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Minor League round up, May 21

Yesterday’s action on the Giants farm.

Isan Díaz posing at media day, holding a bat over his shoulders and looking back at the camera
Isan Díaz homered in his season debut for AAA Sacramento
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

A pretty fun Sunday for the San Francisco Giants Minor League Baseball affiliates. Let’s jump straight into the action.

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

All listed positions are the positions played in that game.

AAA Sacramento (21-24)

Sacramento River Cats lost to the Reno Aces (Diamondbacks) 10-5 (6 innings)
Box score

Only a 6-inning game due to bad weather (hail, specifically!), but that was plenty enough time for the River Cats offense to do some exciting things ... and their pitchers to do some ugly things.

All of the offense came from the top of the lineup, with the first 4 batters combining for all 7 of the team’s hits (Sacramento had no walks).

There were a pair of very exciting performances coming from the 2 batters at the top of the lineup. Center fielder Luis Matos (No. 4 CPL) had yet another good day, which is a sentence I can copy and paste into almost every Minor League round up this year.

Matos hit 2-3 with a double, bringing his OPS to 1.117 and his wRC+ to 167.

It’s still a very small sample size of just 5 games, but ... wow. When the Giants said during the offseason that part of why they remained high on Matos despite his poor 2022 offensive numbers in High-A was because some swings and approaches play better at higher levels, I didn’t expect it to mean that Matos would have a great season in AA and be even better in AAA, but so far that’s where we are. If this trend continues into the Majors ...

Matos hit 0-5 with a strikeout in his 1st game after getting promoted to AAA last week. In the 4 games since then? He’s 9-17 with 2 triples, 2 doubles, 1 walk, and 0 strikeouts. He’s up to 156 plate appearances on the year with just 13 strikeouts. Needless to say, I’m extremely excited about the 21 year old ... and given the recent very quick MLB debuts of Casey Schmitt (No. 3 CPL) and Patrick Bailey (No. 10 CPL), Matos has to be thinking his time might be right around the corner.

Next up was a wonderful sight to see: second baseman Isan Díaz making his season debut. Díaz, who is on the 40-man roster, was viewed as someone who would battle Brett Wisely (No. 33 CPL) for the role of infield depth in the Majors, with Gabe Kapler proclaiming that both players would spend time on the active roster this season. But then injuries derailed Díaz’s plan.

Now he returns to find a slightly more difficult path to the Majors. Wisely is on the active roster but primarily as a center fielder, and rarely playing. A new infielder has entered the fold, as Schmitt is not only on the active roster but an everyday player. And Tyler Fitzgerald (No. 18 CPL) got promoted to Sacramento where he’s been brilliant, though he’s on the 7-day Injured List.

So Díaz is going to have to show out if he wants to remain in the fold ... and that’s exactly what he did in his 1st game back, hitting 2-3 with a home run.

Designated hitter Matt Beaty had the exact same line: 2-3 with a home run.

I’ve got to think Beaty’s spot on the 40-man roster is in peril, since it’s unclear what he adds to the team given their roster construction ... if Joc Pederson heading to the IL doesn’t get him a call-up, what will? But still, an .867 OPS and a 113 wRC+ suggest that Beaty is staying ready.

Needless to say, the pitching was bad, with RHP Tanner Andrews getting especially rocked. You know it’s a bad day when the only pitcher who had a good day, RHP Nick Avila, only faced 1 batter. But hey, he struck him out!

LHP Nick Swiney (No. 26 CPL) made his 3rd appearance since an aggressive promotion, and it didn’t go super well. He gave up 1 hit, 2 walks, 3 runs, and 1 earned run (the 2 unearned runs were because of an error he committed) in 1.2 innings, with 1 strikeout. Needless to say it takes a while for pitchers to acclimate to the Pacific Coast League.

AA Richmond (20-18)

Richmond Flying Squirrels beat the Akron RubberDucks (Guardians) 5-3
Box score

The Flying Squirrels took something of a Giants approach in this game ... they only had 5 hits, but 3 of them were home runs (not very Giants: they only struck out 5 times, too!).

Most notable was a home run off the bat of shortstop Marco Luciano (No. 2 CPL), who hit 2-4 and stole a base.

Luciano, who is still shaking the rust off after being injured in Spring Training and spending April in extended Spring Training, still doesn’t have great numbers in his first 15 games in AA, as he has a .759 OPS and a 104 wRC+. But as the 37.3% strikeout rate improves (which it should as the rust is rinsed off), and the .200 BABIP improves (which it should as bad luck stops being so prevalent), we should see Luciano’s numbers skyrocket. He already has 7 extra-base hits in just 59 plate appearances ... or 7 extra-base hits in the 29 times that he’s put the ball in play.

That’s a whole lotta power for a shortstop, especially when you consider that the Eastern League is not hitter friendly. It will also be interesting to see Luciano’s defensive path ... most prospect analysts have pegged him to move to a corner infield spot, with some even suggesting a corner outfield spot. Yet the Giants clearly don’t buy that just yet, as he still has yet to play any defensive position other than shortstop.

Also hitting 2-4 with a home run was designated hitter Andy Thomas, which bumped his OPS to .664 and his wRC+ to 93.

Thomas got off to a slow start but has been trying to turn things around. In his last 9 games the catcher (whom the Giants acquired in the Curt Casali trade last year), is 9-30 with 2 home runs, 3 walks, and 6 strikeouts.

And finally, left fielder Carter Aldrete joined the dinger party, bringing his OPS to .801 and his wRC+ to 118.

Not too shabby for someone who A) struggled at the level last year, and B) has played 4 different defensive positions this year (plus 2 more last year).

Speaking of positional versatility, another rough day for catcher Brett Auerbach (No. 38 CPL), who hit 0-4 with 2 strikeouts. He’s now 4-49 with 0 extra-base hits, 4 walks, and 22 strikeouts in his last 15 games, bringing his OPS to .374 and his wRC+ to 7.

Back to the good news! What a nice day for RHP Mason Black (No. 11 CPL), viewed by many as the top righty prospect in the system. It wasn’t much of an ERA booster, as he allowed 2 runs in 4 innings, but he gave up just 3 hits and 1 walk, while striking out 5 batters.

Black’s 4.60 ERA isn’t too hot, but it’s easy to look past. His FIP is a tidy 3.46, and he’s striking out 12 batters per 9 innings while walking just 3.1. Right now the biggest question for Black — who has only pitched in 32 games in his young career — is whether the 14.8% home run/fly ball rate he’s currently rocking is an issue that needs fixing or just some tough luck.

An odd performance for RHP Randy Rodríguez (No. 32 CPL), who is trying to prove that he should stay on the 40-man roster. He struck out 5 batters in 2 no-hit innings, while giving up just 1 unearned run. Amazing! He also walked 4 batters. Not amazing!

His 2.78 ERA and 12.3 strikeouts per 9 innings are what the Giants are looking for. His 6.4 walks per 9 innings — with some hit batters thrown in, too — are not.

A great day for LHP Juan Sanchez, who struck out 3 batters in 1.2 innings, without giving up a hit or a walk.

High-A Eugene (21-17)

Eugene Emeralds lost to the Hillsboro Hops (Diamondbacks) 6-5
Box score

Almost all the damage by the Emeralds lineup was done by the 2 hitters at the top of the lineup ... which is great since those 2 hitters are the team’s top prospects.

The leadoff hitter was center fielder Grant McCray (No. 6 CPL), who continues to turn his season around in a hurry. He hit 2-3 in this game with a double and a walk, bringing his OPS to .762 and his wRC+ to 104.

After hitting just 11-74 with 5 extra-base hits (1 home run) and a .554 OPS in April, McCray is 22-73 with 9 extra-base hits (6 home runs) and a .975 OPS in May. Keep it up, Grant!

Then it was shortstop Aeverson Arteaga (No. 7 CPL) who hit 1-2 with 2 walks and a grand slam, his 2nd straight game with a home run.

Arteaga’s season numbers aren’t that good, as he has a .685 OPS and an 83 wRC+. But they’re a lot better when you remember that he’s a defensively brilliant shortstop who turned 20 just 2 months ago and has just a .250 BABIP. And his 11.7% walk rate and 23.5% strikeout rate are highly encouraging.

The Emeralds went for piggybacking starters, as they often do, though they threw RHP Brett Standlee in between them (he pitched a scoreless inning with a walk).

The 1st starter, LHP Seth Lonsway, struggled, giving up 3 hits, 2 walks, 4 runs, and 3 earned runs in 4 innings, with but a lone strikeout. Strikeouts and walks remain an issue for Lonsway, who has 23 Ks to 14 BBs in 28 innings this year, to go with a 6.11 ERA and a 5.18 FIP.

The other starter, LHP John Bertrand, had a nice game, though the ERA doesn’t reflect that ... he gave up just 1 hit and 1 walk in 4 innings, though the hit was a home run that came after the walk, so he allowed 2 runs. But he also struck out 4 batters.

It was just the 3rd game in Eugene since last year’s 10th-round pick got promoted, and it was the 1st walk he’d given up. In all, he’s allowed just 6 baserunners in 11 innings with the Emeralds.

Low-A San Jose (24-15)

San Jose Giants lost to the Stockton Ports (A’s) 12-10 (12 innings)
Box score

Bit of a wild game, as the Baby Giants scored 3 runs in the top of the 12th inning, only to allow 5 in the bottom half and be walked off.

It was a good day to be an undrafted hitter for San Jose, though that’s really been the case all year. Center fielder Carter Howell was the leadoff batter and hit 4-7 on the day, bashing a home run and stealing a base. Howell, signed after last year’s draft, now has an .851 OPS and a 133 wRC+.

And in the cleanup spot was another player signed after the 2022 draft, left fielder Matt Higgins, who hit 2-5 with a home run, a double, and 2 walks. That brought his OPS up to .926 and his wRC+ to 148.

Howell and Higgins are great stories (in addition to sounding like a law firm from the ‘50s), and it’s fun to see the Giants find undrafted players who are doing so well. That said, there’s only so much stock we can put into players in their age-24 season doing well in Low-A. Hopefully we see what they can do in High-A soon.

First baseman Andrew Kachel did not go undrafted, but he might have had the best game for San Jose. Last year’s 16th-round pick hit 3-5, drew a walk, and finished a triple shy of the cycle, bringing his OPS up to .855 and his wRC+ to 132.

There’s the framework of a really good player in Kachel, especially if he can find more home run power (which he had a decent amount of in college). It was just his 2nd homer this year, but he’s averaging 1 double for every 10 plate appearances, while sporting a 12.1% walk rate.

Right fielder P.J. Hilson (No. 37 CPL) didn’t get a hit (though he did get hit), but it was still a notable day for him ... he had 3 outfield assists! I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that. Hilson threw out a pair of runners at home, and nabbed a runner at second base, too. How cool.

Second baseman Diego Velasquez (No. 41 CPL) continues to look like an exciting prospect, and hit 2-5 with a hit by pitch in this one, bumping his OPS to .829 and his wRC+ to 127. Your daily reminder that he won’t turn 20 until the offseason.

An encouraging start for RHP Gerelmi Maldonado (No. 40 CPL). He gave up 3 runs in 4 innings, which hurt the ERA (5.63) but it’s hard not to be encouraged by his performance. He entered the game having issued 22 walks in 20 innings this year, and didn’t give up a single free pass ... and also only allowed 3 hits. He also struck out 6 batters in his 4 innings, which is nice improvement since he entered the day with a strikeout per inning.

A similar performance for LHP Esmerlin Vinicio, which is to say bad for the ERA but good for the peripherals. Vinicio gave up 4 hits and 6 runs (just 3 earned) in 3.1 innings, rising his ERA to 4.30.

But the southpaw, who was seen as a very exciting prospect after 2021 before a rough 2022, entered the game with just 11 strikeouts to 16 walks in 19.2 innings. He had 5 strikeouts in this performance, with only 1 walk. The Giants will take that, runs allowed be damned.

RHP Sam Delaplane struck out 2 in a scoreless inning, though he allowed a hit and 2 walks. Mostly just great to see him back out there ... his 4 outings this season match the number of outings he had in 2020, 2021, and 2022 combined.

Home runs

AAA Matt Beaty (4)
AAA Isan Díaz (1)
AA Carter Aldrete (6)
AA Marco Luciano (4)
AA Andy Thomas (3)
High-A Aeverson Arteaga (4)
Low-A Matt Higgins (6)
Low-A Andrew Kachel (2)
Low-A Carter Howell (2)

Monday schedule

Sacramento: Off day
Richmond: Off day
Eugene: Off day
San Jose: Off day