San Francisco Giants Minor League Major Performers: Pitchers of the Year

WASHINGTON, D.C. - JULY 15: Shaun Anderson #32"tpitches during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Nationals Park on July 15, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C. - JULY 15: Shaun Anderson #32"tpitches during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Nationals Park on July 15, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /
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PITTSBURGH, PA – JUNE 30: Nick Hundley #5 celebrates with Dan Slania #57 of the San Francisco Giants after a 13-5 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on June 30, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

Right-Handed Relievers

Tyler Rogers

For the sixth consecutive season, submarine reliever Tyler Rogers was excellent in the San Francisco system. In the 2018 season, he made 51 appearances for the AAA River Cats, the most in the system, and pitched to a 2.13 ERA and 1.079 WHIP across 67.2 innings. He was named a Pacific Coast League All-Star for the second straight season.

One area that greatly improved for Rogers from 2017 to 2018 was his strikeout capabilities. In 2017, he struck out 13.7% of batters he faced in 76 innings, a 5.1 strikeouts-per-nine innings rate. That jumped up to 21.9% and 8.0 strikeouts per nine in 2018. He was also once again excellent at getting groundballs. His 60.6% groundball rate ranked third-highest among pitchers that threw at least 50 innings in the PCL. It was his sixth straight season over 60%, including a 62.8% rate in 2017 that led the PCL.

Rogers has now made 293 minor league appearances for the Giants since they made him a 10th-round pick out of Austin Peay State in 2013. He owns a 2.27 ERA and 1.145 WHIP across 416.2 innings. It’s almost baffling that the Giants haven’t even given him a look in their big league bullpen, despite all of its inconsistencies in recent years.

John Russell

Russell, the Giants’ 16th-round draft pick in 2017, spent most of the season in Augusta, and made his last couple appearances with San Jose at the end of the year. It didn’t matter what mound he was on, Russell was nearly unhittable. In 38 appearances (36 in Augusta), he pitched to a 2.34 ERA and a 0.934 WHIP in 65.1 innings.

The lanky righty was the only pitcher in the Giants’ system to throw at least 50 innings and post a WHIP under one. Among pitchers with at least 50 innings in the South Atlantic League, Russell’s 0.946 WHIP was second-best. His 10.74 strikeouts per nine innings ranked fifth-best in the system, and he didn’t walk too many batters either, sitting at 2.6 per nine innings.

In the two appearances after he moved up to San Jose, Russell threw four shutout innings, allowing three hits and no walks while striking out five. He should start next year in San Jose, and if he continues to dominate the way he has in his two years in the system, he should also move up quickly after that.

Jesus Tona

2018 was Jesus Tona’s first season exclusively as a pitcher, and he made it look like a genius move. The former catcher and second baseman was one of the best pitchers in the Northwest League as part of the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. He made 23 appearances and threw 31 innings, owned a 0.87 ERA and 0.806 WHIP, and struck out 41 batters while allowing eight walks.

The 22-year-old had an excellent season by every measure. He struck out 34.8% of batters he faced. He held opponents to a .160/.224/217 slash-line. He was great against right-handed hitters (.203/.294/.288, 23.2% strikeout rate), and absolute torture against lefties (.106/.125/.128, 51% strikeout rate). With runners on base, batters hit .067/.157/.133 against Tona.

There’s still a long way to go for Tona, but it’s hard not to be excited about what he did in his first year as a pitcher. The Giants are currently benefiting from catcher/outfielder-turned-pitcher Dereck Rodriguez in their rotation, so maybe Tona can join him on the pitching staff in a couple years.

Honorable Mentions:

Augusta’s Camilo Doval didn’t have a great month of April. In eight appearances, batters hit .314/.467/.314 against the (then) 20-year-old, scoring 11 times (eight earned runs) in 7.2 innings. After that, he was lights out. Once May started, Doval held batters down to a .181/.268/.250 line in 36 appearances. That all led to a 1.99 ERA and 1.036 WHIP, with 66 strikeouts in 45.1 innings. He’s currently number 22 on the Giants’ top-30 prospects list.

Dan Slania spent his entire year in Richmond’s bullpen, and he was stellar. Across 47 appearances, he threw to a 2.43 ERA that was sixth-best among Giants’ farmhands (min. 50 innings) and a 1.024 WHIP that was third-best. He also finished just shy of a strikeout per inning, with 69 punchouts in 70.1 frames. He earned a place on the Eastern League All-Star team, and retired the only batter he faced during the game.

Olbis Parra didn’t show the big strikeout numbers of some of his counterparts, but he was fantastic at keeping runs off the board. Pitching above rookie ball for the first time, the 23-year-old made 35 appearances in Augusta and two in Richmond. He accrued a 2.12 ERA that was the best of any Giants’ farmhand with at least 50 innings, and a 1.106 WHIP that was ninth-best. He struck out 51 batters in 72.1 innings, but allowed only 10 walks.