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Sunday 25th Feb 2018

With both the Giants and Athletics playing locally over the past cycle, I managed to work three games over that period, so I can talk about three local players, though I did not actually see two of them.

Let's start with the one local guy I know pretty well, and that would be new/old/returning backstop Kurt Suzuki. Pressed back to Oakland largely due to injuries to the season-long platoon pair of John Jaso (concussion) and Derek Norris (fractured toe), "Zook", as he is known in the clubhouse, should be able to fall right into the groove of the team he left a little over a year ago, under essentially the same circumstances; that is, to assist the Nats for a pennant drive.

Since Zook has worked with most of the Oakland pitchers, that is a major advantage for both the Athletics as a team and for Suzuki, who moves back into a familiar role at a familiar location. What the catcher needs to do offensively is try to return to the .276-11-65 totals he averaged over 2008-09.

Irrespective, he will get some playing time at least until Norris is ready. Since Jaso has concussion-related issues, his return is nebulous, and that means Zook will play a nice role. It also allows a chance for Bob Melvin to platoon Norris at DH, taking advantage of his right-handed pop.

By the way, Washington advanced backstop Jhonatan Solano to fill the Zook void. At 28 years of age, with a .247-22-201 minor league line including .214-0-10 this year over 40 games at Syracuse, you probably want to look elsewhere for help behind the dish.

While I was off playing music among the redwoods, out of touch with the real world (it is really fun, let me tell you), I missed the Oakland advance of pitcher Sonny Gray

The Cubs actually drafted Gray out of high school--in the 27th round in 2008--but the righty chose to spend time at Vanderbilt, and thus became Oakland's #1 selection in 2011. After going 6-9, 4.14 over 148 innings at Double-A Midland, Gray spent this year a level up at Triple-A Sacramento in the PCL. There he went 10-7, 3.42 over 118 innings, with 118 strikeouts to 39 walks and 117 hits (only five taters, though), good for a 1.318 WHIP. 

The PCL is indeed a hitter's league, so Gray's numbers translate pretty well, and he brought a 1-1, 1.44 line into Sunday's start against the Orioles. He copped 27 whiffs over 25 innings, allowing just seven walks to 12 hits (0.760 WHIP) and though Baltimore did touch him for five runs yesterday, they were largely the result of dings and bloops. So, I like his prospects pretty well for the rest of the season, pitching against bats that are tiring, and September call-ups, most of whom have not batted against Gray.

I worked the Giants/Red Sox game Tuesday night, where Jake Peavy took on Ryan Vogelsong. It was a wild game, with a four-pitch walk-off walk by Bryan Villareal to Marco Scutaro ending the game on San Francisco's behalf. Well, tucked into the evening's play were three line-drive singles to center field by left fielder Roger Kieschnick

Drafted out of Texas Tech in the third round of 2008, Kieschnick has a decent minor league line of .275-75-298 over 476 games, along with an .816 OPS (.331 OBP). The left-handed hitter--#22 like Will Clark--has a nice swing, though like Nate Schierholtz, he might have trouble getting full-time play in San Francisco. In fact, he might not be better than a #4 platoon flychaser. And, with the possibility of Angel Pagan returning for the end of the season, that too could cut into playing time. Still, the guy has a nice swing, and looks like he can hit, so at least keep that in the back of your head.

That Tuesday game also featured the debut of Boston's shortstop Xander Bogaerts. A native of Aruba, Bogaerts was contracted in 2010. He has an excellent .296-54-236 line over 378 games, of which he played 56 at Double-A Portland (.311-6-35) and 60 at Pawtuckett (.284-9-32) this season. Bogaerts is a fine looking prospect, especially to make the Majors. And, in that first game, his youth was definitely exploited by Vogelsong before a set of platoon replacements put Stephen Drew at short in the seventh. Still, Bogaerts is more than worth tracking and especially stashing on your reserve squad.

Finally, Toronto brought up Domincan outfielder Moises Sierra, who banged out .224-6-15 totals last year over 49 Skydome affairs last year. He was hitting .261-11-51 this year at Triple-A Buffalo, with pretty good pop (.432 SLG) compared to eye (.309 OBP with 16 walks to 116 strikeouts). You probably want to pass on this Sierra.


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