This is it; our final week of minor league action, thanks to one team making the playoffs. One last recap to make.
The Rookies Were Left Wanting More (Hopefully they keep playing for more)
At least it wasn’t left to the Dodgers.
The AZL Giants were the only Giants affiliate to make the playoffs, but they could not finish off their playoff run.
Missing their undisputed star Heliot Ramos (concussion), and with pitcher who had hit a wall in the late summer Arizona nights, the AZL Giants fell to the Cubs in a best of 3 championship series.
To get to the Championship, they pulled off a gutsy, come-from-behind win in a single-elimination game with the Rangers. Down 4-1 in the 7th, Jacob Gonzalez hit a two-out single with the bases loaded, scoring two runs but the possible tying run in Mikey Edie gunned down at the plate. After the Rangers got an insurance run, Andres Angulo had an RBI single and Kyle McPherson hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game in the bottom of the 8th. Still tied in the bottom of the 9th, Ismael Mungia led off the inning with a single, and Jacob Gonzalez benefitted from a throwing error to put runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out. Diego Rincones then came through with the walk-off single.
18-year old Mungia had really stepped up in Ramos’ absence. The 5’10” outfielder finished the season hitting .331/.398/.458, and in the first playoff game was 3-for-5 with a double and triple. Gonzalez thrived in a cleanup role, going 2-for-5 with a double and 3 RBI.
In Game 1 of the Championship Series, the bullpen let down the Giants in a 10-4 loss against the Cubs. Olbis Parra gave up 3 earned runs, and John Gavin allowed 4 more in the 7th and 8th innings, as 8 runs came in total in the final three innings. That wasted a nice start from Jose Marte, who went 6 innings, giving up a run on 2-hits and a walk, with 9 strikeouts.
The good news for the Giants was that the sparkplugs were still hitting, with Ismael Mungia and Jacob Gonzalez each going 3-for-5, although all were singles.
The Giants pushed through for a Game 2 victory in the 9th. Starter Joe Marciano didn’t even last the first inning, giving up 2 runs in 2/3 of an inning, but the bullpen picked it up with Sidney Duprey (3.1 IP, 0 H, 1 ER, 3 BB) and Miguel Figueroa (3.2 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 2 SO) putting in nice performances. In the 9th, Kyle McPherson led off with a walk, and was bunted to second, and went to third on a groundout. Then Ismael Mungia came up and hit the ball to the first baseman, who couldn’t handle the ball and let McPherson score the winning run.
Unfortunately, the good luck ran out in Game 3. 3rd round pick Seth Corry only gave up 1 hit, but gave up 4 runs (with 2 walks and his own error), and 3 passed balls by catcher Andres Angulo, in a start that went 2 1/3 innings. Jake Greenwalt gave up 4 runs in his own 2 1/3 inning relief outing, and 5 more given up in the 9th pretty much sealed up the game. In this one, the top of the order finally went silent, with the top 3 hitters going a collective 1-for-13 (Gonzalez got the lonely single).
With that, the Arizona Rookie League season came to a close, and the Giants had one more team that just came up short. But these kids have a long way to go. The pitchers will get stronger and better able to handle long seasons. The hitters will find ways to become more consistent. And Heliot Ramos should be back. Next season.
Hitter of the Year - Chris Shaw
Chris Shaw only spent a half-season in Double-A last season, so it was expected for him to start in Double-A this season. It was not expected for him to earn a promotion to Triple-A Sacramento quite so quickly. But Shaw did that, and then proved his power belonged in Triple-A.
Shaw played just 37 games in Double-A, batting .301/.390/.511 with the Squirrels, with 6 home runs. In Triple-A over 88 games, he hit .289/.328/.530 with 18 home runs. The 24 home runs is a season-high for him, which isn’t saying much since he hit 21 in his only other full season last year.
Shaw still has some problems; he collected 132 strikeouts in 469 at-bats overall for the year. Power will always be paired with strikeouts, but there will be some worries about striking out too much. There’s also the idea of a left-handed slugger at AT&T Park. But that question is for the future. In the meantime, the first baseman-turned-left fielder was the best hitter of the year for the Giants system.
Honorable Mentions: Ryder Jones - .312/.396/.574, 13 HR in 64 G at AAA; Bryan Reynolds - .312/.364/.462, 26 2B, 9 3B, 10 HR in 121 G at High-A; Heliot Ramos - .348/.404/.645, 11 2B, 6 3B, 6 HR in 35 G at Rookie Ball.
Pitcher of the Year - Andrew Suarez
Like Shaw, Suarez had a partial season under his belt at Double-A, and so he started there and earned his promotion to Triple-A. In a tough season for pitchers in the system, the former 2nd rounder was more than good enough to earn the Top Pitcher title.
In 11 starts at Richmond, Suarez had a 2.96 ERA with a .276 batting average against and a 1.30 WHIP. In 15 appearances at Sacramento, he had a 3.55 ERA with a .270 average against and a 1.36 WHIP.
For the left-hander, the future is close. The 2nd round pick from 2015 has moved quickly up the system, one without a lot of high level pitching prospects. With uncertainty in the Giants rotation, and their current top pitching prospect Tyler Beede, Suarez could see his chance.
Honorable Mentions: Stephen Woods - 2.95 ERA in 23 GS, 113 SO, 64 BB in 110 IP; Garrett Williams - 2.32 ERA in 18 G between Low and High-A; Domenic Mazza - 3.01 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 1 PG; Stetson Woods - 3.36 ERA, 1.24 WHIP in 14 G; Tyler Rogers - 2.37 ERA, 1.22 WHIP in 55 G.
This season, no doubt, has been awful for the Giants, their fans, and their prospects. But there have been bright spots.
- Chris Shaw made us believers as one of the best power prospects the Giants have had in years.
- Domenic Mazza bounced back from giving up home runs to Tim Tebow, and threw the first 9-inning Perfect Game in South Atlantic League history.
- Injured players like Steven Duggar (.810 OPS in 44 G) and Garrett Williams (2.32 ERA in 18 G) returned mid-season to somewhat successful partial seasons.
- Kyle Crick bounced back from saying he wasn’t a prospect and a concussion to begin proving his worth in the majors.
- Bryan Reynolds was a steady presence for San Jose as 2016’s top pick.
- 1st round pick Heliot Ramos led a 2017 draft that had a lot of early strong performances and a ton of potential.
It’ll be easy to look back on this season for all the negatives. For all the different times players got hit in the head or hand and lost time. For the struggles of guys that some hopes were pinned on.
But there was a fair share worth building on that happened in 2017. And hey, in 2018, the Giants should have a Top 5 draft pick, so maybe that Heliot Ramos hype train will have a new train on the tracks behind it by the end of next June, be it Brice Turang, Jarred Kelenic, Kumar Rocker or someone entirely different.
Thank you for reading and commenting this season…and we’ll see you soon, don’t worry. Roger and I won’t be away all winter.