You won't find many players who had the type of dominant month of starting pitching Flying Squirrels right-hander Sam Coonrod had this April. He made four starts, with one being cut short due to a lengthy rain delay, and kept his baserunners total at or below the amount of innings pitched all four times. He struck out 25 and walked two in 20 innings, but more importantly, did so while facing only 76 batters.
So let's recap. Coonrod faced 76 batters, and struck out 25 of them. He walked two, hit a guy, and allowed a hit of some variety to another 15. That puts his strikeout rate at 32.9%, his walk rate at 2.6%, and his K-BB% differential at 30.3%. Only eight other players in all of the minor leagues who pitched at least 20 innings had a higher percentage than Coonrod's.
His 32.9 K% was highest among Giants' minor league starting pitchers, and his 2.6 BB% was lowest among the same group. His only downfall, raising his ERA to an only-average mark of 3.15, was the allowance of two home runs, one of which came with two runners on.
Before we move on to the best of the rest at each position, let me point out: Coonrod's two measly walks in 20 innings is a drastic improvement from previous seasons. He walked opposing hitters at a 7.2% clip in 2015 with Augusta and 10.3% last season in time split between San Jose and Richmond. So a continued rate somewhere between two and five percent would really cement Coonrod as a legit prospect on the doorstep of making an impact in San Francisco.
C, Aramis Garcia
The organization's top catcher had his hot start to the season cut short by a foul tip to the mask, sidelining him with a concussion. He's recently been taking batting practice and participating in other on-field activities, so I'm guessing he'll be back within the next one to two weeks. Before the injury, Garcia was crushing the ball. His isolated slugging percentage (ISO) of .326 was by far the highest mark in the system, and is currently 19th in all of the minors among players with at least 45 plate appearances.
April Stats: .348/.388/.674, 16 H, 3 2B, 4 HR, 4.1 BB%, 26.5 K%, 188 wRC+
1B, Chris Shaw
Shaw's slash line may look just average for what you know the powerful lefty is capable of, but when you consider he struck out in 22.2% of plate appearances in 2016, his 14.6% mark to kick off the season alongside a stellar walk rate of 13.4% lets you know he's seeing the ball exceptionally well.
April Stats: .275/.390/.493, 19 H, 6 2B, 3 HR, 13.4 BB%, 14.6 K%, 150 wRC+
2B, Kelvin Beltre
Getting all of his looks thus far at second base, Beltre is making a case for a mid-season promotion to San Jose. He's striking out almost 10% fewer times when he goes to bat, while raising his career slugging percentage in A-ball by 19 points in the first month. He's been the backbone of a mostly struggling Augusta GreenJackets offense, though Sandro Fabian has picked up the pace in the final week of the month.
April Stats: .284/.333/.473, 21 H, 6 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 6.2 BB%, 19.8 K%, 133 wRC+
SS, Christian Arroyo
He was the clear choice for prospect of the month, but by nature of his promotion, I thought to give the recognition to a player still on the farm. I'll just let the numbers below speak for themselves. He was the hottest hitter on the planet, other than maybe Eric Thames.
April Stats: .446/.478/.692, 29 H, 7 2B, 3 HR, 2.9 BB%, 11.6 K%, 215 wRC+
3B, Ryan Howard
You will see Howard on prospect lists when they are eventually updated. I currently have him ranked 35, but getting a couple more good looks at him a few weeks ago in Stockton, I'm trending towards a top-30 placement for the former Missouri player. Howard, drafted as a shortstop, has been playing a stellar third base in San Jose with Jalen Miller handling short. His low strikeout and walk rates profile him as a similar player to Christian Arroyo, as the two have the same type of gap-to-gap power, as well.
April Stats: .323/.344/.409, 30 H, 2 2B, 2 HR, 1.0 BB%, 12.5 K%, 110 wRC+
OF, Sandro Fabian
The 19-year-old Fabian is almost two and a half years younger than the average player in the South Atlantic League, and he's having no trouble displaying his raw power in a league known to mute that skill set. Through 95 plate appearances, Fabian owns an isolated slugging percentage of .194 thanks to eight doubles and three home runs among 23 hits. And in Domenic Mazza's perfect game, he flashed spectacular defense in right field with two game-saving plays.
April Stats: .261/.277/.455, 23 H, 8 2B, 3 HR, 1.0 BB%, 20.8 K%, 107 wRC+
OF, Slade Heathcott
Though Heathcott is playing his second full-season in the Eastern League, and first since 2013 after stints in Triple-A and the majors, he's been a strong force at the leadoff spot for the Flying Squirrels. Walking at an above-average rate and putting the ball in play for average and power, Heathcott owns one of the highest wRC+ marks in the system.
April Stats: .282/.363/.465, 20 H, 4 2B, 3 HR, 8.6 BB%, 16.0 K%, 136 wRC+
OF, Austin Slater
Slater hasn't been as good as he was in 278 plate appearances last season with Sacramento, but he's still been solid. He's drawing walks at a lower rate and not hitting for the type of power that produced a .208 ISO last year, but let's chalk that up to April. May and June should bring forth the type of dual threat River Cats fans saw on the back end of 2016.
April Stats: .280/.329/.373, 21 H, 4 2B, 1 HR, 7.2 BB%, 21.7 K%, 88 wRC+
RHP, Sam Coonrod
See opening paragraphs.
April Stats: 20.0 IP, 15 H, 8 R, 2 BB, 25 K, 32.9 K%, 2.6 BB%, .206 OBA
RHP, Dusten Knight
Knight's numbers were so good that when Bryan Morris was recalled to San Francisco to replace Neil Ramirez, it was Knight who got the call to jump Double-A and put on a River Cats uniform. Knight was using his low-90s fastball and devastating curveball from a high arm slot to strike out 42.1% of the batters he faced while holding them to a ridiculous .109 batting average. Oh, and he only walked one guy in 16.1 innings.
April Stats: 16.1 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 24 K, 42.1 K%, 1.8 BB%, .109 OBA
LHP, Domenic Mazza
Mazza tossed a perfect game, and not just that, but the first nine-inning perfect game in the South Atlantic League's 37-year history. Otherwise, he hasn't been any more than average. But my goodness. The left-hander from Concord, Calif. had his curveball working almost miraculously on that Tuesday night — 28% of his pitches were swinging strikes!
April Stats: 20.2 IP, 18 H, 8 ER, 4 BB, 17 K, 20.0 K%, 4.7 BB%, .222 OBA
LHP, D.J. Snelten
Like Ryan Howard, I think you'll see Snelten creep onto prospect lists by the end of this year. He's really refined his delivery and now has his two best pitches far more under control. Snelten has used the heavy, sinking fastball in the mid-90s and a solid slider to become one of Richmond's best relief arms.
April Stats: 11.2 IP, 8 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 14 K, 31.1 K%, 4.4 BB%, .186 OBA
- 2B Miguel Gomez: .299 AVG, .416 SLG, 13.4 K%, 115 wRC+
- SS/3B Brandon Bednar: .293 AVG, .369 OBP, 9.1 BB%, 12.1 K%
- 3B Jae-Gyun Hwang: .313 AVG, .413 SLG, 102 wRC+
- OF Hunter Cole: 8 2B, .183 ISO, 10.0 BB%
- RHP Cory Taylor: 19.1 IP, 29.7 K%, .200 OBA
- RHP Melvin Adon: 17.2 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 29.4 K%, .131 OBA
- RHP Carlos Alvarado: 9.2 IP, 1 R, 57.9 K%, .171 OBA
- RHP Pat Ruotolo: 9.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 27.8 K%, .065 OBA
- RHP Reyes Moronta: 8.1 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 46.9 K%, .133 OBA
- LHP Conner Menez: 22.2 IP, 5 R, 22.9 K%, 5.2 BB%
- LHP Carlos Diaz: 14.0 IP, 39.3 K%, .188 OBA
- AVG: Christian Arroyo, .446
- Hits: Ryan Howard, 30
- SB: Anthony Marks, 5
- BB: Shaw/Brusa/Albertson, 11
- HBP: 8 tied at 2
- 2B: Fabian/Cole, 8
- 3B: Reynolds/Cole, 2
- HR: Dobson/Brusa/Garcia, 4
- OBP: Christian Arroyo, .478
- SLG: Christian Arroyo, .692
- OPS: Christian Arroyo, 1.171
- ISO: Christian Arroyo, .246
- wOBA: Christian Arroyo, .511
- wRC+: Christian Arroyo, 215
- K%: Christian Arroyo, 11.6%
- BB%: Gio Brusa, 13.6%
- ERA: D.J. Snelten, 0.00
- RA/9: D.J. Snelten, 0
- WHIP: Dusten Knight, 0.429
- FIP: Reyes Moronta, 0.26
- Games: Ryan Halstead, 10
- IP: Tyler Beede, 27.0
- K: Dan Slania, 28
- K%: Carlos Alvarado, 57.9%
- K-BB%: Carlos Alvarado, 50.0%
- BB%: Ryan Halstead, 0.0%
- OBA: Pat Ruotolo: .065
— For the latest on #SFGiants minor leaguers, follow @Giant_Potential on Twitter