The Flying Squirrels revealed their roster this weekend, and yes, there are not a lot of top prospects. But there is one unquestioned hitter worth watching on this roster, and more than a few pitchers of interest. From a couple of top prospects to a flame-throwing return, Richmond will be interesting.
Here is the roster from Richmond, with positions as they are listed and ages as of opening day.
Best Hitting Prospect: Aramis Garcia
Kevin: Yikes, this is a shallow list to choose from. Among the hitters, Garcia is the only one you’ll likely find on top prospect lists. But his progress has just kept getting derailed by head injuries. Sliding into someone’s knee in 2016 caused facial fractures, and a concussion in 2017 did not help. That said, Garcia still managed to put together his best offensive season with a .274/.323/.485 batting line between San Jose and Richmond. The 22 games at Richmond last year are why he’s starting there again this season, although that makes him an excellent midseason promotion candidate, even with Trevor Brown and Hector Sanchez as a good Triple-A catching team. Between you and me, however, it also makes him a significant trade candidate if the Giants are still pursuing the playoffs midseason, with Posey entrenched in the Majors for the foreseeable future. But as a counterpoint, at the moment the Giants have no significant real prospects at catcher other than those two major league vets and Garcia.
Roger: It’s all about defensive value on this roster. Garcia has a strong arm, gets decent if not overwhelming reports on his abilities as a receiver, and has good power to the pull side. Is there a path to the majors for that profile? Why yes, Nick Hundley, there is! The overall package might not ever develop to starter level, but given how low the bar is for major league catchers, I don’t want to be against him. That theory extends up the middle of the field. Ryan Howard has the defensive chops to play the left side of the field, and can make a ton of contact (another in a long line of Giants’ farmhands who could stand to learn to control the strike zone a little more). Is there a career path for that? Why yes, Kelby Tomlinson and Matt Duffy(!), there’s one for that too. Continue on out into CF where Ronnie Jebavy’s plus defense and occasional pop could make you imagine a Juan Perez-y sort of up and down career is possible. All are flawed hitters, but they’re flawed hitters who can provide value in other areas, which gives them all an edge over corner guys Jonah Arenado and Dillon Dobson will have to mash their way to any potential MLB career. Garcia just has to keep honing the defensive chops, improve his plate coverage a little, keep hitting dingers and there’s a clear path to Buster Posey’s backup in a couple years waiting for him.
Best Pitching Prospect:
Roger: Garrett Williams and Shaun Anderson
Why? Because I choose not to choose yet still have made a choice. Williams and Anderson are a pretty dynamic two-headed monster to lead Richmond’s rotation this year. Williams is the upside pick, of course, a LHP with two potential plus pitches who’s been on scouting radar for a decade now. Williams had health problems in high school and control problems in college which allowed him to fall to the Giants in the 7th round of the 2016 draft. The regular work of pro ball seemed to give him better feel for his pitches last year and his command took a big step forward. Another step forward with that command and Williams has the stuff to knock on San Francisco’s door soon. But Anderson provides a lot to like in a potential starter as well. Another 2016 draftee, Anderson shares with Williams that a college career that didn’t show him at his best. Williams had trouble getting into games with Oklahoma St. because the staff didn’t trust him to throw strikes. Anderson was stuck in the back of the bullpen because of the depth of an amazing Florida pitching staff that also included future 1st round picks AJ Puk, Dane Dunning, Logan Shore and Alex Faedo. Anderson is the safe pick, as his four pitch repertoire (including two sharp breaking balls) and better fastball command give him a very good chance of being a part of a Giants pitching staff in the not too distant future.
Kevin: Garrett Williams
Why? As the almost youngest pitcher on the Richmond staff, Williams definitively has the highest ceiling…albeit, that’s not exactly the highest ceiling one wants for a top pitching prospect. Williams finds a way to miss bats with his low 90’s fastball, and he has a strong curveball to match it with. He can still struggle with his control, and adding a more consistent off-speed pitch will make all the difference in his development. For the moment, Williams is a starter, and his ceiling is that of a mid-rotation starter. But there remains a chance that he might also shift to relief if those offspeed pitches don’t develop.
Dark Horse Prospect:
Kevin: Ryan Howard
Why? I’m close to putting Shaun Anderson here, but I’m tending to go with a high floor here. Howard had a nice first full season in San Jose, particularly with the bat, where he was almost perfectly consistent in putting up batting averages over .300 every month except a slumping August. He combined that with good (not great) defense at shortstop. He slugged .397 in the very offensively-friendly California League, and that’s a fair predictor of his future. But he can handle shortstop, has an arm more than strong enough for third base, and likely could do that as well as a second. As such, he fits a profile that the Giants have produced fairly regularly recently, such at Matt Duffy and Kelby Tomlinson. A good bench player is a good thing.
Roger: Dillon Dobson
Why? Dobson tends to fly under the radar a bit, but spend some time watching BP at minor league camp and it becomes pretty clear that Dobson’s present raw power matches up well with anybody in the organization. He’s limited defensively, and the strikeouts pile up too high, but a carrying tool is a carrying tool. Plus he has a fan in Will Clark. And it never hurts to have a voice in your favor inside the organizational meeting rooms.
Other Names To Watch:
- Ronnie Jebavy
- Jonah Arenado
- Cory Taylor
- Tyler Cyr
Any Other Team Notes:
Roger: CJ Hinojosa tore his achilles tendon in the final week of the 2017 season, but he’s been working out in camp and likely won’t be very far behind his teammates. Whether he gets assigned back to Richmond or gets the move up to Sacramento will be interesting to watch. Jonah Arenado seems to be on something of the Ryder Jones development plan, but the organization loves him and he’s still growing into his physical potential. There could still be a Ryder-esque breakout year in Jonah yet.
Kevin: Back in Black! Ray Black makes his return after posting a 4.88 ERA in 35 games at Richmond last year. I’d love to see back to back innings with him and Julian Fernandez…but we’re months of health away from that happening. Still, good to see him back…Cory Taylor and Jordan Johnson were starters with buzz that had difficult 2017’s in Richmond. Either might be helped by a move to the bullpen…If Dan Slania was just another form of even-year magic after his 2016 revelation, hopefully this even year will see him at least find a happy middle.