According to the Oakland A's, the team signed four of their minor league free agents before the October 15 deadline. Seventeen others have been declared minor league free agents.
The A's inked Brad Ziegler, Luis Perez, Jose Pineda and Sam Walton to contracts before October 15. None of these signings were particularly surprising, as all four players had good seasons and could factor in the A's future plans down the road.
Ziegler, in particular, was a must-sign for the A's. The right-hander was signed out of the independent leagues in 2004 and he has been one of the A's best minor league starters since that time. Ziegler spent most of the 2006 season in the Texas League, where he was among the league leaders in ERA. He also got his first taste of AAA baseball and should start the 2007 season in AAA-Sacramento. Ziegler is reportedly working on a sidearm delivery similar to that of former A's reliever Chad Bradford. The 27 year old Ziegler has a better than 3:1 K:BB ratio throughout his minor league career.
Perez is coming off of his best minor league season. The Caracas native won the California League batting title this season with a .334 mark for the Stockton Ports. He is a career .291 hitter in five minor league seasons in the A's system. Perez is only 23 years old despite having been in the A's system for seven years.
Pineda was one of the top offensive players for low-A Kane County this season, batting .254 with 15 homers and 74 RBI. He also stole 21 bases. The 24 year old has been in Kane County each of the last two seasons.
Walton began the 2006 season in the St. Louis Cardinals chain. However, he was released early in the season and was signed by the A's as a free agent later in the year. The left-hander was assigned to AA-Midland, where he compiled a 3.12 ERA in 26 innings. He allowed only 15 hits and struck out 22 while walking 18. Walton will turn 28 this December.
The following 17 players were declared minor league free agents after the October 15 deadline:
Ray Aguilar: Tied for Midland team-lead in wins with 12
Matt Allegra: Was once one of the A's top OF prospects
John Birtwell: Harvard grad was college teammate of A's Assistant GM David Forst
David Bradley: West Virginia native went 6-11 as a swingman for Midland
Heath Castle: Former Yankee farmhand was signed out of the independent leagues this season
Kenny Durost: another independent league signee, played in Kane County and Stockton
Seth Epstein: made six appearance for A's Rookie League team
Nate Espy: Had an 800 OPS in 99 games at AAA filling in for Daric Barton at first
Scott McClain: PCL MVP in 2006
Ronnie Merrill: Rule 5 pick was Midland starting SS in 2006
Victor Moreno: went 5-4 with a 5.38 ERA and four saves as swingman for AAA-Sacramento
Kevin Olsen: former Florida Marlin was a mid-season independent league pick-up; went 6-1 in 13 starts for Midland
Adam Pettyjohn: former Detroit Tiger was 3-2 with a 4.57 ERA in 11 appearances (nine starts) for Sacramento
Brandon Puffer: Big league journeyman had 5.29 ERA in 13 relief appearances for Sacramento
Alex Santos: Struggled with injuries in 2006 after saving 26 games in 2005
Eric Sheridan: Made 14 appearances for three different A's minor league teams
Mark Watson: Lefty was acquired from Cubs organization mid-season
McBeth Wins AFL Pitcher of the Week
Oakland A's relief prospect Marcus McBeth won AFL Pitcher of the Week honors for his work during the week of October 23. McBeth earned two saves for the Phoenix Desert Dogs and earned the save for the East squad in the inaugural "Rising Stars Showcase."
McBeth has had scoreless outings in all but one of his eight appearances and he has 11 strikeouts in eight innings of work (including his work at the Showcase). McBeth is sporting a 3.86 ERA with three saves for Phoenix and he is generating a lot of buzz among scouts as one of the top relievers in the Arizona Fall League.
He saved 32 games at three levels during the regular season and he struck out 86 batters in 70.1 innings.
Reliever Mike Mitchell has been almost as effective as McBeth thus far this fall season, although he was touched for his first AFL loss on Tuesday, when he allowed a run in 0.2 innings of work. The run came on a solo homerun, the first Mitchell has allowed this fall. The righty is 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in six innings of work. He has struck out seven and walked none this fall.
Jared Burton, another A's relief prospect, got off to a rough start to his AFL season, but he has turned in two good outings in a row. The right-hander allowed four runs in his first 2.2 innings of work. However, he has now thrown 2.2 scoreless frames in a row, including an impressive 1.2 inning outing on Monday that earned him his first AFL win. In that outing, he allowed only one hit and he struck out three.
Connor Robertson, who was one of the A's top minor league relievers this season, has struggled in the desert. He had one three-homer appearance and has given up an uncharacteristic four homeruns in only 5.2 innings pitched so far this fall. Robertson has stayed true to his form by striking out seven during that span (he has always had high strikeout totals during his career), but he has struggled with his command, walking four and allowing 12 hits.
On offense, none of the A's three position player prospects are hitting particularly well. Catcher Landon Powell leads the A's trio with a .267 batting average, but he has only driven-in one run in eight games. Second baseman Kevin Melillo had a three-hit game on Monday, but went 0-4 on Tuesday to see his average fall to .233. Melillo has only three extra-base hits in 60 at-bats.
Outfielder Travis Buck was expected to put up big numbers for Phoenix this fall, but he has been hampered with the same abdominal pain that kept him out much of the second half of the regular season for Midland. Buck has appeared in only nine games, and he is hitting .259 with a homer and two doubles. Buck indicated in his "Player Journal" on milb.com that he might have to have surgery to correct the pain in his side, which could be a sports hernia. If he does have surgery, he should be ready to play by spring training, according to his journal.
Petit Still Red-Hot for Caracas
A's middle infield prospect Gregorio Petit is continuing to prosper in the Venezuelan Winter Leagues.
Petit is third on the team in batting with a .345 average and he is posting a healthy 1.000 OPS.
The Caracas native has a double, a triple and two homeruns in only 29 at-bats for the Leones. He has scored four runs and has driven-in six.