Uggghhhhh. Last week I speculated that the Giants, despite a nice start to the season, were “breaking bad” after being walked off two nights in a row in Pittsburgh. They sure showed me, ripping off five straight wins including a very impressive four-game sweep in Cincinnati. Greek Giant wrote about the “siege” in his most recent post.
Do I get to write about fun stuff like conquering Cincinnati? I do not. Instead, I get two dispiriting (desultory, feculant) losses to the damn Dodgers. I HATE THE DODGERS. I hate that I could hear “Let’s Go Dodgers” chants in OUR BALLPARK last night. I hate that we had to listen to two Dodgers (their play-by-play guy and former Dodger Eric Karros) on the Fox TV broadcast. Hate, hate, HATE.
Just a few words about last night’s loss, which was by far the worst of the two. There’s pretty much nothing good to say about it, other than the heartwarming return to a major league mound by Scott Kazmir, for the first time since 2016. Kazmir actually did a nice job, despite giving up a first-inning splash job to Max Muncy (grosssssss). Oh, and Buster Posey hit a two-run homer that sadly was too little, too late because our relentlessly mediocre bullpen gave up five runs. (Come to think of it, maybe “mediocre” is far too generous to describe the Giants’ bullpen.) I know that Walker Buehler is a very, very good pitcher. But the Giants’ hitters just swung helplessly through high fastballs or grounded into double plays. Even the Giants’ usually reliable defense let them down, as three of the six runs were unearned. It was just an embarrassing display of ineptitude that confirmed everyone’s suspicions that the Giants are pretenders rather than contenders in the NL West.
Well–we’ll see. The Giants still have five more games against the Dodgers over the next eight days, and they could, you know, play better than they have the last two nights. But even if they don’t, it will still be only May when the two series are over. There’s a long, long way to go in this season.
Just so I don’t leave this on a totally sour note, here’s more on Kazmir.
"I'm just on cloud nine right now."
— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) May 23, 2021
…and Buster’s homer.
Buster crushes his ninth HR of the year 💪 pic.twitter.com/uOjqjSmBRz
— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) May 23, 2021
OK, onto the future
I’ve annoyed myself enough with this post about the present. Have I mentioned how much I hate the Dodgers? I’m sure I did. Anyway, I thought it might be fun to take a look at how our minor leaguers are doing.
- Sacramento River Cats: 7-8, 3rd place AAA West, 4.0 games back
- Richmond Flying Squirrels: 10-7, 5th place AA Northeast, 2.5 games back
- Eugene Emeralds: 11-6, tied for 1st place high-A West
- San Jose Giants: 10-7, 3rd place low-A North, 3 games back
So that’s not bad. All of the affiliates except for the River Cats have winning records, and Eugene is in first place. And Sacramento, let’s face it, is basically a taxi squad for the often-injured big league club. The only top-30 prospects on the roster are Joey Bart plus the three young relievers (Castro, Doval, and Santos) added to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft.
First of all, do you know who the guy is in the picture at the top of the post? No? Well, get to know Caleb Kilian, who carried a perfect game into the seventh inning for Eugene last night. Kilian has the distinction of being the only pitcher drafted in the top ten rounds by the Giants in 2019 (he was an eighth-rounder). All he’s done since is to put up an ERA of 0.72, a WHIP of 0.50, and strike out 49 in 37.2 innings. This season, in 21.2 innings, he has a 32/1 K/BB ratio (!!!).
Who are some others? Now, bear in mind that the minor league season isn’t yet three weeks old, so take this list with a grain of salt. I’ll go from highest level to lowest, just to keep things simpler:
- Bryce Johnson, CF, Sacramento (MLB top-30: N/A): .373/.479/.576/1.055, 2 HR, 5 SB, 0 CS, 10BB/20K in 59 plate appearances. Johnson is 25 and was drafted in the 6th round in 2017. He’s been known primarily as a speedster (87 SB in the minors) with a good OBP (.360) but with little power (.362 career SLG).
- Thairo Estrada, 2B, Sacramento (MLB top-30: N/A): .362/.461/.638/1.069, 4 HR, 3 SB, 1 CS, 7BB/13K in 65 plate appearances. Estrada, also 25, was acquired from the Yankees in April. He has over 100 MLB plate appearances. He is on the 40-man roster, so if the Giants’ infielders keep dropping like flies, we could see him sooner rather than later.
- Heliot Ramos, CF, Richmond (MLB top-30: #3): .295/.394/.541/.935, 3 HR, 9 BB/21K in 70 plate appearances. I mean–Ramos is doing fine for a 21-year-old in AA. Great, actually. But for those of us who watched him in spring and dreamed of a rapid rise to AAA followed by a second-half MLB debut…well, maybe we should cool our jets a bit.
- Matt Frisbee, RHP, Richmond (MLB top-30: N/A): 3 starts, 16 IP, 0.56 ERA, 0.38 WHIP, K/BB 16/1. Frisbee is 24 and was drafted in the 15th round in 2018. If you’re looking for a real sleeper for your MyGuy™ picks (more on this below), this could be a good one. And how can you not root for a pitcher named “Frisbee”? (Grant Brisbee is already dreaming of the “Frisbee and Brisbee” podcast they could do together.) Frisbee and LHP Sam Long are outperforming the two more highly touted starting pitchers on the Richmond roster, Sean Hjelle (#11 prospect) and Tristan Beck (#20 prospect).
- Caleb Kilian, RHP, Eugene (MLB top-30: #30): see stats above. The 23-year-old Kilian was drafted out of Texas Tech in 2019 and is off to a great start in his pro career. He is so far outperforming top prospect Seth Corry (#5).
- Diego Rincones, OF, Eugene (MLB top-30: N/A): .353/.424/.667/1.090, 4 HR, 4 BB/11 K in 55 plate appearances. Rincones, who will be 22 in June, spent the 2019 season mostly in Augusta (low-A) but played 19 games in San Jose (then high-A) and had a combined .761 OPS, which for a 20-year-old in full-season A ball is very good. He’s also off to a really nice start for Eugene. Also of note is #12 prospect Will Wilson, who’s off to a solid start with Eugene.
- Abdiel Layer, 3B, San Jose (MLB top 30: N/A): .355/.394/.871/1.265, 5 HR, 2BB/8K in 33 plate appearances. Layer is 22 and from Puerto Rico. He was drafted by the Giants in the 40th(!) round in 2018. So far he is outperforming his teammates, who include top-10 prospects Marco Luciano (#1), Luis Matos (#7), Alexander Canario (#9), and Luis Toribio (#10). Matos is also off to a solid start (.883 OPS). Luciano is off to a slower start, batting just .224 so far, but had a two-homer game a few days ago that cheered everyone up about him.
- Kyle Harrison, LHP, San Jose (MLB top-30: #8): Harrison doesn’t necessarily have the best stats on his team and he’s walked too many hitters. However, he’s struck out 22 batters in just 9 innings and his stuff is generating a lot of early buzz. Harrison is just 19 and was drafted in the third round last year out of high school. Fellow 2020 draftees Ryan Murphy and Nick Swiney (#15) are also on the San Jose roster, but Swiney is currently on the injured list.
So there you have it: Some hot starters in the minors. What strikes me about the list is that most of these players are not top prospects. That may mean nothing–it’s still really early–it might mean that some of the top prospects have been overhyped, or–and this is the happier thing to think about–it might mean that there is some pretty good depth in the system beyond the more recognizable names. This should be fun to watch this season.
HaakAway has authored a guest post about this, and I don’t want to steal his thunder when it’s posted, but here’s the basic information:
- Pick one position player and one pitcher from each minor league affiliate (so a total of 8).
- If you pick someone who is not a top-10 prospect (here’s the list), you get bonus points.
- If one of your guys gets promoted to a higher level(s), you get bonus points.
- Scores will be determined by wRC+ (position players) or a combination of their ERA and WHIP (pitchers).
- Deadline for entry is June 2, but if you submit your picks early and your guy is promoted before June 2, you’ll get the promotion bonus for that guy.
- To enter, reply to any HaakAway comment on TWG or email him: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Prize is bragging rights plus a beautiful pin designed in honor of beloved commenter awvh.
Dodgers at Giants, 1:05 p.m. at Willie Mays Field
Julio Urias (6-1, 3.04 ERA) vs. Anthony DeSclafani (4-1, 2.03 ERA)
We’ll see if the Giants can fare better against a lefty and salvage what’s left of their dignity. I’m very excited to go to a River Cats game tomorrow night–first since the 2019 PCL playoffs. Have a great Sunday. Lefty out.