After weeks of intrasquad games at the Giants' minor league complex, known colloquially as Indian School, hundreds of healthy players vying for spots on various San Francisco farm system teams began playing games against other teams.
On Wednesday in North Scottsdale, it was the Arizona Diamondbacks facing the Giants. Team personnel paired players together in four categories representing the four full-season teams that will begin regular season play on April 6. Nineteen-year-old Jose Layer was first to bat for the Giants' "Low-A" squad, grounding out sharply before eventually driving in two runs with two singles.
Layer debuted nicely in 2016 with the AZL Giants after a 13th-round selection out of Colegio Angel David High School in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In 15 games, totaling 61 plate appearances, the athletic outfielder slashed .283/.356/.377, of which the on-base percentage was sixth best on the team among players recording at least 60 plate appearances.
Low-A lineup: Jose Layer, Manuel Geraldo, Sandro Fabian, Robinson Medrano, Jacob Heyward, Julio Pena, Kevin Rivera, Jeffry Parra, Robert Antunez, Victor Concepcion
First baseman Robinson Medrano made the loudest contact in the first few innings, lacing an opposite-field double down the right-field line, eventually adding another two-bagger later in the game. Medrano, who turns 21 in April, impressed me this past June when he debuted in the AZL with more noticeably hard contact. His .222 batting average in 121 plate appearances paled in comparison to his solid 130 ISO thanks to seven doubles, two triples, and a home run.
Pitching the first two frames for the "Low-A" team was hard-throwing right-hander Victor Concepcion, whom I was unfortunately not able to acquire pitch velocities. He featured what appeared to be a fairly straight, low-90s fastball, a changeup, and a breaking ball of some sort. Concepcion, who spent all of 2016 in Oregon with the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, threw two scoreless innings with a strikeout and a few nice swinging strikes.
Over on the "High-A" side, I missed out on a few early notable at-bats as I was tied up with the 18 and 19-year-olds 50 yards away, some of which were making their United States debut. Missing from video footage are a two-run home run by former Missouri shortstop Ryan Howard, a towering ground-rule double from Gio Brusa, and a rocket line drive that ate up an opposing shortstop off the bat of the Giants' No. 3 ranked prospect Bryan Reynolds.
High-A lineup: Jalen Miller, Bryan Reynolds, Heath Quinn, Gio Brusa, Ryan Kirby, Kelvin Beltre, Matt Winn, Ryan Howard, TJ Bennett
I caught two innings from left-hander Conner Menez — a 14th-rounder from The Master's College in Santa Clarita, Calif. Another player I was impressed with back in June at the beginning of the AZL, Menez features a Madison Bumgarner-like windup, minus the "back-to-the-batter" shoulder rotation, as well as a similar pitch repertoire to the MVP lefty. Menez doesn't really throw a straight fastball, using both a cut fastball and a two-seam fastball in the 90-mph range against both sides of the plate. But what sets him apart and stood out to me the most was his low-80s slider that he placed beautifully at the back foot of right-handers.
Below are a couple more videos from Wednesday's action, including young third baseman Manuel Geraldo and the aforementioned Reynolds. I'll be at Angels' camp Thursday afternoon viewing the Double-A and Triple-A squads.
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