September 27, 2016
Notes from the Field
Cal League Wrap: The Hitters
It was a notably weaker year for top-shelf prospects in the California League this season, with a whopping 30 combined games from Kyle Tucker, Yohander Mendez, and Luis Ortiz representing the sum total of contributions by prospects that cracked our Mid-Season Top 50. The season also ended under a cloud of bummerness, with the news that two franchises—including eventual champions High Desert—would contract at season’s end. Two of the stronger systems of recent vintage in the circuit, those belonging to the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers, have been confirmed as future transplants to the Carolina League, and rumblings that the Colorado Rockies may join the exodus have been percolating as well. Boo.
The good news: what the league lacked in elite pedigree it made up with quality play from a reasonably large middle class of players with future big-league potential. I’ve written about dozens of them along the way this season, and you can access all of my Eyewitness Reports, as well as a link to my full scouting database, at the bottom of this article.
In Part I today, I’ll lay out my takeaways from the season for position-players, and then next week I’ll turn my attention to the mound for a look back at the notable pitching performances and storylines.
No Juggernaut Lineups, Few Offensive Powerhouses
Stockton and Inland Empire were the thinnest squads I saw for position-player prospects, though in Richie Martin and Taylor Ward each had a solid organizational top guy at the helm. Broadly though, the league really lacked a standout juggernaut of a lineup. Run-scoring league-wide ticked back up after a significant step back last year, but the distribution of run-scoring remained relatively widespread. League-wide homerun totals rebounded with a similarly modest bounce, but overall slugging continued a two-year slide from halcyon days in the few years prior. High Desert and Lancaster still played among the most extreme offensive environments in all of minor-league baseball, but adjusted for context neither offense stood out as particularly destructive on its own merits.