Minor Wednesday: 5/4 — Heston vs Blackburn, Chris Shaw Belting his way to Richmond, Top Prospects 11-15

Happy Wednesday!  Not just any Wednesday, but Minor Wednesdayr/SFGiants’ look into the players who might be Giants one day.

This week, the Giants minor league affiliates took another step forward, at least in a very general way—improving their overall winning percentage to .444.

The four affiliates have now played 95 games, combining for a record of 44 – 55 as of this writing.  And, wow, three of the four teams actually has a positive run differential!

TEAM RECORD RUNS SCORED RUNS ALLOWED STANDINGS
Sacramento River Cats 11 – 15 138 129 4th of 4
Richmond Flying Squirrels 9 – 16 82 110 6th of 6
San Jose Giants 12 – 11 119 113 2nd of 6
Augusta GreenJackets 12 – 13 112 104 3rd of 7

 Quick Hits

  • Jarrett Parker, OF (#9 Baseball America inner-organizational rank) has come alive

After a VERY slow start, Parker’s OPS is up to .779 and he has been bananas recently.  In his last seven games, he has 11 RBI and four home runs, including a three homer game on the first of May.  His last seven games, he has basically been Barry Bonds.  This is discussed a bit below, but this should add some pressure to Mac Williamson’s at-bats in San Francisco.

Parker2

Want to watch his third homer of his big game?

  • Chris Shaw, 1B (5) wants attention every week

If you followed the Giants minor league affiliates in 2010, you may remember a certain first baseman who hit his way through the minors like a wrecking ball.  Well, Shaw is doing his best Brandon Belt imitation in San Jose, currently in the middle of another hitting streak (10 games), a stretch that includes five home runs.

While it’s way too early to ask what the Giants are going to do with Shaw as Belt is entrenched at first for the foreseeable future, (The Arroyo Problem), if he keeps this up for a whole year, I can guarantee you it will be a topic of debate in the off-season.

shaw2

Shaw is hitting like a man who wants to get to Richmond faster than Ulysses S. Grant.

  • Chris Heston vs Clayton Blackburn (8)

On 4/29, Heston started for the first time in 2016.  Matching a season high at four innings pitched, he allowed seven base runners (3 BB) but did not surrender a run.

Blackburn had worse luck (or ability), as his last two starts have been the worst of his six on the year.  In his last nine innings pitched, Blackburn has allowed nine earned runs.  His line on the year is no longer sexy, but he continues to keep the walks down.

Blackburn2

Bad timing for the Blackburn hype train.

  • Hak-ju Lee is a middle infield option in Sacramento

The 25 year old South Korean has bounced around a few organizations but is now putting together his best season to date, (his first with the Giants).

Lee1

  • Lucius Fox (4) has best games of career and is picking it up

On 4/28, the 18 year old Fox reached base in all four of his plate appearances, getting two hits and walking twice.  A few days later, he would walk three times, scored twice, and steal his (Augusta) team leading seventh base.  Pushing his OPS above .700, Fox continues to walk at a very pleasing rate.

Missing In Action

Andrew Susac, C, and his health

We reported last week that Susac successfully returned to the lineup in Sacramento, (albeit as a DH), but sadly that was short-lived.  Citing more discomfort in his right scapula, (which normal people call a shoulder), Susac heads to the DL for the second time this year. RotoWire says we should consider Susac out “indefinitely” as he also has lingering wrist issues.

Susac has barely played this year, recording just 33 plate appearances.

Christian Arroyo, SS (1), and extra base hits

Arroyo is striking out and walking at about the same clip as last year – and the hits are still falling – but Arroyo is hitting for almost no power so far.

In 2015’s near-full season in San Jose, one third of Arroyo’s hits went for extra bases on his way to slashing .304 / .344 / .803.  This year?  He’s has just six extra base hits and zero home runs.

“Bad” Minor Leaguer of the Week

Dillon Dobson

Taken in the 23rd round of the 2015 draft, the then-21 year old Dobson put together a solid year in the Arizona rookie league.  So far in 106 at-bats at Augusta, Dobson has been crushing it, including six home runs.  The biggest knock on this first baseman’s game is his strike out rate, whiffing in nearly one third of his at-bats.

Dobson1

Featured Game(s)

It was difficult to find a game I wanted to highlight this week.  There were great performances, but few examples of both pitching and hitting working at the same time.

On 5/3 however, Richmond did play a rain-shortened double header that featured some of the system’s best.

The first game, a 2-1 victory over Bowie Bay Sox (Orioles), did not give us much offense to discuss.  One run was scored by Hunter Cole, RF (30)—a name we haven’t had much reason to talk about.  While unranked Tyler Horan (8th Round 2013 Draft) provided offense on both days, walking a run in the first game, and hitting a solo home run in the second.

This is Horan’s first year in Richmond and has only accumulated 43 plate appearances thus far, but is slashing .324 / 395 / .990. At 25 years old, Horan should be hungry to reach the next level and now is the time to do it—Horan is getting more playing time because Austin Slater (31) is on the DL.

The first game also featured Tyler Beede (2) who threw a lot of strikes on his way to 5 IP, 1 ER, 1 BB, and 4 K.

Do you want to watch Beede strike out Jimmy Paredes, a rehabbing major leaguer?

Ray Black (13), discussed in more detail below, continued to put together better appearances by striking out two in his one inning of relief.

You can watch Ray Black, and his 100 MPH fastball, strike out someone who has played in the majors as well.

Game 2 featured lots and lots of Flying Squirrel sloppiness on the way to losing 6-3, concluding the rainy night of baseball.

Kyle Crick (27) started the second game and, while he’s in danger of becoming a player not worth talking about, he was able to put together arguably his best start of the year. With a season high of six strike outs,  he also tied season lows in hits and earned runs in five innings while throwing about equal amounts of strikes and balls.

Who knows when we will get off Kyle Crick’s wild ride.

Baseball America’s Top Prospects 11 – 15

  1. Mac Williamson, OF, 25 years old, 3rd Round 2012 Draft, Sacramento / SF

Twice now Williamson has gotten the call to San Francisco, currently covering for the hurting Pagan.  He played seven games in Sacramento between call-ups and he absolutely mashed during the stretch, only failing to get a hit in one game.  One game included SEVEN RBI and, in another, he jacked two home runs.

What’s different this time? Jarret Parker (9) is incredibly hot right now, basically hitting home runs on command.  Expect Williamson to get a couple of starts in the coming SF games as the Giants need to know if he is able to make the jump to the majors.

The below line includes his eight at-bats at the major league level.

williamson2

  1. Andrew Suarez, LHP, 23 years old, 2nd Round 2015 Draft, San Jose Giants

Suarez is throwing strikes.  So.  Many.  Strikes. Let’s look at this first:

SuarezStrikes

 

He’s able to make his living with an average fastball (89-92 MPH) and a slider that has steadily improved by having Greg Maddux-like control.  Okay, this is Single A, I know, but take a look at his four starts this year and pay close attention to the walk column.  I’ll highlight it for you:

suarez

Can he maybe teach his mojo to Kyle Crick?

  1. Ray Black, RHP, 25 years old, 7th Round 2011 Draft, Richmond Flying Squirrels

In an ideal world, if Hunter Strickland is the closer of the future, Ray Black is the guy who threatens to take his job away.

If you know anything about Ray Black, odds are it’s that he throws very, very hard.  Regularly hitting 100 MPH (and as high as 103), Black has a swing-and-miss fastball and, while he doesn’t always know where it’s going, that’s less important when the hitter can’t see what they’re swinging at.

Control is one thing that can keep him out of the majors—currently sitting at a 6.3 BB/9 for his minor league career—there’s also his health. The Giants say they want to use him more in 2016, but they’ve previously used kid gloves with Black, worried about a lengthy surgical history that includes Tommy John.

This is his first season in Richmond and, if Black can stay healthy, this should be the pivotal year that shows the Giants exactly what they have in Black and how they can use him.

How’s he doing so far?  Oh, just 21 strikeouts in nine innings?  Okay.

black1

  1. Chase Johnson, RHP, 24 years old, 3rd Round 2013 Draft, Richmond Flying Squirrels

A member of a Richmond rotation that, at least on paper, should be very fun to watch in 2016, Chase Johnson is coming off his most successful minor league year, (most of his innings coming in San Jose).

His plus-pitch is a mid-90s fastball that has heavy sink.  He can be particularly punishing against righties as he sets up on the third base side of the rubber.  In 2015, he limited RHHs to a .603 OPS.

He hasn’t had the same success in Richmond in a very limited sample size.  His walks are fine—his strikeouts a tick below normal—and a slightly higher BABIP than last year can only be blamed for so much.  Looking more closely into his four starts this year, he’s getting very few swinging strikes, and that could be something worth following.

Here are his four starts:

chase1

  1. Jordan Johnson, RHP, 22 years old, 23rd Round 2014 Draft, San Jose Giants

Okay, it was a little unfair calling Johnson my “bad” minor leaguer last week.  I apologize, Jordan.  In his defense, it was mostly his injury history that caused him to drop so low in the draft, and it remains a concern as he’s missed more time since becoming a Giant.

Last time we checked in with him, he had mostly cruised through three starts, but on Sunday he got tagged with two home runs, tying a season high in hits and earned runs in the process. Still, he threw 2/3rds of his pitches for strikes and his overall numbers on the year are good.  That WHIP!

jordan2

Johnson is currently a three pitch pitcher, using an upper-90s fastball to set up an average curveball and change-up.  Seeing as he is still just 22 years old, it wouldn’t be surprising if he spends the full year in San Jose, but he has a chance at ending up in Richmond.


 

That’s it for this week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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