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Richmond Flying Squirrels 2019 Season Preview

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It’s “Prove It” time in Richmond for an assortment of the system’s better prospects.

The first major “whoa!” assignment comes with Richmond, as Chris Shaw returns to his AA home for the first time since early 2017. And he’s not the only returnee who might be itching to get to the west coast. Ryan Howard gets a somewhat surprising return to AA as do a few of his teammates. Logan Webb’s return isn’t at all a surprise, but he too is likely heading east with a desire to earn himself a promotion up to the penultimate level before 2019 is through.

Pitchers:
Fernando Abad
Melvin Adon
Brandon Beachy
Enderson Franco
Ryan Halstead
Kieran Lovegrove
Rodolfo Martinez
Conner Menez
Carlos Navas
Connor Overton
Nolan Riggs
Sam Selman
Logan Webb
Garrett Williams
Sam Wolff

Catchers:
Jin-De Jhang
Hamlet Marte
Matt Winn

Infielders:
Jonah Arenado
Gio Brusa
Ryan Howard
Jalen Miller
Brock Stassi
Brandon Van Horn

Outfielders:
Dylan Davis
Johneshwy Fargas
Jacob Heyward
Heath Quinn
Chris Shaw

Best Hitting Prospect

ROGER: Chris Shaw. Shaw’s 2018 was brutal, and in fact his AAA career is now nearly 800 PA of a 5% BB rate combined with a >30% K rate. That’s flag is a day-glo red. But we just have to go back to 2017 to find him roasting the Eastern League with an 11.7% BB/16.9% K and a .301 batting average. The hope is he comes back to the level, re-finds some of that hitter, and is able to take it with him upon his return to higher levels. Given the raw power, he doesn’t have to get all of that 2017 AA performance back, he just has not be a 30%K and 5%BB batter and there’s value to be had there.

KEVIN: Heath Quinn. It could easily be Chris Shaw here, but there’s something to be said about regressing somewhat last year. Quinn is on the rise, putting up nice all-around numbers in San Jose last year in his second health-limited year there. The 2016 3rd round pick has been a little under the radar, but if he can stay healthy, his all-around hitting skills might fair better than Shaw’s power-driven stroke.

Best Pitching Prospect

ROGER: Logan Webb. That Grant Brisbee guy complained that the Giants system in 2018 didn’t have a single oddball prospect who popped out of nowhere to somewhere. Grant is (quite unusually) wrong. That guy was Logan Webb, who made a triumphant return from TJ surgery to jump all the way from Salem-Keizer’s bullpen in 2017 to Richmond’s starting rotation by the time 2018 finished. The Giants were extremely conservative with his innings last year, but the training wheels should come off this year. If Webb tightens up the control (something that typically takes much longer to come back after TJ) and more consistently finds changeup he sometimes flashes and he’s in the argument for best pitching prospects in the system.

KEVIN: Logan Webb. Webb spent much of 2018 limited in innings, only getting over 5 innings twice, late in the season once he was promoted to Richmond, and he seemed to tire there late in the year, which isn’t unexpected. This year, he should be stronger, and the Eastern League will test him. But Webb has a good mid-90’s fastball and a sharp curve. If he has made his changeup better, Webb should have a great showing here, or he may fall back into a bullpen role.

Dark Horse Prospect

ROGER: Johneshwy Fargas. Johneshwy really hit the iceburg in his first couple of tries at San Jose, but he’s a player who can help teams win in so many ways -- his speed, his arm, his great defense, his high energy -- that he comes with that “if he can hit juuuust enough” sort of tag that helped Juan Perez craft himself a small but memorable major league career. Looking at Richmond’s roster it would seem that Fargas should see the lion’s share of time in CF which means he’ll have a chance to get reps against upper level pitching and show off the well-rounded skills. Now just avoid that iceburg Johneshwy.

KEVIN: Sam Wolff. Okay, he’s 27 now, but there’s still potential for him to come off his rough injury-return in 2018 (6.91 ERA in Richmond), and bounce back to the 2017 form he had when he had a 2.38 ERA in Triple-A. There are a few dark horse guys on this roster, but I like Wolff’s chances to be a mid-season promotion to Sacramento. How he might fit in a crowded bullpen situation in SF is another story.

Most Exciting Prospect

ROGER: Melvin Adon. I’m a simple creature. I find massive velocity exciting. Melvin Adon throws the ball really really hard and pairs it with a wicked breaking ball that can make great hitters look silly. Color me excited! Honorable Mention is probably Jalen Miller who is probably the most dynamic guy in the starting lineup.

KEVIN: Johneshwy Fargas. The definition of “exciting” can be contextual, but I’m going with Fargas, who seems like he’s coming into his own. He had a .288/.354/.421 in part-time work in San Jose, playing just 89 games despite no major injuries, and stole 47 bases on 63 attempts. He’s the only center fielder on Richmond’s roster, so he should get much more playing time, and when he’s on the field and on the basepaths, he’s a fun ballplayer to watch.

Most Surprising Assignment

ROGER: Chris Shaw gets to me the most surprising assignment of the system (though I like Kevin’s shoutout to Ryan Howard below), which allows me to go on a bit of a tangent. Sacramento’s roster is going to include brand new Giants acquisitions Anthony Garcia who posted an 11.5% BB rate and .357 OBP in AAA last year, Mike Gerber who had a .363 OBP in AA back in 2017, and Henry Ramos who posted a .352 OBP in AAA for the Dodgers last year. Conner Joe and Mike Reed on-based their way to SF. Farhan Zaidi is making no secret of what the path to success in his organization is going to be, and what it is not going to be. This is the new reality of Giants’ developmental world.

KEVIN: Chris Shaw, but I’m going to talk about Ryan Howard. Howard came into camp with a fair amount of buzz about things other than his name, and was even discussed being a possible 2019 SF Giant down the road. His 2018 season in Richmond was not great offensively (.273/.336/.396), but I’d assumed he would get the Triple-A push. But like Shaw, it seems a lot of the offseason signings by Zaidi left no room for the 24-year old, at least for now. Honorable Honorable Mention to Brock Stassi, who hit .391/.536/.547 in 21 games with Sacramento last year after signing a free agent contract.

Who Will Be Better Than You Think

ROGER: Curses on Kevin for taking Garrett Williams here. But let’s focus on Jacob Heyward for a moment. Given my comments above, it does tend to catch the eye that Heyward boasts a career 12.6% BB rate as a pro. In addition, David Bell and his team raved about the swing mechanic changes Heyward made over the second half of the 2018 season. Heyward is a three-true outcomes guy, but he has power, athleticism, and a career .359 OBP. That sounds like a guy who can succeed in this organization.

KEVIN: Garrett Williams. Williams was one of those guys who had just a brutal year, and he moved back into the bullpen. His role this year is still unannounced, but Williams was looking pretty sharp in the back fields in Spring Training, both with his fastball and curveball. The 24-year old is primed to have a bounce-back season.

Who Should You Be Paying Attention To

ROGER: Jalen Miller. As much as the near future potential of Webb and Adon excite me, and as much as I’m still curious to see what Heath Quinn develops into, this Richmond team is really about Jalen Miller for me. The third round talent with some of the best batspeed and athleticism in the system stumbled his way through three consecutive rough rough years, before finally exploding last year in San Jose. But the odd thing about Miller’s breakout performance was -- it came with virtually no improvement in his peripherals. There was a leap in hard contact seen in the Iso and Average, but his K rate remained virtually unchanged from his first three years and his walk rate actually went down (Jalen, buddy, please read what I said above about the new reality of Giants’ development). A dynamic young player who could handle the middle infield handling a successful transition to the upper minors would be huge value add for the Giants’ system. I’m going to be spending a lot of my 2019 focussing on Jalen Miller’s performance.

KEVIN: Melvin Adon. He could be the best pitching prospect on this team, he definitely has the best stuff. The problem has been that Adon simply has not been effective in games that count, posting a 4.87 ERA in 16 games (15 starts) at San Jose last season. He has the stuff, mostly a 100 MPH fastball that lit up radar guns and people’s eyes in the Arizona Fall League and Spring Training, but this year is the year the 24-year old needs to put it together.

Other Team Notes

Jin-De Jhang is a Taiwan-born free agent signing out of the Pittsburgh system. He doesn’t have a lot of a track record, but he hit .320/.373/.410 in the Eastern League last year over 35 games. Jhang tripled in three runs in the final game of the 2017 Eastern League Championship Series to help the Altoona Curve take their second league title in franchise history.

Conner Menez led the system in strikeouts last year with 171 Ks in 135 IP. The 14th rounder from The Master’s College has definitely put himself on the prospect map. Between Rodolfo Martinez, Sam Wolff, Kieran Lovegrove, Nolan Riggs, and Ryan Halstead the Squirrels’ bullpen could have some outstanding velocity closing out games this year. Brandon Beachy continues the long comeback trail -- the one time Braves star has thrown just 70 IP since the 2013 season and just 12 in the last two years.

UPDATE!

This doesn’t change any of our other thoughts, but now you know!