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Minor League round up, 7/23: Marco Luciano hits his first AAA dinger

Yesterday’s action on the Giants farm.

Marco Luciano posing and smiling while holding his bat
SS Marco Luciano hit 1-4 with his first AAA home run on Sunday
Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Four games of action for the San Francisco Giants Minor League Baseball affiliates on Sunday, as their four A-ball teams were playing, while their four Arizona Complex League and Dominican Summer League teams rested ... that gets flipped today.

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

All listed positions are the positions played in that game.


We haven’t seen the Giants top pitching prospect, AAA Sacramento LHP Kyle Harrison (No. 1 CPL) since early July due to a hamstring injury, and last week some “reports” were floated that the injury could potentially end Harrison’s season. Our friend/former McCovey Chronicles writer Marc Delucchi has refuted that report (with fellow friend/former McCovey Chronicles writer Roger Munter chiming in to second Marc’s report).

Now, onto the games.

AAA Sacramento (43-52)

Sacramento River Cats beat the Tacoma Rainiers (Mariners) 5-4
Box score

The biggest story for the River Cats on any given day (at least until Kyle Harrison returns from the IL) is shortstop Marco Luciano (No. 2 CPL), who was recently promoted to AAA.

Luciano opened eyes on Sunday, his 5th game at the level, when he bashed his 1st AAA home run. Look how gorgeous this is!

The ultra-powerful shortstop struck out in all 3 of his other plate appearances, but still. His introduction to the level is going quite well so far, as he’s 6-20 with a home run, 2 doubles, and 2 walks, albeit with 8 strikeouts. He also had one of the slickest defensive plays to come from the Giants farm this year.

Luciano hitting well is encouraging beyond the obvious reasons. He’s historically been a slow starter at new levels, so seeing him look so comfortable in his first AAA stint is not only exciting for what it means in Sacramento, but lends optimism to the notion that he might be able to provide immediate value for the Giants whenever they call him up. I’m not sure if that’s something the Giants are considering anytime soon, even given the struggles of Casey Schmitt, Brett Wisely, and David Villar at the MLB level, plus the injuries to Brandon Crawford and Thairo Estrada. But I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that San Francisco called up Luciano two weeks before the trade deadline, which should give them additional data on whether or not he might be able to be part of a solution to their biggest current problem.

Two other middle infielders who are trying to prove that they should be in that discussion also had good days, with third baseman Tyler Fitzgerald (No. 18 CPL) only hitting 1-4 but stealing 2 bases, and second baseman Will Wilson (No. 21) hitting 1-3 with a big fly.

Fitzgerald, who has an .821 OPS and a 94 wRC+ while adding center field to his defensive repertoire, continues to play well enough to be a quality emergency depth option, but not well enough to force his way onto the 40-man roster, even with the team’s current struggles at the positions he can play.

And Wilson continues to have one of the more bizarre offensive seasons in the system. His .698 OPS and 64 wRC+ remain quite ugly (though wRC+ continues to really hate him ... his teammate Ford Proctor has a .693 OPS and a 77 wRC+). But he also leads the River Cats in home runs, and is tied with Luciano for 3rd in the system in dingers. His .271 BABIP is 55th out of 56 qualified PCL hitters, so ... either the dude is getting quite unlucky, or he’s pounding the ball into the ground when he’s not hitting it over the fence. The eye test since probably both. Weird season.

A delightful day for first baseman Armando Alvarez, who hit 2-3 with a home run and a double.

Injuries have limited Alvarez to just 30 games this year, but he has an .893 OPS and a 113 wRC+, with a 16.2% strikeout rate. A good year for the 29 year old, but he’s firmly in the “break glass in case of needing a player you can DFA three days later” bucket.

Tough days for catcher Joey Bart and center fielder Heliot Ramos (No. 12 CPL) as they try to get back to the bigs. Both players were hot recently, but have cooled off. Bart, who hit 0-3 with a walk and a strikeout, looked like he was putting together much better at-bats earlier in the month, but here’s how he’s done over his last 8 games: 4-25 with 1 double, 3 walks, and 10 strikeouts. He did, however, have a walk-off caught stealing which was pretty cool.

And Ramos, who went 0-4 and struck out twice, went full scorched earth after returning from injury, but has cooled off since the All-Star break, hitting just 5-33 with 1 home run, 1 triple, 1 double, 1 walk, and 12 strikeouts in his last 10 games. The 1 home run, though, was a mammoth walk-off hit on Saturday, and I remain impressed by his recent at-bats. We’ll see if the Giants are, too. Let’s watch that walk-off, by the way, since I didn’t recap the game.

Not much on the pitching front. RHP Tristan Beck (No. 24 CPL) made a relief appearance and gave up 3 baserunners and 2 runs in 2.1 innings, with 3 strikeouts. Not sure the Giants are looking for anything out of him in Sacramento, or if it’s just to keep his arm warm but also rested until they invariably call him back up.

LHP Erik Miller had another scoreless outing, but saw his games without a walk streak come to an end at 4 (he also struck out a batter). Miller’s 2.23 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 32.1 innings are elite, but the Giants will probably need to see sustained improvement to the 26 walks in those 32.1 innings before they consider calling him up.

AA Richmond (45-45)

Richmond Flying Squirrels lost to the Akron RubberDucks (Guardians) 10-2
Box score

Well, uhh ... not much to see in this one. LHP John Michael Bertrand, who has been emerging as an intriguing prospect in the last few months, pitched in his 2nd game since his 2nd promotion of the year, and while the 1st went well, the 2nd did not. He gave up 9 baserunners and 4 runs in 3 innings of work, which is not to be worried about, but also not to be discussed any further.

Another recent promotee, RHP Ben Madison, struggled a bit too, allowing 3 baserunners and a run in 2 innings of work, albeit with 3 Ks. And RHP Blake Rivera got obliterated so ... yikes.

The notable pitching performance came from RHP Evan Gates who, like Madison, allowed 2 hits, 1 walk, and 1 run in just 2 innings of work, but also managed to strike out 5 batters in that time. Gates, a 25 year old undrafted free agent in 2021, has been on fire following a cold stretch from early May to early June. The big issue with Gates right now is the walks, which have been steadily increasing ... we’re working with small samples here, but his debut season in 2021 saw him walk 1.8 batters per 9 innings in the ACL. In 2022 that number climbed to 2.3 in Low-A, 3.2 in High-A, and 5.0 in AA, and is now 5.1 in 2023.

If he can correct that he’ll be a wildly interesting arm, as he’s at 13.0 strikeouts per 9 innings this year, with a 45.1% ground ball rate ... last year, across 3 levels, those numbers were 11.4 and 62.8%. He also has a 3.78 ERA and a 2.46 FIP on the season.

Not much on offense, with the best day going to designated hitter Jimmy Glowenke, who hit 1-3 with a double and a hit by pitch. Glowenke has mediocre numbers since a mid-season promotion, with a .686 OPS and a 90 wRC+, but he’s been swinging a hot bat lately. He’s rocking a 1.033 OPS in July, and has a 6-game hitting streak during which time he’s 10-24 with 2 home runs, 3 doubles, and 2 hit by pitches. The only downside is 0 walks to 8 strikeouts in that time, but whatever ... he has just a 22.8% strikeout rate in Richmond, after being just 14.3% in High-A prior to his promotion.

Right fielder Ismael Munguia hit 1-3 with a double and a walk in his 3rd game since returning from the IL. Munguia, who hadn’t played in Richmond in 2 months due to injury, and had been rehabbing in the ACL, is 4-13 with 2 doubles, 1 walk, and just 2 strikeouts since returning, and is up to a .799 OPS and a 121 wRC+. Not bad for someone who started the season at the rough hitters environment of Richmond, playing upper Minors for the first time, after missing all of 2022 due to an injury.

Outfielder Vaun Brown (No. 5 CPL) didn’t play in this game as the team continues to slow play him a little bit post-injury, but I should give an update anyway. He’s mired in another cold streak, the 2nd of the year for him (and the 2nd of his career, honestly), and the strikeouts are remaining a concern. He has struck out 3 times in each of his last 5 games, and in his last 9 is hitting 5-38 with 1 home run, 2 doubles, 1 walk, and 22 strikeouts.

The athleticism, baserunning, and defense give Brown a quality floor, and it’s certainly worth noting that plenty of successful Major Leaguers are good hitters despite striking out a lot. But a 38.0% strikeout rate is not what a team is hoping to see out of a 25 year old in AA, and it’s brought his once-high overall numbers down to a pedestrian .758 OPS and a 102 wRC+.

High-A Eugene (45-45)

Eugene Emeralds beat the Hillsboro Hops (Diamondbacks) 4-0
Box score

This was the Emeralds’ 4th win in the series, but their 1st win in which they didn’t score exactly 13 runs. How odd.

RHP Nick Sinacola had a really nice outing for the 2nd time in a row, pitching 5 scoreless innings while allowing just 3 baserunners (2 singles, 1 hit by pitch). It’s been a season of 2 acts for Sinacola, and he’s trying to start a 3rd act now. Here’s the show we’ve been given thus far:

Act 1: 6 games, 21 innings, 13 hits, 6 walks, 2 runs, 29 strikeouts
Act 2: 11 games, 40 innings, 54 hits, 15 walks, 36 runs, 35 earned runs, 48 strikeouts
Act 3: 2 games, 10 innings, 4 hits, 1 walk, 0 runs, 7 strikeouts

The hits have given Sinacola a 4.69 ERA on the year, but the 2021 7th-round pick has 10.7 strikeouts per 9 innings and just 2.8 walks, giving him 3.82 strikeouts per walk ... a mark that leads the Giants 26 pitchers with at least 50 innings this year.

LHP Seth Lonsway, selected a round ahead of Sinacola, followed up with 4 scoreless innings, allowing 2 hits and 2 walks while striking out 3. Lonsway’s numbers are not good this year, as the 24 year old has a 5.72 ERA, a 5.15 FIP, just 7.9 strikeouts per 9 innings, and 5.3 walks.

The overwhelming takeaway from the offensive side of things was that it’s time to return first baseman Sean Roby to his rightful home in Richmond. Roby had another beastly day, hitting 2-4 with both a home run and a double. We all know the book on Roby, who spent last year in AA doing nothing but striking out and hitting home runs. The Giants want to see him cut back on the former while maintaining the latter, but he missed the first few months injured, started rehabbing in the ACL where the strikeouts were still on full display, and has since been moved to High-A where he’s showing the improvement we hoped for. In 8 games with Eugene, Roby is 10-34 with 4 homers, 3 doubles, 2 walks and, crucially, just 5 strikeouts. Our friend Roger Munter recently noted that people at Eugene games have pointed out that he is absolutely too good for that level, so hopefully we’ll see if those improvements can hold in Richmond. He is, after all, still one of the best power hitters to come through the system in recent memory. Asking any player to cut back on strikeouts is a tall task, but if he can, the Giants will have a serious weapon on their hands.

The only other player to reach base twice was shortstop Aeverson Arteaga (No. 7 CPL), who hit 1-3 with a walk. Arteaga is not a very streaky player for better or for worse, but he’s reached base safely in 8 straight games, and during that time is 9-30 with 2 homers, 3 doubles, and 5 walks, albeit with 10 strikeouts. He’s up to a .693 OPS and an 84 wRC+ as he continues to look the part of someone with his prospect pedigree: tons of talent, a decent floor, and leaving us still hoping that things will really click and take off at some point (though a reminder that he won’t turn 21 until 2 weeks before opening day).

Low-A San Jose (51-39)

San Jose Giants beat the Stockton Ports (A’s) 12-3
Box score

A 17-hit day for the Baby Giants! Maybe they should swap places with the real Giants for a while since the Giants seem to need a week to get that many hits.

Leading the charge was right fielder P.J. Hilson (No. 37 CPL), who we’ve all been hoping will take off at some point. Perhaps this is the start! Hilson hit a whopping 4-5 on the day, with a pair of doubles and a triple. What a game!

Hilson only has a .627 OPS and a 68 wRC+, which definitely qualifies as a disappointing season, and he really hasn’t had any sustained hot streaks this year. Still, it’s way too early to give up on him. He’s rocking a low strikeout rate (16.9%), and it’s important to remember that hyper-athletic players can put things together in a hurry ... Hilson may have been a 6th-round pick back in 2018, but he’s still only 22 years old.

Also having a 4-hit day was center fielder Turner Hill, who doubled and stole a base. It’s Hill’s debut season after going undrafted, and it hasn’t been super strong — he has a .642 OPS and a 78 wRC+ — but he’s stolen 15 bases in 18 attempts.

Designated hitter Justin Bench hit 3-5, bringing his OPS to .933 and his wRC+ to 168 in 9 games since last year’s 17th-round pick got promoted, and shortstop Diego Velasquez (No. 41 CPL) had a good day because that’s what he does, hitting 2-5 with a double.

Velasquez has been consistently excellent all year, but he’s been turning it up a notch lately. In his last 10 games, the switch-hitter is 17-42 with 1 home run, 1 triple, 5 doubles, 1 walk, and 6 strikeouts. Honestly, the only thing to nitpick with Velasquez — a 19 year old who plays both sides of second, hits from both sides, and has an .832 OPS and a 125 wRC+ — is that the Giants haven’t promoted him and there might be some reasons for that.

Caution and Aeverson Arteaga being in High-A are probably those reasons, though.

A so-so start from RHP Gerelmi Maldonado (No. 40 CPL), who only gave up 2 hits and a run in 4 innings, but walked 4 batters and hit another (he also struck out 4). Maldonado’s numbers aren’t going to jump off the page this year, as he now has a 4.62 ERA and a 5.06 FIP, with 75 strikeouts to 38 walks in 60.1 innings. But his movement is electric, he’s pitching deep into games, and he has a fastball that flirts with 100 ... all while being a starter who won’t turn 20 until the Winter Solstice. He’s the real deal, folks, and one of the largest examples of why raw stats don’t tell the whole story with prospecting.

RHP Tyler Vogel had a nice outing, striking out 5 batters in 3 innings, giving up just 3 hits and 1 unearned run. Last year’s 12th-round pick is up to 11.1 strikeouts per 9 innings, but is walking 5 batters per 9, with a 4.57 ERA and a 5.81 FIP.

Home runs

AAA Will Wilson (12)
AAA Armando Alvarez (4)
AAA Marco Luciano (1 in AAA, 12 total)
High-A Sean Roby (4 in High-A, 8 total)

Injured List

Since injuries are hard to keep track of, and often don’t get reported at the time, here’s your weekly update on all the Giants prospects who are currently on an Injured List of some sort.

40-man roster (60-Day IL)

OF Luis González
LHP Thomas Szapucki

AAA Sacramento

RHP R.J. Dabovich (No. 17 CPL) — Full Season
C Brett Cumberland — 60-Day
LHP/1B — Ronald Guzmán — 60-Day
RHP Kade McClure — 60-Day
RHP Ljay Newsome — 60-Day (on a rehab assignment)
LHP Darien Núñez — 60-Day (on a rehab assignment)
RHP Joe Ross — 60-Day
RHP Logan Shore — 60-Day
LHP Kyle Harrison (No. 1 CPL) — 7-Day
OF Jack Larsen — 7-Day

AA Richmond

OF Hunter Bishop (No. 29 CPL) — 60-Day
RHP Michael Stryffeler — 60-Day
RHP Matt Frisbee — 7-Day
RHP Landen Roupp (No. 20 CPL) — 7-Day
INF Brady Whalen — 7-Day (on a rehab assignment)

High-A Eugene

RHP Will Bednar (No. 25 CPL) — 7-Day
INF Damon Dues — 7-Day (on a rehab assignment)
RHP Trevor McDonald (No. 23 CPL) — 7-Day (on a rehab assignment)
OF Jairo Pomares (No. 14 CPL) — 7-Day
RHP Carson Ragsdale — 7-Day
INF Michael Wielansky — 7-Day

Low-A San Jose

RHP Sam Bower — Full Season
INF/RHP Connor Cannon — Full Season
RHP Davis Hare — Full Season
RHP Spencer Miles — Full Season
RHP Ian Villers — Full Season
LHP Rohan Handa — 60-Day
INF Abdiel Layer — 60-Day (on a rehab assignment)
OF Mauricio Pierre — 60-Day
RHP Liam Simon — 60-Day
LHP Seth Corry — 7-Day
RHP Mikell Manzano — 7-Day (on a rehab assignment)

Arizona Complex League

C Braden Frankfort — Restricted List
RHP Kanoa Pagan — Restricted List
OF Samuel Reyes — 60-Day
INF Irvin Murr III — 7-Day
RHP Melvin Pineda — 7-Day

Dominican Summer League

LHP Luis De La Torre — Restricted List
LHP Ricardo Estrada — Restricted List
RHP Alexander Funtes — Restricted List
RHP Jhon Leon — Restricted List
RHP Ruben Ortiz — Restricted List
RHP Anderson Azor — 60-Day
LHP Luis Custodia — 60-Day
C Alessandro Duran — 60-Day
RHP Fernando Estrella — 60-Day
LHP Antonio Millan — 60-Day
RHP Jose T Perez — 60-Day
RHP Christopher Torres — 60-Day
RHP Fernando Vasquez — 60-Day
OF Fabio Villadiego — 60-Day
INF Franco Willias — 60-Day
RHP Luis Yepez — 60-Day