For the season, Brown collected 25 extra-base hits, three of which were homers. He had huge homer numbers in college and could upgrade some of those doubles and triples to homers with a little more seasoning. Brown also flashed a strong glove at all three outfield positions and even chipped in at first base when needed.
Regular first baseman Chris Iriart finished tied for second in the league in RBI with 45. He tied for the Vermont team lead in homers with five and was second behind Brown in doubles with 18. Like Brown, Iriart has a strong collegiate background in hitting for power and he figures to increase his power totals as he gets more acclimated to pro pitching and wood bats. Iriart led the team in strike-outs with 86, and that kept him from hitting for a higher average (.230). Iriart was an ironman for the Lake Monsters, leading the team with 69 games played.
Infielder Trace Loehr finished tied for second on the team in games played with 67. The 2014 sixth-round pick didn’t hit for a lot of power (.319 SLG), but he did an above-average job of hitting for average (.264) and getting on-base (.325) relative to the league. Loehr collected only five hits in 30 at-bats to start the season, but he hit .277 after that. All of his extra-base hits came after that first 30 at-bats, as well. The left-handed hitter batted .302 against southpaws and .251 versus righties, although all but one of his extra-base hits came against right-handed pitchers. Loehr split most of his time between second base and third base, but he did play six games at shortstop.
Like Loehr, Steven Pallares split his playing time between three positions. In Pallares’ case, those positions were in the outfield. He played 25 games in left, 20 in center and 16 in right. Pallares’ plate discipline during his pro debut season was impressive. He led the Lake Monsters with 40 walks, a total that was good for third in the league. His .363 OBP was tops on the team among those who appeared in more than 30 games. Pallares didn’t strike-out until his ninth game of the season and he finished the year with fewer strike-outs (39) than walks. Not surprisingly, he spent the bulk of the season hitting out of the first two spots in the line-up. His overall line was .246/.363/.317. The right-handed hitter excelled versus lefties. He hit .321/.441/.375 against southpaws and only .223/.339/.299 against righties.
On the opposite end of the plate discipline spectrum was young middle infield prospect Jesus Lopez. The 18-year-old was the youngest player on the Vermont roster and he struggled against the older competition. He struck-out 40 times in 202 official at-bats and he walked just six times. That is in contrast to his 2014 season, when he had 19 walks and 29 strike-outs in 136 official at-bats in the Arizona Rookie League. Lopez, who is still looking for his first career homerun, hit .203/.233/.228 for Vermont. He spent the majority of his playing time on defense at second base (40 games) and he committed 24 errors in 206 total chances. Lopez also got 11 games at short and had two errors in 54 total chances. The switch-hitter from Nicaragua has plenty of talent but is still a work-in-progress.
The Lake Monsters’ primary shortstop was A’s 2015 first-round pick Richie Martin. Martin joined the Vermont roster on July 2nd, days after officially signing with the A’s. Martin’s college season ran long, as the Florida Gators reached the College World Series this June. Martin came out of the gates blazing, collecting 10 hits in his first 19 at-bats, including a homer, a triple and a double. Martin’s production slipped towards the end of the season. He also missed a few games with a minor injury. His overall line was .237/.353/.342.
Martin’s plate discipline remained solid even when he was struggling. He finished the year with 25 walks in 190 official plate appearances. He did strike-out 47 times, however. Martin was seven-for-14 in stolen bases. He has the speed to be a significant threat on the bases and will be working on his jumps and reads this fall. The right-handed hitter batted .302/.318/.488 against lefties and .218/.361/.299 versus righties. Defensively, Martin impressed with his range, athleticism and arm strength, but he did commit 12 errors in 231 chances. He had the best range factor (4.76) of any of the Lake Monsters’ regular shortstops.
Mikey White (second round) and Skye Bolt (fourth round) were the two other top-five round position player draft picks that spent a significant amount of time with the Lake Monsters. White spent the first half of his pro debut with Vermont and was promoted to Low-A Beloit in late July when the A’s moved Yairo Munoz to High-A Stockton. White left a lasting impression in the New York-Penn League and may have won the league’s MVP award had he spent the whole season there. In 111 at-bats, he hit .315/.405/.459 with 12 extra-base hits and 14 walks. The right-handed hitter batted .346 versus lefties and .306 versus righties. He also hit .391 with runners in scoring position. Mostly a shortstop in college, White played 13 games at short, 11 games at third and one at second with Vermont.
Bolt spent his entire pro debut with the Lake Monsters, but an injury kept Bolt off of the field from June 30 to July 11. Bolt was up-and-down after returning from the injury, but he finished his season on an up note. Over his last 10 games, he hit .382. Bolt finished his pro debut with a .238/.325/.381 line in 52 games. He walked 24 times and had 16 extra-base hits. Bolt’s four homers were third best on the team. On defense, Bolt primarily played centerfield (31 games), but he also played 13 games in right and two in left. He has the speed and arm strength to stay in center long-term.
Brett Siddall split his time between right field and left field during his pro debut, but it was his bat that made the biggest impact. After a scalding hot stint in Arizona (999 OPS and 10 extra base hits in 19 games), Siddall joined the Lake Monsters on July 23. He homered in his first at-bat and was one of Vermont’s most productive hitters down-the-stretch. He finished particularly strong, hitting .343 with 10 RBI and two homers over his last 10 games. Despite only appearing in 43 games for Vermont, Siddall finished tied for third on the team in homers with four. In total, he hit .264/.324/.421 in 159 official at-bats for the Lake Monsters. The left-handed hitter fared better versus righties than lefties and he hit .340 with runners in scoring position.
Ryan Howell finished his pro debut tied for the Vermont team lead in homers with five. The East Bay native struggled in the other areas of his game, however. He struck-out 42 times in 199 official at-bats and posted a .199/.278/.337 line in 49 games. Howell also struggled defensively, committing 16 errors in 29 games at third and 19 errors in 46 games in total. Howell saw time in the outfield towards the end of the season and that may be where he ends up defensively in the long run. Offensively, Howell has the ability to make an impact with his power, but he will need to make more consistent contact in the coming seasons.
Thanks to an injury to Jordan Devencenzi that limited him to just 10 games behind the plate, Nick Collins got the vast majority of the starts for Vermont before an injury ended his season a little early. Collins was a mid-season New York-Penn League All-Star for Vermont. He earned a reputation as a solid receiver in his 31 games behind the plate. At the plate, he showed excellent plate discipline and a high contact rate. He struck-out just 14 times in 117 official at-bats and he walked 13 times. His overall line was .256/.333/.325 in 34 games.
With 16 games behind the plate, Seong-Min Kim logged the second-most playing time at catcher for the Lake Monsters. He also played two games at first base and 13 as the DH. Kim appeared in 30 games with Vermont in 2014. He hit only .192 with a 576 OPS for the Lake Monsters last season. He saw a small increase in production in 2015, batting .200/.274/.355 with four homers in 110 at-bats. Kim, the A’s first amateur free agent signing out of South Korea, was limited by injuries during his first two seasons in the A’s organization. He has been relatively healthy the last two years and the 2016 campaign figures to be a make-or-break season for the 22-year-old.
Only pitchers with more than 10 innings thrown for Vermont were considered for this article
The A’s signed 16 pitchers out of the college ranks from their 2015 draft class and the majority of those pitchers spent most of their pro debut seasons with the Lake Monsters. Because so many of those pitchers had heavy workloads during their college seasons, most were limited to two-or-three inning outings, even if they were starters. Consequently, the Lake Monsters only had one pitcher reach the 50-inning plateau.
Although limited to just 34.2 innings, Bubba Derby had the most significant impact of any pitcher on the Lake Monsters’ staff. The right-hander dominated the New York-Penn League, allowing just three earned runs (four total) on 19 hits. He struck-out 45, walked 10 and didn’t hit a batter. His WHIP was 0.84. Derby’s change-up was a devastatingly effective pitch with Vermont. Despite the low innings total, Derby was a starter in eight of his 12 outings and he should be stretched out as a starter next season, as well.
Right-hander Dustin Driver led the Lake Monsters in innings pitched with 52.1. The A’s 2013 seventh-round pick missed nearly all of last season with a back injury, but he was healthy in 2015. He had a short stint with Low-A Beloit before settling into the Lake Monsters’ rotation at the start of the New York-Penn League season. Driver was brilliant at times, but he was inconsistent. He had a 4.99 ERA and he walked (35) more than he struck-out (32). His GO/AO was solid (1.57) and he allowed just four homeruns. Driver’s fastball touched 97 this season and he sat comfortably at 93-95. His change-up showed promise and he had good sinking action on the two-seam fastball. Driver’s command was inconsistent and he will continue to work on honing that command going into next season. Although the raw numbers weren’t great, Driver has plenty to build off of for next season.
Jon Massad made only nine appearances (eight starts) with Vermont before earning a promotion to Low-A Beloit, but he had an impact during his time with the team. He finished second on the Lake Monsters with 49 innings pitched and posted a 3.86 ERA. His command was excellent, and he walked just 10 while striking out 31. Massad’s command has always been solid since he turned pro in 2013. He has walked just 26 in 118 career innings.
Like Massad, Kevin Ferreras got his feet wet with Vermont in 2014 and returned to the Lake Monsters in 2015. Also like Massad, Ferreras experienced considerably more success with the Lake Monsters in 2015. Although he only had three official starts, Ferreras was essentially a starter for the Lake Monsters, as he averaged nearly 3.1 innings per outing. He had a 2.66 ERA in 47.1 innings, although he did allow seven unearned runs. The left-hander struck-out 37, walked 14 and he didn’t allow a homerun. Righties hit .231 against Ferreras, while lefties hit .230.
Right-hander Corey Miller also experienced a rebound season after returning to the Lake Monsters in 2015. The A’s 2014 10th-round pick had a 4.65 ERA for Vermont last season, but he lowered that number to 2.91 in 46 innings in 2015. He located well for the Lake Monsters this season, walking just nine and allowing only one homerun. Miller’s time with Vermont was a significant improvement over his stint with Beloit earlier in the season when he walked 15 in 33.2 innings.
A pair of left-handers checked in with exactly 38.2 innings pitched for Vermont in 2015: Chris Kohler and Evan Manarino. Kohler, like Driver, missed the entire 2014 season thanks to injury (in Kohler’s case, it was the elbow). The A’s were cautious with Kohler this season, building him up gradually in extended spring training before sending him to Vermont on June 23. The 20-year-old would miss time later in the season with a hamstring injury, but his arm remained sound throughout the year. Kohler was a little inconsistent in terms of runs allowed per outing, vacillating from dominating outings to ones where he gave up hits in bunches. However, his peripherals remained solid (37:10 K:BB, 2 HR allowed). Kohler’s velocity isn’t where it was before the elbow injury and his curveball isn’t as consistent, but this season should give him a building block for a jump to full-season ball in 2016.
Manarino got off to a fast start in his pro debut season with the Lake Monsters. Through July 24, he had allowed five earned runs over 17 innings. He struggled some after that and finished with a 5.59 ERA. Like Kohler, Manarino has a good feel for pitching and he commanded the strike-zone well. Manarino walked just six and he allowed only two homeruns. He struck-out 28. Lefties hit .244 against him, while right-handers batted .313.
Right-hander Kyle Friedrichs had a breakout senior season at Cal-State, Long Beach before being drafted by the A’s in the seventh round. Friedrichs threw 36 innings in his pro debut. He had a 4.50 ERA, although 10 of the 18 earned runs he allowed came in the span of two outings stretching just 3.1 innings. Friedrichs’ command was a little shaky at times, as he walked 13. However, he had a 1.22 GO/AO and he allowed two homeruns.
Heath Bowers was consistently solid for the Lake Monsters in his pro debut season. The right-hander had a 2.51 ERA as a starter and a 2.53 ERA as a reliever. His pre-All Star break ERA was 2.96 and he managed a 1.59 mark after the break. He allowed just one homerun and held opposing batters to a .213 average on the season. Bowers struck-out nearly a batter an inning (31 in 35.2 innings), but he did walk 16. Bowers’ extreme groundball tendencies helped him work around the walks, however. Of the balls that were hit into play against Bowers, 59.4% of them were hit on the ground.
Right-hander James Naile was another groundball pitcher for the Lake Monsters. Serving as a reliever, Naile had a 1.93 ERA in 23.1 innings. He struck-out 17 and walked six (one was intentional), but he had a 53% groundball rate on balls hit into play. Naile induced five groundball double-plays and two forceouts. He saved six games in eight opportunities and went 3-0 while most often pitching in the late innings. Naile adopted Derby’s change-up grip during the season and was able to use the pitch effectively.
Angel Duno wasn’t a groundball pitcher with the Lake Monsters (although he has had groundball tendencies in the past), but the right-hander was the Vermont pitcher most consistently in the strike-zone in 2015. The 21-year-old began the year with the AZL A’s and earned a promotion to short-season after posting a 2.93 ERA and a 35:3 K:BB in 40 innings. Duno’s ERA jumped up with the Lake Monsters, but his command of the strike-zone stayed the same. In 29 innings, he walked only one while striking out 18. Duno had a 5.59 ERA thanks to a .333 BAA, however. Duno has promising stuff and with his ability to command the baseball, he should improve his swing-and-miss rate as he learns where to spot the ball within the strike-zone.
Lefty Tyler Painton was another Vermont pitcher who filled up the strike-zone. Pitching exclusively as a reliever, Painton had a 5.06 ERA in 32 innings, but his walk-rate was an excellent 1.68 per nine innings. He held lefties to a .158 average and didn’t allow a walk to a left-handed batter all season.
Derek Beasley, Kevin Duchene and Andrew Tomasovich were the other left-handers on the Lake Monsters’ staff. Beasley made his Vermont debut this year after pitching for the AZL A’s in his pro debut in 2014. He struck-out more than a batter an inning (29 in 27.2 innings) this season, but he did walk 13. Beasley had a 2.93 ERA and he held opposing batters to a .229 average with Vermont. Despite being a flyball pitcher (62% of balls hit into play against him were flyballs, line-drives or pop-ups), Beasley allowed just one homerun.
Duchene was the highest A’s 2015 draft pick on the Vermont staff. The fifth-rounder had a heavy workload this season at Illinois and he didn’t pitch again after an August 11th outing. He threw three innings in the Arizona Rookie League before joining the Lake Monsters in early July. He finished his stint with Vermont with a 4.84 ERA in 22.1 innings. Known for his command in college, Duchene walked an uncharacteristic nine with the Lake Monsters. He struck-out 18. Lefties hit only .176 against him, while righties batted .283. Duchene did deal with a forearm strain in 2014 with Illinois, but he wasn't injured this year when the A's shut him down. The A's felt Duchene had thrown enough innings for 2015 between college and his pro debut.
Tomasovich had a heavy workload in college before going to the A’s in the draft, so he pitched exclusively in a relief role for Vermont. After 3.2 innings with the A’s Rookie League team, Tomasovich threw 20.1 innings over 12 appearances with the Lake Monsters. He started off shaky, allowing four earned runs and walking three over his first three innings with Vermont. After that, he allowed only one run over his final 17.1 innings. He struck-out 15 and walked four during that stretch. Tomasovich held opposing batters to a .192 average and his WHIP was 1.03.
Right-hander Ryan Gorton joined the Lake Monsters midway through the season, but he had a positive impact on the Vermont bullpen. Gorton, a converted catcher pitching full-time for the first time as a pro, made eight appearances for Vermont, most coming late in games. He converted three of four save opportunities and posted a 3.00 ERA. Gorton struck-out 12 and walked four in 12 innings with Vermont. He jumped up to Low-A Beloit for the final 10 days of the season and added six shut-out innings for the Snappers.
Like Gorton (who had reached High-A as a catcher), Derek De Young returned to short-season ball after having played a year with a full-season affiliate. In De Young’s case, his return to short-season was injury-related. The right-hander missed the entire 2014 season after injuring his elbow during spring training. He had Tommy John surgery on the elbow that April. De Young’s 2015 was all about staying healthy and getting back into the rhythm of pitching. He was wild at times (not unusual for players working back from Tommy John), but he remained healthy and was effective despite walking 12 in 11.2 innings. De Young posted a 3.86 ERA and he struck-out 11. Opposing batters hit only .182 against him.
John Gorman, Cody Kurz and Jared Lyons all logged between 18 and 20 innings out of the Vermont bullpen. Gorman, 2015 31st round pick, allowed four runs in one inning in his last outing of the year. That raised his ERA from 3.63 to 5.40. Eight of Gorman’s 13 walks came in his first seven innings (and three of those were intentional). He walked five (one intentional) over his final 11.1 innings and he struck-out 16 over that span.
Command was an issue for Kurz in his first season above Rookie ball, although he showed improved command as the season went on before a four-walk, two-inning final performance. The right-hander had an 8.24 ERA in 19.2 innings. He struck-out 16 and allowed two homeruns. Opposing batters hit .321 against him.
Lyons had a pro debut he’d like to forget. The A’s 2015 ninth-round pick never got it going with Vermont. The left-hander allowed 32 hits and seven walks in 14.2 innings. He finished with a 12.27 ERA. Lyons did strike-out 15, however.