Decision Day is Coming
SF Giants Minor Lines, July 29-31, 2022
T minus 1 day and counting towards the trade deadline. By the time the next minor league series start up on Tuesday night, we’ll know the Giants’ strategy for the rest of the year (and perhaps a headstart into the winter’s tale, and we’ll know who has departed the system or who has joined it. That makes today’s off-day (and long bus ride in some cases) an angst-filled one for some of the players. No doubt, the next couple of days will unfold in slow motion for some of these kids.
Fasten your seat belts fellas, it could be a bumpy ride!
HITTER of the Weekend: Andrew Knapp (Sac), 5 for 12, 3 HR (8), 2b (9), 4 R, 6 RBI, BB
PITCHER of the Weekend: Keaton Winn (Eug) 6.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 10 K
It’s time for another “Lessons Learned Monday: Trade Deadline Version!” Let’s scour the weekend’s action to see what insights we can glean for the season going forward.
One thing we’ve always known — it’s more fun to root for kids that grow up Giants’ fans!
(Secondary lesson, apparently I was far too reticent about asking for pictures with players when I was a tyke!)
Today’s There R Giants post is a special Free For All post. There aren’t many of these, so if you like what you see, why not subscribe for more Giants’ prospect-related content?
Sacramento lost series @ Round Rock Express (Texas), 2-4
Lesson #1: Thin at the 6
The Giants went into this season notably thin in upper minors depths at two crucial positions: catcher and shortstop. The high priority that the Giants place on roster flexibility and options, combined with Mauricio Dubón’s inability to grab and hold a spot on the roster the last couple of years, led to a situation where the team’s starting 2b was also their only backup at short — a tenuous position at best. The Donovan Walton deal — which has some small chance (not a big one obviously, but a non-negligible one) to turn into this front office’s version of Luis Castillo for Casey McGehee — did nothing to alleviate the situation. And now, with both Walton and the rising Will Wilson out with injuries in the minors and Brandon Crawford on the major league IL, Thairo Estrada has been for weeks essentially the one and only healthy shortstop on the Giants 40 man roster or in the upper minors. That all ended Saturday night when Estrada took a scary pitch to the head, forcing the Giants into scramble mode. The primary shortstop for Sacramento this year has been Arquimedes Gamboa, who has a fairly strong reputation as a defender but is a career .220 hitter in the minor leagues (all of which had been spent below Triple A prior to this year). Very Brian Bocockish. Getting somebody who could at least resemble a major league bat was necessary.
As Isan Diaz continues to pound the ball in Sacramento, it was natural that some fans were hoping that he would be the answer to the current shortstop crisis. Diaz has been a strong defender at 2b this year for the River Cats, and his bat is definitely one the Giants want to take a look at in the second half. Though Diaz is athletic, he’s not terribly rangy and has always been looked at as more of a 2b than a SS. He has played a handful of games at short for Sacramento this year, but prior to that, hadn’t played the position at all since 2017, and he’s never played shortstop in the majors. In addition, with the Dodgers bringing four straight LHP to their series this week, the left-handed hitting Diaz wasn’t considered a fit for the immediate need.
The Giants, somewhat desperate to plug someone into their lineup who could provide at least a stable glove at the position for a few days, were able to acquire Dixon Machado from the club in the other locker room. The former Detroit Tiger will man the position until Crawford is ready to come back. For an organization that prides itself on stockpiling depth, it really has been a depth-challenged year this season. In return for Machado, the Giants sent River Cats starter Raynel Espinal to Chicago, which means Sacramento will be doing some scrambling to fill innings the next couple of months.
Despite not being the answer at short, Diaz will continue to intrigue the Giants (and their fans) thanks to the power potential in his bat. Diaz had a huge weekend in Round Rock, going 3 for 8 with two more home runs, two walks, three runs and three RBI. He now has 20 HR on the season.
Lesson #2: The Problems are Deeper than the Major League Roster
Prior to all the shortstop drama, I took to twitter on Saturday morning to note that 2022 has been a disappointing season for the Giants organization in more ways than just the big league club’s under-performance. If you want, you can read my entire thread here:
In essence, my point was that the Giants are suffering through what two years ago would have been considered their worst case scenario. Not only is the big club driving fans crazy, but more importantly, the long term goal of producing a sustainable winning culture fed by constant nourishment from the farm system has had some major setbacks. That was true last year as well, but the extraordinary “Better than Best Case Scenario” that played out in San Francisco hid it for a bit.
When Farhan Zaidi took over the direction of the club in the winter of 2019, he inherited a rising farm system that had acquired a healthy collection of high ceiling prospects the previous summer. That first year, many of those talents blossomed spectacularly, and as they had another top 10 pick in the draft, the perception of the farm system began to grow appreciably. It’s been considered a Top 10, or at least Top 15 system for most of the last two or three years.
But since the lost season of 2020, there have been a series of setbacks. Many transactions this season have been the direct result of the failure of some of their upper level prospects to develop as hoped. Yermin Mercedes is now taking at bats that the club had hoped Heliot Ramos would seize, for instance, and that transposition has a lot to do with the lack of youth and athleticism in the Giants’ OF this season. Obviously, Joey Bart’s development has been a major story this season. To a much lesser degree, Sean Hjelle, too, hasn’t quite given the team what they might have hoped for. (Hjelle started for Sacramento on Sunday, allowing six runs, two earned, in four innnings, walking three and striking out three — all of which is a very standard line for him in Triple A this year).
Beyond the failures to get their upper minors prospects over the final hump, the team has dealt with some truly concerning failure to produce at even the lower levels from their first three 1st round picks — Hunter Bishop, Patrick Bailey, and Will Bednar, all of whom have performed much lower than expected in A ball and have gotten dismal reviews from scouts. The news hasn’t been much better for their second rounders, though 2020 2nd round pick Casey Schmitt has been a notable exception and 2019 3rd rounder Grant McCray is having an excellent year. On the international front, Marco Luciano’s progress has been steady, but slowed by injuries, while his fellow top signings Jairo Pomares and Luis Matos have had incredibly disappointing seasons. In a year that’s been disappointing from top to bottom, Matos’ struggles are maybe the bitterest pill of all. As the org has tried to help him move to a new level of offensive production, it seems he’s gotten stuck in the transition between two different styles of hitting, and now can’t find his way to either one of them. Nothing that’s happened this year is more shocking than seeing Matos hitting .176 two-thirds of the way through the season.
Injuries have been part of the story, of course, and the loss of the 2020 season hangs over much of this — but that’s a loss that the other 29 clubs and their prospects had to deal with as well. As every coach and player tells me constantly when I talk with them, this is a results-based industry, and this year the results haven’t been there for an alarming percentage of the organization.
As I put it on twitter:
Maybe a year from now — Harrison in the majors, Luciano thriving in the upper minors, some turnarounds peaking over the horizon — this will all look like just a normal blip of randomness. Development isn’t linear and progress can come in fits and starts and weird reversals. But for right now, four years into the process, the goal of a conveyor belt of talent refreshing a sustainably successful big league roster appears to be no closer than it did in 2019.
Lesson #3: Expect to see Andrew Knapp
Andrew Knapp seems to be extremely happy to be coming home! Since joining the Giants organization, the Roseville native, and long time former big leaguer, has been on fire, going 11 for 27. In just one week with the club, Knapp tied a Sacramento franchise record, homering in four straight games.
A switch-hitter, Knapp has provided power from both sides, going deep three times as a right-hander and once as a lefty. Over the weekend, he went 5 for 12 with four extra-base hits.
On Sunday, Knapp shared the lineup with the rehabbing Curt Casali (who caught three innings of the game, the second time he’s played defensively for Sacramento). That might be a tandem we see more of in the second half. While Bart has looked better since returning from his brief sojourn to the minors, that better version of him has still hit just .236 with a .276 OBP and a 38% K rate over 58 PA this month. With the Giants still sitting on the periphery of the playoff position, the catching position offers clear upgrade potential. I wouldn’t be overly shocked to see both Casali and Knapp come up at some point in the near future to take over for the final push, while Bart continues to try to hone his swing in a less pressurized situation.
Richmond lost series vs Somerset Patriots (Yankees), 1-4
Sunday’s Game was Canceled by Rain (it will not be made up)
Lesson #1: Expect to See Strict Workload Management Going Forward
For the second straight outing Friday night, Kyle Harrison went three innings before calling it a night. Harrison wasn’t terribly sharp in the game, walking three batters on a wet, sticky summer night, and throwing barely half of his pitches for strikes. But this wasn’t a case where the pitch count got him. The plan going in was for Harrison to have another short start. And we’ll likely see more of those shorter starts, leading to a slow build towards the end of the season.
This isn’t just a plan for the 20-year-old Harrison, by the way. You could see something similar all over the org this weekend. Kai-Wei Teng had a three inning start. Mason Black threw two innings (although both of them did suffer from poor control that drove their pitch counts up). Nick Swiney threw just four. It’s not a universally applied plan (Eric Silva and Keaton Winn both went five innings, for instance), but there does seem to be a specific strategy at work. In Harrison’s case, it’s similar to what the Giants did with him last year, when he threw fewer than four innings in five of seven starts in July and August (going as little as 2 innings in a couple of starts).
We’ve seen the Giants all year be pretty conservative with their usage of pitchers — building them up very slowly and then giving many of the A ball starters a skipped turn in the middle of the year to get a blow. This would seem to be a further variation of that extreme precaution with workload. It’s not a universally appreciated strategy though, as you can see from this comment from former Player Development Assistant Director Eric Flemming.
Over the long haul, we’ll see how well this works at developing starting pitching. In the meanwhile, enjoy a gorgeous slider from Kyle.
And maybe a few more swing and misses at the fastball as well, from top Yankees prospect Anthony Volpe:
Lesson #2: Squirrels’ Bullpen Has a Lot of Appealing Pieces
In Saturday night’s extra-innings loss, the Richmond pitching staff made some history:
A pretty incredible feat! But maybe more incredible was the string of pitchers coming out of Richmond’s bullpen to help accomplish it: Randy Rodriguez, Nick Avila, Cole Waites, Blake Rivera, Clay Helvey, and Ryan Walker collectively struck out 15 of those hitters and allowed just one earned run over eight innings of work. Rodriguez came into a complete mess after Teng loaded the bases with no outs (HB, BB, BB), and proceeded to strike out three consecutive batters to escape from the jam. Rodriguez hasn’t quite had the same explosive stuff he showed last year — he’s a player who was badly hurt by being added to the 40-man immediately before the lockout began, preventing the Giants from communicating with him during the offseason and getting him into camp nearly six weeks later than his minor league teammates. But he still has an incredibly loose arm and a lively, biting slider.
What’s amazing about the Saturday night game is that all six of those relievers are legitimate big league pieces coming one after another out of a Double A bullpen. Not all of them are slam dunk big leaguers — but Waites and Rodriguez almost certainly are, and scouts are pretty effusive regarding the funky looks that Avila and Walker bring. Rivera and Helvey both have a legitimate big league offering in their curve balls which they pair with mid-90s fastballs.
Incredibly, Saturday night’s game didn’t even exhaust the potential for big league options in the Squirrels pen, as Chris Wright was not used, and of course R.J. Dabovich has moved on up. Developing big league relief pitchers isn’t the sexiest part of prospect development — but it’s very necessary to big league success. And, given my comments above about the things that have gone wrong this year, it’s certainly important to celebrate the things that go right as well. Development of relief arms is absolutely something that’s going right this year in the system.
Lesson #3: Second Half Blues
Manager Dennis Pelfrey pushed back at me earlier this week when I suggested the second half wasn’t off to the kind of start the team hoped for, but the numbers are definitely backing me up. The playoff bound Squirrels are just 8-18 to start the second half, including just two wins in their last 10 games. Just one team in the league has a worse run differential than their -37 runs in the second half — the lowly Binghamton Mets, who are also the only team with a worse record.
Richmond is struggling with some injuries at this point, with Frankie Tostado gone for awhile and Sean Roby also on the IL. At the beginning of the season, I (and I imagine many Giants officials) believed this team would be receiving a big jolt of young talent in the second half with Harrison, Luciano and Matos, among others, moving up by now. The Harrison part has gone exceedingly well, but he forgot to bring his fellow 20-year-olds along, for various reasons. Now with team leader Shane Matheny getting a highly deserved promotion to Sacramento, they’re going to have to figure out a way to rally over the final two months.
Eugene won series vs Hillsboro Hops (D’backs), 5-1
It’s been a good year in Eugene so far!
Lesson #1: The Giants Think Casey Schmitt Still Has More Development to Do at A Ball Level
Continuing that last note from above, Richmond’s team has lost several infielders over the past 10 days, which conceivably opened up an opportunity to promote Casey Schmitt to Double A after an outstanding first four months in High A. That the organization tabbed Carter Aldrete to move up to replace Tostado on the Richmond roster wasn’t particularly eyebrow-raising. Aldrete is older, was repeating the High A level, and has put together a tremendous season himself. But when the org responded to Matheny’s promotion by moving Riley Mahan up to Richmond, the subtext was pretty readable: they don’t think Schmitt is quite ready for the next level.
Mahan, signed out of Indy ball earlier this year, has Double A experience in both 2019 and 2021, so they could reasonably assume he’d be ready to fill in on a roster that was stretched thin. But turning to a player signed to fill roster holes in the org rather than their second round pick from 2020 was pretty clearly a move that was about Schmitt more than it was about Mahan.
I talked with Eric Flemming about some of the considerations that go into these kinds of promotion decisions, and, as you may recall, he said that when it comes to deciding a big time prospect is ready, there are often a lot of different viewpoints within the organization, and the conversations behind the scenes can go on for weeks.
The conversation on Schmitt is, no doubt, ongoing, but for now, at least, the decision was to let him continue to develop his game at the High A level. While he’s shown an excellent all around offensive game in the Northwest League this year, his chase rate and strikeout rate have both been up a bit. There’s still more chase on breaking balls out of the zone than you’d like to see — there are small things to work on as far as the quality of plate appearances go.
That’s not to suggest that Schmitt isn’t having a breakout year — he definitely is. He’s been one of the bright spots of the organization this year. It’s just to note, once again, that each level has its challenges, its purpose, and its lessons to teach, and it’s not such a bad thing to let Schmitt fully master them before moving him on to the next ones. Especially after the bitter ending to his 2021 season, maybe leaving him in Eugene to experience success for the full season (and possibly get the post-season experience that he was forced to miss in San Jose) isn’t such a bad idea.
Lesson #2: What to Make of Vaun Brown?
First, let’s update the 30/30 Counter. On Saturday night, Vaun Brown blasted a Grand Slam for his 21st HR of the season. To go with 35 stolen bases already on his record, that puts him just nine away from the first 30/30 season in the Giants’ minor league system since a teenaged José Cardenal turned the trick twice, way back in 1961 and 1963.
The Giants’ 10th round pick from the 2021 draft, Brown has been something of a divisive pop up prospect this year based on two elements of his stat line: his age and his K rate. Any time I post something about Brown on twitter, I can close my laptop confident in the knowledge that I will receive a plethora of replies along the lines of: “BUT HE’S 24!!!!!!!!!!!!!” or “BUT HE STRIKES OUT A LOT!!!!!” or usually something snarkier than that.
Both of those things are true. And it’s undoubtedly true that it’s not easy to find a lot of 24-year-olds with 30% K rates in A ball who turn into quality big leaguers. Even scouts I talk to who absolutely love Brown’s tools will admit that the one thing that bothers them about him is the potential for swing and miss — at fastballs at the top of the zone or breaking balls down. If he weren’t already an advanced age for these levels, you might say that he has time to gain the reps and pitch recognition needed, and you wouldn’t worry that he’s succeeding thanks to his advanced strength and physicality — a literal man among boys.
And, on the other hand, it’s become much harder to know what to make of strikeout rates because the quality of pitching, even at lower levels, has caused them to explode everywhere in the game. The average strikeout rate in the Northwest League this year is 27%! In the Cal League it’s 25%. That definitely throws history out the window.
Probably, we just aren’t going to know what to make of Brown until he gets into higher levels more appropriate for his age. But he’s not a guy who is thriving merely by being more experienced. His college experience was at a fairly low level of competition, and, of course, it was interrupted by COVID, which wiped out much of his development time on campus. He has legitimate 70 grade tools in both power and speed, and despite the odd shape to his career so far, offers the real possibility of major league upside. Double A will tell us much about Mr. Brown, when he gets there.
Lesson #3: What to Make of Luis Toribio
I suppose these aren’t really “lessons learned” when we can’t really figure out what the lesson is. In Brown’s case, his .338 batting average and 1.039 OPS is dragged down by concerns about age and whiff rate. With 21-year-old Luis Toribio, the age and level are in full alignment, which should make the explosion of his power a tremendously exciting development. Toribio’s always had excellent raw power, but until this year, it just hadn’t shown up in games very much. Well, considered it fully “shown!”
Toribio has always been a patient hitter (his 14% walk rate this year is on par with his 15% rates at the last two levels), but last year, that patience often got him into trouble, putting him at the mercy of pitchers with nasty putaway pitches they could use when they got him to two strikes. This season, we’ve seen Toribio change from “patient” to “patiently aggressive.” He’s much more comfortable going after pitches he can smoke early in the count and the result has been an eruption of his power.
Despite all of this, however, it’s still a little unclear what to make of his season, thanks to — yet again — an elevated K rate (32%) and, even worse, a batting average that persists in lingering near the .200 line. Even with all of his progress over the past two months, the average is still just .211, and while we know that average isn’t necessarily the most informative number for big leaguers, it has a very strong history of being an important indicator for minor leaguers. Guys who don’t hit for high averages in the lower minors almost never are able hit enough to succeed at the upper levels.
The good part of all of this is that Toribio has often gotten solid scouting reports for his hit tool. In addition, we are clearly seeing a transition in his approach at the plate, and there’s reason to hope that that transition has more gears in it, and we’re just seeing the beginning of his metamorphosis. One other very encouraging aspect of Toribio’s weekend was that he started each of the three games at 3b. The demands that are placed on the bat are extreme as a 1b-only prospect, but a player who can offer some defensive versatility can succeed without having their bat reach its 90th percentile development outcome. Toribio spent most of 2021 at 1b in deference to Schmitt’s defensive wizardry, and the start of 2022 was much the same — he appeared at the hot corner just once over the season’s first three months. But he’s been putting in work at 3b all along, and in July he’s appeared there more frequently. With Aldrete moved up and Schmitt continuing to man shortstop in Luciano’s absence, Toribio is getting his chance to prove he can handle the corner. He’s started at 3b in six of his past seven games. That’s a big step in the right direction for a guy who I guess we can now refer to as a “slugger.”
I don’t know if this is a “lesson learned,” but it’s fun to watch Matos show off his defensive skills on this true home run stealing web gem! Maybe the lesson here is: seasons aren’t all one thing or another. They are made up of both success and failure. And while Matos’ bat has had a frustrating season, he’s made real progress as a defender.
Also, I can’t leave out Keaton Winn’s sensational start entirely! The power-armed righty coming back from Tommy John surgery had his finest outing of the year. He went six innings for the first time this season, allowed just one run, and reached double digit strikeouts for the first time! Winn is yet another rising Rule 5 decision with a big arm and, hopefully, a nice future ahead of him. And that high 80s splitter/slider combo is straight nasty!
San Jose won series vs. Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (Dodgers) 4-2
Lesson #1: There’s Some Streakiness to Grant McCray’s Game!
On Saturday night, Grant McCray was installed in the third spot in the lineup for the first time all season. Whether it was his desire to prove his bonafides as a run-producing middle of the order bat, or it was just one of those nights, the result of the move was a 4K night — the full sombrero. On Sunday, McCray was moved back to his traditional leadoff spot, but the whiffs followed him home as he struck out four more times. That’s right! Back to back sombreros!
Which means, within the confines of this one series with the Quakes, McCray had a streak in which he picked up 10 hits in 15 ABs and a streak in which he failed to put a ball in play eight times in nine at bats (there was one walk on Sunday!).
McCray has been one of the most pleasant success stories of the year on the farm, and definitely qualifies as the biggest up arrow prospect in the system. But there’s no doubt that his dynamic presence has come with some streakiness. McCray has had at least three strikeouts in 15 of his 86 games played this year, topped by a 5K performance on June 10th in Lake Elsinore. Keeping the high impact elements of his game, while toning down the high variance elements of his game, will be the next development hurdle for the über-talented McCray to leap.
Lesson #2: Eric Silva Has His Groove Back
Going into the break, Eric Silva looked like a tired young 19-year-old. Between June 1 and July 15, he posted a 7.43 ERA, allowing 26 hits, 15 walks, and a whopping five home runs in just 26.2 IP. But since the mini-break, he’s once again looked like the April version of himself, throwing darts with all of his pitches, getting whiffs on his hopping fastball at the top of the zone, and breaking batters down with his slider/curve combo.
In his last two starts, he’s gone five innings each time, allowing just three runs on three hits. He’s struck out 14 and walked just three. Everything has been working. On Saturday night, Silva allowed a hit to the game’s first batter and then locked it down the rest of the way, retiring the final 14 batters of the night. Silva’s fastball sat 93-95, and both breaking balls were working well, giving the hitters fits with their significantly disparate shapes. It was the kind of outing that makes you think Silva is one of the top 5-7 prospects in this system, and another of the happier development success stories of the year.
One of my “second half storylines” to follow was how well Silva held up through the conclusion of his first full season. The last two outings have been just about everything I could have hoped for. Keep it up, Eric!
Lesson #3: Melvin Adon is on the Comeback Trail
There have been a lot of rehab appearances on the farm this year, a lot of older guys trying to comeback. Just this week, we saw Jorge Guzman work his way up to Double A as he attempts to make a return to the big leagues.
But I don’t want to lose sight of what Melvin Adon is doing. The Giants #12 prospect prior to the 2019 season, Adon is one of the original fireballers of the system — throwing 103 back when 100 was really something special! In the winter of 2020, he suffered a serious arm injury in his first appearance in the Dominican Winter League — an injury so traumatic that he appeared to crumple in pain after releasing a pitch. And since then, it’s been a year and a half of long, lonely rehab. Strength training, conditioning, the perpetual work of trying to build back strength in a once-upon-a-time Adonis-like shoulder.
Finally, this summer, he was able to get back on a field for the first time since 2019, and the results have been promising:
They haven’t been scintillating — in San Jose he has allowed three unearned runs and walked three batters to just two strikeouts (Ritzo’s numbers in the above tweet include his games in the complex league) — but when you haven’t been on a mound in a real game in more than two years, promising has got to seem like sweet victory. Adon was on the verge of a big league career after reaching Triple A and absolutely dominating in the Arizona Fall League in 2018. Let’s hope that dream is still within his reach.
Arizona Complex League
Since we’re taking stock of things in today’s edition, stock on the rookie leagues looks like it’s down this year, as none of the squads have really produced any breakout players, and it doesn’t appear likely that there will be any Giants ACL players pushing for “League’s Best Prospect” lists. There are some interesting arm strength kids, like Gerelmi Maldonado, and some long-term pitchability guys to follow, like Mikell Manzano. Of the position players, there are some other long-term projects types of interest — Onil Perez, Mauricio Pierre, Diego Velasquez, Anthony Rodriguez — but nobody is exactly bursting onto the scene the way that Arteaga did, for instance, last year. Of course, that’s all prior to the draft class showing up and that talented group of arms could change the picture somewhat. For now, it’s a muted success on the complex so far.
One guy who is doing his best to escape gravity and shoot into the prospect sky is the toolsy P.J. Hilson, who is having the best sustained success of his pro career. With four more hits, including two doubles, over the two weekend games, Hilson put the finishing touches on a tremendous month of July in which he hit .343/.415/.685. That’s good! Hilson did still strike out 28% of the time even during this stretch. Improving his swing decisions is still an important hurdle waiting in front of him, but he’s cleaned up his swing path since I saw him last year, and has really been impacting the ball. Fourteen of his 25 hits in July have gone for extra bases. He also was a perfect 5 for 5 at SB attempts.
Velasquez also had a solid weekend, with two hits, two walks, a Sac Fly and a run scored. Though he didn’t have an At Bat on Saturday, the Sac Fly did bring his eight-game hitting streak to an end. Still, like Hilson, Velasquez is enjoying his best success as a pro. Over the past nine games, he’s gone 11 for 26 and reached base 47% of the time. He’s also had four extra-base hits in that streak, which is notable given that he entered the streak with just two XBH on the season and had just three all of last year. Velasquez has walked three times over the past nine games while striking out just four times. Things are looking up for the 18-year-old switch hitter.
Some of the more interesting arms had so-so outings this weekend. Roberto Monegro was tagged for five runs in less than two innings by his camp mates on Saturday, and Manzano was tagged for three runs in just 1.1 IP (which included an RBI double from Hilson). But 20-year-old right-hander Miguel Mora had an outstanding start on Friday night, throwing five scoreless innings with six strikeouts in Team Black’s 1-0 win. Mora has a good pitcher’s build, big and strong looking for his age. His 51 strikeouts this year (in just 35.2 IP) are fourth best in the ACL.
A couple of transactions of note. Right-handed pitch Austin Reich announced his retirement. Reich had an outstanding season in 2021, pitching out of the San Jose and Eugene bullpens. He struck out 41% of the batters he faced and posted a tiny ERA of 1.56 in helping Eugene to its championship. He was suspended 80 games this winter, however, for use of amphetamines, and pitched just one game in the ACL.
Logan Wyatt, who has been on a rehab assignment in the ACL, was transferred to the ACL roster. That’s just an administrative move that has no practical importance, but I suppose it suggests that he’s not yet ready to return to full season action.
Dominican Summer League
Hard to find any breakout performances in the DR for the Giants this year, either. Both squads have mostly struggled on both sides of the ball (not surprising, given their collective 31-51 record). On Saturday, the two offenses combined for just five hits and three runs, and they featured ten different hitters in their lineups with batting averages below .200.
Much of that has to do with the struggles that the most highly touted prospects have had getting on the field. Ryan Reckley last played on July 5th, and has just four games on his ledger since June 13. Dennys Riera didn’t get his season started until July 4th, and struggled to get into the rhythm of the season. He’s started to do better of late, going 7 for his last 27 at bats with two home runs. The same is true of outfielder Erick Arosemena, who had one of the five hits on Saturday. He’s 4 for his last 13 with a walk in his last four games.
One of the more interesting performances this year has come from 18-year-old pitcher Luis Bermudez, who has posted a 1.31 ERA and has 30 strikeouts to eight walks in 34.1 IP. Bermudez was one of two Giants to appear in the DSL All Star game last week.
The other All Star was contact specialist Estanlin Cassiani. At the time of the July 24 All Star Game, Cassiani’s batting average was up to .410, second highest in the league. But a 3 for 20 week has dropped it all the way down to .367. Just one of Cassiani’s 43 hits this season has gone for extra bases.
Setting Up the Week:
Sacramento River Cats: 42-57, 5th Place, 12.0 GB -84 Run Differential
Sacramento has the league’s worst record and worst run differential. It’s been a rough year for the River Cats! After two weeks on the road, they get to come home to Sutter Health Park and take on the equally woebegone Tacoma Rainiers (and get to say hello to several of their ex-teammates). Starting Tuesday.
Richmond Flying Squirrels: 8-18, 6th Place, 10.0 GB, -37 Run Differential
It’s hard to be 10 games behind after just 26 games! Really hard! Something else that’s hard — 12 hour bus trips! But that’s what the Squirrels get today as they head out on a two week road trip to the Eastern League’s furthest northern outposts, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and the Portland Sea Dogs — currently in first place in the Northern Division. First up is 4th place New Hampshire, the Double A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. It’s the first and only time the two teams face each other this year. Starting Tuesday.
Eugene Emeralds: 19-11, 1st Place (0.5 ahead), +46 Run Differential
The Emeralds have lost players to injury and promotion and they’ve seen a few top prospects deliver underwhelming seasons, but they’ve still been by far the class of the Northwest League this season. Now 21 games over .500, their record is 8.5 games better than the second most successful team in the league. There’s still an awful lot of talent on this roster! They travel to Spokane to take on the Rockies’ affiliate — the only other club in the league with a positive run differential for the full season. Starting Tuesday. Sadly, this series will have no video feed (boo!)
San Jose Giants: 16-14, 2nd Place (2.0 GB), +20 Run Differential
Winners of 10 of their past 14 games, San Jose heads to Fresno to take on a Grizzlies team that has been the strongest regular season club in the California league for the past two years. Though the Giants are now tied with Fresno for the best overall record in their division this year (56-40), they are still on the outside looking in for a playoff spot. They fell a game shy of taking the first half title, and they now sit two games behind the resurgent Modesto Nuts in the second half standings. This will be a big series. Starting Tuesday.
Today’s Rookie League Games:
ACL Giants Black (Jimenez) @ ACL Angels (TBD), 6:00 pm, No Video
ACL Giants Orange (Maldonado) vs. ACL D’backs Black (TBD), 6:00 pm, No Video
DSL Giants Black (F. Estrella) @ DSL Giants Orange (Chires), 8:00 am, No Video
And, of course, hanging over all of these series and these players is the perennial trade deadline question: will I stay or will I go. Which way do the Giants go over the next 30 or so hours and which players’ lives will be impacted? Most importantly, who will be able to say, some day in the future, “I am a Forever Giant!”
Today’s There R Giants post is a special Free For All post. There aren’t many of these, so if you like what you see, why not subscribe for more Giants’ prospect-related content?