Suarez, Gregorio debut while Coonrod hurls gem

BOX SCORES: SAC / RIC / SJ / AUG

Two big San Francisco Giants' prospect debuts in one day made for special MiLB.TV viewing while Johnny Cueto dueled Zack Greinke in the big leagues. 

First, it was left-hander Andrew Suarez making the start for the Richmond Flying Squirrels after five outings with the San Jose Giants yielded a 2.43 ERA and 1.011 WHIP in 29.2 innings. Suarez kicked off his debut, against the Altoona Curve, with two soft groundouts and a swinging strikeout, which came courtesy of his noted plus slider. Suarez continued along, forcing a total of eight swinging strikes and six strikeouts overall, alongside zero walks. 

Pirates prospect Eric Wood connected for two home runs off Suarez, which were really his only mistakes of the day. The first dinger was off a fastball left up in the zone, and Wood absolutely crushed it. The second homer was either a fastball or changeup down in the zone, and Wood just went down with it and hammered it, as well, though not as far as the first. 

He saved his best inning for last, using the changeup to get two of his six strikeouts in the seventh inning before being relieved by Tyler Rogers to start the eighth. Suarez threw 84 pitches, 58 of which were strikes.

As usual, Suarez effortlessly threw fastballs, some with a bit of tail, at 89-92 miles per hour, topping out at 93. The fastball produced a good number of called strikes with good location on both sides of the plate to both righties and lefties, though he did throw the heater by hitters twice. He threw sliders to both types of batters, using it as a back-foot pitch to righties. The changeup he used mostly against right-handers, and got two swing-throughs with it. Occasionally, Suarez mixed in a mid-70s curveball, pulling it out of his bag maybe seven to nine times to steal a strike.

In Sacramento, it was the lanky right-hander Joan Gregorio jumping right out of the gate with a plus slider of his own in his Triple-A debut. The 24-year-old from the Dominican Republic struck out the first batter he faced with a sharp diving slider, eventually punching out two in the first frame. 

After striking out Diamondbacks No. 3 ranked prospect Socrates Brito with the slider in the first inning, the fellow Dominican took Gregorio deep for a two-run shot in the fourth. He was pulled after finishing the fifth, reaching 84 pitches just as Suarez did, but in two fewer innings. He allowed three earned on five hits and a walk while striking out four.

Roughly 90 percent of Gregorio's pitches on Thursday were either the low-to-mid 90s fastball or the slider. He flashed a changeup six to eight times, and even got one swing-through with it. But the star of the show was the slider, producing nine of Gregorio's 14 swinging strikes throughout the evening. It featured consistent hard, downward bite and fell out of the strike zone, missing flailing hitters' bats. The fastball was a straight, sometimes sinking offering that topped out at 94. Though the slider command was pinpoint, the fastball was up more often than not. 

Grooving a third pitch will be crucial for Gregorio, and the changeup is there for the taking. It looked solid in his debut. He just needs to trust it and throw it more often.

OTHER NOTES

— The aforementioned Rogers pushed his "innings without allowing an earned run" streak to 15.2 in relief of Suarez as he continues to own a 0.00 ERA. Five unearned runs have crossed the plate this season in 16 relief appearances. Even if all five were earned, his ERA would still be at a more-than-respectable 2.87, with a WHIP of 1.021. Still, the Flying Squirrels lost their seventh straight game.

— Sam Coonrod was lost in the debut madness, tossing seven shutout innings at Bakersfield to lower his ERA to 1.32. He used his sinker most of the night, collecting 10 ground ball outs. After allowing just three hits in Thursday's outing, his season total creeped up to 19 in 27.1 innings. What is surprising is that despite striking out 114 in 111.2 innings last year in Augusta, he's totaled just 12 this season. 

— Matt Winn hit his third home run in his last six games, providing three of Augusta's four runs in a 9-4 loss to Greenville.

TOMORROW'S STARTERS

  • Sacramento: TBD (Scheduled was Clayton Blackburn, who was recalled)
  • Richmond: Chase Johnson (5.48 ERA, 1.391 WHIP)
  • San Jose: D.J. Snelten (3.58 ERA, 1.482 WHIP)
  • Augusta: Grant Watson (1.93 ERA, 0.943 WHIP)

TOP-30 PROSPECTS ROUNDUP

  1. Christian Arroyo: 0-for-4, 2 SO
  2. Tyler Beede: DNP
  3. Phil Bickford: DNP
  4. Lucius Fox: 1-for-4, BB, SO, SB
  5. Chris Shaw: 2-for-4, R, RBI, BB
  6. Sam Coonrod: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K
  7. Mac Williamson: 0-for-3, R, BB, SO
  8. Aramis Garcia: DNP
  9. Andrew Suarez: 7 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 6 K
  10. Adalberto Mejia: DNP
  11. Clayton Blackburn: DNP
  12. Jalen Miller: 0-for-3, R, BB, SO
  13. Ray Black: DNP
  14. Chase Johnson: DNP
  15. Jordan Johnson: DNP
  16. Steven Okert: DNP
  17. Kyle Crick: DNP
  18. Jarrett Parker: DNP
  19. Hunter Cole: 1-for-4, R, SO
  20. Austin Slater: 1-for-3, BB, SO, SB
  21. Joan Gregorio: 5 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K
  22. Michael Santos: DNP
  23. Ty Blach: DNP
  24. Mac Marshall: DNP
  25. Ronnie Jebavy: 2-for-5, 2 R, 2B, SO, SB
  26. Derek Law: DNP
  27. Chris Stratton: DNP
  28. Ian Gardeck: DNP
  29. Jake Smith: DNP
  30. Dylan Davis: DNP

LATEST NEWS