Farm Focus: A's Green progressing with Midland

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Farm Focus: A's Green progressing with Midland

May 24, 2011A'S PAGE A'SVIDEO

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first installment of a monthly focus on the A's farm system. The first edition of the Giants' Farm Focus will be published in two weeks.
Rael EnteenCSNCalifornia.com

Normally a team with a stocked farm system, the Oakland Athletics entered the 2011 campaign with the 28th best collection of minor league players, according to the well-respected Baseball America organizational talent rankings.As general manager Billy Beane has a reputation for dealing his best players before they hit free agency in order to restock his farm system and stay competitive without the payroll flexibility most GMs have. However, Beane seems ready to build around his young, talented rotation at the major league level. Where the As are clearly in need of help is on the offensive end, as the teams offseason additions have yet to provide the boost Beane was hoping for.The As dont have hitters at the major league level blocking minor league talent; the only thing that stands in the way of prospects like Chris Carter, Michael Taylor, Grant Green and Jemile Weeks playing in Oakland is the development of these young players at the plate and in the field.What follows is a look at the Oakland As farm system, spotlighting some of the more impressive performances of late, from both the big-name prospects and the players who you may not have heard of yet. Line of the Month: Grant Green in May: .339 AVG, 8 R, 0 HR, 7 RBI, 5 2B, 11 SBCS, 176 KBBGreen, the 13th overall pick in 2009, started 2011 with Double-A Midland after putting up impressive numbers with the Stockton Ports in his first full minor league season. The 6-foot-3-inch, 180 pounder went deep 20 times in 2009, but the right-hander's power has suffered in the Texas League. As Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman isnt concerned.Even though the home run totals are down from last year, he is still on base close to .350 and his approach is solid at the plate, Lieppman said. He is making adjustments to a good league and will continue to get better.While Green has only gone yard twice this season, he is sporting a .282 batting average to go along with a .345 on-base percentage. The 23-year-old shortstop put together a 13-game hit streak from April 25 to May 8 and is hitting .339 in the month of May after posting a .318 average in 548 at bats with the Ports last year. His strikeout and walk numbers arent ideal, but he has lifted his BB to 8.0, up from 6.3 a year ago.Grant has very good instincts with the bat and is capable of using the entire field of play, Lieppman said. He has an approach that allows him to stay inside the ball where he goes well to the opposite field. He also knows how to get the barrel on the ball and drive the ball in the gaps.Greens strong season is on hiatus, however, after he left a game on May 18 with back issues. Lieppman explained that Green started experiencing back spasms last week.He tried to play through the pain but the organization felt he would be better served by taking a week off and going on the DL to rehab and strengthen his back, Lieppman said. The big picture of playing in August and September is more important than forcing him to play hurt now. He should be back in the next 4 or 5 days barring a setback.If Green comes back healthy and continues to post strong numbers in Double-A, Lieppman said theres a chance that the shortstop will be playing in Sacramento later this season, though he starts with a qualifier:It's always difficult to predict where a player will end up, especially with injuries and call-ups," Lieppman said. "The ideal situation would be for him to continue to play well and make adjustments at Double-A with the hope that he ends up at Triple-A by the end of the season. His defense has been a top priority and he continues to make good progress in that area.With less than two full seasons in the minor leagues, Green is not on the fast-track to Oakland. Instead, Lieppman said the organization will take its time with one of their top prospects and bring him to the big leagues when hes ready.The organization would love to have him ready by 2012 but the reality is that the development of a hitter is a process which takes time and the number of at bats and pitches seen by a hitter is important to that development, Lieppman said. Getting the foundation that allows him to compete and make adjustments against the best major league pitchers is goal number one with the idea that he will be able to not just get to the major leagues but be capable of staying there.In the Spotlight: Michael Taylor has only appeared in nine games with the River Cats since starting the season on the shelf with a wrist injury, but hes off to a fast start. After a disappointing full season in Sacramento in 2010 (.272.348.392 and just six home runs), Taylor has been red-hot so far in 2011, hitting .385 with seven RBI and three steals in just 39 at bats. Taylor, a former Stanford star, came to the As from the Phillies organization in 2009 as part of the three-team deal that sent Roy Halladay to Philadelphia. Under the Radar: While Taylor is the outfield prospect everyones heard of, theres another outfielder in Sacramento making noise that many fans may not know much about. His name is Randall Jai Miller and the As signed him as a Minor League free agent last November. Miller signed a letter of intent to play wide receiver and point guard at Stanford but ended up signing with the Marlins, who drafted him in the fourth round in 2003. The 26-year-old Alabama native is hitting .298 with seven home runs and 24 RBI with the River Cats so far. His on-base plus slugging (OPS) is a staggering 1.039 and hes stolen five bases without being caught. Miller was named the Pacific Coast League Player of the Week at the end of April and could be considered for a role in Oakland this season if he maintains his numbers and the As offense continues to struggle.Triple-A Update: The Sacramento River Cats are off to a 28-17 start in the Pacific Coast League, good enough for first place in the Pacific - South Division. Other than the aforementioned Jai Miller and Michael Taylor, the Cats are getting solid production from Jemile Weeks the brother of the Brewers Rickie Weeks is hitting .313 and boasts a .401 on-base percentage. Top prospect Chris Carter has appeared in just 14 games after dealing with a thumb injury and is off to a slow start, hitting just .173 with 20 strikeouts in 52 at bats. Double-A Update: The Midland RockHounds are just 18-26 and the only regular hitting above .300 is 26-year-old outfielder Jermaine Mitchell. The fifth-round draft pick in 2006 is hitting .362 with six home runs and 11 triples but is a bit old for Double-A ball. However, he may find himself back in Sacramento after getting just 11 at bats with the River Cats at the end of the 2010 season.Single-A Update: The Stockton Ports, at 24-21, are in third place in the California Leagues North Division and just lost top prospect Max Stassi to season-ending shoulder surgery. A healthier big name in Stockton is Michael Choice. Selected 10th overall by the As in 2010, the 21-year-old Choice is hitting just .242, but already has seven home runs, 28 RBI and 27 walks in less than 200 plate appearances.Health Report: As closer Andrew Bailey, needed more than ever considering the recent outings and controversial comments of interim closer Brian Fuentes, threw a perfect inning for the River Cats on Friday in his first rehab appearance and followed that up with another perfect inning Monday night in Sacramento. The two-time All-Star could be back closing for the As within a weeks time if he avoids any setbacks.
Rael Enteen is a Web Producer with Comcast SportsNet. He will be producing monthly minor league reports on both the Giants and A's. Look for the first Giants edition in two weeks. Follow him on Twitter @RaelEnteenCSN

NBA Gameday: Kings look to bounce back against shorthanded Jazz

NBA Gameday: Kings look to bounce back against shorthanded Jazz

After another last minute loss on Friday night to the New York Knicks, the Sacramento Kings jump right back into the fire Saturday night against the Utah Jazz in a brutal home and road back-to-back.

Embroiled in off-the-court controversy, forward Matt Barnes missed Friday night’s game against the Knicks with what coach Dave Joerger deemed “scheduled rest.” After sitting out 12 of the Kings’ previous 16 games as a healthy scratch, and playing just 29 total minutes since Nov. 1, veteran Anthony Tolliver got the call and filled in admirably for Barnes. Tolliver finished with 10 points and five rebounds in 27 minutes off the bench in the loss to New York.

The Jazz played without four starters Thursday night against the Golden State Warriors and lost by a final of 106-99. Joe Ingles came off Quin Snyder’s bench to score 21 points on 5-of-9 shooting from long range and big man Rudy Gobert stuffed the stat sheet with 20 points on a perfect 8-for-8 shooting night and added 17 rebounds.

OPENING LINE:
Jazz by 5.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH:
DeMarcus Cousins vs. Rudy Gobert -- Cousins continues to dominate the action for Sacramento, averaging 28.8 points, 10.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Gobert is one of the game’s best defensive bigs, posting 2.6 blocks per night for Utah. He’s improved greatly as a scorer and rebounder as well, averaging 11.6 points on an NBA-best 66.4 percent shooting, while grabbing 11.5 rebounds a game.

WHERE THEY STAND:
Kings: 8-14, fourth place in Pacific

Jazz: 14-10, second place in Northwest

INJURY REPORT:
Kings: F Matt Barnes (rest) sat out Friday night’s game, but according to coach Dave Joerger, he is expected to play Saturday night in Utah.

Jazz: PG George Hill (toe) out, SG Rodney Hood (hamstring) out, PF Derrick Favors (knee) out, G Alec Burks (knee/ankle) out. Gordon Hayward (finger) likely to play.

SERIES HISTORY:
The Kings won the season series over the Jazz 2-1 last year, but Utah leads the all-time series 99-81 and holds a 76-48 advantage during the Sacramento-era.

QUOTE:
“It hurts. What hurts the most is we’re not playing the right way. With this group that we have, with the team that we have, we should be able to play the right way throughout the whole game. We’re all veteran players. We all understand how to play, but there’s times throughout the game, you know what I mean, it don’t seem like we’re really sacrificing for one another.” -Darren Collison on the Kings’ struggles

NHL Gameday: Offense-starved Sharks look for boost from rookie vs 'Canes

NHL Gameday: Offense-starved Sharks look for boost from rookie vs 'Canes

Programming note – Sharks-Hurricanes coverage starts today at 7:00 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 15-10-1, 31 points, 4th Pacific Division
Hurricanes: 11-10-6, 28 points, 7th Metropolitan Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***There’s a strong chance that Aaron Dell will start in net tonight, in the second of a back-to-back. On Nov. 15 in Carolina, Dell made 32 saves but got no goal support in a 1-0 Hurricanes win over San Jose. Coach Pete DeBoer said on Friday before the Ducks game that he “hadn’t even thought” about who would start on Saturday, and with no morning skate, we won’t know until closer to game time.

Dell is 2-1-0 with a 1.93 goals-against average and .931 save percentage in four games this season.

***The Sharks are concluding a stretch tonight of eight games out of 10 in their own building, where they are 9-4-0 on the season. A four-game road trip begins on Tuesday in Toronto.

Carolina is wrapping up a three-game trip through California, losing to the Ducks in a shootout on Wednesday, 6-5, and beating the Kings on Thursday, 3-1.

***Carolina brings the NHL’s best penalty kill into the game, allowing just six goals on 75 chances (92.0 percent). San Jose has one power play goal in six of its last nine games (6-for-26, 23.0 percent), not including Brent Burns’ score on Friday, which came just one second after a power play had expired.

***San Jose has two or fewer goals in nine of its last 12 games, going 6-5-1 over that span. Of their 27 goals during that time, nearly half of them have come from Logan Couture (7g) and Burns (6g).

Burns brings a three-game goal streak into tonight’s game.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Kevin Labanc. The rookie forward, who turns 21 on Monday, scored against the Ducks on Friday for his third in 14 games. All three of Labanc’s goals have either tied the game or put San Jose ahead. The Sharks are desperately looking for players other than their stars to put the puck in the net, and Labanc seems to be gaining confidence after a brief stint in the AHL last weekend. 

Hurricanes: Teuvo Teravainen. Acquired from Chicago in the offseason, the 22-year-old center recorded his first career multi-goal game with Carolina on Wednesday in Anaheim. The18th overall pick in the 2012 draft, and a Finland native, has seven goals and 12 points in 27 games.

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Patrick Marleau – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Kevin Labanc – Logan Couture – Joel Ward
Mikkel Boedker – Chris Tierney – Joonas Donskoi
Micheal Haley – Tommy Wingels – Melker Karlsson

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – Dylan DeMelo

Aaron Dell (likely starter)
Martin Jones

Hurricanes
Jeff Skinner – Victor Rask – Phil DiGiuseppe
Sebastian Aho – Teuvo Teravainen – Lee Stempniak
Brock McGinn – Derek Ryan – Andrej Nestrasil
Joakim Nordstrom – Jay McClement – Viktor Stalberg

Ron Hainsey – Justin Faulk
Jaccob Slavin – Brett Pesce
Noah Hanifin – Matt Tennyson

Cam Ward
Eddie Lack

INJURIES/SCRATCHES

Sharks: David Schlemko (right ankle) is questionable. Tomas Hertl (right knee sprain) is out.

Hurricanes: Elias Lindholm (lower body) is day-to-day. Bryan Bickell (MS), Jordan Staal (concussion) are out.

QUOTEABLE

“If we keep playing our game, we feel confident. We’re not giving up a whole lot. Moments in the season like this you’ve got to push through.” – Joe Pavelski, after the Sharks’ 3-2 loss in Anaheim on Friday