Jake McCasland has had a stellar 2016 season with the Augusta GreenJackets, and on Friday night in the decisive game of their playoff series with the Bakersfield Blaze, San Jose will send the 24-year-old right-hander to the hill to make his debut with the club.
In his fourth pro season and second in the South Atlantic League, McCasland more than doubled his previous high in innings pitched with 109 1/3, all while tallying a 1.65 ERA and a 2.66 FIP. After starting the season off in the bullpen, McCasland made his first start with the GreenJackets on June 13, and has allowed as many as three runs in just two of his 13 starts, and is currently on a pretty solid hot streak, allowing just four earned over his last five starts, spanning a total of 32 innings.
The one concern with McCasland is that his last start came before the calendars turned to September. Sometimes the extra rest is a welcome sign, but the layoff sometimes proves to be too long and pitchers aren't as crisp. Either way, this is an exciting opportunity for the former 26th round selection on his journey up the organizational ladder.
His peripheral stats have been fantastic this season, striking out nearly a batter an inning (8.8 per nine) and walking just two. His K/BB ratio stands at 4.46, which is nearly double what it was a year ago thanks to a slightly higher strikeout rate and a slightly lower walk rate.
Bryan Reynolds, who joined the San Jose Giants just before the playoffs along with McCasland, has gone 3-for-7 with a walk in the series, and was responsible for last night's lone run when he hit a solo homer (7th on the season between three stops) in the seventh inning of San Jose's 7-1 loss.
For Bakersfield, this could be the last game of their existence, at least in their current form, as the California League will be contracting them at the end of the season after both the Rangers (High Desert) and Astros (Lancaster) will be relocating to the Carolina League. The Mariners are Bakersfield's current parent club, but they have had their sights set on Modesto, who are currently affiliated with the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies in turn will take over the Lancaster franchise. All of this movement will leave the California League with eight clubs beginning in 2017.
While the story of Bakersfield making a playoff run in potentially their final season ever is a nice story, there are politics involved which could dampen that mood. Instead, the story of McCasland (who turns 25 on Tuesday) propelling his club into the next round in his Hi-A debut at the end of his fourth pro season is also quite a nice story.