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The SF Giants Prospect Roundup: Two Big Promotions

Wong and Hjelle make a move up, and what that means for the Giants future

Prospect Roundup Cover Image Kevin J. Cunningham

Happy Memorial Day! Welcome to the Prospect Round-Up! We encourage you to read, so you don’t end up like this fan’s misconceptions coming from a minor league callup this week…

Two Promotions That Give Hope In The Giants System

There’s always a lot of shuffling in the minors, and for the most part, it’s nearly impossible to know which prospects are going to be the ones that will eventually be Major Leaguers. But this week, two bonafide prospects got a mid-May promotion that gives hope that at least something is going right.

Early this week, the Giants promoted two top 2018 draft picks, 2nd round pick Sean Hjelle and 3rd round pick Jake Wong, from Augusta to San Jose. The mid-May promotions are a little early, as mid-June usually prompts promotions with the coming of the All-Star Games at the lower levels.

Sean Hjelle had a 2.66 ERA after nine starts in Augusta, with a solid 44:9 K:BB ratio, though with 41 hits allowed in 40.2 IP. But Hjelle was maintaining a 60.6% ground ball percentage, and a 22.9% fly ball percentage, a key for him with his unique downward pitching plane.

Meanwhile, Jake Wong had a superb 1.99 ERA after eight starts in Augusta, though with just 34 strikeouts and 11 walks in 40.2 IP. Wong’s peripherals weren’t at the most dominating level, but he was effective at keeping the runners from crossing the plate. His 3.51 FIP is not as encouraging, but it’s not as bad either.

By giving them a promotion, the Giants are clearly challenging two of their top healthy pitching prospects. The South Atlantic League is a pretty fair league, but the California League is very hitter friendly. It could expose the weaknesses that either pitcher faces, be it the hits that Hjelle has been giving up, or Wong’s lack of strikeouts. But, it’s also a chance for the two to rise above.

As for their first week, Wong gave up four earned runs in four innings, off of seven hits and a walk, but he struck out a season-high tying six. Hjelle was victimized by a defensive error, allowing three runs but just one earned, in six innings. He gave up four hits and two walks, striking out five.

The eyes will be on them, with Gregory Santos still out with injury, and two even higher profile names in San Jose expected back sometime next month.

Other Things Affected By The Promotions

There are two other impacts to take a look at after the promotions of Wong and Hjelle.

The two pitchers anchored a rotation that was the strength of the first half Augusta GreenJackets, and though injuries have taken their toll, Wong and Hjelle had helped lead the GreenJackets. In the weekend before the promotions, the GreenJackets had taken three of four games from the first place Charleston RiverDogs, moving within a game of first place. Since then, the team has lost five of seven games, and slipped to 24-26, three games behind Charleston.

The GreenJackets rotation will have to step up, with not just Hjelle and Wong gone, but also Solomon Bates, one of the team’s top relievers, who got promoted this week. Seth Corry and Blake Rivera both move into more prominent roles, but the back end of the rotation still needs to be filled. Will Augusta crawl back into the playoff hunt? Admittingly, this is not a team with a lot of top prospects, especially now. The top OPS among regular hitters is .719. But stranger things have happened, and the team’s pulled together for a lot of wins.

The other side of the coin are the pitchers for San Jose. Before Hjelle and Wong, the SJ rotation had starts by nine different pitchers in a little more than a month and a half, and only Aaron Phillips had started more than six games. Who will make way for Wong and Hjelle? Phillips position is probably safe, and so might be Trenton Toplikar’s when he comes off the IL. John Gavin seems to be moving back to the bullpen, and that could happen with DJ Myers as well. Matt Frisbee is in an interesting position as well, as the 15th round draft pick from 2018 got promoted from Augusta in April, but his lower draft status might prompt him to move to the bullpen or back to Augusta.

The Triple-A Carousel Continues

Over the weekend, the latest of attempts to try Triple-A players continued. First, the Giants promoted Mike Yastrzemski, and then Sam Coonrod.

The moves are part of a regular shuffle these days for the struggling Giants. Many of Zaidi’s early acquisitions were minor league free agents, who they knew they might give a chance to at some point this season. Yastrzemski came with bigtime bloodlines. Coonrod, meanwhile, finally culminates his journey since being a 5th round pick back in 2014.

This is unlikely to end. Tyler Beede and Andrew Suarez are going to get a lot of frequent flyer miles moving in and out of the rotation and bullpen in San Francisco as needed. It seems like Sacramento is full of players on hot streaks, with Mike Gerber still going strong and Austin Slater showing flashes, despite their past major league struggles. And with Ray Black returning from a forearm strain to rehab this week in Sacramento, there may be more shuffles coming.

Maybe it’ll stop being as much of a shuffle when summer trades happen. Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith feel inevitable, but they may not be the only ones traded away. Spots will open up for Triple-A players to take major league jobs.

The Downside Of The Shuffle

When Yaz got called up, someone had to go. That was the DFA of Mac Williamson, who got his second (third? fourth?) chance in SF, interrupted by injuries and concussion, but got one more shot to impress on a failing team.

That wasn’t Williamson’s last game with the Giants, but it probably sealed his fate. Williamson had tons of talent, but he was carved up by major league pitchers, when he wouldn’t lay off pitches outside, and then couldn’t adjust to fastballs on his hands. After hitting a home run in his first game, a game at Colorado, he became a strikeout machine.

I’m sad to see Mac go, I was really rooting for him. He’s still on waivers, and he may pass through them, as he already did once early this season. This time, however, he’ll have the opportunity to choose free agency rather than go back to Sacramento, and it might be his time to try someplace new.

A New Mock Draft

Another mock draft, more shuffling in the picks ahead of the Giants. There is an unsurprising name listed next to the Giants at the 10 spot, Bryson Stott, the shortstop from UNLV. More and more, Stott is feeling like a safe pick who should be a good player, but when I hear Giants fans talk about this pick, they speak of his name with a tone of slight disappointment. I hear that with Alek Manoah, as well. Neither are bad players, and both should be assets for the Giants, but they don’t excite. That said, Giants fans had better get ready for players like them, as most of the scenarios playing out seem to be leading to them, or players like them, in this spot.

I’m still holding out how for Hunter Bishop to slip, though.

Sunday’s Lines

Sacramento Litter Box

  • Travis Gerber had the big day, with two home runs in the thin air while going 3-for-5. He’s batting .342/.404/.658 in Triple-A, and now has 10 home runs. His career high is 18, he hit back in 2016.
  • Aramis Garcia had a 4-hit day with his third home run in his last five games, and 7th overall. His Triple-A average is up to.246, and he’s 11-for-31 (.355) since returning from the Majors.
  • Starter Yoanys Quiala gave up four earned runs for the fourth start in the last five.
  • Ray Black made his second appearance as he works his way back from injury. He gave up a run on three hits.

Richmond Nuthouse

  • Jacob Heyward went 2-for-4 and collecting his sixth home run of the season, breaking a 3-game hitless streak. It was his first home run since May 15th.
  • Chris Shaw’s 2-hit game was his fifth multi-hit game in his last six starts. His batting average is up from .256 to .289.
  • Jalen Miller was 2-for-4 with his 5th double of the season, and is breaking the slump that hit him in mid-May.
  • Alfred Gutierrez had a strong start, posting a season high in strikeouts (7) while allowing a season low in hits (2).
  • Sam Moll hasn’t allowed a run over the last four appearances, and has a 1.23 ERA in five appearances in Double-A, as well as a 1.04 ERA in five appearances in Triple-A this season.
  • Tyler Cyr’s 2018 was a lost season, as he was only able to throw nine innings. He has a 2.08 ERA in 13 innings this season in Richmond. He also has 17 strikeouts against four walks.
  • Melvin Adon now has four straight scoreless appearances. He’s still giving up too many hits, with a .300 average allowed, but he’s keeping runs off the board.

San Jose Footprints

San Jose’s game in Visalia was suspended due to rain after two innings. The game was scoreless at the suspension, with each team having one hit.

Augusta Putt-putt Course

  • The leader today was Aaron Bond, with his two home runs. He hadn’t hit a bomb since May 8th, and had been hitless over his last five games. Bond has a lot of talent but has struggled this year, batting .174/.272/.386.
  • Anyesber Sivira made his season debut, with a 2-hit game. The 19-year old Sivira hit .267/.367/.354 last season in the Arizona League.
  • Blake Rivera stepped up today, matching his career high with nine strikeouts and zero walks, although he allowed a season-high six hits as well.

The Wrap-Up:

I’m going to wrap this up with perhaps the worst video highlight I’ve ever seen posted to social media.

Come on, Augusta. Diego Rincones deserves better. All Giants and GreenJackets fans deserve better than that. Posting a horizontal video in a vertical format for the most egregious letterboxing ever? Wow.