Hunter Pence’s injury was a big blow to the Giants, and has brought up a lot of speculation about what the Giants will do in his absence, from promotions to minor leaguers like Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson, to trades. But beyond that, it exposes a huge weakness in the system: an inability to develop regular outfielders.
Since 2008, only Fred Lewis and Nate Schierholtz have been regular home grown outfielders on the Giants, and neither were able to stick. Since Barry Bonds left, Left Field has been treated like a veritable Defense Against The Dark Arts position, with only Lewis having been a primary starter for more than one season.
Part of this has been a lack of draft picks…and a few of those picks have bombed. Notably first rounders Wendell Fairley, Roger Kieschnick and Gary Brown were big busts, and the other first-third round picks from outfielders are getting their shots now: Parker and Williamson.
But those two aside, how are the other outfield prospects doing?
Usually, someone says "Stanford Hitter" and that’s the end of the prospect discussion. But Slater seems to have overcome his alumni shortcomings and put together a great two months with AA Richmond. Slater hit .317/.413/.490 with five home runs in Richmond, and earned an early June promotion to Sacramento. He’s gone 3-for-13 in his first three games there. He also played mostly center field in Richmond, a position of constant need, though he’s handled a fair amount of time in the corners, too. However, he’s not projected to hit a lot of home runs, and hasn’t stolen much in the past. However, he’s already at 6 stolen bases this season, one short of his career high of 7, and that was achieved in short-season ball.
Yeah, since Slater got promoted to Sacramento…we’re going to have to skip down to San Jose for some top-level prospects. Duggar has become one of the top hitters in the system this season. The 6th rounder out of last year’s draft is batting .287/.404/.505 in San Jose, with 9 doubles, four triples and eight home runs in 54 hits (a 38.9% XBH rate). However, he has only four steals in nine attempts this season.
Jebavy got off to a slow start this season, but the fifth rounder has begun to warm up. After a .177 average in April, he hit .266 in May and is batting .294 so far in June. However, Jebavy’s biggest asset is his speed, after stealing 23 in 27 attempts in Salem-Keizer. However, much like Duggar, he’s stolen at less than a 50% rate this year (6 steals in 13 attempts).
Davis has been one of the rare top round outfield picks by the Giants, a third-rounder from the 2014 draft. Davis got a shot in San Jose in 2015, but only hit .206 there. So, after he hit .250 in Augusta last season, he’s getting a second stint there. This season, he’s been successful so far, batting .279/.372/.467, and might get a second chance with San Jose soon.
Cabrera came into the system as an infinitely talented young outfielder, but his horrific hand injury was a setback that it’s amazing he’s even come back from. This is Cabrera’s first full season back, and he’s played through some issues that have broken up his playing time. The 20-year old is batting .232/.293/.319 so far this season.
Hak-Ju Lee Opts Out
The month started with this report.
The report said that, as of June 1st, the Giants had 72 hours to add Lee to the major league roster, or Lee would become a free agent. However, there was no official word from the team or Lee about anything. Of course, by this point, the Giants weren’t looking at infield help.
Lee stayed in the lineup from June 1st-3rd, which would be within the 72-hour deadline, and was not in the lineup on Saturday the 4th. However, as of Sunday, he was still listed on the Sacramento roster. Unfortunately, Lee’s best chance to make the roster would be if he could play the outfield…something he has never done in the U.S., at least.
Through 47 games, Lee hit .265/.344/.377 on the season, and had already matched his home run total for 2015, with three.
Michael Santos Injured
The 21-year old Michael Santos is one of the better pitchers at Augusta this season, after he’d had a reasonable 3.44 ERA in 9 starts there last season. This year, he’d been doing well, spinning a 2.91 ERA until Friday’s game.
Scary scene in Augusta as Michael Santos takes a line drive around the cheek, but he seemed to deflect it some. Seemed ok but coming out.— David Lee (@David11Lee) June 3, 2016
There are yet to be any updates on Santos out of Augusta, but the injury doesn’t seem to be serious. He threw a few warmup pitches before the decision was made to take him out. That’s good news for the young pitcher. Santos still has some mechanical issues to work out, but hopefully he won’t have a rehab to work through as well.
Skyler Ewing: First Baseman/Closer!
And this is where we lament minor league baseball’s decreasing local coverage.
May 31st featured a 17 inning game for the Augusta GreenJackets, which almost made up for a rainout earlier in the week. It started in one month and ended in another. But it also led to the GreenJackets using five pitchers from their bullpen after their starter, Logan Webb, only went 5 1/3. Every available bullpen pitcher had appeared, with the others having pitched the day before. So, after the GreenJackets took the lead in the 17th, manager Nestor Rojas got creative. First baseman Skyler Ewing took the mound.
Ewing immediately gave up a double to Antonio Rodriguez, who got his second double, and fourth hit, of the game in his eighth at-bat. But Ewing cleaned up his own mess, using his here-to-forth unknown knuckleball. The next batter laid down a sacrifice bunt, which Ewing (the GreenJackets usual first baseman) fielded cleanly. Ewing then went ahead and struck out the next two batters he faced! He got his first save in his first professional outing as a pitcher.
He didn’t seem any worse for wear, following that outing with a two-hit game the next day.
But, unfortunately, there were no beat reporters to get quotes from him about his outing after the game. Luckily, we had catcher Matt Pare to give us a scouting report, although he may have been loopy after 17 innings of catching…
@giantsprospects PROSPECT WATCH: Skylar Ewing has late life on his knuckleball with a variety of fastball speeds.— Matt Paré (@HipHip_Pare) June 1, 2016
I’m not sure if I’m going to take Pare, the Homeless Minor Leaguer, without a taste of sarcasm.
For what it’s worth, Ewing hadn’t pitched since high school. He was a first-baseman and catcher during his college career, but was his district’s Utility Player of the Year in high school where he also pitched. Considering Augusta’s bullpen this season, perhaps he should make this a change that lasts.
Hitter of the Week - Gorkys Hernandez
He may not be a truly homegrown prospect, but the Giants minor league hitter of the week was Gorkys Hernandez, the minor league free agent that came over from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Hernandez went 11-for-30 as his fellow Sacramento outfielders got promoted, adding in three doubles, a triple and a home run. That gave the 28-year old outfielder the top batting average (.367) and top slugging percentage (.633) on the week.
This week has been Gorky’s big breakout week, raising his season average to .271 and OPS on the year to .727. He has 10 doubles, 2 triples and three home runs on the season. He has also added 11 steals, though the speedy outfielder hasn’t broken 20 in a season since 2013. With the Giants’ current outfielder issues, Hernandez could be playing his way into an opportunity.
Pitcher of the Week - Tyler Beede
A lot of times, people look at strikeouts to judge the dominance of prospect pitchers. Three pitchers got to double-digit strikeouts this week, including both Adalberto Mejia and Jason Forjet reaching double digits in just one start. But I’m going to go with Tyler Beede, who was effective in every other number.
On Thursday, Beede had his best start of the season, going eight innings of scoreless ball. He allowed just two baserunners, on one hit and one walk. Despite that dominance, Beede had just two strikeouts. And perhaps most notably, despite the eight innings being Beede’s longest outing of the year by innings, he threw just 73 pitches to do it.
Beede isn’t having the most outstanding season, but his 3.05 ERA in Richmond is by no means bad. It’s still of note that he’s only struck out 43 batters in 59 innings, and allowed 62 hits. However, has he’s improved over the last month, he’s done it by changing from a groundball pitcher to a flyball pitcher, giving up weak contact and only two home runs on the year (and none since April 25th).
And, since I enjoy showing you rare things, here’s a Beede strikeout.
Clayton Blackburn is putting together a nice streak. He’s now put together three starts where he’s allowed one run in 19 innings, allowing just eight hits and four walks, while striking out 20. Including a one-inning relief outing that got him some work after a long layoff, Blackburn’s ERA has dropped from 5.68 when he got called up to 3.66…
Kyle Crick had one of the most interesting starts this week. Crick had his first AA start with no walks, but on the other hand he struck out only two batters, and gave up nine hits, including two home runs, and hit three batters. Crick, in his third season at AA, has a 4.91 ERA through nine starts…On the better side of things, Adalberto Mejia had 10 strikeouts in 8.2 innings early in the week, dipping his ERA below 2, though he had a come-back-to-earth outing on Saturday, giving up as many earned runs (3) as he did in all of May.
San Jose Footprints
Jason Forjet’s season has been one of extreme ups and downs, but he had one of his big ups this week. Forjet struck out 11 in seven innings, which matches the 11 walks he’s issued all year. Forjet’s third season in San Jose has resulted in a 4.30 ERA so far…Sam Coonrod has been very successful this season, and in his four starts before this week had given up just two earned runs in 24.2 innings. However, he’d struck out just 11 in those 24.2 innings, an interesting quirk. This week, however, Coonrod once again found his out pitch, striking out seven in 6.2 innings of shutout ball. Coonrod has dropped his ERA to 1.45 on the year, and may find himself in Richmond after the All-Star Break.
Augusta Putt-putt Course
Jalen Miller was putting together a great hitting streak from the middle of May. From May 13th, he had a hit in 14-straight games. He went 21-for-62 (.339) during the stretch, though with just two walks. However, then June happened. In three games since the month changed, Miller’s gone 0-for-9, though he’s gotten two walks in that span as well. Miller’s batting .258 on the season now, after peaking at .278…Phil Bickford got an interesting scouting report from former Augusta beatwriter David Lee over at Baseball Prospectus. He noted that he’s pretty much just a fastball/slider pitcher at this point, without that important third pitch.
Oops. Here's the Phil Bickford scouting report with the correct link. https://t.co/ED6CdGaAYu— David Lee (@David11Lee) June 3, 2016
6/2 - Mac Williamson recalled to San Francisco from Sacramento
Williamson is getting another shot, probably a longer one with Hunter Pence’s injury. This may finally be the real shot Williamson gets to stick in the majors.
6/2 - OF Austin Slater assigned to Sacramento from Richmond
With both Williamson and Parker up to San Francisco, Sacramento needed help. The hot hitting Austin Slater gets the shot to join Gorkys Hernandez. See above for more info.
6/2 - C Steven Lerud activated from the 7-Day DL. RF Carlos Moncrief activated from the 7-Day DL. C Ben Turner retired.
Carlos Moncrief has hit .224 so far this season, and was very needed, as Slater’s departure leaves Richmond with just three listed outfielders. Lerud has only played 9 games since joining Richmond as a free agent, and is batting just .083. Ben Turner’s retirement comes as he has hit just .176 for the Squirrels this season. He was a 21st round pick in 2012.
6/2 - LF Robbie Garvey assigned to the San Jose Giants.
Robbie Garvey was a minor league free agent signed over from the Dodgers system. He’s notable for his speed. Last season, he stole 11 bases for AA Tulsa, and got no at-bats. Seriously, he never hit the plate, or saw the field. He was a pinch running specialist. He’s 2-for-11 so far with San Jose.
5/29 - 2B Richar Amion assigned to Augusta. 1B Skyler Ewing, RHP Heath Slatton and C Matt Pare activated from the 7-Day DL. SS Dillon Dobson and C Adam Sonabend placed on the 7-Day DL.
5/31 - LHP Grant Watson placed on the 7-Day DL retroactive to 5/26 with a left elbow injury.
6/2 - C Junior Arias assigned to Augusta from San Jose.
6/3 - RHP Matt Solter assigned to Augusta
6/4 - RHP Luis Pino assigned to Augusta
Augusta saw a whirlwind of moves this week. Ewing got a chance to play on both sides, as you saw before. Watson had been on a downslide before his injury, giving up 16 runs in 18.1 innings. For now, Matt Pare has a home in Augusta.
I saw this picture of Albuquerque’s ballpark from the RiverCats twitter feed.
Nice to see someone took the idea from the proposed San Jose ballpark and said "Let’s have some fake outfield buildings that have windows that are just open all the way through!