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Minor League round up, 7/19: Aeverson Arteaga is catching fire

Yesterday’s action on the Giants farm.

Aeverson Arteaga in the batter’s box
SS Aeverson Arteaga homered and doubled for High-A Eugene
Shelly Valenzuela - San Jose Giants

The San Francisco Giants ACL and DSL teams had Wednesday off, which is good because I spent way too much time talking about their four A-ball affiliates. Let’s dive in.

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

All listed positions are the positions played in that game.


With the roster spot opened up by promoting shortstop Marco Luciano (No. 2 CPL), AA Richmond was able to reinstate outfielder Ismael Munguia from the 7-day Injured List. Munguia, who gained a lot of prospect hype with a great 2021 but missed all of 2022 due to injury, was off to a great start this year before he hit the IL. He has a .797 OPS and a 120 wRC+ with Richmond, but hasn’t played for the Flying Squirrels in over 2 months. He played 9 games in the Complex League on a rehab assignment.

AAA Sacramento (40-51)

Sacramento River Cats lost to the Tacoma Rainiers (Mariners) 6-4
Box score

All eyes were on shortstop Marco Luciano (No. 2 CPL) in this game, as he was making his AAA debut. Not only was he making his AAA debut, but it came on the same day that the Giants placed Brandon Crawford on the 10-day IL.

I would still bet against Luciano making his MLB debut this year, because there are a lot of factors going against him. The Giants have been open that he’s historically been a slow starter at new levels (he posted a 59 wRC+ in 36 games after a midseason promotion to High-A in 2021), so it’s already an uphill climb to get to the door and find the knocker. The Giants have yet to play him a single inning at any defensive position other than shortstop in his career, and while I expect that to change eventually, it does mean that his only immediate path to the bigs is to be an everyday shortstop/designated hitter (I don’t envision the Giants calling up arguably their top prospect to be a twice-a-week guy). And neither Crawford nor Thairo Estrada are expected to be sidelined for extensive periods.

But still. When someone makes a AAA debut, eyes are on him. And when someone who has lived at the top of the organization’s prospect list, and in the top-50 of MLB prospect lists for the last half decade makes their AAA debut, while being on the 40-man roster, while playing a position where the team’s two best players are on the IL and the two dudes filling in are struggling, eyes are really on him. So you can expect me to give you a Luciano update in every MiLB round up for a while now.

He recorded his first AAA hit in this game on an infield single, finishing 1-4 with a strikeout.

I watched the game and thought Luciano looked very comfortable. He controlled the counts well, didn’t chase, had a hard-hit out, and looked very fluid at shortstop. Going 0-4 with 4 strikeouts and 5 errors wouldn’t have changed Luciano’s prospect shine, but it sure was fun seeing him look comfortable out there.

Which was nice because there wasn’t much of note in this game. No player reached base twice for the River Cats. Center fielder Tyler Fitzgerald (No. 18 CPL), second baseman Isan Díaz, and first baseman Armando Alvarez all doubled. Fitzgerald will probably be in the outfield a bit now, with Luciano around. Right fielder Heliot Ramos (No. 12 CPL) was the only player to not reach base, as he hit 0-3. Ramos is in a 4-game scuffle after lighting the world on fire for a few weeks, and I’m sure the Giants are taking note of every good and bad thing he does, given their current injury status.

The start went to RHP Mason Black (No. 11 CPL), who made his 2nd start following a very exciting (and very well-deserved) promotion. Black’s 1st game was a rude introduction to the automatic strike zone and the more keen-eyed AAA hitters, as he walked 4 batters in 5 innings but didn’t give up a run. This game was a rude introduction to the ridiculous offensive environment of the Pacific Coast League and the MLB-caliber hitters that populate it, as he gave up homers in the 1st and 4th innings. Still, Black’s line was encouraging given his inexperience ... not only was it just the 2nd AAA game for the 2021 3rd-round pick, but he’s still 3 or 4 starts away from hitting the 200-inning mark for his career. Black has only pitched 52 more innings in his Minor League career than Logan Webb has this season.

Anyway, he gave up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs in 5 innings, while striking out 6 batters. Like nearly every River Cats pitcher, Black will need to work on walks, as he’s issued 8 in his 10 innings. But given that walks haven’t been an issue for Black in his career — he had 3.00 per 9 innings in AA this year, and 2.89 across Low and High-A last year — I’d be less concerned with that, and more excited about the fact that he’s given up just 8 hits and struck out 14 batters.

AA Richmond (43-43)

Richmond Flying Squirrels lost to the Akron RubberDucks (Guardians) 2-1
Box score

A very similar game for Richmond as for Sacramento. Unexciting offense, with no player reaching base multiple times. The lone run came on a big fly from designated hitter Donovan Walton, who homered for the 2nd consecutive game.

The Giants don’t seem in any rush to make Walton part of their plans after trying him out in the Majors last year, playing him quite a bit in AAA, and designating him for assignment, just to re-sign him to a Minor League contract. He started the year injured, but began a rehab assignment (which has long since ended) in early June. He played 10 games in the ACL, 12 games in High-A, and has now spent 5 games in AA. Getting him back to Sacramento clearly isn’t a priority, which suggests he’s not viewed as part of the depth plan (which isn’t surprising given the Giants plentiful, if confusing and struggling, middle infield situation).

First baseman Logan Wyatt hit 1-3 with a double, as he continues to play pretty well since a promotion. Wyatt presents a very interesting hitting package: in 21 games since moving to Richmond, he has a .795 OPS, a 115 wRC+, and delightful walk (12.2%) and strikeout (17.6%) rates. He’s been an on-base machine, and is showing a great power revelation: after entering the year with just 5 home runs and 19 doubles in 615 career plate appearances across rookie ball, Low-A, and High-A, Wyatt has bopped 11 home runs and 12 doubles in 303 plate appearances in High-A and AA, environments that have been stumping Giants hitter prospects.

All of that is exciting, and enough to make someone slap the “late development” tag on the 25-year old Wyatt, who was a 2nd-round pick in 2019, Farhan Zaidi’s first draft with the team (especially since he’s struggled with injuries). But there is the matter of position. Save for a 5-game stint in left field in 2021, Wyatt has only ever played first base. Not only does that limit his versatility, but it puts pressure on him to be a really good hitter. We’ll see what happens.

On the mound was RHP Ryan Murphy (No. 19 CPL), who had a very encouraging start. It’s been a bummer of a year (2 years, really, which has included injuries) for Murphy after a surprisingly-excellent 2021. But this game was a nice step forwards, as he struck out 6 batters in 4 innings, allowing 4 baserunners, 2 runs, and 1 earned run. With a 4.96 ERA, a 5.04 FIP, and a shade under 9 strikeouts per 9 innings, Murphy still has work to do to regain the prospect status he had 2 years ago, but he’s trending upwards.

Murphy, a 5th-round pick in 2020 (who should probably not be viewed as a 5th-round pick, seeing as how he got just a $25,000 signing bonus to facilitate the signing of Kyle Harrison) was a very good strikeout pitcher in 2021 and is slowly getting that back. He had a good strikeout game in his season debut, but his next 12 games saw him K just 34 batters in 43.2 innings. In 6 games since, Murphy has 26 strikeouts in 19.2 innings.

A lovely outing from LHP Juan Sanchez, who retired all 4 batters he faced, with 2 strikeouts. He has a 2.03 ERA and a 3.00 FIP on the year.

High-A Eugene (43-43)

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

No, you’re not reading that incorrectly. The Emeralds beat the Hops 13-1 for the 2nd day in a row. How bizarre!

Let’s start with the pitching, because I don’t want it to get buried under the cascade of home runs. It was a sensational start for a prospect having a sensational season, as RHP Hayden Birdsong (No. 36 CPL) pitched 5 brilliant innings. Birdsong took a perfect game into the 5th inning, and only gave up 1 baserunner on the day, although that baserunner hit a home run. He struck out 7 of the 16 batters he faced.

A 6th-round pick a year ago, Birdsong immediately impressed the organization during his short debut last year and his offseason/Spring Training work. And it’s translated into on-field brilliance. He was excellent in Low-A, and has looked right at home since getting promoted.

I’m not always a fan of “if you remove these bad games, look how good this player is” arguments, but I think they hold some value with prospects. At this stage we’re more invested in how good a player is capable of being, rather than how consistent they are. Plus, bad games happen at every level, and they can irrationally skew a small sample size. So let’s remove Birdsong’s 2nd outing with Eugene, in which he got rocked for 8 runs in 3 innings. Now we’re left with 5 starts, and the following line: 24 innings, 10 hits, 5 walks, 4 runs, 3 earned runs, and 34 strikeouts.

We see you, Hayden!!

A quartet of relievers had scoreless innings. RHP Sam Delaplane gave up 2 hits but had 2 strikeouts in his 4th game with Eugene. He’s up to 20 innings pitched this year, after just 3.2 last year, and none in 2021 or 2020. Great to see.

LHP Matt Mikulski had a very fitting outing for his season, giving up 2 walks and a hit batter, but also striking out the side. 47 strikeouts in 39 innings with smooth mechanics from the left side remind you why the Giants drafted Mikulski in the 2nd round in 2021. But 39 walks, 10 hit batters, and 40 runs in those 39 innings are a harsh reminder as to why he fell off of every prospect list in near-record time.

OK, on to the offense. It was so fun, and blistering, and it started exactly as such. The first 3 batters reached base safely, leaving the bases loaded for designated hitter Sean Roby, who brought them all in with a 4-run homer.

Roby, who added a single and a walk and, crucially, didn’t strike out, hit 2 homers the day before, so he’s on fire as he seeks to earn a spot in AA, where he was slated to start (and repeat) the year before an injury knocked off his first few months. In his last 4 games, he’s 7-19 with 3 homers, 1 double, 1 walk, and just 3 strikeouts. He’s one of the best power hitters in the system, and could be a real weapon if he can ever consistently cut back on the Ks.

The next batter reached safely, bringing up shortstop Aeverson Arteaga (No. 7 CPL), who followed in Roby’s footsteps and blasted a homer.

It was a spectacular day for Arteaga, who has spent the year firmly in the “these tools are exciting enough to warrant the prospect status, but at some point we need to actually see results” bucket. He added a double and a walk in the game, boosting his OPS to .701 and his wRC+ to 85, and running his 4-game hot streak to 6-16 with 2 home runs, 3 doubles, 3 walks, and 6 strikeouts.

I remain openly higher on Arteaga than most. Those numbers aren’t eye-popping, but he has good power — his .181 ISO is 12th out of 44 Giants hitters with at least 150 plate appearances this year, and comfortably above average in the Northwest League. His strikeout rate isn’t good (27.0%), but it isn’t alarming, either. His batting average (.219) points to some concerns that scouts have with his swing, but his .276 BABIP is 56th out of 61 hitters in the league with at least 150 plate appearances so, given his speed, there’s likely a fair element of poor luck impacting his line.

And that’s before mentioning the stuff that props those numbers up: Arteaga is a wildly-talented defensive shortstop who won’t turn 21 until mid-March.

At this point the Emeralds had sent 6 batters to the plate and scored 6 runs. They weren’t done in the inning, either, as second baseman Ghordy Santos would eventually add a solo home run to cap off a magical 1st.

Santos, who hit 1-4 on the day, is up to a .782 OPS and a 107 wRC+ after an ice cold start to the year. In April and May he hit 17-84 with 3 home runs, 4 doubles, 17 walks, and 43 strikeouts. In June and July he’s hit 25-93 with 4 home runs, 3 triples, 5 doubles, 10 walks, and 33 strikeouts. Nice progress in his 2nd year at the level.

That was enough to give the Emeralds a convincing lead, but they’d add on later. Third baseman Brett Auerbach (No. 38 CPL), having one of the more disappointing years in the system, later homered, giving him a .690 OPS and an 84 wRC+ as he seeks to regain his form following a midseason demotion.

Center fielder Grant McCray (No. 7 CPL) and left fielder Jared Dupere, having nearly identical seasons, had nearly identical days, hitting 1-3 with 2 walks. Both players are very good athletes with good (or in McCray’s case, elite) defensive potential, lots of power, and a ton of strikeouts. McCray, who didn’t strike out in this game, is up to a .749 OPS and a 100 wRC+, with a 29.4% strikeout rate. Dupere, who struck out and stole a base, is a little more extreme for better and for worse, with an .818 OPS, a 116 wRC+, and a 37.4% strikeout rate.

One bad thing, though: catcher Adrian Sugastey (No. 22 CPL) left the game after getting hit by a pitch. Hopefully he’s OK.

Low-A San Jose (48-38)

San Jose Giants beat the Stockton Ports (A’s) 6-3
Box score

A standout game from first baseman Andrew Kachel, who continues to impress in his full season debut. Kachel hit 2-3 with both a home run and a double in the game, before being lifted, hopefully not due to injury.

Kachel isn’t lighting the world on fire, but he has an .808 OPS and a 118 wRC+, with good control of the zone. Seeing as how he was a 16th-round pick last year who plays first, second, and third base, that qualifies as a successful season in my book.

Speaking of successful seasons, how long do you think we have to wait for second baseman Diego Velasquez (No. 41 CPL) to get promoted? He had another delightful day, hitting 2-4 with a double. Velasquez is up to an .837 OPS and a 127 wRC+, with a double-digit-walk rate (10.1%) and a strikeout rate (17.2%) that ranks 5th out of the 35 Giants prospects with at least 200 plate appearances.

He’s also 19, a switch-hitter, plays both sides of second base, is earning rave reviews from scouts, and has a 7-game hitting streak during which time he’s 13-29 with 1 home run, 1 triple, 4 doubles, 1 walk, and just 3 strikeouts. Just to add some sugar on top, he’s stolen 14 bases in 16 attempts.


Designated hitter Anthony Rodriguez, who has been struggling lately, mirrored Velasquez’s day by hitting 2-4 with a double, while right fielder Tanner O’Tremba hit a home run and drew a walk.

A 15th-round pick in 2022, O’Tremba has an .827 OPS and a 129 wRC+, so he’s having a delightful season as well. He also has 12 stolen bases in 13 attempts! The downside for O’Tremba is that, despite the nice stolen bases, he doesn’t seem to have enough athleticism to provide much defensive value, so he’ll really have to keep hitting. While “center fielder” remains a listed position on his Baseball-Reference page, the Giants have used him exclusively in left field, right field, and at first base.

Nice to see a good outing from RHP Manuel Mercedes, who continues to have a bizarre season. He gave up 5 baserunners in 5 scoreless innings with 4 strikeouts, and you can’t complain about that. Mercedes has a 3.18 ERA (delightful), has not given up a home run (incredible), has a 63.2% ground ball rate (obscene), and has 6.2 strikeouts per 9 innings (uh-oh).

The Giants have proven to have great success with sinker-ballers who get groundouts ... among MLB pitchers with at least 90 innings this year, Logan Webb is 1st in ground ball rate, while Alex Cobb is 3rd. But both Webb and Cobb are hovering around a strikeout per inning, and Mercedes has work to do to get there. Among 559 Minor League pitchers with at least 50 innings thrown this year, Mercedes ranks 2nd in ground ball percentage, which is amazing. He also ranks 536th in strikeouts per 9.

RHP Luis Moreno struck out 5 batters in 2 innings, while giving up a hit, a walk, and a run. He has a 4.01 ERA and a 4.36 FIP this year, with 10.4 strikeouts and 3.2 walks per 9 innings.

Home runs

AA Donovan Walton (2)
High-A Aeverson Arteaga (11)
High-A Ghordy Santos (7)
High-A Sean Roby (3 in High-A, 7 total)
High-A Brett Auerbach (3 in High-A, 4 total)
Low-A Tanner O’Tremba (5)
Low-A Andrew Kachel (4)

Thursday schedule

Sacramento: vs. the Tacoma Rainiers, 6:45 p.m. PT
Richmond: @ the Akron RubberDucks, 3:35 p.m. PT
Eugene: @ the Hillsboro Hops, 7:05 p.m. PT
San Jose: vs. the Stockton Ports, 6:05 p.m. PT

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