The Minor League Baseball season is nearing a close, with just two of the San Francisco Giants affiliates in action on Wednesday. Let’s jump into it.
All listed positions are the positions played in that game.
AAA Sacramento activated RHP Joe Ross from the 60-day IL. Ross, a 30 year old with 6 years of MLB experience, was signed over the offseason and has spent the entire year on the IL. He made 5 recent rehab appearances between the ACL and Low-A.
Also of note: today’s playoff game for Low-A San Jose is available on MLB TV even to people who do not have a subscription.
AAA Sacramento (62-77)
At this point in the Minor League season — which is to say the very end — the biggest thing to watch is how the MLB-adjacent AAA players perform, since they have a chance of still getting called up and helping the Giants in the final few weeks of the Major League season.
The River Cats have a lot of players who are only an injury away from being in San Francisco, but, with the possible exception of RHP Tristan Beck (No. 24 CPL), they really only have one player who can force his way into a black and orange jersey this year: Marco Luciano (No. 2 CPL).
On Wednesday Luciano played in his second game since returning from a lengthy injury absence, and the shortstop (who played at designated hitter in this game) once again struggled with contact. He finished the game 0-3 with a walk, a hit by pitch, and 3 strikeouts. The silver lining is that the hit by pitch came in a 3-ball count so, functionally, it’s better to view his game as having 2 drawn walks, which looks a little nicer since HBPs aren’t really a skill (except for a few players).
The bad news is that he’s swinging and missing a lot. A day after having 7 swing-throughs, Luciano had 6 more. On the one hand, it’s 2 games after a lot of rust had accumulated. On the other hand, 12 of those 13 empty swings have come on off-speed pitches, which is a touch concerning.
Strikeouts happen, especially with young players, and you’re happy to live with them when a player hits the ball as hard as Luciano does. But unfortunately we’re not getting to see that, as he’s yet to put the ball in play since returning, with 1 walk, 1 hit by pitch, and 7 strikeouts in his 9 plate appearances.
So I’ll just go out and predict it: big game incoming from Luciano tonight, and he’ll be with the Giants when they kick off a critical series in Arizona on Tuesday.
Decent, if uninspiring games from the 3 players in the lineup who belong in the aforementioned “one injury away” bucket. Right fielder Brett Wisely (No. 33 CPL) hit just 1-5, but the “1” was a towering home run.
Samson lost his hair and lost his power...but not Brett Wisely!— Sacramento River Cats (@RiverCats) September 14, 2023
His solo blast moves Sacramento's advantage to 3-0! pic.twitter.com/uEf4BP1jhG
It’s easy to forget about how talented Wisely is because of how much he struggled at the MLB level this year in his debut season. But he has a .903 OPS and a 123 wRC+ in Sacramento, he is, in my eyes, one of the better defensive players in the system, and his birthday is plopped cleanly between Casey Schmitt and Patrick Bailey’s. I anticipate him playing a big role in the Majors next year.
The other 2 players in that bucket: center fielder Wade Meckler (No. 42 CPL) who hit 1-4 with a walk and a stolen base, and left fielder Heliot Ramos (No. 12 CPL) who hit 2-4 with a double and a walk. Those are good numbers for Ramos, who could have had a 3rd hit if the official scorer had been a little more generous on an error. And I’m legally obligated to mention that his double left the bat at more than 104 mph. But the Giants are legally obligated to mention that he’s still hitting the ball down quite a bit.
There’s always next year, Heliot. I hope. Anyway, he has a .993 OPS in Sacramento, with a 134 wRC+ that ranks 13th out of 124 Pacific Coast League hitters with at least 200 plate appearances. Of that top 13, Ramos is the youngest by a significant margin — the youngest player with a better wRC+ than Ramos in the PCL is Michael Busch, arguably the Dodgers top prospect, who is nearly 2 years older.
Rant over. Sorry, y’all. I said it wouldn’t happen again, but here we are.
While those are the players closest to the Majors, the best games came from elsewhere. Shortstop Tyler Fitzgerald (No. 18 CPL) and first baseman Trenton Brooks both had 2-hit days, with Fitzgerald throwing in a double, a walk, and a stolen base, while Brooks bopped a grand slam.
Brooks’ grand salami was doubly fun because it came in the bottom of the 5th ... after the River Cats had given up a grand slam in the top of the 5th. What an answer!
Brooks bellows bye-bye baby!— Sacramento River Cats (@RiverCats) September 14, 2023
His 22nd total home run of the season comes in grand fashion! pic.twitter.com/IPyrZdNaZp
At 28 years old, Brooks is more AAA depth than legitimate prospect at this point, but he’s already bashed 6 home runs in just 16 games since the Giants acquired him in a trade with the A’s. Across the pair of Bay Area AAA affiliates, Brooks has a .939 OPS and a 126 wRC+, and has drawn as many walks as he has strikeouts. He’s certainly intriguing!
As for Fitzgerald, it continued an ultra-hot September, as he looks to end a very solid season on a high note. He’s reached safely in 10 out of 11 games this month, with the only donut coming in a game where he only had 1 at-bat. In his last 9 games, the versatile defender is hitting 13-34 with 2 homers, 3 doubles, 6 walks, and just 4 strikeouts. Thoughts about whether or not the Giants will protect him from December’s Rule 5 Draft range from “obviously yes” to “obviously no,” so he’s become a fun prospect in that regard. He has an .852 OPS and a 101 wRC+ with the River Cats.
Also homering was third baseman David Villar, who added a walk but also struck out 3 times. My goodness the home run was majestic, though!
Hey Siri, show me an example of a no-doubt home run— Sacramento River Cats (@RiverCats) September 14, 2023
Cats take the early lead 2-0! pic.twitter.com/IIWoHWQIxA
Villar is ending the season strong, but he has just an .854 OPS and 104 wRC+ on the year, was fairly awful (offensively, at least) in his MLB stint this season, and will be 27 when camp convenes in the spring. Gotta think his 40-man spot is in peril.
RHP Miguel Yajure had an OK start, giving up 4 runs but 0 earned runs in 5 innings of work, though he had just 2 strikeouts (and it always feels a little antithetical to the spirit of stats when an “unearned” run comes on a home run). Yajure has really struggled in his first season in the system, with a 6.24 ERA and a 5.66 FIP, but he’s still on the young side of 25, with 3 years of MLB experience.
After that, it was a quartet of relievers who the Giants will have to make decisions about this offseason. RHP Randy Rodríguez (No. 32 CPL) is winding out his 2nd straight season of being on the 40-man without making the Majors, and Wednesday wasn’t a great audition for him. He pitched 1.1 no-hit innings, but walked 3 batters without a strikeout. He’s walked 36 batters in 34.1 innings in Sacramento this year, to go with a 6.29 ERA and a 6.08 FIP.
Then another clean outing from RHP Nick Avila, who was a Rule 5 selection last year that got returned. He gave up just 1 baserunner in 1.2 scoreless innings, with 2 strikeouts, lowering his ERA to 3.19 (albeit with a 5.08 FIP). Since July 21, Avila has allowed just 20 hits, 7 walks, and 4 earned runs in 21.2 innings, with 17 strikeouts. Will the Giants leave him unprotected again? I certainly assume so, but who knows.
And then a pair of LHPs whom I expect the Giants to protect: Juan Sanchez and Erik Miller. Sanchez, who has the pro of being just 22 but the con of having mediocre AAA numbers, got in trouble, giving up 4 baserunners and a run in just 0.2 innings, albeit with 2 strikeouts. Miller, who has the pro of being a southpaw who flirts with 100 but the con of walking a ton of batters, entered the game to help Sanchez and struck out the only batter he faced.
AA Richmond (72-62)
Richmond Flying Squirrels beat the Erie SeaWolves (Tigers) 6-3
Richmond’s late-season surge continues. They’ve kicked off their final series of the year with back-to-back wins, and have won 9 of their last 10 games. It’s a meaningful push, too, as Richmond now needs just 1 more win to clinch a spot in the postseason.
A hot-and-cold piggybacking starter situation for the Squirrels, who only used their 2 starters. LHP Nick Zwack (No. 39 CPL) kicked things off with a fairly poor outing, ceding 4 hits (2 of which went for extra bases), 1 walk, and 3 runs in 3 innings, with 4 strikeouts. That’s the final regular season outing for Zwack in a year that certainly didn’t live up to the expectations a lot of people had entering the season (his first full year in the system, after coming over in the J.D. Davis trade last year).
Zwack opened the year in style, with a 1-hit, 0-walk, 0-run, 9-strikeout performance in 4 innings. And then the wheels fell off. Since that opener, he’s pitched 77 innings and allowed 92 hits, 32 walks, and 59 earned runs, with 82 strikeouts.
But things went much more smoothly in the game and the season for RHP Spencer Bivens, who pitched 6 shutout innings, giving up 5 baserunners and striking out 6. Bivens, a 29 year old who is in just his second year of Minor League Baseball, finished his AA season with a 3.69 ERA, a 3.50 FIP, and a 51.2% ground ball rate that ranks 6th out of 102 Eastern League pitchers with at least 50 innings thrown. What a cool and fun story he became!
A pair of standout performances on offense. Left fielder Ismael Munguia had a delightful game, hitting 2-3 with a double, a walk, a hit by pitch, and 2 stolen bases. Munguia has been one of the coolest stories on the farm this year, as he jumped into his first year in AA — after missing the entire 2022 season — and fit right in. Midseason struggles with both health and performance hurt his numbers a bit, but he’s finishing on a high note: in his last 10 game’s he’s hitting 10-38 with 2 homers, 2 doubles, 2 walks, and 4 hit by pitches.
Munguia doesn’t have a ton of power, but among the 55 Giants prospects with at least 200 plate appearances, the lefty, who plays in the toughest offensive environment in the system, is 16th in batting average (.283), 4th in strikeout rate (12.9%), and 5th in hits by pitch (13). That’s resulted in a .752 OPS and a 110 wRC+, which comes with quality outfield defense and 15 stolen bases in 19 attempts. What a lovely year.
The other standout was catcher Brandon Martorano, who hit 2-3 with a home run and a walk. Martorano has struggled quite a bit in his 3rd year at the level, with a .641 OPS and an 84 wRC+, with a sub-.200 batting average and an over-30% strikeout rate.
It’s a Marty Party in Erie pic.twitter.com/Yvks1le4qw— Richmond Flying Squirrels (@GoSquirrels) September 14, 2023
A quartet of hitters reached base twice: shortstop Will Wilson (No. 21 CPL), designated hitter Yoshi Tsutsugo, third baseman/first baseman Brady Whalen, and right fielder Victor Bericoto, with the latter 2 players both doubling. Bericoto added a tremendous defensive play, too.
AAA Trenton Brooks (22)
AAA David Villar (15 in AAA, 20 total)
AAA Brett Wisely (6 in AAA, 8 total)
AA Brandon Martorano (6)
Sacramento: vs. the Sugar Land Space Cowboys, 6:45 p.m. PT
Richmond: @ the Erie SeaWolves, 3:05 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.