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Minor League Player Notebook: August 2, 2004

<b>This is a free preview of premium content.</b><br> The River Cats are playing "Moneyball" to a tee, and are winning, the RockHounds are trying to salvage their rotation, Omar Quintanilla is surprising his critics and more in this week's edition of <i>Minor League Player Notebook</i>...

Sacramento – The River Cats lineup features the 5 players on top of the walks category. Swisher leads the way with 85 (.414 OBP), Dan Johnson 65 (.411), Mike Rose 64 (.425), Mike Edwards 58 (.387), Graham Koonce 54 (.360).

And for issuing walks? The pitching staff has allowed just 269 walks this year – less than half the 569 walks that it drew. Is there any wonder why they have the best winning percentage of the 16 teams in the Pacific Coast League?

Jairo Garcia joined Sacramento this past week. As I mentioned on my website, I have learned that this is basically an audition for him; if he does well he will come up in September. Ok, so we all know Garcia is good, but just how unhittable is he? His strikeout/hit ratio for the season (combined stats at all levels) is 2.87. Yes, you are almost three times as likely to strike out as you are to get a hit. The best in the Major Leagues? Eric Gagne at 2.88.

Midland – Midland's starting rotation started off very promising, but as the season wore on, things changed. Three of the top four starters were either promoted or injured, leaving just the 3rd and 5th starter from the beginning of the year. Opening day starter Mike Ziegler was promoted to Sacramento in late June; Shawn Komine went down with an inflamed elbow in early July and is out for the season; and Ben Fritz was sidelined with elbow tendonitis just a few weeks ago (medical tests aren't in yet).

Brad Weis and Drew Dickinson are the two left from the opening day starting rotation. Weis is 4-10 with a 6.73 ERA, and Dickinson is 5-10 with a 5.17 ERA.

Shane Bazzell was one of the new bright spots in the Midland pitching staff. He had a 2.08 ERA as a reliever, and has had success since moving into a starting role, as well. He has gone 3-2 with a 2.82 ERA in 6 starts since moving to the starting rotation. Steve Smyth was signed a few months ago to be a much needed lefty in the Midland bullpen, but he has recently been moved into the rotation. Smyth has seen some time with the Cubs in 2002, making 7 starts.

The most recent addition is Steve Bondurant. Bondurant was a 15th round selection in 2003 out of the University of South Carolina. In his 14 games in Vancouver last year he had a 3.57 ERA with a 54:20 K:BB ratio. This year with Kane County he has posted a 2.08 ERA with 132 strikeouts against 27 walks in 125 2/3 innings. He features a high 80s fastball with a very good change-up with a developing slurve. The Rockhounds hope he can help solidify the rotation down the backstretch of the season.

In his first AA start this last Sunday, Bondurant allowed just 4 base runners in 8 scoreless innings. He struck out 8 Round Rock hitters, and the one batter he walked came on the 13th pitch of the at-bat. He also made 3 great defensive plays. He gives Midland the stud pitcher they badly needed, and gives Midland hope that they will see the playoffs this year.

Modesto – Omar Quintanilla was a Moneyball-type pick in the 2003 draft. Nobody expected him to go in the first round, but Oakland selected him with their third pick, 33rd overall. Used to describe his selection were words like "stretch", "overdrafted" and "reach".

A few weeks after the draft he was assigned to Vancouver. He batted .341, but had just 9 extra-base hits in 129 at-bats (14.3 AB/XBH). He moved up to Modesto for the last week of the season and notched 15 hits in 8 games, including 2 home runs.

This year, again in Modesto, he is batting .315/.369/.465. He has a surprising 8 home runs and 41 extra-base hits in 413 at-bats (10.0 AB/XBH). His obvious deficiency is his defense. His rage is reportedly very good, but his weak arm has in part caused 25 errors in 97 games. Modesto's manager has recently said that he looks better suited as a second baseman, so he will likely fall into that role as his career rolls on. Wherever he ends up, many people – even outside the organization – think he has a real future.

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 brian_durack@hotmail.com.

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