San Francisco Giants Minor League Major Performers: All-Star Wednesday
After two rather slow days in the farm system, there was plenty of action on Wednesday. The San Francisco Giants set the tone with a walk-off win in the 13th inning, and the affiliates went 3-3 on the day. High-A San Jose and single-A Augusta both won, but short-season A Salem-Keizer, AZL Orange, and the DSL Giants all lost. The AZL Black team won in one of their best games of the year.
AAA Sacramento and AA Richmond both continued their All-Star breaks, but not everyone for the teams had the day off. The AAA and Eastern League All-Star games were on Wednesday. Right-handed reliever Tyler Rogers faced three batters for the PCL, giving up two singles before inducing a double-play groundball. He wouldn’t get the chance to finish the inning, but the runner on his record wouldn’t score. Chase d’Arnaud was selected an All-Star, but was too busy hitting a leadoff home run for San Francisco to participate.
In the Eastern League’s mid-summer classic, two Flying Squirrels were starters. For the Western Division team, shortstop Ryan Howard went 0-2 but one of those outs required an incredible play at the wall in center field. Right fielder Luigi Rodriguez went 1-3 with a walk, and the one hit was a big one. In the eighth inning, the left-handed hitting Rodriguez lifted an opposite field home run to put his team ahead 4-3.
On the pitching side, two Squirrels took the mound on Wednesday. Righty Dan Slania was the first, and threw only one pitch. He recorded the final out of the fifth inning on a first-pitch flyout. Slania, whom you may remember from his cup of coffee with the Giants last season, took Richmond starter Shaun Anderson’s place on the All-Star team. Instead, Anderson will take part in the All-Star Futures Game this Sunday.
Fellow righty Dillon McNamara took the mound in the seventh, and walked two of the four batters he faced. In between, he recorded a strikeout and got Tim Tebow to fly out to Rodriguez in right field.
With all that out of the way, let’s see what happened within the farm system.
The San Jose Giants and the Stockton Ports locked horns on Wednesday, and it was a battle. Starting pitchers Carlos Sano and Matt Milburn traded zeroes back and forth, until Milburn finally faltered in the seventh. The Giants scratched a run across to give them the 1-0 lead, and they turned back to the bullpen. Righty Connor Overton was tasked with the most difficult task, holding a late one-run lead.
Not only did Overton hold that lead, he did it for three innings. He wasn’t perfect, battling some command issues that led to two walks, but he never let that advantage slip away. Even after a walk and a two-out single in the eighth, Overton finished the inning with a strikeout to preserve that slim edge. The ninth inning was his best, striking out the final two batters of the game after a leadoff flyout for his second save of the year.
Despite being just 24 years old, Overton has already had a long journey in the game. Coming out of Old Dominion, he was the Miami Marlins’ 15th-round draft pick in 2014, but was released the next year. He moved to the Nationals’ organization, and was released in 2015 as well. He turned to independent ball after that, and following a successful stint with the Sioux City Explorers in 2016, he signed with the Giants.
He debuted for the San Jose Giants later that year, and made just one appearance before requiring Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss the entire 2017 season. Now back on the mound again, he’s bounced between Sacramento, Richmond, and San Jose, but has had his most success in high-A. In nine appearances and 17 innings at the level, Overton’s pitched to a 1.59 ERA and 0.941 WHIP, holding opponents to a .197 average.
Augusta was also in a tight game on Wednesday night. They exchanged zeroes with the Lexington Legends, and even when the Legends scored first, they weren’t able to pull away. That allowed the GreenJackets to put some runs on the board late and come away with a win. A strong effort from the pitching staff was led by their starter, Caleb Baragar, who threw five innings and allowed just two hits, two walks, and a run while striking out six.
Baragar started his day well, facing just one over the minimum through four innings with all six of his strikeouts coming in the first three frames. He ran into trouble in the fifth, when the Legends broke through in the run column. A walk, sacrifice bunt, and two singles brought the first run in, but Baragar was able to wiggle through a two-on, one-out situation by getting two pop-ups to limit the damage. That was the end of his day, and he wouldn’t factor into the decision.
Much like Overton, the lefty Baragar has bounced around the system this year. The 2016 ninth-round pick hasn’t made a stop in Richmond (yet), but has pitched with Augusta, San Jose, and Sacramento. He began his pro career mostly as a starter, but has come out of the bullpen more often this season. Wednesday was just his fourth start in 17 appearances, and he set a season-high by throwing five innings and matched his season-high with six punchouts.
While pitching ruled in those two previously mentioned contests, the name of the game for the AZL Black team was offense. They scored a season-high 12 runs on 12 hits and six walks, easily dispatching of the AZL Cubs 1, 12-5. Though contributions came from all over, one of the most notable hitters on Wednesday was right fielder Franklin Labour. He picked up two hits, both for extra-bases, reached on a hit by pitch, drove in a couple runs, and scored a couple times as well.
Hitting sixth, Labour started his day with a strikeout in his first at-bat but was part of a big third inning. He laced a one-out double in left field that brought home a pair, then came around to score the last run of a six-run frame. Labour was hit by a pitch in the fifth, then opened the seventh inning with his second double of the day. He came home on a sac fly, extending the Giants’ lead to 8-5.
Labour was brought to the Giants as an international free agent in 2015, and is now in his third season. At 20 years old, he’s playing in the states for the first time after a couple years in the Dominican Summer League. In nine games in Arizona, Labour is hitting .265/.342/.529 with five doubles and two triples.
Giants lineup reflects changing dynamics in the outfield
After several outfielders struggled defensively last season, general manager Bobby Evans and manager Bruce Bochy emphasized the importance of fielding a stronger defensive unit in 2018.
It took until the middle of July, but the Giants now have the pieces in place to start their best defensive outfield in recent history.
Rookie Steven Duggar is starting in center field Wednesday against the Cubs while the team’s regular center fielder, Gorkys Hernández, is shifting over to play left field. In right field, Bochy penciled in Andrew McCutchen, who spent the majority of his career roaming center field with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
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“We’ve got three guys that can play center field,” Bochy said. “That’s always a good thing. You look at your defense in the outfield and I think it gives us a lot of range. They’re all gifted athletes that cover a lot of ground and they all throw well.”
The Giants have discussed the possibility of Duggar platooning in center field with the right-handed hitting Hernández, but the club has lost 11 of its past 16 games against left-handed starters and Bochy said he wanted to play Duggar Wednesday after he had the night off on Tuesday.
San Francisco is facing a second straight lefty, Cubs starter Mike Montgomery, but Duggar had nearly even splits at Triple-A Sacramento this year before his promotion while Montgomery has reverse splits on the mound.
Duggar is one of three left-handed hitters in the starting lineup Wednesday, and though he won’t play everyday against southpaws, the Giants do want to offer him a chance to seize more opportunities.
With Duggar and Hernández in the lineup, rookie outfielder Austin Slater will continue to come off the bench. Slater is hitting .263 in 38 at-bats this season and Bochy said he may earn playing time at second base during Joe Panik’s absence.
Jackson looking for a new home
Three days after the Giants traded Austin Jackson to the Rangers in a deal to dump salary, it appears the outfielder may never step on the field in a Texas uniform.
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels told Jackson to hold off from reporting to the club and Wednesday, Texas officially designated the former Giants outfielder for assignment.
The Rangers have seven days to trade or release Jackson or place him on irrevocable waivers.
Jackson signed a two-year deal with San Francisco during the offseason to platoon in center field and provide outfield depth at all three positions, but he struggled to find playing time after Hernández enjoyed a strong first half.
San Francisco Giants: Alen Hanson is a Great Bad Baserunne
Just recently, Alen Hanson ignited some electricity on the base paths that have gotten rallies started for the sluggish San Francisco Giants offense. However, that doesn’t mean they were smart moves.
Take the series finale against the Cardinals for example. In the bottom of the fifth, after Pablo Sandoval crushed a three-run homer to give the Giants the lead, Hanson does something idiotic on the base path. The title for that video is “Hanson’s heads-up baserunning” which I hope is sarcasm.
Hanson is on first with one out and Gorkys Hernandez hits a semi-slow ground ball slightly towards the hole between short and third that forces the shortstop to charge it due to Hernandez’s speed. It’s a pretty routine play, and one where most baserunners would stop at second. Not Hanson.
He doesn’t even stop rounding second. Immediately, he takes off towards third knowing that there’s a 99% chance Hernandez will be out at first. If he’s thrown out at third he’ll have made the third out at third, which, of course, is a cardinal sin of base running.
Luckily for him, the first baseman’s throw was slightly high and off-line allowing him to slide in safely under the tag. But that doesn’t excuse the poor base running. I might be wrong, but I think you can even see third base coach Ron Wotus shake his head slightly after Hanson slides into third.
It was bad baseball mainly for the reason that there is so much risk compared to so little reward in taking third base in that situation. Even if he’s on second with two outs, with his speed there’s still a high probability that he’s gonna score on something hit to the outfield.
The only thing I can think of to justify his risk is the fact that the pitcher was on deck in the form of Madison Bumgarner. This doesn’t even completely excuse it due to the fact that Bumgarner is a good hitting pitcher.
Also, if he’d been thrown out, then the pitcher’s spot would’ve led off the next inning which managers want to avoid at all costs. This is true especially later in games so they don’t have to burn a pinch hitter. It was just bad baseball on so many levels.
But he got away with it, and he got away with it again the next night against the Cubs. Down 1-0 in the bottom of the fifth (maybe it’s just something about this half inning), Hanson was able to score from first on a pickoff throw that got by Anthony Rizzo.
According to Alex Pavlovic, Wotus was waving Hanson in as he rounded third. However, Kuip clearly said he thought Hanson went on his own. This could’ve just been in the heat of the moment after an exhilarating play and Kuip missed Wotus giving Hanson the green light or perhaps Pavlovic was wrong.
Either way, it’s not smart base running or baseball. There was only one out and even though Hunter Pence, who’s obviously had his struggles this year, was at the plate with an 0-2 count, that’s still an incredible risk to take. If he’s gunned down at the plate, that’s an instant momentum killer when just a ground ball to one of the middle infielders could’ve scored him and tied the game on the next pitch.
Now, I understand how bad the Giants’ offense has been at times this year. One could make the argument that Hanson’s risk was necessary given the cold bats and the way Tony Hendricks was pitching. That doesn’t make it good baseball though.
In the end, all turned out well as the San Francisco Giants won the game. The two things that make up for poor base running decisions or questionable send-homes are speed and agility which Hanson has plenty of. These skills make Hanson the best bad baserunner I’ve ever seen.
Even though I shake my head at all the stupidity of that play (including the dumbness of Javier Baez baiting Hanson into going home) I still have to respect Hanson’s slide into the plate. The fact that he had the instinct to contort his body perfectly to avoid the tag is fun to watch and a brilliant showcase of his athleticism.