So there were two major stories in the system last night. One, a happy one, I’ll get to in a bit. But I suppose I feel I should start with this one:
.@SFGiants option OF Mac Williamson to Triple-A Sacramento.— MLBRosterMoves (@MLBRosterMoves) July 10, 2017
What jumped off the transaction sheet about this announcement was its essential strangeness, its abnormality. It doesn’t feel like standard business. Sending a player down on the first day of the All Star break? To a team that is on the first day of its All Star break? Replacing him with no one? What’s the point of this? As far as I can tell, and I’m certainly no expert, the only really practical effect of this was to save the Giants a few thousand over the next three days on Mac’s major league split, and consequently to cost Williamson the same, which feels oddly punitive. Un-Giantsy.
And because it seems to have so little obvious logistical cause, the subtext overwhelms. It feels all subtext, nothing but subtext: “we’re removing him from our major league roster because we don’t feel he belongs there.” It’s harsh. It’s glaring.
Let’s be frank: Mac Williamson is having a difficult 2017. In the minors he’s striking out more than he ever has. His batting average, OBP, wOBA all much lower than they’ve ever been before. And in his few opportunities in the majors he’s too often had at bats that were simply non-competitive. As Sunday’s was. He frequently seems to be guessing and he always seems to be guessing wrong. It’s painful. It’s painful to watch and I’m sure it’s painful to go through.
And now, with Austin Slater and perhaps Ryder Jones in front of him, and Chris Shaw behind or beside him, it’s getting harder and harder to see where Mac’s future fits in this organization. An organization whose major league coaching staff is very clearly down on him — so down they practically announced it publicly last night, in subtext.
These are, for me, the saddest lines I’ve ever written in one of these posts. That I don’t see a future for Mac with the Giants. That I’m starting to mentally adjust myself to him being gone. I hate it. But that’s sure what went through my mind when I saw that tweet come over my timeline last night. The end game has begun.
Of course, this is baseball. And in baseball a player with the physical gifts to perform can always be a tweak and adjustment away from turning non-competitive into hyper-competitive. So I’ll walk myself back from the brink with this thought. This week sometime I have heard one of the ex-players on MLB Network talking about being a AAA guy stuck behind Scott Brosuis. And in spring training one time he mentioned to Brosuis that it frustrated him. And Scott told him: “you’re thinking about it wrong. We’re all always playing for all 30 teams. And if both of us are major league players, then both of us will get our opportunities to play in the majors. Where doesn’t matter.”
So today this is my hope for Mac Williamson: that he’s a major league player. That he gets his opportunity to play in the majors. Where doesn’t matter. Find the tweak that gets you out of the wilderness and thrive.
A class act. A high character guy. A person who works hard and is unfailingly nice and giving to everyone around him. And a hell of an athlete.
HIGHLIGHTS: Madison Bumgarner struck out 8 over 6 two-hit innings; Aaron Bond had three hits, a double and SB.
Sacramento and Richmond are both on All Star Breaks
San Jose lost to the Modesto Nuts (Mariners), 4-2
losing their four game series, 1-3
San Jose Bats
So today is the day where the beat guys are covering the system, and that’s where you should really be reading about this this morning (as I’m sure you already have).
In what should be his final tuneup for a return to the majors, Madison Bumgarner was more satisfyingly Bumgarnerish. The cutter cut; the sludder slud. He mixed the curve in. The batters swung hopelessly and aimlessly and felt a mortal dread settling in their souls. All was in it’s rightful place.
6 IP. 86 pitches. 8 strikeouts. 1 walk. 2 singles. And he’s coming back in San Diego (where hopefully he can spy out that missing mojo and steal it back!)
Everybody should go read all of Alex Pavlovic’s and Andy Baggarly’s timelines and stories as they’ve both got a ton of great content, but let me highlights just a couple of things for our purposes:
Ryan Howard just made a hell of a play from the hole at short to get first out. Lots of Giants people view him as sleeper prospect.— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) July 11, 2017
Let’s get this dude to Richmond, shall we? He and CJ can have a “sleeper MI prospect” death cage battle. Or they can just keep rapping singles all over the park together and making plays.
John Polonius also made a fine play behind Bumgarner to get his final out of the night.
What they didn’t get, again, was very much offense. But Jalen Miller provided a thrill with his second blast in two nights:
These haven’t been cheapies, either. Joe Ritzo has the Trackman info and it’s impressive:
Jalen Miller with a 400+ foot home run for the second straight game. Tonight a 405-foot blast to left - his 6th HR of the season.— Joe Ritzo (@JoeRitzo) July 11, 2017
Could the 20 year old be coming into his maturation and strength? I like seeing the power game start to come Jalen. Now let’s get some of the consistent hard contact game along with it.
You can find Bumgarner’s thoughts on the game, the rehab process, and the beer batter, and much more below if you haven’t already watched it (which you should have):
Full interview with Bumgarner here, on his final rehab start and returning to the Giants (and that pesky beer batter) https://t.co/OFgllx9rGb— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) July 11, 2017
Augusta lost to Asheville Tourists (Rockies), 7-1
losing their four game series, 1-3
|Shawon Dunston Jr.||LF||4||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.206|
A lot went well for Raffi Vizcaino last night. The 21 year old right-hander threw 89 pitches in going a career high 7.2 IP. It wasn’t a career high in pitches. He had thrown 94 pitches three starts ago but only got through 5.2 innings that night. He threw 88 pitches in his previous start but lasted just 6 innings.
Vizcaino did walk two batters last night, which was something of an upset. In fact, it was his highest walk total of the year. In 7 games and 32.1 IP, Vizcaino has walked just 8 batters while striking out 32, with five coming in last night’s game.
The only thing that really went wrong is that he couldn’t quite get through that 8th inning. After retiring the first two batters of the inning, he allowed a single and a double and that was his night. And then, unfortunately, relievers Greg Brody and Sandro Cabrera combined to allow six runs over the final four outs of the game (two of which went on Raffi’s ledger).
Meanwhile, the Greenjackets once again struggled to get much going offensively. They managed just seven baserunners on the night (on five hits, a walk, and a HB) and two of them got eliminated on the basepaths (CS from Sandro Fabian and Ashford Fulmer).
Jacob Heyward’s double was the team’s only extra base hit, and he was almost instantly deleted when he was thrown out trying to advance to 3b on a ground ball to SS. For the first out of the inning. Cardinal Rules, Jacob! They mean something! For the night the team had just three at bats with a RISP.
Anyway, it was a good night for Vizcaino.
Salem-Keizer lost to the Everett AquaSox (Mariners), 9-5
winning their five game series, 4-1
|a- Christopher Burks||PH-LF||2||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
Going for that rarest of rarities — a five game sweep on the road — the Volcanoes slipped out of the gates. Starter Alejandro de la Rosa was hit early and often, putting the team in a 6-0 hole by the end of the 3rd inning.
The offense never really got on a roll in this one, putting together a three-run 9th to make the final score semi-respectable but never really being competitive. Prior to that all the team managed was two solo HRs. One came from Texas Tech 15th rounder Orlando Garcia, who’s threatening to put a power spin on the Giants habit of turning late round middle infielders into found money. It was Garcia’s 3rd HR in just nine games with the Volcanoes. And the other came from OF Logan Baldwin, 21st round pick out of Georgia Southern University.
There was some big news for the Volcanoes off the field though. Out of this world news, as it were!
Huge news! NASA is sending 5 representatives to Volcanoes Stadium to be involved in Eclipsefest to educate and conduct experiments.Aug 18-21 pic.twitter.com/3p1OMg4ocH— S-K Volcanoes ⚾ (@SKVolcanoes) July 8, 2017
|a- Jacob Gonzalez||PH-3B||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.500|
Aaron Bond with three hits, a double, and a SB, and C Ricardo Genoves hit a 2-run homer in the bottom of the 8th to give the AZL Giants a come-from-behind victory.
Chris Kusiolek, who’s getting to the point where he’s going to challenge Bill Mitchell for king of the AZ backfields title, responded to a question of mine regarding Genoves yesterday, btw. Not too encouraging regarding the current bat mechanics but he is a young catcher which means there’s a lot on his plate.
Genoves' bat path and rotation, swing in general, is bad. Rincones limited athlete w/ poor actions and elongated bat path— Chris Kusiolek (@CaliKusiolek) July 10, 2017
Heliot Ramos and Jacob Gonzalez went a collective 1 for 5, so no thrills to be had there. Ramos picked up another 2 Ks. He has 11 Ks now, which account for a full half of the outs he’s made so far!
Seth Corry made his third professional appearance. He’s yet to give up a hit yet as a pro over 3.2 IP, though he does have three walks issues and a HB.
|Wascar De Leon||DH||3||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||1||.278|
|1- Raiber Gutierrez||PR-LF||1||1||1||0||0||0||1||0||0||.279|
21 year old vet RHP Aneudy Acosta allowed just 1 hit over 5 innings while striking out 6 and reliever Abel Adames struck out 4 more over 2 hitless, shutout innings to help push the Giants to a victory. Though the staff allowed just three hits they ended up giving up four runs (1 earned) thanks to errors from 1b Nishell Gutierrez, 2b Anyesber Sivira, and Acosta himself.
Sivira’s had an interesting season position wise. He’s played 9 games at 2b, 6 games at 3b, 8 in LF, 2 in RF, and 5 games at DH.
Alexander Canario walked, stole his team leading 12 base (tied for 7th in the league), moved to 3b on a WP and came home with the eventual game winning run on a ground ball.
Since it’s a short night, I have something else I feel like talking about. I’m very much hoping this will come off sounding sober and reflective, rather than whiny Monday morning QB-ing though I know that’s highly unlikely. For one thing I’m not a good enough writer and for another, it’s likely got a strong portion of whiny Monday morning QB-ing mixed up in it.
But I spent a lot of last night’s highly entertaining festivities thinking about what it meant that the Giants had preferred Christian Arroyo to Aaron Judge back in 2013.
This is a completely unfair, retroactive way of posing the question, of course. Christian Arroyo was an over-reach on a lot of boards, and there were several folks on the board who were more consensus picks at that #25 spot whose careers have gone nowhere: Eric Jagielo, Rob Kaminsky, even Austin Slater’s college teammate Austin Wilson (who lasted to the second round and was just released this week after being waived last December) would all have been seen as much more “consensus” picks.
But Judge has always fascinated me and he fascinated me at the time as, in so many ways, a polar opposite of the Arroyo pick. The Giants, as we know, have a proudly defiant approach to the draft. They have their own board; they have their own type. And they don’t much care what anybody else’s board says. Arroyo was their type. Recently the MVP of the US 18U international team. He had bat to ball skills. He had a motor, a high energy kid. He had great intangibles and work ethic. He was their guy.
I think the narrative surrounding that pick was always oversimplistic. It went from:
A) The Giants took a guy who wasn’t in anybody’s top 100. Over-reach! A nobody!
B) Arroyo’s a good player! They were right all along! Giants knew better than everyone.
But that was always overdoing it. Everybody knew Christian Arroyo was — and is — a nice player with a solid opportunity to contribute. The review that I most readily remember about that pick, I believe from one of the Perfect Game folks was exactly that — Arroyo’s going to be a nice little player, but is that what you want from your first round pick?
Of course drafting, as much as it’s about scouting, is also something of a referendum on organizational risk tolerance and a lot of major league organizations, front offices and especially ownership groups would answer a decisive YES to that question. Give us a return of some kind with that pick and we’ll be happy. Give us a solid productive player and we’ll take the return on investment.
Aaron Judge was pure risk. His performance record at Fresno St. was excellent (though scouts wondered when the power would show up), but he came with so many question marks. “There’s never been a player his size!” Can he adjust to hard stuff in? With arms those longs can he ever cover the holes? Can he prevent major league pitchers exploiting the huge zone he takes to the plate with him?
Thanks to tremendous work from the Yankees development team and Judge himself, it’s looking like the answers to some of those questions will be positive. Because he’s a freak. He’s a man beast freak of nature and he’s worked his way into that being the most important think about his story.
Christian Arroyo is, and will be, a fine player I believe. Something quite akin to Joe Panik. And that’s a good return. But it’s also a good return that the Giants have shown themselves fairly well adept at finding in other spots in the draft (e.g., Matt Duffy, CJ Hinojosa, maybe Ryan Howard). And prioritizing him came at the risk of turning their backs on some bigger physical tools that wouldn’t outlast the 1st round.
Almost certainly the way I framed this question is false. Every pick is just liking some player more than some other player, on down the board. But it does seem that for most of the John Barr years the Giants’ draft strategy has prioritized things other than physicality. And in 2017, physicality is something this org desperately needs from the top right on down. Which is why I suppose I was so happy they drafted Heliot Ramos this year. And it’s why I suppose I’m so sad that they haven’t found a way to unlock Mac Williamson’s gifts yet.
In essence, it doesn’t really “mean” anything that they preferred Christian Arroyo to Aaron Judge. They took the guy they liked and they developed him. They were “right.” But Aaron Judge was a hyper-risky physical freak. And that reminds me that selecting a hyper-risky physical freak 11 years ago helped set the Giants organization on the path to championships. Tim Lincecum was a risky physical freak. Madison Bumgarner was, and is, a physical freak. Even Buster Posey, that SS turned C, that 9 positions in 9 innings All American kid has a little freak in him somewhere. They need to find themselves a few more freaks I think, if they want to return to the top.
Except for the DSL all leagues are dark tonight for the major league All Star game, so Minor Lines will be dark tomorrow morning as well, taking a much needed, if not necessarily well-deserved, rest.
Enjoy the stars, everybody! Win an MVP, Buster!