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SF Giants Minor Lines 5/12/18: DRod strikes out 11

Only win of the night comes from strong right arm of Dereck Rodriguez

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A Minor Lines happy Mother’s Day to all! It’s a beautiful weekend for some ball.

HIGHLIGHTS: Derek Rodriguez strikes out 11, allows just 1 run;

Sacramento beat Tacoma Rainiers (Mariners), 6-1

So let’s talk about D-Rod. The son of HOF Ivan Rodriguez (Dereck was probably bouncing around the victorious Marlins locker room back in 2003 as a happy 10 year old), Dereck was a 6th round draft pick for the Twins way back in 2011 — as an OF. The Baseball America scouting report on Dereck at the time had some interesting notes:

Ivan Rodriguez’s son has a wiry, athletic frame that attracted scouts, as well as an above-average arm and average to a tick-above average speed. Scouts were divided on whether his bat was ready for pro ball.

Turned out, that bat really wasn’t ready for pro ball and it never really got ready. But the athletic frame and the above average arm gave Rodriguez another avenue to success. In 2014, the Twins approached Dereck with the idea of converting to pitching. Rodriguez spent two years in rookie and short season ball before making the jump to A ball in 2016. It was a rugged landing as he piled up a 5.08 ERA in the pitcher friendly Midwest League, mostly due to control problems (walking 40 in 132.2 IP). He showed improvements across the board in 2017, getting pushed up to AA by the end of the year. He still walked too many batters but showed improvement in both K rates and run prevention.

By that point he had played seven years in the pros. So the Twins lost control of him just as he might have been turning a corner and getting the hang of the pitching thing. The Giants snapped Rodriguez up as a minor league FA, gave him a Spring Training invite and by all accounts grew found of Rodriguez’s live arm.

So that’s the back story. The front story is, the guy has been pitching better and better as the spring goes along, and last night he was sensational.

Rodriguez allowed a solo HR in the first to Large Round Man Dan Vogelbach, but then retired 15 of the next 17 batters, with 10 of those coming sans contact, as the French might say.

He now leads the Sacramento staff in both Ks (40) and ERA (3.15). His 40 Ks are third in the entire organization at the moment, trailing just Augusta pitchers Jason Bahr and John Gavin, and just in front of Richmond arms Shaun Anderson and Jordan Johnson.

For an organization which has given big league time to Roberto Gomez and Jose Valdez, you have to look at Rodriguez’ performances and wonder how long until he gets a chance to prove useful as well. It’s possible there’s a valuable scrap heap dive here that could pay more than just 2018 dividends.

I believe that was long time Giants’ pitcher Jim Barr providing the obligatory Old Guy perspective in that clip. You heard Johnny Dowkow noting that the RiverCats had yet to collect a hit, and at that point a tight pitchers’ duel was developing. But Sacramento ended up with plenty of offense, much of it coming on this titanic swing of the bat from the struggling slugger Kyle Jensen.

That was estimated to be a 446’ blast — the RiverCats second longest HR of the year.

Hunter Pence returned to rehab duty and collected two hits including Sacramento’s first of the game, a lined double down the RF line.

Richmond lost to Trenton Thunder (Yankees), 6-4

Insiders always say that the jump from A+ to AA is the hardest in the minors, and Garrett Williams had precious little time in A+ as is. So perhaps it’s no surprise that Williams is taking his lumps with this challenge assignment. And it’s not much surprise (given Williams’ history) that the primary culprit as an inability to command his pitches.

Williams walked 5 more batters, while lasting just 3.1 IP, and threw just half of his 53 pitches for strikes. That’s the second 5 walk game for Williams this year. After starting the season with a sensational 6K, 0BB effort in his first outing, the lefty’s control of the zone has taken some serious steps backwards. Since that debut effort, Williams has walked 23, while striking out just 16 in 22.1 IP. Obviously, that’s a tough way to make a living against the wily hitters of AA. His ERA — now north of 5 — is 10th worst in the Eastern League among qualified pitchers. It could have taken more of a hit yesterday, but Dan Slania did a fine job of working out of a bases loaded jam that Williams left him, limiting the damage to just one run.

All things told, it was amazing this game ended up as close as it did. Trenton out hit the Squirrels 13-5 and out walked them 6-3. But somehow, despite trailing 6-0 in the 8th inning, the Squirrels managed to end the game with the potential tying run at the plate. A 9th inning rally that included a couple of walks, a single, and Richmond’s lone extra base hit of the day (Ali Castillo’s two run double) made the final score respectable. But comebacks really aren’t the Squirrels thing this year, they’re just 3-12 when the other team scores first, but a dominating 16-3 when they score first.

After getting his average as high as .314, Ryan Howard’s dropped down into the .280s witha .720 OPS with a few 0fers this week. When neither Howard nor Gomez are getting on base (as has happened the last several days in a row) it really puts a crimp in Richmond’s ability to get much done offensively.

Ok, that recap wasn’t much fun. How about a cute kid segment to end things on?

San Jose lost to Lancaster JetHawks (Rockies), 7-6

So let’s talk for a moment about Melvin Adon. There’s a question that lingers around periphery of the strongest multi-inning arm in the system: why doesn’t he strike more guys out? The control, yes, isn’t fantastic, but at 17 BBs in 40 innings it’s not exactly disastrous either. And especially against A ball hitters, I constantly find myself wondering why a guy throwing upper 90s gas combined with an effective hard slider, doesn’t just accidentally strike out 5 or 6 hitters a game? And yet that just isn’t the case. Last night was the 4th time in his 7 starts this year that Adon has had 3 or fewer Ks. He’s had two big outings this year — a 6 K performance in relief, and a 9K 6 inning start. Aside from those two games he’s had just 20 Ks in 31 IP on the season. That following a year when he averaged less than a strikeout an inning vs. Sally league hitters. I don’t get it. But it does lead me to the (not exactly original) belief that his future lies in a bullpen, blowing out the doors for an inning at a time. Which is sad, because the ability to throw 97-98 in your 5th inning of work is a rare one, even in this high velocity age.

Jalen Miller has reached base twice in each of the past three games and has his OPS up to .811. Miller’s up to 155 PA this year and one notable element of his success so far is that he’s slashed his K rate down significantly. It’s at 15.5% this year, while in each of his previous three seasons it’s been at 21%. His walk rate is almost exactly the same as last year (6.5%) while is Iso has jumped up from .118 in 2017 to .182 so far this year. Keep on clicking Jalen.

This has been your periodic Minor Lines reminder that DEVELOPMENT IS NOT LINEAR!

Other notes:

Augusta lost to Greensboro Grasshoppers (Marlins), 3-1

Like their compatriots in Richmond, this was a game in which nearly all the offensive action came from the opponents and yet Augusta sort of hung around and had a chance to tie it in the end. And, like Richmond, Augusta sent one of their most experience players to the plate (veteran TJ Bennett who has just been added to the roster) and he took a called third strike to end the game.

Greensboro outhit the Jackets 13-6, but the score was kept in check by the Grasshoppers going just 2 for 15 with runners in scoring position. Augusta pitchers rang up 13 strikeouts, which helped drive that statistic significantly.

John Gavin had his second consecutive short outing, lasting just 3 innings after going just 4 in Delmarva last weekend. Not entirely sure what’s going on with the lefty. Gavin allowed two runs, including a solo HR to the Marlins #27 prospect Thomas Jones, but he continued missing bats with 6 more Ks to add to his total.

Augusta hitting was fairly lifeless in this game. They had just six hits, and just one went for extra bases — Heliot Ramos’ 5th double of the year, a lined shot to LF. Ramos also reached base the painful way, getting HBP for the 5th time already this year. I’d like to humbly request that the pitchers of the Sally League PLEASE STOP DOING THAT!!!

Logan Baldwin extended his hit streak to 10 games with a 9th inning single. And Jacob Gonzalez, whose Dad no doubt told him that the money lies in the RBIs, continued to show a nose for the rib-eye, driving in his 7th run in the last three games. The youngster leads Augusta with 20 RBIs on the season.

Today’s Scheduled Starters:
Sacramento: Casey Kelly vs. Ariel Miranda Dusten Knight vs. Ashton (Waiting 4) Goudeau
Richmond: Chase Johnson vs. Brian Keller
San Jose: Logan Webb vs. Matt Dennis
Augusta: Jose Marte vs. Edward Cabrera

Lots of power righties today. A Mothers’ Day double header in Sacramento leads to Dusten Knight’s fifth professional start. He had three last year in Sacramento under similar circumstances. Chase Johnson — who I still confidently predict will see some time in AT&T before 2018 is over — makes his 2nd start since undergoing TJ surgery. Logan Webb looks to stretch out a tiny bit more, perhaps to 5 innings. While the marquee matchup is in Augusta: a pair of power armed RHP with Jose Marte going up against Marlins #13 prospect (with a bullet) Edward Cabrera.

To all the Minor Lines’ Moms out there, get treated and pampered and have yourselves a lovely baseball Sunday.