The Stockton Ports’ 2017 season was filled with peaks and valleys, but a late surge earned the Oakland A’s High-A affiliate a spot in the playoffs and pushed them to a winning record for the season at 71-69.
The Ports were dominant at home during the first season of the new Cal League, eight-team schedule. Stockton went 44-26 at Banner Island Ballpark and only 27-43 on the road. The Ports would lose in the semi-final round of the Cal League playoffs in a three-game sweep at the hands of the eventual champion Modesto Nuts.
Manager Rick Magnante’s club began the season with a star-studded rotation that included all of the A’s top three picks in the 2016 draft. By mid-season, injury and promotion had removed all three from the rotation, although Logan Shore did return for the stretch run. The Ports finished the first half 36-34, but went into a slump to start the second half. They rallied during the final month of the season and finished the second half 35-35 and in the post-season.
Led by sluggers Brett Siddall and Seth Brown, the Ports finished third in the Cal League in runs scored with 717 (4.48 per game). Stockton was second in the league in homers with 156 and third in walks with 486. They also finished third in the league in strike-outs with 1,332. The Ports didn’t have a lot of team speed in 2017, finishing second-to-last in stolen bases and triples.
On the mound, the Ports were fifth in the league in team ERA with a 4.33 mark. They were third in the league in strike-outs (1,270) and they issued the second-fewest walks (386). Stockton pitchers combined to throw the most shutouts in the league (11). The longball was a problem all season and the Ports gave up 140 homeruns, second-most in the league.
Siddall and clubhouse manager Vic Zapien were the two members of the Ports to land on the post-season Cal League All-Star team.
The Stockton offense featured two of the most productive hitters in the league this year in Brett Siddall and Seth Brown. Siddall finished third in the league in OPS with an 861 mark and Brown led the league in homeruns (30) and RBI (109).
Siddall began the year as a part-time player and he hit only .236 during the month of April. Siddall’s slump continued into May, but he began to turn things around in mid-May and then was scorching hot in June and July. He posted an OPS above 1000 for those two months and homered 12 times. Siddall played hurt the final month of the season after fouling a ball off of his leg, but he still finished the year with an impressive .300/.365/.495 line with 21 homers and 68 RBI in 117 games.
Brown was up-and-down the first four months of the season before his production skyrocketed in August and September. Through the end of July, Brown was batting .244 with 15 homeruns. By the end of the season, he had raised his average to .270 and had doubled his season homerun total. During one stretch, he homered 10 times in 14 games. Brown’s 109 RBI are the most in a single season in Ports’ franchise history. He was named the team MVP at the end of the year.
Another player who finished strong was Eli White, who got off to a fast start, and then slumped while battling an elbow injury before finishing on an up note. White hit .322 with a 961 OPS in August. For the season, White hit .270/.342/.395 in 115 games. He played much of the year with a bone spur in his right elbow. White was the only Ports’ player to eclipse double-digits in stolen bases (he had 12) and he finished second on the team in triples with six. A natural shortstop, White showed good range at the position but struggled with his throwing (the elbow injury likely contributed to those struggles). With the A’s looking at a crowded depth chart at short, Oakland moved White to the outfield late in the 2017 season. He is continuing to get work out in centerfield during fall Instructs and is likely to see the majority of his playing time in the outfield moving forward.
Mikey White – no relation – is also a shortstop who was moved around the field with Stockton. The A’s 2015 second-round pick played 22 games at short and 75 at third, while also seeing time at second and first. After struggling with Stockton in 2016, White had a solid comeback season at the plate in 2017. He hit a career-high 17 homeruns and drove-in 70 while posting a .261/.331/.457 line in 115 games. White hit .283 with an 825 OPS during the second half of the season.
After struggling with injuries in 2016, Skye Bolt joined the two Whites, Brown and Siddall as the only Ports’ players to appear in more than 100 games. Bolt, who logged a career-high 114 games played, was a mid-season All-Star and he flashed considerable tools during the season. For the year, he hit .243/.327/.435 with 15 homers and 53 walks. Bolt’s plate discipline waivered a bit in August, but he was generally a tough out all season, seeing a high number of pitches. He stole only nine bases in 17 chances, but Bolt’s above-average speed was frequently on display in the outfield. He was the league’s top defensive centerfielder and routinely made major league caliber plays for Stockton.
Bolt’s college teammate at North Carolina, Tyler Ramirez, was arguably the team’s most productive hitter for the first half of the season. In 76 games with Stockton, he hit .301/.399/.434 with seven homers and 45 walks. Ramirez earned a mid-season promotion to Double-A Midland, where he continued to post outstanding numbers (.308/.395/.428 in 58 games). Ramirez did a bit of everything for the Ports offensively and defensively he played a solid outfield, seeing time at all three positions. Ramirez will continue to test his skills this month in the Arizona Fall League.
Joining Ramirez in the Arizona Fall League and as a mid-season promotion from Stockton to Midland was catcher Sean Murphy. Murphy missed three weeks early in the season with a wrist injury, but he was extremely valuable to the Ports during the 45 games he did play with the team. At the plate, Murphy hit .297/.343/.527 with nine homers. Behind the plate, Murphy was a skilled receiver who did an excellent job blocking balls in the dirt, calling games and throwing out base-runners (33% caught-stealing rate). Murphy’s offensive numbers dipped with Midland, but his defense was a big part of their Texas League title run.
Infielder Sheldon Neuse had a similarly significant impact in a short period of time with the Ports. Acquired in the Sean Doolittle / Ryan Madson deal with the Washington Nationals in July, Neuse appeared in only 22 games with the Ports but he made his mark. He had a walk-off hit in his first game with the team and continued from there, batting .386/.457/.675 with seven homers and 22 RBI before earning a promotion to Midland. Neuse continued to rake for the RockHounds and will also be participating in the Arizona Fall League. While with Stockton, Neuse split his time defensively between shortstop and third base. He showed nimble feet and a strong arm at both positions.
For most of the first half of the season, the Ports were without slugging first baseman Sandber Pimentel, who was battling back problems. He played in only eight games the first half of the year, but he got healthy the second half and was productive at the plate for Stockton. In 62 second-half games, Pimentel hit .287/.384/.505 with 14 homeruns and 33 walks.
Chris Iriart was the Ports’ primary first baseman during the first half of the season, but injury kept Iriart out for most of the second half. He appeared in only 58 games with Stockton, hitting .203/.270/.386 with 10 homeruns.
After missing all of the 2016 season with a shoulder injury, Branden Cogswell returned to Stockton in 2017. He logged 71 games in two separate stints with the Ports, separated by a stretch with Midland mid-season. Cogswell was productive at the plate for the Ports, batting .282 with a .362 OBP in 255 at-bats. His K:BB was 48:34. Cogswell spent most of his playing time at second base, although he did log 13 games at third and two at first.
At the start of the season, Josh Vidales was the Ports everyday second baseman. He played well defensively for the Ports but struggled at the plate, hitting .206. After being sent to the Midwest League on July 12, Vidales hit much better with Low-A Beloit, batting .256 with a .346 OBP and a 1:1 K:BB.
Taking Vidales’ place at second with Stockton was Nate Mondou, who began the year with Beloit. He gave the Stockton offense a boost from the top of the line-up, hitting .278 with a .362 OBP in 59 games for the Ports. Mondou hit the first two homeruns of his career while with Stockton.
The Ports saw some similar personnel shifting behind the plate, as well. Santiago Chavez spent the entire season with the Ports, sharing time first with Murphy and then with Argenis Raga. Chavez appeared in 52 games and hit .192 but did a good job defensively. Raga began the year with Midland but flipped spots with Murphy mid-season. Raga appeared in 47 games with the Ports and hit .259/.313/.438 with six homeruns.
The Stockton Opening Day rotation was star-studded, featuring top prospects A.J. Puk, Logan Shore, Daulton Jefferies, Brett Graves, Casey Meisner, Evan Manarino, Dustin Hurlbutt and Angel Duno. Of that group, only Duno would spend the entire season on the Ports’ roster.
The Ports’ rotation opened the year with an eight-man tandem set-up, but Jefferies’ elbow injury in April and subsequent Tommy John surgery set in motion a number of changes that would put an end to a number of the tandems. Not long after Jefferies went down, Graves earned a promotion to Midland after only seven appearances (24.2 innings).
Duno led the Ports’ pitching staff with 140 innings pitched. The next closest on that list was Manarino, who threw 103 innings for the Ports. Duno’s season was a mixed bag. He threw a lot of strikes and even recorded strike-outs at a decent clip for the first time in his career. He posted a solid 126:26 K:BB. However, he was hit hard, allowing 187 hits and 25 homeruns, leading to a 5.40 ERA. He also hit 10 batters.
Manarino also had an up-and-down year. He dominated early in the season, posting a 3.21 ERA and a 41:3 K:BB in 47.2 innings. However, after a one-month stint with Midland during which he struggled, Manarino failed to recapture his early season dominance in a return to the Ports. In 55.1 second-half innings, Manarino had a 6.34 ERA, although his K:BB remained excellent at 52:8.
After spending part of 2015 and all of 2016 with Stockton, Meisner finally conquered the Cal League in his third time through. In 74.2 innings, the right-hander had a 3.98 ERA and an 80:20 K:BB. He earned a promotion to Double-A in late June and would spend the rest of the season in the RockHounds’ rotation.
Hurlbutt joined Meisner in his late June promotion to Midland. The right-hander was outstanding for the Ports, posting a 3.23 ERA in 69.2 innings. He struck-out 74 and walked 16. In his last start with Stockton, Hurlbutt threw eight scoreless innings against Modesto. He pitched well the second half of the season for Midland but finished the year on the DL with a right shoulder strain.
Shore found himself on the DL for the first time in his career, dating back to high school, when he injured a lat muscle in mid-May start. That injury cost Shore two months with Stockton, but he was effective for the Ports down-the-stretch. Shore finished the year with a 4.09 ERA and a 74:16 K:BB in 72.2 innings. He allowed 81 hits, but only five homeruns. He will get back some of those missed innings this fall in the Arizona Fall League.
Despite throwing only 61 innings for the Ports, Puk finished second on the team in strike-outs with 98. He was dominant in his half-season with Stockton, holding opposing batters to a .196 average and allowing only one homerun. His ERA was 3.69, but he pitched better than that number would indicate. In the three starts before he was promoted to Midland, Puk struck-out 29 in 16.1 innings pitched.
With Puk, Meisner and Hurlbutt in Midland, Dalton Sawyer and Brendan Butler took on a heavy workload the second half of the season. Sawyer began the year in Beloit and he made two spot starts with Triple-A Nashville before settling in with the Ports. In 66 innings with Stockton, Sawyer had a 3.68 ERA and a 74:20 K:BB.
Butler started off strong with Beloit, posting a 2.32 ERA in 54.1 innings before earning a promotion to Stockton. The right-hander was excellent during his first three starts with Stockton, but he struggled after that, posting a 7.84 ERA in his final 11 outings. He finished the year with a 6.21 ERA and a 51:30 K:BB in 58 innings for the Ports.
Boomer Biegalski, Norge Ruiz and Brandon Bailey got the majority of the rest of the Stockton starts. Biegalski got off to a slow start this season, posting an ERA of 5.79 in April and 7.32 in May. He pitched well in June (3.50 ERA) but he missed all of July and most of August with an injury. The good news is that Biegalski returned in late August and made two excellent appearances to go into the off-season on an up note. In total, he finished the season with a 5.12 ERA in 51 innings.
Ruiz joined the Ports on June 30 after stints with the DSL A’s and the AZL A’s. The native of Cuba had an eventful stint with the Ports, which included a suspension for putting an illegal substance on a ball. He made eight starts for the Ports and pitched well in most of them, but his ERA took a big hit when he allowed eight runs in three innings on Aug. 15. He would land on the DL the next week and didn’t return. Ruiz was supposed to pitch in the Arizona Fall League, but he was a late scratch with an elbow strain. He finished his stint with Stockton with a 5.71 ERA and a 24:12 K:BB in 34.2 innings.
Bailey spent the first half of the season with Beloit, where he had a 2.68 ERA in 57 innings. He joined the Ports’ rotation on July 1. Bailey missed three weeks with a groin strain, but in 34 innings with Stockton, he struck-out 47 and walked only 10. Opposing batters hit .217 against him. He had a 4.24 ERA, but a 1.12 WHIP. For the season, he struck-out 120 in only 91 innings pitched.
The Stockton bullpen was led all season by closer Nolan Blackwood. He led the team with 44 appearances and 57 relief innings. The submariner saved 19 games and posted a 3.00 ERA in 57 innings. He had a 48:18 K:BB and a 3.00 GO/AO. Blackwood will be pitching in the Arizona Fall League.
Right-hander Joey Wagman was second on the team with 37 appearances. Wagman had a 3.79 ERA the first half of the season, but he struggled during the second half, posting a 5.45 ERA. For the season, he had a 4.86 ERA and a 48:31 K:BB in 53.2 innings.
Jared Lyons alternated good months and bad months this season. His month-by-month ERAs went 2.16, 5.84, 0.87, 8.10 and 3.86. The left-hander finished the year with a 4.63 ERA and a 47:22 K:BB in 46.2 innings.
After spending most of last season with Stockton, Kyle Friedrichs began the year with Midland. A rough first half saw Friedrichs head back to Stockton, where he became a valuable member of the Ports’ second-half pitching staff. In 54.1 innings, Friedrichs had a 2.98 ERA and a 42:12 K:BB. Cal League batters hit only .218 against him.
Right-hander Armando Ruiz and left-hander Andrew Tomasovich were also workhorses out of the Stockton bullpen after joining the Ports midway through the year. Ruiz began the season in Extended Spring Training and joined Stockton on June 2. He threw 44.1 innings for the Ports, posting a 4.87 ERA and a 46:19 K:BB.
Tomasovich began the season with Beloit, but after six scoreless appearances, he joined the Stockton bullpen. The left-hander missed three weeks with injury, but he still racked up 34.1 innings. He had a 4.72 ERA and a 42:18 K:BB.
Late in the season, the A’s sent Brandon Marsonek – an undrafted free agent signing – to help the Ports’ depleted bullpen. The left-hander became a valuable member of the Ports’ bullpen. In 22.1 innings, he had a 2.82 ERA.
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