In late June, I was lucky enough to take the time to spend nearly a week in Eugene, Oregon, watching the games of the Eugene Emeralds. I try to watch, see, and follow as much as I can, but nothing beats seeing players first-hand, even in small sample sizes.
So with the trip concluded, here are some quick thoughts about the players I saw, and a few other things, while I was in the heart of Oregon.
The Biggest Change In Opinion – Tyler Fitzgerald
Before this trip, I kept mistyping Tyler Fitzgerald’s name as Ryan, for a reason I can understand. Over and Over, each time swearing I’d remember it right. No more.
Fitzgerald was the Giants’ 4th round pick in 2019, and he hadn’t been a player that I’d paid very much attention to, even after a solid debut splitting between the Rookie League, Short-A and Low-A. And his numbers this season don’t generally appear excellent, hitting .259/.353/.457.
This week, I watched him hit three of his seven home runs, all line shots, pulling them to left field. But I wasn’t impressed by that burgeoning power.
I’m impressed that Fitzgerald is succeeding as a utility player, willing to and succeeding at being slipped into different roles. Manager Dennis Pelfrey has put him all over the lineup, and he’s generally produced all over, both in the batting order and in the infield.
He still has some holes, his biggest being his platoon split against left-handed pitching. But Fitzgerald feels like a hitter that could be a great fit in a Gabe Kapler lineup, a weapon that could be used in many roles. I can see that future for him.
Slumping Will Wilson
Will Wilson started the season off hot, but he’s cooled off as of late. The first round pick has been one of the most intriguing additions to the Giants farm system, and I was excited to get a look at him.
The Wilson I saw was one who was still struggling at the plate. But except for one game, he looked like he came to the plate with a plan and executed it well. He was snakebit a little, but had a pair of hard-hit doubles that looked sharp.
After the week, I wanted to look at Wilson’s splits, between his hot start and his slumping June. What I found was remarkably similar numbers between the month of June, and his hotter start in May. Although he played three more games in June than May, it’s fantastic how similar many were.
It seems his batting average has been the biggest difference between the two months, since the walk and strikeout numbers are very similar, as are many of the extra-base hits. If he can find a way to change that in July, Wilson should be back to the intriguing prospect he was in May.
Armani – Looking Sharp
At the start of the season, I predicted that Armani Smith would be one of the sleepers to watch in San Jose, and he didn’t last in San Jose long before going up to Eugene. Smith just spent the week with a solid and consistent stroke. I didn’t catch any Smith home runs, but every hit he got I saw was a solid hit.
The 7th round pick in 2019 has simply been consistent across San Jose and Eugene, and he’s just been one of the best-performing picks of the draft from the hitting side. So far, he hasn’t had a problem yet. It’ll be interesting to see when he has to face some adversity. No one’s found a way to provide some adversity yet.
Patrick Bailey Before He Was Gone
Bailey was one of Eugene’s three first round picks to start the season on the roster, but he was sent to Arizona into extended spring training while I was in Oregon. Bailey was just coming off a week off, which manager Dennis Pelfrey said was partially to help him rest as opposed to any specific injury. Obviously, he’s been slumping, leaving Oregon while batting just .185 with nine doubles and two home runs. What I saw was a player who looked like he was slumping. He had four strikeouts in 12 at-bats that I saw, and generally wan’t making strong contact even into outs. He did have one double that was an impressive hit, but the strikeouts need to change, as he has 43 in 135 games.
One thing I did see out of Bailey is his defense. He was eager to pick players off, picking up one and nearly getting another if it weren’t for a throw he skipped into second base and was misplayed. Part of him being so proactive in picking runners off might have been the new rules about pickoffs in High-A, where pitchers need to fully step off before making a pickoff throw. This has allowed baserunners to take slightly bigger leads, which is enticing to catchers like Bailey with a strong arm. If Bailey can get his offense going, even back to an average level, his defense makes him a good prospect.
Seth Corry’s Struggles
One of the pitchers I was most looking forward to seeing was Seth Corry, who is having a struggle of a season. His fastball control has disappeared, and you could see in the at-bats he’d throw, he’d be yanking his fastball, missing a lot down and in to right handers.
I wrote up a piece on Seth, and how Vancouver approached facing him and succeeded with their plan. However, the more important part is that Corry’s troubles can likely be coached out, by working on his release point. Having his fastball be a threat for strikes will make Corry’s devastating curveball be more effective, and he can get swing throughs on that even if it is not as sharp.
There’s still a high ceiling for Corry, but he definitely has work to do.
The Strikeout Mystery of Kai-Wei Teng
Teng was one of the more mysterious pickups the Giants made in the trade deadline of 2019, and he finished the season strong, picking up multiple 10-strikeout starts before the season ended. I was excited to see what he was using for those strikeouts.
The reality is that…you don’t see any overwhelming pitches off of Teng. But he uses all four pitches to get strikeouts just through his repetoire. His fastball was ranging from 91-94 mph, and he worked a lot with his changeup, which was a good pitch. He also was throwing a knuckle curve, which felt like his most effective pitch in the game I saw, which was not Teng’s best. On a very hot day, the balls were flying out of PK Park, and he saw two go, one on his fastball and one on his changeup, and he gave up several hits.
Before I got there, Teng was the first Giant player at any level dinged for foreign substances, but the good news is that his first couple of starts afterwards, he was still getting a lot of strikeouts. Hopefully the game I saw was just a hiccup, and was affected by the extreme heat.
The Development Difficulties of PK Park
I’ll be doing a full scouting report on PK Park later, but it’s impossible not to look at how PK Park affects player development. The park is one of the few artificial turf parks in the minors, and while turf is making a comeback in the majors, PK Park’s a little different.
The big difference is that the entire field is turf, including the infield “dirt”. While this has many different effects for fielders, the major issue is for baserunners, who don’t get nearly as much friction as they would on dirt. Two of the times the Emeralds were caught stealing in one game I attended came from oversliding the bag, and almost every slide ended up in players having to hold onto the bag to try to stay on it.
I was told that in the past, the Emeralds would get dirt for the area around the plate, but this year it had not happened for unknown reasons.
The turf also does not absorb heat well, reflecting it more than grass and dirt will. That came into play on the week I was there, during a nearly unprecedented heatwave in the Pacific Northwest that resulted in 100+ degree temperatures. Obviously, that’s not likely to be a consistent thing that players will face, but it’s just one more difference.
The Emeralds will need to move, as MLB has deemed PK Park as not up to its standards, with a key reason being the shared occupancy with college’s Oregon Ducks. It’ll be interesting to see if whatever new stadium they build or find still has the turf.
A big impression of Tyler Schimpf (and his hair)
Tyler Schimpf has not had the best season, but he looked very impressive in one game I saw him in. He came into the game with the bases loaded and one out, and struck out the next two batters to get out of it, and ended up with three strikeouts in 1.2 IP.
But mostly, I just had to say something because he absolutely has the best hair on the team.
Logan Wyatt – A key prospect
I really thing that Logan Wyatt, the Giants’ 2nd round pick in 2019, is a key prospect for them to develop as a role player in a future team’s construction. His reputation for being a professional hitter in the box, looking at the strike zone and walks, is well earned.
What I saw was a hitter who was really trying hard to make contact, and not always doing so, as his .236 batting average attests. He probably won’t ever be a slugger, but with a .400 batting average even while batting in the .230s, he can still be a productive player.
Where Wyatt really needs to develop is defensively. He had some struggles trying to dig out throws, which again may have something to do with a turf infield. He also had some problems tracking pop foul balls that went down the line behind him. A good defensive first baseman is so important, as Brandon Belt made all the fielders around him better by digging out the throws that went into the dirt. Wyatt just needs more reps, because what he needs most is to feel comfortable at first. He didn’t look that way in my visit.
Ismael Munguia – Just Plain Fun
Munguia is a player who goes all out, and plays the game with a carefree mentality. I don’t know how well it’ll work for him as a career, as he made both strong plays and let balls get by him while trying to go for it. But one place Munguia made an impression is that he is always making funny faces when doing, well, almost anything on the field. I bet his most important impact is in the clubhouse, keeping spirits high.T
That’s a good amount of reports. I saw a lot of players, and a lot of baseball. Some guys I hope to see more of to get a better impact, like Sean Roby. I hope to see the bullpen really have some players emerge, after the latest promotions. And I hope that players I missed, like Diego Rincones and Hunter Bishop, come back and keep doing good things. But I’ll leave you with this: Eugene is still one of the most talent-laden roster on the system, so keep an eye on them. This is a good season.