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Post-Mortem: The 2018 Sacramento RiverCats

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The best of Sacramento was the best of San Francisco in 2018.

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Intro:

The San Francisco Giants fought injuries all season. The result was that the Sacramento River Cats were plundered for healthy players all season. So as much as any team in the system, the wins and losses didn’t matter as much as how players played. So, please don’t look at the win-loss record, but at least they weren’t the worst team in the PCL. But as such, you’ll see quite a few part-time players listed here.

Season Summary: 55-85, 4th place in the PCL Pacific Northern Division, 27.5 GB (2nd worst record in the PCL)

Team Awards

MVP

Kevin - Chase d’Arnaud, 31 yrs old, IF, 76 G, .292/.383/.522, 12 HR

Yeah, yeah, fight me. The Major League veteran isn’t a prospect, but he was one of the better players on the River Cats who stayed down on the farm. In 76 games (7th most on the team), d’Arnaud combined power (3rd most on the team with 12 home runs) with speed (team-leading 15 steal in 18 attempts). Obviously, d’Arnaud was eventually called up and has played semi-regularly in the big leagues. No he’s not a prospect...sorry. But he was the team MVP in my mind.

Roger - Austin Slater, 25 yrs old, OF, 53 G, .344/.417/.564

As Kevin noted, Sacramento’s victory this year was keeping the Giants roster filled, and most of what this dismal season will be remembered for by Giants’ fans came off of this roster. Remember Andrew Suarez started the year here, Dereck Rodriguez, Steven Duggar -- even Reyes Moronta was assigned to Sacramento’s season opening roster (though injuries changed that scenario). So I’m not going to let games played affect my view of the RiverCats honors. Slater played barely more than a third of the minor league season but he led the team in all three slash line stats as well as wRC+ (157). Only Mac Williamson’s during his hot start really compared to Slater’s presence in the middle of the RiverCats lineup.

Rookie Of The Year

Kevin - Steven Duggar, 24 yrs old, CF, 78 G, .272/.354/.421, 11 SB

Duggar played 13 games in Sacramento late last year, but I’m going to say he hasn’t broken the unwritten rookie eligibility limit for this recap. Dugar had some holes in his game (and his swing, with 103 SO in 316 AB), but his defense, solid speed and line-drive power was what had made him one of the Giants’ top prospects and obviously earned him the callup to the Majors. It will be interesting to see how he recovers from his labrum surgery late this season, how it will affect his swing.

Roger - Steven Duggar, 24 yrs old, CF, 78 G, .272/.354/.421, 11 SB

Like Kevin, I’m going to ignore Duggar’s 13 game audition at the end of the 2017 season. He was the guy who everyone had their eye on from the start of the year. His defense, athleticism, and all around game look like a perfect fit for a team that plays in one of the biggest OFs in baseball. The offense will continue to be a work in progres for awhile, as he shows a little more swing and miss than you’d like from a speed and on-base type hitter, but the power is also likely to play a little better in the majors than it has in the minors. If he can stay on the field (and this is now two straight seasons in which a number of injuries have conspired to keep him off of it) he’s an energetic, productive piece going forward for the big club.

Best Returning Player

Kevin - Austin Slater, 25 yrs old, OF, 53 G, .344/.417/.564

So, do I take a flashy-in-the-pan player here or a full-season player with a season that left most fans perfectly whelmed? I’ll go with the former, and I’m taking Slater. Slater showed all-around skills, rather than one outstanding tool like Mac Williamson’s power. With 24 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR, Slater put up a lot of extra bases on top of a .344 average. Slater got the callup to the Majors and hasn’t taken the job by storm, but he hasn’t been awful, either.

Roger - Mac Williamson, 27 yrs old, OF, 28 G, .213/.295/.383

The final numbers tell a sad tale of where Williamson’s path ultimately took him this year, but the opening weeks were breathtaking and I don’t want to leave these reviews without commemorating that run. After cutting a swath of destruction through spring training, Williamson was sent back to Sacramento to continue honing his new swing. But additional honing proved unnecessary. Mac spent just 11 games down in AAA, where he hit .487/.600/1.062 with 6 HRs, forcing the call-up that couldn’t be delayed any longer. That call up led to a horrible twist that prevented Williamson from becoming the major contributor that everyone was waiting a hoping for, and into a comet that burned brightly and beautifully through the early spring of the 2018 season.

Best Starting Pitcher

Kevin - Casey Kelly, 28 yrs old, RHP, 4.76 ERA, 38 BBs, 111 SO, 136 IP

Sigh...there wasn’t a lot you were going to find here in Sacramento, with the Giants calling up everyone to get a chance. Kelly, the former first round pick, even got a callup as a part of things. But yes, 1 4.76 ERA is about the best you’re going to get out of this group with significant starts.

Roger - Dereck Rodriguez, 26, RHP, 3.40 ERA, 53 Ks, 11 BBs, 50.1 IP

Before DRod shockingly became the best pitcher on a roster that included Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto, he shockingly became the best pitching prospect on a roster that included Tyler Beede and (briefly) Andrew Suarez. From the perspective of September 2018, it appears that the Giants were successful in acquiring impact piece for the future last winter, and it came in the form of a quiet minor league free agent signing back before Thanksgiving. Rodriguez pitched just 9 games for Sacramento, and was heading for a due date with an opt out clause, when the front office made their best call of the year and brought him up to the big leagues.

Best Reliever

Kevin - Tyler Rogers, 27 yrs old, RHP, 2.13 ERA, 23 BB, 60 SO, 67.2 IP

Who else did you think I was going to take? But realistically, Rogers was very efficient as the submariner reliever. He did give up a fair number or walks, but he had a .207 average allowed and a 1.08 WHIP while getting more than twice as many ground balls as fly balls. THat’s the kind of pitcher Rogers is, no more, no less. I’m still disappointed the Giants haven’t given him a chance, and if he gets one, it may not be with the Giants.

Roger - Ray Black, 28 yrs old, RHP, 3.16 ERA 46 Ks in 98 Total Batters Faced 8 BBs 25.2 IP

I resisted the urge to name Black best reliever in Richmond where he threw just 10 innings. But I’m not going to do the same here. Black, who had himself nearly given his career up for dead last winter, was really THE story of the first half of the minor league season. He blew up in Richmond in April combining triple digit fastballs with a knee-buckling sliders and throwing nothing but strikes. Over the first month of the season, Black struck out more than half of the 38 batters he faced in the Eastern League. He hiccuped in his AAA debut, walking two and allowing a three run HR. But he quickly reverted to form, striking out 38 of the 82 batters he’d face in the PCL before the call to the majors finally came. Through it all Black was outrageously entertaining, intimidating, dominating -- everything you’d to see in a night out at the ballyard.

Other Interesting Players

Kevin - Chris Shaw swings and misses too much, but there is no denying the power, leading the team (by far) with 24 home runs. Ryder Jones quietly still has potential as a bench player at the infield corners. Let’s be honest, there isn’t a lot of hidden names down here, because almost everyone with talent was in the Majors at some point this year.

Roger - It’s hard to know what to make of Chris Shaw’s 2018, did he regress? Did he have AAA-itis? Who is he at this point and where does he go from here? Ryder Jones 2017 spike in walk rate and Iso didn’t seem to hold into his 2018 season, but he’s still a young LHH with power, which means he’ll get his chances to craft a major league role. Can Tyler Beede follow the Kyle Crick path to major league success? It would be pleasant if he does!