A's a talented bunch from top to bottom

Prospects Russell, Nunez, Bostick, Choice nab All-Star honors

By Josh Jackson / MiLB.com | November 26, 2013 7:00 AM

This offseason, MiLB.com is honoring the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. We're taking a look at each team to determine the outstanding seasons in Minor League Baseball. Select a team from the dropdown below.

Only one Oakland affiliate made the playoffs, but the Athletics owe their second straight AL West title -- at least in part -- to a strong farm system. Sonny Gray made an impressive big league debut and posted a 2.08 ERA with 12 strikeouts over 13 innings in the AL Division Series against the Tigers, a matchup in which Dan Otero -- who joined the A's in June -- made four scoreless appearances. Three Organization All-Stars finished the regular season with Oakland, and one -- the right-handed starting pitcher -- was recently added to the 40-man roster even though he's yet to throw a pitch at the Double-A level.

The A's also were able to trade away Grant Green for an immediate impact player and still stay deep up the middle; Dusty Coleman, Antonio Lamas and Darwin Perez are versatile infielders who fell short of Organization All-Star status but would have had a shot in another system.

Class A Beloit fell in the second round of the Midwest League playoffs and Triple-A Sacramento finished 79-65, two games shy of another Pacific Coast League Pacific Southern Division crown.

Athletics Organizational All-Stars

Catcher -- Stephen Vogt, Sacramento (75 games), Oakland (47 games): Vogt had a .398 on-base percentage with 13 homers and 21 doubles in the PCL. The A's, who picked up the 29-year-old after the Rays designated him for assignment in April, are most impressed with the improvements he made to his defensive game.

"He saw only [47] games at catcher in 2012. I think he really took that to heart. He did a lot of pilates and yoga in the offseason to increase his flexibility and he became a strong, solid defender," A's director of player personnel Billy Owens said. "He caught all five games of our Division Championship Series, so that tells you something.

"It's easy to look at the numbers and say he can hit. He had to answer questions about his defense, and he made a point to address that last offseason."

Vogt threw out 41 percent of would-be basestealers in 569 2/3 innings with Sacramento.

First baseman -- Max Muncy, Stockton (93 games), Midland (47 games): The A's saw terrific offensive performances from several players at this position, but Muncy's 25 homers and 100 RBIs -- both of which led the system, edging fellow first baseman Matt Olson -- put him ahead of the pack.

"He's like Kevin Millar but not a right-handed hitter. He plays an outstanding first base," Owens said. "He has a line-drive bat and he acclimated himself well to Double-A. He has a lot of energy and passion for the game."

Honorable mention: Anthony Aliotti batted .324 with a .416 on-base percentage and 17 homers between Double-A Midland and Sacramento. He reached safely in his first 10 plate appearances of the season and had a three-homer, eight-RBI game on May 18.

Second baseman -- Chris Bostick, Beloit (129 games): Bostick led the system with 25 stolen bases and collected 14 homers and 25 doubles while reaching base more than 35 percent of the time. In his first full professional season, he played 125 games at second base.

"He's a tremendous kid. There's a smile on his face, 24/7," Owens said. "He's very athletic with a lot of power potential. In 2013, he really met expectations. He was strong from Day 1. He used the whole field and got better as the season went along. He made strides defensively and really put himself on our radar as being a strong prospect."

Shortstop -- Addison Russell, Stockton (107 games), Sacramento (3 games): Russell gets the nod at shortstop for the second time in as many seasons as a pro. This year, he hit 17 homers and stole 21 bases.

"Watching him play, going back to when he was still in high school, it's always been great to see how focused, how intense, how competitive, how much he loves to play the game," Owens said. "He has a nose for the baseball. He ranges to both sides and makes everything look easy on defense. I think his desire to be great and his toughness on the field exceed his talent, which is immense."

After a sluggish start, Russell batted .338 in June and July and ended the season with a three-game stint at Triple-A.

Third baseman -- Renato Nunez, Beloit (128 games): Nunez, who won't turn 20 until April, had 19 homers, 27 doubles and 85 RBIs in his first season above Rookie ball.

"He has a beautiful, picturesque swing and he's confident in the batter's box. To go to the long season and put up the numbers he did is a testament to his work ethic and focus on getting better," Owens said. "This is a kid that, it's [mid-November] and I'm pretty confident he's putting in cage work as we speak. Going forward, 2013 will probably be the low end for how he produces up the ladder. He hits the ball to right field like a left-handed pull hitter."


Michael Choice, Sacramento (132 games), Oakland (nine games): Choice hit over .300 for the first time in his four-year pro career and he did it while playing more games than ever before and at the highest Minor League level.

"Michael addressed a lot of things with his swing and turned in a positive direction. His walks were up and his strikeouts were down and his on-base percentage was higher," Owens said. "Sacramento is by far the toughest park in the PCL to hit in, and he hit .302 and had a plethora of extra-base hits. Fourteen home runs is not indicative of the power he has. He will hit a lot more home runs in the Major Leagues than he showed last year, especially with the simplicity of his new approach.

"He played outstanding defense at all three outfield positions and he runs the bases hard and instinctually. He means business. He's going to be making things happen in the 510 area code before long."

Michael Taylor, Sacramento (112 games), Oakland (nine games): Taylor turned in another stellar campaign in the Minors (.281/.360/.474, 18 homers) but, for the third season in a row, struggled in a brief big league stint. Owens is unconcerned.

"From a depth perspective, we've had a lot of pretty strong outfielders in Oakland, but if he keeps getting better, when he has a lengthy opportunity in the big leagues, he's going to surprise some people," Owens said. "He plays an outstanding right field and he has an underrated throwing arm. He's always been a lockdown defender. He has a compact swing and he's made it more direct."

Jake Goebbert, Midland (105 games), Sacramento (21 games): The former Astros farmhand ranked third among A's Minor Leaguers with 22 homers and knocked in 81 runs.

"He's a professional hitter. Going back old-school, he's kind of like Jim Eisenreich: he has a fluid left-handed swing and he's capable of hitting the ball into gaps," Owens said. "He's able to play outfield and a solid first base. He's going to play in the big leagues one day."

Utility -- Daniel Robertson, Beloit (101 games): Robertson played shortstop in 99 games with the Snappers, and Owens likes what the organization saw out of the 19-year old.

"If you look at Robertson (13) and Russell (15) and you combine their error total for the season, it doesn't reach 30," Owens said. "The kid has amazing energy and he's seriously focused. If they played baseball 365 days a year, Robertson would sign up and be the first guy at the ballpark every day."

Selected 24th overall in last year's Draft, the California native batted .277 in his first full season, which didn't start until April 26, thanks to offseason knee surgery.

"That was just us being cautious -- it's cold up there in Beloit," Owens said. "When he got there, he was able to produce, just showed tremendous fundamentals and mechanics. He ranges well and goes both ways. He goes deep on popups. It's a pleasure to be associated with somebody who cares so much about the game of baseball."

Right-handed starting pitcher -- Raul Alcantara, Beloit (13 games, 13 starts), Stockton (14 games, 14 starts): Alcantara throws in the mid-90s and his secondary pitches are effective. He went 12-6 with a 3.11 ERA and struck out 124 while walking only 24, and the A's believe one of his most valuable tools is his intelligence.

"He's a student of the game," Owens said. "What I love about him is, at any point there is a spy charting pitchers, a scout. He creates his own advanced scouting reports. He pays attention to what's working on the mound, not only for himself or for his own team, but with the opposing team."

Left-handed starting pitcher -- Carlos Hernandez, Midland (25 games, 20 starts), Sacramento (four games, four starts): Hernandez's 2.18 ERA ranked second in the Texas League and his 1.11 WHIP was third. Between Double-A and a PCL stint, he finished with a system-best ERA 2.66.

"He's throwing strike after strike and he moves the ball around," Owens said. "He picked up a cutter this year and his cutter has been able to nullify right-handed hitters a little more. He definitely had a tremendous season and he's pitching in Venezuela this winter."

Reliever -- Ryan Dull, Beloit (20 games), Stockton (15 games), Midland (10 games): The 2012 32nd-round pick was second in the organization with 19 saves -- he blew only two -- and went 2-5 with a 2.40 ERA and 0.88 WHIP with an 8.67 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

"He's competitive. He pounds the zone and his stuff sinks in the zone. He's very aggressive," Owens said. "His changeup is a swing-and-miss pitch sometimes. His slider is a very solid pitch."

Josh Jackson is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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