Jesus Luzardo heading to Midland

After only 3 starts Oakland’s No. 2 Prospect, Jesus Luzardo, has been promoted to AA Midland RockHounds. During his brief stint with the Stockton Ports, Luzardo gave up only 2 runs and 6 hits in 14.2 innings. He also struck out 25 batters and walked only 5.  In his last outing on April 17th he did not allow a hit and walked 1 in five innings against the Modesto Nuts.

Luzardo0405

Athletics No. 2 Prospect Jesus Luzardo pitching for the Stockton Ports on Opening Night, April 5, 2018

Luzardo’s first start with the RockHounds will likely take place on Tuesday at Corpus Christi. Right now Midland’s starting pitcher is listed as TBD for that game.

Luzardo’s promotion may seem fast, but he impressed many people during Spring Training this year. Luzardo pitched in 3 games, 2 as a starter. In those outings, he did not give up any runs, compiled a 2-0 record and earned a save in his lone relief appearance.

The top prospect is one of now four 20 year-old starting pitchers to make it to AA for the Oakland A’s in the past 20 years. According to Melissa Lockard (Twitter: @melissalockard) the most recent to do this were Rich Harden (2002), Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson (both in 2008). Among this group Luzardo has the fewest Class A Advanced starts with 3. Both Cahill and Anderson had 13 starts each for the Stockton Ports in 2008. Harden had 12 starts for the Visalia Oaks in 2002 before earning his promotion.

Interestingly enough both Cahill and Anderson have rejoined the A’s for the 2018 season. Cahill made his first start in Oakland on April 17th. Anderson is pitching great in AAA Nashville with a 1.38 ERA in 3 starts while striking out 20 in 13 innings pitched.

The 20 year-old lefty was drafted by the Washington Nationals in the 3rd round of the 2016 Draft out of Stoneman Douglas High School (Parkland, FL). Luzardo was acquired by the Oakland Athletics with Blake Treinen and Sheldon Neuse (Oakland’s No. 11 Prospect) in the trade that sent Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to Washington.

For a video primer of Luzardo’s first 2 starts with Stockton, I recommend Real McCoy Baseball’s YouTube Channel. You can follow him on Twitter @RealMcCoyBaseball

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A’s Pitching Prospects Start the Season Strong

The first full week of the MiLB season is in the books and the different leagues are handling out the first round of player and pitcher of the week accolades. The Oakland Athletics pitching prospects took home Pitcher of the Week awards in three different leagues.

Coming into the season the A’s had the 7th ranked Top Farm system by MLB Pipeline. The pitching prospects are led by A.J. Puk and Jesus Luzardo. However, Puk went under the knife to have Tommy John Surgery last week and Luzardo has had a very strong showing in his first two starts of the season.

Here is how the A’s prospects fared in the weekly awards (April 5th-15th):

California League, Pitcher of the Week: Parker Dunshee, Stockton Ports. Dunshee had 2 starts and only gave up 3 hits while striking out 14 batters. He won his second start at San Jose on April 12th and has yet to give up a run.

Midwest League, Pitcher of the Week: Bryce Conley, Beloit Snappers. Conley has tossed 10 scoreless and hitless innings to start the 2018 season. Conley tossed the first 6 innings of Beloit’s combined no hitter with Ty Damron and Josh Reagan finishing it off.

Pacific Coast League, Pitcher of the Week: James Naile, Nashville Sounds. Naile went 3-0 and has pitched 17 2/3 scoreless innings in 3 starts to begin the 2018 season. Naile has allowed 15 hits, only 2 walks and stuck out 15 batters.

This is just the tip of the iceberg for Oakland’s pitching prospects. The Stockton Ports starting pitching combined for 39.2 IP, 21 H, 2 ER, 9 BB, 59 K in the first 8 games. Bobby Wahl, Jeremy Bliech and Lou Trivino have each pitched in 3 games out of the bullpen for Nashville and have not given up a run. Jake Sachez, currently with Midland, has not given up a run in 3.1 IP with Midland and Nashville combined.

Modesto Nuts, 2017 Cal League Champs

As I prepare for my first trip in 2018 to John Thurman Field, home of the Modesto Nuts. I can’t help, but think back to my last trip there in 2017. It was Friday, September 15th, Game 3 of the California League Championship. The Nuts would roll to an 8-1 victory over the Lancaster JetHawks, securing Modesto’s first title since 2004 when they were an affiliate of the Oakland Athletics.

As a life-long baseball fan, there are certain milestone events I have always wanted to witness in person. One of which is a team winning their league championship. I was fortunate enough to be among the 3,329 fans in attendance that night. This win completed the “perfect postseason” where the Modesto Nuts beat the Stockton Ports in the first round 3 games to 0 and the Lancaster JetHawks in the finals 3 games to 0. This was the Nuts first season as a Seattle Mariners affiliate.

Joe Rizzo, who was promoted to Modesto during the final week of the season, was named Cal League Finals MVP after hitting 7 for 13 (.538) with 1 HR and 4 RBI. The then 19-year old was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2016 draft out of Oakton in Vienna, VA. Kyle Lewis also had a strong series batting 6 for 14 (.429) with a 2B, 3B and 2 RBI. Lewis was the Mariners first round draft pick in 2016 out of Mercer College.

After the game I was fortunate enough to get a couple of autographs from the newly crowned champions. First was a Cal League Baseball signed by Kyle Lewis. Lewis was nice enough to inscribe 2017 Champs on the ball.

I was also able to get the Cal League Finals MVP, Joe Rizzo, on a Cal League Ball. Rizzo inscribed Cal League Final MVP on the ball for me.

All-in-all this was a great night to witness history. I am excited to have these 2 pieces of autographed memorabilia to remember that night.

Lineup Card: Stockton Ports vs. Modesto Nuts – July 28, 2017

I have always wanted to get a lineup card. I have seen people at Banner Island Ballpark with ones from previous games getting them autographed. I have never been lucky enough to get one from a coach or manager. Towards the end of the season I was at a Modesto Nuts game and in the team store they were selling game-used lineup cards. They were $25 and the proceeds went to the charity fund. I thought it was a decent price, but I didn’t think much about buying one until I noticed one detail: they were autographed by the Nuts players. This was a deal I couldn’t pass up.

I looked through the cards to find ones where they played Stockton. I found a couple and settled on the one from Friday, July 28th. I wasn’t at that game, but it turns out that I was at the game the next day. I went with this card for 2 reasons. The first is that Sheldon Neuse, Oakland’s No. 13 prospect, went 3 for 5 and hit his first 2 home runs in the Athletics organization. Neuse had come over from the Washington Nationals with Blake Treinen and Jesus Luzardo in the Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson trade on July 16th. The other reason is that Seattle’s No. 1 prospect, Kyle Lewis, is on the lineup card (on the bench) and he autographed it.

As you can see, I have since framed the lineup card with some autographed cards of some players on the Ports. I don’t think I am going to get the Ports players to sign the lineup card. At this point it will be too difficult. Many of them will likely not be on the team next year.

 

MLB Authentic Memorabilia: Bruce Maxwell 07/14/2017

I have made it a goal for myself to pickup a piece of MLB authentic memorabilia whenever I go to a Major League Baseball game. Ideally, I would like to pick up a ball or something from that particular game that I attended. However, if that does not work out, then it should be something from one of my favorite players.

On September 23rd, I went to an Oakland Athletics game with my Brother and my Nephew. I picked up my first authenticated ball. This ball comes from a game on July 14, 2017. It was a double hit off the bat of Bruce Maxwell against Cleveland Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco.

Maxwell JC353510 Ball I chose this ball because Bruce Maxwell has always been one of my favorite players. I first met him in 2013 when he was promoted mid-season to the Stockton Ports. He has always been nice to me and my family. When Bruce was in Stockton, he would come out to the field early an talk with us for a few minutes before he had to go stretch. Even now as a Major League player he will still talk to us if we see him at a game. I know Bruce understands that things like this mean a lot to people and that is why he is a fan favorite.

The cool thing about the authentication is that you can go to the MLB Authentication Website and get details of the “life” of the ball. He are the details for this particular ball.

Maxwell JC353510 DetailsThere is a lot of information here such as type of pitch, pitch speed and the count. In this case it even includes the hit launch angle, hit speed, distance and who fielded the ball.

This is the third MLB Authentic item I own. I am really happy to have it in my collection. Tomorrow, I will post the ball I picked up at the A’s game on September 26th. My first two items are a couple of bats thatI picked up at the A’s Fan Fest back in January. I post about those at a later time.

The Highs and Lows of Graphing in One Day

When you collect in person autographs there many highs and lows. There is nothing better than when you get most, if not all, of the cards or items you wanted signed. You develop friendships with other graphers at the ballpark as you talk to kill time waiting for players.

On the other side there are low times where the freshly written autograph gets smeared. Or there are times where the player you’ve been patiently waiting for tells you, “after the game,” or a straight up “No.” There is no worse feeling than when the pen fails and the item is ruined.

Those who collect autographs have all been there. It’s all a part of the game. These are the things that will happen time and time again. You can only hope that there are more highs than there are lows.

On Wednesday, May 17th I experienced some really good highs, followed promptly by the lowest of lows. The Inland Empire 66ers were visiting the Stockton Ports. There are quite a few prospects on the 66ers that I wanted to get. Also, Rickey Henderson, who serves as a roving instructor for the Athletics Minor League System, was in town so there was a small chance of getting his auto as well.

When some of the 66ers started to come out, I noticed Matt Thaiss and asked him to come over. He was really great about it. As he came over he noticed one of the other grapher’s book had a couple cards of another player, Kyle Survance, Jr. Matt said, “Hey, you need Kyle? He’s right here. Kyle come over here.” This was the first time I ever had a player ask another player to come over and sign for us. That was a really cool experience.

I ended up getting all, but one or two of the players I was looking for, so it was a really good pre-game session. As I got back to my seat, I noticed that Rickey Henderson was signing for a few people. I had brought a card with me and as always a Major League Ball. In the last moment I decided to get the ball signed instead of the card. I hand the ball and to Rickey and he starts to sign it. Then the worst possible thing happens. The pen fails.

I was so heart broken. He got through his first name and the pen failed as he was signing his last name. I couldn’t believe my luck. This was the same pen that I used the last couple of days to get Jharel Cotton and Daniel Gossett on Major League Balls. When I got back to my seat, I promptly snapped the pen in half and threw it on the ground.

I have been an Oakland A’s fan since 1985. Rickey is a player I grew up watching. He is one of my all time favorites. To have this happen is heart breaking. I hope that one day I can get this ball replaced. I do have a a California League Ball signed by Rickey, so at least I have that.

At this point I have opted to not attach a picture of this ball. I might change my mind and post it later. If you do want to see a picture then comment below and I’ll likely post it.

An Incredible Experience at Banner Island Ballpark

I’ve been collecting in person autographs for about the past five years. It is something that I am very passionate about. I do not sell my autographs, occasionally I’ll trade for players/teams I can’t get on the West Coast.  I just do this for fun and to meet ball players. I don’t expect players to sign everything I have. If they only sign one, then that’s fine with me.

Every once in a while I have an experience that is truly incredible and beyond words. Last night I had one of those experiences! May 6th was the Stockton Ports Annual Alumni Night. Unfortunately the way it works they never really know who is going to come to the event until they actually show up. Some alumni will RSVP the week of the game, but some just happen to show up.

So a good friend of mine, Jesse, and I were graphing that night and the Ports were introducing the Alumni that were there and they announced a very familiar name: Dion James.

I know Dion still lives in the Sacramento area. I sent a TTM request in October 2015. I received the cards back signed in just 2 weeks. I just had no idea he would be there.

Dion was a first round draft pick in 1980, 25th overall, by the Milwaukee Brewers. He was drafted out of McClatchy High School in Sacramento. Dion played 11 seasons in the Majors with the Brewers, Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians and the New York Yankees.  Dion played 124 games for the Stockton Ports in 1981 batting .304 with 43 stolen bases.

Stockton Ports MLB Wall

Stockton Ports in the MLB graphic at Banner island Ballpark. Dion James: Year Played in Stockton 1981, MLB Debut 1983

I’ve learned to always carry a ROMLB with me because you never know who is going to show up at the ballpark. We found Dion on the concourse looking at some of the graphics and banners the Ports have posted around the ballpark. We approached him and asked for his autograph. He was more than happy to do it for us.

Dion James Ball

ROMLB Signed by Dion James

He signed a ball for me and an autograph card for Jesse. Then he said “I have something special for you guys. Hold on a moment.” He pulled out a stack of his own cards and proceeded to give 3 cards to the 2 of us and signed them all. I took the one I wanted and Jesse got the other two. Dion shook our hands thanked us for asking him to sign and being a fan. He also commented to us, “you made my day.” I said to him, ” Mr. James, you made my day!”

Dion James Card

1985 Fleer given to me by Dion James

Interactions like this will always make me a fan of a person for life! He was really nice when we asked him to sign and I would have been happy with the ball. The fact that he give us some of his own cards and signed them for us is above and beyond anything I could have expected. Thank you so much Dion for the experience! I will always remember it!

Athletics get Jed Lowrie back

On Wednesday Jed Lowrie was traded by the Houston Astros to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for Oakland’s number 30 prospect Brendan McCurry. Jed returns to the Athletics after signing a 3 year deal with the Astros after the 2014 season. He played in 290 games with Oakland during the 2013 and 2014 seasons and batted .271 with 74 doubles and 125 RBIs. In 2015 Jed was limited to 69 games with Houston.

The arrival of shortstop Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve at 2nd base, made Lowrie expendable in Houston. Barring any subsequent moves. in Oakland he will have the chance to platoon with Marcus Semien at shortstop, Brett Lawrie at second and Danny Valencia at third.

Brendan was drafted in the 22nd round of the June 2014 draft. In 2015 he split time with the Stockton Ports and Midland RockHounds. He posted a 1.86 ERA in 50 games, converting 27 out 28 save opportunities. McCurry was selected to pitch in the Arizona Fall League this year and posted a 4.73 ERA in just over 13 innings. He was selected as the reliever on Oakland’s organizational All-Stars for the 2015 season.

Card of the Week: Bruce Maxwell 2014 Topps Pro Debut Magenta Printing Plate

Now that I just completed a stretch of working 16 days in a row, I can get back to some semblance of routine. This week’s Card of the Week is the 2014 Topps Pro Debut Printing Plate of Bruce Maxwell. Bruce is currently the Oakland Athletics No. 28 Prospect on MLB.com. This card features Bruce’s time on the Beloit Snappers. This is the 3rd printing plate I own. The great thing about printing plates is that they are a true 1/1.

Bruce Maxwell 2014 Topps Pro Debut Magenta Printing Plate 1/1 - Front

Bruce Maxwell 2014 Topps Pro Debut Magenta Printing Plate 1/1 – Front

Bruce was drafted in the 2nd round of the June 2012 Draft. This past year he was with the Midland RockHounds and helped them to their 2nd straight Texas League Championship. Bruce spent part of the 2013 and 2014 seasons with the Stockton Ports where I got to see him play. He was also named to the 2014 California League All-Star team.

Bruce Maxwell 2014 Topps Pro Debut Magenta Printing Plate 1/1 - Back

Bruce Maxwell 2014 Topps Pro Debut Magenta Printing Plate 1/1 – Back

Click to see the previous Card of the Week entries.

Jacob Nottingham: MiLB.com Fan’s Choice Breakout Prospect

Every year MiLB.com gives the fans the opportunity to choose their “favorites” and “bests” with the MiLBY Awards. This year the fan’s choice for Breakout Prospect was Jacob Nottingham, the No. 8 Prospect for the Oakland Athletics. In the MiLBY’s fan vote, Nottingham received 37% of the votes. This was 24% ahead of the runner up, Detroit Tigers’s No. 1 Prospect Michael Fulmer.

Before 2015, Nottingham had a couple of average years in the Houston Astros Organization where he hit .247 in 2 seasons at the Rookie level. In 2015 it all turned around for Nottingham. He ended the season with .316/.372/.505 slash line and 17 home runs with 3 teams at 2 levels. To cap off a great first half, Nottingham was selected to represent the Quad Cities River Bandits at the Midwest League All Star Game.

Nottingham’s performance was noticed by the Oakland Athletics’s Front Office as they traded pitcher Scott Kazmir on July 23rd to Houston for Nottingham and pitcher Daniel Mengden. At the time of the trade Nottingham and Mengden were playing for the Lancaster JetHawks, who coincidentally were beginning a 4 game set against the Stockton Ports in Lancaster. Both were assigned to the Stockton Ports where they finished the season.

Having watched Jacob Nottingham play the second half of the season with the Stockton Ports, I can say that he can easily develop into an impact player. While he has a good bat, Nottingham’s is defense is a little rough. I would not be surprised if Oakland moves him to the outfield at some point next year.