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Minor League round up: Heliot Ramos returns, Rayner Arias shines

Yesterday’s action on the Giants farm.

Close up of Heliot Ramos’ face Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Just three games for the San Francisco Giants Minor League Baseball affiliates on Tuesday, as the A-ball teams all had a rare second-straight day off, while the ACL Black team didn’t play.

Let’s jump into it.

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

All listed positions are the positions played in that game.


Some exciting news for the Giants: outfielder Heliot Ramos (No. 12 CPL) is beginning a rehab assignment, and is in the starting lineup for Low-A San Jose today, playing in center field. It’s been a tough season for Ramos. He began the year in a precarious spot, after a very rough 2022 in both AAA and the Majors. The Giants weren’t exactly doling out praise for him in Spring Training, or during his short stint in San Francisco. Then he suffered an injury and was placed on the 60-day Injured List.

The extent of the injury wasn’t really known, and my feeling was that if it was a season-ending injury then it was probably the last that we’d seen of Ramos wearing black and orange. But now Ramos, who hasn’t played since May 5, is back. With Dalton Guthrie the only healthy outfielder on the 40-man roster who isn’t playing for the Giants, the door is certainly open for Ramos to force his way back to San Francisco, but it will start with some dramatic improvements. He has a 71 wRC+ in 75 AAA plate appearances this season, and a 33 wRC+ in 27 MLB plate appearances.

It’s worth noting that this is a semi-aggressive move by the Giants, as they could have kept Ramos on the 60-day IL as long as they wanted. But by starting his rehab assignment, Ramos’ 60-day IL stint will now end in 20 days, meaning he’ll have to take up a spot on the 40-man roster by that time. Of course, the Giants could trade or designate him for assignment, and I’d assume those options are currently on the table. So it will be a high-stakes rehab assignment.

Pulling for you, Heliot!

Also, MLB Pipeline just released their latest Top 100 list, and there are 4 Giants on it. LHP Kyle Harrison (No. 1 CPL) is ranked No. 13, as the top-rated southpaw on the list, and the 4th-best pitcher. Shortstop Marco Luciano (No. 2 CPL) comes in at No. 17, albeit with 5 shortstops ahead of him. Center fielder Luis Matos (No. 4 CPL) is at No. 72 and will likely fall off the list shortly, as he’ll almost surely lose his prospect status soon. And LHP Carson Whisenhunt (No. 9 CPL) snuck it at No. 100. It’s unclear if the lack of catcher Patrick Bailey (No. 10 CPL) is an oversight, MLB Pipeline being weirdly low on him, or just preparing for the fact that he’ll lose prospect eligibility later this week.

And finally, the Giants signed catcher Jakson Reetz to a Minor League deal. Reetz, a 27-year old righty, was just released by the Kansas City Royals, where he had a 115 wRC+ for their AAA affiliate. He has appeared in 2 MLB games, both in 2021 for the Washington Nationals.

ACL Orange (5-13)

ACL Giants Orange lost to the ACL Cubs 4-3
Box score

Only one game for the Giants in the ACL, and it was a fairly uninteresting one at that, but there was a standout performance, courtesy of RHP Alix Hernandez (18 years, 2022 IFA).

Hernandez is the ultra-rare international free agent who skipped the DSL, or at least skipped playing in games there. He didn’t play at all last year after being signed, which I’m guessing is due to injury but could have been a roster squeeze issue. He was surely still working out with the team is some form or fashion, and when the time came for his professional debut this year, the Giants put him in Arizona.

There have been the bumps and bruises that you expect out of anyone playing at a new level for the first time, let alone an 18 year old (albeit one who turns 19 in a few weeks) making a professional debut after skipping a level. But Tuesday was excellence from Hernandez, who dealt 2.2 scoreless innings, allowing just 3 hits while striking out 6 batters.

Hernandez’s command had been a little iffy, which is very understandable — he entered the game with 7 walks and a hit batter in 12.2 innings which isn’t good, but certainly isn’t awful, either. Still, seeing him have an outing without issuing a free runner was exciting, especially when you consider how well his strikeout stuff plays: he already has 24 Ks in just 15.1 innings this year. We’re dealing with very small sample sizes, but Hernandez’s 14.1 strikeouts per 9 innings ranks 6th among the 83 ACL pitchers with at least 10 innings thrown, trailing another 18 year old, a pair of 20 years olds, a 24 year old (Seth Corry!), and a 27 year old. If there’s one thing we know about the Giants, it’s that they love to take strikeout artists and see what they can do with them. Someone showing that much life in such a young arm is exciting.

RHP Mauricio Estrella (19 years, 2022 IFA) had a funny start, as he only gave up 2 earned runs in 5 innings, but allowed 9 baserunners and had just 2 strikeouts. If strikeouts are the calling card for Hernandez, walks are the glistening strength of signing-class teammate Estrella, who gave up just 2.1 per 9 innings in the DSL during his debut last year (where he had a 3.29 ERA and a 3.26 FIP), and is giving up just 2.0 in the ACL this season, despite operating as a starter. If that continues, and if his high ground ball rate continues (it’s 52.1% this year and was 46.5% last year), then we can expect his 6.75 ERA and 5.28 FIP to quickly trend in the right direction.

Little of note on offense. Third baseman Justin Bench (23 years, 2022 17th-round) had a strong game for the 2nd-straight day, hitting 2-5 with a triple. Bench is very early into his career, as this was just the 10th professional game he’s played, but it’s worth noting that he has just 3 strikeouts in 38 plate appearances. Small sample size and low level caveats apply, but anytime you have more walks and more extra-base hits than strikeouts, you’re doing something right. Unless you’re a pitcher. Then you’re doing something wrong.

DSL Orange (9-8)

DSL Giants Orange lost to the DSL Phillies White 7-6 (10 innings)
Box score

Not all that much happening in this walk-off loss. A pretty nice start from RHP Alfonso Perez (17 years, 2022 IFA), who is having a nice bounce-back season after struggling in his debut last year, which is understandable since he was 16.

Perez pitched 4 innings in this game, giving up 4 hits, 1 walk, and 2 runs, while striking out 4 batters. His strikeout and walk numbers are a tad improved, but similar to last year: he had 11 strikeouts to 9 walks in 16.2 innings in 2022, and has 11 strikeouts to 7 walks in 14 innings this season. But, critically, he’s allowed just 8 hits so far this year, after giving up 22 a year ago (and has dropped his hit batters from 5 to 1). As a result, his ERA has dropped from 7.56 to 2.57 (his FIP has, admittedly, gone up, but I don’t think we should put much stock in a small sample size FIP in the DSL).

RHP Jorge Martinez (21 years, 2019 IFA) continues to shine in his 3rd stint in the DSL. He pitched 2.2 scoreless innings with 2 strikeouts, while allowing just 1 hit. He has a 0.79 ERA and a 2.68 FIP and, most crucially, has given up just 2 walks in 11.1 innings.

Catcher Soyger Brizuela (17 years, 2023 IFA) had the best offensive game, which was fun to see. Like so many debuting players in the DSL, Brizuela has flown under the radar as the red-hot starts by Rayner Arias (No. 27 CPL), Dario Reynoso, and Angel Guzman have caught all the headlines. But he hit 2-5 in this game, with a double and a stolen base. He has just a .590 OPS and a 45 wRC+, but a reminder that A) it’s a tiny sample size, B) he’s 17, and C) he’s a catcher. He also has just 4 strikeouts in 30 plate appearances.

Second baseman Anthony Tandron (17 years, 2023 IFA), another premier position-playing recent-signee who is flying under the radar, also hit 2-5, bringing his OPS to .806 and his wRC+ to 119. And right fielder Luis Frias (18 years, 2021 IFA) hit 1-2 with 2 walks. After posting a .661 OPS and a 91 wRC+ in his DSL debut last year, Frias is up to an .868 OPS and a 122 wRC+ this year, in large part because he has 7 extra-base hits in just 78 plate appearances, after only 4 last year in 149 plate appearances, which has seen his ISO jump by nearly .100 points.

DSL Black (12-4)

DSL Giants Black beat the DSL Cardinals 21-4

The Giants Black team absolutely rained it on the Cardinals in the completion of a June 19 game that was postponed just a few minutes in.

Things you’ll probably never see in an MLB game: the Giants Black squad scored 21 runs despite just 2 extra-base hits (and no home runs), thanks in part to ... wait for it ... keep waiting for it ... 10 errors by the Cardinals. Oh, lower-level professional baseball. You truly are something.

The star for the Giants Black team was the star for most of their games: center fielder Rayner Arias (No. 27 CPL, 17 years, 2023 IFA). Arias had both of the team’s extra-base hits, going 3-5 with a walk and finishing a homer shy of the cycle.

All Arias has done since receiving the organization’s largest international signing bonus since Lucius Fox is hit 23-55 with 4 home runs, 2 triples, 6 doubles, 13 walks to just 10 strikeouts, and 3 stolen bases in 4 attempts. That’s a 1.347 OPS and a 220 wRC+, if you’re wondering. That wRC+ is 3rd out of 361 qualified batters in the DSL, if you’re wondering. Arias doesn’t turn 18 for 306 days, if you’re wondering.

What you’re really wondering, though, is when we’ll see Arias in the states, and my answer is not one you’ll be too happy with: next year, probably. Arias may have nothing left to prove after just 14 DSL games, but that doesn’t mean he can’t learn and develop a ton by working with the coaches at the team’s facilities. With the draft just a week and a half away, the Giants are about to run into serious roster crunches for their stateside affiliates, which means that promoting Arias probably means having to cut a player (with plenty of cuts likely already on the way).

Back to the game. First baseman/second baseman Diego Gonzalez (19 years, 2021 IFA) also shined, hitting a perfect 3-3 with a walk and a stolen base. Gonzalez didn’t hit well in his first 2 stints at the level, but is sporting a .940 OPS and a 140 wRC+ this year.

Plenty of other great games, with right fielder Carlos Concepcion (17 years, 2023 IFA), left fielder Moises De La Rosa (18 years, 2022 IFA), and catcher Anyelo Gonzalez (18 years, 2023 IFA) all reaching base 3 times. Gonzalez’s excellent debut season is also flying under the radar, as he’s 15-40 with 8 walks to 9 strikeouts, giving him a 1.040 OPS and a 168 wRC+. Whoo!

A nice start for RHP Jose Bello (18 years, 2023 IFA) who struck out 5 batters in 5 innings, giving up just 6 baserunners and 2 runs. Bello, who only turned 18 a month ago, has 18 strikeouts to 4 walks in 14 innings this season. Excellent start to his career.

One note of concern: second baseman Dennys Riera (18 years, 2022 IFA) left the game after getting hit by a pitch. Riera is often seen as the 3rd-best player from the Giants 2022 signing class, behind Ryan Reckley (No. 31 CPL) and Juan Perez, who are both in the ACL. Hopefully he’s OK.

Wednesday schedule

Sacramento: vs. the Reno Aces, 6:45 p.m. PT
Richmond: @ the Reading Fightin Phils, 4:00 p.m. PT
Eugene: @ the Everett AquaSox, 7:05 p.m. PT
San Jose: vs. the Modesto Nuts, 1:00 p.m. PT

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