Sacramento River Cats Offense At A Glance
Team BA: .283 (10th out of 16 teams)
Runs Scored: 842 (sixth out of 16 teams)
Team OPS: 824 (seventh out of 16 teams)
Team Stolen Bases: 140 (tied for fifth out of 16 teams)
Team Slugging Percentage: .457 (seventh out of 16 teams)
Note: this article covers all hitters who had at least 150 at-bats for the River Cats this season.
The hitter-friendly nature of the Pacific Coast League was evidenced by the fact that the Sacramento River Cats hit .283 as a team, a number that led the A's organization but saw Sacramento in the bottom half of all PCL squads. The River Cats play in one of the more offense-neutral parks in the PCL, however, so their stats are a bit more impressive than those coming from clubs that play in launching pad parks, such as Albuquerque, Colorado Springs or Reno.
There were a number of players who had strong offensive campaigns for the River Cats, helping Sacramento cruise to a division title and a spot in the PCL finals. No one was more impressive than outfielder Jai Miller, who earned a spot on the A's 40-man roster at the end of the season with his standout campaign. In 410 at-bats, Miller batted .276/.368/.588 with a career-high 32 homers. He also had 88 RBIs and 16 stolen bases in 16 total chances while playing outstanding defense in centerfield. Strike-outs are always going to be a concern for Miller, and he led the River Cats with 179, but the talented outfielder could see some extended playing time with the rebuilding A's in 2012.
Catcher Anthony Recker also parlayed a strong campaign with Sacramento into a late-season addition to the A's roster. After nearly six years of playing under the radar, Recker finally grabbed the spotlight by hitting .287/.388/.550 in 99 games. The right-handed batter hit 16 homers and a provided defensive versatility, playing both behind the plate and at first base.
Splitting time with Recker at catcher was Josh Donaldson, who put together a solid season of his own despite a series of nagging injuries. Donaldson hit 17 homers and drove-in 70 runs in 115 games for the River Cats. He also stole a career-high 13 bases in 17 chances. In addition to catching, Donaldson made some appearances at third base, the position he played in college. He was a bit more of a free-swinger in 2011 than he had been in the past, however, striking out a career-high 100 times. He is currently batting .341 with a 906 OPS in 11 games in the Dominican Winter League.
Chris Carter was expected to get the majority of the time at first base for the River Cats at the start of the season, but a thumb injury knocked him out for most of the first half. He was an offensive stalwart upon returning to Sacramento, posting an 897 OPS in 75 games. He homered 18 times and drove-in 72 runs. Carter also played a handful of games with High-A Stockton as he rehabbed his thumb injury. He hit three homers for the Ports, giving him 21 in total on the season. Carter has reached the 20+ homer plateau in five straight minor league seasons. He was given a few cups of coffee with the A's during the season, but struggled in those limited opportunities. He should get a long look by the A's during spring training.
For much of the season, utilityman Adrian Cardenas was the River Cats' most consistent hitter. In his first full season at the Triple-A level, Cardenas hit .314 in 491 at-bats. He also posted a .374 OBP and had a solid 47:56 BB:K ratio. A natural second baseman, Cardenas was moved all over the field in 2011, seeing time at second, short, third and in the outfield, as well as DH. Finding a defensive home will make Cardenas' path to the big leagues more clearly defined.
The A's aren't likely to stick Cardenas back at second because of the emergence of Jemile Weeks, however. Weeks, the A's top pick in 2008, finally put together a healthy season and he also made the jump to the big leagues. He began the year with Sacramento and batted .321/.417/.446 in 45 games before an injury to Mark Ellis opened a spot for Weeks at the big league level. He played so well for Oakland that the A's traded Ellis. Health-permitting, Weeks should be the A's everyday second baseman and lead-off hitter for the next several years.
Another infielder who put up impressive numbers in 2011 was veteran Wes Timmons. Timmons joined the A's organization as a minor league free agent during the off-season and he hit .321/.432/.442 in 190 at-bats for the River Cats. Caught in a roster crunch during the middle of the year, Timmons was actually sent down to Double-A for two months. He also starred for Midland, batting .365/.402/.500 in 156 at-bats. Timmons was re-signed to a minor league deal by the A's this off-season and will be a non-roster invitee to big league camp.
Jermaine Mitchell also had a standout season for Midland and Sacramento. The centerfielder thoroughly dominated the Texas League during the first half of the season and put together a strong showing during the second half with Sacramento. In 232 at-bats with the River Cats, Mitchell batted .302/.401/.453 with 13 stolen bases. His statline was made even more impressive when it was revealed after the season that he had played through a knee injury for much of the year. Mitchell had surgery on his knee during the off-season and could miss some of the start of the 2012 campaign. He was added to the A's 40-man roster in November and should have a shot with the A's at some point in 2012, assuming his knee is fully recovered. Mitchell has the tools to hit at the top of the order. Between Sacramento and Midland, he walked 93 times and had a .430 OBP.
Another outfielder who will get consideration for playing time with the A's in 2012 is Michael Taylor, who rebounded from a disappointing 2010 campaign with Sacramento to post a .272/.360/.456 line. Most notable about Taylor's season was the re-emergence of his power. After hitting only six homers in 127 games for the River Cats in 2010, Taylor connected for 16 in only 93 games. He was able to hit with more authority despite suffering a wrist injury during spring training that cost him the first six weeks of the season. Taylor made his major league debut in September and hit his first big league homerun.
Infielder Eric Sogard spent the final two-and-a-half months with the A's, but before his promotion, he was a solid presence near the top of the River Cats' line-up. The middle infielder posted a .381 OBP and stole 13 bases in 79 games. He also hit .298 and walked six more times than he struck-out. A natural second baseman, Sogard played primarily at shortstop with the River Cats to make room for Weeks. He is one of the favorites to serve as the A's back-up infielder in 2012.
When Carter went down with his thumb injury in late April, Shane Peterson was called up from Double-A Midland to fill a variety of roles. The outfielder/first baseman hit well in his first stint at the Triple-A level, posting a .293/.377/.479 line in 46 games. He hit six homeruns and scored 31 times. Much like Timmons, Peterson was caught in a roster crunch and was eventually sent back to Midland despite his strong play with the River Cats. He will compete for a spot with Sacramento this spring.
Veteran Kevin Kouzmanoff had a disappointing 2011 campaign with the A's, but he played well for Sacramento during his two-and-a-half month stay there. In 61 games, he hit .302/.341/.550 with 13 homers. He struck-out only 36 times and played solid defense at the hot corner. The A's traded Kouzmanoff to the Rockies towards the end of the season and he appeared in a handful of games for Colorado. He is currently a free agent.
Like Kouzmanoff, Andy LaRoche began the 2011 season on the A's 25-man roster, but was sent back to Sacramento after a disappointing few months in the big leagues. LaRoche had 197 at-bats for the River Cats and posted a 710 OPS. His BB:K was solid (19:24), but he didn't hit for much power (.376 SLG). The once highly regarded prospect is currently a free agent.
Matt Carson and Steven Tolleson were two other veterans who were traded by the A's during the season. Before those trades, both players were strong contributors for Sacramento. Tolleson hit .274 with a 31:37 BB:K ratio in 46 games before being traded to San Diego. He played all over the field and was a strong clubhouse presence for manager Darren Bush. Tolleson signed a minor league deal with Baltimore this off-season. Carson hit 19 homers in 90 games for the River Cats before the A's traded him to the Tampa Bay Rays. Carson also stole 11 bases in 12 chances and played well defensively all over the outfield. He is currently a free agent.