All eyes in the California League are on Stockton Ports shortstop Grant Green
Oakland selected him 13th overall in last year's Draft out of the University of Southern California. Green was one of the top hitters available, playing a premium position, and the Athletics jumped at the chance to get him.
He has to face more than just inside fastballs in his first full year at the professional level, but he downplays the hype of being a high Draft pick, saying, "It's whatever you put into it."
Green has spoken with Nationals prospect Stephen Strasburg to get his take on dealing with that kind of pressure.
"He just goes out there and plays," Green said. "That's what I'm trying to do. If I go out there and perform, it doesn't make a difference."
The Athletics threw Green into competition right away, starting him off at the Class A Advanced level last season, where he hit .316 (6-for-19) in five games as a designated hitter. The Oakland organization elected not to have Green play defense, shielding him from possible injury after a summer of limited baseball action.
"They told me straight up I wasn't going to play any defense," he said. "In fact, they told me I might not get any at-bats."
A's general manager Billy Beane and assistant GM David Forst visited the Ports and liked what they saw in the shortstop's swing and quickly gave the green light for some plate appearances.
Green found it easy to adjust to California League pitching, describing it as a better version of what he faced in three seasons in the Pac-10.
"I see guys like Friday night guys in college," he said, akin to the top three starters in a college rotation. "They are able to hit their spots with their fastballs and they have good off-speed stuff."
Defense has been a concern for Green, going back to his college days, his huge Cape Cod League season in 2008 and continuing into the Cal League. He committed 18 errors in 54 games as a junior, then made 17 more in 14 games in the Cape League, where he was honored as the top prospect after totaling six homers and 21 RBIs.
Oakland tasked Green with improving his defense, and he's responded with seven errors in 24 games.
"They pretty much reconstructed my whole defensive approach," he said. "My whole defense has completely changed from where it was in college, and I needed that. I feel it's getting better. Most of my errors are in one game, here and there. It's not all spread out like it was before. My concentration is getting better and better each game."
Green's first month at the plate was up and down. He's 10-for-45 in his last 10 games after hitting well through mid-April. He said he was focused during a seven-game hitting streak that extended through April 21, then went 3-for-20 in the Ports' next series against Modesto.
"I didn't have that many bad at-bats in the four-game series against Modesto. I just wasn't as patient as I [had been]," he said. "I was overanxious because I wasn't hitting like I was the week before. The only way to get over an 0-for-4 is knowing you have to come out the next day and go again. You have 400, 500 at-bats and four aren't really going to make a difference."
Prime cut: Visalia RHP Bryan Woodall is one reason the Rawhide are leading the North Division with a 15-8 record. The reliever is 2-0 and hasn't allowed a run in nine appearances. He's put up 15 strikeouts over 12 innings while yielding only three hits. Woodall has allowed only one batter to reach base in his last four appearances -- a hit batter on May 2 against Inland Empire. Opponents are hitless against him since April 18.
Belt-ed: San Jose 1B Brandon Belt had his 17-game hitting streak snapped May 1, going 0-for-4 against Modesto. The streak is the longest in the Cal League this season. Belt is batting .400, leads the circuit in slugging percentage (.643) and ranks second in on-base percentage (.494) and doubles (8).
Berry good: High Desert LHP Bobby LaFramboise picked up his third win by tossing seven strong innings against Lancaster on April 28. The tall lefty allowed four hits and struck out six. LaFramboise has been a strikeout machine all year, recording 22 punchouts over 22 1/3 innings. The reigning Cal League Pitcher of the Week sports a 2.01 ERA.
Can't keep him in the Park-er: Stockton 3B Stephen Parker blasted four homers and drove in eight runs last week, making him an easy choice for Player of the Week. He claimed the lead in the league home run race with six and has hit safely in his last five games. Oakland has to like its fifth-round pick out of BYU -- he has 19 walks against 13 strikeouts in 24 games.