Numbers to Watch from a Small Sample Size

It’s basically been three weeks into the season.  It’s a bit early to make any judgments about players based on three weeks, but there have been some interesting numbers.  And while you’re probably watching the top prospects (like the five I update every week on the PRU down below).  So here’s seven numbers for seven other prospects that shouldn’t tell you anything yet, but are very much worth watching over the rest of the season.

Kervin Castro – 7 Walks in 7.0 innings

Castro had a strong promotion to Triple-A last season and in a short big league stint established himself as an efficient reliever.  So that one walk per inning performance so far in Sacramento is eyebrow raising.  Hopefully, it’s something as simple as a wandering release point that will get fixed over time.

Casey Schmitt – .324 batting average, .649 slugging percentage

Quite a few people were expecting Schmitt to have a bounce-back season, but there’s two numbers to really watch.  Schmitt was expected to be a good contact hitter, so the .324 batting average is nice to see.  However, his college reputation was not as a power hitter, so the .649 slugging (which comes from three doubles and three home runs in 12 games) is a very, very encouraging thing to see.  If he keeps the power up, it could be the biggest win in the season for the Giants farm system.

Shane Matheny – 1.128 OPS

As a 25-year old, 23rd round pick from the 2017 draft, Matheny doesn’t get a lot of attention, and he hit .207 in 58 games at Double-A last season.  He’s also just played 10 games in a utility role out of 15 games Richmond has had.  So his .391/.563/.565 batting line is very notable even with the small sample size.  His power is not a plus, but overall, he’s gotten a lot of hits, and has nine walks to six strikeouts, so you know certain execs will be watching that out of a utility role.

Randy Rodriguez – 3 Games Started, 7.2 IP

Trying to figure out which starters will convert to relievers before they make the big leagues is a common thing, but for Rodriguez, it’s gone the other way.  Other than two starts in the DSL in 2018, Rodriguez had only done relief, including his breakout 2021 season with a 1.74 ERA.  In relief, he’d average about 1.2 innings an appearance.  Now he’s starting, and averaging about the same length.  It’ll be interesting to see if he continues to start, or if he moves out of the role again as the glut of San Jose’s talented starters get promotions.

Manuel Mercedes – 12 Walks, 5 Strikeouts in 7.2 Innings

When Mercedes was signed, he had a pretty stereotypical pitching profile as a hard-throwing, spotty control pitcher that we’ve seen many times.  But his start has been very concerning.  He’s walking nearly 1.5 batters per inning, and maybe more concerning is that he’s struck out just five in 7.2 innings.  Obviously, it’s three appearances, but it’s a concerning start.

Matt Mikulski – 10 Strikeouts in 12.0 innings

The Giants’ 2nd round pick in 2021 made the most of some college adjustments to notch some huge strikeout totals in college.  So far in his first full season, though, the strikeouts haven’t been there.  Since he was drafted as a college senior, Mikulski turns 23 in early May and is a bit older than the average competition in Low-A, so you’d expect more.  Hopefully he’ll heat up a bit more as the season goes along.

Wei-Chieh Huang – 17 Strikeouts in 7.1 innings

One of the Giants’ minor league free agents, and he’s come out hot early in the season.  He’s working heavily with his fastball-changeup early on, and that’s resulted in high strikeout totals so far.  If he can keep that up, the Giants would be hard-pressed to leave him in Sacramento all year.

Luis Matos’ Slow Start

One of the talks of the offseason was around Luis Matos.  After he’d had a successful full first year in San Jose, he was talked about heavily in Giants prospect communities.  He became a Top 100 Prospect in most overall prospect lists, and some people debated whether he might be a better prospect than Marco Luciano.  On the 10 major prospect lists about the Giants, he was ranked evenly between #2 and #3 in the Giants system before the season.

However, in High-A this season, Matos is off to a very slow start.  He’s hitting .178/.275/.178 through 12 games.  He has yet to have an extra-base hit, and has just five walks to ten strikeouts in 51 plate appearances.  He’s struck out at a 19.6% rate this season, a significant increase over last season (12.4%).

So what’s going on?  Is this just an early season slump, or is there more going on?

So far this season, Matos’ batting average peaked in the third game of the season went he was 3-for-14 for a .214 batting average.  But during the second week of the season, he went on a 1-for-19 slide.  He also didn’t draw a single walk in his first six games.

The good news on Matos is that over this past weekend, Matos showed signs of pulling out of this slump.  He’s drawn four walks from Friday through Sunday.  And on Saturday and Sunday, Matos went 3-for-7.

Will this be when Matos pulls out of his slump?  Only time will be able to tell that.  But hopefully we’ll see that turnaround soon, as the weather warms up in the Northwest.

Key Transactions

Two-plus weeks in, and we’ve begun seeing some significant roster moves in the farm system.

The first big non-Major League promotion has happened, as long-underrated Patrick Ruotolo was promoted to Triple-A after just two games in the year.  Ruotolo had a 2.68 ERA in Richmond in 2021, and struck out seven without allowing a baserunner in 3.0 innings to start the year.  Ruotolo struck out three in his Triple-A debut, including the first batter he faced, along with two walks.  He’s only made the one appearance so far in Sacramento, but he’ll be very interesting to watch.

Matt Frisbee made his debut this week, making two starts this week, allowing a run in each for a 3.18 ERA.  Frisbee had a 3.77 ERA in Double-A last season, though he struggled with a 7.64 ERA in a stint at Sacramento over the summer.

The move for Jairo Pomares is more of a diplomatic move than anything.  Pomares, who is batting .217/.308/.435, was put on the development list likely due to international travel problems since the team was going to Vancouver, Canada.  Expect to see him back on the Eugene roster for this week.

Daniel Tillo was signed to a minor league deal in mid-April by the Giants after being released by the Royals.  He had a 4.63 ERA in Double-A last season with them.  Tillo was immediately placed on the Injured List, however, and has not yet made his Giants debut.

Jeremy Walker was injured for 2021, and was released by the Braves that spring.  The Giants signed Walker, though he missed all of 2021.  Walker last pitched in 2019, in Double-A and Triple-A.  He made one rehab appearance in San Jose before getting up to Triple-A Sacramento.  He’s made two appearances there, with two hits and three walks in 2.1 innings, with three runs allowed.

Evan Gates was an undrafted free agent signed in 2021.  He had a 4.50 ERA in the ACL in 2021, and started the year in Eugene.  He’s yet to allow a run either in High-A or Low-A, with five strikeouts to two walks in 5.0 innings.

Ian Villers was placed on the IL after some struggles in his first three appearances.  He walked four with just a hit allowed in 3.0 innings.

Simon Whiteman made his return after missing the first couple of weeks of the season with an injury.  The speedster has gone 1-for-10 in five games since his return.  Whiteman hit .236/.338/.345 across 71 games in Double-A Richmond in 2021.

Another big thing is the status of Seth Corry.  Corry left his start on Wednesday after just two pitches with an injured arm.  At this point, there’s been no announcement as to his status.  So far, the Giants have not put him on any injured list, but it’s a concerning development for a guy that used to be the top pitching prospect in the system.

Highlights of the Week

I’m sure you’ve been missing this.  Here’s Heliot Ramos going deep, for just the second time this season, and the first time since Opening Day.

And if you took some time to listen to Trey Wilson’s podcast with Will Wilson, here’s the next home run he hit against Erie.

Ever since the roster came out, we’ve been talking about the pitchers on the San Jose roster and how amazing they are.  Well, this week, San Jose’s staff really poured it on.  On April 20th, Nick Sinacola, Keaton Winn, Trevor McDonald, and Tyler Myrick combined for a spectacular 20 in one game.

Ricardo Genovés is working hard in Sacramento, but check out this arm strength from his knees, even after adjusting out of the one-knee-down stance.

Sacramento is loaded with defense these days.  Bryce Johnson remains quite the defender in the outfield.

The Reading/Listening List

Richmond’s broadcaster Trey Wilson nailed down Will Wilson for an interview after his big game-ending grand slam last week.  Wilson is batting .214/.313/.429 on the season, with three doubles and three home runs, including the walk-off grand slam.

Meanwhile, as a number of writers and fans have celebrated how quick minor league games have gotten as pitch clocks have been strictly enforced.  But Kyle Boddy of Driveline released a report about the health of pitchers with reduced time between pitches.  I think more research is needed, but this is very much a report worth considerating.

Hitter of the Week: Marco Luciano – 6-for-19 (.316), 2 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 5 SO

Luciano’s week was just a good all-around week of consistency, rather than a spurt of huge numbers.  He had only one game without a hit on the week, two multi-hit games, and just ongoing contributions to the Emeralds.  If he can keep up this consistency week after week, the Giants top overall prospect should be pushing his way up the system quickly.

Pitcher of the Week: Mason Black – 4.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 SO

There were quite a few strikeouts across the system at times, but 2021 3rd round pick Mason Black averaged two per inning in his third start of the season.  It was a bounceback appearance for Black, who gave up four runs on seven hits in his previous start.  But between two good starts and one bad, Black has a 3.86 ERA with 18 strikeouts to one walk in 11.2 innings.

Top Prospect Watch

Marco Luciano – .318/.367/.614 – 14-44, 4 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 4 BB, 12 SO

It was kind of a just good, all-around week for Luciano, who was 6-for-19 with two doubles, two home runs, and two walks to five strikeouts.  The best thing to say about Luciano is that he’s been consistently effective, with just two games without any hits over 12 games played this season.  The strikeouts are still a touch high, but not unusual for a power hitter.

Luis Matos – .178/.275/.178 – 8-for-45, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 5 BB, 10 SO, 1-1 SB

The slow start for Matos continues, although he was 3-for-7 over the weekend with three walks to two strikeouts.  Matos still has no extra-base hits on the year, but after going without a walk in the first six games, he now has five in the last six games.  Hopefully this weekend is the start of the turnaround.

Kyle Harrison – 3.27 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, .195 Avg – 11.0 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 21 SO

This week was the first major stumble for Harrison in his entire pro career.  He only went two innings, allowing seven runs (just four earned) on four hits, two walks, and a hit batter.  It was also the first pro game where Harrison allowed two home runs.  Reports say that he was under the weather for the start, so hopefully this is just a blip in the long-term radar.

Heliot Ramos – .267/.411/.422 — 12-for-45, 1 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 9 BB, 10 SO, 1-1 SB

Ramos has had three hitless games since his return from the bigs, but also three multi-hit games.  He is coming back into form, however, as he drew five walks this week to just two strikeouts, and on Sunday, hit his first home run since opening day.

Will Bednar – 2.31 ERA, 0.69 WHIP, .128 Avg – 11.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 14 SO

With three starts under his belt, Bednar has been slowly getting sharper with each outing.  He’s allowed a run in each game, but his walks have been dropping and his strikeouts have been climbing.  One notable thing in the small sample size is that two of the three runs have come off of two home runs he’s allowed.

The Wrap-Up:

This is the worst.

That’s all.  That’s the Wrap-Up.  Ads on jerseys are the worst.  I hate the Nike swoosh too, but at least that borderline makes sense since they make the jersey.  Motorola has nothing to do with baseball.  And, hey, when it comes to bay area sports, I know exactly one thing about Rakuten – that I don’t want a thing to do with the company, whatever it is they do, because I hate seeing their logo on the Warriors jersey I won’t buy.

I hope teams that are very rich won’t give in.  But I know the Giants…and the Dodgers and Yankees…will.

Just another reason to dislike Manfred.u