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Weekend Minor League round up

The weekend action from the Giants farm.

Kyle Harrison reaching out to catch a ball
LHP Kyle Harrison struck out 7 batters in 4 scoreless innings for AAA Sacramento
Photo by David Durochik/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Lots happened over the weekend for the San Francisco Giants Minor League Baseball affiliates. Let’s take a look at it.

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

All listed positions are the positions played in that game.

AAA Sacramento (15-18)

Saturday: Sacramento River Cats beat the Las Vegas Aviators (A’s) 9-3
Box score

Saturday was the most exciting day that the River Cats offer: LHP Kyle Harrison (No. 1 CPL) day. Harrison, seen by most as both the top prospect in the organization and the top left-handed pitching prospect in baseball, got the nod and delivered his best AAA appearance by far.

The southpaw was utterly dominant through 4 scoreless innings, giving up just 1 baserunner (a single), and facing the minimum, thanks to a double play. And, in true Harrison fashion, he struck out 7 batters. The performance was good enough for him to be named one of the PCL Players of the Week.

The only thing keep Harrison from a permanent spot in the Major League roster for many years to come is his free bases. His run prevention is excellent, as he has a 3.20 ERA in a PCL environment that plays like the love child of Coors Field and Mexico City. And his strikeouts are staggering, as he has 34 of them in just 19.2 innings, a year after setting Minor League strikeout records.

But the walks. My goodness the walks. Before Saturday’s game, Harrison had issued a terrifying 21 walks in just 15.2 innings. There were reasons for optimism — he’s adjusting to a new level, it’s early in the season, and walks are up across AAA as pitchers try to adjust to the automatic balls and strikes. But even so, the numbers were a little concerning.

So seeing him have his longest start of the year without giving up a walk was incredibly exciting. Keep it up, Kyle, and we’ll be seeing you in black and orange very soon.

On offense, the big news was that center fielder Bryce Johnson (No. 43 CPL) made his first rehab appearance. Naturally he got hit by a pitch, because that’s how it goes, but it was a great day for him, as he hit 1-2 with a double, that HBP, and 2 stolen bases. Just don’t ask what’s happening with the audio in this clip.

All respect to Cal Stevenson, but I think the Giants will be very happy if they can plug Johnson back into the fold while they wait for Mike Yastrzemski to get healthy. That said, the team has reinstated him from the Injured List, but optioned him. Still, I’d expect he’ll be on the roster at some point before Yaz is healed.

Designated hitter Darin Ruf hit 2-5 with a double in his 4th rehab game, and it sure wouldn’t be surprising if he and David Villar switch locations in the next few days.

But the star was right fielder/center fielder Shane Matheny, who hit 3-5 with a home run. He now has a .739 OPS and a 92 wRC+ ... not good enough to be a thing just yet, but not far, seeing as how the River Cats have used him at all three outfield spots and all four infield spots this year.

Sunday: Sacramento River Cats lost to the Las Vegas Aviators (A’s) 2-1
Box score

Johnson (1-3) and Ruf (0-2 with 2 walks) were joined by a 3rd rehabbing player in this game: LHP Alex Wood, making his rehab debut as he tries to rejoin the rotation. Wood gave up 6 hits in 3.2 innings and only had 1 strikeout, but he didn’t walk a batter and he allowed just 1 earned run (plus 1 unearned run).

The real star came after him though, as RHP Keaton Winn (No. 16 CPL) was the piggybacking starter and had his best AAA appearance. Winn pitched 4.1 scoreless innings, giving up just 4 hits and 1 walk while striking out 6 batters.

Winn’s really been showing why the Giants protected him from the Rule 5 Draft lately. Here’s his line over his last 3 games: 10.2 innings, 10 hits, 4 walks, 3 earned runs, 15 strikeouts. Weigh that for the offensive environment and it is absolutely delightful.

The offense did next to nothing, with no extra-base hits. Matheny had the only multi-hit game, going 2-4, while Ruf and third baseman Ford Proctor each walked twice.

Of note: outfielder Heliot Ramos (No. 12 CPL) didn’t play in either game. I haven’t seen anything about whether he’s injured, dinged up, or potentially on the taxi squad. And catcher Patrick Bailey (No. 10 CPL) keeps making highlight defensive plays.

AA Richmond (16-10)

Saturday: Richmond Flying Squirrels lost to the Altoona Curve (Pirates) 4-2
Box score

An excellent day for second baseman Hayden Cantrelle, whose second year in the organization is going swimmingly. He hit 2-4 in the game, with both a home run and a double.

Cantrelle is sitting on an .811 OPS and a 137 wRC+, with as many walks as strikeouts (14.5% rate for each). He’s another versatile player, as he’s a switch-hitter whom the Giants have used all over the infield (except at first base, but if you can play the other spots, you can play first!).

Third baseman Carter Aldrete also had a nice game, hitting 2-4 with a double, while left fielder Ismael Munguia hit 2-4 and stole a base. Munguia has a .703 OPS and a 101 wRC+ in his return after missing all of 2022 due to a wrist injury.

It was another attempt for RHP Ryan Murphy (No. 19 CPL) to get his season on track, though it didn’t go particularly well. Murphy gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 2 runs in just 2.2 innings of work, with 3 strikeouts.

Murphy hasn’t been awful, with a 5.31 ERA and a 4.53 FIP, but he hasn’t been notable either, and his strikeouts are way down from the numbers that made him a very exciting prospect two years ago. Though consider this a reminder that he’s only pitched 170 career innings in the Minors.

Sunday: Richmond Flying Squirrels beat the Altoona Curve (Pirates) 4-1
Box score

This time it was Aldrete who was the star, as he hit 3-4 and finished a triple shy of the cycle.

What a day! The excellent weekend moved his OPS to .819 and his wRC+ to 131, which is great progress after struggling in AA after a midseason promotion last year. His strikeout rate (21.1%) is very encouraging, as is the fact that he’s been able to sport a .280 batting average despite a quite modest .333 BABIP. Aldrete isn’t quite as versatile as some of the other players I’ve mentioned, since he doesn’t play up the middle, but the Flying Squirrels have played him at both corners of the dirt and the grass this season.

It was also a fantastic day for right fielder Luis Matos (No. 4 CPL), who hit 2-4 with his first home run since opening day.

And for good measure, he threw in an outfield assist as he continues to impress with his defense.

A year after having a .719 OPS and a 74 wRC+ in High-A, Matos has rebounded with an .801 OPS and a 131 wRC+ in AA, and in one month has pretty much regained all of the prospect shine that he lost in one year. The 11 strikeouts in 105 plate appearances remains ridiculous, especially considering he only recently turned 21.

RHP Carson Seymour (No. 28 CPL) had a bit of a funny game, as he gave up just 1 run in 4 innings, but allowed 4 hits, 1 walk, and 1 hit batter, with just 1 strikeout. Seymour has shown some nasty pitches and limited hard contact, but has struck out just 11 batters in 22 innings this season. Very odd.

But it was another excellent performance for RHP Randy Rodríguez (No. 32 CPL), who struck out 1 batter in a perfect inning for the save. After pitching horribly in his first 3 outings of the year, Rodríguez has quietly settled into pitching fantastically, and I’d expect he’ll be back in Sacramento soon, especially since he’s on the 40-man roster. In his last 5 appearances he’s got the following line: 11.2 innings, 7 hits, 1 walk, 1 earned run, and 13 strikeouts. Nice.

High-A Eugene (15-11)

Saturday: Eugene Emeralds beat Spokane (Rockies) 4-2
Box score

Center fielder Grant McCray (No. 6 CPL) entered the season with all kinds of hype after a dynamic breakout season in 2022. Some fans were even clamoring for him to begin the year in AA after he was excellent in 14 games with Eugene last year following a late promotion.

But then the year began, and he struggled. And struggled some more. And struggled a bit more. And fans waited for the breakout.

Saturday just might have been the breakout, as McCray had the best game of the season for any position player in the Giants organization. The hyper-athletic 2019 3rd-round pick hit 4-5 with 2 home runs. And just for good measure, he stole his 9th and 10th bases of the season, too. And just like that, McCray has a .717 OPS and a 99 wRC+ ... totally fine numbers for a defensive and baserunning whiz who is just 22.

Speaking of great days, left fielder Wade Meckler (No. 42 CPL) made his return after an injury had sidelined him for 2 weeks. He hit a perfect 4-4 with a triple. Welcome back, Wade!

Meckler, who has a hilarious 1.262 OPS and a 241 wRC+, just gets hit after hit after hit. Here’s the breakdown of his 14 High-A games:

0 hits: 4 times
1 hit: 0 times
2 hits: 6 times
3 hits: 2 times
4 hits: 2 times


LHP Carson Whisenhunt (No. 8 CPL) made his 2nd High-A start after a very early (and very deserved) promotion. It wasn’t as dynamic as his debut, but it was still very good, as the southpaw pitched 4 innings and gave up 1 hit, 1 walk, 1 hit batter, and 1 run, while striking out 3. He’s allowed just 4 baserunners through 8 innings with Eugene, while striking out 9.

And in exciting news, RHP Trevor McDonald (No. 23 CPL) made his season debut after starting the year injured and rehabbing in extended spring training. McDonald, who was dominant in 2 outings with Eugene last year following a late promotion, pitched 3 innings and gave up 4 hits, 2 walks, and 1 run, while striking out 3. How nice to see him back on the mound.

RHP José Cruz (No. 35 CPL) gave up a hit, a walk, and a hit batter in an inning, but still hasn’t allowed an earned run. He struck out 2 batters, giving him 8 in 6.2 innings.

Sunday: Eugene Emeralds lost to Spokane (Rockies) 2-1
Box score

An outstanding pitching day was anchored by a dynamic performance courtesy of RHP Carson Ragsdale, who is surely seeing his time in High-A near an end. Ragsdale pitched 4 scoreless innings with a whopping 8 strikeouts, while allowing just 2 hits and a hit batter.

Through 24.2 innings, Ragsdale has a staggering 38 strikeouts to 3 walks, and a WHIP of just 0.81, to go with a 2.92 ERA and a 2.19 FIP. The Giants might be taking things slow with him after he pitched just 5.2 rehab innings last year, due to injury. But it’s hard to start a year better than he has.

It set the pace for the pitchers, who had 15 strikeouts to just 2 walks on the day. RHP Mat Olsen, who has really struggled this year, had a great outing, striking out 2 in a perfect inning.

The offense did very little, with no extra-base hits. Most notable was merely the fact that center fielder Vaun Brown (No. 5 CPL) played, and he hit 0-2 with a walk, a hit by pitch, and a stolen base. While the Giants sent shortstop Marco Luciano (No. 2 CPL) straight to AA Richmond last week after he completed extended spring training, they’ve slow-played Brown, who had 4 rehab games in Low-A, and has now had 3 more in High-A.

First baseman Logan Wyatt had the only multi-hit day, going 2-4 to raise his OPS to .790 and his wRC+ to 118.

Low-A San Jose (17-10)

Saturday: San Jose Giants beat the Modesto Nuts (Mariners) 10-9
Box score

A funny offensive day for the Baby Giants, who put up 10 runs with just 1 extra-base hit. But they had more walks (8) than strikeouts (7), and were hit by 4 pitches. A painful way to score, but whatever works.

Shortstop Jose Ramos continued his eye-opening season, as he hit 2-4 with a triple and a walk.

His numbers have come back to earth, as he’s at just a .733 OPS and a 103 wRC+, but it’s still been a lovely season. He’s shown some great bat-to-ball skills and plate discipline, which are great things to see for a shortstop who skipped rookie ball.

Center fielder Carter Howell and left fielder Alexander Suarez both hit 3-4 with a walk, with Howell having an outfield assist and Suarez adding a stolen base for good measure. Howell now has an .825 OPS and a 132 wRC+, while Suarez is at .754 and 112, respectively (and won’t turn 22 until deep into the offseason).

RHP Liam Simon continued his strikeout-heavy season, though it wasn’t his best showing. He K’d 5 batters in 4 innings, but gave up 5 hits, 1 walk, and 3 runs. Still, it’s a 3.86 ERA and a 3.05 FIP for Simon in his first full season, and he’s striking out 13.7 batters per 9 innings.

LHP Esmerlin Vinicio, who walked 6.0 batters per 9 innings with San Jose last year, still hasn’t fixed that issue. He issued free passes to 2 batters in 2.1 innings, while also giving up 3 hits ... though he struck out 3 batters and didn’t allow a run. He’s up to 6.8 walks per 9 innings this year.

Sunday: San Jose Giants beat the Modesto Nuts (Mariners) 5-4
Box score

The Baby Giants used a 3-run 9th inning for a dramatic walk-off win to end the series. It was a mega small-ball rally, with Matt Higgins drawing a bases-loaded walk to cut the 2-run deficit in half, Ramos tying the game with a sacrifice fly, and P.J. Hilson (No. 37 CPL) reaching on an error for the win.

As was the case Saturday, the offense didn’t do too much with the bats, having just 5 hits and 1 extra-base hit. But they drew 9 walks, had a hit batter, and benefitted from 3 errors.

Catcher Onil Perez (No. 44 CPL) had the standout day, hitting a perfect 2-2 with 3 walks and a stolen base (Higgins also had the walk hat trick).

Perez has only played in 13 games this year, but a .948 OPS, a 173 wRC+, a 15.8% walk rate, and a 10.5% strikeout rate are tremendously exciting numbers for a catcher who won’t turn 21 until the offseason.

The pitching was anchored by yet another spectacular outing from RHP Hayden Birdsong (No. 36 CPL) who has done nothing but impress since the Giants drafted him in the 6th round a year ago. Birdsong struck out 6 batters in 4 no-hit innings, giving up just 1 walk. Walks are the only stain on an otherwise immaculate season for Birdsong: in 19.2 innings he’s given up just 15 hits and 4 earned runs, with a whopping 35 strikeouts. But he has walked 10 batters, and hit 2 more. I think it’s safe to say that he’s A Dude.

LHP Jack Choate had a tougher game, but again showed off the strikeout stuff, K’ing 6 batters in 3.2 innings, but giving up 2 hits, 4 walks, and 3 unearned runs. Even with the bad walk day, Choate has 37 strikeouts to 9 walks in 21 innings, to go with a 1.29 ERA and 2.25 FIP.

Home runs

AAA Shane Matheny (1)
AA Carter Aldrete (3)
AA Luis Matos (2)
AA Hayden Cantrelle (1)
High-A Grant McCray, 2 (4)

Monday schedule

Sacramento: Off day
Richmond: Off day
Eugene: Off day
San Jose: Off day
ACL Orange: Season not yet started
ACL Black: Season not yet started
DSL Orange: Season not yet started
DSL Black: Season not yet started