A's Announce AFL Seven
The Oakland A's announced their 2010 Arizona Fall League contingent on Tuesday. This year pitchers Travis Banwart, Michael Benacka, Carlos Hernandez and Justin James will join position players Grant Green, Stephen Parker and Michael Taylor as members of the Arizona Fall League's Phoenix Desert Dogs' roster.
The Arizona Fall League is a prospect showcase that features some of the games rising young stars. Last year, the A's sent Jemile Weeks, Corey Brown, Grant Desme, Mickey Storey, Sam Demel, James Simmons and Justin Friend to the AFL. From that group, Demel has since graduated to the major leagues.
The A's 2010 AFL class features a mix of high-profile prospects and lesser-known names. Michael Taylor and Grant Green both began the year ranked among the A's top-five prospects and Stephen Parker and Travis Banwart are recent top-five round picks. Michael Benacka, Carlos Hernandez and Justin James might be lesser known names for those who don't follow the A's farm system closely.
Benacka and James both have a lot in common. In addition to being relievers in the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats' bullpen, Benacka and James are graduates of the independent leagues.
Benacka was signed by the A's out of the independent Frontier League in 2008. He had never played affiliated baseball before signing with Oakland as a 26-year-old. Benacka has done nothing but excel since signing with the A's. In 2008, he posted a 2.39 ERA and struck-out 37 in 26.1 innings for High-A Stockton. He moved up to Double-A Midland in 2009 and posted a 2.74 ERA in 65.2 innings before earning a late-season promotion to Sacramento, for whom he posted a 1.98 ERA in 13.2 innings. Benacka has spent the entire 2010 season with the River Cats and has overcome a bout of vertigo to post a 3.77 ERA and strike-out 60 in 43 innings.
James signed with the A's this season after beginning the year in the independent Northern League. He was originally assigned to Double-A Midland, where he had a 2.29 ERA in 19.2 innings before being promoted to Sacramento. In 19.2 innings for the River Cats, James has a 1.37 ERA and four saves. According to Susan Slusser, James will be promoted to the big leagues when rosters expand on Wednesday. This will be James' second go-around in the Arizona Fall League. He was a 2007 participant while with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Hernandez was a 35th round pick of the A's in 2006, although he didn't sign with Oakland until just before the 2007 draft, as he was one of the last draft-and-follow signings the A's made before the August signing deadline rule was instituted. The Santa Clara lefty has done nothing but win since signing with the A's. Since 2008, Hernandez has won 31 games, almost all as a starting pitcher. Last season, he led all A's minor league starters with 15 wins. This year, he has pitched exclusively with the Double-A Midland Rockhounds, posting a 9-3 record with a 4.45 ERA in 123.1 innings. Hernandez was a mid-season All-Star in the Texas League this season.
Banwart, the A's fourth-round pick in 2007, was also a Texas League mid-season All-Star this year. The right-hander from Wichita State had a 2.92 ERA in 83.1 innings for the Rockhounds before being promoted to Triple-A Sacramento. He has a 4.97 ERA in 67 innings with the River Cats, although he has allowed only six runs over his last 23 innings.
Banwart's Sacramento teammate Taylor will head to the desert for his first AFL action. Taylor was acquired by the A's for Brett Wallace during the off-season and entered the year as one of the A's top prospects. He has had an up-and-down season for Sacramento, batting .264/.343/.381 in 120 games, so he will be looking to redeem himself with a strong fall.
Green and Parker figure to be among the least experienced players in the AFL, not having played above A-ball. The Stockton infielders have had strong seasons offensively. Green, the A's top pick last season, is batting .315/.359/.517 with 19 homers and 83 RBIs in 125 games, while Parker, the A's fifth-round pick in 2009, is batting .291/.388/.503 with 20 homers and 89 RBIs in 132 games.
The Arizona Fall League season is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, October 12. A's roving minor league pitching coach/rehab coordinator Garvin Alston will serve as the Phoenix pitching coach. Other teams sending prospects to the Phoenix roster are the Braves, Marlins, Dodgers and Yankees.
Brown, Everidge Return To Sacramento
Corey Brown had a rough first time through Triple-A, but he will get another crack at the league this week, as the outfielder has been promoted from Double-A Midland to Triple-A Sacramento.
Brown spent much of the first six weeks of the season with the River Cats, but he hit only .156 with a 482 OPS in 34 games. He excelled with the Rockhounds, however, batting .320/.415/.502 with 10 homers and 19 stolen bases in 90 games. Brown was named to the Texas League's post-season All-Star team and leaves Midland with the league's second-highest batting average.
First-baseman Tom Everidge returns to Sacramento after being released by the Houston Astros in late July. Everidge, who was in the A's organization from 2004-2009 and played with the A's in 2009, began the year in the Seattle Mariners chain. He was traded to the Houston Astros mid-season and was released at the trade deadline. Everidge was batting .250 with 12 homers and a 733 OPS in 95 PCL games this season. He hit .368 with 12 homers in 52 games with the River Cats last season.
Replacing Brown on the Midland roster is outfielder Jermaine Mitchell, who had a big impact with the Sacramento River Cats in a brief three-game stay. Mitchell drove-in the game-winning run for Sacramento on Sunday in the contest against Fresno that gave the River Cats a one-game lead in the division. Mitchell then doubled home a run in Sacramento's 3-2 win on Monday over Las Vegas. He spent most of the year with the Stockton Ports, for whom he hit .309/.413/.523 with 10 homers and 21 stolen bases in 78 games. Mitchell did appear in 30 games with the Rockhounds earlier this season and he hit .234 with a 651 OPS.
Jared Lansford has been activated from the Sacramento disabled list, while Justin James and Ross Wolf were placed on the inactive list. Susan Slusser reported that James and Wolf will be promoted to Oakland on Wednesday when rosters expand.
Macias To DL, Larsen To Rotation In Kane County
2010 18th-round pick Jose Macias has been placed on the Kane County DL with a strained right shoulder. Macias allowed five runs in seven innings with the Cougars after allowing only two runs in 14 innings with the AZL A's. This is Macias' first full season of pitching after converting from shortstop in college.
Replacing Macias in the Cougars' rotation is left-hander Aaron Larsen, the A's 34th-round pick this season. Larsen becomes the third player (after Macias and Matt Thomson) to advance past the short-season level from the 2010 draft class. Larsen was 5-2 with a 2.89 ERA and 31 strike-outs in 37.1 innings for the AZL A's this season.