As the Minor League season rolls into May, we’re starting to see what the Giants’ system is made of this year. We’ve seen some slow starts from the names we were most eager to watch. We’ve seen some winning streaks, and some surprise hitting. But one thing that defined April?
The Impressive Pitching
2017 was a bit of a lost year for the Giants in all respects, including the pitching side. But 2018 so far has been headlined by a wildly impressive group of young pitchers announcing their presence with authority…or at least with an amazing performance.
The Augusta rotation as a group has been incredibly impressive. 5th round pick Jason Bahr had back-to-back games with nine strikeouts early in the year, and has 31 strikeouts and nine walks with a 1.52 ERA through 5 starts. 36th rounder Joey Marciano had an 11 strikeout game, and his ERA is an impressive 0.78 through four starts this season with 23 strikeouts and two walks. 8th round pick John Gavin has a 1.05 ERA after five starts, and Jose Marte has a 2.84 ERA after four games, thanks to two straight games without an earned run.
In San Jose, Mac Marshall hasn’t been allowed to go more than three innings a start, but he has a 0.00 ERA through 12 innings. Neither has Logan Webb, who has a 1.38 ERA. Conner Menez has a 0.45 ERA through four starts, having struck out 27 against six walks in 20 innings. Reliever Patrick Ruotolo has been living up to his hype, with a 0.87 ERA and 15 strikeouts against four walks in 10.1 innings.
As you go higher up, the ERAs get less ridiculous, but still impressive. Shaun Anderson has been very good in Richmond (you’ll read more about him below). Dusten Knight has a 1.37 ERA through 7 relief appearances, and Mike Connolly has gone unscored upon even after making his first start. But most notable in Richmond is Ray Black, who only has 6.0 IP, but has 13 strikeouts and four walks, and looks incredibly dominant.
According to radio play by play, stadium gun in Bowie just had Ray Black hit 101 against rehabbing Mark Trumbo.— Roger Munter (@rog61) April 25, 2018
Sacramento has suffered from the weakest pitching, but one top prospect has certainly been standing out.
22.2% of Andrew Suarez's 63 strikes in last night's game were swing-throughs. Needed just 84 pitches to go seven innings. 3 hits, 1 walk, 9 strikeouts. #RiverCats— Giant Potential (@giant_potential) April 27, 2018
Andrew Suarez’s MLB debut wasn’t perfect, but in three Triple-A starts, he has a 1.08 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 16.2 IP, although an uncharacteristically high seven walks. Add in a High-A start, and he’s got a 1.16 ERA with 23 strikeouts against nine walks in the minors.
Obviously, hot starts are nothing if the momentum can’t be maintained, but it’s been a while since the Giants have had as many pitchers really having these big months to start the season. Of course, it’s been that way all around baseball, even in the big leagues.
.@MLB will have more strikeouts than hits in month of April (first time in history). Hitters swing with two strikes like its 3-0. Stupid approach— Scott Griffin (@griffsz) April 29, 2018
It will remain to be seen if hitters as a whole adjust, or pitchers cool off a little. But the pitching has to give Giants fans some hope that the farm system isn’t as barren as 2017 made it seem to be.
The Result Of The Giants Firesale
En route to a 2017 mudhole of a season, some thought the Giants might try to start selling assets to rebuild. Ultimately, the Giants made only one trade, trading Eduardo Nunez to the Boston Red Sox for Shaun Anderson and Gregory Santos. The trade didn’t excite too many people, but it wasn’t for nothing.
Quietly, Shaun Anderson is off to a very nice start in Double-A. The 23-year old has a 2.57 ERA through five starts this season, and while he hasn’t been outright dominating in any one game, he has been very consistent with his production this season.
I got to see him on Sunday in person, and I was very impressed with how he was working off of his fastball, both the four-seam and two-seam fastball. He was using those and his mid-80’s slider to get a lot of weak contact, and through six innings was pretty much spot on, with just some weak hits getting through. He also worked well around a defense that committed four errors, keeping his composure.
If Anderson continues to work off of what he’s got, the Giants have a nice starting prospect here. He’s not an ace, but can develop nicely into a mid-rotation starter that relies on his defense. That’s a useful return for a guy like Nunez. Plus, as Roger pointed out earlier this week, Anderson may not even be the better guy the Giants got, as the young Gregory Santos has a very high ceiling.
Usually, this would be a big deal…
UPDATE: AAA RELIEVER MADISON YOUNGINER JUST DOUBLED— Doug (@moonwalkmcfly) April 29, 2018
But it was overshadowed on the same day by #RakersWhoPitch
Now pitching... Pablo Sandoval pic.twitter.com/NI9vOr6raD— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) April 29, 2018
What happened to letting Belt pitch????
But then later in the week, Younginger got even more overshadowed by starting pitcher Jordan Johnson
B3 | 1-0 RVA | Jordan Johnson gives the Flying Squirrels the lead with his 2nd home run of the year! He becomes the first Richmond pitcher since 2012 to have multiple homers in a season.#GoSquirrels pic.twitter.com/blONtuPMct— Squirrels Baseball (@GoSquirrels) April 30, 2018
RHP Jordan Johnson has hit two home runs in three at bats this season for the @GoSquirrels. The former @CSUNBaseball player is making a name for himself on the mound and at the plate this season. @kevconnorsespn— Sam Ravech (@Sam_Ravech) April 30, 2018
Even more notable…Johnson has only hit in two games this season! He’s 2-for-4 with two home runs this year. Last season in Double-A, his first time being able to hit, he was 1-for-13, but the one hit was a triple.
Draft Preview….wait, where is it?
Yeah, these articles are getting hella long, dude. And the draft is top, interesting stuff, man. So from now on through at least the MLB Draft on June 12th, we’ll be publishing weekly Draft Preview articles on Thursday! So come back tomorrow, because…well, this is getting confusing.
Baseball America’s Logomania Contest Is Back
As they did last year, Baseball America is running a 64-team Logomania contest to pick out the best logos in all of minor league baseball.
This year, only two Giants affiliates are in the mix: Richmond’s Flying Squirrels and the revamped Augusta GreenJackets. In both cases, they are using the main logos, but in my opinion they are not using the better Augusta logo. It’s not a big surprise that the west coast teams are not in the mix, as San Jose’s logo is classic but basic, and Sacramento’s is just okay. I’ve thought that Salem-Keizer’s alternate is one of the coolest in baseball.
I don’t expect we’ll see a Giants affiliate on top this year, but I encourage you to go show your organization spirit!
Hitter of the Week - Johneshwy Fargas
A bit of a revelation this week.
The 23-year old seems to have started to really put things together this week. A 2-home run game, at least one stolen base in each game that he played in, it was quite a week. In 14 at-bats this week, Fargas had a 571/.625/.1.071 line with 5 stolen bases and one caught stealing.
On the season, that raises Fargas’ line to .424/.500/.697 with 10 steals in 13 attempts. Not bad. It is only in 12 games played this year, so the 11th round pick has a long way to go to to prove that he is finally building on his talent.
Pitcher of the Week - John Gavin
There were a few guys to choose from this week. Mike Connolly had a swing week, working both as a reliever and a starter. Garrett Cave had his best start of the season. But I’m going with Gavin for his Tuesday night start, going six innings and striking out nine, giving up only one hit and one walk.
Sacramento Litter Box
- Matt Gage got the spot start for Sacramento, with the Andrew Suarez call-up. Not a bad season debut at Triple-A. Gage had a 5.75 ERA in half a season at Sacramento last season.
- Eury Perez did not get an outfield assist today (Caleb Gindl did, as a defensive replacement), but Perez did get his first home run of the year. Perez had a .353/.405/.454 batting line with Indianapolis and New Orleans in 77 games last season.
- Steven Duggar got a rough hat-trick, getting only a walk. Duggar had a pretty nice stretch going, but still has 27 strikeouts in 84 at-bats this season.
- With a 2-hit game, Jones his 12-for-41 (.293) over his last ten games.
- Mike Connolly got the spot start and was amazing, giving up just two hits and striking out seven.
- Jake McCasland had potentially the worst outing of his career. McCasland had emerged as a starter in Augusta in 2016 with a 1.65 ERA, but had a 4.78 ERA starting for San Jose last season. Today’s six runs jumps his ERA from 3.46 to 6.60.
- Dan Slania had a nice quiet outing, giving him four straight appearances without a run. He now has 10 strikeouts in 11.2 IP.
- Luigi Rodriguez is on fire! With the 3-hit game, he is 11-for-20 over his last five games with three walks and a home run.
- Minor league vet Jerry Sands picked up his fourth home run of the season. Sands only had five last season in 64 games with Richmond.
San Jose Footprints
- Melvin Adon became the first Giants pitcher to go seven full innings this season in a mixed game. He kept a lot of runs off the board, but he walked four while giving up six hits.
- Jalen Miller hit his second triple of the season, pushing his average slightly back up towards .300.
- Johneshwy Fargas was 1-for-3 with his third triple, and added two more stolen bases (and a caught stealing). Fargas is now 10-for-13 on the basepaths. He also added a walk and his second error of the season.
- Rodolfo Martinez’s ERA has moved from 1.59 to 6.30, giving up six combined runs over his last three appearances, but he came back with a scoreless inning. He still has nine strikeouts to nine walks in ten innings.
Augusta Putt-putt Course
- John Gavin had another great start as Augusta is getting accustomed to. Gavin only gave up a hit and a walk while striking out nine, a new career high. The 8th round pick also hit a career high with 83 pitches and six innings.
- However, a tough appearance for Peter Lannoo, getting his first chance to save a game and not doing it well. All three batters he faced got on base with the last hitting a home run.
- John Riley went 2-for-4 with his second home run of the game, and is now tied for the team lead in batting average at .370.
- For your regular Ramos and Gonzalez update, both 0-for-4. Ramos got two more strikeouts, and now has 28 in 89 at-bats with just six walks. While Gonzalez did not strike out today, he has 28 in 85 at-bats.
MiLB noted this uniform trend, including the recently rebranded Augusta GreenJackets.
One of the new trends in @MiLB is Sunday Alternate uniforms inspired by parent club uniforms. Here’s @BiscuitBaseball, @GreenJackets, @BuffaloBisons, & @indyindians. There’s more out there too. What do you think of the trend?? pic.twitter.com/bSMhBBH2FM— Minor League Promos (@MiLBPromos) April 30, 2018
Some of those uniforms look better than others, but it’s not a bad idea and a great way for teams to connect with their parent clubs. Uniforms are a fun part of the game. But…sometimes, things get a little loud.
That is Matt Lipka of the Flying Squirrels, rebranded as “Funnville” as they are every Sunday. I get it, this is going to be appealing to families and kids. But…I just can’t stop seeing Hot Dog on a Stick, especially looking at this photo of Ryan Howard with the accompanying cap.
Oh, next to Matt Lipka is a member of the Hartford Yard Goats. That’s their normal uniforms.
Like I said, loud.