In 2017 the Dodgers affiliate in Ogden won their first Pioneer League championship since the Raptors were born in 1994. They were after a repeat championship in 2018 and came oh so close qualifying for a play-off berth with a 26-12 record in the first half of the season. They finished the season with a league best 46-30 record.
However, a second consecutive championship was not to be. They dropped the first game of a three-game play-off 8-5 to the Grand Junction Rockies (Colorado)and evened the series with a 7-5 win in the second game. In the winner-take-all third game the Raptors spotted the Rockies a 6-0 lead in the first two innings. They battled back coming within one run of Grand Junction in the top of the sixth inning but over the next three innings they could not push across the tying run or winning runs. The Great Falls Voyageurs (White Sox) swept the Rockies in two straight games.
The Ogden squad featured two different teams. One, an offensive team that tore the league apart and the other a pitching contingent that all too often got lit up.
The Raptors offensive production was impressive.
- Hits – 798 second
- Doubles – 164 second
- Triples – 36 second
- Batting average – .294 second
- Stolen bases – 99 second
- Home runs – 82 – first
- Runs batted in – 518 first
- Total bases – 1278 first
- Walks – 362 first
- OBP – .384 first
- SLG – .472 first
- OPS – .856 First
On the mound the Raptors struggled all season long with only starter – Jose Chacin- posting a very respectable 2.85 ERA in his 66 innings pitched before moving on the Loons of the Midwest League. The other starters posted ERA’s from 4.91 to 8.24. Overall the pitching staff finished second to last in the league in three significant categories – 5.27 ERA, 394 earned runs, 1.56 WHIP. They were in the middle of the pack with 616 strikeouts and 260 walks allowed.
Manager Jeremy Rodriguez, 28, was in his second year of managing having been with the Loons in 2017. Pitching coach Dean Stiles and hitting coach Dustin Kelly both joined the Raptors out of the college ranks. Stiles had previously coached at San Jose State University while Kelly had been at California Pyrotechnical Sate University. Player favorite Fumimasa Ishibashi was back for a second term with the Raptors after two years with the Loons.
The Raptors again led the Pioneer League in attendance as they have done for the past 22 years.
As mentioned the pitching staff had a difficult season. Several of the pitchers were 22-23 years old and perhaps a bit old for the short season rookie league and to pitch without much success. I had hoped that a pair of 21-year-olds would get a good grounding (no pun intended) this year but they too found the going tough – right-hander Kevin Malisheski (38th round -2016) and left hander Justin Bruihl (undrafted 2017).
Perhaps the best performance by a Raptors pitcher was that of right-hander Orlandy Navarro (19). He posted a 2.35 ERA, mostly in relief, over 23 innings pitched while striking out 24 and walking eight. His WHIP was a solid 0.87 and he finished the season with a pair of starts in which he gave up no earned runs over eight innings pitched. Another right-hander, Elio Serrano (20), posted a WHIP of 1.07 while recording 10 strikeouts and three walks over 15 innings with the Raptors. He had been dominant in relief with the AZL Dodgers over 15 innings. Right-hander Caleb Sampen (20th round – 2018) recorded 43 strikeouts over 30 innings pitched. He walked nine. With the bases empty he allowed no earned runs but struggled with runners in scoring position resulting in a 5.04 ERA.
Where to start with the offense? Several Raptors made their way to the Loons as the season progressed: Miguel Vargas, Drew Avans, Jacob Amaya, Chris Roller, Luke Heyer, Hunter Feduccia, Marcus Chiu.
Raptor hitters took no prisoners when they came to the plate with many having outstanding seasons in addition to the aforementioned Vargas and Amaya.
- Daniel Robinson (OF) – BA .332 (6th), OBP .423 (4th), 50 runs (6th)
- Jeremy Arocho (2B) – BA .313, OBP .401
- Dillon Paulson (1B) – BA .272, OBP .385, 61 RBI (1st), 54 runs (8th), 10 HR (5th), BB 42 (2nd)
- Jeffrey Souffront (3B) – BA .302, OBP .372
- Ronny Brito (SS) – BA .288, OBP .352, HR 11 (4th), 52 RBI (7th)
- Niko Hulsizer (OF) – BA .281, OBP .408, 9 HR (6th), 32 RBI
- James Outman (OF) – BA .264, OBP .350, 11 HR (4th), 50 runs (6th)
- Matt Cogen (OF) – BA .316, OBP .408, OPS 961 (7th), 9 HR (5th), SLG .553 (7th)
Not to be forgotten is 18-year-old Kenneth Betancourt who is listed as a second baseman but has played third base and shortstop. In 135 chances at second base in his two-year career he has made one error. He hit .279 with the Raptors in 22 games after hitting .313 in 22 games with the AZL Dodgers. He is participating in the Dodgers Fall Instructional League.
Since I am partial to catchers, look for a pair of 20-year-olds to emerge in 2019. Ramon Rodriguez should rebound after being overmatched with the Loons and having to return to the Raptors Marco Hernandez hit .325 in 13 games with the Loons so his sample size is small but he has shown steady growth since 2016 in the DSL. Both are attending the Fall Instructional League as is Tre Todd the Dodgers 21st selection in the 2018 June draft.
The Dodgers have renewed their player development agreement with Ogden for another two years.