The Oakland A’s began the season with an $82-million payroll and yet had seven players reach the All-Star Game (including recently acquired pitcher Jeff Samardzija).
Yoenis Cespedes gets a lot of publicity, especially after winning a second straight Home Run Derby. But the current HR leader on the team is former Sea Dogs slugger and Red Sox role player Brandon Moss, with 21. Moss was a minor league free agent with the A’s in 2012 and allowed to develop.
Tyler Kepner of the New York Times looks at the A’s success – compared to big-market teams like the Yankees ($197-million payroll) and Red Sox ($156-million).
Oakland has reached the playoffs seven times in the past 14 years, although skeptics will point out that the A’s have not reached the World Series since 1990. Thus the trade for pitchers Samardzija and Jason Hammel.
The Sea Dogs won their final game before the All-Star break. Blake Swihart (.296) was 2-for-4 with his 19th double … Michael Almanzar (.273) was 2-for-3 with two RBI.
Almanzar, 23, received a $1.5-million signing bonus as a teenage infielder from the Dominican Republic, in 2007. Almanzar batted .348 with one home run in 23 Gulf Coast League games in 2008 and was vaulted to low Class A Greenville, where he finished the season, batting .207.
Almanzar languished in Class A ball for four more years, finally hitting .300 with Salem in 2012 and reaching Portland in 2013 (.268 average, 16 home runs). The Orioles took a chance on him in the Rule V draft. He did not hit well in spring training and then injured his knee. Baltimore waited until he healed and then sent him back to the Red Sox this month. Almanzar is back in Double-A. He will be a minor league free agent at the end of the year and will likely be with a new organization in 2015.
Almanzar’s story is interesting when discussing last year’s Dominican bonus baby, third-baseman Rafael Devers, who also received $1.5-million as a 16-year-old. Devers, now 17, was batting .337 in the Dominican Summer League before bing promoted to the Gulf Coast League.
In seven GCL games, Devers is batting .500 (13-for-26), with four doubles, a triple and two home runs. It is a small sample, but now it is worth watching the path Devers takes – languishing like Almanzar or rocketing through the system like a teenager from Aruba, named Xander Bogaerts (signed when 16, in Portland by 19, Boston by 20).