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Minor League round up, 7/18: So many dingers!

Yesterday’s action on the Giants farm.

Tyler Fitzgerald swinging
INF Tyler Fitzgerald had his 11th homer for AAA Sacramento
Photo by David Durochik/Diamond Images via Getty Images

So much action for the San Francisco Giants Minor League Baseball affiliates on Tuesday, as all eight teams were in action. Let’s dive in!

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

All listed positions are the positions played in that game.

AAA Sacramento (40-50)

Sacramento River Cats lost to the Tacoma Rainiers (Mariners) 5-2
Box score

Not a very notable game for the team, but shortstop Tyler Fitzgerald (No. 18 CPL) certainly had a lovely game, hitting 2-4 with a home run.

Fitzgerald, who started the season at a blistering pace in AA and then AAA, has really cooled down lately, so nice to see him have such a good game. A good string of games, for that matter, as he has a 3-game hitting streak during which time he’s 5-12 with 2 homers and just 1 strikeout. That came after a 7-game stretch where he hit just 4-30 with 1 triple, 1 double, 0 walks, and 8 strikeouts.

The 2019 4th-round pick is in an interesting position. On the one hand, he’s a defensively-talented middle infielder who has also played third base and center field this year, and the Giants have Thairo Estrada on the Injured List, Brandon Crawford looking like he might join him, Brett Wisely (No. 33 CPL) and Casey Schmitt (No. 3 CPL) scuffling, and Isan Díaz not making a push. On the other hand, he has an .822 OPS and a 92 wRC+, isn’t on the 40-man roster, and shortstop Marco Luciano (No. 2 CPL) — a top prospect who is on the 40-man — just got promoted to Sacramento. We’ll see how it plays out.

Speaking of those roster decisions for the Giants, it wasn’t a great day for the players trying to prove their worth as depth pieces. Second baseman Díaz hit 0-4 with a strikeout while third baseman David Villar hit 0-3 with a strikeout. Neither player (Díaz has a .697 OPS and a 52 wRC+, Villar an .844 OPS and a 95 wRC+) is forcing their way into the team’s open infield plans. And if the Giants do have to place Crawford — or LaMonte Wade Jr. — on the IL, they could look to a different position entirely and try to fill their RHH outfield hole by adding center fielder Heliot Ramos (No. 12 CPL), but he, too, struggled, going 0-4 with a strikeout.

Update: the Giants just placed Crawford on the IL and called up Villar.

Ramos, who returned from the 60-day IL on Tuesday and was optioned, is just 1-12 with 1 walk and 5 strikeouts since the All-Star break. But he’s still 15-41 with 9 extra-base hits and just 10 strikeouts since returning to Sacramento post-injury, so he at least remains intriguing.

Really not much on the pitching front. RHP Miguel Yajure, who has struggled in his first season in the organization, struck out 8 batters in 4 innings, but walked 4 batters and gave up 3 runs. Sacramento’s trio of intriguing lefty relievers all struggled in their respective innings of work, with Erik Miller and Nick Swiney (No. 26 CPL) both allowing a run, while Chris Wright ceded a hit and 2 walks. But RHP Nick Avila struck out all 3 batters he faced, which was fun to see since he’s never been a strikeout artist (his peak was 9.85 per 9 innings during a short stint in High-A last year). He has a 3.80 ERA and a 5.56 FIP on the year, which is good enough to remain an interesting depth piece, but not good enough to make the Chicago White Sox regret returning him after the Rule 5 Draft.

AA Richmond (43-42)

Richmond Flying Squirrels beat the Akron RubberDucks (Guardians) 17-8
Box score

The Giants weren’t the only team in the system putting up wonky offensive numbers on Tuesday! The Flying Squirrels, playing in a pitcher’s environment, dropped 17 runs, and gave up a bunch, too!

Despite the offense, let’s start with the pitching. And let’s start with the starter, LHP John Michael Bertrand. It’s a new era for Bertrand, last year’s 10th-round pick, who recently rebranded with the addition of “Michael” to his official name, and made his AA debut on Tuesday.

Just making his AA debut signals an impressive season for the 6’3 southpaw, who pitched just 8 innings in the ACL in his debut season last year, and began this season in Low-A. Given that he turned 25 right before Spring Training, him moving fast was probably the hope for him, but still: a 10th-round pick getting 2 promotions by mid-July in their first full season is a big win.

As was his performance in his AA debut, as he pitched 5 strong innings, allowing just 5 hits, 1 walk, and 2 runs, with 6 strikeouts.

The strikeouts are particularly notable for Bertrand, who had an ERA in the 2s in both Low and High-A, but an FIP in the 4s, thanks to limited strikeouts — he had just 53 in 66.1 innings across those levels. It would be amazing if he can have an uptick in strikeouts considering how great he is at getting ground balls (59.1% rate in 49.1 Eugene innings) and limiting walks (just 15 in 71.1 innings across 3 levels).

It was a less good performance for a fellow recent promotee, as RHP Ben Madison followed Bertrand and made his 4th AA appearance but got rocked, giving up 4 runs in just 0.2 innings. Madison, who is my pick as the most likely player to be protected in the Rule 5 Draft this year, really struggled with control. He faced 8 batters and hit 1 of them while walking 4 of them.

RHPs Blake Rivera and José Cruz (No. 35 CPL), who both have nice ERAs but awful walk numbers, had games befitting that anecdote. Both players pitched no-hit, scoreless innings while walking the bases loaded. Rivera, who has spent the whole year in Richmond, has a 3.66 ERA but 31 walks in 32 innings. Cruz, added to the 40-man roster in the offseason and promoted to Richmond in June, has a 3.21 ERA with 14 walks in as many innings.

Now for the offense! So many great days, even though Richmond is no longer the star-studded roster that it was when the season began, back when Marco Luciano (No. 2 CPL), Luis Matos (No. 4 CPL), Patrick Bailey (No. 10 CPL), and Tyler Fitzgerald (No. 18 CPL) were all on it.

It’s hard to pick just one star, but if I had to I’m going with third baseman Jimmy Glowenke, who is quietly having a quality season. He hit 3-6 and finished a triple shy of the cycle.

Glowenke destroyed High-A pitchers after starting the year repeating the level, and has been struggling in Richmond, with a .607 OPS and a 69 wRC+ (nice, but not nice). But the process represents improvement: he had an 8.2% walk rate and 31.2% strikeout rate in High-A last year, but those numbers are 10.8% and 20.8% at a level up this year. With some improved luck — his .231 BABIP is 144th out of 157 Eastern League hitters with 100 plate appearances — his numbers could take off.

Second baseman Donovan Walton also had a spectacular game, hitting 3-5 with a home run and a walk.

Walton briefly appeared in the Majors for the Giants last year (much to the chagrin of Giants fans, who were upset that RHP prospect Prelander Berroa was sacrificed for Walton to hit .158/.179/.303), but now it seems the organization isn’t super high on him. He’s no longer on the 40-man roster and, when his season-opening IL stint ended following a rehab stint, he went to High-A, and is now in AA instead of AAA. Given how many infielders are populating Sacramento these days, I’m not sure that will change anytime soon.

Catcher Andy Thomas homered, and finished with 2 hits and 2 walks.

The overall numbers aren’t very good for Thomas, who was part of last year’s Curt Casali trade, as he has a .683 OPS and an 88 wRC+. But he has a 12.1% walk rate and has been steadily improving, with a .705 OPS in June and a .739 mark in July.

Also notable days for shortstop Shane Matheny, who homered and was hit by a pitch as he tries to get back to AAA following a midseason demotion, and designated hitter Carter Aldrete, first baseman Logan Wyatt, and left fielder Hayden Cantrelle, who all reached base 3 times.

High-A Eugene (42-43)

Eugene Emeralds beat the Hillsboro Hops (Diamondbacks) 13-1
Box score

More runs! Huzzah!!

Many good games, but none better than the one that first baseman Sean Roby had, as he hit 3-6 with 2 home runs and a double. That is what we in the industry refer to as a “good day.”

Roby will need a lot more good days, though. The Giants planned on having him repeat AA this year after he set the Richmond single-season home run record in 2022, while also striking out more than almost any hitter in the Minor Leagues. But he started 2023 injured, didn’t make his season debut until last month in the ACL, and is now slotted into High-A for the time being. Some rust is to be expected, but even taking that into account, the strikeouts remain worrisome this year. Roby had 2 more in this game, giving him 27 in 86 plate appearances between the ACL and Eugene.

Designated hitter Matt Higgins, an undrafted free agent last year who played in just his 3rd game since getting promoted, also shined. He hit 2-5 with a home run, a double, and a walk. That’s quite an introduction to the level!

On the whole, the Squirrels had 10 extra-base hits, including doubles by their top 2 position player prospects, center fielder Grant McCray (No. 6 CPL), who also drew 2 walks and stole a base, giving him a .746 OPS and a 100 wRC+, and shortstop Aeverson Arteaga (No. 7 CPL), who also drew a walk and was hit by a pitch, bumping his OPS to .683 and his WRC+ to 81.

A great day from left fielder Jared Dupere, who reached base 4 times, with 2 walks, a single, and a double. Dupere has an .815 OPS and a 115 wRC+ on the year, but the Giants are probably more discouraged by the 37.7% strikeout rate than encouraged by the raw numbers.

A delightful outing from RHP Nick Sinacola who pitched 5 scoreless innings, allowing just 3 baserunners while striking out 4. Sinacola only has a 5.05 ERA, but he has a 4.18 FIP with 11.1 strikeouts to just 3.0 walks per 9 innings, so a lot to like from his profile. This was a much-needed good game though, as he had been scuffling something fierce. After starting the year allowing just 2 earned runs in 21 innings over his first 6 appearances, Sinacola gave up 35 earned runs in 40 innings over his next 11 outings before this strong game. More of these, please!

Low-A San Jose (47-38)

San Jose Giants beat the Stockton Ports (A’s) 5-2
Box score

A very happy sight for the Baby Giants: a fantastic game from RHP Gerelmi Maldonado (No. 40 CPL). Maldonado has been one of the breakout prospects in the system in my eyes, despite the 4.79 ERA and 5.00 FIP. But he’s established himself as a true starting pitcher prospect with a high-90s fastball, while still being more than 5 months away from his 20th birthday.

Maldonado was putting it all together for a while, as his 4 starts from late-May to mid-June resulted in 16 innings, 6 hits, 2 walks, 2 runs, 1 earned run, and 22 strikeouts. Then he hit a wall, as the 4 outings that followed saw him pitch 11.1 innings with 17 hits, 10 walks, 21 runs, 14 earned runs, and 17 strikeouts. Bumps happen, especially for super young players!

But perhaps that bump is behind him. He was again dominant on Tuesday, pitching 5 scoreless innings while giving up just 2 singles, and striking out 6 batters. He’ll be well into my top 20 at season’s end.

RHP Melvin Adón earned the save with a strikeout in 2 perfect innings. Adón struggled with walks in AAA this year, his first full season since 2019, when he was one of the top arms in the system. The Giants dropped him to the lower levels to fix some stuff, and so far it’s working. After issuing 28 walks in 27.2 innings with Sacramento, he has just 4 walks in 18 innings in the ACL and Low-A.

A trio of offensive games to highlight. Catcher Zach Morgan reached base the most times, hitting 2-3 with a walk to bring his OPS to .705 and his wRC+ to 99.

Not great numbers, but last year’s 7th-round pick has as many walks as strikeouts on the year. Right fielder Tanner O’Tremba had the team’s only extra-base hit, going 1-3 with a double and a hit by pitch, bumping his OPS to .814 and his wRC+ to 126. Given that it’s the first full season for O’Tremba, and that he was a 15th-round pick last year, those numbers are darn fine. And the team’s best position player this year, shortstop Diego Velasquez (No. 41 CPL) had another fine day, hitting 2-4 and stealing a base. There’s so much to like about Velasquez, who is getting great reviews from scouts: he’s a switch-hitter who plays both middle infield positions; he has an .832 OPS and a 126 wRC+; he has a 10.2% walk rate and a 17.4% strikeout rate that ranks 6th-best out of the 35 Giants Minor Leaguers with at least 200 plate appearances; and he’s 19.

ACL Orange (12-19)

ACL Giants Orange lost to the ACL Rockies 7-4 (7 innings)
Box score

A pair of exciting rehab assignments in this game, from Low-A players who are getting their season started. On offense it was second baseman Abdiel Layer, who made his season debut, and hit 1-3. That hit? A home run! What a way to start the year.

Layer, a 24-year old switch-hitter who plays all over the infield, didn’t have a great 2022, but showed dramatic improvements while repeating the level, and finished with a .778 OPS and a 94 wRC+. Hopefully he’s back in San Jose soon.

On the pitching front it was RHP Mikell Manzano, who made his 2nd rehab outing after missing the first few months of the season. Manzano had a blistering 81 strikeouts to 17 walks in 55 innings in the ACL last year, before finishing off the season with 2 outings in San Jose. The 20 year old has a very exciting arm, and struck out 2 batters in a clean inning in this one.

What followed was one of the poorer performances from a player I’m quite high on, RHP Alix Hernandez (19 years, 2022 IFA). Hernandez, who is in his debut season and celebrated his birthday on Sunday, gave up 6 baserunners and 5 runs in 4.2 innings, with just 3 strikeouts. Forget the 5.10 ERA and 5.79 FIP. Hernandez is one of the youngest players in the ACL, and has 45 strikeouts to 12 walks in 30 innings in his debut season. Among 56 Complex League pitchers with 20 innings thrown this year, Hernandez’s 13.5 strikeouts per 9 innings ranks 3rd, while his 3.6 walks per 9 are 27th. An awesome debut season.

Not much else on the offensive front. Shortstop Ramon Peralta (19 years, 2021 IFA) and first baseman Derwin Laya (19 years, 2021 IFA) reached base twice and swiped a bag. It’s been a damn good debut stateside season for Peralta, who now has an .882 OPS and a 124 wRC+. He’s drawn 16 walks and been hit 5 times in 113 plate appearances.

ACL Black (18-13)

ACL Giants Black beat the ACL Padres 11-6
Box score

Always nice when exciting players who are struggling have a nice day. That was the case for designated hitter Ryan Reckley (No. 31 CPL, 18 years, 2022 IFA). It hasn’t been the career that anyone hoped for when the Giants gave the switch-hitting shortstop a $2.2 million signing bonus a year ago. After injuries limited him to a subpar 11 games in the DSL last year, Reckley started 2023 in the ACL and has struggled quite a bit, with a .572 OPS and a 58 wRC+. The batting average (.172), slugging percentage (.247), and strikeout rate (38.6%) are all concerning, though the walk rate (17.5%) is delightful, and leads Giants Complex League hitters (minimum: 100 plate appearances).

Tuesday was a step in the right direction. Sure, Reckley only hit 1-4 and struck out twice, but he smashed a home run and drew a walk. A reminder that he’s just 160 plate appearances into his career, 18 years old, and plays a premier position. Don’t write his prospect obituary, no matter what Fangraphs says.

Also hitting 1-4 with a homer and a walk was third baseman Elian Rayo (20 years, 2019 IFA). Rayo’s numbers aren’t bad, but not the year he’s looking for, either. After having a .778 OPS and a 116 wRC+ last year, the Giants asked Rayo to repeat the level, presumably due to his 34.9% strikeout rate. This year he has an .844 OPS, a 101 wRC+, and a 33.6% strikeout rate.

Shortstop Damon Dues (rehabbing from High-A), right fielder Jediael Maduro (19 years, 2021 IFA), and second baseman Gustavo Cardozo (19 years, 2021 IFA) all reached base 3 times.

DSL Orange (16-14)

DSL Giants Orange beat the DSL Twins 20-11
Box score

20 runs, huh? That seems like a lot. I’m a touch daunted trying to write about this one.

But there’s a very clear story: center fielder Lisbel Diaz (17/18 years, 2023 IFA). Before we mention his story, let’s talk about a pair of inconsequential things. First, I listed his age as 17/18 not because I’m confused, but because his birthday is today. He turned 18 today, but I’m talking about yesterday’s game, when he was 17. Happy birthday, Lisbel. Second, Diaz was a late addition to the signing class, as he wasn’t reported until a week or two ago, and didn’t officially sign until Monday. I was under the impression that players signed once the season starts are not allowed to play in the DSL but I am clearly wrong. So I don’t know.

Anyway, the story is that Diaz, a 6’2 right-handed hitter, made his professional debut on Tuesday. I’m not sure professional debuts can go better. He hit 3-4, was hit by a pitch, drew a walk, and smashed 2 home runs. Wow. Welcome to professional baseball, Lisbel!

That’s the story of the day, but a few other great games to quickly highlight. Left fielder Miguel Blanco (17 years, 2023 IFA) hit 3-6 with a home run and a stolen base, bringing his season numbers to a .793 OPS and a 110 wRC+, with just an 11% strikeout rate (and an 11% walk rate!). Hell of a debut.

Designated hitter Oswaldo Ladera (20 years, 2019 IFA) homered, singled, and was hit by 2 pitches, giving him a .774 OPS and a 120 wRC+. It’s his 3rd year at the level, so good to see him starting to break out.

Third baseman Dario Reynoso (18 years, 2023 IFA) continues to draw walks at a hilarious pace, with 3 of them on Tuesday. He now has 28 in 118 plate appearances which is wild, to go with a .955 OPS and a 156 wRC+. I’d say that’s a mighty fine debut season.

Not very good pitching and, funnily enough, the pitchers who were good did it in an unconventional way, by not missing bats. RHP Johan Rodriguez (20 years, 2023 IFA) made his 7th career appearance and his 1st start, and gave up just 1 hit in 3 scoreless innings, but with just 1 strikeout. A great game, but he has just 5 strikeouts in 11.1 innings in his debut season, with a 7.15 ERA. And then it was RHP Angel Sanchez (20 years, 2021 IFA), who pitched 1.1 scoreless innings but didn’t have a strikeout. He has a 3.46 ERA but a 6.33 FIP, due to 11 walks to 10 strikeouts in 13 innings.

DSL Black (17-13)

DSL Giants Black lost to the DSL Guardians Red 7-4 (8 innings)

No super standout days, but home runs from shortstop Keiberg Camacaro (16 years, 2023 IFA) and right fielder Moises De La Rosa (18 years, 2022 IFA). Exciting seasons for each player. De La Rosa is repeating the level and shining, with a .982 OPS and a 161 wRC+. He’s getting it done in every phase, with great contact (.354 average), decent power (.162 ISO), and good plate discipline (12.5% walk rate, 17.5% strikeout rate). Awesome stuff all around. Camacaro, who was also hit by a pitch, has more modest numbers, with a .725 OPS and a 92 wRC+. But he’s a 16-year old shortstop, so....

Also a good game for third baseman Dennys Riera (18 years, 2022 IFA), who hit 2-4 with a double. Riera, who was one of the more highly-touted prospects in the Giants 2022 signing class, is still trying to find his groove, with a .682 OPS and a 79 wRC+. But he has a 15.2% strikeout rate, which is awesome.

RHP Jose Bello (18 years, 2023 IFA) had the most notable pitching day, even though it wasn’t very good. He gave up 7 baserunners in 4 innings, with 3 runs and 2 earned runs, but he also struck out 5 batters. Bello has a 4.09 ERA in his debut season, but 26 strikeouts to 6 walks in 22 innings (which results in a 2.69 FIP) is highly impressive for a debuting player who turned 18 less than 2 months ago.

Home runs

AAA Tyler Fitzgerald (11 in AAA, 13 total)
AA Andy Thomas (9)
AA Shane Matheny (4 in AA, 7 total)
AA Jimmy Glowenke (3 in AA, 6 total)
AA Donovan Walton (1)
High-A Sean Roby, 2 (2 in High-A, 6 total)
High-A Matt Higgins (1 in High-A, 10 total)
ACL Elian Rayo (6)
ACL Ryan Reckley (2)
ACL Abdiel Layer (1)
DSL Keiberg Camacaro (3)
DSL Lisbel Diaz, 2 (2)
DSL Moises De La Rosa (2)
DSL Miguel Blanco (2)
DSL Oswaldo Ladera (1)

Wednesday schedule

Sacramento: vs. the Tacoma Rainiers, 12:05 p.m. PT
Richmond: @ the Akron RubberDucks, 3:35 p.m. PT
Eugene: @ Hillsboro Hops, 7:05 p.m. PT
San Jose: vs. the Stockton Ports, 1:00 p.m. PT

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