Week in Review: California League Opening Week


Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

After the California League’s first week, there are some misleading and eye-popping numbers, but there were plenty of impressive performances nonetheless.

Bakersfield jumped out of the gate on fire on offense – pun semi-intended – and are hitting .325/.392/.452 as a team with 38 runs scored through five games. The Blaze were led offensively by Kyle Waldrop, Junior Arias and Marquez Smith, each ranking among the league’s leaders in batting average. Waldrop’s ten hits through the season’s first five games are most in the league, as are Smith’s 11 RBI, five extra-base hits and 17 total bases. Waldrop currently holds a .650 OBP, while Smith is slugging .895. Both are tops in the circuit. Smith is tied for the league lead with two long balls while Arias currently holds the lead in stolen bases with five, runs scored with eight and added a homer as well. Seth Mejias-Brean has seven walks in the first five games, which is also most in the league. Jesse Winker joined in on the fun and knocked his first home run of the season.

Not to be outdone by the offense, Blaze pitcher Ben Lively excelled in his first start of the season. In six innings, Lively allowed only one hit, a solo home run, which gives him the league’s best BAA at .053 and WHIP at 0.17. He struck out seven, walked no one and earned the victory on Sunday. Brooks Pinckard worked three nearly flawless innings Saturday, with one walk his only blemish.

For High Desert, Gabriel Guerrero got 2014 started with a 9-for-18 week, good for a .500/.526/.889 line that included two homers and eight RBI. Fellow prospect D.J. Peterson also started strong, hitting .389/.450/.667 for the Mavericks in the first five games. He connected for his first of what should be many home runs in the thin air in High Desert, and drove in five runs.

The Mavericks pitching staff is off to a strong start to the season, with a 3.00 ERA. They have also kept the ball in the ballpark, which is no small task in the Cal League as a whole and High Desert in particular.

Four starters turned in solid outings in the season’s first five games. Taijuan Walker pitched 4.1 innings in a rehab start, allowing one earned run and four hits and seven strikeouts. Dylan Unsworth tossed six strong innings in which he allowed one unearned run, on five hits and one walk. He struck out four and was credited with a win. Prospect Tyler Pike earned a victory with a five-inning performance. He surrendered one earned run on four hits and three walks and struck out four.

Inland Empire took the opener from High Desert, but has since dropped four in a row. Cal Towey led the 66ers at the plate with a .348/.550/.750 line in five games. He drove in four runs and has two triples on the young season. On the mound, the Sixers got a great Opening Day start from Nate Smith, who worked five scoreless innings in the victory. The 22-year old lefty allowed three hits and one walk and also struck out one. Relievers Danny Reynolds and Kurt Spomer have each worked five scoreless innings of relief so far and Cam Bedrosian tossed 1.2 scoress innings Saturday and posted four strikeouts.

Lake Elsinore is off to a 2-3 start this year, and Hunter Renfroe hit his first home run of 2014. Through five games the 2013 first round pick is 3-for-20 with two doubles and three RBI. Alberth Martinez is off to a good start, hitting .381/.375/.667 with a homer and eight RBI in 21 at bats.

The loaded Lancaster JetHawks are off to a 3-2 start on the young season, led offensively by Carlos Correa, who ranks among the league’s leading hitters with a .471/.545/.706 line, one home run and eight RBI.

Mark Appel’s first start of 2014 went 2.2 innings. The right-hander allowed two runs (one earned), on three hits and two walks. He struck out one. Fellow pitching prospect Lance McCullers tossed four innings in his season debut, and surrendered two earned runs on four hits and two walks while striking out seven.

At 0-5, the Modesto Nuts are the league’s only winless team thus far, however the offense is not to blame. The club is hitting .287/.337/.433 as a whole, including a .364/.417/.682 line from Trevor Story, who hit for the cycle Monday, and a 7-for-23 week from Rosell Herrera. Story has 15 total bases and connected for his first homer of the season. He also ranks second in the league with four stolen bases. The pitching staff is off to a rough start, surrendering 51 runs in five games. Jayson Aquino allowed eight earned runs in just four innings in his first start of the season.

Rancho Cucamonga has struggled at the plate, hitting just .176/.239/.279 as a team through a 2-3 record in the first five games. The pitching staff has been much stronger as Julio Urias and Fabio Martinez have combined to allow only one hit through ten innings of work. Each struck out five and walked four, with Urias allowing the only hit in his four innings Friday. A few big leaguers have also seen action, as Josh Beckett, Chad Billingsley and Brian Wilson made rehab appearances for the Quakes.

The San Jose Giants pitching staff is off to a very strong start to the 2014 season, allowing only five earned runs in the club’s first 44.1 innings. Kendry Flores earned a win in his first start, going seven innings in which he surrendered one earned run on two hits and one walk, while striking out six. Chris Stratton and Pat Young also earned victories with strong starts. Joe Biagini and Joan Gregorio did not allow a run in ten combined innings in the other two starts, but were served with no decisions. Outfielder Mac Williamson is 1-for-17 at the pate this far.

Stockton sits at 3-2, having scored just 14 runs in the opening week. However, the club hit five home runs, including two from Billy McKinney. The outfielder had only one other hit in his remaining 14 plate appearances, but Daniel Robertson is hitting .450/.476/.600. Nolan Sanburn has worked two two-inning stints out of the bullpen, earning saves in both.

Visalia rode strong pitching performances by Hector Hernandez, Henry Garcia and Jimmy Sherfy to three wins in the first week of 2014. The trio did not allow a run and each earned victories, with Hernandez and Garcia in starting roles. Out of the pen, Sherfy struck out five in two innings of work across two appearances and Keith Hessler tossed four scoreless innings with six strikeouts, also in two games. Infield prospect Brandon Drury hit two home runs for the Rawhide and drove in six runs. He compiled a .286/.286/.667 line for the week.