The Visalia Rawhide are the longest serving Diamondbacks affiliate, having been part of the system since 2007. But this year did see a change. After 30 years playing High-A ball, the reorganization of the minor league system forced them to become an A-ball team, part of the South Division of the California League [Low-A West] for the first time.
It was not a great first season under manager Javier Colina, the Rawhide having the worst record in the league at 38-82. They began the season by winning just one of their first thirteen games, and added a full 13-game losing streak to that, between June 26 and July 10. The hitting was no great shakes: while scoring 4.99 runs per game may sound good, the league average was 5.68 and the Rawhide finished seventh of eight teams there. But the pitching and defense was flat-our terrible. An ERA of 5.97 (league average: 4.83) was bad enough. But you need to add on to that a whopping one hundred and fifty unearned runs, also a league worst, in only 120 games, the result of 171 errors made by Visalia.
In the team’s defense, they were relatively young by league standards. Their hitters came in at an average age of 20.7, making the Rawhide the second youngest team in the league. The youngest, the Stockton Ports, were the only ones to score fewer runs per game, so it does seem a contributing factor. For Visalia, it was simply a lack of hits: while they took their walks and hit homers, their team average was just .230. The pitchers were tied for the youngest, coming in at an average of 21.4 years old. It was control which seems to have been the main problem, with the Rawhide walking five batters per nine innings. No-one else was at more than 4.5 BB/9.
Among those with 100+ plate-appearances, the best OPS belonged to CF Jorge Barrosa. Over 35 games, he batted .333 with an .838 OPS, which got him a promotion to High-A Hillsboro. Unsurprisingly, that proved a tougher assignment, but the 20-year-old Venezuelan still had a .737 OPS at the higher level, despite being young for that league. 11th-round pick this year, Tim Tawa, also made a good impression in what was basically his pro debut (bar two games in the ACL). He posted a triple-slash line of .264/.366/.464 for an .830 OPS, over 36 games after he joined them in early August, and started games at second-base, as well as all three outfield positions.
Of the more regular players (250+ PA), infielder Ronny Simon had the best numbers, mostly a result of his power, with 15 home-runs in only 77 games before also getting promoted to Hillsboro. His .818 OPS took a big hit there, all three components dropping. In particular, he drew only three walks in 88 PA, alongside twenty strikeouts. Finally, the team’s most everyday player was 20-year-old Neyfy Castillo, who started at first and, like Tawa, at all three outfield spots. His 21 home-runs led the California League by three, though his 170 strikeouts (in 455 PA, a 37% rate) was most in the league as well. Castillo also stole 26 bases in 35 attempts, though the Rawhide champion was Glenallen Hill, with 31 in 34.
The Ricky ‘Wild Thing’ Vaughn award goes to Enmanuel Acosta. In his 40.1 innings, he had a WHIP of 2.331, almost 1.0 of which came from 37 walks. Add on seven hit batters, nine wild pitches and a balk, though he also struck out 41. At the other end, we find Brandon Pfaadt, who earned himself a quick ticket out of Visalia after seven starts in which he had a 3.12 ERA and a K:BB of 57:7 in only 40.1 innings. We’ll get to what happened to him in Hillsboro (and beyond!) next week. An interesting case is Mailon Arroyo. Originally a corner infielder, he hit .193 from 2017-19, but reinvented himself this year as a pitcher. He allowed one earned run over 16.1 IP for Visalia with 17 Ks, though Hillsboro proved less kind (5.92 ERA).
The rotation was a particular pain point. Of those with more than eight starts, the best ERA was left-hander Avery Short at 7.38, and the five most-used starters combined for a record of 5-40. This was in part because getting through five innings to the point where they could qualify for a decision, was often a struggle. 19-year-old Liam Norris, for example, started 12 games for Visalia and never got an out past the fourth inning, before moving to the bullpen and eventually getting sent down to the ACL. Blake Walston had a 3.32 ERA in eight starts, with 60 K’s in 43.1 IP before hopping up to Hillsboro. After a rough landing, he settled down, and had a 3.70 ERA over his final eight starts there, with 40 Ks in 41.1 IP.