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Minor League round up, 8/15: Bryce ‘6 Hits’ Johnson!

Yesterday’s action on the Giants farm.

Bryce Johnson running the bases
OF Bryce Johnson hit 6-6 with a homer and a double for AAA Sacramento
Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Seven games for the San Francisco Giants Minor League baseball affiliates on Tuesday. Only one team didn’t play, as High-A Eugene had their game postponed due to poor air quality in the Pacific Northwest.

Let’s dive into the rest of the action.

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

All listed positions are the positions played in that game.

AAA Sacramento (48-66)

Sacramento River Cats lost to the Tacoma Rainiers (Mariners) 18-8
Box score

The River Cats keep slumping. It’s now 12 losses in their last 15 games. Yikes!

The big story heading into the contest was that LHP Kyle Harrison (No. 1 CPL) was making the start. There was some speculation that Harrison might get called up for yesterday or today’s MLB game, but that was put to rest when he took the mound for the River Cats.

It was an excellent start for Harrison, and don’t let the numbers convince you otherwise. He pitched 4 innings and gave up 6 hits, 0 walks, and 3 runs, while striking out 7.

But that doesn’t really do his performance justice. The trio of runs were scored on a home run (by a player with Major League experience), after 2 players reached on “singles” ... one a bloop, and one a routine soft fly ball that went uncaught when Brett Wisely quite literally fell down in center field. There was also an infield single mixed in there.

In all, the home run was really the only stain on Harrison’s resume. Most importantly, he pounded the zone. 44 of his 60 pitches were strikes, and he avoided a walk for the 2nd straight outing.

If I had to try and predict the future, Harrison will make one more start in Sacramento. The Giants leave for a 6-game road trip on Friday, and they usually like to debut players at home. Harrison could also use a little more stretching out. Don’t be surprised if he starts for the River Cats next week, throws 70-80 pitches, and joins the Giants rotation for their 6-game homestand at the end of August.

As the score might indicate, the pitching outside of Harrison was bad. LHPs Darien Núñez and Sean Newcomb, who both started the year injured, had not-great outings. RHP Drew Strotman moved to a relief role and gave up 5 runs without getting an out. Intriguing LHPs Raymond Burgos and Nick Swiney (No. 26 CPL) both got rocked. Oh well.

Too much time talking about pitchers, not enough time talking about right fielder Bryce Johnson (No. 43 CPL). What a freaking day he had. Johnson hit a perfect 6-6, which included a home run and a double, and he stole a base just for good measure.

You don’t see many 6-6 days! That’s so cool.

It’s a little hard to figure out where Johnson stands with the organization. Never a top prospect, he debuted late last year and was designated for assignment. But after clearing waivers, he was outrighted, and was added back to the 40-man early this season to provide much-needed outfield depth. He didn’t play very well in San Francisco this year, but has been having a good season in Sacramento, where he has an .865 OPS, a 106 wRC+, and just a 17.5% strikeout rate, the 3rd-lowest mark out of 19 Sacramento hitters with at least 100 plate appearances this season.

The type of depth Johnson provides is super valuable, but can the Giants afford to use a spot on the 40-man for it? With the meteoric rise of Wade Meckler (No. 42 CPL), the promise shown by Heliot Ramos (No. 12 CPL), the prospect excellence (and proven MLB playability) of Luis Matos (No. 4 CPL), and the outfield ability shown by Brett Wisely (No. 33 CPL), not to mention potential center fielders Tyler Fitzgerald (No. 18 CPL) and Vaun Brown (No. 5 CPL) who aren’t even on the 40, the Giants might not feel they have space for Johnson. Especially since Mike Yastrzemski, Austin Slater, and Mitch Haniger are all under team control for next year ... and possibly Michael Conforto, too.

Still, it’s at least a little telling that he Giants DFA’d Luis González, not Johnson.

A nice day for shortstop Casey Schmitt (No. 3 CPL), which was great to see. Schmitt had been struggling a little since getting optioned, which is to say he’s been struggling since lighting the world on fire in his early-season MLB debut. But not in this game! He hit a clean 3-6 with a home run, his first at any level since his 3rd MLB game back on May 11.

Don’t let the poor summer fool you: Schmitt is still an awesome and exciting prospect who is a huge part of the Giants future.

Center fielder Brett Wisely (No. 33 CPL) and first baseman Armando Alvarez both hit 2-5 with a double, as they continue to have excellent Minor League numbers: an .896 OPS and 119 wRC+ for the former, and a .964 OPS and 123 wRC+ for the latter. Second baseman Tyler Fitzgerald (No. 18 CPL) hit 1-5 with a walk, which is the equivalent of hitting 0-5 with 6 strikeouts if you compare it to how he hit the ball last week, which was one of the best weeks by any Giants prospect all season.

AA Richmond (55-54)

Richmond Flying Squirrels beat the Harrisburg Senators (Nationals) 5-4
Box score

I just gotta say: Shane Matheny, if you’re reading this, I’m a big fan of your work.

Matheny was promoted to AAA Sacramento at the end of 2022 and it didn’t go super well. He started 2023 there, and it again didn’t go super well. Not horribly, but not super well. The Giants sent him to AA Richmond in mid-June. Given that it was the time of year where a lot of players get cut, and given that Matheny had just turned 27, he had to feel like his back was against the wall.

And holy crap has he responded.

Playing center field in this game (he’s played every position except pitcher and catcher), Matheny hit 3-4 with 2 home runs and a double. That’s a fairly obscene day.

Obscenely-good numbers are the norm with Matheny right now. Over his last 19 games, the lefty is hitting 23-65 with 4 homers, 2 triples, 5 doubles, and a staggering 20 walks.

Video game numbers, and they’ve boosted his season line in Richmond to an .889 OPS and a 143 wRC+. Given his positional versatility and the Giants constant desperation for quality left-handed hitters, I’d guess that Matheny will get at least one more chance to try and have a breakthrough in AAA.

First baseman Logan Wyatt also had a good game, hitting 2-3 with a double.

He doesn’t have great numbers since a midseason promotion — he’s got a .691 OPS and a 90 wRC+ — but he’s continuing to show a massive power improvement and good control of the strike zone (he has an 11.8% walk rate and a 19.6% strikeout rate).

Second baseman Donovan Walton reached base 3 times, but designated hitter Sean Roby struggled again, going 0-4 with a strikeout. After destroying the baseball in an ACL rehab stint and looking way too good for Eugene in his High-A stint, Roby has struggled in his return to Richmond. In 3 games he’s 1-13 with 5 strikeouts.

An excellent start for RHP Spencer Bivens, who has been getting stretched out in what’s just his 2nd pro season (he’s 29!). Bivens pitched 5 strong innings, giving up just 1 hit, 1 walk, and 1 run, while striking out 5. The Giants started letting him start this month, and so far the results are great: 3 games, 12.1 innings, 2 hits, 5 walks, 2 runs, and 11 strikeouts.

RHP Sam Delaplane pitched 2 scoreless innings, allowing 2 baserunners and striking out 1. After getting rocked in his AA debut, Delaplane has thrown 3 straight scoreless outings. He’s probably in line to spend 2024 in AAA and .... look, that’s going to be an amazing story if it happens. Pulling for him so hard.

The nice bounce back continues for RHP José Cruz (No. 35 CPL), who gave up 1 hit in a scoreless inning, with 2 strikeouts. After a few rough outings at the end of July, Cruz has been on fire in August. In 5 games and 4.2 innings, he’s allowed 3 hits, 3 walks, 2 runs, 1 earned run, and struck out a staggering 11 batters. Given how full of talented players the Giants 40-man roster is, Cruz might have to prove his worth over the final weeks of the season to stick on the roster. There’s no way that the Giants want to get rid of him, but this is a morbid reminder that they designated Gregory Santos for assignment last winter to clear a necessary 40-man spot for offseason transactions.

Low-A San Jose (60-49)

San Jose Giants lost to the Stockton Ports (A’s) 11-5
Box score

Everyone please welcome catcher Jack Payton to San Jose! After 9 lovely games in the ACL, the Giants sent Payton — their 11th-round pick in July’s draft — to Low-A. He made his debut on Tuesday. He hit a home run. That’s a delightful introduction.

Gotta say, this draft class is really hitting the ground running...

Speaking of which, shortstop Cole Foster hit 2-5. The switch-hitter, taken in the 3rd round of the draft, has had a few of the expected bumps in the road in his 7 games since getting promoted, so very nice to see a 2-hit day from him ... after homering his last time out!

Center fielder Turner Hill continues to hit, hit, and hit some more. An early-season undrafted free agent, Hill hit 2-4 with 2 doubles and a walk in this game, throwing in an outfield assist for good measure. Hill’s profile still requires a fair amount of salt — he’s 24, in Low-A, and doesn’t have a home run in 264 career plate appearances — but what he’s doing right now is so awesome. He’s reached base safely in 20 consecutive games, and during that time is 34-81 with 2 triples, 8 doubles, 17 walks, and just 7 strikeouts. How ridiculous is that?

Probably time to see if he can do it at a higher level. I think he’s squarely in the “advanced hitter facing young players and overmatching them” territory.

Bad days on the mound. RHPs Julio Rodriguez and Wilkelma Castillo both got absolutely rocked; Rodriguez now has a 6.57 ERA and a 4.46 FIP in his 2nd pass throw Low-A, while Castillo has a 3.71 ERA but a 6.90 FIP as he bounces around levels trying to find his groove.

RHP Mikell Manzano made his second Low-A start after returning from an injury that cost him the first few months of the season. It didn’t go super well, as he gave up 7 baserunners, 3 runs, and 2 earned runs in 3.2 innings, but just great to see him out there. He’s only 20, and has so much life in his arm.

ACL Orange (27-24)

ACL Giants Orange beat the ACL Padres 3-2 (7 innings)
Box score

An exciting game on the Complex League! The Giants Orange squad trailed 2-1 entering the 6th and penultimate inning. Up stepped the star of their recent draft class, right fielder Bryce Eldridge (18 years, 2023 1st-round).

The 6’7 lefty was 0-2 on the day, but it only takes one swing to turn things around. Especially when that swing is a home run. Which is exactly what Eldridge hit.

It’s hard to quibble with Eldridge’s numbers through 11 career games: 10-33, 5 extra-base hits, and 6 walks. We’ll have to wait until next year to see him pitch, but until then, enjoy the hitting show!

Then the Giants Orange team came up in the bottom of the 7th with a chance to walk it off. Third baseman Javier Francisco (20 years, 2020 IFA) drew his 2nd walk of the game, and now has 32 walks to just 29 strikeouts in 147 plate appearances this year (he also has a 1.004 OPS and a 148 wRC+). The Giants used Donovan McIntyre (20 years, 2021 11th-round) as a pinch-runner, and he scored the walk-off run when center fielder Estanlin Cassiani (20 years, 2019 IFA) doubled.


For Cassiani, it was his 3rd hit of the game, as he continues to be red hot. It was Cassiani’s 7th multi-hit game in 10 games this year (and a reminder that many ACL games, such as this one, are only 7 innings long). Since July 8, the lefty is hitting 32-82 with 1 home run, 8 doubles, 6 walks, and 14 strikeouts. His plate control has been exceptional lately: in August he has 6 walks to just 4 strikeouts. After a slow start to his first stateside season, he’s up to an .802 OPS and a 103 wRC+.

A trio of notable pitching performances. The first 2 pitchers were players making rehab appearances, RHPs Ljay Newsome and Michael Stryffeler, who also happen to be two of the players with the most uniquely-placed consecutive consonants in the system. Newsome, a 26 year old offseason signing who has MLB experience, was making his 9th rehab appearance after missing the first few months of the season. He had a lovely game, allowing 2 hits in 2 scoreless innings, with 4 strikeouts. Newsome might be ready to head to AAA soon: he has a 2.51 ERA in his rehab stint, with 18 strikeouts to 2 walks in 14.1 innings.

Stryffeler, a 27 year old who was acquired with catcher Andy Thomas in last year’s trade that sent Curt Casali and Matthew Boyd to the Mariners (who else), was making just his 2nd rehab appearance after being shut down back in mid-April. He pitched a scoreless inning with a hit allowed. Hopefully we see him back in AA Richmond soon.

And then it was time for a debut! RHP Cale Lansville (20 years, 2023 14th-round) made his professional debut, and it went quite well. He pitched a scoreless inning out of the bullpen, giving up 1 hit and striking out 2 batters. Welcome to the show, Cale! Here’s to many more outings like this one.

ACL Black (29-22)

ACL Giants Black beat the ACL D-backs Black 5-4 (7 innings)
Box score

While we’re on the topic of pitchers making their debuts, let’s get to another! It was a dreamy start to the pros for RHP Timmy Manning (21 years, 2023 12th-round), who took the mound for the 5th inning and pitched a perfect frame, striking out 2 batters and getting the 3rd to ground out. What a great debut!

With Lansville and Manning debuting, the Giants have now played 17 of their 21 draft picks from July. The only draftees who haven’t played are 2nd-round shortstop Walker Martin, 4th-round shortstop Maui Ahuna, 10th-round RHP Ryan Vanderhei, and 15th-round LHP Dylan Carmouche. Not sure if we’ll see Martin or Carmouche, but we won’t be seeing Ahuna or Vanderhei this year, as the former is on the 60-day IL and the latter is on the Full Season IL.

Speaking of draftees, LHP Michael Rodriguez (23 years, 2023 18th-round) pitched in just his 2nd career game. It did not go well, as he allowed 5 baserunners and 2 runs in an inning of work. But that’s what these games are for!

The other 2 pitchers were also players in their debut seasons. The starter was LHP Ubert Mejias (22 years, 2023 IFA), who had a pretty nice game. Mejias allowed 2 runs in 4 innings, but he only gave up 4 baserunners, while striking out 4. Mejias is certainly on the older side for a debuting international free agent, the result of only recently being able to defect from Cuba. But he really is having a nice debut season, with a 3.65 ERA, a 4.95 FIP, and 50 strikeouts to 16 walks in 56.2 innings, while getting to pitch starter innings. Perhaps most importantly, Mejias is quickly adjusting to professional baseball. After struggling a bit in his first few outings, especially with strikeouts and walks, he’s really turned things around on that front. In his last 6 games, Mejias has pitched 26.1 innings with 23 strikeouts to just 2 walks.

And getting the save was RHP Trent Harris (24 years, 2023 UDFA), who struck out 2 batters in a perfect inning. With the caveat that he’s a 24 year old in rookie ball, Harris’ pro start has been absolutely spectacular. Look at this line: 7 games, 10 innings, 8 hits, 1 walk, 2 runs, 1 earned run, 17 strikeouts. Gorgeous!

The big hit of the game came from right fielder Eliam Sandoval (19 years, 2021 IFA), who hit 2-4 with a 2-run home run. After a spectacular 2022 in the DSL, Sandoval hasn’t done a great job adjusting to the ACL, where the lefty has a .731 OPS and an 87 wRC+. But this was his 2nd straight game with a big fly, so maybe it will get him going!

A very nice day for designated hitter Quinn McDaniel (20 years, 2023 5th-round), who hit 1-2 with 2 walks and a stolen base. A right-handed hitting middle infielder, McDaniel has had a good, but unconventional start to his career: he’s just 7-32, but 4 of his 7 hits have gone for extra bases, and he has a whopping 13 walks (albeit with 12 strikeouts). He also has 4 stolen bases in as many attempts.

DSL Orange (27-21)

DSL Giants Orange beat the DSL Phillies Red 8-4 (7 innings)
Box score

Despite the win, and despite the 6-run 6th inning, there really weren’t a lot notable performances. All of the pitchers struggled with baserunners, even if they worked around them to somewhat limit the damage (they gave up 7 hits and 8 walks in 7 innings).

The best offensive day belonged to designated hitter Jesus Alexander (17 years, 2023 IFA), who hit 1-2 with a double and a walk. Alexander’s debut season hasn’t gone very well, as the left-handed hitting catcher has a .406 OPS and a 20 wRC+. But he’s been much better lately. In June and July, Alexander hit just 4-43 with 1 double, 3 walks, and 11 strikeouts. In August, he’s 5-21 with 2 doubles, 3 walks, and 6 strikeouts. Slow progress is still progress!

Center fielder Lisbel Diaz (18 years, 2023 IFA) and right fielder Jose Astudillo (19 years, 2021 IFA) both had 2-hit games. Diaz has a .943 OPS and a 154 wRC+ in his stellar debut season, while Astudillo has an .856 OPS and a 131 wRC+ in his 3rd pass through the DSL. Astudillo has struck out just 4 times in 91 plate appearances this season ... and just 13 times in 191 plate appearances in his career. Amazing.

DSL Black (25-25)

DSL Giants Black lost to the DSL Phillies White 10-4
Box score

Not a good game. As with the Giants Orange team, the pitching was quite bad for the Giants Black squad, so no need to dwell on any of it.

A nice offensive game for right fielder Diego Villegas (19 years, 2021 IFA), who hit 2-3 with a triple and a hit by pitch. Villegas now has a .775 OPS and a 117 wRC+ in his 3rd year at the level, though that comes with the asterisk that his 2nd season was limited to just 10 games. His plate control is very nice, with a 16.7% walk rate and an 18.5% strikeout rate, and the triple was nice to see because he’s really been lacking in the power department (for his career he has 0 homers, 2 triples, and 11 doubles in 266 plate appearances).

Speaking of players who got hit by pitches, catcher Nehomar Caldera (17 years, 2023 IFA) did. In his first 28 games, Caldera was hit by a pitch once. In his last 3 games, he’s been hit 5 times. Odd.

Home runs

AAA Bryce Johnson (7 in AAA, 8 total)
AAA Casey Schmitt (2 in AAA, 4 total)
AA Shane Matheny, 2 (8 in AA, 11 total)
Low-A Jack Payton (1)
ACL Bryce Eldridge (3)
ACL Eliam Sandoval (3)

Wednesday schedule

Sacramento: vs. the Tacoma Rainiers, 6:45 p.m. PT
Richmond: vs. the Harrisburg Senators, 3:35 p.m. PT
Eugene: vs. the Vancouver Canadians, 6:35 p.m. PT
San Jose: @ the Stockton Ports, 7:05 p.m. PT

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