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The Prospect Roundup: 2019 Gets Started

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Effectively Wild should be a band name, but it might do as a prospect theme

Prospect Roundup Cover Image Kevin J. Cunningham

Welcome Back!

he minors are underway, so it’s our first actual Round-Up of the season! Welcome back! Obviously, we’ve moved to Mondays, so you can find us here every Monday morning at 7 am.

There’s one big change in the Round-Up this year. Instead of Players of the Week, we’re going to feature the stat lines of the top few prospects every week, and a couple of other top performers. But we’ll still summarize the top stories of every week in the minor leagues, and a few extra fun bits to try and counter the negativity around this year…

Yeah, that’s probably a lost cause, but we’ll still try.

Seriously, though, if anyone comments “Someone’s got a case of the Mondays”, there will be consequences.

The Flying Squirrels…Truly A Part of Richmond

I know this usually a place to talk about prospects, but let’s talk about a team and a city. Because the Richmond Flying Squirrels are celebrating their 10th season.

https://twitter.com/bensbiz/status/1080516572488192000

In 2007, the Giants’ Double-A Affiliate was the Connecticut Defenders playing in miserable Dodd Stadium, hosting an Eastern League All-Star Game that they couldn’t even sell out. (It’s okay, the affair was suspended and cancelled in the second inning.) Meanwhile, Richmond had a Triple-A affiliate of the Braves that was drawing poorly. When the Braves chose to move their affiliate to the Atlanta suburbs, breaking a 43-year long affiliation, the Defenders moved south.

The new Flying Squirrels had work to do. A demotion in level, a new affiliate on the other side of the country, and an older stadium all worked against them. But the ownership of the Squirrels has done a fantastic job working with the city and community, and drawing fans. And it’s paid off.

The Squirrels sold out Opening Day this year for the 10th straight time, and after Thursday’s 1-0 win, they are 8-2 in their home openers. And this year, the Squirrels will host the Eastern League All-Star Game.

Not all is perfect in Richmond. The stadium is old, and the quest for a new stadium seems unending. The team is the most southern in the EL, closer to South Atlantic League and Carolina League teams than any Eastern League teams, so travel is long. But the team gets to play in front of fans, and that does a lot to keep young players’ spirits up, especially in a grinding Double-A level.

Hats off to Richmond and the Squirrels.

First Impressions

In long seasons, one game is not much to base judgements on…much less a first few innings or at-bats. But what the heck…let’s take a look at some first impressions from Opening Day on Thursday:

  • Jacob Gonzalez hit a booming home run in his first at-bat for Augusta this year, the first home run of the system in 2019.
  • Sean Hjelle struck out five in his first two innings with Augusta, although he gave up a run on three hits and a walk (and a costly Catcher’s Interference). Four of the five strikeouts were swinging. Hjelle did not strike any other batters out in his final two innings.
  • In Richmond, Logan Webb walked five in five innings, but only two hits meant Webb went without any runs scored. He also struck out four.
  • Bryce Johnson led off San Jose with a single and then stole second, and would come around to score. Johnson was 2-for-5 on the day.
  • The player who knocked Johnson in was Joey Bart in his first at-bat. Bart finished his day 2-for-4 with a walk.
  • Heliot Ramos did not get hits right away, though he had an extra base hit stolen by an excellent play. Ramos was 1-for-3 with a walk and a stolen base.
  • The Sacramento River Cats gave a first impression of fighting. Down 3-1 in the 9th, newcomer Mike Yastrzemski hit a 2-run double to tie the game. In the 11th, Sacramento fell behind 4-3, but then Aramis Garcia hit the game-tying RBI double, and Breyvic Valera hit the game-winning RBI double.

Not a bad first day. Mostly good news, certainly no flops. All four affiliates won. That’s how you start a season.

Get Excited for Excite Ballpark, SJ Fans

Municipal Stadium, affectionately known as The Muni, will be known as something else for the near future…affectionately or otherwise.

The San Jose Giants sold the naming rights for the stadium, and it’s now known as Excite Ballpark. That’s not after the 1990’s famous web portal; it’s named after Excite Credit Union (itself recently renamed, formerly known as Alliance Credit Union). The stadium will get new signage, of course, as well as some community outreach programs with Excite CU. It’s a remarkably short naming rights agreement, even as corporate names are becoming more and more of the norm across baseball.

So, are you…ahem, Excited? Or is it still The Muni? Let us know in the comments!

Somewhat related…it turns out that excite.com still is online. I kind of want to go get an email address from them, and brag about my 20th century internet cred.

Top Prospect Updates

Joey Bart
Week: 3-for-12, 1 3B, 1 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 2 SO - .250/.400/.417

Things really started off promising for Bart, who had an RBI single in his first at-bat, but he’s gotten cold just like the rest of the San Jose offense. One nice thing is that he has kept a reasonable strikeout and walk rate in this small sample.

Heliot Ramos
Week: 1-for-11, 1 R, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 6 SO - .091/.266/.182

There’s not much sugar-coating to do here, but he wasn’t alone out there. He has been drawing walks, he had only 35 in 2018, so that’s not nothing.

Shaun Anderson
Week: 5 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO, 1 HR, 1.80 ERA, 0.80 WHIP

All-in-all, a solid start. Many consider Shaun Anderson is the best pitching prospect in the high levels, and he did nothing to dispel that notion;

Logan Webb
Week: 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 R, 5 BB, 4 SO, 0.00 ERA, 1.40 WHIP

Wildness was a theme of this opener. Webb kept runs off the board, however, and that gives hope.

Jake Wong
Week: 1.2 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 SO, 16.20 ERA, 3.00 WHIP

Easily one of the toughest starts in the early games. Wong actually struck out the side in the first inning, but then the struggles hit hard.

Gregory Santos
Week: 3 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO, 9.00 ERA, 2.33 WHIP

It was a rough start for one of the top pitching prospects in the system. Santos is one of those young and raw guys in the system, so obviously there will be more rough patches in the future. But one hopes to see some shine underneath.

Others:

Tyler Beede
Week: 4.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 SO, 0.00 ERA, 1.25 WHIP

Beede was one of the most eye-opening players in spring, and he continued the hot streak into April. This is a very positive sign.

Seth Corry
Week: 3.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 5 BB, 7 SO, 0.00 ERA, 1.67 WHIP

Take Logan Webb’s start, and make it crazier. Corry struggled with control, but you can see why the Giants like his stuff. He was literally unhittable. It will be interesting to see how his season goes from here.

Raffi Vizcaino
Week: 4.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 SO, 0.00 ERA, 0.46 WHIP

The most notable reliever of the early few games, the 23-year old Vizcaino is repeating San Jose. He had a 4.65 ERA working mostly as a starter in 2018.

Aramis Garcia
Week: 3-for-9, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 4 SO, .333/.400/.778

Garcia hit .233/.285/.381 in 90 games in the minors last season, with his 11 home runs (all in Double-A) being one of the few bright spots. There’s no pressure on him to make the majors this year, so hopefully his time in Triple-A will be more rounded this year.

Sunday’s Lines

Sacramento Litter Box

  • Zach Green powered the River Cats offense with two home runs. Green hit a season-high 20 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A last season. He also has two doubles and a triple in four games so far this season.
  • Stephen Vogt picked up his first home run of the season as he works to take Eric Kratz’s job. He’s only batting .154/.267/.615 on the season.
  • Ty Blach had a rough start, giving up three runs in the first inning, but holding Tacoma silent after.
  • Donovan Solano’s hot start continued, as he’s 5-for-12 so far, batting .417 on the season.
  • The River Cats were facing the top prospect in the Mariners system, Justus Sheffield, who came over in the James Paxton trade. The River Cats put four runs on his record in 4.2 innings, and were helped by 5 walks by the top prospect.

Richmond Nuthouse

  • Brandon Beachy, a former Major Leaguer, was making his first appearance in affiliated ball since 2016, and that year it was a single appearance in the AZL
  • The bullpen combined for eight strikeouts in five scoreless innings. Big Nolan Riggs had four in three innings, and Sam Selman picked up four Ks in two innings.
  • Jason Heyward was the only hitter of note, picking up his first double of the season in a 2-hit game. Heyward has a .982 OPS to start the season, helped by four walks in the first four games.

San Jose Footprints

  • Camilo Doval had big problems to start 2018, giving up seven earned runs and just two outs (outs!) in his first two games. This year, he gave up a run in an inning of work, which is reasonable. And then he gave up six runs today on four hits and two walks with one out. It appears Doval now is not much of an early April pitcher.
  • San Jose stole four bases, including two by Bryce Johnson, one by Jean Angomas, and one by catcher John Riley. That was Riley’s eighth steal in what is now his seventh season.
  • Johnson is batting .353/.450/.471 in his first four games in his second go-round at San Jose. He hit .249/.339/.324 in 2018.

Augusta Putt-putt Course

  • Seth Corry was unhittable...which included hitting the strike zone. Three innings with no hits or runs, but also five walks and seven strikeouts! Wow.
  • Wander Franco was 1-for-5, but his one hit was a grand slam that capped off a 6-run inning. Franco had only five home runs in 56 games last season.
  • Diego Rincones continues to hit, going 2-for-5.
  • Yesterday’s leader Jose Layer collected his second double on a 1-for-3 day, and also got two walks.
  • Keaton Winn went 4 innings to end the game, allowing a run on five hits, striking out four with no walks. The 5th round pick from last season may continue to get extended work and be a starter again eventually.The Wrap-Up:

The Wrap-Up:

If you’ve read in past years, you know that I’m a huge fan of uniforms and stadiums. This year, minor league baseball is making me geek out with the second Copa de la Diversión, a very loose competition between teams while paying homage to fans and inspirations from LatinX culture. This year, 72 teams are adopting new Identities, including names, logos and uniforms, that will be worn regularly. This year, three Giants affiliates will participate.

First, let’s look at Sacramento, who return with the Sacramento Dorados:

The Dorados, inspired by Luchador wrestling, were a popular theme that Sacramento used last year, and the lighter blue and yellow color theme certainly match (especially matching the distinctive Tower Bridge).

San Jose, who were the “Gigantes” last year, a previously used name and uniform on Cinqo de Mayos in year past, have gotten more interesting this year:

The Churros are certainly much more imaginative and unique. Check out the piping on the pants…they are churros! The logo also has a distinctive cowboy hat, and that is a hint to a uniquely personal link to this chosen identity: the name and look pays tribute to Hippolito Cerda, known as “The Churro Man” selling the snack at San Jose games. That very direct connection makes this one of my favorite identities across this promotion.

Meanwhile, Richmond joins the Copa, becoming Las Ardillas Voladoras!

This style matches Sacramento in theme, and is close in colors. It certainly also matches Richmond’s tendency to bright colored alternate uniforms, matching the cartoony Funville jerseys they wear. The name, if you don’t speak Spanish, means “Flying Squirrels” in Spanish, but that certainly fits in with the Luchador theme that is so popular. (Yes, I watched Wrestlemania yesterday! Becky Lynch is The Man!)

If you’d like to check out all the teams participating, their alter-egos and explanations behind them, click here to see the list on MiLB.com.

And before we go, two more notes on Richmond! Damn, guys, got enough uniforms?

First, Richmond is jumping on the “snack food alter ego” train, and will become the Richmond Hush Puppies!

I mean…eh? I’m not wild about the unis (or the snack). But fun trivia, Hush Puppies were one of the five finalists when the team first moved to Richmond, a “Wild Card” entry chosen by CNBC’s Darren Rovell to be voted along with the Flatheads, the Hambones, the Rhinos, the Rock Hoppers, and of course the Flying Squirrels. (Hambones were removed from the poll before voting happened.

Finally, Richmond wore gold-accented jerseys on Thursday to celebrate their 10th year in Richmond.

It’s really bad when your hashtag has a typo, guys…

This is a nice touch and all, but have the gold-tinged jerseys run their course? I loved them for championship celebrations…but I like reserving it for truly special things. That said, these do look nice, and congrats to Richmond for 10 seasons!

I’ll be in Las Vegas to check out their new stadium, so look for a stadium review (and my thoughts on Sacramento) this week! And I’ll see you back here for the Round-Up next Monday morning!