Oh, it’s a great time to be a San Francisco Giants fan. No one expected that the Giants, yes, the San Francisco Giants, would not only be competitive but lead the entire Major League Baseball in wins last season. Not bad for a team built from savvy acquisitions and tangible proof of player development at the Major League level with the veterans fully buying into the philosophy of the coaching staff that manager Gabe Kapler put together when he was hired. As a result, a couple of his initial hirings received a promotion from other clubs to implement those effective practices to their clubs such as Donnie Ecker to the Texas Rangers, and Ethan Katz to the Chicago White Sox.
It Is A Great Time To Be A SF Giants Fan
Like their big-league counterparts, the Giants' farm system also enjoyed a successful 2021 season, especially in the low-Minors where most of their top-end talent and depth are present. Every talent acquisition by the amateur and pro scouting department, be it domestic or international, over the past couple of years has cascaded into an impressive collection of talent validated by the natural progression of those said talents.
The initial draft classes of the Michael Holmes regime (2019 and 2020), as well as the 2018-2020 international free agent classes by Joe Salermo, Felix Peguero, and their crew, brought in an enviable amount of talent to both San Jose and Eugene that resulted in the Low-A West and High-A West titles for the respective clubs.
San Jose was a hotbed for scouts all season long because most of the top-tier prospect talent that the organization was conservatively assigned to Low-A. The crown jewels of the 2018 international free agent class and several prospects from the 2020 draft class joined several known top prospects like Alexander Canario, Luis Toribio, and Ricardo Genoves to form both an impressive lineup and a deep pitching staff.
The lil’ Gigantes were dominant all season long and even though plenty of their initial talent got promoted to the next level, their depth in the Arizona complex proved their worth and kept the cogs churning for San Jose to the playoffs. However, three prospects led the way for the San Jose squad and were highly pivotal for their Low-A West title: their ace Kyle Harrison who led the entire Low-A West in ERA, Randy Rodriguez who served as the fireman for the Giants bullpen, and Luis Matos who won the team’s MVP after leading the team in several offensive categories.
Eugene was not as hot of a destination in terms of top prospect talent, but the roster had a strong, collegiate-heavy talent with Caleb Kilian leading the charge. The 2019 eighth-rounder was both surgical and overpowering at the top of the Emeralds’ rotation and only stayed in the Pacific Northwest for only a month.
The team was good but not great on both sides of the ball in the first half of the season. Then, a couple of key additions to the roster in the second half of the season pushed the club over the hump and onto the High-A West championship: Brett Auerbach and Ryan Murphy. Auerbach provided the spark on offense by launching 15 home runs after getting called up last July while Murphy provided the stability in the Emeralds rotation that was lost when Kilian got promoted. Top prospects like Luciano and Pomares also got called up, but their impact was not as felt in the win column, unlike Auerbach and Murphy.
However, several Eugene mainstays were crucial to their success last season. Ismael Munguia served as the team’s spark-plug and led the entire High-A West in batting average, and Sean Roby and Tyler Fitzgerald provided plenty of offense and defense with the case of Fitzgerald.
The upper-Minors affiliates did not experience the same on-field success as their low-Minors counterparts but they are still home to some of the best moments in the entire organization, most notably the two no-hitters in which for Richmond was their first nine-inning no-no in history.
Even though the talent level is not as rich, Richmond and Sacramento were still home to some of the top prospects in the organization, most notably former first-rounders Heliot Ramos and Joey Bart. Richmond had other talented prospects such as Sean Hjelle, Michael Plassmeyer, Frankie Tostado, and Diego Rincones who provided plenty of strong performances on both sides of the ball.
But it was David Villar who defined the season with his franchise single season-record 20 home runs. Sacramento was more of a team that housed the other players in the 40-man roster than anything but it was there where Camilo Doval had his highest of highs and his lowest of lows before emerging as the Giants' closer during the final weeks of the season.
Down in the backfields, even though the win-loss record might not reflect it, the Giants had a successful season in Arizona because development is more important than earning the Ws. If you like strikeouts, you will like the Giants’ roster as four out of Arizona Complex League’s top five strikeout leaders are Giants pitching prospects. Esmerlin Vinicio of the Orange team led the league in both strikeouts and ERA. Trevor McDonald and Sonny Vargas were a strikeout shy of Vinicio's lead, and Manuel Mercedes is not too far behind.
On the offensive side, it was also a successful campaign for several prospects led by Adrian Sugastey winning the batting title by a wide margin. Aeverson Arteaga also showed up before getting promoted to San Jose, Garrett Frechette gained his confidence back after struggling in Arizona, and Alexander Suarez flashed his promising potential.
The Dominican complex was a tough case study in terms of development last season because a good chunk of games was canceled or delayed because of a hurricane passing through the country and a COVID outbreak that swept through the Academy in the middle of the season.
Plenty of hot starts, particularly by Yeison Lemos and Javier Francisco of the Black team, were stopped dead in their tracks because of the constant stoppage of play. However, at the end of the season, three prospects stood out. Catching prospect Onil Perez was stellar for the Black team, and pitchers Mikell Manzano and Miguel Mora led their respective starting rotations.