Showoff Sunday: From the California League to the Major League, Part 1

The past 2 Showoff Sunday posts have been about former Major League players who are now coaches in the California League. Today we take the opposite approach and look at players in the California League that have made it to the Major Leagues. This is the first of 2 parts in this series.

I have only been collecting autographs in the California League since 2011 so not may have risen through the ranks. Here are some of the big names that have.

Dan Straily, Oakland Athletics
As many of my readers know, Straily is one of my favorites. I have many fond memories of him as a Stockton Ports. Not only watching him pitch, but being able to talk to him at time before games. Here are a couple of items I had autographed during his time on the Ports.

Dan Straily Autographed Cards

Dan Straily Autographed Cards

Dan Straily Autographed California League Game Used Ball

Dan Straily Autographed California League Game Used Ball

Dan Straily Autographed Ticket Stub

Dan Straily Autographed Ticket Stub

A.J. Griffin, Oakland Athletics
Griffin joined Stockton about 6 weeks into the 2011 season from the Burlington Bees, the Athletics Class A Full season affiliate before they moved to Beloit. He did so well that season he not only was moved up to AA Midland, but he pitched one game for the AAA Sacramento RiverCats.

A.J. Griffin Autographed Card

A.J. Griffin Autographed Card

A.J. Griffin Autographed Ticket Stub

A.J. Griffin Autographed Ticket Stub

Michael Choice, Texas Rangers
It pains me to list Michael Choice as a Texas Ranger. Choice was the 2010 No. 1 Draft Pick of the Oakland Athletics. There were high hopes for Choice to be a big part of Oakland’s future. However, a glut of outfielders and specific needs forced the Athletics to shop Choice this past off season. Fortunately, Michael Choice did make his Major League debut as an Oakland Athletic.

Michael Choice Autographed Card

Michael Choice Autographed Card

Michael Choice Autographed Ticket Stub

Michael Choice Autographed Ticket Stub

Grant Green, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Green was another No. 1 Draft Pick (2009) that the Athletics sent packing last year. Green was a highly touted prospect who never really settled into a position. His hitting was unquestioned, but the huge question mark was his defense. He didn’t really have a defensive home and that is why Oakland moved him last year.

Grant Green Autographed Card

Grant Green Autographed Card

C.J. Cron, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
I was surprised to find out that C.J. Cron made his major league debut this season. I had lost tabs on him and then I suddenly saw his name pop up in my Twitter feed. I remember watching him play for the Inland Empire 66ers in 2012, he was a legitimate threat back then. I was able to get these 3 cards signed by Cron.

C.J. Cron Autographed Cards

C.J. Cron Autographed Cards

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New in Oakland, Part 2: Position Players

This is the second installment of a 3 part series introducing the newest members of the Oakland Athletics. These players were either signed as a free agent or traded for during the off season.  This second installment will introduce the new position players on Oakland’s 40-man roster.  These players may or may not make the opening day lineup, but figure prominently in Oakland’s future.

Nick Punto, utility infielder – Nick was signed as a free agent by the Athletics on November 13th. He spent last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers and played in 113 games batting .255 in 294 at bats in a part time role. Nick figures to be the utility infielder for 2014 with the ability to play almost all infield positions.

Craig Gentry, outfielder – Craig was acquired with Josh Lindblom in the deal that sent Top Prospects Michael Choice and Chris Bostick to the Texas Rangers. Craig played an important role with the Rangers in 2013. He primarily came off the bench and was in a platoon role and batted .280 with 12 doubles in 246 at bats. Criag will take on the platoon role that was vacated by Seth Smith after he was traded to the San Diego Padres.

Chris Giminez, catcher – Chris was claimed off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays in December. Giminez has limited MLB experience playing in no more than 45 games in a season over his 5 year career. He out of options and will likely be placed on waivers towards the end of spring training. He would likely clear waivers and be outrighted to Sacramento where he could figure prominently with  River Cats.

New in Oakland, Part 1: Pitchers

This is the first installment of a 3 part series introducing the newest members of the Oakland Athletics. These players were either signed as a free agent or traded for during the off season.  This first installment will introduce the new pitchers on Oakland’s 40-man roster.  These players may or may not make the opening day lineup, but figure prominently in Oakland’s future.

Scott Kazmir, starting pitcher – Scott was signed as a free agent to a 2 year contract in December. The 30 year old missed the entire 2012 season and made a comeback with the Cleveland Indians last year. In 2013 he went 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA, 162 strikeouts and 1.32 WHIP in 29 games.  Scott figures to be the Athletics’ No. 2 started behind Jarrod Parker.

Jim Johnson, closer – Jim was acquired by the Athletics in exchange for the struggling Jemile Weeks and catcher David Freitas. Jim was a league leader in saves last year as he earned 50 in 59 opportunities. Jim has a 2.94 ERA with a 1.29 WHIP. Jim will take over the closer role previously occupied by Grant Balfour.

Eric O’Flaherty, relief pitcher – Eric was signed as a free agent to a 2 year contract in January. You can see our post about it here: A’s sign O’Flaherty. While Eric is recovering from Tommy John surgery and will not be available until mid-season, Eric was an anchor of the bullpen for the Atlanta Braves over the past 5 years. In his MLB career Eric is 20-9 with a 2.85 ERA, 245 strikeouts in 343 games with the Braves and the Seattle Mariners.

Fernando Abad, relief pitcher – Fernando was dealt by the Washington Nationals to the Athletics for Minor League outfielder John Wooten. In 2013 Fernando was 0-3 with a 3.35 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 39 relief appearances

Luke Gregerson, relief pitcher – Luke was dealt to the Athletics by the San Diego Padres for outfielder Seth Smith. In 2013 Luke was a workhorse on the Padres staff compiling a 6-8 record with a 2.71 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP in 73 relief appearances.

Josh Lindblom, relief pitcher – Josh was a part of the trade that brought Chris Gentry from the Texas Rangers to the Athletics for Michael Choice and Chris Bostick. It is likely that Josh will start the season with the Sacramento River Cats, but he could figure prominently in the bullpen later in the season. In limited duty with the Rangers Josh went 1-3 with a 5.46 ERA in 8 games, 5 of which were starts.

Drew Pomeranz, starting pitcher – Drew was acquired by the Athletics along with minor leaguer Chris Jensen in the trade that sent Brett Anderson to the Colorado Rockies. Drew will begin the year with the Sacramento River Cats and figures to be a starter with the Athletics some time in the next year or two. Drew pitched in 8 games, 4 starts, last season for the Rockies and compiled an 0-4 record, 6.23 ERA in 21.2 innings.

Oakland Athletics Top 20 Prospects (as of January 8, 2014)

Here is the list of the Top 20 Prospects of Oakland Athletics as compiled by MLB.com.  To be eligible for the list the player must have rookie eligibility.  Players cannot exceed 130 at bats or 50 innings pitches with a Major League club.  Also the player cannot be on the active roster for more than 45 days during the 25 player limit period.

1. Addison Russell
2. Michael Ynoa
3. Renato Nunez
4, Daniel Robertson
5. Matthew Olson
6. Raul Alcantara
7. Billy McKinney
8. Miles Head
9. Nolan Sanburn
10. B.J. Boyd
11. Arnold Leon
12. Drew Granier
13. Dillon Overton
14. Vicmal De La Cruz
15. Max Muncy
16. Anthony Aliotti
17. Blake Hasebrock
18. Chad Pinder
19. Dylan Covey
20. Bruce Maxwell

After the Winter Meetings and trades made by the Athletics organization this is how the Top 20 Prospect list shapes up.  Off the list are #2 Prospect Michael Choice and #17 Prospect Chris Bostick who were both traded to the Texas Rangers for Chris Gentry. Back on the list is Catcher Bruce Maxwell and new to the list is Dylan Covey who was drafted in the 4th round of the 2013 Draft.

Athletics exercise club options for Crisp and Anderson

Two highly expected moves were formally announced on Friday.  The Oakland Athletics exercise the club options for outfielder, Coco Crisp and left-handed pitcher Brett Anderson.

Coco was the main spark plug for the Athletics’s return to the postseason.  He batted .267 with an on base percentage of .335 in 131 games this season.  Coco also set a new career high for home runs with 22, doubling his total from 2012.  His previous best was 16 back in 2005 when he played for the Cleveland Indians.

Brett Anderson struggled once again with the injury bug in 2013.  He did get into 16 games, his highest total since 2010, but only 5 were starts.  Brett proved valuable for the Athletics in the stretch drive as he came out of the bullpen.  On the season he went 1-4 with a 6.04 ERA.  Brett did tally 46 strikeouts in 44.2 innings.  Brett’s future role with the Athletics is dependent on whether or not they can resign the 40 year old Bartolo Colon.  Colon returned to his All-Star for this year collecting an 18-6 record.

2 Club Options Declined
Not surprisingly the Oakland Athletics declined the club options for veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki and struggling outfielder Chris Young.

Kurt filled in at catcher quite nicely when John Jaso and Derek Norris were banged up late in the season.  However, with the emergence of Stephen Vogt and a healthy Derek Norris the is simply no room for Kurt.

Chris has one of his worst seasons as he played in 107 games and batted a measly .200.  The only upside for the outfielder was the 12 home runs he hit this season.  Barring any off season acquisitions this move makes room for No. 2 Prospect Michael Choice to get extended playing time at the Major League level.

A Look Back: 2013 Preseason Top 20 Prospects

With all of these posts about the current Top 20 Prospects in the Oakland Athletics organization, I wanted to look back at the same list only from the 2013 preseason.  We will talk about those who graduated from the list and those who have dropped off.  Here is the Top 20 Prospects list coming into the 2013 Spring Training.

1. Addison Russell
2. Dan Straily
3. Michael Choice
4. Grant Green
5. Matt Olson
6. Sonny Gray
7, Daniel Robertson
8. Renato Nunez
9. Miles Head
10. Nolan Sanburn
11. Raul Alcantara
12. Michael Taylor
13. B.J. Boyd
14. Vicmal De La Cruz
15. Bruce Maxwell
16. Arnold Leon
17. Beau Taylor
18. Drew Granier
19. Blake Hassebrock
20. Jefry Marte

When comparing this list to the current list 7 players have moved off the list.  3 players have graduated from the list and 4 players fell off.

The Graduates (3 players)
Dan Straily – After a strong rookie debut in August and September 2012, Straily was given another opportunity to show he belongs in the majors as a member of the Athletics’s starting staff. Dan made the starting rotation on Opening Day in place of Bartolo Colon who was finishing up a 50 game suspension from the 2012 season.  After Brett Anderson went down with an injury Straily made the case and remained in the starting rotation for the remainder of the season.

Grant Green – Grant was called up right around the 2013 All-Star Break and made his MLB debut with the Oakland Athletics.  His tenure was uneventful and short lived.  At the trade deadline Grant was traded to the Los Angeles Angels for Alberto Callaspo, a move that ultimately helped both clubs.  Grant found his stroke and started to get plenty of playing time proving that he does belong in the Majors.

Sonny Gray – Sonny was called up around the same time as Grant Green and the results were the polar opposite.  He excelled in 2 relief appearances prior to making his 1st MLB start. One of the memorable moments from the 2013 season for Sonny was his 1st Postseason battle vs. Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers. Gray matched him pitch for pitch with the Athletics winning the game in walk-off fashion in the 9th inning.

Dropped Off…For Now (4 players)
Michael Taylor – The aging minor league veteran has dropped off the list due to inconsistent results at the Major League level.  Taylor is a proven hitter in the Minors, however that success has yet to translate to the Majors and with the crowded outfield situation in Oakland he may be better suited to hookup with another organization.

Bruce Maxwell – With the trade of Max Stassi in the 2012 off season Bruce became the Athletics’s top catching prospect, and at this point he still is.  Bruce may have dropped off the list, but he did not fall far.  In his 1st full season Bruce batted .275 earning a promotion from Class A to High A ball halfway through the season.  Bruce is not only a force at the plate, but behind the plate as well.  He handles a variety of pitchers very well and is quickly becoming a great game caller.

Beau Taylor – After Bruce Maxwell, Beau was the other catcher on the Top Prospect list.  He excelled in the 2012 season advancing 3 levels, Vermont Lake Monsters to Stockton Ports to Midland RockHounds in a short time.  Beau had a difficult year at the plate hitting only .191 in 76 games.  His defense behind the plate is what keeps him ranked as a Top Prospect, but just not in the Top 20.  With a strong 2014 Beau could return to the Top 20 list.

Jefry Marte – Acquired by the Athletics in December 2012 from the New York Mets, Jefry was quickly labeled as a Top 20 Prospect.  He had a strong showing in 2013 batting .278 with 17 doubles in 66 games for the RockHounds, but with the new Draft Class and stellar performance from some unlikely players, Marte dropped off the Top 20 list.

Top 20 Prospects: 2. Michael Choice

Rank #2
Drafted: First round, 10th overall, 2010 June Draft out of the university of Texas at Arlington.
Position: Outfield
Bats: R, Throws: R
2014 Team Projection: Oakland Athletics

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Oakland Athletics Top 20 Prospects

Here is the list of the Top 20 Prospects of Oakland Athletics as compiled by MLB.com.  To be eligible for the list the player must have rookie eligibility.  Players cannot exceed 130 at bats or 50 innings pitches with a Major League club.  Also the player cannot be on the active roster for more than 45 days during the 25 player limit period.

1. Addison Russell
2. Michael Choice
3. Michael Ynoa
4. Renato Nunez
5, Daniel Robertson
6. Matthew Olson
7. Raul Alcantara
8. Billy McKinney
9. Miles Head
10. Nolan Sanburn
11. B.J. Boyd
12. Arnold Leon
13. Drew Granier
14. Dillon Overton
15. Vicmal De La Cruz
16. Max Muncy
17. Chris Bostick
18. Anthony Aliotti
19. Blake Hasebrock
20. Chad Pinder

Each week leading up to Spring Training I will be profiling each of the Top 20 Prospects.

This list is subject to change based on trades, free-agent signings and other roster moves.  I will keep the list updated as best as I can.  The list is current as of October 2, 2013.

Michael Choice collects first major league hit

Oakland Athletics #2 Prospect Michael Choice collected his first major league hit on Tuesday night against the Texas Rangers.  Michael tapped a 2-0 pitch up the third base line and beat out the throw by pitcher Martin Perez.  Martin’s throw pulled the first baseman Mitch Moreland off the bag, but the play was ruled a hit because it looked like Michael beat the throw.  It wasn’t glamorous, the ball traveled all of 40 feet, but it’s a hit.

On Tuesday, Michael went 1 for 3 in the loss to the Rangers.  This brings his career totals to 1 for 5, a decent start for the former 1st round draft pick.

Michael Choice makes MLB debut

Labor Day 2013 will be a day Michael Choice will always remember.  It is the day he made his MLB Debut with the Oakland Athletics.  On the day Michael went 0 for 2 with a walk and a run scored.  The walk came in his 1st plate appearance, showing the discipline that made him a force to be reckoned with in the PCL.  Michael reached on an error by Gold Glover Adrain Beltre in the 5th inning just ahead of the 2-run home run by Coco Crisp that put the Athletics ahead for good.

Selected in the 1st round by the Oakland Athletics, Michael Choice was the 10th overall pick in the 2010 draft out of the University of Texas at Arlington.  He spent a full year in each of his next three stops: Stockton Ports in 2011, Midland RockHounds in 2012 and Sacramento RiverCats in 2013 before getting the call to the Oakland Athletics.