The California League hasn't challenged Ryan Howard much. Yet, that is. There's almost nothing you could point to for the shortstop/third baseman from the University of Missouri in his 109 plate appearances that would indicate he's struggling in any fashion of the game. You could point to his 0.9 BB%, but when you're putting the ball in play and batting .343 with a strikeout rate as low as 11.0%, the lack of walks isn't quite as alarming.
Howard went deep Wednesday afternoon at Municipal Stadium for his fourth home run of the season, and added two singles, as well. Howard, at 136 wRC+, now owns the fourth highest mark in the organization, while his batting average is second best in the California League. And only Tigers' prospect Zac Shepherd has better all around numbers among third baseman in all of Advanced-A ball, beating him out in OPS and wRC+.
It looked like Howard turned around nicely on a ball on the inner half of the plate for that home run. For a better look at Howard's swing, here's video I shot a few weeks ago in Stockton. He went 3-for-5 with two doubles during this particular game.
This will make some of you sad, so I apologize in advance. Brandon Crawford's contract runs through the 2021 season. He will be 34 when that season concludes, and will turn 35 in the offseason heading into 2022. I have Howard's ETA at around 2020, figuring he either completes 2017 in San Jose or gets the mid-season bump to Richmond, followed by 2018 spent mostly in Richmond with the possibility of a jump to Sacramento. During 2019, assuming Howard continues to progress, he's knocking on the door into 2020 at age 24-25.
If the Giants want a homegrown replacement for Crawford, Howard is their guy. Mind you, Christian Arroyo is younger than Howard. If the two are the future left side of the infield, I wonder which original shortstop sticks there.
— A top Giants starting pitching prospect is giving up the long ball at a concerning pace. Right-hander Jordan Johnson unfortunately owned a home run rate of 4.6% in 2016 with the San Jose Giants. That is, for every 100 batters that stepped to the plate against Johnson, between four and five of them hit the ball over a fence. For context, Jeff Samardzija's HR% was 2.8% last year. Now, to give Johnson some credit, the California League is known to be home run friendly. With parks like Lancaster and the now-extinct High Desert featuring almost constant home-run helping winds, every pitcher's numbers are sure to bloat. But with Wednesday's two homers, Johnson sits at 4.4% through a month in the Eastern League — where a group of east coast parks provide a safe haven for pitchers. We'll check back with Johnson in June to see if this stat improves.
— Richmond Flying Squirrels reliever Carlos Alvarado has faced 39 hitters in 2017, and has struck out 23 of them. Take a moment to wrap your brain around that. The other 16 batters have either walked (3) or reached on a base hit (6), with the remaining nine grounding out or flying out.
TOP-30 PROSPECTS ROUNDUP
- Tyler Beede: DNP
- Christian Arroyo: 0-for-6, 3 SO
- Bryan Reynolds: 2-for-4, SO, CS
- Steven Duggar: DNP
- Chris Shaw: 0-for-4, 2 SO
- Sandro Fabian: 2-for-4
- Heath Quinn: DNP
- Joan Gregorio: DNP
- Jordan Johnson: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 4 K
- Andrew Suarez: DNP
- Ty Blach: DNP
- Steven Okert: DNP
- Sam Coonrod: DNP
- Matt Krook: DNP
- Aramis Garcia: 0-for-2
- C.J. Hinojosa: DNP
- Reyes Moronta: DNP
- Rodolfo Martinez: DNP
- Austin Slater: DNP
- Kelvin Beltre: 1-for-4, R, SO
- Dan Slania: DNP
- Cory Taylor: DNP
- Chris Stratton: DNP
- Chase Johnson: DNP
- Jalen Miller: 2-for-4, 2 R
- Melvin Adon: DNP
- Garrett Williams: DNP
- Dylan Davis: 1-for-4, R, 2 SO
- Ryder Jones: 0-for-3, R, 2 BB, SO
- Hunter Cole: 2-for-4, 2B, SO