Roster Preview: Stockton Ports

<I>In the second in our series of roster previews, OaklandClubhouse.com examines the Opening Day roster of the A's Class A affiliate, the Stockton Ports.</I><br><br> Last season, the Oakland A's California League Class A affiliate, the Modesto A's, won the California League championship. With an Opening Day 25-man roster studded with star prospects, the A's new Class A affiliate, the Stockton Ports, look poised to defend the California League crown.

The Stockton Ports Roster

Starting Pitching

The Ports' projected starting rotation is led by the righty-lefty combination of Jason Windsor and Trent Peterson. Windsor, the 2004 College World Series Most Outstanding Player, is coming off of an abbreviated professional debut that saw him make 13 relief appearances between short-season Vancouver and low-A Kane County. The A's were careful with Windsor's workload after he signed last season because they were concerned that he had thrown too many pitches during his award-winning campaign for Fullerton. Windsor is a top-flight competitor who should move quickly through the A's system.

He will be joined at the top of the Ports rotation by Trent Peterson, a promising southpaw. Peterson, a Florida State grad, pitched for the Kane County Cougars last season. He made 20 starts and went 8-5 with a 3.42 ERA and a 109:25 strikeout to walk ratio. Windsor and Peterson will be joined by Brad Ziegler, an Independent League veteran who was one of the Modesto A's best starters down the stretch last season. Ziegler will be making his first game appearances since taking a line-drive off of his forehead in the California League playoffs last season. Modesto teammate Jeff Muessig, former Kane County Cougar Chris Dunwell and the young righthander, Danielin Acevedo, will be in the mix for rotation spots, as well. Acevedo had a strong 2004 season split between the Rookie League team and Vancouver, striking out 46 and walking 16.

Relief Pitching

Stockton's bullpen will be comprised of a solid set of relievers, many of whom manned the Modesto bullpen last season. Righty Chris Shank returns for his third season at the Class A level. He threw 85.2 innings for Modesto last season, posting a 3.99 ERA and striking out 81. He will be joined by J.R. Pickens, who was a stalwart in Kane County's bullpen last season. Pickens made 54 appearances, finishing 26 games and posting a 3.44 ERA. Lefty Justin Crowder and righties Jared Burton, Elvis Avendano, and Alex Santos will round out the bullpen. Avendano will miss the first 15 days of the season, as he serves his suspension for failing Minor League Baseball's drug test.

Infielders and Catchers

The Ports infield will be star-studded this season. First base will likely be manned by Daric Barton, who was acquired as part of the Mark Mulder deal. Barton, who is being converted from being a catcher, is one of the minor league's top hitting prospects. The left-handed hitter had a 956 OPS for low-A Peoria last season and he walked 25 more times than he struck out. Barton is only 19, but he could be promoted to AA by mid-season if he has a strong start with Stockton. He was voted the A's second-best prospect by Baseball America for 2005.

Second baseman Luke Appert will bring some pop to the top of the Ports' order. Appert hit at the top of the order for the Kane County Cougars last season, posting a .388 OBP and smacking 13 homeruns. He should be backed-up by Francis Gomez, who played second for Midland and Sacramento last season. Eddie Cornejo and John McCurdy should share time at shortstop. Cornejo played shortstop for Modesto last season, hitting .272. McCurdy was a first-round draft pick in the Moneyball draft. He was an elite collegiate hitter, but has struggled at the plate during his professional career. McCurdy will be looking to reverse the downward trajectory of his career in 2005.

Third base will be handled by Vasili Spanos, who was one of the Midwest League's top hitters in 2004. Spanos, who had a 924 OPS last season, also played for the Greek National Olympic team last season. He will be a key component in the middle of the Ports' line-up.

The catching corps will be led by Kurt Suzuki, a 2004 draft pick who opened a lot of eyes with his play in the big league camp this spring. The Hawaii native had a strong first season with Vancouver, hitting .294 with a .388 OBP. He is a solid contact hitter and could hit second in the Ports' potent line-up. Suzuki, the Johnny Bench award winner during his final season at Fullerton, is a solid defensive catcher, as well as being a good hitter. He will share time with the left-handed hitting Jed Morris. Morris is a minor league veteran who logged 92 games for Modesto last season.

Outfield

Stockton's potent hitting infield is matched by an equally heavy-hitting outfield. 2004 first round draft pick Richie Robnett highlights a talented crew. Robnett is a five-tool prospect, who hits with authority from the left-side of the plate. He had a solid professional debut with Vancouver and was promoted to Kane County in time to help them in their playoff run. Robnett wowed A's coaches with his batting practice power displays this spring and he could be the Ports' cleanup hitter this season.

He will be joined in the outfield by fellow 2004 draftee Danny Putnam, who spent most of his professional debut season at low-A Kane County. Putnam struggled a bit at Kane County, but he was one of the NCAA's top hitters at Stanford and he should rebound this season. Putnam is a very patient hitter who should have a lot of RBI opportunities in this line-up ..

Speedy Dustin Majewski will probably play centerfield for the Ports. He stole 20 bases and hit 12 homers for the Cougars last season. The former Texas Longhorn needs to work on cutting down his strikeouts, but he could be a force at the bottom of the Ports' line-up. The versatile Nick Rogers should also see time in the Ports outfield this season. Rogers spent most of last season in Kane County, where he stole 14 bases last season.


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