Get Ready for the AZL -- uh, ACL!

Plus a roundup of last night's games

We’re heading for maximum capacity on the daily roundups — on Monday we get two new teams taking the field as the rookie level Arizona League begins play. So it’s time for another Saturday Supplemental — we’ll get you all ready for the complex level action and also do a quick tour of the affiliates’ games from Friday night. Let’s hit it! (Right after I give you another chance to subscribe for daily posts!)

This year the Giants will have two teams in the complex level league which has apparently been rebranded as the Arizona Complex League, or ACL — no, it won’t be confusing at all to have a league share the abbreviation of an oft-injured ligament! As in years past, we’ll have the Giants Black and Giants Orange, both of which will play in the ACL’s East division along with the A’s, Cubs, Diamondbacks, and Rockies rookies. The Giants will be one of three organizations with two teams in the league (Milwaukee and Kansas City do as well), bringing the total number of teams in the league to 18. That means that this year they won’t have rolling off days for teams as has been the case in the past when the league had an odd number of teams. Instead there will be a uniform schedule, with all teams playing on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Wednesday and Sunday will be league-wide off-days.

Staff:

ACL Giants Black
Manager: Carlos Valderrama
Coaches: Travis Ishikawa, Mario Rodriguez, Jeremy Knackstedt (Fundamentals), Christian Fosler (Trainer)

ACL Giants Orange
Manager: Lance Burkhart
Coaches: Cory Elasik, Michael Couchee, Ydwin Villegas (Fundamentals), Chris Gorosics (Trainer), Nicholas Fajardo (Strength & Conditioning)

Players to Watch For

Rosters haven’t been made publicly available yet for the two teams, but let’s take a look at the players who are intriguing me the most, regardless of squad.

Adrian Sugastey, C. (2019 J2 signing, $525,000 bonus): We’ve been hearing for awhile that Sugastey had made huge strides since the Giants signed him out of Panama. When Ben Badler was on the pod in July of 2020, he mentioned Sugastey as the player whose stock had improved the most since signing. And just this month Eric Longenhagen essentially repeated this, saying Sugastey was the hitter who really caught his eye in XST. Longenhagen said of Sugastey: “He’s hitting, and he’s hitting with consistent loft and power without compromising quality of contact.” This is the guy I’m most looking forward to seeing.

Diego Velasquez, SS (2020 J2 signing, $900,000): The Giants’ top bonus signing for the 2020 international class (which signed just last January) is another player whose trend lines have pointed up since the Giants became connected with him. Badler last summer noted that Velasquez has grown significantly, going from 5’10” to 6’1” during the scouting process. Giants International Scouting Director Joe Salermo said of Velasquez on the pod: “[He] was #1 on many of our scouts’ lists and…once he took off, teams were, like, ‘wow, you guys signed him for that amount? Wow!’”

Manuel Mercedes RHP (2019 J2 signing, $400,000): What do I need to say? You listened to the podcast with Eric Longenhagen — you heard him (and through him an unnamed scout) compare the looseness of Mercedes’ delivery to Jacob DeGrom. And yes, put that comp right out of your mind because it’s ludicrously unfair. But an 18 year old with a right now fastball that gets up to 98, a power change that comes in at 90-91, and the looseness of delivery to make seasoned scouts start comping him to the greatest pitcher in the world? I mean, hubba hubba! You also heard Longenhagen say someone like Mercedes is a perfect trade target as the Giants get into trade season. Well, let’s hope he remains our little secret for awhile longer! You should read Longenhagen’s longer report about seeing Mercedes, and check out the drool-worthy video!

Those are the three guys I’m really looking at as being The Guys from this group of players — the one’s who could jump high up into my next iteration of a Giants Top 30 (which I’ll try to update next month!). However, there a ton of other really interesting kids who will take the field for the Giants rookie league teams:

Catchers:

Rayner Santana C (2018 J2 signing, no bonus info): Unheralded signing out of Venezuela, Santana showed huge power as a 16 year old in DSL in 2019. Defense is less advanced and he may be maxed out physically already, but power is intriguing.

Infielders:

Aeverson Arteaga SS (2019 J2 signing, $1,000,000): shortstop out of Venezuela was top signing in the 2019 class, Arteaga is a defensive-mind shortstop with a milder offensive profile. His father was a professional basketball player and Aeverson definitely inherited his athleticism.

Victor Bericoto 1b/LF (2018 J2 signing): Bericoto was a five-figure signing in the stacked 2018 class who elevated his profile with an outstanding DSL campaign in 2019. The RHH has advanced approach at the plate, but uncertain defensive profile.

Jean Peńa SS (2017 J2 signing, $300,000): The Giants were capped at $300,000 signings for three years due to the Lucius Fox deal. Peña was one of top signings during this period, and he showed power and athleticism in the DSL in 2018. Hitting Coordinator Michael Brdar mentioned Peña as one of the players he was most looking forward to in ACL this year.

Anthony Rodriguez SS (2019 J2 signing, $800,000): another Venezuelan shortstop at the top of team’s 2019 international class, Rodriguez is more offensive-minded than Arteaga, with a line drive swing from both sides of the plate that could grow into power as he matures.

Sammy Rodriguez SS (2020 J2 signing, no bonus info): yet another Venezuelan shortstop! Rodriguez is a skinny projectible kid who trained with Carlos Guillen. Somewhat surprising invite to spring training, he has apparently separated himself in eyes of Giants’ DSL staff from others of his class like Bryan Guzman, Ramon Peralta, etc.

Yorlis Rodriguez INF (2017 J2 signing, $300,000): signed as an 18-year-old out of Cuba, Rodriguez has shown contact skills in two seasons in rookie/short-season ball, but has yet to hit for much power. Strong track record of hitting in Cuban National Junior league.

Dilan Rosario SS/2b (2019 6th rd pick, $648,000): Part of big high school “overslot” group from the 2019 draft, Rosario showed big power for an infielder in 2019 debut, but struck out a lot and was raw defensively. Has a strong defensive reputation coming into draft out of Puerto Rican academy.

Ghordy Santos SS/2b (2016 J2 signing, $300,000): another product of the Lucius Fox-penalty years, Giants officials have always heaped praise on Santos’ defense and leadership abilities and he produced a strong offensive season in 2019 in AZL. At 21 years old, it’s time for him to start moving up!

Outfield:

Kwan Adkins (2018 30th rd pick, $2,500): Raw two-sport athlete out of tiny Louisiana college, Adkins has flashed huge power at times on the back fields.

George Bell (2018 13th rd pick, $125,000): Son of the former Blue Jays star, Bell is tremendous athlete who had tremendous year in Oklahoma JC going into draft. Had a strong debut in AZL but stumbled in Salem-Keizer in 2019.

Najee Gaskins (2019 20th rd pick, $75,000): Underslot signing out of tiny St. Cloud University in Minnesota, Gaskins had tremendous debut in AZL in 2019, albeit as an older player for the level. Now he’s even an older older player for the level.

P.J. Hilson (2018 6th rd pick, $520,000): A tools monster who has plus plus speed, plus plus arm, and plus power, Hilson has been extremely raw at plate in two AZL seasons, striking out more than a third of the time. Brdar told Athletic’s Melissa Lockart he is starting to “really put it together….Hilson is really fun to watch.”

Grant McCray, CF (2019 3rd Rd pick, $698,000):
.270/.379/.335 in 48 games in AZL in 2019. Elite athlete who has shown feel to hit. Kyle Haines said of McCray that he “could be best player on the field when it comes together.”

Alexander Suarez (2018 J2 signing, no bonus info): Luis Matos’ cousin, Suarez is another OF with extreme bat speed but very raw swing. Suarez got a surprise invite to Instrux last fall and impressed the staff there. A good athlete with above average speed and arm, Suarez was impressive in very brief debut in DSL in 2019.

Pitchers

Jesus Gomez LHP (2017 J2 signing, $300,000): Projectible lefty was scraping 90-91 when he signed as 16 year old with room to add velocity. He’s posted excellent strikeout numbers in two seasons in DSL and AZL.

Trevor McDonald RHP (2019 11th rd pick, $798,000): An extreme overslot pick in the 11th round, McDonald has shown an excellent breaking ball and good velocity on his fastball in brief appearances in AZL and Instrux. Has very unusual arm slot for a starting pitcher.

Sonny Vargas LHP (2017 J2 signing, $150,000): Venezuelan lefty had dominant showing at Nations Baseball Showcase prior to signing with Giants. Another projectible lefty with fast arm and makings of a solid breaking ball, Vargas had good strikeout performances in AZL but got hit around a good amount.

Esmerlin Vinicio LHP (2019 J2 signing, $750,000): Top pitcher signed in the 2019 class, Giants have concentrated on nutrition and strength for the beanpole lefty so far in his career, keeping him out of the Tricky League and most of Instrux. But his lightning fast arm and shown feel for spin has tantalized observers in the few sights there have been of him.

Cole Waites RHP (2019 18th rd pick, $100,000): Possessor of maybe the best fastball among the few pitchers Giants selected in 2019, the West Alabama project’s control is a work in progress. Strictly relief arm but could move quickly if he finds the strike zone more often.

And with that, we’re off! Games start Monday night so we’ll get to see these kids in action finally! The DSL league is still scheduled to start on July 12, and I’ll have a preview of those players as we get closer to that date.


And, as long as we’re here, let’s take a brief journey around the farm system’s Friday night games:

Sacramento beat Reno Aces (Diamondbacks), 9-6

Notable Lines:

Braden Bishop CF: 2 for 5, 2b, 2 Run, K, SB (2)
Thairo Estrada SS: 2 for 5, Run, 2 RBI, K
Joey Bart C: 2 for 5, 2b, Run
Jason Krizan 3b: 4 for 5, 2b, 2 Run, RBI, E
Jaylin Davis LF: 2 for 4, HR (5), 2 Run, 3 RBI, BB, 2 K
Arismendy Alcántara PH-2b: 1 for 2, 2 RBI, E

Aaron Sanchez: 2.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, BB, 2 K
Conner Menez: 0.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, BB, K
Caleb Baragar: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, BS
Trevor Hildenberger: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K
Sam Selman: 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, Sv (1)

Baseball people always say they want players to force hard decisions. So far, Jaylin Davis is doing his part to give the Giants’ front office some sleepless nights. In 11 games, Davis has now hit five home runs and four doubles, slugging .689 while playing phenomenal defense. The strikeout rate is, once again, high at 33%, but he’s doing everything he can to show that he should reclaim a spot on the 40-man when his rehab assignment is due to end in four days.

The problem is, can the Giants find a 40-man spot for Davis on a roster that already includes eight other OF — especially with looming 40-man decisions coming for several other players currently rehabbing: Tyler Beede, Aaron Sanchez, Tommy LaStella. It seems sadly likely that a move to the 60-day could be in Brandon Belt’s future if surgery is necessary, as Gabe Kapler suggested. And it’s now been very close to 30 days since Logan Webb pitched in a game, so there’s a possibility they could take advantage of the 60-day for him as well, and let him build back up slowly (if he’s able to do so). But I do wonder if they’ll try to play the rope-a-dope game with Davis and hope to sneak him through waivers. I’m not enthusiastic about their ability to successfully do so. We’ll see. Sleepless nights…

Aaron Sanchez continues on his rehab as well. Last night’s start was both encouraging and discouraging in different ways. It was encouraging because his velocity was the best we’ve seen it since he signed with the Giants — hitting 95 with his fastball and showing the same old bite on his curve. It was discouraging in that he was scheduled to go 60 pitches and he only ended up throwing 31. But Sanchez still has about 10 days of rehab left, so two more starts to build up. I’m guessing if he earns his way back onto the roster, it might be more as a bulk innings or long reliever role — depending upon Sammy Long’s continued progress.

The Giants have so many roster balls in the air right now, even as they steam to the halfway mark as one of baseball’s very best teams. We can presume they’ll do everything possible to preserve the inventory they have — but “possible” is carrying a lot of freight in that sentence!

Joey Bart continues to mash Triple-A pitching, going 2 for 5 with a double yanked into the corner on a hanging breaking ball on the inner half. Bart has an almost ludicrous .458 average on balls in play (BABIP), but it’s not like he’s spraying a lot of bleeders and dribblers around the field. He’s hitting balls hard! Still, let’s assume that .458 is likely to come down over time. He’s also producing an Isolated Slugging (SLG minus avg) of .248, which once again points to a lot of hard contact mixed in with his hits. Bart did have a curious defensive lapse last night — scrambling after a ball in the dirt, he fired to 2b to try to catch an advancing runner without first freezing another runner on 3b, allowing Reno an easy, unforced run.


Richmond won @ Hartford Yard Goats (Rockies), 10-9

Notable Lines:

Heliot Ramos CF: 1 for 5, K
Simon Whiteman SS: 3 for 5, Run, 2 K, SB (6)
Sandro Fabian RF: 2 for 5, 2 Runs, 3 RBI, 2 K
Frankie Tostado 1b: 4 for 5, 2 HR (4), 2b, 3 Runs, 5 RBI, K

Akeel Morris: 5.0 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 7 ER, BB, 7 K, 2 HR
Jose Marte: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, BB, K, WP
Joey Marciano: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K
R.J. Dabovich: 0.2 IP 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, K Sv (1)

Did I not say just yesterday that it would be nice to see Frankie Tostado hit for a little more power? Frankie…can you hear me? Are you reading this right now????

Frankie hit for a little more power yesterday — a LOT more power. He not only doubled his home run total for the year, but he added a double that bounced off the bottom of the wall. Now it’s true that Dunkin’ Donuts park offers some pretty tempting short porches, but you still gotta hit ‘em and Frankie done hit ‘em! And, hey, for extra bonus he hit ‘em when they mattered! With Richmond down to its final out, Tostado drilled a two-run homer to give the Squirrels a dramatic come-from-behind-after-blowing-a-giant-lead victory! What a day for the Big Crunch!

Akeel Morris was handed an early 7-0 lead and let it drib, drib, drab away, finally leaving a 8-4 lead and a bases loaded situation when he handed the ball over to Frank Rubio, who, sad to report, did not leave them loaded. Before the inning would finish, Jose Marte would be called on as well, and he wild pitched in the go ahead run. Marte was mostly dominant in his outing but he did give up a hard hit ball on a hanging slider as well as allowing the inherited runner to score on the WP — shoring up the consistency of his execution is no doubt next on the “To Do” list in what’s been a very impressive season.

Joey Marciano and R.J. Dabovich held Hartford down the final two innings allowing for Tostado’s big moment. As I’ve said before, Marciano, to me, has been the most impressive arm in Richmond’s pen this year and I think he could handle a move up at this point. He’s pumping a hard, running 95-96 mph fastball at hitters and then ripping off sliders with bite — it’s a combo that works. Dabovich has faced 15 hitters since coming up to Double-A and he’s struck 10 of them out. That seems pretty good!


Eugene lost to Vancouver Canadians (Blue Jays), 9-1

Notable Lines:

Will Wilson SS: 0 for 5, 3 K
Logan Wyatt 1b: 1 for 2, 2 BB
Rob Emery PR-C: 2 for 3

Aaron Phillips: 6.1 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, HR
Jasier Herrera: 2.2 IP 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, K, HR

Not a whole lot to dissect here — just an old fashioned whomping. Aaron Phillips has been a sort of sleeper guy in the past — very fringy fastball but interesting curve in a “April 2021 Aaron Sanchez” sort of way, but with A ball hitters. This year the curve hasn’t seemed quite so interesting and the fastball has continued to be below average. Not surprisingly, that combination has resulted in a lot of runs — 24 in 29.2 innings to be precise.

One scary note from this game: catcher Brandon Martorano was hit in the head by a pitch and had to come out of the game, replaced by the seldom-used Emery. Hopefully, he’ll be ok, but a concussion-protocols IL stint wouldn’t be a shock. Which reminds me: man, it’s been a long time since we’ve heard anything about Nick Swiney!


San Jose beat Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (Dodgers), 8-2

Notable Lines:

Brett Auerbach C: 3 for 4, Run, SB (10)
Ricardo Genovés 1b: 2 for 2, 2 2b, 2 Runs, RBI, 3 BB
Marco Luciano: 1 for 5, 2b, Run, 2 RBI, K
Casey Schmitt 3b: 2 for 4, 2b, Run, RBI, SB (1)
Luis Toribio DH: 1 for 3, HR (3), Run, 2 RBI, BB

Prelander Berroa: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, BB, 8 K, HR
Austin Reich: 2.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, BB, 6 K, HR

San Jose has really been handing it to the Quakes this week, winning the first four games of this series and turning a matchup of 1st place clubs into a one-sided manhandling. At 32-14, the Giants are scratching the edge of an incredible .700 winning percentage on the year — only one other club in the league has more than 24 wins.

Yesterday was more of the recipe that has buoyed their success all year — power hitting and power pitching. Prelander Berroa had, by far, his best outing of the year. Berroa went five innings, qualifying for a win for the first time this year. He also had a season high in strikeouts (8), matched his season low in walks (1), and allowed just three of the 18 batters he faced to reach base. Berroa was touched for a solo home run by the Dodgers #6 overall prospect, catcher Diego Cartaya (yes, the Dodgers have another excellent catching prospect), but beyond that, Berroa was silly-dominant. His fastball reached as high as 98 and he brought a little more consistent snap to his biting breaking pitches. When Berroa pitches like this — shutting down one of the most potent offenses in the neé California League — you can absolutely see why the Giants are so high on him. This is an electric arm if he can get it to come together more consistently. It’s amazing how often I used some form of the word “consistent” here isn’t it? But that’s what it’s all about — taking those skills that flash out, and finding some way to make them the baseline of a player’s daily performance. That’s really what development is.

Is anybody in the system actually having a better year — from a pure statistical point of view — than Ricardo Genovés? It’s true that he should be having success in Low-A — he already reached the level back in 2019, and, at 22, he’s slightly on the old side for the level. But, man, has he produced!

It’s not just that he has the highest batting average in all of Low-A (.348, and as an aside, Brett Auerbach’s is third highest!). He also has the fourth highest OBP (.452), the fifth highest SLG (.568), and third highest OPS (1.020). But what’s really incredible about his year, to me, is that he’s pairing an elite walk rate (14%), with an exceptionally low (for this climate) strikeout rate of 18%! He’s just on everything right now and Low-A pitchers have no avenue of attack for him. Would it really be so incredible to look back 15 years from now and find that Genovés had the best career of any of the Giants’ many catching prospects? Maybe. But he’s been undeniably terrific. Yesterday, Genovés also got his second start at 1b this week — or this year. Not sure if that’s just getting him off his legs a little or opening up more opportunities for him. Regardless, he seems pretty clearly too good for this level at this point and I hope the Giants find a way of promoting him soon.


What’s On Tap?

Sacramento (TBD) vs. Reno (Josh Green), 7:05 pm, MiLBTV
Richmond (Michael Plassmeyer) @ Hartford (Garrett Schilling), 3:05 pm, MiLBTV
Eugene (Conner Nurse) vs. Vancouver (Paxton Schultz), 7:05 pm, MiLBTV
San Jose (Carson Ragsdale) vs. Rancho Cucamonga (TBD), 6:00 pm, MiLBTV

There’s a lot of excitement surrounding Giants baseball…and a lot of winning! So enjoy the games this weekend and we’ll see you all bright and early Monday morning, folks, with more There R Giants daily Minor Lines!

Ah, heck! You probably want to watch a little Marco Luciano action, too, don’t you? Ok. I live to please!