Stockton Ports: Roster Preview

The 2005 season was a year of firsts for the Stockton Ports. It was the club's first season as an affiliate with the Oakland A's and it was their first season in their new ballpark, Banner Island. The Ports did not disappoint their fans in 2005, making it to the California League playoffs before bowing out in the first round. The 2006 campaign figures to be another exciting season for the Ports, as the team is filled with a number of intriguing prospects. We have a preview inside…


Although the Stockton Ports are off to a slow start statistically both on offense and on the mound (through Tuesday, the Ports were hitting .217 and had a team ERA of 4.59), they have managed to do enough to be to 6-6 through the team's first 12 games. The Ports coaching staff returns intact from 2005, with manager Todd Steverson at the helm for the second straight season. Scott Emerson is the team's pitching coach and Darren Bush is the Ports hitting coach.


The starting rotation is fronted by prospect Mike Madsen. Madsen was drafted by the A's out of Ohio State in the 21st round of the 2005 amateur draft. His frame is similar to that of Tim Hudson. This will cause people to question his durability, but he performed well in short-season Vancouver and his 1.69 ERA in 80 innings was tops in the Northwest League. He was also a starter in the 2004 Cape Cod League All-Star game, and he has a lot of potential.

6'6" Ryan Webb was the youngest player for the Kane County Cougars last season at age 19, and he is the youngest player on the Ports roster in 2006. Webb struggled a bit out of the stretch last year, allowing batters to hit 30 points higher, and seemed to have command problems against lefties with almost a 1:1 BB/KK ratio. Tall pitchers sometimes struggle with their mechanics and Webb worked hard in the instructional league to rectify his inconsistencies. His hard work and progress earned him the "Most Improved Player" award in camp.

One advantage to being so tall is that Webb's arm length makes his fastball deceptively fast. He's not Randy Johnson, but a low-90s fastball can get on a hitter like a mid-90s fastball, giving the pitcher a distinct advantage. Webb's slider/curveball combo is strong, especially when he's locating them down and away from righties. His changeup will also grow to become an effective weapon against lefties, allowing him to run his fastball in on their hands and then go away with the change-up.

James Shull is another top pitching prospect who is making his California League debut this season. The A's fourth round pick in 2005 out of Cal Poly, Shull is a hard-thrower who has racked up prodigious strikeout totals during his young professional career. Shull was a starter for Vancouver last season and he struck out 81 batters in only 73 innings. He posted a 2.43 ERA and allowed only three homers. Shull is off to a fast start this season, having struck out 16 in 11.1 innings. He has walked only two.

Former second round pick Michael Rogers is another righty on the Ports staff. Rogers has struggled with inconsistency throughout his short career, but he when he is on, he can be filthy. Rogers had a 4.90 ERA for Kane County last season, going 6-8 in 26 starts. He has a good curveball and a slider to off-set his low-90s fastball.

Scot Drucker returns to Stockton, this time as a full-time starter. He worked primarily as a reliever in Kane County to start the 2005 season and was in the Ports bullpen after a mid-season promotion until late in the year, when he was moved into the rotation. Like many pitchers, Drucker saw his homerun total increase in the California League, which is considered a hitter-friendly league. Drucker relies on pinpoint control and changing speeds to keep hitters off-balance. He is an intelligent pitcher, so look for him to make adjustments in his second go-around in the California League.

Adam Johnson is currently with the team as a starter. Johnson, who was with Sacramento last season, was hurt at the end of spring training and is working his way back into shape. He should spend most of the season in either AA-Midland or AAA-Sacramento.

Ryan Ford is the only southpaw on the Ports staff. He has pitched primarily as a starter in the minors, but will come out of the bullpen for the Ports. He went back and forth from starting to bullpen in college at Eastern Michigan, so he could be used in a spot start if necessary (and he has, in fact, started a game already this season, brought on by necessity after a series of rainouts). Ford is a finesse lefty who pitches to contact. He led the Cougars in wins last season with 14.

Right-handers Kyle Crowell and Jeff Muessig will give the Ports bullpen a veteran presence. Crowell, who has pitched as high as AAA-Sacramento, was in AA-Midland the past two seasons and was very effective for the Rockhounds in 2005 when he had a 3.44 ERA in 65 innings. Muessig was the closer for the Ports for some of the 2005 season, racking up 15 saves and striking out 80 in 60 innings. Muessig has a closer look to him with his fire-red goatee.

Mike Mitchell and Jeff Coleman will provide the Ports innings in middle relief. Mitchell spent time in Kane County and Vancouver last season, making 26 appearances and compiling a 3.06 ERA. He was a 35th round pick in 2003. Coleman missed all of last season with injuries. He spent the 2004 season split between AA-Midland and A-Modesto. Coleman was a 21st round pick in the 2001 draft out of Hawaii.

Closer Marcus McBeth was originally drafted out of South Carolina as a five-tool outfielder. A very athletic player with a solid makeup, McBeth struggled to hit during his first two years of professional ball. He was converted to a reliever between 2004 and 2005 and spent time in 2005 pitching for the A's Rookie team, Kane County and Stockton. He also had a short but successful stint at the Arizona Fall League. McBeth has taken well to the mound and his K/9 rate has always hovered around 10. He is one of the hardest throwers on the Ports roster, touching 94 with his fastball, and he also features a good change-up. He has good control and remains calm and cool on the mound. McBeth already has five saves and may be in-line for an early season promotion to AA.


The Ports outfield features talented players with a lot of potential, but a lot of things to work on. Venezuelan Javier Herrera would likely have been a part of this group if not for season-ending Tommy John surgery. With Herrera, the Ports' outfield probably would have been the best in the Cal league, if not all of high-A. Without him, they are still a very talented group.

Richie Robnett returns to Stockton for a second season, looking to improve on the late-season strides he made in 2005. Robnett has prodigious power, good speed and a plus-plus arm. He struck out 151 times last season, so the A's are looking for Robnett to reduce that number before he moves on to AA. He is also working on his outfield routes. He learned a lot in the instructional leagues and during spring training and is looking forward to taking the knowledge and applying it throughout the season. Like McBeth, Robnett is off to a fast start and could be in-line for a promotion to Midland if a spot on their roster opens up.

Travis Buck was the A's second pick in 2005 out of Arizona State. He had more collegiate experience than Robnett and is a more polished player. He has good plate discipline and will be looking to add power to his already good average. Buck didn't seem to need an adjustment period to adapt to wood bats as he hit .361 in 36 at-bats in short-season Vancouver in 2005. He was then promoted to Kane County, where 13 of his 42 hits were doubles. Some of those doubles should turn into homeruns as Buck develops as a hitter. He reportedly arrived this spring with an additional 15-20 pounds of muscle on his frame, so it could be a big power year for the corner outfielder. He has a great work ethic and will look to work on pitch recognition in order to put more balls over the fence. Buck has a good throwing arm and is aggressive to the ball in the outfield.

Cameron Coughlan is a late addition to the Ports roster, as he began the year in AA-Midland. However, he wasn't getting much playing time, as infielder Lloyd Turner has been spending time in centerfield as the A's are looking to make Turner a Freddie Bynum-esque super-sub. Coughlan was a Minor League Rule 5 pick-up this off-season. He has tremendous speed, having swiped 37 bags last year for A-Clinton and AA-Frisco. Coughlan had nearly a 1:1 walk to strikeout ratio last season and he should see a lot of time in center and near the top of the batting order for the Ports. He was a Stockton Port in 2004 when the Ports were part of the Texas Rangers organization.

Luis Perez returns to the Ports after a season split between Kane County and Stockton. He was productive during his time in Stockton, hitting .302 with 13 extra-base hits in 31 games for the Ports. He hit .286 with eight homers in 56 games for Kane County. The 22-year old Perez is a Venezuelan native who hit .351 for the A's Dominican League team in 2001 and hit .339 in his US debut season in 2002 for the A's Rookie League club. He was an infielder while in the Dominican Academy, but he has been exclusively an outfielder since 2003. He has good speed and, although a raw talent, plenty of potential to grow as a player.


The Ports may have the best defensive middle infield tandem in the Cal League this year in Cliff Pennington and Gregorio Petit. Corner infielders Myron Leslie and Tom Everidge look to supply average and power and catcher Landon Powell is aiming to have a healthy and productive season.

Pennington was taken with the A's first pick in the 2005 draft. A solid, energetic defensive shortstop, he also possesses good speed and good instincts at the plate. Some might say his enthusiasm hurts him in the field, but with experience, he will learn to harness it and his energy will become an asset that could make him a team leader down the road. Pennington has a love for the game and is a competitive player. Although he is currently blocked at shortstop in Oakland by Bobby Crosby, the A's could move Pennington to second as he gets closer to the big leagues. He is a plus defensive shortstop, however, so he'll stay in there for the time-being.

Petit is a natural shortstop, as well, but he was moved to second base in Kane County last season to accommodate Pennington. He and Pennington played well together with the Cougars last season, as Petit's shift to second was almost seamless despite it coming mid-season. He admits that shortstop is his natural position, but has no gripes about moving over because he knows it will help him progress as a player. Petit is looking to build on a good season last year in which he hit .289 and showed increased power potential. He is a versatile defender, making starts at short, second and third last season and he has impressed many scouts with his hands and range. Having two shortstops up the middle, especially when they have played together before, should make for a lot of exciting double plays for Stockton this season.

Third baseman Leslie came into the organization already possessing the A's plate discipline philosophy, having struck out only 82 times against 138 walks at University of South Florida. Leslie is 6'3" and 210 pounds, but he didn't hit for a lot of power in college. He started to hit for power last season at Kane County, pounding out 32 doubles and 15 homers, while maintaining his plate discipline. He should progress this year at hitter-friendly Banner Island Ballpark. Leslie has good hands and range at third, but there have always been questions about his throwing arm, which can be erratic at times. He committed more than 30 errors at third for Kane County last season, with many of the errors coming on throws. A position change might be in order down the road, but he will continue to work to improve his throwing from third in the meantime.

Everidge, who will man first base for Stockton this season, also discovered his power stroke at Kane County last season, hitting 26 doubles and 14 homers. His all-around game is solid, and he possesses a strong arm at first. Already this season, he has made a few throws from first that would have been strong for a left-fielder. Everidge has been working hard to improve his footwork around the bag and he will be looking to add to his improvement from last season in order to remain a solid first base option at higher levels. At the plate, Everidge has plus-power potential and a solid grasp of the strike zone.

Powell is perhaps the most intriguing player on the Ports roster simply because no one has been able to see much of the catcher. Powell missed all of last season with a torn ACL that he suffered during an off-season workout. The switch-hitting catcher was the A's top pick in 2004. He is a big body behind the plate, but he moves well, although he isn't quite 100 percent healed from last season's injury. Runners will always think twice about a collision at the plate with him waiting there for him. Powell will also cut down a high percentage of runners with his strong arm behind the plate, and they will also have to worry about being back-doored if they fall asleep at first because he possesses a quick snap-throw. At the dish, he has a gap-to-gap stroke. He will spray doubles all over the field from either side of the plate. He hit for power in college and there's no reason to think he won't do the same as a pro. The A's have a lot of good catching prospects, but he could prove to be the most well-rounded.

Infielder/DH Luke Appert returns to Stockton for a second season. Appert appeared in 113 games for Stockton last season, hitting .251 with 12 homers and 72 RBI. He can play some second and third and can also fill-in in the outfield in a pinch. The former Minnesota Gopher has walked more times than he has struck out in each of his first three pro seasons.

Infielder John McCurdy and catcher David Castillo round out the Ports bench. McCurdy is looking to turn around what has been a disappointing professional career thus far. The former 2002 first round pick has never played higher than AA, hitting .249 in 100 games for Midland in 2004. Last season, McCurdy hit .252 with eight homers in 94 games for the Ports. The former Maryland star was considered one of the best shortstops in the 2002 draft, but his bat has never taken off the way it was expected to.

Castillo is probably best known for testing positive for steroids three times and being suspended for 90 games last season. Castillo claims that all three positives stem from the same usage period, which he says that he profusely regrets. He is an undersized catcher who appeared in only 32 games for Kane County last season. In 2004, he hit nine homers and drove-in 59 runs in 111 games for the Cougars.

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