It’s April 15th, which means that in baseball, it’s Jackie Robinson day. I’m sure that throughout today, you’ll read and hear much about the journey he went through. And there will be a lot of discussion about the still-low population of African-American players in the sport.
The Giants are one of three teams in MLB with no African-American players on the roster. And it may not change anytime soon, at least not through the system. Of the MLB Pipeline Top 30 prospects, the Giants have only one African-American player on the list: Jalen Miller, at #28.
As Giants fans, we’ve had a history that includes some of the greatest African-American players in baseball history. Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Barry Bonds, and even recently (and for a very short time) Andrew McCutchen, among many others over the years. As far as the future, who knows?
Developing interest in baseball is an industry problem, not a team one. The Giants Community Fund does a great job on its own, but raising players who not only can play the game, but choose the play the game, is something that all of baseball needs to take part in. Who will be the next Barry Bonds? I hope we’ll see.
Joey Bart And The Infusion of Hope
Early in the week, the top name in the system was making the top waves.
Joey Bart kicked off the week on Monday with a 2-hit game and hitting his first home run of the season:
Impressive all-around game for Joey Bart today. Threw out two runners attempting to steal + picked-off two more, including one with the bases loaded to end an inning. Big plays in a one-run win. Also doubled off the right-center fence.— Joe Ritzo (@JoeRitzo) April 9, 2019
And then later in the week, he launched his second:
And of course, all this has brought about the predictable calls to get Bart called up to the Majors, right now.
Young players are the talk of baseball now, with young stars such as Fernando Tatis Jr., Juan Soto and Ronald Acuña Jr. Certainly, that can lead to an overabundance of enthusiasm for bringing up one (or more) of the Giants’ top prospects. And there is no doubt that Joe Bart has brought excitement to the Giants’ system.
However, as cautioned in the past, patience should be considered with the Giants and their young stud. Bart, at 22, is definitely still learning. The hot start to the week has cooled off, with two straight days of 0-for-4 days. As of this morning, Bart owns a solid batting line of .250/.325/.528. It’s good, but by no means is it setting the California League on fire.
Bart is as close to a certain future superstar the Giants have had in their system since…well, Buster Posey. And in a lot of ways, I feel bad for him, as almost his entire career will be a comparison to an MVP…and possibly Hall of Fame…catcher that came before him. And pitching in Single-A is not even close to the level of Major League pitching.
Have hope. Have enthusiasm. But don’t get too desperate to bring up Bart. Let him develop, and also give the rest of the system some time to catch up as well. Posey got to lead a group of homegrown teammates like Belt, Crawford, Sandoval (who got up before Buster), and Bumgarner.
There is more in the system than just Bart. Let him come up with the team that he will lead.
Opening Las Vegas
As I noted last week, and you saw in Minor Lines midweek, I got a chance to get down to Las Vegas to be there as the River Cats opened the new Las Vegas Ballpark. There will be a Ballpark Review coming soon, but for now, let’s look at my notes about what I saw out of the River Cats.
Um… Well, this was really cool!
Okay, okay…let’s be honest, the Cats just did not really show up in Las Vegas. The first two games were very much marred by wind, and I don’t know how that affected both hitters and pitchers. But it seemed that almost everyone was having trouble. But, here are some specific notes:
- By far, the most positive look I saw was Sam Coonrod. He was throwing 94-97 by the stadium gun with a hard 89 mph slider that had a lot of movement. The slider was a bit wild, but he was generating a lot of missed swings on behalf of Las Vegas. He could quickly move up some prospect rankings if he keeps that look.
- Beede was the best of the three starters I saw. He was 94-97 on the fastball, and worked mostly with a slow curve at 81. His second time through the lineup he began working with what seemed like a slider at 86, but that pitch was his weak point, and he gave up a few hits with it.
- On offense, Mike Gerber was getting some of the best swings off, especially early in the first game. But generally, the offense was looking awful the entire series. And as much of a fan as I am of Mac Williamson, he looked awful, going 0-for-8 with four strikeouts. (Then again, he’s hit in every other game he played).
- Zach Green got the first home run ever hit at Las Vegas Ballpark. Unfortunately, Ray Black ends up giving up the first home run for Vegas, a 3-run shot by Sean Murphy that went over the pool in right center field.
- The defense is just a concern. Breyvic Valera picked up three errors in the series, and they were all plays he should have had. Abiatal Avelino, who played shortstop most of the series, also came up short on a few play. However, the error he got was more on Zach Green, who was just not paying attention at third base after a long triple that fell just short, and Green wasn’t expecting a throw from the cutoff man to come in.
That’s pretty much the summary of my notes. It wasn’t a great series, but it isn’t the most loaded team in the system, either.
Oh, one more thing…bat dogs are awesome:
Sheesh, ump. Let Finn The Bat Dog do his job! smh.pic.twitter.com/XymBWLeuQn— Cut4 (@Cut4) April 10, 2019
Looking Ahead to the Draft
The Giants have the #10 pick in June’s draft, and while that pick rarely has the results that a #2 overall pick can have, it’s still a big opportunity for the Giants to add to their farm system.
Two mock drafts came out this week. Baseball America now has the Giants taking high school RHP Matthew Allan from Florida. BA notes that the Giants have former Braves scouting director Brian Bridges on board, and he has a history taking such pitchers.
Meanwhile, 24/7 Sports posted their own mock draft. They have the Giants taking JJ Bleday, an outfielder from Vanderbilt. They note that Zaidi comes from the Dodgers, who have loved to draft out of Vanderbilt. They also note UNC OF Michael Busch as a sleeper for the Giants pick.
On Tuesday, San Jose pitcher Jose Marte left his start after two innings with an apparent injury, and was placed on the 7-day injured list on Friday. Also on Friday, Gregory Santos was pulled from his game with shoulder soreness.
Giants #8 prospect Gregory Santos left last nights game with shoulder pain. Will be re-evaluated today. 55 pitches, 3.2 innings, 1 ER for Santos yesterday and the big stat: 0 BB.— Rylan Kobre (@RylanKobrePxP) April 12, 2019
As of yet, Santos has not been placed on the injured list. We’ll keep an eye out for more updates on the two.
I Blame Bullpen Catcher Brain
Here's a new one -- San Jose Giants tried to bring in Trent Toplikar in relief in today's game, but Stockton manager astutely noted Toplikar wasn't listed on lineup card as an active player, so they had to warm up a new reliever to come in and take over instead.— Roger Munter (@rog61) April 9, 2019
Okay, brain farts aside, Trenton Toplikar is an interesting little mystery. Toplikar, a 16th round draft pick in 2018, got promoted up to San Jose after posting a 1.23 ERA in mostly relief at Salem-Keizer. That’s interesting, because Augusta’s rotation is packed with higher draft picks and much more heralded pitching prospects, and here Toplikar is at least initially in the rotation. However, he’s only got into one game, and has been on the Temporary Inactive List since April 10th. Obviously, he was still with the team.
It’ll be interesting to see what the Giants have in the plan for the 22-year old.
Marco Luciano For No Good Reason
There’s not much of a reason to post this, other than it’s Marco Luciano on video from this year. Do you need any other reason?
SS Marco Luciano in today's Extended Spring Training game:— GPT (@giantsprospects) April 13, 2019
1st PA: Walk
2nd PA: Pop out
3rd PA: Fly out to RF warning track.
Video of his 3rd PA: pic.twitter.com/00SPBFGF61
Top Prospect Updates
Week: 6-for-24, 6 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 1 BB, 4 SO - .250/.280/.583/.863
Season: 9-for-36, 7 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 3 BB, 6 SO, 1 CS - .250/.325/.528/.853
Read above for more.
Week: 6-for-23, 7 R, 1 2B, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 6 BB, 5 SO, 1 HBP - .261/.433/.696/1.129
Season: 7-for-34, 8 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 9 BB, 11 SO, 1 SB, 1 CS - .206/.378/.529/.907
Ramos is not collecting many hits, but the hits he is collecting are going for a lot of extra bases. More importantly are the walks he is collecting.
Week: 3.0 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO - 12.00 ERA, 2.33 WHIP
Season: 8.0 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 5 ER, 1 HR, 2 BB, 11 SO - 5.63 WHIP, .265 BAA, 1.38 WHIP
Anderson is coming off of a truly horrible start in Las Vegas, and he was pounded for hit after hit. He still got his strikeouts, but he needs to give up much less contact.
Week: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 SO - 1.80 ERA, 1.00 WHIP
Season: 10.0 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 8 SO - 0.90 ERA, .184 BAA, 1.20 WHIP
Although Webb gave up a run in his second start, he looked much sharper without allowing any walks. Webb has gotten off to one of the best starts of any starter at the higher levels, so far an encouraging sign after his strong 2018.
Week: 4.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO - 2.25 ERA, 1.00 WHIP
Season: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 1 HBP, 3 BB, 7 SO - 6.35 ERA, .261 OBA, 1.59 WHIP
Wong looked far better in his second start than his first, and it will take a while for him to whittle down that ERA from what his first start.
Week: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 SO, 1 HR - 2.45 ERA, 1.09 WHIP
Season: 6.2 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 HR, 2 BB, 6 SO - 5.40 ERA, .300 BAA, 1.65 WHIP
As noted above, the biggest news about Santos was the injury that ended his second start.
Week: 3.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 SO - 0.00 ERA, 1.50 WHIP
Season: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 10 SO - 0.00 ERA, .227 BAA, 1.41 WHIP
Coonrod is emerging in the Sacramento River Cat, collecting eight of his strikeouts over three appearances this week. With real velocity, he is looking more and more like a real back of the bullpen reliever.
Week: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO - 3.60 ERA, 1.20 WHIP
Season: 9.0 IP, 11 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 9 SO, 3.00 ERA, .324 BAA, 1.33 WHIP
The Tall Man had a decent start this week, but continues to look steady in what he can do. However, he is giving up too many hits right now.
RHP Sean Hjelle in his second start for Augusta: 5IP 5H 2ER 1BB 4K, 75pitches/50 strikes. FB 94-96, per stadium gun.— GPT (@giantsprospects) April 10, 2019
Here is Hjelle striking out the side in the 2nd inning: pic.twitter.com/u7p9LWAjrb
Week: 8-for-16, 3 R, 1 2B, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 3 SO - .500/.555/.938/1.493
Season: 12-for-32, 6 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 4 BB, 6 SO - .375/.444/.625/1.069
Tostado had a prospect of the week type of week. The 19th round pick from 2017 is only 21 and is showing a ceiling higher than the one indicated with his half-season in the AZL.
Week: 8-for-17, 3 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 0 BB, 0 SO - .471/.470/.706/1.176
Season: 10-for-28, 5 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 0 BB, 3 SO, 3 SB - .357/.357/.500
Miller has moved to second base, and his offensive ability is looking like it’s started to come around. He now has a 6-game hitting streak he is carrying into the upcoming week.
- The River Cats ended up with eight hits, none of them for extra bases. In Salt Lake City! And they won!
- Zach Green continued his strong season, with two singles, a walk, and the only RBI for the Cats. Green is 13-for-36 with seven walks, giving him a .361 average and .750 OBP.
- Andrew Suarez had a nice bounce back game after giving up six earned in three innings in his last start at Las Vegas.
- Abiatal Avelino was 1-for-3 with two walks, scoring both Sacramento runs.
- Ray Black got the credit for the only Salt Lake run, with a lead off walk in the eighth before being replaced by Steven Okert. Okert looked a hit and the run to score on a groundout.
- Sacramento was without two top players. Aramis Garcia was up in SF on the taxi squad, after the 18-inning game on Friday. And hot hitter Mike Gerber had a day off.
- Chris Shaw hit his first home run of the year, a 3 run shot that broke a tie in the 7th. However, Shaw is just 4-for-19 over six games this season, and the home run was his first extra-base hit of the year.
- Jalen Miller continues to have a very nice start to the season with his first home run of the year. He’s batting .375 on the year, and is 9-for-24 with just three strikeouts but no walks. His career high in home runs was 14 last year in San Jose.
- Ryan Howard was 2-for-5 with his first double of the year, getting home also to the 4-for-19 line. He, however, has added six walks, giving him a .400 OBP over the .211 batting average. Howard was also playing third for the first time this season
- Garrett Williams had a mixed start. The two home runs allowed now means he’s allowed a third of his career high (from last season) in just 9.0 innings of work. But the six strikeouts gives him 11 with no walks in that span.
- The bullpen combined for two hits and one walk with five strikeouts in four innings.
- Jacob Heyward was 1-for-2 with three walks. He has eight walks and eight strikeouts over eight games, and is batting .350 with a .536 OBP.
- Quinn’s double was just his second hit, now 2-for-19 (.105).
- Well, the SJ Giants were much like their big brothers, getting one-hit.
- DJ Myers got his first start of the season, returning to San Jose after getting a temporary spot in relief in Sacramento, where he also went three innings. Myers now has 14 strikeouts against three walks and six hits in 8.1 innings combined at both levels.
- Bryce Johnson had the team’s only hit, and a glowing endorsement on defense on Twitter.
Also, although many people are coming to San Jose to see Bart and Ramos but keep an eye out for Bryce Johnson he had two Superman catches in RF and was key in keeping Visalia off the board for most the game.— Julie (@phibear35) April 14, 2019
- Heliot Ramos drew a walk while going 0-for-2 with a strikeout. That’s 9 walks against 11 strikeouts in 10 games.
Augusta Putt-putt Course
Augusta series finale with West Virginia was postponed, to be played as a doubleheader on May 9th when the GreenJackets are back in Charleston.
Augusta heads home, now that the golf thingy is over, and will have its home opener Monday against Greensboro.
This week, things got a little weird on the media side of things.
There immediately began a sizable WTF from media and fans alike, with few believing that minor league baseball would begin to commit media suicide by limiting what little exposure they get. Protecting the milb.tv broadcasts is one thing, an understandable thing. But the limiting of game highlights is far less understandable.
Not long after, Baseball America put up an article which seems to try and explain all of this in more reasonable terms, and acknowledge that minor league baseball knows about where it is lacking in video highlights, and also its very flawed new app.
And then, a day later, Baseball America posted another, shorter, more blunt article, saying that they can no longer post game highlights, upon a demand by MiLB.
What is MiLB trying to do? The short answer seems to be that they wish to monetize the highlights, playing them only from their website. Of course, it would be helpful if they had highlights to show. Of the four Giants minor league affiliates that have been playing for a week and a half, there is a grand total of one highlight from this season posted between all four of them.
What they are doing is alienating the fans and the media that support them and remind the millions and millions of major league fans that minor league baseball exists. We live in a media-driven world, and if your highlights can’t be seen on Twitter or Facebook or even Snapchat in a timely manner, they won’t be seen or noticed at all.
I can tell you that we have not received a takedown notice as of yet. For the time being, however, we may be more judicious with the highlights that will be put up. Part of that is that I’ll be covering Minor Lines for a couple of weeks beginning at the end of this week while Roger takes a much-deserved vacation, and I have not yet gotten a good way to collect those with sound, nor the time to find all the highlights as well. But part is also treading lightly in a new media world.
Maybe MiLB actually has good plans. Maybe they’ll get their act together and post highlights in a timely manner. Maybe they will update their system so their videos can be embedded on sites like ours.
But from my 17 years of covering minor league baseball, and the things I saw even as recent as my trip to Las Vegas? I doubt they can. I doubt they even have thought about it.
Okay, let’s finish this with something a bit more lighthearted…new hats!
Eh…I think I’m going to blame the one-hit performance on those.