Since this is a new feature, your feedback is important to us. No, really, this time I mean it! I’d love to hear any suggestions, comments, compliments, personal insults, or random movie-related quips. I hope to shape this up for everyone over the coming weeks.
Hitter of the Week
Jalen Miller is in quite a prospect-laden infield in Augusta, but he found a way to stand out over the first week. The youngster didn’t have the highest OPS in the system for first week-plus, but he was one of the best all-around performers. He hit 12 for 37 (.324), collecting three doubles and a triple, and 7 RBI despite batting mostly second in the lineup. What’s most impressive about this is that Miller is doing this after a disappointing .240/.305/.299 in 51 games in the Arizona League during his debut. The 19-year old is just getting started, and it will be a surprise if he moves beyond Augusta before the playoffs, but he is absolutely a must-watch.
Others To Note: Christian Arroyo, whose .375 average leads the system; Dillon Dobson, with four home runs and seven extra-base hits in 119 total hits on the season; Steven Duggar, whose .977 OPS and two home runs in San Jose helped lead the Giants offense.
Pitcher of the Week
Jason Forjet certainly isn’t a name from the top prospect lists…he didn’t even make the 44 prospects who did make the McCovey Chronicles Community Prospect List. He’s repeating San Jose, now here for the third season at the start of his fifth. But he settled into the rotation mid-season, and with a 5-inning, 8 strikeout performance, he now has thrown 27 consecutive scoreless innings for the Giants. With all the other starters having mixed results, that’s enough to make Forjet our first pitcher of the week.
Others To Note: Joan Gregorio, the only other Giants starter yet to give up a run, with 10 shutout innings; Adalberto Mejia, who has a 1.86 ERA in two starts, and collected 12 strikeouts in 9.2 innings.
The Infield Shuffle
Get a load of this part of the Augusta GreenJackets roster.
8 infielders (including two on the DL), 6 listed as shortstops. Oh, the only two non-shortstops are on the DL. This has led to a lot of speculation about how the infield would play out. Obviously Lucius Fox and Jalen Miller are the biggest prospects, but there are a lot of interesting names in the mix, like Kelvin Beltre, and Tyler Brown.
One question, and weird thing about rosters, why is Dillon Dobson listed as a shortstop? The 23rd rounder played 48 games at first and 6 at third. Dobson has played first almost the entire season with Skyler Ewing missing the first eight games, but he’ll likely split time now that Ewing is back. Then again, the fact this was screenshot on 4/17 and it still lists Ewing as on the DL indicates how often these rosters get updated.
So how is playing time filtering out? Here's the starts by position:
So what have we learned? Not surprisingly, Jalen Miller is the starting second baseman and the team isn't looking to move him from there, and Beltre is the starter at third. Fox is the starting shortstop, but has had interruptions to his playing time, like an Opening Day leg injury that cost him a day, and a family issue he dealt with late in the week, which has allowed Manual Geraldo to have nearly as many starts at short so far.
That said, Brown and Geraldo have been playing super-utility roles, each logging multiple starts at other positions. The team’s use of DH has helped keep all the infielders fresh, but now that Ewing is back, Dobson and Ewing will compete for those precious at-bats. Brown has been the odd man out, with less starts, and has hit decently, with a .269 average and a 4:6 BB:K ratio. Meanwhile, Geraldo is batting just .125 in nine games, without even a single walk and 15 strikeouts, so there's room for Brown to step up. Beltre (.200 BA, .625 OPS) and Fox (.167 BA, .551 OPS) have also been struggling, so the situation bears watching as to playing time, and possible moves for players back to extended Spring Training, or Salem-Keizer once the Northwest League starts in June.
It’s an unfair truth that the Giants’ system gets a little ignored when it comes to their farm system by some of the major publications, without having a lot of top tier names. However, Baseball Prospectus scout Adam McInturff sent out some interesting tweets about the fireballer Ray Black, and starter Adalberto Mejia. As seen earlier this week in Minor Lines, let's see what he had to say about Black.
.@giantsprospects Black 98-101 FB tonight-best life+COM seen from him. SL 84-87 was unhittable off his FB when he stayed thru it. (1/2)— Adam McInturff (@WAdam_McInturff) April 15, 2016
.@giantsprospects Once tonight, and occasionally this spring, he'll fly open on SL and will stay up. Definitely correctable. (2/2).— Adam McInturff (@WAdam_McInturff) April 15, 2016
Ray Black is truly a sight to behold. Only guy I've ever personally scouted close to this in terms of two pitches was Nick Burdi.— Adam McInturff (@WAdam_McInturff) April 15, 2016
Black's command, FB life, and SL consistency are more the story of his night. He always throws hard; other things will enhance raw arm-str.— Adam McInturff (@WAdam_McInturff) April 15, 2016
If those attributes start holding more constant in his next X appearances, there's not much left to prove here on the farm. Special stuff.— Adam McInturff (@WAdam_McInturff) April 15, 2016
And now, McInturff's comments about Mejia:
.@giantsprospects Mejia: 87-93 FB-87-91 2sm to RHH-cutting 91-93 mostly LHH. 1.5 plane SL 80-81 fair sharpness, plays to avg b/c lands STRs.— Adam McInturff (@WAdam_McInturff) April 14, 2016
.@giantsprospects Mejia not overpowering but showing veteran-like ability to throw 4 pitches from the start, change looks to LHH/RHH.— Adam McInturff (@WAdam_McInturff) April 14, 2016
.@giantsprospects Do get vibe Mejia can start; maybe he's humped up for more stuff and less feel in past; staying within himself and (1/2)— Adam McInturff (@WAdam_McInturff) April 14, 2016
.@giantsprospects pitching to his strengths this look though. Best case he'll be a glut of 50-55 pitches who mixes and throws all for STR— Adam McInturff (@WAdam_McInturff) April 14, 2016
Despite the beautiful views of Utah, the River Cats stumbled out of the gate a bit, losing their first five games, including a four-game sweep by the Salt Lake Bees. Much of the story of those losses were a potpourri and mixed pitching performances. 2012 first rounder Chris Stratton in particular got roughed up in the thin air of Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, giving up six runs in each of his first two starts. That 9.82 ERA hopefully will get whittled down in coming weeks. Ty Blach had a rough first start, but bounced back with a six inning, one run game where he struck out 7, and was the only Sacramento starter who earned a win. Matt Lujan’s ERA was saved by errors, giving up six unearned runs in one inning. Even the bullpen, where multiple notable prospects such as Mike Broadway, Steven Okert, and Jake Dunning each have already given up multiple runs.
Mac Williamson was one of two River Cats to get a callup after Giants injuries, and he did it with a solid first week. He picked up his first home run and outfield assist in the second game of the year, and hit .276 with two home runs and two doubles in seven games before his callup…
Conor Gillaspie had a quiet start before a 5-for-5 game on Wednesday. He also added his first home run on Friday….Clayton Bluckburn missed his second start of the year with flu-like symptoms, but got in some work in relief on Friday for his off-day pitching.
One final note out of Sacramento is some sad news that Sacramento manager Jose Alguacil’s father passed away on Thursday. He flew home to Venezuela and missed Friday’s game. All of us here wish him the deepest condolences. Hitting coach Damon Minor (yes, that one) will fill in while Alguacil does what he needs to. Alguacil should be back sometime this week.
Padre orgulloso de ti. Te voy a extrañar gracias por todo lo que me distes en vida. I am going to miss you dad. pic.twitter.com/w4qJH8N9Wj— jose Alguacil (@Agui13Jose) April 15, 2016
The surprising early calling card in Richmond? The offense. Four hitters batting .300 or better? The system’s leading home run hitter? The Eastern League isn’t known as an offensively-friendly place, but the Squirrels are succeeding more at the plate than at the mound.
The early leading hitters include top prospect Christian Arroyo and Stanford’s Austin Slater. Arroyo led the team in batting average, batting .375 with two doubles, and adding a couple of walks. Slater hit just .300, but slugged two home runs and had five walks in nine games. His second home run was an impressive opposite-field shot.
Meanwhile, Ricky Oropesa set the Richmond franchise home run record, breaking Jarrett Parker’s record of 30.
This is a dubious honor, since it's a hint about how long he's been in Richmond (this is the fourth season he'll be spending at least some time there). On the other hand, this is only the 7th year of Squirrel baseball, so there's not much tradition here.
On the pitching side of the ledger, the best starter for the Squirrels has easily been Adalberto Mejia, who only pitched 9.2 innings over two starts, but struck out 12 and walked just 4, and has a 1.86 ERA. The rest of Richmond’s prospect packed rotation had a mixed bag. Tyler Beede had two solid but not great starts, and has a 4.50 ERA so far. Chase Johnson has only gone four innings in each of his two starts, and has a 5.63 ERA going. And Kyle Crick is just one start into his return, and gave up 4 earned runs in five innings. Luckily, Joan Gregorio has put together ten innings of shutout baseball, giving up just 2 hits and four walks while striking out 13…but still has no wins.
The Flying Squirrels opened their season with a Staycation, but it didn’t help them. The Hartford Yard Goats are the new incarnation of the New Britain Rock Cats, but their new stadium isn’t ready yet, so the Squirrels were the road team in Richmond to open the season, but still lost three of four to the Goats…Ryder Jones started the season hot with a home run in the season opener, and has a 6 game hitting streak. However, he’s collected 4 errors on the season as well…Christian Arroyo made his first career start at 3B on Saturday…After a strong start, Ray Black was pounded for three runs on Saturday night, walking three with just one strikeout, bumping his ERA to 9.82.
San Jose Footprints
San Jose’s season start was a bit of a wash…literally. After winning their first game, their second was suspended due to rain, and the next two were rained out. That led to some unusual numbers and starts, as Andrew Suarez got two starts in before Sam Coonrod got his first on Saturday night.
The little Giants have been the victim of some bad luck. Three starters have had starts without allowing any earned runs, including Jason Forjet mentioned above, but D.J. Snelten and Coonrod each gave up an unearned run, and Coonrod’s led to a loss on his record. The Giants lost Snelten’s start as well, through the bullpen.
San Jose’s leading hitter to start the season has easily been Steven Duggar, who finished the week with an 0-for-3 on Saturday, but is batting .308 with two home runs, and is the only San Jose hitter to have an OPS over .800. However, shortstop C.J. Hinojosa has had a hit in each of the first six games before it was broken Saturday night, and leads the team with a .320 average. Chris Shaw has also had some solid numbers, with three doubles and a .292 average, though no home runs yet for the young slugger. Also notable, Johneshwy Fargas has three triples on the season, but is batting just .200/.310/.440 on the young season.
Augusta Putt-Putt Course
Augusta is perhaps the most talent-laden stop on the Giants’ farm, but the results early have been mixed. On one hand, Jalen Miller has been on a hot streak, and Dillon Dobson pounding out four home runs has been a boost. On the other hand, Kelvin Beltre has hit just .200 on the season, and Lucius Fox is down to .167, though he has 4 stolen bases in four attempts.
Meanwhile, Phil Bickford embraces both sides of the struggle. On one hand, he has struck out 16 batters in 8.2 innings, while walking just two. On the other hand, he’s given up five earned runs on five hits and two walks allowed, so that 5.19 ERA doesn’t look great. But there’s a lot to like.
Phil Bickford 88-92 t93, mostly straight, flashes life, hittable on plate. SL 76-79, flashes 5+, decent bite, inconsistent slot.— David Lee (@David11Lee) April 15, 2016
Sacramento - RHP Duke Welker and LHP Ricky Romero assigned to Sacramento.
Duke Welker hasn’t pitched since 2014, getting Tommy John surgery midseason, and getting cut by the Pirates as a 28-year old. Now 30, the former 2nd-round pick is pitching for someone other than the Pirates for the first time. Ricky Romero was signed last season, but made just four starts in the Arizona League, rehabbing from his various injuries.
Lots of injuries to start the season. As usual, teams usually do not announce injuries or details, but where I know, I’ll post it.
Sacramento - 1B Kyle Blanks, RHP Austin Fleet, C Travis Higgs, 3B Mitch Delfino, and C Ben Turner placed on the 7-Day DL. C George Kottaras placed on the DL on 4/7, activated from it on 4/15.
Wow, lots of catcher movement. Good news: Andrew Susac wasn’t one of them!
Richmond - C Jeff Arnold, RHP Ian Gardeck, LHP Christian Jones, LHP Mike Kickham, RHP Pedro Rodriguez, and 1B Angel Villalona placed on the 7-Day DL. RHP Jake Smith placed on the DL on 4/7, activated from it on 4/15.
A lot of last year’s hard-throwing San Jose bullpen went on the DL. Jake Smith’s stay was short, but Ian Gardeck suffered an injury in Spring Training, and will miss the season with Tommy John surgery. Smith has been noted for his rise in the system after being a groundskeeper in Augusta. Smith came off the DL on Friday and looked good.
San Jose - CF Junior Arias, C Jared Deacon, LHP Carlos Diaz placed on the 7-Day DL. RHP Dusten Knight placed on the DL on 4/7, activated from it on 4/15.
There were no notable names on this list.
Augusta - RHP Carlos Alvarado, CF Gustavo Cabrera, 1B Skyler Ewing, RHP Jake McCasland, C Matt Pare, RHP Matthew Pope placed on the 7-Day DL. RHP Michael Connolly placed on the DL on 4/7, activated from it on 4/15.
Skyler Ewing is notable for being the only corner infielder on the Augusta roster, which has allowed "shortstop" Dillon Dobson to get playing time at first and lead the system with three home runs. Gustavo Cabrera is on the comeback from his gruesome offseason hand injury a couple of years ago, but there’s no indication this DL stint is from that. He should be close to coming back, though, based on this tweet by David Lee, sportswriter for the Augusta Chronicle (and not an ex-Warrior).
Gustavo Cabrera finally caught one on the next to last swing of BP and sent it out. Pitchers in the OF yelled as it went over their heads.— David Lee (@David11Lee) April 15, 2016
Lucius Fox had a leg injury in the first game, but missed only one game as a result, so no DL time. Also, not an injury but a temporary absence, Lucius Fox missed some time over the weekend for a family matter.
Lucius Fox remains out for Augusta to tend to a family matter. Should be back soon.— David Lee (@David11Lee) April 16, 2016
One final name, who was never assigned to a team, David Graybill, who will miss a lot of time thanks to a suspension.
Pitcher David Graybill, whom the #sfgiants took in the ninth round last year, got popped for drug of abuse. 50 games.— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) April 12, 2016