Sacramento River Cats Home Opener Brings In The Salt Lake Bees
It’s always fun to attend a home opener for a ballclub no matter what level of baseball it is. I was able to attend the Sacramento River Cats (San Francisco Giants Triple-A affiliate) home opener versus the Salt Lake Bees (Los Angeles Angels Triple-A affiliate); a who’s who’s for prospect hunting if that is your thing. According to most baseball websites who track and rank prospects, you won’t find the Giants and the Angels very high on any of their organizational rankings list. However, that doesn’t mean other Major League Baseball (MLB) organizations see things differently and have a different evaluation of these players. MLB teams still send their scouts out to get paper on these players. And it’s not like any of these players won’t see some time in the major leagues. At any moment one of these players can get the call-up and be a contributor. So for that reason, these players are still worth watching and keeping an eye on.
For the River Cats –
One prospect that I was hoping to see in the starting lineup was outfielder Mac Williamson, but very fortunate for him, he got the call-up to the big club, taking the spot of injured infielder Ehire Adrianza, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a broken foot. It’s a well-deserved and great opportunity for Williamson. I got a chance to see Williamson while I was in Arizona for Giants spring training, and he was absolutely crushing the ball. He played so well and that he almost played himself into a spot on the 25-man roster when the Giants broke from spring training. But having come off Tommy John surgery, the thought from the Giants side was to start Williamson in Triple-A for the season in order for him to make up some lost reps. I guess seven games is all the Giants needed to see out of him.
Tonight’s starting pitcher for the River Cats was Matthew Lujan. Lujan featured a fastball that showed high 80’s (88-89) and maxed out in the low 90’s (90-91), but had some major control issues. He missed a lot with his pitches, and when he did find the plate, the Bees made loud contact. After a shaky first inning, he settled down a bit, but still had some control issues throughout the game. Lujan got himself into trouble in the 4th, serving up a home run shot to Bee’s outfielder Nick Buss on a 1-0 pitch, and then followed that up by giving up a double to Rey Navarro. Buss tagged Lujan again in the 6th inning for another homer, this one actually knocking out Lujan for the game. While his pitching line won’t read too poorly as Lujan was able to get out of most jams and keep the damage to a minimum, he seemed to struggle with his command for most of the game.
Lujan’s final pitching line for the night was: 5 2/3 IPs, 4 Hs, 3 Rs/3 ERs, 1 BBs, 4 SOs, 2 HRs, 1 wild pitch on 89 pitches, 57 for strikes.
Another prospect who was in the dogfight with Williamson for that last coveted spot on the Giants 25-man roster was outfielder Jarrett Parker. Parker also had an impressive spring, showing off his tremendous raw power. The Giants decision to carry 13 pitchers and just four outfielders left Williamson and Parker to continue the battle in Triple-A. Parker has gotten off to a slow start this season, batting only .154 coming into the game, with 0 HRs and 0 RBIs. Parker was not the most patient hitter at the plate, striking out swinging in his first at-bat on four pitches; in his second at-bat in the 4th inning he saw one pitch, hitting a grounder to first; in his third at-bat, again seeing only one pitch, Parker lines out to the second baseman; and in his forth at-bat, Parker decided to actually take some pitches, seeing seven pitches before striking out swinging on a high fastball.
For the Bees –
Tyler Skaggs was with the Bees making his second rehab start as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery. A once highly-touted prospect, the Angels paid a steep price to acquire Skaggs from the Arizona Diamondbacks and they still have high hopes for him. It’s their hope that Skaggs can gets innings under his belt and eventually return to their starting rotation sometime in May, although they will be patient with him and not rush him back. Skaggs fastball looked crisped, showing 91 MPH and getting up to as high as 93 MPH after he warmed up, moving it from side-to-side across the plate, painting. His breaking stuff was still off, as he was bouncing some pitches at the front of the plate, but as he pitches more he will eventually iron that out. Skaggs’ night was done early after three innings, as the Angels are holding true to their plan of bringing him back slowly. However, he looked good tonight as he carved up the River Cats hitters.
Skaggs’ final pitching line for the night was: 3 IPs, 2 Hs, 2 Rs/0 ERs, 0 BBs, 5 SOs, 0 HRs, and 1 wild pitch on 42 pitches, 28 for strikes.
Hitting .385 to start the young Triple-A season, Kyle Kubitza was once featured in many baseball websites Top 100 prospect rankings, but has since fallen out as years pass. He is a natural third baseman but was playing first tonight. He did have one costly 2-run error as he over-led the pitcher covering first base on a softly hit ball to him. It was a slow night for Kubitza, as he went 0-4; a ground out to the first baseman with the pitcher covering in his first at-bat; a grounder to the second baseman in his second at-bat (although the second baseman did make a nice defensive play); a fly out to left field on an inside-out swing put on a jam pitch inside in his third at-bat; and he worked the count full in his forth at-bat, ultimately striking out swinging on a cutter. He does have a nice lefty-swing, giving you visual evidence as to why he used to be ranked, but it just hasn’t come together for him yet in his career.
I never seen or heard of outfielder Todd Cunningham, but he’s been doing some hitting so far this season, batting .391 coming into the game. He has some talent in him, as he was drafted in the 2nd round by the Atlanta Braves in the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft. The Angels claimed the 27-year old off waivers late last season. He was the first acquisition for new Angels General Manager Billy Eppler. The switch-hitting Cunningham didn’t do much at the plate tonight however, taking an O’fer.