The top San Francisco Giants minor league team isn’t loaded with top prospects, and its roster contains no real surprises (at least in regards to who did get assigned to AAA). I’m going to fudge the definitions of Prospects here, because there are many players who have seen big league time on this roster, and who can help the Giants in the future.
Best Hitting Prospect:
Kevin: Austin Slater. I know, I know, this is not a good sign, and the reality is that I could only really compare him and Aramis Garcia for this spot. Slater had a mediocre year in the Majors last season, playing 74 games and getting a .640 OPS, but also had a .981 OPS in Sacramento last year in 53 games there. He could still unlock things in the Majors.
ROGER: Aramis Garcia. Prospect hitting isn’t exactly Sacramento’s forte this year, but Garcia has a big year ahead of him. He’s gotten a (fairly successful) taste of the big leagues and should be back there again in the not too distant future. In the interim, he needs to show that last year’s .233 batting average and .285 OBP between Richmond and Sacramento are behind him. With Joey Bart looming closer than he appears in the sideview mirror, now is the time for Garcia to establish himself and make that push to “big league” status. Elsewhere on the roster, Zach Green and Anthon Garcia are likely to be the forces in the center of the lineup for the RiverCats’ offense.
Best Pitching Prospect:
Kevin: Shaun Anderson. This could easily also be Andrew Suarez, who threw too many innings in the Majors last season to be considered a ‘Prospect’ by usual standards. But Anderson gets my nod here, as someone who could be a big part of the Giants rotation in the future.
ROGER: Shaun Anderson. Pitching actually does look to be Sacramento’s forte, especially in the strong rotation that includes former Giants Suarez, Ty Blach, Ty Beede, and future Giants Anderson. While Suarez is a strong argument here, I’ll go with Anderson who offers up an excellent four-pitch mix with decent command of all four and enough fastball to make it all work. The change in particular has potential to be a real weapon for the big righty. Suarez will be making starts in San Francisco before the year is done and may be a long term piece as well as Anderson.
Dark Horse Prospect:
Kevin: Abiatal Avelino. Acquired in the Andrew McCutchen trade, Avelino had a pretty strong Double-A season, but struggled at the Triple-A and Major League level last season. He’s not Major League ready yet, but there’s some potential that could be unlocked.
ROGER: Michael Gerber. If Gerber had only hit right handed (like he throws), he probably would have stuck with the Giants and some of the final week roster machinations might have been avoided. Gerber, the first player Farhan Zaidi acquired after taking over the Giants, is has a little tweener tendency -- fringy in CF defensively with a fringy bat on the corners -- and his 2018 was brutal all the way around. So something of a LHH Austin Slater!
Most Exciting Prospect:
Kevin: Ray Black. Obviously, we know who he is and what he can do, but there’s not a lot of other excitement otherwise on this roster. Black has the overwhelming velocity to really wow people in the Majors, and he should be back in SF sometime this year.
ROGER: Ray Black. I hope he isn’t here long, and I hope he isn’t here often. But while he’s here, Black’s pure stuff is by far the most exciting element on this team.
Most Surprising Assignment:
Kevin: N/A - For the most part, all these names are players we’d have expected.
ROGER: As Kevin notes, the biggest surprises on this roster come from who isn’t here (and we’ll get to that in the next installment) but I’ll give a small shout out to Steven Okert apparently skating through waivers and sticking in the organization despite a pretty strong spring. Unfortunately, his surprise is an indication of how far his prospect status has fallen the last two years. But I suspect that by and large, our roster surprises this year are often going to be of the “unfortunate” variety.
Who Will Be Better Than You Think:
Kevin: Tyler Beede - Beede had a bit of a turnaround during this offseason and spring training. He’s looking better and better. His horrific 2018 soured a lot of opinions about the kind of pitcher he is, and while he’s no longer the top pitching prospect he was, he may surprise you in how good the volatile prospect can be.
ROGER: Anthony Garcia didn’t have a great spring, but his past two seasons (in the Cardinals and A’s organizations respectively) have produced strong power numbers (40 HRs) combined with excellent control of the strikezone. His walk rate has been over 10% each of his last two seasons (AA and AAA) and he gets to his power with K% in the teens. Garcia is a player who could easily be roaming the OF at Oracle Park by Memorial Day.
Who Should You Be Paying Attention To:
Kevin: Levi Michael. 28-year old Michael was signed as a free agent, coming off a strong year with the Mets between Double-A and Triple-A. He’s notable because he is a shortstop primarily and an outfielder, with a lot of experience in center field. The right-handed bat could be an option considered if Yangervis Solarte struggles as the main shortstop backup and outfielder. Abiatal Avelino is also an option to be brought up to be a shortstop option.
ROGER: Breyvic Valera. Another of the players who Farhan Zaidi has acquired mutliple times, Valera combines true SS skills (which you may have noticed are absent on the Giants bench) with contact and on-base abilities. His 86 major league PA over the last two seasons haven’t produced much, but he’s very likely to be wearing the vanilla on and off in 2019.
Other Team Notes: If you don’t recognize a lot of the names on this roster, you can be forgiven. 12 players are new names acquired in the offseason. Only one outfielder, Slater, was in the system last year…Pat Venditte is a Farhan Zaidi special, and I’d be surprised if the ambidextrous pitcher doesn’t make the Majors this season…Stephen Vogt is likely to be in Sacramento just temporarily, and back in the Majors after he gets his strength back after surgery…There’s a couple of family names one would recognize in the outfield. Newly acquired Mike Yastrzemski, who was traded from the Orioles at the end of spring training, is the grandson of Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, while Henry Ramos is the older brother of top Giants prospect Heliot Ramos...Could Keyvius Sampson be this year’s D-Rod? Not out of the question.The 2009 4th rounder was a top prospect once upon a long ago, has a solid three pitch mix and when healthy, good velocity. Maybe there’s lightning in a bottle here?