San Francisco Giants Minor League Major Performers: 2018 Hitters of the Year

San Francisco Giants (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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ATLANTA, GA – APRIL 08: A general view of baseball gloves ahead of the Philadephia Phillies versus Atlanta Braves during their opening day game at Turner Field on April 8, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

Shortstop: Ryan Howard

Richmond shortstop Ryan Howard responded well to a promotion to a league that’s notoriously difficult on hitters in 2018. Heading to the Eastern League for the first time, Howard slashed .273/.336/.396 in 117 games, where he spent most of his time at shortstop. He also started 21 games at second base.

Howard doesn’t have a lot of home run pop to speak of at this point in his career, but he had no problem putting balls in gaps with Richmond. His 32 doubles were third-most in the Eastern League and tied for third in the Giants’ system. He also added four triples after hitting none in his first two seasons. His walk-rate improved drastically, jumping from 4.1% in 2017 to 9.2% in 2018, and he was one of the most difficult players to strike out in his league. His 11.5% K-rate was 10th-lowest in the Eastern League (though coincidentally, only third-lowest on his own team).

The Giants obviously like Howard a lot; they drafted him in the 31st round in 2015, then did so again in the fifth round the next year. His pure hitting ability helped him rank 26th on the Giants’ MLB Pipeline top-30, and with former National League MVP Ryan Howard officially retired, Giant prospect Ryan Howard’s time is now.

Honorable Mentions:

Even with some of the Giants’ bigger prospects in Augusta, shortstop Manuel Geraldo was consistently the offensive star of the team. He put up a .294 average, and despite missing the last week of the season with an injury, led the Sally League with 143 hits. He didn’t have much extra-base power, with 15 doubles and nine home runs to his record, and only walked 5.7% of the time, but stole 24 bags to rank tied for ninth in the league.

San Jose shortstop Brandon Van Horn isn’t much with the bat (he hit .211/.269/.350 in 104 games), but he sure can pick it with the glove. In Baseball America’s annual survey of minor league coaches, Van Horn was named the Cal League’s best defensive shortstop. Current Giant Brandon Crawford once earned the same honor.