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Minor League round up, June 7

Yesterday’s action on the Giants farm.

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Carson Whisenhunt reaching back to throw a pitch
LHP Carson Whisenhunt struck out 7 batters in 5 scoreless innings in his AA debut
Photo by Jerry Kime/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Five games for the San Francisco Giants Minor League Baseball affiliates on Wednesday, as the Dominican Summer League had the day off, and only one of the Giants Arizona Complex League teams played.

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.


A few small transactions. AA Richmond catcher Brandon Martorano was activated from the IL. Martorano, a 16th-round pick in 2019, hasn’t played for Richmond since April 20, though he just made 2 rehab appearances in the ACL. To make space for him, the team demoted utility player Brett Auerbach (No. 38 CPL) to High-A Eugene. More on his struggles later in the article. AA LHP Raymond Burgos was also placed on the IL.

AAA Sacramento (26-33)

Sacramento River Cats lost to the Las Vegas Aviators (A’s) 8-5
Box score

It’s always exciting when a top prospect has a great day, but it’s especially exciting when a top prospect who is having a great season and is already at AAA, knocking on the door of his MLB debut has a great day.

You can guess where I’m going with this one: to right fielder Luis Matos (No. 4 CPL). Matos’ excellent season took another step forward on Wednesday, when he hit 2-5 with a home run.

My goodness I can’t wait to watch that swing 4-5 times a day 150 times a year.

You could claim that power is really the only part of Matos’ game that hasn’t yet caught up to AAA levels, so nice to see him smash a ball over the fence (I guess if you want to quibble you could point out that he’s not walking much, either, though one would expect that to change when he’s not getting so many tasty pitches to hit). But Matos’ extra-base ability has actually been sneaky good in Sacramento ... he now has a .170 ISO, which ranks 4th among the Giants 17 hitters with at least 50 plate appearances in Sacramento this year (hilariously, dead last is Gary Sánchez, who is currently the best power hitter in the Majors it seems...)

Matos will never be a pure slugger, but he’s surely looking the part of a guy who could mess around and have a 20-homer, 40-double season if things break right.

With the nice day, Matos is now up to a .954 OPS and a 129 wRC+. His strikeout rate across 2 levels is 8.4%, which is 8th-best out of the 1,278 Minor Leaguers who have at least 100 plate appearances this year. The 7 batters who have struck out less? A 22 year old in High-A, a 23 year old in High-A and AA, a 23 year old in AAA, a 24 year old in AA, a pair of 27 year olds in AAA, and a 29 year old in AAA. Matos turned 21 in January.

OK, I’m done gushing, but if you want to read more on Matos I recommend this excellent piece that Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic published this morning.

Matos may have had the most exciting day from a prospect standpoint, but the best day belonged to left fielder Michael Gigliotti, who hit 2-4 with a home run and a double.

Gigliotti is probably somewhere between prospect and organizational filler. On the downside, he has just a .771 OPS and an 89 wRC+, and is 27 years old. On the upside, it’s just his 2nd year in the organization, and he has good speed and defense. If the Giants can help him have a mini version of the Mike Yastrzemski click-into-place magic, he could be an interesting depth piece.

Joey Bart continued his rehab appearance and you’ve got to feel for the guy: he got a break from the physical pains of catching, and instead got hit by a pair of pitches. Worse yet, it’s the second time this week that a Giants catcher has gotten plunked twice in a game that they weren’t catching. It’s like pitchers know they’re tough and want to test it.

The other time was to recently-acquired Jacob Nottingham, who played first base in this game and hit 1-4 with a home run.

Nottingham has been hotter than hot since joining the Giants organization, hitting 11-26 with 2 home runs, 1 double, 1 walk, 1 stolen base, and just 4 strikeouts.

Right now Nottingham just looks like an extra body in AAA since the River Cats only had one catcher. But he could prove to be an important depth piece should the Giants opt to move on from Bart at any point this season.

Speaking of catchers, Ricardo Genovés threw out 2 baserunners. Awesome.

If you read these articles a lot, then you know that I love to bring up a bad thing to point out a good thing, so here goes: shortstop Tyler Fitzgerald (No. 18 CPL) got caught stealing. It was the first time that Fitzgerald, playing in his 23rd AAA game, had been caught stealing at the level, after 12 successful attempts.

Fitzgerald has done a brilliant job toeing the line on the basepaths, stealing enough to be a threat but really picking his spots. Over the last 2 years, he’s 35-for-37 swiping bases. Having someone who can steal bases that successfully is a weapon, even if it’s only a moderate total. Fitzgerald, by the way, hit 2-5, and now has an .878 OPS and a 112 wRC+.

Uneventful pitching game that didn’t feature any of the team’s top prospect arms. LHP Daniel Tillo and RHP Drew Strotman both got rocked a bit, as their rough seasons continue: Tillo has a 10.41 ERA and a 6.74 FIP, while Strotman has a 6.49 ERA and a 6.00 FIP.

RHP Clay Helvey had a nice outing, which was good to see: he gave up just 1 walk in 1.2 scoreless innings, while striking out 2. After having an exquisite 2022 in High-A and AA, Helvey has been a disaster in Sacramento, with an 11.78 ERA, a 10.51 FIP, and 15 strikeouts to 21 walks in 18.1 innings. Hopefully this is the start of things turning around!

A very odd performance for RHP Melvin Adón, who pitched 2 scoreless innings with just 1 hit allowed, but walked 4 batters. This comes after his last outing, where he gave up 2 walks and 7 runs in just 0.2 innings. He just hasn’t found the control in his first healthy season since 2019, as he’s given up 27 walks in 26 innings.

AA Richmond (23-29)

Richmond Flying Squirrels beat the Altoona Curve (Pirates) 6-1
Box score

The Flying Squirrels, who had lost 10 of their last 11 games, were in desperate need of a shot in the arm, and goodness gracious did they find the right guy for it: LHP Carson Whisenhunt (No. 9 CPL).

Last year’s 2nd-round pick, who entered the season having pitched just 7.2 innings professionally, was dominant in 4 starts with Low-A and then even more dominant in 6 starts with High-A, made his highly-anticipated AA debut after his 2nd promotion. And it went as well as anyone could have hoped.

Whisenhunt blew batters away, striking out 7 in 5 scoreless innings, allowing just 2 hits and 2 walks. He was efficient, needing just 67 pitches, 45 of which were strikes.

Right now the only question with Whisenhunt is how well his stuff will play against more advanced hitters. And the first data point we have on that: really well.

Of the 24 pitchers in the Giants system who have thrown at least 30 innings this year, Whisenhunt is top 5 in both strikeouts per 9 innings (12.9, behind only Kyle Harrison [No. 1 CPL], Hayden Birdsong [No. 36 CPL], Kai-Wei Teng, and Jack Choate) and walks per 9 innings (2.9, behind only John Bertrand and Manuel Mercedes).

If ifs were spliffs we’d all be high, but if Whisenhunt can keep up the strikeouts and walks, we could be seeing him in the Majors very, very soon. Like ... later this year, soon. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, let’s just enjoy a fantastic outing from someone who looks more like the real deal every week.

Whisenhunt wasn’t the only exciting southpaw on the mound for Richmond: the piggybacking starter was LHP Nick Zwack (No. 39 CPL), who had a much-needed strong game, giving up just 3 hits, 1 walk, and 1 run in 4 excellent innings, while striking out 6 batters.

Zwack’s season started excellently, when he struck out 9 batters in 4 scoreless innings in his 1st game, giving up just 1 hit and 0 walks. Then it turned into an unmitigated disaster: in the 9 appearances that followed, Zwack had this line: 28 innings, 43 hits, 15 walks, 31 runs, 29 earned runs, and 23 strikeouts.

So it was really great seeing him have a good game ... there’s a lot of talent in that arm.

There were plenty of nice offensive performances to go around. Second baseman Hayden Cantrelle and left fielder Brett Auerbach (No. 38 CPL) both hit 2-3 with a double and a walk, with Auerbach swiping a base as well. Cantrelle is having a funny season: his power is very low (.129 ISO), but an incredible 18.1% walk rate (paired with just a 19.2% strikeout rate) has his on-base percentage at a LaMonte Wade Jr.-esque .392, despite just a .216 batting average. We can expect that average to come up, especially considering the low strikeout rate ... despite being one of the fastest players on the team, Cantrelle’s .265 BABIP ranks 54th out of 75 qualified hitters in the Eastern League. Yet even with that, he has a .737 OPS and a 115 wRC+.

Speaking of absent power, what a weird and difficult season for Auerbach.

The double ended a streak of 26 games without an extra-base hit for Auerbach, and he’s only had 2, total, since hitting both a home run and a double back on April 14. Auerbach is repeating AA, where he had 17 home runs and 15 doubles in 425 plate appearances last year. This year? 1 home run and 3 doubles in 175 plate appearances. Hence the demotion. Hopefully he can figure things out in Eugene, because he’s such a fun player when he’s playing well.

First baseman Riley Mahan had the big hit of the game, going 1-4 with a home run and a walk.

Mahan has been unable to build on last year’s strong late-season stint in Richmond, as he has just a .606 OPS and a 54 wRC+. More games like this are on the way, hopefully.

And more excellence, as expected, from designated hitter Vaun Brown (No. 5 CPL), who hit 2-5 with a triple, bringing his OPS to 1.064 and his wRC+ to 184 after 12 games.

Will the Giants, who have been aggressive but calculated with promotions this year, wait for Brown’s 34.0% strikeout rate to recede before sending him to Sacramento? Or well they say “to heck with it, who cares about strikeouts when your OPS starts with a 1?”

High-A Eugene (26-26)

Eugene Emeralds lost to the Tri-City Dust Devils (Angels) 10-2
Box score

The Emeralds got displaced from their home stadium, as the University of Oregon is hosting the Super Regionals. So they played at the Tri-City stadium, but they’re the home team for this series. Kinda funny.

That may be funny, but the game was not, as the Emeralds got their butts kicked. The offense was bad, save for one man: right fielder Victor Bericoto. He had himself a day, hitting 3-3 with a walk, and driving in both of the team’s runs on a big fly.

Bericoto is having a season that should put him on more prospect radars. With an .851 OPS and a 117 wRC+, he’s doing a little bit of everything. He has strong walk (9.1%) and strikeout (18.3%) rates, and a great batting average (.297) despite a moderate BABIP. And he leads all Giants Minor Leaguers with 9 home runs. And while a lot of impressive A-ball numbers belong to players showing off their skills against players much younger than they are, Bericoto won’t turn 22 until December. The downside is that he’s only playing corner outfield and first base, so he’ll really need his bat to play ... but right now his bat is playing.

No one else’s bat was playing. The rest of the team combined to hit 2-30 with no extra-base hits, 3 walks, and 12 strikeouts. Center fielder Grant McCray (No. 6 CPL) was the only other player to reach base twice, as he drew a pair of walks, but he also struck out 3 times, bringing his strikeout rate to 30.3%, which is 7th-highest among the Giants 44 Minor Leaguers with at least 100 plate appearances this year.

RHP Eric Silva (No. 13 CPL) had a very rough outing, giving up 2 hits, 3 walks, and 2 runs in just an inning of work. Presumably and hopefully he got pulled after 1 inning due to throwing 38 pitches and not due to injury.

RHP Ty Weber was even worse, giving up 8 runs in 1.2 innings, which saw his ERA inflate to 8.25 and his FIP to 6.80. But RHP Joe Kemlage had a nice outing, striking out 4 batters in 3.1 scoreless innings, with just 2 hits allowed. He has a 4.61 ERA and a 4.25 FIP this year.

Low-A San Jose (34-19)

San Jose Giants beat the Visalia Rawhide (Diamondbacks) 4-3
Box score

Some notable pitching performances in this game. The start went to LHP Jack Choate, who had a wonderful outing. He gave up just 2 hits, 1 walk, and 1 run in 4 strong innings, while striking out 5 batters. Choate, last year’s 9th-round pick, is flying under the radar, but his season has been a delight. He has a 2.31 ERA and a 2.93 FIP, and his 12.9 strikeouts per 9 innings ranks 4th among Giants Minor Leaguers with at least 30 innings thrown. His walks are plenty manageable (3.9 per 9 innings), his ground ball rate is high (48.2%), and he’s yet to give up a home run in his 39 innings this year (or his 4 last year, for that matter).

LHP Sean Newcomb, an MLB veteran who was signed over the offseason but injured in Spring Training, made his 2nd rehab appearance as he prepares to head to AAA. He gave up 2 hits and 1 run in 2 innings, with 3 strikeouts. It will be interesting to see what the Giants can do with him.

The offense didn’t do very much. Catcher Onil Perez (No. 44 CPL) had another multi-hit game, going 2-5 to raise his OPS to .779 and his wRC+ to 116. Perez has just 1 extra-base hit in his last 9 games, and hasn’t homered since his first game of the season. But the 20-year old catcher is sitting on a .311 batting average, with amazing plate control. In addition to a 9.2% walk rate, Perez’s 9.8% strikeout rate is 3rd-best among the 54 Giants Minor Leaguers with at least 50 plate appearances. And talk about a trio that has separated themselves from the pack: Perez is behind only Luis Matos (No. 4 CPL) and Wade Meckler (No. 42 CPL), with no other player in the system below 15%.

A nice day for designated hitter Tanner O’Tremba, who hit 1-4 with a double and a walk, bringing his OPS to .829 and his wRC+ to 129, and shortstop Jose Ramos did some good things too, hitting 1-3 with a hit by pitch and 2 stolen bases. Ramos has cooled down in a big way after a brilliant start, but has been bouncing back lately: in his last 8 games he’s 8-29 with a triple, a double, 4 walks, 5 strikeouts, and 6 stolen bases.

Second baseman Thomas Gavello was hit by a pitch for the 19th time this year. What a painful way to make a living.

ACL Orange (1-2)

ACL Giants Orange lost to the ACL Angels 12-0 (7 innings)
Box score

The big news for the Giants Orange team was the return of RHP Will Bednar (No. 25 CPL). It’s been a difficult start to his career for Bednar, who was the team’s 1st-round pick in 2021. Seen as an advanced arm who could move through the system very quickly, Bednar struggled with both performance and injuries in his 1st full season in 2022, sporting a 4.19 ERA and a 6.26 FIP, while never making it out of Low-A (and appearing in just 12 games).

He started the year injured and has been working his way back in extended spring training. This was his 2023 debut and while there was rust, there was a lot to like as well: he gave up 2 hits, 2 walks, and 1 run in 2 innings, but struck out 5 batters. Hopefully this is the start of better days for Bednar.

A rough outing for RHP Miguel Mora, who got rocked in 11 games with Low-A — 13.29 ERA, 9.42 FIP — and is now trying to sort things out in the ACL. It will have to wait, as he allowed 7 hits, 3 walks, 7 runs, and 6 earned runs in just 3 innings, with only 1 strikeout.

The offense did nothing, with just 3 hits and 1 walk on the day, and no extra-base hits, though they only struck out 5 times. Second baseman Armando Alvarez, who is making a rehab stint before returning to AAA, had the only notable game, hitting 2-3.

Home runs

AAA Jacob Nottingham (6)
AAA Michael Gigliotti (3)
AAA Luis Matos (2)
AA Riley Mahan (7)
High-A Victor Bericoto (9)

Thursday schedule

Sacramento: vs. the Las Vegas Aviators, 6:45 p.m. PT
Richmond: vs. the Altoona Curve, 3:35 p.m. PT
Eugene: @ the Tri-City Dust Devils, 6:30 p.m. PT
San Jose: @ the Visalia Rawhide, 7:00 p.m. PT

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

Video roundup

This segment is to provide video highlights from recent games where the highlights weren’t yet available when I recapped the games.