Sacramento River Cats
Team Batting Average: .272 (tied for 10th out of 16 teams)
Team OBP: .356 (5th)
Team OPS: 795 (5th)
HRs: 159 (4th)
Runs Scored: 827 (3rd)
Note: Only players with at least 150 at-bats were covered in this article
With top prospects such as Chris Carter, Michael Taylor, Corey Brown, Josh Donaldson and Eric Sogard on an Opening Day roster with veterans such as Dallas McPherson and Jack Cust, the Sacramento River Cats' offense carried with it high expectations for the 2011 season. The club got off to a disappointing start on both sides of the ball, but finished off strong despite a constantly rotating roster.
Carter was one of those players who struggled early in the season, but hit his stride in the season's final months. Overall, Carter posted a .258/.365/.529 line, a solid effort, although somewhat disappointing in comparison to his 2009 line of .329/.422/.570. Carter posted a solid 872 OPS in April, but slumped to a 770 OPS in May and an 808 OPS in June and he hit only .220 during those two months. At the All-Star break, Carter was batting only .233 with an 827 OPS. As has been the case throughout his career, Carter broke out after the break, batting .319/.421/.637 over the season's final two months. Not coincidentally, it was during this time period that the River Cats made their push towards the division title.
Sogard was another player who overcame a slow start on the way to a solid season. The former Padres prospect hit only .234 with a 550 OPS in April, but still managed to bat .300 with a 798 OPS for the entire season. He had an 859 OPS after the All-Star break and was the team's top defensive infielder. Sogard also posted an impressive 75:68 BB:K ratio – leading the team in walks – and finishing second in OBP with a .391 mark in 137 games.
Steven Tolleson finished first on the River Cats in OBP with a .412 mark in what was a breakout season for the infielder. After posting a disappointing 720 OPS between Triple-A and Double-A for the Twins' organization in 2009, Tolleson established career-highs in 2010 in batting average (.332), OBP, SLG (.503) and OPS (915). He also tied his career-high for homeruns with nine, despite only playing in 80 games with the River Cats (he appeared in 25 games with the A's). Despite those good numbers, Tolleson was designated for assignment by the A's last Wednesday. If he clears waivers, he will still factor in the A's middle infield depth chart next season, however.
Matt Carson also split time between Sacramento and Oakland in 2010. The outfielder was one of the River Cats' top hitters when he was in Triple-A, batting .303/.377/.553 in 244 at-bats for Sacramento. He struggled in the big leagues, however, batting only .177 in 79 at-bats. Carson was removed from the A's 40-man roster at the start of the off-season, but he re-signed with the organization on a minor league deal and will be in big league camp this spring.
Sitting at the top of the River Cats' order for nearly every game was utilityman Corey Wimberly, who broke the Sacramento franchise record with 56 stolen bases (while being caught only 18 times). He also posted a .373 OBP and scored a team-high 97 runs while playing all over the field. Wimberly, who was traded to Pittsburgh this off-season, finished second on the team to Sogard in games played with 135.
Taylor came into the season with huge expectations after being acquired in the off-season for fellow top prospect Brett Wallace. Coming off of two monster seasons in the Philadelphia organization, Taylor was expected to break through to the major leagues in 2010. It never came together for the Stanford alum, as he posted a .272/.348/.392 line, his worst since his professional debut season in 2007. To his credit, he never stopped working to find his groove at the plate and contributed to the River Cats in the field with a strong arm in right.
Adrian Cardenas is another player who had a somewhat disappointing season with Sacramento. The infielder began the year on the DL after injuring his hand during spring training and didn't join the team until the end of April. He hit only .228 and struggled defensively at third base for the River Cats before he was sent back to Double-A Midland in early June. After starring for Midland in June and July, he returned to Sacramento in early August and was much improved at the plate, batting .313/.362/.385 in 21 games. He was added to the A's 40-man roster during the off-season and should start the 2011 season with the River Cats once again.
Unlike many of his Sacramento teammates, Donaldson started off the season better than he finished it, in large part because of injuries. At the end of May, Donaldson was batting .296/.357/.539, but he finished the year at .238/.336/.476 in 294 at-bats. Interestingly, his best homerun month came in July, when he hit seven of his 18, but he managed only a .171 average. He battled a number of minor injuries throughout the season and missed most of August with a strained knee. Donaldson also made his major league debut, collecting 32 at-bats for the A's.
When Donaldson was in Oakland or on the DL, Anthony Recker got most of the playing time behind the plate. Recker, who spent much of the 2009 season with the River Cats, quietly put together an outstanding season. After posting a .261/.333/.449 line with the River Cats in 2009, Recker improved those numbers by hitting .288/.341/.496 in 250 at-bats. He hit 10 homers, landing him fifth on the team. He appeared in 80 games for Sacramento – 40 before the break and 40 after. It was a tale of two seasons, as he hit .222/.281/.365 before the break and .355/.401/.629 after. Recker was especially good in August when the River Cats were making a push for the playoffs, hitting .370 with a 1112 OPS.
Minor league veterans McPherson, Matt Watson and Jeff Baisley all contributed to the River Cats' success at various points in the 2010 season. McPherson, the former minor league homerun champion, missed much of the first two months of the season with a leg injury, but he was productive once he got back on the field. The corner infielder finished second on the team with 22 homers and he drove-in 75 runs in only 84 games. Watson was signed out of the independent leagues by the A's in May and he hit so well (.313/.358/.600 in 28 games) that the A's recalled him to Oakland in July. Watson played 12 games with the A's and collected his first big league homerun before a bout with kidney stones landed him on the DL. In only 153 at-bats for the River Cats, Watson had nine homers and an 882 OPS. Baisley began the year on the DL and then was sent to Double-A for May and June. He was promoted to Sacramento in July and was productive for the River Cats, hitting .274/.358/.453 in 179 at-bats. All three were minor league free agents after the season.