Arizona A's Notebook: Pennant Fever

It is crunch time for minor league affiliates, as the season's final month is upon us. The Arizona Rookie League A's have positioned themselves for a fight to the finish for a playoff spot. Maren Kasselik takes a closer look at the Rookie League squad.

With one month left to play in the dog days of the summer rookie league, Oakland's Arizona affiliate — the A's — are locked in a pennant race. Unlike their struggling counterparts in the Dominican Summer League, these A's are only four games behind the first-place Giants and leading the Cubs by two games in the wildcard race.

Much like the Dominican A's, however, the Arizona A's field one of the top pitching staffs in rookie ball. The A's third-best team ERA (3.67), second-best team WHIP (1.24) and second-best team strikeouts (304 in 31 games) more than compensate for their lack of saves (3) and shutouts (0) — both of which are worst in the league — and the lackluster offense.

At the plate, the A's are last or second-to-last in team hits, runs batted in, total bases, on-base, slugging, batting average and on-base plus slugging. They whiff more than 14 of the other 15 Arizona league teams. That's not to say every position player is struggling. Two players in particular — Royce Consigli and Miguel Marte — carry the offense well enough to support the A's star pitching staff.

Highlighting the A's mound prowess, reliever Aaron Larsen and starters Argenis Paez and Seth Frankoff sport a combined ERA of 2.67 in 77.2 innings pitched, including eight of the A's 17 victories.

Names To Note

Aaron Larsen (3.45 ERA/ 15.2 IP/ 10 H/ 6 ER/ 2 HR/ 4 BB/ 13 SO/ .179 BAA)
Base-runners are scarce when Larsen takes the hill. His WHIP (0.89) ranks first in the Arizona League — surprising given that just over a month ago Oakland selected the reliever in the 34th round (1,025th overall) of the amateur draft out of Bethany College. The southpaw holds righties to a .163 batting clip and has yet to give up an earned run against a lefty.

Argenis Paez (2.62 ERA/ 34.1 IP/ 35 H/ 10 ER/ 2 HR/ 7 BB/ 23 SO/ .257 BAA)
The Venezuelan holds the league's eighth-best ERA and rarely gives up the base on balls — a solid rebound from a shaky '09 campaign split between the Dominican and Arizona Summer Leagues (where he lost his final six starts). More notable, Paez's groundout-to-flyout ratio is 4.2 — easily one of the more favorable ratios in the Arizona League and even the entire Oakland minor league system.

Seth Frankoff (2.28 ERA/ 27.2 IP/ 14 H/ 7 ER/ 0 HR/ 14 BB/ 35 SO/ .146 BAA)
Like Larsen, Frankoff was a late-round pick (27th round, 815th overall) out of a smaller baseball school (UNC-Wilmington) a month ago, but is adjusting to pro ball without much complication. With the fifth-best Arizona League ERA (2.28), the 10th-most strikeouts (35) and no surrendered homers to his name, the lanky righty is the Arizona A's best pitcher right now. Fourteen hits and 35 strikeouts in 27.2 innings pitched compliment an already impressive line.

Royce Consigli (.347 AVG/ 12 R/ 0 HR/ 12 RBI/ 11 BB/ 14 SO/ .420 OBP/ .520 SLG/ 940 OPS)
The outfielder is first or second in all major offensive categories of regular starters for the A's. While Consigli (30th round, 2009) hasn't knocked one out of the park as a pro (169 total at-bats), he is proving to be a gap-to-gap hitter who doesn't strikeout often. His five doubles and four triples show promise.

Miguel Marte (.254 AVG/ 14 R/ 3 HR/ 16 RBI/ 2 BB/ 47 SO/ .285 OBP/ .364 SLG/ 709 OPS)
The sturdy first baseman ranks among the top of the Arizona League in homers, RBIs and total bases — after having spent a quarter of the season with the Dominican Summer League A's. Seasons combined, the Dominican has tagged five homers and six doubles. If he develops a keener eye (two walks in 118 at-bats), Marte will be a force at the plate.


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