Home Grown Talent

It’s no secret that the Sacramento River Cats organization is one of the most successful minor league organizations, both on and off the field, and 2014 has been no different. Again leading the Pacific Coast League in attendance, the River Cats narrowly missed their 12th division title in 15 years, losing to the Reno Aces on the last day of the season in extra innings. The highlight of the season, however, had to be the parade of players making their way from Raley Field to the big leagues.

In total, 21 different men played for both the River Cats and a Major League club in 2014. 17 played for both the A’s and River Cats, and four played for the River Cats and a big league team other than the A’s.

For starters, there were several big league rehabbers that donned a River Cats uni this year. Jed Lowrie, Josh Reddick, Eric O’Flaherty, Craig Gentry, and Kyle Blanks. Several guys began the year with Sacramento and have been huge contributors to the A’s postseason run, including Stephen Vogt, Nate Freiman, Andy Parrino, and Evan Scribner.

Four guys spent part of the year with Sacramento & a big league squad other than the A’s including Jake Elmore (Reds), Jake Goebbert (Padres), Michael Taylor (White Sox), and Justin Marks (Royals).

The River Cats missed the playoffs, but 2014 was still an incredibly successful season. Fourth-best record in the league, best attendance in the league, and 21 different big leaguers throughout the season? Just another tremendous season at Raley Field.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

On Sunday, Aug. 17 at Raley Field, fans bid on the opportunity to dump buckets of ice water on River Cats players after the game, with all the proceeds going to ALS TDI. Thank you to all who donated, and to our players for participating for such a great cause. To donate to ALS TDI, visit als.net.

Just Keep Winning

The Sacramento River Cats have put together an exceptional 2014 season and now have their sights set on their fifth Pacific Coast League Championship.

Though some of the faces and names have changed on the diamond for the Sacramento River Cats, the results seem to stay the same. The end of the 2014 season will mark another winning campaign for Sacramento’s club, giving them twelve-straight seasons with a record over .500, as the club eyes their first ever Pacific Northern Division title.

River Cats outfielder Shane Peterson has led the charge, putting together an MVP-caliber, season and making his first career Triple-A All-Star roster. Peterson is among the league leaders in several offensive categories and has helped the Cats offense keep humming throughout the long season.

Joining Peterson on his trip to Raleigh for the All-Star Game was relief pitcher Paul Smyth, who is a key cog in a bullpen that has been among the Pacific Coast League’s best. Smyth, along with relievers Evan Scribner, Fernando Rodriguez, Jeremy McBryde, Joe Savery, and Philip Humber have played significant roles in limiting opposing lineups late in contests.

Sacramento has been able to capitalize on its ability to keep games close, winning a franchise-record 12 games in walk-off fashion. Seven of those 12 victories came in extra innings for the Cats, showing the River Cats’ resolve throughout the season. Infielder Alden Carrithers has sent fans at Raley Field home happy three times in 2014, the most of any River Cats player, while infielder Andy Parrino has hit the only walk-off homer for the Cats this season.

With the season winding down, the club is gearing up for a lengthy run in the Pacific Coast League playoffs. If the Cats are able to hang onto their lead in the Pacific Northern Division, they will make their 12th playoff appearance in 15 seasons since the club’s inception in the year 2000.

History has been kind to the River Cats when it comes to their participation in the PCL playoffs. In their 12 postseason tries, Sacramento has made it to the PCL Championship Game six times, winning four league titles. The Cats won back-to-back PCL titles in 2003 and 2004, and then again in 2007 and 2008. The River Cats reached the summit in 2007, defeating the Richmond Braves to win the Triple-A Championship, and did so again in 2008 with a victory over the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.

One player on the current River Cats roster has contributed to the organization’s success in the postseason. Infielder Daric Barton smacked four home runs during the 2007 playoffs, tying him with several former River Cats for the most in any playoff run. The first baseman also collected 11 hits and 10 RBI during that same postseason, putting him among the leaders in both categories for any River Cats player in the playoffs.

The last home series of the season pits the Sacramento River Cats against their rivals, and their biggest threat in the Pacific Northern Division, the Reno Aces. Five games between the two clubs to close out 2014 may decide which club is playing extra baseball in September, and which club is heading home to start their offseason.      

Raley Field has seen its fair share of winning over the past 14 seasons, and 2014 has been no different. Another playoff berth for the River Cats will be a feat that fans are accustomed to seeing year after year at the ballpark and River Cats faithful would welcome more September baseball for this year’s club to keep the winning tradition alive.

Michael Choice a River Cat?

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At A’s Fan Fest in Oakland this past weekend, Billy Beane was quoted by multiple reporters as saying that power-hitting outfield prospect Michael Choice will spend most of the year with Sacramento barring something “unforeseen.”

Choice, who was recently ranked by Baseball America as the second-best prospect in the A’s organization, played 91 games with Double-A Midland last year before breaking his hand in late-July when he was hit by a pitch. In those 91 games, Choice launched 10 home runs, drove in 58 runs and stole five bases to go along with a .287 batting average and a .356 on-base percentage.

After being selected 10th-overall in the 2010 first-year player draft by Oakland, Choice has not spent more than one season at any level. After spending his first full professional season with the Single-A Stockton Ports in 2011, he played exclusively with the RockHounds a year ago before his season was cut short. In 239 career minor league games, Choice has 47 home runs and a .283 batting average.

If this trend continues, and the top prospect spends most of the year with Sacramento as Beane suggests, River Cats fans could be in for a treat.

 

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Jai Miller Joins Crimson Tide

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It’s true. 2011 River Cats home run leader Jai Miller will reportedly walk on with the Alabama football program next season, ending his 10-year professional baseball career… for now.

Miller has been around the block since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2003 first-year player draft by the Florida Marlins. He stayed in the Marlins organization until April 8, 2010 when the A’s selected him off waivers. After being waived by Oakland, selected by Kansas City, and granted free agency, Miller signed back with the A’s in November of 2010.

He played 10 games with the Kitties in 2010 before playing a full season in Sacramento in 2011. That 2011 season was by far the best of his minor league career, as he launched 32 home runs, drove in 88 runs and scored 81 runs, all while hitting .276 with a .956 OPS. His previous career-highs were 18 home runs, 58 RBIs and 69 runs scored.

Miller’s contract was purchased by the Baltimore Orioles in January of 2012 before being granted free agency for the last time three months ago. He’s spent part of three seasons in the show, logging a career-high 55 at-bats with Kansas City in 2010. He appeared in seven games with Oakland in 2011, and has a career .235 batting average with two home runs, six RBIs, seven runs and one steal in 68 career at-bats at the Major League level.

We wish Miller—who was reportedly recruited by Alabama to play football out of high school in 2003—the best as he trades in his bat for shoulder pads. One can’t help but wonder if playing with the River Cats had some effect on Miller’s decision to walk on with the Crimson Tide. It’s hard to find a squad that wins more often than the River Cats, but Miller may have found one in Tuscaloosa.

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What a Relief: James Simmons

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Spring training is fast approaching (39 days away!). We continue our look at potential members of the 2013 River Cats roster as the team prepares to make a run at its PCL-record, seventh-straight division title.

James Simmons was a first-round pick in the 2007 draft as a starting pitcher. After being converted to relief, he began the 2012 season in Double-A Midland before joining the River Cats toward the end of the season. He logged a 1.80 ERA and a 2-0 record while striking out 13 batters in 15.0 innings pitched with Sacramento.

He took his talents to Phoenix this winter as a member of the A’s Arizona Fall League team, the Desert Dogs. In 12 appearances, he logged a 1.59 ERA in 11.1 innings pitched, striking out eight and walking three. He allowed only two hits all winter.

The hard-throwing righty continues to climb the organizational ladder, and could begin the 2013 campaign coming out of the Raley Field bullpen. With the success he’s had of late, any amount of time he spends in a River Cats uniform is a definite positive for us.

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Will our 2012 MVP return to Raley Field?

Grant Green

With pitchers and catchers reporting in 40 days, the 2013 River Cats season is right around the corner. We’ll be taking a look at the players who could begin the year in Sacramento as the team defends its sixth-consecutive division crown.

Top prospect Grant Green was assigned to the Arizona Fall League after being named the River Cats’ Most Valuable Player for the 2012 season. After posting a .296 batting average with 15 home runs, 75 RBIs, 73 runs scored and 13 steals in 125 games with Sacramento, he is hitting .293 with five RBIs and five runs scored in 10 games with the Desert Dogs. After moving from shortstop to the outfield in the middle of 2011, Green was converted back to the infield during his 2012 campaign. Green hit .273 for the Desert Dogs in 17 games, including 15 starts at second base and two as the designated hitter. He clubbed two home runs, drove in 11 runs with a .364 on-base percentage.

Drafted with the 13th-overall pick in the 2009 first-year player draft, Green was added to Oakland’s 40-man roster this November. Baseball America, who recently ranked Green as the eighth-best prospect in the A’s organization, believes he will compete in spring training with Jemile Weeks to be the A’s starting second baseman.

We’d love it if Green cracked the big league roster out of spring training to become yet another former River Cat to have an impact at the Major League level. If the A’s decide that Green needs a few more at-bats in Triple-A before getting the call, we’d certainly welcome back our reigning Most Valuable Player with open arms. If he does return to Raley Field, be sure to come out early to see him in action. He might not be with us for long!

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Cat-o-Lantern

With Halloween nearly upon us, the River City’s favorite cat needs your help. Dinger, the lovable mascot of the Sacramento River Cats, can’t decide what to dress up as on Oct. 31.

Below are four options: Bernie, Catwoman, Risky Business and Sultan.

Head to the River Cats Facebook page by clicking here to cast your vote. Simply “Like” the picture of the costume that you choose. The costume with the most “Likes” will be the winner!

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