Banging The Door Down
It’s up to the brass to decide when to promote players, and sometimes they get aggressive with it, and other times they take more time than others think is needed to push a player up the system. But the best thing a player can do to force the issue is not to just play well, but to be banging the door down.
This week, we’ve seen two promotions already. On Sunday, outfielder Armani Smith was pushed from High-A Eugene to Double-A Richmond, despite not exactly breaking through that door. On Monday, it was announced that reliever Mat Olsen got the promotion from San Jose to Eugene. Chances are, those are not the last players to get promoted this week or two…you might even see some names not long after this story is published.
So let’s take a look at the guys who are banging the door down…and who isn’t quite there.
David Villar – I mean, what else can you say about David Villar’s season at this point. He leads the farm with 12 home runs, and has a batting line of .310/.426/.690. Few players are banging the proverbial door down like Villar, but the only problem is that the other side of the door is Evan Longoria. However, Longoria’s contract is up at the end of this year (with a club option), so what this year really is, is proving himself for a chance at the big league role in 2023.
Mauricio Llovera – This is almost cheating since Llovera has already gotten called up, but of the many minor league free agents the Giants signed, Llovera’s 0.00 ERA in Sacramento through eight games, and 17 strikeouts to 2 walks in 12.2 innings makes him stand out, and he should be a part of the big league team as the season goes on.
Knocking on the door, not busting it down: Bryce Johnson is one of Sacramento’s best contact hitters, defenders, and base stealers, but his low walk rate (2 walks to 22 strikeouts in 27 games) and lack of power (0 home runs) is just enough to drag him down. New acquisition Kevin Padlo has five home runs with Sacramento, but four were all in high altitude Albuquerque. If he can show the power more consistently, the Giants will have a hard time keeping him down. The best starter in Sacramento has been Raynel Espinal, but he did have a rough start in his last game, so he needs to get back into the groove. Joey Marciano has been interesting and has some velocity, but he has nine walks to 13 strikeouts in 15.0 innings, and he needs to improve those numbers
No Hitters – There just aren’t any hitters who have truly been as overwhelming as you’d hope at Double-A…not a surprise, considering that the Eastern League and Richmond in particular is very pitcher-friendly. But a few names are close…
Taylor Rashi – Rashi’s scoreless streak ended recently, but the reliever has been one of the best higher-level eye-opening performances. He has a 1.35 ERA through 11 games, with 20 strikeouts to four walks, and just seven hits allowed in 13.1 innings. Patrick Ruotolo was the first Squirrel to get promoted very early this year. If a spot opens up, Rashi, who had a 4.44 ERA in Eugene last season, could be next to Triple-A.
Knocking on the door, not busting it down: Frankie Tostado has been the best all-around offensive player in Richmond with a .333/.361/.500 batting line, with seven doubles and four home runs, but with just four walks to 25 strikeouts, he needs to improve that to really be taking out the door. Sean Roby has been one of the best ever power hitters in Richmond, but his batting average is still just .245 and he has 46 strikeouts in 106 at-bats. Also opening eyes is Shane Matheny, who leads Richmond in OPS, but that .266 batting average could be just a bit higher for an all-around performer. The best starter has been Jake Dahlberg, with a 3.53 ERA and 34 strikeouts to seven walks in 35.2 innings, but it just hasn’t been dominating enough to include
Kyle Harrison – He’s taken out the door with a spectacular 51 strikeouts to nine walks in 24.0 innings and has a 1.88 ERA. He’a also allowed just 15 hits, for a .172 average allowed. The days are numbered before Harrison gets to try out Double-A.
Casey Schmitt – It’s been a breakout year for Schmitt, who has responded well to his lacking San Jose debut in 2021. He has a batting line of .316/.389/.595, and has four doubles to six home runs despite the weather interrupting any consistency in the northwest. Schmitt’s biggest problem is a roadblock at third base behind Roby and Villar.
Knocking on the door, not busting it down: So why not Marco Luciano? Luciano is having a strong year, going .306/.381/.506, but personally, I’d just like to see him do a little more a little longer before I’d have him really making his case. A surprise performance this season has been from Ghordy Santos, who’s batting .295/.361/.477, trying to fit into a crowded lineup with his versatility. Wil Jensen has been a piggyback starter with Eugene, and has a 2.93 ERA with an impressive 24 strikeouts to five walks in 15.1 innings. But with just 15.1 innings, I’d like to see him get some more work to prove it isn’t a small sample size, and build out his workload. Nick Morreale is the last pitcher with regular work in the system with a 0.00 ERA
Vaun Brown – The highest drafted hitter in the 2021 draft (10th round), the 23-year old Brown has really taken off in May, and now has a batting line of .322/.301/.636 with four doubles, two triples, and 10 home runs, and 10 steals in 11 attempts. Perhaps the recent promotion of Armani Smith out of High-A means Brown has an opening at High-A, where he’ll be playing against more players closer to his age.
Grant McCray – Another player who is having an amazing May, the 3rd round pick from 2019 is finally performing on his immense potential. Now batting .313/.420/.606, with seven doubles, two triples, six home runs, and seven steals in ten attempts. The 21-year old is definitely earning a push.
Trevor McDonald – Another 2019 high school draft pick, McDonald is really putting it together, with a 1.40 ERA and 29 strikeouts to four walks in 19.1 innings. McDonald’s been taking his time coming up the system, so I think the Giants will want to start pushing him faster.
Mason Black – On a crowded pitching staff, Mason Black has been one of the most consistent starters for the Giants, with a 1.88 ERA and 37 strikeouts to eight walks in 28.2 innings. Pushing Black is as much about opening up spots in San Jose as pushing Black himself, though he is very deserving of High-A.
Knocking on the door, not busting it down: Just a step behind Black is Nick Sinacola, who has 35 strikeouts to nine walks in 22.2 innings and a 1.59 ERA. Sinacola has been a little less hittable, but if he can bring down the walks just a little, he should also be on the High-A push soon.
Seth Corry has Surgery
Not too many years ago, Seth Corry was ranked as one of the top pitching prospects in the system, but he had a very difficult 2021. Now, another setback.
Corry had just one healthy outing this season, and in his second game of the year, on April 19th, left after just a couple of pitches with an apparent injury. Now, it’s confirmed that he needs surgery. The precise nature of the surgery was not named, but chances are he will be out for quite some time.
A Home Run Lost
Look, there’s no beating around the bush that Hunter Bishop has had a really difficult two years, with 2021 being filled with injuries, and 2022 just not getting the hits. With that in mind, every hit matters, and so does every big fly.
So, of course, Bishop had a home run taken from him on Thursday.
When looking at the replay, it’s obvious that the baseball hits the setup for a camera over the center field wall, a few feet above the yellow line. Unfortunately, the umpires do not have the benefit of replay in the minor leagues.
While Bishop still got a double on the play, it’s just one more stat that he won’t have on his line in this difficult start to the season. So, instead of finishing this week with four home runs and a double, it’s now just three home runs and two doubles.
Sometimes, this is how baseball is, unfortunately.
Highlights of the Week
Here’s a relief to see: Heliot Ramos hitting a home run, his first in three weeks. Ramos has been having a difficult year and has been slumping recently, so hopefully this is the start of the turnaround.
Luckily, Ramos can stick pick a nice catch in the outfield, no matter how he’s doing at the plate.
Vaun Brown has been white-hot for a while and had four home runs on the week, so which do we choose to share? How about a walkoff home run, while wearing those great alternate uniforms!
Sean Roby isn’t on the same pace he was on in April with the home runs, but he still has immense power and can definitely still hit them for Richmond!
When you have a ghost runner in extras and you’re the home team, here’s the ideal way to walk off the win thanks to the bunting skills of Hunter Bishop and hitting skills of Marco Luciano, picking on a poor third baseman.
One of the few knocks on Jairo Pomares is that he isn’t the best at defense. So it’s nice to see him laying all out for a ball like this, even if it wasn’t the most graceful landing.
Quietly, Brandon Martorano has been putting together quite a year, and one of his biggest moments so far was this grand slam this past week.
Speaking of grand slams, here’s Tommy La Stella trying to tell the SF Giants that he’s ready to return, with a slam of his own to give the River Cats a lead on Friday.
Home Runs have been the news of the season at many parts of this season, so here’s yet another 3-home run day, this time from Sacramento’s Austin Dean on Sunday, taking advantage of the Texas air.
Speaking of Texas, Sacramento’s Bryce Johnson has family in Texas. So of course, his family was there in El Paso this week, and they got to see Bryce have a good week, including a high light like this.
The Reading/Listening List
There wasn’t much to include this week, but there was this tidbit from Eno Sarris about up-and-coming pitchers, which brought about a mention of Sean Hjelle, despite him giving up a lot of hits in Triple-A around his Major League debut.
David Villar – Pacific Coast League Player of the Week
It was hard to ignore David Villar as the River Cats visited El Paso this week. By hitting .400 with four home runs, Villar powered the offense for the Cats, and posting a 1.620 OPS on the season.
It’s Villar’s first weekly award of the season, as well as the first for the Sacramento River Cats this season. The River Cats had five weekly awards in the 2021 season.
Hitter of the Week: David Villar – 8-for-20 (.400), 2 2B, 4 HR, 5 BB, 7 SO
He was the PCL Player of the Week, so he’s ours as well. Both Villar and Vaun Brown had four home runs this week, but Villar also had a pair of doubles and more walks, so he gets the nod instead of Brown repeating the title this week. Villar has been a revelation this season, and very well might be the best offensive player seen in Sacramento in a very long time.
Villar: 8-for-20 (.400), 2 2B, 4 HR, 5 BB, 7 SO
Brown: 7-for-20 (.350), 4 HR, 3 BB, 6 SO, 1 SB
Pitcher of the Week: Ryan Murphy – 4.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 SO
Here’s to coming back strong! Ryan Murphy finally made his return to the field after missing the first month with a back injury, and looked like the pitcher who dominated the 2021 season, going four shutout innings, allowing just a hit, a walk, and seven strikeouts. Murphy finished 2021 in High-A Eugene with six starts at the level. Murphy probably will be at High-A for some time, but if he keeps this up, he’ll probably have a midseason promotion to Double-A sometime this summer.
Top Prospect Watch
Marco Luciano – .306/.381/.506 – 26-85, 5 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 9 BB, 21 SO
It wasn’t much of a week for the Emeralds as a group with a lot of rainouts, and Luciano got into just two games, ending up 2-for-5 with a walk and a strikeout. What’ll be more important for Luciano will be not letting this week of weather get him out of his rhythm.
Luis Matos – .152/.253/.152 – 10-66, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 8 BB, 13 SO, 1-1 SB-SBA
Eugene barely got any games in, but Matos just hasn’t played at all since May 4th. There’s been no announced injury, but considering how significant Matos’ poor start has been, he might just be being held back a bit to work on making adjustments.
Kyle Harrison – 1.88 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, .172 Avg – 24.0 IP, 15 H, 8 R, 5 ER, 9 BB, 51 SO
Even with the rain in Oregon, Harrison was able to get a game in and led a 7-inning shutout in a doubleheader, striking out nine in 5.0 innings, allowing just two hits and a walk. Basically, Harrison is absolutely dominating the NWL, and it’s hard to imagine he stays there for long. About the only thing he still has to prove is to stretch himself out longer, as he’s only reached 5.0 innings twice in six games this year.
Heliot Ramos – .193/.313/.284 – 21-109, 1 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 17 BB, 31 SO, 1-2 SB-SBA
Ramos finished his week with a home run, his first since late April, and hopefully it turns things around for him. This week, he fell under the Mendoza for the first time this season after starting out fairly hot, going 3-for-24 (.125) with one walk to nine strikeouts. Last season, Ramos had a pretty significant slump that he pulled out of, hopefully he can repeat it this year.
Will Bednar – 4.07 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, .148 Avg – 24.1 IP, 12 H, 11 R, 11 ER, 9 HBP, 13 BB, 28 SO
This week was Bednar’s worst start of the year, as he was unable to get out of even the first inning, giving up a season-high five runs on three hits and three walks. Badnar’s control is starting to feel like an issue, as he’s combined for 22 free passes in 24.1 innings, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can spend the rest of the summer tightening it up.
A little thing I saw this week from the Major Leagues. I love ballparks! Minor League or Major League, they are worth visiting, because every single one is different. But this week, there was some news about a possible new ballpark coming soon.
I got a chance to visit Kauffman Stadium in 2013, and I really loved it. The string of modernist concrete stadiums generally has not been the most celebrated era of stadiums, but Kauffman was my favorite, and its modern, sloping profile is unique and almost alternate-retro in this era of “retro” ballpark styles.
But news is that the Royals are looking to move rather than update the nearly 50-year old stadium. This isn’t like Atlanta moving out of a relatively young ballpark. The K is the 6th oldest stadium in baseball today, just slightly newer than the Oakland Coliseum.
There’s not much to say other than the plans for possible sites, but no designs or anything. And I can’t blame the Royals for looking to move, as that’s a stadium that is older and is needing more and more upkeep. However, I can’t help but think that MLB will be losing one of it’s nicer stadiums. The K isn’t in that top tier of ballparks, led by new classics like Oracle Park or PNC Park in Pittsburgh, nor the older classics like Fenway or Wrigley. However, I think the K is firmly in that second tier of best MLB parks.
I recommend visiting it if you get a chance. And hey, since the Royals ended up winning the World Series in 2015, maybe they won’t be too mad if you wear your Giants hat when you visit.