San Francisco Giants: Checking in on Rookies and September Call-Ups

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 19: Aramis Garcia #16 of the San Francisco Giants is congratulated after hitting a solo home during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on September 19, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 19: Aramis Garcia #16 of the San Francisco Giants is congratulated after hitting a solo home during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on September 19, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images) /

With just a week left in the regular season, let’s check on how some of the San Francisco Giants rookie and late-season call-ups have been performing.

The season is winding down and the San Francisco Giants have been out of the race for a while, but there’s always something of interesting happening. The Giants have been giving a lot of playing time to rookies, so let’s check in on some of the team’s more prominent rookies and September call-ups.

The most notable rookies on the Giants are in their starting rotation. Righty Dereck Rodriguez and lefty Andrew Suarez have spent most of the season among the Giants’ starting five because of injuries to the veterans, and they’ve filled in more than admirably.

Rodriguez has been the biggest and most pleasant surprise of the Giants’ season. A non-roster invitee who had never pitched above AA, the converted outfielder has been the most consistent guy in the rotation in the absence of Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, even with Madison Bumgarner in the fold.

On Saturday, Rodriguez allowed four runs to the Cardinals, the first time he allowed more than three runs since June 9th, his second start as a major leaguer. Even with that performance, Rodriguez owns a 2.50 ERA on the season, the fourth-lowest among National League pitchers with 100 innings under their belt. Only Jacob deGrom, Clayton Kershaw, and Aaron Nola are lower.

Suarez has had more ups and downs that Rodriguez, but has still been a consistent presence in the rotation. In his most recent outing on Monday, Suarez threw a career-high 7.2 innings and gave up a pair of runs to the Padres, earning a win. The lefty is finishing strong, with a 2.67 ERA over his past five starts as he blows past his career-high in innings pitched for a season.

In the bullpen, Reyes Moronta has been another nice rookie surprise. He opened the season on the 25-man roster because of injuries and has been one of the most reliable arms out of the pen for Bruce Bochy. In 67 games, Moronta sports a 2.59 ERA and 1.133 WHIP, and has struck out 76 batters in 62.2 innings.

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Still, walks have been a major issue for Moronta. He’s allowed 37 walks, good for a 5.3 BB/9 rate, the 13th-worst rate among the 315 big league pitchers that have thrown at least 50 innings this season. His 14.5% walk-rate (percentage of total batters faced that he’s walked) is fourth-worst. He’s been able to keep his ERA so low because of an excellent ability to limit hard contact. His 28.2% hard-contact rate according to FanGraphs is lowest on the Giants’ staff, and 23rd-lowest among MLB pitchers with 50 innings.

Steven Okert was brought up as the extra lefty in the bullpen after Sacramento’s season ended, and he’s been excellent in his first big league stint this season. In six appearances, he’s served mostly as a lefty specialist, and allowed one hit and no walks to go with four strikeouts in 3.2 innings. In his most recent outing on Friday, he faced dangerous Cardinals’ slugger Matt Carpenter to start the seventh inning, and got him to pop out to the infield.

The Giants have a pair of excellent lefties in their bullpen with Will Smith and Tony Watson, both of whom are under team control for next season. If the Giants really want to make changes to their roster, they could get some interesting pieces in return for either Smith or Watson, which would possibly open a spot for Okert. If that becomes the case, Okert has had a tremendous audition at the end of this year.

Ray Black has been another up-and-down guy. At times, he’s dazzled with his triple-digit fastballs and hard slider combination. On the other hand, he’s allowed four home runs in 22 innings. In his most recent game on Saturday, though, he threw a clean ninth-inning that ended with a strikeout of Yadier Molina.

On the offensive side, Chris Shaw has really shaken off a bad start to his MLB career. After a 1-22 with 13 strikeouts to begin his career, Shaw is hitting .421 (8-19) in his last six games with a pair of doubles and four RBI. He saw a five-game hitting streak end on Saturday with an 0-3, but he was able to reach base on a walk.

That walk on Saturday was Shaw’s sixth in 48 plate appearances with San Francisco, a walk-rate of 12.5%. That’s a huge jump from his time in Sacramento this year, when he walked just 21 times in 422 plate appearances, a 4.9% rate.

Aramis Garcia has been a big bright spot for the Giants during his first big league call-up. After the worst game of his young career on Friday, during which he picked up the golden sombrero in four at-bats, he bounced back with his best game on Saturday. He went 4-4 against the Cardinals, including a double and a two-run single that briefly turned a one-run deficit into a one-run lead. He’s hitting .368/.368/.632 with three home runs and seven RBI in 12 games.

Defensively, Garcia has been strong at two positions. He’s been the backup to Nick Hundley behind the plate, and has looked like a calm, quiet receiver behind the plate. He provides a big target, makes quick frames, and has a strong arm, though he hasn’t had many chances to show it off. When he threw out David Dahl on September 16th, it was the first caught stealing by a Giants’ catcher since August 25th. He’s also looked like a natural at first base, making a couple of slick scoops on throws in the dirt while playing in place of Brandon Belt.

Austin Slater has been mired in a rough slump. He was hitting .286/.377/.344 entering play on September 7th, but in 13 games since, he hasn’t been so lucky. He’s hitting .132/.175/.184 with 15 strikeouts in 40 plate appearances (37.5%) since. Slater sure has impressed with his arm in the outfield, though.

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And finally, Abiatal Avelino has had three at-bats since being added to the roster in early September. He’s 0-3 with a couple of strikeouts, though one of those strikeouts came on a questionable strike three call. His pre-at-bat routine is pretty cool,  though.