The Instructional Leagues are generally an opportunity for the A's instructors to give their younger or less polished prospects one-on-one coaching that they aren't able to receive during the regular season. Players often credit the work they do in "instructs" for success they have the following season.
Midwest League MVP Jeff Baisley won the A's MVP for the Instructional League in the fall of 2005 and he pointed to that experience as a big part of his improvement in 2006.
"It was great to be down there and to work even more on all of the stuff that they taught you [during the season]. I think the work we did there carried over into this season," Baisley told OaklandClubhouse in early August.
Baisley will be returning to "instructs" this season, as one of seven infielders on the A's squad. He will be joined by the A's top draft pick in 2005, shortstop Cliff Pennington. Pennington missed more than half of the season with leg injuries, so he will be using the Instructional Leagues as a chance to get more playing time under his belt and to continue the hot hitting he displayed at the end of the season with the A's Rookie League club.
Right-hander Trevor Cahill will also be getting some extended work in "instructs" after only appearing in four games for the A's Rookie League team this season. Cahill, who was the A's top draft pick in 2006, signed late and then was delayed by a minor injury which limited his innings during the regular season.
Last year, Vince Mazzaro arrived at the A's Instructional League as a mystery after being selected in the third round of the 2005 draft. The right-hander signed too late to participate in the minor league regular season, but he was so impressive during "instructs" that he was sent to low-A Kane County at the start of the 2006 season despite not playing for short-season Arizona or Vancouver. Mazzaro won nine games for the Cougars in 24 starts this season. He will be returning to the Instructional Leagues this fall.
The A's Instructional League pitching staff is also highlighted by Midwest League All-Stars Jared Lansford and Jason Ray. Both right-handers pitched well for Kane County, but struggled at High-A Stockton after in-season promotions and will be looking to regain their Midwest League form at "instructs."
Left-hander Ben Jukich, a 2006 13th round pick, will be heading to the desert looking to build off of a strong performance in his first professional season. Jukich struck out 40 batters in 41.2 innings at low-A Kane County and then he starred in the playoffs in the starting rotation for the Cougars.
Right-hander Scott Moore, another 2006 draft pick, will also be participating in the Instructional Leagues after a strong rookie season. The reliever allowed only three earned runs in 21 innings split between short-season Vancouver and low-A Kane County. He also struck out 30 batters while walking only five.
The A's infield at the Instructional Leagues will be crowded at the shortstop position. In addition to Pennington, the A's are sending three other natural shortstops to camp: Mike Affronti, Justin Sellers and Christian Vitters. Second baseman Isaac Omura, fresh off of a breakout season at the plate for Kane County, will join Baisley and first baseman Greg Dowling as the other non-shortstop infielders on the roster.
The A's Instructional League outfield will be heavy on talent and speed. Chad Boyd, Jermaine Mitchell, Larry Cobb, Matt Sulentic and Toddric Johnson all had strong 2006 seasons at the plate. They will be joined by Lorenzo Macias and Angel Sierra, two young speedsters with a lot of raw talent who are in need of a lot of polish.
Behind the plate, the A's will be led by Anthony Recker, who had a big season at the plate as the Cougars' starting catcher. Recker will be joined by Julio Rivera and Matt Singleton – both of whom shuttled between Stockton and Arizona this season – and 2006 draft pick Jake Smith, who was the Johnny Bench Award winner for best collegiate catcher this season.
Stockton manager Todd Steverson will serve as the A's Instructional League team manager and he will be joined by pitching coach Don Schulze, hitting coordinator Greg Sparks, pitching coordinator Ron Romanick and instructors Ron Plaza, Juan Navarette and Tim Garland.
Below is the complete roster for camp:
Instructional League Roster
|Branden Dewing||LHP||L/L||6'0||165||1/1/84||Vancouver/Kane County|
|John Herrera||RHP||R/R||6'6||195||03/08/83||Kane County|
|Ben Jukich||LHP||L/L||6'4||190||10/17/82||Vancouver/Kane County|
|Jared Lansford||RHP||R/R||6'2||185||10/22/85||Kane County/Stockton|
|Ron Madej||LHP||L/L||6'1||200||05/23/83||Kane County|
|Vince Mazzaro||RHP||R/R||6'2||190||09/27/86||Kane County|
|Scott Moore||RHP||R/R||6'2||245||12/4/83||Vancouver/Kane County|
|Jason Ray||RHP||R/R||5'11||185||7/14/84||Kane County/Stockton|
|Anthony Recker||C||R/R||6'2||225||08/29/83||Kane County|
|Jeff Baisley||3B||R/R||6'3||210||12/19/82||Kane County|
|Isaac Omura||2B||L/R||5'10||175||1/21/84||Kane County|
|Justin Sellers||SS||R/R||5'10||160||02/01/86||Kane County|
|Chad Boyd||OF||L/L||5'10||195||06/12/85||Kane County|
|Toddric Johnson||OF||L/L||6'1||165||12/17/84||Vancouver/Kane County|
|Matt Sulentic||OF||L/R||5'10||170||10/06/87||Vancouver/Kane County|