Carter led by example in A's system

Outfielder slugged 31 homers before moving up to Majors

Chris Carter hit .298 with 16 homers and 40 RBIs in July and August. (Dave Nelson/

By Ashley Marshall / Special to | November 24, 2010 5:00 AM

This offseason, will be 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.

The A's enjoyed a lot of success at the Minor League level in 2010. Every affiliate, from Triple-A to short-season, finished at .500 or better, with five teams reaching the playoffs.

Triple-A Sacramento captured another Pacific Coast League division title and Double-A Midland won the Texas League South Division second-half crown before losing in the Championship Series. Class A Advanced Stockton claimed the California League North Division second-half title, while Class A Kane County secured a Midwest League Wild Card berth. In the Northwest League, short-season Vancouver won a second-half pennant.

A's organizational All-Stars

Catcher -- Josh Donaldson, Sacramento (86 games): Donaldson led all catchers in the Oakland system with 18 homers and 67 RBIs. The 24-year-old was one of the power bats in a strong River Cats lineup and, though his .238 average was a dip from previous seasons, his overall offensive ability led to a midseason All-Star selection. In his first season in the PCL -- his third in the A's organization -- the former first-round pick made two trips to the Majors, once in May and again as a September callup.

"He had a great year and he has tremendous power potential," said vice president of player development Keith Lieppman. "He has a great throwing arm and good defensive skills. He's a complete player, plus he can play numerous positions. Not only does he catch, but he can also play third and first. He's a very good, versatile athlete."

First base -- Michael Spina, Stockton (135 games): Spina was one of the more powerful corner infielders in the organization in 2010. His 23 homers ranked second only to Chris Carter and his 88 RBIs were fourth among all farmhands. The University of Cincinnati product was particularly efficient in the middle of his first full season. He went deep 19 times between May and July, the fourth-highest total across Class A Advanced during that stretch.

"He had a great year and he would definitely be the guy I would pick at this position," Lieppman said. "He's very strong and he hits home runs to all fields. He has quite an ability to hit balls the other way and it doesn't really matter where he's pitched because he uses the whole field."

Second base -- Eric Sogard, Sacramento (137 games): Sogard batted .300 for the River Cats. He played 137 games to rank fifth in the PCL and he walked more times (75) than he struck out (68). Between June 5-June 24, the 24-year-old put together a 17-game hitting streak, batting .379 with 11 runs scored.

"He's probably one of our most patient hitters and he might be the toughest out in the whole organization," Lieppman said. "He's very difficult to strike out and he continually fouls off tough pitches. We like his approach, and 75 walks is pretty impressive.

"He has a real feel for things and he can string streaks together because of his approach. He's not afraid to get to two strikes and he hits well deep in the count."

Third base -- Stephen Parker, Stockton (139 games): Parker was an everyday offensive juggernaut in the Cal League. He missed just one game all season and led all Oakland Minor Leaguers with 98 RBIs, fourth-most in the circuit. He led the league with 12 sacrifice flies, ranked second with 84 walks and fourth with 38 doubles. Parker also reached safely in 21 straight contests in one stretch, batted .296 and swatted 21 homers to rank fourth in the system en route to mid- and postseason All-Star status.

"He [was] in the Arizona Fall League, so it's been a long year for him," Lieppman said. "For somebody to have a full first year and play that many games, I don't think that's happened to us in many years.

"He was solid and consistent and he has a very simple swing. There's not a lot of extra movement or parts to the swing. He gets straight down to the baseball and he has a very fluid swing. The organization is real happy with where he's at."

Shortstop -- Grant Green, Stockton (131 games): Green showed why the A's made him the 13th overall pick in the 2009 Draft with 20 homers, 39 doubles and a .318 batting average. After playing only five games in his debut season, Green appeared in 131 for the Ports in 2010. He was selected to the Futures Game in July and was also a Cal League postseason All-Star. Green totaled 49 multi-hit games, including three five-hit efforts, and plated 87 runs to rank fifth in the system.

"He was a day-in and day-out guy that didn't really play the year before," Lieppman noted. "He signed late and was injured a little, so we didn't really get a chance to see him. We moved him straight to Stockton and he handled that very easily. He's a team leader and he was very impressive in that second and third hole."

Outfielders -- Chris Carter, Sacramento (125 games): Carter brought the thunder in 2010, slugging more homers (31) than anyone in the system. He ranked in the top five in the PCL in RBIs (94), runs scored (92) and walks (73) and batted .319 over the second half of the season. The former Texas League MVP had three multi-homer games as well as a six-RBI effort on May 9. Carter was rewarded with a callup to the Major Leagues on Aug. 9 and played 24 games with the big club through the end of the season.

"Just put him in left field and let him hit 30 home runs," Lieppman said. "His track record keeps playing through every year. It doesn't matter where you play him, he's going to come up with big power numbers, and he's only going to get better.

"He got off to a horrible start [in Oakland], but when he came back in the September callup he performed very well. His nagging thumb injury slowed him down, but he didn't even really get hot this year. He went about his business quietly and he has a chance to be that guy we're looking for in the middle of the lineup in Oakland."

Corey Wimberly, Sacramento (135 games): Wimberly led the PCL and the organization with 56 stolen bases. He also scored a career-high 97 runs -- fourth-most in the PCL -- while hitting .284. The former sixth-round pick didn't see a substantial dropoff in production after graduating from the Texas League in 2009. And if he continues to hit and run, he'll likely get some at-bats with the A's in 2011. With speed to burn, if he can raise his on-base percentage closer to .400 he could be a dangerous weapon at the top of any order.

"He was a tough kid who played almost the entire year with torn ligaments in his thumb. That is what made this year even more impressive," Lieppman said. "He should have had surgery on it, but he knew it would cost him the year, so basically he played through the year playing hurt.

"He played a little in the infield, shortstop, third base, second and outfield. He's a Chone Figgins-type player. He's the overall player because of his versatility."

Corey Brown, Midland (90 games), Sacramento (41 games): Brown tore through the Texas League, batting .320 and earning his first callup to Triple-A. He built on a successful 2009 in Midland with 10 homers, 49 RBIs and 19 steals. And while he didn't produce anywhere near the number of longballs he did at Class A, his batting average was much-improved. His .320 average and .502 slugging percentage ranked third in the Texas League, while his OBP (.415) was second behind Springfield's Aaron Luna. The 2007 first-round pick out of Oklahoma State batted .193 with five homers and 13 extra-base hits in 41 games after a promotion to the River Cats.

"He got off to a slow start in Triple-A but went back to Double-A and dominated," Lieppman said. "He plays excellent defense, throws well and has power. He's had numerous injuries to both knees and shoulders over the last few years that have slowed him down, so it was always a matter of health for him. When he's right, he's just waiting for his opportunity because he's probably our best prospect when he's healthy."

Utility -- Alex Valdez, Midland (134 games): Valdez rediscovered his power stroke in 2010, nearly doubling his home run total from the previous year with a career-high 13. In fact, his numbers were up across the board. The 26-year-old from the Dominican Republic set personal bests in games (134), runs scored (82), doubles (29), triples (8), walks (39) and stolen bases (10). He led the RockHounds in both homers and RBIs (74).

"A great call with Valdez. He's a prospect switch-hitter with power from both sides, and the exciting thing about him is that he can play short or third. Over 500 at-bats, he had a very solid year, day in and day out.

"(Josh) Horton at Double-A had a breakout year, too. He ended up hitting almost .290 and he made a lot of progress as the year moved on. You could also have Tyler Ladendorf. He hit about .275 and he fits in that category like Valdez. He plays all over the field and he's very athletic."

Right-handed starting pitcher -- Clay Mortensen, Sacramento (26 games): Nobody won more games in the system than this 25-year-old. He went 13-6 in 26 starts, trailing only Eric Hacker (16) for the system's wins lead. In addition, only three other PCL starters held opponents to a lower batting average than Mortensen's .258. The Gonzaga product also allowed the fourth-fewest baserunners per nine innings (11.76). A Triple-A All-Star, Mortensen picked up a no-decision in his lone big league start July 3.

"He's a plus-plus power sinker, slider, curveball-type guy, and he's workmanlike in his approach," Lieppman said. "He probably started 25 or 26 games and won 13 games. He had less hits than innings pitched and his flyball-to-groundball ratio was excellent."

Left-handed starting pitcher -- Ryan Edell, Midland (21 games), Akron (5 games): The Indians released the 27-year-old in May, but he found success in the Texas League with Midland. With pinpoint control, he went 10-4 with a 3.17 ERA in 21 appearances (20 starts). Edell ranked third in all of Double-A by averaging only 1.41 walks per nine innings and was third in the league with a 1.25 WHIP.

He made an instant impression on his new organization, yielding only two runs over his first 25 1/3 innings with the RockHounds. He tossed seven scoreless frames against Corpus Christi in June, then struck out 10 over 6 2/3 innings in his final start of the season vs. San Antonio.

"He had an amazing year for somebody we brought in late to help get us through," Lieppman said. "It was a big year for him and he came in and threw a lot of strikes. He only had 20 walks in 125 innings, so that's a solid year for him.

"Our pitcher of the year was Ian Krol, so he might have been my guy here. He has much more prospect status as a 19-year-old kid starting out, but he was extremely impressive and showed that he's the real thing. It's the up-and-coming guy against the veteran guy."

Relief pitcher -- Lance Sewell, Stockton (33 games), Midland (13 games): After spending much of the year pitching out of the Ports' bullpen, Sewell moved up to Midland at the end of July. He was 7-0 with a 1.76 ERA in the hitter-friendly Cal League, where foes batted .181 against him. The San Diego State product was not quite as effective at the higher level, but he walked only three batters over 16 innings and did not yield a home run. Across the two levels, the former seventh-rounder had a 2.32 ERA, more than half a run lower than his previous career best.

"Sewell has outstanding deception and a really good changeup and hitters don't get good looks at him," Lieppman said. "They only hit .181 against him, so that's a great year. He had great numbers, no doubt about it, 7-0 with a 1.70, but my guy would be Paul Smyth at Stockton, who had 28 saves and 94 strikeouts in 77 innings."

Ashley Marshall 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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