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Cal notes: Fontana potent on road, too

DeShields, Astros' No. 5, aiming for comeback after DL stint
May 8, 2013

Nolan Fontana isn't alone when it comes to having big offensive numbers at Lancaster's hitter-friendly ballpark, but the JetHawks shortstop, who leads the league with a .369 batting average, also tests calculators with his offensive production on the road.

Fontana and teammate Delino DeShields Jr. form a double-play combination who both rank among the top Houston Astros' prospects. Fontana ranks No. 11 while DeShields is rated No. 5. 

"I just want to be patient and select my pitch," said Fontana, who has an on-base percentage of .503. The left-handed hitter is batting .362 at home and .375 on the road. "Our hitting coordinator [Ralph Dickenson] teaches selective aggressiveness."

Fontana has his name on a variety of California League offensive categories. In addition to leading the league in batting average, walks and OBP, he also leads the circuit in runs (29) and OPS (1.071), and is second in hits to San Jose's Ryan Cavan, who has 47 to Fontana's 41.

In 2012 at Class A Lexington, Fontana's batting average was only .225, but he drew 65 walks in 49 games, so his on-base percentage was .464. He had 153 walks in 200 games at the University of Florida, which reached the College World Series in each of Fontana's three seasons as a Gator.

"I was tired at the end of last season, and it was more mental than physical," said Fontana, who played in 115 games during 2012.

The 2013 stat line has some impressive items. Fontana had five multi-hit games before Tuesday night's contest, including a 4-for-5 evening on May 3 against High Desert in which Fontana ripped his first home run of the season. He has been effective against lefties, batting .480, and also has 30 walks while striking out only 23 times.

"He's very mature for his age," said JetHawks manager Rodney Linares. "I would compare him to Ben Zobrist, and he is a solid shortstop."

DeShields, whose father played in the Major Leagues for 13 years, is struggling with a .241 average. He was put on the seven-day disabled list on May 5, but he remains confident after stealing 101 bases between Lexington and Lancaster last year.

"It's still early and guys are a little older here," said DeShields, who had 14 hits in the playoffs to help Lancaster win the California League championship last season.

"He's still learning about pitchers," said Linares, who managed DeShields in 2011. "I can only imagine how good he will be in two years, because he has improved so much since I managed him in Lexington."

In brief

Move on up: Visalia's Archie Bradley, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2011 Draft, was perhaps the most notable of Cal Leaguers to receive a promotion to Double-A last week. The Arizona Diamondbacks moved Bradley to the Mobile BayBears, where Bradley allowed one run in six innings in rain-shortened 3-1 victory over Huntsville on May 2. Inland Empire's Ross Stripling earned a promotion to Chattanooga in the Southern League, and Robert Lara moved from Lake Elsinore to the San Antonio Missions of the Texas League.

Sappington is on the Mark: Inland Empire's Mark Sappington is the first Cal League pitcher to win five games. A fifth-round selection of the Los Angeles Angels in the 2012 Draft, Sappington has a 1.73 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP, striking out 40 while walking 15. Opponents are batting .189 against the 6-foot-5 right-hander from Peculiar, Mo.

Home run race in full gear: San Jose right-fielder Devin Harris has taken the lead in home runs, hitting his 10th round-tripper of the season Monday as the Giants defeated Rancho Cucamonga, 6-5, after the Giants had lost the first three games of the series. Inland Empire first baseman Zach Borenstein is right on Harris's heels, hitting five homers in the last eight games to bring his total to nine. Borenstein is tied with Stockton's Max Muncy for second-place.

George Alfano is a contributor to