I noticed Brett Anderson has struggled lately. What is the deal with him?
-Pete, Pleasanton, CA
Brett Anderson got off to a great start this season, cruising through his first six starts. However, over his last three outings, Anderson was touched for 19 runs in only 11 innings. In his last start, he allowed eight runs in only a third of an inning. An injury may have been to blame for Anderson's recent woes. It was revealed after his last start that he was being bothered by a sore left thumb that has made it difficult for Anderson to grip a baseball properly. According to A's Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman, Anderson will be out until indefinitely until the soreness in his thumb is completely gone. He will be able to do some light throwing while he is healing, so hopefully he won't lose all of the arm strength he built up early in the season while he is out.
Can you advise A's fans of the status of two, hard-throwing right-handed pitchers? What is the injury prognosis for Chad Lee and Jason Ray? When will we be able to see them get out on the field this year? Please advise. Thank you.
-Jason, longtime subscriber
The injury news on Chad Lee and Jason Ray isn't that positive, unfortunately. Lee, the A's fourth round pick in 2006, has been sidelined since the beginning of last season with a shoulder problem. He is pitching in extended spring training, but, according to Lieppman, Lee's velocity has yet to return to his pre-injury levels. Lee will be at extended spring training until he is able to throw at his normal speeds.
Ray, a promising right-hander from the 2005 draft, isn't likely to pitch for an affiliate this season, according to Lieppman. Ray has been sidetracked by major arm injuries since the start of the 2006 season. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2006 and then had surgery on his labrum just before the 2007 season.
Hey, I am a huge Chris Carter fan along with a few others, but I have heard a lot of great things about him, even Baseball America has made a 2009 lineup prediction and he was on it. What do you guys think? He has great potential, very powerful! So with a little more focus and development, can we possibly see him on the 40-man roster or even Triple-A Sacramento next season?
Forecasting future line-ups, especially at the major-league level, is tough to do, especially when talking about players like Carter who are in A-ball. If I had to make a prediction, I would say that it isn't likely that Carter will be in the major leagues at the start of the 2009 season, but he is definitely a player that the A's hope will be a fixture in the middle of their line-ups in the future.
At the moment, Carter is in the middle of a big slump. He hasn't homered since early this month and he has seen his average drop to .215. Nevertheless, Carter, who has 11 homers in 50 games, has already shown this season the type of power that the A's were hoping to see from him when they acquired him from Arizona.
The key for Carter will be continuing to develop better pitch recognition. Ever since Carter debuted professionally, pitchers have been pitching him carefully. At 6'5'', Carter looks every bit the slugger that he is, and his displays of power during batting practice have been more than enough to scare most pitchers from throwing Carter anything hard over the plate during the game. For Carter to succeed at the higher levels, he will need to force pitchers to challenge him more by laying off of the soft pitches off the outside corner. He will also become more of a complete hitter if he can learn to take some of those outside pitches to the opposite field.
Carter is only 21 years old, so he has a lot of time to develop the finer points of being a professional hitter. He is also working on his defense at first and will need to continue to make improvements with the glove. Look for Carter to stay with High-A Stockton for most, if not all, of this season to work on these aspects of his game. If all goes well for Carter, he should start next season at Double-A. He was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in 2005, so Carter won't have to be protected on the 40-man roster by the A's until 2010, at which point, if he is still showing improvement in his game, he should be made a 40-man roster player by Oakland.
Sean Doolittle and Trevor Cahill have been playing great for Stockton. When do we see them in Midland?
-Kevin, Midland, TX
There have been a lot of questions from fans of the A's about when Doolittle and Cahill will be on the move. Both players have been dominant for Stockton this season. Doolittle hit his 13th homerun on Wednesday and he has a 1066 OPS, which is good for second in the California League behind the San Jose Giants' Pablo Sandoval. He also leads the California League in RBIs with 44 and is in the top-10 in walks, batting average and on-base percentage. Cahill, meanwhile, is fourth in the league in ERA with a 2.82 mark and he leads the California League in strike-outs by a wide margin with 77 in only 60.2 innings.
Clearly both Doolittle and Cahill have demonstrated emphatically that they can handle the California League. Generally speaking, the A's have not been shy about promoting players a level when they have shown that they can dominate their current level. However, for Doolittle and Cahill, the promotions may not come immediately.
In a perfect world, Doolittle would probably be promoted to Double-A sometime over the next few weeks. He is a polished player, having competed in a major college conference for three years and for Team USA in international play. Doolittle has shown a well-rounded approach at the plate thus far this season, with good power, the ability to go the other way, as well as the ability to take a walk. He has also played well at first defensively and has even handled the outfield on occasion. The only blemish on Doolittle's resume this season has been his high strike-out total (54 in 50 games).
Promoting Doolittle may not be as simple as assessing his performance, however. The A's want Doolittle to play everyday, so there will need to be playing time for Doolittle in Midland before he can be promoted there. Right now, Midland's roster is very crowded at the first base, outfield and DH positions. Rockhounds' first baseman Tom Everidge has 12 homers and 42 RBIs, while the Midland outfield and DH spots got even more crowded this week when Danny Putnam was sent down from Triple-A Sacramento, giving the Rockhounds Putnam, Aaron Cunningham, Nick Blasi, Joe Gaetti and Myron Leslie in the outfield and at DH. Over the course of the season, some of those players are likely to be moved to a different level or land on the DL. At that point, look for Doolittle to get his much deserved promotion to Midland. He is also likely to be one of the A's Arizona Fall League representatives this off-season, if he is healthy at the end of the year.
Cahill's readiness for Double-A is less clear-cut than Doolittle's. Unlike Doolittle, Cahill was a high school draft pick, meaning that he has a lot less experience against higher levels of competition than does Doolittle. As the A's have seen with Henry Rodriguez, the jump from A-ball to Double-A can be difficult for even the most dominant pitchers at the A-ball level. Cahill's solid control is an indication that it is likely that he will be able to handle that jump better than Rodriguez has thus far, but that is no sure bet.
Double-A hitters are far more discerning and far more experienced than A-ball hitters. The A's want to make sure that Cahill is commanding all of his pitches and not relying on hitters to chase bad offerings before he makes the jump to Double-A. Cahill is only 20 years old, so there is no rush to move him. Chances are, he will see some time in Double-A this season, but it may not be until the final weeks of the season.
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