Two different eras, one common passion.
It’s understood in baseball – as in most sports – that you’ll be able to find a varied amount of both young talent and veteran experience. The Sacramento River Cats are no exception.
The oldest player on the River Cats roster is veteran catcher Miguel Olivo, born in 1978. Earlier this season, he was behind the plate, catching for one of the youngest members of the team, Giants #10 Propsect Clayton Blackburn, born in 1993.
That’s a 15-year gap. A lot sure has changed in those 15 years.
Olivo was born on July 15, 1978 in Villa Vasquez, Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic. He made his major league debut with the Chicago White Sox on September 15, 2002 at the age of 24 and in his first taste of the show, he went 1-for-2 with a home run )off Andy Pettitte!) and three RBI. Blackburn was just nine years old.
Blackburn was born on January 6, 1993 in Amarillo, Texas. He made his mark in the organization last season, earning the title of Pacific Coast League ERA champion with a 2.85 mark. The Giants No. 10 prospect was recalled by San Francisco on May 12, but did not make his debut. It’s possible that Blackburn could make his way back at some point this season.
That means Olivo was 14 years, 5 months, and 22 days old when Blackburn was born. And Blackburn was 9 years, 8 months, and 9 days old when Olivo made his major league debut.
That’s nearly a 15 year difference in age and if Blackburn makes his debut in 2016, a 14 year gap between debuts.
A lot changes in a decade and a half.
Take for example the price of gas. When Olivo was born in 1978, the average cost for a gallon of gas was $0.63 cents. When Blackburn was born, it was $1.16. When Olivo made his debut, it was $1.35. While Blackburn has yet to make his debut, if it happens in 2016, you can expect to find the average cost of gas at $2.27 (just not anywhere in California).
Or look into how politics have changed. In 1978, Jimmy Carter was president. In 1993, two weeks after Blackburn was born, Bill Clinton was inaugurated at president. And today? Well, we’ll leave today’s politics out of it.
Thankfully technology has undergone some major updates, as well. When Olivo was born, the Illinois Bell Company has recently introduced first ever Cellular Mobile Phone System. When Blackburn was born, the World Wide Web was created at CERN and the Pentium microprocessor was introduced by Intel. Most importantly, in 2002, Apple introduced the second generation iPod that held 4,000 songs and the “super innovative” iMac G4.
We may be biased, but the pop culture of 1978 is something to be missed. Popular movies included Grease and Saturday Night fever. People were listening to the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, and the Bee Gees with hits like “Stayin Alive.”
The Nineties though, receive an applause for their movies. In 1993, Blackburn’s family was probably watching Jurassic Park or Schindler’s List. His mom might have been watching Sleepless in Seattle. And a baby Blackburn could have been watching Mrs. Doubtfire.
In Texas, the Blackburn family was likely listening to country star Garth Brooks. Or secretly belting out Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” in the shower.
The greatest transition though, would be the change from this in 1978:
To this in the 90s:
While neither style may suit either of them anymore, we can all agree that, despite the years between, them, both look real good in that Sactown jersey every Friday night.
Get an early look at our upcoming The Inside Pitch interview with All-Star Ty Blach
The Portugal and Wales game is just underway when we dial up Ty Blach. So first things first, of course.
Soccer fan, Ty?
“No, not really,” he answers casually. “It’s exciting to watch, but I’m not really invested either way.”
After a second, he adds “Plus, in Fresno, there’s not much else going on anyway.”
He’s watching the match from his hotel room in Fresno where the River Cats are a few hours away from starting the third game of their three-game set against their intrastate rivals.
Blach won’t pitch in the series, but that’s because he just wrapped up a dominating 10-strikeout performance at home against the Albuquerque Isotopes. His start before that? A nine-inning, complete-game shutout against the hot-hitting Las Vegas 51s in Las Vegas. Combined, the left-hander tossed 16 innings with a 1.13 ERA, 16 strikeouts, and not a single walk.
Those numbers were good enough to net Blach the Pacific Coast League’s Pitcher of the Week award for June 27 – July 3. It’s his second time receiving the award with the River Cats, the last one coming for the week of August 17 – 23 of last season.
Blach tossed his first nine-inning complete-game shutout of Triple-A during that week. Sensing a theme?
“I guess so,” Blach says, laughing. “I hadn’t thought of that.”
Complete game shutouts aren’t necessarily new for Blach, who has four of them – one of which was a seven inning effort as a part of a double-header – in his four year career. Is there anything different about those games? Is there a point where, as a pitcher, you start thinking “I can go all the way in this one”?
See the rest of our interview with Ty Blach in our upcoming edition of The Inside Pitch, available at all River Cats games starting July 22!
You voted and asked for some old-time classics. We couldn’t be more proud.
We gave you four choices for opponents’ walk up music and you let us know which one you wanted. While the music of the 90’s, 80’s and 70’s all put up good showings, 35% of you voted for the Golden Oldies.
Just for you, here are all of the oldies used for the Isotopes hitters in tonight’s “We The Fans” game.
Rock on, old timers. Rock on.
New faces fill out the River Cats roster halfway through the season
The River Cast roster, like any Triple-A roster, experiences quite a few changes throughout the course of the season. A little over halfway through the season, Sacramento has already made 107 transactions. In the past 48 hours alone, there have been nine different moves, meaning there are more than a few new faces on the team. We thought we’d help break it down and introduce you to each.
INF Ricky Oropesa (#35) was transferred from Double-A Richmond and added to the River Cats’ 25-man roster today, Thursday, 6/30. In 68 games for the Flying Squirrels this season, Oropesa hit .219 (51-for-233) with eight doubles, nine home runs, and 31 RBI. He’s always possessed above average power, and hit a career-best 17 home runs in 2015 with the Double-A Richmond Squirrels. This is the first time that the left-handed slugger has appeared at the Triple-A level in his five seasons of professional ball. He was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2011 draft, following first round pick Joe Panik and second rounder Andrew Susac. You may have heard of them.
Next up is INF Ali Castillo (#49), who like Oropesa, was transferred from Double-A Richmond and added to the River Cats 25-man roster. So far this season, Castillo hit .317 (63-for-220) with nine doubles, three triples, and six stolen bases in 66 games for the Flying Squirrels. He’s got nine Minor League seasons under his belt, but just 20 games played at the Triple-A level (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, 2015). He joined the Giants organization after signing a minor league deal in December of 2015. Prior to that, the 26-year-old infielder had spent seven seasons in the New York Yankees organization. In 2013, Castillo was named the Eastern League Playoffs MVP after going 8-for-21 (.381) with two doubles, a triple, a home run, six RBI, and four runs scored.
Also coming from Richmond is RHP Tyler Rogers (#48), who was transferred from Double-A and added to the River Cats 25-man roster. The right-handed reliever has a very unique submarine delivery and had made 35 appearances for the Flying Squirrels, posting an ERA of 0.77, with 10 saves, 24 strikeouts, and 8 walks.Rogers was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 10th round of the 2013 First Year Player draft and will be making his Triple-A debut in what is his fourth season of professional baseball.
The last Richmond transplant (for now!) is INF/OF Myles Schroder (#19) was transferred from Double-A Richmond and added to the River Cats 25-man roster. Schroder was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 27th (824 overall) round of the 2007 Draft. He’s played at least 100 games in every season since 2014 and, even more impressive, has played at least 10 games at every position during his six-year Minor League career. Over the last two seasons, Schroder has hit .252 with seven home runs, 32 RBI, and 14 stolen bases in 109 games with Richmond.
Returning to Sacramento after a six-year journey through the Majors is OF Chris Denorfia (#55), who was reinstated from the Sacramento Disabled List and added to the active 25-man roster. The 35-year-old vet signed with the San Francisco Giants as a minor league free agent in June of this season, starting his year with the AZL Giants. In 2015, appeared in 103 games with the Chicago Cubs, hitting .269 (57-for-212) with 3 home runs and 18 RBI. Has spent parts of 10 seasons in the Major Leagues with the Reds, Athletics, Padres, Mariners, and Cubs. Denorfia played 152 games with the River Cats between the 2008 and 2009 seasons, hitting .280 with 31 doubles, 11 home runs, 69 RBI, and 20 stolen bases.
Sacramento looks to continue hot streak against slumping Albuquerque
The Sacramento River Cats (33-47) are looking to set off some fireworks this Independence Day Weekend as they face off against the Colorado Rockies Triple-A affiliate, the Albuquerque Isotopes (31-48), losers of 12-straight games.
Scouting the Teams
Albuquerque currently sits 15 games behind El Paso in the Pacific Southern Division and during their 12-game losing streak, have been outscored 51-25. During the month of June, Albuquerque has an 8-19 record while hitting .245 as a team with a 4.34 team ERA. Coming into Raley Field this weekend, the Isotopes are currently hitting a league-low .233 as a team on the road while they’re 3.96 team ERA on the road is third best in the league.
In Sacramento’s most recent win over the Las Vegas 51s, outfielder Ryan Lollis was the only starter from the opening day lineup. The River Cats pitching staff will be eager to leave the hitter-friendly ballpark in Las Vegas and get home to improve upon their a team ERA of 3.54, fifth-best in the league. At the dish, River Cats hitters haven’t found as much success, hitting .262 as a team, ninth in the league. Sacramento comes in with an 11-16 record so far this month and will be seeking their fourth home series win this weekend.
Players to Watch
The Sacramento offense starts from the top, literally, as leadoff man and centerfielder Gorkys Hernandez has been on a tear of late. The River Cats’ lone 2016 All-Star, Hernandez is hitting .469 (15-for-32) with nine runs and eight RBIs over his last 10 games. Sacramento shortstop Rando Moreno has impressed of late as well, hitting .333 (12-for-36) over his last 10 games while driving in three runs and scoring six. Left-hander Ty Blach is coming off a complete game shutout against the Las Vegas 51s and is 2-0 in his two starts with a 3.75 ERA against the Isotopes
The 19th ranked prospect in the Rockies organization, Jordan Patterson is hitting .444 (4-for-9) over his last three games and is hitting .500 in his four games against Sacramento this season. Fellow outfielder Stephen Cardullo has been a mainstay for Albuquerque this season, as he currently leads the team in RBIs (40), home runs (11), and runs scored (44). Undeterred by the team’s offensive futility during their 12-game losing streak is left-hander Harrison Musgrave, a highly-touted pitching prospect. Over his last two starts, the southpaw is 0-2 despite allowing three runs over 13 innings while striking out 10.
The River Cats and Isotopes have split their first eight games this year. As a team, Sacramento is hitting .270 against the ‘Topes while the pitching staff has a team ERA of 3.86. All-time, the River Cats hold a 53-32 series advantage. Sacramento faces Albuquerque once more in New Mexico August 3-6.
Thursday, June 30 (7:05 p.m. PT): RHP Joan Gregorio (1-4, 5.59) vs. RHP Jeff Hoffman (4-5, 3.49)
Friday, July 1 (7:05 p.m. PT): RHP Clayton Blackburn (5-5, 4.50) vs. LHP Kyle Freeland (0-1, 6.00)
Saturday, July 2 (1:05 p.m. PT): TBA vs. RHP Shane Carle (3-6, 5.65)
Sunday, July 3 (12:05 p.m. (PT): LHP Ty Blach (7-5, 4.23) vs. LHP Harrison Musgrave (3-5, 4.20)
River Cats look to continue success against Rainiers
The Sacramento River Cats (39-31) will host the Tacoma Rainiers (39-31), the Triple-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners, for the last four games of their 12-game homestand. It will be AL-style baseball at Raley Field as the River Cats try to improve on their 6-18 mark against American League teams. Of those six wins, three came against Tacoma in their only road series win so far this year. The Rainiers currently sit tied with the Reno Aces for first place in the Pacific Northern division with the River Cats 11 games back.
Scouting the Teams
The Tacoma Rainiers have not been the same team away from the Pacific Northwest, as they hold a 15-20 record on the road. The Rainiers come into West Sacramento 4-6 in their last 10 and 9-10 so far this month. Tacoma’s strong suit is their pitching staff, as they currently rank first in the PCL in fewest walks allowed (172) and have the third lowest team ERA (3.91). Offensively, they sit in the middle of the pack, ranking seventh in team batting average (.272), sixth in home runs (63), and eighth in stolen bases (52).
The Sacramento River Cats will look to build off their series win over the El Paso Chihuahuas, as they attempt to gain ground on first-place Tacoma. The Sacramento staff, who boast the third best team ERA this month (3.79), have pitched sensationally in the friendly confines of Raley Field, registering a 3.38 ERA. Despite scoring 27 runs in the eight games so far this homestand, the River Cats bats average just .232 at home. Overall, they have the third fewest runs scored in the PCL (301) and third fewest walks (207). On the year, Sacramento has stranded 507 runners on base, second only to their prior opponent (El Paso 541).
Players to Watch
Right fielder Stefen Romero has been a stalwart for the Rainiers this season, hitting .326 (10th in the PCL) with four triples and has not committed an error in his 321 innings played this year. His running mate, catcher Mike Zunino, leads the team in home runs (14, tied for third in the PCL) and RBI (45). Shortstop Chris Taylor is hitting .400 over his last nine games with four runs scored and eight RBI. Taking the hill tonight for Tacoma will be left-hander Brad Mills, who over his last two starts, is 1-0 with seven runs allowed in 11 2/3 innings pitched. He will be followed on Wednesday night by Joe Wieland, who owns a 7.52 ERA in 12 starts this season, and has a 13.21 ERA on the road.
On the mound tonight for the River Cats is veteran right-hander Chris Heston, who in four home starts, possesses a 2.00 ERA. Thursday night’s game will feature southpaw sensation Adalberto Mejia, making his second start for Sacramento. In his first start, Mejia went seven scoreless innings, not allowing a walk while striking eight. Centerfielder Gorkys Hernadez, who is tied for the most games played in the PCL this season (68), has been a key contributor over the last five games, hitting .333 with three runs scored and two RBI. In the four game series against Tacoma earlier this season, catcher Andrew Susac hit .267 with four RBI, two runs scored, and a homer.
The River Cats’ only road series win came Apirl 23-26 against the Rainiers, in which they outscored them 20-16. Sacramento has yet to beat an AL affiliate at home as they currently are 0-8 when using designated hitters at Raley Field. Along with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, the Tacoma Rainiers are the only other team against who the River Cats have a winning record. All time, Sacramento leads the series 132-112.
Tues, June 21 (7:05 p.m.): RHP Chris Heston (1-8, 3.96) vs. LHP Brad Mills (3-1, 5.20)
Weds, June 22 (7:05 p.m.): LHP Ty Blach (6-4, 4.41) vs. RHP Joe Wieland (5-4, 7.52)
Thurs, June 23 (7:05 p.m.): LHP Adalberto Mejia (0-0, 0.00) vs. RHP Zach Lee (7-5, 4.89)
Fri, June 24 (7:05 p.m.): RHP Joan Gregorio (1-4 6.54) vs. RHP Jarrett Grube (0-0, 3.52)
River Cats broadcaster Johnny Doskow with Mitch Delfino
Johnny Doskow: Great to talk with first baseman Mitch Delfino. You were a part of some history at the University of California Berkeley. Nobody was sure if Cal was going to have baseball. Can you take us through how that?
Mitch Delfino: That was an unbelievable year. It was a rollercoaster of emotions all year long. We found out our program’s been cut. Everybody has to go look at different schools and go on recruiting trips during the fall while were getting prepared to play the season. I think only two guys ended up leaving that year. Everybody wanted to stick it out. The last season together. We made a run and went to the College World Series. Unbelievable experience. And they raised 10 million dollars and reinstated the program. It was an amazing year.
JD: Amazing. You and Jeff Kent. He took a liking to you. He took an interest to you. You guys had a friendship. Can you talk about that a little bit?
MD: The first time I got to meet him was a couple years ago at spring training. I was in big league camp and got to work with him a little bit. We worked on some defensive things. We talked about the whole Cal relationship. Great guy.
JD: This must be big for you – growing up in Cloverdale, growing up being a Giants fan, and being drafted by the Giants. Take us through draft day and what that was like.
MD: It was amazing. I was at one of my buddy’s houses and it was after the college season was over. I wasn’t even listening to the draft and ended up finding out through a bunch of texts. Everyone was congratulating me. It was just amazing getting drafted by the team I grew up watching. I was at a lot of those games where Barry Bonds was breaking records. I’ve been a big Giants fan my whole life. It was pretty unbelievable to get a chance to hopefully play for them one day.
JD: I know this is your first year at Triple-A. You seem comfortable at the plate. What has been the adjustment like going from Double-A to Triple-A.
MD: The biggest adjustment for me was not playing every day. Throughout my career so far I have been an every day player. Right now at Triple-A almost everybody has been up to the big leagues. A lot of big league guys are on our roster. So I am trying to stay mentally prepared every day. You don’t know when you’re going to get a pinch hit at bat, you don’t know when you’re going to come in on a double switch, and then those days when you do get to start, trying to keep that rhythm going and trying to execute when you get it there so you can hopefully stay in there.
JD: That’s a very smart approach. Because when you get to the big leagues for the first time, there’s a good chance that you will come off the bench. And you have to be prepared for that chance.
MD: Absolutely. I’m hoping that this year definitely gets me prepared for that next step. Like I said, not playing every day, and getting in there for those pinch hits at bats. Because most guys when you get up to the big leagues, you’re not playing every day. That’s just not how it works. So I definitely think this will help better prepare me for that.
Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Height/Weight: 6’2”/225 lb.
Hometown: Carrollton, IL
Current Team: San Jose Giants (Advanced-A)
Signed: 5th Round (148th Overall) in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft
2016 MLB Pipeline Ranking: Giants #6 Overall Prospect
Fun Fact: Originally planned to be an exterminator if playing baseball did not work out. Let’s hope he continues to exterminate opposing hitters instead.
Coonrod looked like a potential first-round pick when he hit 98 mph as a Southern Illinois freshman in 2012, but he never achieved consistent success with the Salukis, going 8-17 in three seasons. Selected in the fifth round in 2014, he has done a much better job of harnessing his stuff with the Giants. He would have led the Class A South Atlantic League in strikeout rate (9.2 per nine innings) in his first full pro season if he hadn’t fallen one-third of an inning shy of qualifying.
Coonrod’s fastball dipped to 89-93 mph during his
Draft year but has regained velocity since he turned pro. He now operates at 91-96 mph with improved command as well. At its best, his slider provides a second plus pitch and reaches the mid-80s. As he continues to move through the system, the right-hander will need to keep developing his changeup, which has made some progress and features some sink. He’s doing a better job of repeating his delivery since San Francisco helped him slow it down, allowing him to throw more strikes and keep the ball down in the zone more often.
So far this season, Coonrod has been spectacular in the California League for San Jose, posting a 5-2 record with a 1.45 ERA. While he must cut down on his walks, he seems destined for a promotion to Double-A Richmond at some point this season.
The last three years of Giants’ top picks
With the 2016 MLB Draft having wrapped up just over a week ago, we thought it would be helpful to dive into some of the San Francisco Giants’ top picks over the last three years. Overall, the Giants have been very successful in the draft, as 16 of the current 25-man roster is homegrown. Let’s look at four of their most recent picks and see if we can provide a little insight on where these players come from, where they are, and likely, where they’re headed.
2016 – Bryan Reynolds, OF
2nd Round, 59th overall
2016 marked the first season since 2005 that the Giants didn’t have a pick in the first round. Their first round pick was surrendered to the Chicago White Sox as compensation for signing pitcher Jeff Samardzija.
No worries though. With Bryan Reynolds, the Giants landed a steal of a pick in the second round. Reynolds, a switch-hitting outfielder out of Vanderbilt, was ranked by MLB as the 23rd best prospect in the 2016 class and the 31st best by Baseball America. For some reason, Reynolds – known for his contact skills, defense, and speed – slipped all the way to the Giants in the middle of the second round.
“We were very happy he was available to us,” Giants assistant general manager and director of scouting John Barr told reporters. “I’d say we were surprised.”
This last season, Reynolds led the Vanderbilt Commodores offense in a number of categories. He hit .330 with 13 home runs and 57 RBI in 72 games. As a freshman, he hit an even higher .338 with four homers and 54 driven in. That season, he was teammates with a future Giants’ first-round pick and helped lead the Commodores to the national title. Already 21-years-old, Reynolds is likely to start his professional career at Augusta or San Jose. It’s possible he’ll find playing time this summer, as well, in the Arizona Summer League.
2015 – Phil Bickford, RHP
1st Round, 18th overall
Phil Bickford was the San Francisco Giants first round selection (18th overall) in the 2015 First-Year Player Draft and is currently ranked the number three prospect in the organization. He was also selected by the Toronto Blue Jays as the 10th overall pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, but did not sign.
During his freshman year at Cal State Fullerton, Bickford posted a 6-3 record with a 2.13 ERA in 20 games (10 starts). He held opponents to a .232 batting average against and struck out 74 batters in 76.0 innings of work. His 8.76 strikeouts per nine innings ranked fourth in the Big West in 2014. The 2015 Golden Spikes Award Semifinalist posted a 9-1 record with a 1.45 ERA (14 ER, 86.2 IP) in 16 starts this season at College of Southern Nevada. Bickford struck out 166 batters compared to just 21 walks in 86.2 innings of work. He recorded 10-or-more strikeouts in eight of his 16 starts.
Bickford has spent all of the 2016 season with Class-A Augusta, throwing 53 innings in 10 starts. He’s posted a 2-4 record but owns an ERA of just 2.89. He is striking out well over a batter per inning (62 in 53 innings, a 10.5 K/9) and has maintained strong control of his arsenal, walking just 14 batters so far this year.
Bickford is likely still a ways off, with his big league debut not expected to come until the 2018 season, but with his 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame and 98 mph fastball, he is certainly an exciting prospect to keep an eye on.
2015 – Chris Shaw, INF
1st Round (Compensation Round A), 31st overall
Heading into the 2015 draft, the Giants found themselves with two first round picks, having a spot in Compensation Round A. With their pick, the San Francisco Giants selected Chris Shaw 31st overall. Entering this season, Shaw is ranked fifth among all Giants’ prospects.
The 6-foot-3, 235-pounder hit .319 with 11 homers and 43 RBI for Boston College in 2015. Shaw finished the season with a .611 slugging percentage and a .411 on-base percentage. He was named to the Second Team All-ACC, despite missing time due to a broken hamate bone in his right hand.
Shaw led the Cape Code League in 2014 with eight home runs and ranked second with 34 RBI, while recording a .275 (46-for-167) batting average. He was honored with the Cape Cod Baseball League’s John J. Claffey Award as the New England Top Prospect playing for the Chatham Anglers.
This season, Shaw has continued to strong hitting at Class A Advanced San Jose. Playing primarily first base for the San Jose Giants, Shaw is off to an excellent start, hitting .294 with 13 home runs in 55 games. Over the course of a full season, that projects out to 33 home runs over a full 140-game schedule.
Shaw’s size and strength are the source of his immense power, but he possesses good patience at the plate, works the count well, and takes walks at a good rate. He has soft hands and is athletic enough to stick at first base in pro ball. The exciting power hitter gives the Giants some future potential at the infield corners.
2014 – Tyler Beede, RHP
1st Round, 14th overall
Tyler Beede was a highly touted prospect out of Lawrence Academy in Massachusetts, and, like Bickford, was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays but did not sign. Instead, he chose to play baseball at Vanderbilt University where he would become teammates with the Giants’ latest first rounder, Bryan Reynolds.
In 2013, with the Commodores, he was named a finalist for the Dick Howser Trophy and Golden Spikes Award, and was Second-Team All-SEC and BA Second-Team All-American. After a brilliant 2012-2013 season where he went 14-1 with a 2.32 ERA, he took a small step back in 2013-2014 finishing the season at just 8-8 with a 4.05 ERA. He did however help Vanderbilt go on to win the College World Series in 2014.
Going into this season, Beede is listed as the #2 overall prospect in the Giants organization behind 2013 first-round pick Christian Arroyo. In 11 starts with Double-A Richmond this season, Beede is 4-3 with a 3.05 ERA. He has struck out 50 while walking 15 in 65 innings of work. Since joining the Giants organization in 2014, Beede is 9-14 with a 3.61 ERA in 39 games, all starts.
Overall, these four prospects make up three of the organization’s top five, with 2012 first-rounder Arroyo and Lucius Fox, an international signee, ranked as number one and four, respectively. As they make their way through the system, they’re all looking for the same thing – to join a long line of distinguished Giants first rounders.
Some others? You may recognize the names Joe Panik (29th overall, 2011) or Chris Stratton (20th overall, 2012), two of the most recent draft picks to make their mark on the big leagues and also put on a River Cats jersey. Of course, don’t forget about All-Stars and World Champions like Madison Bumgarner (10th overall, 2007), Buster Posey (5th overall, 2008), Tim Lincecum (10th overall, 2006), and Matt Cain (25th overall, 2002).
It’s a long road from the draft to the show, but the Giants have shown that their draft picks have what it takes. First-rounders in San Francisco tend to show up and do good things, and their latest picks shouldn’t be any different.
The journey to the big leagues has many pit-stops
When a player steps between the lines at AT&T Park on the shores of McCovey Cove, odds are that he’s already been a “Giant” for a few years. Whether in the Rookie League or somewhere between Low-A and Triple-A, every level of the San Francisco Giants organization has something to offer.
Arizona Giants (Arizona League, Short Season)
The lowest level in the Giants’ organization is the Arizona League, which, as its name implies, operates in and around Phoenix, Arizona. Created by Major League Baseball in 1989, the Arizona League, along with its counterpart, the Gulf Coast League, represents the lowest level of professional play in the MLB.
The Arizona League is a short-season league – the teams only play 56 games between mid-July and August. The Giants have had a team (the AZL Giants) in the Arizona League since the 2000 season and, over the last 16 years, have typically had great success, posting at least a .537 winning percentage since 2005. However, because the teams at this level are primarily made up of younger, often international or straight-out-of-high-school players, the focus leans heavily toward development and less toward competitive play.
San Francisco’s current #1 prospect Christian Arroyo spent his entire first season of professional baseball with the AZL Giants in 2013, hitting .326 in 45 games. Matt Cain, drafted in 2002, made seven starts for the AZL Giants that same year.
Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (Northwest League, Short-Season Class A)
From Arizona, Giants’ prospects will likely travel next to Salem-Keizer, Oregon, home of the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. The Volcanoes, which play in the Northwest League, were created in 1997 and have been the Short-Season Class A team for the San Francisco Giants since that time, making them the second-longest tenured Giants affiliate (19 years).
Like the Arizona League, the Northwest League is also a short-season league. There are just eight teams that make up the NWL and all are based in either Oregon, Seattle, Idaho, or Vancouver. Teams at this level play 76 games starting in mid-June into September and, like the Arizona League, often feature younger, newly-signed or freshly drafted players.
Current Giants’ second baseman Joe Panik’s first year of professional baseball was played with the SK Volcanoes in 2011. The future All-Star hit .342 with just 26 strikeouts in 69 games that season and would be the only member of that team to reach the Major Leagues.
Augusta GreenJackets (South Atlantic League, Class A)
The Augusta GreenJackets are the Class A affiliate for the San Francisco Giants and have been since the 2004 season. Located in Augusta, Georgia, the GreenJackets are named in honor of The Masters golf tournament, which also takes place in Augusta, where the winner receives the iconic green jacket.
The South Atlantic League is the first stop in the Giants organization where teams will play a full minor league season. Starting in April, teams in the South Atlantic League play 138 games in a regular season as players start to adapt to the day-to-day grind that they will experience at the Major League level. Because of the demand of the schedule, players in the South Atlantic League are typically players in their second or third year of professional baseball.
An exception to that generality is current Giants’ ace Madison Bumgarner who, as an 18-year-old, spent his first full year of professional ball with Augusta in 2011. He posted a 15-3 record with a 1.46 ERA, helping the GreenJackets win 80 games and capture the South Atlantic title for the first time in over a decade.
San Jose Giants (California League, Class A Advanced)
The San Jose Giants have been affiliated with the Giants since 1988, making them the longest tenured SF affiliate at 28 seasons. The team plays in San Jose’s Municipal Stadium, a park which has hosted baseball games since 1942. The Giants are part of the California League, and represent the Advanced-A affiliate for the San Francisco Giants.
The California League also plays a full 140-game schedule and, as the name suggests, is played entirely within the borders of California. The San Jose team is partly owned by the San Francisco Giants and has been one of the most successful teams in the California League, capturing nine league titles
since 1988. The San Jose Giants have developed more than 115 Major Leaguers, including current fan favorites Buster Posey and Brandon Belt, two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, and several others.
In 2013, River Cats outfielder Mac Williamson had a huge year in San Jose, hitting .292 with 25 home runs, 89 RBI, 31 doubles, and 10 stolen bases.
Richmond Flying Squirrels (Eastern League, Double-A)
Richmond plays in the Western Division of the Eastern League and is the Double-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. The Flying Squirrels have acted as the second-highest minor league stop in the organization since 2003, and play their games at The Diamond in Richmond, Virginia.
As part of a full-season league, Richmond begins its season following Spring Training, plays 140 games, and finishes up in early September. The Eastern League is generally known as a pitcher-friendly league thanks to the muggy summer weather and expansive ballparks. This level can sometimes be the final stop before a player is deemed ready for the big leagues.
Giants third baseman Matt Duffy made the jump from Richmond to San Francisco without a stop in Triple-A, playing 97 games in 2014 with Richmond before being called up. Shortstop Brandon Crawford spent most of 2010 with the Flying Squirrels, hitting .241 with seven home runs and 22 RBI in 79 games.
Sacramento River Cats (Pacific Coast League, Triple-A)
Sacramento is the home of the Giants’ top affiliate, the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats. As a Triple-A team, Sacramento plays the longest of the minor league seasons, logging 144 games in 15153 days every year.
The River Cats, who have called Sacramento home since 2000, are in just their second season as the top affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. In just over one season, the River
Cats have already hosted a number of Giants players for rehabilitation assignments including Hunter Pence, Joe Panik, Matt Cain, and others. The Triple-A affiliate also hosted the big cleague club earlier this season in the first ever Exhibition Game between the River Cats and Giants.
Current Giants outfielder Jarrett Parker spent most of 2015 and the start of 2016 with Sacramento, hitting a total of 36 home runs with 103 RBI and a .281 batting average in 160 games.