Foppert, Two LHP Prospects Make ’06 Debuts
Posted by Jason A. Churchill on April 10, 2006
Righthander Jesse Foppert makes his season debut tonight as the Tacoma Rainiers host the Sacramento River Cats.
Foppert, 25, was impressive during spring training until his final outing in which he had trouble finding the strike zone. A year ago, the Bay Area native combined for 62 1/3 innings for Class A San Jose, and Class AAA Fresno and Tacoma. He allowed just 58 hits and struck out 63 batters, but issued 41 walks.
He'll face a solid lineup filled with patient left-handed bats, including Daric Barton, Oakland's top prospect. Barton has power and advanced plate skills, matching the organizational philosophy. Outfielder Bobby Kielty, a switch hitter, shortstop Mike Rouse and outfielder Mark Watson form a tough bunch of hitters for Foppert.
He'll have to throw strikes with his fastball and at least one of his offspeed pitches, particularly his change up, if he wishes to hang around past thre first few innings. Sacramento will not help Foppert by swinging at pitches out of the zone. If Foppert escapes tonight's game with a solid line, he'll have earned it and it'll mean something.
Down in San Antonio, 20-year-old lefthander Ryan Feierabend makes his first start of the season, facing the Midland Rockhounds, another of the Athletics' farm clubs – and yes, more patient lefthanded bats.
Feierabend went 8-7 for Inland Empire last season, posting the second best ERA in the CAlifornia League at age 19. he fanned 122 and walked 51, but allowed 186 hits.
The M's third rounder in 2003 stands 6-foot-4 and has an improving fastball that currently sits 87-90 but has the potential to ultimately land consistently in the low 90s. Feierabend made strides last summer with his curve ball and his though his change still needs a few years of seasoning, he's making solid progress and could turn into a No. 3 starter.
In Double-A, he faces a tough challenge; Hitters with an average of three years of pro experience and a median age of around 23 – three years Feierabend's senior. He'll need to produce more consistent strikes early in the count and stay aggressive with his offspeed stuff, or he'll get battered all season long.
If Feierabend puts up an ERA under 4.5 for the year, it's a successful season. It'd be nice to see his get through five tonight, but if he limits the walks and doesn't rely on his pickoff move to save him from long innings, it's a nice start.
Lefty Jose Escalona makes his affiliated debut tonight for Wisconsin. He's a bit undersized at 5-11 and 170 pounds, but he's armed with a 87-91 mph fastball and a slider that some scouts see as a potential plus pitch.
Escalona spent the past two seasons in the Venezuelan Summer League, including the 2005 season where he posted a 1.18 ERA in 11 starts. he worked 53 1/3 innings and struck out 59 batters. He held hitters to a .204 average.
Escalona, along with last night's starter, Marwin Vega, are two arms to watch for the future.
Five Other Things to Watch on Monday Night: Shin-soo Choo in the lead off spot for Tacoma; If he can continue to get on base, run, hit for 15-homer, 30-double type power, he may have a future in the M's organization… Oswaldo Navarro's offensive production in San Antonio… the only question about Navarro is his bat. He's made decent progress over the past few seasons and may play his way into the future of the club, even if it's as a reserve middle infielder. Think Ramon Santiago with even more range and a slightly better bat – if things continue to go right for the Venezuelan Navarro.
Tomorrow: I'm going to go into depth about the potential of Cha Seung Baek and temper the excitement that some may be having since his strong spring and first start of the year may be forging.