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Minor League round up, 8/2: Cole Foster leads an electric draftee day

Yesterday’s action on the Giants farm.

Cole Foster in the batter’s box in college Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

What a day on the farm! Six of the San Francisco Giants Minor League Baseball affiliates were in action on Wednesday, so let’s dive into it.

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

All listed positions are the positions played in that game.


The big news is another exciting promotion: RHP Hayden Birdsong (No. 36 CPL) is headed to AA. Birdsong, a 6th-round pick in 2022, has been one of the brightest stars of the 2023 season. The Giants really talked him up after his 10 innings of work last year, and so far the results have shown why. Birdsong dominated Low-A San Jose to start the year, and then was excellent in High-A Eugene, where he had a 3.25 ERA and a 3.64 FIP. His strikeouts dropped from San Jose to Eugene, as he went from 15.1 strikeouts per 9 to 11.5. But not only is 11.5 still a great number, but the walks also dropped significantly, from 4.8 per 9 to just 2.3. Birdsong is still a month away from his 22nd birthday, but now looks in line to end the year knocking on the door of AAA. What an amazing season!

In less happy news, the Giants released AAA Sacramento outfielder Michael Gigliotti. A 27-year old left-handed hitter in his second year with the organization, Gigliotti had a great ability to draw walks and limit strikeouts, but struggled to make good contact, and had just a .730 OPS and an 87 wRC+.

AAA Sacramento RHP Melvin Adón, who just returned to Sacramento after a stint at lower levels to work on mechanics, was placed on the 7-day IL.

AAA Sacramento (45-58)

Sacramento River Cats lost to the Reno Aces (Diamondbacks) 9-6
Box score

A pretty blah game in Sacramento, where the River Cats are really piling up the losses.

A very tough change of pace for RHP Sean Hjelle (No. 30 CPL) — a day after being in San Francisco as a potential addition to the roster since Alex Cobb was sick, Hjelle was taking the bump for Sacramento and getting rocked, giving up 8 hits, 1 walk, and 1 hit batter in just 3.2 innings, totaling 5 runs (3 earned).

It’s just been a really tough year for Hjelle, who has a 5.12 ERA and a 5.51 FIP in Sacramento, with just 49 strikeouts in 65 innings. I wasn’t sure he’d survive the trade deadline, but he did, and now I’m wondering what his future is with the team. The tracking data has always suggested Hjelle would play better at the Majors than the Minor League numbers would lead you to believe, but he’s also clearly fallen behind RHPs Keaton Winn (No. 16 CPL) and Tristan Beck (No. 24 CPL) on the Giants pecking order. Winn’s injury opened the door for Hjelle to still play a role in San Francisco this year (hence being the insurance option on Tuesday), but the expected debut of LHP Kyle Harrison (No. 1 CPL) later this month will knock Hjelle down a peg.

Anyway, his bizarre strikeout trend continues. For his career, Hjelle has just 164 strikeouts in 215.1 innings in AAA. But in the Majors? 49 strikeouts in 42.1 innings. Go figure.

The bullpen struggled, too. Intriguing strikeout-heavy LHPs Chris Wright and Erik Miller continue to struggle with walks, with the former giving up 2 of them (plus a run) in 0.2 innings, and the latter giving up 1 in 0.2 innings, albeit with 2 strikeouts. Among 181 Pacific Coast League pitchers with at least 20 innings thrown this year, Wright is 7th in strikeouts per 9 innings with 13.0, and Miller is 18th with 12.2. But Wright is 176th out of those 181 pitchers with 9.6 walks per 9, while Miller is 165th with 7.8. Tons of potential, tons to work on.

The biggest news of the game was that Marco Luciano (No. 2 CPL) played a position other than shortstop for the first time in his career, as he spent the day at second base. Given that the Giants waited until they felt Luciano was ready to contribute at the MLB level with his bat to move him off shortstop, I believe their plan is still to have him be a full-time shortstop, probably starting on Opening Day in 2024. But with Brandon Crawford healthy, left-handed, and playing well, there was no room on the roster this year for Luciano unless he started to learn another position. So honestly, I take this more as a sign of support for his shortstop skills (and bat) than as a sign that the team is finally listening to Fangraphs and moving him off the position (also telling on that front that they’re trying him at second, not third, first, or the outfield).

Anyway, I watched the game and Luciano definitely looked like someone playing second base for the first time in his life, but that’s to be expected. Given how good he’s looked defensively this year, I’d anticipate that he’ll be up to speed in a week or so. He also had good at-bats, and finished 1-4 with a walk.

Also collecting a hit was designated hitter Thairo Estrada, playing in his second rehab game. He had a brief scare where he looked like he was in pain, but thankfully stayed in the game. He’s in line for a San Francisco return this weekend. Hooray!

In all, 6 of the players in the Giants lineup (plus their starting pitcher) have played in San Francisco this year, and Heliot Ramos wasn’t even in the lineup! The biggest swing went to recently-optioned third baseman Brett Wisely (No. 33 CPL), who bopped a powerful home run, and also drew a walk.

Giants fans have been pretty hard on Wisely this year, given how poorly he’s hit in San Francisco. But it’s worth reminding you that he entered the year with just 5 games in AAA, is tearing up Sacramento (.972 OPS, 138 wRC+), plays all over the infield and in center field, and is younger than Casey Schmitt and born in the same month as Patrick Bailey. You can see why the Giants are excited about and patient with him.

Right fielder Wade Meckler (No. 42 CPL) played in his second AAA game since a promotion, and once again had 2 walks and an outfield assist (though the assist in this case was really just a practice throw back to the infield to double off a careless runner).

Shortstop Mark Mathias, who came over in the A.J. Pollock trade, made his organizational debut and hit 1-4.

AA Richmond (51-47)

Richmond Flying Squirrels beat the Altoona Curve (Pirates) 7-0
Box score

A lovely game for the Squirrels, and needless to say, one that involved a lot of good pitching.

RHP Spencer Bivens kicked things off and had a funny, albeit fantastic, outing. Bivens gave up just 2 baserunners in 4 scoreless innings, though he didn’t record a single strikeout (as a team, Richmond finished their 9-inning shutout with just 4 strikeouts ... a day after they were shutout despite only striking out 4 times).

Bivens, who was promoted early in the year, is settling in. He only has a 4.53 ERA and 7.6 strikeouts per 9 innings, but he has a 3.80 FIP, a 50.0% ground ball rate, and has allowed just 2 home runs in 47.2 innings.

RHP Parker Dunshee pitched very well, allowing 3 baserunners in 2.2 scoreless innings, with 3 strikeouts. He’s been strong since the Giants signed him during the season, posting a 2.95 ERA and a 4.38 FIP, with 11.5 strikeouts per 9 innings. And RHP Evan Gates pitched 2 perfect innings, which helped him bounce back from a miserable outing his last time out.

A scare on offense, as center fielder Vaun Brown (No. 5 CPL) left the game after getting hit by a pitch. Brown already had his season delayed by an injury, and has really been struggling lately, so let’s hope this isn’t another setback.

A fantastic game from third baseman Shane Matheny, who hit 4-5 with a triple and a stolen base. Matheny, who started the season in AAA Sacramento, struggled a bit, and was demoted, has been on a tear lately. Over his last 8 games, the play-anywhere hitter is 11-28 with 1 home run, 1 triple, 2 doubles, and 8 walks. That’s brought him up to an .808 OPS and a 122 wRC+ since returning to Richmond.

Designated hitter Carter Aldrete and right fielder Victor Bericoto both had wonderful games in which they hit 2-5, with the former doubling twice and the latter tripling. Bericoto has really been slumping since getting promoted following a blissful season in High-A Eugene, so maybe this is the start of him turning things around.

And another really good day for shortstop Jimmy Glowenke, who hit 2-4 with a double and a walk.

After a somewhat disappointing 2022, Glowenke started 2023 repeating High-A, and was unstoppable. That earned him a promotion, but he really struggled out of the gates in Richmond. The struggles are no more: since the start of July, Glowenke is 22-73 with 4 home runs, 6 doubles, 7 walks, and 19 strikeouts. Keep it up, Jimmy, and we’ll see you in Sacramento next year!

High-A Eugene (49-49)

Eugene Emeralds lost to the Tri-City Dust Devils (Angels) 5-0
Box score

A second straight shutout loss for the Emeralds! Not ideal!

Nothing to highlight on offense. The Ems had 5 hits, 0 extra-base hits, and 0 walks. No player reached base twice. If you want to force highlights we can talk about center fielder Grant McCray (No. 6 CPL) and second baseman Brett Auerbach (No. 38 CPL), who both had a single and a stolen base, though the cold water is that the former was also picked off and struck out twice, and the latter struck out and is having a disastrous season.

The pitching wasn’t much better. RHP Eric Silva (No. 13 CPL) continues to have a pretty disappointing season. He made it through just 3 innings in this one, giving up 7 hits and 4 runs. The positive was 4 strikeouts to 1 walk, but ... a bit of a reach, isn’t it? Silva didn’t have good numbers in 2022, but the peripherals and the scouting reports painted the picture of an exciting pitcher (say that five times fast). This year he still doesn’t have good numbers, but the peripherals and scouting reports are no longer shining bright.

An OK game for LHP Matt Mikulski, who is desperately trying to get his season back on track. He gave up 2 hits and a run in 2 innings, but didn’t allow any free runners, and struck out 2. That may not be great in a vacuum, but it’s certainly great relative to how the season has gone for the 2021 2nd-round pick.

You have to squint to find good things with Mikulski right now, but he has been a little better as of late. His last 3 games have shown some modest improvement, particularly on the command front.

First 21 games: 39 innings, 47 hits, 39 walks, 10 hit batters, 40 runs, 47 strikeouts
Last 3 games: 5 innings, 4 hits, 2 walks, 0 hit batters, 2 runs, 6 strikeouts

RHP William Kempner pitched 2 scoreless innings, giving up 2 hits and a hit batter while striking out 3. Last year’s 3rd-round pick has been pretty decent since a midseason promotion, with a 3.52 ERA, a 4.54 FIP, and 22 strikeouts to 8 walks in 15.1 innings.

Low-A San Jose (55-43)

San Jose Giants beat the Inland Empire 66ers (Angels) 11-3
Box score

Holy smokes! Talk about some offense! There was a whole lot of it!

Let’s start, as Julie Andrews would implore us to do, at the very beginning, where leadoff hitter Turner Hill went a dazzling 5-6 and finished a home run shy of the cycle.

Hill, a 24-year old left-handed hitting undrafted free agent who was signed in May, has been an absolute hit machine lately. This was his 3rd consecutive game with at least 3 hits, and the 6th time in his last 9 games that he’s had multiple hits.

His line during those 9 games? 21-38 with 1 triple, 4 doubles, 7 walks, and just 3 strikeouts. Yeeeeeeesh.

There’s still plenty of reason for pessimism about Hill. Hitting well in Low-A as a 24 year old requires a McDonalds supply order of salt, and Hill’s overall numbers are still fairly modest: .762 OPS, 112 wRC+. He still has a distinct lack of power, as this triple was his first time hitting anything more than a double in his 215 plate appearances.

But still. That’s the type of 9-game stretch that players dream about.

5 other players had multi-hit games, none more impressive than the day had by ... you guessed it ... second baseman Diego Velasquez (No. 41 CPL). Velasquez continues to have one of the best seasons in the organization, and added to it in a big way on Wednesday, hitting 2-3 with a home run and 2 walks, which brings his OPS up to .854 and his wRC+ to 132.

Velasquez has been really good all year, but he’s been especially hot lately, and rocked a .923 OPS in July. Since July 8, the switch-hitter is 28-72 with 2 home runs, 1 triple, 8 doubles, 9 walks, and just 9 strikeouts. Wow.

It might be time to see what Velasquez, who plays shortstop as well, and is just 19, can do in Eugene. There are reasons for optimism that his success is sustainable: not only are scouts stoked about his swing, but his 10.8% walk rate is the median among 49 qualified California League hitters, and his 16.7% strikeout rate is 9th-lowest. He is riding a fairly high BABIP, but at lower levels that’s often just a sign of hitting the ball hard and being fast ... and Velasquez is doing both of those things.

A similarly good day for right fielder P.J. Hilson (No. 37 CPL), who hit 2-5 with a big fly. It’s been a rough year for the 2018 6th-round pick, who has just a .629 OPS and a 67 wRC+, after a stellar 2022. But Hilson has shown some flashes lately, with 6 extra-base hits in his last 8 games, after just 9 in his first 49 games of the year. And the Giants have to be a little encouraged by the fact that, after posting a 35.5% strikeout rate in the ACL in 2021, and a 30.0% rate in his repeat season there last year, Hilson has just a 17.0% strikeout rate in Low-A this year.

Also a reminder that he’s still just 22, and that great athletes can take off on a moment’s notice.

Catcher Luke Shliger had a lovely day, hitting 2-4 with a double and a walk. A 6th-round pick a few weeks ago, Shliger is the only one of the Giants latest draft class to get assigned to A-ball. This was only his second game, but he sure looks like he deserves the assignment so far.

Also reaching base three times: first baseman Dilan Rosario, who doubled, singled, and was hit by a pitch, bumping his OPS to .680 and his wRC+ to 84, and shortstop Jose Ramos, who tripled and drew 2 walks, giving him a .623 OPS and a 75 wRC+.

ACL Black (25-17)

ACL Giants Black beat the ACL Angels 13-2
Box score

Wow wow wow, what a day in the Complex League, even if only 1 of the Giants 2 teams was in action.

You can’t put too much stock into how a player is doing after a few games, but if you could, you’d be left with no choice but to say that the Giants got an absolute steal with the 85th pick in July’s draft. Because it was another standout game for shortstop Cole Foster (21 years, 2023 3rd-round), who hit 2-4 with a home run, a double, and a walk. Foster is only 4 games into his professional career, but he’s 6-18 with 2 homers and 2 doubles. That plays.

You know what also plays? Hitting 3-4 with a home run. That’s the day that catcher Ty Hanchey (23 years, 2023 UDFA) had. Through 3 games he’s 4-9 with 2 walks and just 1 strikeout. Extremely early days, but certainly an “I should have been drafted” start to the career for the left-handed hitter from Florida A&M.

Second baseman Quinn McDaniel (20 years, 2023 5th-round) reached base 3 times, with a single, a walk, and a hit by pitch. It’s been a slower start for him, but hey ... they can’t all be on fire out of the gates. Also reaching base 3 times was designated hitter Charlie Szykowny (23 years, 2023 9th-round), though he did it quite unconventionally, with a walk and 2 hit by pitches. In 18 career plate appearances, he’s reached base on freebies 7 times. That’s cool.

But it’s not just the new dudes! First baseman Guillermo Williamson (19 years, 2021 IFA) continued his dominant season, hitting 2-3 with a double and 2 walks. A left-handed hitter, Williamson is up to a .973 OPS and a 138 wRC+ in his second pro season, and first season stateside. This was his 3rd consecutive multi-hit day, and, remarkably, his 9th consecutive game with at least 1 walk drawn. Over his last 5 games, Williamson is 9-16 with 4 doubles and 8 walks. Might we see him in San Jose to end the year?

A quartet of pitchers took the mound, and all had noteworthy games. The Giants started with a trio of single-inning pitchers, before moving to a late-appearing starter role, held by RHP Nicolas Herold (24 years, 2023 UDFA). Herold went 6 strong innings, giving up just 6 baserunners (all hits) and 2 runs, while striking out 7 batters. Herold struggled in his first 4 games after signing, but over his last 3 games he’s pitched 14 innings and allowed just 9 hits, 5 walks, 5 runs, and 3 earned runs, with 18 strikeouts.

Now, for the 1-inning arms. First it was rehabbing LHP Seth Corry, who faced just 3 batters. One of the batters reached base on an error that Corry committed, only for Corry to get the out on a pick-off. He struck out the other 2 batters.

I sure hope that we get to see Corry stretched out, and back at an A-ball affiliate this year. He was such an exciting prospect in 2019, but the pandemic wiped out his 2020, he walked everyone in 2021, and injuries wiped out his 2022. Walks are the big issue with Corry, and lately he’s been showing improvement. This was his 3rd straight game without a walk, and in his last 6 games (3 each in the ACL and Low-A), Corry has issued just 5 walks in 15 innings.

Then it was another rehabbing arm, LHP Darien Núñez, who struck out the side in an inning, while allowing a walk. And then it was that same line — 1 inning, 0 hits, 1 walk, 0 runs, 3 strikeouts — for RHP Josh Bostick (21 years, 2023 8th-round).

That was Bostick’s pro debut and uhh ... yeah, that’s a good one! Bostick is a very exciting arm that scouts have raved about, and the Giants clearly view him highly, as his signing bonus was double the slot value, and in line with the slot value of a 5th-rounder.

DSL Orange (22-18)

DSL Giants Orange lost to the DSL Royals Blue 4-3
Box score

A makeup of a game that was postponed a few weeks ago.

Piggybacking rookie position players had the most notable games. Second baseman Dario Reynoso (18 years, 2023 IFA) started the game back in mid-July, and hit 1-1 with a walk and a stolen base. With a .986 OPS, a 152 wRC+, and a 21.9% walk rate, it’s been a brilliant debut season for Reynoso, and I can’t wait to see him in the states next year.

Unfortunately he’s been sidelined by an injury for the last week and a half, so replacing him when the game resumed was right fielder Lisbel Diaz (18 years, 2023 IFA), who hit 2-2. Diaz has only played 12 games since signing, but is 17-40 with 2 homers, 4 walks, and just 4 strikeouts in that time. What a debut!

A very nice outing from RHP Alfonso Perez (17 years, 2022 IFA), who bounced back after a few rough games. He took the mound for the resumption of the game and pitched 5.1 innings, allowing just 3 hits, 1 walk, and 1 run, albeit with no strikeouts. Perez has a paltry 20 strikeouts in 37.1 innings this year, but he has a 2.89 ERA, a low walk rate, and is just 17 years old.

Home runs

AAA Brett Wisely (5 in AAA, 7 total)
Low-A Diego Velasquez (7)
Low-A P.J. Hilson (5)
ACL Cole Foster (2)
ACL Ty Hanchey (1)

Thursday schedule

Sacramento: vs. the Reno Aces, 6:45 p.m. PT
Richmond: @ the Altoona Curve, 3:00 p.m. PT
Eugene: @ the Tri-City Dust Devils, 7:05 p.m. PT
San Jose: @ the Inland Empire 66ers, 6:35 p.m. PT

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