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Minor League round up, 7/20: Heliot Ramos keeps knocking

Yesterday’s action on the Giants farm.

Heliot Ramos in the batter’s box
RF Heliot Ramos finished a homer shy of the cycle for AAA Sacramento
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

All eight San Francisco Giants Minor League Baseball affiliates were in action on Thursday, so let’s dive right in to a whole bunch of games.

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

All listed positions are the positions played in that game.

AAA Sacramento (41-51)

Sacramento River Cats beat the Tacoma Rainiers (Mariners) 8-5
Box score

A win! A win! Y’all know I don’t care very much about wins and losses in the Minors — it’s about developing players, not winning games — but they’re still nice. Sacramento was in dire need of a win after a 7-game losing streak, and finally stopped the bleeding.

After a few rough days had splashed drops of water on his flaming hot hitting streak, right fielder Heliot Ramos (No. 12 CPL) returned with a vengeance in this one, hitting 3-4 and finishing a home run shy of the cycle. Have a day!

Ramos was injured in early May, started a Low-A rehab stint in late-June, and returned to Sacramento in early July. Since that AAA return, the 23 year old is 18-48 with 4 homers, 2 triples, and 5 doubles. The only thing he hasn’t done well is draw walks (he has just 1), but since he’s suppressing strikeouts (he has 11), that doesn’t feel too meaningful or worrisome.

Is Ramos finally putting it all together? And, whether the answer to that is yes or no, how long will the Giants need to see him hit like this before they give him another shot in San Francisco? The optimistic point is obvious: the numbers are great. The pessimistic view point is pretty clear though: a lot of those hits (such as the two videos above) are still being pounded into the ground. Either way, the hot streak has erased his slow start to the year, as he now has a .923 OPS and a 112 wRC+, and he’s still pretty darn young.

Another hot player trying to earn his shot in San Francisco is third baseman Tyler Fitzgerald (No. 18 CPL) who had an absolutely delightful day, hitting 3-4 with a pair of doubles and a walk.

Fitzgerald was scuffling for a little while but has been on fire this past week, with a 5-game hitting streak. During those 5 games, Fitzgerald is a scorching 9-20 with 2 home runs, 3 doubles, 1 walk, and just 3 strikeouts. That’s brought his season numbers up to an .844 OPS and a 98 wRC+ as he seeks to earn a tryout as the MLB team’s next depth option, since the Giants have been struggling to find infield production as they deal with injuries.

He’ll have to prove his worth at third, second, and in the outfield, because he’s been even further moved off shortstop thanks to the arrival of Marco Luciano (No. 2 CPL), who hit 1-5 in his 2nd game with the River Cats.

I’ve made it this far in the game without even talking about the home runs! Center fielder Bryce Johnson (No. 43 CPL) only hit 1-5, but his hit cleared the fence and was the first pitch that the River Cats saw. That’s always fun!

Johnson continues to have his best offensive season (.946 OPS, 126 wRC+, with the latter mark matching his Low-A number in 2017 for career-high), which is keeping him on the 40-man roster as a viable depth piece given his excellent speed and defense. The power has been a revelation this year: his .227 ISO is more than .100 points higher than at any stop in his career, save for the .147 mark he put up in Sacramento in 2021. If he can keep that goodness.

Also homering was second baseman Isan Díaz, who came off the bench to hit a 3-run blast in his only plate appearance. Talk about efficiency!

Díaz has not exactly been stating his case to return to the Majors or even stay on the 40-man roster, but he does have a bit of pop, with 6 home runs in just 86 plate appearances.

A highly-meh start from RHP Sean Hjelle (No. 30 CPL), who allowed 6 baserunners, 4 runs, and 3 earned runs in 5 innings, with just 2 strikeouts. It’s really hard to see what Hjelle’s role on the Giants is, seeing as how he’s clearly behind RHPs Keaton Winn (No. 16 CPL) and Tristan Beck (No. 24 CPL) on the MLB pecking order ... and both of those players are currently optioned. With a 5.63 ERA and FIP, and just 7.1 Ks per 9 innings, Hjelle isn’t really moving the needle in any direction other than the trade deadline.

But a great relief appearance from LHP Erik Miller, who struck out 2 in a perfect inning. Miller is struggling with walks in a huge way — he has 25 in 30.1 AAA innings this year — so good to see him keep free runners off the board. This was his 3rd straight game without a walk so .... progress? Hopefully.

And finally, an update on one of the funnier stats in the Giant system this year: despite giving up a run in an inning of work, RHP Nick Avila picked up the win, improving to 12-0 on the year. Avila entered the year with just 9 wins in his 3 Minor League seasons, and now has 12 alone this year (without a loss!) despite a 3.91 ERA, a 5.47 FIP, and more than 5 walks per 9 innings. Pitcher wins stay silly!

AA Richmond (44-43)

Richmond Flying Squirrels beat the Akron RubberDucks (Guardians) 3-2 (5 innings)
Box score

Weather limited this game to just 5 innings, but that was still plenty enough time for designated hitter Wade Meckler (No. 42 CPL) to reach base 3 times, as he hit 2-2 with a walk. Because that’s what he does.

Meckler had been scuffling a little bit lately, which is the first time in his (admittedly very short) career that we can say that. Among the 1,358 Minor League hitters with at least 150 plate appearances this year, Meckler’s .393 batting average across High-A and AA is No. 1 with a gold star, so it was weird to see him have a 5-game patch entering the break in which he hit just 1-14, with a game where he went 0-4 with 4 strikeouts.

But he’s been back to his usual antics since the break, stringing together a 5-game hitting streak in which he’s hit 7-20 with 2 walks and just 3 strikeouts, albeit with no extra-base hits. An 8th-round pick last year, Meckler now has 22 multi-hit games in 52 appearances this year, which is obscene. He also has a .907 OPS and a 155 wRC+, with a 12.9% strikeout rate that ranks 49th out of those aforementioned 1,358 hitters, despite having fewer than 350 career plate appearances.

Also a lovely day at the plate for second baseman Simon Whiteman, who reached base in both of his plate appearances and stole 2 bases. Not a good year for him, as he has a .584 OPS and a 65 wRC+, but it is significantly better than last year.

Outfielder Vaun Brown (No. 5 CPL) got the day off. He’s been struggling lately, especially in the K department, and in his last 7 games is 4-28 with 1 walk and 16 strikeouts.

Nice to see some strikeouts from RHP Carson Seymour (No. 28 CPL), who whiffed 7 batters in 4.2 innings, albeit with 4 hits, 3 walks, and 2 runs allowed.

Seymour was a nice strikeout artist last year, having 11.4 Ks per 9 innings with the Mets High-A affiliate and then 13.2 in Eugene after the Giants acquired him in the J.D. Davis trade. They’ve been notably absent this year, but Seymour is starting to fix that ... after having just 36 strikeouts in 57.2 innings through the end of June, he’s struck out 23 batters in 16 July innings. Very nice to see.

High-A Eugene (43-41)

Eugene Emeralds lost to the Hillsboro Hops (Diamondbacks) 5-1
Box score

The Emeralds sadly could not make it 3 straight games of winning 13-1. Not even close, really.

Thursday was the turn in the rotation for LHP Reggie Crawford (No. 8 CPL), which is always very exciting. It was his 2nd game since getting promoted, and it went better than his 1st. Crawford continues to show off how raw he is (he’s thrown just 13 innings professionally), as he gave up a hit and a walk in his inning of work, and now has 7 walks (plus a hit batter) in those 13 innings. But he also continues to show off a dynamic arm that earned him a 1st-round draft pick even while recovering from Tommy John, as he struck out 2 batters in a scoreless frame, and has a blistering 21 Ks in those 13 innings.

Seeing as how Crawford is seemingly going to be limited to 1-2 inning outings and only very occasional DH appearances this year, I can already slot him at or near the top of my imaginary “prospects I’m excited to watch in 2024” list. He’s yet to appear as a hitter since getting promoted, and hasn’t hit in well over a month. I would assume this is a combination of the Giants being extra careful with his health, and strongly prioritizing him as a pitcher.

Speaking of promotions, LHP Jack Choate pitched in his 5th game since getting moved to Eugene. It was his worst game from a run-suppression standpoint, as he allowed 4 runs in just 4.1 innings (although only 1 run was earned [although 1 of the 3 errors leading to the unearned runs was committed by him]). But he did strike out 5 batters, and continues to put up lovely numbers everywhere. A 9th-round pick last year, Choate has flown a little under the radar while other late-round picks from the draft, like RHP Hayden Birdsong (No. 36 CPL) and OF Wade Meckler (No. 42 CPL) have earned more press. But Choate has a 2.25 ERA and a 3.04 FIP across 2 levels, with 3.2 walks per 9 innings (4th among 24 Giants pitchers with at least 50 innings) and 11.5 strikeouts per 9 (6th). He’s also not one of the older players they drafted last year, as he celebrated his 22nd birthday this season.

A nice day for left fielder Matt Higgins, who hit 2-3 with a double and a walk. An undrafted free agent a year ago, Higgins has fit brilliantly into Eugene since a recent promotion. The recently-turned 24 year old has only played in 4 High-A games, but is 4-15 with 1 home run, 2 doubles, 3 walks, and 0 strikeouts. Nice.

First baseman Sean Roby hit 1-4 with a double, and I’d assume we’ll see him in Richmond very soon, where he would have started the season were it not for an injury. After shaking off rust in the ACL to start his year, Roby is 8-27 with 5 extra-base hits and just 4 strikeouts in Eugene. Time to see if that strikeout suppression can play at Richmond, where it emphatically did not a year ago.

A nice game for center fielder Grant McCray (No. 6 CPL) who hit 1-3 with a walk and an outfield assist. He continues to have a season that warrants both the pros and cons of his prospect status.

Low-A San Jose (48-39)

San Jose Giants lost to the Stockton Ports (A’s) 5-4 (10 innings)
Box score

A very nice pitching performance from RHP Dylan Cumming, who threw 5 scoreless innings, albeit with 7 baserunners and just 3 strikeouts. A 24-year old undrafted free agent who debuted this year, Cumming has been stretched out lately, making 2 consecutive starts after coming out of the bullpen in his first 23 games. And he’s been dynamic in July, with a gorgeous line: 15.1 innings, 12 hits, 4 walks, 0 runs, 11 strikeouts. That’s given him a 2.26 ERA in his first pro season, though the lack of strikeouts means his FIP is just 4.44.

RHP Tyler Vogel struck out 3 in 2 scoreless innings as he tries to get back on track — he has a 4.98 ERA and a 6.13 FIP. And speaking of getting back on track, RHP Melvin Adón got the loss after allowing the Manfred Man to score, but that’s an unearned run, and he allowed just 1 baserunner in an inning of work, with a strikeout. After giving up 28 walks in 27.2 innings with AAA Sacramento, Adón was sent to the ACL and Low-A to work on command and has responded well, issuing just 4 walks in 19 innings across the 2 levels.

Second baseman Jose Ramos had the most notable day, hitting 3-4 and stealing a base. Ramos started the year very hot, but then went ice cold, bottoming out in June when he had just a .439 OPS. He’s been putting together better at-bats lately, and currently has a 6-game hitting streak, going 10-23 with 1 double, 1 walk, and just 4 strikeouts during that time. He also has 22 stolen bases in 25 attempts this year. And he’s just 20.

Catcher Zach Morgan doubled and walked for the team’s only extra-base hit, while designated hitter Tanner O’Tremba reached base in both of his plate appearances and stole a base before being replaced.

Left fielder Alexander Suarez hit 0-4 with a strikeout hat trick, but drew a walk and had 2 outfield assists. Designated hitter Justin Bench, who replaced O’Tremba, hit 1-2 with a walk and a stolen base, and has looked very at home in 6 games since getting promoted: he’s 8-18 with 4 walks and just 3 strikeouts.

ACL Orange (13-19)

ACL Giants Orange beat the ACL Angels 9-4
Box score

A big game from center fielder Estanlin Cassiani (20 years, 2019 IFA), who hit 3-5 with a pair of doubles, representing the only extra-base hits for the Giants Orange team. He didn’t knock any runs in (he was the leadoff hitter after all), but scored 3 times.

Cassiani’s raw numbers have been poor in his debut ACL season, as he has a .690 OPS and a 74 wRC+, but there’s a lot to be excited about. He was really good in the DSL (117 wRC+ in 2021, 130 in 2022), rarely strikes out (his very low rate of 17.9% is miles higher than it was in the DSL), and is a left-handed hitting center fielder. It was nice to see him rack up a pair of doubles, because power is largely absent from his game: in 377 plate appearances across the DSL and ACL, he has just 20 extra-base hits, and is still in search of his first professional home run.

Third baseman Abdiel Layer played in his 2nd game of the year after starting his rehab assignment (he’s listed on the roster for Low-A, where he spent the last 2 years). Both games have gone well, as he hit 2-3 in this game, though committed a pair of errors. Rust happens.

Second baseman Ramon Peralta (19 years, 2021 IFA) and designated hitter Derwin Laya (19 years, 2021 IFA) both hit 2-3 with a walk. Peralta is quietly having a wonderful season, with an .890 OPS, a 127 wRC+, and a 14.4% walk rate.

One of the best performances of the year for RHP Brayan Palencia (20 years, 2020 IFA), as he gave up just 3 hits and 1 run in 4.2 innings, with 4 strikeouts. Palencia is struggling in his repeat of the level, with an 8.20 ERA and a 7.20 FIP, but he’s been significantly better lately. In June he had 16 strikeouts to 10 walks in 17 innings, but so far in July has 12 strikeouts to just 1 walk in 9.1 innings. Keep it up, Brayan!

ACL Black (18-14)

ACL Giants Black lost to the ACL D-backs Red 5-0 (7 innings)
Box score

A very uninteresting game. The best performance was probably RHP Jason Bonilla (24 years, 2018 IFA), who gave up 4 baserunners in 3 scoreless innings, with 6 strikeouts. But probably not a great sign when your most notable day comes from a good-not-great performance from a player with a 7.08 ERA in their 3rd year at the level. Bonilla has 19 strikeouts to 25 walks in 20.1 innings, so good to see him load up the Ks (though he walked 2 batters).

Center fielder Luis González hit 1-3 in the 3rd game of his rehab assignment. How great it would be if he can make it back to the Majors after missing the first few months of the year. His rehab assignment starting means that his 60-day IL stint will expire in early August, and then he’ll have to be added back to the 40-man roster.

Shortstop Ryan Reckley (No. 31 CPL, 18 years, 2022 IFA) drew a pair of walks. It’s been a very disappointing career start for Reckley after he was the star of the team’s 2022 signing class, but the one thing he’s proven very capable of doing (which the Giants surely love) is draw free passes. Across his limited action in the DSL last year and the ACL this year, the switch-hitter has drawn 31 walks in just 163 plate appearances. Unfortunately, he’s had a batting average below the Mendoza line and a slugging percentage below .250 in both of his seasons.

DSL Orange (17-14)

DSL Giants Orange beat the DSL Phillies White 6-5
Box score

Not too much going on in this game. Second baseman Anthony Tandron (17 years, 2023 IFA) had a very nice game, hitting 1-2 with a pair of walks and a stolen base. Tandron hasn’t been lighting the world on fire, but it is a really nice debut season for him. Given that he’s a 17-year old who also plays shortstop, a .702 OPS, 101 wRC+, and 14.5% walk rate are certainly worth taking note of.

And a delightful game for center fielder Luis Frias (18 years, 2021 IFA), who hit 1-2 with a double, a walk, and a hit by pitch, bumping his OPS to .811 and his wRC+ to 117. In his 2nd year in the DSL, Frias has seen every area of his game improve notably.

Speaking of improvements in year 2, RHP Alfonso Perez (17 years, 2022 IFA) got the start. It wasn’t his sharpest game, as he gave up 4 runs and 2 earned runs, but he did pitch 5 innings, giving up just 7 baserunners. Perez, who struck out 3, needs to figure out how to get batters to whiff ... he had just 11 strikeouts in 16.2 innings last year, and has 18 in 28 innings this year. But he has a 2.25 ERA, so he’s doing something right.

DSL Black (18-13)

DSL Giants Black beat the DSL Twins 18-13
Box score

You usually don’t see teams win by the same score as their record when they’re more than 30 games into a season. You also don’t usually see teams give up 9 runs in the 1st inning and still win by 5 runs. DSL, baby!!

It goes without saying that there are some offensive days to highlight. It also goes without saying that there aren’t many pitching days to highlight.

Let’s start with left fielder Anyelo Gonzalez (18 years, 2023 IFA). He only had 1 of the team’s 16 hits, but that hit was 3-run home run, and he also was hit by 2 pitches. A left-handed hitter who has played first base, second base, catcher, and left field this year, Gonzalez is hitting for average and power, drawing walks, and limiting strikeouts. He has an .882 OPS and a 131 wRC+ in his debut season. What an introduction!

The most notable name from last year’s signing class who is still in the DSL also had a great game, as third baseman Dennys Riera (18 years, 2022 IFA) hit 2-3 with a double and 2 walks. It’s a 4-game hitting streak for Riera, who is 6-16 with 3 doubles, 2 walks, and 2 strikeouts in that time, bringing his OPS to .715 and his wRC+ to 88 as he tries to get his career rolling.

The back third of the lineup was excellent: designated hitter Diego Villegas (19 years, 2021 IFA) hit 1-3 with a double and 3 walks, giving him a .720 OPS and a 104 wRC+; second baseman Samuel Rodriguez (19 years, 2021 IFA) hit 3-4 with 2 walks and a stolen base, giving him an .859 OPS, a 143 wRC+, and 12 stolen bases in 14 attempts; and first baseman Wueslly Lespe (20 years, 2019 IFA) hit 3-5 with a double and a walk, rising his OPS to .682 and his wRC+ to 109 (if you’re wondering about the bizarre OPS-to-wRC+ correlation there, it’s largely due to a staggering 26.9% walk rate).

Forget the pitching.

Home runs

AAA Isan Díaz (6)
AAA Bryce Johnson (5 in AAA, 6 total)
DSL Anyelo Gonzalez (3)

Friday schedule

Sacramento: vs. the Tacoma Rainiers, 6:45 p.m. PT
Richmond: @ the Akron RubberDucks, 4:05 p.m. PT
Eugene: @ the Hillsboro Hops, 7:05 p.m. PT
San Jose: vs. the Stockton Ports, 7:00 p.m. PT

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

Video round up

Some videos from previous games that weren’t available in time to make it into prior round up articles.