Sacramento River Cats
When Ramon Castro got called up to Oakland, there were quite a few people - both on and off the field - upset about it. Adam Morrissey was having the best season of his career, and had just tied the Sacramento River Cat record for consecutive games with a hit. Many thought Morrissey should have gone up instead of Castro (who has had 14 at-bats in about a month with Oakland), but Oakland wanted Castro for his defensive abilities, not for his bat.
In the month since Morrissey's hitting streak and Castro's call-up, Morrissey has seen his .361 average (second best in the PCL) fall to .305 (35th in the PCL). Perhaps the snub messed with his head, or perhaps it's just your normal slump. His numbers had been way down since coming over from the Cubs system in 2002, but are rebounding this season.
Baseball Prospectus 2004 said about Morrissey, "If he can hit .290./.400/.500 in the Texas League, he'll be back on the horse". He has indeed matched those numbers, but did it in Sacramento instead of Midland. He hit just five home runs last year in Midland, and has eight so far this year in Sacramento. Morrissey is just 23 and will have these kinds of slumps. There is no reason to be down on him because of a bad month. If he keeps improving his glove and sustains his power numbers, he should get consideration next spring.
Jeremy Brown's first half was not the step forward he was looking for. His average was down, his on-base was down, and he was losing playing time to John Baker. He has been battling back, and the second half is expected to be his real test. This off-season he worked on his flexibility, but still needs to be able to block balls in the dirt better than he has been. His real strength has been excellent game-calling and on-field management.
Brown has been hot lately, and we may already be seeing his rebound. Until recently he had at least two hits in seven of nine games. He has continued to draw walks very well, but needs to move his power numbers up. The second half will be telling for Brown, so don't close the book on him yet.
Jason Perry wasn't playing well in Midland, so he was sent down to Modesto. Midland was the highest level he had ever played at, and being sent down was surely a big disappointment. Instead of getting frustrated, he responded by putting up a .349/.460/.713 line in 129 at-bats for Modesto. He took over the hole in their line-up that Brant Colamarino's promotion had created. He has also posted a very impressive ISO power of .364 this year.
Perry is a corner outfielder and will need to increase his power if he wants to play in the majors. He has averaged a home run every 13 at-bats this year. That is the highest frequency of anyone in the system with at least 100 at-bats. His play this year should be taken with a grain of salt, though. Last year his home run frequency was nearly a quarter of what it was this year, with four home runs in 190 at-bats in Modesto. Is his strong play an aberration, or has his game really improved this much?
Kane County Cougars
The Cougars' triumvirate of Brad Knox, Steven Bondurant and Chris Dunwell has a combined record of 31-11 with 340 strikeouts against 57 walks. The three are in the top 10 in early every pitching category in the Midwest League. They have led the Cougars to a first half division title, and are contending again in the second half.
Brad Knox is the leader of the staff with his 1.83 ERA. His K:BB of 120:15 is really turning heads. He hasn't allowed an earned run in his last three starts, and has allowed just two walks in those three games. Knox has four games with 10+ strikeouts so far this year and is averaging more than a strikeout per inning.
Steve Bondurant was the first player in all of baseball to get ten wins. He has come from out of nowhere this year. He was a 15th round pick in 2003, and put up mediocre numbers in short-season Vancouver last year. Earlier this year he had a game with 14 strikeouts, and another with 13. After a somewhat rough start, he has put up an ERA of 1.92 since April 23.
Chris Dunwell is easily the least well known of the three. He pitched in relief last year for Kane County, but has handled the move back to starter very well. He has cut his walks per inning by more than half (from 3.54 last year to 1.45 this year), and sustained a rate of nearly a strikeout per inning. His most recent game saw him go seven scoreless innings, while allowing just four base runners and fanning seven.
Brian Durack is the owner and writer of A's Y'all, a blog on the A's minor league system. The blog can be found at http://as-yall.blogspot.com. Brian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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