If you were a Giants fan looking to the future, the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes were one of the teams to watch. Most of the top 2018 draft picks roamed its roster for much of the season, to mostly positive results, as did a few players from the 2017 draft and coming up from the DSL and AZL. Although the season did not end in playoffs, this roster had enough to provide hope.
Season Summary: Overall Standings - 36-40, 2nd place in the NWL South Division, 15 GB
Kevin - Joey Bart, 21 yrs old, C .298/.369/.613
Well...duh. There were players with higher batting averages (A bunch, from Mikey Edie to Kyle McPherson), and with more home runs (Aaron Bond, 14 to Bart’s 13 in the same number of games), but no one put it together like the team’s first round draft pick. Maybe one could have wanted more from Bart, and he seemed to fade in August, but this went pretty much how it should have, and how fans could reasonably have hoped.
Roger - Joey Bart, 21 yrs old, C. 298/.369/.613
I really wanted to pick someone different from Kevin here, maybe go off trail and name Diego Rincones or David Villar. But Bart’s the guy. He should have been the guy. And he was. That’s a very good thing. Bart ended up leading the NWL in SLG, showing off the all fields power that will be his calling card. Now on the To Do List for Bart: hone in on the balls you can do damage on, leave the rest alone. Where the hit tool settles in will decide his ultimate level of value and learning not to swing at pitchers pitches will go a long way towards helping push that up. Let’s see those walk rates creep up a bit next year Joey.
Rookie Of The Year
Roger - Diego Rincones, 19 yrs old, OF, .315/.357/.455
Rincones seems the most likely player in the system to earn Mike Kruokow’s patented “He can hit!” plaudits. The teenager isn’t the most athletic OF -- his progress is going to land fully on the development of the bat. But there are scouts who do believe his swing is up to the task. He definitely comes from the “swing at everything” school of hitting, but thus far in his career, he’s shown a precocious ability to put the bat on the ball. If you want to imagine the best, think of Rincones as sort of an OF version of Pablo Sandoval -- who hit .330 for this team back when he was 18.
Kevin - Jesus Tona, 22 yrs old, RHP, 41 Ks, 8 BB, 31 IP
Tona was a bit old for the league, but he was a catcher for three years before converting to pitching. This was his first full year pitching. Pretty good, huh? He’s got a fastball in the mid-90’s and a developing slider. At 5’10”, he’s going to bring a lot of comparisons to a lot of the Giants’ other undersized pitching prospects. But in the meantime, he turned some heads and looked good doing it.
Best Returning Player
Kevin - Mikey Edie, 21 yrs old, OF, .328/.401/.400
Edie broke out in the Arizona League last season, his third turn in the circuit, batting .394 in 26 games before getting a promotion to Salem-Keizer, where he struggled to a .174 batting average. He came back to lead the team’s regulars with a .328 batting average and a .401 OBP. If Edie had played a few more games, that would’ve been the 5th-best average in the league, and 3rd-best OBP. Edie very is light on the power (he had one home run, his first playing in four seasons in the U.S.), but he gets on base and can run a bit.
Roger - Dalton Combs, 23 yrs old, OF, .318/.375/.512
Ths Volcanoes team didn’t have many returnees, and Edie’s a great choice here, but for variety’s sake I’ll point out Combs, who shared time with Edie in RF and gave the team a strong LH bat and good defense. The 35th round pick in 2017 hit just .208 in 55 PA in his debut last year, and boosted his OPS more than .250 points in coming back this year.
Best Starting Pitcher
Roger - Jake Wong, 21 yrs old, RHP, 2.30 ERA, 27 Ks, 6 BBs, 27.1 IP
The Volcanoes pitching sabotaged the team’s fortunes this year, as they were the worst staff in the NWL by nearly any measure, and the starters were a big part of that. By and large, the Giants went light on the innings limits for all of their starters (who were mostly either 2018 draftees or teenagers), with most starters going just 2 or 3 innings. Youngster Gregory Santos is certainly the best prospect of the group, but the one who performed best for this team this year was the 2018 3rd rounder Jake Wong, who allowed just 7 runs over 11 starts. He also surrendered just 1 HR, the fewest of any of the team’s starters.
Kevin - Jake Wong, 21 yrs old, RHP, 2.30 ERA, 27 Ks, 6 BBs, 27.1 IP
Like Roger earlier, I’d love to go a different direction here, but if we’re strictly speaking starters then Wong was the clear class of the group. Wong showed off the efficiency of a 3rd round pick, being one of the few pitchers on the team to show off control. He still gave up more hits than you like, but that’s not so bad at such a low level.
Kevin - Trent Toplikar, 22 yrs old, RHP, 1.23 ERA, 25 Ks, 10 BB, 36.2 IP
Look, Tona was the best, but I already took him so I’m going to use this spot to highlight a “reliever”. Toplikar was almost strictly a reliever by definition (he had one start), but he gathered more innings than most starters (including Wong, Sean Hjelle and Blake Rivera from the same draft class) working in long relief after the starters went limited innings. Toplikar didn’t have a ton of strikeouts, but he didn’t give up a lot of hits and was the only pitcher other than Tona with more than 20 innings to have a 1.04 WHIP or less. Tona’s going to get the love, but Toplikar was an excellent horse in “relief.”
Roger - Jesus Tona, 22 yrs old, RHP, 0.87 ERA, 41 Ks, 8 BBs, 31 IP, 12 Saves
The converted Catcher showed a big arm in his first full year of Pitching, striking out 41 of the 118 batters he faced on the year. In 23 games, Tona allowed just 3 earned runs, and just six overall. At 5’10” he’s not exactly the classic pitcher body type, but the arm could move fast. Other solid relief efforts came from 15th roung pick Matt Frisbee and 26th round pick Trent Toplikar. 8th round pick Solomon Bates ran up some huge strikeout totals, with 45 Ks in 27.2 IP, but when he did run into contact, it was pretty hard.
Other Interesting Players
Roger - The rotation included two guys who are likely to be part of a lot of Top 10s for Giants prospect lists this year -- 2nd round pick Sean Hjelle and 18 year old Gregory Santos, both of whom can make arguments for the system’s best or second best pitching prospect right now. The offense had power nearly everywhere you look, but two guys stand out: 3b David Villar and OF Aaron Bond. Villar was the Giants 11th round pick and after slugging .648 for South Florida this year and he showed solid power in his pro debut. Bond struggled badly in a debut with Augusta, but found his groove in the hitter-friendly NWL and offers an intriguing blend of athleticism, power, and speed from the left-hand side. If you could graft Bond and Rincones together in that machine from The Fly, you’d have a heck of a player!
Kevin - Salem-Keizer by far had the deepest team in the Giants’ system, so there are so many names. 3B David Villar and Aaron Bond both showed power in Keizer, although power at the level doesn’t always carry over to other levels. Bond’s eight steals in nine attempts add to his mix of talent. Villar was a more traditional slugger, also leading the team in strikeouts. Sean Hjelle was hit around at times, but showed excellent control (four walks in 21.1 IP. I still can’t believe Gregory Santos came back from getting taken off the field on a stretcher after a ball to the head. His ERA wasn’t good, but he’s got the tools to succeed. Don’t sleep on Blake Rivera, who just looked awful stat-wise but has a breaking pitch that could make him an excellent reliever. The middle Wander Franco was a doubles machine at first. Kyle McPherson was a durable, mostly well-rounded second baseman with a nice stat line (.314/.370/.493) and a nice 44:23 K:BB ratio in 280 at-bats, but not much speed showing (two steals in six attempts) and ten errors for 2nd-highest on the team.