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Post-Mortem: The 2018 AZL Giants Black

The Giants’ Black team had one of the most talented and raw players in the Giants’ system, but it was starting pitching that ruled their roster.

Fans watch a game at a field at Indian School Park in Scottsdale, AZ, home of the San Francisco Giants minor league complex and both AZL Giants teams.

After a rocky first half, Team Black made a spirited run for the playoffs in the second half, finishing with the fifth best record in the league, and though six teams made the playoffs, having two of the league’s best teams in their division they ended on the outside looking in.

Season Summary: 30-25, 3rd place in the AZL East division, 3.5 games behind in 2nd half

Team Awards

MVP

Roger - Sean Roby, 20 yrs old, 3B, .288/.360/.488

The Giants used their 11th and 12th round picks on two different RH power hitting 3b. Roby was the second of those, selected out of Arizona Western Junior College not far from the team’s Scottsdale home base. Roby showed off good power and patience combo, with 5 HRs and a .438 SLG to go with a 9% walk rate and .360 OBP.

Kevin - Sean Roby, 20 yrs old, 3B, .288/.360/.488

There’s not a lot of competition here, especially since the other top guys on this team were primarily Orange players. Roby was among the team leaders in most categories as Roger indicated, but also notably in games played.

Rookie Of The Year

Kevin - Alexander Canario, 18 yrs old, CF, .250/.357/.403

Canario may not have been the best player by performance, but he was easily the most talented player on the field for the Black team. Canario was slow to start on the season and was streaky throughout, but he came on strong to lead the team in home runs and also showed off stints of taking a lot of walks on top of a lot of strikeouts.

Roger - Alexander Canario, 18 yrs old, CF, .250/.357/.403

The uber-tooled CF had a very confusing domestic debut, starting out ice cold with buckets of Ks, then turning white hot for a month, before ending up back where he started with a cold spell. But there’s no doubting who the best prospect on this team is. Canario brings a plus arm, plus speed, plus power, and incredible bat speed to a true CF package. He led the team in Runs (36), HRs (6) and was third in SB (8).

Best Returning Player

Roger - Israel Cruz, 21 yrs old, RHP, 3.97 ERA, 66 Ks in 59 IP

The second arm received from Texas for Matt Moore, Cruz ended up leading the AZL in strikeouts. He’s been on a glacial pace in his development -- this was his 5th season in rookie ball -- but there’s some arm strength there.

Kevin - Israel Cruz, 21 yrs old, RHP, 3.97 ERA, 66 Ks in 59 IP

There were not a lot of returning players, and even Cruz was new to the organization, although he spent two previous years in the AZL with the Rangers (and two others in the DSL). Hopefully he earned a chance at Augusta for 2019.

Best Starting Pitcher

Kevin - Conner Nurse, 19 yrs old, RHP, 3.23 ERA, 56Ks, 26 BBs, 53 IP

Nurse was a 34th round pick in 2017, but was kept off the field to develop. A big fellow at 6’6”, 210 lbs, Nurse has a low-90’s fastball and nice separation with a high 70’s change. Nurse had some struggles with giving up contact early, and spurts of control, but he got better at both as the season went on. He also showed some strikeout stuff throughout, and has a lot of strength projection left.

Roger - Luis Moreno, 19 yrs old, RHP, 2.91 ERA, 58 Ks, 13 BBs, 58.2 IP

Starting pitching was the strength of this team and there are at least two excellent choices here in Conner Nurse and Luis Moreno. I’ll give the 19 year old Moreno a tiny bump because of his excellent K/BB ratio, striking out a batter an inning and rarely putting a free batter on base.

Best Reliever

Roger - Trevor Horn, 22 yrs old, RHP, 1.23 ERA, 14 Ks, 2 BBs, 14.2 IP

To be honest, Team Black’s bullpen was mostly a conglomeration of extreme ugliness with sky high ERAs and walk totals dwarfing K rates nearly across the board. Horn, the 39th round pick this year out of UNLV was certainly a pleasant exception while he was in the AZL, before heading out to stints in San Jose and Salem-Keizer. Two other late round college picks, Dylan Dusek and Ben Strahm also had nice moments.

Kevin - Dylan Dusek, 23 yrs old, RHP, 2.03 ERA, 18 Ks, 5 BBs, 13.1 IP

As Roger said, this was a team whose bullpen had problems. Dusek was much older than his competition but at least he did what you would expect him to. Duske’s 18:5 K/BB ratio was about as good as there was on the team, albeit in a short-sample size. One nice progression in his season was getting more ground balls as the season went along, which should help him at higher levels.

Other Interesting Players

Kevin - Franklin Labour was second on the team with 14 doubles, but a late-season slump really pulled his averages down. 2018 40th (and final) round pick Abdiel Layer, brother of Giants prospect Jose Layer, had a .289/.358/.428 line with 9 steals in 11 attempts. Ben Strahm was the 23rd round pick this year, and had one game early where he gave up four earned. Remove that game, and he has a 1.96 ERA. Frankie Tostado had a nice return as a hitter after Tommy John surgery, and hopefully his power will come back as time goes on.

Roger - Johan Herrera was inconsistent after missing all of 2017, but he flashes above average command and groundball tendencies. OF Frankie Tostado missed all of his draft year after having TJ on his throwing arm but he came back in fine form, with a 15 game hitting streak to start his career off. Tostado led the AZL team in RBIs. OF Franklin Labour has an intriguing bat and may someday turn his doubles into homers.