Just two of the San Francisco Giants eight Minor League Baseball affiliates are still in action, and both played on Sunday, though neither play today.
Let’s jump into the action as the season winds down.
All listed positions are the positions played in that game.
Small news, but outfielder Yoshi Tsutsugo has been promoted from AA Richmond to AAA Sacramento, where he’ll provide depth for the River Cats for the final week of the season. A 31-year old left-handed hitter with 3 years of MLB experience, the Giants signed Tsutsugo to a Minor League deal less than a month ago. He hit 14-45 with 4 home runs and 10 walks while with the Flying Squirrels.
Taking his place in Richmond is RHP Blake Rivera, who was reinstated from the Injured List.
AAA Sacramento (65-78)
Well, needless to say, not a super good game to close out Sacramento’s penultimate series of the year.
The offense was fairly dreadful, mustering just 3 hits all game. Second baseman Brett Wisely (No. 33 CPL) provided 2 of those 3 hits, and the team’s only extra-base knock, going 2-3 with a double and a walk, so a quite nice game for him.
Wisely hasn’t been his best since returning from the Injured List about 10 days ago, so nice to see a good game. His struggles at the MLB level this year have made it easy to forget how good of a prospect he is, but he has a .903 OPS and a 124 wRC+ in Sacramento with a 17.0% walk rate, plays fantastic defense at second base and center field, and is younger than Casey Schmitt. He’s a really good player, and I expect him to play a pretty big role for the Giants in 2024.
Beyond Wisely the offense did very little, though the River Cats did draw 8 walks, including 3 by designated hitter Armando Alvarez.
The player everyone’s eyes are on right now in Sacramento is shortstop Marco Luciano (No. 2 CPL), who still has a chance to return to the Majors this year on merit alone, just to give the team a spark. I had made a half-hearted prediction that he’d have a stellar weekend and join the Giants on Tuesday in Arizona, but it doesn’t look like that will happen.
Luciano did break out on Friday after struggling mightily in his first 2 games back from the Injured List. He had a 3-hit day in that game, which featured a pair of home runs — both of which traveled exceptionally far, and were hit exceptionally hard. Saturday went well if not excitingly, as he hit 0-2 but drew 3 walks, and Sunday was a step backwards, as he hit 0-3 with 1 walk and 2 strikeouts.
I’m not particularly worried about Luciano’s strikeouts long-term, but they’re enough of an issue right now to probably keep him from getting to San Francisco again this year if he doesn’t either fix them very quickly or pepper in more of those very long home runs. Since returning from the IL, Luciano is 3-17 with 2 homers, 5 walks, 1 hit batter ... and 12 strikeouts. When he puts the ball in play, great things happen, and he’s drawing a lot of walks.
But the strikeout numbers are brutal at the moment, and right now it seems like he’s fairly stymied by non-fastballs: he had 5 swing-and-misses on Sunday, all on sliders. In all, in 5 games since returning from the IL, Luciano has swung-and-missed at 21 pitches, just 3 of which were fastballs.
Still, once that issue is ironed out ... the one ball Luciano put in play on Sunday was at 111.8 mph, which is a harder-hit ball than any Giant not named Joc Pederson or Heliot Ramos has put in play all season long.
Speaking of Ramos (No. 12 CPL), he’s cooled down a little bit lately, which is probably just the ebbs and flows of baseball in a tiny sample size, but you could understand if it were the result of realizing his chances of making it back to the Majors this year are basically shot. He hit 0-4 in this game, though in a contest where Sacramento had 11 strikeouts, it’s notable that Ramos had none. He’s 0-10 with 2 walks in his last 3 games, yet even with that mini-slump he has a .999 OPS in September. He’s going to end the year with one of the better statlines in the PCL, and hopefully still with a future in the organization.
And on the note of players on the 40-man roster, left fielder Wade Meckler (No. 42 CPL) hit 1-4 with a walk but struck out twice. Part of Meckler’s meteoric rise was due to his ability to avoid strikeouts at every level. But after having a heavy K problem in his month-long stint in the Majors, Meckler got optioned and seemed to take the strikeouts with him. When Meckler got promoted to the Majors, he had struck out just 5 times in 10 AAA games ... since returning, he has 11 strikeouts in 9 games. Between San Francisco and Sacramento, Meckler has 4 games with 3 strikeouts in the last month ... after having just 1 such game in his career to that point. Hopefully that’s just a blip on the radar long term.
Also of note: catcher Joey Bart left the game early. No word on what happened but hopefully he’s OK.
All right, that’s way too many words spent on a bad offensive game. Let’s turn to a bad pitching game! RHP Tristan Beck (No. 24 CPL) got the start and it was kind of an odd game for him. He gave up just 5 baserunners in 4 innings, while striking out 8, which is awesome. But 1 of those 5 baserunners was a double and 2 of them were home runs, which resulted in 4 runs to his name. That’s less awesome.
It certainly seems like Beck’s time in the Majors for the year is done, but he’ll definitely play a big role in the Majors next year. The dude is super talented, and hopefully he gets another chance to start in the Majors sometime in 2024.
LHP Raymond Burgos had a nice game out of the bullpen, which was good to see because he’s been struggling a bit since getting promoted. He tossed 1.1 scoreless innings in this game, giving up just 1 walk while striking out 2. After posting a 2.17 ERA and a 3.28 FIP in AA Richmond to start his debut season in the system, the 24 year old has just a 7.04 ERA and a 7.02 FIP in AAA. But it’s only been 9 outings! Still a really nice year for him.
AA Richmond (74-64)
Richmond Flying Squirrels beat the Erie SeaWolves (Tigers) 1-0
And with that, Richmond’s regular season comes to an end. But because they caught fire and won 11 of their final 14 games, they’ll march into the playoffs, which begin tomorrow when they face this same Erie team that they just beat 4 times in 6 days.
Probably goes without saying that it was an awesome pitching game for the Flying Squirrels. Leading things off was RHP Wil Jensen, who tossed 4 shutout innings while allowing just 1 baserunner, a single, and striking out 2. It was a wildly efficient game for Jensen, who pounded the strike zone and needed just 39 pitches to get through his 4 innings.
Jensen has flown under the radar a little bit, as an undrafted player who turned 26 earlier this month. But his third pro season wrapped up beautifully, as he finished the year with a 2.53 ERA in 89 innings. There are a few warning signs: his ERA is propped up (or down, as the case may be) by a rather unsustainable 86.8% left on base rate, along with a .289 BABIP, and as a result he has a 4.16 FIP. Still, a really wonderful season for Jensen, who will likely start 2024 in AAA Sacramento.
Next up was RHP Hunter Dula, who gave up just a walk in 2 scoreless innings. Dula’s time in Richmond was up-and-down after a late-season promotion. He flashed some great stuff in his 9 games of AA ball, but also gave up 10 runs, 8 earned runs, and 6 walks in 11 innings. Nice to see him end things on a high note. He also had a lovely pickoff!
And then it was the return of RHP Blake Rivera, who returned from a 2-plus week stint on the IL to make a final game appearance. Rivera has really struggled with walks this season, issuing 41 of them in 45.2 innings. But he kept free runners off the bases in this game, giving up just a single in his scoreless inning, while striking out 2.
The best day on offense, by far, belonged to left fielder Ismael Munguia, who hit 2-4 with a walk. After having something of a breakout year in High-A in 2021, and missing all of 2022 due to injury, Munguia finishes his return season/debut AA season with a .747 OPS and a 110 wRC+. Munguia is small and his power is quite poor: among 55 Giants prospects with at least 200 plate appearances this year, his .112 ISO ranks 44th. But his 13.2% strikeout rate is 4th-lowest, and his .282 batting average is 16th despite A) a below-average BABIP and B) playing in the pitcher-friendly Eastern League. He also ends the regular season with 18 stolen bases in 23 attempts, and some pretty solid outfield defense.
Munguia was the only Squirrel to reach base multiple times in the season finale, but hey ... a win is a win!