SF Giants Minor-League Opening Day: High-A
Eugene Emeralds 9 at Spokane 5
Performance of the Game: Caleb Kilian (4 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 0 BB, 9 K, 60 pitches)
Easily the highlight of the day for the SF Giants affiliates, the Eugene Emeralds earned manager Dennis Pelfrey a victory in his first official game as an affiliate manager. The Emeralds’ lineup is littered with talent, and all nine starters recorded a hit before the game was over. However, 2020 first-round pick Patrick Bailey was the offensive star in his first professional game. The NC State alum went 3-5 with a pair of singles and a solo home run, which marked the first home run by a Giants minor leaguer in 2021. Diego Rincones mimicked Bailey’s 3-5 line but added a double of his own. Not to be outdone, Sean Roby and Tyler Fitzgerald added homers of their own.
However, while this roster is stacked with offensive talent, the Opening Day starting pitcher warranted the most attention. Caleb Kilian was drafted in Giants amateur scouting director Michael Holmes‘ first year with the organization in the 8th round of the 2019 draft. An all-around solid starter throughout his collegiate career at Texas Tech, Kilian seemed likely a back-end starter prospect who would likely need to pick up velocity upon a move to the bullpen to be successful. In his first career full-season appearance, though, he made a statement.
Kilian needed just 60 pitches to complete four shutout innings, where he surrendered two hits and racked up nine strikeouts. Eugene was frustratingly the lone Giants affiliate without a video feed on Tuesday, but a quick look at the gameday shows he was racking up tons of swings and misses. Out of college, Kilian showed a mid-90s fastball (around 92-94 mph) with a curveball and changeup that flashed as average pitches. However, the Giants have clearly identified pitchers that they believe had unlocked potential with a change in mechanics or a tweak to their repertoire. With more than a year away from official games, plenty of players could have reinvented themselves. Kilian may have been the first one to announce it with an exclamation point.
2020 fourth-round selection R.J. Dabovich made his first professional appearance in the ninth inning and showed the erraticness that most prospect fans have come to expect from premium stuff, inconsistent command relievers. Dabovich struck out two of the five batters he faced but surrendered a solo home run and a walk in one inning of work.