The Second Half is Starting with Salem-Keizer and the AZL
It’s that time of year again. The short-season leagues are kicking in, and the first halves for the Single-A teams ended on Sunday, which gives us the semi-official second half of the minor league seasons.
Short-season A-Ball started on Friday, with Salem-Keizer kicking things off with extra inning wins in each of their first two games. Today (Monday), the Arizona League will kick off where the Giants have two teams.
The thing is, the rosters aren’t up to full strength yet for either squad. All three squads are expected to have a share of the 2019 draft class, but signings are still rolling in, including a lack of the top picks. Second round pick Logan Wyatt and fourth round pick Tyler Fitzgerald are both still playing in the College World Series. First round pick Hunter Bishop also remains unsigned, although few seem to be expressing concern he won’t sign.
So what can one expect?
Let’s start with this: Marco Luciano will be on one of the AZL teams, and he will immediately become one of the two players who will be a big deal to watch. Luciano, 17, has yet to play in a professional game and will be skipping the Dominican summer league entirely. So will Jairo Pomares, who turns 19 in August. They will likely lead a pair of young teams, loaded with players graduating from the DSL, and young high school players drafted over the last two years.
The other player that will be a big deal to watch is this year’s top draft pick Hunter Bishop, after he signs. As a top college player, Bishop will likely end up in Salem-Keizer, although he may start up in the AZL much like Joey Bart did for six games last season when he got started.
One bit of side note is this story from the Statesman Journal out of Salem:
Salem-Keizer Volcanoes take new steps to address poor attendance https://t.co/0b4l8EjGn8— Statesman Journal (@SJSports) June 13, 2019
Last season, the Volcanoes were last in the Northwest League in attendance, the only team under 2,000 average attendance a game, and nearly 450 short of the next team, with 1,897 per game. The Volcanoes have been bottom of the Northwest League in attendance for four years, since 2015, and each year has seen the attendance drop further.
The Giants have been affiliated with the Volcanoes since the team started, moved from Bellingham, WA, for the 1997 season, and it’s generally been considered a tight affiliation between the two teams. The Volcanoes picked up six division titles during the decade of the 2000’s, and four league titles, including three of four from 2006 through 2009. The Volcanoes haven’t made the playoffs this decade, although three World Series wins from the parent club certainly helped things.
The Volcanoes will start trying to court fans back with good food, which is always a good start, and a better sound system. In the first three games of the season, the Volcanoes have averaged 2,473 fans…the lowest of the four teams hosting games during the season’s initial weekend.
Maybe the Volcanoes should just look to the fun the San Jose Giants fans have been having in their stands this season.
First Half Review
Augusta came into this final weekend with a real opportunity to win the first half title…but it wasn’t to be, as they finished a half game behind the Lexington Legends, with a 36-32 record in the first half. And that close-but-not-enough was a pretty good symbol of this past half-season.
San Jose and Augusta started this season with big name prospects in big sports, and an opportunity to make things happen. But things fell apart early.
San Jose landed the top two Giants prospects in the system, in Joey Bart and Heliot Ramos, and neither lasted a month before they were injured. They both missed nearly all of May, and Bart came back a week into June. It turned out that San Jose’s supporting offensive cast was pretty lacking, and the team suffered with them. The team’s leading home run hitter not among the two injured superstars was a free agent signed in mid-May, Courtney Hawkins, who has five.
The pitching staff was not so empty, but has seen a lot of change up and down. Mid-May promotions of two of the system’s healthy pitching prospects in Sean Hjelle and Jake Wong. The only full star in the bullpen was Frank Rubio, who had a 0.29 ERA with seven saves (and has now been promoted). But San Jose suffered to a 30-39 record, finishing 15.5 games back of first place Visalia in the first half.
Augusta’s strength was the pitching. Starting with a pitching staff of Hjelle, Wong, Gregory Santos, Blake Rivera and Seth Corry, there was a lot of upside for the team in the pitching. But Augusta also got hit with injury, losing Santos early. While the rotation got gutted in mid-May with Wong and Hjelle’s promotions, Keaton Winn jumped in and performed admirably.
The offense, however, has been a bit of an issue. No player with more than a dozen games played finished the first half with an OPS over .750. Jacob Gonzalez has ended up a disappointment in his second run at Augusta, and although Frankie Tostado has come out with some power, leading the team with 10 home runs, the offense was not overwhelming.
Still, Augusta came a half-game away from a playoff berth.
The second half should see a lot of similar players, although San Jose might lose some of that star power pretty quickly, as it may get promoted out.
Gregory Santos Returns
Gregory Santos has been activated and will start tonight for the GreenJackets. Shoulder strain back in West Virginia on April 11th put him on IL. Listed as Giants #8 overall prospect. Part of Eduardo Nunez trade in 2017. Mid 90’s fastball with sink. Big game tonight from SRP Park— Rylan Kobre (@RylanKobrePxP) June 14, 2019
This week saw the third top prospect in the Giants system return from injury, as Gregory Santos returned from a strained shoulder injury he suffered in mid-April Santos was injured before Bart and Ramos, and his injury helped set an early depressing tone as the Giants struggled with early injuries to their top players.
Santos’ first game back was a good one, too. He showed his power, and was keeping the runs off the board.
4 shutout innings for #SFGiants prospect Gregory Santos. 48 pitches, 2 strikeouts and 7 ground ball outs including two double plays. Fastball was 96 most of the night, got up to 98. Flashed a “power slurve” around 87-88. Really fun to watch, upside is insane with him.— Rylan Kobre (@RylanKobrePxP) June 15, 2019
His stamina will be key in the second half, as the Giants work him up to full strength. Santos may have the highest reasonable ceiling among Giants’ pitchers, so having him back is a big deal for the Giants.
The Alex Dickerson-Franklin Van Gurp Trade
The carousel of outfielders at the Major League level appears to be done…or at least paused, as Mike Yastrzemski has been somewhat solid (in a relative sense) in left field and his versatility has been useful.
Still, the carousel has to a lot of shuffling, and after Mac Williamson went to free agency, the Giants seemed to think they needed one more guy at Sacramento, just in case.
Enter Alex Dickerson.
29 year old Alex Dickerson, a former 3rd round pick from the 2011 draft, got traded to the Giants from the San Diego Padres from minor league reliever Franklin Van Gurp.
Dickerson has made the majors in three different seasons, including this one, and has a career .250/.321/.429 line in 107 games. He’s also a career .334/.399/.545 hitter at Triple-A, giving him a label that seems to fit most Giants outfielders at Triple-A. Dickerson missed 2017 and 2018 due to two separate injuries. He had a bulging disk that required back surgery in 2017, and then suffered a UCL tear in 2018, prompting Tommy John surgery. This season, he hit .158 in the Majors, but had a .372/.469/.606 batting line in Triple-A El Paso.
The reliever the Giants traded was 23-year old Franklin Van Gurp from the Caribbean country of Saint Martin. Van Gurp had a 3.97 ERA across three levels in 2018, mostly a 1.77 ERA in 18 appearances in Augusta and a 6.95 ERA in 14 appearances at San Jose. This season, he’d had a 3.77 ERA at Augusta in 16 appearances, and two rough ones in Richmond in two spot appearances (9.00 ERA in five innings).
Augusta play-by-play guy had this to say about Van Gurp leaving
Van Gurp didn’t truly start pitching till his junior year of college. He was a former catcher. Can spin the slider and definitely has a lot of upside. Numbers don’t tell the whole story with him. https://t.co/1der37t2em— Rylan Kobre (@RylanKobrePxP) June 10, 2019
There’s no doubt that Van Gurp had an 80-grade name, but there was some talent there as well. We’ll see how this minor swap pays off, and whether either player reaches their potential in this game.
Zach Houchins - Eastern League Player of the Week
Zach Houchins had a huge week last week, and it paid off in his second weekly award of his career. A free agent signed in mid-May, Houchins has been a big hitter for Richmond. Houchins hit .423 with four home runs, two doubles, and 12 RBI over seven games.
Giants draft picks who officially signed:— GPT (@giantsprospects) June 13, 2019
3R: OF Grant McCray
9R: SS Simon Whiteman
10R INF Jeff Houghtby
12R: LHP Chris Wright
13R: OF Harrison Freed
14R: RHP Nick Morreale
19R: RHP Kanoa Pagan
20R: OF Najee Gaskins
24R: RHP Evan Lumbert
26R: RHP Nick Avila
31R: RHP Tyler Wyatt
Following draft picks have signed:— GPT (@giantsprospects) June 15, 2019
15R: INF/OF Carter Aldrete
18R: RHP Cole Waites
29R: RHP Brooks Crawford
With the list from this thready by @GiantsProspects, the Giants have signed 16 prospects of the 40 draft picks they made in 2019. Three are still in the College World Series (Logan Wyatt (2) and Tyler Fitzgerald (4) with Louisville, Caleb Killian (8) with Texas Tech). Hunter Bishop is highly likely to sign, and 11th rounder Trevor McDonald indicated post-draft that he and the Giants had a deal worked out.
How many more will sign? We have until July 12th at 2pm PST to find out.
Breaking Up a No-No with a Walkoff Hit
Well, if you’re going to break up a no-hitter, why not do it in the most dramatic way?
This week, some of the best further reading was right here on McCovey Chronicles. Roger had a couple of great pieces that I highly recommend taking some time to read.
Stock up/Stock Down for June by Roger
Draft Q&A with Jim Callis by Roger
Otherwise, Alex Pavlovic talked about the family connections of some of last month’s hotter hitters in the system.
Jason Heyward and Nolan Arenado's younger brothers, Jacob and Jonah, have been two of the Giants' best players at Double-A Richmond this season.@PavlovicNBCS has the story on the two players' trek to find their own path to the big leagues https://t.co/jciEWV25DV pic.twitter.com/LQ0ElV87Fp— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) June 12, 2019
And, if you’re in the mood for listening, check out Pavlovic with our favorite San Jose broadcaster in this podcast.
New Inside the SJ Giants Podcast. @extrabaggs joins us with his thoughts on Joey Bart, Heliot Ramos & Sean Hjelle, talks other top prospects & what may be ahead for the #SFGiants. @JustinAllegri and I also preview the second half of San Jose's season. https://t.co/Ewu0XHXwAf— Joe Ritzo (@JoeRitzo) June 13, 2019
Top Prospect Updates
Week: 3-for-19, 2 R, 1 BB, 5 SO, 1 HBP, .158/.238/.158
Season: 19-for-77, 15 R, 4 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 15 RBI, 6 BB, 15 SO, 0 SB, 1 CS, .247/.318/.519
It was clear Bart had cooled off this week, but these numbers are pretty stark. Bart had three home runs in his first four games back from his broken hand, but clearly he’s still working on some things. It’s too soon to panic, though.
Week: 8-for-29, 5 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 5 SO, 1 SF, 1 CS, .276/.290/.448
Season: 38-for-132, 23 R, 10 2B, 8 HR, 20 RBI, 18 BB, 37 SO, 2 SB, 5 CS, .295/.389/.553
Ramos has been all over the news since last weekend, as he’s been fantastic. He’s cooled somewhat, but not too significantly. He’s still been one of the brightest spots in the Giants’ system.
Week: 1.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 1 SO, 16.20 ERA, 3.00 WHIP
Season (SJ): 22.2 IP, 23 H, 14 R, 11 ER, 1 HR, 1 HBP, 8 BB, 20 SO, 4.37 ERA, 1.37 WHIP
A very short outing for Jake Wong this week tanked his numbers with San Jose, as Wong got very vulnerable in a single inning before getting lifted. Wong’s only had five starts in San Jose, so one start can have an outsized effect (from 3.43 to 4.37), so it’ll be interesting to see Wong’s bounce back after the All-Star Break
Week: 12.0 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 9 SO, 1 HR, 2.25 ERA, 1.00 WHIP
Season (SJ): 29.0 IP, 28 H, 13 R, 8 ER, 1 HR, 3 HB, 6 BB, 23 SO, 2.48 ERA, 1.17 WHIP
Hjelle is holding pretty steady, bringing down the hits and batting average allowed and improving his numbers. He also has a 4.55 GO/AO ratio with San Jose, which is fantastic in a league that has quite a tendency for home runs.
Week: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA, 1.25 WHIP
Season: 10.2 IP, 13 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 HR, 3 BB, 8 SO, 3.38 ERA, 1.50 WHIP
Gregory Santos came back this week, a huge relief among the top prospects, and he came back with a very encouraging game. Let’s hope that the 19-year old will continue to work his way back just as well.
Week: 12.1 IP, 11 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 11 SO, 1 HR, 1.46 ERA, 1.05 WHIP
Season: 66.1 IP, 70 H, 31 R, 28 ER, 5 HR, 4 HB, 10 BB, 49 SO, 3.80 ERA, 1.21 WHIP
Last year’s fifth round pick has stepped up in the Augusta rotation, with a very strong week to begin moving his numbers in the right direction. Winn hasn’t led with the strikeouts, however. Winn’s second half is going to be an interesting storyline, to see if he’s prospect pitching depth, or just depth.
Week: 5.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 7 SO, 0.00 ERA, 0.88 WHIP
Season: 55.1 IP, 41 H, 26 R, 20 ER, 1 HB, 30 BB, 70 SO, 3.25 ERA, 1.28 WHIP
Speaking of trending in the right direction, last year’s fourth round pick has two straight starts without being scored upon. Unlike Winn, Rivera is leading with strikeouts, with a weaker grade on control.
Week: 8-for-18, 6 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 5 SO, 2 SB, 1 SF, 2 HBP.444/.521/.722
Season: 13-for-40, 12 R, 5 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 4 BB, 9 SO, 4 SB, .325/.408/.575
Matos is probably the lead prospect of the DSL squad, and he’s started the season by living up to it. The 17-year old is still growing into himself, but more than half of his hits in the first two weeks have been for extra bases. The DSL is not a place where stats matter as much as in the other levels, but this has definitely been impressive.
Week: 5.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0BB, 4 SO, 0.00 ERA, 0.00 WHIP
Lopez, 21, was a 26th round pick last year, and made his season debut this week with Salem-Keizer, and all he did was throw five perfect innings. No immaculate innings, though, so it’s still a disappointment. Lopez had a 1.42 ERA in a mixed role in the AZL last season, so there’s been hints of good stuff here. Lopez is on the second half watch list after this.
- On any other day, this is a great pitching game for Andrew Suarez. Suarez went a season-high eight innings, and allowed just one run for the third straight game. But one run was all this game had, so Suarez ended up on the losing end. Suarez has 33 strikeouts and 18 walks in 51 innings at Sacramento, and has been rehabbing his ERA since giving up eight runs on May 30th, from 7.59 to 5.29 ERA.
- Suarez picked up one of the team’s hits as well, so he was definitely the star of the game.
- Henry Ramos was the team’s leading (fulltime) hitter, going 2-for-3 with a walk. That was half of the team’s hits, and bumped Heliot’s older brother up to .266.
- In another light-hitting game, Jonah Arenado led the Squirrels with the only 2-hit game for the team. Arenado has a small 4-game hitting streak, and is 5-for-13 with a pair of walks.
- Alfred Gutierrez tied his season high with seven strikeouts, and limited New Hampshire to just one run. Over the last six games, Gutierrez has been going up and down, alternating between a game with 3+ earned runs allowed, and then one or less runs allowed.
- Melvin Adon took the tough loss, striking out the side in the ninth, but giving up the losing run after the first batter reached on a fielding error, stole a base, and came in on a double.
- Keeping the them of a lack of offense, Sean Hjelle had another strong game, with one earned run and one unearned, but it also ended in a loss. Hjelle only collected three strikeouts, but keeps getting more ground balls, with a 4.55 GO/AO ratio.
- Solomon Bates had two shutdown innings in relief, striking out four of the six batters he faced.
- Courtney Hawkins picked up his sixth double of the year. He had four doubles with Triple-A Louisville before joining San Jose as a free agent.
- Anyesber Sivira was 3-for-3 with a walk, batting in the 9th spot in the order. His batting average is at a season-high .288, barring the first day of the season when he went 2-for-4.
- Frankie Tostado’s 2-hit day broke a 1-for-20 streak over the previous five games.
- Keaton Winn’s day was mixed, but he’s continuing an upward change. In his first five starts, he struck out four or less in each start. In his last three games, he’s struck out five or more in each game.
- Jesus Tona had his fifth straight game without allowing an earned run. He has 10 saves in 12 opportunities.
- The Volcanoes have three straight wins to open the season.
- Franklin Labour picked up his second home run in as many days, already doubling his total from 2018 in three games. He’s 6-for-14 with a double and two home runs.
- Simon Whiteman picked up his second straight game with a pair of hits, and stole his first base as he continues his good start.
- Kwan Adkins picked up a triple for his first extra-base hit.
I mean, I just….
I’m lactose-intolerant. And especially of these unis….
See you next week, everyone. And please, drive safe out there.