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Minor League round up, May 11

Yesterday’s action on the farm.

Tyler Fitzgerald holding out his bat at photo day
Tyler Fitzgerald homered for the 2nd straight day for AAA Sacramento
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Wow was Thursday an action-packed day on the San Francisco Giants farm! Let’s jump in.

Link to the 2023 McCovey Chronicles Community Prospect List (CPL)

All listed positions are the positions played in that game.


First, the news. LHP Nick Swiney (No. 26 CPL) has earned a very quick promotion to AAA. Swiney, who had a 3.84 ERA and a 4.11 FIP in High-A last year, had appeared in just 6 games and 15.2 innings in Richmond, where he had a 1.15 ERA and a 3.04 FIP. The Giants have used him as a starter in the past, though he hasn’t really pitched starter innings yet this year. A compensatory round pick in 2020, Swiney has flown under the radar in a draft class that includes LHP Kyle Harrison (No. 1 CPL), infielder Casey Schmitt (No. 3 CPL), catcher Patrick Bailey (No. 10 CPL), and RHPs R.J. Dabovich (No. 17 CPL) and Ryan Murphy (No. 19 CPL).

Taking Swiney’s spot in AA is RHP Parker Dunshee, a Minor League free agent that the Giants signed a few weeks ago.

Also: LHP/DH Reggie Crawford (No. 9 CPL) content!

Now, onto the games...

AAA Sacramento (17-19)

Sacramento River Cats lost to the Salt Lake Bees (Angels) 5-2
Box score

With Casey Schmitt (No. 3 CPL) recently called up, all eyes turn to LHP Kyle Harrison (No. 1 CPL), who seems like the most likely candidate to be the next elite prospect to get called up for his debut.

Harrison, coming off his best ever AAA start, regressed a bit in terms of the things that have got him in trouble this year, which is to say walks. He issued 3 free passes in 3.2 innings, while also hitting a batter, giving up 2 hits, and allowing 2 runs. But the thing he does best is seemingly never in short supply, and that was once again on display Thursday, when he dazzled his way to 8 strikeouts.

Through 23.1 innings this year, Harrison has struck out a preposterous 41 batters. It’s not hyperbole to say that whenever he gets the call to the Majors he’ll immediately be one of the best strikeout pitchers in all of baseball. Consider: Harrison is currently striking out 16.2 batters per 9 innings in AAA. MLB’s leader this season is Spencer Strider, who is striking out 15.1 batters per 9 innings. Strider is the only pitcher in the Majors striking out more than 13. Only 9 of the 71 qualified pitchers in the Majors are K’ing at least 11 batters per 9 innings, and only 19 are striking out at least 10.

Obviously Harrison’s numbers are likely to drop off a little bit when he moves up a level, but when you’re starting that high you tend to land pretty high when you fall. However, he won’t get that chance until he starts limiting the walks, as he’s given up a sky-high 24 of them this year.

But that’s really the only issue for Harrison. In those 23.1 innings he’s allowed only 13 hits, and hasn’t given up a home run despite playing in the Coors Field-esque PCL.

The first reliever was the bullpen version of Harrison: RHP Melvin Adón, who struck out 3 batters in 1.1 no-hit innings, but walked 2 batters. Adón has 25 strikeouts in 17.1 innings ... but 16 walks.

The offense didn’t do very much, but shortstop Tyler Fitzgerald (No. 18 CPL) homered for the 2nd game in a row.

He also struck out 3 times, and strikeouts are the issue he needs to figure out before making the Majors, but we’ll worry about that on a day when he doesn’t hit a big fly. He now has a .752 OPS and a 70 wRC+.

First baseman Matt Beaty continues to stay ready in Sacramento, as he hit 1-2 with 2 walks and a hit by pitch. He’s been an on-base machine in AAA, and is up to a .904 OPS and a 126 wRC+.

AA Richmond (16-13)

Richmond Flying Squirrels lost to the Erie SeaWolves (Tigers) 6-5
Box score

The River Cats took a lead into the 9th inning before getting walked off, which is pretty emblematic of how the day went for the pitchers: kind of good, but also kind of not.

It was that way for all 3 pitchers who took the mound. RHP Kai-Wei Teng got the start, and by now we all know the drill with Teng. He’s like a lower-floor, lower-ceiling Harrison: he’s the second-best strikeout artist in the system (among starting pitchers), but his inability to limit walks keeps getting in his way.

That was on display on Thursday, when Teng struck out 4 batters in 4.2 innings, but also walked 2, hit another, and gave up 2 earned runs. Still, his 2nd year in AA has shown improvements: he’s down from 5.6 walks per 9 innings last year to a not-great-but-definitely-manageable 3.4 this season. And that’s with a strikeout increase, from 11.2 per 9 to 13.5. It’s not surprising, then, that he has an ERA of 2.63 and an FIP of 2.21.

Then it was RHP Wil Jensen, who gave up just 1 run in 3 innings ... but also gave up 2 hits, 2 walks, and 2 hit batters, with just 1 strikeout. That’s the very epitome of his season, in which he has a 2.21 ERA but a 4.40 FIP.

And finally it was RHP Evan Gates, who struck out 2 in his inning of work, and didn’t give up an earned run ... but 2 hits, a walk, and some errors by his defense led to 2 unearned runs, which ended the game.

On offense it was a breakout game for catcher Andy Thomas, who hit a perfect 4-4 with a home run.

Thomas’ overall numbers are so-so — he has a .689 OPS and a 104 wRC+ — but he’s really shown the ability to have some star performances, and his walk rate of 19.0% is absurd.

Right fielder Carter Williams, who is trying to find his groove after a recent promotion, had a 2-hit day, bumping his OPS to .609 and his wRC+ to 71, while third baseman Hayden Cantrelle reached base 3 times courtesy of a single and 2 hit by pitches, which gives him a .776 OPS and a 128 wRC+.

Unfortunately, second baseman Brett Auerbach (No. 38 CPL) continues to struggle in a big way, as he hit 0-4 with 3 strikeouts, lowering his OPS to .410 and his wRC+ to 16. In his last 7 games, Auerbach is hitting 2-21 with 0 extra-base hits, 0 walks, and 11 strikeouts.

High-A Eugene (16-13)

Eugene Emeralds lost to the Tri-City Dust Devils (Angels) 7-6
Box score

The Giants organization loves to promote synergy, and what could be a better sign of that than the Emeralds copying the River Cats by also losing a 9th-inning walk-off game to fall to 16-13? What are the odds!?

The pitching was funny. The Ems gave up a lot of hits (12) and earned runs (7), but also struck out 17 batters on the day.

No one embodied that more than the starter, RHP Nick Sinacola, who struck out 6 batters in just 3.2 innings, but also gave up 5 hits and 2 walks, leading to 5 runs. But it’s been a delightful season for Sinacola, who has a 2.55 ERA, a 2.86 FIP, and 35 strikeouts to 8 walks in 24.2 innings.

It hasn’t been a delightful season for LHP Matt Mikulski. The good and the bad was on display for the 2021 2nd-round pick on Thursday, as he struck out 5 batters in 3 innings of 1-run ball ... but also allowed 4 hits and 2 walks. Mikulski’s 19 strikeouts in 17.2 innings are fine enough, but 24 hits, 10 walks, and 3 hit batters? Less so.

And finally it was RHP Hunter Dula, who recorded all 5 of his outs by strikeout! But he also gave up 3 hits and 1 walk, and ceded the walk-off run. But it’s been a great season for him, as he has a 2.35 ERA and a 1.91 FIP.

Speaking of great seasons, fans were hoping that center fielder Grant McCray (No. 6 CPL) would have one after his breakout 2022. It took a while to arrive, but it might be here. McCray had another blistering day at the plate, hitting 2-5 with a home run and a double.

A league-average offensive season is now right around the corner for McCray, as that scooted his OPS to .719 and his wRC+ to 96.

McCray started the season hitting just 7-56 with no home runs, 1 triple, and 2 doubles. In 12 games since then, the 22 year old is hitting 16-54 with 5 home runs, 1 triple, and 1 double.

The strikeouts are still slightly alarming, as he has a 33.3% rate, but he’s firmly trending in the right direction.

But while McCray had the best day, first baseman Victor Bericoto had the biggest hit, a 3-run home run that brought his OPS to .823 and his wRC+ to 121. For a player in his first year at the level, who won’t turn 22 until deep into the offseason, it’s a damn good season.

Also a nice day for designated hitter Logan Wyatt, who rebounded from a brutal Wednesday to hit 1-2 with 2 walks.

Low-A San Jose (19-11)

San Jose Giants beat the Lake Elsinore Storm (Padres) 19-1
Box score

No, you’re not reading that incorrectly. The Baby Giants beat the Storm 19-1. 19-1! 19 hits, 7 walks, and a 9-run 7th inning will do that to ya.

Would you be surprised if I told you that San Jose had some good offensive performances?

The hit of the day went to left fielder Matt Higgins, who had a 3-run home run en route to a 3-5 performance with 6 RBI. That’s what we call a good day at the office!

It’s tough to put too much stock in older, college hitters performing well in Low-A, but it’s always better to do well than to do poorly, and Higgins is doing that in his first full season. A year after going undrafted, the 23 year old has an .897 OPS and a 148 wRC+.

But those numbers pale in comparison to the excellence — and weirdness — of third baseman Thomas Gavello. A 21 year old taken in the 13th round last year, Gavello is weird enough for his positioning ... he primarily plays third base for San Jose, but spends lots of time at second base and catcher, too. That’s not the type of positional versatility you normally see!

Gavello had quite a fine day, hitting 1-3 with a home run and a walk.

But here’s where the weirdness comes in: he had 2 hit by pitches. Gavello has now been hit 14 times this season, in just 108 plate appearances. That’s not a flaw, that’s the design. In 207 games across the Minors, college, and summer ball, Gavello has been hit 68 times, or once every 12.9 plate appearances. Better hope they have good massage therapists in the organization!

But most importantly, between getting hit and getting hits, Gavello is having an outstanding season, with a 1.119 OPS and a 200 wRC+. Again: hard to judge college players in Low-A, so we’ll see based on who gets promoted what the Giants feel about these players respective games.

While nearly everyone hit well, second baseman Diego Velasquez (No. 41 CPL) was the other star, as he hit 3-4 with a double, a walk, and a hit by pitch, which brings his OPS to .869 and his wRC+ to 141. I’ll say it every day that he hits well: he’s a shortstop and second baseman who is crushing pitchers, has never had a high strikeout rate in his career, and won’t turn 20 until the offseason. He’s exciting!

Right fielder P.J. Hilson (No. 37 CPL), who started the year injured and has only appeared in 5 games, had his 1st homer of the year as part of a 2-hit day, while catcher Onil Perez (No. 44 CPL) and first baseman Andrew Kachel both hit 2-5 with doubles, with Kachel also contributing a walk and a stolen base.

The pitching only gave up 1 run, but wasn’t super inspiring. RHP Tyler Vogel continued his strikeout-heavy season, K’ing 5 batters in 3 scoreless innings, giving up just 3 baserunners. He’s got 19 strikeouts in 13 innings this year, but has walked 10.

RHP Manuel Mercedes, who got the start, continues to be substantially better than his tough 2022, though still not great. He gave up just 1 run in 4 innings, but allowed 5 hits and 2 walks, with just 3 strikeouts. Mercedes has seen his ERA drop from 5.13 to 2.25 in his 2nd year in San Jose, and his FIP drop from 6.26 to 3.80, but most crucially his walks per 9 innings have fallen from 7.0 to 2.6. But unfortunately he has just 16 strikeouts in 24 innings.

Home runs

AAA Tyler Fitzgerald (2)
AA Andy Thomas (2)
High-A Grant McCray (5)
High-A Victor Bericoto (4)
Low-A Thomas Gavello (6)
Low-A Matt Higgins (3)
Low-A P.J. Hilson (1)