Cal notes: Top players, big turnarounds

A's Russell, Astros' DeShields enjoying strong second halves

Addison Russell and Delino DeShields teamed up at this year's Futures Game. (Danny Wild/

By George Alfano / Special to | August 7, 2013 7:27 AM ET

Fans who closely follow the prospects of their favorite Major League teams might have been a bit worried in the spring about a handful of highly ranked California League players.

Addison Russell, for example, ranked by as the No. 1 prospect of the Oakland Athletics, was hitting .211 on June 1 with 57 strikeouts in 180 at-bats for the Stockton Ports. But the 19-year-old shortstop has since turned it around, hitting .333 in June and .344 in July to help raise his average to .271 on the season with 12 homers, 47 RBIs and 63 runs scored.

Ryan Wright, the Cincinnati Reds' No. 8 prospect, batted .231 in April for the Bakersfield Blaze. But the 23-year-old second baseman has battled back and is now batting a respectable .273 with eight homers in 88 games.

Lancaster's Delino DeShields started slowly as well, somewhat surprising given his success during the JetHawks' run to the 2012 Cal League title. The Astros' No. 6 prospect entering the season, DeShields hit .250 with only three RBIs in April and was caught stealing six times in his first 11 attempts. He's been on a tear of late, however, hitting .349 in July and a torrid .455 in five August contests. He's also had 37 steals and been caught just 10 times since the start of May.

Though many fans might worry about slow starts and sagging stats, thinking somebody made an evaluation mistake, Rancho Cucamonga Quakes skipper Carlos Subero cautions not to be overly concerned.

"We don't pay attention to statistics," said Subero, who's managed 12 years in the Minor Leagues. "You can get a player who gets two hits when he swings at the first pitch, but then swings at the first pitch when somebody is on base and doesn't move a runner. The player is 2-for-4, which is a .500 batting average, but it really doesn't help the team."

Subero said each player is assigned a plan to work on. When he creates his daily reports for the organization, those goals are the basis of those reports, not necessarily the final numbers.

"One thing we look at is how players adjust from at-bat to at-bat," Subero said. "We look at day-to-day progress and doing things correctly every day. Statistics are the fruit of doing things right."

In brief

Duffy gets family help: After Matt Duffy learned the Houston Astros promoted him from the Lancaster JetHawks to the Corpus Christi Hooks in the Double-A Texas League, he had a lot of joy and a lot of work to do. The team trainer gave him the itinerary, which called for a 7:55 a.m. flight from LAX to Houston and, after a 90-minute layover, a connection to Corpus Christi. "I was lucky because my grandparents and my uncle's family were finishing their 10-day vacation when I got called up," said Duffy, a native of Milton, Mass. "My family helped me pack, and they were able to take some of the cold-weather clothes back to Massachusetts." Duffy earned the advancement after hitting .323 with 19 home runs and 84 RBIs in 100 games.

Movin' up roundup: In addition to Duffy, Houston this week promoted pitchers Cameron Lamb, David Rollins and Kyle Hallock as well as catcher Ryan McCurdy from Lancaster to the Corpus Christi Hooks. ... Austin Hedges, Lake Elsinore's catcher and the No. 4 prospect of the San Diego Padres, was promoted to the San Antonio Missions, along with shortstop Anthony Contreras. ... Bakersfield right-hander Jon Moscot was promoted to the Pensacola Blue Wahoos by the Cincinnati Reds. ... The Los Angeles Dodgers promoted lefty Jarret Martin from Rancho Cucamonga to the Chattanooga Lookouts. ... The Los Angeles Angels promoted righty Mark Sappington from Inland Empire to the Arkansas Travelers. ... The Colorado Rockies promoted right-handers Eddie Butler and Daniel Winkler from the Modesto Nuts to the Tulsa Drillers. ... The Oakland Athletics promoted right fielder Josh Whitaker from the Stockton Ports to the Midland RockHounds.

George Alfano is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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