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Minor League round up, June 9

Yesterday’s news on the Giants farm.

Will Wilson finishing a swing
3B Will Wilson hit 2-2 with 2 home runs and 2 walks for AAA Sacramento
Photo by Chris Bernacchi/Diamond Images via Getty Images

For the first time all year, all eight of the San Francisco Giants Minor League Baseball affiliates were in action on the same day. So let’s jump 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 (28-33)

Sacramento River Cats beat the Las Vegas Aviators (A’s) 9-8
Box score

Friday was LHP Kyle Harrison (No. 1 CPL) day! And we all know how exciting that is.

It’s no secret that Harrison has struggled with walks in his AAA debut season. And for a while in the 1st inning it looked like that would rear its ugly head. Harrison walked a batter in the 1st, dabbled with a few deep counts, and had to throw more than 30 pitches.

But he got out of the inning, and then settled down in a big way. He didn’t walk another batter, and pitched into the 5th inning for the first time this year. When he finally came out of the game, he’d pitched 4.1 innings and allowed just 3 hits, 1 walk, 2 runs, and 1 earned run, while striking out 6 batters. He also threw 81 pitches which, on the down side, means he wasn’t very efficient, but on the plus side means he’s getting stretched out more.

Harrison, who has a 3.40 ERA and a 4.64 FIP, still has work to do suppressing walks before he gets the call to the Majors. But it is worth noting the improvement ... after walking 21 batters in 15.2 innings in his 6 April starts, Harrison has issued 14 walks in 26.2 innings in 7 starts since. That’s notable improvement.

But while Harrison had a strong day, it was nothing compared to what third baseman Will Wilson (No. 21 CPL) did, as the right-handed hitter went a perfect 2-2 with 2 walks and 2 home runs, both of which had an exit velocity of 107.1 mph.

Wilson has a .695 OPS and a 58 wRC+, and I’m getting repetitive with him so let me keep it brief: of the 112 Pacific Coast League hitters with at least 100 plate appearances, Wilson is 110th in BABIP. He has decent walk and strikeout numbers. And he has more than twice as many homers as any other River Cat, though opportunity is a factor. While playing third, second, shortstop, and corner outfields.

I wouldn’t put “everything clicking all of a sudden” out of the equation.

There were other great offensive days. Shortstop Tyler Fitzgerald (No. 18 CPL) hit just 1-4, but smashed a home run as well.

Fitzgerald certainly appears to be ahead of Wilson in the infield depth competition, and now has an .890 OPS and a 112 wRC+ to pair with his excellent defense.

Designated hitter Clint Coulter has cooled down mightily after his blistering start to the season, but bounced back on Friday to hit 2-4 with a homer and a double. What a day!

And because it’s a day that ends in “Y,” center fielder Luis Matos (No. 4 CPL) had a great game, hitting 1-3 with 2 walks and a stolen base. I’m all out of Minor League words for him. I’m ready for Major League words.

AA Richmond (24-30)

Richmond Flying Squirrels lost to the Altoona Curve (Pirates) 4-3
Box score

I enjoy that because all the Minor League teams are on the same schedule, Sacramento and Richmond are always synced and pitching their top starters on the same day. Which means that every time I talk about Kyle Harrison, I then get to talk about RHP Kai-Wei Teng.

It’s fitting because Teng is kind of a mini version of Harrison. Which is to say, a premier strikeout artist who needs to figure out how to limit the walks before advancing. Harrison is obviously a much better prospect than Teng, but the similarities are certainly there. They’ve even both pitched the exact same number of innings, 42.1!

Like Harrison, Teng made some improvements on Friday, and had an excellent day. He pitched 5 innings for the first time this year, and needed only 77 pitches to get there. He gave up 4 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, and struck out 8 batters. That’s a great game!

Teng, who is repeating the level after giving up 5.6 walks per 9 innings last year, had been slipping a little on that front lately ... he had spent much of the year in the mid-3s for walks per 9, but that number has crept up to 4.3 after his last few starts. So while 2 walks in 5 innings isn’t great, it’s certainly an improvement.

I think it’s easy to forget just how impressive Teng’s strikeouts are, because they still pale in comparison to Harrison’s. But if we’re not comparing him to arguably the best strikeout prospect in baseball, they’re damn impressive. Of the 691 Minor League pitchers with at least 30 innings thrown this year, Teng’s 13.4 strikeouts per 9 innings ranks 21st (Harrison is 4th, and RHP Hayden Birdsong [No. 36 CPL] is 5th). If you limit it to upper levels, Teng is 10th.

The fact that the Giants have made Teng have 11 starts in Richmond after spending a full season there last year suggests that they really need to see the walks improve before they promote him (or perhaps switch him to a bullpen role). But if he can...

Speaking of getting switched to a bullpen role, RHP Matt Frisbee spent all of 2022 in Richmond’s rotation, but has moved to the ‘pen this year. The results haven’t been good yet, but Friday was a huge step in the right direction, as he struck out 4 batters in 2 perfect innings, lowering his ERA to 4.07 and his FIP to 6.06.

A few good hitting days. First baseman Riley Mahan has been cold lately but sure wasn’t on Friday, hitting 1-3 with a home run and a walk.

Since a 4-game hitting streak in late May/early June, Mahan is hitting just 2-25 ... though both of the hits have been home runs. He has a .626 OPS and a 60 wRC+, which is a bit of a shock after he had an .877 OPS and a 139 wRC+ in AA last year, albeit in just 23 games. There are a lot of reasons for that drop-off, but his BABIP going from an unsustainably-high .467 to an unsustainably-low .225 is probably the biggest.

Left fielder Carter Aldrete hit 2-4, with both of his hits being doubles. He had been steady if not great in April or May, but had been scuffling to start the month, hitting 3-25 with 0 extra-base hits and 9 strikeouts prior to the game. Nice to see him have a good one.

Third baseman Jimmy Glowenke, playing in just his 8th game since getting promoted, hit 2-4 with a double, while designated hitter Marco Luciano (No. 2 CPL) continues to show off skills while struggling to get hits. He went 0-3, but drew 2 walks and stole a base.

A reminder that Luciano has always taken a while to adapt to new levels — he had a 59 wRC+ in High-A after a late 2021 promotion, then had a 121 wRC+ at the level in 2022. And a reminder that his .182 BABIP is 122nd out of 123rd Eastern League hitters with 100 plate appearances, which at least partially explains the .157 batting average. So take his .623 OPS and 68 wRC+ with a top prospect-sized grain of salt.

High-A Eugene (27-27)

Eugene Emeralds lost to the Tri-City Dust Devils (Angels) 4-2
Box score

Not too much of note in this game. Designated hitter Logan Wyatt was the only Emerald with multiple hits, going 2-4 with a double. Wyatt has cooled down after a brilliantly hot start, but he’s still hitting well on the year, with a .775 OPS and a 108 wRC+.

Those aren’t great numbers for a 25 year old single-position first baseman, but there are still things to like about Wyatt’s season. His walk and strikeout rates (14.3% and 22.6%, respectively) are both very good, and while he hasn’t turned into a slugger, he’s showing power for the first time in his career. Prior to this season, Wyatt had just 5 home runs and 19 doubles in 612 career plate appearances across rookie ball, Low-A, and High-A. This year he has 7 home runs and 9 doubles in 217 plate appearances in High-A.

Right fielder Carter Howell hit 1-4 with a triple and a walk, bringing his OPS to .834 and his wRC+ to 121 after 9 High-A games. And recently-demoted second baseman Brett Auerbach (No. 38 CPL), playing in his first High-A game since excelling there in 2021, hit 0-1 with 3 walks and a stolen base. It’s been a very bizarrely difficult season for Auerbach, so hopefully this gets him back on track. He had an encouraging 2022 in AA, with a .709 OPS, a 94 wRC+, and 17 home runs and 15 doubles in 425 plate appearances. At the same level this year, he had a .402 OPS, an 11 wRC+, and just 1 home run and 3 doubles in 175 plate appearances.

Not much of note on the mound. RHP Nick Sinacola has been scuffling lately, and that didn’t change in this start. He gave up 6 hits, 1 walk, and 2 runs in 3.1 innings, though he struck out 5 batters. A 7th-round pick in 2021, Sinacola started the year in dynamic fashion. Through 6 games he’d pitched 21 innings and allowed just 13 hits, 6 walks, and 2 runs, with 29 strikeouts. In 6 games since, he’s pitched 20.1 innings and allowed 33 hits, 8 walks, and 22 runs, with 28 strikeouts. But hey, the trend says the next 6 games should be great, right?

RHP Tanner Kiest made his Eugene debut and was excellent, retiring all 5 batters he faced, 2 by strikeout. Kiest is an interesting story: he spent 2014 and 2015 playing for the Phillies rookie ball club, and 2018 playing for the Twins A-ball team. He’s spent every other year playing indy leagues and internationally. The Giants just signed him and had him play one game in the ACL before moving him to Eugene.

Low-A San Jose (36-19)

San Jose Giants beat the Visalia Rawhide (Diamondbacks) 9-4
Box score

The Baby Giants are rolling, as they’ve now won the first 4 games of the series.

There were plenty of good performances in this game, but one play stood head and shoulders above the rest: the first career home run by LHP/DH Reggie Crawford (No. 8 CPL).

So, before I geek out, I need to temper my own expectations. First off, the Giants are openly developing Crawford as a pitcher who they let hit more than an honest-to-goodness two-way player, so the most likely scenario is that his future is only on one part of the diamond (but then again, great athletic stories are never based on the most likely scenario). And second off, people hit home runs. It happens. It doesn’t always mean anything. Logan Webb has hit a home run. Matt Cain hit 7 of them, including ones off Cole Hamels and Carlos Zambrano in years where they finished top 10 in Cy Young voting. So you can’t read too much into a pitcher hitting a home run, especially in Low-A.

WITH THAT SAID ... I watch a lot of Minor League home runs as part of my job. You do not see very many Minor League hitters take a high and away pitch and turn it into a no-doubt oppo-pop dinger. A large amount of Minor League home runs look like Minor League home runs. This looked like a Major League home run.

Our friend Marc Delucchi had a great profile on Crawford the other day. It features some absolutely glistening quotes from people in the organization, including from San Jose’s hitting coach, a guy who knows a thing or two about hitting big left-handed homers for the Giants: Travis Ishikawa. It also features pitching coach (and former Giant) Dan Runzler saying, “I haven’t seen a guy that kind of big and strong. I’ve been watching his batting practice. It’s just an immense amount of talent on both sides.”

It’s entirely unclear what kind of player Crawford will become. He’s thrown just 5.1 innings as a pro. He’s had just 34 plate appearances. He’s still ramping up after both Tommy John surgery and mono. Is he a future starting pitcher? Is he a power bullpen arm? Is he a mid-level pitcher who provides roster flexibility by being a passable pinch-hit option? Is he the guy who makes us say, “OK, I guess Shohei Ohtani wasn’t that good?”

I have no clue. We have no clue. But what is abundantly clear about the 2022 1st-round pick is that he has very rare and special athletic abilities that are paired with outstanding character. And I can’t wait to see how it plays out.

Oh, he also singled in this game. But don’t get too used to seeing him hit ... to protect his arm post-surgery, the Giants aren’t letting Crawford hit the day before, of, or after pitching. So he’ll be in a limited role in the box this year.

Center fielder Turner Hill also had a 2-hit day, going 2-5 with a pair of doubles. A recent free agent signing, the 24 year old made his professional debut on May 31, and has had at least 1 hit in 7 of his 8 games, including 4 multi-hit games.

Left fielder Matt Higgins — another undrafted player — hit 1-3 with 2 walks, giving him an .860 OPS and a 132 wRC+, while third baseman Thomas Gavello was hit by a pitch for the 21st time this season.

Second baseman Jose Ramos hit 1-3 with a walk, a hit by pitch, and a stolen base. Ramos, a 20 year old, started the year hitting 18-60 with 1 triple, 8 doubles, 8 walks, and just 14 strikeouts. Then he hit a very cold patch, going 11-85 with 1 home run, 1 triple, 1 double, 10 walks, and 26 strikeouts. Since then? 10-36 with 1 triple, 2 doubles, 5 walks, just 6 strikeouts, and 10 stolen bases in as many attempts. Nice to see him get back on track!

Of note: infielder Diego Velasquez (No. 41 CPL) has not played since leaving Tuesday’s game after getting hit by a pitch. Though, for better or for worse, he was in Thursday’s lineup before being scratched. I haven’t heard any injury updates.

A different game than we’re used to seeing for RHP Manuel Mercedes, who pitched 4 innings and allowed 3 hits, 3 walks, and 3 runs, with 3 strikeouts. 3 strikeouts in 4 innings is not usually notable, but it is for Mercedes who simply isn’t striking people out this year (he has 28 in 44 innings). But 3 walks is even more notable (even if one was intentional), because Mercedes isn’t walking people either (he has 14 in 44 innings). Among the 57 pitchers in the Giants system who have thrown 20 innings this year, Mercedes has the 6th-best walk rate, and the 5th-worst strikeout rate. Bizarre stuff from the 20 year old, who has a 2.66 ERA and a 4.00 FIP.

RHP Julio Rodriguez had a delightful outing, striking out 5 in 2 scoreless innings, with just a walk allowed. He has a 5.82 ERA and a 4.46 FIP.

ACL Orange (1-3)

ACL Giants Orange lost to the ACL Rangers 7-6
Box score

Not too much in this game. The Giants Orange team racked up 7 runs despite not having an extra-base hit ... but they did draw 12 walks!

First baseman Javier Francisco (20, 2020 IFA) led that charge, hitting 0-2 but drawing 3 walks. Shortstop Jean Carlos Sio (19, 2022 IFA), third baseman Derwin Laya (19, 2021 IFA), and right fielder Samuel Reyes (20, 2019 IFA) all had 2 hits and a walk. For Reyes and Laya (who stole a base) it’s their 2nd stint in rookie ball, while Sio is making his debut.

Speaking of debuts, designated hitter Justin Bench (23, 2022 17th-round) made his season debut, playing in just the 2nd game of his career. He hit 0-1 but drew 2 walks.

RHP Samir Chires (19, 2021 IFA) played in his 2nd game in the ACL. It didn’t go well, as he gave up 4 hits, 1 walk, and 5 runs in 4 innings, with 2 strikeouts. But fun to see a young player get stretched out a little. Chires is an old school pitcher — he had a 2.45 ERA and a 3.81 FIP in the DSL last year, with just 7.8 strikeouts per 9 innings ... but a 45.6% ground ball rate.

ACL Black (2-2)

ACL Giants Black beat the ACL D-backs Black 8-0 (7 innings)
Box score

Excellent pitching, as you’d expect, with just 2 pitchers taking the mound. First up was RHP Junior Flores (21, 2020 IFA), who gave up just 2 hits in 3 scoreless innings, with 2 strikeouts. Flores has been limited to just 27.2 innings combined in 2021 and 2022 in the DSL. Fun to see him getting a chance in the ACL.

RHP Wilkelma Castillo (23, 2018 IFA) was even better, striking out 4 in 4 scoreless innings, with just 2 hits allowed. Castillo began the year in High-A and really struggled, so nice to see him finding his footing.

Limited offense despite the nice run total, with just 7 hits and 2 extra-base hits. No one had multiple hits, but the first 7 batters in the lineup all had 1. Designated hitter Donovan Walton hit 1-3 with a double and a walk in his season debut ... he’s rehabbing, and will be in AAA Sacramento soon.

Shortstop Ryan Reckley (No. 31 CPL, 18, 2022 IFA) had a nice outing in just his 4th ACL game and just his 15th professional game, hitting 1-3 with a walk and a stolen base, though he also committed his 5th error of the season.

DSL Orange (2-2)

DSL Giants Orange beat the DSL Nationals 4-3
Box score

What a professional debut for RHP Randry De Leon (17, 2023 IFA)! It’s really hard to get info on international signings, outside of those who have the huge signing bonuses. So we’ll just have to wait and see how the performance goes, but 4 innings with just 1 hit, a hit batter, an unearned run, and 4 strikeouts is a nice way to begin your career says I.

A few nice hitting days. Right fielder Angel Guzman (17, 2023 IFA) and left fielder Oswaldo Ladera (20, 2019 IFA) both hit 2-4 with a walk. 4 games into his career, Guzman is 8-18 with 4 doubles.

Second baseman Audie Jimenez (18, 2022 IFA) had the best game, hitting 1-3 with a double and a walk as he tries to find a groove ... he had just a .369 OPS in his debut season last year. And shortstop Anthony Tandron (17, 2023 IFA), one of the exciting players from the recent signing period, hit 1-4 with a walk as he continues to look comfortable in the first week of his career.

DSL Black (2-2)

DSL Giants Black lost to the DSL Angels 8-4
Box score

A few really nice games. Shortstop Keiberg Camacaro (16, 2023 IFA) hit 2-4 with a triple and a walk. Always cool when the super young players have strong starts to their career.

First baseman Anyelo Gonzalez (18, 2023 IFA) is a bit older, but still making his pro debut and shining: he hit 1-3 with a double and a hit by pitch. Left fielder Moises De La Rosa (18, 2022 IFA) is having a blistering start to the season, after posting an .846 OPS and a 138 wRC+ in 19 games during his debut season last year. He hit 1-4 with a double and a walk, and is now 8-14 with 2 doubles, 1 walk, and just 1 strikeout.

A fantastic professional debut for LHP Carlos Molina (18, 2023 IFA), who pitched 4 strong innings, giving up just 2 hits and 1 unearned run, while striking out 2 batters.

Home runs

AAA Will Wilson, 2 (9)
AAA Tyler Fitzgerald (4)
AAA Clint Coulter (4)
AA Riley Mahan (8)
Low-A Reggie Crawford (1)

Saturday schedule

Sacramento: vs. the Las Vegas Aviators, 6:37 p.m. PT
Richmond: vs. the Altoona Curve, 3:05 p.m. PT
Eugene: Doubleheader vs. the Tri-City Dust Devils, 1:30 p.m. PT
San Jose: @ the Visalia Rawhide, 7:00 p.m. PT

Reminder that all Minor League games can now be watched on MLB TV.