Author Archives: Steve Cummings

BLAZE, MAVS TO MOVE, CAL LEAGUE TO 8 TEAMS

f1b6a883-8f83-43b5-9b55-19a1f19c2f7cThe California League announced on Monday that the Bakersfield Blaze and the High Desert Mavericks will move to the Carolina League next season in a realignment of advanced-A leagues. The two cities will see their clubs cease operations and the California League will play with eight teams in 2017.

Bakersfield has been in the Cal League for 75 years while High Desert is finishing its 26th season in Adelanto.

The Blaze, famously, had problems with their aged stadium, Sam Lynn Ballpark, which has home plate facing the setting sun which necessitates later start times. The dugouts are way up the lines and it is lacking modern amenities that are now standard in weight training facilities and indoor batting cages.

imagesThe Mavericks got caught up in a nasty fight between the city and ownership. Both sides thought their counterpart to be unreasonable and litigation cast a cloud over the start of the 2016 season. As a result, High Desert was the logical choice to join the Blaze in downsizing the league and keeping with an even number of teams.

The Blaze have long had the lowest average attendance in the Cal League and High Desert has the second-lowest. This season the Blaze is averaging a mere 848 fans, despite the first-place club on the field in the second half. The Mavericks, first-half champions in the South division, are averaging 1,056. It’s a long way to next next lowest average attendance figure, Visalia’s 1,731. The rest of the league draws more than 2,000 per game on average.

It is sad to see a 75-year old club leave the league, but Bakersfield didn’t have a leg to stand on. Despite the first-rate staff that had the minor league experience down pat, the fans just didn’t come out. Attempts had been made to get a new facility but they fell through and the final years of Bakersfield baseball have seen sparse crowds in an outlier of a facility. That’s a tough way to go out. The fantastic staff deserved much better.

High Desert’s situation didn’t really have to happen, but the baseball played in the Mavs’ home stadium is unusually high-octane, even by Cal League standards. Again, it isn’t good to see a community and a league lose a franchise, but when the name of the game is player development, the wind-affected play in Adelanto has made it hard to evaluate both pitching and hitting.

The Cal League is clearly one of the most offense-heavy leagues in minor league baseball. Could they have continued to make it work out there? Of course. It’s unfortunate to have politics kill the whole deal. 1,000 people a night isn’t as large of an average crowd as most of the rest of the league, but it isn’t peanuts either. A lot of people spent a lot of summer nights watching the Mavs over the years. And then there are the employees.

It’s a sad, sad situation for a pretty stable league. But at the end of the day, you can see the logic in the realignment decision-making. The California League will continue to thrive. It will just do it without these two clubs, and that is sad for the people affected in these communities.

BALLPARK DIGEST STORY by Jeff Goldberg

 

PITCHER OF THE WEEK – MATT BOWER, LANCASTER

Matt Bower went five strong innings against Lake Elsinore to earn Cal League Pitcher of the Week honors. Bower allowed just one hit and two walks while striking out 10 over five shutout innings. It was the lefty’s first start at Lancaster after coming up from Quad Cities.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK – JONAH ARENADO, SJ GIANTS

Arenado drilled three homers and slashed .346/.393/.846 over last week to be named Cal League Offensive Player of the Week. The Giants’ 3B also scored eight runs and drove in six. After hitting nine homers in 134 lo-A games last season, Arenado already has six a month into this year.

ORTIZ SHINES FOR HIGH DESERT WITH 6IP, 1H

Photo: MiLB.com

Photo: MiLB.com

The High Desert Mavericks rode the arm of Luis Ortiz and a 14-hit attack to pound out a 9-1 victory over the Visalia Rawhide on Saturday night. The home Rawhide hurt their own cause with a season-high six errors as well.

The visiting Mavericks broke open a 1-1 contest with a string of deuces in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, then put up two more runs in the ninth.

Ortiz, the Rangers’ #4 prospect in Baseball America’s rankings, allowed just one hit over six innings, a solo homer to Colin Bray in the third inning. The right-hander threw 59 pitches with 41 of them strikes while striking out five against 0 walks.

The Mavericks (24-12) have taken the first two games of the four-game set in Visalia and remained a game back of first-place Rancho Cucamonga (25-11) in the South division. The Rawhide (23-12) saw their lead in the North trimmed to two games as the San Jose Giants knocked off Modesto.

SCOREBOARD

MODESTO – 7
SAN JOSE – 11

LAKE ELSINORE – 1
LANCASTER 5

HIGH DESERT – 9
VISALIA – 1

RANCHO CUCAMONGA – 5
INLAND EMPIRE – 3

STOCKTON – 6
BAKERSFIELD – 9

 

MODESTO’S HOWARD SILENCES GIANTS

Photo: MiLB.com

Photo: MiLB.com

The Modesto Nuts scored three late runs to make a Sam Howard masterpiece stand up for a 5-2 win Friday  night in San Jose. The lefty Howard (2-1) went seven strong innings, allowing just two runs on four hits while striking out 10 against no walks to notch his second win of the season and give the Nuts a series-opening victory.

Modesto got on the board in the first with an RBI single by Ronnie Jebavy, only to see San Jose come back to tie it up in the bottom of the second. The Giants went ahead in the bottom of the fourth when 3B Jonah Arenado left the yard for the fifth time this season.

Single runs in the fifth and seventh innings put the visitors back on top and Howard was back in position the get the win for his strong effort. A two-run rally in the eighth saw SS Luis Jean double in two runs for all the insurance the Nuts would need, providing the final margin at 5-2.

Howard is on the fringe of the Colorado Rockies’ prospect list, sitting at #24 by MLB.com and #25 by Baseball America. His first pro season in 2014 had some pretty big rough spots but the Georgia Southern alum had a solid second-half in low-A Asheville last year. He’s alternated good and bad starts with Modesto over his last few outings, but Friday night’s effort was clearly his best of the season, and the first one in which he has finished the seventh inning.

 

SAN JOSE, STOCKTON INK PDC EXTENSIONS

downloadThe Stockton Ports and San Jose Giants will continue to be affiliated with their big-league organizations through the 2020 season as both clubs announced Player Development Contract extensions.

On April 4th, San Jose agreed to an extension with the San Francisco Giants, continuing a relationship that dates back to 1988.

StocktonStockton did the same yesterday, extending their agreement with the Oakland A’s. The Ports have been an A’s affiliate since 2005.

Many of the Cal League teams are in the final years of their PDCs, as can be seen on BallparkDigest.com’s Affiliate Dance 2016 page. The stickiest situation is probably High Desert, which is embroiled in a dispute with the city of Adelanto.  the city is attempting to have the Mavericks evicted from Stater Bros. Stadium, but the legal process has been stalled at this point.

There is a lot to the High Desert/Adelanto story and you can follow it at the Victorville Daily Press local sports section HERE.

No such drama in Stockton and San Jose. Those harmonious situations are set to go to the next decade.

MAVS’ DEMERITTE HAS 3H, 2HR….AGAIN

imagesHigh Desert 2B Travis Demeritte had a great opening night, going 3-for-4 with 2HR in a Mavericks win over Inland Empire on Thursday. The #21 prospect of the Texas Rangers enjoyed it so much, he tallied another three hits and two more bombs on Friday.

All this damage came from the leadoff spot as Demeritte drove in eight runs over the two games.

A 2013 first-round draft pick, Demeritte showed this kind of pop in his first full pro season, bashing 25 homers as a 19-year old in 2014. But last year was a step back with only 53 games played and a PED suspension.

The Mavericks, who lost to the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in the South Division finals last season, are off to a 2-0 start and have put up 19 runs over the two games.

 

NAVA TAKES HELM OF 2016 SJ GIANTS

downloadThe San Jose Giants have a new field boss for 2016, as former hitting coach  Lipso Nava has been announced as the new manager. Also returning from 2015 are Pitching Coach Mike Couchee and Athletic Trainer Garrett Havig.

New to the staff will be Hitting Coach Todd Linden and Strength and Condidtioning Coach Andy King.

Nava served as hitting coach for San Jose from 2013-2015. The Giants had an overall record of 72-68 in 2015 and landed a wildcard playoff berth after a red-hot second half of 42-28. Series wins over Stockton and Visalia put the Giants in the finals, where they lost to Rancho Cucamonga.

BAKERSFIELD ANNOUNCES 2016 COACHING STAFF

f1b6a883-8f83-43b5-9b55-19a1f19c2f7cFour members of the Bakersfield Blaze 2015 coaching staff will return for 2016, with a new pitching coach coming aboard. Field Manager Eddie Menchaca, Hitting Coach Max Venable will be back in their 2015 capacities, as will Athletic Trainer Geoff Swanson and Performance Specialist Andy Lyon.

New to the staff for 2016 is Pitching Coach Ethan Katz.

Read the full announcement from the Blaze HERE.

The Blaze had a rough first-half last season, finishing at the bottom of the North division at 26-44. But the second half saw a .500 mark at 35-35, winning seven of its last 10 games and ending on a five-game winning streak.

 

 

POST-SEASON AWARDS ANNOUNCED

The California League handed out post-season honors on Friday with A.J. Reed taking home the MVP award while Antonio Senzatela was named Pitcher of the Year. Reed tore up the league in 82 games with Lancaster before being promoted to AA in July. Senzatela has made 23 starts for the Modesto Nuts and leads the circuit in ERA (2.40) and  WHIP (1.05).

The full list of honorees is as follows:

2015 CALIFORNIA LEAGUE POSTSEASON ALL-STAR TEAM
NAME POS TEAM MLB ORG
Tyler Ogle C Rancho Cucamonga LAD
A.J. Reed* 1B Lancaster HOU
Jamie Westbrook 2B Visalia ARI
Ryan McMahon 3B Modesto COL
Christian Arroyo SS San Jose SF
Eric Aguilera UT Inland Empire LAA
Cody Bellinger DH Rancho Cucamonga LAD
Tyler O’Neill OF Bakersfield SEA
Brett Phillips OF Lancaster HOU
Raimel Tapia OF Modesto COL
Dan Altavilla P Bakersfield SEA
Anthony Banda P Visalia ARI
Chase Johnson P San Jose SF
Antonio Senzatela P Modesto COL
J.R. House Manager Visalia ARI
Gil Heredia Coach Visalia ARI
Rex Whitney Turf Manager Rancho Cucamonga LAD
Vic Zapien Clubbie Stockton OAK

* Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year
† Pitcher of the Year

(Table from official California League webpage)