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S-K and AZL Roster Previews

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A look at the Volcanoes and two(!) AZL team rosters, with 2018 draftees!

Indian School Park, home of the AZL Giants teams
Kevin J. Cunningham

It’s that time. The Giants remaining three minor league teams are underway, populated with some of the system’s youngest players and newest draftees. And a new team.

As you’ve probably read, the Giants will now have two teams in the AZL, designated by the colors Black and Orange. Early reports were that the Black team was going to have more of the prospects, but that seems to have changed…

And that’s before one of the biggest names will be assigned.

So, let’s take a look at three more teams, and who to watch for.

Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (click for full roster)

The Volcanoes have been underway for part of a week already, so we know a good part of who this team has already. Now, the Volcanoes (as usual) will see changes as some of the top college picks will join them in the coming weeks. For instance:

I also would not be surprised to see Sean Hjelle join Salem-Keizer eventually. But that’s the future. Let’s talk about now.

Best Hitter (Non-Joey Bart Category): OF Diego Rincones - This isn’t a team filled with a lot of high-level hitting prospects, even once Bart arrives. In fact, the only hitter on this team that made the off-season Community Prospect List was Rincones, at #41. But the 19-year old had a strong showing in the AZL last season, batting .308/.372/.428 with 14 walks against 20 strikeouts in 159 AB. Rincones doesn’t add a lot of speed, nor has he shown a lot of power, but he might grow into some.

Best Pitcher: RHP Keaton Winn - The 5th round pick from the 2018 draft is the highest draft pick to get straight up to Salem-Keizer (and one of only four to get that honor). Winn has a low-90’s fastball and a good slider. It’s still unclear whether he’s a reliever or starter, immediately or down the line, but Winn has the highest ceiling on this staff.

Sleeper: RHP Norwith Gudino - The 22-year old is coming straight over from the DSL, and made his first appearance at San Jose, but has moved to Salem-Keizer. He had three seasons in the DSL, topping out with a 1.82 ERA in 13 appearances. Gudino is old for a DSL graduate, but he showed good control coming out of there. He might turn it on this year, although he had a rough start this weekend.

AZL Giants Black (click for full roster)

Yep, we’ve got a couple of colorful Arizona League teams. The team that would be known as Black was noted for having a few of the young prospects that was in Arizona, including one young man that had all the buzz out of minor league camp in spring training. And he would be…

Best Hitter: OF Alexander Canario - The 18-year old has a tremendous ceiling, breaking out despite not being signed to a top bonus from the Dominican League. But he shows flashes of being a 5-tool player with plus speed, plus power potential and great bat speed with advanced pitch recognition for his age. There’s not likely to be anyone with more expectations on any of the summer rosters, even including Bart.

Best Pitcher: Sean Hjelle - Hjelle didn’t excite as many fans after he was picked in the second round, but the 6’11” pitcher has undisputed natural ability that can’t be duplicated. The question is, will he be a strikeout pitcher, a groundball machine, or something else. But while there’s dispute about his ceiling, almost everyone agrees that his floor is somewhere in the rotation.

Sleeper: OF Randy Norris - Norris comes out of a school that had not had a single MLB player drafted out of its current baseball program, but he put up cartoony numbers. He’ll probably be unpolished, but one thing that is for sure is that there’s some raw talent there and he ranks high in the Giants’ favorite tool: knowledge of the game.

AZL Giants Orange (click for full roster)

I’m going to consider the Orange team as the ‘expansion’ team, although such distinctions don’t really matter in the minor leagues. The Orange team will end up with some interesting prospects, however, and it’s my expectation they will briefly have one of the big ones. We know that Joey Bart will spend time at one of the AZL teams, and since the Orange team only has two listed catchers while the Black team has three, I expect Bart will be here.

However, let’s look at the officially announced roster.

Best Hitter (Non-Joey Bart Category): Patrick Hilson - The 6th round pick was the highest non-Bart hitter drafted by the Giants. Hilson is very talented, and has two-way talent. He’s a switch hitter with plus speed, and can player center field as well. He may eventually grow into double-digit home run power, but at 17, he’s young and has a ceiling to reach.

Best Pitcher: LHP Seth Corry - The Giants took until the 6th round to take a high school player this year, but last year they took three in a row at the top. Corry was the third round pick, but struggled last year with his control (22 walks to 21 strikeouts in 24.1 IP). The ceiling is still there for Corry, and after a lot of work, the 19-year old should be able to show it.

Sleeper: RHP Blake Rivera - A 4th round pick isn’t much of a sleeper, but this pick has to do as much with the rest of the roster. Still, Rivera’s breaking pitch is a weapon. It will be interesting to see if the 20-year old will be a reliever out of the gate or the Giants will give him a long look at starter. In either role, Rivera could come out of the AZL with some of the most dominating strikeout numbers.