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A title for Kane County

Nice to see that some of the seasons in the A’s organization aren’t going as dismally as the one the big team is enduring. Kane County, the team’s Single-A affiliate clinched the Midwestern League Western Division title for the first half with a 6-0 win over Wisconsin on Sunday. Shawn Haviland (5-3) earned the win with six strong innings, and Franklin Hernandez hit a grand slam.

Among the Kane County standouts in the first half:

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Looking ahead

Quick question: Is it me or does it seem like we’ve been reading or hearing about the A’s offensive struggles for oh, about a dozen years? OK, so it hasn’t been that long. But the team’s three losses to the Giants over the weekend was all too similar to all too many series for all too long. The A’s talled all of 16 hits, hit .172 and scored three runs.

Not sure how you feel, but to these eyes, it’s gotten old. So thought I’d spend Tuesday morning looking at some of the hitters who might be coming down the road for the A’s.

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Draft analysis

Sorry for the delay in updating the blog from my end, but laptop issues got in the way the last couple days. So withour further ado …

It’s never too early to have some instant, who-cares-in-five-years-if-we-were-right analysis on the players who were picked in the opening day of baseball’s draft. But the buzz seems to be that the A’s did well yesterday. I always take a wait-and-see approach. I’ve seen too many can’t-miss kids do exactly that (Todd Van Poppel anyone?), and plenty of can’t-make-it guys do exactly the opposite (Jose Canseco went in the 15th round).

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Talking Vinny

No doubt, you’ve read or heard the big news by now. With Vin Mazzaro’s promotion in mind, here’s a recap of some of the points director of player personnel Billy Owens made about him when we talked a recently.

On Mazzaro’s progress: “He’s definitely taken a strong step forward in the past 18 months. He has an exceptional arm, and can top out at 96 or 97 mph, and his ball has natural sink. Last year, and really most of this year, he’s gotten to the point where he’s trusted his fastball and sinker a lot more, and he’s pitched more comfortably at 93 or 94 (mph).

On his offspeed stuff: “His soft game has gotten a lot better. His overall command has gotten a lot better. His ground ball-to-fly ball ratio was very strong last year, and the rest of his ratios have been where they need to be, and it has stayed that way. … ”

Personally. I’m a tad surprised that Mazzaro is coming up now. I would say it’s reminiscent of the day in June of 1999 when the A’s recalled Tim Hudson. But that A’s eam was going places, and this team clearly isn’t. It also starts his service time clicking early, and likely means that he’ll be eligible for arbitration one winter early.

I asked assistant general manager David Forst about that very thing last week. His response: “Unfortunately, we don’t live in a world that always allows you the luxury” of bringing up a player at the most idealistic time for a franchise. There may be other teams out there with the options to do that, but right now, we don’t have it.”

Incidentally, Melissa Lockard of scout.com has a very good piece discussing Mazzaro’s promotion.

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The Midland Mashers

Not so long ago, any numbers generated by somebody at Double-A Midland had to be taken with a skeptical eye. Adam Piatt, of all people, earned Minor League Player of the Year honors playing there.

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Weeks sighting and more

The A’s top pick in last year’s draft finally is on the stat sheet at Single-A Stockton. Jemile Weeks made his debut for the Ports in Stockton’s 10-5 over Bakersfield. It wasn’t a great night for the second baseman, as he collected just one hit in six at-bats. But his lone hit did drive in two runs to give the Ports a nice start to a seven-game road trip, their longest of the season.

More encouraging news out of Stockton. Tyson Ross, the Cal product who followed Weeks on the A’s draft list last season, retired the final 11 of the final 12 he faced. His overall line needs to be better, but he continues to work on being more effecient and getting his pitch-count up. The A’s are being careful with him.

Last for Stockton: A very good night for Frank Martinez. The shortstop doubled twice and had three RBI.

Elsewhere:

TRIPLE-A SACRAMENTO

— “Vin Mazzaro, white courtesy telephone. Vin Mazzaro, white courtesy telephone.” You half expect a public address announcement to go out, given how this kid is pitching lately. Mazzaro lowered his ERA to 2.38 in his third straight outstanding outing. By the way, talked with A’s assistant general manager Davd Forst this week, and Mazzaro would have to be called up right around the June 15-20 period to avoid becoming a Super2 guy and becoming eligible for arbitration an extra year earlier.

— Another promising pitching prospect did his thing in the second game of a doubleheader. Nice to see that James Simmons is gaining some consistency.

DOUBLE-A MIDLAND

— Highlight of the night was Graham Godfrey. Dynamite stuff while fanning 11 in  a 9-4 win over Northwest Arkansas. Godfrey has 28 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings during May.

— Adrian Cardenas, who recently was sent back to down from Triple-A Sacramento, continues to smoke Double-A pitching. He’ll get another opportunity in Triple-A at some point.

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Sweep time in Omaha

Great weekend for Triple-A Sacramento. The River Cats went into Omaha — Triple-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals — and outscored the Royals 21-9 in winning three games and pushing their Pacific Coast League-best mark to 26-17. Among the highlights:

— Catcher Eric Munson, the classic definition of a 4-A player, hit a grand slam to highlight a six-run eighth in a 12-4 win Sunday, Sacramento’s 11th win in 13 games.

— Dana Eveland finally looked like a pitcher in a 5-2, 12-inning win on Saturday. Nothing to get too excited about as far as I’m concerned. Blind squirrels find acorns now and then.

— Daric Barton, whose days as a hot prospect are over, had an RBI double in the 12th on Saturday. He is 10-for-40 in his past 10 days, and to give you an idea of how far Barton has fallen, that qualifies as a hot streak.

— Vinny Mazzaro was awesome on Friday. Eight innings, one run. Mazzaro has allowed only one earned run over 21 2/3 innings in his past three starts.

DOUBLE-A MIDLAND

— Travis Banwart moved to 5-1 with five solid innings before a rain delay wiped out his day in an 11-5 victory over Corpus Christi. Here are Banwart’s game-by-game totals.

— Arnold Leon is back on the disabled list. He has had all sorts of ailments since having his contract purchased out of the Mexican League last season.