John Baker (catcher)
Baker entered the AFL season with high hopes for making a big impression. He knew that the As were likely to have a spot open on the big league roster for a catcher and, with a big AFL season, that he might be considered for that spot. However, he hasnt been able to put together the big AFL season he hoped for. Baker has had to compete for playing time and has only appeared in 15 games through November 14. During that time, Baker has struggled with his batting average and has shown very little power. He is currently hitting .235 and has hit only two doubles and no homeruns. Baker has shown good patience, however, walking seven times against 11 strikeouts for a .357 OBP. On the defensive side, Baker has been decent. He committed his three errors early on in the season and hasnt committed one since.
Jeremy Brown (catcher)
Brown started the AFL season firmly behind John Baker on the As minor league catching depth chart. After a poor season at AA-Midland, Brown was also having to look over his shoulder at the As two high 2004 draft choices, Landon Powell and Kurt Suzuki. Relegated to the AFL taxi squad (meaning that he could only play on Wednesdays and Saturdays), Brown knew that he would have limited opportunities to make an impression. He has taken advantage of those opportunities. In his 11 games played, Brown has hit an even .400 with five extra-base hits and six runs scored (.760 SLG and .543 OBP). Brown has shown that trademark patience that made him a star of the book Moneyball, walking eight times while striking out only three times. Brown was dinged up during his second professional season and the injury may have lingered going into his 2004 season. His AFL play has likely cemented his promotion from AA to AAA. If Brown can continue to play at this high level for AAA-Sacramento next season, he will surpass Baker on the As depth chart.
Jason Perry (outfield)
Perry had a schizophrenic 2004 season. He struggled in his two months at AA-Midland and then was a world-beater for A-Modesto. He is old for A-ball, so he needed to prove to the As that he can compete at a high level in order for them to protect him on the 40-man roster this off-season. So far, his AFL season has produced mixed results. On the upside, Perry has shown good power, slugging .516 and averaging a homerun every 12.8 at-bats. He has also driven in 14 runs in only 19 games played. However, he has hit a mediocre .250 and has managed only a .333 OBP. Barring a huge last week of play, Perry will still end the season as a bit of an enigma. If he is either protected or not drafted in the Rule V draft, look for Perry to start the 2005 season in AA. If he gets hot early, however, he will likely be on a fast track to AAA.
Omar Quintanilla (shortstop)
Quintanilla has done the most of any of the As prospects to improve his stock with the team with his AFL performance. Quintanilla has opened a lot of eyes with his ability to spray the ball all over the field. He began the AFL season hitting in the lower half of the Phoenix Desert Dogs line-up, but has been hitting in the top two slots lately. Omar has shown good gap power, hitting two triples and eight doubles, and has driven in 16 runs in only 23 games. Quintanilla has walked five times and struck out five times and has a .424 OBP to go with his .393 BA. His defense, which was a huge question mark coming into the AFL season, has been better then expected. He has five errors on the season; however, four of those were in the first week and a half of the AFL season. He has shown good range and soft hands. Although his throwing arm is still suspect, his range and hands could translate to Quintanilla being an elite second baseman, if the As choose to move his position. Many scouts questioned the As decision to draft Quintanilla in the first round in the 2003 draft. However, the University of Texas alum has excelled at every professional level he has competed at since he joined the As organization. Once thought to be a wasted pick, Omar will enter the 2005 season with a chance to establish himself as one of the elite middle-infield prospects in baseball.
Stephen Obenchain (starting pitcher)
The former 2002 first round draft pick was coming into the AFL season as a bit of a question mark, as well. The As will have to decide if they want to protect him in the up-coming Rule V draft, and they wanted to take a look at him in the AFL before making the decision. Obenchain spent the 2004 season in A-Modesto, splitting time between starting and relieving. Obenchain has been a starter exclusively in the AFL, although the starts have been limited to six innings or less. The Evansville grad has been decent in his six of his seven starts. He had one horrible outing, where he allowed seven runs on two homeruns, three walks and a wild pitch in only two innings. In his remaining six outings, Obenchain has not allowed a homerun, has walked six and allowed four runs in 24.2 innings. Obenchain has not overpowered anyone, allowing more than a hit an inning. He has also only struck out 18 in 26.2 innings. However, he has been one of the most effective starters for the Desert Dogs and likely hasnt hurt his stock with his performance. If the As do keep him in 2005, hell need to up his pace a bit, as he will be old for AA.
Huston Street (relief pitcher)
Huston Street came into the AFL season as arguably the best relief prospect in the Oakland organization and certainly the most advanced prospect of the 2004 June Draftees. After a 2004 professional debut where he dominated at three different levels of minor league play (A, AA, AAA), Street didnt have much to prove in his AFL season. However, he has been nearly flawless during his AFL season, causing speculation that he might start the 2005 season in Oakland rather than Sacramento. Street has shown the ability to work multiple innings to get a save. He has also demonstrated great control, striking out 18 against only two walks. Street has a WHIP of 0.70, an excellent number for a late-inning reliever. He has converted all six of his save opportunities and has allowed only one run (which was yielded in one of his early outings). His ERA is a stunning 0.52. Fully recovered from a groin injury he suffered early in his 2004 college season, Street is throwing in the mid-90s with his fastball and has shown an excellent slider. Although the As are loath to rush Street, they will likely give him a long look in spring training to see if he could fill one of the teams bullpen spots in 2005.
AFL Notebook - Week of November 15
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