Stockton Notebook: The Stretch Run

It's the stretch run for the California League post-season and the Stockton Ports are in the hunt for a post-season berth. We catch-up with the Oakland A's High-A affiliate in this latest team notebook.

Team Overview

It has been an up-and-down start to the second half of the season for the Stockton Ports. At 14-17, the Ports are four games back of first-place San Jose for the second-half Northern Division title. On the season, the Ports are 52-49 and are a half-game back of the Visalia Rawhide for the second-best overall record in the Northern Division. If the season were to end today, the Ports would be a wild card team in the Cal League post-season.

It has been a bit of a strange year offensively for the Ports. Stockton leads the league in homeruns by a good margin with 139 in 101 games. The Lancaster Jethawks, playing in a very friendly stadium for homeruns, are second in the league with 115. The Ports are fifth in the league in walks with 344, but their overall team OBP is dead last at .319. Despite the low OBP, the Ports are third in the California League in runs scored with 526.

Perhaps no two players have epitomized the Ports' overall offense this season more than B.A. Vollmuth and Dusty Robinson. Despite a terrible start to the year, Vollmuth is tied for fifth in the Cal League in homeruns with 19. He also has a solid SLG of .444. However, he is batting only .211 with a .311 OBP, although both of those numbers have been on the rise (more on that in the Who's Hot section).

Fellow 2011 draft pick Robinson has also had a ‘swing-for-the-fences' look to his slashline this season. Robinson is third on the team with 14 homeruns, but his overall line is .212/.286/.391. He has 100 strike-outs and is one of four Ports with more than 90 strike-outs already this season. The Ports are second in the league behind the Modesto Nuts in strikeouts.

The Ports' team OBP would be really lean if not for the efforts of first baseman Max Muncy, who put up a .400 OBP in 93 games for Stockton before earning a promotion to Double-A Midland (more on that later). Josh Whitaker, who has appeared in only 58 games, has the next highest OBP on the team at .358 and Addison Russell is third with a .341 mark.

The Stockton pitching staff has worked hard this season, as the Ports have played several long extra-inning games. They currently lead the league in innings pitched with 921. Stockton has the third-best team ERA in the hitter-friendly Cal League with a 4.31 mark, and they are second in the league in strike-outs with 918.

The Ports' bullpen has been especially outstanding this season. Even with Blake Hassebrock's promotion to Double-A this weekend (more on that in the Comings and Goings section), the Ports still have six relievers on their roster with K/9 rates better than 9.5 this season (Tucker Healy, Ryan Dull, Omar Duran, Seth Frankoff, Jonathan Joseph and T.J. Walz). And three of the team's relievers have WHIPs lower than 1.00 (Dull, Frankoff and Healy).

Stockton finishes off their three-game commuter series with the San Jose Giants on Monday night and then make the trip south to Visalia for a three-game series against the Rawhide. On Friday, the Ports return to Stockton to take on the Giants at home for a three-game set before getting a much-needed day off on Monday, July 29.

Comings and Goings

The midway point in the season always brings a lot of changes to minor league rosters, and this year has been no different for the Stockton Ports.

On July 4, the Ports sent two relievers to Double-A Midland: Jake Brown and Pedro Vidal. Brown struggled in three appearances with the RockHounds and was released by the A's over the weekend. Vidal spent some time in Sacramento and Midland this month and is now back with the RockHounds. He has two appearance for Midland and has allowed a run in six innings with six strike-outs.

On July 14, the Ports said good-bye to their 2013 MVP to-date, Max Muncy. Muncy was leading the Cal League in homeruns, walks and RBI at the time of his promotion. He left Stockton with a .285/.400/.507 line and 21 homeruns in 93 games. Muncy has appeared in seven games with the RockHounds and he has four hits in 25 at-bats (.160 BA), but he has six walks against only three strike-outs (.323 OBP).

Over the weekend, right-hander Blake Hassebrock earned a promotion to Midland, taking Brown's place on the RockHounds' roster. Hassebrock made his Double-A debut on Saturday and tossed a scoreless inning. A starter at the beginning of the season, Hassebrock found a home in the bullpen with Stockton. In 40.1 innings as a reliever, he had a 3.12 ERA and a 43:12 K:BB ratio. He also had a better than 2:1 GO/AO rate.

Taking Hassebrock's place on the Stockton roster over the weekend was right-hander David Mota. Mota had 13 appearances with the Ports earlier this year, and he returns to Stockton after stints with short-season Vermont and Low-A Beloit. With the Snappers, he allowed two runs in 9.2 innings and he had a 10:7 K:BB.

Also joining the Ports this month were outfielder Josh Whitaker and reliever Omar Duran. Whitaker joined Stockton on July 4th after completing his rehab from a fractured wrist he sustained a few games into his Double-A debut with Midland. Whitaker has swung the bat well since returning from his rehab stint and could be a candidate for a promotion back to Midland in the coming weeks.

Duran returned Stockton after a brief stint with short-season Vermont. The left-hander has 52 strike-outs in 33 innings and a 3.27 ERA with the Ports this year, but the hard-throwing reliever has struggled badly with his command (30 walks). Since returning to Stockton, it has been more of the same for Duran. He has struck-out 16 in 8.1 innings and hasn't allowed an earned run, but he has walked five. Cal League batters are hitting only .175 against Duran this year, so when he is throwing strikes, he has been practically untouchable.

Who's Hot

As mentioned earlier, the entire Stockton bullpen has been red-hot. Seth Frankoff, Tucker Healy and Ryan Dull have formed a formidable back-end of the Ports' pen.

Frankoff has been outstanding all year for Stockton, and has been particularly good of late. For the year, he has a 1.91 ERA and a 69:18 K:BB in 56.2 innings. Over the past 10 games, Frankoff hasn't allowed a run in 16.1 innings. He has 23 strike-outs and has allowed just six walks and eight hits.

Healy joined the Ports from Beloit after the Midwest League All-Star break and he has continued his fine first full season as a pro. In 11 appearances for Stockton (14.1 innings), Healy has a 2.51 ERA and a 23:4 K:BB. He has walked just nine while striking out 66 in 43 innings overall this season.

Dull also made the move from the Midwest League to the Cal League in late June. The closer for the Snappers for most of the year, Dull has taken over that role for Stockton since arriving on the team. He already has four saves and a 1.06 ERA in 17 innings for Stockton. Dull has struck-out 26 and walked just two in his first Cal League action. For the year, Dull has a 61:5 K:BB in 42.2 innings and he has allowed just one homerun.

Starter Raul Alcantara made the move from Beloit to Stockton after the break, as well, and he has been very impressive in his brief time with the Ports. The Dominican right-hander has a 2.35 ERA and a 25:7 K:BB over his first six starts with Stockton (30.2 innings). Cal League batters are hitting just .204 against him. For the year, Alcantara has a 10-2 record and a 2.42 ERA with an 83:14 K:BB in 108 A-ball innings. He was awarded Cal League pitcher of the week last Monday.

When Drew Granier jumped from Stockton to Midland in June, Tanner Peters was left as the strike-out leader for the Ports. Peters has recently surpassed Granier for the sole team lead in that category. The UNLV alum has exactly 100 strike-outs against 20 walks in 116 innings for Stockton this season. Homeruns have been a problem for Peters this year (19 allowed), but he has a 45:8 K:BB and a 3.99 ERA over his last 10 starts. For the year, Peters has a very respectable Cal League ERA of 4.27.

Starter Josh Bowman has had a disappointing season, but he has been pitching much better since returning from a stint on the disabled list on June 16. Since that time, Bowman has made eight starts. In two of them, he struggled, allowing 15 earned runs in 13 innings, but in the other six, he has allowed just six earned runs in 38 innings.

At the plate, Vollmuth has emerged over the past two months as the team's biggest power threat. Although still not consistently hitting for average, Vollmuth has reached base at a roughly .360 clip pace over the past two months. He also has 13 homeruns in June and July, including eight in just 19 July games.

Whitaker has appeared in 14 games since returning to the Ports after rehabbing his fractured wrist. He has a .281/.379/.404 line in those 14 games. The outfielder has a .282/.358/.471 line for the Ports overall this season.

Shortstop Addison Russell hasn't played since exiting a 15-inning game on Wednesday night. However, he is having a strong July for the Ports. In 13 games, he is batting .302/.393/.453. Russell and fellow Port Michael Ynoa were the A's representatives in the MLB Futures Game last weekend.

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