clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Minor League round up, 8/29: Grant McCray and Aeverson Arteaga take flight

Yesterday’s action on the Giants farm.

Grant McCray in the batter’s box
Grant McCray hit 3-5 with a home run and a walk for High-A Eugene
Shelly Valenzuela - San Jose Giants

All four of the San Francisco Giants Minor League Baseball affiliates were in action on Tuesday, so let’s jump right into all the action.

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

All listed positions are the positions played in that game.


AAA Sacramento infielder/center fielder Brett Wisely (No. 33 CPL) has been placed on the 7-Day Injured List. He was removed from Sunday’s game after being picked off at first base, though I’m not sure what the injury was.

Also, some important injury updates from our friend Marc Delucchi.

AAA Sacramento (55-71)

Sacramento River Cats lost to the Albuquerque Isotopes (Rockies) 5-0
Box score

The River Cats were a tiny bit shorthanded on Tuesday, as Mitch Haniger ended his rehab assignment and returned to the Majors, Bryce Johnson (No. 43 CPL) was designated for assignment, and the player taking both of their spots, Heliot Ramos (No. 12 CPL) hadn’t gotten in town yet after being optioned. Not “play one of your best relievers in the outfield and hit them in the 2 spot” shorthanded, but shorthanded nonetheless.

Sacramento only had 3 hits, with 2 of them coming courtesy of third baseman David Villar, who hit 2-4 with a double. With an .899 OPS and a 115 wRC+, Villar isn’t exactly screaming at the Giants to give him another shot following his extreme struggles at the Major League level earlier in the year. But he is making sure they know he’ll be a viable September option if someone like J.D. Davis, Wilmer Flores, or Thairo Estrada gets injured, as he’s up to a .942 OPS in August. Villar has struggled this year to cut back on strikeouts the way the Giants have asked him to — his rates in AAA and the Majors are both virtually identical to 2022 — but over the last week or so he’s done a better job. In his last 8 games, he’s 10-27 with 3 home runs, 2 doubles, 6 walks, and just 5 strikeouts. Keep it up, David!

The other hit went to catcher Joey Bart, who hit 1-3 with a walk. It’s fair to wonder if we’ll ever see Bart in a Giants uniform again, though he’s been quietly pretty darn solid for a while now, after a disastrous start to the year in both the Majors and Sacramento. He put together an .803 OPS in July, and has a .794 mark in August. Not good numbers per se, when you account for the PCL (the median OPS among players with at least 200 plate appearances is .832), but certainly enough to remain a credible third catcher plan when you account for his defense.

While the River Cats only had 3 hits, they did draw 9 walks, including 3 by shortstop Johan Camargo and 2 by center fielder Tyler Fitzgerald (No. 18 CPL).

RHP Mason Black (No. 11 CPL) got the start and it was kind of a funny one. Like so many pitchers in the league, Black was done in by free passes, issuing 4 walks and a hit batter in 3.2 innings ... but he only allowed 1 hit, kept the damage to 2 runs, and struck out 5 batters.

Because of the rapid ascent of some of the pitchers in last year’s class, it’s easy to forget just how young and inexperienced Black is, so here’s your reminder: he’s 23, he was drafted just over 2 years ago, and he has just over 200 innings pitched in his career. Through 9 starts in AAA he’s struggling with walks, as most pitchers do, issuing 5.7 per 9 innings, which has led to a 5.97 FIP. But he has just a 3.86 ERA, with only 33 hits allowed in 39.2 innings. And among 149 PCL pitchers with at least 30 innings thrown, his 12.0 strikeouts per 9 innings ranks 15th. Of the 14 with higher strikeout rates, only 2 are younger than Black. One of those 2 is Kyle Harrison. And, as a reminder as to how weird the PCL is, and so you don’t think Black is a negative outlier, his walk rate is smack dab in the middle of those 15.

Nice relief appearances for a pair of LHPs who haven’t been at their sharpest lately, Nick Swiney and Chris Wright. Swiney gave up 2 baserunners in 2 scoreless innings with a strikeout, while Wright pitched a perfect inning. Both players looked like pretty good candidates to be Rule 5 protections when the year began, but their performance hasn’t put them in a position where the Giants are likely to give that much consideration. Still, they’re both very intriguing prospects who could easily find themselves in the team’s plans in 2024.

Swiney, a compensation-round pick in the now-famous 2020 draft, has a 5.31 ERA and a 5.88 FIP, but just 6.7 strikeouts per 9 innings since an early season promotion. Wright’s 12.4 strikeouts per 9 is 9th among those aforementioned 149 PCL pitchers, but his 8.4 walks per 9 have given him a 5.36 ERA and a 6.03 FIP.

AA Richmond (61-60)

Richmond Flying Squirrels lost to the Hartford Yard Goats (Rockies) 4-3
Box score

A tough loss for the River Cats, who blew a 3-0 lead, had a 3-1 lead in the 8th inning, and a 3-2 lead in the 9th inning, and still lost in just 9 innings.

Most exciting to see was a stellar start from RHP Hayden Birdsong (No. 36 CPL), who pitched 4 no-hit innings, giving up just 1 walk while striking out 4.

A 6th-round pick last year, Birdsong has been both a star and a revelation this year as he’s flown up the chain. But after an early August promotion (his 2nd promotion of the year), Birdsong was spinning the tires a little bit, both by his own doing and by bad luck. His debut with Richmond was 3.2 innings of getting rocked as he acclimated to a new level. In his second game, poor command and a ton of errors behind him led to a 1st inning with more than 40 pitches thrown, and he didn’t get to see a 2nd inning as a result. In his third game, a lengthy rain delay cut his night short after 2 exceptional innings. And in his fourth game, he struggled and was pulled after 2 outs in the 2nd inning.

So this was a really good game to see for someone who has emerged as one of the top starters in the system. Birdsong’s ERA may be 4.50 after his first month in Richmond, but his FIP is just 2.03 due to striking out 18 batters in 12 innings, with just 12 hits allowed. Across 3 levels, Birdsong now has struck out 13.5 batters per 9 innings, which ranks 30th out of 1,111 Minor League pitchers with at least 50 innings thrown this year.

Also it’s his birthday today! Happy 22nd birthday, Hayden!

A tough go of it for RHP Ben Madison, who allowed 1 hit, 3 walks, and 1 hit batter in just 1.2 innings, with 2 runs scoring. For a while Madison looked like the leader in the race to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft, but a promotion to Richmond has been accompanied by a serious walk problem: he’s issued 25 of them in 27 innings, while hitting 4 batters. Still, there’s reason for tons of optimism for Madison: he has a 3.67 ERA, a 4.72 FIP, and a 45.3% ground ball rate in Richmond, and across 2 levels has struck out 13.6 batters per 9 innings, which ranks 24th out of those previously-mentioned 1,111 pitchers.

On offense, the star was second baseman Jimmy Glowenke, who hit 2-3 with a home run and a walk.

Perhaps inspired by his draft mates Kyle Harrison, Patrick Bailey, and Casey Schmitt, Glowenke has been catching fire and making a push towards being an infield depth piece next year. Glowenke started the year repeating High-A and did everything the Giants asked him to do, earning an early season promotion. He struggled initially in AA, but after a month he flipped the switch in a huge way. Counting his May 31 debut as part of June, look at his monthly splits:

June: 11-71, 0 homers, 3 doubles, 9 walks, 16 strikeouts, .447 OPS
July: 20-66, 4 homers, 5 doubles, 6 walks, 18 strikeouts, .939 OPS
August: 19-58, 3 homers, 3 doubles, 11 walks, 12 strikeouts, .985 OPS

If he keeps this up, Glowenke will almost surely begin 2024 in AAA Sacramento, with a chance to provide depth for an exciting but question-mark filled Giants infield.

First baseman Logan Wyatt and designated hitter Brady Whalen both had 2-hit days as well. Wyatt has a so-so .752 OPS and 102 wRC+ since an early-season promotion, but has shown so much improvement this year, and the Giants surely are fans of his walk and strikeout rates (10.4 and 20.8%, respectively).

Unfortunately, more tough days for shortstop Will Wilson (No. 21 CPL), who hit 0-4 with a strikeout, and third baseman Sean Roby, who hit 1-4 with a strikeout.

High-A Eugene (62-59)

Eugene Emeralds beat the Tri-City Dust Devils (Angels) 15-1
Box score

Well, this was a really fun baseball game! Perhaps the Emeralds know that I like to look at month-by-month numbers and so they wanted to all put a strong push in at the end of the month to make things look rosier?

Just as you hope for, the top prospects shined in this game, though pretty much everyone shined. But Eugene’s top 2 prospects shined a little bit extra, with center fielder Grant McCray (No. 6 CPL) hitting 3-5 with a home run and a walk, and shortstop Aeverson Arteaga (No. 7 CPL) hitting 2-4 with a home run, a double, and a walk.

After a slightly-disappointing slow start to the year, McCray has turned things on in a big way lately. He has multi-hit games in 7 of his last 14 games, and in that time is hitting 19-52 with 2 homers, 4 doubles, and 11 walks. The strikeouts remain an issue for McCray, whose 30.2% rate is 2nd-highest out of the 26 Giants prospects with at least 300 plate appearances this season. But he’s quietly built up to a .775 OPS and a 112 wRC+ on the year, despite an ice cold start to the season, and he leads the organization with 44 steals. Add in stellar athleticism and excellent center field defense and things look pretty rosy.

Such is also the case with Arteaga. His season numbers aren’t nearly as good as McCray’s, as he has a .735 OPS and a 95 wRC+, but he doesn’t turn 21 for more than 6 months, and is a glove-first shortstop who is somehow 3rd in the organization in home runs, trailing only Victor Bericoto and Tyler Fitzgerald. Arteaga has been a little streaky this year, and is currently riding a 5-game hitting streak, during which time he’s 7-22 with 2 walks and just 2 strikeouts.

Also great days for third baseman Luis Toribio and left fielder Jared Dupere. Toribio hit 3-5 with a home run, bringing his OPS to .773 and his wRC+ to 108. After starting the year red hot, Toribio went ice cold from May 21 to July 4, hitting 10-74 with 1 home run, 1 double, 14 walks, and 23 strikeouts. Since then? 37-141 with 7 homers, 1 triple, 10 doubles, 20 walks, and 41 strikeouts.

Dupere, who has a .741 OPS and a 98 wRC+, had a much-needed strong game after a brutal August had seen his numbers plummet. He entered the game just 11-73 in the month, with 0 homers, 2 triples, 2 doubles, 4 walks, and 31 strikeouts. Dupere has shown flashes of excellence this year, but his 37.5% strikeout rate is highest in the organization by a country mile.

Normally hitting 3-6 with a double, or hitting 2-3 with a walk gets you talked about a bit, but in a game this good, those numbers — achieved by right fielder Carter Howell and second baseman Damon Dues, respectively — are relegated to footnotes.

A trio of pitchers, and they all had very exciting and encouraging outings. Kicking things off was LHP Seth Corry, who made his first appearance in Eugene this year after rehabbing in the ACL and Low-A San Jose. The first place you look with any Corry outing is the walk column and ... no walks! Corry gave up 2 hits and 1 run in 2 innings while striking out 3 batters, and only having a single 3-ball count while facing 8 batters. The Giants will take that progress from Corry, who is still working back from injury.

Speaking of progress, next up was RHP Eric Silva (No. 13 CPL), who pitched a perfect inning with a strikeout. Silva has been one of the more disappointing players on the farm this year, with a 6.43 ERA, a 5.05 FIP, and stuff that has generally moved in the wrong direction. The Giants recently moved him into a single-inning relief role — unclear if as a permanent move or to help him get back on track — but it hadn’t worked. Until Tuesday! Silva will be happy to see the calendar flip to September, as he ended August pitching 12.2 innings with 24 hits, 6 walks, 17 runs, and 16 earned runs.

And then RHP Brett Standlee finished things off with the late-starter role. Standlee pitched 6 shutout innings, giving up just 5 hits and a walk, while striking out 8. A 17th-round pick in 2021, Standlee has worked as a reliever for most of the year, but lately has started to get stretched out and ... it seems to be helping him? In his last 3 games, he’s pitched 13.2 innings and given up just 11 hits, 3 walks, and 2 runs, while striking out 15. This could be a cool story developing...

Low-A San Jose (63-58)

San Jose Giants lost to the Lake Elsinore Storm (Padres) 1-0
Box score

Needless to say, this was an awesome pitching performance by the Baby Giants. And it started with RHP Manuel Mercedes who frequent readers of this space know I enjoy talking about because of his unique profile.

Mercedes has been very hot-and-cold lately, almost clinically so. His last 6 starts have seen him fluctuate every time out between being excellent and being awful. Tuesday was Excellent Day, as he tossed 5 shutout innings, allowing just 3 hits and 1 walk, while striking out 3 batters. There’s so much to love about what Mercedes is doing. The 6’4 righty, who turns 21 in September, has a 3.55 ERA and a 4.30 FIP. He’s walking just 3.6 batters per 9 innings, and has allowed just 2 home runs in 101.1 innings, giving him a 0.18 home runs per 9 innings mark that is is No. 1 out of 534 Minor League pitchers who have thrown at least 70 innings this year. And his 63.0% ground ball rate? Also No. 1. But he’s only striking out 6.3 batters per 9 innings innings, which is 514th. Just a funny but awesome player. A throwback!

RHP Trent Harris pitched a perfect 9th inning with 2 strikeouts. An undrafted free agent signed after July’s draft, Harris has retired all 9 batters that he’s faced since joining San Jose. Awesome.

A bad day on offense, with just 2 hits and 3 walks. The only good day belonged to — who else — second baseman Diego Velasquez (No. 41 CPL), who hit 1-3 with a walk and a stolen base. A switch-hitter who is still just 19, Velasquez now has an .835 OPS, a 128 wRC+, and 23 stolen bases in 27 attempts. Velasquez is drawing walks, and his 16.4% strikeout rate is 8th-best out of 40 Giants hitters with at least 250 plate appearances this year. Honestly, the biggest knock on him right now is that he hasn’t been promoted, which might be telling. Or might not be.

Home runs

AA Jimmy Glowenke (7 in AA, 10 total)
High-A Aeverson Arteaga (17)
High-A Luis Toribio (16)
High-A Grant McCray (13)
High-A Jared Dupere (10)

Wednesday schedule

Sacramento: vs. the Albuquerque Isotopes, 6:45 p.m. PT
Richmond: @ the Hartford Yard Goats, 4:10 p.m. PT
Eugene: vs. the Tri-City Dust Devils, 6:35 p.m. PT
San Jose: @ the Lake Elsinore Storm, 6:05 p.m. PT

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