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The SF Giants Prospect Roundup: 2020 Vision (and beyond)

A series of promotions shakes up the farm system and reveals a little bit of the future.

Prospect Roundup Cover Image Kevin J. Cunningham

2020 Vision (and beyond?)

On Thursday morning, the shape of the Giants farm system shifted.

The Giants promoted three of their Top 10 prospects, together, to Double-A. Each one had their own backstory to this. Ramos, at 19, became the youngest Flying Squirrel ever and one of the youngest players in Double-A this season. Bart, 22, has oodles of ability, but had struggled to find consistency in San Jose after a broken hand. Hjelle, 22, had started the season in Low-A and already been promoted once mid-season.

And that got people excited.

As Bryan wrote, this makes 2020 look like a very real possibility for some, or all, of these three to make their debuts in San Francisco. Not at the start of the season, but at some point.

But the mass promotion is notable as well because it really puts up something that is needed in baseball today to develop teams. While prospects of all types matter, a farm system really needs to develop stars. Top 100 prospects are a good indicator of future stars, and this promotion has two of them. The Giants want Ramos and Bart to be a team, who come up together and help change Giants baseball. Sean Hjelle may not be a Top 100 prospect, but he’s one of the Giants’ top pitching prospects to be a part of the wave.

This wave will truly crest in 2021, two years away, but that’s the target year you’ll see the Giants begin planning for. 2021 had already been a big number. That will be the last season of several deals: Buster Posey, Johnny Cueto (both have club options), Brandon Belt, and Brandon Crawford, with Jeff Samardzija’s ending in 2020. 2021 has officially become the number for Farhan Zaidi, the next G.M. and the next Manager to aim for when it comes to rebuilding and reshaping this team.

Now, there’s a lot that can still happen. Prospects could struggle. Injuries could happen. Things can get in the way. But sometimes you plan as best you can. So, the debuts may be in 2020. The wave crests in 2021.

But…look beyond 2021. Right now, at the bottom of the Giants farm system, a new wave is forming. Marco Luciano is having a huge season at 17. Alexander Canario is putting things together at 19. Jairo Pomares, 19, has been quite a hitter in the AZL. Oh, and Hunter Bishop and the rest of the 2019 draft class is (mostly) in short season ball. And there’s more, from Franklin Labour to Luis Matos to Seth Corry, in the mix down there.

There’s another wave forming down there. There’s a LOT of outfielders down there. They come from a lot of different places and have a lot of different ages. Two Top 100 prospects in Luciano and Bishop, and some support. So in 2021, we may begin to see the Giants group together the next wave. The wave that, ideally, will come up around the time Ramos, Bart and others make it to expensive arbitration.

There will be waves. That’s how the Cubs and Astros did it. It’s how the Dodgers have been trying to do it. It’s what the Padres are doing right now. But you can now see, the Giants are right there trying it as well.

A Sunday Promotion Scramble

Thursday wasn’t the only day of promotions. On Sunday, more news started to come in.

Hey, Logan, get yourself a Twitter account, man!

That is a lot of moves. On top of Ramos, Bart, Hjelle going to Double-A, and Franklin Labour and Ricardo Genoves going from Salem-Keizer to Augusta earlier this week, the Giants have done a lot of moving prospects around for the final month of the season.

But obviously, the highlight name is Marco Luciano. Luciano stepped onto a Northwest League field on Sunday and became the youngest player in the league (although it’s closer than you might think: Ezequiel Tovar of Boise is just 40 days older). The Giants are being aggressive with him, and that is exciting because so far he’s responded very well. The sky is the limit for him, and Giants fans need to keep getting excited.

There are two top-performing names who are not getting promoted. Luis Matos is in the Dominican Summer League and one of the top performers in that league. But a move like that is bigger than just going from the AZL to Oregon. The move between countries, languages, and more would be a huge thing to ask of the young man. The Giants will be right to let him get an offseason to prepare for his move to the United States. The other is Seth Corry, who is downright embarrassing the South Atlantic League lately (see below). But Henry Schulman has reported that the Giants will keep Corry in Augusta to keep working on developing his changeup.

Home Run Derby Champion…Sean Roby!

Wait, Sean Roby? Sean Roby with one home run on the season Sean Roby? THAT Sean Roby?

Yep, that Sean Roby.

Roby hit 18 home runs in the final round of the Northwest League-Pioneer League Home Run Derby to give the NWL bragging rights, and Salem Keizer bragging rights for the second time in four seasons (Gio Brusa won it as well in 2016). He defeated Grand Junction’s Colin Simpson, who had 12 home runs in the regular season going into the break and 14 in that deciding final round.

Roby? He was batting .333/.421/.433 going into the All-Star Break, and had hit exactly one home run this season in 34 games. He had a total of five home runs in 45 games last season in the AZL.

If you’re not very familiar with Roby, well, you aren’t the only one. A 12th round pick out of Arizona Western JC in 2018, the JC player didn’t come into the pros very heralded, and had a pretty pedestrian .281/.352/.438 batting line in the AZL last season. Roby has been a much more efficient hitter in Keizer, raising his batting average by nearly 50 points and his OBP over .400. But the power had not been a thing, with just seven doubles and two triples to go with his one home run

What does this mean for Roby going forward? Well, his predecessor in the championship has struggled. Brusa spent two sub-par seasons in San Jose, changed positions from the outfield to first base, and is having a somewhat better season in Richmond. But Brusa was a different type of player, a slugger with a lot of strikeouts and a low batting average. Roby is less a slugger, and has a stronger hit tool. But will this alone catapult him into prospect status? We’ll see…but now, at least, you’ll probably remember his name.

Is Seth Corry going to be ranked as a Top 100 prospect this offseason?

Seth Corry has made everyone take notice. The 3rd round pick from 2017 (the same draft as Ramos) has finally overcome his control issues, and has gone from good with flashes of great to outright dominating the South Atlantic League.

But with the Giants having four Top 100 prospects now, could Seth Corry and his dominance make it five in the offseason re-ranking?

Well…I’m no good at making rankings, but….no, I don’t think so.

A Top 100 prospect usually comes from two main attributes: extraordinary raw talents and consistent dominance. The less a player has of one, the more they have of the other. At this moment, Corry is lacking the raw tool that is oh so important to pitchers today, fastball velocity. He can touch 96, but he’s spent this season sitting around 92-93. He does have an amazing curveball and a very improved changeup, and he now has control, but that lack of velocity will keep him off the Top 100, for now. Give him another year or two, maybe that will change.

That is not to say Corry is bad at all. He’s put together a real argument that he is the top pitching prospect in the system (though Webb and Hjelle both have arguments). He could very well end up the Giants #5 prospect behind those four in the Top 100 list. And he will be a very good Giant if he holds onto the gains he’s made this year.

But…yeah, just don’t expect him on that Top 100 list.

Heliot Ramos rocks the Baseball America MiLB Best Tools List

This week, Baseball America released the “Best Tools” list for 2019 in Minor League Baseball. This is a list generated by a poll of managers in every full-season Minor League about who has shown the best offensive and defensive ability in a number of categories at each league. (Of course, promotions can make the leagues listed be out of date, but the league listed represents whose managers did the voting.)

The winners are listed by category and then by league, so there’s a lot of names to take in. But we’re helpful here, so let’s highlight the Giants that made the lists, with eight poll-winning positions:

Heliot Ramos (California League) - Best Power, Best Defensive Outfielder, Most Exciting Player

Johneshwy Fargas (Eastern League) - Fastest Baserunner

Melvin Adon (Eastern League) - Best Fastball

Jesus Tona (South Atlantic League) - Best Changeup, Best Reliever

Joey Bart (California League) - Best Defensive Catcher

(I wonder how many votes Bill Hayes got for Best Manager Prospect…..)

So, you can now feel justified about being excited about Heliot Ramos, because the managers of the California League are excited as well. Damn, that’s a nice mix of titles Ramos picked up.

The others on the list mostly aren’t unexpected, although Jesus Tona hadn’t stood out quite that much before this. Tona was definitely excellent in the South Atlantic League, where he had a 1.50 ERA in 42 innings of work. He’s been up in San Jose since Mid-July, and has had some struggles. And he hasn’t even crossed the Rodolfo line between High-A and Double-A that so many relievers struggle with, so…good luck to him.

As far as Adon, Fargas, and Bart, to be honest, I’d have been disappointed in them if they hadn’t won their respective titles. But it’s reassuring to see them on there.

Sunday’s Lines

Sacramento Litter Box

  • Jaylin Davis had been a little cold lately, going 1-for-9 with three walks over his last three games, but he was back at it on Sunday with two doubles in four at-bats. His line at Sacramento is .433/.541/.800.
  • Joe McCarthy hit his first home run since joining the Giants. McCarthy has bounced back from his time in the Tampa Bay system. He was hitting .196/.335/.385 for Triple-A Durham, but is now batting .273/.333/.500 in seven games at Sacramento.

  • Carlos Torres made his debut for Sacramento, with three shut down innings. The River Cats are the 36-year old’s fourth Triple-A team this season. He has pitched for El Paso, Toledo, and Rochester this season, and the Detroit Tigers as well.

Richmond Nuthouse

  • Heliot Ramos seems to like Double-A just fine. He picked up his first double at the level and another walk, so his batting line after four games is a robust .385/.500/.692.
  • Joey Bart, however, is struggling a bit in his first four games. Another zero hit game leaves him 3-for 15 (.200) with no walks or extra-base hits.
  • Alfred Gutierrez went five shutout innings, lowering his ERA to 4.22. Gutierrez has 94 strikeouts to 52 walks in 102.1 innings.
  • Tyler Cyr continues to improve his numbers in Double-A, striking out two. He has 48 strikeouts in 43 innings of work now.

San Jose Footprints

  • San Jose got both their runs off of solo home runs. Sandro Fabian hit his first home run since July 21st, his fifth in 32 games at San Jose this season. Fabian is having a nice comeback season from injury, now batting .309/.360/.439 at the level.
  • David Villar hit the other home run, his 11th of the season. Villar is two home runs away from matching his 13 from last season, although in nearly twice as many games.
  • Starter Tristan Beck made his second start with San Jose, and first at home. Things were rolling until the sixth inning, when he gave up a single, a double and a hit batter. He left two men on base, who both came in after he was relieved. He does have 13 strikeouts in 11 innings.
  • Jesus Tona was that reliever, and he also gave up a run in addition. He’s now given up six earned runs in 10 innings, and has nine strikeouts and nine walks. Tona has really struggled at San Jose so far.
  • Frank Rubio is getting back into a good rhythm, now with back-to-back 2-inning scoreless appearances. He struggled after coming back to San Jose, giving up five earned runs in his second game back, but he’s getting back to the rhythm he had.

Augusta Putt-putt Course

  • Yeah…that’s a rough day, but at least two players broke out of hitless streaks.
  • Franklin Labour picked up his first hit in five games, stopping a slide. He did add two strikeouts, and now has 11 in 33 at-bats, with three walks.
  • Simon Whiteman also got his first hit in five game. He was 5-for-8 over a two games before going 0-for-12 over his last four games.

Salem-Keizer Crater

  • Let’s start with the newcomers. Mostly because it’s a pretty similar line for all three. Marco Luciano, Connor Cannon, and Jairo Pomares all went 1-for-4 in their first games at their new level. Luciano got a leg up on the others, getting a double for his first hit.
  • Harrison Freed got his ninth double in S-K for his one hit, extending a 7-game hitting streak. He’s batting .248/.293/.440 in Short-A over his first 27 games.
  • Kervin Castro had a solid start, and continues to be the best starter in Oregon. He allow a season-high tying eight hits, and his first walk in five games. He has 49 strikeouts in 58 innings, with just eight walks.

Arizona Black Adders

  • Jean Pena hit his first home run of the season, although he’s still a little under the Mendoza line on batting average after the two hits. Pena had six home runs in 54 games in 2018.
  • Tyler Wyatt had multiple hits in a game for the first time since July 28th. Tyler had three straight multiple hit games early in the season, but his hits dropped significantly as the season has moved along.
  • Bryce Fehmel continues to be nearly unscored upon, in his fourth start (for a total of six innings), with just one unearned run allowed. After not striking out anyone in his first two appearances, he has struck out six. He now has six strikeouts and no walks allowed, and just two hits.
  • Patrick Ruotolo made his seventh rehab appearance over nearly the last month. He’s struck out 12 while walking one in nine innings.

Arizona Orange Order

  • Luis Toribio had a 2-hit game, following his last game with four hits. He’s batting .329/.452/.493 on the season. He’s got 34 walks against 40 strikeouts on the season.
  • Najee Gaskins picked up a single and extended his hitting streak to eight games with hits. The 20th round pick has a .370 batting average and a .500 OBP in 29 games.
  • Caleb Kilian made his third start, going two innings for the first time. He’s struck out five and given up just one hit.

The Wrap-Up:

The Arizona Fall League announced its team affiliations coming up for the fall. No rosters, but also no surprises. The Giants, as the “host” of the Scottsdale Scorpions, remain with the team, and partner with the Blue Jays, Braves, Mets and Phillies prospects. That said, there’s a reason “Host” is in quotes.

Scottsdale Stadium will look very different in the Spring, but that means that the Scorpions will be over on the other side of Scottsdale for one fall, sharing the park with the Salt River Rafters. (The Surprise Saguaros will also be in a different stadium, playing in Peoria.)

The league redid many of the uniforms and logos, but I want to bring up one interesting choice.

The logo is mostly the same, but they changed the color to orange instead of the yellow they had.

And there’s nothing wrong with that…unless you know what team is at the Glendale Spring Training complex.

Yep, the Dodgers. Their Arizona Fall League team is now in Orange. I’m okay with this, personally. Don’t know how Dodger fans like that, though.