Normally I don’t have a Tuesday article on the San Francisco Giants Minor League Baseball affiliates, because Monday is the league-wide off day for the A-ball teams. But High-A Eugene played on Monday, and I had a four-day weekend so I haven’t written about the Minors in a while, and they’re the only exciting thing about the Giants right now, so I think we all deserve a break from the Majors and a fun dose of the kids.
So, in a break from the standard format, I’m just going to do a quick-hitting “weekend” (Friday-Sunday) recap of each team, plus the standard-issue recap of yesterday’s game for Eugene.
Let’s jump into it! I’ll try and make it quick.
All listed positions are the positions played in that game.
Center fielder Bryce Johnson (No. 43 CPL) cleared waivers and was outrighted to AAA Sacramento. Since Johnson had been outrighted last offseason, he had the opportunity to refuse the assignment and become a Minor League free agent, but he chose to stick with the only organization he’s known.
AAA Sacramento RHP Matt Frisbee was transferred to the Development List, which presumably will end his season.
AA Richmond infielder Jimmy Glowenke was named the Eastern League Player of the Week, after a staggering 1.509 OPS for the week. Wow! And High-A Eugene outfielder Carter Howell was named Player of the Week in the Northwest League after hitting a whole bunch of dingers!
AAA Sacramento (58-73)
The Sacramento River Cats took 2 out of 3 games from the Albquerque Isotopes over the weekend, all while I was watching Oppenheimer and, embarrassingly, realizing for the first time why the Colorado Rockies desert-located AAA team has that name. Yes, that was my biggest takeaway from spending three hours at the theater (secondary takeaway: Florence Pugh, Cillian Murphy, and Emily Blunt can act).
Lately I’ve been using Sacramento’s sections to talk about outfielder Heliot Ramos (No. 12 CPL), and today is no exception. Ramos once again did his thing, hitting 6-10 over the weekend with 2 home runs, 1 double, and 4 walks (and, encouragingly, just 2 strikeouts in his 14 plate appearances).
I’ll climb off my regularly-scheduled Ramos soapbox in a second, but first I want to make two points.
Point No. 1: A lot of people ask why the organization is relatively sour on Ramos, and the answer is fairly straightforward. Among other things, the Giants are unhappy with Ramos chasing outside of the zone, and his general swing-and-miss tendencies. These are fair concerns for any organization, and they’re very antithetical to a Giants team that added an eighth-round pick with virtually no power and fewer than 400 Minor League plate appearances to their active roster in the heart of a playoff race.
Point No. 2: After the Giants exceedingly-feckless loss on Monday — their second straight game being shut out — Gabe Kapler said “We have to be more aggressive. We have to have, and forgive my French, kind of a fuck it mentality. And what that means is we’re walking up to the plate and we’re going to be on the offensive. We’re going to be the ones who are forcing the action, and right now, we’re a little defensive at the plate, and it’s hurting us.”
I don’t know what your definition of “be on the offensive” is, but mine would look a whole lot like making aggressive swing decisions, hitting the stitches off the ball, and living with the inevitable strikeouts. After all, through the end of June, the Giants as a team had a .737 OPS but struck out 25.2% of the time. Since then, they’ve dropped the strikeouts to 24.7% ... and the OPS to a league-worst .662.
Ramos, who is 2nd on the Giants in both maximum and average exit velocity, and 1st in barrel percentage, put 4 balls in play at 100 mph or greater this weekend, including 2 in excess of 110 mph. Per our friend Roger Munter, Ramos had the hardest-hit ball and the hardest-hit hit in all 3 games, and the furthest-hit ball in 2 of the 3. The hardest? A 111-mph, 439-foot walk-off home run.
I don’t know. Ramos clearly doesn’t fit the organizational philosophy, but maybe not being so rigid with organizational philosophy would behoove them. It’s hard to imagine that an offense that’s been the worst in the Majors for two months running wouldn’t benefit from someone who hits the ball harder than everyone on their team not named Joc Pederson.
Make sure to listen to this one with the audio up.
HELIOT RAMOS WALK-OFF BOMB!!!!! pic.twitter.com/o9APsv1XzX— Sacramento River Cats (@RiverCats) September 3, 2023
Needless to say, Ramos wasn’t the only River Cat to have a good weekend. The other young right-handed hitting outfielder trying to get back to the Majors, Luis Matos (No. 4 CPL) had a swell weekend, hitting 3-11 with 2 home runs, 3 walks, and just 1 strikeout. I remain incredibly high on Matos, though his power continues to be kind of a Minor League thing as, unlike Ramos, he’s not hitting the ball particularly hard.
Despite my desires, it’s hard to see Ramos or Matos getting back to the Majors this year, though things tend to happen so I’d guess that one or both does. But I don’t see the Giants displacing anyone on the active roster with either player, and that’s before we get to Michael Conforto returning at some point. The releasing of A.J. Pollock at least signals that the Giants are off the silly charade of thinking he should be ahead of Ramos on the depth chart, but still. I don’t see how the Giants will get either player on the roster without an injury.
Some fun performances from starting pitchers. RHP Sean Hjelle (No. 30 CPL) technically gave up 3 runs (though only 1 was earned), but carried a no-hitter into the 6th inning, in one of his best appearances at any level in quite a long time. I’d be pretty surprised if Hjelle can survive the offseason still on the 40-man roster, but there’s no denying that he finds a way to remind the Giants of his abilities whenever he’s falling out of favor.
Starting Sunday was RHP Mason Black (No. 11 CPL), who struck out 6 batters in 6 innings while getting stretched out. Black gave up 3 runs but in the Pacific Coast League, that’s a win, as is the fact that he pounded the zone: he only issued 1 walk, and he threw 62 of 86 pitches for strikes.
With the lightning speed that some players in the organization have been promoted, it’s easy to forget just how fast Black has moved. A 3rd-round pick in 2021, he’s only thrown 220.2 innings in his young career, and is already knocking on the door of the Majors. Through 10 starts in AAA, he has a 3.94 ERA (albeit with a 5.77 FIP). Among 66 starters in the PCL who have thrown at least 40 innings, Black’s 11.6 strikeouts per 9 innings ranks 3rd, while his ERA is 6th. The 5.1 walks per 9 are not ideal, but honestly ... about as well as anyone does in their PCL introduction. And with a larger strike zone coming to the PCL, we’ll surely see Black improve on that front. Black will only be 2 months removed from his 24th birthday when pitchers and catchers convene in February, and it’s safe to say that he’ll enter Spring Training with a chance to begin the year with a spot in the rotation within arm’s reach.
LHP Erik Miller had a stellar weekend showing, appearing twice and striking out 5 batters in 2 no-hit innings, albeit with 2 walks. Miller’s stuff has been nothing short of spectacular with Sacramento: he has a 2.58 ERA, and in 45.1 innings has 63 strikeouts while allowing just 1 home run (obscene, considering the environment). Walks are the only thing hurting Miller, as he has a sky-high 7.0 per 9 innings, but there’s reason for optimism: in addition to the aforementioned expanding strike zone, he’s walked 5 batters in 10.2 innings over his last 11 games. Prior to that, he’d walked 30 in 34.2 innings.
AA Richmond (65-61)
Just like the River Cats, the Flying Squirrels took 2 out of 3 games against a Rockies affiliate over the weekend, besting the Hartford Yard Goats triumphantly on Saturday and Sunday, after a nail-biter loss on Friday.
With respect to the awesome players in Richmond, this weekend was certainly a reminder as to how barren the Flying Squirrels have become, from a high-end prospect standpoint. After starting the year as easily the most talent-stacked affiliate in the system, Richmond has seen Luis Matos, Marco Luciano, Patrick Bailey, Mason Black, and Tyler Fitzgerald graduate, while Wade Meckler arrived and quickly departed, Vaun Brown got injured, and the most exciting player to get promoted to Richmond, Carson Whisenhunt, did the same.
Still, tons of players to get excited about, even if it’s distinctly lacking in the top-10 or top-25 prospects that we had our eyes on when the year began. Unfortunately, the player who is probably highest-ranked and playing for Richmond right now struggled a little, as RHP Hayden Birdsong (No. 36 CPL) started Sunday and didn’t do very well, allowing 6 baserunners, 4 runs, and 3 earned runs in 3 innings, with 3 strikeouts.
Already in his 3rd level this year, Birdsong — last year’s 6th-round pick — has had a little bit of a rough go of it since getting promoted to Richmond, though it hasn’t all been his doing. His starts have mostly been short, partially due to his own struggles, but partially due to everything from poor defensive play running up his pinch count, to bad weather shutting him down early in games. As a result, he’s only tossed 15 innings in 6 games, and has a 5.40 ERA ... but he somehow has a 2.49 FIP despite 5.4 walks per 9 innings. Across 3 levels, Birdsong’s 13.3 strikeouts per 9 innings ranks 3rd among 37 Giants pitchers with at least 30 innings thrown this year, behind only Kyle Harrison (the organization’s top pitching prospect), and Seth Corry (who has mostly been rehabbing in lower levels). TINSTAAPP certainly applies, but Birdsong has the repertoire and the strikeout stuff to stick as a very exciting starter.
Starting Saturday’s game was LHP John Michael Bertrand, a 10th-round pick last year who is also on his 3rd level this season. Bertrand has been a fairly surprising player this year, as not many people anticipated his excellent season. It wasn’t his cleanest outing, as he gave up 5 hits, 3 walks, and 3 runs in 5 innings, but he struck out 8 batters while throwing 55 of 84 pitches for strikes. With a 4.68 ERA but a 3.07 FIP, Bertrand is a control guy — he doesn’t strike out many people (except on Saturday, apparently) but he limits walks (except on Saturday, apparently), and his 55.8% ground ball rate across 3 levels is 4th among 25 Giants pitchers with at least 50 innings thrown, trailing only Manuel Mercedes, Seth Lonsway, and Sean Hjelle. The Giants will want his walks to come down in Richmond though: after walking 2 batters in 17 innings in Low-A, and 12 batters in 49.1 innings in High-A, Bertrand has issued 15 free passes in 42.1 AA innings.
That’s eight strikeouts tonight for John Michael Bertrand pic.twitter.com/XLPo8qzgvo— Richmond Flying Squirrels (@GoSquirrels) September 2, 2023
Outfielder Victor Bericoto continues to figure things out at this level, as he hit 5-15 with a home run and a double over the weekend. Promoted in early July, Bericoto hit just 5-43 with 2 home runs, 5 walks, and 21 strikeouts in his first calendar month in AA. Since then, he’s 31-107 with 7 homers, 1 triple, 7 doubles, 5 walks, and just 24 strikeouts. That is awesome, and has brought him up to a .770 OPS and a 105 wRC+, while he continues to lead the organization in home runs. Not bad for someone still 3 months away from their 22nd birthday!
Another blast from Bericoto pic.twitter.com/VLDlaxyBut— Richmond Flying Squirrels (@GoSquirrels) September 2, 2023
Speaking of players who got midseason promotions and are starting to figure it out, more good games for middle infielder Jimmy Glowenke and first baseman Logan Wyatt. Glowenke, who hit 3-7 with 3 walks over the weekend, hit 11-71 with 3 doubles, 9 walks, and 14 strikeouts in his 1st month with Richmond. Since then? 46-137 with 7 homers, 9 doubles, 21 walks, and 32 strikeouts, giving him an .814 OPS and a 128 wRC+. Wyatt, who hit 3-7 with 2 walks, now has a .780 OPS and a 110 wRC+. Both players have really nice strikeout rates, so I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised if they started 2024 in AAA.
Also of note: infielder Hayden Cantrelle was activated after a month on the IL. He singled in his only plate appearance.
High-A Eugene (64-63)
Eugene Emeralds lost to the Everett AquaSox (Mariners) 2-1
The bizarre scheduling twist for the Ems is that they finished a series on Sunday, started a new one on Monday, get Tuesday off, and then resume the 6-game series ... their last of the year.
A pair of stars in this game, one on each side of the action. Getting the start was RHP Trevor McDonald (No. 23 CPL), who continues to shine after returning from injury. McDonald had a distinctly pedestrian game by his season standards, which is to say he tossed 4.2 scoreless innings, giving up just 3 hits, 1 walk, and 1 hit batter, while striking out 4. He missed the first month of the year, debuted on May 6, was promptly injured again, rehabbed in the Complex League in July, and finally returned to Eugene in August. And in 7 starts since? 30.2 innings, 16 hits, 5 walks, 2 runs, 1 earned run, and 32 strikeouts. Unreal!
An 11th-round pick in 2019, McDonald has been in the system for a long time. But he doesn’t turn 23 until Spring Training, and between injuries and Covid (both a lost season and a bout of it), he’s only pitched 219 innings in his career. He could make some serious noise in 2024.
On offense the star was shortstop Aeverson Arteaga (No. 7 CPL), who hit 4-5 and knocked in the only run of the game for the Ems. After a blistering summer, Arteaga has slowed down at the end of the year, but it’s still been an amazing season for him. A .728 OPS and a 94 wRC+ don’t jump off the page, but when you weigh for age (he’s more than half a year away from turning 21) and defense (he’s a shortstop and one of, if not the best defensive prospect in the system regardless of position), this year has been an unmitigated home run (a stat where he’s tied for 3rd in the organization).
Not much else in the game, so let’s move on to the weekend recap for Eugene...
Outfielder Carter Howell had an awesome weekend, hitting 4-10 with 2 home runs, 5 walks, and a stolen base. An undrafted free agent last year, Howell was absurd in Low-A this year, and is now starting to find his bearings in High-A, where he has a .767 OPS and a 109 wRC+ since a midseason promotion.
Carter Howell was 3 for 4 with a home run and two walks in Friday’s victory over Tri City. pic.twitter.com/2FjjNXyF7k— SFGProspects (@SFGProspects) September 2, 2023
Utility player Brett Auerbach (No. 38 CPL), who has had one of the toughest seasons in the organization, has been showing signs of life lately, including over the weekend. He didn’t play Friday and struggled Saturday, but on Sunday he hit 2-4 with a home run and 2 stolen bases. Over his last 9 games, Auerbach — who began the year in AA — is 9-27 with 2 home runs, 1 double, 3 walks, and 6 stolen bases.
Outfielder Jared Dupere had a weekend befitting his season, hitting 2-8 with a home run, a double, 2 walks, and 4 strikeouts. With a .740 OPS and a 98 wRC+, Dupere is showing signs — including quite a bit of pop — but he’s struck out 38.8% of the time, which is 9th highest out of the 960 Minor Leaguers with at least 300 plate appearances this year.
LHP Seth Corry had another encouraging outing on Sunday, as he seeks to bounce back from 2021’s massive walk issue and 2022’s massive injury issue. He pitched 2 innings while allowing just 1 hit, 1 hit batter, and 1 unearned run, with 4 strikeouts. A small sample is, indeed, small, but Corry hasn’t issued a walk in either of his 2 outings since rejoining Eugene. In his last 9 games, spanning 3 levels (and 3 calendar months), Corry has walked 6 batters in 14.2 innings ... certainly a positive sign after walking 63 batters in 67.2 innings in 2021. He also has 23 strikeouts in those 14.2 innings!
A really nice outing for RHP Eric Silva (No. 13 CPL) on Saturday, as he tossed 2 perfect innings with 3 strikeouts, throwing 15 of 18 pitches for strikes. It’s certainly been one of the toughest seasons in the organization for Silva, but this was his 2nd straight excellent outing. Perhaps the 2021 4th-round pick — who, it bears noting, is still just 20 — can end the year on a high note.
Low-A San Jose (65-61)
Well, not a good weekend for the Baby Giants, who spent their time exactly as the Big Giants did ... losing Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to the San Diego Padres affiliate.
Pretty poor performances, to be honest, though a trio of recent draftees had nice weekends. Shortstop Cole Foster, the team’s 3rd-round pick, hit 2-9 with a home run, a double, 3 walks, and a stolen base, albeit with 5 strikeouts. A switch-hitting 21 year old, Foster has exceptionally exciting power for the position ... he already has 7 home runs and 6 doubles in just 127 plate appearances across 2 levels. But the Giants will be desperate to see him cut back on the strikeouts, as he has 42 of them already.
Outfielder Scott Bandura, their 7th-round pick who hits left-handed, went 2-7 with a home run and a walk. Through 19 games in San Jose, Bandura has an .896 OPS and a 144 wRC+, and in 24 games across 2 levels he’s drawn 19 walks to just 24 strikeouts. Highly encouraging stuff!
Scott Bandura was 1 for 3 with a home run (106mph EV) on Sunday vs Lake Elsinore.— SFGProspects (@SFGProspects) September 4, 2023
Since joining San Jose, Bandura has a 144 wRC+ while hitting .286/.420/.476 (.896 OPS) with 17% BB/22% K. pic.twitter.com/muV7YmDA8v
And second baseman Quinn McDaniel, a 20-year old righty who was the team’s 5th-round pick, went 2-7 with a home run, a walk, and a stolen base. He’s been utterly spectacular since getting drafted: he has an 1.108 OPS and a 180 wRC+ in 8 games with San Jose, and between 2 levels has drawn 25 walks to 23 strikeouts in 24 games. That’ll play!
Not as good of a weekend for the team’s 1st-round pick, right fielder/2-way player Bryce Eldridge, who hit 2-10 with 2 walks, 4 strikeouts, and a stolen base, and whom the Giants didn’t let debut on the mound even in a blowout loss where they turned to a pair of position players. The Giants will certainly want Eldridge to eventually cut back on the strikeouts a little, as he has 28 in 25 games, but across 2 levels he has 6 home runs and 14 walks in just 102 plate appearances ... and he’s 18.
The best pitching performance of the weekend went to LHP Esmerlin Vinicio, who gave up just 3 hits and 1 run in 5.1 innings, with 4 strikeouts. He only has a 4.93 ERA and a 4.94 FIP on the year, but he has a 50.3% ground ball rate, and is still 5 months away from his 21st birthday.
LHP Joe Whitman, the team’s compensation-round pick in July, pitched on Saturday before Vinicio, and gave up 4 baserunners and a run in 1.2 innings, with 2 strikeouts in just his 2nd game with San Jose, and 5th game as a pro.
RHP Trent Harris continues to look ready for more advanced competition, as he struck out 2 batters in 2 scoreless innings on Friday. An undrafted free agent after July’s draft, Harris has been virtually unhittable since going pro. In 12 games between the ACL and Low-A, Harris has thrown 17 innings and allowed just 11 hits, 1 walk, and 1 earned run, with 27 strikeouts. If you’re wondering: yep, that’s good.
Weekend home runs
AAA Tyler Fitzgerald (18 in AAA, 20 total)
AAA Armando Alvarez (14)
AAA Heliot Ramos, 2 (12 in AAA, 15 total)
AAA Luis Matos, 2 (9 in AAA, 14 total)
AAA Luis González (1)
AA Victor Bericoto (9 in AA, 25 total)
High-A Jared Dupere (11)
High-A Carter Howell, 2 (6 in High-A, 10 total)
High-A Brett Auerbach (5 in High-A, 6 total)
High-A Thomas Gavello (1 in High-A, 11 total)
Low-A Cole Foster (4 in Low-A, 7 total)
Low-A Quinn McDaniel (2 in Low-A, 5 total)
Low-A Scott Bandura (2 in Low-A, 3 total)
Sacramento: @ the Las Vegas Aviators, 7:05 p.m. PT
Richmond: vs. the Akron RubberDucks, 3:05 p.m. PT
Eugene: Off day
San Jose: vs. the Stockton Ports, 6:30 p.m. PT
Reminder that Minor League games can now be watched on MLB TV.