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Minor League round up, 8/24: Heliot Ramos refuses to go away

Yesterday’s action on the Giants farm.

Heliot Ramos diving head first into home
Heliot Ramos had a homer, a double, a walk, and a hit by pitch for AAA Sacramento
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

All four of the San Francisco Giants Minor League Baseball affiliates were in action on Thursday, or at least all four whose seasons are still alive (the ACL and DSL seasons have come to a close).

Let’s dive into the action!

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

All listed positions are the positions played in that game.

AAA Sacramento (54-68)

Sacramento River Cats beat the El Paso Chihuahuas (Padres) 14-6
Box score

I have a lot of thoughts on the Giants treatment of Heliot Ramos (No. 12 CPL), and this isn’t necessarily the place for them. I’ll try and write an actual article about them sometime next week. But my thoughts can essentially be boiled down to two points.

Point the first: Ramos has not been afforded 10% of the leash that other prospects in the organization have been. The Giants are obviously far lower on him than they are on the Casey Schmitts and Wade Mecklers of the world, and that’s OK and probably warranted. But if a guy isn’t going to get any leash, why are you keeping him?

Point the second: The single biggest issue facing the Giants struggling offense right now is a lack of hitting the ball hard. Forget the strikeouts. Forget the contact issues. Forget the situational hitting. The biggest thing plaguing this listless and feckless and lifless and other thingless offense is that they simply cannot hit the ball hard. Outside of Marco Luciano (injured), Sean Roby (struggling in AA), Bryce Eldridge (drafted last month), and maybe two or three of their MLB players, no one in the organization, to my eye, hits the ball as hard as Heliot Ramos. And golly do the Giants need that.

Apparently they don’t think so. But Ramos certainly isn’t hanging his head about his recent demotion, which came after sporting a .953 OPS over his last big league stint (admittedly in just 17 plate appearances, which is both a small sample and a neon sign with arrows aimed at my first point). He’s doing everything to tell the Giants they made a mistake. In his first game since getting optioned to AAA, Ramos, playing right field, reached base 4 times, hitting 2-4 with a home run, a double, a walk, and a hit by pitch.

Just to make my point for me, Ramos’ homer left the bat at 110.7 mph. For perspective, 27 hitters have put the ball in play for the Giants this year. Only 7 of them have hit a ball at least 110.7 mph all season long. One of those 7 is Heliot Ramos (for what it’s worth, Luis Matos is 18th on that list of maximum exit velocity and Meckler is 27th).

I’m dismounting my soapbox but only because there are other River Cats who are awesome and should be talked about. Call up Ramos and play him you cowards.

Joining Ramos in Dingerville (population 3) was the person on the other end of the grass, left fielder Trenton Brooks, who looks so much like Ed Begley Jr. in this video.

Playing in his 2nd game with the organization since the Giants traded LHP Sean Newcomb for him, the left-handed hitter went 2-4 with a home run and a walk. Not sure if the Giants see Brooks as anything other than someone who fills the critical “now we don’t need to start a relief pitcher in the outfield” role, but nice to see him play well regardless.

Rounding out the homer party was designated hitter Armando Alvarez, who hit 3-5 with a stolen base.

Alvarez has awesome numbers in his 1st year with the organization, with a .954 OPS, a 120 wRC+, a ton of power, and great strikeout numbers, as has been the case for his 8-year Minor League career. It’s pretty clear that he’s just AAA depth in the Giants eyes, but hopefully this strong season gives him an opportunity somewhere else in 2024.

Plenty of other awesome offensive days. Center fielder Tyler Fitzgerald (No. 18 CPL) hit 3-5 with a walk and his 21st stolen base, which was great to see: he’d been (relatively) cold for about 10 days following an unreal week that might have been the best week on the Giants farm this year. He has an .846 OPS and a 98 wRC+ and continues to make a strong audition for Rule 5 consideration, either from the Giants or from another team (either would make me happy as it would signal that he’s getting a chance).

Third baseman David Villar and second baseman Donovan Walton both reached base 3 times with a double. It feels like this might be their last hurrah with the organization, though we’ll see. Villar, with an .899 OPS, a 115 wRC+, a past history of MLB success, and quality defense at every infield placement other than shortstop, certainly is still compelling in many ways. But tough 40-man roster decisions loom.

On the mound it was a fairly strong start for RHP Kai-Wei Teng, who pitched 5 solid innings, allowing 2 hits, 3 walks, and 2 runs, while striking out 8. The Giants would love to see Teng drop the walks, as is the case for nearly every PCL pitcher — he now has 31 of them in 52.2 innings since getting promoted. But he also has 68 strikeouts in that time, and has allowed just 44 hits — only 3 of which have cleared the fence, which is pretty impressive given the environment he’s pitching in.

It doesn’t seem like the Giants are super duper high on Teng, but he has a 44.1% ground ball rate, and his 11.6 strikeouts per 9 innings ranks 4th among 61 PCL pitchers with at least 50 innings thrown this year. And he’s still just 24! He seems like a prime Rule 5 candidate, though it’s fair to question whether the Giants are going to be protecting him or losing him.

Blah bullpen game. So it goes.

AA Richmond (60-57)

Richmond Flying Squirrels lost to the Portland Sea Dogs (Red Sox) 6-4
Box score

An odd but certainly not bad start for RHP Ryan Murphy (No. 19 CPL), who gave up just 4 baserunners and 2 runs in 5 innings of work, making it through 5 innings for the first time all season. But Murphy, who has finally started to see his strikeouts rebound after they were bizarrely absent to start the year, only K’d a pair of batters.

Still, we’ll take a nice outing, and 2 runs in 5 innings with fewer than a baserunner per inning is exactly that. August has represented a step forward for the 2020 5th-round pick, as he’s given up 17 hits, 6 walks, and 6 runs in 16 innings of work, with 15 strikeouts. Those numbers certainly represent improvement when you compare them to his season line: 4.57 ERA, 5.10 FIP, and 9.1 strikeouts to 4.4 walks per 9 innings.

Then it was RHP Hunter Dula, who made his AA debut after getting promoted a few days ago. Dula gave up a hit and a walk in his inning of work, but kept runs off the board and struck out 2. Welcome to AA, Hunter!

A poor game for RHP Sam Delaplane but I’m still in “don’t judge his performance until 2024” mode. For now it’s just awesome that he’s on the field and staying on the field, after he pitched just 3.2 innings in 2020, 2021, and 2022 combined.

The offense didn’t do enough, but that was not the fault of right fielder Victor Bericoto, who added to his organizational lead in home runs by hitting 2-4 with a big fly and a double.

After handling the Northwest League like very few players in the organization have been able to, Bericoto was promoted to AA in early July. Things started very slowly for him, as they usually do when you get promoted, and he finished the month with just a .464 OPS.

But he’s done the adjusting that you want to see from a prospect, and now has a .744 OPS in August. Love to see that!

Bericoto is limited defensively as a corner outfielder (and possible first baseman), but the fact that he’s finding such offensive success when he’s still a few months away from his 22nd birthday is highly encouraging. The Giants will hope that the adjustment to Richmond will continue to feature limited strikeouts, as his rate has leaped from 19.4% in High-A to 28.8% in AA. But so far so good on that front: July saw him K 21 times in just 43 at-bats, while he’s whiffed just 15 times in 71 at-bats in August. Keep it up, Victor!

Also a nice game for second baseman Jimmy Glowenke, who hit 1-3 with a double and a walk, bringing his OPS to .707 and his wRC+ to 98. Speaking of players who are making the adjustments, Glowenke was rocking just a .447 OPS at the end of June, following a late-May promotion. Since the calendar turned to July, the 2020 compensatory round pick is 32-113 with 5 home runs and 8 doubles.

Meh games for shortstop Will Wilson (No. 21 CPL) and third baseman Sean Roby, who are both trying to get back on track. Wilson hit 1-4 with a double, and is 14-63 with 4 extra-base hits, 6 walks, and 12 strikeouts since getting demoted.

Roby hit 0-3 with a walk and a whiff, and is 7-35 with 2 extra-base hits, 3 walks, and 15 strikeouts since working his way back to AA following a lengthy injury absence.

High-A Eugene (60-57)

Eugene Emeralds beat the Hillsboro Hops (Diamondbacks) 14-0
Box score

This game got so out of hand that third baseman Thomas Gavello — who singled and drew a walk — ended the game on the mound, where he pitched a scoreless inning. Perhaps the Giants have more two-way players in their system than they’re letting on!

But the star on the mound was RHP Trevor McDonald (No. 23 CPL), who continues to shine ... whenever his body will let him. A breakout star in 2022, injuries have limited McDonald to just 11 games ... 5 of which were spent rehabbing in the ACL. But he’s returned and been getting stretched out, and on Thursday pitched 5 scoreless innings, allowing just 2 hits and a hit batter, while striking out 5.

McDonald’s numbers have been comically good when he’s been able to pitch. He made his return to Eugene on August 1, and in 5 games since then here’s what he’s done: 21 innings, 11 hits, 3 walks, 1 unearned run, and 20 strikeouts.

An 11th-round pick in 2019, McDonald doesn’t turn 23 until Spring Training, and the Giants will have an interesting decision with him and whether or not he’ll need to be protected in the upcoming Rule 5 Draft. He’s certainly stating one hell of a case.

In between McDonald’s start and Gavello’s close were a pair of players getting their first taste of Eugene. RHP Cameron Cotter, an undrafted free agent who was signed in May and just got promoted, pitched 2 scoreless innings, allowing a hit and a walk. The walk was notable, as it was just his 4th of the year, in 33.1 innings. Then it was RHP Ljay Newsome, who pitched a scoreless inning with a hit and a strikeout. It isn’t technically a rehab assignment for Newsome anymore, but for all intents and purposes it is, otherwise he’d be in AAA.

Speaking of Eugene debuts, a pair of hitters donned Emeralds jerseys for the first time. Designated hitter Andrew Kachel, a 16th-round pick last year who plays third, second, and mostly first, and left fielder Tanner O’Tremba, a corner outfielder and first baseman taken in the 15th round last year, both made their High-A debuts and fit right in. Kachel hit 2-5 with a double, while O’Tremba hit 1-4 with a triple and a walk. Welcome to Eugene, fellas!

But the star was catcher Zach Morgan, a 7th-round pick last year who got promoted about a month ahead of Kachel and O’Tremba. He hit a lovely 3-4 in the contest, adding a walk and bopping the only home run of the game.

Morgan has handled the promotion brilliantly: in 16 games, he has a .906 OPS and a 143 wRC+, with just a 17.2% strikeout rate. Yep, that plays.

First baseman Luis Toribio, center fielder Carter Howell, and second baseman/third baseman Damon Dues all reached base 3 times. Toribio and Howell both doubled, giving the former a .766 OPS and a 107 wRC+ and the latter a .748 OPS and a 104 wRC+. Dues stole his 22nd base, and is rocking an .808 OPS and a 128 wRC+.

Also 2-hit days for the team’s top prospects, center fielder Grant McCray (No. 6 CPL) and shortstop Aeverson Arteaga (No. 7 CPL). The former has been very hot lately, while the latter is going through a small cold patch after lighting the world on fire for over a month.

Low-A San Jose (63-54)

San Jose Giants lost to the Modesto Nuts (Mariners) 14-4
Box score

Eugene wasn’t the only team with a position player moonlighting on the mound! Middle infielder Dilan Rosario pitched a scoreless inning in this game, and he can brag that he had the best performance of any of the team’s pitchers. Which obviously isn’t ideal.

Poor Rosario has been getting the “fill in where we need it” treatment lately ... this was his second time being a pitcher, and he only recently got back from being thrown into the deep end of the pool in AAA for a few games to cover the roster crunch over there.

Needless to say, the pitching was bad. I was hoping that LHP Seth Corry might find some rhythm to end the year, but this was a step in the wrong direction, as he allowed 2 hits, 2 walks, a hit batter, and 4 runs in just 1.1 innings, though he did have 3 strikeouts. Injuries have limited Corry to just 28.2 innings this year (after just 2.1 a year ago), and unfortunately it doesn’t seem like he’s been able to fix the walk issue that led to his prospect status demise in 2021. Between Low-A and the Complex League, he’s issued 16 free passes in 28.2 innings, albeit with 43 strikeouts. On the bright side, that’s at least improvement over 2021, when he walked 63 batters in 67.2 innings.

A rough outing for RHP Dylan Cumming and a VERY rough outing for RHP Mauricio Estrello, who gave up 6 earned runs in just 0.2 innings.

Another funny game for RHP Marques Johnson, who allowed 2 hits and 1 walk in 1.1 innings, but gave up no runs. Since coming over to the Giants in the Mauricio Llovera trade, Johnson — an 11th-round pick last year — has given up 6 hits and 7 walks in 10.1 innings, with just 8 strikeouts ... but he hasn’t allowed an earned run yet.

The offense was more notable, albeit not a ton more notable. The biggest story of the day was the A-ball debut of the team’s 1st-round pick in July’s draft, right fielder Bryce Eldridge. It was a quiet, but solid debut for Eldridge, who hit 1-4 and drew a walk.

My goodness does the dude have a gorgeous swing.

A slightly louder debut for the team’s recent 9th-round pick, third baseman Charlie Szykowny, who hit 1-3 with a double and a hit by pitch. Welcome to San Jose, both of you!

Nice games for shortstop Diego Velasquez (No. 41 CPL) and designated hitter Alexander Suarez, who both had a hit, a walk, and were hit by a pitch. Velasquez, whose hit was a double, is up to an .840 OPS and a 129 wRC+ on the year, while Saurez, who stole his 18th base in 23 attempts, has a .692 OPS and an 89 wRC+.

Left fielder Scott Bandura hit 0-1 but drew 3 walks! A 7th-round pick in July, the left-handed hitter already has drawn 9 walks in 13 Low-A games (while also hitting 13-40 with 5 extra-base hits). Across 2 levels, Bandura has 14 walks to just 15 strikeouts in 73 plate appearances. That’s pretty awesome to see.

Home runs

AAA Trenton Brooks (17)
AAA Armando Alvarez (13)
AAA Heliot Ramos (9 in AAA, 12 total)
AA Victor Bericoto (4 in AA, 20 total)
High-A Zach Morgan (2 in High-A, 6 total)

Friday schedule

Sacramento: @ the El Paso Chihuahuas, 5:35 p.m. PT
Richmond: @ the Portland Sea Dogs, 3:00 p.m. PT
Eugene: @ the Hillsboro Hops, 7:05 p.m. PT
San Jose: vs. the Modesto Nuts, 7:00 p.m. PT

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