Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Down on the Farm: 2016 Sacramento River Cats Season Review

As has become standard practice, the Giants used their AAA affiliate as an extended bench with the majority of position players having prior MLB experience and most of them helping out the MLB club at some point during the season with several players making valuable contributions.

Gorkys Hernandez, a well traveled, good field, no hit outfielder who was once a highly regarded prospect on the national level, ended up with the most AB's(437) on the team by a fairly wide margin.  He posted a surprisingly good batting line of .302/.381/.421 with 8 HR and 20 SB.  He has filled in ably for Denard Span when Span was hurting and has formed a nice little L-R platoon while putting on an impressive defensive show in CF.  Going forward, the Giants might want to consider a permanent L-R platoon with Span as Span seems to be thriving on the extra days off when they are facing lefty SP's.

Other post-prospect players with MLB experience who rode the shuttle between Sacramento and San Francisco includes Grant Green, Ramiro Pena, Jarrett Parker, Ruben Tejada and Conor Gillaspie.

Graduated:  Mac Williamson played 54 games with 203 AB's for the River Cats hitting .269/.314/.495 with 11 HR's.  He played enough at the MLB level to surpass 130 career AB's and is now officially graduated, although there are not guarantees he does not end up back in Sacramento to start next season.

Trade Bait:  Andrew Susac has struggled with injuries and defensive chops in his limited MLB carer.  He started the season with a bad wrist but recovered in time to post a .273/.343/.455 line in 249 AB.  He was traded at the deadline to the Brewers in the Will Smith trade.  He missed some more time with apparent injury after the trade and hit under .200 in limited action for Colorado Springs, the Brewers AAA team.

The Prospect:  Austin Slater was promoted midseason from AA and would now have to be considered the top position prospect from the 2016 River Cats team.  He got off to a slow start after the promotion but went on a tear in August to finish with a .298/381/.506 line with 12 2B, 13 HR, 33 BB, 53 K in 245 AB.  5 of those HR's came in one 4 game series in Reno, so you might want to discount the power just a bit.  Still an exciting season for Slater who has emerged as a legitimate OF prospect.

Starting pitching was more prospect oriented and was surprisingly strong all season:

Ty Blach LHP.  DOB:  10/20/1990.  6'2", 200 lbs.  Drafted in Round 5, 2012.  14-7, 3.43, 162.2 IP, 38 BB, 113 K, GO/AO= 1.22.  Blach had a particularly strong second half.  See full Prospect Retrospective from 2 days ago.

Clayton Blackburn RHP.  DOB:  1/6/1993.  6'3", 230 lbs.  Drafted in Round 16, 2011.  7-10, 4.36, 136.1 IP, 35 BB, 101 K, GO/AO= 1.19.  Disappointing season for Blackburn who appeared to be on the cusp of a MLB career after his strong finish in 2015.  He pitched well at times, but obviously got passed on the depth chart by Ty Blach.

Chris Stratton RHP.  DOB:  8/22/1990.  6'3", 190 lbs.  Drafted in Round 1, 2012.  12-6, 3.87, 125.2 IP, 39 BB, 103 K.  That is a pretty good line considering the environment.  You would like to see a higher K rate from a former first round draft pick.  He appeared in 7 games with the Giants, all in relief, with a 3.60 ERA in 10 IP.  I was impressed by his 94 MPH velocity in his relief appearances.  He may have a future as a MLB long reliever or back end SP.

Joan Gregorio RHP.  DOB:  1/12/1992.  6'7", 180 lbs.  6-8, 5.28, 107.1 IP, 43 BB, 122 K.  The K rate is great, but he gave up too many walks and dingers.  He may have the highest ceiling of all this year's AAA pitchers, but needs quite a bit more salt.  MLB future may be as a reliever.

Minor League Veteran:

Albert Suarez RHP.  DOB:  8/8/1989.  6'3", 239 lbs.  4-3, 4.34, 45.6 IP, 14 BB, 39 K.  Spent most of the season as a swingman/fill-in SP for the MLB club more or less playing the Yusmeiro Petit role with mixed success.  Given the struggles of Jake Peavy and Matt Cain, the Giants probably don't make the postseason without Suarez, but he appears to have been passed by Ty Blach on the SP depth chart and his long term future with the Giants is uncertain at this point.

Trade Bait:

Adalberto Mejia LHP.  DOB:  6/20/1993.  6'3", 195 lbs.  4-1, 4.20, 40.2 IP, 11 BB, 43 K.  Mejia pitched well at both AA and AAA levels, but was shipped to Minnesota for Eduardo Nunez.  Ty Blach's performance since being called up makes that trade a lot more palatable.  The Giants also have Andrew Suarez rapidly rising through the system who also probably made the Giants front office comfortable with trading Mejia.

Lefty Specialist:

Steven Okert LHP.  DOB:  7/9/1991. 6'3", 210 lbs.  Drafted in Round 4, 2012.  4-3, 3.80, 47.1 IP, 11 BB, 60 K's.  The K/BB is terrific, but after allowing 9 runs in 6 IP, over 7 appearances in early August, he was not looking like much of a prospect.  Okert got his ship righted with 8.2 scoreless IP with 1 BB, and 11 K's down the stretch in August to earn a September callup.  He has been terrific in September and is probably the Giants #2 lefty reliever now behind Will Smith.


  1. Chris Stratton might make a big jump in performance next year in AAA. When he returned to AAA after pitching for the Giants, he showed a vast improvement. 7-2 record with 67 K's in 69 innings, a 1.24 WHIP and a 2.47 ERA. I think Rag's and Gardener might have worked some of their magic on him. Probably not, but could be a dark horse to make the roster next spring.

    1. I hope so. I also like to read that he had a velocity increase, or perhaps just recaptured it. I'd read as late as last year that he'd been sitting 88-91 peak 92 after being a 90-93 peak 95 guy before he got beaned in the head.