Sacramento River Cats
Sacramento dominated the Pacific Coast League all season before running out of steam in the PCL finals, losing to the Memphis Redbirds in three games. The River Cats won 86 games during the regular season, six more than any other team in the league. Sacramento won all of those games despite dealing with a constantly revolving roster. Sixty-four players would appear in games for the River Cats during the regular season. Their division title win was the team's eighth in 10 seasons. The River Cats also led the league in attendance.
Top Position Player: Eric Patterson
Patterson spent the final two weeks of the regular season and all of the PCL playoffs in the major leagues. It is likely that had Patterson been with Sacramento in the finals, the results of the series would have been different. Patterson was the team's sparkplug all season. In 110 games primarily as the team's lead-off hitter, Patterson filled up the stat-sheet. He hit .307 with 91 runs scored, 143 hits, 29 doubles, 11 triples, 12 homers, 43 stolen bases and an 870 OPS. His 43 stolen bases are a new River Cats' single-season record. He also gave the team defensive versatility, playing in the infield and in the outfield. Patterson has been red-hot for the A's this September, as well. Through Tuesday, he was batting .378 with a 1011 OPS for the A's this month.
Others Players Considered: Matt Carson, Tom Everidge, Aaron Cunningham, Eric Munson
Carson got off to a slow start, but he finished his season with the River Cats with a bang. After the All-Star break, he hit .304 with 13 homers and a 965 OPS. On the season, Carson led the River Cats with 25 homers, 77 RBIs and he also stole 15 bases while playing outstanding defense all over the outfield. He received a September call-up to Oakland and is batting .417 in six games with the A's... Everidge appeared in only 52 games with the River Cats, as he began the year with Midland and spent three weeks with the A's in July and August. Everidge made those 52 games with the River Cats count, however. In 201 at-bats, he hit .368 with 12 homers, 41 RBIs and a 1060 OPS. Between Midland and Sacramento, Everidge hit .335 with 20 homers and 94 RBIs and a 958 OPS. He also added two homers and seven RBIs with the A's.
Cunningham had to overcome a separated shoulder that he suffered early in the season, but he still managed to put together an outstanding season for the River Cats. In 83 games, he hit .302 with 101 hits, 11 homers, 11 stolen bases and an 851 OPS. He was particularly outstanding in August, batting .359 with a 940 OPS… Munson joined Patterson in the Pacific Coast League All-Star game. The veteran catcher appeared in 99 games and hit .265 with 13 homers and 68 RBIs with an 812 OPS while serving as a steady veteran presence for the River Cats' pitching staff.
Top Pitcher: Jeff Gray
Gray has spent the better part of the past three seasons with the River Cats, but he made the third one the best one of all. After an inconsistent 2008 season with Sacramento, Gray was rock solid for the River Cats in 2009, posting a 1.56 ERA in 41 innings. He saved a team-high 16 games and allowed only 36 base-runners. He didn't allow a run over his last 12 appearances for Sacramento and converted all but one of his save opportunities. Gray has continued to pitch well at the major league level, posting a 2.63 ERA in 24 innings with the A's.
Other Pitchers Considered: Brad Kilby, Gio Gonzalez, Vince Mazzaro
Kilby was also a repeat performer with the River Cats, and like Gray, Kilby saw a dramatic improvement in his 2009 performance over his 2008 season with Sacramento. Pitching in front of friends and family, the Elk Grove native posted a 2.13 ERA and struck-out 77 in 63.1 innings. He allowed only 64 base-runners in those 63.1 innings and earned his first major league call-up… Gonzalez spent only half a season with the River Cats before being promoted to the big leagues for good, but he made an impact for Sacramento early in the season. He went 4-1 with a 2.51 ERA in 12 starts. He struck-out 71 and allowed only three homeruns in 61 innings… Mazzaro was the River Cats' Opening Day starter after almost winning a spot on the A's roster coming out of spring training. He didn't allow a hit in that first start (four innings) and was nearly flawless in 10 appearances with the River Cats. He posted a 2.38 ERA in 56 innings and allowed only 59 base-runners. Mazzaro had a 1.54 ERA in 32.2 innings in May and that was all the A's had to see. The right-hander was promoted to the big leagues for good at that point in the season.
After falling just short of the playoffs last season, the Midland Rockhounds not only made the playoffs in 2009, but made it count, winning the Texas League championship. The Rockhounds' roster was star-studded all season with top prospects up and down the line-up. Not surprisingly, the Rockhounds dominated the post-season Texas League awards, taking home the Player of the Year and Manager of the Year awards and having three players named to the post-season all-star team.
Top Position Player: Chris Carter
There almost aren't enough superlatives to describe the season that Carter had for Midland. It was so good that he had a chance to win the Texas League's Triple Crown before the A's cut that opportunity short when they promoted him to Triple-A for the season's final few weeks. Carter did it all for Midland offensively: hitting for average (.337), getting on-base (.435 OBP), hitting for power (.576 SLG and 24 homers), driving in runs (101), scoring runs (108) and even stealing a few bases (13). Perhaps most impressive was his games played total (125), which signified his durability. Defensively, Carter spent most of the season at first base, where he was much improved over his showing at the position with Stockton in 2008. He also saw some time in the outfield late in the season.
The Rockhounds made the playoffs by winning the second half division title and Carter was a huge reason why, even though he did leave the team for Sacramento in mid-August. In 189 at-bats after the All-Star break, he hit .392 with 11 homers, 49 RBIs and an 1134 OPS. He was also a rockstar in front of his hometown fans this season, batting .392 with 13 homers and 58 RBIs in 227 at-bats at Midland's Citibank Ballpark.
Other Players Considered: Adrian Cardenas, Josh Donaldson, Matt Spencer
Midland was the best offensive club in the Texas League by a big margin, so there were a number of deserving candidates for the player of the year award, including a number we are leaving off of this list. Adrian Cardenas was the Rockhounds' best player for the first part of the season, when he hit .344 with an 885 OPS in 221 at-bats. He slumped some during the second half in 104 at-bats (.288/.330/.404) before being promoted to Triple-A, but still had a big impact on the Rockhounds' season.
Donaldson was a steady force for Midland all season, appearing in 124 games, many of which came at catcher. He had 91 RBIs and collected 37 doubles, both second-best on the team behind Carter's totals. Donaldson hit a team-best three homers and posted a 962 OPS during the playoffs... Spencer joined the team in late May after hitting 10 homers in 30 games in Stockton. He got of to a slow start with the Rockhounds, but hit .281 in June, .337 in July and .315 in August. He drove-in 62 runs in 93 games and posted a .461 SLG. In the playoffs, he hit .314 with two homers, two doubles and nine runs scored in eight games.
Top Pitcher: Graham Godfrey
Godfrey was a quiet contributor to the Stockton Ports' 2008 California League championship, when he posted a 5.10 ERA and struck-out 119 batters in 134 innings. He was more of a headline-grabber in 2009, when he led the Rockhounds with 11 wins and a 3.50 ERA in 159.1 innings. Godfrey earned a spot on the Texas League post-season All-Star team by being remarkably consistent. He posted a 3.42 ERA before the All-Star break and a 3.61 ERA after it. Godfrey was solid in the post-season, as well, going 1-0 with a 3.55 ERA in a playoff-most 12.2 innings.
Other Pitchers Considered: Arnold Leon, Sam Demel, Jared Lansford, Kyle Middleton, Tyson Ross
The Midland pitching staff also had a number of strong contributors, especially during the second half of the season. Leon started the year as a reliever and he struggled early, posting a 5.81 ERA before the All-Star break. He found his groove after the break, however, posting a 2.25 ERA in 48 innings. Leon was especially good as a starter at the end of the season, when he had a 1.76 ERA in seven starts… Demel was an early season contributor for Midland as the team's shutdown closer for the first half of the year. He posted an 0.61 ERA and saved 11 games in 29.1 innings. He struck-out 29 and gave up only 23 hits... Lansford took over for Demel as the Rockhounds' closer after the break. He saved 12 games in July and August and was especially good in August, posting an 0.68 ERA with seven saves. He struggled some in the playoffs, but still saved two games.
Middleton wasn't even a member of the A's organization until late in July. He was signed out of the independent leagues and was a godsend for the Rockhounds. In nine starts, he went 5-2 with a 2.69 ERA, including one complete game shut-out. He then went on to go 2-0 with a 2.19 in two post-season starts... Ross was also a late contributor for Midland. He spent most of the first four months of the season with Stockton, where he went 5-6 with a 4.17 ERA. Ross jumped into the Rockhounds' rotation in late July and went 5-4 with a 3.96 ERA in nine starts, including one complete game. He was brilliant during the post-season for Midland, going 1-0 with a 1.46 ERA in 12.1 innings. Ross allowed only seven hits, three walks and he struck-out 19 in two starts.
With the 2009 minor league season finally in the books, it is time for us to bestow our awards on the best individual performances for 2009. In the first of our series, we hand out the awards for the top players and pitchers for the Oakland A's Double-A and Triple-A affiliates.
We name our players and pitchers of the year for Sacramento and Midland.
Patterson was a star for Sacramento.