I’m sure that you, a San Francisco Giants fan, are deeply aware of the fact that Major League Baseball is back. But guess what? So is Minor League Baseball!
By the end of the week the seasons will have started for the Giants AA, High-A, and Low-A affiliates (you’ve got to wait a bit longer for rookie ball and the Dominican Summer League), and I’ll get back to daily recaps of the Minors. Until then, with just the AAA team in action, one article will have to cover a few days.
Let’s jump into a new season of Giants Minor League Baseball.
Note: All listed positions are the positions played in that game. Players who are ranked on our 2023 Community Prospect List (CPL) will have their rankings listed in parenthesis.
AAA Sacramento (1-2)
Sacramento River Cats lost to the Salt Lake Bees (Angels) 2-0 (7 innings)
Sacramento’s season started rather anti-climactically. They were supposed to kick things off on Friday, but bad weather in Utah caused the game to be postponed. Instead, they played a doubleheader on Saturday and started things off by getting shutout (just like the big league team!).
The bright spot on opening day came from right fielder Heliot Ramos (No. 12 CPL), who collected half of the team’s hits by hitting 2-3, stole a base, and recorded an outfield assist. Ramos had one of the most disappointing 2022s of any player in the Giants organization, and him getting back to some of the things that once made him a top prospect in the system would be amazing to see.
RHP Tristan Beck (No. 24) was a little rusty in his season debut, giving up 3 hits, 4 walks, and 2 runs in 3.1 innings. RHPs Ryan Walker and Jorge Guzmán had strong relief appearances.
Sacramento River Cats beat the Salt Lake Bees (Angels) 7-4 (7 innings)
The second game of the doubleheader went much, much better, with the offense finding a rhythm.
Third baseman Casey Schmitt (No. 3 CPL), who opens the year already knocking on the door of the Majors, hit 2-4 with a double, while shortstop Will Wilson (No. 21 CPL) and left fielder Michael Gigliotti also doubled.
Also nice offensive days for two depth pieces: catcher Ricardo Genovés and first baseman Clint Coulter, who both hit 2-3 with a walk. Meanwhile, center fielder Heliot Ramos (No. 12 CPL) singled and stole another base. Ramos stole just 6 bases all of last year ... with the new rules in baseball this season, it seems like the athletic Ramos is trying to diversify the ways that he could provide value to the Giants.
On the pitching front, there were rough days for LHP Sam Long and RHP Kade McClure, but a pair of contributors to last year’s bullpen had excellent performances: RHP Mauricio Llovera pitched a perfect inning with 2 strikeouts, while RHP Cole Waites (No. 15 CPL), who missed the bulk of Spring Training with an injury, pitched a hitless inning with a walk and a strikeout.
Sacramento River Cats lost to the Salt Lake Bees (Angels) 8-3
The Giants certainly have some catching depth. They started the season with three catchers on their active roster, and then immediately signed two-time All-Star Gary Sánchez to a Minor League deal. He’s yet to debut for Sacramento, but in his absence, last year’s backup catcher Austin Wynns hit a home run on Sunday.
It was one of just two extra-base hits for the River Cats, with a double by shortstop Casey Schmitt (No. 3 CPL) being the other.
It was a full bullpen game for Sacramento, with seven pitchers making appearances. Perhaps most exciting was the scoreless outing by RHP Melvin Adón, who gave up 1 hit and hit a batter in 1.1 innings, while striking out 2. Adón used to be one of the highest-ranked relief prospects in the system, but due to injuries and the pandemic, he’d pitched just 24.2 innings over the last three seasons, all last year. He could absolutely find himself pitching big innings for San Francisco this year, if he stays healthy.
RHP R.J. Dabovich (No. 17 CPL) struggled with the walks that plagued him during his brief time in AAA last year, as he walked 2 batters in an inning of work. But he didn’t give up any hits or runs, and struck out a batter.
And with that, the River Cats lost their first series of the year.
AAA Austin Wynns (1)
Giants farm director Kyle Haines recently had an amazing conversation with The Athletic’s Melissa Lockard, which I implore you to check out. Haines revealed some important information. Shortstop Marco Luciano (No. 2 CPL) and outfielder Vaun Brown (No. 5 CPL) are going to start the year in extended spring training as the team monitors the injuries that kept them sidelined during the preseason. Luciano is already DH’ing, while Brown is getting close. Reigning first-round pick LHP/DH Reggie Crawford (No. 9 CPL), whom Haines described as “more of a pitcher who hits than a hitter who pitches” has yet to face live batters after battling mono, but is getting ready to face them in extended spring training. The first round pick before Crawford, RHP Will Bednar (No. 25 CPL), will also start the year in extended spring training.
We’re still waiting on the official rosters from the Giants AA and Low-A affiliates, but the High-A Eugene Emeralds released their full roster.
A few notes. Center fielder Grant McCray (No. 6 CPL) is returning to Eugene. He was promoted there towards the end of last season and did quite well in a small sample, rocking a 131 wRC+ in 14 games. Some fans were probably hoping that he would begin the year in AA (where Luis Matos will hold down center) but, as Haines said in his interview, “we’re not going to have him jump over that entire level.”
Joining him in the outfield is Wade Meckler (No. 42 CPL), who the team is already moving aggressively. Meckler was an 8th-round pick in 2022 who played 12 games in rookie ball and 11 games in Low-A last year. It’s pretty apparent that the team is quite high on him.
If you have an MLB TV subscription, it includes an MiLB TV subscription this year. I remind you of that today in particular, because LHP Kyle Harrison (No. 1 CPL) is making his AAA debut tonight.
The River Cats start a series tonight against the El Paso Chihuahuas of the San Diego Padres organization. They play at 6:45 p.m. PT Tuesday through Friday, then at 6:37 p.m. PT on Saturday, and 1:05 p.m. PT on Sunday.
The AA Richmond Flying Squirrels begin their season on Friday against the Reading Fightin Phils of the Philadelphia Phillies organization at 3:35 p.m. PT.
The High-A Eugene Emeralds season also begins on Friday, as they’ll play a 7:05 p.m. PT game against the Everett AquaSox of the Seattle Mariners organization.
And finally, the Low-A San Jose Giants kick things off on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. PT when they host the Fresno Grizzlies of the Colorado Rockies organization.