Home, Sweet Snake Pit

[Photo credit: Bay Area News Group/San Jose Mercury News]

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by DrLefty

Ahhhh, Saturday morning. The coffee is hot, the Giants won last night, and for the first time since the middle of May, I don’t have to write about a Drew Pomeranz Friday night start. And for once, there’s some fun stuff to talk about!

This past week started out well, with the Giants taking a series at home from the first-place Milwaukee Brewers and then winning a thriller at Dodger Stadium as Tyler Beede earned his first major league win.  Then…well, Greek Giant covered all that.  Moving on.

The Giants, as bad as they’ve been the past few years, always seem to have their bats come alive when they play at the Diamondbacks’ ballpark in Phoenix. Maybe it’s the desert air that they’re used to from spring training; maybe it’s that some of them actually live in the area and are getting to sleep in their own beds on a road trip. Whatever the reason, the ol’ Snake Pit just seems to suit the Giants.

One of the fun things about baseball is that even when you’re watching a bad team have a bad season, any particular game can always surprise and delight you. Last night’s game was one of those. Alex Dickerson, called up yesterday from AAA Sacramento to replace the injured Steven Duggar, had six RBIs in his Giants debut–which is the most by any Giant in his debut with the team since 1920.   He also became only the third player to hit a grand slam in his first game as a Giant. (The other two were Bobby Bonds and Brandon Crawford.)  At 458 feet, homer was the longest hit by a Giant this year. He killed that ball.

But Dickerson wasn’t done. He’d hit a single in his first AB, hit the grand slam in his second AB, and then hit a triple (aided by some ineptitude from the Snakes’ left fielder) his third time up. His teammates appreciated the triple, which broke the game open for the second time.

 

This is not a chant you hear everyday.

There are so many jokes one could make here…

Seriously, Dickerson’s big night is a great story. During the game, Giants Twitter was all “Who the H is Alex Dickerson?” Given that the Giants had already played ten different guys in left field this season (and counting; Dickerson is #11), it’s not surprising that people might have missed the transaction a couple weeks ago when the Giants acquired Dickerson, who’d been designated for assignment by the Padres, for minor league pitcher Franklin van Gurp. It’s also not surprising that people would wonder why Dickerson, who’d gone 3 for 17 in his time with the Sacramento River Cats, was getting the call. In his pregame comments, Bruce Bochy explained that the Giants were intrigued by Dickerson’s power. Well, OK, then. Count me in as also intrigued.

 

Here are the 11 players who’ve appeared in LF for the Giants in 2019, ranked by games played there.

 

Dickerson had not played in the major leagues since 2016 due to injuries that wiped out his 2017 and 2018 seasons. The last homer he’d hit in the majors was in September 2016, a pinch-hit game-winner for the Padres off…wait for it…Jeff Samardzija, whom Dickerson and his new buddy Kevin Pillar made last night’s winning pitcher.

Dickerson may never have another big game (remember Mac Williamson’s 2019 debut?), but last night sure was fun.

Pillar also had a huge night, hitting a no-doubter two-run homer to left to get the Giants on the board first for once, and a two-out, two-run single to right that gave the Giants breathing room after Samardzija had given almost all of the six-run lead back.

 

Other good news, Part 1

Conner Menez, a lefty “late-bloomer” who got very little interest from colleges out of high school, is having a breakout season in the upper minors. Menez was a 14th-round draft pick in 2016 out of The Master’s University, a tiny Christian college in the LA area. Menez’s father, a pastor, also played baseball at TMU, and his grandfather, Bill Plummer, was a major league catcher who served as Johnny Bench’s backup on the 70s Big Red Machine.

Menez, who is 24, grew up in Hollister as a Giants fan and idolized Madison Bumgarner. Here’s a quote from a story about him by Melissa Lockard in The Athletic last year.

 

“It was the best day of my life,” Menez said over the phone Tuesday about his draft day experience. “The Giants were the number one team that I could be drafted by because I grew up watching all of those guys. It was a pretty special moment when the Giants called and picked me.”

 

Now there’s a good chance he’ll become Bumgarner’s replacement if Bum is traded.  Here are Menez’s stats across AA/AAA this season in 76.0 innings pitched: 3-3, 2.74 ERA, 0.987 WHIP, 25 BBs, 101 Ks. That’s right: 101 strikeouts, including 12 last night in Las Vegas, a very tough place for pitchers, in 76 innings, and a 4/1 K/BB ratio.  We saw Menez’s second-to-last start in Sacramento last weekend, and he’s actually a bit reminiscent of Bumgarner in his delivery.

Here’s Menez last night making someone look silly.

It’s worth noting that Menez is not even on the Giants’ top-30 prospects list, though I suspect that will change when the lists are revised midseason.  He also was not on the top-500 list on draft day in 2016. I like this kind of underdog/off-the-radar story. The Giants have had a few of those, from late-rounders Brian Wilson and Sergio Romo to 2015 Rookie of the Year finalist Matt Duffy.

 

Other good news, Part 2

The AZL Rookie teams started playing this week, and the one we really want to pay attention is Giants Orange, which includes Giants’ #3 prospect Marco Luciano. Luciano was the Giants’ big July 2 international signing last year, and at age 17 is making his pro debut and earning raves from scouts.  In four AZL games, he’s 7 for 16 with four extra base hits (two homers), and an OPS of 1.415.

 

 

Luciano has already broken into the Fangraphs top-100 prospects list, and if he keeps this up, he’ll be on others and may pass Joey Bart and Heliot Ramos as the Giants’ top prospect. But he’s not the only exciting player to watch on Giants Orange. Alexander Canario, a 19-year-old outfielder, has been on scouts’ radar since his DSL debut in 2017, and he’s off to an even hotter start than Luciano is (.500/.529/1.125/1.654 with two homers in 16 ABs).  Canario is the Giants’ #10 prospect, and the #9 guy, Luis Toribio, is also on Giants Orange. Toribio is a 3B who was signed in July 2017, and–you guessed it–he’s off to a hot start.

These AZL guys are teenagers, and it will be quite awhile before we see any of them in SF, but it’s nice to see the Giants finally making some good moves on the international market.  While Luciano was a high-profile J2 signee who earned over $2.6 million, Canario and Toribio were signed for much more modest bonuses of $60,000 and $300,000, respectively.

 

Tonight’s game

Giants at Diamondbacks, 7:10 p.m. at the Snake Pit

Tyler Beede (1-2, 6.67 ERA) vs. Zack Godley (3-4, 6.52 ERA)

 

It will be interesting to see how Beede follows up his excellent outing at Dodger Stadium. Even in a down year, it’s fun to have storylines to pay attention to. Have a great Saturday, y’all. Lefty out.