Roster Prognostication: A's MiLB Affiliates

Opening Day for the minor leagues is next week and organizations around baseball are working furiously to get their rosters set at the major league level and in the minor leagues, as well. Rosters will likely be affected by late spring moves, as players are released from organizations or traded. With that caveat, we take a swing at predicting the rosters for the Oakland A's full-season affiliates.

Editor's Note

The Oakland A's haven't made their final roster announcements as of yet and trades could be forthcoming over the next several days, but for the purposes of this projection, we are going to assume that the A's will carry a bench consisting of Nomar Garciaparra, Landon Powell, Bobby Crosby and Rajai Davis. All of these projections are just speculative.

Sacramento River Cats

Going into this spring, the talk of camp was how dominant the River Cats' rotation was going to be in 2009. That rotation has lost some of its luster with Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson both starting the year in Oakland, but there is still plenty of talent projected to pitch for manager Tony DeFrancesco this year, as the River Cats try to three-peat as PCL and Triple-A champion.

The rotation will include two and possibly three of the A's top pitching prospects – Vince Mazzaro, James Simmons and, possibly Gio Gonzalez, if he doesn't make the A's roster as a reliever. Right-hander Ryan Webb, who was added to the A's 40-man roster this off-season and was clocked in the mid-90s during spring training, could also be part of the River Cats' rotation, although he could start the year in Double-A Midland and move up later in the year. The other two or three spots should be filled by pitchers with major league experience – Sean Gallagher, Edgar Gonzalez and Jerome Williams.

Gallagher is the headliner of this group and a surprise member of the River Cats' roster. He was assumed to have a spot in the A's rotation sewn up at the start of the spring, but an inconsistent performance in the Cactus League has cost him a spot on the A's roster for now. Despite having nearly a full season of major league experience, Gallagher is still quite young (23 years old) and arguably the most talented pitcher on the River Cats' Opening Day roster. Look for him to get back to the big leagues at some point in 2009.

The Sacramento bullpen should be formidable, as well. Right-hander Andrew Bailey appears to have made the A's Opening Day roster, but many of his 2008 Midland bullpen-mates should be in Sacramento. Andrew Carignan saved 28 games and posted an ERA of 2.01 in 55 appearances in 2008. The hard-throwing righty should see plenty of save opportunities in Sacramento. He should be joined in the bullpen by right-hander Jared Lansford, who had a 3.34 ERA in 89 innings in 2008 and right-hander Henry Rodriguez, who is one of the hardest throwers in minor league baseball.

Sacramento veterans Brad Kilby and Jeff Gray should return to the Capitol City and they should be joined by two relievers with significant big league service time – Kevin Cameron and Chris Schroder. Jay Marshall, Rocky Roquet, Andrew Sisco, Angel Garcia, Justin Dowdy and Bobby Cramer are all candidates for Sacramento's bullpen, as well. Given the number of candidates for the Sacramento bullpen, look for a trade involving one or more of these relievers in the next few days.

The strongest part of the River Cats' projected roster may very well be the team's outfield. Top prospects Aaron Cunningham and Javier Herrera should flank two of the spots, while veteran Chris Denorfia and 2004 first-round pick Danny Putnam should also be in the mix. When he is healthy, Rule 5 pick Ben Copeland will likely get some rehab time with the River Cats, as well. First-baseman/outfielder Sean Doolittle opened a lot of eyes during spring training and may have forced his way onto the River Cats' roster. The A's 2007 supplemental first round pick hit 22 homeruns last season. Minor league free agent acquisition Matt Carson should be in the mix, as well.

The Sacramento infield will feature a number of familiar faces to A's fans. First baseman Daric Barton, who was the system's top prospect in 2007, is likely to be back with the River Cats, at least at the start of the year. Barton is coming off of a disappointing rookie season in the big leagues and has also battled a myriad of leg injuries this spring. Around the horn, Barton could be joined by Eric Patterson, Cliff Pennington, Gregorio Petit, Jeff Baisley, Yung-Chi Chen, Joe Dillon or Jack Hannahan. Except for Chen, all of those players have big league experience. Minor league free agent first baseman Tagg Bozied is also expected to be in the mix for starts at first and DH, as could 2008 Texas League All-Star and RBI champ Tom Everidge. As with the River Cats' bullpen, the Sacramento infield is very crowded and the A's could move one or more of these players in the next few days.

Behind the plate, Sacramento should have Mexican League acquisition Joel Galarraga along with new acquisitions Curtis Thigpen and Eric Munson. Anthony Recker may also work his way onto the roster, if not at the start of the season, by mid-year.

Midland Rockhounds

The 2009 Rockhounds will benefit from having a number of the players that helped the 2008 Stockton Ports win the California League championship. The starting pitching staff was the strength of the Rockhounds' 2008 squad with Mazzaro, Anderson, Cahill, Simmons and Webb leading the way. In 2009, the offense may lead the way.

Midland's attack will start with infielder Chris Carter, who hit 39 homeruns for Stockton last season, establishing a new record for the Stockton franchise. He could share time at first and DH with Doolittle should the A's not make room for Doolittle in Sacramento. Carter and Doolittle formed a lethal one-two punch in the Stockton line-up early last year. They will likely be joined in the infield by prospects Adrian Cardenas at second base and Josh Horton at short. Frank Martinez may get the call at third base. Alexander Valdez and Mike Affronti are also candidates to be in the Midland infield. If he doesn't make the Sacramento roster, Everidge could be back with Midland, where he drove-in 115 runs last season.

Behind the plate, top catching prospect Josh Donaldson should see the majority of the reps. Donaldson hit .330 with nine homers in 47 games after coming over to the A's mid-season last year in the Rich Harden trade. He may be joined by Recker if the A's don't make room for Recker in Sacramento. Recker hit .274 with 11 homers as Midland's main catcher last year. Raul Padron will likely be Donaldson's back-up if Recker is in Sacramento.

Midland should be loaded in the outfield, as well. Matt Spencer, who hit .333 with eight homers in 41 games for Stockton last season after a mid-season trade from the Philadelphia organization, should occupy one of the corner spots. He may also see some time at first base. Left-fielder Archie Gilbert should also be on the Midland roster. The Hayward native hit .278 with 35 stolen bases for Stockton last season and was the team's post-season MVP. If Doolittle is on the Midland roster, he will see some time in the outfield, as well.

Centerfielders Corey Brown and Jermaine Mitchell are competing to be on the Midland roster. Brown hit 30 homers for Kane County and Stockton last season. Mitchell struggled with Stockton last season, but could still make the Midland roster with a strong spring. Matt Sulentic will likely start the season in extended spring training, but he should see some time in Midland at some point in the 2009 season after hitting .309 in 95 games for Stockton last season.

The Rockhounds starting pitching staff will likely be led by right-handers Jason Fernandez, Travis Banwart and Graham Godfrey, all of whom spent significant time with Stockton last season. Webb could also be part of this group if he doesn't make the Sacramento roster. Jason Glushon could act as a swingman for Midland. The versatile righty made 34 appearances for four different A's affiliates in 2008, making six starts and 28 relief appearances.

The Rockhounds' bullpen will be led by Sam Demel, who had a 3.36 ERA and 18 saves in 54 games for Stockton in 2009. He could be joined by side-arming lefty James Heuser, who converted from the rotation to the bullpen and lowered his arm angle last season. Patrick Currin, Scott Moore, Derrick Gordon, Steve Sharpe and Chris Farley are also candidates for the Midland bullpen. Some of the candidates for the Sacramento bullpen who don't make that roster will also be in the mix for Midland.

Stockton Ports

The Ports will be looking to defend their 2008 Cal League title. Although the rotation won't feature the same headline-grabbing names as it did in 2008 with Cahill, Anderson, Rodriguez and Fautino De Los Santos, it should still feature a number of promising arms. A's 2008 second round pick Tyson Ross, an Oakland native and Cal alum, should headline the group. Other candidates to pitch alongside Ross in the rotation include Australian right-hander Scott Mitchinson, who had a 1.73 ERA in 88.1 innings last season for Kane County and Stockton, and fireballer Craig Italiano, who had a 7-0 record and a 1.16 ERA for Kane County during the first half of last season before struggling with Stockton during the second half of the season. Jamie Richmond, who led Kane County in innings pitched last season, is also a candidate for the Stockton rotation, as is right-hander Scott Hodsdon, who posted a 2.93 ERA in 120 innings for Kane County in 2008.

South Bay native Carlos Hernandez should also be on the Stockton staff. The lefty had a breakthrough 2008 season, going 7-0 with a 2.04 ERA in 75 innings for Vancouver and Kane County before starring for Stockton in the playoffs. Top prospect Fautino De Los Santos should give the Ports a mid-season boost, as he is expected to rejoin the Stockton rotation when he finishes his recovery from Tommy John surgery, which he had last May. Right-hander Justin Murray, who appeared as both a reliever and a starter for Arizona and Midland last season, could see time in the Stockton starting rotation, as well.

Right-hander Arnold Leon was a reliever for Stockton in 2008, but the A's are contemplating trying him out in the rotation, perhaps as part of a tandem. This will Leon's first full season pitching professionally in the US after splitting last year between Stockton and a Mexican League club. Right-hander Scott Deal, who has spent the last two seasons with Kane County, could also be in the mix for a rotation spot or a spot in the Stockton bullpen.

Other bullpen candidates for Stockton include lefty Lance Sewell (2.88 ERA in 78 innings for Kane County in 2008), right-hander Chad Kerfoot (2.35 ERA in 72.2 innings for Kane County in 2008), right-hander Justin Friend (11 saves for the Cougars in 2008) and left-hander Nick Walters (3.81 ERA in 52 innings for Kane County in 2008).

If last year's Ports' squad was led by sluggers, this year's squad should be led by guys with speed. A's top pick in 2008 Jemile Weeks could be the Ports' second baseman. The speedster stole six bases in only 19 games for Kane County last season and he has the capability of stealing 50 in a season. His double-play partner will likely be Michael Richard, who stole 35 bases in 85 games for Kane County in 2008. Third base could be filled by a number of players, including Justin Frash, Larry Cobb, Matt Ray and Valdez, if he doesn't make the Midland roster. First base could be manned by a combination of Greg Dowling (15 homers for Kane County last season) and Steve Kleen, who missed all of last season with an injury.

In the outfield, the Ports will likely feature Toddric Johnson, who hit .281 with 13 homers and 11 stolen bases for Kane County last season, as well as Shane Keough, who hit only .244 last season with Kane County. The Midland roster probably doesn't have room for both Mitchell and Brown, so one of them should return to Stockton to start the year. Sulentic could start the year back with the Ports, as well, once he has gotten his at-bats at extended spring training.

Behind the plate, the Ports could feature A's 2008 third round pick Petey Paramore, a switch-hitter with advanced defensive skills. Padron will also see time behind the plate for Stockton if he doesn't make the Midland roster. Yusuf Carter, a minor league veteran who is being converted from the outfield to behind the plate, is another candidate for a spot with Stockton.

Kane County

The Cougars were a playoff team in 2008 and are looking to repeat that feat in 2009. Their roster will likely feature a number of the A's top 2008 draft picks. The rotation could be led by 2008 fourth round pick Anthony Capra, who made 10 starts for the Cougars last season after signing with Oakland, and 2008 seventh round pick Brett Hunter, who was given the largest bonus in the history of the draft for a seventh round pick.

Ronny Morla, a right-hander from the Dominican Republic, should be on the Kane County staff after making 16 starts for Vancouver last season. Hard-throwing lefty Pedro Figueroa, who struck-out 77 batters in 68.2 innings for Vancouver last season, could also be in the rotation mix in Kane County, as could tall right-hander Hector Garcia. Right-hander Mike Hart, who split time as a starter and a reliever with Vancouver last season, could fill a similar role for Kane County in 2008, as could swingman Shawn Haviland, who had a 3.48 ERA in nine starts and nine relief appearances for Vancouver last season.

The Cougars' bullpen should feature some hard-throwers. Right-hander Daniel Thomas has been clocked in the high-90s and he struck-out 20 in 18.2 innings for Vancouver last season. Jose Guzman was one of the best relievers in the Northwest League last season, posting a 2.25 ERA and saving 15 games while striking out 38 in 36 innings. 2008 draft picks Kenny Smalley (3.07 ERA in 29.1 innings for Vancouver last season), Matt Fitts (2.86 ERA for Vancouver in 2008), Ben Hornbeck (40 strike-outs in 31.1 innings for Vancouver last season), Ryan Doolittle (4.44 ERA in 46.2 innings for Arizona in 2008) and Mathieu LeBlanc Poirier (5.74 ERA in 31.1 innings for Arizona and Vancouver in 2008) are also candidates for the Kane County bullpen.

The Cougars' infield will be led up the middle by two 2008 draft picks, Dusty Coleman and Jason Christian. Fellow 2008 pick and middle infielder Nino Leyja (who is only 18 years old) was making a push to be on the Cougars' roster, as well, although it wouldn't be a surprise to see him start the year in extended spring training and join the Kane County roster when the weather warms. First baseman Franklin Hernandez had a break-out season for Arizona last season, hitting .316 with an 862 OPS in 55 games and he could be the Cougars' primary first baseman. Dusty Napoleon, who has converted from being a catcher into a first baseman, could join Coleman and Christian in the infield, as could Frash, Ray or Cobb if they don't make the Stockton roster.

In the outfield, 2007 second round pick Grant Desme could start the year in the Cougars' outfield if he is fully recovered from an oblique strain he suffered early in spring camp. He missed virtually all of last year with wrist and shoulder problems. 2008 draft pick Jeremy Barfield will start the year at extended spring training thanks to a balky hamstring, but he should join the Cougars once he is healthy. Fellow 2008 pick David Thomas is a strong candidate for the Cougars' roster. He hit .290 with an 813 OPS for Vancouver last season. J.D. Pruitt, who hit .282 with a .486 OBP last season for Vancouver, could make his full-season affiliate debut with Kane County this season. Eighteen-year-old phenom Rashun Dixon is likely to start the season in extended spring training to get more regular at-bats, but he could join the Cougars once the weather is warm.

Behind the plate, the Cougars will likely feature Matt Smith, who is coming off of an injury-shortened season, and Dante Love or Gabriel Ortiz. Love, a draft-and-follow pick in 2006, appeared in 37 games for Vancouver last season. Ortiz hit .256 in 26 games for Arizona in 2008.

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