Well, this Saturday was the worst day for a farm system already struggling. Let’s just get into the news of the day, which you may or may not have heard.
Christian Arroyo Comes Back From Wrist Injury, Gets Hit On Wrist
Update: Arroyo was hit by pitch on the same hand tonight. Previous HBP was June 14. Unbelievable. https://t.co/WE5pllLjSW— Giant Potential (@giant_potential) July 2, 2017
Yep, that’s right. The Giants’ top prospect, coming back from getting hit on the wrist in the middle of June, was promptly hit on the same wrist in his second at-bat. Based on reports seen, he jumped up in pain and slammed his helmet into the ground as the trainer rushed out to him. He was promptly removed.
None of this sounds good, though there are, as of this writing on late Saturday night, no updates to his condition. But, well, it’s hard not to be filled with dread right now. And this just happened to follow more news…
Joan Gregorio Popped For Steroids Violation
#sfgiants pitching prospect Joan Gregorio popped rest of the season for steroid use. Was having a good year at Sacto.— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) July 1, 2017
Before recently going on the DL, Gregorio had been putting together arguably his best season of his career, with a 3.04 ERA in 13 starts at Sacramento, having posted a 5.28 ERA in 21 starts at Sacramento in part of 2016. He had 61 strikeouts and 35 walks in 74 innings, both worse than his usual production, but he had been succeeding at not giving up hits (63 in 74 innings, a .235 average against).
As Sacramento’s top-performing starter, and being on the Giants 40-man roster, it had been looking like a sure thing he would be appearing in San Francisco this season. Add in that Gregorio was in his last option year, so the team would need to either keep him in the majors next year or risk losing him to waivers, the team definitely were going to need to see what they had.
Now, they certainly will not.
That last option year is going to make Gregorio’s future rather interesting to see, albeit, an interesting we won’t find out for some time. Will the Giants keep him on the active roster next year, relatively sight-unseen? Will they risk losing him through waivers? It’s possible that coming off of a steroids suspension would make him more likely to slip through. Or will the Giants cut ties, as some fans prefer with steroid users?
An unfortunate truth, however, is that the Giants farm system, particularly a weak pitching system, is that much thinner with Gregorio not in it.
The Wrong - And Right - Way to Blame The Farm System
So, at some point in the last few years, San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami blocked me on Twitter. I honestly am not sure why. I’m generally not Donald Trump-like on Twitter. I’ll curse, but at teams rather than other users. And since I fancy myself a journalist (a debatable term, I admit), I try to hold sportswriters in a level of respect. So yeah, he banned me.
That doesn’t have much to do with much of anything, except that he wrote a column about 10 Things that Destroyed This Giants Team. And while most of the points are very good ones, I’m going to tell him he’s wrong on a big one.
7. The Giants’ personnel strategy (and Bochy’s managing) highlights steady, stable, reliable players who have the maturity to fit right in with the major-league team, but that sometimes moves them away from more electric, tools-y prospects.
Okay, he didn’t use the strongest of language there, but the point is made, and he mentions prospects, which is our beat here at the…ahem, Prospect Roundup. So, let’s take a look at this.
First of all, let’s look at that personnel strategy. I’d say that this idea isn’t a bad idea at all. Some other writer on this site, the one that moonlights as a TV star, did some research into power hitting around baseball, and found that, pretty much, power hitting doesn’t happen at AT&T Park. And, let’s be honest, when people talk about “Tools-y” prospects, they generally won’t say that unless one tool is power. That might even be the only tool.
So, power hitting isn’t likely to be a great strategy at AT&T Park. And that’s before you discuss that out of the rest of the NL West, 3 of the 4 ballparks feature some of the most expansive outfields in baseball. That’s about 100 games where athleticism matters. Which is likely a big reason why, when it comes to outfielders, the Giants have valued athleticism in outfield prospects over more pure power. (I’m not saying it’s been successful, just that it’s been the theory.)
So, when the Giants have gone after hitting prospects, especially in the first round, they’ve pursued the kinds of guys who are the hitters who hit line drives, who can move the line. Some people like to call these guys, like Joe Panik or Christian Arroyo…and even Buster Posey, safe hitters. High average, high intelligence, low ceiling. But they also tend to make the Majors at a higher rate than the riskier, tools-y prospects.
The Giants have pursued tools-y hitters…but, we don’t think about them much. Wendell Fairley, Gary Brown, Rafael Rodriguez, Roger Kieschnick…those were tools-y guys, but all were busts. We don’t always think about the busts, unless they are true first round picks. (Looking at you, Gary)
But, here’s the thing…the Giants do take Tools-y prospects. They do it all the time. They’ve taken a ton of them. And that’s where Tim is terribly wrong.
They take Tools-y pitchers, that’s all.
Madison Bumgarner? Tools-y. Tim Lincecum? Tools-y. Zack Wheeler? Kyle Crick? Chris Stratton? Tyler Beede? Phil Bickford? All Tools-y.
That’s the part of the Giants’ prospect philosophy everyone ignores. It’s safe, move-the-line, defensively solid position players…and tools-y pitchers.
And that’s where Kawakami got it right.
2. The Giants haven’t produced a difference-making pitcher in a while and that has forced them to go to the free-agent and trade markets for top-line rotation arms, which is unreliable and very, very expensive.
This is, once again, the thing with Tools-y Prospects. They are riskier. The Giants got lucky with Lincecum. They got incredibly lucky with Bumgarner. But the Giants have hit a period where the Tools-y Prospects they’ve drafted haven’t developed.
That’s the thing about farm systems, it’s not a sure thing. Despite best intentions, good scouting, developing and patience, sometimes things don’t work out. But the idea behind the Giants system, the theory behind it, it’s not a bad one. It’s a system that did help lead the Giants to 3 World Series Championships.
This year, the Giants took a Tools-y Hitter, Heliot Ramos. Maybe this is the year the luck, and the theory, turns around.
And A Strong Start, At That
Heliot Ramos, along with many others, began his professional career at the end of the week…and boy, did he live up to the status of a first round pick!
After going 3-for-5 with two doubles and a triple in his first game, Heliot got a first in his second game. His first single. But, also, his first home run! Add in two more doubles, and you have a pretty fantastic batting line of .700/.700/1.600 over the fantastically small sample size of two games. He still has yet to get his first walk, and his first steal, as well as a host of other firsts…but Ramos has done well, batting leadoff and playing center.
Also of note is 2nd rounder Jacob Gonzalez. While the son of Luis has not been as spectacular as Ramos, going 4-for-7 in his first two games with 2 doubles and, more impressively, 3 walks against 1 strikeout, there is a lot to feel optimistic about.
One final note: both of these players are very age appropriate in the AZL, with Ramos being one of the youngest players in the league at 17. Gonzalez is a bit older, having turned 19 just six days ago, but both are playing with their peers, age-wise.
Bryan Reynolds Going To The Futures Game
So, how about some good news?
#SJGiants OF Bryan Reynolds selected to play in Futures Game (July 9 in Miami).— Joe Ritzo (@JoeRitzo) June 29, 2017
The Giants’ top draft pick in 2016 is having an excellent year, particularly recently, and has a well-earned honor.
Reynolds is batting .306/.344/.456 on the season, with 16 doubles, 7 triples and 4 home runs. Reynolds has shown a bit of an issue with strikeouts, with 67 in 281 at-bats (23.8%), but it hasn’t stopped him from hitting line drives all over the park.
The honor, however, is also a bit of a comment on the state of the Giants’ farm system. To fill the Futures teams, 20 teams send two players, and 10 teams send one. The Giants were deemed one of the one-player systems. Reynolds was a pretty easy pick for the U.S. team, but the Giants didn’t have a good option for the World team. I mean, they had one top-rated international prospect that was traded away last season. Lucius Fox will be playing for the World team representing the Rays.
Well, the Giants do have one Dominican pitcher in Triple-A who is among the league leaders in…oh, right.
Moving On Upton
Oh, look who’s back! Well, back, as in, he was never actually in Sacramento before, and hadn’t played a game for the Giants, but…well, whatever. He’s back and for the first time, a Giant.
Melvin Upton, Jr. tore a thumb ligament when he was…stop me if you’ve heard this before…hit by a pitch in April. Upton made his return on Saturday, with no rehab starts in the AZL or anywhere else. He got a walk, but no hits in his official season, and Giants, debut.
Dugging Back Into a Hole
One of the players that has been missing this season has been Steven Duggar, the center fielder that had been expected to be handling center field with Sacramento. But with a hip flexor strain, and then a hamstring injury, Duggar’s season had been spent in Arizona rehabbing, until this past Sunday.
And then, on Thursday, he was back on the disabled list for as-yet undisclosed reasons. Duggar’s last game was his best of rehab, with 2 doubles on a 2-for-4 day, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that either his hip or hamstring could have been affected.
If I can offer some good news, I’ll let Joe Ritzo give it to you.
Encouraging development on Duggar - he is taking batting practice right now just one day after going back on DL. https://t.co/2kjjA5WNlP— Joe Ritzo (@JoeRitzo) July 2, 2017
Hopefully this means that the DL stint, this time, will be just 7 days.
Hitter of the Week - Shawsome
Chris Shaw has begun to put things together in Triple-A. With four home runs in four games, and an 11-for-19 (.579) batting line over those four, Shaw has been opening some eyes. Combine that with a weaker start to the week, and Shaw is still 11-for-24 with a double and four home runs (a .458/.458/1.000 line).
Shaw now has played 32 games in Sacramento, and has more home runs in Sac-town (7) than he did in 37 games at Richmond (6). He’s also nudged his batting average to .302, after starting this streak at .255. Combined on the year, Shaw has a .302/.356/.531 batting line between the two levels, with 19 doubles a triple and 13 home runs.
Shaw has been a more aggressive hitter in Triple-A, where he has just four walks compared to the 18 he collected in Double-A, with 34 strikeouts to 26. But it has paid off in his results so far. Hot streak aside, there’s not likely much room for Shaw in the Majors right now. But it’s possible he might find a spot in September, if he can keep this sustained.
Pitcher of the Week - Marco Gonzalez
There were a lot of very good pitching lines this week, and this was a hard decision. So, I’m going with the man making pitching waves in the Dominican.
19-year old Marco Gonzalez put together his most dominating start yet, though with a cloud going with the silver lining. He gave up just 1 hit against 8 strikeouts in 6 innings, although he did allow a season-high four walks. It’s the second time this season that Gonzalez has hit 8 strikeouts in a game, though the last time he did it in four innings.
Through five starts this season, Gonzalez has struck out 30 in 24.1 innings, with 16 hits allowed and 13 walks. With the one-hitter, he has lowered his batting average allowed to .179.
|AAA||R||H||E||AA - Game 1||R||H||E||AA - Game 2||R||H||E||High-A||R||H||E|
|AAA||R||H||E||AA - Game 1||R||H||E||AA - Game 2||R||H||E||High-A||R||H||E|
Saturday’s Hitting Lines
|AUG||Jose Vizcaino Jr.||1B||3||1||2||1||0||0||1||1||1||0.234|
Saturday’s Pitching Lines
|SAC||Tyler Beede (L, 4-6)||3.2||5||5||4||6||5||0||5.30|
|RIC1||Nate Reed (L, 0-1)||4.2||11||9||8||2||2||0||15.43|
|RIC2||Jarret Martin (L, 1-1)||2.0||2||1||1||1||2||0||4.38|
|AUG||Caleb Baragar (L, 2-6)||4.1||8||9||8||4||3||0||4.86|
|S-K||Logan Webb (W, 1-0)||2.0||0||0||0||0||1||0||1.80|
|S-K||Garrett Cave (S, 1)||1.0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0.00|
|AZL||Reagan Bazar (W, 1-1)||1.0||1||0||0||1||1||0||9.00|
|AZL||Greg Jacknewitz (H, 1)||1.0||2||0||0||0||0||0||0.00|
- The highlight of the Sacramento game was Chris Shaw, collecting his fourth home run in as many games, as you have read.
- Tyler Beede followed up his earlier good start with a particularly rough one. Most notably, he reached a season-high six walks. He has a 1.50 WHIP on the season to go with his 5.30 ERA.
- Tyler Rogers gave up just two baserunners, with a hit and a hit-batter, but he continues to get ground ball after ground ball, a 2.77 GO/AO ratio. I know some are not big fans, but the submariner is doing more and more to get a major league look.
- Richmond played an effective double-header, picking up Friday’s game that was suspended after 1 inning.
- The sacrificial lamb in Game 1 was newcomer Nate Reed, a 29-year old pitcher signed out of the Mexican League. Reed last pitched in affiliated ball for the Boston organization in 2014.
- Slade Heathcott finished Game 1 with a good game, even after leading off the first inning on Friday with a home run. He was 3-for-4 in Game 1, but 0-for-3 in Game 2.
- Game 2 was a hitting wasteland for the Squirrels. Dylan Davis got the only extra-base hit with a double, and there wasn’t a single walk.
- Jarret Martin took the Game 2 “Start”, going two innings in what was a bullpen-pitched game.
- San Jose starter Mike Connolly got blasted, giving up 10 hits in 5 innings, tying a season high with 6 runs.
- After losing a 6-game hitting streak, Bryan Reynolds started a new one with a 1-for-4 day with his 16th double of the season.
- To carry the theme of the day, Augusta starter Caleb Baragar was hit hard, giving up 9 runs, 8 earned, on 8 hits and 4 walks. The runs and walks allowed were season highs.
- Skyler Ewing had the big day, with a pair of doubles to give him 10 on the day. That matches his 2016 total in 74 games, but the slugger still has just 3 home runs on the year.
- Gustavo Cabrera started his season going 0-for-10, and then got 4 days off. Since then, he’s 4-for-12 (.333) with 2 home runs, including his 2-for-4 with a home run day today.
- Alex Bostic rebounded from a rough start, reaching 5 innings for the second time in three starts at S-K. It was the first time he showed a bit of control, allowing just one walk after having allowed 8 total in the previous two starts.
- 4th round pick Garrett Cave, the highest 2017 draft pick at Salem-Keizer, got a chance in the closer role for his debut. He struck out 1 in an otherwise quiet inning.
- Malique Ziegler went 1-for-3, and picked up his 11th stolen base (and his second caught stealing). He is one steal behind the league leader Steven Linkous of Boise (Rockies).
- In Arizona, Miguel Figueroa continued the string of starters getting blown up, but he could blame his defense. 5 errors led to 5 unearned runs.
- But, really, let’s talk about Heliot Ramos. In Game 2 of his career, he went 4-for-5 with two doubles and his first career home run. Also, the home run was a game-tying 8th inning solo shot, so clutch, too!
- Aaron Bond, playing left field, was 4-for-5 with a double. However, he got himself erased off the basepaths twice, getting caught stealing twice.
- In the DSL, Andrew Carabello led the way, getting on base three times, including a hit and two walks. He has 12 walks to 14 strikeouts in 53 at-bats.
I have no uniforms for you…so I’ll hand the mic over to Roger, and his explanation of the DSL.