Extra attention is being paid to the San Francisco Giants farm system this year as the team starts planning for the future, and Conner Menez is a name to know.
The San Francisco Giants have what most would call a thin farm system.
There is some intriguing top-tier talent, namely catcher Joey Bart and outfielder Heliot Ramos, but overall the system is lacking in future impact talent.
It comes as quite the surprise then that one of the top performers down on the farm so far this season was not even ranked among the team’s top 30 prospects to begin the year, according to MLB.com.
That fast-rising youngster is left-hander Conner Menez.
The Giants selected Menez in the 14th round of the 2016 draft out of The Master’s College, a small liberal arts school in Santa Clarita, California with less than 1,000 undergrads.
Despite being unranked among Baseball America’s Top 500 draft prospects for 2016, he moved quickly after signing, reaching High-A in his pro debut after brief stops in rookie ball and Low-A.
He then spent the entire 2017 season in the High-A rotation, posting a 4.41 ERA, 1.55 WHIP and 99 strikeouts in 114.1 innings.
His rapid rise continued last season when he pitched a career-high 135.1 innings over three levels, including a pair of Triple-A starts. While his 4.46 ERA and 1.38 WHIP didn’t jump off the page last year, the spike in his strikeout rate from 7.8 to 11.4 K/9 did.
The 23-year-old returned to Double-A Richmond to start the 2019 season, and he’s making a strong case for an early promotion with a terrific 2.01 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and a 39-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 31.1 innings.
In his most recent start on Sunday, he allowed just one hit with zero walks and eight strikeouts over six scoreless innings.
While Menez sits in the 92-94 mph range with his fastball, he’s shown a consistent ability to record strikeouts, and he explained why while talking with Steve Kroner of Baseball America at the start of the season:
"“I have a really long stride and I get out there super far off the mound, so the ball gets on the hitters a lot quicker than they expect.”"
He backs his fastball with a good slider, while also mixing in a curveball and a changeup. There’s a chance his stuff would play up even further with a move to the bullpen and a move to using just his fastball/slider combination. For now, he’s given no reason to believe he can’t stick as a starter.
In fact, lowering his walk rate from 4.0 to 2.6 BB/9 is a major step forward in his pursuit of one day landing a rotation spot.
Regardless of his long-term future, if he keeps throwing the ball the way he has over the first month of the 2019 season, he could be in Triple-A and knocking on the door for a promotion before the All-Star break.
Just in time for what many expect to be a busy summer on the trade market with plenty of roster turnover.