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Midland Notebook: Second-half RockHounds back

The second half of the Texas League season has meant only one thing the past three years: Midland RockHounds dominance. We have news and notes on the Oakland A's Double-A squad.

Overview

The past two seasons, the Midland RockHounds have parlayed red-hot second halves into Texas League titles. Midland’s second-half magic has returned in 2016, as the RockHounds have posted a 34-16 record and currently hold an eight game lead for the second-half division title. Midland’s overall record is 67-53, good for third-best in the Texas League. They are four games back of Corpus Christi for the best overall record in the Texas League South division and hold a 10.5 game lead over third-place Frisco.

The Midland offense has been a big part of the RockHounds’ success this season. With a team OPS of 722, Midland ranks second in the league in that category. The ‘Hounds are first in team OBP (.332) and third in slugging (.390). Midland is second in walks and first in runs scored. The RockHounds also ranks among the best in the league in triples (third), doubles (first), hits (first) and stolen bases (fourth). Despite having the league’s leader in homeruns, Midland is only tied for fourth in homeruns.

Despite a shifting personnel set, the RockHounds’ pitching staff has also been excellent this season. Midland currently ranks second in the league in team ERA with a 3.43 mark. The RockHounds have thrown 12 shutouts, tied for second most in the league, and have allowed the second-fewest homeruns. Their 1.24 staff WHIP is tied for best in the league. The Midland staff has been effective despite not missing a ton of bats; they rank last in the league in strike-outs.

After an off-day today, the RockHounds begin a six-game homestand with two three-game series versus Tulsa and Springfield. Midland will then head to Corpus Christi for a big four-game series next Tuesday.

Comings and Goings

The transactions have been plentiful since late July. On July 20 and 21, the RockHounds lost two-thirds of their starting rotation when Raul Alcantara and Chris Jensen earned promotions to Triple-A Nashville. Replacing them in the rotation were Heath Fillmyer (up from Stockton) and Brandon Mann (down from a spot start in Nashville). The RockHounds also lost veteran catcher Bryan Anderson to a promotion to Triple-A on July 15. The RockHounds’ bullpen received a boost from Stockton in late July with the promotion of hard-throwing right-hander Lou Trivino.

On August 8, the RockHounds lost closer Bobby Wahl to a promotion to Nashville. He was replaced in the bullpen by Kris Hall, who completed a rehab from sciatica and re-joined Midland after a nearly two-month absence. Utilityman Josh Rodriguez also moved up to Nashville. He was replaced by utilityman Joe Bennie, who arrived in Midland with a .302/.376/.449 line in Stockton.

Who’s Hot

It has been a season of extremes for third baseman Matt Chapman, but he has been streaking in a good way for most of the second half of the season. The A’s 2014 first-round pick leads the Texas League in homeruns with 29 and he has hit .265/.352/.619 in 49 second-half games. Chapman is second in the league in OPS (856), first in slugging (.521), first in runs scored (78), fifth in doubles, first in RBI (83) and third in walks (59). He also leads in the league in strike-outs (147). Chapman earned Texas League Player of the Week honors on Monday. He homered three times last week and drove home eight runs.

Although he has cooled some lately, infielder Franklin Barreto is also having a strong second half. He is batting .329/.391/.493 in 38 second-half games. Barreto is currently riding a four-game hitting streak. With one more homer, Barreto will be in double-digits in homeruns, doubles and stolen bases for the second straight year. He has also upped his walk rate from 4.1% in 2015 to 7.4% in 2016 while maintaining the same strike-out rate (18.3%). His defensive numbers have improved considerably over last year, as well, as he has cut his error rate by more than half while learning a new position (second base) and improving at his old position (shortstop). 

Catcher Beau Taylor hasn’t received a lot of headlines this season, but he has improved considerably at the plate with Midland in 2016. He is batting .280/.385/.405 in 82 games for the RockHounds after struggling at the plate for most of the past three years in the Texas League. Taylor is batting .324 over his last 10 games. He also continues to be one of the best defensive catchers in the A’s system. 

Outfielder Tyler Marincov has also quietly put together a strong second half. He is batting .284/.368/.426 during the second half. Marincov, who has never walked a lot in his pro career, has 26 walks in 50 second-half games. He has 18 homers and 84 RBI on the year between Stockton and Midland.

Backup catcher Andy Paz hasn’t received a lot of consistent playing time, but he has contributed positively when he has been in the line-up. The native of Cuba is batting .467 over his last 10 games and .312 with a .379 OBP in 31 games for Midland this season. The 23-year-old has also been solid behind the plate.

Right-hander Daniel Gossett has had a smooth transition to Double-A since joining the RockHounds from Stockton in late May. In 14 starts for Midland, Gossett has a 2.67 ERA and 77 strike-outs in 81 innings. Over his last 10 starts, Gossett has a 2.43 ERA and 54 strike-outs in 59.1 innings. He has failed to make it into the sixth inning just twice over that span.

Right-hander Heath Fillmyer also joined the Midland rotation from Stockton. Fillmyer made his Midland debut on July 21 and has been remarkably consistent since the promotion. Limited to five innings a start to keep his innings down, Fillmyer has gone exactly five innings and has allowed two runs or fewer in every start. He has a 22:3 K:BB in 25 Texas League innings and a 2.16 ERA.

Joel Seddon got off to a very rough start this season, but the right-hander has been one of the top starters in the Texas League since late June. Over his last 10 starts, Seddon has a 1.99 ERA in 63.1 innings. He has lowered his season ERA from 7.48 to 4.75 over that stretch. In 121.1 innings this season, Seddon has allowed just 11 homeruns and 10 of those came during the first half of the season.

After starting most of the season, Corey Walter has moved back into a swingman role to keep his innings around 100 for the season. He has been excellent in whatever role the A’s have given him with Midland this season. Over his last 10 outings, Walter has a 1.64 ERA in 33 innings. He has walked just four during those 10 outings and 14 over 90 innings for the year. Walter has a 2.20 ERA and a 2.93 GO/AO in his first season at the Double-A level.

Like Seddon, Sam Bragg got off to a horrendous start to his season. Bragg, who was Seddon’s tandem starter partner early in the year, returned to a more familiar relief role midway through the season and has pitched much better ever since. Over his last 10 appearances, he has allowed just three earned runs in 16.1 innings. He has struck-out 17 and walked just three in that time and has lowered his ERA nearly 1.5 runs.

Andres Avila and Ben Bracewell have pitched well for Midland for most of the year, and that success has continued in the second half. Avila has a 2.36 ERA and 70 strike-outs in 61 innings this season. He has a 1.47 ERA over his last 10 appearances (18.1 innings). Bracewell has allowed just four runs over his last 37 innings and he has a miniscule 1.45 ERA in 74.1 Texas League innings this season. The undrafted free agent signing is holding Texas League batters to a .211 average and he has allowed just three homeruns.

Trey Cochran-Gill worked through a dead arm period in May, but he has been lights-out since the start of June. He has posted ERAs of 0.73, 0.77 and 1.29 (thus far) in June, July and August, respectively. His velocity has returned to the levels the A’s saw him at last season when he was in the Mariners’ chain.

Velocity has never been an issue for Kyle Finnegan, but he has really been able to let it loose since moving to the bullpen. With a heater clocked in the high-90s, Finnegan has been a dominant reliever for Midland of late. He has an 0.73 ERA and 18 strike-outs over his last 12 innings and a 2.12 ERA in 34 Texas League innings. Texas League batters are hitting .199 against him.

Jake Sanchez has also played an important role in the Midland bullpen. He has seven saves this season and a 3.07 ERA in 55.2 innings this season. Sanchez is striking out more than a batter an inning this year and he has a 1.40 GO/AO.

Before his promotion to Nashville, Midland closer Bobby Wahl was breezing through the Texas League. Since the start of June, Wahl allowed just one earned run in 22 innings. He struck-out 30 and walked nine during that stretch and allowed just nine hits. Wahl converted 10 of 11 save opportunities and leads the RockHounds in saves this season. He has four strike-outs over three scoreless innings to start his Triple-A career. Wahl is a solid bet to make his major-league debut this September.


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