Happy Labor Day, everybody! That means we’ve reached the final day of the minor league season, a season that’s been rather parsimonious in dispensing its pleasures. And in keeping with that character, it’s sending off some of our favorites with stinkers for the winter. Thanks 2017!
Meanwhile, Joe Ritzo managed to sum up 2017 with the least dramatic race in history.
Also, a tight race heading into final weekend between Sacramento (62-75), Richmond (61-75) & SJ (61-75) for top full-season record in system— Joe Ritzo (@JoeRitzo) September 1, 2017
HIGHLIGHTS: Steven Duggar homered and walked twice; Dylan Davis doubled and homered; Bryan Reynolds doubled twice and homered.
|a- Wynton Bernard||PH||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||.250|
|b- Jae-Gyun Hwang||PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||.285|
Andrew Suarez, have some nice memories of 2017! Here’s a six-run 1st inning to see you off into the winter! Suarez allowed two first inning HRs, including a Grand Slam to one time ROY candidate Hunter Renfroe, whose rookie year didn’t go quite the way he planned (though he did hit 20 HRs). Oddly, of the seven HRs Suarez allowed with Sacramento, six of them came at Raley Field, the most HR suppressing environment in the PCL.
Suarez, normally an excellent fielder, hurt his own cause by booting a sac bunt to the second batter of the inning (a bit of small ball strategy that the inning came back to mock in its own way).
Nonetheless and final memories aside, 2017 has been a thoroughly successful step-forward season for Suarez who appears close to ready to help should he be needed in 2018. His K rate could be a tad higher and his walk rate a tad lower, but both trended slightly upwards over the last couple of months.
Steven Duggar highlighted a slow offensive day, working two walks and hitting a three-run HR for all the runs — his 2nd HR with Sacramento and 6th overall.
Duggar found the angle from the RH sidewinder quite to his liking!
Wynton Bernard got the 6th inning to Duggar and in so doing kept a successful streak going. His final four game appearances have come as a pinch hitter and he’s reached base all four times, with two walks and two hits, including a two-run homer. Yesterday he worked a two-out walk in front of Duggar’s HR.
Richmond Bats Gm 1
|1- Rando Moreno||PR-SS||1||1||1||0||0||0||1||0||0||.200|
Richmond Bats Gm 2
Second game of a double header on the next to the last day of the season? Snoozer! (those double header games produce a suspiciously high volume of 1-0 finals). But the opener? That produced a thriller! Richmond came up with their 11th walk-off victory of the season amongst their 62 wins. Once again, Richmond is playing the role of spoiler. After standing in the way Altoona’s quest for the division title by winning 3 of 4 from the Curve, they’re now denying Bowie’s efforts to catch Altoona in the final weekend. Those two teams are both in the EL playoffs, but which one gets the advantage of a division title is still to be determined on the final day of play.
Rando Moreno has personally been responsible for four of those walk-offs and he got the water bath again yesterday, taking advantage of a drawn in infield to bring home the winner.
Dylan Davis has not exactly had a through step-forward year in 2017. He began the season in XST in an ill-fated attempt to convert to 3b — an attempt that lasted just two days when he was finally activated. And even reverted to his more comfortable LF position, Davis found AA pitching too hard a row to hoe, hitting just .216/.280/.352 in about 100 games and striking out a little more than a quarter of the time. (Parenthetically, though Richmond has frequently used position players on the mound this year, the former Oregon St. pitcher — who some teams liked better that way coming into the draft — has never seen action on the bump.
But Davis was the key cog in yesterday’s exciting game 1. He led off the final frame with his 17th double of the year and came around to score the game winner. Earlier in the game, he went deep for his 9th HR of the season.
Extra base hits were definitely the driver in Game 1’s engine as the two teams combined for nine extra base hits. That included Aramis Garcia’s 12th double in just 22 games with Richmond! Garcia has yet to get to try out his home run trot in AA, but he’s got the cruising into 2b thing down.
Sadly, the first game appeared to signal the end of the 2017 season for C.J. Hinojosa, who’s been the bright spot on the Richmond squad for most of the year. A very very late decision to hit the breaks rounding 3b led to a bad spill for Hinojosa who appeared to hurt his ankle. There’s been a lot of rainfall in the area lately, including yesterday morning, which no doubt contributed to the incident.
At first it looked like an ankle, but the word came today that it’s an Achilles Tendon injury. Hinojosa seemed to confirm that this was going to involve a long rehab last night on twitter.
Everything happens for a reason, you can't question why? Just know he puts you through hard times to make you stronger! I'll be back!— C.J Hinojosa (@C_Hinojosa9) September 4, 2017
We shall see.
San Jose Bats
Grant Watson was another lefty who started his final game of the year on a sour note. Watson allowed four runs in the bottom of the 1st to put the Giants behind from the get go. Though they’d later have a four-run rally of their own to take the lead, single runs in the 6th and 8th sent them to yet another L. San Jose’s late season run for a title ultimately has deposited them in the same spot they’ve inhabited all year — last place. Heading into the season’s final day, San Jose is the only team in the Northern Division that’s been eliminated.
GONE! Bryan Reynolds hits a two-out, three-run home run in the top of the fifth giving the Giants a 5-4 lead!— San Jose Giants (@SJGiants) September 4, 2017
But the Giants continued to get excellent production from the best prospect on the team as Bryan Reynolds is ending the year on an upswing. Reynolds collected three hits yesterday including two doubles and his 10th HR of the year. That’s five hits in the last two games as Reynolds has spurt his way past Ryan Howard for the team batting lead. Following a rough April, Reynolds found his groove in May and has been a model of consistency the rest of the season. His OPS by months: .854 (May), .866 (June), .837 (July), .800 (August). In late May, Reynolds got his average up above .290 and his SLG above .400 for the first time and for the rest of the season his average never got lower than .294 while his SLG steadily climbed to a season ending high of (now) .462. The team MVP led the Giants in average, OBP, OPS, Runs, BBs, and TB while playing all three OF positions. As has always been the case for the switch hitter, the strikeouts were high, but Reynolds has always made it work. Excellent first full season for the athletic OF who will head to Richmond next year with high expectations.
Gio Brusa tied the departed Aramis Garcia for team lead with his 17th HR of the year. The power hitting switch hitter suffered through an abysmal middle of the season, slumping all the way down to a .598 OPS in July, but he’s found his HR groove down the stretch. After going 41 games without a HR from June 22 to August 14th, Brusa has hit six HRs the final two weeks of the year. With a batting average that’s hung around in the .230 range all year, Brusa’s going to have to find a way to get to his power in games more consistently to have hopes of succeeding at higher levels. But it’s definitely in there.
Ryan Howard has made sure his batting average didn’t fall below .300 with a late season slump, collecting four hits the past two days to get his slash line back up to .306/.342/.397. He also kept at least one column on the stat sheet away from Reynolds, leading the team in hits with 161, third most in the Cal League.
|Shawon Dunston Jr.||LF||3||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||.241|
|Jose Vizcaino Jr.||1B||4||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.257|
Stephen Woods, Jr. tight-roped his way through his final game of the year. Woods, Jr. somehow allowed no runs in his four innings, despite walking five, hitting a batter and uncorking a WP. He ran his pitch count up to 80 and threw just 38 strikes in the outing. And through it all he remained tough to hit, striking out four and allowing just two hits. Woods had to work out of two different bases loaded jams in the game but he managed to come through it unscathed. The arm is live and Woods, Jr. has shown a lot of promising things this year, but obviously he’ll need to find a better relationship with the strike zone if he’s going to succeed at higher levels. He’s got the stuff to do it though. Woods, Jr. finished with 113 Ks on the year in 110 IP, good for 9th in the Sally as of today.
On the other side of the ledger, 2017 was an unqualified disaster for hard-throwing left-handed reliever Caleb Smith. A year ago at this time, David Lee was singing the praises of Smith, who certainly looked like he’d mastered the lower level and was looking to tackle some higher challenges. But Smith couldn’t stick in the Cal League, walking three batters in four of his eight appearances with San Jose and getting lit up to the tune of a 7.27 ERA. By Memorial Day he was back in the Sally and the return home didn’t suit the South Carlinian well. Smith was battered around for a 5.14 ERA in his repeat of the Sally, and like yesterday, a lot of that damage came in big innings. In what is likely his final appearance of the year, he turned a 2-1 game into a 6-1 blowout by allowing four 9th inning runs to Charleston yesterday. The offseason can’t come soon enough for Caleb.
In the bottom of the 9th, Sandro Fabian went deep for the 11th time. That’s just his 3rd HR of the season at Lake Olmstead Field, one of the worst hitting environments in the Sally. The Giants value young players who can push through the fatigue of full season ball and produce down the stretch, so they have to be thrilled with Fabian’s first year. He didn’t survive in his second half, he thrived producing much better numbers down the stretch. Since July 1st, Fabian has posted an .800 OPS in the Sally, hitting .308/.329/.473 while playing his home games in one of the worst hitting environments in the league. He also dropped his K rate down to just 12.4%. He even managed to hit double digits in walks for the year! That last part has some fine-tuning to do, but it’s hard to argue with anything else Fabian’s done the last two months. On to San Jose with you, Sandro!
And speaking about Lake Olmstead (even less than lovingly), the Greenjackets say goodbye to their long-time home today with an end of the year send-off.
|a- Frandy De La Rosa||PH-SS||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||.150|
The Volcanoes concluded their 2017 campaign with a rousing victory. Their offense sputtered much of the second half but it was capable of putting up big games like this one. In all they finished third in the league in OPS and fourth in Runs Scored. They were, however, by far the worst pitching staff in the NWL allowing 20 more runs than the next worst staff in the league. That explained most of their league worst 29-47 record.
Prospect-wise the talent was down in Salem-Keizer this year, but there are still some things to note, particularly the spark that top of the order hitters Bryce Johnson and Logan Baldwin gave the team. Johnson, the Giants 6th run pick, ended the year on a 9-game hitting streak and raised his average to .329. His slap and dash approach translated well to pro ball, as he had multiple hits in nearly half of his games with the Volcanoes (23 multi-hit efforts in 57 games). He had just eight games in which he failed to record a hit on the year and in two of those he appeared as a pinch hitter and drew a walk. In all he had just four in which he failed to reach base. Johnson seems like the most likely candidate of the first year guys to make the jump to the Cal League next year.
Logan Baldwin also thrived in his debut, hitting .342/.395/.473 and at one point reaching base in 30 consecutive games. Baldwin reached base three times yesterday, including a double, and he stole his 17th base of the year. Baldwin just managed to qualify for the batting title in the final weekend and led the league in average going away. Johnson was second in the league at .329.
Ryan Kirby ended the year with a team record 65 RBIs, leading the league in that category by an astonishing 18! That accomplishment earned him a little hardware as he was named the league’s MVP.
Manuel Geraldo almost exactly duplicated his 2016 numbers from the NWL, ending the year at .301/.338/.370. In 2016, Geraldo hit .298/.333/.371. Tellingly, Geraldo was removed for a PH in what would have been his final PA of the year — perhaps his manager wanted to make sure he finished on the right side of the .300 line this year. He’ll get a third chance to see if he can match up with Sally league level in 2018.
Today’s Scheduled Starters:
Sacramento: Matt Gage vs. Matt Magill
Richmond: Cory Taylor vs. Jordan Kipper
San Jose: Garrett Williams vs. Logan Shore
Augusta: DJ Myers vs. Nick Green
The AZL Giants play the Rangers in a single-elimination semi-final game tonight to see if they can earn their way to the best of three Championship round. The choice of starting pitcher tonight will be a very interesting one. Starter Jose Marte, who has spent the year learning some hard lessons in the NWL was brought back down to the AZL level this weekend (along with super reliever John Russell). His stuff earned him the challenge assignment, but his level of experience is more aligned with the AZL. He would make an interesting choice for a starter here. Keenan Bartlett has been pretty dominant in relief for the Giants and has stretched out to 3 inning stints, so he’s another possibility. Otherwise, it’s Miguel Figueroa’s turn in the rotation. Like many of he young starters on the staff, Figueroa’s had some rough outings down the stretch.
And of course there’s one more question lingering over tonight’s game. Is it possible we see Heliot Ramos pull a Willis Reed (although I realize likely very few of my readers are old enough to know what this means. Harumph!)? He’s still there being a good teammate in spirit anyway!
Happy birthday to your dad!!! https://t.co/07sm7BYVeG— Heliot Ramos (@HeliotRamos) September 4, 2017
Otherwise, the drama for tonight is pretty much reduced to Garrett Williams trying to leave a strong final impression.
We’ll be here tomorrow with all the final games and then, if the AZL club can make it to their final rounds, we’ll put up short posts for the championship round, which, by the by, could feature the AZL Dodgers.