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Luciano, Murphy lead next wave bound for Bay

Shortstop, righty on track to help Giants sustain winning ways
Baseball's No. 5 prospect Marco Luciano hit .400 in the High-A West Championship Series for Eugene. (Jared Ravich/
January 4, 2022

Each offseason, goes position by position across each system and honors the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. Click here to locate your favorite club.

Each offseason, goes position by position across each system and honors the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. Click here to locate your favorite club.

The Giants were supposed to be in the middle of a rebuild in 2021, but the club played like it never got that memo. Arguably the biggest surprise of the regular season, San Francisco posted 107 wins. The final victory came on the last day of the season and clinched the NL West over the heavily favored Dodgers.

And it looks like they’re not going away any time soon. The organization is built for sustained success. Even after losing seven players in the Minor League Phase of the Rule 5 Draft – the most by any club – the Giants system is still stacked. Especially at the lower levels, where two titles were won last season. High-A Eugene cruised to a 3-1 series win over Spokane in the High-A West Finals, while Low-A San Jose followed a 76-win regular season by sweeping division winner Fresno, 3-0, for the Low-A West crown. All in all, the Giants system posted a 368-325 record (.531) across eight affiliated Minor League clubs.

San Francisco currently sports five Top-100 prospects – tied for the most with seven other organizations. They include sweet-swinging Marco Luciano (No. 5), backstop Joey Bart (No. 16), outfielder Luis Matos (No. 77), Heliot Ramos (No. 80) and southpaw Kyle Harrison (No. 99). Three of these players have been named organization all-stars.

Giants Organization All-Stars

Catcher – Brett Auerbach, San Jose (34 games), Eugene (53 games): A true jack of all trades, Auerbach had his versatility on full display during his first professional season. He played six defensive positions – taking the field everywhere except the mound, first and short. The club’s 30th-ranked prospect was behind the dish for 26 games and posted a .989 fielding percentage between Low-A and High-A, but it was his bat that really opened eyes. Following two seasons in junior college and two at Alabama, Auerbach went undrafted before being signed by San Francisco. The canceled Minor League season in 2020 delayed his pro debut, but the 23-year-old made up for lost time by starting the season hitting .342 with two homers, two triples, 11 doubles, a .970 OPS and 12 stolen bases in 34 games for San Jose. The power surged to a higher voltage with Eugene as the right-handed swinger – who belted seven total homers in college – launched 15 more for the Emeralds in 53 games.

"He's the type of guy you want on your team. Good clubhouse kid, hard worker, determined. He just goes out and does the job," Emeralds skipper Dennis Pelfrey said. "He just continues to work. It's like he doesn’t want days off. He doesn't want to come out of the lineup. He just wants to win, and he's gonna find a way to win a ballgame for the club. Whatever it takes. He's gonna go unnoticed at times because of the smaller stature (5-foot-9, 185 pounds), but he plays a really big game and he has virtually every tool."

First baseman – Jason Krizan, Sacramento (110 games): The veteran was signed to a Minor League deal by the Giants in December 2021 for organizational depth and made the most of his time with Triple-A Sacramento. Krizan posted a career-high.316 average while setting professional bests in RBIs (73), home runs (16), total bases (212) and slugging (.492). The 32-year-old also tied his career high with 136 total hits.

Second baseman – Tyler Fitzgerald, Eugene (103 games): After playing through three levels of the Giants system in 2019, the 24-year-old picked up where he left off at High-A this season. Fitzgerald found the power dial with the Emeralds. After connecting on a single long ball during his rookie campaign, the righty swinger mashed 19 taters for Eugene. Fitzgerald proved to be a tough out all year, posting a .262/.342/.495 slash line with 38 walks and 12 stolen bases. In 46 games at second, the Louisville product posted a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage over 174 total chances.

"One of my favorite players," Pelfrey said. "He was with us all year, and I felt like he was the best player in High-A West with how consistent he was all season -- other than the first month. He had MVP numbers, just shot off the page from an offensive standpoint. Working with the hitting coach (Cory Elasik) they figured some things out together. ... And just the quality of the player is impeccable. Exceptional character and the way he goes about his business and works is top-notch. He can play all around the diamond at a high level. I think he's just going to continue to blossom and have a nice career in the big leagues."

Third baseman – David Villar, Richmond (106 games): It was another step closer to the City by the Bay for Villar, who continued his annual steady improvement since being selected in the 11th round of the 2018 Draft. The 24-year-old put together his best all-around effort in his third pro season, setting career bests in average (.275), OBP (.374), home runs (20), doubles (29), runs (70), walks (46) and stolen bases (five) in 106 games at the Double-A level. With his final dinger of the campaign, Villar became the first player in team history to reach the 20-homer plateau in a single season.

Shortstop -- Marco Luciano, San Jose (70 games), Eugene (36 games): After spending 2020 at the club’s alternate training site and then getting more reps in the instructional league, the top-ranked Giants prospect opened the season with a bang. Only 19 on Opening Day, Luciano quickly backed up the hype by obliterating pitching at the Low-A level. The Dominican Republic native made his impact felt on both sides of the ball by hitting .278/.373/.556 with 18 dingers, three triples, 14 doubles, 57 RBIs, 52 runs scored and going a perfect 5-for-5 in stolen-base attempts over 70 games with San Jose. He also posted a .929 fielding percentage in 60 games at short. After a promotion to High-A in August, Luciano became the youngest player at the level. While his numbers dipped, the fifth overall prospect delivered when it mattered most -- he batted .400 (6-for-15) with a homer, a triple, a double and three RBIs for the Emeralds in the High-A West Championship Series.

"His perseverance is what I love the most," Pelfrey said. "He really figured himself out in San Jose, and with a guy like that -- with that level of talent and tools -- it's not really about figuring out the opponents but about figuring himself out. He did that and was the best player in Low-A. Then he came here and struggled a little bit with us, but I think if we had another month left in the season, you would have seen the same adjustment from him. ... I’ll never forget the home run he hit in Game 4 [of the Finals] to seal the deal for us. Such a big moment, and you could see him instantly grow in that at-bat. You're gonna see that at every level with him. He's gonna figure himself out really quickly and put on a show and showcase what he can do."


Jairo Pomares, San Jose (51 games), Eugene (26 games): After missing the first six weeks of the season while rehabbing a back injury, Pomares quickly got in the groove, particularly during a four-hit performance in his seventh game back. The 21-year-old hit a scorching .372 with a 1.122 OPS and 14 home runs over 51 games at Low-A San before earning a promotion to High-A in August. The speedy outfielder batted .262 with a .774 OPS over 26 games with the Emeralds. He also continued to flash his left-handed power stroke -- recording a .505 slugging percentage over 103 at-bats with the Emeralds. Overall, the club's No. 9 prospect placed third in the Minors in slugging (.629), fifth in OPS (1.007) and sixth in hitting (.334).

"He's just a pure hitter," Pelfrey said. "We heard some questions about his outfield play, but he came right in and did a fantastic job defensively. He's like Marco in that he just needs to figure himself out. The tools and what he has are gonna play. Once he gets some confidence, the sky is the limit for this kid. He's gonna be a .300 hitter at every level and a plus-outfielder. He listens and he learns and just continues to work."

Luis Matos, San Jose (109 games): The 19-year-old spent the season in Low-A San Jose and was named the team's MVP after leading the club offensively. The organization’s third-ranked prospect hit .313 with an .853 OPS and 15 home runs. Matos also hit 35 doubles and stole 21 bases. In the field, MLB Pipeline’s No. 77 overall prospect showcased the ability to handle center with ease – posting a .969 fielding percentage over 86 games while displaying his elite 55-grade speed and range.

Ismael Munguia, Eugene (81 games): The 23-year-old was a hit machine for the Emeralds and a driving force behind the club’s title. Munguia posted a whopping .336/.366/.502 slash line with 34 extra-base hits, 57 runs, 53 RBIs and 15 stolen bases (on 20 attempts). The Nicaragua native tapped into a power stroke – after never clubbing more than one home run in his previous four seasons, the outfielder mashed nine this year. And like Luciano, he also saved his best for last, going a stellar 12-for-19 with two homers, a double and five RBIs in the High-A West Championship Series.

"The most exciting player that I've ever had the pleasure to coach," Pelfrey said. "An under-the-radar-type guy, but literally the reason we won the championship in the west because of what he did the last month and a half of the season. Very electric, exciting player to watch. The guy you want leading off a game. If I ever coach anywhere else, I want him with me. He works hard. He's got some power now. He still has high contact rate, doesn’t strike out much and can manipulate the baseball with the bat at will."

Right-handed starting pitcher – Ryan Murphy, San Jose (15 starts), Eugene (six starts): Selected in the fifth round of the 2020 Draft out of Division II Le Moyne College, Murphy put together arguably the biggest breakout season of any Giants prospect this year. The righty posted a 2.52 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP over 21 starts between San Jose and Eugene. He ranked second in the Minors with a 39.3 strikeout percentage and third with 164 strikeouts over 107 1/3 innings. The 21st-ranked Giants prospect mixes a low- to mid-90s fastball with a slider and a changeup. After an injury cut his regular season short, Murphy came back to strike out seven over five scoreless innings in Game 4 of the High-A West Championship Series -- to clinch the title for the Emeralds.

"I didn’t really know what to expect when he got here. I didn't see him before but I heard about the strikeout numbers, and he did not hesitate to go about his business from the first pitch he threw at High-A. He was dominant," Pelfrey said. "Good mix of pitches, can use his weapons at will, and he has a knack for finding a way to win. Even on his worse days, we were never out of games. He's just always able to compete. It's like having a Max Scherzer-type game whenever he gets the ball, you know you're gonna have a good chance to win the ballgame every time he goes out."

Left-handed starting pitcher – Kyle Harrison, San Jose (23 starts): One of the youngest pitchers at Low-A, the fifth-ranked Giants prospect went 4-3 with a 3.21 ERA and 157 strikeouts over 98 2/3 innings. He tied with Astros righty J.P. France for the eighth-most punchouts in the Minors, while his 14.32 K/9 was third-best among all pitchers to complete at least 90 innings. Harrison finished the regular season with four consecutive starts of at least five frames, including a career-best 12-strikeout effort against Visalia on Sept. 2. He allowed two runs over that 21-inning span while punching out 37 batters and yielding seven walks. There were only 28 other hurlers in the Minors this season with a BB/9 higher than Harrison’s 4.74.

Relief pitcher – Chris Wright, San Jose (six games), Eugene (31 games): Eight innings, 17 strikeouts and three walks were enough to show the Giants that Wright was ready for a promotion from Low-A San Jose before the end of May. He proved that strong start was no fluke in 31 appearances for High-A Eugene, going 4-0 with a 0.97 ERA, an 0.89 WHIP and a 62-to-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 37 innings while holding opponents to a .122 average and going 14 consecutive appearances without allowing an earned run. He finished the year with 79 punchouts over 37 total appearances (45 innings).

"I hate labeling roles for guys, but he was our closer," Pelfrey said. "He was a lockdown reliever for us. I don’t think there was ever a time that he got touched up at all or had to feel any kind of failure at all. It's really impressive to see him go out time and time again and continue to do the job. He just throws strikes and goes right at hitters. He's gonna climb the ladder very quickly because of the ability to command the baseball with a couple of different pitches. A lot of talented guys have the stuff but lack the command, and this kid has both. And that's going to allow him to pitch a long time in this game."

Honorable mention: Austin Reich was nearly unhittable between Low-A San Jose and High-A Eugene – posting a 1.63 ERA and a 0.77 WHIP over 60 2/3 frames with a 7.00 K/BB and 6.2 percent walk rate.

Rob Terranova is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @RobTnova24.