Thanks to last week's two-plus inches of rain in California's capital city, the Sacramento River Cats were forced to play a doubleheader Monday to conclude what was supposed to be a five-game set with the Tacoma Rainiers. Playing two seven-inning games, the Cats were defeated 3-1 in the afternoon and rebounded to shut out Tacoma 4-0 in the nightcap.
Taking the mound for game one of the twinbill was Joan Gregorio, who should have an interesting year in front of him. He begins in Triple-A for the first time after an early-season call-up from Richmond brought him to Sacramento last year. There were positives and negatives to his first experience at the level. Take for example his 25.9% strikeout rate, which is great, especially facing more experienced hitters. But his walk rate creeped up to near 10%. The knock on Gregorio as a starter has always been a legitimate third pitch. His heavy, sinking fastball in the low-to-mid 90s is spectacular, as is his vertical-oriented slider that produced the bulk of his punchouts in 2016.
I hope to get out to as many Gregorio starts as possible in 2017 and accomplish two things. First, report on the development of his changeup. And second, film him to give you a closeup look at an arm that Giants' fans could very well see in their bullpen on a regular basis, maybe even as early as this season.
My vision for Gregorio is a replacement, and upgrade, from George Kontos. With Ty Blach and Tyler Beede, and even Chris Stratton and Clayton Blackburn being more suitable for starting roles with the Giants in the near future, Gregorio doesn't seem to fit that mold for a surefire starting pitcher. But with two plus pitches, and the capability of going more than one inning if needed, Gregorio is a perfect fit to succeed Kontos, whose productivity is declining.
On Monday, though Raley Field's in-house radar gun was not functioning, I got word from River Cats Media Relations Coordinator Robert Barsanti that he had spoken with a scout about Gregorio's fastball velocity. The tall right-hander was a consistent 93-94 during his 4.1 innings, which is right in line with where he's been over the past couple seasons.
His strikeout stuff wasn't quite there, as he only recorded one while facing 19 batters. But he kept everything under control for the most part, despite back-to-back doubles in the fourth and three walks throughout the outing. And his four swinging strikes spread over 80 pitches were lower than any start in 2016.
Let's call it early-season rust for the tall, not-so-lanky anymore Dominican, who is now 260 pounds after being signed at 180 pounds about seven years ago.
— The loudest contact I heard all night was a double from Christian Arroyo, who played third base in both games and went 2-for-6. His defense was solid at the hot corner all night, with the only blip being a wide-right throw to first base on a tough slow roller. Thankfully, Jae-Gyun Huang bailed him out with a reach-up-and-tag put out of the runner to complete the double play after Arroyo had quickly stepped on third base.
— Only two appearances into his Double-A debut, it's already to Reyes Moronta show in Richmond. In three innings of work, including Monday's 27-pitch, 20-strike showing in the ninth and tenth innings, Moronta has faced 10 hitters, allowed one single, and struck out eight.
— Two contrasting prospects are off to two completely different starts through the first five San Jose Giants games. Jalen Miller, looking to rebound from a disappointing 2016 campaign, has eight hits, including two doubles, and two walks in his first 23 plate appearances. Gio Brusa, on the other hand, has just one hit, albeit a triple, in his first 22 trips to the plate. Encouraging are Brusa's six walks thus far, making his on-base percentage .318 despite a .063 batting average.
— Matt Krook entered Monday's California League debut looking to leave 2016 behind him. Unfortunately, the same wildness plagued him in his short 1.2-inning start. He recorded more balls than strikes, walked four of the 13 batters he faced, and threw two wild pitches.
TOP-30 PROSPECTS ROUNDUP
- Tyler Beede: DNP
- Christian Arroyo: 2-for-6, R, 2B, 2 SO
- Bryan Reynolds: 2-for-5, R
- Steven Duggar: DNP
- Chris Shaw: 2-for-4, 2B, RBI, BB
- Sandro Fabian: 0-for-5, 3 SO
- Heath Quinn: DNP
- Joan Gregorio: 4.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 1 K
- Jordan Johnson: DNP
- Andrew Suarez: DNP
- Ty Blach: DNP
- Steven Okert: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K
- Sam Coonrod: DNP
- Matt Krook: 1.2 IP, 5 H, 7 R, 4 BB, 1 K
- Aramis Garcia: 2-for-4, 2 R, 2B, 2 RBI, BB
- C.J. Hinojosa: DNP
- Reyes Moronta: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K
- Rodolfo Martinez: DNP
- Austin Slater: 2-for-6, RBI, 2 SO
- Kelvin Beltre: 1-for-3, 2 R, 2B, 2 RBI, BB
- Dan Slania: DNP
- Cory Taylor: DNP
- Chris Stratton: DNP
- Chase Johnson: DNP
- Jalen Miller: 3-for-5, 2B, 2 RBI, CS
- Melvin Adon: DNP
- Garrett Williams: DNP
- Dylan Davis: DNP
- Ryder Jones: DNP
- Hunter Cole: 0-for-1, SO