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Minor League Report: Visalia Rawhide

Is there anything worth mentioning in Class A?

Arizona Diamondbacks v Chicago Cubs minor leaguers Photo by David Durochik/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Where do they come from?

Obviously, the Rawhide are from Visalia, California, but that is not what we try to answer here.

The Visalia Rawhide won their California League and then the Division in 2019 with a team that had current major leaguers like Jake McCarthy, Geraldo Perdomo, Jose Herrera and Alek Thomas in their lineup. While you might imagine that the Rawhide weren’t the biggest offensive slugging team, they had a terrific pitching staff in, back then, High A, although none of the pitchers of that team have reached the major leagues (Josh Green, Matt Mercer, Jeff Bain, ...).

After the cancelled 2020 minor league season and the minor league system shake-up, the 2021 Visalia Rawhide returned as a Class A team and went a disastrous 38-82. In 2022 the record wasn’t much better with 45-87.

Where are they now?

This 2023 the team isn’t faring much better with a 19-34 record. At the lower levels of the franchise, the Diamondbacks are lacking the depth of talent it might have had before the pandemic, although the 2019 pitching staff shows that a good performing Class A team is no guarantee for a bright future.

So it is yet another tough season for the Rawhide ownership and fans. This year, once again, they are the worst team in the California League, although accompanied by the Stockton Ports, the Oakland Athletics’ Class A team. The Ports just barely beat out the Rawhide in the worst numbers for hitting and pitching.

One small caveat: Visalia has the youngest batting lineup and pitching staff in the California League.

Another note: the best performing players or the ones that have shown better potential on the Rawhide have already gotten an early promotion to the next levels and we won’t be discussing them in this article.

Let’s check out the big boys.

Druw Jones: disappointing and injured.

Druw was taken last year as the second pick in the 2022 amateur draft. We were all pumped up, but shocked by the news that after taking a few swings he had to undergo shoulder surgery.

He was back for the 2023 season, apparently healthy, and started the season in Visalia. But after 46 PA in 10 games disaster struck again as he was placed on the IL with a right quadriceps strain, according to Nick Piecoro. He has been on the IL ever since, which is an additional disappointment to the already devastating .175/.283/.200 batting line he had until suffering his latest injury. To put it in perspective, it is currently the third worst batting line on the Visalia team.

Kristian Robinson: not a lost cause.

After 3 years without making an appearance in professional baseball, the best you can hope for Robinson is that all the talent hasn’t completely disappeared and there is still a chance he makes it to the big leagues.

His start in Visalia, he joined the team on May 29th, is hopeful because on the outside the .313 batting average in 32 plate appearances is more than what you could wish for.

But the .125 ISO, .474 BABIP, 2.9 BB% and 35.3 K% tell a completely different tale.

But it it just a small sample size of 7 games and for now, from a franchise point of view, we should be happy that he has returned and is still able to hit a ball after a 3 year absence.

The thing is, and although Robinson is still young, in 2019 he was striking out but showing big pop in Class A when he was more than 3 years younger than the average competition. Nowadays he is in Class A again, but older than the rest of the competition.

Landom Sims: waiting for his debut.

Sims was an overslot signing in the first round of the 2022 MLB amateur draft and already out with TJ since March 2022 when the Diamondbacks drafted and signed the pitcher some months later. He is assigned to Visalia, although still on the IL, and could make his professional debut in Class A if all goes well.

Other could be players.

Alvin Guzmán: the power might never show up.

Guzmán was the Diamondbacks top international signing in 2018 with a $1,850,000 signing bonus. He is a capable centre fielder with some good running, although not as strong as, for example, Alek Thomas was in Visalia. After a disappointing season in 2022 in California he repeats at the same level, but the potential untapped raw power is completely absent and he is also striking out at a huge clip. He has a .247/.324/.349 triple slash line with a 75-18 K/BB in 45 games (186 PA, 166 AB). When on the bases he is a threat with his speed, evidenced by his team leading 16 stolen bases (2nd in the league).

Manuel Peña: still adjusting.

Peña was the top international signing of the Diamondbacks in 2021 and projected as a corner man with an interesting power tool. Just like with Guzmán the power hasn’t appeared, but Peña is still young, he is just 19 years old, and playing his first full season of professional baseball in the States. He is currently hitting .232/.303/.316 in 43 games (188 PA, 168 AB), with a 48-16 K/BB.

At such a young age, he can still grow into the power potential he has, although if he adds to the 185 lbs it might affect his defensive skills and with already 7 errors on the board this season, his position on the field might get even more limited.

Andrew Pintar: too soon to judge.

Pintar was drafted last year out of college in the 5th round and slated to start his first season in professional baseball in Visalia and probably projected to get an early promotion to Hillsboro, but after just 14 games hit the injured list. He was batting an unimpressive .241/.328/.370 but with okay peripherals, so would have been probably on track for the aggressive promotion you’d expect with a 4 year college prospect without a big track record. He had shoulder surgery in college so this current injury is concerning.

Yaifer Perdomo: never going to make it.

Perdomo was one of the returns for Joakim Soria, when the latter was traded to the Blue Jays in 2021. While the strikeout potential is huge, in what is already his third season in Visalia he is still struggling with his command. He is still just 21 years old, but with a 2.063 WHIP in his third season, the question is whether a fourth season in Class A makes sense once the season is over.

Jacob Steinmetz: too many free passes.

We all loved Steinmetz after his hopeful performance for Israel at the WBC. But in Visalia his performance has dwindled with a 6.5 BB9, which pretty much nullifies his strikeouts, but Steinmetz doesn’t give up any homeruns and not that many hard hits, which is an accomplishment in itself in the California League. Jacob is still just 19 years old so lots of projection left and if he is able to get better control over the baseball the 2021 3rd rounder could become an interesting prospect.

Liam Norris: improving.

He was our 3rd round pick, out of high school, in the shortened 2020 MLB amateur draft and struggled in both 2021 and 2022 in Visalia. This season he does better, although still a far cry from being impressive. His SO9 is an impressive 13.2, which is what the Diamondbacks had hoped for when they drafted him. His 5.9 BB9 is still lousy though, but an improvement, so Norris will stick around for a while longer in the organisation.

Ricardo Yan: best performing pitcher.

You could say Yan is the best performing pitcher on that Visalia Rawhide squad with 9 games started, a 3.61 ERA, 1.087, WHIP and 42.1 innings pitched and 2.79 K/BB. The poor kid hasn’t gotten any run support though, and is a sad 0-6 during the season. The young Dominican has shown similar numbers in 2022 in the Rookie leagues after a somewhat doubtful performance in the DOSL the year before (but perhaps he was just shaking off a 2020 COVID season back then). He might be a bit lucky thus far, but doesn’t give up many hard hits, so the success is sustainable. His first full season of professional baseball should lead to a promotion to Hillsboro, either this season or next.

Since we have no idea who this 6-4 kid is, here is a video from YouTube:

And I will add a link to an article on him on ProspectsLive. Definitely a kid to follow.

Some others.

  • Juan Corniel, a 2019 international signing, will turn 21 this year and has been named on the FanGraphs’ prospect list in 2022 as a possible bench player because of his defensive capabilities. That is probably still his ceiling. The Dominican has shown a healthy on-base percentage in his second season in Visalia but the hit tool is not showing any promise.
  • Ronny Polanco is another 2019 international signing ($500,000) with a ranking on FanGraphs. He is just 19 years old and has been completely overpowered by pitching in Class A.
  • Gavin Conticello was an 8th round overslot 2021 MLB amateur draft signing out of high school. With a .192/.275/.314 line in his second season in Class A (first full season) he has taken a step back.
  • Christian Cerda was the player the Rays returned to the Diamondbacks for David Peralta in 2022. He showed some pop with the Rays and for the Rawhide this season, his first season in Class A, he has walked at a huge clip: 41 base on balls vs 40 strikeouts. He is also homerun leader on the team, with Conticello, with 3 homeruns. His .427 OBP is 5th in the entire league. On the defensive side, however, he has been far less successful: with 13 errors in 35 games and a CS% of just 25%, Cerda has some stepping up to do behind the plate.
  • David Martin is also walking a lot. He isn’t much of a catcher and works mainly as the backup here, but some good hitting and eye has given him additional at bats as the DH on this team. The 2022 15th round pick in the MLB amateur draft currently sports a .283/.406/.368 with 23 walks and 16 strikeouts.
  • Josh Swales was a 13th round pick in the 2021 MLB amateur draft out of JuCo. He is the team’s leader in saves, for what that is worth with just 2 saves behind his name. His K/BB is an interesting 2.60 with 9.5 SO9, but he has proven to be too hittable as shown by his 5.84 ERA and 1.581 WHIP.

New arrivals.

  • Young 19-year old Johan Benitez was also recently assigned to the team. He showed some pop last year in the Rookie leagues and has gotten off to an early and hot start in Visalia as well.
  • Lorenzo Encarnacion was on the Complex League squad but was assigned to Visalia (again) just a week ago, probably after showing some promising signs on his pitching. He has started 2 games so far with an interesting 2.40 K/BB and 11.2 K9.

So, that’s all we think is worth mentioning from our Class A team, but if you have some additional remarks, please share them!