This is the first in a series of six articles reviewing the minor-league season in the SF Giants system. Today we start with the lowest level - the Dominican Summer League, part of what is known as the "Rookie" level of professional baseball.
SF Giants 2021 MILB Year in Review: Dominican Summer League
For many years, the "complex" level of Rookie ball was where many signees and draftees got their start in the professional game. Not to be confused with the now-defunct "Rookie-Advanced" level featuring the Pioneer and Appalachian leagues, which featured mostly-unique team names, playing in front of fans and actual overnight stays on the road, complex ball is played on back fields at - naturally - team complexes in Arizona, Florida and the Dominican Republic (and in the past, Venezuela).
After Major League Baseball's downsizing of the minor leagues, which dropped the Pioneer and Appalachian from affiliated status, complex ball became the only Rookie level of professional play. With Short-Season Single-A also eliminated, some organizations added teams to their complex rosters in order to have more space for young and rehabbing players - including the Giants, who increased their DSL allotment from one to two squads.
DSL Giants Orange
Skippered by longtime Giants minor-leaguer Juan Ciriaco (who had over 3500 at-bats in 15 years on the farm - including eight different seasons with stints in Triple-A - but never tasted a big-league paycheck) the DSL Giants Orange had a better season than the DSL Giants Black, finishing fourth in the DSL Northeast division with a 27-27 record.
Offensively, they were led by Samuel Reyes (.305/.433/.473 with 9 2B and 5 3B), Cesar Quintas (.309/.431/.457) and Derwin Laya (.262/.373/.408, tied for the team lead with 10 2B and finished second with 3 HR). Ramon Peralta paced the roster with four round trippers, tied Laya with 10 doubles and stole 10 bases (despite a batting average of .216) and Samuel Rodriguez swiped the stolen base title with 11.
On the hill, the most dominant pitcher was 18-year-old Venezuelan Mikell Manzano. Listed at just six feet tall and 140 pounds, Manzano mowed down the opposition with a whopping 70 strikeouts (8th in the DSL) in just 48 1/3 innings pitched. In addition, he walked only five batters across his 12 games (11 starts), good for the third-fewest among qualified pitchers. Rolfi Jimenez was the team's wins leader with four, and his 2.35 ERA was best among regular starting pitchers on the roster. Brayan Palencia (3-1, 1.96 ERA in 18 1/3 innings) and Argenis Perez (1-0, 2.19 in 24 2/3 innings) were the most reliable relief pitchers.
DSL Giants Black
The campaign didn't go as well for the DSL Giants Black, who finished seventh out of eight teams in the DSL San Pedro division at 24-28.
Just one regular, Gustavo Cardozo, hit .300 (39-for-130, .300 on the dot; Cardozo also led the team with 10 doubles) and only Onil Perez had an OPS over .800 (.846). Both Mauricio Pierre and Yeison Lemos paced the Giants' overall DSL contingent with five home runs apiece.
Among the hurlers, Ricardo Estrada turned in the best ERA by qualified pitchers at 3.05 (despite walking 23 batters in 38 1/3 innings). Samir Chires had a 3.33 ERA but struck out just 12 and allowed 37 hits in 27 innings pitched. A total of 15 pitchers on DSL Giants Black had double-digit innings, but just four of those had ERAs under 4.00
Overall, it was a mediocre season for the home teams at the Felipe Alou Baseball Academy (the name of the Giants' Dominican complex). The vast majority of players were teenagers - a handful as young as 17 - and refining fundamentals was surely one of the top priorities. Many of the players will be released within a year or two, and for those who make it stateside to continue their careers it will still take many years for them to approach the majors.