By Jason Wojciechowski on February 18, 2015 at 10:30 PM

Another week, another Minors Wrap. I should come up with some sort of clever name, but I probably won't.

In any event, as there is yet again no minor-league action to talk about, let's instead examine one Branch Kloess, who the A's signed to a minor-league contract on February 11th.

Google shows Branch Kloess is a lawyer who was charged with obstruction of justice for entering a guilty plea on behalf of someone who, it is alleged, he knew to be using a false name. The question for the appellate court is whether a particular provision of the law was an element of the obstruction of justice offense (and thus needed to be alleged and proven by the prosecution) or an affirmative defense (with the burden on the defendant to prove it if he is to make use of it). The Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, which covers Florida, Alabama, and Georgia, ruled in what might be broadly characterized as the more government-friendly or defendant-unfriendly manner, holding that it was an affirmative defense. That was in 2001.

So after serving his jail time, presumably, Kloess started playing professional baseball at the age of 24 in 2009. He spent a little time in the Frontier League before signing with the White Sox. He played in Chicago's system through 2012, reaching Triple-A, before spending the last two years with San Diego, playing in Tucson and El Paso, both Triple-A squads, where he put up a combined 5.95 RA/9, which is on the one hand brutal and on the other hand a bit less brutal than it looks because of how horrific it is to pitch in Tucson and El Paso. (Did I tell you about how I saw Sacramento go back-to-back-to-back in Tucson? That was cool as hell. Jeremy Barfield hit one of those dongers.)

I have now told you everything there is on the Internet about Branch Kloess.

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By Jason Wojciechowski on February 11, 2015 at 10:12 PM

I made a goal to do more traditional bloggie things this season, which hopefully will include a weekly look at what's gone on in the minors. I'm starting this now to try to get in a groove, even though it's dumb to start now because it's February and there are no minors in February.

So here's what I'm going to go with: In mid-January, the A's signed Luke Carlin to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training. Herewith some facts about Luke Carlin:

  • He's a catcher
  • I have no idea if he's related to George
  • He's spent time in the systems of San Diego, Cleveland, Detroit, and Pittsburgh
  • He was drafted in the 10th round by Detroit in 2002 and was released the next March, which seems awfully quick for a catcher drafted in the 10th round
  • He's 34
  • He switch-hits
  • He went to Northeastern; I know a bunch of people who went to law school there
  • He was drafted four picks ahead of Howie Kendrick, whose career WAR is 50 times Carlin's
  • The A's 10th-round pick in 2002 was pitcher J.R. Pickens from Ole Miss, who pitched through 2005, never getting past High-A
  • He was born in Maryland but grew up in Quebec

There's your minor-league wrap (not a sandwich) for the week.

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By Jason Wojciechowski on February 1, 2015 at 7:16 PM

Late Friday night:

That's an interesting one. The A's are a little short in outfield hitting and Reimold, who hits right-handed, has a career line of .251/.324/.439, though the vast majority of that came in a very nice debut 2009. From 2010–14: 723 plate appearances, .235/.300/.423 line, which works out to a 96 OPS+. PECOTA is more optimistic than Steamer on 2015, but .231/.307/.387 ain't much more than .215/.279/.362.

And who would he replace? On the 40-man, probably ninth reliever Taylor Thompson; on the 25, Sam Fuld or Craig Gentry? But Gentry's a center fielder (Reimold has mostly played left in his career, with a smattering of right), as is Fuld, and PECOTA figures Gentry for a .249 True Average vs. .259 for Reimold. There's an upgrade there, but over the course of the season, you're looking at half a win on offense, and you lose something when Coco Crisp goes down and you have to play Sam Fuld against lefties.

Reimold himself hasn't shown any platoon split in his career, but (a) it's not enough plate appearances to trust, especially spread over six years and (b) that just means he's mediocre against both sides.

I'm not exactly a Fuld defender and Gentry did whatever the opposite of growing on me is last year (growing off me? Shrinking on me?) but Nolan Reimold and his subpar corner-only offense isn't the answer to the A's left field weirdness.

Is there an answer remaining on the free-agent market? The entire list of remaining outfielders, according to MLB Trade Rumors, is as follows:

Tyler Colvin
Ryan Doumit
Cole Gillespie
Tony Gwynn
Scott Hairston
Raul Ibanez
Reed Johnson
Jason Kubel
Ryan Ludwick
Nolan Reimold
Nate Schierholtz
Eric Young

So that's a no, then.

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By Jason Wojciechowski on February 1, 2015 at 2:10 PM

I'm a little late to this I guess? It took a bit of time, I think, to wrap my head around the notion of trading a multi-year shortstop, a legit shortstop (depending on how you feel about his 2014 defensive numbers, anyway), for a single-year setup man, especially one who is more expensive in this one year, albeit one whose five-year record of success is more befitting a closer than a mere eighth-inning dude:

Rank Pitcher 2010-14 FIP1
1 David Robertson 2.63
2 Jonathan Papelbon 2.71
3 Joaquin Benoit 3.02
4 Matt Belisle 3.06
5 Luke Gregerson 3.10
6 Fernando Rodney 3.13
7 Tyler Clippard 3.24
8 Joel Peralta 3.34
9 Burke Badenhop 3.35
10 Joe Smith 3.39

Okay, so that table doesn't actually really make my point, seeing as how the only closers on the list are Robertson (recently), Papelbon, and Benoit (recently). Really the point is that five good years without getting hurt is a tough thing to string together. Does it mean the sixth year, the one the A's have signed up for and will pay something like $9 million (Matt Swartz's estimate) to get, will go as swimmingly as the last five? Hardly. A pitcher is only healthy until he's not, and a reliever is only good until he's not. Billy Beane has been ruthless in churning relievers in the past and done the classic small-market job of filling his bullpen with randos (who was Jesse Chavez before the A's? Dan Otero? Sean Doolittle counts too, in a different way), so it's striking to see him pay in the form of an actual asset to acquire a reliever.

But, as we learned after Escobar was sent away, his acquisition in the first place was the cost of doing business with the Rays: No Zobrist if you don't take Escobar too. This puts a different spin on how we view Escobar going forward, as not one but two teams whose front offices we'd generally trust not to be total dunderheads have viewed him as something akin to dead weight. The Nationals presumably view him differently, and they're not dunderheads either, but they've also got a full pitching staff, a major open window to win a World Series, and a questionable second base situation. That Escobar is slated to play second for Washington may, just as the trades do, shed light on how we should realistically judge his defense.

In any event, where the A's are left (that's a new perma-page here on the blog that will be updated as things happen to the roster, and contains my guesses, in the offseason, and my observations, in-season, about how the roster is shaped, and so forth—old versions will be archived, and you can always get to the current version at that link, which is also in the blog's header, up above) is with Marcus Semien back into a shortstop role, at least part time (my hope/guess is that the A's take advantage of Ben Zobrist's versatility to toggle him between second and short depending on the opposing starter, with Semien and Eric Sogard as platoon partners, despite playing different positions), rather than the supersub role it looked like he'd have played with Escobar around.

It also leaves the A's with an obvious closer for however long it takes Sean Doolittle's shoulder to heal, including if that winds up being something disastrous like "all year." Would it be nicer if Doolittle were at the top of the bullpen, everyone else bumped down a notch, and R.J. Alvarez were forced to Triple-A by Too Many Pretty Good Pitchers Syndrome? Sure. But the point of depth is that sometimes you have to use it.

There is some weakness in the middle infield compared to where it looked like we were before Clippard was acquired; an injury to Zobrist or Semien or Sogard is going to result in the call-up of Tyler Ladendorf, who turns 27 in March, has yet to debut in the majors, and has slugged at such a rate that you shouldn't expect anything more than Sogardian power in Oakland. (Steamer suggests a .220/.286/.307 line.) Joe Wendle is on the farm, sure, and Andy Parrino is still hanging around off the 40-man, too, but Wendle isn't a shortstop, and it isn't clear you want Parrino in the majors any more than you want Ladendorf.


  1. FanGraphs version, 300 innings minimum, relievers only. 

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