The Catching Dance
On Thursday, catcher Matt Winn was demoted from Richmond to Augusta. That seems like a pretty minor transaction, but it stood out for a couple of reasons.
Matt Winn’s assignment to Richmond was curious to begin with. He was a 14th round draft pick in 2015, and had played only 36 pro games. Not a lot of first rounders start their first full season in Double-A.
The move was also paired with 3B/C Miguel Gomez being activated from Extended Spring Training, and left Augusta with five catchers on their roster.
The push did have one thing for it: Winn is from Richmond, a graduate of J.R. Tucker High and played college ball at the Virginia Military Institute. He acquitted himself well in 15 games at Richmond, putting up a .250/.288/.411 line, with two home runs. The push to Double-A may have been one more of need of a catcher at the level, but if the Giants thought well enough of him to be up there, he may be worth keeping an eye on it.
As with most things, the reasons shook out. One of Augusta’s catchers, Matt Pare, went on the DL, and another, Zach Bowers, was moved to Extended Spring Training. Meanwhile, Richmond received a new catcher: Steven Lerud.
Welcome to the team, Steven Lerud! #GoSquirrels #GoNuts pic.twitter.com/jmd79r2utZ— Squirrels Baseball (@GoSquirrels) April 29, 2016
If Lerud looks a little old for Double-A, he is. The 31-year old is a longtime minor league who had a couple of cups of coffee in the bigs with the Phillies in 2012-2013. The Giants are his sixth organization. He spent 2015 with the Nationals organization, batting .238/.320/.301 at Triple-A Syracuse. Lerud brings a little catching depth to the organization if more faltering happens.
And that is worth noting because of one more catching transaction...
Susac Back On The DL
If you ever talk to longtime Giants minor league fans, if you bring up a kid named Marcus Sanders you’ll get to see a real wince of missed opportunities. Sanders was a talented middle infielder who had huge upside both in hitting and speed, if only he could stay healthy. But injuries took their toll, and Sanders never got out of Single-A ball.
I’m starting to feel that way about Andrew Susac, though obviously Susac has gotten higher.
After last week’s curious absence from the lineup, and a seemingly successful return to the lineup as a DH, Susac was placed on the DL because of continued discomfort in his right scapula. The kid has just been going through a lot, after his finger, wrist and tooth problems last season, and now his shoulder. When healthy, Susac is talented enough to be a starter on quite a few baseball teams out there. Will we see him be healthy enough ever again?
And, unfortunately, the Sacramento native will likely be on the DL and not play in the game for this tribute from his hometown team.
Next Friday is #Susacramento night! First 1,500 fans at the park on #OrangeFriday receive this limited tee. #ClawsUp pic.twitter.com/ygjMkq8yRi— River Cats (@RiverCats) April 29, 2016
The Most Important Prospect of 2016
He’s not the Giants’ top prospect in 2016, and is arguably not in the Top 5. But for 2016, Mac Williamson is arguably the most important prospect for the Giants. He’s on the verge of the Majors, and with current left field Angel Pagan in a walk year, Williamson’s movement and success will dictate a big part of the Giants’ immediate future, especially in the offseason this year.
Williamson got an early callup due to a struggling San Francisco offense, but didn’t really get a chance to do anything. In three pinch-hit attempts, he struck out twice, and with last season, now owns a .200/.216/.257 line in the majors. But what he’s done in Sacramento this season is more notable.
After his return to Sacramento to get playing time, he’s earned every moment. In his first three games back, he hit 7-for-10 with two home runs, two walks, and 10 RBI. Since his return to AAA, he’s had only one hitless game. Overall, he’s batting .362/.391/.655 in Sacramento this season.
Is Williamson a 4-A player, who can’t get himself over the hump for the majors? Has he finally mastered the Pacific Coast League? Seeing what the answer is will be of immense importance for the Giants and their fans this season.
Scouting Report on Tyler Beede, By A Good Friend
Tyler Beede plays back east, so us Giants fans on the west coast won’t get a good chance to see how he’s doing. Luckily, your regular Minor Lines writer Roger lives on the east coast, and he shared with us what it’s like to see Tyler Beede in person (with video!).
For those of you who aren’t regular Minor Lines readers, check this one out to see some of Roger’s great writing about one of the Giants’ top prospects.
Hitter of the Week
C.J. Hinojosa has been red hot for the San Jose Giants. The 11th round pick from last year’s draft had a solid start with Salem-Keizer, but has gone white-hot with San Jose this season. Over the week, he went 12-for-23, and had 5 walks and 5 strikeouts. Hinojosa is a part of crowded Single-A middle infield, but by far has been the best performer. After adding two home runs this week, his batting line is up to .380/.470/.549 on the season. Maybe at some point, he’ll do well enough that milb.com will add both periods to his name.
Apologies to Chris Shaw, who hit .458 with two home runs on the week.
Pitcher of the Week
With apologies to Phil Bickford, I’m going to go with Grant Watson. Watson threw on Friday at Lake Olmstead, and threw a scoreless 6-inning gem. He struck out 9 and walked just one batter, which is notable since it’s the first batter he has walked all year. Watson, a 16th round pick, is kind of coming out of no where, but his season has been great so far, with a 0.92 ERA in 19.2 innings of work. Watson had gone just three innings in his previous start on Friday, shortened because of rain and the game getting suspended.
Apologies to Bickford, who had nine strikeouts in seven innings and no walks, and had his first scoreless outing. He probably could have been co-pitcher of the week, but I don’t want to start a precedent here.
Sacramento finally got the Salt Lake bug off of its back on Saturday, winning their first game out of 11 against the Bees. The River Cats are 8-4 against the rest of the PCL, which is mostly games against Las Vegas…Grant Green came close to hitting a cycle in Saturday’s game in Salt Lake. He was only a single short of the cycle when he came up in the ninth, but ended up striking out looking…Sacramento’s regular middle infielders continue to impress. Shortstop Hak-Ju Lee is batting .315/.383/.479 over 21 games. Regular second baseman Ramiro Pena, meanwhile, has a .327/.383/.509 line in 14 games.
Not surprisingly, Richmond hasn’t been a haven for offense. The only Richmond hitter with an OPS over .750 is Tyler Horan, who hasn’t been a full-time player until recently. Horan hit .215/.311/.392 in San Jose last season. He went 8-for-13 over a four game spread this week, however, as he has worked himself into the lineup…Christian Arroyo remains pedestrian in Richmond. After only playing five games this week, he went 5-for 20 with two walks against six strikeouts…Joan Gregorio has come down since his back-to-back scoreless starts to being the season, having gone six innings in each of his last three starts. However, he still hasn’t given up more then three earned runs in any start, and has struck out no less than six.
San Jose Footprints
Chris Shaw has been almost as much of a tear as Hinojosa. All three home runs of his have come in the last seven games, and he is drawing more walks recently, with 5 walks to eight strikeouts over his last ten games, as opposed to 1 walk against 10 strikeouts in the first nine games…Jordan Johnson had a solid start this week, with six innings of no-run ball, giving up just one hit while walking two.
Augusta Putt-putt Course
Augusta has had its struggles, with a six game losing streak helping them slide out of April until a couple of wins broke it, one of which being Grant Watson’s spectacular start…A couple of Augusta’s hot starters have cooled off recently. Dillon Dobson, who jumped out to five home runs early in the season, only has hit one in the last ten days. Meanwhile, Jalen Miller, who was our first hitter of the week, has gone 5-for-40 in his last ten games, and his batting average is down to .221…Meanwhile, Lucius Fox is on the upswing, having gone 6-for-14 plus three walks against one strikeout in his last four games…Despite having 10 wins on the season, Augusta has collected only four saves, and two of them were of the three-inning variety. Only Caleb Smith has two…Miguel Gomez was one of the five catchers listed on Augusta’s roster, but in his first two games at Augusta, he has been a DH and played third base.
Designated For Assignment: Ian Gardeck
Ian Gardeck was one of the San Jose Fire Squad, a group of fireballers in San Jose’s bullpen in 2015 that could all get into the high-90’s (if not higher). That group included Ray Black, Jake Smith, and Dan Slania. But Gardeck was the one put on the Giants’ 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft last year. Unfortunately, this year, he found out in the spring he would need Tommy John surgery. And now he’s been cut from the 40-man roster, part of the move that puts Vin Mazzaro on the Major League roster.
Gardeck fans may not need to worry, however. Assuming Gardeck clears waivers, which is highly likely, the Giants will try to resign him to a minor league contract. The Giants did the same with Hunter Strickland in 2013 to get Strickland off the 40-man roster after his Tommy John surgery.
Why not just put Gardeck on the 60-Day DL to give a roster spot? Because Gardeck likely won’t be able to pitch again until mid-2017, and the 60-Day DL doesn’t exist in the offseason. Because of that, Gardeck would be taking a spot on the 40-Man Roster that could be used to protect someone else from the Rule 5 draft.
It took about a week to sign Strickland back after his DFA in 2013, so we’ll keep an eye on the Gardeck situation.
4/25 - 2B Ramiro Pena activated from the 7-Day DL; 3B Mitch Delfino placed on the 7-Day DL.
4/26 - LHP Alex Torres assigned to Sacramento; LHP Matt Lujan placed on the 7-Day DL
4/29 - C Andrew Susac placed on the 7-Day DL retroactive to 4/27.
4/30 - RHP Mike Broadway optioned to Sacramento; RHP Jose Casilla assigned to Sacramento from Richmond; RHP Vin Mazzaro promoted to San Francisco from Sacramento.
Alex Torres signed as a free agent after spending most of last season with the New York Mets, and some time with their AAA squad in Las Vegas. Torres had a 3.15 ERA with the Mets last season, and a 1.17 ERA in Las Vegas, and he could insert himself into discussions for the SF bullpen quickly. Lujan has a 5.28 ERA after for starts for the River Cats so far. Jose Casilla is the younger brother of Santiago, and has been with the Giants’ organization longer, since he was a 17-year old back in 2006.
4/25 - LHP Christian Jones activated from the 7-Day DL.
4/29 - C Steven Lerud assigned to Richmond.
4/30 - RHP Tyler Mizenko activated from the 7-Day DL.
Tyler Mizenko comes back from injury to continue being a stalwart in the Richmond bullpen, now with a 1.69 ERA after his first appearance back. Jones had a rough first outing of the season, but has been coming back strong. He’s given up one run in 3.1 innings since coming back. See more about Lerud above.
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What, not even a catcher move?
4/27 - CF Gustavo Cabrera and RHP Matthew Pope placed on the 7-Day DL; RHP Ryan Halstead activated from the 7-Day DL.
4/28 - C Matt Winn assigned to Augusta from Richmond; 3B/C Miguel Gomez assigned to Augusta from Extended Spring Training.
4/29 - C Matt Pare placed on the 7-Day DL.
For the catchers, I hope you already read about them. Cabrera has had a setback with his comeback from injury, with what was described as a "skin reaction". I have no idea what that means, nor what a timetable will be for his return. At this point, just hoping for the best.
You will probably want to watch this video of Jordan Johnson for the strikeout…but I can’t help having my Uni-Watch Senses tingle single orange numbers and logos on an orange. I like me my orange, seriously, but a little contrast is a good thing, @SJGiants.