Vermont Notebook: Heating Up

Nearing the halfway point in the New York-Penn League season, the Vermont Lake Monsters have been playing solid baseball. They have raised their record above the .500 mark and are looking to make a run to the post-season.

Team Overview

The Vermont Lake Monsters have been on a solid run of late, winning seven-of-10 games. That streak has moved the Oakland A's short-season affiliate to a game above the .500 mark at 21-20. They sit five games back of first-place Tri-City in the New York-Penn League's Stedler division.

The New York-Penn League isn't known for its offense, but the Lake Monsters have struggled at the plate even relative to the league. In 41 games, they have scored 148 runs (3.6 per game), good for ninth-most out of 14 teams. Their 642 team OPS is also ninth in the league, while they are 11th in the league in team BA (.230). The Lake Monsters rank in the middle of the pack in homers (18) and stolen bases (30).

Outfielders B.J. Boyd and Boog Powell have led the way for the Lake Monsters this season. Boyd is fifth in the league in OPS with an 893 mark. His four homers rank him tied for 11th in the league. Powell is sixth in the league in BA (.336) and OBP (.409) and he leads the team with nine stolen bases.

In a pitcher-friendly league, the Lake Monsters' sterling 3.02 team ERA is good for only sixth-best. They are in the middle of the league in strike-outs (285 in 346 innings) and have walked the third-most batters (131). Vermont pitchers have allowed the third-fewest hits (295), however, and have the sixth-best WHIP (1.23).

Among league qualifiers, starter Brent Powers ranks sixth in the league in ERA with a 2.16 mark through eight starts (41.2 innings). Kyle Finnegan hasn't pitched enough to qualify for the league leaderboard yet, but his 1.26 ERA in 28.2 innings would lead the league if he qualified.

Vermont, 14-7 at home, finishes their most recent homestand on Monday night versus Lowell and then heads to Hudson Valley for three games before going to State College for another three-game set. After an off-day on Monday, August 5, the Lake Monsters return home for a six-game homestand that will lead into the All-Star break.

Comings and Goings

It has been a busy month of transactions for the Lake Monsters. On July 2, Cristhian Perez was sent down to the AZL A's, while Austin Booker was released. The A's also released Kelvin Rojas a few days later.

On July 2, Ryan Huck was assigned to the Lake Monsters from Arizona after a strong start in the AZL. He carried that hot start into the New York-Penn League, posting a 926 OPS over his first 21 games. He has been sidelined with an undisclosed injury since July 25, however, although he is expected to return before the All-Star break.

Right-handers Sam Bragg and Bobby Wahl joined the Lake Monsters' staff from Arizona on July 8, and both 2013 draft picks have thrown well since joining the team. Taylor Massey was placed on the inactive list on July 8.

Shortstop Wilfredo Solano began the season with Low-A Beloit, but an injury kept him sidelined for most of the season. He was sent to Vermont on July 10 and is likely to remain with the Lake Monsters for the remainder of the season.

Right-hander Deyvi Jimenez has made a few stops in the A's organization this season. He spent two weeks in mid-July with the Lake Monsters before returning to the Low-A Beloit staff. Reliever Omar Duran, who spent the first three months of the season with High-A Stockton, was sent to Vermont to work on his command. After three weeks in the New York-Penn League, he returned to Stockton, where he has pitched much better than he did earlier in the season.

A's 2013 fourth-round pick Dylan Covey made his pro debut with Vermont, but after four dominating starts, he was sent to Low-A Beloit. In 12 innings with the Lake Monsters, Covey didn't allow a run and he posted a 15:1 K:BB ratio. He has struggled some since the making the jump to full-season ball, although his stuff has still looked sharp.

On July 21, the Lake Monsters' bullpen added Kayvon Bahramzadeh from the AZL. Bahramzadeh was a 2012 draft pick. He hasn't allowed a run in four innings in relief for the Lake Monsters thus far.

With Huck ailing, the A's sent 2013 third-round pick Ryon Healy to Vermont on July 25. When Huck returns, he and Healy will share time at first base and DH for the Lake Monsters. Healy, an Oregon alum, has four hits (including two doubles) in his first four games with the Lake Monsters.

Who's Hot

As mentioned earlier, B.J. Boyd and Boog Powell have been the team's offensive leaders since the start of the season. Boyd, the Palo Alto native and A's fourth-round pick a year ago, has filled up the stat column. In 133 at-bats, he has eight doubles, two triples and four homeruns. His strike-out numbers have spiked a bit in the last three weeks, but overall, the 20-year-old is putting together an outstanding second pro season. He is likely to make the All-Star team.

Powell was the A's 20th-round pick last season out of Orange Coast junior college. The left-handed centerfielder leads the team in hitting and has put together a solid 19:14 K:BB in 122 at-bats. He has struggled against left-handed pitching, but he is batting .398/.440/.495 versus righties. Over his last 10 games, Powell is batting an even .400 with a 5:5 K:BB ratio.

Ryan Huck was injured on July 25, but not before he was able to add yet another RBI hit. He has driven in 12 runs in 21 games for Vermont and has homered three times. Huck also has an 18:13 K:BB ratio and six doubles in 72 at-bats for the Lake Monsters. He hit .475/.533/.850 with two homers in 40 at-bats in the AZL before his promotion.

Outfielder Jaycob Brugman's overall line this season is just .250/.285/.371, but he has been heating up of late. Over his last 10 games, Brugman is batting .333 with two doubles, two triples and 11 RBI. He leads the team with 21 RBI in 35 games.

Likewise, corner infielder Michael Soto has struggled much of the year at the plate, but the right-handed slugger appears to be turning around his season. He has two homers, one triple and two doubles in his last six games and a 945 OPS over hist last 10 games.

The A's are keeping the innings-totals limited for Sam Bragg and Bobby Wahl, but both have pitched well in limited appearances thus far. Bragg has pitched out of the bullpen and has yet to allow an earned run in nine innings of work spread over six outings. He has given up just seven hits and one walk while striking out nine. Wahl, who will start on Monday, has made three appearances totaling 7.2 innings. He has 11 strike-outs and has walked one while allowing just two runs.

Lefty Brent Powers is pitching for Vermont for a third straight year, and he is putting together his best season for the Lake Monsters to date. He has a 2.16 ERA and a 37:12 K:BB in 41.2 innings over eight starts for the Lake Monsters. Batters are hitting just .224 against him.

Right-hander Kyle Finnegan was built up slowly after being selected out of Texas State this season, but he has gone six shut-out innings in each of his last two starts. Finnegan has allowed just four earned runs in 28.2 innings this season. He has a 19:5 K:BB ratio and has yet to allow a homerun.

Right-handers Trevor Bayless and Tyler Johnson have combined to throw solid innings out of the Lake Monsters' bullpen. Bayless leads the team with five saves. He has 18 strike-outs against just four walks in 14 innings in his pro debut season. Johnson, a 2012 draft pick, has a 1.42 ERA in 25.1 innings this season.

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