Sean Hjelle put his name in the record books as the tallest pitcher in major league history, and, in so doing, became the fourth player this year to make his major league debut with the Giants, and the second member of the Giants’ 2018 draft class to make the majors, following Joey Bart. That gives the 2018 draft class a lead over 2017, which has just one big leaguer so far (Heliot Ramos’ brief appearance). Gradually, the future keeps melting into the present.
Also, this brings up again the current Giants’ front office predilection for having a 40-man roster that they can make use of:
As has been pointed out to me, that tweet is incorrect, as neither Evan Longoria nor Tommy La Stella has been active yet, and LaMonte Wade, Jr. just got his first game in, but the overall point stands — this team likes to be able to make use of every single spot on the 40-man to provide value on the major league team, and isn’t inclined to use too many spots on developmental projects who are still some years away.
That’s going to make the decisions coming next November — when Rule 5 protection status will be necessary for Marco Luciano, Luis Matos, Jairo Pomares, Hunter Bishop and others, and players who have already passed Rule 5 status could be lost to minor league free agency (Ricardo Genovés, for instance). Not to jump ahead of our current point in the story — these things tend to work themselves out — but it could be an interesting off-season!
But, let’s get our minds back on where we are — the present! And in the present, Kyle Harrison is seeking to force the Giants’ hand by simply overwhelming the northwest league. On a night full of great pitching, it was the lefty who stood head and shoulders above them all!
It’s a Saturday Supplemental dose of Minor Lines — where everyone’s a winner!
HITTER of the Night: Ricardo Genovés (Sac), 3 for 4, 2b (5), 2 Run, 2 RBI
PITCHER of the Night: Kyle Harrison (Eug), 4.0 IP, 2 H, 3 BB, 10 K
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Sacramento beat Las Vegas Aviators (A’s), 4-0
Raynel Espinal continues to dominate the PCL with stuff that doesn’t necessarily light up the radar gun, but really REALLY lights up the stat sheet! Espinal picked up nine more strikeouts last night in five innings, giving him 32 punchouts this year in just 84 batters faced. And even that 38% K rate might be underselling him a bit. Last night, Espinal induced 20 swinging strikes in just 80 total pitches! That’s incredible!
Espinal’s stutter-start motion, good-not-great velo (last night he sat 92-93 with the fastball), combined with his fairly high spin rate (the fastball maxes around 2500) consistently messes with the timing of his opponents, leaving them swinging at air most of the time. The slider was a particularly dastardly pitch last night, as Espinal got a called or swinging strike 44% of the time on that pitch — and he used it more than any other. But really, everything was working! The changeup, the fastball, the slider….EVERYTHING got whiffs about 40% of the time he threw it. His 20 swinging strikes on the night was, I believe, the highest total this year for any pitcher in the system.
While Espinal falls about an inning shy of qualifying at the moment, he has the lowest ERA (1.74) in the PCL of any pitcher with 20 IP. It’s not such a difficult league for Raynel!
The Cats bullpen continued the dominance, with Luis Ortiz and Pat Ruotolo finishing things off with four nearly perfect innings. Ortiz, who got off to a really difficult start to the year, seems to be ticking up his stuff every time out. The fastball, which opened the season in the low 90s, was averaging almost 95 mph last night, which sets his slider up for success as a putaway pitch.
Ruotolo is continuing to have success at Triple A, despite not missing bats at anywhere near the same rate he saw in Richmond. Last night, he had just two swinging strikes, which has been about the norm for him since his promotion to Sacramento. His adjustment has been to go heavily to his off-speed pitches, particularly his curveball, in search of soft contact. In this game, however, he was unable to get strikes of either the swinging or called kind with his curve, despite using it more than any other pitches. It’s a continuing education for Ruotolo at the new level, and it will be interesting to see how he adjusts to it going forward.
Ricardo Genovés hasn’t exactly been ripping the cover off the ball in Triple A, but given the level-jump challenge he received, the big catcher has been holding his own pretty well. For the year, he has an OPS of .796, which is good for a slightly better than league average 105 wRC+ (100 representing an average line in the PCL this year). He’s been heating up of late, too. Over his last seven games, Genovés has gone 10 for 26 with four doubles and three walks, pushing up the season statline significantly (that’s more than half of his hits AND extra-base hits on the year).
Yesterday, he singled in runs twice, and drilled a double off of a breaking ball up in the zone, coming around to score on Heliot Ramos’ blooper to right field. Though Genovés is striking out at a 30% clip, he’s walking a good deal and hitting enough to be a productive part of the team’s offense — not bad for a guy who skipped over Double A after a bit of a scuffle in High A last year.
As for Ramos, his two hit day was his first multi-hit effort since April 23. That was also the date of his last extra-base hit. For the season, he has just three XBH and just one since the third game of the year. He continues to make plenty of hard contact — yesterday he had a 99 mph single and a lineout at 104 — but almost everything is going the opposite way or up the middle, as he hasn’t had any pull-side game at all so far this year. In this game, he lined a fastball to right for a hard single, blooped another to right for a soft single, and lined out hard to center field on a breaking ball.
The win put Sacramento back into a tie for first place with the Aviators. They’ll try to take the final pair to end the week in sole possession of the top spot.
Before we go, enjoy a little defense from the new guy:
Richmond lost to Akron Rubber Ducks (Guardians), 3-0
Perhaps it was the screwy Friday afternoon start time, but Matt Frisbee came out of the gates with an unusual inability to throw strikes yesterday. Following a bunt single on the first pitch of the game that immediately put him into the stretch, Frisbee walked three of the next four batters as he struggled to find the zone. At one point, Frisbee had thrown just half of his 22 pitches for strikes. Much of the problem for Frisbee in the inning was a failure to be able to put hitters away. Three times he jumped out to 0-2 counts, but couldn’t find the pitch that would end the at bat, until finally the hitter found his way safely to base.
It was a bizarre opening inning for the reliable strike thrower, but when it was done, Frisbee had piled up 35 pitches and was down 3-0, having allowed runs on a wild pitch, a HBP, and, finally, a soft single served into LF. He bounced back to retire seven consecutive batters after that, but the damage was done.
That strange opening would basically be the game, as the bats for both teams were quiet the rest of the day. Frisbee and three relievers would allow just three more hits the rest of the way, while the Squirrels’ hitters would manage just four — all singles. Richmond took just one at bat the entire game with a runner in scoring position.
Sad to say, but this was the most highlight resistant game of the year so far! I guess if you’re going to break a winning streak, break it convincingly!
Eugene beat Hillsboro Hops (D’backs), 1-0
How absolute is Kyle Harrison’s dominance of the High A Northwest League? He came into this game with a completely absurd 50% K rate — and it went up! Harrison powered his way through a 10 strikeout, no run performance — and, to be honest, he didn’t really look to be on top of his game. Though, in general, Harrison has been much improved at strike throwing this year, he was battling himself last night, missing with his fastball up and to the arm side frequently, and dipping the slider just a little too far to the glove side. That led to a season high of three walks and a lot of long, three ball counts.
Harrison worked at a tremendous pace, firing pitches back to catcher Patrick Bailey nearly as quickly as Bailey returned them. He mostly stuck with the fastball/slider combo, and when he threw strikes with either, they tended to be successful. A 3-2 fastball to the leadoff hitter was really the only pitch that resulted in hard contact — a flyout to Jairo Pomares at the wall. He only really got into trouble in the 3rd inning, however, when he walked the bases loaded after striking out the first two batters. No matter, he got out of the jam by picking up his 7th K of the game — on perhaps a slightly generous strike three call on an inside fastball. In his final inning of work, Harrison was at his best, striking out the side on just 13 pitches.
Though honing in his command — particularly his fastball command — remains the #1 item on Harrison’s To Do list, it doesn’t really appear that High A batters are going to be the proper school masters to help him develop that skill. They just aren’t terribly competitive against his stuff when he’s in — or near — the strike zone. His fastball, which sat mainly 94-95 last night with explosive late life, is simply over-powering this level. If you subtract out the game in which he was sick and got knocked around for seven runs in two innings (and yes, I know cherry-picking this way is a statistical No-no), Harrison’s performance in the rest of his starts this year is: 17.0 IP, 9 Hits, 1 Run, 6 BB, and 37 K. He’s second in the minor leagues with 42 strikeouts overall. Somebody waive the white flag, this league is ready to surrender.
Harrison opened up a team shutout, with just four hits allowed overall — all singles. Cole Waites opened up his inning of work by allowing two ground ball singles that snuck past infielders. But he got out of the jam by juicing the heater up to 99 and overwhelming the Hops hitters.
Eugene’s offense was certainly nothing to crow about either, as they managed just one hit all game — a hit which had nothing to do with their lone run. Jimmy Glowenke worked a leadoff walk and moved around the bases thanks to another walk and a couple of wild pitches. At which point, the offense smacked its hands together and said “our work is done here!” and left the rest up to the power arms.
Fortunately the arms, which included Brett Standlee, Clay Helvey, and Nick Avila, were up to the challenge.
I know I have some Helvey fans out there. So, even though he was only in the game for eight highly-efficient pitches, let’s focus in on one of them, the patented Helvey curveball. It’s a dandy!
San Jose lost @ Stockton Ports (A’s), 6-2
One pitcher who isn’t overwhelming his level, unfortunately, is the talented but raw Manuel Mercedes. The mercurial right-hander continues to struggle with this challenging assignment. Despite throwing a slashing fastball that gets into the mid-90s with tons of run, he’s struggling to turn his pure stuff into outs. In two innings yesterday, Mercedes allowed half the Ports’ hits in the game and nearly all of its runs.
That undid more great work from starter Eric Silva, as well as Esmerlin Vinicio’s best effort to date. The pair struck out 9 batters over the game’s first five innings, with Vinicio picking up K on half of the batters he faced. Silva matched his career high of 5 K — the second straight start with that total — and reached 60 pitches for the first time, as he stretches out slowly.
Amazingly, on this staff of power arms, Silva’s 21 K are just 7th best, and his 12.9 K9 is just 5th best! Hard to stand out in this group!
Grant McCray and Vaun Brown continue to heat up, leading the offense. McCray hit his fourth homer in the last eight games as part of a two-hit effort. Over those eight games, McCray is hitting .394, going 13 for 33 with five extra-base hits, three walks and 12 RBI. It’s a testament to how unproductive the rest of the lineup has been lately, that despite getting on base 46% of the time, McCray has scored just four runs! In other words, the only Giant to have driven McCray in during this hot streak is McCray himself.
As for Brown, the Florida Southern College alum has reached base in 11 of his last 12 games — with 17 hits over that period, including three homers and four doubles. Since going 1 for his first 16 this year, Brown has hit .329/.393/.540, with a team leading four HR. The speedster has also stolen seven of eight bases on the year. At 24, Brown is old for this level and probably deserves a quick promotion (except for the OF log jam that already exists in Eugene). He’s got tools that are more intriguing than your standard 10th round pick.
Tonight’s Scheduled Starters:
Sacramento (TBD) vs. Las Vegas (Koenig), 6:37 pm, MiLBTV
Richmond (Dahlberg) vs. Akron (Gaddis), 3:05 pm, MiLBTV
Eugene (Rodriguez) vs. Hillsboro (TBD), 5:05 pm, MiLBTV
Eugene (Swiney) vs. Hillsboro (TBD), Gm 2, MiLBTV
San Jose (Winn) @ Stockton (Beers), 7:05, NO VIDEO
Double-header night in Eugene to help make up one of their lost games from the week (if the seemingly perpetual rains of Castamere can hold off long enough). Sacramento’s plans for the weekend hit a Hjelle-sized detour, and now they face a TBD tonight, likely a bullpen game. Keaton Winn pits his power stuff against the cozy walls of Banner Island. Stockton’s not too far of a drive, go down and check him out!
And just as a reminder, I’m going to be posting from a mini-vacation on the shore this week, so times will probably be a little later than normal — though hopefully you can still enjoy There R Giants posts over coffee as normal. Have a great weekend everyone. Let’s get a Win for Buster Posey day!
40 man decisions are going to be interesting l in the offseason with the group you listed and for the reason you mentioned. I'd be quite surprised if everyone in that group ends up being on the SF 40 man next year.
Espinal is another one of those Starting Pitchers the Giants have in SAC yet keep doing "Bullpen Games". Even how they used Hjelle last night is not what he was doing at SAC.
Now, something is better than nothing, but this seems new to me. It used to be, bring up a starting pitcher for a spot start if needed. Now it looks more like just getting a fresh arm up.
And doesn't it Undo the whole "Stretching him out" for more innings work?