The minor leaguers are to develop prospects, not win games. The minor leagues are to develop prospects, not win games…
Just keep repeating that, and maybe that’ll make watching a system that’s gone 8-16 this week a little more palatable. But let’s face it, this is not a system that is built to win games right now. That said, maybe something will happen in the future, because…
Everyday They’re Shuffling
Okay, maybe not every day. Or even every week. But this week, the system shuffled. It shuffled a lot. There’s a lot to unpack, so let’s take a look at the moves that were in the week that was.
The 1B-OF Minor League Contract Solutions Are All But Gone
According to the MiLB transaction page, #RiverCats 1B Kyle Blanks has been released.— Giant Potential (@giant_potential) May 26, 2017
I'm hearing that Chris Marrero hasn't played for AAA Sacramento because Giants are nearing a deal to sell his contract to Orix in Japan.— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) May 23, 2017
At the end of Spring Training, I was thinking, “Wow, what a great group of non-roster signings, with all their competition. This is as good as I’ve ever seen it.”
With these two moves, the long line of minor league contracts meant to help fill the voids at left field (and in some cases, help out at first base) have pretty much run their course. Justin Ruggiano is still around, getting his shot at the Major League level. But Marrero was perhaps the best of the signees in Spring Training, certainly he was in Spring performances. Kyle Blanks, well, as a primary first baseman, he wasn’t really getting a shot. But add in guys from Drew Stubbs to the post-spring signing of Justin Upton, and those were a lot of guys who just never made an impact, or never even had a chance to.
But now, with that first base spot and a bunch of outfield spots open, what did that mean for Sacramento?
Shaw Takes Sacramento’s Left Field. Everyone Else is Playing First
Double-A Richmond announces that Chris Shaw has been promoted to Triple-A. Power bat, has been playing a lot of left field this year.— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) May 24, 2017
The promotion of Chris Shaw to Sacramento was one of the only recent pure beams of hope for an underachieving system. Shaw was hitting .301 in the difficult Eastern League at the time of his promotion, and while the ball wasn’t flying out of the ballpark for him, he was showing excellent signs of power and, at least early on, good plate discipline. This was the right move. Also, Shaw had taken over left field for the Squirrels, a position of desperate need in San Francisco, so it’s not unexpected that he’d take the same role in Sacramento.
He followed the promotion of the impressive D.J. Snelten. The lefthander had put up a 1.66 ERA in Richmond in 15 appearances (and 21.2 IP, so he wasn’t just facing left-handed hitters). That said, Snelten has given up three runs in 2 innings so far in Sacramento.
So how would that affect the rest of the ‘Cats?
Jones, Hwang, Slater to play 1B with Marrero bound for Japan. Hill, Gillaspie likely activated early in home stand. #sfgiants— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) May 24, 2017
It seems everyone is a first baseman now. This isn’t much of a surprise with Ryder Jones. With a lot of competition at third, he’d played a significant amount of time at first base even last season. This year, he had also been logging time in left field, but now that position is filled. Jae-Gyun Hwang was a slight surprise, since the majority of his competition at third recently was either Jones or rehabbing players (Aaron Hill and Conor Gillaspie). So moving Jones to first would’ve seemed to have fixed that competition, but maybe there’s more in the wind.
Including Austin Slater in the tweet was a big surprise. Slater hasn’t played the infield in years; even then, it was second base, not first. Still, with the team in need with outfield spots, why move Slater?
Since this tweet, Hwang and Jones have each played first twice. Hwang has also played third twice, and Jones there once. Slater has appeared only in right field, in three games. But, maybe more is in the wind. Notice Gillaspie hasn’t been activated (yet) with new back issues. But I’ll get back to that.
San Jose’s Infield Carousel
Aramis Garcia catching tonight for the first time since his concussion on April 20.— Joe Ritzo (@JoeRitzo) May 24, 2017
#SJGiants also shuffling infield alignment. Howard at shortstop going forward, Miller to second, Dobson first & Arenado over to third base.— Joe Ritzo (@JoeRitzo) May 24, 2017
After Aramis Garcia’s return from concussion, playing time had gotten a bit weird in San Jose as played first regularly during his recovery. But now, he returns to catching, which is good news not just because of his health, but also because of his status as a prospect is much better when he’s behind the plate, rather than at first.
The rest of the changes are shuffling up a defense that has been downright porous, and cancelling a couple of position moves.. Dillon Dobson had been a bit of a surprise to be at second, as a slugging infielder. But he did accumulate 8 errors there in 30 games of work. As bad as that was, Ryan Howard’s defensive performance at third had resulted in 7 errors in 23 games, compared to having just 1 in 21 games at shortstop. Jalen Miller, who had 20 errors in 104 games at second base last season, had collected 8 errors in 28 games at short for San Jose.
Yes, I know these are ridiculous stats to quote in this day and age, but if anyone knows where better defensive metrics are kept on minor leaguers, please let me know.
Augusta’s roster saw an amazing upheaval, and an upheaval going in mostly the wrong direction, as six players were sent down to Extended Spring Training, and three players went from San Jose to Augusta to replace them.
The players moved down were 2B Kevin Rivera (.214 average/.558 OPS), LHP Alex Bostic (7.71 ERA), LF Christoph Bono (.111/.346), RHP Cesar Yanez (9.00 ERA), 3B Manuel Geraldo (.165/.478) and 1B Ryan Kirby (.220/.667). Some of these players had not appeared much, but Kirby and Rivera had appeared in 23 and 24 games respectively. But with Augusta’s punchless offense, it’s likely these players were neither helping themselves nor their teammates.
Coming down from San Jose were 2B Michael Bernal, 3B Jose Vizcaino Jr, CF Johneshwy Fargas. Bernal had been mostly a bench player in San Jose, batting .250 in 40 at-bats there. Vizcaino had gotten into 29 games as one of the team’s regular third basemen with Howard, but his batting line (.214 average, .606 OPS) had meant he just wasn’t getting much in favor of Howard and Arenado. Both of those infielders were going to be adversely affected by San Jose’s shuffle. The speedy Fargas had been batting just .194 with San Jose and might be able to get his season back on track with Augusta. While Sandro Fabian, Ashford Fulmer and Jacob Heyward are all getting playing time in Augusta, it’s not like trying to force time between Bryan Reynolds, Heath Quinn and Gio Brusa in San Jose.
Three New Pitchers Joined The Rosters
The Giants did put three new pitchers into play this week, although one was a promotion from extended spring training.
That one was Greg Brody. The 25-year old Brody was an 11th round pick in 2014 who just joined Augusta. Brody got into 14 games in the AZL as a rookie in 2014…and nearly nothing since to what I assume was Tommy John surgery. He appeared in four games in 2016, and now joins Augusta’s roster, helping offset those six players sent down.
30-year old RHP Collin Balester joined the Giants after being released by the Detroit Tigers in Spring Training, and was assigned to Richmond. Balester is a former Major Leaguers, with a 5.47 ERA in 88 games with Washington, Detroit, and most recently Cincinnati. He has a 4.29 ERA in the minors, but hasn’t pitched in the pros since 2015.
Meanwhile, 25-year old Will LaMarche joined the San Jose Giants, after being released by the Tigers. The Santa Clara native had not pitched in the pros since 2014, where he had a 4.41 ERA between Low-A and Short-A ball. He has a career 3.77 ERA in the minors.
Why No Pitching Shuffle?
One thing that was a little interesting that it didn’t happen were some changes to the pitching rotations, although that might be from a lack of options. Sacramento in particular has a struggling staff: Dan Slania has never gotten his footing in Triple-A (8.54 ERA with Sacramento in 9 starts), and Chris Stratton (6.88 ERA in 7 starts) has started to really struggle recently. Add in Ricky Romero (6.75 ERA in 4 starts), who got a spot in the rotation after Clayton Blackburn was traded, and that’s three starters in Sacramento with 6.50+ ERAs.
Elsewhere in the system, there are other struggling starters, such as Richmond’s Matt Lujan (6.95 ERA overall, 8.88 as a starter), and San Jose’s Mark Reyes (6.70 ERA in 10 appearances, 9 starts) and Matt Krook (7.45 ERA in 8 starts, though he’s begun to improve in his last few starts). It wouldn’t be a surprise to see switches in roles or moves up or down to accommodate these struggles.
The Shuffle Yet To Happen
You don’t want to hear this, but Christian Arroyo will be headed back to Triple-A. It’s pretty damn sure right now. Despite some amazing clutch hits, Arroyo has been horrid at the plate, falling into a tough slump. Him playing hurts any chances the big league team has left. Him being benched helps no one. He can play in Sacramento.
Since Conor Gillaspie had a relapse of back issues, the expected time for Arroyo to get sent down was pushed back. Now, It’d be reasonable to see him go down when Hunter Pence comes back, if that’s before Gillaspie. That makes sense, and it explains why Hwang was mentioned to play first base more.
But one side note: With Pence’s eventual return, it’ll likely mean that the pre-spring Giants’ starting 9 will be back together for the first time in weeks. That includes half of the Parker/Williamson battle, and Eduardo Nunez at third. Giving Nunez regular playing time may low-key be a big thing for the Giants. Nunez hasn’t been great this season, but he hasn’t been awful. And there are no players better suited for a midseason trade than the upcoming free agent. If the Giants fall out of the playoff race, the 29-year old Nunez might be the key to getting a little something back to help refill the farm system.
Hitter of the Week - Bryan Reynolds
Look, I know taking walks and having an excellent OBP are important. But still, despite having an OBP (.482) that’s barely over his batting average (.481) on the week, I’m handing this week’s title to Bryan Reynolds.
Reynolds, who seems to be about as happy as Heath Quinn’s return as Quinn is, has been on fire as of late. He’s 13-for-27 on the week, with two doubles, a triple and a home run. He also has that one walks and two strikeouts, but he also has a sacrifice fly that cut into his OBP. On the season, Reynolds is now batting .293 (up from .259 when the week started) with a better rounded .344 OBP and a .420 slugging percentage. He has 8 doubles, 4 triples and 2 home runs.
Pitcher of the Week - Domenic Mazza
Hey, look who’s back in the PotW spot! Mr. Perfection!
Okay, joking aside, Mazza easily had the best start of the week with seven shutout innings on Saturday, with six hits allowed, no walks, and five strikeouts. That gave him two good ones in a row, after he allowed just one run in seven innings in his last start (May 15th, thanks to rainouts in Augusta).
Surprisingly, Mazza’s good starts have been outweighed by his bad ones this season. He has a 4.21 ERA in eight starts, and just a 2-4 record. He didn’t even get a win in Saturday’s start! He has 31 strikeouts and just 8 walks in 47 IP, but the 49 hits allowed are what has been hurting him this season.
Saturday’s Notable Hitting Lines
Saturday’s Notable Pitching Lines
|SAC||Steven Okert (BS, 1)||1.0||1||1||0||1||0||0||0.00|
|SAC||Roberto Gomez (L, 1-3)||1.2||3||1||1||1||3||0||6.33|
|RIC||Tyler Cyr (W, 1-0)||1.0||0||0||0||0||2||0||2.16|
|SJ||Jake McCasland (W, 2-4)||6.0||7||3||3||1||5||0||6.13|
|SJ||Ryan Halstead (S, 8)||1.0||1||0||0||0||0||0||0.77|
|AUG||Patrick Ruotolo (W, 2-1)||2.0||2||0||0||0||2||0||1.62|
- A late comeback wasn’t enough for the River Cats, who scored all 6 runs in the 8th and 9th to force extras. Juan Ciriaco and Jae-Gyun Hwang hit home runs in the 8th, Orlando Calixte and Ryder Jones hit home runs in the ninth.
- Dan Slania’s struggles continue, although he allowed just four runs, the 10 hits were tied for a season-high.
- Steven Okert blew the save in his return to the Minors, assisted by Orlando Calixte’s error at second.
- Richmond scoffs at a failed 6-run comeback in the final two innings of regulation, and they completed a 7-run comeback in the final inning! Richmond was helped by three walks, a hit-by-pitch, and a passed ball while collecting three singles and a double.
- Slade Heathcott also had a home run to lead off the game, 6th home run of the year.
- Richmond starter Jordan Johnson lost his release point in this game, allowing a career-high six walks.
- Two former closers came in much earlier than they used to. Rodolfo Martinez came in for the 6th inning, while Reyes Moronta came in for the 7th.
- San Jose had 12 hits, and 8 of them were for extra bases (7 doubles, 1 triple).
- Jalen Miller hit his 10th double and his 1st triple of the season.
- Bryan Reynolds continued his hot hitting (as you read above).
- Heath Quinn managed just a single, but it lengthened his hitting streak to eight games.
- Ryan Halstead closed for the save in San Jose, continuing his nice season. He has a 0.77 ERA with 26 strikeouts and 2 walks in 23.1 innings. However, seeing what San Jose’s last two regular closers are doing (see Richmond), I’m not sure what to trust.
- Augusta starter Domenic Mazza had his best start since his perfect game (see above).
- Patrick Ruotolo has now been unscored upon in his last four innings, after a stretch where he gave up 3 ER over a 4 IP span.
- Kelvin Beltre had a 2-hit game for the second game in a row.
- Sandro Fabian continued a 5-game hitting streak, and his first game with multiple hits on May 7th.
- C Adam Sonabend placed by Richmond on the 7-Day DL.
- RHP Heath Slatton placed by San Jose on the 7-Day DL retroactive to May 20th.
✅ - RHP Luis Pino activated by Richmond from the 7-Day DL.
✅ - LHP Caleb Smith activated by San Jose from the 7-Day DL.
- RHP Collin Balester assigned to Richmond.
- LHP Will LaMarche assigned to San Jose.
- 2B Michael Bernal assigned to Augusta from San Jose.
- CF Johneshwy Fargas assigned to Augusta from San Jose.
- 2B Kevin Rivera, LHP Alex Bostic, LF Christoph Bono, RHP Cesar Yanez assigned to Extended Spring Training from Augusta.
- LHP D.J. Snelten assigned to Sacramento from Richmond.
- 3B Jose Vizcaino Jr. assigned to Augusta from San Jose.
- 3B Manuel Geraldo and 1B Ryan Kirby assigned to Giants Extended Spring Training from Augusta.
- 2B T.J. Bennett activated by San Jose from the 7-Day DL.
✅ - CF Carlos Moncrief activated by Sacramento from the temporarily inactive list.
- 1B Chris Shaw assigned to Sacramento from Richmond
- C Rene Melendez assigned to Giants Extended Spring Training from Sacramento.
- LF Shawon Dunston placed by Augusta on the 7-Day DL.
- C Will Albertson placed by Augusta on the 7-Day DL.
✅ - OF Orlando Calixte activated by Sacramento from the 7-Day DL.
✅ - SS Rando Moreno activated by Richmond from the 7-Day DL.
✅ - C Zack Bowers activated by Augusta from the 7-Day DL. - Info
✌️ - 1B Kyle Blanks released by the San Francisco Giants.
- RHP Greg Brody assigned to Augusta.
- RHP Raffi Vizcaino placed by Augusta on the 7-Day DL retroactive to 5/24.
- LHP Steven Okert optioned to Sacramento from San Francisco.
✌️ - LF Chris Marrero “reassigned to the minor leagues” - Word is, Marrero is being released to play in Japan.
It’s been a while since we went off on something uniform-related for the wrap-up, but I just can’t get into these uniforms. I sort of like them, I sort of don’t. I just keep going back and forth.
And, finally, I present a video that will either make you laugh, make you cry, or make you irrationally irate. NO WAIT IT’S NOT POLITICS I PROMISE. Just click this link, and I apologize for the Deadspin.