With the former Pacific Coast League to begin play on Thursday, the Sacramento River Cats announced their roster for Opening Day.  To put it mildly, the roster feels unfinished.  The team has 15 pitchers listed, but only five infielders and three outfielders, not including the two catchers listed.  As well, the team is filled almost entirely by free agent signings over the last two seasons.

Here are the rosters, and those prospect ranked by GiantFutures are noted:

Daniel Alvarez
Anthony Banda
Silvino Bracho
Kervin Castro
Tyler Cyr
Luis Gonzalez
Trevor Gott
Scott Kazmir
Dominic Leone
Yunior Marte
Phil Pfeifer
Gregory Santos
Jimmie Sherfy
Nick Tropeano
Shun Yamaguchi

Chadwick Tromp
Fabian Peña
Joey Bart (#2 Overall, #1 Catcher; Added after initial announcement)

Arismendy Alcántara
Justin Bour
Thairo Estrada
Jason Krizan
Mitchell Tolman

Bryce Johnson
Joe McCarthy
Drew Robinson

Joey Bart was named to the team on Wednesday, as he’d been with the big league team when the roster was announced.

The roster in Triple-A will be under the same quarantine rules as the major leagues are, to facilitate movement of players between the two levels.  Players in levels below Triple-A will need to go through a quarantine screening period before they can join either Triple-A or the Majors, which will make movement from the lower levels rare.

Names To Watch:

The Sacramento team is not laden with top prospects, so the easy choice here is Joey Bart, as the top prospect struggled in his major league debut in 2020.  Bart is expected to be given time to develop, and in Triple-A, he’ll be facing a lot of talent that will be going up and down, to and from the majors.  His performance will be important to watch ahead of his return to the big leagues.

On the Pitching side, the obvious names are Gregory Santos and Kervin Castro, with a pre-emptive added mention of another pitcher I expect will be back down soon, Camilo Doval.  None of the three had ever pitched above A-Ball until Doval and Santos were called up in mid-April, both struggling at times in their debuts.  Giants manager Gabe Kapler has already commented on thinking that Santos will be back in the Majors this season, so clearly they think of the three, added to be protected from the December Rule 5 Draft.  They will be the top pitching prospect Sacramento will see this season.

One other name to watch is Drew Robinson.  The outfielder’s story has been told many times by several outlets, best told by ESPN.  I won’t continue to rehash his past, but will try to focus on his present and future.  There’s no denying that being a one-eyed player is rare.  The last player to be in the Majors with one eye was Whammy Douglas in 1957.  See what’s next for him will be inspiring.

Sleeper Prospect(s)

Jimmie Sherfy was one of the team’s many pitching free agent signings, but he could be a key to one of the problems the Giants have been having so far.  The slider specialist has been struggling so far this season, with a 7.94 ERA in 14 games, and having allowed five of the nine inherited runners he’s gotten to score.  Sherfy could come into the bullpen with a different breaking ball, a curve, as his bread and butter and bring some stability the Giants need from the right-handed side of the bullpen.

Biggest Question: Will any players from the lower levels reach Sacramento?

With the 2021 promotion rules in place, moving a player up even from Double-A will necessitate a quarantine period, which severely limits any prospects coming up, and makes relief for injuries nearly impossible.  This is reflected in the current River Cats roster, which is short on both infielders and outfielders, with almost no room to spare.  Some are helping the majors already.  Others, like Jaylin Davis, are injured themselves  Jason Krizan, who played a bit of corner infield in his career, will help provide depth there in the short term.

More likely, I expect Sacramento’s roster to be filled out by other transactions during the season, either via waiver claims or other free agent signings.

But it’ll be interesting to see if any players (Heliot Ramos) from below the Triple-A line force the issue (Heliot Ramos) and force the Giants to risk him losing momentum during the quarantine period (Heliot Ramos).

Wild Card: Will the big league team continue to contend?

I don’t think it’s too far to say that the Giants being in first place by early May has been a surprise among most.  But being a contender can have a big effect on minor league teams.  The longer the Giants contend, the team should be focused on winning “now”.  Sacramento isn’t likely to have any trade fodder, but that could affect how the River Cats roster shakes out.  But, if the Giants fall out of contention, and begin trading away Major League players, Sacramento could get both a big influx of new talent, and see many of the free agents they collected get their big league shots to fill roster spots.