San Francisco Giants Minors Update: Arizona Fall League, 40-Man Fill-Up


On Saturday, the Arizona Fall League season came to a close, as the Scottsdale Scorpions (featuring seven players from the San Francisco Giants‘ system) beat the Surprise Saguaros in the Championship Game, 6-4. With the victory, Scottsdale earned its third AFL Championship, adding this one to the 1996 and 2010 trophies in their case.

Leading up to the title game, each of the seven Giants’ farm hands played a large part in helping their team along. Right-handed relief pitcher Ray Black and infielder Christian Arroyo, who both spent 2015 in Advanced-A San Jose, represented their squad in the Fall Stars Game. Arroyo slashed .308/.360/.482, hit three doubles, a triple, three home runs, and drove in 13 runs while scoring 15 runs. In the Fall Star Game, he collected a single in two at-bats. Arroyo has been quickly climbing through up the ranks on Giants’ prospect lists, and his performance in the AFL is sure to up his stock a little more.

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Black was the talk of the AFL, as his blazing fastball lit up radar guns across the desert. His heater touched 104 miles per hour on occasion, which is territory normally strictly reserved for Aroldis Chapman. Black primarily used that fastball, as well as a pretty good curveball, to blow away opposing hitters, as he struck out 16 batters in nine innings. Control was an issue for Black, as it has been for him at every minor league stop for him so far. He walked six batters in his nine innings, but only allowed two runs. In the Fall Star Game, he pitched a perfect eighth inning.

Mac Williamson, who earned a cup of coffee stint in San Francisco in 2015, was part of the Scorpions as well, and he had an excellent showing in the AFL. He led the team with a .370 average and .442 on-base percentage (both ranked third in the AFL), and totaled three doubles, two home runs, 14 RBI, and 15 runs scored. He also struck out 11 times, while walking the same amount. Williamson figures to at least compete for an opening day roster spot during 2016 Spring Training.

Joining those three were left-handed starter Adalberto Mejia, utility player Austin Slater, right-handed reliever Daniel Slania, and left-handed reliever Phil McCormick. Mejia was suspended for the first 50 games of the minor league season in 2015, but returned and pitched extremely well in Double-A Richmond afterwards. He made seven starts for the Scorpions, going 2-2 with a 3.48 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. He was a little wild, walking 14 batters in 31 innings, but didn’t allow a home run, which is encouraging.

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Slater is a utility man in the making, as he has played second base, shortstop, and the outfield in the minor leagues, as well as first base in the AFL. He slashed .250/.338/.338, and hit four doubles, a triple, and drove in 10 runs. Slania spent 2015 in San Jose, serving as the part-time closer. In the AFL, he appeared in nine games, allowing three earned runs and 12 hits in 12 innings, while striking out 15 compared to four walks. McCormick spent 2015 in Richmond, his third season with the team, and enjoyed his best year with them. In the AFL, McCormick appeared in nine games, threw 8.2 innings, and totaled a 4.15 ERA and 1.73 WHIP.

In the AFL Championship Game, Arroyo scored the game’s first run in the fourth inning, after his infield pop-up fell in for an error, another error (that allowed Williamson to reach) moved him to second, and a hit by Dominic Ficociello brought him home. In the fifth inning, Arroyo led off with a single through the shift between first and second base. The next batter, Williamson, smoked a triple into right-center field, scoring Arroyo to make it 4-0.

In the sixth inning, Black entered and made quick work of the Saguaros’ lineup. He struck out Jurickson Profar on a 101 mph fastball on the low-outside corner, then struck out Gary Sanchez on three straight fastballs. The next batter, Patrick Wisdom, made contact, but a nice sliding catch in right field by Mike Gerber robbed him of a bloop basehit.

McCormick made an appearance in the seventh inning in a very high-leverage situation. He entered with two outs, but with runners on first and third, and Scottsdale up a run. McCormick would get Profar to pop out to Arroyo, ending the threat and keeping the lead for the Scorpions.

Williamson added a one-out base hit up the middle in the eighth inning, and later scored an insurance run on Adam Walker‘s RBI double. Arroyo singled with two outs in the ninth, but was stranded on first base. Arroyo ended the game by making a beautiful sliding catch in foul territory while racing backwards for the final out in the ninth inning.

On Friday, other Giants’ minor leaguers made news as well, as San Francisco filled up their 40-man roster. The Giants purchased the contracts of eight minor leaguers, all pitchers, to protect them from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft. Along with Mejia, the Giants added two-left handers, Steven Okert and Ty Blach, and five right-handers, Clayton Blackburn, Kyle Crick, Chris Stratton, Jacob Smith, and Ian Gardeck.

Blach and Blackburn are both starters that spent the entire 2015 season in Triple-A with the Sacramento River Cats, and figure to be extremely close to a call-up in 2016. Okert, a lefty reliever, was teammates with Blach and Blackburn, but scuffled a bit in his first Triple-A action. He finished the season strong, and could compete for a spot in the bullpen if the Giants decide to keep three left-handers on opening day.

Crick’s stock has plummeted in recent years because of exasperating control issues (9.4 walks per nine innings, and 1.1 strikeouts per walk in 2015), but the Giants still value his electric stuff highly enough to protect him. Stratton pitched well between Double-A and Triple-A, starting the season in the lower level before being advanced to the higher level.

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Smith and Gardeck are relative unknowns in the system. Smith, a 48th-round pick in 2011, had a fantastic year in San Jose. He saved 13 ballgames, struck out 12.6 per nine innings, struck out 5.6 per walk, while posting a 2.35 ERA and 0.842 WHIP. Gardeck, who celebrated his 25th birthday the day after being added to the 40-man roster, also had a nice season in San Jose. He totaled 10.8 K/9, 4.3 K/BB, a 3.54 ERA, and a 1.158 WHIP.

The Rule 5 Draft will occur on December 10th, during the MLB’s annual Winter Meetings.