Gilbert At Home With Ports

Over the past few years, the Oakland A's have been looking to add more speed and athleticism to their minor league system. This off-season, the A's added a handful of minor league free agents with good speed. One such player was Archie Gilbert, who is off to a fast start for the High-A Stockton Ports as the team's leadoff hitter.

Archie Gilbert's career hasn't followed a traditional path. After starring in collegiate ball for Cal-State, East Bay in Hayward, Gilbert went undrafted. He signed as a free agent with the Boston Red Sox, but the Red Sox didn't give him much of an opportunity, as he appeared in only 24 games in the Gulf Coast League in 2005. That off-season, Gilbert signed with the Chicago White Sox, who gave him more of a chance to show his skills.

Gilbert enjoyed playing in big league spring training games this spring.
In 2006, Gilbert was one of the top players on the White Sox's short-season Great Falls team. Gilbert hit .332 with a .408 OBP and he stole 35 bases in only 52 games for Great Falls that season. He returned to the White Sox in 2007 and made his full-season affiliate debut, spending the year with Low-A Kaanapolis of the South Atlantic League. Gilbert once again put together a solid season, batting .289 with a .372 OBP and an 825 OPS.

After the season, Gilbert, who is a native of Union City, CA, returned to his Bay Area roots by signing with the Oakland A's.

"I got a new agent this off-season and there were a few teams that were pursuing me. The A's made the best deal. They gave me a chance to play everyday, so that is why I am here," Gilbert said.

In his first spring training with Oakland, Gilbert had a solid minor league camp and he appeared in four major league spring training games, collecting an RBI, scoring two runs and stealing a base for the A's.

"[Playing in major league camp] was great. It was most definitely a different feeling to be in front of the crowds. If you aren't ready to play at that level, then I don't know when you would be ready to play," Gilbert said.

"I felt my fastest when I was playing there. I was really comfortable. Everyone on the team welcomed me, telling me that I could use their helmets and equipment and stuff like that. It was great. I had a nice time being up there."

At the end of camp, Gilbert was given an opportunity to play in front of friends and family when he was assigned to the High-A Stockton Ports. He is enjoying playing in California again.

Gilbert has been a regular left-fielder for Stockton.
"It's fun. Seeing friends in the stands and family, my mom, it's just funny seeing them cheer and laugh and stuff. I can tell that they are proud, so it is pretty good playing close to home," Gilbert said.

Gilbert's transition into the Oakland organization was made even easier by virtue of the fact that he was teammates with Ports' first baseman Chris Carter last season in Kaanapolis and the year before in Great Falls. Having Carter as a teammate once again in Stockton made Gilbert feel at ease at the start of his time with the A's.

"Actually I think because he is here, I felt like I really didn't move anywhere. I just feels like I am in another city playing baseball [rather than in a different organization]. I felt kind of at home when I got here," Gilbert said.

Since Opening Day, Gilbert has been a fixture at the top of the Stockton line-up. His strong on-base skills and his speed have made him a natural fit in the lead-off spot. He struggled to steal bases early in the season, as he was successful in only four of 14 chances. However, after some instruction from the Ports' coaching staff, Gilbert has improved his base-running and he is four for his last four in steal attempts.

Gilbert is four for his last four in steals.
So far this season, Gilbert has demonstrated good power for a lead-off man, slugging at a .465 clip and collecting 16 extra-base hits in 172 at-bats. He has also used a .342 average with runners in scoring position to drive-in 23 runs for Stockton. Although Gilbert takes his share of walks (he has 18 in 44 games this season and a .396 OBP), he hasn't sacrificed his natural aggressiveness at the plate even though he is in the lead-off spot.

"In college, I was more of a three-four hitter. Now the A's like me in leadoff. They say ‘you've just got to get on-base and do what you do,'" Gilbert said.

"But I'm not looking to take every pitch. My approach is that if the pitch is there first pitch, I'm going to take a hack at it. I'm looking to swing at pitches that are in my ‘zone that I can drive."

Using that approach, Gilbert has compiled a .314 BA with an 861 OPS in 44 games for the Ports. Earlier in the season, he had a 25-game hitting streak, the longest in the California League this year.

"Honestly, I didn't even know until it got to 21 games, and then everyone kept saying, ‘you've got to keep it going,'" Gilbert said.

"Then it got up to 25, and I was off for a couple of games and wasn't really feeling good. But it was a long streak and it was fun while it lasted."

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