Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
After the first full week of the 2014 California League season, the Bakersfield Blaze (CIN) are atop the North standings with a 9-2 mark, including 5-1 last week. Bakersfield has been led by the league’s most potent offense. As a team, the Blaze have posted a line of .308/.456/.384 in the first 11 games. Also, the club has gotten strong pitching performances, most notably from Jimmy Moran and Ben Lively.
Currently 5-6 after a 2-4 week, the Stockton Ports (OAK) have shown the most power in the league to date. They have 20 home runs total, including five apiece by Billy McKinney and Chad Pinder. The pair is tied for the league lead.
Modesto (COL) picked up the club’s first two victories after an 0-7 start and now sit at 2-9 on the young season. The pitching staff has settled a bit, but still owns the league’s worst ERA (7.42) by a large margin. The Nuts have allowed 74 earned runs this season, which leads the league by 20.
In the game of the week, Inland Empire (LAA) defeated the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (LAD) 4-3 in 14 innings Wednesday. After the Quakes tied the game at three in the bottom of the eighth inning, the bullpens shut down the opposition over the next six frames until the 66ers broke through in the 14th. The run was the first the Quakes had surrendered in ten innings.
Brian Hernandez pitched two scoreless innings for the Sixers and Andrew Ray earned the save with a clean 14th inning. The pair allowed four base runners on two hits and two walks combined, and Hernandez struck out two. What is so interesting about that? Both are position players: Hernandez started the game at third base and ended at first, while Ray was the starting left fielder. The duo’s strong performances on the mound made up for their lack of production at the plate, as they went a combined 0-for-11 in the game. Ray took the mound again two days later in a 13-inning defeat at the hands of High Desert (SEA), and took the loss.
Who’s Hot: After a slow start to the season, Pinder, an Oakland A’s second base prospect, had four consecutive multi-hit games this week and four home runs. In all, the 22-year old went 14-for-26 this week and drove in nine runs for the Ports. He raised his line from .133/.133/.333 on Monday to a robust .390/.444/.902 entering the season’s third week.
Bakersfield first baseman Marquez Smith has compiled a line of .444/.500/.917 and leads the Cal League in average and slugging percentage. His 19 RBI also lead the pack, and he is tied for top marks with six doubles and 10 extra-base hits. He also has three home runs and a triple. Teammates Seth Mejias-Brean, Kyle Waldrop, Jesse Winker and Junior Arias put together strong weeks as well.
In his last five games, High Desert’s Jordy Lara is 10-for-22 with two homers and five runs scored.
Inland Empire’s Wade Hinkle hit home runs in three consecutive ballgames, and hit safely in his first seven games of the season.
Outfielder Teoscar Hernandez leads the league with five triples for Lancaster (HOU). He is currently hitting .326/.400/.651.
Infielder Trevor Story got at least one hit in every game this week, and is now hitting .391/.451/.630 on the season. The Modesto leadoff hitter leads the league with nine stolen bases.
Teenager Corey Seager is one of the few offensive bright spots for Rancho Cucamonga. After going hitless in his first two games this season, the shortstop is hitting .333/.380/.467 and has hits in five straight ballgames, including four on April 9.
San Jose’s (SF) Elliott Blair had a hit in every game this week, including a current streak of three in a row with multiple hits. The outfielder is hitting .387/.424/.613 in eight games.
The Visalia Rawhide put together a 4-2 week and are 7-4 overall on the young season. Infielder Ryan Court notched three multi-hit games this week, and is 8-for-20 in his last four games. Outfielder Brandon Jacobs had two homers.
Who’s Hot: The Blaze have been solid on the mound as well, led by Moran and Lively, who rank among the top five qualifiers in ERA to this point. Moran has not allowed an run this year in 9.1 innings while Lively has 13 strikeouts in 11 innings across two starts, both victories. Brooks Pinckard picked up two wins in relief this week, and is on a streak of 7.1 scoreless innings out of the bullpen.
Mariners prospect Tyler Pike worked five strong innings Thursday for his second win of the season for High Desert. The lefty allowed one earned run on three hits and three walks and also struck out three. The Mavericks are tied at Lancaster for first place in the South with an 8-3 record.
Reliever Cam Bedrosian continues to shine for Inland Empire. The right-hander appeared in two games this week, notching scoreless innings in each and collected one save and five strikeouts. The Angels prospect now has 12 K’s in 4.2 innings for the 66ers.
Lake Elsinore’s Joseph Ross looked good in two starts this week, holding High Desert and Lancaster scoreless over 11 combined innings. The Padres pitching prospect walked only one batter and allowed seven hits with 10 strikeouts and dropped his ERA to 2.25 this season.
Vincent Velasquez has allowed only three hits in 13 innings for Lancaster so far this season and has struck out 16. The 21-year old right-hander tossed five scoreless innings of one-hit baseball Friday against Lake Elsinore. Opponents are hitting just .077 off him this season.
Rancho Cucamonga has the league’s best ERA to this point. Tom Windle worked six strong innings Friday against Modesto, allowing only one unearned run. The lefty has a 0.82 ERA over 11 innings in his first two appearances this season.
Giants lefty Steven Okert worked two more scoreless innings this week, giving him five consecutive to start the season.
Converted outfielder Jeremy Barfield tossed four scoreless innings in two appearances for the Ports. The lefty now has a 1.50 ERA in six innings and has held left-handed hitters to a 1-for-12 mark this year.
Brandon Sinnery pitched very well for Visalia Wednesday, tossing seven strong innings. The right-hander allowed one unearned run on six hits and two walks to earn the victory over Modesto.
Who’s Not: Padres pitching prospect Zach Eflin was rouged up Tuesday at High Desert. The 20-year old allowed eight earned runs on nine hits, including three home runs, and walked one for the Storm.
San Jose left-handed reliever Ryan Bradley has allowed ten earned runs in his last two appearances after working six scoreless innings in his first three.