San Francisco Giants Make a Flurry of Minor League Moves

Mar 5, 2015; Surprise, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals infielder Orlando Calixte (16) at bat in the sixth inning during a spring training baseball game against the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 5, 2015; Surprise, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals infielder Orlando Calixte (16) at bat in the sixth inning during a spring training baseball game against the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports /

The San Francisco Giants have yet to get into the business of signing a big league free agent (like many other teams), but made a bunch of minor league moves Friday.

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The Major League portion of free agency is still a bit stagnant, but the minor league aspect is moving quickly. The San Francisco Giants were very busy on Friday. They made five moves to purchase contracts, filling out their 40-man roster and protecting five players from the Rule 5 Draft in December. The team also signed three players to minor league contracts.

Reyes Moronta, Dan Slania, and Chase Johnson, all right handed pitchers, as well as infielder Miguel Gomez and infielder/outfielder Orlando Calixte were all put on the 40-man roster, filling all five vacancies.

Johnson is probably a familiar name to even the most casual of Giants’ prospects followers. He became the talk of the town on August 14th, 2015 when he struck out 14 batters in a six-inning relief appearance. That game was started by 17-year big league veteran Tim Hudson on a rehab stint, who brought back good reports of the right-handed prospect.

He began a transition to the bullpen in 2016 after spending most of his professional career as a starter. He made just seven starts in 24 games, and picked up five saves to go with a 3.27 ERA and 1.242 WHIP. Johnson’s strikeouts fell to the lowest rate of his career, down to 6.4 per nine innings.

Moronta burst on to the prospect scene last year with a hard fastball and plus slider. With the High-A San Jose Giants, Moronta pitched to a 2.59 ERA and 1.068 WHIP while saving 14 ballgames. He posted huge strikeout numbers, punching out 93 in just 59 innings. The 23-year-old was basically a non-prospect before 2016, but put himself on the map with a fantastic year.

Slania started his pro career as a reliever, making no starts in his first three seasons in the Giants’ organization, but made 16 starts among 34 appearances at three levels in 2016. Overall, he had a 2.93 ERA and 1.153 WHIP with an 11-8 record. He finished the season with two strong starts at Triple-A Sacramento, giving up two runs on eight hits in 13 innings while striking out 14.

Gomez began his career with the Giants as a catcher but has since transitioned to the infield, playing first, second, and third. Mostly, he’s played third base. Gomez spent three seasons with the Giants Dominican Summer League team, but finally came to the states for the 2015 season. With Low-A Salem-Keizer that year he hit .319/.331/.442 with six home runs and 52 runs batted in. Between two levels in 2016, Gomez hit .330/.363/.519 and set pro career-bests with 17 home runs and 26 doubles.

Calixte is the only one of the five with big league experience, albeit an extremely small taste. He played two games for the Kansas City Royals in 2015, but still has room to grow at just 24 years old. He has good speed (41 stolen bases past two minor league seasons) and can play the infield and outfield. Calixte was a hot commodity when he was on the open market, and ranked sixth on FanGraphs’ list of top minor league free agents before the Giants snagged him earlier this week.

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On the signings front, the Giants added outfielder Wynton Bernard, infielder Juniel Querecuto, and left-handed pitcher Michael Roth. Bernard was also featured on the FanGraphs list, ranking as the third-best minor league free agent. His speed (125 steals in 444 minor league games) and ability to play center field very well made him very enticing.

Bernard has been stellar at Double-A over the past two years, posting a .304/.361/.423 slash-line while hitting 37 doubles, 12 triples, and stealing 58 bags. Triple-A wasn’t so kind last year, as Bernard dipped to .235/.286/.302 with seven extra-base hits in 46 games.

Querecuto has played second and third base, but has mainly been a shortstop throughout his career. His minor league slash-line is .253/.311/.319 in 522 games, and he made his major league debut with the Tampa Bay Rays last September. He recorded one hit in 11 at-bats over four games, but it was a big one: a two-run triple. He’s 24 years old.

Roth has pitched parts of three seasons in the big leagues, playing for the Los Angeles Angels in 2013 and 2014, and for the Texas Rangers in 2016. He owns an 8.50 ERA in 36 innings over 25 games. He was solid in Triple-A Round Rock last year, pitching to a 2.97 ERA in 28 games (23 starts), but struck out only 5.8 per nine innings. He is 26 years old.

Next: Giants Rewind: Moore's Near No-No

With the 40-man roster now full, the Giants will need to clear a space should they sign anyone to a big league contract over the offseason. There are some candidates for designation, but that’s a subject for when the time comes.