2009 In Review
If 2008 was a year to remember, the 2009 season was a year to forget for the Stockton Ports. The Ports began the year with a long losing streak and they were never able to get back above the .500 mark. Stockton finished the year at 61-79. The pitching staff was solid, finishing third in the league in team ERA, but the offense was anemic, as the Ports finished second-to-last in the league in runs scored.
The Ports are looking for better results offensively in 2010 and they have a mostly new set of position players suiting up for them. Among the position players, only Shane Keough, Jermaine Mitchell and Kala Ka'aihue spent a significant amount of time with the Ports in 2009.
The A's 2009 draft class is heavily represented on the Ports' roster, led by the A's top pick from a year ago, shortstop Grant Green. Green made his professional debut with the Ports during the final week of last season. He appeared in five games and hit .316 in 19 at-bats. Green is a tall, athletic shortstop who is expected to be an above-average hitter for his position. Should Green get off to a fast start with Stockton, he may find himself in Double-A by mid-season.
Fellow 2009 draft picks Stephen Parker and Michael Spina are set to join Green in the Ports' infield. Parker was the A's fifth round selection out of BYU and Spina was taken in the 11th round out of Cincinnati. Both players spent the majority of their professional debut seasons with Low-A Kane County. Spina showed good power with the Cougars last season, knocking seven homeruns and 10 doubles in 184 at-bats. Parker managed only a .244 average with five homers in 254 at-bats, but he starred during the A's Instructional League and he had a good spring. Both Spina and Parker were third basemen in college, but Spina played mostly third and Parker played mostly first last season. Both players figure to see time at both corner infield positions this season.
Jason Christian and Tyler Ladendorf will also see time in the Ports' infield this season. Christian, primarily a shortstop in college, spent the majority of his 2009 season in Kane County playing third base. The rangy Michigan alum can play all over the infield and he figures to see time at all four positions. He may also see some time in the outfield. Christian is coming off of a dislocated shoulder that ended his 2009 season after only 86 games, but he is healthy now. He is a top-of-the-order hitter with a good eye and above-average base-running skills, as he swiped 28 bags in 31 chances last season.
Ladendorf is arguably the most athletic player on the Ports' roster. Acquired last July for Orlando Cabrera, Ladendorf debuted in the A's organization with Kane County, playing in 35 games with the Cougars. He was primarily a shortstop with the Cougars, but Ladendorf wowed A's coaches during the team's fall Instructional League with his ability to play all over the field, including out in centerfield. Given that the Ports are carrying only three natural outfielders, Ladendorf figures to see significant time in the outfield. In college, Ladendorf had a lively bat and was a record-breaker on the base-paths. He has yet to find his groove at the plate in the pros, but offense-friendly California League might be a good place for Ladendorf to break-through.
Designated hitter/corner infielder Kala Ka'aihue rounds out the Ports' infield. Ka'aihue was signed late in the 2009 season out of the independent leagues. The former Braves prospect struggled in 18 games with the Ports last year, batting only .131 in 61 at-bats with 26 strike-outs. He walked 10 times and he hit four homeruns, however. Ka'aihue isn't known for his glove, so he might see the majority of his at-bats at DH.
The Ports are currently carrying three catchers, all of whom could also see time at first base as well as at catcher. Ryan Ortiz is entering his first full professional season riding a wave of momentum after posting strong numbers with short-season Vancouver last year. In 48 games for the Canadians, Ortiz had an 818 OPS and played well defensively. He was a sixth-round pick of the A's out of Oregon State last season.
Petey Paramore will be battling Ortiz for the bulk of the playing time behind the plate. Paramore was a highly regarded prospect coming out of Arizona State when the A's took him in the third round in 2008. However, the switch-hitter has struggled at the plate during his first year-and-a-half as a pro. He hit only .230 with a 638 OPS in 101 games for Kane County last season. Paramore is a strong defensive catcher and he has a great eye at the plate, but he will need to show more hitting ability to leap-frog Ortiz on the A's catching-prospect "ladder."
Dusty Napoleon is listed on the roster as a catcher, but he has seen more and more time at first base over the last couple of seasons. The A's 19th round pick in 2007 hit .218 in 229 at-bats for the Cougars last year.
The Stockton outfield will have a familiar look for Ports' fans. Jermaine Mitchell returns for the third consecutive season. Mitchell, the A's fifth-round pick in 2006, was once one of the A's top prospects after he posted consecutive strong seasons for Vancouver and Kane County in 2006 and 2007, respectively. His career has stalled at Stockton, however, as he has failed to hit above .250 in each of his two seasons with the Ports. Mitchell has as much raw talent as anyone on the Ports' roster, but he is searching for more consistency at the plate. Mitchell walked 73 times and stole 17 bases last season and he figures to be near the top of the Ports' line-up this season.
Shane Keough returns for his second season with Stockton. Keough appeared in 122 games for Stockton last season and he hit .235 with a 605 OPS in 446 at-bats. Keough has a lot of raw talent, but he remains a relatively unpolished prospect three years into his professional career. Keough is a switch-hitter with good speed, so he brings some versatility to the Ports' outfield.
Jeremy Barfield is the newcomer in the Stockton outfield. The son of former AL All-Star Jesse Barfield is the youngest player on the Ports' roster at 21-years-old. Barfield is a physical specimen at 6'5'', 240 and he has above-average power and a strong throwing arm. Barfield hit three homeruns in a single game last season and was a Midwest League midseason All-Star for Kane County. Barfield was inconsistent at times with his mechanics, something he worked to correct during the fall Instructional League. Barfield had off-season knee surgery and he had hamstring problems early last season, but he enters the 2010 campaign healthy.
The Ports will kick off their season on Thursday and right-hander Shawn Haviland will take the mound. The Harvard alum was the A's 33rd round pick in 2008, but the A's believe Haviland's stuff is far better than one would expect from a 33rd rounder, as he features a lively fastball in the low-90s. Haviland spent all of last season with the Kane County Cougars. He was outstanding for the Cougars during the first half of the season, but he faded down the stretch, as he pitched a career-high 153 innings. Haviland should be able to handle the full-season load better the second time around. The right-hander keeps fans up-to-date on the progress of his career with a blog entitled, "IvyLeaguetoMLB.com."
Haviland will be followed in the rotation by right-hander Murphy Smith, who was taken in the 13th round of the draft last season. Smith made three appearances for the A's short-season affiliates before joining the Cougars' rotation. He acquitted himself well in his first stint with a full-season affiliate, posting a 4.75 ERA and striking out 31 in 36 innings. Smith has drawn praise from A's minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson for his ability to change speeds and mix his pitches. Smith is the only starting pitcher on the Ports' roster from the 2009 draft class.
Right-hander Kenneth Smalley will be the third starter in the Ports' rotation. Smalley was brilliant in his first full professional season in 2009. Pitching only miles from where he grew up in Illinois, Smalley posted a 2.73 ERA in 29 games for the Kane County Cougars. He was a Midwest League post-season All-Star and he led the league in ERA for much of the season before an August slump pushed his ERA up. Smalley held opposing batters to a .226 average last season and he allowed only six homeruns in 131.2 innings.
Anvioris Ramirez, the Ports' fourth starter, is the youngest pitcher on the Stockton staff. The Dominican native made his full-season affiliate debut last season with Kane County. In nine starts with the Cougars, Ramirez went 5-2 with a 3.29 ERA in 52 innings. Ramirez also made six appearances for the A's Rookie League squad. He is the only southpaw in the Cougars' rotation.
Rounding out the Ports' rotation is right-hander Justin Murray, who was briefly part of the Stockton rotation early in 2009, as well. Murray struggled during his time with the Ports, posting a 6.04 ERA in 25.1 innings. He was sent back to Low-A Kane County and was outstanding for the Cougars in a relief role, going 5-1 with a 2.84 ERA and 12 saves. He struck-out 45 in 44 innings for the Cougars. Despite his success as a reliever, Murray will get another look in the starting rotation. He could move back into the bullpen, however, if he struggles early on.
The Ports' bullpen should be a team strength in 2010, led by a pair of relievers who were practically unhittable in 2009 – Trey Barham and Paul Smyth. Barham, one of two lefties in the Ports' bullpen, had a 1.24 ERA in 43.2 innings for Kane County last season. He struck-out 41, walked only 11 and allowed only one homerun for the Cougars. Barham handled both lefties and righties well and limited opposing batters to a .177 average.
Smyth had an eye-opening professional debut in 2009. A 35th round selection last season, the side-arming Smyth made 25 appearances for short-season Vancouver and Low-A Kane County in 2009 and he didn't allow a run in 36.1 innings. He saved 11 games, held opposing batters to a .115 average and struck-out 44 while walking only four.
Scott Deal and Scott Hodsdon figure to act as longmen in the Ports' bullpen, as both are former starters. Deal made the transition from the starting rotation to the bullpen last season with good success. The right-hander had a 3.56 ERA in 73.1 innings. Deal will be joining the Ports after three seasons with the Kane County Cougars.
Hodsdon will be making the move to the bullpen after spending most of his professional career as a starting pitcher. Hodsdon was a member of the Ports' rotation for much of the 2009 season, as he made 27 appearances (21 starts) for Stockton. He struggled, posting a 5.22 ERA. Hodsdon allowed 153 hits and 14 homers in 127.2 innings. Hodsdon's numbers were better in his six relief appearances than they were in the starting rotation last season, so the permanent change to the bullpen could be a positive one for the right-hander.
Lance Sewell is another returning member of the 2009 Ports' pitching staff. The left-hander had a 4.36 ERA in 43.1 innings for Stockton last season. Sewell was dominant at times, striking out 56 batters, but he frequently struggled with his command, walking 27 and allowing eight homeruns. Sewell actually fared better against right-handed batters last season (719 OPS against) than left-handers (904 OPS against).
Daniel Thomas and Dan Sattler both spent some time with the Ports last season, as well. Thomas was on the Ports' Opening Day roster and he was expected to serve as Stockton's closer. The hard-throwing right-hander allowed seven runs in 3.1 innings to start his season with Stockton and was shut down with injury. He struggle with injuries off-and-on for the rest of the season, pitching in only 22.2 more innings for the A's Rookie League team and Kane County. If healthy, Thomas has electric stuff and he could be a dominant force in the bullpen for Stockton. Sattler joined the Ports in August after being signed out of the independent Northern League. He made four relief appearances for the Ports last season, allowing five runs in four innings. Sattler was a Texas Rangers' farmhand from 2006-2008.
Jose Pina rounds out the Stockton bullpen. The right-hander signed with the A's as a minor league free agent during the off-season. Pina had spent his entire career in the Chicago Cubs organization. He spent most of the 2009 campaign with Dayton of the High-A Florida State League, and he posted a 4.19 ERA in 58 innings. Pina is a native of the Dominican Republic.
For the second consecutive season, the Ports will have a new manager. Steve Scarsone will lead the Ports in 2010 after serving as the manager of the Kane County Cougars in 2009. It was Scarsone's first season as part of the A's organization and he took the Cougars to the post-season. The former big league infielder has also managed in the Arizona Diamondbacks' chain. He replaces Aaron Nieckula, who will be managing the Kane County Cougars in 2010.
Scarsone will be joined on the bench by two experienced coaches, Tim Garland and Don Schulze. Garland has served as the Stockton hitting coach since 2007. He was the coach in 2008 when the Ports' offense featured a number of heavy hitters, including Chris Carter, Sean Doolittle and Corey Brown. Garland was also the hitting coach for Kane County in 2006.
Schulze will be in his second season with the Ports after serving as the Kane County pitching coach in 2006 and 2007 and the Arizona A's pitching coach in 2006. Schulze has worked with a number of the A's top pitching prospects over the past few years, including Trevor Cahill, Henry Rodriguez and Tyson Ross.
2010 Stockton Ports Preview
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