San Francisco Giants Minor League Major Performers: Slump Busters

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 16: Mac Williamson #51 is greeted at the dugout by manager Bruce Bochy #15 of the San Francisco Giants after scoring a run in the fifth inning of the game at Dodger Stadium on June 16, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 16: Mac Williamson #51 is greeted at the dugout by manager Bruce Bochy #15 of the San Francisco Giants after scoring a run in the fifth inning of the game at Dodger Stadium on June 16, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

It wasn’t a good day for the San Francisco Giants’ farm system, but a couple of players seem to be breaking out of their respective slumps.

The final day of the All-Star break was a rough one in the San Francisco Giants farm system. Six teams took the field, and all six came up short. AAA Sacramento and AA Richmond both lost in walk-off fashion. High-A San Jose, single-A Augusta, short-season-A Salem-Keizer, and the DSL Giants couldn’t get into the win column either. Both AZL teams were able to avoid defeat by having the day off.

Rain continues to play a part in organizational games. For the fourth consecutive day, the inclement weather impacted at least one system game in some way, shape, or form. On Thursday, it was the DSL Giants dealing with rain for the third time in the last four days. Their game against the DSL Pirates 2 was washed out after seven innings with the Giants losing 7-1. On Tuesday, rain also forced the game to be completed early, while their Monday contest was suspended after four innings and will be picked back up on July 27th.

Here’s what happened in the system on Thursday.

Mac Williamson

The River Cats’ offense kept rolling on Thursday, putting up seven runs a day after scoring 12 runs. For the second day in a row, corner outfielder Mac Williamson played a big role in the lineup. He picked up three hits in four at-bats, falling a triple short of the cycle. He also drew a walk in between while driving in four runs and scoring another.

Williamson started early, lining an RBI double to center field to make it 2-0 Sacramento. He added on in the third, launching his 12th PCL home run of the year to left field, extending the lead to 4-0. He walked in the fifth, singled in the seventh, then made his only out in the ninth. It was still productive, as his groundout brought home a run to tie the game at 7-7.

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A concussion back in April derailed what looked like an extremely promising, potentially breakout season for Williamson. He played 23 games in San Francisco after coming off the DL, and hit .187/.291/.280 with one home run. The struggles didn’t stop after he was optioned back to Sacramento, as in his first 18 games back he hit .169/.286/.288 with two home runs, but none since June 26th.

The last couple days, however, are mighty encouraging. He seems to have found something that works with his swing, and it’s resulted in five hits, four for extra-bases, over the past two days. He had four extra-base hits in the 31 games before Wednesday’s outing. The concussion most certainly played, at minimum, some part in the struggles, but if he has regained the swing and timing that made him so exciting in March and April, it could be a big boost for the Giants’ offense. That’s a big “if”, though.

Luigi Rodriguez

Thursday night’s game was a rollercoaster for the Flying Squirrels. They led 5-3 halfway through the fourth, then 7-5 halfway through the sixth, but entered the ninth trailing 10-7. They scored four times in the top of the ninth to regain the lead, but let up two runs in the bottom half to lose it. Along the way, Richmond right fielder Luigi Rodriguez snapped an ugly skid with three hits, also reaching via a walk and hit by pitch, while scoring three times.

Rodriguez started his day with a single in the first inning, keeping the line move to allow Richmond’s first run to score. After leading off the fourth with a walk, he scored on John Riley’s first Eastern League home run. He led off again in the sixth, this time doubling ahead of Jeff Arnold’s home run. Rodriguez reached again as the leadoff hitter in the eighth, this time on a hit by pitch, but didn’t score. He scored in the Squirrel’s four-run ninth after his second double of the evening.

Much like Williamson, Rodriguez was mired in a long, horrible slump. He started the year incredibly well, hitting over .400 as late as June 1st and was comfortably above .300 for just about the entire year until a couple weeks ago, when the hits just stopped coming. Dating back to June 30th, Rodriguez had gone hitless for 11 consecutive games, stretching back before the All-Star break (of course, he was the Eastern League All-Star Game’s Top Star after hitting a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning, so there’s that).

Rodriguez looked poised for a promotion to AAA Sacramento not too long ago, but that long slump dropped his average from .344 to .296, his OPS from .961 to .840, and his wRC+ from 166 to 133. Wednesday’s game was an excellent start to getting back on track, and it showed the ability to drive a ball is never too far from Rodriguez’s bat.

Nico Giarratano

One day after hitting his first career professional home run, Nico Giarratano followed that up with another strong day for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. The shortstop, batting ninth, collected two hits in four at-bats and drove in a season-high three runs.

The 23-year-old middle infielder picked up his first hit in the fifth inning, and it was a big one. He drilled a two-run home run, his second career longball, that came off the heels of a leadoff single to cut the Volcanoes’ deficit to 6-3. He followed that up with a single in the sixth, driving in another run to make it 6-4. Salem-Keizer wouldn’t get any closer, though.

Giarratano is a local kid in every sense of the term. He was born in San Francisco, attended St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco, then attended the University of San Francisco. Giarratano was a 24th-round pick in 2017, and though the odds aren’t exactly in his favor, he has a chance to become only the second player from USF to play in the big leagues for the San Francisco Giants. He hopes to join Jesse Foppert, who was the Giants’ second-round pick in 2001 and went on play in San Francisco from 2003 to 2005, as the only players to go from Dons to Giants.

Five-Inning Milestones

A couple of notable items from Thursday that deserve quick shouts. Right-handed pitcher Shaun Anderson made his AAA debut for the River Cats, and pitched well. He allowed two runs in five innings, allowing four hits and three walks while striking out six. He threw four shutout innings to start the night, but allowed a walk and a two-run home run in the fifth.

Down lower in the farm at San Jose, righty Logan Webb also completed five innings. In his previous start on July 13th, he pitched into the fifth for the first time since returning from Tommy John surgery in June of 2017, but Thursday was the first time he was able to record the final out of the fifth inning. He hadn’t completed five since May 31st, 2016, his last start before undergoing the surgery. On Thursday, he allowed three hits and two walks that led to two runs while striking out five.

Next: Minor League Major Performers 7-18-18

Others of Note:

Miguel Gomez (SAC): 3-5, 2B (6), HR (1), RBI (7), 3 R – first PCL HR
Ali Castillo (RICH): 2-4, 3B (4), RBI (23), SF, R
Caleb Gindl (RICH): 2-4, HR (1), 3 RBI (9), SF, 2 R
John Riley (RICH): 2-4, HR (1), 3 RBI (5), HBP, R
Jacob Heyward (SJ): 2-4, HR (9), 2 RBI (35), BB, R
Garrett Cave (AUG): 5.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 3 K
Robinson Batista (SDL): 0-1, RBI (8), BB, R, SF, SB (5)