When the RockHounds open their 2015 Texas League season (April 9), the team's roster will, quite probably, look very different than the one that captured the third outright league championship in franchise history last September. The club's five-man field staff, too, will undergo a major change with four new members.
The Oakland Athletics today announced that Ryan Christenson will manage the RockHounds in 2015. The former major league outfielder was named the California League Manager of the Year last season after guiding the (Advanced-A) Stockton Ports to an 85-55 record, the league's best mark by a margin of seven games.
Joining Christenson on the RockHounds field staff are pitching coach (and former Major Leaguer)John Wasdin, hitting coach Eric Martins, Athletic Trainer Justin Whitehouse and strength and conditioning coach AJ Seeliger. Entering his eighth season with the club (and his 15th with the Oakland organization), Whitehouse is the only returning member of the 2014 'Hounds field staff.
In just two seasons as a minor league manager (both with the A's), Christenson has put together an outstanding resume, taking both of his clubs to the postseason. In 2013, he led the (Single-A) Beloit Snappers to the Midwest League playoffs with a 77-62 overall record, winning the Western Division first half title with a 43-27 mark.
Stockton opened last season with a second-place finish in the California League's North Division, going 37-33 and finishing eight games behind the Bakersfield Blaze. The Ports then dominated the second half pennant race, winning the North by nine games with a 48-22 record. Among the seven minor leagues employing the split-season format, only the Asheville Tourists of the (Single-A) South Atlantic League had a better half-season record (first or second half) in 2014 (48-21).
The Ports' infield was comprised of four of Oakland's top prospects: (1B) Matt Olsen, (2B) Chad Pinder, (3B) Renato Nunez and (SS) Daniel Robertson (who joined the RockHounds for the Texas League playoffs). Olson, Nunez and Robertson played for Christenson in Beloit in 2013 and Pinder (drafted by Oakland in 2013) joined them in Stockton last season. It now seems very likely they'll make the jump to Double-A with the RockHounds together.
Major League Baseball's web site rates each of the four infielders among Oakland's top six prospects - - - Robertson (#1), Olson (#2), Nunez (#3) and Pinder (#6). Matt Chapman, who appeared with the 'Hounds in the postseason and was named Texas League Playoff MVP by Minor League Baseball, could also be in the "mix" in 2015. The third baseman, Oakland's first round draft choice in 2014, is rated the A's # 4 prospect by MLB.com.
Christenson's role in the development of Oakland's "all-prospect infield" has been significant, to say the least, and their collective "arrival" at Double-A with the 'Hounds should provide a remarkable storyline to open the 2015 season.
The RockHounds begin defense of their Texas League title on April 9, 2015, at Security Bank Ballpark. The season marks the franchise's 44th year overall (beginning in 1972) and its 17th as Oakland's Double-A affiliate, the longest-tenured affiliation in franchise history.
RYAN CHRISTENSON - MANAGER
The 40-year-old native of Redlands, California (he now makes his home in Tyrone, Georgia), was selected by Oakland in the 10th round of the 1998 draft out of Pepperdine University (Malibu, CA) and spent parts of six seasons (1998-2003) in the Major Leagues (452 games). He spent the majority of his career with Oakland, appearing in 351 games with the A's between 1998 and 2001. The centerfielder also played for the Arizona Diamondbacks (2001) and Milwaukee Brewers (2002) before finishing his big league playing career with the Texas Rangers in 2003.
He was a member of Oakland's American League West championship club in 2000 and appeared in two games in the AL Division Series versus the New York Yankees (Ryan went 1-for-2 with an RBI single off Dwight Gooden in Game 4). The following year, he was traded from the A's to Arizona in mid-June and spent the rest of the season with the Diamondbacks, who went on to win the 2001 World Series (he was not on the postseason roster).
Ryan Christenson: Minor League Managerial Record (162-117)
|Year||Team||League||Class||1st H||2nd H||W-L||Pct.||Div. Finsh||Overall||Playoffs|
|2013||Beloit||Midwest||A||43-27||34-35||77-62||.554||1st / 3rd||5th (16)||Lost to Quad Cities 2-1, in semifinals|
|2014||Stockton||California||Adv-A||37-33||48-22||85-55||.607||2nd / 1st||1st (10)||Lost to Visalia 2-0, in first round|