The Farm Report -- 9/15/2016

Jamey, Jamey, Jamey. The Jethawks were eliminated two days ago.  By High Desert!

Kinston has announced its finalists for the new name of the high-A franchise:
Eagles
Hamhawks
Hogzillas
Shaggers
Wood Ducks

Also, Kinston will not be known as Kinston, but rather "Down East."  So, "Down East Hamhawks," etc.

I am not making any of this up.

PLAYOFF PREVIEW
California League Finals (best-of-five)
High Desert Mavericks (85-59) vs. Arizona-affiliated Visalia Rawhide (84-59)

Season Run Differential: High Desert +96, Visalia +42 (regular season)
Last 20 Games and Playoffs: High Desert 13-11, Visalia 14-9
Season Series: High Desert 5-3 (no meetings after May 16)

Both sides won the first-half title, granting them first-round byes in the postseason.  Visalia posted the league's best first half at 46-24, then played .500 ball the rest of the way. 

In the semifinals, High Desert defeated the Houston-affiliated Lancaster 3-1, while Visalia literally exterminated Bakersfield in three straight.

They'll play two in Visalia beginning tonight, followed by up to three at High Desert.

History 
High Desert is vying for its first championship since 1997.  As a Texas affiliate, they were defeated in last year's semis.  The core of the current squad won the South Atlantic League championship with Hickory last year and reached the postseason in short-season Spokane in 2014.

Visalia has the second-longest championship drought in the minors: 38 years.  Since 1978, Visalia has lost in the finals an astonishing nine times, most recently in 2014.

Top 30 Prospects on Active Roster per MLB.com
High Desert:
8. OF Eric Jenkins (2015, 2nd round)
9. LHP Brett Martin (2014, 4th)
12. OF Jairo Beras (int'l free agent)
13. IF Josh Morgan (2014, 3rd)
15. Michael De Leon (int'l FA)
21. C Jose Trevino (2014, 6th)

Visalia:
2. LHP Alex Young (2015, 2nd)
13. RHP Brad Keller, injured (2013, 8th)
14. LHP Cody Reed, injured (2014, 2nd)
20. OF Victor Reyes (int'l free agent)
22. IF Henry Castillo, injured (int'l free agent)
26. RHP Justin Donatella (2015, 15th)

Offense / High Desert  Position Players
C Jose Trevino
1B Carlos Arroyo
2B Josh Morgan
SS Michael De Leon
3B Juremi Profar
LF Scott Heineman
CF Jose Cardona
RF Luke Tendler
DH Jairo Beras

Visalia scored 132 fewer runs than High Desert.  The difference in home parks accounts for about 100 runs, but the remaining 30 or so are on performance.  The Rawhide hit for average well (.270) but aren't especially gifted in patience or power.  Their top three homer-hitters are gone or hurt; current team leader Colin Bray has nine, which would be tied for seventh on the Mavs' playoff roster.

High Desert's output of 5.8 runs per game is only average given the setting.  Aside from Travis Demeritte taking his 25 homers to Atlanta's system, the Mavs haven't lost much offensively over the course of the season and still rely heavily on power.  They can put crooked numbers on the scoreboard at any park. 

Pitching / Possible Rotation
1: Adam Quintana (4.34 ERA, .277/.363/.399, 22% SO) vs.
Alex Young (4.59 ERA, .289/.341/.480, 19%)
2: Brett Martin (4.24 ERA, .270/.320/.404, 17% SO)
Justin Donatella (3.03 ERA, .236/.295/.358, 20% SO)
3: Jeffrey Springs (5.36 ERA, .277/.347/.489, 24% SO)
Joel Payamps (4.75 ERA, .245/.310/.389, 23% SO)
4: Collin Wiles (4.89 ERA, .285/.330/.472, 15% SO)
Markus Solbach (3.52 ERA, .277/.319/.372, 19% SO)

None of Visalia's rotation was with the squad when it played out its entire set of games versus High Desert in May.  It's a solid group, with Game 1 starter Alex Young being the weakest statistically despite his lofty prospect status.  The Rawhide have four relievers with strikeout rates in excess of 30%, and the primary closer, Bud Jeter (15 saves, 3.08 ERA) fanned 29% of his opponents. 

Visalia prevented runs about 10% better than the league average, about the same as High Desert, albeit in a very different environment.  Statistically, High Desert appears to have lost a little more via promotions and injuries than Visalia.  The Rawhide led the league with three strikeouts for every walk, while the Mavs ranked near the bottom with a 2.3 ratio. 

High Desert has confirmed only the first two starters.  I've assumed Springs and Wiles will follow Martin as they did in the opening series.  Game 1 is an interesting matchup; Quintana can be very walk-prone, but the Rawhide offense isn't very patient.

Defense
The differences aren't large, but High Desert wins out in most respects: not quite as many errors or other miscues, more batted balls turned into outs, fewer stolen bases versus expectations.

Advantages
Offense – High Desert
Pitching – Visalia 
Defense – High Desert

3-Year Park Factor
High Desert -- 1.15 for runs, 1.24 for homers. A hitter's paradise.
Visalia -- 1.01 for runs, 1.02 for homers. The D-Backs can actually rehab their pitchers there, whereas the Rangers would prompt a grievance filing by the Players Association if they sent a recovering pitcher to High Desert.

Prediction 
Another close call on paper.  High Desert in five.

-- Scott Lucas
Newberg Report (newbergreport.com)
twitter: @scottrlucas
#teamjana      

 
title_authors

Jamey Newberg

Dallas attorney Jamey Newberg has been commenting on Rangers from the big club down through the entire farm system since 1998.

Scott Lucas

Scott Lucas was born in Arlington, Texas, to Richard and Becky Lucas. He lived mostly in Arlington before moving to Austin, where he graduated from The University of Texas. Scott works for Austin Valuation Consultants, Ltd., and has published several boring articles about real estate appraisal and environmental contamination. He makes a swell margarita and refuses to run longer than ten kilometres.

Eleanor Czajka

Eleanor grew up watching the AAA Mudhens in Toledo, Ohio. A loyal Ranger fan since 1979, she works "behind the scenes" at the Newberg Report.

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