So, Sacramento’s roster was sort of finally announced, just as the River Cats took the field against in a scrimmage against the San Jose Giants. However unsettled the roster has been, there are still a lot of interesting players on this roster, perhaps even more than in Augusta (although perhaps not of the same quality).
You may notice there is 28 names on this roster. This is still the preliminary roster, and 3 players will be either disabled or deactivated by the Season Opener. Also, as the team was announced by a roster listing, there are no specifics as to positions. As always, ages listed are as of Opening Day.
Best Hitting Prospect:
Roger: Chris Shaw
Why? What with all the Steve Duggar hype this spring, this was a tougher call than it might have appeared at first. Most people, myself included, have Shaw as the #2 prospect in the system; #1 isn’t in Sacramento, so presto-magico that makes Shaw the easy call. Yes and no. There are different paths to the waterfall and Duggar’s path is a solid one: be pretty good at most everything on the field and play up the middle. Still in the end I stick in the camp of Team Shaw the rush and the arc of the ball when it jumps off his bat is a thing that makes me go “Oooh!” He and Duggar are yin and yang prospects, the corner guy you hope can be good enough on defense while dingering your offense to glory vs. the up the middle guy you hope can survive in the lineup long enough to figure it out while gobbling up outs on defense. I think both can be above average major league starters in the not too distant future, which makes everybody a winner.
Kevin: Steven Duggar
Why? This is a very close call. Very very close. But I’m going to expand the definition of “Hitter” to include defensive skills, and that is what puts Duggar over the top for me. Duggar is defense-ready, and the Giants are in a park that needs an excellent defender more than most. Chris Shaw may have a higher ceiling with his dingers, where as Duggar is going to, at best, provide on-base ability and stolen bases. Duggar seems more likely to get close to his ceiling, however. Duggar could be a backup center fielder in the majors right now, based on his defense. What needs polishing is his ability to handle off-speed pitches. If he can hit them better, or lay off them, he’s got the offensive skill most speed players need: taking walks. Shaw could be more exciting at the plate, but every pitcher the Giants have will be more excited at Duggar jumping over fences and diving for line drives.
Best Pitching Prospect: Andrew Suarez
Kevin: Another tough choice here, but Suarez gets my bump just ahead of Beede. When Beede’s stuff is working, his stuff is better. But his velocity and his control have waxed and waned over the seasons. With Suarez, you get consistency up and down the system. He combined for a 3.30 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A last season, and has a 3.24 ERA over three seasons as a pro. Suarez is a groundball pitcher with a fair number of strikeouts, and he has the control to be a good pitcher. His biggest problem is that he’s more of a two-pitch pitcher, with a fastball and slider. He has a changeup that he uses against right-handers, but left-handers began to catch up with him last year, batting .355 against him in Triple-A. Suarez will need to find a third pitcher to maintain good numbers as a starter, and this year will be interesting to watch him develop it.
Roger: Well let’s be honest: because I’m apparently going to my grave as the world’s leading Tyler Beede skeptic. Be that as it may, facing the choice between two ~25 year old pitchers of relatively comparable horizons, give me the lefty and give the guy who’s more consistent. Suarez takes the flag in both of those comparisons. A two-time 2nd round draft pick out of the University of Miami (he was also a 9th round pick out of High School), Suarez has long been known as a “guy” in the scouting world. He came to the Giants with a rep of: as long as he’s healthy, he’s productive. And guess what, after suffering through all manner of injuries/surgeries as an amateur, Suarez hasn’t missed a start due to injury in three years as a pro and, consequently, he’s flown up the charts. There are some obvious parallels to Ty Blach with Suarez, though he throws a touch harder and his slider is the best pitch between the two of them. He’s tough on lefties, sequences well, and he’s improved his peripherals each step up the minor league ladder. It’s true that Tyler Beede has better, crisper overall stuff. But Andrew Suarez has much better command of the stuff he has, and at this point in their careers (both are in their age 25 seasons), give me the guy with the command and let’s go from there.
Dark Horse Prospect:
Roger: Chase Johnson
Why? Is anybody in AAA really a dark horse? It’s not like there’s anybody here we haven’t seen or heard from and about a LOT. Is Mac Williamson a dark horse, given his “post-prospect” status and purty new swing? Surely Steven Duggar can’t be considered a dark horse. Austin Slater and Ryder Jones spent half of last year on the Giants’ roster. They can’t be dark horses. So I’ll go a little off the beaten path and pick a guy who isn’t on the roster yet, but will be soon: Chase Johnson. The 26 year old fireballer is working his way back from TJ surgery, but he’s been throwing live BP and popping the mitt and likely isn’t too far away. Like Duggar and Beede, Johnson would very likely have made his major league debut in 2017 were it not for injury, and most notably, the organization never chose to drop him from the 40 man during his TJ rehab (as they’ve done with others in the recent past, including Hunter Strickland and Ian Gardeck). Chase staked his claim in the front office’s heart with a 14 K relief outing back in 2015 in San Jose (a good time for it since the game featured rehab appearances from Tim Hudson and Andrew Susac and more than a few brass). Barring physical setback, I feel pretty confident guaranteeing a major league debut in 2018 for Chase.
Kevin: Joan Gregorio
Why? Sure, this is a former Top 10 prospect, but he can still be a sleeper. Some gave up on him because last year was supposed to be his last option year, but Baseball America reported he was granted a fourth. Others may have given up after a positive PED test last season that ended his season. Still, even in an offseason where rotation depth was an issue, his name was barely mentioned. That’s why he’s a dark horse. He still has an above-average fastball and slider to work with. It’s unknown if he’s still going to be starting in Sacramento, or move to relief, but the 6’7 pitcher still has the stuff to wow, and if he’s motivated, he could explode this year.
Other Names To Watch:
- Tyler Beede
- Austin Slater
- Ryder Jones
- Miguel Gomez
- Mac Williamson
- Tyler Herb
- Tyler Rogers (at least by Kevin’s estimation)
Any Other Team Notes:
Kevin: Wow, this is a stacked outfield, at least by Giants’ affiliate standards. Duggar, Shaw, Slater and Williamson are each legitimate prospects, so playing time for the three primarily corner outfielders may be hard to come by…This rotation is also one fairly deep with potential major leaguers. Beyond Beede and Suarez, you have possibly Gregorio, plus trade-partners Tyler Herb and Chris Heston…The infield boasts two interesting names. Ryder Jones is the youngest River Cat and still has potential at 3rd base. Miguel Gomez, meanwhile, will keep hitting as he tries to find some positional value at second base…I still believe in submariner Tyler Rogers, and that won’t stop.
Roger: The Giants have assembled some pretty impressive roster depth in AAA this year. Between Williamson, Slater, Jones, Law and Okert they have five former major leaguers with options on the roster, plus Beede, Herb, and Snelten on the 40 man ready to make their debuts. Throw in former major leaguers Chase D’Arnaud, Josh Rutledge, and Hector Sanchez and the team is in good shape to provide support at nearly every position in case of mid-season injury, though all would require 40 man moves, as will Duggar and Shaw when they’re ready to come up. Expect the AAA shuttle to be in constant motion as the Sacramento Now group listed above changes places with the Sacramento Then guys like Roberto Gomez, Reyes Moronta, Pierce Johnson and others.