The 2023 Minor League Baseball season is winding down. The San Francisco Giants have just three teams still playing, as both of their ACL teams, both of their DSL teams, and High-A Eugene have all seen their season conclude.
But the other three teams played on Tuesday, so let’s dive into the action.
All listed positions are the positions played in that game.
As tends to happen this time of year, the Giants are making some small moves to let players go. On Tuesday the team released AAA Sacramento outfielder Luis González and infielder Johan Camargo.
AAA Sacramento (61-77)
A very bad game for the River Cats, but it was at least highlighted by some excellent news: the return of shortstop Marco Luciano (No. 2 CPL).
Luciano, who hadn’t played at any level since sustaining a hamstring injury on August 8, returned to the lineup and played the entire game while looking quite comfortable in the field. This is very exciting news, because the door is still open for Luciano to return to the Majors this year. The Giants have been looking for success and a spark from the shortstop position all year long, and if Luciano were to get hot over the next week or so, I’d expect to see him in San Francisco for the final games of the season.
But for that to happen, he’ll have to first shake off some rust. And that rust showed itself in a fairly funny way on Tuesday. In his first at-bat in well over a month, Luciano took a first-pitch strike, then swung and missed at the second pitch.
And then he committed a pitch clock violation, which ended the at-bat with a strikeout before a third pitch was ever thrown. That’s a part of timing and rust that’s new to baseball!
In all, Luciano struggled quite a bit in his return, striking out in all 4 of his at-bats, with 7 swing-and-misses. Concerning? No, not at all. That’s to be expected after an extended period of time on the sidelines. But with time running out in both the Minor League and Major League seasons, Luciano will have to scrub off that rust very quickly if he wants to see San Francisco again before February.
Luciano was far from the only River Cat who struck out and struggled. Space Cowboys RHP Ronel Blanco made Sacramento’s lineup look foolish, striking out 12 batters in 6 shutout innings, with the River Cats going down on strikes 16 total times in the game.
A pair of other return-to-the-Majors-soon-hopefuls struggled in similar fashion to Luciano, as designated hitter Wade Meckler (No. 42 CPL) hit 0-4 with 3 strikeouts and right fielder Heliot Ramos (No. 12 CPL) hit 1-4 with 3 strikeouts. Only 2 players had decent games, with center fielder Tyler Fitzgerald (No. 18 CPL) hitting 2-3 with a walk and second baseman Brett Wisely (No. 33 CPL) hitting 1-1 with 2 walks. That gives Fitzgerald an .846 OPS and a 100 wRC+ and Wisely an .899 OPS and a 123 wRC+ in their debut Sacramento seasons.
Those 2 went 3-4 with 3 walks. The rest of the River Cats went 1-25 with 1 walk.
Poor pitching as well. RHP Tristan Beck (No. 24 CPL) got the start and didn’t exactly make a strong case to return to San Francisco, as he gave up a ton of hard contact in 2 innings of work, allowing 4 baserunners and 3 runs, including a pair of no-doubt homers.
LHP Chris Wright had the only notable day on the mound, as he pitched 1.1 scoreless innings while recording all 4 outs by strikeout, but he also gave up a hit and 2 walks as he continues to struggle mightily with free passes. In his first year in AAA, Wright has a 5.04 ERA, a 6.00 FIP, and 64 strikeouts to 45 walks in 44.2 innings.
AA Richmond (71-62)
Richmond Flying Squirrels beat the Erie SeaWolves (Tigers) 4-3
The Squirrels kicked off their final series of the year with a nice win, holding off a late rally to win for the 8th time in their last 9 games.
It was an excellent start by a player ending the year in style, as RHP Carson Seymour (No. 28 CPL) had another lovely showing, giving up just 5 baserunners and 1 run in 5 innings, while striking out 5 batters.
After a slow and somewhat confusing start to the year, Seymour has turned things around, and looks poised to begin 2024 in AAA, knocking on the door of an MLB debut. A 6th-round pick in 2021 by the Mets, Seymour — who came to the Giants in the J.D. Davis trade — has some very tidy numbers in Richmond, where he sports a 3.99 ERA and a 3.44 FIP, with a 49.5% ground ball rate.
But it’s his strikeout numbers that continue to amuse me. Through June 11, Seymour had struck out just 25 batters in 45.2 innings. Since June 11, he’s struck out 89 batters in just 67 innings. How odd, but awesome! Way to end the year on a high note.
Solid bullpen work, including 2 scoreless innings by RHP Hunter Dula and 1 by RHP Tyler Myrick. It was just Dula’s 6th game at the level, while Myrick has looked exceptional since an early-July promotion, sporting a 1.52 ERA and a 3.18 FIP.
On offense it was all about the long ball, with a trio of Squirrels leaving the park. The biggest and best day belonged to right fielder Victor Bericoto, who added to his organizational lead with a solo home run, while finishing the day 2-4.
BOMBS AWAY BERICOTO pic.twitter.com/VyCph0yWjT— Richmond Flying Squirrels (@GoSquirrels) September 12, 2023
After a slow start following a midseason promotion, the 21 year old right-handed hitter has started to figure out the Eastern League. Since the start of August, the slugger is 35-129 with 8 home runs, 1 triple, 8 doubles, and 7 walks. He is without a doubt one of the best stories of the year on the Giants farm.
Also homering were shortstop Will Wilson (No. 21 CPL) and first baseman Brady Whalen.
Brady Whalen has liftoff pic.twitter.com/CbI90boL0Y— Richmond Flying Squirrels (@GoSquirrels) September 12, 2023
It was especially nice to see Wilson hit a homer, since he’s been struggling following a demotion to Richmond, where he has just a .645 OPS and a 75 wRC+ in 30 games.
Wilson go boom pic.twitter.com/8XOTJd0TUy— Richmond Flying Squirrels (@GoSquirrels) September 12, 2023
It’s been such an odd year for Wilson. Among the 55 players in the system with at least 200 plate appearances this year, Wilson is 42nd in batting average (.228), 49th in on-base percentage (.295), 43rd in OPS (.693), and 49th in wRC+ (69). Those numbers are very bad! But if you want reasons for optimism, his BABIP is 52nd (.264), which suggests he may have had a very unlucky year, and his home runs are 3rd (18), which suggests he has some fairly notable power potential, especially since he’s a middle infielder. Just a strange year. Not the year he was looking for, but certainly one that will keep him in the system for another season.
Low-A San Jose (playoffs!)
San Jose Giants lost to the Modesto Nuts (Mariners) 6-5 (10 innings)
The Baby Giants lost a heartbreaker which has their season on the brink of elimination. They’re off today, then will fight to stay alive in the best-of-three Division Series on Thursday.
Minor quibble that no one cares about except me: the Minors do the same thing that the Majors do and don’t count postseason statistics in stat lines, which is very annoying. That’s fine and dandy in the Majors but very silly in the Minors where we just want stat lines to reflect how a player played all year. Is that too much to ask for?
Anyway, really good games for a pair of recent draftees, as shortstop Cole Foster and right fielder Scott Bandura both hit 2-5 with the former doubling once and the latter twice. Foster, a switch-hitter who was the team’s 3rd-round pick in July, finished the regular season with a .696 OPS and a 90 wRC+ in San Jose, after dominating the ACL. Bandura, a lefty who was the team’s 7th-round pick, sported a .769 OPS and a 111 wRC+ in his 23 regular season games with the Baby Giants.
Also delightful games for center fielder Turner Hill, who hit 2-3 with a walk and a hit by pitch, and second baseman Diego Velasquez (No. 41 CPL), who hit 2-4 with a walk. Hill, an undrafted player in his debut season, finished the regular season with a .744 OPS and a 109 wRC+, with more walks than strikeouts. That’s the good part of the story. The less-good part of the story is that he’s 24 and didn’t hit a single home run in his 347 plate appearances. Velasquez finished a spectacular season with an .821 OPS and a 125 wRC+, and I can’t wait to see the switch-hitter in Eugene next year ... a reminder that he’s still a few weeks away from his 20th birthday!
As is often the case, it was a funny outing for RHP Manuel Mercedes, but unfortunately it was also a bad one. He gave up 9 baserunners, including 5 walks in just 4.1 innings, while allowing 3 runs and striking out just 1 batter. There’s so much to love about Mercedes’ game, as the 20 year old finished the regular season with a 3.64 ERA and a 62.9% ground ball rate that is the highest among 722 Minor League pitchers with at least 70 innings tossed this year. But, including this postseason start, Mercedes has struck out just 73 batters in 110.2 innings.
Can that play at higher levels? That’s why we watch the farm!
Speaking of funny outings and seasons, RHP Marques Johnson picked up the loss after allowing the Manfred Man to score in the 10th inning, which tagged him for an unearned run in 0.2 innings of work.
An 11th-round pick by the Red Sox in 2022, Johnson was traded to the Giants for Mauricio Llovera earlier this year. Counting this game, Johnson has walked 10 batters in just 19 innings for the Baby Giants ... but has yet to allow an earned run. He’s done a great job limiting hard contact, as he’s allowed just 10 hits in those innings, all of which have been singles.
AA Victor Bericoto (10 in AA, 26 total)
AA Will Wilson (5 in AA, 18 total)
AA Brady Whalen (5 in AA, 6 total)
Sacramento: vs. the Sugar Land Space Cowboys, 6:45 p.m. PT
Richmond: @ the Erie SeaWolves, 3:05 p.m. PT
San Jose: Off day
Reminder that Minor League games are now on MLB TV.