League: California League (High-A)
Record: 77-63 (3rd out of 10 teams in the California League)
Runs Scored: 704 (6th of 10 teams)
Runs Allowed: 739 (6th of 10 teams)
Recap: it’s not too often that a team with a -35 run differential finishes with the third highest record in the league, but this is minor league baseball and it was played in the California League. Long known as a league that inflates offensive numbers, the California League is home to some of the most prolific hitter’s environments known to professional baseball. High Desert, Lancaster, Stockton and Bakersfield are especially notable for their inflated production of runs. Visalia is hardly any different as it gives up more than it’s share of home runs, doubles, hits and runs in general.
Because the league inflates offense, there are plenty of eye-popping numbers from the position players. Second baseman Gerson Montilla led the team with 19 home runs in 134 games while shortstop Sean Jamieson led the team in doubles (33) and triples (5) in his 122 games. Young center fielder Evan Marzilli swiped a team-high 14 bags, which is a remarkably low total to lead a team and highlights how the run game is de-incentivized when the hitting environment is so potent. Why risk making an out on the bases when there’s an inflated chance of the next guy getting a hit?
On the mound, we see the opposite effect. Most pitchers post inflated ERA’s in the California League, making it even more critical to look at rate stats like K%, BB% and WHIP, focusing on the things that pitchers can control. Andrew Barbosa led the team in strikeouts with 160 in 134.2 innings while Eddie McKeirnan was the team’s control-artist, issuing only 20 free passes over 77 innings. In a league where pitches have a propensity for getting punished, it’s easy for pitchers to get gun-shy and issue a lot of walks, making McKeirnan’s bravery something to really appreciate. Closing duties were handled by talented righty Jake Barrett before he was promoted to Mobile. In his wake came RJ Hively who put up his own dominant numbers at the Rawhide’s ninth-inning man. You can read more about these guys down below.
Offensive MVP: Sean Jamieson, SS
Jamieson narrowly took this award, thanks in large part to his 122 games at a premier defensive position. His overall offensive game was solid as hit triple-slashed .287/.370/.462 with double-digit homers and steals. He took his walks to balance out his strikeouts and led all full-season players in OPS (.832).
Runner Up: Jake Lamb, 3B
What Jamieson did in quantity, Lamb did in quality. He absolutely mashed in 64 games before going down with a wrist injury. His .303/.424/.558 line was excellent. Yes he struck out 70 times in 64 games but he also walked 48 times. 33 of his 70 hits went for extra bases, showcasing Lamb’s pop. The league inflates numbers but Lamb looks legit.
Pitcher MVP: Andrew Barbosa, LHP
Barbosa was second on the team in innings pitched and posted an incredible strikeout total with 160 K’s in 134.2 innings. Unfortunately, he also walked 70 batters, highlighting his control issues. Barbosa is a big lefty as he stands 6’8” but also pitched the season at the age of 25, a little old for the league. That withstanding, he was the most solid starter for the Rawhide in 2013.
This trio was superb. Barrett was a dominant in the closer’s role for the first half of the season as he struck out 37 over 27.1 innings while walking only nine with a 1.10 WHIP. After his promotion to Mobile, RJ Hively took over the closer’s role when he was brought up from South Bend. Hively picked right up where Barrett left off, striking out 38 in 30.1 innings, allowing 10 walks and positing a 1.25 WHIP. Supporting both closers was Seth Simmons. As a setup man, Simmons did damage on opposing hitters by striking out 106 batters in 73.2 innings. He only walked 30 hitters and only allowed 48 hits on the season. His 1.06 WHIP was particularly incredible when one considers that he was pitching in the California League.
Top 5 Prospects
- Jake Barrett, RHP – Barrett looks legit and was very good following his promotion to Mobile. I’m not particularly high on relievers as prospects but Barrett is the kind of guy you make exceptions for. He turned 22 during the season and dominated AA. He’s 6’3” and 230-pounds, so he looks like a guy who can come in night after night and get the job done. He’s got a chance to see the majors in 2014.
- Jake Lamb, 3B – it’s a real shame that Lamb got injured but what he did prior to the injury was quite impressive. He was drafted as an advanced college bat and he’s lived up to the billing. I’m not sure how much power he’ll generate but he has bat-to-ball skills and a reasonable idea of the strike zone. He’s worth monitoring closely as he makes his Arizona Fall League debut here shortly.
- Evan Marzilli, OF – the center fielder struggled at the dish, striking out 143 times in 136 games. With that said, he was near the team lead in doubles with 27 and showed an ability to steal a base on occasion. Best of all, he was only 22 and time is still on his side. I’m looking for the lefty to open the 2014 season back in Visalia and hopefully see Mobile by midseason.
- Sean Jamieson, SS – Jamieson is older than I prefer for the level but his overall game at the plate was solid considering he plays a marquee defensive position. The big question is whether he turned a corner or simply benefitted from the California League’s generosity towards hitters. If the bat continues to play, he could turn into a major league utility guy down the road.
- Andrew Barbosa, LHP – love the strikeouts and physical frame, hate the walks, the fly balls and the fact that he’s two years older than most of the other guys in the league. I think he’s a reliever down the road and no one can have too many left-handed bullpen guys, especially those with the ability to strike out righties and lefties. If converted to the ‘pen, his stuff will play up even further and he could move quick.
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