Oftentimes whenever I think of SF Giants prospects, I remember the remark of the president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi when he was asked about why it's important for Heliot Ramos to play in Triple-A, and he quoted "We want guys to dominate in Triple-A before they come up."
Five SF Giants prospects who deserve a promotion
It's a remark that should not only apply just to Heliot Ramos but to all of the Giants' prospects in their minor league farm system. Zaidi further quoted "you get to the point where you demonstrate that Triple-A is almost too easy for you." The Giants have been conservative last season in terms of promoting their standout prospects but this season has been a bit different with guys like Kyle Harrison, Mason Black, Armani Smith, and Cole Waites earning their well-deserved promotion. Let's talk about five more prospects who have dominated their respective level so far this season that a handing them a promotion is a matter of 'when' and not 'if'.
Note: Stats are accurate as of June 12, 2022.
Let's start off with the obvious one. Vaun Brown is doing ridiculous things down in Low-A. He is one of seven players in the entire Minor Leagues with more than a dozen of both home runs and stolen bases. Brown has a .345/.433/.636 triple-slash line with 11 doubles, five triples, 13 bombs, 23 stolen bases, a 10.1% walk rate, and a 26.1% strikeout rate. To put things in context, each of his triple-slash categories ranks in the top five of all California League hitters with at least 100 at-bats, and his 176 wRC+ is tied for first.
The 2020 tenth-round draft choice is as physically built as anyone in the entire organization and has a compact stroke that is both conducive to hitting for average and power. He also has the wheels and the base-stealing savvy to be a menace on the base paths. Brown is as no-brainer as anyone in the system in terms of getting a promotion. The issue is that the outfield corps of the Eugene Emeralds excluding Luis Matos has held serve and it's tough to imagine Matos getting sent down. Either one of the Emeralds' outfielders has to get promoted or demoted to make space for Brown. There is, of course, the strikeout rate that looms over his stat line and we are talking about a 24-year-old dunking on players a couple of years younger than him but promotion should come his way in the second half of the season.
Gates actually started his season in Eugene but was sent down to San Jose after making just two appearances for the Emeralds at the start of the season. Gates has been dominant ever since with a 1.02 ERA in 17.2 innings pitched for San Jose with 24 strikeouts and just five walks allowed. Opposing Low-A hitters have only mustered a .070 batting average against him and all two of his earned runs came via the long ball (four total runs allowed).
Low-A hitters just have little to no chance when Gates is in form. His fastball tops out at 95 MPH where he can impart either a tailing action or a cutting action on it. Gates knows where his bread is buttered as he often throws his fastball high in the zone from an over-the-top release point to set up his vicious breaking balls, a slider and a curveball, that have plenty of late, vertical movement. Like Brown, Gates is a 24-year-old dunking on inferior competition and he badly needs to be promoted back to Eugene. The issue is creating room for Gates in the bullpen which will prompt the promotion of a pitcher to Richmond or a demotion to San Jose. With the way things are going with the Ems pitching staff is concerned, promotion is more likely.
We talked about someone from the Emeralds pitching staff deserving of a promotion and Murphy is the one who does. After sustaining a back injury which made him sit out the first five weeks of the 2022 season, Murphy is interestingly assigned to Eugene after dominating the level when he got on the level last season.
The sixth-ranked prospect in the Around The Foghorn's June 2022 update, Murphy had a rough patch in his second outing of the season at Spokane in a wet game but his three starts since have been stellar with a 1.93 ERA in 14 innings pitched, 13 strikeouts and just three walks allowed. He's held his opponents to a .177 batting average and a .491 OPS, with his .296 BABIP suggesting that this is the best that High-A hitting can do to him. He's still throwing strikes at a stellar rate (66% in his last three starts) but he's been missing his spots just a bit more this season compared to last season. Nonetheless, Murphy's advanced pitchability and control need a tougher challenge and the leap from High-A to Double-A is one of the biggest leaps in the sport and it should test his big-league potential.
I've harped on his name plenty of times already this season and I'll make this clear: Casey Schmitt needs a tougher challenge. The only hitter in the entire Northwest League with a batting average above .300, Schmitt's numbers actually dipped ever since sustaining a bruised ankle in the series against Tri-City that he's played through. However, his slump started at the end of the Spokane series at Spokane and during those 13-game stretch, he's only had a .449 OPS and a .237 BABIP. Looking healthy, Schmitt's back at it once again with a four-game hitting streak.
Even though he's had that slump, he's still inside the top five in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, OPS, home runs, and wRC+ while keeping his peripherals strong. He's also played at shortstop for five straight games earlier this month and has looked solid there where his footwork and arm play but he still needs work on reading hops to fully envision a role for him at the position. It's such a luxury to have such a prospect like Schmitt. The only issue that I see with regards to Schmitt's promotion is that Sean Roby is also playing the position and he's well en route to smashing the franchise single-season home run record set by David Villar just a season ago.
The last prospect might come as a surprise but the real ones know that Shane Matheny has been the best hitter for the Flying Squirrels this season. Matheny has showed promise last season for Richmond with a high walk rate (15.6%) but everything else have been underwhelming to say the least. His second rodeo with the level still has him draw a very high number of walks (15.3%) but everything else picked up from his batting average (.207 last year to .314 this year), on-base (.333 to .430), slugging (.345 to .525), wRC+ (92 to 167), and strikeout rate (31.8% to 22.2%).
While dipping the chips a second time might've worked for Matheny, it's still fair to say that he is a 26-year-old who has become much more comfortable facing Double-A pitching. Matheny looks stronger compared to last season and he's become more confident in himself at the batter's box while utilizing an all-fields approach this season compared to his pull-heavy one last season. Matheny deserves a call-up to Triple-A but with their crowded infield, he might struggle to find an opportunity to play in Sacramento this season.