Oakland A's MLN: A's Future On Display

Some of the game's brightest young prospects were on display in New York this weekend at MLB All-Star Futures Game. Four Oakland A's prospects took part in the game, each leaving his own mark on the 3-0 World Team victory. Meanwhile, the Rich Harden trade is already netting results for the A's minor league system, while a few A's draft picks are off to fast starts.

A's Well-Represented In Futures Game

What a difference a year makes. In 2007, the Oakland A's sent only one representative to the MLB Futures Game - starter Mike Madsen - and Madsen wasn't used in the prospect showcase at AT&T Park in San Francisco. This year, A's prospects were center-stage early and late in the Futures Game at Yankee Stadium in New York.

A's 2005 first round pick Cliff Pennington got the start at second base for the US team. Pennington, a natural shortstop, demonstrated that he could handle second base defensively, making a couple of nice plays during his five innings. At the plate, Pennington, who is second in all of the minor leagues with 72 walks, worked two three-ball counts but went 0-2 with a strike-out.

On the mound, Team USA turned to a pair of A's pitching prospects early in the game. Trevor Cahill, the minor league leader in strike-outs with 122, worked the second inning for Team USA (there was a new pitcher each half-inning in the game). True to his minor league season, Cahill struck-out two batters in the frame. He allowed a single and didn't walk a batter. His sinking fastball sat in the low-90s and drew raves for its movement.

Midland teammate Brett Anderson followed Cahill for Team USA, working a scoreless third inning. Anderson's inning was most unconventional. He allowed a walk and a base-hit, but faced only the minimum three batters, as he picked off two runners. Anderson's fastball clocked as high as 94 MPH on the Yankee Stadium gun.

The A's prospect that earned the most buzz during the game, however, was arguably Henry Rodriguez. Rodriguez, who has had an up-and-down year, walked the first batter he faced in the eighth inning for the World Team before coming back to strike-out the next three hitters. His fastball touched triple digits at least three times. He threw one pitch so hard that he fell finishing it off. His slider also sat in the high 80s and had good bite.

Rodriguez is 13th in the minor leagues in strike-outs with 108 in only 84.1 innings pitched. He struggled in a stint at Double-A Midland in April and May (8.82 ERA), but he has fared better in High-A with Stockton (2.84 ERA) this season.

Cahill, Anderson and Pennington are all candidates to be picked for Team USA's Olympic squad for the Beijing Games in August. The final USA roster should be announced early this week.

Harden Trade Paying Early Dividends

Three of the four Cubs acquired in the Rich Harden/Chad Gaudin trade last week are off to fast starts with the A's. Righty Sean Gallagher earned a win in his first start for Oakland on Friday, holding the rival Los Angeles Angels to two runs in seven innings. In the minor leagues, second baseman Eric Patterson and catcher Josh Donaldson are off to hot starts with Triple-A Sacramento and High-A Stockton, respectively.

Patterson has appeared in four games for the River Cats since the trade, and he has made a big impact at the plate. Playing second base in all four games, Patterson has nine hits in his first 19 at-bats (.474 BA) for Sacramento. He has scored six runs and five of those hits have gone for extra-bases, including three homeruns. He has driven-in eight runs, walked twice and stolen a base. Patterson is batting .333 with nine homeruns, 12 stolen bases (in 12 chances) and a 935 OPS in 56 games between Triple-A Sacramento and Iowa this season.

Donaldson, who hit only .217 in 63 games for Low-A Peoria before the trade, has collected at least one hit in all four games he has played with Stockton thus far. In each of his first two games at Banner Island Ballpark, Donaldson has homered, including a grandslam on Sunday night. He has eight RBIs and has scored six runs in those four games.

Buck Shelved With Bruised Hand

Outfielder Travis Buck's three-year run of freaky injuries has continued during his most recent stint with Triple-A Sacramento. Since the start of the 2006 season, Buck has suffered from a variety of injuries, including an oblique strain, a bone spur in his elbow, a hernia, shin splints and a bruised thumb. Since being sent down to Triple-A from Oakland, Buck has had trouble staying on the field thanks to two more ailments. The first was a concussion he sustained when he crashed into the fence at the River Cats' Raley Field making an outstanding catch. Buck returned to the field after spending two weeks on the DL and appeared in 10 games before he was shelved again.

This time, Buck is out with a bruise on the web of his right thumb. The injury has kept him out of the line-up since June 10th, but it isn't expected to be serious. Buck is likely to return to the field after the Triple-A All-Star break, which starts tomorrow. The outfielder is batting .293 at Triple-A. If he can stay on the field and produce over the next few weeks, Buck is a strong candidate to be recalled to Oakland for the final few months of the season. He hit .288 with the A's in 2007.

AZL A's Update

2008 draft picks Rashun Dixon (10th round) and Nino Leyja (15th round) are off to fast starts for the AZL A's. Dixon cracked his team-leading fourth homerun on Monday in the A's 10-0 win over the AZL Royals. The homer was a grand-slam for Dixon, who now has 19 RBIs on the season in only 16 games. The two-sport star in high school turned down a football scholarship to sign with the A's. The 17 year old has five triples to go along with those four homers and he is batting .269.

Leyja, a 17-year-old middle infielder, collected his fifth double and walked three times on Monday. He is batting .333 and sports an impressive 10:8 BB:K ratio in 14 games. He has three triples and five doubles and has scored 14 runs.

Outfielder Franklin Hernandez, a product of the A's Dominican Baseball Academy, has been swinging a hot stick for the AZL A's. On Monday, he went 2-4 with his 12th double of the season. He also homered (his second of the year) and he drove-in three runs. The 21-year-old Hernandez is batting .343 on the year.

Petey Paramore, the A's 2008 third round pick, is working himself back into everyday playing shape after sustaining a strained quad at the end of his collegiate season. Paramore has appeared in six games for the AZL A's through Monday. The catcher out of Arizona State has a .429 average with six walks and two doubles in those six games.

Outfielder Jose Crisostomo, also a product of the A's Dominican Academy, leads the team with five stolen bases. He is batting .333 on the season. A's sixth round pick Tyreace House is behind Crisostomo in the stolen base category with three, despite playing in only five games since signing. He has yet to be caught on the basepaths.

Christian Raking; Hernandez Dealing For Vancouver

A's fifth round pick Jason Christian has gotten off to a very fast start to his pro career. The lanky shortstop is batting .329 with an 895 OPS in the notoriously pitcher-friendly Northwest League. Over his last 10 games, Christian has a .366 average with nine RBIs. He had a two-homer game on July 3rd. The Michigan alum has developed a following already, as evidenced by the "Jason Christian Fan Club" on Facebook.com.

Vancouver has gotten off to a rough start this season – as evidenced by their 9-17 record – but lefty Carlos Hernandez has been impressive. The A's 2006 draft-and-follow signed with Oakland just before the 2007 draft. He struggled during his first pro season, posting a 6.75 ERA in 12 innings. This year, however, has been a different story for the 21 year old. In five starts, he has a 2.36 ERA. Hernandez has struck-out 27 and walked only five in 26.2 innings. He is holding opposing batters to a .238 BA and he has yet to allow a homerun.

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