By: Michael Marcantonini, Broadcaster
One week into the 2018 California Winter League season, the Canada A’s have emerged as arguably the best team in the league and serious contenders to win the whole thing. The A’s are undefeated through six games, with two shutout wins and three games scoring eight or more runs on their resume.
With a deep roster, a strong pitching staff and a potent lineup, the A’s are a threat to any team they face on any given day.
The pitching staff has dominated through six games. Each member of the six-man staff has produced when called upon, especially Scott Harkin, who has 14 strikeouts and hasn’t walked a batter in seven innings of work. Harkin also hasn’t allowed a run through two appearances and combined with Thomas Goodyear to throw a no-hitter on January 29 against the Manitoba North Stars. In the no-hitter, Harkin went the first four innings and Thomas Goodyear tossed the final three.
“I think it all starts really with pitching. So far [our] pitchers have commanded the strike zone for the most part down here, which is hard this early in the year,” A’s manager James Frisbee said. “I think our defense has played pretty good baseball behind them. It doesn’t matter what league you’re in, where you’re at, when you can pitch, throw strikes and defend, obviously it’s going to give you a better chance to win.”
All six of Canada’s pitchers have made at least two appearances and five of the six have a sub-2.00 ERA. Logan Gillaspie leads the team with 8.2 innings pitched, and like Harkin, hasn’t allowed an earned run. Gillaspie struck out eight over 5.2 innings in his last start, and has 11 total punchouts on the season.
Not to be outdone, the A’s lineup–led by infielder Carter Grote–has consistently delivered early on. Grote has been the best player in the CWL through one week, leading the league with four home runs and 12 RBI. He has 10 hits in 19 at-bats, good for a .526 batting average, and has a six-game hitting streak, four multi-hit games and a two-homer game through the first week of the season.
“He’s probably one of the more established hitters down here as far as his tools and natural approach to hitting,” Frisbee said. “I’ve been really impressed with the way he competes at the plate. He strings together good at-bats even when he gets out. They’re quality at-bats and he’s hitting the ball hard.”
While Grote has overshadowed the rest of the A’s roster with the hot tear he’s on, plenty of others have contributed to the team’s dominant start to the season. Six other players are hitting over .280, including outfielders Jake Luce and James Stea, who have been fixtures at the top of the lineup. Luce is batting .471 with five RBI, and Stea has the third-highest batting average in the league at .571.
“Jake is just a veteran presence, he’s played a lot of baseball in his life. He has a good idea of what he’s trying to do at the plate.
“James is a younger guy, but he’s really athletic and very aggressive. He hunts the fastball, which I’ve told him down here I think is the key in any league you’re in,” Frisbee said.
It’s early, and a lot can and will happen over the next three weeks in the CWL, but the A’s have already separated themselves from the competition.
“Hopefully these guys get better, enjoy the experience down here, enjoy playing baseball early in the good weather,” Frisbee said. “Hopefully these guys get a chance to go play this summer somewhere, at least get an opportunity to go to camp [and] compete for a job.”