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Minor League round up, May 23

Yesterday’s action on the Giants farm.

Side angle of Kyle Harrison throwing a pitch
LHP Kyle Harrison had 9 strikeouts in 4 no-hit innings for AAA Sacramento
Photo by David Durochik/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Want some exciting news? We’re only a few weeks away from the start of the Arizona Complex League and the Dominican Summer League. But until then, we have the four San Francisco Giants Minor League Baseball affiliates to look after. So let’s dive into the action.

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

All listed positions are the positions played in that game.


First, some exciting news. LHP/DH Reggie Crawford (No. 9 CPL) is ready for his season debut. The Giants drafted Crawford in the 1st round of the 2022 draft, but he was recovering from Tommy John surgery. He appeared briefly in the ACL last year, but only as a hitter.

His pitching debut, and 2023 season in general got delayed when a case of mono knocked him out for Spring Training. He’s been gearing up in extended Spring Training, and was finally activated and assigned to Low-A San Jose.

Farm director Kyle Haines recently described Crawford as a pitcher who also hits rather than the other way around, so it will be exciting to see him finally on the mound ... though I’ll continue to hold onto dreams of him developing into a dynamic two-way player, which he’ll be given the opportunity to do.

According to Evan Webeck of the Mercury News, Crawford is expected to make his A-ball debut on Saturday, though it’s not clear if he might hit for the Baby Giants before then.

Now, onto the games!

AAA Sacramento (21-25)

Sacramento River Cats lost to the Oklahoma City Dodgers 7-4
Box score

If you look at the final score, and know who was on the mound for the River Cats, then you might be worried that it was another tough outing for LHP Kyle Harrison (No. 1 CPL). But no. No it absolutely was not. Instead, the Dodgers did almost all their work late, scoring 6 runs in the final 2 innings off of LHP Daniel Tillo and RHP Clay Helvey.

But Harrison? Harrison was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. As they’ve been all year, the strikeouts were on display for the team’s top prospect, as he whiffed 9 batters in 4 no-hit innings.

Unlike most of the year, however, Harrison’s command was on point. He walked just 1 batter, and also hit 1. It’s clear that Harrison is an elite strikeout pitcher — he has 56 in 30.2 innings. His 16.4 strikeouts per 9 innings rank 1st among the 329 Minor League pitchers who have thrown at least 30 innings this year. Only 13 of those 329 pitchers have more than 13 strikeouts per 9 innings. He has 16.4. And he’s a 21 year old in AAA. That’s absurd.

But walks have been an issue in his debut AAA stint. He entered this game with 27 walks in 26.2 innings. Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has been open that Harrison needs to address that issue before he’ll get the call to the Majors, and this is one hell of a step in the right direction. After 21 walks in 15.2 innings in his 6 April starts, Harrison has issued 7 free passes in 15 innings in his 4 May starts. That’s progress.

Also a nice outing for LHP Erik Miller, who only faced 3 batters. He hit 1 of them, but struck out the other 2. Since getting an early promotion to AAA, Miller — whom the Giants traded for over the offseason — has struck out 11 batters to 4 walks in 10 innings.

The offense didn’t do a ton, but second baseman Isan Díaz made another statement that he intends on surviving the Giants 40-man infield roster crunch. Yes, he only hit 1-5, and yes, he struck out 3 times, but he also hit a home run.

It was just Díaz’s 2nd game of the season after a Spring Training injury, and he’s homered in both games.

Center fielder Luis Matos (No. 4 CPL), playing in just his 6th AAA game, hit just 1-5, but once again didn’t strike out. He has just 1 strikeout in 28 plate appearances with Sacramento, and just 13 on the year in 161 plate appearances across 2 levels. Reminder that he couldn’t legally drink until he was already packing his bags for Spring Training. He’s the real deal, folks.

A nice day for designated hitter Colton Welker, who drew 3 walks, while catcher Ricardo Genovés and shortstop Will Wilson (No. 21 CPL) both hit 1-3 with a walk as they try and stay in the mix as potential MLB depth this year.

AA Richmond (20-19)

Richmond Flying Squirrels lost to the Binghamton Rumble Ponies (Mets) 8-6
Box score

Harrison might be the Giants best strikeout artist, but RHP Kai-Wei Teng is probably their 3rd-best, at least among starters. His 12.8 strikeouts per 9 innings rank 14th among those aforementioned 329 pitchers. But, like Harrison, he’s struggled with with walks when he’s not striking out batters.

Tuesday was not as fruitful of a day for Teng as it was for Harrison. He walked 2 batters in 4.2 innings and hit 2 more, while also giving up 6 hits and 5 runs, and “only” striking out 4 hitters. His walks are still down considerably this year, as he’s dropped them from 5.6 per 9 innings to 3.6 in his repeat of AA, while raising his strikeouts by more than 1.5 per 9 innings in the process.

So it’s been a year of improvement for Teng, who has a 3.90 ERA and a 3.01 FIP, but the Giants are looking for more command and consistency before promoting him (or perhaps a roster move that forces it, such as Harrison opening up a spot in Sacramento by getting promoted, or LHP Carson Whisenhunt [No. 8 CPL] joining the AA rotation).

The offense was devoid of great days, though there were plenty of good ones. Center fielder Vaun Brown (No. 5 CPL), playing in just his 3rd game of the year for Richmond after an injury setback, hit 2-5 with a triple.

Given the speed of the organization’s promotions this year, Brown will be back on the west coast in Sacramento pretty darn soon if he keeps hitting well.

Shortstop Marco Luciano (No. 2 CPL) went 0-2, but he drew 3 walks and stole a base. Luciano, who also got a late start on the season, won’t see his numbers (.766 OPS, 108 wRC+) take off until his hilariously low BABIP (.185) recovers, but his hard contact and 17.2% walk rate are a joy. He also took a baby step towards cutting down the strikeouts: after K’ing 22 times in his first 14 games, he’s gone back-to-back games without going down on strikes.

And a nice to see day from second baseman Brett Auerbach (No. 38 CPL). He entered the day 4-49 with 22 strikeouts in his last 15 games, but hit 3-4 with 0 strikeouts and a stolen base on Tuesday. Great to see.

Not great to see was left fielder Wade Meckler (No. 42 CPL) leaving the game after hitting 1-3 with a walk. Hopefully it was just to get a plate appearance for pinch-hitter Carter Williams, who singled, and not an injury, but I’ll let you know if I see anything.

First baseman Brady Whalen, an offseason Minor League free agent who only recently turned 25, made his organizational debut after being injured. He hit 0-5.

High-A Eugene (22-17)

Eugene Emeralds beat the Everett AquaSox (Mariners) 6-5
Box score

Yet another fantastic day for shortstop Aeverson Arteaga (No. 7 CPL), who is putting together a hot streak. Arteaga, who only turned 20 in March, hit 1-3 with a walk and a hit by pitch. And the hit?

A walk-off home run.

We love a good home run trot around here.

Power has never been the root of Arteaga’s game, though it hasn’t been entirely absent, either (he had 14 homers last year for Low-A San Jose in 565 plate appearances). He’s been more of a contact and doubles guy (he had 35 doubles last year).

But perhaps Arteaga is finding his power. This was his 3rd consecutive game with a home run, and his ISO has jumped from .161 in San Jose to .194 in Eugene. What’s holding back his overall numbers (.714 OPS, 90 wRC+) has been, ironically, his batting average dropping from .270 to .208. But there are reasons to expect that to turn around. Despite moving up a level, Arteaga’s strikeout rate his dipped from 27.4% to a very good 22.8%, while his walk rate has jumped from 8.7% to an exciting 12.0%. And, despite being very fast, his BABIP sits at just .245, 69th out of 82 qualified hitters in the Northwest League. One can expect a healthy dose of positive regression which, paired with his age and spectacular shortstop defense, could make for an outstanding player if his power holds.

The other notable offensive day came from second baseman Damon Dues, who hit 2-3 with a double, a walk, and a stolen base. Dues, who is about to turn 25, is kind of just hanging around, given his .709 OPS and 106 wRC+. If he could show off power he’d have something cooking, as he’s rocking a 17.8% walk rate and a .402 on-base percentage. Unfortunately his slugging percentage is all the way at .307, due (pardon the pun) to just 3 extra-base hits (all doubles) in 107 plate appearances.

The starting pitching was bad, with RHP Nick Sinacola getting hammered for the 3rd consecutive game. A 7th-round pick in 2021, Sinacola started the season firmly on the right foot. In his first 6 games he pitched 21 innings and allowed just 13 hits, 6 walks, and 2 earned runs, with 29 strikeouts. But in his 3 games since, he’s pitched 9.2 innings and given up 18 hits, 5 walks, and 14 earned runs, with 13 strikeouts.

But the bullpen was divine, with 4 relievers combining to throw 7 scoreless innings, allowing just 3 baserunners.

RHP José Cruz (No. 35 CPL) continues to reward the organization for protecting him from the Rule 5 Draft, as he struck out 4 batters in 2 no-hit innings, allowing just a walk. Cruz, who turned 23 last week, now has 21 strikeouts to 7 walks in 14.2 innings, to go with a 1.88 ERA and a 3.18 FIP.

RHP Mat Olsen continues to turn his season around, as he gave up 1 hit in 1.2 scoreless innings, with 2 strikeouts. Olsen, taken in the 9th round of the 2021 draft, has had the inverse season of Sinacola. He got destroyed in his first 7 outings, pitching 8.2 innings and allowing 13 hits, 7 walks, 4 hit batters, and 11 earned runs, with 15 strikeouts. But his 5 appearances since have been dynamic, with Tuesday being the 1st baserunner he’d allowed in them. Those 5 outings have resulted in this blistering line: 7 innings, 1 hit, 0 walks, 0 hit batters, 0 runs, and 12 strikeouts.

Keep that up, please!!!

Low-A San Jose (25-15)

San Jose Giants beat the Modesto Nuts (Mariners) 3-2
Box score

Not too much going on for the Baby Giants on either side of the diamond. Shortstop Diego Velasquez (No. 41 CPL) continues to impress, as he hit 3-3 with a hit by pitch in this game (he’s no Thomas Gavello, but he has been hit 7 times already this season).

The only stain on Velasquez’s day was that he was thrown out stealing twice, though he hadn’t been caught before Tuesday.

I’m not sure that we’ll see Velasquez get promoted while Arteaga is still in High-A (though Velasquez spends a lot of time at second base, so maybe), but with an .856 OPS and a 135 wRC+ 34 games into his season, it’s safe to say that his offense is firmly there. His 17.9% strikeout rate is phenomenal, and also not an outlier: he’s never had a K rate reach 20% at any year in any level. His strikeout rate this year puts him 33rd among the 201 qualified Low-A hitters in baseball (his teammate, catcher Onil Perez [No. 44 CPL], would be 1st by a mile if his 107 plate appearances were enough to qualify). For a middle infielder who won’t turn 20 until the offseason, that’s pretty cool.

Left fielder Matt Higgins had another nice day, hitting 2-4 with a double and a stolen base. His OPS is .935 and his wRC+ is 151 ... it will be interesting to see what he can do whenever he gets to High-A.

Sometimes you need to point out something bad to highlight something good, so lets talk about catcher Zach Morgan, last year’s 7th-round pick. He hit 0-4 with 3 strikeouts, and it was the 2nd consecutive game in which he had the strikeout hat trick. But prior to those games, Morgan — who still has just 23 strikeouts on the year, the same amount of walks he’s drawn — had never struck out 3 times in a game since getting drafted, in 34 games. I don’t have time to find or dig through his college box scores, but seeing as how he only struck out 46 times in his 113 games at Fresno State, it’s likely that these were his first times having 3 strikeouts in a game since high school.

Anyways, rough game for him, but it only highlights how ridiculous his eye is.

Very odd pitching performances. RHP Miguel Yajure, an offseason waiver claim who was outrighted, pitched in his 2nd rehab appearance and struck out 5 batters in 2.1 innings. He also gave up 4 hits, 2 runs, and hit a batter.

RHP Manuel Mercedes was especially weird, as he’s been most of the year. He surrendered 3 hits, 2 walks, and a hit batter in just 3.1 innings ... but didn’t allow a run and struck out 4. Mercedes has been preventing runs, which is the name of the game obviously, as he has just a 2.23 ERA ... but he’s striking out just 6.12 batters per 9 innings. That’s not really a sustainable recipe for success, and if you want evidence well ... in my lifetime there has only been 1 Major League pitcher (Kevin Brown in 1996) who has had a season with an ERA that good on a strikeout rate that low. Carl Hubbell in 1933 was the last Giant to do it at the MLB level. It’s only been done 5 times since the Vietnam War ended.

Those are hilariously arbitrary numbers, of course, but the larger point is clear: Mercedes needs to learn how to strike out batters. If he can, he’ll be in golden shape, given that he’s allowed just 29 hits (0 home runs) and 10 walks in 32.1 innings with, again, a 2.23 ERA.

Home runs

AAA Isan Díaz (2)
High-A Aeverson Arteaga (5)

Wednesday schedule

Sacramento: vs. the Oklahoma City Dodgers, 6:45 p.m. PT
Richmond: @ the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, 3:35 p.m. PT
Eugene: vs. the Everett AquaSox, 6:35 p.m. PT
San Jose: @ the Modesto Nuts, 7:05 p.m. PT

Reminder that all Minor League games can be watched with an MLB TV subscription.