Suarez, Stratton toss best outings of early season

BOX SCORES: SAC / RIC / SJ / AUG

Two of the Giants' top pitching prospects kept the baserunners low and the strikeouts high during their respective starts Thursday. Chris Stratton, having just returned from San Francisco, threw 4.1 innings for the Sacramento River Cats and kept the Fresno Grizzlies off the board while walking one and striking out six.

Stratton only threw 71 pitches, so the team must have him on some stringent pitch count in case they need to recall him sometime soon. For Andrew Suarez, it was the second time he had finished the seventh inning this season. But the last seven-inning showing featured eight hits and three walks. This time around, Suarez held the Bowie Baysox in check. Maybe it was because it was the third straight start in which Suarez was facing them. Nonetheless, just five opposing hitters reached base all game, including just one walk to go along with six strikeouts.

Down in Stockton with the San Jose Giants, I got my first looks at a couple players. First, right-hander Michael Connolly, who had an under-the-radar season in 2016 with the Augusta GreenJackets. The story for him has been limiting walks, striking out players at a slightly below average rate, and pitching to contact. Since 2015, Connolly has kept his walk rate below 5.5% and his strikeout rate hovering around 19-20%. He hasn't been surrendering home runs often, in fact entering 2017, he had only allowed eight dingers facing 865 batters in 2015 and 2016 combined. 

His career ERA in the minors is 3.27, and so with all this in mind, what has kept him off prospect lists? Honestly, I'm not sure. The knock on a pitch-to-contact guy is always going to be how the contact affects him and his team. Are they home runs? In this case, no. Are they hitting for other types of power or just hitting him hard period? Well, for Connolly, the opposition has a batting average of .271, .253, and .264 for each of the past three seasons.

Connolly is an interesting prospect, though. He's almost two years older than the league average in the California League. But on Thursday night facing the Ports, he displayed why he's been productive. Amongst a total of 12 swinging strikes, almost all were courtesy of a two-pitch package Connolly leaned on most of the outing. A two-seam fastball and a changeup, both with similar types of movement, had left-handers whiffing and grounding out softly. The fastball came in around 89-91 while the changeup was 83-85. He threw a few cutter-type pitches to right-handers, and flopped a snapping curveball at 77-80 about 10 times. He stole a good chunk of strikes looking with this offering, and by my count got a hitter to swing and miss twice with it.

Okay, now on to the offense. Bryan Reynolds picked up two hits, both batting right-handed. Aramis Garcia absolutely smoked a double that one-hopped the wall in left field. And Dillon Dobson's effortless power added a double, as well. Both Garcia and Dobson are featured in the videos below.

OTHER NOTES

Hunter Cole doubled again on Thursday, making it nine doubles in his last 12 games. That's crazy, but not as crazy as his teammate Carlos Alvarado, who struck out two in a scoreless inning. He's faced 42 batters so far in 2017 and has struck out 25 of them.

TOMORROW'S STARTERS

TOP-30 PROSPECTS ROUNDUP

  1. Tyler Beede: DNP
  2. Christian Arroyo: DNP
  3. Bryan Reynolds: 2-for-4
  4. Steven Duggar: DNP
  5. Chris Shaw: 1-for-3, 2 BB, SO
  6. Sandro Fabian: 1-for-2, BB
  7. Heath Quinn: DNP
  8. Joan Gregorio: DNP
  9. Jordan Johnson: DNP
  10. Andrew Suarez: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 6 K
  11. Ty Blach: DNP
  12. Steven Okert: DNP
  13. Sam Coonrod: DNP
  14. Matt Krook: DNP
  15. Aramis Garcia: 1-for-3, 2B, BB, SO
  16. C.J. Hinojosa: DNP
  17. Reyes Moronta: 1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 0 K
  18. Rodolfo Martinez: DNP
  19. Austin Slater: 1-for-2, R, 3 BB
  20. Kelvin Beltre: 1-for-3
  21. Dan Slania: DNP
  22. Cory Taylor: DNP
  23. Chris Stratton: 4.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K
  24. Chase Johnson: DNP
  25. Jalen Miller: 1-for-5, 2 SO
  26. Melvin Adon: DNP
  27. Garrett Williams: DNP
  28. Dylan Davis: 0-for-4, BB, 2 SO
  29. Ryder Jones: 2-for-4, BB, SO
  30. Hunter Cole: 1-for-4, R, 2B, BB, 2 SO

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