Beginning on August 1, the Visalia Rawhide were 18 -59 and in last place in Low A West. Furthermore, they were 13 games behind the next-to-last team. There was a total of 8 pitchers with an ERA above 9.00. There were only 3 players with an average greater than .250; Vukovich @ .258, Elian Miranda @ .253, and Alexander Hernandez at .293. While records aren’t the greatest indicator in evaluating teams and players in the minor league, having a team looking this bad has to be disheartening for the team, itself. I know it is for the fans and those whom care about the Rawhide.
Furthermore, If I told someone that this team would lose Vukovich, Miranda, and Hernandez to Hillsboro, along with losing their starting catcher, Lyle Lin, to Amarillo, one would assume that things would get worse.
However, the exact opposite has happened. For the month of August through today, the Rawhide played 25 games and had a record of 13 – 12. As most Arizona natives, I really dislike any sports teams associated with Los Angeles. So, this month has been especially gratifying because the Rawhide finally one their first series of the year, taking 4 of 6 from Rancho Cucamonga, which are the affiliates of the Dodgers.
The additional talent, which was mostly draft picks, really shined this month for Visalia.
For the pitching, there were many additions in August. These included; Bryan Castillo, Luke Albright, Kyle Backhus, Hugh Fisher, Scott Randall, and James Rice. This doesn’t include Collin Sullivan, who only pitched 9.2 innings in Visalia before heading to Hillsboro.
I got to see many of these pitchers this month. Interestingly, Kyle Backhus had a miserable first start in which he allowed multiple runs, walked multiple batters, allowed a home run and ended with an ERA of 13.5 after his first start. Though, he seemed to really settle down throughout the month and ended with an era of 3.78. Jake Rice had a nice first start in which he pitched 3.2 inning of scoreless ball. Furthermore, Jake just looked like he had command of the game while he was pitching. His fastball seemed to top at about 94 mph. With all the transactions and improvements in pitching, as of the end of the month, only three pitchers have an ERA above 9.00. Many of the pitchers that have been around a while improved their ERA throughout the month.
All these pitching changes have resulted in the Rawhide allowing a little less runs per game than when they started the season. The team went from 6.9 runs per game in May to 6.2 runs per game in August.
The offense truly didn’t seem to improve much from May to August, either, even with all the additional talent. As I mentioned earlier, prior to August 1 there were only three hitters with an average greater than .250 and those players are gone. Of the remaining players, and the additional players, there are 4 players an average equal to, or greater than .250, Ryan Bliss, Channy Ortiz, Tim Tawa, Deyvison De Los Santos, and Mason Berne.
In looking at this, I have had to look at what really changed. I will say, the answer is not much. Though, what has changed is that the Rawhide finally look like a team that has players that believe they can compete. This has resulted in the Rawhide having their errors per game dropping from about 1.8 in May to about 1.25 in August. Furthermore, there has been some timely hitting, walks, and home runs.
I believe that any team that has a good draft will be lucky to have 3 players that ultimately make it to the big leagues. I don’t think this year is any different. Having said that, I believe that these players seem to have the best shot and truly being the studs of this draft:
Collin Sullivan – Pitched 9 innings of scoreless ball for the short stint that he was in Visalia. Though, I don’t quite know how he ended up with the Diamondbacks because it looks like he was drafted in the 29th round by San Diego and I believe there were only 20 rounds this year.
Tim Tawa – Tim is hitting .289, he has walked 17 times in 76 at bats. More importantly, he only has 1 error so far and looks solid as a fielder. On August 27, the Rawhide scored 15 runs and Tim had the most impressive outing in which he went 5 – 5 with 2 RBIs.
Ryan Bliss – Ryan Bliss just looks like a baseball player.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Lawlar is going to make it to Visalia, and I highly doubt he will start in Visalia next year.
With the remaining players, Neyfy Castillo seems to be the one Visalia Rawhide player that has developed nicely throughout the year. I actually believe if Neyfy continues this development, he could really surprise some folks in this organization. Through the month of May, Neyfy’s batting average was 0.189 and he struck out 33 times in 74 at bats. Fast forward to today and his overall average has improved to 0.237 and he is leading the Rawhide with 17 home runs and 62 RBIs. Neyfy actually has the second most home runs in all Low – A for the year.