For the first season of the partnership between the Giants and the Eugene Emeralds, the Giants sent three first round picks there to open the season. That did not work out nearly as well as anyone had hoped, but Eugene ended up home to a ton of prospect emergences and ended with the team winning the High-A West’s championship.
2020 1st round pick Patrick Bailey was one of the team’s highlights, but Bailey struggled in his first pro assignment. Bailey hit only .185/.290/.296 and struck out 43 times in 135 at-bats in his time at Eugene, dealing with some back stiffness. Bailey stayed in Eugene through late June, when he was sent to extended Spring Training, and briefly in the ACL. Though Bailey would eventually go to Low-A San Jose and do well with a .322/.415/.531 batting line, he’ll have to prove he can perform well at High-A in 2022.
Meanwhile, things were even worse for 2019 1st round pick Hunter Bishop. Bishop got into three games before shoulder problems sidelined him, and he never returned to Eugene. Bishop would eventually get into a total of just 16 games, 11 of which were down in the ACL (not including the Arizona Fall League), but 2021 ended up a second lost season for Bishop after 2020.
The team’s other 2019 1st round pick, acquired via trade, had the best season of the three, though it wasn’t ideal either. Will Wilson hit .251/.339/.497 over 49 games in Eugene, which isn’t the most overwhelming offensive season, but still had a solid .837 OPS even without a high batting average. Wilson got an early July promotion to Richmond, but struggled to a .189/.281/.306 batting line in 51 games, and wilted at the end of his first full season.
One other top prospect was Seth Corry, one of the system’s top starting pitcher prospects going into the season, after he showed improved control in Augusta in 2019. The season was a nightmare, as Corry struggled to a 5.99 ERA, and walked 63 in 67.2 innings, after he walked just 58 in 122.2 innings. Corry was given a break after three months at the end of July, but came back to Eugene throwing four shortened starts (two innings apiece, generally), where he looked better, allowing three hits and four walks to 11 strikeouts in 8.1 innings.
21-year old Diego Rincones was in his fifth season with the Giants (not including the missing 2020 season), starting the season with an 8-game hitting streak and really established himself with a .300/.385/.533 batting line across 25 games, interrupted by time with the Venezuelan Olympic team in June. In the end, Rincones’ time at Eugene looks short in the books, but it was huge statement in establishing himself as an offensive outfielder. He was promoted to Double-A, where he hit .290/.373/.505 in Richmond.
Another outfielder stuck around all season, and came on strong late int he season. Ismael Munguia finished the season with a .336/.366/.502 line, powered by a ridiculous August batting line (.523/523/.818 over ten games) and September (.447/.449/.681 over 11 games), though he drew zero walks over those 21 games. Still, Munguia had only one subpar month overall, and he showed increase power, hitting nine home runs after never hitting more than one in a season in any of his previous four. The center fielder’s hustle and positivity could lead to an increased role for himself.
A couple of pitchers emerged in just short times at Eugene before getting promoted. 22-year old R.J. Dabovich worked in relief in just 11 games, but absolutely dominated, with 28 strikeouts to six walks in 12.2 innings, and just two hits allowed (both home runs). By mid-June, Richmond was calling for Dabovich, which challenged him more, but he still ended the year with 62 strikeouts to 13 walks in 32.1 innings overall. Starter Caleb Kilian, an 8th round pick in 2019, was also amazing in his first four starts at Eugene, with a 1.25 ERA and 32 strikeouts to one walk in 21.2 innings. He was quickly promoted to Double-A Richmond, and ended up traded to the Chicago Cubs in the Kris Bryant trade.
Eugene got the benefits of a quick call-up as well, as 22-year old Chris Wright got called up to High-A after six successful games in San Jose. Wright was a dominant reliever for Eugene, with a 0.97 ERA in 37.0 IP, with 62 strikeouts and 18 walks, and 17 saves in 31 appearances. His high spin rate gives a lot of movement to both his fastball and curveball, and the southpaw worked with them well to dominate on the mound.
One other player who really emerged in Eugene was Brett Auerbach. The utility player and part-time catcher hit .342 after a month in San Jose, but only hit .256 in Eugene. However, he slugged even higher in Eugene (.533) than in San Jose (.521), finishing with 15 home runs, eight doubles, and one triple in 53 games at High-A. He had 11 doubles, two triples, and two home runs in 34 games in San Jose. In Eugene, Auerbach played games at second (27), catcher (12), center field (5), third (4), and right field (1), being among the most unique of utility players.
Late Season Performances
The biggest midseason promotion was Marco Luciano, whose strong Low-A start earned a High-A promotion. After hitting .278/.373/.556 in San Jose, Luciano struggled to a .217/.283/.295 batting line in 36 games at Eugene. The system’s top prospect likely will get a second chance in Oregon after that.
After a late start in San Jose, Jairo Pomares got a mid-August promotion to Eugene. The aggressive swinger was challenged in High-A, striking out 33 times to just one walk in 26 games, after striking out 54 times in 15 walks in 51 games at San Jose. While the plate discipline wavered, he still put a charge into the ball, with six home runs, five doubles, and one triple at Eugene.
Coming back after injury was 26-year old outfielder Heath Quinn, who was last seen batting .206/.301/.330 in Double-A in 2019. Quinn had a successful return to High-A, batting .265/.333/.513 across 35 games in Eugene, before getting a second chance at Double-A late, batting .213/.224/.362 in 12 games there.
Wright was the most notable reliever promoted midseason into High-A, but Austin Reich was promoted at the start of July after posting a 1.73 ERA in Low-A. Reich was an undrafted free agent in 2019, but came to prove himself even better in Eugene, with 1.56 ERA in 34.2 innings and 51 strikeouts to five walks.
Very late in the year, the Emeralds got a return from one of the intriguing pitchers in the system, 2018 4th round pick Blake Rivera. Rivera returned mid-season from injury to pitch well in the Arizona league, but made five appearances (four starts) at Eugene and struggled to a 6.43 ERA, giving up 21 hits in 14.0 innings, and 17 strikeouts to five walks. Rivera with his hammer curve is seen by many as a future reliever, but the Giants kept him starting in his brief return.
Underperformers Who Might Return
Catcher Ricardo Genovés was quickly pushed up to High-A after a great start in San Jose, but he struggled in High-A, batting .217/.294/.364 over 65 games at Eugene. He recovered after a very cold start at the level, when he hit .188 over his first 26 games, and even had an encouraging cameo at Sacramento, batting .455/.478/.727 after six games there.
Starting pitcher Kai-Wei Teng put up some bigtime strikeout performances in late 2019 after the Giants traded for him, so there were big expectations for his first full Giants season. He put together a season of inconsistency, including getting suspended for a foreign substance, and an absolutely awful July, but he did finish strong to return to a 4.33 ERA in 21 starts (95.2 innings).
After getting drafted in the second round in 2019, first baseman Logan Wyatt had a lot of expectations, particularly for his plate discipline. Overall, Wyatt ended up with a disappointing batting line, although with the walks. Wyatt, finished with a .238/.398/.295 batting line, with 58 walks to 52 strikeouts. He notably struggle with his ability to make contact, and hit just eight doubles, one triple, and one home run in 70 games at Eugene, and couldn’t improve significantly in limited time at the ACL, either.