Mike Kickham, once a top-five prospect in the San Francisco Giants organization according to MLB.com, struggled mightily to begin the 2014 season. Opposing hitters were reaching base at a rapid rate during his first nine starts with the Fresno Grizzlies, resulting in a 1.75 WHIP over that stretch.
Then something seemed to click on May 25 in Salt Lake City, when the 25-year-old left-hander pitched six no-hit innings against the Bees before being pulled due to pitch count. Beginning with that game, Kickham strung together seven starts in which he averaged 5.6 hits per nine innings, winning five of those seven contests.
"Keeping my fastball over the plate and when I do miss with it, I miss down and over the plate," Kickham said when asked what the key to his recent success has been. "Then I can adjust instead of missing arm-side which is something I'm used to. Then I play my slider off the two-seam sinker and it's a pretty good combination."
Kickham, despite a seemingly rough outing on June 15 at home against Omaha, posted phenomenal numbers in June, which included a 1.86 ERA with just 16 hits allowed over 29 innings. Opposing hitters managed a .154/.248/.212 slash line against the Missouri native. Kickham doesn't see any reason it can't continue.
"Last month has been really fun and there's no reason to let that end with the month," he said. "We're going to try to carry that into July."
With Kickham on the mound Tuesday night in Sacramento where he made his first July start, let's take a look at some of the other top Giants minor league producers during the month of June.
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C - Ben Turner
The 6'5" San Jose Giants catcher endured a brutal May (.151/.233/.208) only to turn things around and bat .405 in the month of June, with nine of his 30 hits allowing him to reach second base.
1B - Brian Ragira
Brian Ragira had easily his best month in a San Jose Giants uniform, batting .304 in June after averaging .186 in May. The power potential still doesn't seem to be there for the Stanford product as he's slugging only .369 in 294 plate appearances.
2B - Blake Miller
Once listed as a shortstop in a previous monthly prospect report, Blake Miller has not started at short since May 19, playing mostly second base and occasionally third base. Despite having his power numbers fall off a bit, Miller has proved his hot start was no fluke, batting over .300 during every month, including a .330 June.
SS - Matt Duffy
Matt Duffy is on his way to a top-20 prospect ranking come the end of July when the MLB will release their midseason adjustments. The 6'2" shortstop's hit tool is evident as he used 31 hits in 83 June at-bats to raise his batting average to .338 through the first three months — the second highest average in the pitcher-friendly Eastern League. He connected for five doubles, two triples, and a home run to post a .518 slugging percentage.
3B - Adam Duvall
With another spectacular month — along with the injury bug biting the Giants — Adam Duvall earned his first big-league call-up, homering in his 3rd career at-bat. Before putting on a major league uni, Duvall cranked out five doubles and nine home runs to slug .600 in June.
LF - Darren Ford
Yes, Darren Ford. He had 29 hits in June, including four doubles and a home run en route to a .363/.414/.450 month. He also stole eight bases in ten attempts.
CF - Gary Brown
Gary Brown's June was good but not great, though it was the most impressive showing from a Giants center field prospect. Of note were his six doubles and three home runs, having his best month power-wise since last June when he clubbed eight home runs. Overall, Brown is having a much better season than 2013, lowering his strikeout rate by five percent and raising his average 40 points.
RF - Chuckie Jones
Finally. The string of at-bats we were hoping for from Charles "Chuckie" Jones. He had hits in all but four of his 24 June games. He slugged .556, including seven doubles, two triples, and four home runs. He totaled 23 RBIs in the month, nine more than the first two months combined.
SP (RHP) - Kendry Flores
This should serve as a very good sign. We saw what Kendry Flores was capable of last season when he shined as an Augusta GreenJacket. But his first two months with the San Jose club were disheartening. Though he didn't register a win in four starts, the right-hander struck out 13.3 hitters per nine innings in June, including a ridiculous outing on June 22 where he struck out 13 Visalia Rawhide batters in seven frames.
SP (LHP) - Mike Kickham
See top six paragraphs of story. In short, Mike Kickham was virtually unhittable in June.
RP (RHP) - Cody Hall
Cody Hall took over as the Flying Squirrels' closer as Derek Law's season ended with Tommy John surgery. Hall, who was already pitching well heading into the elevated role, allowed just four hits and one walk in 9.1 innings after Law went down. Overall, he allowed zero earned or unearned runs in June while striking out an average of 13 batters per nine innings.
RP (LHP) - Steven Okert
Likely the organization's best left-handed reliever prospect, Steven Okert received a promotion to Class-AA Richmond on June 24 and continued his dominating pitching performances. Spanning two teams, Okert struck out 19 hitters while allowing just one walk in 11.2 innings. Left-handers struggle heavily against Okert (.158/.238/.193), which makes sense considering Okert's almost side-arm release.
2B - Joe Panik, 28 hits, 7 doubles
3B - Richard Rodriguez, 34 hits
IF/OF - Juan Ciriaco, 5 doubles, 4 home runs
RF - Robinson Medrano, 30 hits
C - Miguel Gomez, 29 hits, 10 doubles
RF - Jarrett Parker, 7 doubles, 2 home runs
SP (RHP) - Chris Heston, 3 wins, 2.32 ERA
SP (LHP) - Luis Ysla, 1.67 ERA, 13 K/9
SP (LHP) - Joe Kurrasch, 1.29 ERA, 0.86 WHIP
RP (RHP) - Carlos Alvarado, 0.00 ERA, 0.74 WHIP
RP (LHP) - Donald Snelten, 1.80 ERA
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June didn't bring any relief for a few Giants prospects, including one top-five guy everyone assumed would thrive in a pitcher-friendly league after dominating at the lower levels.
SS - Nick Nonnan
The former big leaguer followed up a bad May with an even worse June, batting just .223 in the month and slugging less than .300.
3B - Ryder Jones
A bit of a June slump for the 20-year-old second round pick from 2013, as Ryder Jones averaged just .216 last month. There is a bit of optimism as his strikeout totals are steadily dropping.
RP (LHP) - Adalberto Mejia
Sad to have to put this name down here again. But there were just way too many baserunners attached to Mejia's name: 35 in 20.2 innings.
RP (RHP) - Pat Young
It's possible Pat Young wasn't ready for the jump to the High-A level. Through three months, his ERA stands at 6.06 with a WHIP of 1.68.
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Hits: Matt Duffy, 95
SB: Tyler Graham, 35
BB: Mario Lisson, 34
2B: Blake Miller, 19
3B: Tyler Horan, Jarrett Parker, Elliott Blair, Chris Lofton, 5
HR: Adam Duvall, 23
RBI: Adam Duvall, 67
OBP: Matt Duffy, .403
SLG: Adam Duvall, .620
OPS: Adam Duvall, .980
ERA: Donald Snelten, 1.33
Games: Tyler Mizenko, 40
Saves: Steven Okert, 21
IP: Edwin Escobar, 95.1
K: Edwin Escobar, 88
K/9: Ray Black, 18.0
K/BB: Jason Forjet, 8.5
WHIP: Carlos Alvarado, 0.91
H/9: Andrew Carignan, 2.8