By The Numbers: Ex-A's Pitching Prospects

A number of former A's pitching prospects have migrated to other MLB organizations over the past few years, achieving varying levels of success. In the latest edition of "By the Numbers," a regular feature on OaklandClubhouse where Nathaniel Stoltz examines aspects of the Oakland A's organization through statistical analysis, Stoltz takes a look at nine former A's pitching prospects.

Jon Adkins, picked by the Oakland A's way back in 1998, has bounced between roles, organizations and levels for several years now, getting 135 MLB innings along the way. During that time, he has posted a passable 4.82 ARA and .475 UVI (click here to read about UVI). So far, he has spent the 2008 season as the AAA Louisville Bats' (Reds' affiliate) closer, and has done quite well, walking just nine batters in 39.7 IP and posting a .411 UVI. With continued success in the PCL, Adkins may get some more MLB time.

Righty Ben Fritz was selected in the most recent minor league Rule 5 draft by the Detroit Tigers after six years in the A's system. He has spent the entire 2008 season in the Double-A Erie SeaWolves' starting rotation. In 10 starts this year, Fritz is 2-2 with a 5.59 ERA. He has been unlucky on balls in play, however, and should have an ERA of about a run lower. He has improved his walk rate this year with just 16 free passes in 56.3 innings. While he hasn't been terrible, Fritz's .464 UVI is nothing to write home about given the league average of .447. His average UVI, combined with his bad luck, may keep Fritz stuck in Double-A for the rest of the season.

Reliever Marcus Gwyn got a short MLB cameo for the Angels last season after several years in the A's system. He has spent 2008 pitching for the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes, the Pacific Coast League affiliate of the Florida Marlins. Gwyn's 4.41 ERA is superficially unimpressive, but it comes with some caveats. First, his good hit rate (just 32 allowed in 34.7 innings) actually is slightly unlucky, as two more balls in play should have been outs. Second, Albuquerque has been one of the toughest places to pitch in all of the minor leagues, and this year is no exception, as no pitcher with more than 30 innings pitched has an ERA below 4.00 for the Isotopes, and eight Albuquerque hitters have OPS figures above 800. The Marlins have excellent bullpen depth, so Gwyn may end up crowded out all year, but given the way he has survived in the hitter's havens of Salt Lake (3.79 ERA in 57 IP in 2007) and Albuquerque, he deserves more than 5.3 MLB innings.

Ben Jukich was traded by the A's to the Cincinnati Reds last season for Chris Denorfia. Jukich had struggled with the A's High-A affiliate in Stockton in 12 starts (3-4, 5.40 ERA, 4.63 ARA, .464 UVI), and given his advanced age, most people wrote him off as a throw-in. However, Jukich excelled after switching organizations (8-2, 3.55 ERA, 3.33 ARA, .351 UVI at High-A Sarasota). Every single one of Jukich's statistics (H/9, HR/9, BB/9, K/9, HBP/9, and GB%) went way up after the trade. Promoted to Double-A Chattanooga this season, Jukich hasn't quite matched his Sarasota performance (7-2, 2.80 ERA, 3.96 ARA, .404 UVI) but continues to perform well in every area. At 25, Jukich can't afford another misstep, but he looks like he could become a future workhorse for the Reds.

Marcus McBeth, who was also a part of the Denorfia trade, was actually thought of more highly than Jukich at the time of the trade, but it seems that Jukich has turned out better. McBeth posted a .477 UVI in 19.7 innings for the Reds last year in his MLB debut, and has only gone backward this year, posting a 10.80 ERA in AAA Louisville. That ridiculously high number is a product of an 11.7 inning sample more than it is a product of 10.80 ERA-quality pitching, but McBeth's 6.95 ARA and .623 UVI indicate that there is plenty of work to be done. Walking 10 and giving up four homers in 11.7 innings will do that. McBeth is about to turn 28, so if he is going to deliver on his considerable promise, the time is now.

A testament to persistence, former A's farmhand Derell McCall (drafted way back in 2000 in the 10th round by the A's) spent five years in the A's system but couldn't get past High-A before his mid-2004 release. Three independent leagues and two-and-a-half years later, McCall resurfaced in 2007 with the Greensboro Grasshoppers, the Low-A affiliate of the Marlins. At 25, McCall was very old for the level, but he turned in a solid .435 UVI showing as a swingman and was given a mid-season promotion to the High-A Jupiter Hammerheads. McCall had struggled in High-A in 2003 and 2004 in the A's organization, but three full years later, he was ready, posting a strong .439 UVI. He was reassigned to Jupiter to start 2008, and after posting a .385 UVI in eight starts, the 26-year-old righty finally got sent up to Double-A Carolina. McCall's 5.60 ERA in 35.3 Double-A innings would seem to indicate that he struggled after the promotion, but his ARA is over a run lower, and his UVI is a respectable .450. A control pitcher with two good breaking balls, McCall may never reach the majors, but you can't help but root for a guy who has fought as hard as he has.

A's 2002 third round pick Bill Murphy made his major league debut last year with Arizona, and is currently playing for the Syracuse Chiefs, the AAA affiliate of the Blue Jays. Murphy has pitched very well in Syracuse, posting a .414 UVI and a 4.13 ARA. Murphy's control is the only thing holding him back; he has walked 45 batters in 86.7 innings this year after walking seven in 6.3 innings in his brief MLB trial last year. With some modest gains in that area, the stocky lefthander could fashion a nice major league career.

Connor Robertson, sent to Arizona in the Dan Haren trade last offseason, has spent 2008 pitching for Triple-A Tucson, posting a nice statline featuring a 3.55 ERA, 4.11 ARA (basically in-line with the ERA) and a .420 UVI. However, he may actually be better than that. For one, Robertson pitches in a hitter-friendly park in a hitter-friendly league. Second, my translations always adjust batting average on balls in play (BABIP) to the norm for grounders, liners and flies. This puts Robertson's expected BABIP at .305 and changes his line from 37 hits allowed in 50.7 innings to 43 in 48.7, a major difference. It's a fair translation, but it doesn't account for the fact that Robertson's delivery hides the ball extremely well, and pitchers with similar deliveries (Dontrelle Willis is an easy example) tend to have lower line-drive rates and lower BABIPs than pitchers with more standard deliveries. Thus, it is very possible that Robertson's excellent hit rate (and .262 BABIP) is not the product of luck, but instead a product of deception. If we assume that the unadjusted .262 BABIP, rather than the translated .305 figure, is better representative of Robertson's season, his ARA drops to 3.96 and his UVI to .401. Like Gwyn, Robertson isn't flashy, but given an extended major league opportunity, he could flourish.

Robert Semerano was let go by the A's after 15 unimpressive games in Stockton last year, but the righty has found a new home in the bullpen of the High-A Tampa Yankees. In 8.7 innings this year, Semerano has posted a 3.12 ERA, 4.25 ARA and .415 UVI. The sample size is too small right now to tell if the A's will regret letting the 26-year-old go.

Check out the next article to find out about some former A's minor league hitters.


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