There’s been a lot of correspondence coming in to our email address at firstname.lastname@example.org of late, and most of it indicates a growing awareness of all things Canadians-related.
The questions have moved beyond "what’s a slider" to "will Mike Massaro’s OBP make him a genuine prospect in the eyes of the A’s, or is he just too small to ever be considered to have Major League potential?"
To answer that last question, I’m not entirely sure, Mrs Massaro (just kidding), but last season the Canadians stocked a second baseman by the name of Ryan Ruiz, who was barely 5′9", and when I asked Oakland Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman about Ruiz’s future, he said there’s no reason a guy that size shouldn’t make the Show if he has the tools, and that indeed others have previously. To reinforce that opinion, the 155lb Justin Sellers was drafted in the 6th round this year, so if little guys are to be feared, that’s a funny way of fearing them.
My guess is, if Mike Massaro can model his game on Ichiro Suzuki’s, and utilize that smaller, faster frame to slap balls both ways, lay down strong bunts, steal on the bags, and draw patient walks, he’ll be a VERY valuable man at higher levels, even if only off the bench in pinch-hit/run situations.
We’ve got more questions, including what’s happening with Wes Long, after the jump. Click it!Rubntug_T asks:Where has Jeff Gray been the last few weeks? Every time I hit your blog I see him as the player of the month in June, but I haven’t seen him at any games since mid-July or so. Has he been promoted? Demoted? Injured?
Notes From The Nat says: Hey, nice observation, R’n'T. Jeff Gray was tagged for a few runs on his last start, grinding his way through a couple of innings before a twinge in his arm became more than a twinge. He’s strained an oblique muscle according to the C’s front office, and the most recent report I heard (a few days ago) was that "it could be a few days before he’s right to throw again, or it could be a few months."
So my guess is the C’s are assuming it’ll be closer to a month before Gray is ready to throw off a mound, which means Joe Piekarz gets another three or four starts at least to prove he’s worthy of a spot in the organization next season.
Gray, who was a 32nd rounder last year, looks pretty content watching games from the bullpen at the moment, but he’ll undoubtedly be looking forward to getting another game or two in before the season ends, so that he can stake a claim for a Kane County slot next season.
K-Girl asks:What’s up with your slamming Danielin Acevedo at every turn? He’s doing the best he can, I’m sure, and he doesn’t need you saying he’s not trying. Maybe you should try out for the team before you criticize.
Notes From The Nat says:Okay, so by your rationale, every sports writer out there has no grounds for criticism of any player of any sport unless they themselves can out-throw, out-run, or out-hit the person they’re writing about?
Wake up to yourself. Notes From The Nat is unique in that I’ve yet to find a single other minor league team ANYWHERE in North America, including Triple-A clubs, that has anything even closely resembling the attention to detail, the content, and the depth that this club’s unofficial blog has.
And that HELPS the players, whether they realize it or not. Think about it - they’re out there giving their all, trying to get a hundred things right at once, but just being a part of things isn’t enough if you’re going to move up the system. There’s nobody in the C’s roster right now who will be content with just having played short-season ball - they all want something more. They all want Kane County and beyond.But if they manage to make that upward shift, the media attention focused on them becomes more intense. When they get to Stockton, it gets more intense still. Midland will get you on ESPN if you’re throwing hard enough, or a featured piece on MiLB.com - last year’s Vancouver reliever-turned starter Dallas Braden was discussed on ESPN by Peter Gammons as a potential piece of tradebait to Cincinnati to bring Adam Dunn to Oakland.
If he goes up to AAA ball, he becomes even bigger news, and in the Majors, just ask Huston Street, you spend more time in front of cameras as you do asleep in bed.But it all starts here. Danielin Acevedo, if he’s going to make it, will learn how to deal with the press by having boneheads like me write about him on blogs like this, and if he screw up a play, or a series of plays, or exhibits a lack of focus or drive or even ability, I’ll talk about it loudly, because this is NOTHING compared to what he’ll get in higher levels of ball.
Last season, Vancouver reliever Zak Basch received the following as his sole piece of media coverage for the season: "Zachary Basch (RHP) released: No real loss here. The 23 year-old rightie put up a 6.45 ERA in Vancouver and had a 19:14 K:BB in 22 1/3 innings. A career outside of baseball may be best for him."
Do you really think Basch wouldn’t have wanted something like this blog trumpeting his triumphs last season, rather than one simple matter-of-fact, never-seen-him-play piece of commentary like the one above? I doubt it very much.
For the record, I pounded on Acevedo because Acevedo was playing like he was asleep. But sure enough, he woke the heck up and started throwing the sort of stuff that got him up to High-A ball in the first place. Was it my discussion of his lazy attitude that kicked his backside into gear? Was it the coaching staff that made it happen? Was it Acevedo himself, finally realizing that he needed to get his act together? Nobody really knows but Acevedo, but one thing is for sure, he’s throwing some of the best stuff in the bullpen right now, and if there’s a scintilla of a chance that my harsh words pushed him into making a change, then it’s been worth it on this end.
Acevedo will do great things with a baseball sometime in the future. And when he does, my bet is he’ll be happy that he was being reamed for his attitude by a tiny blog in short season ball, rather than Peter Gammons or the San Francisco Chronicle.
HaasFan1 asks:Okay, you’ve been talking about good news for Wes Long for a while, so what is it?
Notes From The Nat says:Okay, I’ve been holding out because the club hadn’t yet decided to release details, for fear of getting people overly concerned about Wes’ well-being. But here’s the scoop: Wes Long is doing great, took batting practice earlier in the week, and last night he STARTED AS DESIGNATED HITTER IN ARIZONA.
The deal was, Wes had foul-tipped a ball into his own eye on the road about a month back. At the time he was ripping up NWL pitching and looking worthy of a push upwards, but the foul tip cracked his orbital socket and, ultimately, when the swelling around the eye wouldn’t go down to a point where he could see out of it, doctors recommended surgery to fix the problem.
Wes has reportedly said that the ball hit him so hard and fast that he literally didn’t have time to blink, and felt the ball actually hit his eyeball, which makes it all the more remarkable that his eyeball now seems to be 100% fine.
The surgery traditionally performed on this kind of an injury (skip ahead if you get queazy easily) is to remove the eye ball completely, do the repair-work on the orbital socket, then reattach the eye and undergo some serious rehab on getting it back to working order. The downside with that kind of surgery is, if the eye isn’t put back exactly right, it would sometimes need to be repeated, or at the very least mean some long term alteration in vision for the patient, which is a nightmare for a hitter, as you can imagine.
Oakland, however, don’t skimp on the medical side, and so they (according to second-hand info) found a surgeon who could work around the eye with microsurgery-style procedures, and fix the bone behind it without needing to be overly dramatic with the eyeball itself. What this means to the layman is, Wes has bought himself a faceshield for his batting helmet, and had four at-bats in Arizona last night, going 0-3 with a walk in a game where the A’s rookie managed only one hit all night.
Yes, you heard right, he had orbital surgery two weeks ago, and he’s swinging at pitches already.Now, despite the extra eye protection he’ll be donning, there’s no need to fear Long will be hit in the same spot and do critical damage to himself, as, according to people I’ve spoken to at the club, the bones in such a case tend to knit together stronger than they were to begin with.
Bottom line: Wes Long’s career could well have been over, but the Oakland organization protects its kids as well as is humanly possible, and pulled out all the stops to make sure not only that Wes had the best chance of a return to baseball, but also that he could return to baseball this season, rather than sometime next year. Congratulations Wes, and we hope to see you back in V-Town soon.
WilliamH asks:Yesterday, you said that the Canadians are going to build a new stadium in downtown. If that is true, why did they save Nat Bailey Stadium?
Notes From The Nat says:I think you need to read what we wrote again, William. We never said the C’s were planning to build a new stadium, we said they would be fools if they weren’t preparing for such an eventuality down the road, and that looking into the distant future, they’re either going to need to refurbish Nat Bailey in a big way, or if there’s to ever be a time when Triple-A ball comes to Vancouver again, they’ll have to think about some sort of new facility that includes year-round playing ability.
The fact of the matter is, Nat Bailey Stadium will never have a roof, and thus will never support year-round baseball to the point where a Triple-A team will need it to. Short-season ball allows the team to bypass the Spring thaw, where Vancouver gets rainy for weeks at a time, and the ground becomes waterlogged and unfit for play.
Those sorts of delays cost a team a lot of money in lost ticket sales, rescheduled games, emergency drainage procedures, repairs to the grass… the only way you could possibly have all-season ball at the Nat to a AAA standard would be to rip up the field entirely and install state-of-the-art drainage equipment across the length of the field, and if you’re going to do that, you’re spending a whole lot of money that at present the C’s do not have.
Make no mistake, I love The Nat. In fact, I offered up a chapter I’d written for an upcoming book about baseball at The Nat for use on the Friends of Nat Bailey Stadium website, which makes a very clear case that, while Nat Bailey Stadium is old and outdated and worn and broken, it needs to be restored, because once history is leveled, it is inevitably forgotten.
The fact of the matter is, new stadiums all over North America are incorporating the history of the old ballparks that stood before them, even to the extent of manufacturing ‘historic looking’ facades on completely new ballparks. The Nat, if refurbished and added to, would be a jewel in the crown of Vancouver’s sporting history, and would draw in fans from far and wide - something the existing facilities do already.
But, if we’re honest, and we actually want AAA ball to come back to Vancouver (or even Major League ball down the line one day), The Nat will eventually need to be either abandoned by the Canadians, or moved to a location where people can walk down after work, or during a lunch break, and enjoy a game of baseball without a cramped bus ride up Main Street or negotiating parking with annoyed local residents.
I’m an optimist - I’d love to think that the Vancouver Parks Department will spend some money to restore The Nat to its former glory, but I’m also a realist - they haven’t spent a dime on the facility in nearly twenty years, and are unlikely to get generous now.The Nat should always stand at 30th and Ontario, and it should always be a place where young ball players can have a game and immerse themselves in the history of the those who swung before them.
But right now, when the Canadians aren’t playing on The Nat, hundreds of non-profit groups, youth teams, companies, little league tournaments and local leagues make use of the Nat Bailey playing surface. If the C’s do happen to leave sometime down the road, that’ll just leave more days for the community to use the facility, and will have meant that every ounce of energy used to save the stadium was energy well spent.
Nat Bailey Stadium will remain Nat Bailey Stadium for many years to come. And no matter whether the Canadians stay or go, years down the line, it will always be the Canadians that saved this piece of local sporting history from destruction.
George asks:I’ve just moved to Vancouver and had no idea there was a baseball team here until I found your blog. Nice work! But I have to ask, is short season baseball the lowest level of baseball out there? And is it A-level or is it rookie level or what is it exactly? And why do they only play a short season?
Notes From The Nat replies:Hey George, welcome to Vancouver, and congratulations on finding a new team to follow. The Vancouver Canadians play in the Short-Season A-level Northwest League, which has essentially been created because the college season eats into the opening part of the pro season.
The College Draft is held when minor league ball is already in play, and in fact the College World Series is held after the draft, which delays some signed players from joining their short season teams.The short-season league gives teams a place to put their college recruits, analyze them up close, figure out who are the prospects and who are the filler players, work out a few kinks in mechanics and hitting styles, and prepare them for life in the minors in the years ahead.
The Short-Season A-Level leagues (there’s another on the east coast) are not the lowest level of ball out there, in fact there are several levels of ball that don’t really work within the system as we know it. Each team has a rookie ball team down south, usually in Florida or Arizona, where they put rehabbing players, free agent signings, high school players that need fine-tuning, and rookies that are in poor form.
In Arizona, Oakland signees will basically get up in the morning, hit the gym, do some drills, play a simulated game where they’ll get advice and coaching as the game rolls on, then they’ll take a few hours to themselves before playing a game against another squad in the evening. It’s concentrated baseball, and generally considered a level below what you see in Vancouver.
In addition, there are indie leagues, amateur leagues, college ball, the Mexican League, Dominican Academies, you name it. In any major league system, you’ll find a whole load of players who have signed contracts and are paid a small amount each month, but aren’t anywhere on the baseball radar - like last year’s Vancouver players, Juan Ramirez and Braulio Santana. They’re in the Dominican Republic, still a part of the A’s system, but being kept in a place where they can improve their game, while staying out of trouble and not requiring a work visa.
Gyro asks:Did you ever find out what’s happened to last year’s Vancouver pitcher Mike McGirr?
Notes From The Nat replies: Actually, yeah. A commenter in one of the threads a few weeks back says that McGirr left the A’s organization because he wanted to make use of his college degree, and I guess figured his chances of moving through the A’s system and making it to the Majors were slim to non-existent.
McGirr starred for the C’s last season as a pitcher, at one point dominating the league for ERA and wins. But his promotion to Kane County wasn’t as successful, and faced with another year at the low-A level, it seems Mike opted for a career that would see him well paid, rather than paid league minimum. Fair enough, and thanks for the memories.
Mike!7Yeti7 asks: Who do you think are the biggest prospects in Vancouver right now? Who is likely to be playing for Oakland sometime soon?
Notes From The Nat replies:That’s the million-dollar question, Yeti-Guy. From what I’m hearing out of the clubhouse, Jeff Baisley (right) is considered the most likely to be promoted to Kane County in the near future, and I actually think that would be a good move for him.
In Vancouver, he’s the center of everything on the offense, meaning his job is to push runners home, but Baisley’s game has a lot more to it than that, and I think that if given a shot at hitting #6 or 7 in Kane County, he’d really start smacking the ball around to all fields with freedom, rather than having to gun for the fences in the meat of the order like he does now, or being walked two or three times a night.
The only thing keeping him back right now is the form of Kane County third baseman Myron Leslie, who is dominating the Midwest League and was recently named an all-star.
I also really like Mike Massaro’s chances of moving up the system, though he has plenty going against him in terms of purely physical attributes. It’s going to be hard to convince the big club to push him hard without his having gained a little strength beforehand, and though he’s really quick, really patient and really capable of using his pyshique in a positive way, he’ll begin to face down some seriously beefy mound-monsters in the upper levels who might be harder for him to slap around as he does in the NWL.
Massaro knows this, of course, and is no doubt making adjustments to suit, but in terms of raw ability and knowing his job well, I think he’s right up there.
If we’re talking who is a prospect, Justin Sellers, for mine, is the best raw prospect in the squad, but you won’t see him in Oakland green for at least four season, being as he’s just 19 and has the same physique as Massaro. He has all the tools, a lightning arm, tremendous range, great contact hitting, bundles of speed - all that’s missing right now is power, and to be honest, he doesn’t need it. I’d expect Oakland to bring him back to Vancouver next season, if they don’t have room to start him regularly in Kane County (and Gregorio Petit has the SS job wrapped up there next season, in my opinion).
On the mound, I think Brad Davis is money. He’s just the total package, and I’d see him skipping Low-A ball next season and going straight to High-A if he continues his present form. Ditto Jason Ray, who is starting to find his location and has a devastating fastball, but has only actually been pitching for a bit over a year now, having converted from the outfield.
Brad Kilby is a monster, but I’m not sure if he’ll be put in the prospect basket until he’s given another season of results like he’s shown this year. He was a late draftee, and though his form has been incredible, you just know that Oakland is waiting to see whether he’s over-achieving or not. Ditto Mayday Madej, ditto Jeff Gray, ditto Stephen Bryant.One other name that is coming close to prospect level is Mike Madsen, who is just untameable on the mound right now. He’s doing everything right, and his demeanor is as impressive as his results, which is important to the A’s as an organization.Does that help?
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