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Stockton Ports Notebook: Season winding down

The Stockton Ports are in the final stretch of their 2016 season, and their playoff chances are dwindling. We check-in on the Oakland A's High-A affiliate.

Overview

After two straight playoff appearances, the Stockton Ports are likely going to miss the post-season in 2016. The Ports are sitting seven games out of first place in the second-half division standings and already out of the wildcard race.

The Ports finish off the regular season with a six-game set in Southern California, including a three-game set in Bakersfield. This will be the Ports’ final trip to Bakersfield. The Cal League announced on Monday that the Blaze and the High Desert Mavericks will be contracted, with those franchises moving to the Carolina League. In 2017, the Cal League will become an eight-team, one-division league.

Offensively, the Ports have been in the middle of the Cal League pack this season with a team OPS of 733, good for fifth-best in the (currently) 10-team league. Stockton has scored the sixth-most runs and is fifth in the league in team batting. The Ports are third in OBP and sixth in SLG. They are also third in walks and sixth in homers. Stockton has swung-and-missed quite a bit this season and the Ports are second in the league in strike-outs.

Pitching has been an issue for the Ports for parts of this season, and that is reflected in the team’s 4.63 ERA, third highest in the league. The team WHIP of 1.46 is the second highest in the league. Stockton pitchers have struck-out the second fewest in the league and have allowed the third-most homeruns. The Ports are tied for third fewest in walks, however.

After the Ports finish their six-game roadtrip, Stockton returns home to finish off the regular season August 30-September 5.

Comings and Goings

Four significant promotions highlight the recent transactions for the Stockton Ports. On August 9, utilityman Joe Bennie earned a promotion to Double-A Midland. He hit .302 with 11 homers in 111 games for the Ports. Then on August 17, the A’s promoted outfielder James Harris to Midland. Harris left the Ports with a .303/.379/.423 line.

Stockton lost two more productive players on August 22, when the A's promoted outfielder B.J. Boyd and reliever Carlos Navas to Triple-A Nashville. Boyd hit .288 with a .346 OBP in 101 games for Stockton this season. Navas struck-out 67 and had a 4.08 ERA in 53 innings for the Ports. He had struck-out 18 over his last 13 innings.

The Ports added first baseman Chris Iriart on August 16 to help defray the loss of Harris and Bennie in the line-up. Iriart missed a month after being beaned in the face, but, when healthy, he was one of the most prolific sluggers in the Midwest League. He homered 16 times in 79 games for the Beloit Snappers. Iriart has a chance to reach the 20-homer plateau for the season in under 100 games played.

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Replacing Boyd and Navas were outfielder Justin Higley and reliever Jared Lyons, both up from Beloit. Higley hit six homers and stole 18 bases for the Snappers, while Lyons had a 1.72 ERA and 61 strike-outs in 52.1 innings.

Stockton had a pair of significant additions to their pitching staff, as well. On August 2, the A’s added top prospect Grant Holmes to the Stockton rotation. Holmes joined the A’s in the deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers that sent Josh Reddick and Rich Hill to LA. Holmes took Michael Murray’s spot in the Ports’ rotation, as Murray headed back to Beloit. On August 2, the Ports also added left-hander Evan Manarino from the Beloit rotation. A Midwest League All-Star this season, Manarino posted a 2.15 ERA in 121.2 innings with Beloit. He has continued to pitch well since the promotion (more on that later). 

Who’s Hot

It hasn’t been an easy season for right-hander Brett Graves, but the A’s 2014 third-round pick has been terrific for the past two months. In his last 10 starts, Graves has a 2.95 ERA and a 35:8 K:BB in 55 innings. He hasn’t allowed more than two runs in a start since July 22 and has lowered his ERA a full run since the end of June.

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Shortstop Richie Martin has had a similarly frustrating season, but he has been in a good grove lately. Over his last 10 games, Martin 13 hits and six walks in 33 official at-bats. During the streak, he has upped his season average from .201 to .224. His August in general has been solid, as he has posted a .296/.398/.493 line, by far his best month of the season.

Third baseman Jose Brizuela carried a solid July into a red-hot August, powering the Stockton offense with nine homeruns in 34 games since the All-Star break. He has a 1131 OPS for August and a 1017 OPS for the second half of the season. His 14 homeruns are second-most on the team.

Reliever Cody Stull has quietly put together a standout season for the Ports. The lefty has a 1.51 ERA with 61 strike-outs and only 11 walks in 53.2 innings this season. Over his last 15.2 innings, he has struck-out 17 and has a 1.15 ERA. He has also converted four saves. Cal League batters are hitting .238 versus Stull this year.

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Left-hander Evan Manarino was one of the top starting pitchers in the Midwest League this season, but he didn’t receive an opportunity in the Cal League until the start of August. Since joining the Ports, Manarino has been a “tandem-starter”, meaning that his innings have been limited and he has often come in as a reliever. This will keep Manarino’s innings down as he exceeds 140 in his first full professional season. Manarino has handled the jump in levels well. In 15.1 innings over four appearances, he has allowed three earned runs. He has a 10:5 K:BB. Manarino’s ERA for the season is 2.10 in 137 innings.

Right-hander James Naile joined the Ports’ rotation from Beloit in late July. He has been a bit of a nomad this season, spending much of the year with the Snappers, but also spending time with Nashville and Midland. Since joining the Ports, Naile has been a solid member of the rotation. He has struck-out more than a batter an inning (35 in 31.2 innings) while walking just 10. His ERA is 4.26 in those six Cal League starts, but he has allowed more than three earned runs in just one start. He has a 3.47 ERA and a 112:36 K:BB in 142.2 innings this season.

It took until August 15, but Casey Meisner finally got into the win column for the Ports. He was 0-12 going into that appearance, which was a 4.2-inning relief appearance during which he allowed just one hit. Meisner has thrown the ball much better over his last two months. He had a 3.18 ERA and a 20:5 K:BB in July. His ERA in August is 4.42 after a poor outing over the weekend, but he has a 20:6 K:BB in 18.1 innings. His strike-out rate is way up during the second half of the season and he has cut his walk rate almost in half as compared to the first half.


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