Oakland A's MLN: AFL And Winter Ball Updates

With the World Series officially in the books, the 2007 Major League season is complete. However, there is still plenty of baseball being played. We take a look at the A's farmhands who are playing at the AFL, in Hawaii and in the Venezuelan Winter League.

Arizona Fall League
Team USA has begun their exhibition season at the Arizona Fall League, which is a prelude to the team's participation in this year's baseball World Cup in Taiwan. Relief prospect Jerry Blevins has made two appearances for Team USA against AFL competition and he has been nearly flawless. The hard throwing lefty has allowed only a walk in two scoreless innings. He has two strikeouts. Blevins was originally scheduled to pitch at the AFL before being chosen to represent the United States with some of the minor league's most elite prospects.

The rest of the A's AFL contingent had a busy week, as well. Jeff Baisley and James Simmons represented the A's in the Rising Stars Showcase over the weekend. Baisley went 1-4 with an RBI double in the game. Simmons threw a scoreless inning, allowing one hit and striking out a batter. The A's top pick in 2007 has pitched well thus far in the AFL. He allowed a homerun in a two-inning outing on Monday, but it was only his second earned run allowed during the AFL. Including the Rising Stars game, Simmons has allowed two earned runs in 5.1 innings. He has struck out seven and walked one while allowing four hits. Baisley has 13 RBI in 15 games including the Rising Stars showcase. Not including that game, he is hitting .245 with a 716 OPS.

Brad Kilby is heating up in relief for the Phoenix Desert Dogs. The lefty hasn't allowed a run in his last five innings of work and he now is sporting a 2.45 ERA in 7.1 innings. He has struck out four and walked three. Jeff Gray was hung with a tough-luck loss on Monday. He allowed an unearned run in the bottom of the ninth of Phoenix's 3-2 loss to Surprise. The lead-off batter reached on an error on shortstop Trevor Plouffe and came around to score on a bloop single with two outs. Gray has allowed five earned runs in eight innings this fall, but he has had good stuff, striking out seven. Justin Dowdy, who joined the Desert Dogs 10 days ago in place of Jay Marshall, is off to a good start at the AFL. He has throw three scoreless innings, allowing one hit and two walks, while striking out four.

Cliff Pennington and Raul Padron were both cold at the plate this past week in AFL play. Pennington has struggled all fall, managing only three hits in 29 at-bats, including one double. He is only one for his last 12 with one walk. Pennington has walked six times against six strikeouts, the only highlight thus far in his AFL season. Padron was red-hot to start the AFL; however, he is only one for his last 14. He is batting .267 with a homer and a 786 OPS in 30 at-bats overall.

Winter Leagues
The big news on the Venezuelan League front is that Javier Herrera has been sidelined, possibly for the season, with another leg injury. Herrera, who missed the last month and a half of the regular season with hamstring problems, was cleared to participate in the VWL for his hometown team, Caracas del Leones. However, he injured his right hamstring during one of the team's final preseason games. He flew to the United States to be examined by A's doctors, who determined that he won't need surgery to repair the injury. It is expected, however, that Herrera will miss most, if not all, of the VWL season.

Brad Knox and Ben Fritz have each made three starts for Leones del Caracas. Knox has a 3.07 ERA in 14.2 innings for Caracas. He has allowed 12 hits and five walks and he has struck out seven. Fritz has a 4.50 ERA in 12 innings of work. He has allowed 10 hits and eight walks, while striking out two.

Gregorio Petit has struggled thus far for Caracas. The energetic shortstop has hit only .111 in 27 at-bats with three RBI and no walks. He has also committed five errors. Petit could be wearing down after playing in 133 regular season games and starting all 12 Sacramento post-season games.

Flame-throwing right-hander Henry Rodriguez made his debut for his Venezuelan League team, Aguilas de Zulia. Rodriguez worked 2.1 innings of relief in his debut, allowing two runs on three hits. He struck out two and walked one. Right-hander Luis Ramirez, who pitched for the A's at Sacramento, Stockton and Midland this season, has been pitching well for his Venezuelan League team, Bravos de Margarita. In four outings, Ramirez has a 1.69 ERA. He has struck out 12 in 10.2 innings.

The A's Hawaiian League trio has been struggling as of late. Jermaine Mitchell has been doing a fair job of getting on-base (.369 OBP), but he hasn't hit for much power (.315 SLG) and his batting average is a mediocre .241. Mitchell has a strong 14:11 K:BB ratio, as he has continued to show good patience as a pro. Justin Sellers is only batting .222 in 63 at-bats with a poor 3:1 K:BB ratio. He does have 10 RBI in only 18 games.

Jared Lansford has logged 20 innings in his six starts, allowing 16 earned runs. He has allowed four homers, although he has been a groundball pitcher overall in the HWL, inducing five double-plays and getting nearly eight groundball outs for every flyball out recorded. Lansford has held left-handed hitters to a .194 BAA, but righties have hit .395 off of the right-handed pitcher.

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