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Diamondbacks Minor League Season in review: Kane County Cougars

Enough of these short-season leagues! We move on the full affiliates, beginning with our newest partner, in their first season as part of the Diamondbacks organization.

Stryker Trahan. Still A Thing.
Stryker Trahan. Still A Thing.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Cougars certainly followed in the footsteps of their parent, offering some concession fare guaranteed to have nutritionists whimpering in a corner, including the Heart Attack Burger, a half-pound beef patty, topped with grilled onions, a fried egg, slice of melted cheddar cheese, chipotle bacon mayo, two strips of bacon and a pair of grilled cheese sandwiches serving as its bun. But when the games began, they were all business, clinching a post-season spot in mid-August. However, they were unable to defend their Midwest League title, losing two one-run contests against the Peoria Chiefs, and gong out in the first round.

  • Team record: 84-54 (2nd of eight)
  • Runs scored: 627 (4.54 per game)
  • Runs allowed: 516 (3.74 per game)
  • Age: 21.9 (league average: 21.4)
  • BA: .275 (.254)
  • OBP: .332 (.321)
  • SLG: .371 (.360)
  • OPS: .703 (.682)
  • SB/CS: 104/60 (122/59)

I think this is the first case where our players have been significantly older than average, with just one of the 16 teams in the league more "mature". That seems to have translated into a high batting average, the best in the NWL by a full five points, although not so much into bases on balls where a 7.0% walk rate was significantly lower (8.0% league average). On the other hand, no team struck out less often (16.9% vs. 19.9%). There were also not many home-runs to be had, with one team hitting fewer than the Cougars 48, but the overall OPS was still good enough for third in the Northwest League.

Leaders (min 200 PA for rate stats)
  • Runs: Colin Bray (78)
  • Hits: Marty Herum (155)
  • 2B: Bray + Cody Regis (25)
  • 3B: Bray (8)
  • HR: Stryker Trahan (11)
  • RBI: Herum (79)
  • BB: Bray (47)
  • K: Bray (109)
  • BA: Ildemaro Vargas (.321)
  • OBP: Vargas (.385)
  • SLG: Trahan (.481)
  • OPS: Vargas (.781)
  • SB: Ozuna (16)

Oddly, three of the top four OPS guys were switch-hitters (Vargas, Bray and Henry Castillo), with the fourth (Trahan) a left-handed bat. Middle infielder Castillo is the youngest, at 20, but needs to improve on a K:BB ratio of 55:7. Former 1st-round pick Trahan started and ended the year as a Cougar, but struggled after being promoted to Visalia, and was sent back down. Still only 21, he seems to have been around for ever! Infielder Vargas is another indie ball signing after being released by the Cardinals; hopefully, another Peralta in the making? But for volume and quality of production, as well as good speed, the Cougars' MVP is outfielder Colin Bray for his .308/.370/.410 line.

  • Age: 21.6 (22.0)
  • ERA: 3.11 (3.59)
  • WHIP: 1.254 (1.307)
  • K/9: 7.2 (7.6)
  • BB/9: 3.2 (3.1)
  • K/BB: 2.24 (2.48)

With a pitching staff younger than average, the Cougars did very well at run suppression, their ERA ranking second of the 16 teams, even though many of their peripherals were actually worse than most in the Northwest League. While this is a fairly low-powered league, the KC staff did avoid allowing home-runs, with only 52 long-balls allowed over 138 games - 20% fewer than the NWL median. They also made 11 errors less than average, and their catchers threw out an impressive 38% of stolen-base attempts. However, they did hit 83 batters, a number which also ranked second in the league, so are clearly following the D-backs philosophy. :)

Pitching leaders (min 50 IP for rate stats)
  • Wins: Ethan Elias (11)
  • Losses: Brad Keller (9)
  • ERA: Zac Curtis (1.33)
  • Saves: Curtis (33)
  • K: Brad Keller (109)
  • BB: Elias (48)
  • WHIP: Curtis (0.833)
  • K/9: Curtis (12.5)
  • BB/9: Nicholas Baker (0.9)
  • K/BB: Baker (7.38)

Despite leading the team in losses, Brad Keller had the best ERA of its regular starters at 2.60. He was surpassed only by 21-year-old Taiwanese pitcher Wei-Chieh Huang, who joined the team in late May,. and put up a 2.00 ERA over 12 starts, making him certainly a name to watch for next year. Myles Smith, who'll now be going to the AFL in place of Keith Hessler, struck out 29 over 21.1 innings. with only three ER, and fifth-round pick thus year Ryan Burr was unfazed by his promotion from Hillsboro - 19.2 IP, 28 K, one earned run. But the lynch-pin for the Cougars was closer Zac Curtis, whose 33 saves had not been exceeded in the NWL since 2005, as he fanned 75 in 54 innings.