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Visalia Rawhide - Culture or Talent?

Ron Holman/Visalia Times-Delta/USA TODAY NETWORK / USA TODAY NETWORK


Visalia Rawhide – Culture, Fielding or Pitching?

2022 Visalia Rawhide isn’t much different than 2021’s season, though, the question is, why?

Visalia’s record so far is 11-27, which is the worse recVisalia Rawhide - Culture or Talent?ord in the California League by at least 4 games. Considering that they started the season 4 – 1, when one just looks at the last 32 games, they have gone 7 – 26. This has just been brutal.

When looking at the season stats, it’s hard to point to just one issue. Here are a few examples of the team stats to date:

Batting:

  • .230 ERA – California League worse
  • 146 BB – California League worse
  • 177 Total Runs Scored – California League worse

Pitching:

  • 5.84 ERA – California League worse
  • 334 Hits Allowed – California League second worse
  • 233 BB – California League worse
  • 274 Runs Allowed – California League worse

As far as stats go and just the overall product on the field, there hasn’t been much to write home about. When looking at this season, it is obvious that the Rawhide just don’t have the overall talent to compete. Last year and this year, they have had some players that have obvious talent, though, the talent is not top-to-bottom. Part of my is concerned that the losing goes deeper than just talent. Over the last 15 home games, they have lost 12 of the 15 games. 6 of those losses were by less than 4 runs in which they gave up 4 or more runs in a single inning of the game. When watching these games, it is obvious that when something goes wrong, the wheels fall off for the inning. As Keanu Reeves mentioned in "The Replacements," its like quicksand. If there is an error, or just a missed play, when watching the body language of the pitcher and other players, it seems like they are saying, "Here we go again." Then, 4+ runs later the inning is finally over. This is what I watch when watching the culture of the team. The belief in the team, players, etc. just isn’t there. I believe this is partly due to talent, but also due to the overall culture.

Most of the roster from Visalia last year is now in Hillsboro. Hillsboro’s record is currently 18 – 17, which is far superior than Visalia’s this year, or at any time last year. Most of the starting players in Hillsboro played in Visalia last year, though, by looking at their numbers, they aren’t doing much better individually this year. However, the team is playing a lot more consistent and competing at a higher level. This leads me to believe that the issue in Visalia could be not only talent level, but also the overall spirit of the team. Though, two players, A.J. Vukovich and Danny Oriente, seem to be playing much better in Hillsboro, and have both better fielding and batting numbers. In looking purely at their stats, it is impressive to see their year over year improvements and I hope these trends continue.

So, where are the bright spots in Visalia? There have been 3 – Shane Muntz, Jordan Lawlar, and Liam Norris.

Shane Muntz was moved to Hillsboro this week, which was not a surprise as he looked good here. What will be interesting in Hillsboro is that Caleb Roberts is right now primarily playing 1st base at Hillsboro. Both Shane and Caleb were drafted in 2021, though Caleb was drafted in the 5th round and Shane was drafted in the 15th. So, it stands to reason that the Dbacks would invest in and move Caleb along sooner. Caleb spent most of 2021 in Visalia after he was drafted, then moved to Hillsboro at the start of this season. When comparing Shane’s and Caleb’s numbers, Shane’s are better. In 2021 when Caleb was in Visalia his batting average was .214. This year, while Shane was in Visalia, his batting average was superior at .300. It will be interesting to watch this competition while both these guys are in Hillsboro. Though, with Leandro Cedena playing so well in Amarillo, there really isn’t any need to force them up to AA anytime soon.

Jordan Lawlar (top) is hitting .352 with 7 home runs. Lawlar, I believe, is going to continue to develop. One can’t say enough about his talent. As has been opined before, I am not sure how much longer he will be staying in Visalia. Ryan Bliss is currently the Short Stop in Hillsboro and was the second round pick for the Dbacks in 2021. In comparing Lawyar’s and Bliss’ numbers from Visalia, Lawyar has the better average, with more home runs. With Lawyar being 3 years younger than Bliss, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Liam Norris is straight getting the shaft in Visalia. No better way to say it. I actually think, that as a starting pitcher, he is showing great promise and should be moved sooner than later. In 2021, his record was 0 – 6 with a 9.08 ERA. As a 3rd round draft pick in 2020, he looked like he could be a bust. However, in 2022, his ERA is at 2.88, which is one of the best on the team, and amazing considering the overall team around him. The reason that I think it is time for him to move on is because he has started 6 games, and due to the supporting cast of fielders and other pitchers, he hasn’t gotten a decision all year. So, many outside Visalia may not understand how well he is pitching, but if he keeps this up we might be looking at another bright young pitcher in the organization.

So, I just think its time for Norris and Lawlar to move on. As much as this is going to crush what is already a mediocre team in Visalia, for the betterment of them, I think that moving them is better for them and for the Dbacks organization as a whole. Hopefully, the Dbacks have a great draft and the second half of the Rawhide season will improve.