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The Coldest Team in Minor League Baseball

Yesterday, we took a look at the hottest team in Minor League Baseball: The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees. So let’s flip things around and take a peak at the team with the worst record in the minors: The Stockton Ports. The club is an affiliate of the Oakland Athletics and plays in the High-A California League. It’s a little surprising that a minor league club of the A’s would be struggling so much given the emphasis that the organization puts on developing minor league talent. Let’s see what’s going wrong for The Ports club, which is 1-12 (.077) on the season.

The Pitching
Collectively, the Stockton pitchers have a 4.58 ERA, which is tied for the third highest in the 10-team league. The staff has also allowed the third most hits and walks. The team is middle-of-the-road with 105 strikeouts in 112 innings pitched.

Likely the most recognizable name on the pitching staff is Craig Italiano. The right-hander entered the season with some promise, but he has not pitched well in the California League. Last season, Italiano, 22, had a 2.94 FIP in 70 low A-ball innings before moving up to Stockton where his FIP jumped to 6.73 in 30 innings. This season, through three starts, Italiano has a FIP right around the same level, mainly due to poor control (11 walks in 12.1 innings). On the positive side, he has not allowed a home run.

Tyson Ross was the club’s second round draft pick in 2008 out of the University of California. He’s finding the early going a little bit easier than Italiano – at least on the surface. Ross, who turns 22 today, has been helped by his defense a bit and has a 4.40 ERA… but the FIP is 6.48. He’s allowed 18 hits in 14.1 innings of work, along with six walks and eight strikeouts. Ross has also been touched up for three home runs in as many games.

The top starting pitcher right now is Carlos Hernandez, who has a 3.45 FIP in three starts. The 22-year-old southpaw has allowed 16 hits in 16 innings, but he’s commanding the ball well. Another left-hander, Derrick Gordon, 25, is having the most success out of the bullpen. He has not allowed an earned run or walk in nine innings. He has given up just three hits with 11 strikeouts.

The Hitting
The California League has some pretty good hitter’s parks, but the club in Stockton is collectively hitting a horrible .185/.241/.257. The team is last in all three categories. The next lowest batting average by club is Modesto (a former A’s affiliate) at .228. Stockton is second last in homers with just five and tied for last in stolen bases. It’s no wonder the club has scored just 28 runs in 13 games. On the plus side, the club has the second fewest strikeouts with 88.

Truth be told, there are no big names amongst the hitters in Stockton. The biggest “prospect” would be outfielder Jermaine Mitchell, who is third on the club with a .244 average and has yet to collect an extra base hit. The 24-year-old outfielder has a lot of tools, but he has never been able to translate those consistently to the diamond. It’s Mitchell’s second season in Stockton and he hit .244/.338/.377 in 422 at-bats in 2008.

The top hitter on the Stockton club is outfielder Todd Johnson, who’s hitting .271. The best slugging percentage goes to catcher Matt Smith at .423. Both Smith and Johnson are tied for the highest on-base percentage at .321. Outfielder Matt Spencer, obtained last year from the Phillies with Adrian Cardenas in the Joe Blanton deal, is leading the team in homers (3) and RBI (9). Unfortunately, that comes with a .163 average.

The best news for Stockton at this point is that it’s not even the end of April. The club – as well as the individual players – has plenty of time to turn things around.