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Minor League round up, 7/25: Luciano shines in final AAA game

Yesterday’s action on the Giants farm.

Marco Luciano jogging off the field
Marco Luciano homered for AAA Sacramento, and then got called up
Photo by Chris Bernacchi/Diamond Images via Getty Images

So much going on for the San Francisco Giants Minor League Baseball affiliates! Let’s jump straight into it!

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

All listed positions are the positions played in that game.


News

The big news, of course, is one you’ve probably already heard: shortstop Marco Luciano (No. 2 CPL) is on the move. Despite starting the season injured and with no upper Minors experience, Luciano as headed to the big show, getting called up to help a slumping Giants offense (they’ve scored just 11 runs in their last 7 games) after just 6 games in AAA. But in those 6 games Luciano hit 7-24 with 2 homers, 2 doubles, and 3 walks. He’s shown dynamic power and much-improved defense this season, and is the most-hyped hitter to debut for the Giants since Buster Posey. Be excited. Be very excited. Read Bryan’s article about it here, and then watch this hype video.

A few days late to this, but a pair of High-A Eugene players have been given Northwest League weekly awards, with corner infielder Sean Roby being named Player of the Week, and RHP Nick Sinacola being named Pitcher of the Week. Well done!

A few transactions to note. LHP Raymond Burgos, a Minor League free agent signing, has been promoted from AA to AAA after posting a 2.17 ERA and a 3.24 FIP in 26 games and 37.1 innings with Richmond. Joining him in Sacramento is infielder Donovan Walton, who started the year injured, rehabbed in the ACL, and then spent 20 games between High-A and AA. He’ll be back with the River Cats, where he spent a lot of time last year.

AA Richmond also activated infielder Brady Whalen, who had been rehabbing in the ACL, from the Injured List. And speaking injuries, midseason free agent signing Michael Wielansky, an infielder playing in High-A, has been moved from the 7-day IL to the 60-day IL.

‘tis the season for dreams starting and ending, as the Giants also released infielder Simon Whiteman who was playing in AA. A 9th-round pick in 2019, Whiteman had an intriguing 2021, but had really struggled in AA in both 2022 and 2023.


AAA Sacramento (43-53)

Sacramento River Cats lost to the Albuquerque Isotopes (Rockies) 9-6
Box score

A loss, but an exciting one for the River Cats. I’ll save you another spiel on shortstop Marco Luciano (No. 2 CPL), since I just talked about him in the news section. But in his 6th and final AAA game he hit 1-4, homered for the 2nd straight game, drew a walk, and didn’t strike out.

110 mph off the bat. 428 feet. Hell of an exit.

While Luciano is the story and will hopefully stick in the Majors for the rest of the year (and decade), a few other infielders stated their cases to help out with the Giants middling offense and rough middle infield situation. Third baseman Tyler Fitzgerald (No. 18 CPL), who has had quite a nice run in Sacramento since getting a promotion, had a delightful day, hitting 2-4 with a dinger.

Fitzgerald’s overall numbers are fairly average in Sacramento, with an .837 OPS and a 97 wRC+. But there are a lot of exciting things about Fitzgerald’s profile right now, starting with the fact that he’s only a little over 2 months into his AAA career, and is playing all over the infield and in center field. He also continues to show great improvement at limiting strikeouts ... after posting a 32.9% K rate in AA last year, he dropped that to 28.2% in AA this year, and is at 24.5% in AAA. He’s stealing a ton of bases, with another on Tuesday giving him 18 in 20 attempts. The home run also moved him into 2nd in the system this year, and tied for 1st among Sacramento players.

The person he’s tied with for 1st is second baseman Will Wilson (No. 21 CPL), who hit 2-4 with a double in this game. Wilson’s numbers continue to be poor for the level, with a .705 OPS and a 66 wRC+, which, as I bring up almost every day, is in large part due to his .276 BABIP that ranks 54th out of 56 qualified PCL hitters. He’s also been hitting significantly better since a brutal start to the season, following up a .540 April OPS with a .750 mark in May, an .847 June mark, and a .741 July mark.

Until Wilson gets those numbers up, it’s hard to imagine the Giants giving him any consideration, but Fitzgerald could certainly work his way into the fold, especially if David Villar’s time with the organization comes to an end at the trade deadline.

It’s rude to have spent so much time talking about 3 of the 4 infielders when the best day actually belonged to the 4th: first baseman Armando Alvarez. The right-handed hitter had one hell of a day, hitting 3-4 with a pair of home runs.

Alvarez, a 29 year old in his 1st year with the Giants, doesn’t have the prospect pedigree of Luciano, Fitzgerald, or Wilson. But damn if he isn’t hitting the heck out of the baseball right now. In his last 16 games, Alvarez is hitting 23-53 with 3 home runs, 3 doubles, 2 walks, and, amazingly, just 4 strikeouts. As a result, his OPS is up to .974 and his wRC+ to 129.

Designated hitter Heliot Ramos (No. 12 CPL) had a so-so game as he tries to keep in the team’s plans. He hit 1-3 and drew a walk. He’s cooled off substantially since his pre-All-Star break tear, but is still having his best month in years. A return to the Majors sometime this year is not out of the question at all.

It’s getting harder to see that for catcher Joey Bart, who hit 0-4 with 3 strikeouts. Since hitting safely in 13 out of 14 games earlier in the month, Bart is 0-14 with 3 walks and 5 strikeouts. Among 17 River Cats hitters with at least 100 plate appearances this year, Bart is 17th in batting average (.220), on-base percentage (.301), OPS (.657) and wRC+ (58). He’s 13th in slugging percentage (.356) and 16th in strikeout rate (30.1%). Oof.

Oh, and left fielder Luis González, who has been on the 60-day IL all year, made his first Sacramento rehab appearance, going 1-3. Great to see that.

RHP Mason Black (No. 11 CPL) got his 3rd start since a promotion and it didn’t go very well at all, as he gave up 7 hits and 3 walks in 4 innings, allowing 5 runs (4 earned). It’s been a rude introduction to the PCL’s environment and talent-level for Black, who has issued 9 walks and allowed 4 home runs in just 14 innings. He does have 18 strikeouts, though! Certainly no need to be worried about a player 3 starts into their AAA career ... especially when they’re 23 and are still a few starts away from 200 career innings as a pro.

A nice relief appearance by RHP Nick Avila, who gave up 3 baserunners in 2 scoreless innings, with 2 strikeouts. His 3.70 ERA is nice, though his 5.31 FIP paints a different picture.

AA Richmond (46-45)

Richmond Flying Squirrels beat the Portland Sea Dogs (Red Sox) 6-0
Box score

The most exciting part of this game, in my eye, was that there was another nice performance by RHP Ryan Murphy (No. 19 CPL).

Murphy has had a funny track in his 3 years in the pros. He was widely disregarded when he was drafted in 2020 as the team’s final pick in the truncated, 5-round draft, since his minuscule $25,000 signing bonus painted him more as an undrafted player who helped the team save enough money to sign Kyle Harrison. But then he had something of a breakout 2021, posting a 2.52 ERA across Low and High-A, with 13.8 strikeouts per 9 innings, and just 2.2 walks.

But his 2022 was marked by a regression in performance and a struggle with injuries, and his 2023 has been quite poor.

Tuesday was a step forward, and he’s had a few of them lately. He pitched 4 scoreless innings in this one, allowing just 1 hit and 2 walks, while striking out 3. He’ll definitely need to figure out the walks at some point, as he has 12 of them in 17 innings this month. But his strikeouts are rebounding, with 20 in the month, and only 12 hits, too.

RHP Wil Jensen added 2 scoreless innings, lowering his ERA to 2.75 and his FIP to 3.93, while RHP Spencer Bivens pitched 2 no-hit innings, giving him a 4.54 ERA and a 3.87 FIP following an early season promotion.

RHP José Cruz (No. 35 CPL) struck out 2 batters in a perfect inning, and is certainly a player to watch this week, since he’s the only player on the 40-man roster whose still a ways away from the Majors, which could make him a player on the trade block.

After excelling in High-A, Cruz has hit a bump in the road following a recent promotion, with 15 walks in 16 AA innings (he had just 7 in 18.2 innings in Eugene). So nice to see him have a completely clean inning.

Not too much of note on offense. Second baseman Hayden Cantrelle had a quite nice day, hitting 2-4 with both of his hits being doubles, accounting for all of the Squirrels’ extra-base hits. Cantrelle isn’t having a standout season, as he has a .710 OPS and a 110 wRC+. But those numbers are pretty decent, and he’s a switch-hitter with a fine strikeout rate and 17.9% walk rate that comfortably leads all Giants Minor League hitters (minimum: 200 plate appearances).

Left fielder Ismael Munguia also had a very nice game, hitting 3-4 as he continues to look excellent.

He’s only 5 games into his AA return following a lengthy injury absence, but has hit safely in all 5 games, going 8-21 with 2 doubles, 1 walk, and just 2 strikeouts. With an .816 OPS and a 126 wRC+, you’d have no idea that Munguia missed the entire 2022 season. He could easily end the season in AAA, where he’ll be a very interesting depth piece given that he’s a left-handed hitter who can play center.

Another tough game for center fielder Vaun Brown (No. 5 CPL), who hit 0-3 with a strikeout, though he also drew a walk and stole a base. It knocked him down to a very pedestrian .749 OPS and 100 wRC+, as he’s struggling for the 1st time in his career. In his last 10 games, Brown is just 5-41 with 1 homer, 2 doubles, 2 walks, and 23 strikeouts. Since June 9, he’s 24-124 with 6 home runs, 7 doubles, 5 walks, and 51 strikeouts. Lots of power (and stolen bases), but a whole lot of Ks and outs.

High-A Eugene (46-45)

Eugene Emeralds beat Spokane (Rockies) 7-1
Box score

An awesome pitching performance by a pair of exciting arms. Kicking things off was LHP Reggie Crawford (No. 8 CPL), appearing in his 3rd game since getting promoted.

Crawford did the same thing he’s been doing all year, which is to say making a powerful and electric short appearance with a lack of command and a ton of potential. He pitched a scoreless inning and struck out the side, but also allowed 2 hits and a walk.

Last year’s 1st-round pick is still only 10 games and 14 innings into his pitching career, and across Low and High-A has struck out 24 batters in those 14 innings ... though he’s allowed 13 hits, 8 walks, and a hit batter.

Crawford has still only appeared 4 times this year as a hitter, and not since June 14. We know the Giants see him more as a pitcher than as an actual two-way player, but selfishly I still hope the two-way experiment isn’t done. We’ll see when he’s healthier.

Piggybacking was one of the stars of the year, RHP Hayden Birdsong (No. 36 CPL), who threw 5 scoreless innings, giving up just 5 baserunners, albeit with only 3 strikeouts. Birdsong is 7 games into his promotion and so far it’s going beautifully: he has a 3.09 ERA, a 4.00 FIP, and 40 strikeouts to just 8 walks in 32 innings. Not bad for a 6th-round pick in his 1st full season!

Among the 26 Giants prospects with at least 50 innings pitched this year, Birdsong’s 13.4 strikeouts per 9 innings are 2nd behind only Kyle Harrison, while his 3.7 walks per 9 is above average.

But the biggest star came on the other side of things, with shortstop Aeverson Arteaga (No. 7 CPL) having a spectacular day, hitting 3-4 and finishing a triple shy of the cycle.

Arteaga’s overall line is creeping up — he now has a .714 OPS and an 89 wRC+ — and he’s been on fire lately. He’s sporting an .874 OPS in July, and in his last 9 games is 12-34 with 3 homers, 4 doubles, 4 walks, and 10 strikeouts.

He remains one of the most exciting prospects in the system for me. Despite being a glove-first shortstop who is, in many people’s eyes, a defensive wizard, he’s also flashing a ton of power ... his .183 ISO is 10th among the 36 Giants hitters with at least 200 plate appearances this season, and he’s tied for 4th in the system in home runs. He’ll only be a few weeks removed from celebrating his 21st birthday when he starts the 2024 season in AA and that’s very exciting.

Third baseman Luis Toribio also bashed a dinger, and he’s starting to rebound after a very long, very cold stretch. Toribio, who has a .795 OPS and a 113 wRC+, had a great spring, but a paltry .485 OPS in June. But in his last 13 games he’s 13-41 with 3 homers, 1 triple, 4 doubles, 11 walks, and just 7 strikeouts. If he keeps this up, he might end the year in AA, given that he’s repeating High-A.

Low-A San Jose (51-40)

San Jose Giants lost to the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (Dodgers) 10-7
Box score

A handful of really fun offensive games. Let’s start with the most bizarre one, which came courtesy of designated hitter Andrew Kachel, who hit 0-1 ... and drew 4 walks. Hey, whatever works! A 16th-round pick a year ago, Kachel has an .822 OPS and a 121 wRC+ .... good enough that we’ll see how he can handle High-A pitchers by the end of the year or at the start of next year.

The most hits went to catcher Zach Morgan, who hit 3-5 with a pair of doubles. Morgan, who has drawn 42 walks to just 44 strikeouts in 253 plate appearances this year, has been heating up lately, and in his last 4 games is 9-17 with 3 doubles, 2 walks, and just 3 strikeouts, bringing his OPS to .741 and his wRC+ to 106.

But the big hit belonged to left fielder Alexander Suarez, who smashed a home run, and also drew a walk and stole 2 bases. Nice to see some power from Suarez, who hasn’t been able to improve on his mediocre first pass through San Jose a year ago, largely because his power has dropped off quite a bit.

Because it’s a day that ends in Y, shortstop Diego Velasquez had a nice day, hitting 2-5 with a double and a stolen base. Velasquez now has 8 multi-hit days in his last 10 games, and during that time is 18-44 with 1 home run, 1 triple, 6 doubles, and just 5 strikeouts. He’s up to an .834 OPS and a 126 wRC+, while being a 19-year old switch-hitting middle infielder with a very low strikeout rate. Yes, you should be excited.

Be less excited about the line that RHP Manuel Mercedes had, in which poor play and poor luck met for a disastrous collision. Mercedes allowed a whopping 8 hits in 2.2 innings, plus a walk, and while he only had 2 earned runs against his name, all 10 runs were scored against him. 8 unearned runs is brutal, but then again, so is allowing as many hits as outs.

A nice outing for RHP Luis Moreno though, as he allowed just 2 baserunners in 2 scoreless innings, with 3 strikeouts. On the downside, Moreno has been in the system for almost 7 years, and is still in Low-A. On the upside, he has 44 strikeouts to 13 walks in 37.2 innings this year.

ACL Orange (15-20)

ACL Giants Orange beat the ACL Athletics 9-8
Box score

If you’ve ever wondered why the Giants choose to have multiple ACL teams instead of the single team that a lot of organizations have, well, here it is: the Giants used 10 position players in this game. The only player who started and didn’t get to play a full game was first baseman Abdiel Layer, who is on a rehab assignment. The A’s? They used 19 players. Only 1 of their prospects got to play a full game.

The most exciting part of the game was the debut of RHP Chen-Hsun Lee (21 years, 2023 IFA). Lee received a signing bonus of about $650,000, making him easily the highest-paid pitcher in the Giants latest signing class. Tuesday was his organizational debut, and he retired all 3 batters he faced, with 2 ground outs.

We’ll have to wait awhile to see most of the Giants recent draft picks debut, but RHP Cody Tucker, a 24-year old undrafted free agent from this draft class, made his debut and pitched a scoreless inning with a strikeout and a hit. Meanwhile, LHP Darien Núñez made his 4th rehab appearance, and gave up just 1 hit and 1 run in 2 innings, with 4 strikeouts. We’ll see him in AAA soon.

2-hit days for the aforementioned Layer, who will be in High-A soon, and for second baseman Jean Carlos Sio (19 years, 2022 IFA). After a slowish start to his debut stateside season, Sio has caught fire. In his last 16 games, he’s 20-58 with 2 homers, 1 triple, 1 double, 11 walks, and just 7 strikeouts. Power is largely absent in his game, but the hit tool sure is there.

Speaking of power, right fielder Garrett Frechette (22 years, 2019 5th-round) hit a home run. Frechette is trying to get on track after struggling in Low-A last year, struggling even more in Low-A this year, and getting demoted to the ACL. His numbers aren’t good yet, as he has a .713 OPS and an 83 wRC+ in Arizona, but he’s showing much better plate control. After having just 2 walks to 25 strikeouts in 90 San Jose plate appearances this year, Frechette has 12 walks to just 19 strikeouts in 96 ACL plate appearances.

ACL Black (21-15)

ACL Giants Black lost to the ACL Mariners 3-2 (7 innings)
Box score

This game had the excitement of being the first game to feature a 2023 Giants draftee! The Giants penultimate pick in July’s draft, LHP Tommy Kane (21 years, 2023 19th-round), took a professional mound for the 1st time in his life and pitched a scoreless inning, allowing 1 hit and striking out 2 batters. Welcome to the pros, Tommy!

Also debuting was RHP Trent Harris (24 years, 2023 UDFA), who was signed after going undrafted. He struck out both batters that he faced. Hooray for dreams being actualized!

That was pretty much all the excitement. Third baseman Elian Rayo (20 years, 2019 IFA) hit 1-1 and drew 2 walks, bringing his OPS to .865 and his wRC+ to 108. He’s been pretty decent in both of his years in the ACL, but can’t seem to cut down on the strikeouts.

And because it was a day that ends in Y (sorry to use this trope twice in one article), shortstop Ryan Reckley (No. 31 CPL, 18 years, 2022 IFA) did not get a hit but did draw a walk. In 178 career plate appearances across the DSL and ACL, Reckley has just 23 hits ... and 37 walks.

DSL Orange (19-16)

DSL Giants Orange lost to the DSL Phillies White 4-2
Box score

Not a very interesting game. Pretty decent pitching performances by RHP Randry De Leon (18 years, 2023 IFA) and RHP Jose Rojas (19 years, 2021 IFA).

De Leon gave up just 5 baserunners in as many innings, allowing 3 runs, 2 earned runs, and striking out 3. His debut season hasn’t gone well, with a 10.32 ERA and a 6.42 FIP, but hey ... that’s what debuts are for.

Rojas, who allowed just 4 baserunners in 4 innings, with 1 run and 1 strikeout, is having a very odd 3rd pass through the level. His ERA of 2.55 is nice, his FIP of 4.77 is not, but it’s the funny strikeout numbers that really stand out. He has just 13 strikeouts in 24.2 innings ... albeit with just 8 walks. He’s never been a big strikeout guy, but 4.8 per 9 innings is comically low.

Very, very little on offense. We’ll stick to just mentioning first baseman Brayan Ferrer (19 years, 2021 IFA), who hit 1-3 with a double and a walk, bringing his OPS to .750 and his wRC+ to 100 in his 3rd DSL season. Ferrer has done a great job lowering his strikeout rate each year, from 20.5% to 16.7% to 12.0% this year. But he’s still looking for his first professional home run.

DSL Black (19-16)

DSL Giants Black lost to the DSL Phillies Red 4-3 (7 innings)
Box score

A very exciting development in this game: the return of designated hitter Angel Guzman (17 years, 2023 IFA). Guzman got off to a blistering start in his debut season, before suffering an injury setback. With no news ever coming out from the DSL about injuries (sorry, still nothing on Rayner Arias), it was unclear the severity of Guzman’s ailment.

After a 2-week absence, he’s back, and sliding right back into form, hitting 1-2 with a double and a walk. A left-handed hitter who also plays center field, Guzman is up to a .965 OPS and a 147 wRC+ in his debut season, with a 13.9% walk rate and just a 19.1% strikeout rate. Great to see him back, and I can’t wait to see him in the states next year. Hopefully Arias can return soon, too.

Also hitting 1-2 with a double and a walk was shortstop Keiberg Camacaro (16 years, 2023 IFA). Camacaro’s raw numbers aren’t too good, as he has a .699 OPS and an 89 wRC+. But he has a 12.0% walk rate, with 9 extra-base hits in 136 plate appearances, while being a 16-year old shortstop. That’s plenty good to my eye.

RHP Jose Bello (18 years, 2023 IFA) had a so-so game, striking out 6 batters in 5 innings, while allowing 7 baserunners and 3 runs. He has 36 strikeouts to just 7 walks in 29 innings this year ... not bad at all for a debut.


Home runs

AAA Tyler Fitzgerald (12 in AAA, 14 total)
AAA Armando Alvarez, 2 (6)
AAA Marco Luciano (2 in AAA, 13 total)
High-A Aeverson Arteaga (12)
High-A Luis Toribio (12)
Low-A Alexander Suarez (5)
ACL Garrett Frechette (2 in ACL, 3 total)


Wednesday schedule

Sacramento: @ the Albuquerque Isotopes, 5:35 p.m. PT
Richmond: vs. the Portland Sea Dogs, 10:35 a.m. PT
Eugene: vs. Spokane, 6:35 p.m. PT
San Jose: @ the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, 6:30 p.m. PT

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