Banner Island Park in Stockton was the center of the prospect world last night as two of Oakland’s (and minor league baseball’s) best prospects made their 2019 debut, facing off against the Giants two best prospects:
Puk and Luzardo won the battle overall with sensational piggyback debuts, but the Giants prospects got one golden moment as Heliot Ramos showed off some easy opposite field power:
HIGHLIGHTS: Keaton Winn struck out 6 in 6 shutout innings; Ismael Munguia drove in three with two doubles.
SACRAMENTO WAS OFF
Richmond managed just three hits in the opener of their homestand, throttled by a bullpen day for Harrisburg. Jalen Miller was the only Squirrel swinging it yesterday picking up two of the team’s three hits including an RBI double.
Miller has hit just .200 since May 1st. Hopefully there’s the start of a new hot streak a-coming. Miller also stole his 18th base, which trails just teammate Johneshwy Fargas in the Eastern League.
The team’s only other hit and only other run, came courtesy of the reigning Player of the Week.
The off day didn’t cool off Zach Houchins— Richmond Flying Squirrels (@GoSquirrels) June 11, 2019
He’s got 11 RBIs in his last six games pic.twitter.com/IDn66St1vp
Reliever Raffi Vizcaino allowed just an unearned run, following a rough stretch of games in which he’d struggled with control and been cuffed around a bit. Vizcaino had walked 6 batters in his previous three outings (3.1 IP) leading to 7 earned runs.
San Jose lost at Stockton Ports (A’s), 4-3
losing their series 1-4
In spring training of 2018, the A’s #1 prospect LHP A.J. Puk seemed on the verge of securing a spot in Oakland’s rotation and adding an exciting new piece to the team. Instead he blew out an elbow, underwest Tommy John surgery, and hadn’t appeared in a game since.
In spring training of 2019, the A’s #1 prospect, LHP Jesus Luzardo, seemed on the verge of securing a spot in Oakland’s rotation and adding an exciting new piece to the team. Instead, he ended camp with tightness in his shoulder, was shut down for a couple of months, and hadn’t appeared in a game since.
So, if you were an A’s fan interested in prospects, yesterday was the biggest day of the year. Both Puk and Luzardo took the mound for the first time this year — and in Puk’s case, the first time since his sensational conclusion to his 2017 season.
While the day doesn’t hold quite the same “Christmas in July” feeling for Giants fans, it did provide excellent theatre, and a barometer against which to measure the Giants’ best prospects.
Most of the battle went the A’s way, but in the first Heliot Ramos gave us a thrill, squaring up Puk’s truly nasty stuff and adding to his team lead of 8 HRs.
Heliot Ramos takes A.J. Puk deep. Giants hitting future 1, A’s pitching future 0. pic.twitter.com/N8vOX1ZirW— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) June 12, 2019
After that the Giants’ hitters had a rough night against the Stockton lefties nasty stuff. Joey Bart K’d against Puk, starting an 0 for 3 night which also included a HBP.
A.J. Puk threw two warmups to the screen after a brief delay (catcher clipped by a foul tip), but went fastball-breaking ball to strike out Joey Bart. pic.twitter.com/d5yQvcnI0j— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) June 12, 2019
After his first inning homer, Ramos wouldn’t make contact again the rest of the night, taking a hat trick against Luzardo and two Stockton relievers.
Jesus Luzardo strikes out Heliot Ramos and gets Joey Bart to ground out to short. Even quick-pitches Ramos to get ahead! pic.twitter.com/zHfUJpsqgj— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) June 12, 2019
Still, of all the questions that linger over minor league performances — will it translate at higher levels? can he hit velocity? can he hit premium stuff? — Ramos has given us two resounding “Yes” answers recently by taking two of the nastiest left-handed pitching prospects in baseball to the downs. I’m in full agreement with Kerry Crowley’s assessment here:
Well, there was just so much to focus on this battle that poor Sean Hjelle was reduced to an afterthought! But he was also fine!
Sean Hjelle with a solid six-inning start tonight in Stockton. Allowed two runs (2-run HR) with one walk and six strikeouts. 10 groundouts. Finished his night with a perfect sixth inning striking out the 3-4-5 hitters in order.— Joe Ritzo (@JoeRitzo) June 12, 2019
Hjelle piled up groundouts and sprinkled in Ks and looked very much like the solid but not sensational pitching prospect that he is. Will it translate at higher levels? Hjelle is more of a potentially “high floor” prospect than a “high ceiling” one and there’s always a bit of a tightrope dance. But his size and body control make him such a sui generis it’s really hard to predict how his arc will land.
4th straight W for the squad! A 6-3 victory here in Lexington!— Augusta GreenJackets (@GreenJackets) June 12, 2019
This team is feeling reeeeeeeeaaaaal good, and we’re now 9-2 in our last 11 games!
Charleston wins tonight and we’ll remain 1 game back of first place. #CatchTheBuzz
Keaton Winn overpower the Legends, helping to push Augusta back into second place with a convincing 6-3 winn (ic wut u did there). The 5th round pick from 2018 threw 6 shutout innings, striking out 6 and allowing just 1 walk. Winn has had 0 or 1 walks on his line in 12 of his 13 outings this year. He has a terrific 44 to 9 K/BB ratio, though getting swings and misses hasn’t been a huge part of his game this year (those 44 Ks come in 60 IP). Instead he just pounds the zone with his sinking fastball, throwing strikes and taking outs. Will it translate at higher levels? Pitch to contact is a tightrope act against advanced hitters. We shall see.
Sally All Star representative Ismael Munguia sparked an offensive effort that saw contributions up and down the lineup. His 5th inning Sac Fly broke a scoreless tie, and the next two times he came to the plate he doubled in runs. Power hasn’t been a big part of the 20 year old’s game, but he’s been the mainstay of Augusta’s lineup from the leadoff position, and seems to give the team whatever they need at any given moment. Munguia is now hitting .296/.342/.394 in what is effectively his full season debut. Great work from the Nicaraguan who just keeps hitting.
All Star Ismael Munguia with one of two RBI doubles last night. Augusta stays 1 game out 1st with five to play pic.twitter.com/QFwGq2XNy4— Roger Munter (@rog61) June 12, 2019
Augusta also got a loud RBI double from Jacob Gonzalez who has really picked things up in June.
Jacob Gonzalez bangs RBI double off the wall. Gonzalez is hitting .355 with .548 SLG in June. pic.twitter.com/TfBB3fPp90— Roger Munter (@rog61) June 12, 2019
Gonzalez suffered through a miserable month of May, slashing just .198/.250/264, but he’s found a good groove lately. He has multi-efforts in four of his last seven games, with three doubles and a homer in that stretch.
Luis Matos had his third consecutive two-hit game, including his first triple as a pro. The Giants third prominent international signing from the 2018 J2 class has lived up to his amateur reputation as a strong game performer with real bat to ball skills. He’s 9 for 30 over his first eight games, with a .600 SLG (4 2b, a triple and a HR). He’s even 2 for 2 in SB. Nice start for Venezuelan CF.
The Giants also got two-hit games from their keystone combo, 16 year old Diego Verbel and 17 year old Jose Peralta. After starting the year 0 for 7 in his first two games, Peralta has a 7-game hit streak, going 11 for 24 over that stretch, albeit with just one extra base hit.
TODAY’S SCHEDULED STARTERS:
Sacramento (Enderson Franco) vs. Omaha (TBD)
Richmond (Garrett Williams) vs. Harrisburg (Ben Braymer)
San Jose (John Gavin) vs. Visalia (TBD) Gm 2
Augusta (Blake Rivera) @ Lexington (Evan Steele)
DSL Giants (Jason Bonilla) @ DSL Tigers2
Augusta remains one game out of first place, and today they send All Star Blake Rivera to the mount to try to complete the sweep in Lexington, before returning home to finish the first half with four games against Rome. The 21 year old Rivera — whose stuff was compared favorably to Craig Kimbrel by the JC coach who had them both — is having a terrific first year. Though the walks have been high, he’s shown real swing and miss stuff, racking up 63 Ks in 49.2 IP. And he’s been getting better lately — he’s had 25 Ks in his last three games while walking just three and allowing five runs over 16 IP.
San Jose, back home again, will complete a suspended game against Visalia before playing their regularly scheduled game in a partial double header. That’s a lot of innings for Ramos and Bart to potentially do something sensational!