Typically, there’s a lot of movement around the Cal League All-Star break, but this year was a little different. Most of the moves came several weeks later; right after the MLB All-Star break. Promotion favorite, MacKenzie Gore, who many thought would get promoted before the Cal League All-Star Game, stuck around until after the Futures Game. Then came a series of other moves. The Rockies promoted Luis Castro who had been leading the league in home runs for most of the season. The Dodgers moved All-Star catcher Connor Wong and top pitching prospect Josiah Grey. The Mariners moved three guys: catcher Cal Raleigh, RHP Logan Gilbert, and the strikeout king, Ljay Newsome. So with all that movement, who is left to watch? Well, there are still many guys tearing it up, here’s just a few to keep an eye on:
Luis Patino RHP (Padres) – When the season started, everyone was talking about the duo of Gore and Patiño at Lake Elsinore. Gore dominated, but unfortunately Patiño had a really rough start to the season. Some speculated that a change in his delivery was the cause, but really it seemed like he wasn’t focused. Luckily, he got it together and started piecing together some good starts and earned a spot on the Futures Team. He definitely didn’t waste this opportunity, and on a huge stage, pitched better then I’ve ever seen him pitch. He performed brilliantly in two high stress situations inheriting runners in a tie game and then pitching around the runner on second in extra innings. He’s something special and will be making his way up the ranks.
Heliot Ramos OF (Giants) – Where did this guy come from? Well, after a great start to the season, he sprained a ligament in his knee and missed four weeks. Since then, he picked up where he left off, made the Cal League All-Star roster, and that’s really when I really started to take notice. He finally has enough at bats to qualify on the Cal League leaderboard. He’s currently third in batting average.
Leo Crawford, LHP (Dodgers) – No one seems to be talking about this guy. He didn’t have a good start to the season and he’s spent some time on the IL, which has really hurt his visibility. That said, he’s been really solid for the last two months, including a CG, 3H shutout with 0 BB and 10 strikeouts. Unfortunately, his record doesn’t reflect how good he’s really been, but he consistently has quality starts, his walks are low and his strikeouts are high. Keep an eye on him. He’ll be the next starting pitcher to get promoted out of Rancho.
Luis Campusano, C (Padres) – Campusano is putting up good offensive numbers and people are finally taking notice. He’s leading the league in batting average and hitting for more power than years past. He’s always been solid behind the plate, but now he’s putting it altogether. A solid year for the Padres‘ top catching prospect.
Matt Hearn, OF (Rockies) – Poor Matt Hearn. He doesn’t seem to get any love. While small in stature, this guy just hits. If you’re a pitcher, you don’t like facing this guy. He’s spent most of the early part of the season leading the league in average, although Luis Campusano has had something to say about that lately.
With both the home leaders gone, (Cal Raleigh and Luis Castro) who will take the Cal League title? Rancho teammates Donovan Casey and Devin Mann along with Inland Empire standout, Gareth Morgan look to be vying for the title.
So even though there seemed to be a mass exodus of talent leaving the California League, there is still a bunch of players to watch and new talent coming in every day.
All photos by Gail Verderico unless otherwise noted. (@1baseballchick on Twitter)
Gail is Bay Area born and raised. She was conflicted on which side of the Bay to root for early on, but eventually made the right choice and sided with the A’s. Gail now lives in Southern California and enjoys travelling around the country watching as many baseball games as she can. Follow her on Twitter @1baseball_gail.