All eight of the San Francisco Giants Minor League Baseball affiliates were in action on Thursday. Let’s jump in!
All listed positions are the positions played in that game.
A few days after being named the Northwest League Pitcher of the Week, RHP Ben Madison has been promoted from High-A to AA. Madison, who had a 3.05 ERA and a 2.94 FIP with Eugene, ranks 2nd among all Giants Minor League pitchers (minimum: 30 innings) with 14.6 strikeouts per 9 innings. He’s Rule 5 eligible.
Congrats, Ben! Now onto the games.
AAA Sacramento (35-41)
Bombs away for catcher Joey Bart! After going 60 straight games between AAA and MLB without a home run, Bart hit a big fly for the 2nd-straight game. And this one was a grand slam!
That’s a GRAND BARTY PARTY!!! pic.twitter.com/mHNNcu70Aa— Sacramento River Cats (@RiverCats) June 30, 2023
Bart finished the day 2-4 and, just as crucially, didn’t strike out. His disappointing season has been defined by a lack of power and an abundance of strikeouts, but he’s firmly been trending in the right direction lately. After starting his Sacramento stint by going 5-42 with 2 doubles, 2 walks, and 21 strikeouts, Bart has fired off a 4-game hitting streak, going 5-16 with 2 homers, 1 walk, and 0 strikeouts.
With the emergence of Patrick Bailey (No. 10 CPL) as both the everyday catcher for the Giants this year, and their catcher of the future, Bart’s future is in question. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Giants traded him, but it’s worth noting that he’s still a valuable and intriguing player. His defense is good enough for him to be a valuable backup, and his power remains intriguing.
Speaking of people who have been in the Majors this year, center fielder Brett Wisely (No. 33 CPL) continues to stay ready. He went 2-4 in this game with both a home run and a double.
Walloped by Wisely!— Sacramento River Cats (@RiverCats) June 30, 2023
Wisely brings home 3 and the Cats take back the lead! pic.twitter.com/5zXU3Uvcuy
Wisely has struggled to hit in the Majors this year, which is understandable: he entered the season having played in just 5 AAA games, and no MLB games. But he continues to make waves in Sacramento, and now has a .954 OPS and a 133 wRC+, to go with strong defense up the middle of both the dirt and grass.
Not to be outdone, a fellow left-handed hitting infielder on the 40-man roster shined, as second baseman Isan Díaz hit 1-3 with a homer and a walk.
Diaz Ding Dong!— Sacramento River Cats (@RiverCats) June 30, 2023
Isan puts the Cats on the board first! pic.twitter.com/BNATUXGys5
Díaz was recently optioned after just 2 games with the Giants, but he’s been stellar in his short, injury-riddled stint in Sacramento: he’s 9-27 with 4 home runs, 1 double, 2 walks, and 9 strikeouts.
Shortstop Tyler Fitzgerald (No. 18 CPL) doubled, but also struck out in his other 3 at-bats. Strikeouts were the biggest issue facing Fitzgerald entering this season, and he showed dramatic improvement in AA and for the start of his stint in AAA. But lately the Ks have been coming back to bite him in the butt: he has 18 in his last 11 games. Not surprisingly, the other offensive numbers have cooled off a little as the Ks have gone up. During that stretch he’s 12-46 with 3 home runs, 1 double, and 2 walks. On the year, he has an .852 OPS and a 100 wRC+. It’s been a good season, albeit not a breakout.
Unfortunately it was another rough outing for LHP Kyle Harrison (No. 1 CPL), who made it through just 3.2 innings, while giving up 6 hits, 3 walks, and 3 runs. But the strikeouts were, as always, there, as he had 7 of them.
There’s really no reason to worry about Harrison. The 7.09 walks per 9 innings are far from ideal, but the jump to the PCL does that to a pitcher, especially a young one. For comparison, there are 142 pitchers in the PCL who have thrown at least 20 innings, and 24 of them have worse walk rates than Harrison, including 7 of his teammates. In all, 43 pitchers in the league are walking at least 6 batters per 9 innings, and the median is 4.7. That doesn’t make Harrison’s walk rate good, but it’s important context if you find yourself worrying about him.
Also an important reminder: he’s 21, and just 265 innings into his pro career, and the organization and scouts continue to rave about him. I’ve yet to read any report coming from the Giants or other scouts suggesting that the walks are a long-term issue.
That said, it’s worth adjusting our expectations of the timeline. Harrison making his debut this year was considered a “when, not if” question at the start of the year, but it’s not longer a foregone conclusion. The Giants rotation has been good this year, RHP Keaton Winn (No. 16 CPL) seems to have entered it, and there’s a good chance they’ll add a starter at the deadline. With the Giants in contention and Harrison not being Rule 5 eligible, there’s really no rush to get him on the roster.
Silver lining: Harrison threw 83 pitches, so the Giants are stretching his arm out more.
Nice relief games from RHPs Nick Avila and Mauricio Llovera, and LHP Chris Wright, who all had no-hit outings. With a few good games in a row, Avila and Wright could become MLB bullpen options, or at least garner serious Rule 5 consideration.
AA Richmond (35-36)
All I can say about this offensive performance is WOW. What a game. I’ll have to rocket through the stellar performances so I don’t spend a few thousand words here.
First off, left fielder Vaun Brown (No. 5 CPL) had himself yet another great game, and that is so good to see. He hit 2-6 in this game, with both a home run and a double, and stole a base for good measure.
Brown was really scuffling earlier in the month, which we’d never seen him do since the Giants chose him in the 10th round of the 2021 draft. He went through a 2-week stretch in early-mid June in which he hit just 4-45 with 1 triple, 1 double, 4 walks, and 19 strikeouts. In 6 games since then (it’s a 6-game hitting streak), Brown is up to 9-27 with 3 home runs and 2 doubles.
If you need a reminder as to Brown’s potential, he has an .800 OPS and a 114 wRC+, despite shaking off injury rust, and despite that ice-cold stretch accounting for about half of his season so far. That tells you how well he’s playing when he’s not scuffling.
It will be interesting to see what the Giants do about Brown’s bat if he keeps hitting like this. They’ve been really aggressive with a lot of promotions lately, but they’ve also been pretty hesitant to promote players who are struggling with strikeouts. Brown’s season strikeout rate has been suppressed a little bit by his rehab stint in A-ball, but if we just count his time in Richmond, then his 36.1% strikeout rate is 2nd-worst among the Giants 49 prospects with at least 100 plate appearances this year.
Will the Giants wait to see improvements before moving him further through the system, something they seemingly tried to do last year when they let him effectively murder Low-A pitchers for more than 2 months before promoting him, then let him do the same in High-A for nearly 200 plate appearances? Or will they point to the fact that all 9 of the MLB hitters this season with strikeout rates worse than 30% are hitting better than league average, and remember that there are multiple ways to succeed? It will be interesting to see.
Damn it, I said I wouldn’t dive too deep here and I did. Let’s move on. Also doubling and homering: first baseman Logan Wyatt, who hit 2-5.
Logan Wyatt has liftoff pic.twitter.com/yYEIkBcMG3— Richmond Flying Squirrels (@GoSquirrels) June 30, 2023
Wyatt is a reminder that not all prospects blossom at ages where most of us are making questionable decisions on college campuses. A 2nd-round pick in 2019 (the 1st year that Farhan Zaidi was at the helm), Wyatt entered the season as a 25-year old who struggled with injuries, had been highly underwhelming, and had never even flirted with getting out of A-ball. Perhaps most concerning was that Wyatt, who is firmly just a first baseman defensively, had just 5 home runs and 25 extra-base hits in 612 career plate appearances.
And then 2023 happened. Wyatt had a strong performance in High-A, earned a recent promotion, and has been excelling in AA. After those 5 home runs in 612 plate appearances from 2019 through 2022, Wyatt already has 10 this year in just 260 plate appearances, to go with 11 doubles. In 8 games with Richmond, Wyatt is 9-27 with 2 homers, 2 doubles, and 3 walks.
Logan Wyatt brings in ✌️ more pic.twitter.com/LfteSkXtI9— Richmond Flying Squirrels (@GoSquirrels) June 30, 2023
But it’s not just using his big frame to recklessly swing for the fences. Across the 2 levels, Wyatt’s strikeout rate is 22.7%, which is better than average in the Giants system. His walk rate is 13.8%, which is 13th out of 49 Giants Minor Leaguers with at least 100 plate appearances. What a fun story.
Position players usually aren’t targeted in the Rule 5 Draft, but the ones that are often are players with good control of the strike zone. If Wyatt continues to hit like this, could that come into play?
Speaking of fun stories, there may be none better than center fielder Wade Meckler (No. 42 CPL). Meckler had a very Meckler-esque game, hitting 4-6 with a double.
Wade Meckler’s second hit of the seventh inning brings in Logan Wyatt and Hayden Cantrelle pic.twitter.com/4q1mRSKWqE— Richmond Flying Squirrels (@GoSquirrels) June 30, 2023
Meckler may not have prospect shine — he was an 8th-round pick last year — but no player has been more aggressively promoted since Zaidi took over. He’s yet to reach 90 plate appearances at any level, and is probably knocking on the door of a promotion to AAA despite having just 272 plate appearances in his career. For reference, there are 7 players on the Giants farm who have already had that many plate appearances this season.
The question for Meckler right now is if he can access his power at higher levels. He hasn’t projected as a power hitter at all, but had good power in both Low and High-A. But with 5 doubles representing his only extra-base hits in 85 plate appearances with Richmond, his ISO has dropped more than .100 points from where it was in Eugene, and nearly .200 points from where it was in San Jose (small sample size applies to all 3 levels).
But there’s no question about his hit tool. Meckler has played 38 games this year, and has multi-hit games in 18 of them. He’s had at least 4 hits in 6 different games this year. His 64 hits are 8th among Giants Minor Leaguers this year, despite injuries limiting him to being just 35th in plate appearances. And he has the 3rd-best strikeout rate in the system, with more walks (20) than Ks (19).
The Giants told us we should be excited about Meckler. They were right.
Shortstop Marco Luciano (No. 2 CPL) had a beautiful day, hitting 2-3 with a double and a pair of walks.
Marco Luciano brings home Wade Meckler to get us started pic.twitter.com/LpPZb2sr3H— Richmond Flying Squirrels (@GoSquirrels) June 29, 2023
Despite a .268 BABIP that ranks 101st out of 128 Eastern League hitters with at least 100 plate appearances, Luciano has an .801 OPS and a 115 wRC+ on the year. He has the highest ISO (.244) of any Giants Minor Leaguer, and a delightful 15.7% walk rate. Right now the 30.3% strikeout rate is the only stain on what has turned into a fantastic season for a player who is still in the discussion for best prospect in the system.
Catcher Andy Thomas hit 1-4 with a home run and 2 walks, and I forgot to mention it until I wrote the rest of this article, so that’s how good Richmond was.
An encouraging start from RHP Carson Seymour (No. 28 CPL), who struck out 4 batters in as many innings, giving up 4 hits and 2 runs. Seymour has a 3.43 ERA and a 3.86 FIP, so it’s been a nice season for him in that regard. But he’s struck out just 5.6 batters per 9 innings, a mark that ranks 369th out of 378 Minor League pitchers who have thrown at least 50 innings. This was just his 4th time in 15 games where he struck out at least as many batters as innings pitched.
High-A Eugene (36-35)
Eugene Emeralds lost to the Everett AquaSox (Mariners) 1-0
We’ve mostly been talking about hitters so far, so let’s shift our attention to pitchers. Because they were dominant for Eugene on Thursday.
Leading the charge is one of the breakout stars of 2023, RHP Hayden Birdsong (No. 36 CPL). A 6th-round pick in 2022, Birdsong received strong praise from the Giants throughout the end of last season, the offseason, and this Spring Training. He showed why with a dominant run in Low-A prior to a promotion. He entered Thursday with just 2 games in Eugene: 1 of which was very good, and 1 of which was awful.
Now it’s 2 that are very good and 1 that is awful, which is a nicer ratio.
Birdsong went 5 innings for the 1st time this year, allowing just 4 hits, 1 walk, and 1 run, while striking out 5 batters. He hasn’t fully figured out how to let the strikeout stuff fly in the Northwest League, but it’s early: he has 11 strikeouts in 12 innings, after a staggering 70 Ks in 41.2 innings in San Jose. Still and all, his 13.6 strikeouts per 9 innings are 3rd among all Giants Minor Leaguers with 30 innings pitched, and 2nd behind only Kyle Harrison among starters.
The bullpen was perfect, with RHP William Kempner retiring all 3 batters he faced, and RHP Hunter Dula retiring all 6, with 2 strikeouts. Dula is down to a 1.91 ERA and a 2.83 FIP on the year, while Kempner has given up just 5 hits, 2 walks, and 1 earned run in 5 innings since getting promoted, with 7 strikeouts.
Very little on offense, as the Emeralds got 2-hit. Still, 3 players reached base twice: center fielder Grant McCray (No. 6 CPL), catcher Adrian Sugastey (No. 22 CPL), and right fielder Victor Bericoto.
Low-A San Jose (41-30)
San Jose Giants lost to the Modesto Nuts (Mariners) 5-3
The biggest story in this game was a home run from designated hitter Heliot Ramos (No. 12 CPL) in his 2nd rehab appearance. It’s still a beautiful swing, damn it.
BOT 9— San Jose Giants (@SJGiants) June 30, 2023
Giants 3 | Nuts 5
Heliot Ram s! pic.twitter.com/jHrXZLFcV8
If you missed it, Ramos started a rehab assignment on Wednesday. It was an aggressive move by the Giants, because Ramos’ maximum of 20 days rehabbing will end at the same time that he hits Day No. 60 on his 60-day IL stint. Which means the Giants are committing to making a roster move with him at the earliest possible date.
What that move will be remains to be seen. Ramos has had a very disappointing 2-year stint, but he’s also a defensively-talented, powerful outfielder who is just 23 years old. You could convince me that the Giants will look to trade or even DFA him after his 20 days are up, and you could also convince me that he’s not even close to being the last name on the 40-man roster, and will just be slotted right back into things while someone like Dalton Guthrie is designated for assignment. We’ll see, but I’m rooting for him.
Also homering was left fielder P.J. Hilson (No. 37 CPL).
BOT 5— San Jose Giants (@SJGiants) June 30, 2023
Giants 2 | Nuts 1
P.J. Hilson hits a 2-run for the lead! pic.twitter.com/4PExq5tmtJ
A 6th-round pick in 2018, Hilson — still just 22 — has had a very tough year, after playing well last season. He has just a .644 OPS and a 75 wRC+. But he’s an outstanding athlete, a quality defensive player, and has just a 19.3% strikeout rate. So there are certainly some signs there.
A very nice game by RHP Hayden Wynja, who allowed just 5 baserunners and 1 unearned run in 4 innings, with 4 strikeouts. Wynja who, by the way, is 6’9”, has been struggling to keep runs off the board lately, but finishes June with 22 strikeouts to 6 walks in 19.1 innings.
ACL Giants Orange (6-13) beat the ACL Giants Black (11-8) 4-1 (7 innings)
The dreaded intrasquad game, but one with a tremendous silver lining: the return of center fielder Ismael Munguia.
Munguia rose up prospect boards with a very exciting 2021, but missed all of 2022 due to injury. He returned this year and was playing really well in AA, before suffering another injury. But Thursday marked his return, as he started a rehab assignment and played for the first time since May 18.
That, in and of itself, is exciting enough. That he hit 1-2 with a home run and a walk makes it even better.
Also homering was third baseman Javier Francisco (20 years, 2020 IFA). Francisco earned the rare midseason overseas promotion last year, when he dominated the DSL in his 2nd stint there, and got sent to the ACL after just 9 games. He struggled in the ACL and he’s struggling there again now, but there are certainly signs of life. Most importantly: he’s drawn 12 walks this year, while striking out just 9 times. If you can control the zone that well, then the .150 batting average will likely rise. And when it does, presumably the power (this was his first extra-base hit in 52 plate appearances this season) will show up.
Center fielder Lazaro Morales (19 years, 2021 IFA) and left fielder Guillermo Williamson (19 years, 2021 IFA) both reached base twice with a double. Both players are in their first year at the level, and while Morales is struggling, Williamson is shining: he has a .991 OPS and a 139 wRC+.
Some really nice pitching days. RHP Samir Chires (19 years, 2021 IFA) struck out 7 batters in 5 innings, allowing 7 baserunners and 1 run. Chires has been struggling in his ACL debut season, but this was his best outing.
RHP Jason Bonilla (24 years, 2018 IFA) only struck out 2 batters in 4 innings, but he allowed just 3 baserunners in a scoreless outing. His 3rd season at the ACL has been something of a disaster, as he has 21 walks to just 8 strikeouts, but nice to see a good game from him.
DSL Orange (10-8)
DSL Giants Orange beat the DSL Mariners 4-2
Not very much in this game, with the Giants Orange team squeaking out a win despite having just 2 hits. But they drew 4 walks, stole 3 bases, and were aided by 2 errors.
Homering also helps, and that’s what right fielder Miguel Blanco (17 years, 2023 IFA) did. Blanco, who also drew a walk and stole a base, is having a pretty decent debut season, hitting 5-24 with a homer, a triple, and 5 walks to 5 strikeouts. Good stuff!
A quality outing for RHP Randry De Leon (17 years, 2023 IFA). He gave up just 2 baserunners and a run in 4 innings of work, with 3 strikeouts. Despite having a totally fine 1.31 WHIP, De Leon has a 10.13 ERA in his debut season. Starts like this do a lot to fix that!
DSL Black (13-4)
DSL Giants Black beat the DSL Twins 5-3
Excellence from the middle of the lineup for the Giants Black team. Batting 3rd was the hottest hitter in the system, center fielder Rayner Arias (No. 27 CPL, 17 years, 2023 IFA). He was an on-base machine, hitting 1-2 with a hit by pitch, 2 walks, and a stolen base. Arias, who turned 17 just 2 months ago, has justified the Giants giving him their largest signing bonus since Lucius Fox by hitting a cool and collected 24-57 with 4 home runs, 2 triples, 6 doubles, and 15 walks to just 10 strikeouts. I cannot wait to see this kid in the states next year.
In the cleanup spot was left fielder Moises De La Rosa (18 years, 2022 IFA) who is making the DSL look like child’s play in his 2nd season. He hit 2-3 with 2 walks, giving him an OPS of 1.049 and a wRC+ of 179. I am also very excited to see him in the states next year.
And batting 5th was right fielder Carlos Concepcion (17 years, 2023 IFA) who went 2-5 with a home run. He had a slower start to the season, but that will change with games like this.
Not very good pitching, but RHP Larry De Jesus (20 years, 2019 IFA), who is playing in his debut season despite being signed 4 years ago, pitched a perfect inning. He’s had a funny year: he’s allowed just 1 hit and 2 walks in 4 scoreless innings, but only has 1 strikeout.
AAA Brett Wisely (4)
AAA Isan Díaz (4)
AAA Joey Bart (2)
AA Andy Thomas (7)
AA Vaun Brown (5 in AA, 6 total)
AA Logan Wyatt (2 in AA, 10 total)
Low-A P.J. Hilson (3)
Low-A Heliot Ramos (1 in Low-A, 3 total)
ACL Ismael Munguia (1 in ACL, 4 total)
ACL Javier Francisco (1)
DSL Carlos Concepcion (2)
DSL Miguel Blanco (1)