The San Francisco Giants Minor League Baseball affiliates had seven teams playing six games yesterday, with an intra-squad game in the DSL, and the ACL Orange team getting the day off. So let’s spend 4,000 words talking about what happened.
All listed positions are the positions played in that game.
Catcher Rayner Santana has been activated and assigned to the ACL Giants Orange team. A 20 year old who struggled last year in Low-A, Santana appeared in one Low-A game this year before heading to the Injured List.
AAA Sacramento (27-33)
Sacramento River Cats beat the Las Vegas Aviators (A’s) 4-3
A thrilling game for the River Cats, who gave up the lead in the top of the 9th inning, only to walk it off in the bottom of the inning.
That run was scored in wild fashion, when recently-optioned center fielder Bryce Johnson (No. 43 CPL) scored after shortstop Tyler Fitzgerald (No. 18 CPL) reached base on an error when the left fielder and center fielder collided. That’s one way to get the job done, and it made for an amazing call.
Fitzgerald may not have had an official hit to get the winning knock, but he did go 2-5 on the day, giving him an .879 OPS and a 111 wRC+. His strikeout numbers continue to be dramatically improved — after having a 32.9% strikeout rate in AA last year, Fitzgerald started the season with a 28.2% rate in AA, and is now at 18.4% in AAA.
Speaking of players who started the year in AA ... here’s what I wrote about right fielder Luis Matos (No. 4 CPL) in yesterday’s Minor League round up:
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.
Replace “2-5” with “2-4,” and tack “and a double” onto the “with a home run” part, and we can just ride with that same segment today.
Luis Matos busted out the power stroke against Vegas starter Kyle Muller, coming within a few feet of his first multi-homer game in nearly two years. Matos has homered in back to back games, giving him 6 for the year pic.twitter.com/oMTjIckpYF— Roger Munter (@rog61) June 9, 2023
Matos is cooking in every possible way. He’s hitting for average (.380), hitting for power (.207 ISO), limiting strikeouts (8.2%), playing strong defense, and getting some seasoning at the corners after proving himself in center.
He has multi-hit games in 12 of his 20 appearances with AAA, and in his last 9 games is hitting 20-44 with 3 home runs and 3 doubles, bringing his OPS to .999 and his wRC+ to 138. It’s enough to make me tweet this:
I'm not saying that Luis Matos is a top 10 prospect in baseball.— McCovey Chronicles (@McCoveyChron) June 9, 2023
But i *am* asking how much longer a 21 year old defensive stud needs to be putting up a 1.000 OPS with a sub-10% strikeout rate in AAA before being considered a top 10 prospect in baseball. https://t.co/PTQkTL3MWj
It’s a fair question! So it leads to today’s discussion prompts: is Luis Matos a top 100 prospect? Top 50? Top 20? Is he the best prospect in the Giants organization? Top 2? Top 3? And more importantly, at what point does this level of performance constitute forcing the issue?
Farhan Zaidi on how Luis Matos might make his way onto the roster:— Jeff Young (@BaseballJeff1) June 9, 2023
“Luis Matos, who is playing really well in well in Triple-A. We don’t really have a spot for him right now. And, I think if he continues to produce, we may try to create one.”https://t.co/vhZ0j4UmIV
Also homering was left fielder Will Wilson (No. 21 CPL), who hit 1-3.
One pitch. One swing. CATS LEAD! pic.twitter.com/fEhpL4UTLP— Sacramento River Cats (@RiverCats) June 9, 2023
Wilson’s been struggling this season — .643 OPS, 47 wRC+ — but his 7 home runs lead all Sacramento players ... no one else has more than 4!
Wilson’s BABIP of .250 is dead last among 69 qualified hitters in the Pacific Coast League, so there’s reason to think that his numbers should rebound a bit at some point ... though I’ve been saying that for a while. Perhaps the Trackman data would tell us that Wilson is just not hitting the ball hard (except for when he’s hitting it over the fence). Or perhaps he’s getting unlucky. Either way, he’s been getting a lot of outfield seasoning to go with his quality infield defense, so he’s increasing the number of pathways he has to the Majors.
A nice game for third baseman David Villar, who hit 3-4 with a double.
TIE GAME courtesy of David Villar! pic.twitter.com/UlvnVqdK74— Sacramento River Cats (@RiverCats) June 9, 2023
Villar has a 1.040 OPS and a 144 wRC+ since getting optioned, and is doing all the things he needs to do to stay on the team’s radar.
Catcher Joey Bart made a 6th rehab appearance and hit 0-4 with a strikeout. He’s 2-21 with 11 strikeouts during his rehab stint.
Not much of note on the mound, with a fairly uninteresting bullpen game. LHP Joey Marciano, who is having a difficult season — he has a 5.40 ERA, a 5.10 FIP, and 8.6 walks per 9 innings — had a funny outing. He faced 5 batters and struck out 4 of them, while hitting the other. Talk about no balls in play!
LHPs Chris Wright and Erik Miller, who have been exciting relievers this season, weren’t the sharpest. They both showed off their strikeouts, but Wright allowed 4 baserunners in 1.2 innings, while Miller walked 2 batters in 1.1 innings.
AA Richmond (24-29)
Richmond Flying Squirrels beat the Altoona Curve (Pirates) 2-0
Hey, look at the Flying Squirrels go! After dropping 10 of 11 games, Richmond now has a 2-game winning streak! They’re back, baby!!!
As the score might suggest, it was an absolutely phenomenal day for Richmond’s pitchers. The Flying Squirrels used 3 arms, and all 3 were dynamic and worth highlighting.
Kicking it off was the starter, RHP Mason Black (No. 11 CPL). Black’s flying under the radar a little bit lately, partially because exciting pitchers like LHP Kyle Harrison (No. 1 CPL) and LHP Carson Whisenhunt (No. 9 CPL) have taken up the headlines, and partially because it hasn’t been a super noteworthy season for Black, the team’s 3rd-round pick in 2021.
Yet he remains arguably their top RHP prospect, and he reminded why on Thursday with one of his best professional outings: he pitched 4 scoreless innings, giving up just 2 hits and a hit batter, while striking out 6. Excellence. And much needed, after he gave up 9 runs and 5 walks in his last 2 starts.
Mason Black pitches four shutout innings to start us off— Las Ardillas Voladoras de Richmond (@GoSquirrels) June 8, 2023
4 IP | 2 H | 0 R | 0 BB | 6 SO pic.twitter.com/54aBesnoLi
Black has just a 5.31 ERA, but a lot of his other numbers look good. He has a 4.34 FIP, and his 11.3 strikeouts per 9 innings are 4th-best among 41 Eastern League pitchers who have thrown 40 innings this year. His 3.3 walks per 9 innings are 14th-best among that group.
Right now his biggest weakness is the long ball: he’s giving up 1.6 home runs per 9 innings, with a 17.1% home run/fly ball rate (which is compounded by just a 35.3% ground ball rate). There are certainly things to work with, but we shouldn’t forget about how exciting his arm is, either ... after all, this start moved him past just 150 innings in his career!
Earning the save was a very exciting performance, courtesy of RHP José Cruz (No. 35 CPL). Cruz, who turned 23 a few weeks ago, was added to the 40-man roster over the offseason as a Rule 5 protection. He began the year in High-A and was recently promoted. His 1st game with Richmond was an adjustment period, but it looks like that adjustment period happened fast. Thursday was his 2nd game with the Flying Squirrels, and all he did was pitch 2 perfect innings with 3 strikeouts. Hell yeah.
Jose Cruz strikes out side in 9th to complete 2-0 win in Richmond pic.twitter.com/ZqZlwaqG1n— Roger Munter (@rog61) June 9, 2023
The Giants have been pretty quick to promote AA relievers. RHP Randy Rodríguez (No. 32 CPL) spent just 10 innings in Richmond last year before going to AAA (though he’s back in AA now). LHP Nick Swiney (No. 26 CPL) spent just 15.2 innings in AA this year before a promotion. RHP Cole Waites (No. 15 CPL) spent 21 innings there last year, and was making his MLB debut less than a month later.
So if Cruz puts together some more outings like this, watch out!
RHP Wil Jensen doesn’t have the prospect hype of Black or Cruz, but he was even better than the 2 pitchers who sandwiched him, as he struck out 4 batters in 3 perfect innings, lowering his ERA to 2.97 and his FIP to 4.07. Amazing work!
The offense was unexciting, both when looking at the roster and when watching the game. Richmond started the year with a hilariously talent-stacked roster, but Luis Matos (No. 4 CPL), Patrick Bailey (No. 10 CPL), and Tyler Fitzgerald (No. 18 CPL) have all been promoted, while Marco Luciano (No. 2 CPL) and Vaun Brown (No. 5 CPL) got Thursday off. So there wasn’t a lot there, and the result was 3 hits, 1 walk, and 2 runs, though that was enough, thanks to the pitchers.
There was one notable offensive day! Catcher Brandon Martorano made his return, after going on the Injured List all the way back on April 21. And not only did he make his return, but he had the big hit of the day, smacking a go-ahead home run.
He’s baaaack pic.twitter.com/2hnQIdm1Kg— Las Ardillas Voladoras de Richmond (@GoSquirrels) June 9, 2023
Welcome back, Brandon! It’s great to see you.
High-A Eugene (27-26)
Eugene Emeralds beat the Tri-City Dust Devils (Angels) 10-5
A fun game all around for the Emeralds, with cool performances abounding. Let’s start with the offense.
A day after I waxed about right fielder Victor Bericoto being someone who should be on more prospect radars, he had a brilliant day, hitting 3-5 with a pair of doubles.
Bericoto had a mediocre season last year in Low-A, with a .748 OPS and a 97 wRC+. But the Giants rewarded the process and had him start this season in Eugene, and he’s making them look very smart. The good walk rate has remained, even though it’s dipped at a new level, going from 11.7 to 8.9%. And everything else has shown marked improvement: his strikeout rate has dropped from an already-good 22.2% to an excellent 18.3%. His contact skills have taken off, with his batting average leaping from .265 to .303, despite a nearly identical BABIP. And his power has arrived, jumping from .130 (12th out of 18 San Jose batters with at least 100 plate appearances) all the way to .209 (3rd out of 10 Eugene batters with at least 100 plate appearances). His 9 home runs are tops on the Giants farm this year, after he had just 12 all of last season at a lower level.
The result is an .870 OPS, a 122 wRC+, and a great story developing before our eyes.
Also a great day for center fielder Grant McCray (No. 6 CPL), who hit 3-5 with a triple and 2 stolen bases. McCray is doing everything he can to put his awful April behind him. He started the year with a .554 OPS in the month, then backed it up with a .909 OPS in May. So far his June is keeping the trend going, as he’s 7-24 with 1 home run, 2 triples, and 3 walks.
It’s a tiny sample size, but perhaps most encouraging is the minor improvement in strikeouts, which have plagued McCray. After K’ing 31 times in 19 April games, and 35 times in 26 May games, McCray has 6 strikeouts in 6 June games. Still work to do, but improvements for the 5-tool prospect, who now has a .784 OPS, a 108 wRC+, and 23 stolen bases in 28 attempts.
Second baseman Edison Mora also had a nice game, hitting 2-4 with a triple. He’s scuffling a bit this year, with a .556 OPS and a 55 wRC+. But he’s also still trying to find his groove after losing all of 2022 to injury.
LHP John Bertrand got rocked, having his 2nd bad outing in his last 3 games, which broke a streak of 6 quality performances for last year’s 10th-round pick. He gave up 10 baserunners and 5 runs in just 3.1 innings, raising his ERA to 5.18 and his FIP to 4.82. But, just as has been the case in San Francisco lately, the bullpen was dynamic.
RHP Ben Madison had another exquisite outing, giving up just 1 walk in 1.2 innings, with 4 strikeouts. Madison had a tough start to the year, and through 6 outings had given up 9 hits, 13 walks, and 10 runs in just 11 innings.
He’s been elite since then. Look at his line over the 10 outings since: 16.2 innings, 5 hits, 4 walks, 2 runs, and 28 strikeouts. Maybe it’s time for a cross-country flight?
Speaking of hot pitchers, RHP Nick Morreale struck out 3 in 2 perfect innings. He hasn’t given up a baserunner in his last 3 appearances, and hasn’t given up a run in 10 of his last 11 appearances.
Similar excellence for RHP Mat Olsen, who gave up a hit and had a strikeout in a scoreless inning. After giving up 12 runs and 11 earned runs in his first 7 appearances of the season, Olsen has pitched 9 straight scoreless games. During that time he’s given up just 4 hits and 0 walks in 12 innings, with 19 strikeouts.
And last but not least, Tyler Myrick pitched another scoreless inning with 2 strikeouts, lowering his ERA to 0.96 and his FIP to 3.33. He’s allowed less than a baserunner per inning this year.
Low-A San Jose (35-19)
Watch out world, here comes RHP Gerelmi Maldonado (No. 40 CPL)! He got the start in this game and was excellent, pitching 4 scoreless innings while allowing just 1 hit and 1 walk, with 3 strikeouts.
It wasn’t a very good start to the year for Maldonado, but there were also reasons to not care much: mainly the fact that it was his 1st pass at Low-A, and that he doesn’t turn 20 until the winter solstice. Give him time to figure it out.
It appears that he has maybe figured it out. In his last 3 outings, Maldonado has pitched 12 scoreless innings, surrendering just 5 hits and 2 walks in that time, with 14 strikeouts.
He’s not just turning around his ERA (3.75) and FIP (4.76). He’s also cranking up the Ks and dropping the BBs. After having just 15 strikeouts and 18 walks in 18.1 innings in his first 6 games, Maldonado has 24 strikeouts and 6 walks in 17.2 innings in 5 games since. Keep your eye on this kid!
Also an excellent performance from RHP William Kempner, who struck out 2 in a perfect inning, lowering his ERA to 4.85 and his FIP to 4.29. After beginning the year as a starter, Kempner has moved to the bullpen and worked exclusively in 1-inning chunks for his last 8 games. I would assume that’s so San Jose can work on some mechanical issues, rather than a sign of giving up on him as a starter ... after all, he only turns 22 this month, and was a 3rd-round pick in July.
RHP Sam Delaplane also pitched a perfect inning, while striking out 1 batter. Forget the numbers, Delaplane has turned into one of the best stories on the farm this year: he’s up to 8 games and 6.2 innings, after injuries (and the pandemic) limited him to just 4 games and 3.2 innings combined in 2020, 2021, and 2022.
Some fun performances on offense for the Baby Giants, who won their 3rd straight game.
Second baseman Thomas Gavello was the only batter with multiple hits, as he went 2-4 with a double and — you guessed it — was hit by a pitch. Gavello has now been hit by a pitch exactly 20 times this year, which leads all Minor Leaguers. Only 11 other hitters in the Minors — of which there have been 3,070 this year — have been hit more than 10 times.
Gavello, a 13th-round pick last year, celebrated his 22nd birthday on Tuesday. The Giants have used him at catcher, second base, and third base. That, paired with a .914 OPS and a 151 wRC+ from the left side — and a love of getting smacked by fastballs — paints a very interesting prospect picture.
Left fielder Matt Higgins had the biggest hit of the day, going 1-5 with a home run. An undrafted free agent, Higgins is hoping that his .856 OPS and 131 wRC+ can earn him the same treatment that Carter Howell got.
Another good day for third baseman Anthony Rodriguez, who hit 1-3 with a double and a walk, giving the 20 year old a .990 OPS and a 166 wRC+ in his first 7 games of the season after starting the year injured. And shortstop Jose Ramos only hit 1-4, but his hit was a double and he stole 3 bases, making him a perfect 9-for-9 over his last 6 games. He’s finding ways to impact games after his blistering hot start has cooled down.
One negative note: infielder Diego Velasquez (No. 41 CPL), who was removed from Tuesday’s game after getting hit by a pitch, and didn’t play on Wednesday, was initially in the lineup on Thursday but a late scratch. I haven’t seen any updates, but hopefully he’s fine.
ACL Black (1-2)
A whole bunch of action, and a whole bunch of notable days, but none more so than the game left fielder Guillermo Williamson (19, 2021 IFA) had.
Williamson had a solid if not notable debut year in the DSL last season, but his stateside career is off to a wildly hot start, as he hit 2-5 in this game with both of his hits leaving the ballpark, including a 1st inning grand slam!
Williamson needs to work on his bat-to-ball skills, after having a .234 average and a 28.6% strikeout rate last year. But a 13.4% walk rate and a .191 ISO paint the picture of a batter with a lot of talent. That ISO was far and away the highest mark of the 19 Giants hitters with at least 100 plate appearances in the DSL last year, while the walk rate was 8th-best. Bring on the power!
And welcome to the scene, designated hitter Nomar Diaz (19, 2022 14th-round)! Diaz, a high school draftee from the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico, played very sparingly last year, and hit 0-12. He then went 0-3 in his season debut. So he was looking for his 1st career hit on Thursday and found it ... and then some! He finished the day 3-5 with a triple. Like Williamson, Diaz — who is a catcher — only just turned 19.
Center fielder Cesar Quintas (20, 2019 IFA) reached base a variety of ways, hitting 2-2 with a double, 2 walks, and a hit by pitch. What a day! He’s repeating rookie ball after having just a .509 OPS and a 55 wRC+ last year, though he dominated the DSL the year prior.
It was a tough day for one of the most notable players on the roster, shortstop Ryan Reckley (No. 31 CPL, 18, 2022 IFA). It was notable that Reckley, the star of last year’s signing class, was assigned to the ACL after injuries limited him to just 11 subpar games in the DSL last year.
We can expect an adjustment period, which was on display Thursday when he hit 1-6 with 3 strikeouts and 3 errors (though he also stole a base). Reckley is the 2nd-youngest player on either of the Giants ACL teams.
The Giants Black team had a bad day on the mound from a run suppression standpoint, but there were some notable performances. RHP Luis Bermudez (18, 2021 IFA), who turns 19 on Saturday, made his ACL debut after a strong debut pro season last year in the DSL, where he had a 1.45 ERA and a 3.49 FIP. Unfortunately, after having a crisp 2.7 walks per 9 innings last year, Bermudez issued 5 free passes (and a hit batter) in 3 innings, en route to 4 runs (3 earned), though he also had 4 strikeouts.
RHP Jorge Garcia (21, 2018 IFA) had a funny game, striking out a whopping 9 batters in 4.1 innings ... but also giving up 6 hits, a walk, a hit batter, and 4 runs (2 earned). And a very forgettable outing for RHP Jason Bonilla (24, 2018 IFA), who is trying to find his footing in his 3rd year at the level. He walked 6 of the 9 batters he faced.
DSL Giants Black (2-1) beat the DSL Giants Orange (1-2) 10-6
Friendly fire, and a bit of a funny one. The Giants Black squad easily won, despite the Giants Orange squad outhitting them 12-9, with twice as many extra-base hits.
A handful of position players had strong performances. Let’s start with the winning Giants Black team. The stars were at the back of the lineup, where shortstop Samuel Rodriguez (19, 2021 IFA) and first baseman Eduardo Montero (19, 2021 IFA) both hit 2-4 with a double (Rodriguez added a walk).
Both players are trying to find their groove in their 3rd year in the DSL (though Samuelson only played 5 games last year due to injury).
The performance stars were at the bottom of the order, but the money stars were at the top, with the first 2 batters in the lineup being the 2 biggest signing bonuses of this class for the Giants. Designated hitter Yosneiker Rivas (17, 2023 IFA), who had a $1 million signing bonus, hit 1-4 with a walk and a stolen base, while center fielder Rayner Arias (No. 27 CPL, 17, 2023 IFA), who had the Giants largest signing bonus ($2.8 million) since Lucius Fox, hit 2-4 with a walk. More of that, please!!!
But don’t forget about the recent signees that didn’t earn fat bonus checks. Giants Orange left fielder Angel Guzman (17, 2023 IFA) wants to make sure you know that, as he hit 3-5 with a pair of doubles. Guzman’s debut season is going swimmingly, as he’s 8-17 with 4 doubles already.
Speaking of hot starts from recently-signed players, shortstop Anthony Tandron (17, 2023 IFA) hit 2-4 with a double and a stolen base. He was already an intriguing signing, and that was before starting his career hitting 5-14 with more walks (3) than strikeouts (2). And hey, let’s keep it going with third baseman Dario Reynoso (18, 2023 IFA), who hit 1-3 with 2 walks.
As the score would indicate, there weren’t a lot of pitching performances to highlight. Giants Orange RHP Moises Gonzalez (20, 2021 IFA) pitched 2 no-hit innings, giving up a walk and striking out 4 batters. Good to see him have a nice game after he gave up 3 runs in 0.1 innings in his season debut, and only pitched in 3 games in his debut season last year.
RHP Ankeily Feliz (19, 2021 IFA), who struggled with command in his debut season last year, struck out the only 2 batters he faced for Giants Black, while RHP Ismael Mota (21, 2019 IFA) struck out 2 in a scoreless inning. It’s his 3rd season in the DSL, so he needs to show some good stuff this year.
RHP Carlos Rangel (19, 2021 IFA), who was used as a reliever in his 8 appearances last year, is moving to a starting role for the Giants Black team, and while he gave up 7 baserunners in 4 innings with just 2 strikeouts, he limited the damage to 2 runs and 1 earned run.
AAA Will Wilson (7)
AAA Luis Matos (3)
AA Brandon Martorano (1)
Low-A Matt Higgins (7)
ACL Guillermo Williamson, 2 (2)
Sacramento: vs. the Las Vegas Aviators, 6:45 p.m. PT
Richmond: vs. the Altoona Curve, 3:35 p.m. PT
Eugene: vs. the Tri-City Dust Devils, 6:30 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.
Video round up
Here you can find highlights from games prior to Thursday, with videos that came out too late to be included in previous MiLB round up articles.
Will Bednar struck out 5 over two innings of work in an ACL rehab outing vs the ACL Angels on Wednesday— SFGProspects (@SFGProspects) June 8, 2023
2 IP| 2 H| 1 R| 2 BB| 5 K pic.twitter.com/HM5MYMYpwO